My To-Do List

I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions. January is my decompression month because even happy events like Christmas, our wedding anniversary, and prep for Cooper’s birthday take up a lot of head space!

To-do lists, on the other hand, now that’s my jam! Never underestimate the power of checking a box! So, instead of winging it and sprinkling acts of kindness around when situations present themselves, I’ve decided to make a six-month schedule of things to be done.

January – Book Annual Physical, Dental and Optical Check-Ups. Lee’s illness requires a standing three-month appointment at the hospital, but our son and I venture into Toronto once a year for our check-ups. I love seeing the height and weight increases (IN OUR SON – far less thrilling to see my weight increase). Plus, this January will mark one-year from getting abnormal results. I shudder when I think of what could have happened had I put this appointment off. I call the Scott Mission ahead of our trip to see what they are running short of, and drop stuff off on our way home.

February – Teacher Pick-Me-Ups.  The doldrums of winter will have set in, accompanied by many a runny nose! I’ve started a list of items I’m going to put in a care package for our son’s teacher. Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything: Large box of Kleenex, purse size hand sanitizer, lip balm, travel size Advil (for indoor recess days when it’s too cold for the children to play outside), gum and lozenges (talking all day must make for a dry throat), a couple of new dry-erase markers, and a five-dollar Tim’s card.

March – Closet Clean-Out Time! Is there anything more pleasing to the eye than a freshly organized closet? Clutter makes me crazy, and since Lee embraced a minimalist lifestyle this year, this is something we can do together. Our laundry room is also out-of-control cluttered, so it will need a good clearing-out and vacuum.

April – Animal Shelter Check-In. All the old sheets and blankets that are taking up space in our laundry room will be welcomed at our local animal shelter. I call in advance to make sure they need them, and offer to pick up anything else they are running short of. I try to limit my visit to under five minutes, otherwise I may end up with a car full of animals.

May – A Walk in the Woods. No, not M. Night Shayamalan’s new movie, just a walk along the local trails with a garbage bag. I wear disposable gloves for this little adventure because there is so much mud on everything.

June – Blood Donation. Canadian Blood Services is desperate for blood donations, and they like to have a full supply going into the summer months.

Don’t forget to take care of yourselves during these upcoming cold winter months. Wishing all of you a happy, fun and safe holiday season.

All my love,



Is Santa Real?

“Mom, is Santa real?”
The question I’ve been dreading for ten years came out of my son’s mouth, just 33 days before Christmas. He’s in grade four, and this seems to be a popular topic of discussion amongst his classmates these days. Here’s what worked for me, spread out over a few conversations:
I told him “it’s normal and natural to stop believing in Santa at your age. It’s a phase everyone goes through at some point. You can choose to keep believing, or you can choose to stop believing. Either way, you’ll still get presents. At some point in the future, though, Santa will be a part of your life again. Maybe it will be when you’re a bit older and feel the magic in the air at Christmas, or maybe it will be when you have kids of your own. The most important things are:

1) to keep the magic alive for those who still believe in Santa. It doesn’t make them babyish or stupid.

2) it’s not your job to convince people that Santa is or isn’t real. It’s a personal thing, this belief in Santa, and every family has different beliefs.

Don’t waste time trying to convince other people that you’re right and they’re wrong – there’s no point getting into fights or losing friends over this. So if someone asks if you believe in Santa, just tell the truth: ‘I’m not sure yet’ “.

Guest Post – Little things

It truly is the little things that can make an impact on someone’s day.
A couple days ago my wife received an unsolicited compliment from a friend. He said how wonderful she is and how he couldn’t do what he needs to without her help. He said this not only to her, but in front of others as well. Five or six times since that praise she has brought it up to me, that she can’t believe he said that and how good it makes her feel. A little thing like a compliment made a difference for her, and for me.
This morning as I was driving in to work I happened to look in my rearview mirror and started to have a critical thought but had it quickly change. There was a mom driving her teenaged daughter and the daughter was totally oblivious to what was going on because she had her headphones on and eyes lowered. My initial reaction was “I hope that never becomes me and my son”. I want to develop a relationship with him, I like talking to him and hearing about his day, his thoughts and have discussions with him about life, the universe, and everything (Yes, that’s stolen from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, he and I both loved the film).
Then while watching them my day got unexpectedly brighter. The mom, unbeknownst to the daughter, kept looking over at her and smiling. It was beautiful. A look of pure love. It didn’t matter that the daughter didn’t see it, didn’t know it was happening. No words were exchanged. It was just a mom looking at her offspring with love in her eyes and face.
They will never know that they made my day brighter, that the expression of love was a great pick me up, but it was wonderful. While I still hope that I am able to have conversations with my son instead of him isolated with headphones, I hope that I can be happy in the moment enough to smile a look of love at just being with him.
Two small things, a smile and a compliment, made someone’s day better. I’m sure we all can do something small that will make some else happy today, which in turn will make you happy too.

Aaaaand we’re back!

Well, that was a long six weeks. As much as I’d like to think I have it all together, it seems like some old habits die hard. Worrying is my default mode, and it takes a lot of mental energy to get past the darkness that tends to fall over my mind from time to time. This makes sitting down to write kind, loving messages a nearly impossible task. I want to give you fun and practical ideas for living a gentle life, not drone on and on about the black dog that can rear it’s ugly head from time to time.

Things took a turn for the better this week, though. Lee and I spent Thursday morning at Sunnybrook Hospital to get the results of my biopsy.  Great news – the cervical cells they removed are only mildly abnormal (kind of like the rest of me) so no scary treatments will be necessary. I have to go back to the clinic every six months for a scope until everything returns to normal, but, hey, no complaints here.

Well, ok, one complaint: I called the clinic on Monday to see if I’d be full-on examined this week or if I’d simply be talking to the doctor (fully dressed, feet flat on the floor). His secretary said “no examination, just a chat”. Imagine my surprise when his nurse handed me a gown and ushered me into a treatment room. Odd that my first thought wasn’t “oh no, this is not good” but rather “are you kidding me? I didn’t wax or shave my legs!”.

I immediately relaxed, however, when the doctor came in excited to talk about his Halloween decorations. Doctors who have to give bad news generally walk in slowly, with their glasses in their hands, and greet you with a simpathetic smile. This guy came in with a big hellloooo and took out his iPhone to show us a videos of his animatronic ghost display. Female friends, if you need a truly compassionate doctor who can work a speculum like butter, call Dr. Michael Shier.

So, back to concentrating on kindness and gentleness. I find Christmas to be the perfect season to exercise my good-deed muscles – so many fun opportunities lie ahead! First on my list is to visit the local nursing homes to get the names of residents who don’t have family, and therefore won’t get many gifts. I try to get some idea of who they are, what hobbies they have and if they have any disabilities. Then it’s off to the local shops. This is a cool twofer – I love supporting the tiny, independent shops in our little town.

I know many families bring out the Elf on the Shelf at Christmas. Not my favourite thing, to be honest. While I love looking at photos of the elves getting into mischief, the message they send bothers me. Seems like the elves can be naughty and get into all kinds of messy situations, but if little Johnny pinches his sister, the elf reports back to Santa Claus.

Kind of a dick move, little elf.

Also not a fan of the whole “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” lore of Santa. Ideally we’d all try to be good for goodness sake regardless of who is watching – but I’ll get off my high horse now

Oh, HIGH. I get it.

and just draw your attention to these guys. You can still create all kinds of Christmas fun with them. No judgement, though. You do you, and whatever works, when you have kids. Please share any holiday traditions you and your families have. I’d love to hear them and get inspired by your ideas.

A Public Cervix Announcement

Last fall, I went to a meeting of the Bolton Empowering Women’s group. The leader, Sarah Neal, shared her story of losing a friend to cervical cancer. She was 32 years old. To honour her fight, Teal Power was born.

At my last physical in January, in addition to the standard blood-urine-mammogram, I asked my doctor if I was due for a Pap test. She looked at my records and said “no, not for another two years”. (The Ontario Government only allows for one test every five years if you’ve had two clear tests in a row).

My mind flashed back to Sarah’s story and that little voice we all have inside us told me to ask for a test anyway. Friends, we all have that inner voice. That gut feeling when something needs to be said. Listen to that voice.

I asked, since I was there and naked anyway, if she could do one and I’d pay out-of-pocket for it.

“Sure, no problem” she said and so it was done. Then I forgot all about it.

Until her name appeared on my phone three weeks later.

“Listen, not to worry” she began, “but your Pap test came back abnormal. This is nothing to worry about, but I’m going to make a note in your chart for you to come back in six months to have it re-done. These abnormalities can quite often resolve on their own”.

And back I went in July for the re-test. And three weeks after that, her name appeared on my phone once again.

Still abnormal. A bit worse this time.

My panick-y little brain went into overdrive, but she was calm and reassuring and booked me into Sunnybrook Hospital for a colposcopy.

I researched the doctor I’d be seeing and felt reassured just by seeing the ton of awards and accolades he has received over the years. One Rate Your Doctor commenter described him as “The King Of The Cervixes”.

Huh. I bet I could design a crown for him. I think it would be pink and have flaps.

Anyway, to prepare for the test, I booked a wax and pedicure near the hospital. My husband had to remind me that this is a medical procedure, not a date, but I figured I floss before going to the dentist, right? Plus I wanted to make a good first impression.

Big mistake. First, the doctors and nurses don’t care what things look like down there. Second, the first part of the test involves the spraying of an acetic acid spray. Yowza.

The rest of the test consisted of a scope, not unlike the ones that optometrists use, and a lot of swabbing. When they found an area of concern, the doctor injected a local anaesthetic in order to take a sample for biopsy. The injection was totally painless and very effective as I felt neither the needle nor the subsequent snip of tissue. There is a t.v. screen next to your head, where you can watch the procedure. I asked if it gets any other channels, and it doesn’t, so if an up-close play-by-play of cervical biopsies isn’t your thing, just close your eyes. Maybe bring headphones too, as I felt a bit woozy when I heard the medical resident ask for the biopsy instrument with “the bigger teeth”. Geez. Still, the most painful part of the day was paying the $23 parking fee for two hours.

So now we wait for the results. They have re-booked an appointment for me in six weeks time. The nurses and doctors were very reassuring, saying all the things patients want to hear: “mild”, “treatable”, “don’t worry”, “seriously, don’t worry”. Their calm, confident manner left me feeling that I’m receiving truly exceptional care, regardless of the outcome.

I feel silly wasting so much brain power on worrying about this test and the results. Folks, I’ve had more painful dental cleanings. Please, for the sake of your health, for the sake of the people who love you, get a Pap test done every year. I shudder when I think I almost let this go for another two years when there was a change for the worse after six months. Thank you, Sarah, and thank you, Teal Power.

Go. Call your doctor. Book one now.




Make, Read, Listen, Squish

I have stumbled upon a few interesting and inspiring things and I’m eager to share them with you.

Kindness Rocks has emerged with full force in our little town of Bolton. It’s a super easy and fun family craft activity – we started by researching different designs and sayings to put on the rocks, created them, then hid them around the neighbourhood (and found a bunch that others have created). There’s even a Facebook page devoted to the craft – a “show and tell” of sorts.

I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants cover to cover in record time. As the first female head writer at Saturday Night Live, she is unapologetically tough and I love her ability to laugh at herself. It’s a quick read and totally inspiring. Here is an excerpt, where she describes an interaction between Jimmy Fallon and Amy Poehler:

“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday night read-through to start. […] Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”,
Jimmy Fallon […] turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”

That quote led me to Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please. Another hilarious take on being a devoted mother who also loves her career. I felt a lot less guilty about many of things after reading it.

I have a lot of trouble turning my brain off at night. Where some people find respite in the dark and quiet of night, my brain lights up like a firecracker and one thought leads to another, and another, and another ad nauseum. I’ve turned to podcasts to help me to sleep with amazing success. My favourite is Happier by Gretchen Rubin. Interesting enough to distract my hamster wheel brain while putting happy thoughts in my mind to lull me off to sleep.

September is a month of fresh starts and what better way to begin a new school year than with a clean bill of health? I schedule a mammogram every September. Please, ladies, call your doctor and book one if you haven’t already. A routine mammogram uncovered early onset breast cancer in my mother nearly twenty years ago and it saved her life. The procedure is quick and the discomfort is minimal (I have the pain threshold of an overtired, hungry three-year-old, so trust me on this – it’s really not bad).

Make, read, listen, squish. Wishing you a sunny September full of fun and love.

What The World Needs Now Is…A Lot Less Hate

Our son is blessed with loving aunts and uncles who dote on him endlessly, and when he asked his beloved Godfather about his aunts and uncles and cousins, none of us minced any words. Because his Godfather is a holocaust survivor, he has very few living relatives and he replied in this way:

“They died in the war started by a man named Adolf Hitler.  He was a person who was so filled with hate and the quest for power that he ordered the death of millions of Jews. My family were amongst those who were killed.”.

“Fuck that guy!” our nine-year-old aptly commented.

Indeed, but we reassured him that most the world came together to defeat Hitler and that this would never happen again.


I firmly believe that just as hate begets hate, love begets love. And of the two, love is the more powerful force.

In the interest of spreading love, here are a few ideas to bring light into the world this week. A week that demands action over inaction and kindness over malevolence.

  1. Bring food to the food bank. There will be a rush of donations come Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the shelves tend to empty over the summer months. Anything non-perishable is appreciated.
  2. Donate blood if you are able. Blood units tend to drop over the summer months. As a donor, you get cookies and juice and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to save a life. (On that note, why can’t we be notified when our donation is being used to help someone? I’ve seen their tracking procedures – each and every unit of blood is marked and labeled and checked and double-checked and recorded arduously. Would it be that difficult for Canadian Blood Services to send a text or email when our donation is being infused? That would be a great notification to get and may inspire new people to donate).
  3. Buy some flowers for a friend, or for someone in need. A little potted plant (usually under ten dollars at the grocery store) delivered to a local nursing home can really uplift someone. I leave it with the receptionist with the instructions to pass it along to someone who is sad or lonely.
  4. My dad is in his eighties, and my mom just turned (redacted). For her birthday, we gave them a food delivery service for two weeks (my friend, Jenn Tobin, had the idea). They are THRILLED with it. We ordered from Chef’s Plate. They usually have 50% discount for first-time customers. My parents are very particular, and they are awestruck by the freshness and tastiness of the meals. They even tried soba noodles for the first time! Best idea ever, Jenn. (Chef’s Plate requires the assembly of the ingredients. If someone you love could use a little more help, you can order pre-cooked, pre-packaged meals from Home Style Meals — it’s a far fresher and tastier alternative to Meals on Wheels). (NOTE: I am not being paid or compensated in any way to suggest these companies.)*
  5. Forgive a small slight. My parents moved into an apartment a few years ago and were introduced to one of their neighbours. She was unwelcoming and nasty to them right from the start. Some people are just like that, I suppose, but mom and dad have stayed far away from her since their first encounter. Until today. This morning, when the three of them entered the elevator at the same time, a very cool “hello” emerged from my mother’s pursed lips, followed up with a “and how have you been?” (not that she particularly cared, but old polite habits die hard). “Not well” the woman replied. “my husband died”. Cue the melting scene from Frozen. Hearing of a spouse’s death is like kryptonite to my parents. Sincere condolences were expressed, and later that day my dad brought her a plant with a note containing their home and cell phone numbers, giving her explicit instructions to call them day or night if she needs anything. They had a long conversation in the hallway, and a new friendship might just emerge from this.

“Love begets love. It multiplies the kindness and goodness of every heart” – Jean Ayende Totanes

*my editor, Lee, insisted that I add this disclaimer. I find it hilarious how he thinks that so many people read this blog that I have to worry about legalities.

Kindness Karma

One of Lee’s best qualities is his willingness to help anyone, at any time, with anything. He jumps into action the moment he is needed – without question or comment – and just helps.

The most recent example of this kindness happened last week. We rented a quaint little cottage on a river; it had a wrap-around deck with glorious views of enormous trees and the calm waters cutting through them. Lee was absorbed in a Sidney Sheldon novel when when a couple approached him. They startled him out of his retro-fiction read, apologized, but explained that their boat had just broken down. They were stuck, had no idea where on the river they landed, and needed to get back home.

I would have offered my telephone and put the kettle on, but my sweet husband grabbed his keys and said “don’t worry! I’ll drive you home”. They lived 30 minutes away but that didn’t deter Lee.

It didn’t even occur to him that there could be an element of danger to his good deed.  Quietly, I asked Lee “is this safe?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” he replied.

Ever the jaded skeptic, I hid by the kitchen window and took photos of the couple.

He returned (safely) a little while later, and off we went on a paddle boat ride down the river. Long story short, the boat had holes, we took on water, and capsized. In a paddle boat. What an inglorious way to die that would have been.

20 minutes later, a pontoon boat appeared and stopped when they saw our sorry asses on the riverbank. The women on board hauled the children up, wrapped them in their sweaters and took us down river where we could fix things up. We returned to the cottage safe and sound, with the children so very excited about their adventure.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the negative news cycle. It seems like everywhere you go, people are competing to be America’s Next Top Dickhead. These two examples of kindness, occuring just hours apart, buoyed my faith in humanity. I hope it inspires and enlivens your day too.

Kindness Comes in Many Forms

Picture this: I’m in my car, sitting at a red light in the left turn lane. The advance green arrow appears and INSTANTLY the guy behind me lays on his horn.

(Note that I’m a ridiculously nervous driver – hands at the “ten and two” position, head up and at attention like a German soldier.)

So here we have it, folks, another angry pork chop guy. A guy so unhappy in his life that he feels the need to lash out and exert power in even the most benign circumstance.

As much as every cell in my body wanted to give him the finger and drive suuuuper sloooooowly, that would just escalate the situation. Instead, I made my turn, moved into the right lane, and as he passed I smiled and waved at him like I would an old friend. His angry expression became confused. “Do I know her? Why is she waving at me? Who did I just honk at?”.

Hopefully, my Random Act of Ridiculousness gave him enough pause that he continued his drive peacefully. I’ll always take perplexed over angry.

Now it’s time to concentrate on the kindness I’ve witnessed lately.

I have an entire blog post devoted to the friends and neighbours who have helped me through my adventures in disc herniation. The warmth and concern that surround me stop me in my tracks and I’m eternally grateful. More on this later.

The second act I witnessed came from my dad. He’s 83 and still working as an insurance broker. One of his clients went on a sabbatical overseas but forgot to pay her insurance premium before she left. When he received a note from the insurance company indicating that her house insurance was going to be cancelled, he took out his VISA, called them and paid her premium for her. $800 that he won’t see for a bit, but he truly doesn’t care: “she’s been a loyal client for some time” he said.

Take that, Geico Lizard.

The final act of kindness came about in 2006 – the year that Lee worked in Vancouver. He lived in the Vancouver Marriott hotel and was treated to both a delicious breakfast every morning and the sight of Jessica Alba working out in the hotel gym.

Although he wished he did
Picture not taken by Lee

Lee got into great shape that year.

Anyway, the hotel chef prepared a homemade granola that was stop-in-your-tracks delicious. Other than stalking watching a Hollywood star stretch and sweat every morning, it was the best part of his day. When Lee complimented the chef, he asked Lee if he’d like the recipe and wrote it out by hand. That stained, worn, well-loved piece of paper is in our recipe book and every time Lee sees it, he is reminded of Jessica Alba’s abs the chef’s kindness in sharing it with us.

Here is the recipe. Guaranteed it is the BEST granola you’ve ever had.

4 cups oats
1.5 cups rice krispies
1.5 cups brown sugar
250 g butter
50 g honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup almonds

In a pot mix together the brown sugar, melted butter and honey over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Fold mixture into the dry ingredients.

Mix well until the oats are well coated then pour onto baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir granola once during cooking process to ensure even cooking.

Let cool, keep stirring until fully cooked (if you prefer chunks, let cool without stirring and break pieces into container for storage)

Options; add dry cranberries or sun-dried cherries or raisins.

Three different forms of kindness: a passive, non-agressive act when confronted by misplaced rage, a huge favour for a loyal client, and a seemingly small act that is appreciated 11 years later.

Kindism will return August 4, 2017.