One Year Old: Happy Birthday Kinetic Motions

one year

One year of blogging. Wow. And I have loved every moment. I created and launched this blog, Kinetic Motions, one year ago today. It really was a dream come true. For ten years I considered and dithered. Then I took the leap. So, today’s post is in honour of Kinetic Motions. Happy birthday!

So much can happen in one year. When I registered this domain back in February of 2017 I was lost. I had a 9-month-old at home with me full time and I didn’t know what steps to take next in my career. I felt like I was at a crossroads and had to make some decisions. But I wasn’t quite ready to act.

I did know that I had many ideas swirling in my head. As I experienced the everyday happenings of life, in my gut I just felt like I wanted to write about them. I needed to find a vehicle to share the sights, sounds and smells of everything around me.

How could my blog be created? Where to begin? I bought the domain, http://kineticmotions.ca, then what? Thanks to my brother, who not only is tech savvy but also kind and generous with his time and resources (thanks Neil for the server space!), Kinetic Motions started to take shape. With WordPress as a base, I chose a theme, developed pages, threw in some photos and began to feel that I could really do it.

In March and April I almost gave up a few times. Web development and basic technology don’t come easily to me. What seemed so easy to do on some websites I read was impossible for me. I took two steps forward and one step back.

But I persisted. This blog was sitting deep in my head for ten years, and I wasn’t going to give up. I was too close. With further help from my brother and sheer determination on my part, I launched Kinetic Motions on May 17th, 2017. I promise you, it was no coincidence that I chose the 17thof the month. There is no debate – 17 is the BEST number.

One year later I am proud of my creation. I have done what I set out to do: to have a space where I can think, reflect, discuss, debate and just write.

I had joked that if only my mother read my blog that it would be okay with me. I created this space for me, and I was proud of that accomplishment. But then people started to click and comment and send me personal messages. Family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances started to tell me how much they enjoyed reading my posts – that I write about topics that we all think about and that I write in a way that they can relate to.

Your feedback has energized me to keep writing, with new stories and musings, and to think about where Kinetic Motions will go next. One year in, my love of writing has grown beyond anything I could have imagined, and I am excited for what may come next. I invite you to join me for the ride as Kinetic Motions turns one today. An exciting future is ahead.

The Life of the Party

party

Over the past year, when people hear that I have a blog or if they quickly peruse my posts, they often ask me, “Are you a Mommy blogger?” While I have nothing against these talented ladies, my quick answer is always, “No, I am not a Mommy blogger.” Kinetic Motions is about my musings. I write about what I see, experience, hear and feel every day. Sometimes the topics are serious or heartfelt and sometimes they are absurd and light. I admit that I do write about my children often, but come on, they provide such quality material. Case in point is my topic for today’s post: the children’s birthday party.

We have all been to many a birthday party throughout our lives. We were all children once, so don’t shake your head and tell me you haven’t been to your fair share. If you are a parent, you’ve made many and probably attended more than you care to count.

I hosted my daughter, Julia’s, birthday party this weekend. I believe that some people think I am crazy while others are in awe that almost every birthday party I have ever hosted for my children, over the past 11 years, has been in my home. In fact, all except one of Julia’s birthday parties have been at home.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

So, what’s in a birthday party? How complicated does it have to be? Is it enough to throw a bunch of children in your backyard, feed them a store-bought cake and hand them a loot bag on their way out the door? Yes, it is. The kids don’t know any better and would probably have a blast with bread and water and a cardboard box.

But it’s not enough for me or the birthday parties I host. Again, some call me crazy and others are in awe of the time and energy I put into each birthday party for each of my children. My husband and I often reminisce about some of our best – and worst – birthday parties. I can’t say I have learned any lessons from successes or failures. Some make me smile while others make me cringe.

The key to a great birthday party is to give the children a great time, but also take them off their parents’ hands for a few hours. That doesn’t work as well when kids are little and their parents have to come too. So, for the little guys, I always say, entertain – and feed – the parents too.

While I know they serve their purpose, I highly dislike children’s play places. They are almost like birthday party farms, where the children are herded through like animals. They follow a basic formula, with an activity first, followed by a snack like pizza or hot dogs, finished off with birthday cake. It is most definitely a prescribed formula, and it works for many parents. Kids always love these, but again, I still believe many kids would be happy climbing inside a cardboard box with their friends. They are great for some, but not me.

A level up for a birthday party is a more organized activity, which requires a parent to spend much more time putting together. It can be a karate or dance class, laser tag, an art studio, or for the older kids an escape room. These activities can be costly and the kids definitely love them. But again, they are just not for me.

The best parties I have ever hosted for my kids have most definitely been in my home. Don’t think that doing this is simpler or easier. It is not. It is definitely cheaper, but it’s a ton of work. And well worth it. We invited Matthew’s music teacher to run a class in our basement for his second birthday. Number nine for him was pizza, cake, sports and wildness in the backyard, followed by the original Star Wars movie (watched on a VCR!) and sleepover with all the boys from his class from school.

party
Matthew’s 4th birthday party was not at home, but there’s no way any reptile was stepping into my house.

My pride and joy was Julia’s 7th birthday party last year, which was a formal high tea. The girls decorated tea cups and hats, decorated cupcakes, had their nails done then sat down to real high tea. I served them scones with clotted cream, party sandwiches, strawberries and cream and even English tea in antique tea cups. The kids came dressed up for the occasion and participated fully. David even dressed up as a butler. I will admit I may have had more fun than my own daughter.

party
our semi-formal family at Julia’s tea party
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The table at the tea party
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It’s always fun to be silly at a children’s tea party

And this past weekend was the latest birthday party in our home. It was a simpler affair, with apron painting, followed by pizza making and cupcake decorating. Then the kids munched on chips and their cupcakes as they watched the movie, The Greatest Showman. Dinner, the pizza they made, was served in the backyard, as they ran around like wild animals, and of course the event was topped off with yet another one of my original homemade cakes.

party
Celebrating with cake at Julia’s party this weekend. It’s not a party without her “twin” cousin Emma.

My house was a mess. I was exhausted and could barely lift my head on Sunday evening. But I’ll do it again. And again. Like in two weeks, when Nessa turns two.

What If all we had was What If?

what if

What if. These are two words we say all the time. We use these two words for both positive and negative outcomes, for creative expression or terrible consequences. They can be connected with changing our future or going over the past. What if. It makes me think.

Our car got into a minor fender bender last week. No one was hurt, well except our car and the other guy’s. I immediately asked myself, what if we had left home a few minutes earlier? What if I had decided to keep the baby home that day and not bring her to daycare? What if my husband understood that looking in his blind spot when changing lanes was a good idea?

My son, in a moment of 11-year-old rage directed at his father, broke our bathroom sink faucet last night. The faucet probably was on its way out, but brute force definitely sent it over the edge. Again, I said to myself – what if I hadn’t told my son to take a shower at that moment? What if my husband didn’t snap at his son? What if my son just took out his rage on us by yelling and not acting?

Those are two small examples where I asked that two-word question over and over, but every day it crosses my mind. Sometimes it’s something minor, almost petty. What if I left my house just five minutes earlier, then I wouldn’t be stuck behind this garbage truck? Or what if I put my umbrella in my purse this morning and didn’t get soaked on my way home from work? What if I had turned left instead of right and not snagged that great parking spot?

It goes on and on, and for the most part the outcome is not that significant. Leaving a few minutes early or changing my mind does not affect my life too much other than maybe add some stress or bring a smile to my face.

But there are other what if questions I ask myself that are much bigger and most definitely have turned my life in one direction or another. I guess you could say that for almost everything we do, if we had not the acted, sometimes at that exact moment, our lives would be markedly different.

Back in 1999 my husband and I lived in Israel for about 6 months, early in our marriage. I applied for a number of Masters of Journalism programs across the US and chose a top-rated program in broadcasting at New York University. We moved to New York, where David worked and I went to school. What if I didn’t go back to school and we stayed in Israel? And what if I chose American University in Washington DC instead? What if we stayed in New York after I finished school instead of moving back to Toronto?

Did I make the right choice for my career path, years ago or more recently? Is Toronto the right city for me to live in and raise my family? What if we chose a different neighbourhood to live in or a different school or camp for our children? What if I didn’t give David a second chance, back in 1995, when I first met him (when he was drunk) at a “Beer Bash?”

If all I did was ask what if all day every day I would never be able to make a decision or live my life. And lately, I will admit, I have been asking that question too often. I have been questioning my choices and my decisions, and it often leaves me frozen on the spot. At times I have been overwhelmed, but thanks to some wonderful family, friends and colleagues, I am pushing through.

I need to turn what if into something positive and a vehicle to drive me to action. What if I contacted some old friends or work colleagues to just catch up and get some inspiration? What if I signed up for that spin or yoga class? Or what if I invest more energy (dare I say also money?!) in my beloved blog, Kinetic Motions, and see where it takes me? What if I focus on all the positive in my life and not all the tasks and stress that bog me down?

Writing this post helps me turn my attention from questioning past actions and choices to focusing on what is next and the great things I can do with my future. If you read all the way to the bottom, thank you, kind readers. Your support is much appreciated.

Could that be Spring I see Outside?

spring

Today is May 9th. I think spring has finally arrived in Canada. I’m not the first person to think about this or write about this. We all know about climate change and the crazy weather patterns we continue to see and experience around the world. I’m just happy that spring has arrived. Don’t get me wrong – I love the winter and all the outdoor activities that come with it. But, there is something special and fresh I always feel in spring. It took us a little while to get here. And now I am thrilled that indeed spring is here.

I am not a gardening maven and I’d say I have something between a green and a brown thumb. Maybe olive green? For me, one of the surest signs that spring has arrived are the green tips and buds that appear in my garden. It is nature at its best, with that perfect shade of green that pushes through the thawing, brown garden bed and from the branches on trees.

As each day goes by, the green shoots grow taller and bigger and other colours appear. I have tiny purple flowers now all over my front yard (which may be somewhat invasive and yet also beautiful) along with some red and yellow tulips (which are always swiftly consumed by the local squirrel population).

Last week my favourite tree started to bloom – the magnolia. I don’t have one on my property, which is just fine with me. They are all over my neighbourhood and during the first week of May every year I love exploring and looking at this most magnificent tree. The flowers are a gentle shade of pink that makes me smile. But this tree only blooms for a week or maybe two. We hit the height of the blooms a few days ago, and the flowers are already falling off the trees and lying on the ground. I don’t mind that I don’t have one as I don’t have to clean up all the petals.

spring
A blooming magnolia tree on my street.

And speaking of outdoor cleaning, well that’s another sure sign of spring. No matter how much garden clean-up we do in the fall, when the snow and ice finally melt in the spring, our yard is a mess. I am blessed to live in the city on a large property. We have a big backyard, with huge hundred-year-old oak trees and a seemingly endless length of garden beds. Enough leaves fall on our property each year to fill about 50 garden bags.

Throw in massive wind storms which blew dozens of sticks and branches everywhere and it’s hours of cleaning for us each spring. My husband has abandoned the interior of our house the last few weeks to spend every free minute in the backyard cleaning up leaves and sticks. And he’s still not finished! Spring is beautiful, but it’s definitely synonymous with cleaning!

One headache I do experience every spring is the mess that is my front lawn.  As I wrote about last May, I dream of a green, thick, lush front lawn every spring, and so far, no luck. Last year we hired a gardening company to get rid of the grubs and re-seed, and by the fall our front lawn was a mess. In April, as everyone’s front lawns began to grow, we got a patchy mess, with more grubs and more raccoons. That’s right, those pesky raccoons once again pulled apart my lawn.

This year I’m trying to fix it on my own, and so far, no luck. I raked out the dead grass, aerated the area and sprayed a huge amount of grub-eating nematodes everywhere. I’m planning to lay a fresh layer of grass seed today. I will water it diligently, maybe apply some fertilizer and try to keep weeds away. And those grubs too. And the raccoons. If I fail, I will have to come up with a new plan next spring.

Today the sun is shining and my thermometer says it’s 21 degrees outside. I can take that. Actually, I think that 20-22 degrees Celsius is the perfect temperature and a sure message to us all that spring is here.  Welcome to the warmth, the greenery and the colours. I love it.

Listen to the Sounds of the Game

sounds

If you are a sports fan, May is a great time of year. There is a plethora of choices of sports to watch, read about, follow and discuss. If you want playoff action, there’s a hockey or basketball game every night. Baseball is in full swing. Soccer has come alive. There is a game on my TV every night, and I will admit, once in a while I fall asleep during the height of the action. A few nights ago, I watched a Toronto Raptors’ game with my eyes closed. I was too tired to watch, so instead I just listened. The sounds of the game fascinated me.

Have you ever closed your eyes and just listened to the game? And I mean really just sat down, relaxed and listened? The radio works, but I find the subtle and nuanced sounds the television cameras pick up are even more fascinating.

Basketball 

The Toronto Raptors play game 2 of their playoff series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday evening. I won’t go into the letdown that was game 1 on Tuesday night. But I will share the audio highlights that I enjoyed from last night’s game. The sound I love most during a basketball game is how the athletes’ shoes travel across the freshly waxed and clean hardwood floor.  Some people may cringe, but it’s this sound that tells me that there’s a basketball game going on. Here is an example:

 

I also like the even tempo of the bouncing ball as a player races down the court. My son loves when a ball slides through the net with a perfect swish sound.

Hockey

A hockey game has very different sounds from a basketball game, even though they are often played in the same building. First of all, there’s no shoes or hardwood floor.  The sound of perfectly sharpened skates flying down the ice or suddenly stopping make me smile. Add a stick and puck to the mix and you get a beautiful melody of sounds. How about when the puck hits the crossbar or a player checks another into the boards? Just close your eyes and listen. It’s a wonder to the senses. Listen to the sound of the blades on the ice:

 

Baseball

The sounds of the ballpark. These are special. I went to a Blue Jays game last week, and at one point I closed my eyes so I could take in all the sounds around me. Even if you aren’t paying attention to the action on the field, there’s nothing like the concession vendors who run up and down the aisles yelling, “Beer here, ice cold beer” or “Popcorn, peanuts and Crackerjacks!” On the field there’s the sound of the bat as it makes contact with the ball or the sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt when the player swings and misses. And the umpires. Some of them articulate the word “strike” so well that you can hear it for miles.

Just listen to the crack of the bat and cheers of the crowd in this example. You know it’s a baseball game in an instant.

 

Other Sports

No matter the sport, each brings its own unique sounds. The grunt of the athlete and ball hitting the racquet in tennis. The calls of the quarterback in football. Oh, how I love the sound I hear when skis turn on the snow. How about the swing of the golf club and the sound when it hits the ball?

What are you favourite sports sounds? Post a comment here or on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

Honk if You’re Angry Part Four – Common Sense

driving aggression rage

Maybe you are sick of me writing about this topic. I haven’t written about my frustration of Toronto’s roads since October, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t bothered me. With freezing and warming weather for months, Toronto’s streets were destroyed this winter. With spring’s arrival, finally, the people of the city are out, in cars, on bikes and on foot, and it seems that too many people forget the rules or are using any common sense.

Common sense could be it, or lack of. Could people be interpreting the rules differently than me, or are they thinking with their feet and fingers and not their brains? If you are pedaling but not thinking, there can be consequences. If you are texting and not looking up there also can be consequences. And if you are a driver who wrote your own rule book, then you may not care about the consequences.

Let’s look at some instances when clearly common sense didn’t exist, and I observed all of these cases on one day last week:

Jump across into oncoming traffic to turn left

While driving, I turned right at a green light and in front of me was a car, driving directly towards me. The driver wanted to get into the left turn lane while his light was red. But there were many cars in front of him and he couldn’t get into that left turn lane easily. His solution? Just drive on the wrong side of the road for a short time then jump into the left turn lane. Who cares if a car comes. That person can wait, in his mind. Well not in my mind. I honked him to move out of my way. He ignored me.

Honk me at an intersection

I reached the end of a side street and stopped at the stop sign. My car arrived at a busy, major street, with the intention to turn right. I looked left to wait for a break in the oncoming traffic. There were bushes blocking part of my view and I inched forward slowly. Cars kept coming. The guy behind me didn’t like that and put his hand on his horn. He was impatient. Why didn’t I go? Why didn’t I just drive my car into oncoming traffic? I could see there were cars coming. He couldn’t. No common sense. It’s better to make a right turn when the traffic clears.

Rules don’t apply to many (not all) luxury car drivers

I don’t drive a fancy car. I drive a big car, which I have sometimes compared to the Canadian Hercules airplane. My car, whose name is Amelia, is a Honda Pilot. She drives well, she’s comfortable to be in and I feel safe. But it’s not a luxury car. It’s a practical car. And I think I drive in a practical manner, following the rules and using common sense. But I have to say, based on my own observations, that’s not the case for the drivers of many luxury cars.  When the light goes green, if you are driving a luxury car, it doesn’t mean you can jump out fast and turn left as oncoming traffic prepares to go straight. You must stop at stop signs just like the rest of us. Please take only one spot in the parking lot. You don’t have to park in the middle of two spots and be greedy.

Look both ways before you cross the street

I have mentioned this one before. Put your smartphone down and look up if you are walking along the sidewalk and cross the street. It’s just plain dangerous. You are thinking with your rapidly moving fingers and not your head. No common sense. Drivers (and cyclists) should be aware of you no matter what, but why put yourself at risk? And what if you are texting, not looking up and arrive at a red light? Not a good idea to walk into fast-moving traffic. Over the last week, with beautiful weather, there are many more pedestrians. So many of them are using smartphones. Please, wake up. Look up.

Also, just an added note to pedestrians at crosswalks. You have the right of way, always. Most cities have constructed good signage to alert everyone on the road of a crosswalk. There is always a button to press that lights up the crosswalk, so that drivers and cyclists know you are about to cross. Press the button before you cross. If it’s raining or foggy or really sunny out, it makes it easier for you to be seen. Why do so few people press that button?

If it says one way, it’s for cyclists too

I drive on many narrow one-way streets around the city. These streets are shared by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. A pedestrian, on the sidewalk, can walk in either direction. No problem. But cars – and bicycles – must go in the direction noted on the sign. What am I supposed to do when I am driving down a narrow one-way street and a cyclist is coming towards me, going the wrong way? I have nowhere to go. I must slow down to a crawl or stop. There’s an easy solution: follow the sign and drive – or bike – in the direction it shows. Common sense, right?

It’s really easy to use common sense, especially when traveling on a city’s roads, in a car, on a bicycle or on foot. I don’t want to honk and be angry nor do I want to be honked at. I want to share the road with all of you, and sorry if I keep complaining. Common sense. It’s that easy.

We have it within us to Save a Life

life

There is a famous precept in the Talmud that says, “Whoever destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the whole world” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a). Not only is that a very powerful statement, but I believe it is true. I also believe it is something we must all internalize and carry with us every day.

I have thought about this line from the Talmud a lot over the past week. The deliberate, murderous attack on innocent people in Toronto last Monday has made me think a lot about how a life can be easily destroyed, but also how a life can be easily saved.

From that attack alone we all know how a life can be destroyed in an instant, and when that life is destroyed it really feels like the whole world is being destroyed too. We question how one person can sink so low, into such misery and desperation, that he can murder not one, but ten people, in a matter of minutes. We question, what has our world become and how is a human being capable of something so despicable? Has our world been destroyed just a little bit more each time a person destroys a single life?

If we focus on the destruction of life it will be hard to think about how we can turn the world around. So instead, as the people of Toronto heal, let’s focus on the second part of the statement, on saving even a single life.

What actions can we all take to try to save a single life? I wish I had a simple answer that I could write about in this space. It is something I have been struggling with for the past week. There are many individuals in our society who are different, who don’t fit in, who feel they sit on the outside. Some people are well adjusted and others seek out dark places to find comfort and belonging.

It could be your neighbour or your brother or maybe someone you work with. I believe that all of us are unique, and we all handle success and failure or joy and grief in different ways. How aware are we of the people around us, in particular, the people who may be silently screaming for help? What small actions can all of us take to show kindness, support or patience when interacting with someone who may be different?

While in no way am I saying that anyone who may not fit the mould in our society or appears to be different is capable of destroying a life. But you never know when an action that you take, by reaching out a helping hand, could potentially save a life. I keep going over in my head all the times I may have slighted a person who may have made me feel uncomfortable or seemed different on the outside to me. Did I do harm? Were my actions, or lack of action, yet another hit on a person who just needed some kindness?

I really do feel that we have it within us to save a life, even if we don’t know it when we do it. Hold the door for that person struggling to walk up the steps. Smile and make eye contact when someone stops you on the street and asks you a question that is clearly nonsense. Does it make a difference if you hand the homeless teenager a sandwich or hot drink instead of cash? I guess I’m just saying, take a moment to think when you interact with other people. Our actions affect everyone else. If we can all save just a single life then together we can save the whole world.

This is our New Reality

new reality

I wanted to write about the new royal baby today. When I heard the news on Monday morning that Kate gave birth to her third child, I was excited to write about the British royal family. While I’m not obsessed, yes, I’m a fan. But on Monday afternoon I turned on the radio shortly after 2:00 pm. I was in my car, about to leave a parking lot. I couldn’t move. Horror washed over my body. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. This is our new reality.

In the age of technology, with instant news and lives shared on social media, the details of the horror on Yonge street in Toronto spread rapidly. The world saw videos and photos, heard and read witness accounts, after a man drove a van block after block, on the sidewalk, intentionally murdering people.

I couldn’t focus yesterday, and my heart ached for the people killed and injured and their families and friends. So many questions immediately went through my head, like why did this happen? What was going through this man’s mind when he committed this heinous act? What has happened to our society?

While it did not make me feel any better, I quickly realized that this is our new reality. We often speak of how we live in a modern age, with equality, freedom and justice. In Canada children are raised to be anything and everything they want to be. We are free to speak our minds in public and protest against injustice. People walk down the street and hold their heads high, without fear.

Or not.

When I was a child, at age 5, I walked home from kindergarten most days with my brother. School was s short distance from our house, and we walked home together with a group of kids. We went to the nearby park on our own and played sports on the street. Our parents knew we were safe. When we ran off down the street to play with our friends, our parents knew we would come home. When parents kissed their children good bye in the morning, they knew they would see them that evening, after work.

But that is no longer the reality and hasn’t been for years. I’m scared to let my children out of my sight in public, and I will admit that when I say good bye to my husband in the morning, when he jumps on the subway, I often have a quick, horrifying thought in my head, what if I never see him again? What if the subway is attacked or someone drives up on the sidewalk and hits a crowd of pedestrians?

And then it happened to someone’s husband, or wife, sister, brother, mother, father or friend yesterday. Someone said good bye for the last time.  And I wasn’t surprised. I felt sick, horrified and angry, but I was not shocked. This is our new reality.

Or maybe it’s not new, it’s just evolving. Mentally ill individuals, who for any number of reasons were angry with an individual or society, have used violence on a massive scale to voice their grievances. In some cases, there is a religious motivation, but often not. There was the massacre in 1989 which targeted a group of female engineering students at the University of Montreal. An individual murdered police officers in Alberta in 2005.

And yet, yesterday’s attack was somehow different. Or at least it was different for Canadians. Driving a vehicle, intentionally, into a group of people, is not new. It is a tactic that has been employed for many years to murder innocents around the world. But it was new in Canada and in an instant changed our reality forever.

I wish I could offer some unique insights or an inspirational thought to make us all feel better. But I can’t. What I feel today is sadness, as do thousands of Torontonians. We love our city, and I believe that most of us think the best of all people. Right now, we are coming together to grieve and to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost, to those who were injured and to the first responders who did a tremendous job to help those in need.

Moving forward we need to face our new reality with our heads held high. We must show kindness to our fellow human beings and reach out and support people who suffer from mental illness or who feel they don’t have a voice. I wish that would mean our world would be a better place, but at least we can try.

Once you have a Dog, you have a Dog for Life

dog

I love dogs. There is no other living being, in my opinion, who is more loyal, sweet and kind, than a dog. There is a reason why dogs are considered man’s (or woman’s) best friend. I have never had my own, but I have been around this most wonderful animal all my life. I have observed that once you have a dog, you have one for life.

While I love dogs, I will very publicly state it here that I don’t want my own right now. It is a tremendous commitment, of time and money. A pet deserves to be cared for in a very particular way, from an early morning walk to visits to the vet, and I am just not up for that now. No doubt I always have time for cuddles and play, but that’s the easy part. My life and my family are hectic enough right now. I just don’t want to take on the ownership of a pet.

Owning a pet is not for everyone. For those who choose to have a dog (or maybe any other animal), the connection is for life. It always troubles me that dogs have a relatively short lifespan (compared to a human’s at least). But during life, and for years after its death, an owner’s love and devotion to his or her dog remains.

When I was a child, I begged my parents to get me a dog. With three kids and a busy household, my parents’ joking responded, “If you want a dog, then one of the three of you (children) has to go.” My brother and I quickly pointed at my sister. We still didn’t get a dog. I yearned for one, as did my siblings (not my father). Shortly after we had all moved out, of course, my parents got a dog.

Oscar was the closest thing I ever had to my own dog. He had many sleepovers at my house and I happily cared for him all the time. But he belonged to my mother and of course his loyalty was to her. As is the case with my mother-in-law’s dog, Mu Shu (and Soho before) and my sister’s bedroom slipper on acid, Herzl.

These dogs belong to them, but more importantly, they belong to their dogs. And that includes during the pet’s life and after. The connection and the memories last a lifetime.

As soon as you get a dog, you become what I call a dog person. If canines seemingly urinate at every fire hydrant, then dog people stop to look and admire at every corner when a dog passes by. My mother can’t help herself and has to engage in a conversation with every person walking by with his or her dog. No matter how big or small, old or young, friendly or cranky the dog is, my mother has to share a story about Oscar.

My sister is constantly on the hunt for her – or my mother’s – next pet. They follow an endless list of dogs on Instagram and Facebook and send me photos, links and stories that I just have to read. They seek out breeders who may be a good fit and tell me all the time about the perfect one for my home.

I don’t blame them. They are dog people. I am not. I love this adorable animal, but I don’t follow their every move on Instagram (okay I do follow Clark Kent Superdog, but he is special) and stop innocent people on the side of the road who are out in the cold hoping their dog will just pee so they can run back inside.

Dog people won’t change, and that’s okay. They amuse me. I am amused that my mother leapt out of the car on Saturday in the Home Depot parking lot and accosted some poor woman who was just trying to get her Morkie (Matlese Yorkie mix) to quickly do his business in a small patch of grass. The woman smiled and was friendly, but her yappy and hyperactive animal friend beside her had no patience.

So, maybe one day I will be a dog person. But for now, I will just give a little chuckle when I watch them interact and share their unending love of their true best friend.

**Just a note that in the feature photo for this story that’s then three-month-old Matthew with, from l-r: Mu Shu, Herzl and Oscar.

Climate Change is Real

climate change

I have a layer of thick, solid ice on my front and back lawn. Maybe there’s a bit of snow mixed in. It looks like January 15thoutside my house. And today is April 20th. I live in Canada, where we expect some snow throughout the month of April, in most parts of the country.  Anyone who takes their snow tires off on April 1 always lives to regret it. But the ice and snow usually melts quickly in April as the weather warms. But not this year. And I’m not surprised. Why? Climate change.

climate change
That’s a snow and ice covered sidewalk in Toronto this week. the fact that the city didn’t bother to clean it is another story.

I don’t like to use the buzz word, global warming. I am not a scientist, an environmentalist or really any kind of expert. Basically I am just a weather watcher and would consider myself to be a relatively intelligent person. I don’t question that our planet is slowly warming, that each year, the world’s average temperature is going up. But what we see, every day, in a different part of the globe, is climate change.

Earth Day is coming up this weekend, on April 22. It’s the one day of the year when it’s not just okay, but we are encouraged to hug a tree. And for those of us living in parts of Ontario and Quebec, with our lawns, streets and sidewalks still covered in ice, the timing is very poignant.

My husband, David, who by the way happens to be trained as a Professional Environmental Engineer and has real, extensive knowledge of the subject matter, explained to me this week what is happening around the world and why there is a layer of ice on our lawn. He specifically referred to climate change.

We are seeing extreme weather, with a massive cold snap complete with sleet, freezing rain and snow, followed by warm, sometimes hot weather. And that can happen in Toronto in February, November, or April.

Last spring Toronto saw record rainfall, with so much flooding across the city that access to the much-loved Toronto Islands was closed for months. We could count the number of hot days in the summer on one hand. I do recall that September and October were nice and warm. Our climate is changing. It’s erratic.

And when I say our climate, I really should say our planet’s climate. Our global village. What happens in one place affects another, and when one community abuses the environment, the effects can be felt thousands of kilometers away. I don’t think we can blame one group of people, one country or political regime for climate change. This didn’t happen overnight. We have been abusive for years, and while climate change was slow for a long time, I believe it is quickening now.

Freak storms used to be just that – freak. Rare. Out of the ordinary. We were shocked to hear there was flooding in southern China, wildfires in central Australia or a long draught in Texas, in the United States. Over the last few years that has become commonplace. There is always a swollen river, causing a flood in some community. A new wildfire breaks out in some part of the world almost weekly. There are so many places in all corners of the world in a state of draught, with little to no water.

Have we become used to climate change? Have we become so disaffected by news of another ice storm, flood or draught that we barely take notice? I sure hope not. If we don’t speak out, if each and every one of us doesn’t try, even a little bit, to be better environmental citizens of the world, we are doomed to see even more extreme weather.

On Sunday, April 22, during the event’s 48thanniversary (year one was 1970) of Earth Day, go hug a tree. Or better yet, go plant a tree. Or pick up some trash you see on the side of the road. Maybe lower the heat in your house a bit or turn off some lights. This year’s theme is End Plastic Pollution, so maybe you want to check your recycling bin and make sure the right plastics are in there. Or stop using bottled water and invest in a reusable cup or bottle.

There are so many ways that all of us, as individuals, can make a difference and do our best to slow down climate change. Let’s all try to do our part. Maybe next year, on April 20th, 2019, I can be in my backyard, in a t-shirt raking leaves and getting my garden ready for spring like I used to do.