Well, I’ve Gorged Myself on Pancakes, So Now What?

A final feast before the fast.

Shrove Tuesday.  Pancake Tuesday.  Mardi Gras.  I love me some good pancakes.  A good string of beads is fun too. So I’m not complaining.  But I’m not going topless through the streets, whether in New Orleans or not.  The waistband of my jeans was complaining last night after a feast of blueberry pancakes and sausages.  But oh boy, they were good.

So now what?  Now we have what we Catholics (and lots of other Christians) like to call Ash Wednesday.  What is Ash Wednesday?  Well, the history of it all and a pretty good explanation can be found here.  Basically it signifies the start of Lent.  What is Lent?  Well, that explanation can be found here.

But what does it mean to me?  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about that lately.  So here goes.

I was born and raised Catholic.  Baptized as a baby, attended Catholic school for elementary and secondary.  Even the year of university that I managed to squeeze out was at a Catholic affiliate college.  I attended church every Sunday growing up, with my Mom and Memere.  Hardly ever missed.  Usually I quite enjoyed it.  Especially when there was a priest at our parish that worked really well with the people.  There are a couple of priests that I can think of from as I grew up that were wonderful men, who helped me be excited about my faith, who helped shape me into the person I am today.  I am so thankful to them for all that they had to offer to my childhood and adolescence.

Somewhere in my late teens, I got away from the church a bit.  One priest that I was particularly close to was transferred after many years with us and I had a really hard time getting used to his successor.  Not that he wasn’t a really nice man, he just didn’t mesh super well.  I strayed away slightly.  Then, as I got closer to where Joe and I were planning to get married, I found my way back, attending mass in London where we lived.  We attended together as a couple, and it felt good to be back into the swing of things again, to belong to a parish again.

Eventually though, we strayed again.  I would go through spells, attending mass with my Mom, especially when we moved back into the rural community I was raised in.  But there was no regularity to my attendance.  When I had my son, I had him baptized in our church, as it was important to me that he be raised in the faith, and attend separate school as I did.  But here I was, not attending mass myself on a regular basis, or making sure that my son was exposed to it the way I thought he should be.

I felt slightly detached I guess.  My beliefs were still there, but I wasn’t really following through on them.  I would kneel beside my sons bed every night and say his prayers with him, but then when I went and crawled between my own sheets I wasn’t saying any myself.  Going to church was a thing that was always there in the back of my mind, slightly nagging.  Every Sunday morning when I got up, I knew my Mom was at home, getting ready to go, and that she would be super excited to swing by and pick us up on her way.  But I chose to spend the morning cuddling with my kid instead.

I think that part of the reason that stopped me from starting back was that whole – the longer you’re away, the harder it is to go back – thing.  I knew I shouldn’t feel that way, that I was welcome and would be accepted back with open arms whenever I was ready to go.  But that didn’t really make it any easier.

A couple of weeks ago, I called up my Mom and the boy and I went to church with her.  Again last week.  It’s a start.  He is starting school in the fall, and I want him to at least understand why we enrolled him in a Catholic school.  I want him to have the same foundation that I have.  What choices he makes in his life when he is older will be his own, but I want to lay the groundwork so that, combined with the values and morals that his father and I hope to teach him, he will have a running start in the world.

And maybe there’s still hope for his mother too.

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The Night Circus – Book Review

There has been a lot of hype surrounding The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  Tons of reviews saying how wonderful it is, how magical, how unputdownable (is that a word?  It is now).

I really wanted to read this book.  I hate hardcover, and was convinced to wait for the paperback.  I refuse to pay over $9.99 for an e-book of any format.  $4.99 is my usual.  With all the hoopla about this book, you can imagine how happy I was that the price for the kindle version dipped below my spending limit.  $9.96.  Cha-ching!

Now that I had it finally, I needed to read it.  This took me a while.  Or a while for me anyway.  As I stated above, I really wanted this book.  Now that I had it, I really wanted to like it.  Really, I did.

I did like it.  Sort of .

As I said, this book took me a really long time to get into.  Some books are best read large chunks at a time.  It’s easy to forget what you’ve read and lose yourself if you just read small bits, and if there is lots of time in between reads.  This was one of those books.

Okay.  So overall, it’s a story about a circus.  A truly magical circus.  One that is open from dusk until dawn.  The circus is the lifeblood of the story, but really it is merely a backdrop for a relationship between two people, Celia and Marco.  Bound together and yet against each other in a magical competition of sorts.  Neither of them really know the full details of the competition, what the outcome could be, even that they were competing against each other at first.  So what happens when the whole thing comes to light and they realize that one must win, and the other….well, never mind.  What happens?  They fall in love of course.

The plot of this book takes a while to get going, and even once it does, doesn’t really speed along at all.  The secondary stories about the supporting characters are interesting, and charming at times, as well as slightly disturbing.  The circus becomes an object of obsession for many, startlingly so for some.

Do I recommend this to everyone?  No.  To some?  Yes.  I have friends that I know would love it.  Others that I know would hate it.  It is definitely magical.  Definitely dark at times.  The circus is described as being black, white, and a million different shades of grey.  The book is like this, only there are bright splashes of colour every now and then, often in clothing that people are wearing, in brief, bright descriptions.  I really do feel though that this is one of those books that is trying to be dark, trying to be artsy and different, and though it succeeds, it doesn’t come as effortlessly as perhaps the author hoped it would.

Overall, 3/5 stars.  I liked it.  Sort of.

Family Day

Back in the "good old days."

Third Monday in every February.  Here in Ontario, we call it Family Day.  Or, we call it an excuse for a long weekend in February.  Either way, I’m good with it.

The picture on the left was taken in the summer of 1987.  I was 9 years old, turning ten in about a month.  I’m in this photo, though I’m not about to say where, as it is slightly embarrassing.  My Uncle Fern had died a few days previous and so many of my family from Sudbury were down for the funeral.  So what did we do?  The only thing we could do when my Pepere and Memere were around and there was family visiting: have a party.  Get lots of food, lots of drink, and lots of good music and celebrate.  In this case some lightening of spirits was definitely required, as everyone was obviously gathered to mourn the loss of a brother, uncle, cousin that was taken far too early.

Growing up, I remember quite a few gatherings like this.  To my Pepere and Memere, family was everything.  Family were friends.  Family was who you hung around with when you wanted to have a good time.  There were always relatives coming from up north and elsewhere to visit, sometimes for weeks at a time.  I also remember summers when Memere and Pepere would get in the car and disappear for 2 weeks or more.  Moving around from family member to family member, visiting.  Of course it was rare that they went anywhere that Pepere didn’t build something before he left, a porch, a table, a deck, etc.  He always left a piece of himself everywhere he went.

It seems though, as I’ve gotten older, and he has passed on, that things really aren’t like they used to be.  Relatives that I remember from growing up, I haven’t seen since his funeral 15 years ago.  Not that this is anyone’s fault, it just seems as though as one generation leaves us, and our generation has become the adults, things have changed.  We still are family, but it seems like we’ve separated from each other.  When my Mom was younger, they spent the summer travelling around visiting family.  Now that I am grown and have a family of my own, we don’t do that anymore.  We’re obviously busier, women aren’t housewives and stay at home Moms the way they used to be.  We’re working, and when we get a week off here and there, we’re tired!  What time we do spend travelling is usually spent on a vacation for our own little immediate family – a weekend in Niagara Falls, a week at Disney World – something to make up for the times that we don’t get to spend with our kids, and to create memories for them like we had growing up.  Except sometimes I think I forget that some of my greatest memories growing up were not the time in Niagara, or the trip to Disney, though they were amazing.  The times that stand out to me are the weekends where family came to visit.  The trips up north to my Uncle Claude’s cottage on Manitoulin Island.  The yearly horseshoe tournaments.  The trips to Florida – not because of Disney as much, though that was awesome – but to visit my Uncle Bill and his family.

Life has changed so much since those days.  Sometimes it seems hard to just keep it together, to keep in touch with those that we consider close friends.  Life gets in the way.  It gets so busy.  We grow up, get married, have kids.  There are work schedules, school schedules, practices, meetings, appointments.  When the weekend comes, we often just try to catch our breath, not just hop in the car to drive a few hours to visit friends or family.  The same thing is happening with those friends and family, so they hardly have time to visit us.  It almost feels like I wish we could hit the pause button, just for a little while.  So the phone stops ringing, and time stops tugging at my pant leg, saying “hey, lets move!”

The point of this post isn’t to say that we should get those days of old back.  Because deep down I know that isn’t going to happen.  Life isn’t going to slow down any.  If anything, it’s just speeding up, which I’m really noticing as I get older and watch my child grow.  I guess what I’d like to do is just acknowledge those days, and strive to bring at least a little of that back.  Stop and take a few minutes to smell the roses, so to speak.  Call a friend, or a family member.  Or just remember, and try to pass a little of that legacy, and those values, onto our own children.

Happy Family Day!

WAY back - a bunch of family that were the best of friends.

A New Family Member

Ever feel like something was missing from your life?  Like life was almost perfect, but not quite?  Like your family needed one more member in order to be complete?

Nope, not me.  Never had that.  Okay, maybe a little bit of dis-satisfaction here and there.  Nobody is 100% happy all the time.

We have one child, a boy, who is 3 1/2.  He is the light of our lives and a joy to everyone who knows him.  Joe and I, when asked how many kids we were going to have, always said “we’ll have one, and see how that goes.”  I think deep down we always knew we were only going to have one child.  Heaven forbid!  So many people have opinions on that, but that’s a whole other blog entry.  Though there is a great article about that on the Huffington Post.

Okay, I digress.  So we had decided to only have one child.  We were happy with that decision.  We are still happy with that decision.  Enough said.  Though sometimes I looked at my son while he was playing by himself and wished that he had a companion.  Someone he could play with.  Someone else who would love him unconditionally and constantly.  Besides us.  But was that enough to make me want another child?  Well….no.

But what about a puppy?  Growing up, we had various dogs come and go.  Often the lifestyle that we led when I was a child did not lend well to having pets.  When I was in grade nine, my Mom decided that she was going to get my Dad a dog for a surprise birthday present.  He had always loved basset hounds.  So we found a breeder and went to pick out our beloved Brandy.  She was a joy right from the start.  Everyone loved her.  She was

affectionate, playful, sweet, obedient, all the things you look for in a dog, and to top it off, she was darn cute, and she stayed that way through puppyhood, right into her senior years.  When we finally had to have her put down when she was fourteen, it broke everyone’s heart.  I remember the day we had to take her, she lay on the floor of my office, with me laying down beside her, and I watched my Dad completely break down because he knew it would be the last time he saw her.   She was so loving, so loyal, it was so hard to say goodbye to her.  Her collar still hangs on the rearview mirror of my truck, and I still think of her so often.

So should we get a puppy?  Were we ready?  We sat down and talked about it for a while, because we really wanted to make the right decision.  Joe and I had gotten a puppy a few years ago and ended up returning her to the breeder within 24 hours.  I had a gut feeling that we had made the wrong decision, and that all I was trying to do was replace Brandy.  The dog we got was even a Basset like she had been.  Our lifestyle was wrong for the breed, and we weren’t doing it for the right reasons.  I’m sure that puppy ended up in the home she was meant to be in and I hope she’s happy now.

If we got a puppy, what were our expectations, and what were our needs?  I love big dogs.  The bigger the better.  I would love a Great Dane, or a Bernese, or a St. Bernard for that matter. Labradors are wonderful pets and great with kids. But as I looked around our house, I knew that we were not suited for a big dog.  We would have to go with a smaller breed.  Something that did not have to be exercised a lot, something that would fit into our lifestyle.  I knew that if we tried to change our lifestyle to accommodate a certain breed of dog, everyone would suffer, especially the dog.

Joe’s sister and her family have a 5 year old Shih Tzu named Daisy.  When they got her, I thought they were crazy (sorry Jenn!) as I had always thought of a Shih Tzu as an old person’s dog.  I didn’t think that they were very good with kids.  It turned out I was wrong.  So wrong.  Daisy has become a member of the family.  The three girls and their parents adore her, and with good reason.  She is loving and playful, and wonderful with the girls.  I started to think that this breed might be a very good match for our family as well.

Combine that with the news that my cousin had 6 newborn Shih Tzu puppies available, and we really had our answer.  We went to go and look and one glance at the little fuzzballs told me that we had to have one.

We brought Sophie home a week ago today.  I will admit, the first few days were very trying.  There were a few sleepless nights, quite a few accidents in the house, whining, a three year old who suddenly wasn’t the center of attention anymore.  All of which led to a breakdown on Monday morning when I got to work.  I felt seriously overwhelmed.  Though, as I tried to tell myself, I felt pretty darn overwhelmed when I brought Nicholas home from the hospital too.  Didn’t mean I wanted to take him back.  I just needed time.  We all did. And looking into the adorable face of that puppy, I knew it was meant to be, it was just going to take a little work and patience on our part.

I’m noticing a difference in her already, and in us.  She is getting used to us, and we’re getting used to her.  There aren’t really any accidents in the house anymore already, and last night, I didn’t hear a peep out of her all night long.  She has only been home a week, and already we love her, and can’t imagine the house without her in it.  And we managed to give Nicholas a sister after all.