It’s Groundhog Day, Again

Groundhog Day

 

Then put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb…. These are the words that Phil Connors hears each morning, at 6:00 am, in the famous 1993 film, Groundhog Day.. It’s a favourite in my household, with its humour and downright silliness, and yet lesson about being open to change and being with those you love. Now I’ll state the obvious, what so many of us have been thinking: we are living the movie. It’s Groundhog Day, again.

As I thought about writing this post, and as I started to put the first few words on my screen today, I wanted to state something very important up front: it is not my intention to make fun of or to minimize the impact and power of COIVD-19. This virus is to be taken seriously, and so many people are ill or have died. I am not poking fun at COVID-19.

Our lives changed in an instant on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a “global pandemic.” We were scared, politicians and scientists had more questions than answers, and we all panicked. In Canada, at least, we locked down. Our lives, it seemed, stopped in an instant.

Which is when the real-life version of Groundhog Day began.

Since that fateful day in March, does it ever seem like every day is the same? No matter what your routine is, does it seem repetitive? Here’s my typical weekday. And when I say typical, this is my life, every day:

A Groundhog Day in the Life of Alicia since March 16th

  • 6:50: radio turns on, by timer of course, to Newstalk 1010. Yep I love to hear John Moore in the morning. I listen to the daily updates and chatter for a few minutes, in a semi-comatose state, until I have the strength to roll out of bed just after 7:00.
  • 7:20: Shower and make myself look decently presentable.
  • 7:40: Start the process to wake up 13-year-old son.
  • 7:42: Return to bedroom of said son and see if he’s conscious.
  • 7:45: Return once again to bedroom of said son with louder voice and make him respond.
  • 7:50: Wake up my daughters, who now insist on sharing a bed. Enlist the help of the dog, to climb on them and lick their faces. They get up.
  • 7:55: Run downstairs as fast as I can to avoid hearing the fight that the four-year-old needs to pee but her brother is still in the shower.
  • 8:00-8:20: prepare breakfast and lunches for the kids, load school bags and get everything ready at the door.
  • 8:20: Sit down at my new home-office desk (which used to be my dining room but now is my office/sitting room) and turn on my computer. Have a quick check at morning emails.
  • 8:25: turn on the espresso maker, grind my beans and get my morning cappuccino ready.
  • 8:30: Raise my voice that it’s time to leave and maybe children should get their shoes and coats on.
  • 8:32: Raise my voice further as at least one of them is ignoring me.
  • 8:34: Remind them to bring their backpacks as they run out the door to the car with my husband, as he drives them to school.

**Note the “drive to school part” is only as of September 8th. In the spring they learned virtually and most of the morning still looked like this.

  • 8:35: the workday formally begins, with meetings on Webex, email, writing, phone calls and a lot of multi-tasking. Jump from one file to the next and back again. Finally take the first sip of my cappuccino. Brain is waking up.
  • 8:35-4:00: the heart of the workday, when the house is quiet and the kids are at school. My main distraction is my cute personal assistant, aka my dog, who takes issue with any person who dares walk along the sidewalk in front of my house.
  • 11:00: I suddenly realize that once again I’ve eaten nothing and make myself a light breakfast. Same thing a few hours later when I realize maybe lunch is a good idea as all I’ve consumed is coffee and yoghurt.
  • 4:00: My girls arrive home from school, bursting through the front door like a tornado. Note that sometimes I pick them up and sometimes my husband does. So I guess there’s some variety in the day. Dog goes wild. Children scream. Everyone who I work with knows my children are home.
  • 4:20: My son arrives home. He adds to the pile of school junk at the front door and disappears to some corner of the house to check all the sports news he’s missed in the past 8 hours.
  • 5:30: I start to try to wind down my workday, though this will often stretch to 6:00, 6:30 or beyond.
  • 6:00: Enter the kitchen, to discover a hurricane has yet again come through, with a sink full of dishes, empty food containers on the counter and a dishwasher that needs to be emptied.
  • 6:01: Get over the daily shock, turn on the TV and watch CTV News at 6 for the day’s daily depressing update.
  • 6:30: Once my kitchen is sparkling clean, start cooking dinner. Yes, I cook dinner every night, and not simple basic food. This part of the day is cathartic for me, though I do scream at my kids every few minutes to leave me alone while I cook. How do they constantly want a snack?
  • 7:30: Dinner is finally ready and everyone attacks. I will admit it here: we gave up on sitting together at the table for a family dinner months ago. The five of us spend so much time together that the kids dumped us when it came to mealtime. So everyone does their own thing.
  • 8:30: I realize that the evening has flown by and maybe I should start putting the four-year-old to bed. Sometimes she’s jumped in the bath already and other times I look at my messy, yet only lightly dirty child, and decide a bath isn’t worth it. Meanwhile I holler to the 10-year-old that screen time is over for the night. She has just spent the past 4 hours on her phone and laptop, socializing with her friends and it’s time to say good night.
  • 9:00: If I have my act together, I have the girls in bed, ready to read with me. First it’s a preschool book for the younger one. Then I switch to the good book: Harry Potter, which I’m reading aloud with my 10-year-old. We’re on book 6 now, and we enjoy every minute. And yes, I do all the voices and even some accents!
  • 9:45: I fall asleep reading to my daughter, which displeases her every night. Her sister (and the dog) have finally fallen asleep, and I slowly get up and move on with my evening.
  • 10:00: I consider doing something around the house, like a load of laundry or cleaning my office but instead fall over on my bed. Luckily my husband has cleaned the kitchen. At this point my son is ensconced on the couch, and depending on the night, either watching football, playing XBOX or reading up on yet more sports news.
  • 10:50: After lying on my bed for the past 50 minutes, either chatting on WhatsApp with friends or playing Scrabble against the computer, I get up and get ready for bed.
  • 11:00: I’m in bed, watching the news and seeing that it too, hasn’t changed.

I’ve missed a few details, and sometimes a few things change, but the beginning, middle and end are basically the same each day. And so it is, I believe, for many other people. My long, often monotonous day, is repetitive and really, not exciting at all. I watch and read too much news. I participate in some of the most inane conversations with friends and family on my mobile device. I’m constantly paranoid that I forgot to add certain items to my online grocery order. I regularly check my storage room to see if I have enough toilet paper, power towel and flour. Then I head to my computer and buy more.

As those of us living in Toronto head into a new stretch with increased restrictions, I guess I’ll just keep singing the song, I Got You, Babe, every morning. As long as COVID-19 rages across the world it’s going to be Groundhog day, today, tomorrow and for many days to come.

To Every Thing there is a Season

To every thing there is a season

 

The famous words of the poet, Kohelet (also known as Ecclesiastes) are often in my head. No matter who you are, how old you are or what you have experienced in your life, you can find meaning in these most profound eight verses. Though penned over 2,000 years ago, if you read the words carefully, they are relevant even today:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence  and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

I have a file, in my “notes” section of my iPhone that I call Blog Ideas. Ever since I started to write my blog, over 3 years ago, this is where I house my quick thoughts and ideas as a I walk through life. Someone cuts me off in traffic, an idea about rude drivers. My husband experiments with eggs one day in the kitchen, and a post about Dads making dinner. Take me out to the ballgame is sung during the 7th inning stretch at the baseball game, and there I go, writing about how much I love baseball.

So many of my blog posts are inspired by a moment, or a person, or even a joke. I see or read something, and it sparks an idea. But sometimes I have thoughts that keep coming back. I write a note to myself, sometimes in the middle of the night (yes, I keep my phone beside me at night, and random thoughts go in there sometimes!), and whatever I wrote just eats at me. I don’t jump onto my computer to write. It has to marinate for a while. The thoughts have to properly form and develop.

That’s the case here. I can’t remember exactly when I scratched the words, “To Every Thing there is a Season” into my blog ideas file. I also wrote “Kohelet – note the words.” I studied this book, which is part of the “Writings,” or “Ketuvim” of the Tanakh (the three books of the bible, which include the Torah, Prophets and Writings), way back in high school. So many of the phrases are ingrained in my head, and not just because they’re part of a well-known song by Pete Seager, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

The ideas have been churning in my head, and I decided earlier this week that finally it was time for my For every thing there is a season post. It was, let’s call it, a tumultuous week in the United States, and it got me thinking. Then on Saturday night, the new US President-Elect, Joe Biden, stole my thunder. Here’s what he said during his victory speech:

“The Bible tells us to every thing there is a season – a time to build, a time to reap and a time to sew and a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.” His words were true, and I believe, were from the heart. But this blog post is not about politics, in the US or Canada, or how individuals have conducted themselves over the past four years, four months, four weeks or four days. What President-Elect Biden’s words did (though he pulled phrases from across the verses!) were to remind me of that true relevance of Kohelet’s words to every one of us.

Pick any day in your life. Choose an experience or a story from your recent past or long ago, and I promise you, I can connect it to at least one phrase in these first eight verses of chapter three. Here’s a few that I can think of easily. Take, for example, the current COVID-19 pandemic. How about, “a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” How about the many paths and turns I have taken in my career? My first job was in radio, where I began to build my career, and where it came crashing down 16 months later when we were all laid off. Sometimes you build up and then you break down. (note I quickly got another job, but the day I lost my first job I thought my professional life was over).

Some moments are burned into my memory, like the exact second each of my three children were born. And yet the moment each of my grandparents died, including my Poppy’s death in April this year, can never be erased. I think of these often. As Kohelet says, “A time to be born, and a time to die.” Planting a seed doesn’t mean growing vegetables in the backyard (though it can of course). Every action we take must start somewhere, with some small idea in our heads and hearts, that grows and blooms.

“A time to keep silence, and a time to speak” is a phrase to which my eyes keep returning when I read these verses. Some may ask, is there ever a time that the better choice is to keep silent? Don’t we live in a society, where we value our freedom to speak? Shouldn’t speak be raised up on a pedestal? I see the choice of one or the other – silent or speak – to be what I value most. Or maybe that’s what Kohelet was telling us. His words are less about the meaning of life and more about the choices we make in life or options laid out before us.

It is less about for every thing there is a season and more about a key word in the next phrase, a time to every purpose under the heaven. Time. There is a time for everything. In one’s lifetime, most of us will face everything Kohelet writes about. Birth and death. Peace and war. Laugh and weep. Get and lose. We may choose all of these. Or they may choose us. There is a time for sure.

2020 has been a rough year. It’s probably why Kohelet’s words keep streaming in my head. This year has been about breaking down, weeping, mourning, and a lot of hate. I hope our future will be a time to plant, heal, peace, love, dance, and laugh. That’s right, dance and laugh. I look forward to that most of all.

Search and Secure: How do People Find a New Job?

search and secure

 

Kinetic Motions is the place where I share my musings. My life is busy, and often stressful, and writing here is cathartic for me. I think about so much, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to write about how I feel. Sometimes the journalist in me just wants to ask questions and seek those answers by writing. Today is one of those days. I want to ask a question that at first seems so simple but is actually quite complex and a bit terrifying to even ask: how does one search and secure a job in today’s world?

Many of you, instead of having a quick and easy answer for me, are probably going to ask a question right back to me: Alicia, are you looking for a job right now? My answer: I am lucky to not just be employed right now but to have a great job at a great company. I’m treated well and respected, and I work with some of the most talented people. The question I posed is not about me. I ask it, for the most part, in general, and it’s not the first time this question has irked me and caused me tremendous anxiety.

Searching for a job, in particular when one is unemployed, is one of the greatest challenges that any person faces. There are any number of reasons why you must find that new job, no matter how smart, talented or experienced you are. Company reorganization Bankruptcy. Mass layoffs. Your company is bought by another. I could go on and on. This has happened to so many of us over the span of our careers.

Everyone around you can say, hey it’s not your fault. You will be scooped up by someone great soon. But when is soon? How will I find someone great to hire me? How will that person know that I’m great too? Where do I begin? How do I put myself out there? Where do I search? Who do I talk to? What should I include on my resume? Do I delete the stuff from 20 years ago? How do I get noticed?

I could fill the page with the hundreds of questions that go through the mind of a person who is searching for a new job. I’ve been there. It’s awful. And depressing. You feel that all your skills and talents that were so valued at your previous employer don’t matter. Each day seems so long, and waiting for an email response or phone call back is interminable.

All the power is in the hands of the people doing the hiring. Whether it’s a recruiter or an HR team or a hiring manager, ultimately it is their choice. It has to be, of course. If you imagine a set of scales, the weight of power is clearly on the side of the person doing the hiring. But why is it so weighted? Why does the person who is looking for a job feel weightless and often powerless?  I will ask my same question again: how does one search and secure a job in today’s world?

I understand that we are in the middle of a global pandemic right now. There is higher unemployment and some very smart and skilled people are looking for work. Competition is greater than ever, and like everything in the world, the hiring process had to adapt. But there are still some fundamental elements to the job “search and secure” process that I do not understand. I don’t know if there are easy answers to my questions but I hope this can start a discussion.

Before I ask my next set of questions, I want to turn this piece from general to personal. My husband is searching for work right now. He is a licensed, Professional Engineer with years of experience. Like so many of us, his career hasn’t followed a straight line. His areas of focus have changed over time. Fundamentally, he is one of the smartest people I have ever met. He’s a problem solver, and the harder the challenge in front of him, the more determined he is to solve it. Anyone who has worked with him knows that he’s not shy to seek help when he needs it and produces quality, detailed results.

A couple of years ago he brought together his years of experience from various jobs and started his own consulting business called Adaptor Analytix. He actively sought short and long-term contracts and was very successful at doing so. But then the world faced a global pandemic, and his most recent contract suddenly ended a few weeks ago. What seemed easy last year – to secure a new contract – became impossible.

What you plan for doesn’t always happen, and you may face variables that are out of your control. That’s the case when one wants – and needs to “search and secure” a job. Or contract. Or any other kind of employment. My husband had an open mind a few weeks ago when he started his most recent search. He applied to postings online, spoke with recruiters, connected with people in his network. The early conversations are always positive and hopeful. But through no fault of his – or his many wonderful contacts who have been so kind – most paths have led to a dead end.

So, back to my next set of questions. Is there a formula? Are there do’s and don’ts? Do you email the person who interviewed you? And if so, when? What do you say? Do you call them if you don’t hear back? And speaking of which, if someone interviews me, why don’t they email or call me, no matter what? Is it normal to be interviewed by a company two or three times then never hear back? How do you get noticed amongst a pile of 200 resumes? Does knowing someone inside help? What’s a reasonable amount of time to wait before you just give up on what you thought was a real spark but whose potential flame is just smouldering?

A hiring manager is a busy person. I know this – I’ve been that person too! You have to do your busy, full-time job, and in between find the time and headspace to read resumes, interview candidates and make decisions. You fit this in when you can, and it can take weeks, or sometimes months. Even if you know you need to fill that position soon, you perceive time differently than the person who wants that job you posted. Waiting a day or a week for that call back from the hiring manager is emotionally draining and painful.

Every hour that goes by, the person looking to secure a job questions themselves, their behavior and their actions. Did I say the right (or wrong) things in my interview? Should I have sent a thank you email the day before? Should I have told the hiring manager about that story? How do I follow up? Which is more important to this person – my skills and experience, or my personality and how I’d fit on the team?

I admit I am feeling anxious as I write. This post is quite different than my gentle musings of the last few weeks. I am watching my spouse feeling despaired and more vulnerable than ever, and I just want to help him. I guess I’m desperate for some insights into this process. I know that there are no easy answers.  There is no simple single path to the search and secure process in the job market. But maybe writing about it, asking the questions, will get us talking. I am naturally an optimist, and I know that good things are just around the corner for my husband – and so many other people searching for that next great opportunity.

I’ve Lost My Son to Sunday Football

football

 

I am a sports fan. Anyone who knows me – family, friends, work colleagues, hey even social media acquaintances – understands that I really love sports. I am not a great athlete and definitely not a coach. But I love to watch sports, talk about sports and of course, write about sports. Baseball is my first love, but I’ll happily watch hockey, basketball, tennis, soccer, Olympic sports and much more. But not football. I will admit it: I don’t like football.

Early in my career, after a relatively short stint in radio, I had the opportunity to work in television. Rogers Sportsnet hired me to be a Broadcast Associate. That meant it was my job (that’s right sports fans, my JOB) to watch sports. Now I realize, many of you reading this are thinking… what? Where do I sign up? Let me explain.

Sportsnet didn’t hand me a bag of popcorn and a big screen TV and say, hey, Alicia, watch that MLB or NHL game. When you watch those recap reels on the news at night, someone had to build them. It was my job to watch an assigned game, note the time codes on important plays and suggest a group of clips for a producer to use so they could package it together. I had to know the sport, the players, the teams, so that viewers could see and understand exactly what happened during the game.

I wasn’t a happy person when I got the Sunday afternoon shift and was assigned an NFL game. Give me anything, I would tell my manager – even golf – but not football, please! I didn’t understand the sport and I didn’t want to. How could a team be “up” when they achieved a “down”? How could a 350-pound man be successful at anything athletic? What was tail gating?

The guys at work just laughed at me, and the more I complained, of course the more football they gave me. But they also taught me the rules of the game. And the intricate differences between the NFL and CFL (oh the arguments I caused on the floor when I asked the question… which is better, the CFL or NFL?).

I only lasted about 8 weeks as a Broadcast Associate, until I was promoted to the Assignment Desk, and thank goodness for that. Maybe they knew my skills were better used chasing down stories and getting the news on air than piecing together plays from Sunday football. No matter how much I learned about football, I couldn’t learn to like it.

Jump ahead a few years to today. I don’t work in sports television anymore (though I admit, there are many days when I really miss it!). I don’t get paid to watch the Cubs versus the Marlins, the Nuggets vs the Clippers, or (and I’m thankful for this), the Broncos vs the Chiefs (who are playing now as I write… with the play-by-play blaring on the TV a few feet away).

Which brings me to my headline: I’ve lost my son to Sunday Football. I’m proud to say that I instilled in my son a deep love of sports. I remember watching the NHL playoffs with him when he was an infant and being amazed how it calmed him down when he was fussy. He became a Blue Jays fan at a young age, and soon after that (despite my pleas not to do this) he joined Leafs Nation. Convincing him to follow basketball and love the Raptors was easy. He even watched tennis with me and every kind of Olympic sport, from speed skating and alpine skiing to track and field and diving.

But there was one sport he didn’t touch: football. Did I convince my son that football was not for us? Was I that influential on my child’s life that he too decided that Sunday afternoon in October was better spent raking the leaves or taking a long walk? For 12 years I could say yes. I joked on Monday mornings at work that I had managed to avoid the dreaded NFL Sunday TV in my house.

But then my bubble burst. My son joined a fantasy football league with a bunch of friends at school, and you see, he takes these seriously. He couldn’t just join – he had to actively participate. And to actively participate he had to watch the games. All the games. And read about the players. And the injuries. Of course also have long conversations with his buddies about how many points he got each weekend.

It’s Sunday afternoon and the TV is blaring beside me. Kansas City is at Denver. I have no idea what’s going on. A bunch of grown men are running up and down the field, intentionally bashing into each other. My son is yelling at the TV and clapping with delight. I’ve lost him. He loves football. I guess I can live with that. At least we will always have our shared first love: baseball. World Series game 5 tonight. I’ll happily watch that, anytime.

It Starts with an Onion

It starts with an onion

 

An onion is where I begin today. Whether metaphorically or functionally, the onion can explain so much about life or the start of an activity, like cooking. Let me explain how I came to think about the onion and the centrality of it in my life.

Permit me please to be philosophical for a moment. This blog, Kinetic Motions, is a place for me to share my musings about really anything that comes to my mind on any given day. The inspiration for today’s post occurred one week ago, as I prepared for a video meet with my friend Elli and her daughter Samantha.

I won’t go down the path of why it was challenging to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving in a traditional way this year. I host a group of old friends every year, and for the last few years Samantha, who is almost 14 years old, has been cooking with me. I gave her her first professional knife a couple of years ago and have instilled some wisdom and cooking skills upon her each year.

This year, as we logged in to Google Meet, I held up ingredient number one, and I said to her, “It starts with an onion.” I’ll get back to the importance of the onion in cooking in a moment. But first I will continue to philosophize.

It starts with an onion
That’s the best photo I got of us cooking together. That’s me and Elli.

Samantha looked at me and smiled, and it got me thinking, as I cooked that day and as I went about my week, how true my statement was that it starts with an onion.

An onion is an edible bulb. It’s a sphere, that could represent the cyclical nature of the day, the year and of course life. The onion has layers that can be peeled back from the outside in or cut in half and seen all at once.

It’s quite beautiful to look at and can bring a smile to one’s face as you pick it up. It’s a great example of Earth’s beauty. It may bring you joy as it’s the beginning, the foundation of what you may build. But as you pull it or cut it apart, its pungent smell may bring tears to your eyes. It may force you to show emotions that you tried to hide as you chop. If you want to complete your task, the tears must flow.

This seemingly simple bulb is actually quite complex. Just like life. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the onion is a great metaphor for my career path. Some people may look at their career as following a diagonal line upwards. Or maybe that line zig zags as you humbly rethink your path and have to start again.

Mine is an onion. There are some key skills and personality traits that I believe I always had. Those sit in the centre of the onion. I am passionate, loyal, creative and ya, I am a great writer. During my years of education, and through my career, from a sports radio producer, to a non-profit advocate to a communications professional, I have grown and added layers every day. If you want to find my full potential, pull those layers back. I may make you laugh or cry, as I come with a wicked sense of humour too.

Okay, now back to the functionality of why you must start with an onion. It is a top-five staple in my kitchen. I could list off any number of recipes that start with an onion. Those pungent fumes as you chop it up become sweet, delicious smells as you sauté it in a hot pan (or Instant Pot, of course!). Sauté that onion until it’s translucent, add some garlic and other ingredients, and I promise you, you have foundation of a great dish.

As an onion is a perfect sphere, so is this post as I circle back to where I began: it starts with an onion, like my day of cooking did with Samantha. I taught her how to make the perfect stuffing for our turkey. What’s ingredient number one: you got it, the onion. We peeled off the skin and chopped up our onions. As we cooked, we laughed and we cried. And the stuffing, wow, was it amazing.

it starts with an onion
The stuffing before it was stuffed. Yes the onion is in there.

Tik Tok, Tik Tok – WhatsApp? Do I have online time to bypass any Roblox while I Instagram my photos for a Fortnite?

Online

I realize that my subject line only makes just a bit of sense, unless you have been living under a rock for the past 7 months. Whether you live with teens, pre-teens, other adults or on your own, social media and online gaming are keeping us in touch, busy and sometimes just on the brink of sanity this year.

All of these tools can never replace face-to-face, in person interactions. A hug from a loved one or hanging out on the couch with a good friend are special, uplifting and necessary in our lives.. Human beings, I believe, are by our very nature sociable and in need of other people (or pets, but that’s for another day!).

But that’s just not possible right now. Not only is it not a good idea to hug your grandmother or host friends for dinner at home, in many places it’s just outright banned. So we find alternatives. We find other ways to fill the long and often lonely days, to break the boredom and seek out different ways to connect.

Enter the smartphone, tablet, computer or gaming system. How do I describe how I feel about the many devices, as I refer to them, that litter my home? Do I love them and feel grateful for them? Yes. Do I hate them and sometimes consider throwing them all in the garbage dump? Definitely yes!

It’s a daily battle in my head, as I constantly check my email, social media accounts and text and WhatsApp messages. And what would I do without my online Scrabble games? I am lucky that I work for a wonderful employer, ADP, who has been open and transparent and who sent us all home to work on March 16th. I’ve been busy (okay, VERY busy!), and I often sit in front of my computer for 12 or 14 hours a day. And what do I do in between, before and after? I’m on my phone, checking in with friends and family. I can’t escape it, so how could I expect my kids to?

Screen time. When I was a kid, that phrase was only used to quantify how much time a child sat in front of the TV. In 2020, TV is old news. Now it’s the smartphone, tablet or computer. How much is too much, and without it, am I cutting my kids off from the only way they can feel connected to their friends? My 10-year-old daughter is a whiz with the various tools at her fingertips (she is also the child, who at age 2 taught her grandmother how to play Angry Birds on the iPad). Julia seems to be at the centre of more social circles than ever before, jumping between multiple texts, WhatsApp conversations, video chats and online interactive games. Her phone is dinging all day and every few minutes I hear the voice of a different friend of hers emanating from her bedroom.

online
Even at the cottage, the device is never far.

My son plays online games with his cousins and also camp friends who live around the world. I often hear him laughing hysterically at 2:00 am, as they discuss the latest sports news. Even my four-year-old often has her head down with a device, watching some painful kiddie video on YouTube or preschooler game. Her little fingers give her the ability to fly through screens at a rapid pace.

Does this make me a terrible parent? Am I destroying my kids’ brains by letting them spend so much of their day online? What damage have I done to myself? I spend hours in front of a computer screen, day after day, and in between I’m on my phone. I hear clicking and pings all the time, whether they are real or not. I followed the news before but now admit I’m definitely a news junkie. Is this healthy? Terrible? Devastating?

I think it’s all of it. The world as we knew it before March 2020 doesn’t exist right now. Devices, like it or not, keep us all connected and together. I don’t know what I’d do without my WhatsApp group from work, people who have truly become close friends in the last seven months – and yet I haven’t seen them at all. How else could we have celebrated Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah in April without webcams, computers and the Internet? I had never felt closer to family than I did on that day, as we all appeared side by side on our screens.  

online
This is not how we planned it, but this is how it happened.

My kids’ lifeline is their personal mobile device. The pinging, middle of the night laughter and online parties are helping them – and me – get through this. I need to stop thinking about screen time and see it more as social time. We have found new ways to stay close to the ones we love and build bonds with old and new friends. Thank goodness for social media, video chats and online gaming. Like it or not, they are here to stay.

Ready for a Happy New Year

happy new year apple

It is the start of a new year.2020 has a few months to go, but 5781 has arrived. People like to make resolutions at the start of a new year, so why not at the start of the Jewish new year? The second half of 5780 was hard, for everyone around the world, and just plain terrible for many. While I would love to wish everyone a healthy, sweet and wonderful new year, I fear this is a wish that won’t come true.

I haven’t published a post since May 2018, when my daughter Julia celebrated her 9th birthday. I honestly don’t know why I stopped writing here. It’s something I love to do. Was I busy? Did I forget? Did I always have something else to do? Maybe. I’m not going to make excuses. I made a commitment, when I published my first post in May 2017, that this blog was important to me and that I was excited to start this new journey.

Then I got side tracked. Even during the early lockdown of this pandemic in March and April, I didn’t write. When I was lucky enough to spend much of my summer outside the city, I didn’t write. My kids went back to school, and I didn’t write. So, it’s a new year, and I’m ready to write. Here I am, I’m back.

I have so many ideas for new blog posts. Every day I come across something that makes me think, read about a piece of news that makes me want to know more or have an interesting conversation that makes me want to write, I remind myself that the Kinetic Motions blog is where I need to share my thoughts.

We are living in such a unique and challenging time in our lives. Over 30 million people have been infected and almost 1 million people have died from a dangerous virus. This virus is terrorizing us, hurting us and killing us. It has not only changed every aspect of our daily lives, but so many people have lost the ones they love.

I am not going to use this space to tell people to be smart and berate those who are ignorant or who choose to ignore the invisible enemy. We are all in this together. The world is just a small global village, and everyone, in every community, is responsible for the good and welfare of everyone else.

In the past 16 months since I published my last post, Nessa turned 3, then she turned 4; we celebrated Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah from our dining room and blasted the signal via Zoom around the world; Julia hit double digits in May; my beloved Poppy died in April, at the age of 99; oh and we got a dog…. An adorable Maltese-Bichon mix, who just turned 3. And of course so much more in between, in the midst of a global pandemic.

The world, and life, are never boring. Every day brings something new, and sometimes shocking. A shooting, hurricane, wildfires, murders of people because of their skin colour or ethnicity. I don’t want to be dulled by any of these events, but maybe, we could do with a bit of just plain boring in 5781.

So, the blog is back. Kinetic Motions is, well, back in motion. Whether you celebrate or not, I wish you a happy, healthy, sweet, and maybe a little boring, new year.

*Just a little note… the apple featured here was just picked from my backyard garden. We have a single apple tree in our backyard, that typically produces one apple each year. This year it bloomed with beautiful flowers and produced a few apples for us to enjoy. If the tree can bloom, so can we.

Mother’s Day is Julia’s Day

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I became a new mother for the second time on May 12th, 2010. It was an ordinary Wednesday, early in the morning, when Julia jumped into the world. And I mean jumped. One moment I went into labour and the next moment I had a baby girl. Whoever said labour was long and slow hadn’t met Miss Julia Maxine.

Julia was a special gift to us the day she was born but also to her first cousin, who turned five that very same day. The “May 12 Girls” as we call them are kindred spirits and share a special bond that most cousins only dream about. I remember my sister-in-law said to me, when Julia was just a few days old… “You are going to have to balance birthday fun and Mother’s Day from now on. Good Luck.”

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The May 12 girls as Julia turned one.

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The May 12 girls celebrate in 2014.

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The May 12 girls celebrate together on May 12, 2019.

I shrugged it off as Mother’s Day has never been a big deal to me. Even as a child I saw through this rather commercialized day. I told my mother many years ago that no one had to assign a special day for me to tell my mother I loved her or to do something nice for her. I should do that every day, and if I want to buy my mother a gift then I just buy one. I stuck to that promise throughout my childhood and when I became a mother, now to three children, I stand by that.

I am a mother, and I work hard at it. My one request to my husband and children: be nice to me every day! So it’s no big deal that Julia’s birthday falls near Mother’s Day every year, or once in  while on Mother’s Day, as it does this year.

In 2019, Mother’s Day is Julia’s Day. And she has made the most of it. Maybe it’s because her brother had a sleepover birthday party when he turned 9. Or maybe it’s because she figured out her birthday would be on a Sunday in 2019. Julia knew exactly what she wanted this year: you guessed it… a sleepover party of her own.

People said to me, “But Sunday, May 12this Mother’s Day. How can you do a sleepover party?” Ah, I answered, not only am I giving a gift of a sleepover party to Julia, I’m giving a gift to her friends’ mothers as well – I’m taking their kids! And sure enough the mothers have thanked me.

They thanked me, and they also gave me a mix of bravoand are you crazyfor hosting 10 eight and nine-year-old girls for an overnight at my house. Birthday or Mother’s Day, this is no easy task. Girls at this age are high energy, demanding and a bit anxious. But they are still kind of cute and smiley and relatively easy to please.

I haven’t slept much in the last 24 hours. I was a mix of a short-order cook, professional baker, cleaning lady, hostess extraordinaire and mother to ten. My list includes cooking and serving two meals, baking a birthday cake from scratch, making up ten beds (setting up sleeping bags across my living room floor), wiping food off every surface in my house and sweeping up anything from popcorn and cake crumbs to Dollar Store play dough and dirt.

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Make a wish and blow our your candles, Julia!

Who said adolescent boys have a ton of energy? Spend the night with a group of 10 adolescent girls and you may think differently. They are like the Energizer Bunny. They just keep going and going. They run around the background. The girls zoom up and down the stairs. Giggling. Laughing. Shrieking. Jumping. Dancing. Do they slow down? No.

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My living room Saturday night

I don’t quite know how I convinced them to go bed. I’m not going to say “go to sleep” as some refused to do that. It was a late night. They were excited. It wasn’t just a sleepover party – it was the evening before Julia’s birthday. The fact that Mother’s Day was upon them seemed irrelevant to this group of young ladies.

But not to their mothers and fathers. The girls’ smiling parents heartily greeted me this morning when they arrived at our house to pick up their sweet little girls. They looked at my tired face and kindly wished me a Happy Mother’s Day. And I graciously said thank you. Today was Julia’s Day, for sure, but I am giving myself a gold star too, for Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful women in the world who are the heart of the home, the family, and in my mind, the world.

Around the World in 17 Days

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I love to travel. I got the travel bug when I was a child and can pinpoint the year to 1988 when it hit me. That year I was lucky to go on a ski trip to Colorado and my first trip to Israel. Since then I have traveled around the world, to far off places, from London and Paris to Hong Kong and Auckland. When I had children I hoped to pass on this love of travel to them, and clearly my daughter, Julia, has caught the bug.

World travel is a privilege, one I take seriously. Yes, one could say we live in a “global village” today. With technology, we can travel anywhere with the click of a button. Video messaging brings families and friends together from all over the world. But there is nothing like seeing the place for yourself.

My son traveled to Israel on his first trip at just 17 days old (I will admit, that may be a bit young and don’t recommend it).  Before he was one, Matthew had visited cities such as Jerusalem, Miami, Seattle and Honolulu. Still in single digits, Julia has covered the trifecta of Europe, including London, Paris and Rome. By age two Nessa had crossed into the southern hemisphere, covered Canada’s two coasts in British Columbia and Nova Scotia and had two trips to Israel under her belt. Never in my wildest dreams as a child could I have achieved that. Giving my children the gift of travel is something I hold sacred.

My husband’s family live in and travel to all corners of the world. Every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) has been visited by at least one member of his family. I don’t think that we can tick off every country across the world, but I’d say that David’s extended family has covered a lot of territory. Some members of my family are no slouches either, in particular my father who used to travel to the Orient for work at least three times each year.

But back to Julia. She has the bug. She has dreams to visit places in the world that most children don’t even know exist. One of her friends went on safari in Africa a couple of years ago and Julia wants to do that. China is a country that fascinates her. And New Zealand too. Wait, she’s been there. But why not go again?!

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I had to track her flight over the over Pacific Ocean to NZ.

When I tell people that my eight-year-old daughter just happened to be in New Zealand with her grandmother during her recent school break, the general reaction is, what? Are you crazy? I guess it’s a similar reaction to me telling people that I am a huge Carolina Hurricanes fan! Yes, Julia and her grandmother just returned home from a two-week holiday in New Zealand.

And no, it’s not random.

First of all, as I already stated, Julia has the travel bug. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the minute she returned home from her first trip to New Zealand, in January 2017, that she wanted to go back. We didn’t close our eyes and randomly select a spot on the globe. David’s brother and family moved there a few years ago. There’s nothing better than combining travel with spending time with family.

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Just swinging around

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Supposedly when it’s not raining there are great views from Mt. Rangitoto.

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Travel isn’t always doing big things. Hanging with her cousins, and yes I didn’t know which one was my daughter.

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They are obsessed with Trixie, the cat.

So, Julia wanted to go back to New Zealand, to see her cousins and enjoy the beauty that is this fabulous country. And her grandmother, who also has the travel bug (my one-week trip to Hong Kong in 2014 with Barbara and my sister-in-law Trudy is one of the best trips I have ever taken), saw to it that Julia would return to New Zealand.

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Shouldn’t every airport have a welcome statue like this?

Hence the title of today’s blog post, Around the World in 17 Days. No, I did not specifically send them hallway around the world for 17 days. It just worked out that way. But the title sounds good, don’t you think?  About 19 hours of flying, plus a layover in San Francisco, and boom it’s just a short trip from Toronto to Auckland!

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Jet lag.

Julia had the time of her life. She spent every waking moment with her eight-year-old cousin (and their cat, Trixie). I think the only person she missed was her little sister. My daughter was born for travel. She guided her grandmother with great confidence around the Toronto, San Francisco and Auckland airports, stayed basically clean and tidy and enthusiastically participated in most activities during her 17-day trip. And she did it all with her grandmother. How lucky can you be?!

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A day on the water with her cousin.

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Up the Sky Tower they went.

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Strike a pose! Ready for the Passover Seder!

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Ice cream with a view. That’s Mt. Rangitoto in the distance.

Upon landing in Toronto a few days ago, after their almost 24-hour journey home, Julia looked at her grandmother and said, “I want to go back to New Zealand right now.” And I am sure if she could have, she would have jumped on the next plane and returned there. I am sure that wasn’t her last trip to New Zealand. She has the whole world to explore, and I am sure she will check off many places in the coming years.

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If you are that far south, you have to see penguins, even if it’s at an aquarium.

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Falls colours in May? Yes, in the Southern hemisphere!

Julia’s next trip is much closer to home, to the Pacific Northwest, in a few weeks. And this time she will be taking us along too. World travel doesn’t always have to be around the world or to another hemisphere. And the trip isn’t always 17 days. Seven is good too. Or more. Or less. Where will we go next?

Blame Sports for why the Blog has taken a Back Seat

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The Kinetic Motions blog is back. I travel around life and experience so much every day, and I am constantly taking notes so that I can write my next blog. Then I hit a deadline at work, a holiday sneaks up on me or a child suddenly has a runny nose. And the notes for my next blog get pushed to the side. If I grab a few free minutes I indulge in a show on Netflix, or lately, sports. During the month of April there is an abundance of riches of sports, if you are fan. I am a fan. Where do I begin?

If anyone asks me (and they often do!), what’s my favourite sport, it’s an easy answer: baseball. The reaction, if the person is also a sports fan, is usually, really? What? Why? Are you kidding? But the Blue Jays suck right now! I get a few high fives from the diehards, but living in hockey crazy Toronto, most people are not supportive.

April (well, really late March recently) is when baseball season really gets going. The playoffs start to heat up for hockey and basketball. If you are a golf fan (I will admit, I am not), the Masters are in April. You can even watch Major League Soccer this month.

Baseball

Okay, let’s get back to baseball, my first love. I will admit that I don’t remember going to my first game. My parents tell me that they took me to the odd game at the old Exhibition Stadium when I was little, but I have zero memories. My team, the Toronto Blue Jays, launched their first season in 1977, when I was a one-year-old, and I have seen a ton of TV coverage of those early years. I have a few faint memories of a game or two at Exhibition Place.

I think I became a fan at age 9, in 1985, during the Blue Jays’ first playoff run. And when a name of a Blue Jay great from the 1980’s is mentioned, like Dave Stieb or George Bell or Jimmy Key, my face lights up. Don’t even get my son started on my deep devotion to Kelly Gruber back then (yes, he wore #17).

I went to a game at the swanky new Skydomein June 1989, soon after it opened. I have no idea who the Jays played or who won the game but do remember that it started to lightly rain. All 50,000 other people, looked up to the sky to watch the domed roof turn and close. It was fascinating!

I have fond memories of dancing the polka around the cottage in October 1992 when the Jays won their first World Series. Joe Carter’s famous homerun to win it all again in 1993 is etched in my mind. Years later, side by side with my son in 2015, I watched the Jose Bautista bat flip.  It wasn’t hard to convince my sports-loving son to embrace my favourite sport

So what if the Blue Jays won’t make the playoffs this year (or probably next year), I still watch. I still buy tickets (or happily will take any ticket someone wants to give me!) and follow the sport. When we travel to Seattle next month (yep, tons of stuff to write while there!), Matthew and I are excited to go to a Mariners game. We are baseball fans.

Hockey

The most challenging part of my day today is to decide, do I watch the Jays wrap up their series vs Oakland (and try to sweep them) or watch my Carolina Hurricanes play game 2 vs the NY Islanders? For most people, this is a head shaker. It’s another chance to look at me and say, what? Are you kidding? The Hurricanes? Why? That’s random!

It’s not random. First of all, I love hockey. Maybe I am not exactly a super fan. I could go weeks during the regular season and never watch a game. I follow the season and keep up on the news. But I don’t settle into a hockey game like I do with baseball. But when the playoffs come, I’m on top of it.

My passion for the Carolina Hurricanes goes back to 2001, when I started my career as a journalist. I won’t rehash the story, as I wrote about it in a blog back in 2017. Have a READ. I promised my team that I would forever be a fan, no matter how terrible or incredible they played. My loyalty paid off when my Canes won the Stanley Cup in June 2006. And today, April 28th, 2019, they are on playoff run that is making everyone turn their heads.

Don’t laugh. I believe in them. This team has heart. They have grit. Okay, so maybe they are a “bunch of jerks,” as Don Cherry so kindly refers to them. But they are a fabulous bunch of jerks.

Basketball

I didn’t care much for basketball until a few years ago. I liked the Raptors, but I never had even a drop of patience to sit through a game. And then my son became a super fan. He is a walking encyclopedia of random basketball statistics and knows who every player is and where they play. He yells at the TV like the players and coaches can hear him and listen to him. Maybe he knows something I don’t.

Toronto is a hockey city first, baseball city second, and I believe, maybe a basketball city third. The Raptors don’t get the attention or respect this incredible team of 2018/19 deserves. The team is talented, focused and determined, and if they keep playing the way they did the last few games, they are unstoppable. Could they go all the way this year?

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Which brings me back to where I began. The blog is back, or at least I’m going to try. Following and watching sports the last few weeks has taken up probably too much of my free time. I love sports. But I also love to write. When I am walking down the street and something makes me chuckle, I want to write about it. For example, what’s with grown men giving the fist-pump and calling each other dude? Do I need to pay almost $100 for cable anymore? How many more drivers will make my blood boil over this week? My next trip is coming up. The Hurricanes are on their incredible playoff run. I want to write. I must write. So follow along and come for the ride. There will be much to read in the near future. I promise.