Friday, January 30, 2009

That Kind of Day

We're Canadians, so the snow should really, really not be an issue. And it wouldn't be except there's so darn much of it! More than I remember getting in the past - which is probably my mind playing tricks on me, considering last year we almost broke the record for snowiest winter, and that my childhood memories are filled with sliding (sometimes head first) down the HUGE hills in the school yard where the snow piled up all winter until it was well over 2 meters high (also, chanting "I'm the king of the castle! and you're the dirty rascals!" from the top of the hill after climbing it - oh children, so charming).
Perhaps it's that in my childhood, all this snow meant just another plaything - a hill to be climbed, an evening tobogganing, a snowball fight to be had, angels and forts to be made. Now, it's all just something to walk around. Or rather, to try to walk around (come check out the great job they do clearing this stuff in the fabulous frozen metropolis that is Montreal, and you'll know exactly what I mean).
Yesterday, on the way home from Ottawa, one of my fellow commuters got off the bus at Kirkland as he always does. As he walked down the hill to the parking lot where his car was parked, he fell 3 feet into the snow. Waist deep. The bus was driving away as he rolled himself out. yeah.
I think maybe I just need to take up tobogganing again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sniffling and Yucky

I can't think of very much more un-fun than going to the dentist when you can't breathe through your nose... Wish me luck!


I want to be there
for something enormous
for a moment
that stretches into an hour
a day that stretches into a year into
a new reality

that stretches into
a way of thinking
of being caring touching speaking
in kindness
in love
of speaking good
instead of insinuations

I want to be there for truth flowing
for justice for all going
from theory to practice
for the end
of war
the end of all the givens
to be there
not only as witness
but as actor
for the moment
that starts the motion
that starts the march
to good

Monday, January 26, 2009

60 Minutes - A Great Segment

For anyone interested in more detailed history on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - one that goes back more than 1 month - this segment that aired on 60 minutes last Sunday is a good explanation of the current conditions in the West Bank. Food for truly depressing thought...

Watch CBS Videos Online

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Political Olympics

If you're interested in the current Canadian political Olympics (Parliament resumes tomorrow - will they stay? Will they go? Will they all decide to abort the whole system to anarchy? Will they just sit down and get something done?? (of course not, that's not what being an elected representative is about!!)), you'll love this article.
The heading: Let the games begin
The sub-heading: Why solve Canada’s woes, writes Paul Wells, when there’s politics to play?

Really, honestly, worth reading. I laughed because I didn't want to cry...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the Spirit of Doing More

I love this song... Ironically, I've been thinking about making my life count for more than just me pre-the big contribution inauguration speech... But since I'm hoping it's on all our minds after Tuesday, enjoy this as more inspiration:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

For the Love of Language

I love words, so I just had to post this:

Bringing the bling to daily speech
How celebrity speak and TV catchphrases creep into our conversations

By Colleen Ross

As Britney Spears rises again, strutting onto stages to tour her comeback album Circus, I have begun to wonder what would happen to the popular phrase to pull a Britney. It has hitherto meant doing something outlandish: with or without shaving your head, marrying your childhood sweetheart and annulling within three days, or having two kids within a year. Now, because the phrase is so ingrained in popular lingo, perhaps it will come to mean achieving new heights of popularity by acting crazy. The term is as ensconced in popular lore as the celebrity herself.
Celebrity-based words and TV speak are increasingly wending their way into daily speech, reflecting a fame-obsessed society.The Simpsons as linguistic innovators? Meh. (Associated Press)
Before you get the hateration on for this column because you can't handle the truthiness of what I have to say, I urge you: check it out! (That's American Idol's Randy Jackson speaking, not me.) Words from the celebrity world are slowly creeping into our lexicon.
Meh, you say, shrugging your shoulders. (By the way, that word popularized by The Simpsons is on its way into the Collins English Dictionary next year.)
But I've thought this through. I mused when this first started to happen. O.J. Simpson in the news again brought back memories of the white bronco, a term now parked in the Urban Dictionary to mean getaway car. Maybe what that O.J. needs is some more bling. That word, now in the Oxford English Dictionary, was thought up in the late 1990s by rappers Cash Money Millionaires. Then there was of course jump the couch, made famous by Tom Cruise, which means going off the deep end, as he so famously did on Oprah.
Rachael Ray's EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) is now in the Oxford American College Dictionary and Beyonce's immensely popular bootylicious has sashayed its way into the OED. The Urban Dictionary includes political satirist Stephen Colbert's word truthiness, Jon Stewart's creation catastrof**k, Mary J. Blige's hateration, and the unabashedly simple That's hot! from that celebrity we love to hate, Paris Hilton.
In addition to the celebrity lingo, language spawned by television has been working its way into popular speech. Think of our Seinfeld-isms: yada yada yada, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," high/low/close talkers, double-dipping, and the list goes on. Then there's the lingo from the sitcom Friends: the oft-quoted "How you doin'?" and the uber popular so-not combo as in: "I'm so not going out with that guy." Seriously? That's so Grey's Anatomy.
Repeating what the stars say
While English has long incorporated lingo from the entertainment world, the cool cats pace of acquisition of our parents' generation is much faster now, says Tim Blackmore, who teaches popular culture at the University of Western Ontario.Satirist Stephen Colbert: Truthiness has its social consequences. (Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)
We have the rap world, we have mega stars who shamelessly market themselves, and we have a proliferation of talk shows and reality shows that contribute to our daily lingo. You know, the whole sista ebonics of Tyra Banks and the bumbling deadpan of Ellen Degeneres (who, incidentally, has her very own dictionary). Of course, there's also the quick repartee of political satirists Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.
Blackmore notices lingo popularized by rappers and talk shows is creeping into daily conversation. He reels off a list: don't go there, that's so whatever, I'm all about the (fill in the blank), let the healing begin, that's what I'm talkin' about, and my favourite: talk to the hand!
"Some of my students, as well as teens and tweens, have a very quick patter," says Blackmore. "It sounds smart, but then I listen more closely. It's a loop. They've picked up some quick responses from a TV show; they have a certain number of responses and then they run out."
Blackmore says the issue is there isn't any conception that what people like Colbert and Stewart say on TV isn't actually 'normal' conversation; it's been heavily scripted by many people. But with Canadians spending an average 21 hours per week watching TV, we may just fall into repeating what the stars say.
"This language shows that we're on top of things, that we're hip to it," says Blackmore. In our fast-paced world, we want to have a smart answer, a slick reaction — and these celebrities do what we feel we can't do for ourselves.
It seems that in talking like celebrities, we're simply mimicking people we deem successful. We use that ancient tool of language: gossip.
Social psychologist Frank McAndrew from Knox College in Illinois just wrote a comprehensive article on gossip for Scientific American Mind. McAndrew says we chat about celebrities because we're so intimate with the details of their lives that we feel we know them. Anthropologically, we consider them part of our inner circle. "We may look to celebrities to learn strategies for being successful, just as we looked to the most influential members of our tribe (e.g. the best hunters and warriors) in days of yore," says McAndrew.
Expressing the deep thoughts
So what's the fallout of all this celebriteez lingo?
As Tim Blackmore deftly puts it: "Knowledge produces eloquence and vocabulary. Going from TV show to show produces pickup lines." He notices that his students are slower to come up with a considered response, consumed by their desire to be quick and funny. He says when they're asked to form an honest answer to a question without quips, they often pause, saying they don't know. But after some hemming and hawing and formulating and reformulating of sentences, they do get down to substance.
So the deep thoughts are there; it's just a matter of finding our own words to express them.
In the end, maybe this celebritized language is an exercise in democracy. We're all equal in our quest for a crib, a boo, and occasionally a little bling, and in so pursuing, we're all speaking the same language. I believe there is some truthiness to that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All Hail the Presse Cafe

There's been an empty store front at the end of our street for months now, and M and I have been watching closely to see who'll take it.
Our dream: an independent bookstore with a coffee shop built in.
What happened? First, the store front turned out to be not one, but two store fronts.
Recently, a sushi place opened in one of them. This is very, very good news, but it's not a coffee shop.
More recently, (two weeks ago to be exact), a sign went up in the other window for a Presse Cafe opening soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lost Conversations

I wanted you
On the other end of the telephone
Through the words
I hadn’t been speaking
Barely been thinking
(it’s dangerous to think the thoughts you can’t say
Dangerous to go to the places in your mind
You won’t be able to open
And stand outside
And look and wait
What happens next?
You will try to break down the door
And go inside
You will try to force it
And there will be sirens
And there will be riot police
And there will be fines or worse
To pay)

I wanted you
At 7 p.m. on the bus
In my ear
Ideally in the seat beside me
In some other life
When you still rode buses
In some other life
Before the strollers and the car seats

And then my eyes were closing
My breathing slowing
And the dream already forgotten but at least carrying off
With it the aching
The longing

This started with a song
(or two or twenty)
That I have to have you hear
With your little angel’s fleece hoodie
In my closet
Discovered while cleaning
And calling 9-11
And triggering the sirens
In my mind

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Direct Theft

This post is a direct theft from Jen's blog (although it's her hubby who posted this particular entry). I try not to outright steal too often, (and I always give credit when I do) but this poem was just too perfect and startling not to share:

by W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in different directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
looking up from our tables we are saying thank you
in a country up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
we go on unchanged saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the wires going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us like the earth
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Overground Underground (or "I can't feel my toes")

There was another Gaza demonstration today - around 10 000 of us showed up, and it was a good mix of people too (not just Arabs or Muslims. Seems to be that as the crisis goes on for an extended period of time, more and more people are becoming aware of just how bad it is...)
We marched from Dorchester Square at Peel and Renee Levesque all the way to the Complexe Desjardins at Renee Levesque and St-Urbain (1.1 km away).
After the Demonstration, we were too cold to walk home outside, so M introduced me to a new area of the Montreal underground. Now, having lived in the city for about 10 months (and living downtown!) I've walked the underground in the core downtown area a fair amount, but this was a whole other area I didn't even realize was connected. We walked for about 40 minutes without stepping outside at all and exited 3 (3!) minutes from our place for the last bit. Not only could I actually feel my feet by this point; they were actually warm. And I should clarify that the underground is actually a stretch of tunnels and overpasses, so the term underground is not 100% accurate. Sometimes, you're inside and at street level. Sometimes you're a floor up...
But here's the coolest part: on our walk, we came across two separate wedding parties using random parts of the underground as background for their wedding photos. Now, some areas are just regular brick wall, or completely ordinary, but some are actually extremely artistic. The first bride and groom were taking photos against a yellow background. The second were in Windsor Station, taking their photos at a pretty elaborate staircase. I took no pictures of either couple (though I did congratulate them as we passed), but here are a few grainy cell phone shots of a neat tunnel area on our route....

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Let's Play 5 Questions!

So, the latest Blog "meme" comes via XUP, and is called 5 questions. She did such a great job explaining how it works on her blog, so I'm just going to go ahead and steal the instructions:

It’s kind of a fun interview exercise because fellow bloggers can email you asking to join in and then you have to email them back 5 interview questions - things you’d like to know specifically about them. Then they answer the questions on their blog and invite other bloggers to join in which means they have to come up with 5 questions for those bloggers. Get it? (Complete instructions are at the end of this post).

On with the show. Here are the questions XUP posed to me, as well as my answers (as usual, extremely run-on-sentency).

  1. As a Muslim and a woman in Canada, do you face any additional challenges in the workplace and/or socially?
    I really think that if you want to look at them as "challenges", you could, but that in essence, we live is such a pluralistic society that it's hard to say there's a "standard" any more, so I probably face as many challenges as anyone else, except mine can be categorized under one lump sum of "this is because she's Muslim"... For example, I don't drink, nor do I attend social events where alcohol will be served. What this means is that if I'm going out to dinner with some friends, no one at the table can order a drink... At work, I'll skip the group lunches if I know that some of my colleagues are going to be drinking, but we end up doing a lot of "in office potlucks" instead, and the formal lunches are only 1 or 2 times a year. A few of my good friends from high school and university have gotten married recently, and for their weddings, I attended the ceremonies, but not the receptions, because of the alcohol thing. I explained it to them and they didn't mind. The important thing was to see them on their special day in some way or another.
    Honestly, I don't mind. I probably face more challenges dealing with other things that make me unique or different, like my food sensitivities (try avoiding wheat, dairy, and sugar in an office that ADORES all of the above. I have no will power. I break down. I eat it. I get sick. I chide myself and promise I'll never do it again... And then someone buys a box of Laura Secord Chocolates and puts them next to the photocopier that afternoon, and it's breakdown of will power all over. You get the drift).
    Other adjustments? I pray 5 times a day, but I'm pretty flexible about the specifics. If the nurse's room is in use, or we've got a lot of back to back meetings, I'll just use my office.
    I've had the very very rare situation pop up where someone is down right discriminatory, but then who hasn't? If I wasn't Muslim (and Arab: double-whammy!) I'm sure it would be something else, like sexism, or some other form of discrimination. Honestly, I've been a minority for so long that it's what I'm most comfortable with. I don't think any of it is insurmountable. You just have to explain to people why you're doing "thing x" some other way...
  2. You commute regularly between Ottawa and Montreal. If you both could have the same or better jobs in the same city, which one would you choose to live in?
    Hmmm... I have to say that right now, even though commuting is hard, I get the best of both worlds. I live in downtown Montreal and get to work at home 2 days of the week, and I live in the 'burbs in Ottawa and work in downtown the other 3 weekdays. I love the vibe of Montreal. I love the vibrant spirit that's just there. I love the "bigness" of it. But I love the quiet of Ottawa, and the kind of unobtrusive beauty, and until last February, Ottawa was my whole life. The overwhelming majority of important memories in my life took place in Ottawa. My sisters and I tobogganing in our back yard in our old house in the winters when we were little; biking with my dad in the summers along the Ottawa river bike paths; going to the Public Library as a teen and coming home with more novels than I could carry; babysitting at the mosque on Fridays; going to Canterbury High School and finding out there that, no matter what I did with my "working hours" in my life, I would always really be a writer; there are too many... Ottawa will always be home. If my husband could work there, I would probably choose to live there. That said, I'm sure my parents missed Egypt like crazy when they moved to Canada for my dad to finish his PhD. and that was over 35 years ago.
  3. What is the hardest decision you've ever had to make all on your own?
    This is the hardest question. I put off answering this meme while I tried to think of an answer for this, and the bottom line is that I couldn't come up with anything profound at all because any hard decision I have to make, I don't make on my own. I'm very fortunate that some of the people closest to me are actually exceptional people that others look up to and seek out for advice constantly, and that are only ever, at worst, a phone call away. Case in point: my parents. My mother has been part of every big decision I've ever made. She's a details person, and she will sit through every last point and review things until I'm no longer lost. My father is a great sounding board, and when he's done listening to me rant about something, he can usually, in one or two sentences, give me a "grand scheme of things" reminder that helps clarify my position and re-orients me. My sisters are all incredibly supportive and know me insanely well. My husband is super-patient, non-pushy, and brings to my decisions a different perspective since, unlike everyone else I've listed, he hasn't lived in my immediate family unit for the last 25 years. I know this sounds like I'm gushing about these people ridiculously, but it's the truth. And while they'll all tell you I'm a bit stubborn and hard-headed when I want something (albeit using nicer words), it's usually when I want something small, like a chocolate bar, or to watch movie X instead of movie Y.
    So, the hardest decision I ever made on my own? Pretty anti-climactic, but it was probably to go to Arts Canterbury High School for the Literary Arts program, even though it would mean an extra 2 hours on the bus each day, and an extra hour at school, for 4 years. And even that, I asked what my family thought about it. If you want something COMPLETELY independent, it would be something ridiculously minuscule, like buying a bike. Not a hard decision.
  4. What is there about you that you think makes you just a little bit different from anyone else you know?
    I have a ridiculous memory for completely useless trivia facts and words/lyrics. Anything from the fact that retired hockey player Dave Andreychuk and my uncle have the same birthday (September 29th) to lyrics of "Over my head" by the Fray, to the lyrics of a spoof version of Bohemian Rhapsody that Flogo posted on their website during the 2004 Presidential election, to whole sections of dialogue from Lord of the Rings. I'll correct my sister if she's singing a song and changes some obscure line by one word in the bridge... Also, I have yet to meet another Muslim woman who loves hockey as much as I do.
  5. You are granted 10 minutes to go back in time, meet up with one person and tell them something. Who would it be and what would you tell them?
    I thought about going back to some famous historical figure and telling them something that could have changed the outcome of the world, but I wrote this off because it strikes me as hubris, and I just don't' think that little old me, given ten minutes, could really accomplish some huge, global thing. So, I'll go for something more personal.
    I'd go back in time to when my maternal grandmother was alive and tell her thank you and how much I love and appreciate her. She lived in Egypt for almost all of her life, but came to stay with my mom when my mom was pregnant with my sisters and I, and we formed a very very tight bond. When I was a baby, she called me her little Cinderella and wouldn't let me sleep in the crib (which caused all sorts of "adjustments" when she had to go back to Egypt and I was used to cooing in the bed with a grown up. She'd make sure my older sister didn't jump on the bed if I was napping. When she came back for the birth of my younger sister, I was already so used to her that she mostly took care of me to free up my mom for my younger sister.
    She came back and stayed with us again for about a year when I was around 10, but I don't think I truly realized just how much she did for us. I loved her, but I loved to go out and play more, and by then, she wasn't as mobile. The next couple of times I saw her on visits to Egypt, she was getting older and starting to forget things. But she had a beautiful, warm heart, and it wasn't until after she died by a few years that I really, truly thought about her more deeply as her own person and not as simply my grandmother. I'd tell her that I included her in my prayers every day, and I'd give her a hug.


Here are the rules if you want to participate in 5 Questions.

  1. Send me an email saying: ”Interview Me” to
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
  3. You can then answer the questions on your blog.
  4. You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you wanting to be interviewed.
  5. Anyone who asks to be interviewed should be sent 5 questions to answer on their blog. I would be nice if the questions were individualized for each blogger.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The ONLY thing I'll miss about Bush...

is his way of mangling words... Ladies and Gents, I leave you with this list from Yahoo! News of ridiculous phrases. Enjoy. The next four (well, hopefully the next eight) years will be both more boring and articulate in the Oval Office:

Bushisms: U.S. leader sets standard for mangled phrases during presidency

President George W. Bush will leave behind a legacy of Bushisms, the label stamped on the U.S. leaders original speaking style. Some of the president's more notable malapropisms and mangled statements:
-"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." - September 2000, explaining his energy policies at an event in Michigan.
-"Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?" - January 2000, during a campaign event in South Carolina.
-"They misunderestimated the compassion of our country. I think they misunderestimated the will and determination of the commander-in-chief, too." - Sept. 26, 2001, in Langley, Va. Bush was referring to the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.
-"There's no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail." - Oct. 4, 2001, in Washington. Bush was remarking on a back-to-work plan after the terrorist attacks.
- "It would be a mistake for the United States Senate to allow any kind of human cloning to come out of that chamber." - April 10, 2002, at the White House, as Bush urged Senate passage of a broad ban on cloning.
- "I want to thank the dozens of welfare-to-work stories, the actual examples of people who made the firm and solemn commitment to work hard to embetter themselves." - April 18, 2002, at the White House.
-"There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again." - Sept. 17, 2002, in Nashville, Tenn.
-"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - Aug. 5, 2004, at the signing ceremony for a defence spending bill.
-"Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." - Sept. 6, 2004, at a rally in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
- "Our most abundant energy source is coal. We have enough coal to last for 250 years, yet coal also prevents an environmental challenge." - April 20, 2005, in Washington.
- "We look forward to hearing your vision, so we can more better do our job." - Sept. 20, 2005, in Gulfport, Miss.
-"I can't wait to join you in the joy of welcoming neighbours back into neighbourhoods, and small businesses up and running, and cutting those ribbons that somebody is creating new jobs." - Sept. 5, 2005, when Bush met with residents of Poplarville, Miss., in the wake of hurricane Katrina.
-"It was not always a given that the United States and America would have a close relationship. After all, 60 years we were at war 60 years ago we were at war." - June 29, 2006, at the White House, where Bush met with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
-"Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die." - Dec. 7, 2006, in a joint appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
- "These are big achievements for this country, and the people of Bulgaria ought to be proud of the achievements that they have achieved." - June 11, 2007, in Sofia, Bulgaria.
- "Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit." - September 2007, in Sydney, Australia, where Bush was attending an APEC summit.
-"Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech." April 16, 2008, at a ceremony welcoming Pope Benedict to the White House.
-"The fact that they purchased the machine meant somebody had to make the machine. And when somebody makes a machine, it means there's jobs at the machine-making place." - May 27, 2008, in Mesa, Ariz.
-"And they have no disregard for human life." - July 15, 2008, at the White House. Bush was referring to enemy fighters in Afghanistan.
- "I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office." - June 26, 2008, during a Rose Garden news briefing.
-"Throughout our history, the words of the Declaration have inspired immigrants from around the world to set sail to our shores. These immigrants have helped transform 13 small colonies into a great and growing nation of more than 300 people." - July 4, 2008 in Virginia.
- "This thaw - took a while to thaw, it's going to take a while to unthaw." Oct. 20, 2008, in Alexandria, La., as he discussed the economy and frozen credit markets.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Work (or more accurately, vacation)

Tomorrow it's back to work after 11 days off. M and I were thinking about the last time we've actually each had this much time off and we decided that our honeymoon didn't count - I know, I know, we're coming across as very very hard to please and also a bit ungrateful, but let me preface the decision: we were looking for the last time we had a lot of time off that was essentially "pure". This means, not a lot of travelling, not a lot of having to get up at a specific hour, and A LOT of vegging.
Now, let me give you a summarized itinerary of our honeymoon:
  • Montreal to Paris - 6 hours in Paris
  • Paris to Cairo - 3 days in Cairo
  • Cairo to El Gouna - 7 days in El Gouna
  • El Gouna to Alexandria - 4 days in Alexandria
  • Alexandria to Cairo - 4 days in Cairo
  • Cairo to Paris - 1 day in Paris
  • Paris to Montreal

Through out, suitcases were opened and closed a million times and all luggage was taken to all locations. Also, as this was the first time we were meeting each other's extended family (the folks still living in Egypt - and there are many!) we were constantly visiting with others, sometimes doing 2 or 3 visits a day. Even the time in El Gouna, which included a breakfast buffet with out accommodations, meant we had to be up early enough to eat breakfast. The bottom line: tons of fun, but very very little vegging. Sometimes, you come back from vacation feeling like you could use another vacation.
So, if we go back before that, the last no strings attached, long time off chunk we've had was Calabogie in the summer of 2007. Which is not that long ago, but we were both ready for a good chunk of vegging time...
And "vegging" we did: in TO, with M's parents and brother... I swear, the breakfasts we have at M's parents place are the kind that can go on for ages, where you start with eggs, and then you go for jam, and then cheese (goat cheese, and sheep's feta cheese, no allergy problems for Noha here) and then smoked salmon, and fava beans (traditional Egyptian breakfast food - prepared to excellence by M's father) all next to your fabulous cup of coffee, and topped off with very very very good conversation with a million tangents... This is true vegging.
So I come back from vacation feeling like I've actually relaxed, and as ready for work as you can actually be (are we ever actually ready for work? Like, really, truly, ready? I mean, no matter how much you like it, and I like my work, it's work, right??)
Happy end of vacation to all. Hope you had good ones if you were off.... and Happy New Year...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Five Year Old Cancer Patient Leaves Hundreds of Notes for Her Family

I found this article really inspiring, in a sad sort of way. It shows what you can do in the face of sadness, and the love that can be shared in a family, despite difficulties:

When five-year-old Elena Desserich was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, she set out to help her family deal with her death in a truly remarkable way. The kindergartener started writing -- she created "The Kindergarten Survival Guide" for younger sister Grace -- and drawing.
When Elena's cancer robbed her of the ability to speak, she used drawing and painting to communicate with her family. One of her paintings, titled "I Love You," was hung in the Cincinnati Art Museum, next to a painting by Pablo Picasso, one of Elena's favorite artists.
But she also wrote hundreds of notes for her family and hid them in various places around their home in Wyoming; her parents didn't know about the notes until after Elena died. "We were moving some boxes around one day and in between some of the books a note fell out," recalls mom Brooke Desserich. "Each time I would read one of those notes, it was like a little hug from her."
It's no surprise that Elena turned to writing to stay connected to her family. In the nine months between Elena's diagnosis and her death in August of 2007, her parents were also using writing to cope. The couple kept an online journal, chronicling their daughter's illness and their own struggles to come to terms with the inevitable. To their surprise, thousands of people read the journal and reached out to the Desserichs. "Everybody was reading the journal and going, 'This taught me to be a better parent. It taught me to spend time with my children, it taught me to value being a mom and dad,'" marveled Elena's dad, Keith Desserich.

Keith and Brooke Desserich have turned their journal and Elena's notes into a book, "Notes Left Behind." They have also started a foundation called The Cure Starts Now to raise money for pediatric brain cancer. My heart goes out to them -- I also have a kindergartener who likes to draw and leave little notes around for me to find -- but I have to admire the way they were able to teach Elena to see her life as joyful, and not as a tragedy. They really are inspiring parents.