2010-2019: A Look Back, and a Look Forward

2019 was a very difficult year for me but it certainly hasn’t been the first bad year this decade. The previous one was 2012 which led to me think about two things: one, that 7 year cycles are a thing, and two, that it would be good for me to see just how far we’ve come in the last ten years. Overall, things are looking up.

In 2010 we were living in Arnprior; son was busy with Air Cadets (somebody remind me to contact the Air Cadets here to return his boots and uniform if they want them) and band, daughter having moved to Ottawa with her dad at the end of 2008 was dating the fellow who would become her husband and started university at the Ottawa U nursing program in Pembroke at the Algonquin College campus and was in her very first apartment. Jim and I appeared as animators in The Prince and The Prior. That was a good year!

I was working on a long term assignment that I loved doing which was being the Procurement Module Team Lead for our Oracle Upgrade project. Jim was working for Cogeco where I was volunteering and we were both doing a second job as a night cleaner team. Think whatever you like about cleaners, I actually enjoyed doing that because first, it was exercise, and second, cleaners are some of the invisible people. It was nice spending a couple of hours a day walking and blending in with the wallpaper. I was also working on a university degree that sadly I wound up not continuing because of the money crisis that happened and my while my mom had helped a little, somebody told her that Athabasca University (an accredited university in Canada) was one of those correspondence schools that you see on the back of magazines so I was on my own with all university expenses after that.

I would stay on that project until 2012 and daughter would move to London to attend Western University with her sweetheart; her dad stayed in our house until 2011 when he moved back to New Brunswick to help with his mom who had developed a form of dementia following a heart attack. 2011 then was kind of a turning point year that led to the havoc that 2012 was, part of it being that management changed at my work and the project I was on was winding up in early 2012 so I took a chance and volunteered to work at a new Department that was being created. I was accepted and was expected to start work in the Fall of 2012 working in assets again.

2012 was one big black hole of a year where I was left scrambling trying to cope with some serious situations; it wasn’t just me either but in my case my choice to volunteer was a bad one because they didn’t honour what they promised and then made me a pawn in a management spat between two Departments and clawed back pay to the point that I was on the verge of bankruptcy. I went from being an expert and appreciated to being a number and treated terribly.

It was also a year that son was offered a chance at a fresh start and stayed in New Brunswick that year. I had applied to two jobs in the Maritimes, one of which they had checked the references and then the axes fell. Job was cancelled; I contacted one place I had heard needed people of my category in Fredericton – they wouldn’t consider a transfer so I had to apply when the job posters came out. Apply I did. I also went to financial help because a few months with only enough to pay the mortgage sent everything else spiralling into pay-up-or-else. I was told I had too much equity in my house, I had to sell that before considering any other options. I decided that if I had to sell the house, I’d move to Fredericton. At the same time I realized I could do early retirement and amazingly there was an opportunity to alternate with someone who was being laid off. That would solve the money problem at least a little. Alternate I did. At the end of the year I was still waiting for payment but I did do a job interview for two jobs in Fredericton though I told them I had already left. Still, I could come back. So 2012 ended in relief and a whole lot of what to do next in front of me.

2013 I was offered one of the two jobs and the other I was put in the pool for language reasons; I told them I couldn’t start because the offer came at the same time as my money finally and I would have had to pay back more than I was given (gross versus net). At the same time I was trying to figure out how to sell the house and get to Fredericton on my own – I spend the months thinking about that but never could figure it out, everything needed money upfront which I didn’t really have, not in that amount. I eventually accepted the job offer after turning it down twice. So back to work I was in June, and we were on our way to Fredericton. The house sold, some of the bills got paid and we all got a fresh start. Or it was for a bit anyway. All told, accepting that job I wound up paying $47k, $11k of which I still don’t know how I’m going to pay but I’m going to have to. Lesson learned – next time I leave (this was the second time) is the last. Jim retired in the sense that he couldn’t find a job until a short term one in 2018. But that was okay.

2014 was a fun year – daughter and fiance lived in the same city as me that year and things all in all were pretty good. 2015 was a time of a couple of goodbyes, of discovering how it felt like to be blatantly discriminated against (it made me feel old); me painting a new painting that I donated to The Ville and I did a bit of work on my publishing.

2016 was a sad and happy year all at once. Jim’s mother passed away, mine nearly did and remained in care after that, but daughter got married and that was a wonderful day indeed.

2017 was the year the clawing back had me living on 35% of my salary – this lasted until well into 2018. 2017 was also the year the childrens’ paternal grandmother passed away suddenly. All in all there wasn’t much going on in 2018 except that Jim worked for a little bit for the Museum here which was interesting. We also did a bit of night cleaning for the Museum which helped at a time I really needed it, and again, there’s something honest about being a cleaner – it just is what it is and no more. A little less stress than my regular job I must say. Anyway it was welcome extra money. With his job at the Museum we also got to attend a few functions and meet some new people – something that was nice to do. 2018, sadly was also the year we lost the last and most charismatic of our cats and our big-hearted big black lab.

Oh 2019. My mom passed away, I spent a couple of weeks out west, but mostly laid low wondering about life and what to do next. I don’t know where I’m going but I do know something has to change. So that’s where I’m at.

Looking forward I don’t know. I hope I’ll be able to retire comfortably but that will take paying off the remaining bills and that $11k and putting aside a couple of years’ worth of money to live off of. At this point, I’m beginning to think I may still be working 10 years from now which makes me sad so I won’t think of that. I do plan to finish a painting I stopped when the depression hit me so hard I couldn’t do what I love anymore and to paint the several I plan to; add to that the books I haven’t finished and started but I plan to. I also want to make 2020 the year I find myself again. Maybe I’ll have enough to take another course in anything again? This coming decade will the beginning of the next phase of my life and I look forward to that. So you see, things are looking up.

À la prochaine,





2019: One Long Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve been grappling with what to say for my year end message, even considered not publishing one.  It feels a lot like I’m both under the spotlight and totally ignored which is a little weird.  There’s also a whole lot I’d like to say but really shouldn’t.  Someday those things will show up in a novel or short story or two – I’m leaning towards horror stories for this year!  I have a conundrum because there really are things I have to leave out and I will eventually speak my truth, just not today.  If you know me you know I always do eventually let my truth be known.

Why is letting your truth be known important anyway?  Does anyone care?  Honestly I don’t know.  But I do know there are some things that I have learned this year that deserve to be said.  That’s all.

In general, it’s been a year of loss, of coming to grips with peoples’ perceptions of me, of really looking at my own perceptions of myself, of diminution and starting a long road of what I hope will eventually be a healing of mind and soul.  I can honestly say I never thought I’d be where I’m at right now and it’s a little disturbing.  Perhaps when some time has passed maybe I’ll feel better about this year but that remains to be seen.

When 2019 started, I was missing the companionship of my wonderful dog who died a little unexpectedly.  I say a little because he was old and somewhat infirm.  We knew he was going to go but it happened sooner than I thought was all.  I do wonder if had I been able to afford the ACL surgery if his health would have been better.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that for now, I don’t want anymore animals I can’t afford to fix, and don’t ever want to have to wonder whether I should take an animal to the vet when they may not make it or have enough for cremation like I did with our wonderful orange cat. He died before I had to make that a firm choice.  Still, it isn’t right.  I know there’s pet insurance but like a lot of insurance having to pay first and hope the claim is honoured won’t help if you don’t have it to begin with.  So no more menagerie for now, maybe ever.  I just can’t face those kind of decisions again, at least not for the foreseeable future.

If this year were a tarot card it would be the six of swords – the dark night of the soul.  Not to be maudlin but it is how I feel. One good thing about this year is I got off the waiting list to see a therapist before my mother died.  Fortuitous timing.  Having a listening ear that you don’t need to filter or weigh your words is a good thing, especially if people get offended easily by your thoughts.  I recommend it if you can afford such a thing – I’m lucky that I have insurance that pays quickly and I’m in a place now that once or twice a month I can put aside the amount needed to pay up front.  The year before I wasn’t able to say that, so that’s another good thing.

In February I was told my mom was in hospital and back out but the next time would be the last.  Being far away (I assume is the reason since I was her daughter who she loved), I wasn’t on the list of family so it meant getting news second hand most of the time.  Not sure what to do and not having enough money yet to travel on my own accord I stayed put though it would have been nice to see her one last time and say what was in my heart. I didn’t feel a burning need to though because we were always on good terms so I really didn’t have much more to say.

In April I got an email saying she was in the hospital and wouldn’t be leaving.  The next day I got an email saying she had died that morning.  She had been in the hospital for three days at that point, but I didn’t know.  I missed being there when she passed. I wasn’t invited.  If I knew what hospital she was in I suppose I could have gone but I didn’t.  So there we have it.  I felt like I was somewhat less of a daughter and I don’t know if leaving me out was intentional or not.  Doesn’t matter though because there is no going back.  What has bothered me about that is that for my dad he wanted me to go see him the weekend he died, I said sure and then I was to told to call him back and tell him we’d come the next weekend so I wasn’t there when he died – not my choice.  This time I had no choice.  Me, the daughter not deserving.  That’s how it feels anyway.

The nearly two months between the death and funeral could have gone one of two ways – coming together in love as family putting aside differences, or magnifying differences.  It was the latter.  Just before the funeral I got an email telling me to sell my GICs (I’ve never had one) and the piano because my children were grown now (I play the piano – badly, but I do) and be there.  My ex and my son were also expected but not welcome was my common-law spouse of 17 years.  I wrote a long letter back that got filtered through people and was never read by its intended recipient.  I think I can safely say they will never read it.  All I was doing was clearing my name from misconceptions about me.  The truth is not welcome. The bright shining light in all this was my daughter and her husband, who went above and beyond and then some in all of this.  I will always be grateful for the help at this time because I know my daughter was hurting too – she lost her grandmother.

The obituary came out and I was in it with my former married name – something I haven’t used in 18 years and I legally can’t anymore. No one who knew me in my home town knew my mother was dead because the obituary had the name I went with when I lived in the GTA and that isn’t where it was posted.  They also didn’t allow public posts on the obituary. I don’t know if there were any kind words posted at all. 

I am not entitled to my own name.  My identity is not my own apparently.  My ex wasn’t impressed either being put beside me as my husband.  I’ve been together with my current spouse 4 years longer than with him but my current is vilified which means I’m also not allowed to decide who my spouse is.   I felt like I was living in the dark ages with all of that, honestly.  When did I lose my right to decide what my name is and who my spouse is?  You see – there is a horror story in here somewhere.  Someday I’ll write it but for now I’m just trying to figure out how this can be considered acceptable.

Shortly after that I wound up on an interesting assignment that lead me to spending a little more than two weeks in Vancouver and Lillooet.  A welcome break from my life with my work, at a time where I got to swim in the ocean and just have some quiet time by myself.  I attended the Vancouver Pride Parade that went outside my hotel.  It was an experience for sure, that trip.  I also wound up swimming in both the Atlantic and the Pacific that summer.

In the Fall there was a work restructuring that kind of wound up being a demotion for me.  That’s all I should say, but I will say I’m now in 5 different job pools and just recently applied for another.  It’s one that has as a minimum my now lapsed language level but coincidentally I need to now prove that at my current place so what was going to be a quiet end of year is being spent refreshing my knowledge of French grammar.  It is what it is.

Going forward I need to stop looking back.  There’s too much I can’t change, and it is hard to realize that no matter how hard I try there are people who will never accept me.  I have to look forward now because there is no going back.  So in short, I don’t know where I’ll be this time next year.  I like Fredericton but I don’t think Fredericton likes me.  Six years is a long time to feel like I’m “less than” and to lose so much:  my mother, all my animals, my jeep, a couple of friends, a couple of mothers-in-law, alive people who were close who aren’t now, my seniority at work.  To that end those 6 job applications are not for here.  I don’t think they are going to come to anything but if they do, it will be somewhere else in Canada. Chances are this time next year I’ll be right where I’m at now, older and hopefully wiser.

My goal for this year is to bring light back into my life.  To lift the sadness and depression and start shining my light back into the world again with my words and my artwork.  I miss being me.  And that’s enough of the navel gazing.

For the world all I can say is we must stop this trend of needing to be right at all costs, of wilful disregard of facts, of divisiveness and attacking people verbally when there’s a disagreement.  Having an opinion doesn’t mean you’re right, it means you have an opinion.  There also needs to be an end to the resurgence of racism, of ignoring human rights in favour of dogma be it secular or crouched in religion, of putting political parties above all else including the law.

This year we need to see kindness.  We need to see a laying down of swords. We need to see the return of empathy, of understanding, of listening, of caring.  Most of all, like always, we need compassion.

À la prochaine,


Predictions for 2020

Yes, it’s time for my annual predictions. Just a reminder that I do this for fun, and how I do it is basically to imagine what the news will look like on December 31, 2020 in the year in review. That’s it.

Here goes:

  1. Big volcanic event in the Pacific – looks like Hawaii but I’m not sure about that.
  2. Trump:  illness, hospitalized, something to do with the blood, stress is a factor.
  3. Politician dies falling overboard from a ship.
  4. Worldwide call for simpler times.  Rejection of current society.
  5. Schism deepening between hardline “my way or the highway” people and more moderate, flexible, open minded people – especially in the US and the UK.
  6. More Brexit drama, more delays.  Assassination attempt but not sure against who, someone who is connected to the EU?
  7. Ireland seriously looking at reuniting.  Diplomatic talks begin.
  8. Staying the course – looks like our own Canadian government is fine for 2020 no major upsets.
  9. Market upheaval – major spike followed by a crash in the Fall starting around May.
  10. Water and ice is there for this year’s weather.  Volcanic eruptions in the Pacific rim, earthquake activity on the US west coast, severe hurricane activity on the US east coast but not touching Canada this time.  Canadian weather fairly moderate for 2020 except for a resurgence of fires in the west.
  11. Hong Kong issues continue – are now striving to be an independent country.  There is western support but general decision is to remain out of it.
  12. Religious tensions arise in India related to more regulations being passed that are deemed to be anti-minority.
  13. African powerhouse – new entrepreneur from Africa starting to build new industry that will be appreciated world wide.
  14. Child of someone well-known – perhaps a celebrity – will pass from a vaccine preventable illness and will spearhead a vaccination campaign in the media.
  15. Royal family lying low – trying to anyway – out of respect for the Queen and Prince Phillip – age is an issue this year, age-related press.
  16. New form of treatment for schizophrenia to be in trials and appearing to be somewhat successful.  Comes from an unexpected source (happy accident).
  17. More regulations on credit cards coming, interest related.  Hopefully it’s something that actually is helpful to consumers (that’s just a comment from me).

How accurate was I last year?  See for yourself here:  https://mrssauga.wordpress.com/2018/12/26/2018-annual-predictions/



A Farewell to Yahoo Groups

I posted this message to Yahoo Groups as it is being shut down on December 14th. I was a moderator of the INFP Group (the original one). So here for posterity is my goodbye to what was once an wonderful place to be.
October 27, 2019 – So Long and Thanks For All The Fish

A blow to the heart it was to see that Yahoo Groups is shutting its doors, you can’t post after October 28th (Monday) and I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out how to download my history. I did ask Yahoo to provide me with my user data which might give me some of what I posted but not all. The thing is, it’s been 20 years since I joined the INFP group. I wasn’t who I am now, and my original email has long ago been shut down with the demise of Netscape. I tried to search for my very first post but so far haven’t found it – it would be among the first 3 or so volumes in the history but I’m not sure if it was a response or what.

A whole generation has gone by since that day in April of 1999 when I was home from work for a week or so because I had pulled a tendon in my right foot and had to stay off of it. I was a married mom of two children, a 2 and a 7 year old and I had recently found out through a work Myers-Briggs session that I was an INFP.

To say that it was a life changing moment is an understatement. I had grown up being that odd duck who created stories and paintings and songs and would act out stories with my friends before I could put my stories to paper. I also had freaky dreams that sometimes came true and I kind of just knew things that resulted in adults getting annoyed and telling me to stop being so precocious. I was a shy little thing who kept to her own company and had a few close friends who got me. I was an alien in the land of rules who saw things slightly differently and was a tomboy at a time when little girls wore frilly dresses and wore hats and gloves to church. Me, I climbed trees and went fishing with the boys. So imagine discovering that there were other creative folks who fiercely held to their beliefs and didn’t quite fit in. In my convalescence I decided to search on the internet for anything INFP related though at that time there were more questions than answers on the internet as many can recall.

Still, I found a really good site and read everything in there, and when it came to a link section I was so happy, there were message boards where people could discuss the topic. There were others out there like me. How could I not join? The INFP group was originally located on One List and I joined this remarkably busy list. I found a home.

So fast forward to today. I am the moderator who rescued the group from the ravages of spam and trolls when Yahoo (which had bought out One List and started Yahoo Groups) allowed people to petition to become moderators of abandoned lists. It wasn’t abandoned, but our original list owner wasn’t able to sign in and got busy with life. I’ve been a quiet moderator, mostly reading without comment but approving people and removing spam because over the years I had a whole less time to devote to this list and I have to say while I miss the camaraderie, since this list was created so too were sites like MySpace then Facebook and Twitter and all of the other ways that people can connect. A lot of things have happened these past 20 years.

For me though, this list indeed was a life changer. I went from married to single to living with my sweetie; I’ve moved from Mississauga to Arnprior to Fredericton. My children are grown and one of them is married. I changed my job 4 times and even retired for 9 months before I accepted the job I’ve been in for 6 years. That’s a lot. I lost several people close to me, including this year my mother who was 1 month shy of 100. I’m older now and I’d like to think wiser though I’m not entirely sure about that one.

I met my sweetheart (Jim Wellington a.k.a Talerocker a.k.a. Quaeglan) here on this list – he was 500 miles away in the US and we were fellow writers and web site programmers who just got on well as people. On 9/11 as I was unpacking my newly separated life in my new townhouse Jim and I decided to talk on the phone (he was 50 miles from New York working at a radio station the day it happened, me I was working in Canada at a place that was responsible for landing all those planes trapped in the airspace over Canada and travelling to the US from Europe) and we both just needed to talk to somebody a little more involved than having watched the endless television loops. We haven’t stopped talking since and have been living together for 17 years. Thanks, INFP list.

I’ve come to know some wonderful people I’d never have known had I not joined; a few I’ve met in person – one became my son’s piano teacher. Many of these people I am acquainted with on Facebook and I’m very glad we have shared this journey together.

Thank you everyone.

p.s. I am on Facebook as well as Twitter. You can read my writing on my WordPress blog at https://mrssauga.wordpress.com. Oh – and Douglas Adams is still one of my favorite writers. So for me the answer to the meaning of life and everything will always be 42. So long, list.

Welcome Back, Mississauga

This was my 2019 entry to CBC creative non-fiction contest, which as you may gather since it’s published here, did not make the long list. That’s fine, it will be in my book of essays I intend to publish in the not-to-distant future. This was an essay that took me a mere 15 years to write. Enjoy 🙂
With the power back on and the house officially mine, I could finally get the trailer of furniture delivered. This was a good thing because at the moment we only had a kitchen full of tropical plants plus a cage of renegade birds that had been exiled from the hotel we were staying in. We killed the time between closing on the house and the arrival of the furniture by painting the living room walls three different shades of blue.

The deadline for delivery was extremely tight – the movers had to drop off everything at which point we needed to jump in the car and drive back to Mississauga to make it for the appointment I learned was scheduled for the day after. When I was told of the appointment the date and time seemed reasonable if quite annoying but here we were. It was August of 2003 and my big move back to the Ottawa area was quite literally darkened by the great power outage of eastern Canada and the US.

That I was coming back was a bit of a marvel in itself. I had relocated to Mississauga in 1988 and 15 years later it seemed to me that coming home would be a bit of an impossibility. When I moved there it was after the discovery of my boyfriend being transferred to Toronto in six weeks who promptly proposed. Then it was a very quick wedding, a house hunting trip I didn’t go on, a pack and move of 2 apartments and 2 cats, a honeymoon in Montreal with its own power outage that lasted nearly a day and a bad case of the flu for the both of us.

This time it was two children, one ex and a new common-law spouse later. I was living in a townhouse in a co-operative that had the world’s best babysitter-slash-surrogate grandma on one side. On the other, a strange woman with 2 children who didn’t speak to me but took a shine to my fellow and had him building furniture and mowing the lawn for her. She wasn’t too fond of me though. That she would shovel one half of the single sidewalk paver width entryway and took offense if anybody stepped a toe on her lawn didn’t help me warm to her either.

It had been a long 15 years for me. My dreams of leaving my hometown and the civil service to go to university in Toronto didn’t quite pan out. We discovered a couple of days after arriving exactly how expensive this area was; looking at our combined single person credit debt foolishness we realized that even though this new job brought a better salary, his wouldn’t be enough. Full-time university got put on the shelf for me for what seemed like – and so far is – forever.

I swore I wouldn’t go back to work for the government again, that is until my dad told his boss I’d moved to Mississauga. They knew me from my previous job so no sooner had he mentioned that I was there, she said, “We need someone who knows how to run a warehouse! What’s her number?”

Well, there were thousands of hours spent staring at taillights on the 401 in the end. But I knew six months in that this wouldn’t be my forever place. Thirty-one years and two cities later I have come to ask myself: will I ever find a spot that truly feels like home, someplace I never want to leave? Something tells me such a place just doesn’t exist and that’s fine with me. I was born with wandering feet, though my feet are slower than some peoples’ are.

At this time and place though, it was a case of me saying I wanted to go back to Ottawa, and Ottawa needing my skills perhaps more than where I was. This was confirmed by means of a phone call while my partner and I were enjoying a bite at a restaurant. I hung up and I’m told all the blood had drained from my face. “We’re moving to Ottawa,” I announced. My dream had come true.

Be careful what you wish for, they say. In the end it was the right thing to do but my complicated life became considerably more so in the coming days. I had to tell people. That was one thing, but when you have children there’s the added element of schools and babysitters and friends. One of those children was on the verge of becoming a teen, the other still small and needing of a babysitter with patience for my little spitfire.

With the childrens’ father remaining in Mississauga there was the daunting thought that oh no, what about the weekends? Just the idea of driving that distance two ways twice a month freaked me out but it was something that was going to need to be done. One thing that would be helpful was that the kids spent their summers in the Maritimes so much of this would happen while they were away. That was a bonus.

It took what felt like forever to get the go ahead which meant a whirlwind house hunting trip and then an equally frantic packing and cleaning session. Before that I had to let my current employers know that not only was I serious that I wanted to go home but now I was actually doing it. That also meant a great deal of clearing up work things and explaining everything I knew about my field to someone quickly chosen to fill in and hand off things left in midstream.

Days before I was set to leave I get a phone call from the City of Toronto. Somebody had given them my name and they said, hey, would you like to try for a job? It was in my field and paid $30,000 more. I sighed and explained I was moving in two weeks and asked: where were you three months ago?

House hunting was fun; I fell in love with a place half an hour out of town that sadly turned out to require a complete electrical upgrade from spool and wire; another was very much like walking into a museum. The voices we heard talking in an empty upstairs room were a little disconcerting. One townhouse was close to my family but had no backyard, was expensive with condo fees; then lastly on the final hour of an open house we walked into a cottage style 80 year old house in Arnprior.

It felt like home, had a big back yard and a two-story garage – we were hooked. That it had character and was detached with more than a Brazilian landing strip of grass sold me. No more neighbours calling the police for young child temper tantrums at midnight for us!

The quiet lifestyle and relaxing fields of cows on the way into town were added bonuses. Not minding the dire warnings from my family of having to drive forever each way, I signed on the dotted line. Thing is, until you’ve been eight months pregnant in summer in a car with no air conditioning on the 401 after a truck has rolled over trapping you there for three hours until you reach your off-ramp you can’t understand how 45 minutes of cows with 15 of those being city highway traffic seems easy. It’s not for nothing that people in Toronto drive with empty bottles under their seats just in case.

Anyway I soon discovered that my delightful co-op gleefully rubbed their hands at my relocation. This would mean an inspection and that townhouse better be spic and span with not a hint of dirt or damage or there’d be hell to pay. Or maybe just the first and last month rent deposit.

I painted, I cleaned, I shampooed the carpets. They did an inspection the day before the move that had me painting the hallway again. The inspection days after I moved was the hell that cost me the deposit in order to replace a damaged carpet that I found out later was never removed.

My last day of work was both touching and silly with the gift a gigantic bouquet of flowers which, had I not been moving 500 km away would have made me so happy. At this point all I could think of was how the heck am I going to bring this with me? My two vehicles were already packed to the brim but after 15 years working there those flowers were coming with me. I put them in the back, hoping my allergy medicine would hold out for the whole trip.

Moving day came with movers who needed to put stuff on the lawn while loading the truck. Lady next door comes flying out complaining. Something was on her grass! This went on several times until late afternoon when a bicycle and a few choice words were tossed and she marched off to the manager’s office. One of the last things left in the house was the phone which I promptly unplugged when it started ringing a few minutes after she left. With hugs and a few tears we said goodbye to our special friends on the other side and we were off!

One quick night in a hotel and the next morning we headed out. Nothing could stop us now! Except for the rain that is. I got a little worried when it got hard to see, partner following behind me got worried when I’d slowed down enough that I should have had my blinkers on, and on top of it all my phone kept ringing.

Just outside of Kingston I answered what turned out to be my doctor’s office. The results of my mammogram meant I needed to have an ultrasound in a week. Damn. Now add me shaking from that on top of the shaking I was already doing from the heavy downpour. Nevertheless we made it in time to check into the hotel mid-afternoon.

Our birds were settled on the dresser beside my bouquet of flowers in this animal-friendly room. We ate, had a nap and were watching t.v. when … nothing. The power was out. Our battery radio told us that the hydro was down all over the east.

The next morning we knew two things: that we couldn’t close on the house, and that the only place we could find to eat that cooked with gas was a pizza place downtown. So pizza followed by a bicycle ice-cream vendor cone was our treat for that day.

We were able to close the day after the power came on but not before the movers had had to put the trailerful of stuff into storage until they could retrieve it. By this time a visiting baseball team at the hotel had complained about us. It seems our chirping was more disturbing than their yelling up and down the hallways and the birds were asked to leave. Fortunately we weren’t asked to leave with them so they graced the kitchen in the new house while we got rid of all of that pink paint which is not one of my favorite colours from the living room walls.

As the sun started to set on our moving truck a few days later we hopped into the van and back we went, me worried about getting to the appointment on time. That we couldn’t get the doctor’s note when we got there because the office was closed was nicely solved by my near tears and shakingly told tale of the move.

In the end I was fine. I’d escaped the family cancer scourge this time thankfully and headed back to continue our latest adventure.

Home again. For now.

Catherine M. Harris

Memorial for Mom

Freda B. Harris 13-May-1919 to 5-Apr-2019. Mom.

Mom, what a long and wonderful life she lived.  99 years, nearly 100.  Can you imagine?  She was a fair bit older than her contemporaries when she got married and had children and while it was challenging she did the best she could and I am so grateful for that.  We were unconventional but I wouldn’t trade that for anything because what I learned from this was priceless.  I had the great good fortune to be raised with two very strong and accomplished women in my life:  my mother and my aunt Lorna.  Both of them challenged what society’s determination of what a woman should be and did so with grace. 

My mother was born in 1919, just after World War I ended and during the time of the Great Flu pandemic – she was one of the few people alive who probably had immunity to that.  She told me stories of the time when telephones were party lines, the milk came by horse wagon in glass bottles with cream on the top, of ice boxes cooled by blocks of ice cut from the Ottawa River, of the Great Depression and the weird symbols that vagrants carved on their fence posts letting others know they had a pot of soup on the stove to share.  Listening to her gave me a fondness of the past and of learning about genealogy I carry to this day.  Life was precarious growing up in the time before penicillin and vaccinations and she came of age sandwiched between two world wars.  To grow up in that time was an era of loss and life and death was much more a reality for them than it is today.  She remembered family members lying in state in the living room of their house. 

When WWII started my uncle went to war and my aunt joined the WRENS while my mom stayed home and worked for the Bank of Canada while getting her BA.  She later got a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Toronto. 

When the war ended this was my mom’s time to see the world so she joined External Affairs and was posted to Dublin.  One of mom’s memories was watching Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on t.v. which was one of the first big events that was televised.  She was posted to Rome where she met my dad. 

My mom was a career woman.  She was the main breadwinner and she had a solid career which was remarkable for that time – I honestly can say she must have faced huge hurdles – it’s still a difficult slog for a woman in the civil service and I can’t imagine how it would have been for her when discrimination was allowed to be blatant as it was in the 60s and 70s.  Add to that that most women weren’t career women with families and she had the challenge of child care in a much less friendly environment. 

When she was the Chief Librarian for the Department of the Solicitor General I would do my homework in the library; because she travelled a lot she would often take one of us with her.  She went to many conferences which is when we usually went but she also inspected libraries in the Federal Penitentiaries across Canada.  One of her favorite stories (and mine) was the time she got snowed in at Dorchester Penitentiary – a men’s maximum security prison. 

For me, growing up with these trips and with all my parents’ friends visiting who were still in External Affairs made me think for the longest time that what you did when you grew up was get a job where you travel and live in exotic places.  I haven’t had the pleasure of that but I am lucky enough to have had a couple of jobs where I got to see Canada.  I think this travel bug is genetic; my daughter so far is busy visiting amazing places with her husband, and who knows what my son decides to come up with.

So you see, my mom essentially packed two lives into one; a full career as a single woman then the married career mother.  She was inclusive and she would do things with my sister and I that suited each of us and for me that meant swimming and being in the choir which was the only way she could get me to go to church – we both loved music and singing so there we had it.

One of the reasons my mom was so determined to make us a part of what she did was because her own mother had died at age 60 and our other grandmother at age 50.  That she was 42 when she had me, she wasn’t sure that she would live to see us grow up.  This weighed on her mind.  Every day beyond that accomplishment was icing on the cake for her and she was thrilled to become a grandmother – not just once but 6 times and to live long enough to see them grow up. 

My mom was a sweet, kind, considerate and thoughtful person who loved people unconditionally and who always tried to see people in their best light.  On the surface she portrayed herself as a gentle soul but inside she did have a band of steel to be able to live her life according to her truth which in many senses was very contrary to the way of life in her time.  She didn’t kowtow to convention, she did what was right for her. She was understanding that people need to follow their own hearts even if it isn’t what is expected of them.  I really appreciated that consideration. 

When I moved out on my own we would visit each other; she loved going to lunch with me when were both working downtown; we would spend evenings chatting and later when I moved to Mississauga we would spend hours on the phone chatting, something that we continued to do right up until 4 years ago.  I loved our long conversations – it was our safe space to talk about life.  When I learned that I could no longer call her, to me that was the first of the long heartbreaking goodbye. 

I will never forget the relationship we had and I am very grateful that I had a mother I knew loved me whether or not she agreed with my decisions.  She was the truest example of unconditional love and I am a stronger person because of that.

I learned a lot from my parents.  They were both good at relating to people and not being overly judgmental.  My mom was a wonderful force with the most beautiful light and I am so blessed to be able to say I am her daughter.  I couldn’t have asked for a better mom.