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The Power Of One

Over the past few weeks, friends and neighbors embarked on a journey to help relocated Syrian families get back on their feet. This effort, led by my friend Rana, is intended to go the extra mile, with a  holistic approach to help. It’s not just about providing immediate necessities, but also teaching the families tools that will enable them to rebuild their lives. Last week, Rana decided to introduce the families to the public library, a place that not only has books, but tons of other resources to serve the community they now belong to.

A couple of days before the library meeting, our kids prepared some Hallothumb_DSCN2290_1024ween bags to give to each of the children. We made an enormous mess cutting stickers, gluing stuff to the floor, and drawing on about everything that came in sight. But none of that mattered, nobody got mad. We felt good about what we were doing and we knew that we were sharing a special moment. Even we, grumpy moms agreed!

On the day, of the library visit,  we had assigned ourselves the mission to help the families register to, and navigate the place. Our kids were tasked with giving candy bags and distribute books to the children.

We all had a job to do, but we didn’t work. Not one of us. Because none of it fell like a task, an assignment. It was sheer pleasure and pure reward. We connected, we made friends, we hugged, we laughed. And more importantly, we learnt many life lessons from the very people we came to help. At the end of the afternoon, it wasn’t clear who was helping whom. I think it’s fair to say we were all helping one another.

This is what the Power Of One is about. We all have the ability to bring life changing moments. We don’t have to be powerful, rich or grown-ups to make a difference. We are not expected to cure the world of all its illnesses, to find big scale solutions. But we can help our neighbors. With our individual talent, we can give without counting, comparing or expecting something back. The Power Of One doesn’t move a mountain. The Power Of One picks up a person who stumbled, gives the encouragement that one needs to move forward.  That afternoon, at the library, I witnessed many examples of The Power Of One:

The librarian, Miss Amy welcomed the families, showed them the resources they can use to learn English, get books to their kids. She even set up classes with special softwares to help them learn faster and more efficiently.

Syrian moms and dads taught us that real strength comes form resilience. They showed us that humility and dignity are pillars, and they don’t come with money or status.

Friends volunteered to tutor adults, because they saw successful people, just needing a little hand.

Kids hugged one another and whispered, “You are my friend”, even though they had just met. They can’t wait to meet again, next week.

Are we going to solve any crisis with hugs, English lessons and a few candies? No, of course not. Will our action be like a drop in the ocean? Probably even less than that. But not to our forty seven friends. To them, and to us, we are empowering one another to believe, move forward and take positive strides. The power of one.

When it was time to leave, everybody had to go somewhere, but nobody could extract themselves from this surreal atmosphere. No doubt it won’t always be so nice and cute and there will be bumps. But it’s okay, because we are connected, and we are there for the long haul. Not because we have to. But because it’s meant to be.

 

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The Mean Spirit of Halloween

Last year, the kids and I went pumpkin picking. If you remember my blog (OF COURSE you do!), between the four of us, we managed to bring back home 35 pounds of pumpkins!!! And you know what happened to these 35 pounds of pumpkins. Soup? No!  Pumpkin pie? Try again! Pumpkin juice? (does that even exist?) Nope! These 35 pounds became a squirrel banquet!! We left them outside for Halloween and the squirrels munched them slowly but surely until they became the size of humans… with squirrel heads!

I remember taking this picture of my daughter, with the following caption, “Is this what squirrel paradise looks like?”

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Well, this year, squirrels, I am sorry to say, but NO MORE MRS NICE LADY!!! Nope! I hope you saved some of these 35 pounds of pumpkins because this year’s harvest has yielded ZIPPO! That’s not quite true… We have one pumpkin, but good luck with it! As mommy and daughter covered it with paint so it’s probably toxic. But in case you are nuts enough (squirrel… nuts… I never get tired of these…) to want a little taste, we have set our paint-o-lantern next to Bonnie the skeleton and Freddie the decapitated head. I know squirrels usually don’t care, but since we have had Freddie in the garden, even ants are packing up and moving out. So yeah… Like I said, good luck with that pumpkin!

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Halloween Decorations: Spooky In Pink

This year, yet again, we have gone one notch up the spooky scale with our Halloween decorations. We still have a graveyard, some skulls and bones coming out of everywhere, spider webs, and freaky ghosts hanging in our trees. These are our basic, no-getting-around-it decorations.

But with our new purchases, we have really gone out of our way to scare the poor little kids in the neighborhood. The sweet butterflies and cute Tigers won’t be ringing our bell this year when they realize who we have put in charge of the Welcoming Committee:

1. When you come to our front door, a skeleton seating on a lounge chair will greet you with its big smile. That’s only if you make it to the front door though. Because before that, you will have to say hello to …

2. A decapitated head, sitting on a chair, with rats feeding on it.

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My own daughter does not want to come in the house anymore! For her, Halloween is not about being scary and gory. It’s about princess dresses, candies, fairies and goblins. So in an attempt to make this very cold and bloody front yard more attractive, she decided to add a feminine touch. So this is what Bonnie (name of our skeleton, Bonnie … Skeleton …Get it?) looks like after my little girl gave her a make over…

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A tad more welcoming, but still, I would not want to meet Bonnie in a dark alley, at night…

 

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The skeleton in my brain closet…

You know how the saying goes, “Everyone has a skeleton in their closet”. EVEN YOU!! Well, mine reside mainly in my brain. No, it is not a misspelling, I do have several skeletons! Sometimes, I have these weird thoughts that are irrational, but yet I cannot prevent them. And they make me do the most bizarre things. So, in a feeling-like-confessing moment, I have decided to share some of my brain skeletons with you. After all, it’s almost Halloween, and I am sure you could do with a good laugh. Never mind the fact that it is at my expense. They are in no particular order of craziness, as they all ranked pretty high on the whacky scale. So here it goes…

Skeleton one: the emergency tidy up. A long time ago, we had to call 911 in the middle of the night for a child related emergency. Obviously, as a mom, I was very shaken. Even though things went back to normal pretty quickly, I could not sleep for years! I would get up in the middle of the night, every single night, at least two or three times, and check on my kids with a little flashlight. Very creepy! I think that this reaction was pretty normal for a mom (Hello? Anyone with me ?), so this is not particularly odd. No, the odd part is that before going to bed, I would go around the first floor rooms and make sure they were all tidy: nothing lying around, shoes lined up nicely, no dirty dishes in the sink, etc…. Because my thought was that if I ever have to call 911 again, the house better be clean and in order when they (the 911’ers) come in.  I am not sure why I cared, but I did. To the point of obsessing about it. So every single evening, I would go through the ritual of checking all the rooms and straightening everything that needed to. JUST IN CASE, the guys and girls who come to save the life of somebody in my household go, “NO WAY! What a mess! Lady, we are  not coming in here until you get your acts together!”

Skeleton two: My marathon companion. Okay, this is getting very odd, because I have NO INTENTION OF RUNNING A MARATHON, EVER! Let’s be very specific about this! Having made this perfectly clear, here is my little story: when I go running, I often think that if I run a marathon (which I won’t!), I would like for Chad Kroeger to be there and greet me with a little concert when I finish. Just to say, in the totally unrealistic scenario where I would decide to run a marathon, the chances of me finishing it are… slimmer than non existent. I just don’t have that kind of stamina (or training will as some would say…)

The bad thing about this skeleton is that it makes me look like a stalker. I promise I am not! Chad, worry not, I am way too lazy to ever put the effort into chasing after anyone!

The good thing about it, is that I can make a crazy promise that I NEVER have to deliver on because, there is just NO WAY. Something along the lines of: IF Chad Kroeger agrees to meet me at the finish line and do a little concert (provided I have not collapsed at mile 4), then I’ll run the marathon. Deal?

Skeleton three: Fame for fashion. I would like for my books to be turned into a movie – or a TV series, I am not picky… Not for the money, not to be famous (although WE WILL move to LA, so husband and kids, BE WARNED), not for the glory. No. None of that. But simply because I want to wear my pump shoes for something more than picking up the kids from school, or going grocery shopping! And I figured the red carpet is as good a place as anywhere to do so.  Although admittedly, the idea of tripping on my designer dress and falling flat on my-five-layers-of-make-up face in front of the world is not so attractive. But you gotta do what you gotta do…

So if there are any film producers out there, please hurry. I am not getting any younger and already prefer my slippers to my fancy shoes, so time is running out. I tell you what: if you produce my book on the big screen, I will run a marathon, deal? And some people say I don’t commit enough to exercising…

What about you? What crazy thoughts do you find yourself entertaining? What recurring and totally unrealistic situation do you keep rehearsing in your head? Please share something so I know I am not the only one….. Am I???

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My skeleton and me…

 

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Three things I don’t like about Thanksgiving…

I know it is not Thanksgiving anymore. Even I am aware of that! But still, it is fresh enough that I can write a blog about it. After all, we have all been talking about Christmas for a good two weeks and it’s not here yet. So cut me some slack!

On Thanksgiving Day, I wrote about my top five favorite things for that holiday. Today, I want to write about the three things I don’t like about it. Yeah, yeah, it’s not all hunky-dory! Some stuff is not nice, like:

  1. Smelling of turkey for a whole week. As much as I love eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day, I  cannot stand the smell of it for days after. The whole house is like a giant turkey sauna. Turkey smell for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anytime in between. I wish we could cook outside so we would not have to live in Turkeyland for so long. By the 25th of December, the smell is starting to fade into distant memory and guess what we cook for Christmas? A good old smelly turkey!
  2. Ungrateful people back to their normal self the next day. On Thanksgiving Day, everybody is thankful for something: family, health, kids, friends. There is so much love and compassion in the air, you can almost touch it with your fingers. People are all nice to one another, friendly to perfect strangers. It’s great! The day after Thanksgiving…. Well, it’s back to “Every man for himself!” Don’t try to cross the road in the anticipation that the driver will stop. Don’t pull at a junction, thinking that for sure, the car coming opposite is going to let you through – after all, they are your neighbors and you are just trying to get out of your drive! Forget all that lovey-dovey stuff. All gloves are off. Get me my coffee fast and move out of my way!!!!
  3. Shoveling ten inches of grease from the oven. With turkey cooking, comes oven cleaning. I was always under the impression that “He who cooks must clean after himself”. Whereas my husband goes by a different principle, something like, “I have done all the cooking so you can do the cleaning”. And by “you”, he means, ME. It should be an easy problem to solve: put the oven on self-clean for fifteen hours, and job done! So I did just that. Except, I put the ventilation on super duper powerful. Because I already have one incident under my belt with fire trucks coming to my house for some burnt fries. So I am not taking chances anymore. I think one big humiliation every ten years is enough…  The fan was so loud that I could not hear the oven. OR, maybe I could not hear it because it was not working!!! HA! So a few days later, I put the oven on for cooking (yeah, yeah, French fries again… I am French, it’s ok…). Not only was there smoke, but there was a fire inside my oven. A FIRE!!! Instead of panicking and throwing a bucket of water on the flames, I stayed very calm, switched the oven off, started screaming after my kids, “OH MY GOSH, THERE IS A FIRE OPEN THE WINDOWS. DON’T PANIC, DON’T PANIC. IT’S OK. O.H. M.Y. G.O.S.H.!!! DO NOT PANIC!!” and waved my arms in all directions – not sure why. I think my idea was to get rid of the smoke, but all I did was spread it nicely across the house. So a few fire trucks later (no, only kidding. But I think we came pretty close to it!), once the oven had cooled down, I opened it and there it was: inches of grease, glued to the bottom of it. How does one clean that? First I thought of moving house. Selling it, with the oven, make it someone else’s problem. Just leave. Somehow, this seems like a much easier solution than having to clean. My husband said I was silly – pfff, why doesn’t HE clean it then! Then I thought of calling a guy to come and clean it for me. Is this even a job? Then I decided to tackle the problem myself. So I got a kitchen shovel – yeah! For real!!! And let me tell you, it was as hard as ploughing my drive after a snow storm. So next year, we are renting an oven, turkeys!!

Attached is a proof that I am not exaggerating one bit about the grease … or the shoveling…

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The Halloween spirit

This year, for Halloween, I was really prepared and I bought a gazillion pounds of candies. Literally, that much!!! But unfortunately, I ran out! It does not matter how much I buy, I always run out!! Some kids would come and I would be most apologetic, “Please don’t trick me, I don’t have any more candies…”. It never feels good when you break that kind of news to kids…

So I was hiding in my house, trying to pretend I did not exist for the next few hours when my kids came back from their candy hunt. Then, the bell rang. Jake rushed to open the door. “We don’t have any more candies”, I said to him. As he prepared himself to send the kids away with nothing, he was faced with two adorable little butterflies. Oh, they were so cute!! They might have been three or four years old. He could not tell them the bad news so instead, he went to his pillow case (his version of a Halloween bucket), grabbed some candies and gave them to the butterflies. I was so proud of my son for being so kind and sensitive to the feelings of these two little girls.

It made me think how strange our behaviors are though. Because let me tell you, if Skye ever dares grabbing a candy from any of the boys’ pillow cases, she will get a right telling off – cute butterfly outfit or not!!!

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Wrong party???

Yesterday, on Halloween day, I put a bowl outside my house. People who wanted to participate wrote their name and email on a piece of paper, and put it in the bowl. Today, I have asked my kids to draw names and I will give free books to the winners.

Quite a few people participated. Among them, I found the following participant…

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But I cannot tell him that he won, he did not leave his email address. Silly Easter Bunny!!!

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Best Halloween costume!!

After two years of no Halloween because of the snow storm and Sandy, FINALLY, the weather was fabulous and we had a great time. I gave a million candies and my pets were on the verge of a breakdown because the bell did not stop ringing. This year, it looked like everybody had stepped up their creativity level as the costumes were really good. Some scary ghosts and skeletons that freaked out Skye, some hilarious sumos and Scooby doos, some cute butterflies and princesses. But the best, most original, totally unique and unseen before costume is this one…

 

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Rainbow loom kit!!! I bet you wished you had thought about it. It’s totally genius. I love it!

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Halloween Eve?

Is there such thing as Halloween eve? Like New Year’s eve or Christmas eve? I think there should definitely be. And there should be a dress code for it as well. And it should go something like that…

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Trust Skye, she knows fashion…