Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Sometimes You Have to Leave the Herd.

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Girl Warrior. Sometimes you have to leave the herd. Pull away from the pack. And step out on your own. Fly solo. Go it alone. Take on the world single-handedly and forge a path that only you can walk.

This can be a frightening proposition. Terrifying. The mere thought may paralyze you. But don’t let it. Dig down deep into your Girl Warrior heart. Let it reveal all the reasons why you need to take this solitary journey. For in this sacred and sincere examination of all the light and dark places of your marrow you will discover that this is the only way you can get to the next step. This is what you need to do before you can fly.

And fly you must.

On this soul search pilgrimage you will discover some very deep truths about who you are and what you are made of. You will learn about the full depth and breadth and height of your character, rectitude, integrity, honor, principles, virtues and pure sweet goodness.

There is so much goodness.

Walk bravely and boldly through the refiner’s fire Girl Warrior. And know that your Tribe is not only waiting for your glorious and triumphant return, but that they have been there with you every step of the way. They were in the wind and rain and dust and dirt. In the forests and the mountains and seas and deserts. In the cities and villages and small towns and whistle-stops. Their abiding spirits were with you in the sunshine and in the sorrow, in the wilderness of your purpose and the wanderlust of your desires.

And when you are done Girl Warrior, they will be there cheering while you don your cape.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Define Your Own Success.

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Girl Warrior. Determine your own definition of what being successful means. Like many of the big things you’ll do, this is an inside job. Start there. Take a long hard close look inwards at the person you are today. The one you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year, or as many years back as your memory will take you.

Then ask yourself this question. Who is this person?

Chances are, this person is somewhere on the growth chart between ‘not quite there yet’ and ‘done like dinner.’ Regardless of where you stand on the Spectrum of Light (SOL) you are incomparably perfect. Not flawless. Not without blemishes or warts. Not pristine. But perfect, not in spite of these things but because of them.

With this perspective in mind, and under your own personal magnifying glass, go in closer to see all the people, places and things that truly matter to you. What inspires your soul? Fills your mind with wonder and curiosity? Makes your heart flutter with happiness. Brings tears of joy to your eyes? Scares the shit right out of you? What drives and propels you forward? What makes you want to get up in the morning? What would you rather be doing more than anything else? What does an ideal day look like? Who do you like to be with? Who’s in your tribe and who’s missing that you wish was there? How do you find bliss? Where do you want to go? When do you start living your life? Why does it matter? And, the really great big huge colossal critical question, why are you here?

Once you have probed deeply and truthfully into the answers to these soul-searching questions, you can start to formulate a picture of what success means to you. Notice that these are questions you ask of yourself. This is a very personal quest and is nobody else’s business. Not your parents, friends, teachers, therapists, colleagues, pop icons, social media stars, fashion freaks, political leaders or anyone else that you may be under the influence. Not their life. Not their definition. Not this time.

Know this, being successful lies in your answers to these vital life-affirming questions. Only these. It’s not about wealth or power or influence or status or jobs or fame or fortune or getting ahead or climbing some corporate ladder. It’s about loving, honoring and respecting the person looking back at you in the mirror every day. It’s about knowing that your presence on Planet Earth matters.

Most importantly Girl Warrior, it’s about knowing that your life is a success because you live it fully and completely, with the utmost integrity and authenticity. And always, always, always according to your own definition. On your terms.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Know When to Take Off the Kid Gloves.

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Girl Warrior. Know when to take off the kid gloves. This comes with a warning, as it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially when it comes to our beloved tribe. And ourselves.

Our natural instinct is to be kind, loving, supportive and magnanimous of spirit. Our innate tendency is towards being nice, polite, agreeable and well behaved. We want to be liked. We don’t want to offend. Hurt someone’s feelings. Make another angry. Or worse yet, abandon us.

But at what cost Girl Warrior?

What do we lose by handling each other like Delicate Flowers? Does walking on eggshells really resolve issues? Is our skin really that thin? Are we so fragile that hearing the truth, and nothing but the truth, will break us? Is the fear that our authentic and genuine-selves is so unlovable that we’ll scare everyone away even those nearest and dearest?

No. None of this is true. We are not Delicate Flowers. We are not fragile, frail or feeble. Fear not. Have faith in yourself to speak from the wise and higher place within. And trust that the one hearing your words is there with you. Know that you are both strong enough to give and take a little tough talk.

Girl Warrior sometimes the most sensitive, kind and caring messages are the ones delivered when the kid gloves are off.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Friday Night Dinner.

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This is a little fictional riff I wrote on routines and rituals, the dance of love, the intricacies of marriage and cooking Italian on Friday nights.

Pasta and Salad

They were back to back cooking Friday night dinner. The usual. Pasta and salad. He asked her what she was thinking. She told him the truth. He changed his mind about slicing the cherry tomato in half. Instead he turned to admire her lovely sensual back as she stirred the marinara sauce.

Basil and Oregano

His grip tightened. The sweetness of freshly plucked basil and oregano enveloped the kitchen. The spaghetti strap on her white cotton sundress slipped loosely over her tanned shoulder. Her hair scooped high in a messy tail exposed her delicate neck. He was no longer hungry. The truth had that affect on him.

Marinara Sauce

The sway to her hips as she grooved to Coldplay broke his heart. Nobody said it was easy. They got that right. Her sultry Italian lips kissed the wooden spoon smothered in steaming marinara. When they first started cooking together she would invite him to taste her sauce. But it was no longer his palate that she was seeking to please.

Steamy Sacred Ritual

She adjusted the seasoning and plunged the spoon back into the thick rich sauce. He noticed that one of her turquoise earrings was missing and this made him feel sad. God, it was hotter than hell outside and sizzling in their tiny kitchen. Yet she insisted on keeping this weekly culinary ritual. “Sacred,” she called it. Insane, was more like it.

Boiling Water

He was sweating bullets yet she was cool as a cucumber. Her full childbearing hips rotated in pulsing infinity circles. Round and round. Effortlessly sustaining the rhythm of the driving guitar riff, all the while stirring the marinara. Irony is cruel at times. Some voids were impossible to fill. The stainless steel pasta pot, a wedding gift from her parents, had come to a full boil. Spitting and splashing beads of water violently onto the stove top. Like angry tears. He could relate.

Fistfuls of Linguine.

As she reached for the pasta, he could see the thin translucent scar on the inside of her fragile wrist. Exposed and formidable. Skimming the surface of her veins. He longed to run his finger across it. Feel her vulnerability once more. He remembered how red and swollen it was at first. Like a lost river. But they were beyond that now. She measured the linguine by fistfuls. One for him. One for her. One for the pot. Just in case.

Forks and Other Kokkengrej.

She reached for the stainless steel fork that was stuffed in the pottery utensil jar next to the stove. It was the big one he used to remove the steaks from the BBQ. He knew it was bad form to pierce the meat like that. Releases their juices, she would chastise. Toughens the meat and makes it hard to chew. He knew this. But he couldn’t resist the urge to stab. Impale lifeless objects. It was in his blood. He was once an ancient warrior. She was the Goddess of basil and other fine herbs.

Al Dente.

He leaned back on the counter and watched as she stirred the pasta. He had difficulty breathing around her. There was a time when this was fun. And romantic. He closed his eyes and remembered. How she used to test the spaghetti. How she’d take a few strands and toss them across the room. How they giggled and applauded the sticky ones. How they carved their love in steam.

Breaking Bread

She insisted he cut the bread into perfectly polite little pieces. “It’s not rocket science,” he scoffed as he pulled out the scarred pine board and prepared the filone for cutting. It wasn’t all that different from sawing a piece of wood. A skill he had mastered at his father’s side by the time he was eight. She was all wrong about the bread though. It was made to be broken, torn and ripped apart. Stuffed into their mouths like savages.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Don’t Be a Shrinking Violet.

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Girl Warrior. Don’t be a shrinking violet. Ever. No, not ever. Not for any reason. Not for any person. Not in any situation. Under no circumstances or conditions.

Do not make yourself small. Do not diminish, draw back or decrease in any way your presence on this planet. For it belongs to you as much as it does any other. You have a place here. A position to defend. A stand to take. A clear and resounding voice. Let it be heard. For it is utterly magnificent.

Don’t back away from the good fight. Don’t abandon your convictions. Or betray your beliefs, ideologies or principles. Don’t let fear or any other false fabrication of your imagination prevent you from being the big girl that you are. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too big for your britches. That’s impossible. Stay vigilant and ignore ludicrous comments designed to keep you in your place. Or worse yet, keep you down.

You have big things to do Girl Warrior. Brilliant things. Bright things beyond your wildest dreams. But doing these things will require you to step out boldly and bravely into every arena as the formidable force that you are.

So put on your big gutsy pants Girl Warrior and show the world what it looks like to be too damn big for your britches.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Surrender All.

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Girl Warrior. Surrender all. Let go of all the junk that litters your beautiful life. This includes everything. Externally and internally. Release all the things that break your heart, your mind and ultimately, your precious soul.

Change what you can. Clean house when you. Chuck out all the clutter wherever you can. Clear away as much of the chaos and confusion that is causing you stress and suffering, anguish and agony, distress and disease. Do all that is necessary to rid yourself of negativity. Say farewell to the three isms – cynicism, criticism and pessimism – in yourself, in others, in situations, and in circumstances.

Put on your fiercest boots and kick away. Stomp hard and stomp fast. Do what you have to, to set yourself free from these physical, emotional and spiritual crushers. But be warned Girl Warrior, this may also mean you have to say goodbye to some people, places, things and thinking. Yes, thinking. And this may not be easy. Loosening the grip, uncurling the fist, severing the tie is grueling work. But it is also gratifying.

Girl Warrior, now stand up and take a long hard look at your world, the one you have created. Is it as good as you can make it, at least for today? Have you done all you can? Given it your best shot? Tried the hardest you possibly could? If the answer is yes, then drop to your knees. Kiss the ground. Exhale fully and let it all go.

Then slip into sweet sweet surrender.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Reflections in Mud Puddles.

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I love sunny days and large blue skies. The brightness and optimism of the unblemished firmament that stretches from horizon to horizon, and takes me back to my Northwestern Ontario wonder years. No matter how bad things were on the ground I could always look up and see that immense sky, and get a glimpse of God’s miraculous hand at work. I remember it then, and still experience it now, the feeling of peace and comfort knowing that I am connected to something so big and so powerful and so utterly wonderful. What an awe-inspiring and breath-taking view.

But lately I’ve found a reason to like rain. Or more precisely, what remains after it rains. I’ve acquired an entirely new attitude towards the potholes that pepper the country road where I walk. For they are the conduit to the glorious mud puddle, my new favorite thing.

When I was a kid I liked to stomp through them in my black rubber boots. Or after a warm summer shower I loved to go barefoot and sink my toes into the soft buttery ooze. I used to ride recklessly through them on my bike. But as I grew older they became wretched annoyances to avoid. Little nuisances and painful reminders of the relentless rainfall on the West Coast from the beginning of November till the end of April. I’ve done my share of cursing after being splashed and sprayed by passing vehicles. And I am not amused by those who quip, “well at least we don’t have to shovel it.”

But about a month ago, as I was walking along the country road at lunch, I saw things quite differently. It was as though I was seeing a mud puddle for the very first time. Like I was wearing magic glasses. And instead of avoiding, I sought them out. What caused this sudden transformation of vision? Why did my perspective change? What captured my imagination?

It was one of those serendipitous happy accidents. It had been pouring miserably earlier in the day. By the time I headed out for my walk, the sun was grandstanding and showing off its brilliance. It aced the surface of the mud puddle at just the perfect angle for me to see. I mean really see something so ordinary but suddenly so utterly extraordinary. Something I’d seen a million times before. Yet at that precise moment it was as if for the very first time.

I saw a reflection. And it was a beautiful sight.

Tall and stately evergreens. Gnarled and naked Garry Oaks. Blades of grass blowing in the breeze. Cloud formations. The sun, a blinding orb overhead. Telephone poles with wires stretching like tightropes. Street signs and other directions from above.

In the past month, I have sought out muddle puddles. They have brought new meaning, joy and wonder to my lunchtime walk. I’m the crazy lady crouched on the ground snapping photos on my iPhone of these fascinating little pools of dirty water. The smallest one I’ve photographed was about six inches, the largest about six feet long. I feel like Alice in Through the Looking Glass peering into another world filled with magic and all things curious. Everything is distorted. Depth perception is challenged. Shallow one second. And bottomless the next: like I could easily fall in and be lost forever in the shimmering darkness. Seeing such gigantic things like trees and telephone poles reflected and held so spellbindingly inside something so small. The juxtaposition takes my breath away.

The most magical thing about the muddle puddles is this. Like snowflakes, no two are the same. And even the same puddle is different depending on the preciseness of my presence, the direction of the sun, how it skims the surface of the murky water, and of course the angle with which I peer into it. Standing. Crouching. On my knees. These all affect what I see.

As a writer I can usually find words to describe most things. But in this case, words are inadequate. In fact, they fail me. Hopefully the photographs don’t. I hope they have captured some of the miraculous that I have witnessed, the dirty beauty of the earth, the sky, the sun and the wind, and the surprising unpredictable moment of confluence of all perfect things.

Technical note from a completely non-technical person: all photos were taken with my iPhone 6 using the Instagram App, with the Nashville filter.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Photograph.

ma me dog on back steps at 204I love taking pictures. It’s just another one of those things that I come by honestly. I’m not a Pro, nor do I aspire to be. I just like to take pictures. Plain and simple.

My parents loved to photograph the sundry events of our domestic life. Both momentous and intimate alike. All the milestones were covered. So were the trivial, trifling and trumpery.

While browsing through our old family albums, it’s always photos of the small everyday things that captivate me the most. The prosaic and mundane events capture my imagination like no other. For it is in these ordinary images that I see the unguarded details and accidental gestures. They become the grand movements that spawn wonder, and where unexpected beauty dwells.

Everything from Ma in the kitchen stirring the Saturday night pot of spaghetti, with the food-worn wooden spoon that had grazed many lips and touched all of our tongues with its tanginess. Or The Old Man sitting in his favorite orange velvet swivel rocking chair, with his oversized horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, engrossed in the evening edition of the Times Chronicle. The exquisiteness of the waning summer light glinting through the living room picture window upon my unwitting father takes my breath away and stills my heart.

There were the bigger things too.

Like the photo taken of me on the Sunday I got Confirmed. There I stood in front of the Kodak Brownie camera looking more like a reluctant blushing bride than a religious devotee, who had just received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was the combination of my not-so-holy Mona Lisa smile, the newly sanctified white leatherette Bible that I was clenching so fiercely to my precious budding bosom, and the unfashionable translucent off-white organza dress Ma bought from a secondhand shop just for this pious rite of passage. In the same cream-colored album, just a few pages later, there shines the real bride photo of my luminous sister-in-law in her fairytale wedding gown looking beyond radiant on the day she married my big brother.

Then there’s all those birthday party photos of me surrounded by my little friends in our fancy dresses and Sunday-best shoes. Sitting cross-legged on the grass or standing side-by-side posing, smiling and squinting into the glaring midsummer sun. Ma really knew how to throw a good party.

The silly lighthearted things were captured too. Like the night my sister decided to pin curl both my brothers’ hair. All the crazy amusing family antics. Giggling. Hoot and hollering. Laughing our guts out. All there. Perfectly preserved.

Pictures were taken everywhere. From the bathroom to the beach. Around the kitchen table and all around Lake Superior. In front of the Christmas tree and behind the back porch. Sitting on the front steps, the front lawn, the front seat of the car, in front of the TV, and in front of God.

Ma, in particular, had an abiding love for capturing the events of our lives. She had a Polaroid camera that brought her endless hours of fun and fascination. Its ability to seize a fragment of time instantaneously was a marvel to her. Holding the print in her fingers as the picture appeared within seconds. Right before her eyes. Pure magic. A modern day miracle. A wonder of wonders. Oh how she loved it so. I feel the same way about the photos I take on my iPhone. Mind blowing amazement.

As a result of all this finger-snapping photo-taking, I have a glorious visual documentation of my life. One that covers the panorama of events and emotions. From the bitter to the sweet. Snared at the intersection where joy meets sorrow. Where the profound punches the profane. The everyday and the spectacular events in the life of a regular ordinary family. Nothing special. Yet remarkable.

I have looked at these photos hundreds of times over the years. More so lately as I record the stories of my life growing up at 204.

The cracked and tattered black and white images from the early days. The washed-out color photos from the seventies. The blush-inducing eighties pics. All the nineties farewell kisses. Ma and The Old Man both died in early 2001, and with them went all the interesting, eccentric, peculiar, wonderful, joyful, melancholy, and magnificent photo ops.

There is a photo that I looked at this morning, as if for the very first time, although I had seen it countless times over the years. One of the black and whites taken by The Old Man.

My recollection of 204 was of a lovingly well-kept freshly painted white wartime house, with an enviable vegetable garden in back and beds of sunny happy Marigolds under the front window, with a beautiful Lilac bush that bloomed every June.

But this picture told a completely different story.

Staring down at the image in my hand I thought, “Holy shit. Were we really that fucking poor?” And then, shaking my head in disbelief, I thought, “The place was a run-down beat-up crummy shack.”

But as quickly as these thoughts passed through my mind, I saw this treasure of a photograph through my father’s youthful eyes.

Everything he held dear in life was in that photo. Ma, his beautiful Italian girl looking so lovely in her flowing cotton skirt of flowers. His shy baby girl with curious dark eyes just for him. The sweet gentle caramel colored mutt, with her ears perked up and dialed to his whistle. And of course, the leather baseball glove on the bottom step, ready for a game of catch.

Not so shabby.