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Archive for January, 2013

I am a die-hard fan of a show called The Biggest Loser and last week Dr. H. at The BL Ranch said something that I thought was right on the mark. When the contestant said they didn’t have time for healthy eating and exercise, he said… “If I told you, you were dying of lymphoma, would you take two hours out of a day for chemotherapy?”

Harsh? Most definitely. True? Absolutely! It certainly made me step back and take notice. He had summed up, in one sentence, my philosophy on being active. It’s essential to our health and wellness. Not to mention, that obesity is a risk factor for developing many diseases, including cancer.*

Time is the number one excuse I hear from the people who say they want to make change and frankly that’s what it is… a mere excuse. I’m a Mom, business owner, and author working on my third manuscript. My husband travels extensively for his work so sometimes I’m like a single Mom. I don’t know how to drive so getting to and from a gym or the track takes me twice as long as the average person which is why I don’t have a gym membership. Yet, I find time to chase after a toddler, help my 11 year old with his homework, make homemade healthy meals, keep the house somewhat in order, and work the equivalent of a full-time job… all the while, training for a half marathon.

There are so many ways to sneak fitness into the daily routine and here are a few ideas.

  • take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator
  • park at the end of the parking lot when you are shopping
  • walk or ride your bike to work (you’ll help the environment too)
  • make it a family affair (go for family bike rides or walks together)
  • find an exercise buddy (having similar goals can help with motivation)
  • make it fun (exercise doesn’t have to be boring)
  • sign up for a charity walking or running event to keep you motivated
  • watch your favorite show while on the treadmill or elliptical

I was the Queen of Excuses. Been there done that and somewhere in my closet there is a 5X t-shirt to prove it. Only I could stop the behaviour of telling myself why I couldn’t do something. I owe it to myself and those who care about me to be active. I find that I feel much better when I am being physically active. I sleep better and am more productive in other areas of my life. Not to mention, a little time now could prevent a lot of time spent dealing with serious health consequences later.

*Health Canada – Health Risks of Obesity

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Two days after my last post, my Mom gave up her fight with COPD and pneumonia. She was laid to rest this past weekend. I’m heartbroken, of course, as we were the best of friends. Maybe it was because I was the baby of the family and more like an only child or maybe Mom and I had a strong bond because of common interests. Or maybe it was because, after Dad died, for a long time it was just her and I… until I took off to University. Whatever the reason, I hope I have the same bond with my children that she has had with me.

I thought I’d take some time and share a few special memories that I have of my Mom based on the things she was passionate about and the gifts she passed onto me. I will, in turn, pass these on to my own children.

The Love of the Needle

To say Mom was an avid quilter could be an understatement. She made every one of the family a quilt. Luckily I still have mine because I grabbed on the way out of our house during the fire for the mere reason I was thinking of keeping Mom warm that morning. Saving that quilt was a happy accident. It’s an appliquéd design and every stitch was done by hand.

Another memory I have of quilts and my mother is from when our son Tobias came into our family. I’ll never forget the day I went to see her and to tell her that he wasn’t going to be a girl. She had just finished a very pretty purple quilt for the occasion. After hearing the news, Mom went off into her room. She came out a wee bit later and held up two quilting patterns. “Fish or Sailboats?” she said. Her tone was both stern and loving. We chose the fish. I kept the other quilt which has been given to my daughter Kaia. In the end, it worked out because Mom wasn’t able to quilt when I was expecting my baby girl.

This past fall she gave me many of the things she used to make those quilts. I was going through it all today and found a handwritten letter that was two pages long. It had some of her favorite hints and tips. Funny, the way it made me smile. This bond over sewing was something she only shared with me and it’s pretty special.

By far, the favorite of my quilt memories is from my own childhood. When I was a preschooler I used to play under her quilt rack. It was like camping in a fort and I loved it. Mom loved it too because she could keep track of me while she stitched. Well, she loved it until my Siamese kitten pulled out the entire batting one morning. She was not amused.

When I was four, Mom sat me on the steps that looked out towards the beautiful backyard and she taught me how to embroider. Mom went on to teach me how to do other forms of needlework and how to use a sewing machine properly. She taught me how to hand stitch an invisible hem and how to cover a pillow. Mom taught me needlepoint, bargello, and cross-stitch. She showed me how to knit and crochet but I am still somewhat inept at working with yarn.

The Gardens

Gardening was another thing that Mom adored. Every spring, after the threat of frost had passed, Mom would make her way to the Belgian Nursery in Breslau, Ontario to buy flowers for her gardens. She had a bird bath down at the bottom of the terraced rock gardens that was surrounded by roses. I loved the smell. Cosmos were one of my Mom’s favorites. She’d grow them along the fence and they were so pretty as they moved ever so gracefully in the wind. Another of her favorites were the little Snowdrops that peeked out of the snow in early Spring. She said they reminded her of home. She loved Forget-Me-Nots and even had one of those in her wallet. Dad had given it too her and she carried it for years along with a piece of wild Heather from Scotland.

One year Mom and my brother Bruce decided to make a pond beyond the bird bath near our creek. I think it was more Bruce’s idea but they set to work. Mom planted many blue flag irises at the edge and then made a white stone path to the bridge over the creek. She loved those irises so every time I paddle a creek and see wild irises along the shore, I think of Mom.

In grade 9 I took a horticulture class at high school where I grew snapdragons and petunias from seed. My flower roots must have been dipped in too much growth hormone or something because they were the tallest Mom had seen. They were even blooming during the first snowfalls that autumn. Mom teased me about that for years.  Sadly, except for that particular instance, I didn’t inherit her green thumb or love of gardening, although I’m pretty good with herbs and lettuces.

Books

Mom was most definitely a bookworm and bibliophile although she didn’t do much reading in the later years of her life because of her eyes. She taught me how to read with her Bible which was a traditional King James text. It was tough at my tender age but I wanted to make her proud so I worked hard at learning.

One time Dad and Mom decided we should build bookcases to line the walls of a basement room and catalogue the hundreds upon hundreds of books that they had collected. Mom put library numbers on the inside cover and spine of each book and then entered the general information about each into a large ledger.

She inspired me to become  interested in the classics and by the time high school rolled around I had already read Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lost Horizons, The Great Gatsby, and such.

Music

Mom loved music. While the Latin version of Ave Maria was a definite favorite her absolute most favorite pieces of music were Chopin’s Polonaises and Debussy’s Claire de Lune. Mom and I would listen to the Berlin Philharmonic or the Warsaw Concerto. She also loved Harry Belafonte and the Irish Rovers. We had a 1926 Victrola record player. It was electric and you controlled the volume by opening or closing the doors in varying degrees. We’d listen to Will Fyfe singing I Belong to Glasgow. I’m sure she was sick of the old Hot Cross Buns record though. I have such fond memories of going through the old records with Dad and her.

Mom knew how to play the button accordion and the bagpipes but her favorite instrument was the electric organ that graced our dining room. She’d play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy or Fur Elise. She’d even play the odd Beatles tune. At Christmas, she’d play carols and we’d all sing.

Food

Another set of skills Mom passed on to me was cooking and baking. She taught me the fine art of chocolate and candy making. She taught me how to make many Christmas recipes like Swedish Tea Ring, Raisin Squares, Nut Bread, Walnut Squares, Rum Balls, and Empire cookies. Mom insisted that I know how to make a proper cup of tea too. She showed me how to make fussy little tea sandwiches and petit fours. I learned how to make pastry, traditional Scottish stews and soups, Steak Pie and a plethora of other yummy things.

Today I found a collection of the recipes she wrote out for me and some of the vintage recipe leaflets she passed along with recipes that I grew up with.

The most important recipe she passed on to me is more of a technique to make real Scottish shortbread. This has been passed down in our family for generations and Mom always told me that I was the only one who could make it as well as she did.

Mom and I also shared a love of dark chocolate, marzipan, and black currants. She would eat marzipan like it was going out of style. Recently, I found Lindt Dark Chocolate with Black Currants. She would have loved it.

I’m going to miss my Mom terribly—more than I can express. We had a bond that was very special and we were best friends. The next little while will be rough while I work through the emotional roller coaster that is grief.

Thank you for allowing me to share these wonderful memories with you.

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