Lights, Camera, Action…….

Movies are in my blood – literally.

In the early 1950’s, after Partition in India, my grandfather’s business was burnt down.  There was no insurance to cover the loss, in those days.  And so, my dad’s family fell on tough times.  The legend is that my dad was playing and singing on the balcony of the family home, when he was discovered by a director.  The director approached my grandfather, about having my dad act in his next film and my dad’s family saw a way to rebuild the family business.  My dad enjoyed the experience of making a film, but it was literally just one film.  However, he was already a movie buff before the experience and afterwards, it cemented his love for movies.

So when I was born, it was definitely a commonality between my dad and I.  I was the kid who would sit, without speaking or moving and just get transformed by the movies.  And my dad found a kindred spirit.   My dad was my main caregiver when my mom was going to College during the day, and he always ensured that movies were a part of my childhood.  We would see all of the Disney movies and I remembered the treat it was to see Star Wars in 1978 with my dad.  I dressed up for that movie, because even without seeing it, I knew that it was going to be an epic experience and I was right.

Sunday mornings in our house were reserved for classic movies on CBC.  It was there that I discovered Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor.  Saturday evenings, when I got older, were reserved for TVO and Elwy Yost’s Saturday night at the Movies.  I got to see and experience magnificent acting, directing and dialogue.  I probably did not always understand what I was watching, but I absorbed it nevertheless.

For me, it was not the celebrity that drew me to the movie, but the reputation of the movie and the quality of the movie.  And my dad encouraged me to discuss the movie, after the movie was done but not during the movie!

One of my greatest movie moments was watching Gandhi in the movie theatre.  Gandhi was released in 1982 and I was 8 years old.  My dad knew that I had already developed a maturity and appreciation for movies and he knew that I would enjoy this movie.  And so we went to the movie theatre to watch it and I kept the movie magazine from that attendance because it was so special to me.  When we went to sit down, a woman approached my dad and asked if he thought that I was old enough to watch the movie, to which my dad quietly responded, “I know what is appropriate for my daughter” and the woman left.  My dad’s faith in me, made me feel like I had earned watching the movie, and to be honest, that added to the experience.

Gandhi had all of the elements that I had learned to appreciate from watching great movies from such a young age; a beautiful score, phenomenal acting and direction, breath taking cinematography and story about justice, which my dad knew would strike a chord in  my heart.  It was the first non Hindi movie I attended, with an intermission, and I remember just being in awe and not talking much during the intermission, but still absorbing the movie.  Notwithstanding the controversy about Gandhi the man, since the release of this movie, Gandhi remains one of my favourite movies.

And I love that the memory of watching a movie, reminds me of where I was at the time and provides such great memories.  Although I had watched it before, I have such great memories watching “Gone with the Wind” with my grandmother, when she came to visit after the birth of my brother.  I remember the first time I watched The Sound of Music in our sunporch and feeling joy from the music and the movie.  I remember being riveted by Heat, while watching it at our University theatre and not breathing during the scene between Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, so as not to miss a word.  I remember hoping beyond belief that Audrey Hepburn’s character would return back to the press room at the end of Roman Holiday and that she and Gregory Peck would live happily ever after, but it was not meant to be and I looking at my dad with the expression, “Say it ain’t so!”.  I remember Barbara Streisand confidently facing Hubble at the end of The Way We Were, and stylishly moving his hair back into place.  Realizing that Norman Bates was Mother, watching Grace Kelly dazzle both Cary Grant and James Stewart in Hitchcock movie classics.  Those moments…..they still fill me with delight and awe.

One of my greatest regrets is not having secured a copy of my father’s movie.  I worked hard on this, throughout university in the early 1990’s and have resumed the search recently, but to no avail.  I would love to see for myself, my dad’s face on the screen.  Although my father and I had a challenging relationship, his appreciation and love for movies carried on to me and it brings back fond memories when I think of the movie memories we had.  And sometimes instead of dwelling on the “not so great”, it is nice to have those memories and to remember the bond we shared and the memories we created…

But that’s just one Diva’s view!

Christmas without Mom

This will be my first Christmas without my mom.

No matter where she has been – at home, in the hospital, or for the past few years, in her long term care home, we celebrated Christmas with my mom.

In the last few years, I would get presents on her behalf, to give to the kids, and we would decorate her room with Christmas decorations.

She really loved celebrating Christmas.  We would have duck for our Christmas dinner, because we as a family found Turkey too dry.  She would make dhal puri (West Indian stuffed roti), squash, an assortment of vegetables and we would enjoy our feast.   She loved fruit cake and was known to go through many loaves throughout the holidays.

We always had walnuts and chocolates around during the holidays.

We always sang Christmas carols and she loved singing them especially on Christmas morning.  She liked receiving certain presents at Christmas – her horoscope book for the upcoming year, the farmer’s almanac for her gardening needs, slippers, bubble baths, pretty jewelry and clothes.

When we were little, we have photographs of the Christmas tree, put together upside down.  Given the way that trees looked in Trinidad, my mom found it more aesthetically pleasing to have the tree in an upside down triangle, with the wide part at the top, which allowed for more decorations.  I saw this  way of putting up a Christmas tree recently in a design book; who knew mom was cutting edge!

She made these amazing wreaths every year with fresh evergreen branches and pine combs.  They looked so pretty and she would make ones for our homes when we moved out.

She would put a lot of care in decorating the house at Christmas and I loved sitting with her in our living room just watching how the lights twinkled on the tree.  We had our favourite Christmas album that we would play when decorating and enjoying the holidays.  It was a 1970’s album of Jazzy singers putting their own spin on Christmas classics.  I miss not having that album anymore.

Mom also had a tradition of keeping all of the Christmas cards we received and used them as decorations.  She also kept all of our Christmas decorations made throughout school and used them every year.

I hope that I honour her when we decorate our house and keep her traditions going.

I hope that her spirit enjoys the holidays this year and that she is at peace.

I will miss her physically not being here, but know that her spirit will be with us.   Merry Christmas mom.

Her legacy continues through us.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.


The Shadow of a loved one

I thought I saw her today.

I was in the bank and I thought I saw my mom today.  I knew that it could not be my mom,  but this woman was the spitting double of my mom.  She had her hair, her stature, was wearing a coat my mom would wear…..the only thing that was off was that her purse was not as stylish as my mom liked and she was wearing no jewelry and my mom always wore jewelry when she went out.  Also, on closer inspection, her features were not as sharp as my mom’s, but very close.

It was uncanny and I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at this woman.  It made me wistful, hopeful and sad, all rolled into one.

Because the reality is that my mom will never be able to go to a mall again on her own, because the reality is that my mom is dying and her health is progressively worsening.  It has been a hard journey for her and for me, because not to be overly dramatic, but it is like being in a constant state of mourning, without being able to heal.

Before my mom was ill, she was a power onto herself.  Independent, proud, fiercely loving and protective of her kids and very opinionated.  And her greatest joy was taking care of others and gardening.  Her gardens were both beautiful and sustainable.  We ate a lot of the vegetables she grew and she always shared with others.  She loved cooking for my brother and I.  When I got married, she learned what my husband liked to eat and would tailor meals for him.  When my brother and I moved out, she would cook for us and ensure that we had food to take home so that we did not have to cook for a couple of nights.

She and I would speak on the phone a lot and I would see her at least once a week, after I moved out, if not more.  Before I got married, she and I would have Friday night movie, and we would binge watch the Gilmore Girls together, or a romantic comedy.  She was really looking forward to having grandkids to spoil and she wanted to cook, shop and sew for them and had dreams about her time with them.  She is a playful woman, and she would have enjoyed chasing her grandkids and laughing with them – I see that image clearly in my mind.

But then my mom got sick and although it took some time to manifest, she eventually moved away from her home of 40 years and into a retirement home and then into a long term care facility.  Her health has gotten progressively worse and I have to say that after every visit with her now, I am a mix of joy, sadness and anger.

Anger, because my mom’s dreams of how she would age have been stolen from her.

I am sad to watch my mother literally withering away before me.

And joy, that notwithstanding everything, I can still see my mom, spend time with my mom, hold her hand, kiss her, talk to her and just feel her love.

It is difficult though because my kids will only ever have memories of grandma in a facility and will have no memories of eating her cooking or wearing something that she sewed.  And that really causes me pain.  But on the flip side, she has taught my kids compassion and they have learned that not everyone is able bodied and well, but that does not affect the bond between them.

Selfishly, I miss the mom I need now.  My dad passed away years ago and the only other person I have from my immediate family is my brother.  He is the only person who knows our family stories and history.  That is sad also.  We are the only ambassadors and keepers of that side of our family.  I have become very protective of our legacy and want to ensure that my children understand their family tree.  In part, that is why I write this blog – so that my kids will have a better understanding of this side of their heritage and will know the stories of their ancestors.

And that is why I am also very happy to be the keeper of the family photo albums that my dad put together and amassed throughout the years.  The albums give a snap shot of days of yore – days when I can show my kids how stylish grandma was, how great her garden was and how her smile is always genuinely bright in every photo.  It allows me to tap into moments and by seeing a photograph of a picnic, instantly remember the food that she packed, the checkered table cloth and blanket that she brought and stylish water jug that was so heavy, but looked so great, because even though the food was great, the whole presentation had to be just right also.

And so, although the lady at the bank was not my mom, for just a moment, she gave me a photograph in my mind, of what it would be like to have my mom, as she wanted to be, now.  Able, independent and with a twinkle in her eye……Bittersweet.

Moms really do have a lasting impact on your life!

But that’s just one Diva’s view…..


Little India

When I was a young girl, in the late 1970’s, the South Asian community in Toronto and the surrounding areas was quite different.  Now, South Asian stores and restaurants are prevalent throughout the GTA with pockets appearing throughout.  But in the late 1970s, that wasn’t the case.  When we wanted exposure to all things South Asian, we had one place to go; Gerrard Street, Toronto; Little India.

I grew up in Mississauga in a predominantly white neighbourhood.  We did not have any South Asian neighbours until the late 80’s.  So, when I was growing up, and we needed Indian food, or Indian clothes, music or movies, we had to go to Gerrard Street.

Going to Gerrard Street was a big deal.  It was a trek from the suburbs.  You were usually going for the afternoon and evening on a week-end.  You would get dressed up, because after all, it was Little India and it was an occasion!

The day would be full of food.  I am half Bengali, so I have a sweet tooth.  The sweets that were offered were amazing.  Nothing like them and because it was special going to Little India, everyone was allowed to indulge. We always brought some treats home, but they tasted best there, consumed in Little India.  The gold and silver leaf on the barfis made you feel like you were eating like royalty!  Nothing like it!

My dad spent most of his time looking at music and getting a few cassette tapes.  He would also look at the instruments; harmoniums, flutes, tablas, sitars and test them out.   Even though he was never formally trained in music, he had a great ear and became self taught on many instruments.  This passed down to my brother, who became self taught on the guitar and other instruments.

My mom loved browsing through all of the sari stores with their saris, bindis, bangles and jewelry.  Our favourite was Milans, which was a higher end Sari store.  It was huge and I loved the smell of the fabrics from India and the colours and patterns.  It smelled like India to me, the same smell that would appear when we opened the blue post marked letters from India.

I would watch mom carefully choose a sari that she had in mind, for a function and watch the saleswoman drape the sari across the counter for inspection.  Mom had great taste in fabrics and patterns and her collection of saris is gorgeous.  Years later, when I got married, I knew I had high standards to meet when choosing a sari for my mom when I was wedding shopping in India.  My years of observing paid off because I selected my mom a gorgeous sari for the reception and it remains one of my favourites.

I digress.

After we had all wandered around Gerard Street, stopping for food mixed in with shopping and browsing, it was time for the finale of the evening; the movie.

Watching Hindi movies on the big screen was pretty awesome.  I usually fell asleep and missed the end, but I loved those songs and the heroines were gorgeous.  No one could dance like Hema Malini.  No one could fight like Amitabh Bachan.  My parents allowed me to watch whatever was playing – there was no viewer discretion being applied.  My most memorable movies:  Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Hare Krishna Hare Ram.  Satyam Shivam Sundaram was about a girl who burned one side of her face with hot oil, but the other side of her face was intact.  Her husband marries her only seeing the one side of her face, but when he sees the other side, recoils from her.  Whenever I went close to a hot stove with oil, reference to this movie was made.  It definitely left an impression.   Both movies dealt with some pretty adult issues, but those went over my head and I just remembered being enthralled with the music.  If you have a chance, listen to both.  The music is timeless.  The songs are timeless and bring me back to my days in Little India.

Afterwards, my dad would carry me to the car and we would journey back to the suburbs, replenished with all things South Asian, until our next journey….whenever that might be.

The sounds, the smells, the tastes made me feel like I was as close to India, without traveling there, and that was so super special to me.  Those days were blissful and add colour to my childhood.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

Music and its influence on my life

Music was a staple in our house.  My dad constantly exposed me to different music growing up, which is why I love so many genres of music.

We listened to, in no particular order, country, classical, disco, R&B, Motown, ABBA (it really is a genre on its own), Pop, Indian music (both Hindi and Bengali)- you named it, it was playing in some form.

One of my fondest memories was dancing in our sun porch with my dad when I was 4 to a disco track.  We both had so much fun!

We enjoyed music either on the 8 track player, which used to make the most hideous sound when the album was done, and jolted my baby brother every time, the cassette radio or on our stereo record player, which looked like it was out of 2001 Space Odyssey.

The revered choice for experiencing music was on the record player.  The record player itself was housed in a dome with a clear casing.  The speakers were 2 smaller domes, adjacent on these wings to the unit.  It was all housed in this funky 1970’s media unit, which had space for the records on the bottom.  I loved those records.  I really did.  Those records were amazing.  They were my gateway into my influences.  Some of my happiest moments were in our living room with the record player playing.  The music transported me, uplifted me and fulfilled me.  It was magical.

I understand why vinyl is making a comeback.  There was something amazing about experiencing music on a record.  I devoured my father’s collection of records, which was eclectic and melodic.  When I was younger, it was all about the melody for me.  As I have grown older, the words and the meaning have grown more important, but for me, the music – the tune is what draws me  in.

My favourite records, in order of love:

Harry Belafonte Live At Carnegie Hall – If you want a tutorial on how to be a performer and a story teller, this is the album for you.  It was full of international music from Hava Nageela to Come Back Liza – each song was selected and sung to its fullest.  If ever there was a concert that I could have attended, this would have been it.  His joy of performing and the crowds’ reactions are infectious.

The Beatles 1962-1966 – I really think that my love of green apples stems in part from the amount of times that I watch this double album spin with the green apple at the core.  I was captivated by all of musical influences on this album.  The song writing and music were enchanting.  The harmonies were hypnotic.   I had all of the songs memorized and used to imagine that I was a dancer interpreting these gorgeous songs.  Singer I may be, dancer I am not!

World Star Festival 1969 Compilation LP – I really think that my love of compilation anthologies stemmed from this album.  It was a mix of Jazz, Blues and Pop.  It had Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Mel Carter, Julie Andrews, Vikki Car, Andy Williams, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Barbara Streissand, Dusty Springfield, Simon and Garfunkel, Dina Ross and the Supremes……it had everything.  I listened to that Album non stop and knew all of the performances, the nuances of their voices.  Dusty Springfield singing, “I think it’s going to rain today” haunted me and I wished that I could sing as magnificently as she did.

Walt Disney’s Happiest Songs (1967) – The title says it all.  It had songs from all of the Disney Movies I loved, but my absolute favourite was The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book.  What an amazingly upbeat and incredible song. It is still one of my favourites.

This is what developed my musical loves and tendencies from a young age.  I added to the musical collection as I grew older. but the above albums – they were my core.  And they shaped my musical taste and my eclectic love of good music.

As I grew older, my brother introduced me to British Rock and Alternative.  When I went away to university, he made me this brilliant tape with Oasis, Massive Attack, The Stone Roses – and again, my musical tastes were augmented.  I remember listening to it on the train ride to school and although I was sad about leaving home, the mixed tape captured my attention and gave me a new focus.  Music does that – it transports and imprints itself on you for an eternity.  For me –  music is as important as food and breathing.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

The best part of my day

I had to be away from home for a couple of days for work.  I have to admit that outside of working, I did not do too much else with my time.   No dinners out, or catching up on television- just work.

So I was ready to come home.

But by the time I got home, my kids had already gone to bed, and did not really register my good night kiss.  However, in the morning……the morning is when my heart nearly burst with joy.  All of the kids were sleeping, but it was time to wake up for school.

So I cuddled with each of my kids, gradually waking them up.  As I kissed them and hugged them, while they were still in their sleep mode, you could see a smile of joy on each of their faces when they realized mama was back and was cuddling with them.

There was genuine happiness, peace and comfort on their faces.  Those 3 moments, which I experienced with each of them, made everything worthwhile.  Because their joy and my joy were genuine.  Our collective happiness was real.

And trust me, these are the moments that sustain us.   Because being a parent is challenging!  Trying to help your kids blossom into amazing human beings and guide them to being their best selves is a 24 hour job, even when you are away.  And like any job, there are good days and bad days.  There are days where I wonder if I am doing what I need to do and giving them what they need.  And there are days when I am frustrated and they are frustrated and it just seems like everything is going wrong.

But like anything that requires your heart and soul, you have these moments, like I had this morning, which remind you that this is all worth it.  That their unconditional love and joy is precious and needs to be treasured.

I will always hold in my heart and memory, the look on their faces from this morning.  It truly was the best part of my day.  It nourished and filled me up.  It will definitely be pulled out during the next… know……whatever next challenge is in store.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

What’s in a name?

My parents had many fights, but one of their first with regard to me, was over my name.  My mom wanted a Western name.  This was based on a childhood decision she had made. My father wanted a unique South Asian name, with a specific meaning.  In the end, although legally my father won the fight, my mom and her side of the family called me by the Western name she liked and my dad and his side of the family called me by my South Asian name.

I was alright with both.  It allowed me to know what identity to adopt when with which side of the family, but that’s for another blog.

With my West Indian family, there was a rationale behind the Western name.  All of my West Indian aunts and uncles were given traditional South Asian names.  They were all second generation South Asian, and came from a very traditional family, that upheld all of the customs from their native India.  However, when my mom was growing up, Trinidad was a British Colony.  She went to a British school and apparently, the British teachers had a hard time with the South Asian names and encouraged the kids to take on Western names.  And many of my aunts and uncles did that.   Education and learning were important and therefore, the kids wanted to please their teachers.

The family story is that my grandfather went to the school to get one of the kids and when he asked for his child, with their South Asian name, he was told that they did not have a child with that name at the school.  After going through 4 of the children (my mom came from a family of 10), he finally got to my Aunt, who retained her name, notwithstanding the encouragement to change her name from her teachers.  It was at this point that my grandfather learned of his kids’ new Western names.

As you can imagine, he was not happy about this change, but adopted the philosophy that the kids could have their Western names at school but at home, they would go by their South Asian names.  He died shortly after that, and eventually, most of the kids came to be known by their Western names.  And so when it was time to immigrate, they moved to Canada with their Western names.  For my mom, it meant fitting in and not constantly being picked on or dealing with the incorrect mispronunciation of her name at school everyday.  And I think that this was the legacy she wanted to avoid for me.  I actually really like the name my mom chose for me – it is pretty and fun and when said with the West Indian cadence, had a sweetness to it.

But dad had other ideas.

For him, his children had to have strong and meaningful South Asian names, reflective of his Bengali roots.  My dad was actually very good at choosing names and was asked by friends to assist in the naming of their children.  And to his credit, I really love the name he chose for me.  Its meaning is good goddess and it was a name I tried to live up to and make proud.

But the name was destroyed by others from the time I started daycare.  For some reason, my South Asian name posed the same trouble that my mom had encountered; they could not pronounce it.  And so, a Western pronounciation of my name came about and that became the accepted version amongst my friends and teachers.  I was not a fan, but I made it work.  However, whenever anyone tried to shorten it, I quickly corrected them and said no………

Until I got to Law School.  Law School for me was a totally new experience.  I was going away to school and the university was known for being predominantly white and posher than my undergraduate university, where I had stayed in the City to attend.  And so, being eager to fit in, I allowed the shortened version of my name – Su.  New persona for my new environment.

I hated it, but for some reason, when it got started, I did not stop it and I allowed it to perpetuate.  It was awful.  But at the same time, as a result of this initial attempt to fit into this new environment, this was also a time when I started re-connecting with my culture.  Always a push – pull.  My close friends at Law School were South Asian (we were few in numbers), and we would watch South Asian movies, attend South Asian restaurants, go to South Asian cultural shows…..the first time I had done any of this without my family.  And I think that this reinforced to me that I was not Su, and never would be.  And so I am glad that I went through this experience because when I articled and practiced law, I was clear in ensuring that people knew my full name and although not always properly pronounced, I was not going to make it easier because this was who I was……….

Except when I am with my West Indian family, and then I am always known by my “Western name”…..and also when I am Starbucks because even with my West Indian name, they mess it up!

And so when it came time to choose names for our kids, my husband and I were on the same page.  We wanted strong South Asian names, but with the possibility of a shortened version that still retained its South Asian identity.  I am happy to say we were successful on this with all 3.  And my kids still come home groaning about the fact that an adult or teacher mispronounced their name (ironically usually not kids), but they understand the beauty of their names, in all of their forms and have been taught to be polite but firm in stating, “This is how to say my name!”

A name is an important part of who we are.  It is part of  our identity and often has a legacy ; either cultural, or passed down through the family, or symbolic etc…  So, take the time, when you come across a new name, to learn how to say it properly and honour the name and what it means for the person.  The name is owed respect; the person is owed respect.

But that’s just one Diva’s view!





Ice Blue

I have always loved ice blue.  To me, it is the perfect colour.   I even love saying it – ice blue.  It has an elegance and a cool crispness, that resonates with me.

When I was a little girl, my dad used to take me every morning to the park, as a start to our day, after dropping my mom off at College.  I remember walking the shores of Marie Curtis Park in Mississauga and collecting broken glass, that had been smoothed by the waves and the water.  My greatest find was a piece of ice blue glass.  It was eye catching and rare and for me, it was a true treasure.

As a young girl, I had heard about how amazing diamonds were and I thought that there could be nothing grander than my ice blue “jewels” found on the beach.  When I saw an actual diamond for the first time, I was deeply disappointed by its lack of blue!  Plenty of ice – but no blue!

My mother was an amazing seamstress and she loved sewing clothes for her mother in Trinidad.  My mom would make my grandma these beautiful 2 piece shirt and skirt outfits and would go to Fabricland, the local sewing and fabric store to find pretty material for my grandma.  One year, she found a beautiful ice blue silky material and I remember collecting all of the scraps to use to make clothes for my dolls.  Again, the fabric was silky to touch and the colour was stunning.  I spent hours designing clothes with those scraps.  Even as I got older, I kept those scraps.  When my grandmother died, it felt like a connection to her and a tribute to the beautiful sewing my mom used to do.

And so when I was planning on my wedding outfit for my reception, there was no other colour that I wanted – ice blue.  My husband and I went to India to do our wedding shopping and I had saved a piece of the fabric to take with me to show the stores the exact colour I wanted for my debut as a wife.  I think that my brother and husband grew sick of hearing me reference “ice blue”.  But to me, it was the perfect colour, it fit my vision for the wedding and it had a family association.

And so when we landed in India and started doing our wedding shopping, I took out my treasured piece of fabric only to be told that the colour was “too sober”.  This was a phrase that I would hear a lot.  In India, at the time, wedding colours had to be vibrant and my ice blue was too muted for a proper reception outfit.  I went to a few stores, only to hear the same thing repeated, and after a while, I carefully put away my fabric.  We eventually decided on a beautiful turquoise blue outfit, that was gorgeous, and I loved……but it was not my ice blue.

And now, older and wiser, my love for ice blue has not diminished, but remains steadfast.  Whenever I see it, it instantly fills me with happiness.  One Christmas, my mom got me a necklace and earring set with ice blue stones, and my inner child jumped up and down.  It is still one of my cherished possessions and whenever I wear the set, it makes me happy.

I hope that one day, when my kids get married, that I can find the perfect shade of ice blue for my outfit, to celebrate their next chapter.  That would be a full circle moment for me.

But that’s just one Diva’s view.

My perfect day

In a recent edition of Oprah’s magazine, she discussed what happiness means and then asked her readers to describe their perfect day.

For me – it was a no-brainer.  I live out my perfect day every year on my birthday and I am very selfish about protecting it.  Given the nature of work and  the scheduling that takes place 1-2 years in advance, I have a recurring “DO NOT BOOK” for my birthday.

I do not use the day to commit to errands.  I do not set aside the day to get to that task that has been waiting for my attention.   I am very protective of this day.   I schedule the day around doing things that make me happy.   And for me – what makes me happy are very simple things.   Good food, being outdoors and family!

In the evening, I set it aside for time with my family.  Now that the kids are older, we go out for dinner, but when they were younger, we would get dinner from my favourite restaurant and have a family dinner at home.  No cooking allowed on my birthday!  Always followed by a cake, preferably a mocha cake, but this past year for my birthday, friends brought over a pastry-esque cake (almost like a Vachon Flakie) and it was divine.   I love opening amazing cards from my husband and kids and that is the perfect evening for me – the people that I love, with amazing food – bliss.

The day – it is all mine.  I realized years ago, that I like having adventures and go exploring; I always try to incorporate that into my day.  Sometimes there is some spa time built in, which can be nice, but typically, it is about the adventure of the day!

Before my mom got ill, I would usually spend the day with her.  She and I would go to Niagara on the Lake, or go to a park, or spend the day in downtown Toronto, exploring new neighbourhoods – it was always fun.  My belief, and it still is, is that my birthday is as much as about my mom as it is about me.  My mom was the one who gave me life and I always use the day to say thank you to her.  Even now that she is unwell, I still ensure that my birthday includes a visit to see her and just physically being able to see her, and hug her, adds to the perfection of my day.

Now for my adventures……this year was interesting because the weather was not co-operative.  It was rainy, then the sun made a brief appearance and then the wind started – a pretty severe wind storm.  But that did not dampen my spirits.  I started off the day by grabbing breakfast, picking up a magazine and making my way to an art gallery and cultural centre that I have never attended.  The misty day made the outside feel full of secrets and surprises.  The surprises appeared in the form of a stream, and a beautiful garden full of tulips surrounding the gallery.  I then ventured inside to the art gallery and enjoyed the local artists and the quiet.

After that, being footloose and fancy free, I decided to venture to this small town close by, full of quaint stores, which I could explore.  I then treated myself to High Tea, followed by a drive through a posh area, dreaming of life in a mansion.  From there, I ventured to a local park, where I walked along the river and then just sat and was at peace.  Water always does that for me – it gives me peace.  It calms me and gets me attune to just me and the beauty of the water.   I have no words.

I then went and visited my mom, who even though she could not remember it was my birthday, was happy to see me, and that was good enough for me.

And that is one of my perfect birthday days.  The beauty of birthday days is that for me, it is the 1 day that I can be selfish with my time and no one can judge, say anything or assign tasks.  Birthday day is a free pass, where no one expects you to work, and are glad and supportive of you having fun and celebrating you! I dress in my favourite clothes, listen to my favourite music and enjoy the freedom of doing fun things, especially outside.  And I look forward to it every year.

I think that knowing what makes your happy and ensuring that you have access to it, is very important and needs to be encouraged and supported.  Life is busy and we become programmed to executing our best everyday.  But sometimes, we need to get off the treadmill of life and find our bliss.  We need it to recharge our souls.

So whatever your happiness may be, please ensure that you find time to incorporate it into your life!

But that’s just one Diva’s view!

My love of……pens

There is something about having a great pen that makes writing better!  I love to write and am required to do so with my work….a lot.  So when I find a great pen, I horde it, am careful with it and am actually a little sad if it runs out of ink and I cannot replace it.  Because through our span together, it has been my accomplice to everything recorded in my world and like a good friend, it never betrays my confidence.

My dad loved pens also.  He had his special pens, in a denim pencil case, with a pocket, which we were not allowed to use.  He always put his pen or pens back when he was finished with it, so that he knew where it was.

That legacy was passed to me and when I went away to university, my biggest pet peeve was when someone borrowed a pen from me during class (yes – I predate when everyone brought a laptop to class) and then did not return it to me.  It would cause me to stew about whether I should approach them for the pen or just accept its loss.  So, I deliberately started bringing pens with me, that I did not mind if they were lost, because they were not part of my favorite pen collection.

And receiving really great pens has added to my memory bank.  My best girl friend, moved to England when her father was transferred and she got me my first ink cartridge pen.  It was a fountain pen (red with black borders) and I loved writing with it.  It just made whatever I wrote look better and sound better (cannot explain it).  She would send me the refills throughout her time there, and that special blueness of the ink is not one that can be replicated. When I find something that I had written back then with that pen, its distinctiveness is immediate!  I never got another fountain pen because I do not think that anything could match that pen experience.

When I graduated from high school, my best guy friend, bought me a pen and pencil set and had his nickname for me, Foxy Roxy, engraved on them.  It was a silver Cross set and the present, was so thoughtful and appropriate for me.   I used that set throughout university and trust me, I never lent anyone this pen or pencil set.  It was the perfect present.

But my favourite pen of all time is one that my dad got me when I was a kid.  We used to attend every year at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and we always attended at the International Pavilion where they had booths from countries around the world.  We always got a special treat from the CNE and that year, I got a few treats, but this pen was the best.  It was from India and it was made of Sandalwood.  The pen wrote smoothly, but then when you held the pen, the scent of Sandalwood permeated the air.  The wood carving on the pen was exquisite and it was perhaps too nice a pen for a 9 year old, but my dad understood my love of pens.  It was the most unique pen and my love of the scent of Sandalwood was born as a result.  I kept this pen for years, and the scent of the sandalwood faded, but never disappeared.  Unfortunately, I lost this pen while moving and could never find another pen like it.  But that’s ok; the memory of having this pen is what is important.

And today, I still loving using great pens.  It just makes my world a better place.  And for me, the pen is still mightier than a sword….. a lesson that resonates especially in the crazy chaos of the current day.

But that’s just one Diva’s view!