What makes a house a home…

Kait and Elmo

Kait sharing a laugh with Elmo

I was looking at my hutch and the wooden home sign on the shelf when I thought to myself, “What makes a house a home”? I’d always thought it was the people in the house that made it a home. Love, kindness, and shared connections. The bonds of family and friendship.

I spent 23 years raising my children and had no doubt our place was a home. There was almost visible love around us and kindness. And, of course, friends. Our home had plenty of hugs and kisses, plenty of listening, and lots of “I love you”. It was home sweet home.

Then I moved here with Colin. It felt different moving without Kait but, with Colin, it was still home. And now it’s me moving all by myself.

I can look at all the gorgeous things I’ve bought for this apartment. My bronze twig cutlery set, rainbow cups (one set from me and one from my parents), beautiful wall art. Everything to make my apartment more inviting. But items don’t make a home. Can it be a home when I’m by myself?

I’m going to have four cats with me to love and spoil. I have friends already talking about visiting. And I’m sure I’ll make friends there, especially since there are groups being held in the building.

Those are all good but my final thought was it’s what’s inside your heart that matters. If you enter and your heart feels at peace, you’re home. No matter who or how many people live there.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get there, the building is under construction, but when I arrive, I know I’m going to be at home.

Kait, Colin, and frog

Kait and Colin while camping

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My tropical vacation…

Angel packing herselfThe month of February seemed to move with a glacial slowness. I counted the weeks down, then counted to the pedicure appointment, and finally started counting the days. My bag was slowly packed, sans cat, and my carry on bag was filled with necessities like my passport and chapstick.

And then the day came. We woke up early on a bitterly cold morning and drove into Toronto to meet up at a hotel near the airport. Then we got up at 2:45am to get our airplane.

I hadn’t been on an airplane in years, not since 2007, and the plane on our way to Dominicanfound it to be a shock. The plane was so small and my seat was the one just ahead of the middle doors so it didn’t have any windows… or leg space for that matter. I felt like I was in a tin can.

But eventually we landed and were instantly swarmed by people who wanted to help. There were airport volunteers who hurried over to take our baggage right to our bus, leaving us to find our seats. The countryside was very different from what I’m used to. The fields on either side were straggly and there were no crops, just skinny cows with floppy ears. Then we’d drive through a small village where beautiful homes with ornate bars across the windows and balconies sat almost touching tin roof shacks.

the pathwalkAfter several hours we finally pulled into the gates of our resort and up a long drive to the main building. There we collected our baggage, got our room keys, and climbed aboard a small, open bus to our rooms. It turned out these buses drove up the paths regularly, picking up pedestrians and driving them to their destinations.

The room was pretty standard, other than the tiled floor and we had a lovely large balcony. The bathroom was good too and wouldn’t be out of place in any middle class home. What made it weird was the sign saying “water not potable” and a request to please not flush the toilet paper. That was definitely not something I was used to and goofed more than once. I did remember not to drink the water.

The pool was gorgeous and quite large, just as advertised, and the kids loved splashing the main poolaround in it. My Mom and I tried to do aquafit with Super Sonic every day. and one day a bunch of us ended up playing volleyball, which was fun, even if I have a tendency to duck instead of hitting the ball.

The beach was gorgeous, huge and sandy, stretching out to the ocean. Mom and I walked it a few times, collecting shells and bits of coral. She’s making a fridge magnet with hers. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with mine.

beach

Our beach

The food was really good, not as good as homemade, but yummy and filling. I loved the caramelized pineapple at breakfast and the make your own tacos for dinner, especially with pico de gallo, guacamole, green hot sauce, and julienned tomatoes. I had no idea you could julienne a tomato. I’m not even going to try.

Caleton Beach fish3Then we went on an excursion. Our first stop was my Dad’s favourite, a boat ride through the Gri Gri Lagoon. Our next stop was the Caleton beach. The water was gorgeous and clear. Mom and I shared a swim mask and all you needed to do was stick your head in the water to see gorgeous fish. The reef was in walking distance of the beach.

Then we went to our next stop, the Playa Grande beach, considered the 15th loveliest beach inPlaya Grande beach waves2 the world. There we had a buffet lunch and walked past a slew of vendors to the beach. There was definitely truth in that advertising. The beach was beautiful and the water clear. We all loved jumping in the waves and laughing when we misjudged and got splashed in the face instead. Eventually our time was up and we boarded the bus again to head to our last destination, the Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon1I had expected a lagoon the same colour as all the beaches we’d seen. Instead we went down a staircase to a little grotto complete with a half roof with stalactites and rock walls dripping with ferns. The water was azure blue and clean enough that we could see the bottom, even though it was quite deep. I loved swimming in there, surrounded by family, blue, and ferns. I dove down to the bottom and brought up a little rock to remember the lagoon by and was happy on the way out to get stopped to see the fish, pudgy and black, leisurely swimming beside the stairs.

Like all vacations it had to come to an end. Soon we were waking up at 5:15am to checkme in first class out and get breakfast and then we were boarding our bus to the airport. And then my Mom got paged on the overhead system. Dad and I went with her as we were all on the same ticket. Did we wish to get bumped up to first class? Oh boy did we ever! I had two windows on the trip home and a little bottle of spring water and a bowl of warm nuts. They didn’t have any vegan meals on board but the appetizer was a kale salad which my Mom didn’t want so I had two of them. And they came around with Miss Vickies original kettle chips an hour later. I finished my book then took a bit of a nap with the provided pillow and finally we saw land, which was green then slowly turned to white. That’s when I knew we were getting descendingclose to home.

Soon the plan started its descent and we were off the plane and shivering in the sudden cold of the tube connecting the plane to the airport. We went back to the hotel, stuffed the SUV with our luggage, and joined the tail end of rush hour to get home.

It was one of the best trips I’ve had. I think the best trips not only show us a part of the world we’ve never experienced before and and also remind up of how nice it is to go home again.

Goodbye Grand Bahia Principe. Maybe we’ll see each other another day!

our view from the balcony1

Our view from the balcony

A week of contemplation…

The time between Christmas and New Years seems almost like a holiday, even though it isn’t one. It doesn’t feel like a busy party with presents and too much food but a contemplative party heading toward the birth of new year.

20181225_202409-01We opened all our presents yesterday and I got the gift I was hoping for… a new scale that says “You are amazing”. I need that daily affirmation, I think most of us do. I also got two pairs of slippers, one unicorn and one with mermaid sequins and two hot chocolate mugs, one with a unicorn that says “be magical” and one is a white cat with legs. Plus I got an ornament for my tree, a round, pink pig with wings and a crown. I knew they were sold out at every Pier One nearby, I didn’t realize my Mom had picked up one of the last ones.

More importantly was the time spent with family. Kait, her boyfriend, and their baby came over for Christmas morning, complete with stockings and cinnamon rolls. Then we all went over to my parents’ house for more presents, conversation, and yummy meals.

But Christmas is over and now it’s time to look forward to 2019. I have my main goal, I want to get on track diet wise so I can be a decent weight for our family Dominican Republic trip. I’ve slipped up this month and regained four pounds (arguably it could have been worse).

I want to spend more time with my friends and family. I’ve been enjoying Saturday karaoke nights with my friends each week and Sunday visits with family. I need to make it a priority to see Kait regularly too. I was going quite often when the baby was born and now the pendulum’s swung the opposite direction. I’d like to see her once every week or two.

I also want to get moving consistently. I don’t have to reach 10 thousand steps every day but I do need to get physical. It’ll help both my weight and my sleep.

My contemplative self wants a peaceful year. No worrying about trolls, whether they’re on Facebook or anywhere else. They can deal with their negativity on their own. And more connecting with my online friends. A message means so much more than a like.

The hardest one will be getting back into writing. I just don’t have the concentration I used to have. I read that writing in comic sans can help with concentration and creativity so that’s worth a shot. I can change the book back to garamond later.

This week will be spent converting our apartment back to it’s usual appearance. The tree will unravel back into plain green and the village will abandon it’s spot on the kitchen table. Soon they’ll all be tucked away in rubbermaid bins and moved into our storage unit. Recycling will be sorted and placed into the outside bins and our big garbage bag of gift wrap removed from our front hall. And, all the while, I’ll be ever so conscious of the new year looming ahead with it’s promise of a fresh start.

Hello 2019. I think I’m ready for you!

20181225_183803

Me at my parents’ house on Christmas evening

The Countdown to Christmas…

20181220_082144I think Christmas, for me, started on Thursday with breakfast in bed from Colin. He knows I always have an english muffin with peanut butter and a mug of hot chocolate every morning so attempted just that. As he was walking into the room he said, “I’m sorry, I added too much margarine”. That might be the understatement of the year. Then he saw me looking at my hot chocolate and explained the beverage exploded in the microwave, which explained both the half empty cup and the bits of cocoa powder all over the mug. Breakfast was still good though and it’s not often I get it served in bed.

 

20181221_093339That day I bought myself a present of my own for Christmas. I’d seen it at Pier One and just had to have it. It’s the perfect reminder that I matter too and deserve to follow my dreams. It goes quite nicely with the wall art although if I’d known I was going to buy the metal word art I’d have put the sticker somewhere else.

I had my friends over yesterday for an afternoon of conversation, present opening, and Christmas Crack. Kait came over with the baby and we all got our chance to hold him. And, when he got a bit overwhelmed I managed to calm him down again with a lullaby and some rocking. I can’t share any pictures from the party because they all have the baby but I can share my present.

 

20181221_145910-1These slippers are just perfect for me. They’re mermaid sequins and are glittery silver when brushed the other way. Lara was quite interested but wandered away when she realized they a) weren’t doing anything and b) weren’t edible. They’re lined with fleece and are so comfortable.

After my guests left I went out with my Mom to finish up our grocery shopping. Now everything is full to the brim with food. Other than fruits and veggies I can’t see us needing to buy anything throughout January. Definitely a good way to start off the New Year!

20181222_154323Today was a quiet day. I talked to Kait for a while, which was nice and she shared some pictures of the baby via messenger. And I chatted with Colin while he worked on one of his computers. Then I wrapped the rest of the presents, with some help from the kittens, and called my girlfriend. That was a good conversation although it was pretty much my bedtime when we finished chatting. I wanted to write this blog too so I’ve swan dived over bedtime but I can sleep in tomorrow. The stocking stuffers are sorted out too for Christmas morning. I can’t believe it’s only two days away!

I’m looking so forward to Christmas! Colin and I are having a quiet Christmas Eve and then we’ve got Kait, her boyfriend, and the baby coming over for Christmas morning. And then we’re all going to my parents’ house for a big family dinner. I’m finding that the older I get, the more family means to me and I’m looking forward to seeing them all.

I hope you all have wonderful plans for the holiday, whether it’s with your birth family or chosen family. Merry Christmas!!!

20181212_180507-01-1

 

Happy little thoughts…

20181124_205307I went to my friends’ house on Sunday with Colin and, soon after we arrived, their brand new TV was delivered. Colin was such a huge help. The physical set up wasn’t that much of a problem, it was the programming that was the issue.

Colin patiently read through the instructions then showed my friends, step by step, how to operate their new TV. There were so many instructions and steps that I figure I’ll never own a TV again. I can download videos right to my phone or computer a whole lot easier! But he got it all working for them.

I have my first date on Sunday and we’ve been chatting back and forth. I think she’s even more nervous than I am, which is a feat. I’ve promised I’ll meet her right at the bus stop and she wants to go for a walk with me after lunch, even if it’s raining, which is fine by me. We’re going out for Indian food. Mmm… aloo gobi! I so hope this date goes well. I’m sure it will but am still nervous.

I’m looking at my cats sleeping peacefully around my room. I’m so glad I have them. They bring such joy into my life from how Lara runs screaming to meet me when I open the front door and how Blackie purrs and licks my nose when she’s getting petted. People talk about cats being cold and aloof but they’ve never met my cats.

I’ve been working really hard to lose weight for our trip to the Dominican Republic and so far I’ve lost 10 pounds. I still have three months to go so I’m sure I’ll lose a decent amount by then. I want my summer clothes to fit comfortably, especially my two new tops. I was going to share a picture of them but I already shared one a few posts down.

On Thursday I get to see Kait and her wee one. He’s growing and changing so much. Every time I see him he’s doing something new… from smiling to grasping items like his rattle. I’m looking forward to his happy smile when he sees me and having a face to face chat with Kait instead of just talking on the phone.

And on Saturday we’re having a family dinner at a Thai restaurant. They make the yummiest food. I love their tom yum soup and golden curry with rice. We’ve been going to this restaurant for about a decade now and haven’t got bored of it yet.

I’m really enjoying the new season of Doctor Who. The Doctor’s great and the stories are entertaining. That being said, I haven’t seen last week’s yet because Colin keeps stalling. If he stalls tomorrow I’m watching it on my own. It sounds nice to curl up on my swing chair and watch it on my phone.

Winter’s coming and they are forecasting a long, bitterly cold one so I’m going to start buying groceries that are easy to prepare for the days I’m weary plus a few frozen dishes for the days I just can’t find the strength to even boil rice. I can’t make winter go away but I can prepare for it. I don’t want to end up back in the hospital so I’m going to do what I can now to make sure winter is as easy as I can manage.

And now Colin’s wanting to chat before bed so it’s time for me to go.

Whispers of the past…

I was sitting in the van with Colin and my parents on the way to Bon Echo Provincial Park. It’s a place we’ve gone camping for decades now, a popular campground in Ontario. I was looking out the window, not really thinking of much, just noticing all the sights of nature as we whizzed past. Then I looked over and, for half a second, I expected to see heads with brown and black hair in the seats in front of me, instead of the grey I saw.

My parents’ camping days are numbered and their numbers are less than the fingers on my hand. I commented to my Mom about when we go camping next year but what I really meant was if.

It was really noticeable with my Dad this year. Would he be able to walk down to the deep beach this year? Should we take a van to the day beach? This is a man who was scouted for the Montreal Canadiens farm team, an opportunity he missed because he was out fighting forest fires in BC and no one knew where he was. A miss I’m grateful for because otherwise he wouldn’t have met my Mom and my sisters and I wouldn’t be here. A man who played “oldtimers hockey” and walked the track for exercise. A man who enjoyed getting into nature for a good walk. Now we’re worried if he can walk a few blocks.

My Mom commented sadly a few months ago that things just weren’t the same. When she was little (and when I was little for that matter) the dishes were ignored for a while and everyone sat and chatted. Now everyone finished, cleared their plates, got right into washing, and then went to do their own things, while my Mom and Dad sat at an empty table, a table that should have been filled with chatter. That one was easy at least. I messaged everyone and asked them to hold off on clearing the table to chat and, thankfully, it’s taken off and become something everyone enjoys. But there’s nothing I can do about age.

It’s seven and a half weeks until Kait has her baby, bumping me into the grandmother position and my parents into great grandparents. I wish my Nana could see this baby, when she was still strong and cheerful. She would have loved him so much (and equally loved knitting him little outfits). My Nanaimo Nana (great grandmother) would have loved him too. But I can’t dip into the past and bring them forth, they only exist in memories. There’s a chain of family connections and my parents are next on the list to get bumped off, then, eventually, it will be my turn.

I’m reasonably sure my grandfather had similar thoughts because he set out to write down the more memorable family stories that he remembered. I don’t think he got all of them because there’s been a few times I’ve mentioned a story he’d told me and got blank looks. Sometimes I think maybe I should write some family stories down too but I don’t know if anyone would be interested in the coming years.

But the past is the past. We honour them by remembering them and remembering their advice. Well except for my Nana’s advice to have me leave Kait in her carriage outside for a nap while I cleaned inside. That’s terrible advice when you’re in a third floor walkup in a not so good neighbourhood. But the good advice.

The future is coming, like it always does. Soon there’ll be a new grandchild and the beginning of a new generation. Soon there’ll be new ideas, dreams, and goals. And I hope my parents are there to see it unravel and to watch the little wee one grow big and strong.

Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary

Mom and Dad on their 50th wedding anniversary

The vegan police…

Back last fall, my Mom invited Colin and I over for a family dinner. I’d been vegan for three or four years (maybe five? I can’t remember) and Colin, at the time, had been vegan for about two years. My Mom goes out of her way to make sure we have vegan food. She buys Gardein products, vegan margarine, and sometimes even vegan ice cream. When we go there, we know I’ll have something to eat.

This time, for dessert, she made a rhubarb apple crisp and used vegan margarine in the oatmeal crumble so we could eat it. Then she proudly told me she bought us vegan whipped cream. She pulled it out of the fridge for me and it was Cool Whip. Cool Whip is not vegan. About halfway down their long list of ingredients is “whey”, a cheese making byproduct. I looked at her, looked at the container and thanked her. Both Colin and I took a large spoonful of Cool Whip and dug in. I even took it home with me because they’re not fond of sweets and wouldn’t use it. My Mom had gone out of her way to find Colin and I a treat and had missed one tiny word in a sea of incomprehensible words. I wasn’t going to disappoint her.

Recently someone in a vegan group was gifted “vegan” baked goods by a relative. One sticker showed egg whites and the other products were missing stickers. She was upset and her relative was upset. The baked goods, which were advertised as vegan, were expensive and she really wanted the cinnamon buns. The bakery claimed the label on the cupcakes was incorrect and they were indeed vegan. They did not explain the 33mg of cholesterol other than to say it wasn’t a lot. Vegan products have 0mg of cholesterol. My instant reaction was that they were a gift, they came from the heart, her relative had made a huge effort to find something vegan. Enjoy. I also shared my story with her. And there came one of the vegan police.

She hounded me in post after post, saying I was “just” plant based instead of vegan, as if that was an insult. That I was encouraging people to promote animal suffering and cruelty. She kept on posting while I continued to say that a) family is important and b) I’m still vegan. She was relentless, even following me to a different post to continue arguing. I ended up blocking her.

I logged on to Facebook this morning and someone asked if sugar is vegan, she’d only just learned about bone char. One person flounced from the group because the sugar question was being asked again. There’s 55 thousand members in this group, repeat questions are bound to come up. And, of course, the vegan police arrived, this time confusingly saying to “liberate your limbs from this white meth asap”. I’ll agree that sugar is overused, especially in packaged foods but meth? I have yet to see anyone on the street jonesing for their next sugar fix.

Then there was the time two of my friends started fighting on a post of mine. I can’t even remember what it was about, except my friend T was posting with the same view as mine and my friend E was posting against it, while wanting me to back her. They ended up on E’s Facebook page where T commented that one meal needed bacon. That is the most ridiculous of omnivore comments, one everyone uses if they can’t think up something original. That being said the comment didn’t warrant E’s reaction. T lives alone with two small kids. You can imagine the fear this comment generated.

scary messagesmallnoprofilePart of being vegan is supposed to be compassion for animals and the environment by avoiding all animal products as much as possible. I missed the part in the definition that said to be a total asshole to anyone who disagrees with you. No one should have their safety threatened over a bacon “joke”.

As for the vegan police, the world will go a lot more smoothly if you concentrated more on your plate and less on everyone else’s. If you have a burning need to help animals then go help animals. Volunteer at the local animal shelter, adopt a rescue animal… or two… or five. Volunteer at an animal sanctuary if you live close to one or donate if it’s not feasible. You’ll find a lot more people are willing to think about eating a plant based diet if you’re not screaming, “you’re eating the blood of the innocent” at them. Give it a try sometime.