My Head Hurts

I used to love going to The World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto. Then one day I was hit with the overwhelming realization that I will never manage to read all of these books. This thought saddened me a little and the store lost its allure.

I loved going for my evening walks. Beautiful sunsets, gentle exercise accompanied by the scenery of my neighbourhood’s homes whose interior lights glowed warmly behind drawn curtains. I would walk and think how behind every front door is a family’s life playing itself out just as my family’s story is slowly unfolding centre stage in my home. Each reveal vital to each family member.

These are the stories of life. Not unlike the books in my old favourite bookstore I will only know a very small fraction of these stories and of these few stories I will only know the very small parts that the players wish to expose to me.

Then stumble sent me this lovely little nugget;

I feel as though I’ve been sonderized, it’s all too much if you think about it. It’s beautiful, ugly, sad, happy, complicated, simple, kind, nasty, gentle and harsh. It’s everything all at once multiplied by the entire world.

Writer’s Block or Apathy?

I haven’t posted in quite some time and I’m not sure why.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to post about it’s just that I haven’t had anything to say.

I’m really not sure if I have writer’s block (yes, I realize that calling myself a writer is quite a stretch but let’s just use that word for now) or if I’m just feeling kind of apathetic and uninspired. Is that what writer’s block is?

What do you do when you’re in this situation? Do you sit down at the computer and force something, anything out or do you just wait for the inspiration to return?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Well, summer is over and none too soon.

The kids are back in school and even with the holidays and my eldest off to his first year of university we are getting into a routine.

I’m calling this the summer that wasn’t.

The weather just couldn’t commit itself this summer.  Not rainy enough to say that we had a really rainy summer not sunny enough to say that it was a beautiful summer and neither hot not cold enough that we could use either of those words to describe it.


It was an especially tough summer for my family as we unexpectedly lost my father-in-law in July.

Believe it or not but 93 can still feel as though it’s too soon. Are we ever ready to say goodbye forever to someone we love?

There is so much that I could tell you about this man but this is far too personal for such a public forum so I’ll keep what I write to a minimum.

My husband and I had to go to Toronto in August. Usually we would drive in to town, pick up my father-in-law and go out to dinner together before going back to his place where we would stay. This time we had no one to check in with, no one who was calling to check our progress along the way.

My husband looked at me in the car and said, “I feel untethered.”

I could not have put it any better. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many children you have when you lose your last parent you lose a piece of your identity.

You become untethered.

On Becoming Vintage

Once again I’ve been silent for a while.

It seems that I have a couple of things to write about and then I dry up and am left with nothing.  As I move through life and hopefully gain a little wisdom to go along with my age I’ve discovered that I much prefer to say nothing when I have nothing to say. I’m learning to become a better listener.

Life got really busy. School ending, the return of the Prodigal, camp preparations and then the Big Event. Well, it was the current Big Event in my life. A couple of weeks ago I hit the big 5-0. Yes, I now have half a century under my belt. I was really expecting to be hit by 50 more than to hit 50 myself. I’m ecstatic to report that this was not the case at all. It was more like being thrown off the dock into a cool lake only to discover that a cool lake is actually exactly where you want to be.

It started off a little shaky when the difference between turning 40 and turning 50 was made all too clear to me. When I turned 40 I decided that I wanted to be in the best shape of my life for that birthday. I spent the year training for a trialthalon (my husband and I were a team and he was going to do the biking). A week before the triathalon I sprained my ankle and could not participate. I was very disappointed but I had achieved my goal of getting into great shape. In September I decided once again to try and get into the best shape of my life.  Two weeks before my birthday I woke up one morning only to realize that I had completely forgotten about getting into shape. Oops. I should have written it down.

My eldest sister and her daughters changed things around for me by kicking off the celebration early by giving us a virtual evening in Paris with some of my favourite people on earth, my  female family members. My nieces, my daughter, both of my sisters as well as my mother were able to be there for me. It was a wonderful weekend and my sister as always was a gracious hostess. I think that she may know me almost better than anyone else does, she certainly remembers more about me and my childhood than anyone else on earth does. I consider myself blessed to have a good strong relationship with my nieces. My eldest niece and I have always been very close, she was after all my baby as well – at least in my mind. The knowlege of her thoughtfulness as to how to celebrate my birthday is very precious to me. It truly was a perfect evening.

My girlfriends at home made my actual birthday a celebration of friendship by surprising me with a wonderful walk on which we picked up friends along the way. After we relaxed I was then taken to lunch and surprised with the company of more girlfriends.

My husband was out of town for the weekend prior to and the day of my birthday. My children gifted me with good behaviour and a general show of concern for me on my big day. Once my husband returned we went out for dinner and he gave me a piece of jewellery that I have loved and wanted for a good 30 years – I am after all a jeweller’s daughter. It was the perfect surprise and a gift that I had never imagined that I would be given.

So, far from being depressed as I had expected I had a wonderful day full of love and friendship. As I got into bed at night and thought about being 50 the vision of coming across a vintage chair that is 50 years old and that could be sat upon without fear of it breaking came to me. I knew that my my reaction would be “cool chair”.  I’ve decided that I’m as good as any  chair (this is my new motto, as odd as it is) so I am cool with being 50. I should be cool to Hipsters too, after all don’t they love all things vintage?

I love and am loved by a caring family

I have a good group of friends.

I have been able to watch life unfold for 50 years and because of this I have gained a historical perspective.

I will not break if sat upon.

I am a very lucky woman.

Lucky Lucky Him

Really I am just very happy to be myself.  I love my life and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I know how lucky I am.  I’m doing pretty much exactly what I want to be doing.  I’m faced with some challenges, what mother of four teenagers isn’t?  I wouldn’t want to be my husband. I wouldn’t want his responsibilities, his stress or his schedule.

He had to go to a meeting in Brussels this week.  His flight from our city to Toronto was cancelled due to a heavy snow fall and he suddenly had to make a three hour drive so that he wouldn’t miss his flight. His flight was delayed so that he missed his connecting flight. I didn’t even know that it wasn’t a direct flight. His luggage got lost.  He was late for the first day of the meeting. He was also going to miss our daughter’s 13th birthday. I was happy to not be him.

I suppose that it’s also normal to occasionally envy your spouse.  He has great self confidence, he gets satisfaction from his job, he has an even keeled personality, he gets to interact with so many people on a daily basis through work and he’s in Brussels.

The Artiste is meeting his dad in Brussels.  After almost 5 months my husband  gets to see our son in the flesh. To embrace him in a great big bear hug and to plant a good one on his cheek. To just be with him.  To listen to and to laugh at his crazy stories. To hang out and to share a few meals together.

They’ve phoned me and we’ve spoken.  I love talking to my son. Berlin was amazing, exciting and edgey. Men will drink beer at breakfast there. Truly a utopia!  Bruges looks like a fairy tale city. He has a new love of french fries dipped in mayonnaise (so unappealing if you ask me) and they’ve been eating Belgian chocolates to their hearts’ content. It felt so good to hear all of this from my son.

Then I spoke to my husband.

“How does he look?”

“He looks great.”

“Give him a big hug and kiss.”

“Already done.”

“Are you having a good time together?”

“The best.”

Suddenly my throat felt tight and my eyes got watery.

Sometimes, I envy my husband.

My Favourite Picture of Us

My Favourite Picture of Us

Phylactery Envy?



On Friday I learned that it is now permissible for women to pray at the Western Wall wearing prayer shawls and phylacteries. So congratulations ladies. However I have to admit that I have never understood this desire. Even when I was more religious and could envision myself living in a more orthodox lifestyle this was never something that appealed to me. When I would attend my Conservative synagogue (for those of you who aren’t aware Canadian Conservative is quite different than American Conservative) and see the odd woman in a Tallis and a Kipah I just didn’t get it. However, I can still appreciate that there are women to whom this is very important. To those of you who are offended by this I’m sure that in time you will manage to adjust.

The more serious right to me is that women still can’t read from the Torah at the Wall and must go to Robinson’s Arch. I see this as a simple issue of education.

I cannot help but notice in synagogue that when a woman has an aliyah she often is clearer than her male counterparts. Maybe it’s because women don’t take this honour for granted and we feel that we need to prove ourselves or perhaps because women are not even asked to read unless they  can prove themselves to be more than capable before they are given the honour. Whatever the reason I’ve never heard a woman read from the Torah and not be impressed with her proficiency.

I guess it’s one battle at a time.

A Tale of Two Artists

This isn’t the kind of thing that I usually write about but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Now that my son is touring Europe and having the opportunity to see for himself some of the greatest works of art I’ve been thinking about this even more. When you look at a work of art are you able to remove yourself from the artist as a person? Does the person affect the image? I never thought so before. I always looked at art for it’s esthetic value or it’s meaning or for the thoughtfulness it might provoke. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered that the way I felt about an artist as a person could change the way that I felt about his art.

Perhaps I am becoming more judgemental as I become older. Or maybe I’m just firmer in my convictions.

I’d like us to look at two artists; Marc Chagall (1887-1985) and Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920).

Toronto had an exhibit of Modigliani’s work about eight years ago. I was excited to go as I had always enjoyed his work. As I walked around the museum with my sister listening to the recording explaining his life and his work my feeling of pleasure changed to one of disappointment and eventually disgust. What follows is what I learned about this artist as a person.

Modigliani was born in Italy later settling in Paris. He died of tubercular meningitis exacerbated by an addiction to alcohol and to narcotics. He became the epitome of the tragic artist. Although he was known to have frequent affairs he lived with Jeanne Hebuterne. At the age of 20 she gave birth to their daughter, at the time of his death she was pregnant with their second child. Narcissist and egotist that he was he had her make a pact that when he died she would in turn kill herself. The day after his death Jeanne threw herself from the 5th floor window of her parent’s home killing herself and her unborn child. A woman of her word.

On a lower level of egotism Modigliani had an ongoing feud with Picasso. He was jealous of Picasso’s greater success both financially and in reputation. He felt that Picasso was using his ideas although he equally could be accused of using Picasso’s cubist ideas in his own work.
I find it impossible to look at his portraits of Jeanne and see any sort of love or respect. The image on the right is of Jeanne HebuterneJeanne Hebuterne

Now let’s take a look at Chagall. To be honest when I went to see his exhibit I was feeling a little nervous. What would I find out about this artist that would change my opinion about his work?

Wedding of Marc and Bella ChagallChagall was born in Russia later settling in Paris. His worked synthesized Cubism, Symbolism and Fauvism.
In 1910 he met Bella Rosenfeld who would later become his wife. He called her “the woman who was my inspiration”. After she died suddenly in 1944 he stopped all work for many months. When he did resume painting he was concerned with preserving Bella’s memory.
The image that I have posted of his work is of his and Bella’s wedding. He placed himself on her shoulders because his joy in marrying her made him feel as though he was light enough to float (I’m paraphrasing from something that I read quite a few years ago so please forgive me if I don’t have it quite right, I’m going for the essence of the feeling here).

As to Chagall and Picasso, Picasso said this of him; “When Matisse dies Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.”

By attending their exhibits I developed a new found appreciation of Marc Chagall and a disdain for Modigliani.

If art is meant to provoke both of these artists were successful just in different ways. So go visit a gallery, rent the informative recording you may be surprised by what you end up thinking about.

What’s Going On?

You know what they say, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.”

I’m relating to that a little too well right now. I know that I posted a blog on Tuesday.  It was my first posting in a long time. I called it “Consistently Inconsistent” I wrote it, I published it and then I obsessively followed my stats the rest of the day – yes I do that. Today my son, Destroy, decided that my blog needed a makeover (more on that in a moment). While we were doing that I noticed that my post from yesterday had disappeared. I went into the list of all my posts and saw it listed in a draft. I checked out the draft and found only the beginning of that post. What the heck?! I know that I wrote it, I wrote all of it. I published it. It was read. I can’t for the life of me remember every thing that I said in it even though it was not very lengthy. That seems to be the way of my memory these days. Besides the question of what is happening to my memory, what happened to my post? Has anyone else ever had this happen? I do not like this, not one bit.

On to my makeover. It seems, according to my son, that my blog was in need of a makeover. He was not happy that except for seasonal header changes my blog appearance has remained the same for the past three years. I do not like change. Or perhaps I should say that I initially do not like change. Telling me that you do not like the appearance of my blog is not that different from telling me that one of my kids is ugly. You just don’t do that to a mother unless you want to receive the stink eye followed by a piece of her mind ending in the silent treatment for the rest of your life. Of course I’m not going to do that to my son over my blog. He just got to hear a lot of whining and complaining until he heard “Hey! that’s really nice. I’m good with that. Thanks. Thanks so much. Now you just have to be prepared to help me change the background as the seasons change.”

So kudos to Destroy whose name I may well change to the Computer Kid.

He also added an about me page. He said I should also add a page explainig everyone’s nickname. He’s right but I can only handle so much change in one day.

So hang in there reader(s) there’s more to come.

Everyone But Me and the One Across the Sea

Well it’s been four and a half months since my eldest son left for his travels abroad.

It’s been quite an adjustment.

I really felt the lack of his presence in our house. I like to think of the two of us as the ying to the rest of the family’s yang. He is definitely an artist while I am no artist but am drawn to the arts. I wouldn’t say that the other four people in my house are math geeks but there is certainly a very strong math/science bias amongst them.

Initially dinners were much quieter and much less entertaining without the Artiste to amuse us. We have learned to adjust and over the months everyone else has begun to open up a little more. This is a good thing. The nature of our dinner conversations have changed somewhat and that’s just fine. I might even manage to experience a little growth. Physics has become slightly more interesting to me. I even downloaded the sample of a book on string theory for non-science types. Who knows one day I might just read that sample and then possibly order the actual book. It could happen.

So I’m still missing my son but I’m accustomed to our new normal. It became more difficult when he left Israel and he had to return the phone that we had rented for him to use while he was there. We were counting on the WiFi in the hostels and facetiming with him using his iPad mini. Communication is so much easier now than when I was his age. We didn’t count on him getting mugged on the subway in Barcelona, his first stop after Israel. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt but they did take his passport, Eurail pass, personal journal and iPad. This year is all about growth experiences for him and that was a big one. The Canadian consulate was wonderful and got him a temporary passport within 24 hours. For myself, I feel as though this year is all about learning to let go and watching my grey hair coming in at an alarming rate.

He returns in June and I just pray that he will be tattoo and piercing free. Before I know it he’ll be here causing grey hairs in person. I’m looking forward to it, just please remind me of this in July and August.

You Know It’s Cold When…

We’re in a bit of a cold snap right now.  I think it’s called a cold snap because of the apparent ease with which our digits will snap off if we stand outside for too long.  O.K. so I’m exagerating a little. I don’t know of any actual digit snapping.  But believe me, it’s cold.

The school buses have all been cancelled because it’s just too cold for the kids to stand and wait for them. The snow is squeeky, as though it’s protesting the low temperatures with every step we take. My van also protested the cold and for the first time in the seventeen years we have lived here I thought that my vehicle might not start. The moisture in your nose freezes and you cough with every breath you take. There’s also that sharp pain across your forehead. My fireplace is on and I’m wearing a turtle neck and a sweater and I’m only comfortable.  For the first time menopause and hot flashes do not sound like a bad thing.

I have a big pot of soup cooking on the stove and the kids have already started drinking hot chocolate and tea.

I had heard that last night was supposed to be the coldest night of the year and then one of my kids told me that it’s supposed to drop to -50C tonight. Part of me is tempted to go outside in that just to see what it feels like. I think my brain needs thawing.

So, if you’re also experiencing these cold temperatures I wish you running vehicles, hot soup, warm clothing, welcoming shelter and pipes that don’t burst.

If you live in warmer climates, lucky you, enjoy.

However, I’ll still take this weather with a smile on my face because I love Canada just that much.