Thursday, August 22, 2013

Stuff my son says - Age 4 (minus 3 days)

This conversation took place in the middle of the night. I should add that his dad was out of town on a business trip:

Jacob: "Mom?" (shouting from his bedroom across the hall)
Me: "Yes? Is everything ok?" (responding from my bed)
Jacob: "We should floss my teeth tomorrow."
Me: "OK."
Jacob: "Mom?"
Me: "Uh-huh?"
Jacob: "We should also start mowing the lawn."

He is SO his dad's son.

PS: Should I be proud that his sense of responsibility is so strong that he wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about the things that need to be done, or should I be concerned that he seems to think I need to be told what to do??

Sunday, July 07, 2013


Last night, I was working on my résumé. As I looked over my previous employers and my reference list, I realized that I had lost touch with a former colleague of mine from my days in the Deputy Prime Minister's Office. Marie Jubinville-Carrière worked at the desk across the room from mine. Between us was a comfortable distance and a wide stretch of carpet that carried the feet of countless political advisers, speech writers and Members of Parliament who clamoured for the DPM's ears. Sometimes, they would sweep through the space between us, stopping only fast enough to announce their arrival to Marie, whoosh through the DPM's double doors, and fly back out with the DPM between them. One would be holding her purse, the other her coat, which floated in the wake left behind them. Our large desks, mine piled high with constituent correspondence and hers strewn with schedules and sticky notes, were the only two being used in this government office. Besides, of course, the desk of the Deputy Prime Minister herself - the Honourable A. Anne McLellan - which sat stolidly behind heavy wooden doors more often closed than not.

Marie was usually smiling, even when I knew she couldn't possibly be feeling the smile inside her. Someone had clearly taught her that complaining about life never changed anything for the better. When something ticked her off, she would just look at me and say "bon", as if to invite me in the fun of ignoring what had just happened.

Through the window behind Marie's back, I could see the on-goings of busy parliamentarians below and a large Canadian flag fluttering in the wind. Unlike mine, her desk was flooded with light because of that enviable window. I often wished that we could trade desks, but I reasoned that she had earned that spot, having worked for the federal government for fifteen years.

When we weren't buried nose-deep in work with phones on both ears - when Parliament wasn't sitting, for example - we sometimes chatted. She told me all about her many siblings with their varied personalities, her endless battle with her weight (chips and dip were her go-to after-work snack), and the fact that she and her husband, Rick, slept in separate beds - not because they didn't love each other deeply but because of his intolerably loud snoring. She gushed to me about her cat, whom she loved like a child, having no children of her own. She counseled me through a wedding planning crisis (arranging my Toronto wedding from Ottawa was proving to be more stressful that I had imagined it would be) and she loved to give me morsels of marital advice, always straight from the heart. During my breaks, I would often bring back a green tea latté for myself and rave about how delicious it was. After finally tasting mine one day, Marie agreed and would always request that I bring one back for her too. I happily did, loving that I had introduced her to something we could both indulge in while we quietly worked.

When seven phone lines were engaged at once, Marie would sometimes swear in her native French Canadian way. I always giggled when that happened, being careful to do it quietly. Nobody likes to be giggled at when they're stressed out. Despite empathizing with her, I learned not to offer help in those moments - there was nothing I could do, she would tell me, exasperated but thankful that I had offered.

These are the moments that crackle in my head when I think back to my office companion in that corner of Parliament Hill. We weren't friends in the traditional sense of the word - she was almost twenty years my senior - but she did quickly become a mentor to me in a number of ways. I was particularly grateful to share such close working quarters with someone who always looked on the bright side of life. Later, through my various future work experiences, I would learn that colleagues like that are to be cherished. Many people choose to be unhappy and ignore the gifts available to them in their lives. Marie was the antidote to people like that.

The last time I had tried to get in touch with Marie was in 2008. I knew that she was likely no longer reachable at her old e-mail address (she had been seconded from her post at Health Canada when we worked together) but I tried anyway. Last night, I tried again. I figured that LinkedIn would be the perfect way to find her. I was surprised when a search for her name produced nothing. I decided that maybe a Google search would bring me more luck. Sadly, it did. The first search result to appear was a link to Marie's obituary in the Ottawa Citizen. She died "after a courageous battle with brain cancer on January 15th, 2011 at the age of 49 years."

Despite not having seen Marie for eight years, I am still having trouble processing the fact that she is no longer here. She was vibrant and happy and showed no sign of illness when I knew her. Especially not in her mind. Now I wonder if maybe she was struggling with a terrifying new diagnosis when my last e-mail landed in her inbox. Or perhaps she was too busy praying for a successful surgery to bother with her e-mails. Or maybe she was reeling from chemotherapy. Maybe she had given up on the conventions of communication by that June of 2008, too sick or too far gone to respond. Or maybe she was still perfectly healthy, back at her old Health Canada job, unaware that there was a tumour growing in her brain that would swiftly take her life two and a half years later.

In the few moments that I stared at Marie's obituary page, I was reminded of the time that I wished we could trade places so that I could also enjoy some of the sun that streamed through our office window. Now I'm obviously grateful that she was the one who was given that privilege. It also reminds me to appreciate the rays of light that I am given on a daily basis - my incredible kids, my exemplary husband, my 92 year-old grandmother, my own and my family's health. It can all be swept up from under my feet tomorrow, so best to appreciate every minute now while I can. And so, Marie continues to be a mentor to me, even in her death. Thank you for everything, Marie. You may be gone, but you are certainly not forgotten.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stuff my son says

As we walk quietly down the street on a beautiful spring day, we passed by a nice woman walking her black and white shitzu.



Monday, April 29, 2013

Stuff my son says

Jacob: Mom! Guess what! On Wednesday, I'm going to be the TEACHER'S HELPER!!!

Me: Wow, Jake! You sound really excited about that - I'm so happy you're so excited to help out!

Jacob: Ya! I think about it in my DREAMS!!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Stuff my son says

Over a container of strawberry yogurt:

Jacob: "What's in this, mama?"
Mom: "Strawberries and yogurt"
Jacob: "Is it for gentlemen?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stuff my son says

At the end of a 90-minute long daily bedtime ritual that includes stories, talking about the day, snacks, and cuddles, my mind often starts to wander by the cuddling part to the pile of dishes in the kitchen sink, the laundry in the basement and the next episode of Mad Men that's waiting for me in the living room.

"You have to slow down cuddling, Mom. You're going too fast."

And just like that, everything else can wait.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Hungry for Change

Yes, it's another food documentary... but do yourself and humanity a favour and WATCH IT NOW. I almost fell into the trap myself of opting out of another food-related preach-fest, but it turns out that this one is quality and needs to be seen by every human on the planet before it's too late. I always said that sugar and refined flour were just like crack, heroine, and all the other fluffy white chemicals that swallow your life if you let them. Finally, people might be starting to believe it. I hope.

Actually, what I'm feeling right now is rage and that's what inspired this post. I'm so angry at myself for caring so much what other people think. Why do I feel like I have to lie about the fact that I stay away from processed foods most days of the week? Why do I have to make up excuses at restaurants with friends and family when I don't touch the bread, don't order the pasta and ask for salad instead of potatoes? Why do I feel guilty for not letting my son have a juicebox at the birthday party, at the picnic, at the baseball game? I think I'm finally through with that. That will be such a massive weight off my shoulders.

The fact is, I'm the mom. I'm here to set an example and to protect my children from the things that might harm them in this world. I know how this is going to sound, but I'm going to say it anyway: it's become dead obvious to me that people are out to get my kids. I am not being an alarmist or a psychotic paranoid. It's simply the truth. Food companies don't want to die and they will do whatever is in their power to stay alive. They will hire marketers, and these marketers will make commercials designed to get my kids salivating over the chemical cocktails they are peddling as food. Then they will have the gall to somehow package it as a healthy snack. They will also take advantage of our antiquated food labeling laws and use only the 25-letter scientific name for each ingredient that my kids (and most adults) obviously don't understand. The grocery store will then stock the fake food at just the right height for them to see it, touch it, cry for it, and drool over it again. I won't buy it for them, but when they taste it at a birthday party, they will think it's one of the best things they've ever eaten - and they will think that I must not love them if I am depriving them of something so delicious that other kids are clearly allowed to eat on a regular basis.

Please, parents, stop the insanity. We are the bosses here, not the kids, not General Mills or Kraft or McCain. Dr. Oetker is not a real doctor. Aunt Jemima is not your aunt. Uncle Ben is not your uncle. They don't care about you or your children at all. Granola bars have the word "granola" in them and that may remind you of hippies who hike, but if you picked them up at Loblaws, they are NOT healthy and do not make a good after-daycare snack. Fruit juice - unless you have squeezed it yourself (and even then it's somewhat debatable) - is not a wholesome thing. The stuff in the tetrapacks sometimes can't legally even be called "juice". They have to write "drink" on it instead and in many cases, it's got as much sugar as Pepsi. Yes, it comes from fruit, but are we really still that naive? There is no shame in saying no to these things. It would be so much easier if we were all on board here.

I honestly can't believe that I am about to quote Che Guevara, but it just seems so apt: "The revolution is not an apple that falls when it's ripe - you have to make it fall." Let's grab those apples, people!!!