Our dog’s life

It is the curse of the dog-lover that the life span of “man’s best friend” is so much shorter than man’s.

This weekend we said goodbye to our best girl, Bella, after an 18 month battle with cancer. A golden retriever/Australian shepherd cross, she was a tri-coloured, easygoing and cheerful dynamo who came into being 11 years ago after an exuberant canine Romeo jumped his neighbour’s fence one day and left that gentleman with the eight resultant puppies to re-home.

There were only two pups left when we arrived. The first, shy and retiring, shrank from our inspection. The second wiggled into my hands, licked my nose, and then turned her head to look at my husband, Steve – and two kindred spirits recognized each other. It was love at first sight. $250 later we were the proud owners of a pup with one of the most loving personalities I’ve ever witnessed in a dog. Rarely has my money been so well spent.

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Bella’s introduction to our family was a shriek of “OH MY GOD, ARE YOU SERIOUS?” as our five kids, ages three to 13, crowded around the window as Steve got out of the car with his little bundle of joy.

Highly intelligent, Bella trained quickly and never chewed anything in the house, naturally treating all human possessions as off limits. The kids routinely left their snacks on the coffee table and the couch, and not once did Bella touch any of it, or even look at it. She was gentle with the kids and a protective companion, always ready for games or just hanging out.

Spa day

While Bella was intended as a “family dog” it became apparent very quickly that she had chosen Steve as her alpha and he was her whole world. She certainly paid attention to the rest of us lesser humans, but no matter what we were doing, the sound of Steve’s footsteps when he came up the driveway sent her bolting out of the room to be with her Daddy.



Raised in farm country, Steve pretty much only comes in the house to eat and sleep, so Bella spent most of her time outside. At night he would sit at his campfire with whatever friends had dropped in and Bella would be there, chasing rabbits and Frisbees before eventually curling up at his feet in front of the fire. She came in when Daddy came in.

For years we rented a cottage for our summer holiday and Bella was first in the car. Strangely for her breed, she did not take to water. She chased sticks on the beach, but throw it into Lake Erie and she looked at you like you’d tossed it in front of a moving train. She followed Steve into the water almost up to her shoulders but then paced back and forth if he went out deeper. Other than swimming she was up for anything and was the only one still wide awake and raring to go on the ride home.

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The best-mannered dog I ever had, she never barked, growled or snapped at any of us, but she would raise her hackles and bark if anyone came to our door or into our backyard. One night some police officers with a K9 chased a suspect through our back yard while Steve and Bella were quietly sitting in the dark, star-gazing. She launched herself at the police dog, her guttural roar every bit as aggressive as the German Shepherd’s. She wasn’t really a guard dog, but she had no fear about giving both the cop and the K9 the business – how dare they intrude on Daddy Time.

Eighteen months ago we noticed a large rubbery mass growing inside her right cheek. After the operation to remove it the vet told us it would eventually return and she had about a year, and he was right almost to the very day. A second operation removed the new mass but post-op examination revealed a large tumour on her liver. Further surgery on her mouth in light of this discovery would only get Bella few extra months that would likely be filled with pain, which Steve refused to put her through. He felt it was better for her to enjoy as much as possible what healthy time she had left.

Bella continued to eat and play, but by April she was visibly thinner. By the end of May she was a walking skeleton with a new tumour, this one in her jaw, not on her cheek. Yet, incredibly, Bella was still happy; still eating; still spending every minute with Daddy.


The vet told us in June that while incredible she was still alive and pain-free, she now had only a month or two left. Over the last eight weeks her walk slowed, the happy skip disappeared, and she spent most of the day sleeping in our bedroom in the cool, dark basement. I knew her time was up, but Steve was not ready to say goodbye. He had been feeding her a cancer fighting diet since her diagnosis, preparing her meals himself, desperate for a miracle that would not come.

Five days ago Bella started having trouble climbing stairs. The tumour suddenly doubled in size until it was the size of a softball, pulling her face askew. Then she fell and couldn’t get up and we knew we couldn’t ask her to fight any more. The call was made.

Bella’s last morning was filled with visits from our kids, tummy rubs and a sun nap in the back yard with Daddy. She had turkey stew for breakfast, well mashed because we could see, for the first time, she was having trouble swallowing. At 1:30 p.m. Steve took down her leash and she mustered a trot, tail still wagging, and walked with him to our van. He had to lift her in.

In the vet’s backyard, under the shade of a tree, my husband laid his head on Bella’s, telling her what a good girl she was over and over as the vet gave her an anesthetic, followed swiftly by three syringes of a heart-stopping drug. In less than two minutes it was over. Bella was gone.

The unconditional love of a dog is one of life’s most precious gifts. Bella was Steve’s first dog and they were inseparable. Now she’s gone where he can’t follow and we are left with her few possessions and a house empty of her presence, the scamper of her feet running for the back door silenced, the memory of Steve’s last words to his baby as he held her face in his hands:

“’Til I see you again.”

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The Contractor’s Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house,
The drywall dust settled,
Smothering a mouse.

The stockings swung gently
In the living room breeze,
Blown through partially-fit windows,
Making everyone freeze.

One wall freshly painted,
The others, not so much,
The furniture shoved back
To the brown china hutch.

The tree trimming finished,
I lifted my beer,
When suddenly a great clatter
Entered my ear.

I stood quiet and still
to see what was the matter,
When I hear a voice say,
“Who left out this fucking ladder?!?”

Then into my living room Santa Claus came,
Limping somewhat, a bend in his frame.
He dropped his red sack and shot me a glare,
Clearly not happy with what he saw there.

“My good sir,” he said,
“I see what you’re doing.
But on Christmas Eve?  Really sir,
What were you thinking?”

He opened his sack and began to place toys
Under my tree for our girls and our boys.
Finished, he stretched, and grimaced in pain
“I trust I won’t trip over your ladder again?”

He stepped over my tools
And made for the door,
Muttering words under his breath
I thought best to ignore.

“Would you please pass me my cookies?”
He said with a bow.
“There’s so much stuff in my way
I’m afraid to move now.”

I passed him the cookies
Which he stuck in his pocket.
Then, still scowling, he went out the door
Like a rocket.

As a parting shot he said, “Buddy,
Better put down that cup,
And clean up that mess
Before your dear wife wakes up!”

Flash Fiction Contest Entry-Story #2

Story parameters – political satire, a military parade, and a battery.


One Nation Under Trump

“Hello everyone, and welcome to the first national Trump Military Parade, brought to you by US-Arabia Oil. I’m your host, Lou Dobbs, and I’d just like to thank President Trump for making this great day possible for us all.  Sitting in the booth with me today is our very own Second First Lady, Tomi Trump. Tomi, it’s an honor to have you here.”

“Thanks, Lou. I’m so happy to be here supporting my husband and our president, Donald Trump, in the very first military parade to honor our brave soldiers since we passed the Trans Ban.”

“What’s going to be interesting about this parade, Tomi, is the way they are celebrating both our hugely over-budgeted military and all the improvements to America that the President’s made since he ratified the 28th Amendment making himself president for life. I really like America’s new slogan: “One President, His Country.”

“Me, too. Get it? ‘Me too’….ah, I’m hilarious. Thank God that was outlawed. But seriously, Lou, this new slogan sends a message to the world that America is stronger than ever.”

“Right you are, Tomi. Well, looks like the parade has started, and passing the booth now is the NRA float, followed by the 1st Trump Infantry. I really like the new gold insignias on the uniforms.”

“My idea, of course, Lou. The company that produces my Freedom athletic wear line, available online at alexoathletica.com, designed them.”

“Are they made in America?”

“No, China. But with all the tariff money we’re charging them, the Chinese are really paying for it, so we’re still supporting America.”

“We certainly are. All hail our Supreme Deal-Maker. Well, that float is spectacular…a giant AR-15, with a banner that says “Come and Take It, Libtards.” That’s a beautiful sight.”

“All a joke, of course. Now that the Democratic Party’s been designated a terrorist organization, they won’t be taking anything. The Senate swamp has been swept clean.”

“And not a moment too soon. The President is a wise and strong leader. The infantry is almost past us now…why the big gap before the next float?”

“That’s where the F-22 Stealth fighter was going to be. Donald really wanted an F-22 in the parade, but he still thinks they’re invisible, so we thought we’d save some money by just leaving a big empty space and telling him it’s there.”

“That sounds like a responsible budgeting decision, and doesn’t reflect poorly on the president one iota. Will we be seeing any of the President’s children today?”

“No. Don Jr. and Eric are in Africa hunting the last living elephant – that trophy will be worth a fortune. And Ivanka is still in Bangladesh touring her newest sweatshop. Merchandise available at IvankaSilks.com.”

“What about Tiffany, and Melania’s son?”


“Oh look, here comes the 305th ICE Regiment from Texas. I wasn’t sure any of them would make it, what with the National Emergency at the border. They need every man.”

“They were flown in on Air Trump 1 just for the day, Lou. They’re going back tonight; their work protecting our country from terrorized women and orphaned toddlers is so important. Imagine what our country would be like without them. I feel so much safer these days I only carry two guns now when I leave the Trump House. And they fit perfectly in the yoga holster I designed; $34.99 on my website.”

“We can thank President Trump for that. Permanently closing our borders was a brave decision by a gutsy guy. Obama wouldn’t have had the balls. Do I see a float behind them?”

“I think this is my favorite, Lou. Stephen Miller had the great idea to make all ICE cages mobile, so now we can move illegal immigrants around without actually letting them out. It saves so much time and money, and again, safer for everyone.”

“Sensible plan, Tomi. Who’s this coming now? Oh, it’s Kellyanne Conway, leading the White Nationalist Guard in a tank. Whatever happened to her husband?”

“He fled to California with Bernie Sanders and the rest of the Godless bleeding heart Democrat snowflakes, of course. Good luck running that country, Bernie.”

“I’m with you, Tomi. How do you live in a country without guns? They’ll never survive.”

“Oh, this is exciting, Lou. Here come the guests of honor – soldiers from Russia’s 200th Motor Rifle Brigade. Aren’t they impressive?”

“They look very intimidating. It was nice of President Putin to take the time to join us on his way to Texas.”

“Donald told me their permanent base at El Paso is almost finished.  I can’t tell you how exciting it’s been to witness history being made as America and Russia form the first co-country coalition.”

“And I, for one, am really looking forward to learning Russian. At least it’s not Spanish, eh Tomi? Thank Trump that was outlawed.”

“That’s right Lou – no more third world languages in this country. Which reminds me, look at this new gadget Donald gave me – it’s a prototype for a new illegals catcher. You just insert this battery…like so…and turn it on. Since Americans are all microchipped, anyone here illegally will set the alarm off when they walk past you.”

“That is a handy little device, and not a human rights violation at all. Well, it looks like the parade is wrapping up. Not a long one, but of course we have to give everyone celebrating our freedom time to get home before curfew. Tomi, I’d like to thank you for sharing parade duty with me, and I’m sure every American joins me in wishing you all the best managing the President’s continued mental deterioration .”

“Thank you, Lou. I’ll make sure he gets a good night’s rest, after he’s finished tweeting this week’s insults at Alyssa Milano.”

Flash Fiction Contest Entry – Story #1

This Friday I’ll be competing in the second installment of NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction contest. You have 48 hours to write a story, 1,000 words or less, based on the 3 criteria they send you – a genre, a place and an object. Here is my first story – the elements were “thriller, a coral reef, and chewing tobacco.”


Be Careful What You Wish For

“How much for your boat?”

The voice came from above him. Craning his neck back, the fisherman looked up to see a middle-aged man standing on the dock, wearing a pair of torn jean shorts and nothing else.

“What’s that? This boat here?” he asked.

“Yes,” said the man. “I want to go out to the reef.”

The fisherman climbed out onto the dock. Straightening, he took a tin of chewing tobacco out of his pocket while he sized up the man speaking. Tucking a wad into his cheek, he put the tin back in his pocket.

“You can hire someone to take you to the reef; you don’t have to buy a boat,” he said.

“I know. I’d just like my own boat. I…plan to go out there a lot.” The man stared steadily into the fisherman’s eyes.

The fisherman stared back, jaws working on his tobacco. Something about this didn’t feel right. He held out his hand.

“Jack. What’s your name?” The man reached out and shook Jack’s hand.

“Mitchell. I’ll give you a $1,000.00,” said the man.

Jack’s eyebrows went up. His boat was ready for the scrapper; it wasn’t worth more than $300. He decided whatever Mitchell was up to, it was none of his business. He spat a mouthful of tobacco juice into the ocean.

“Sold.” Mitchell took out his wallet and pulled out ten $100 bills and handed them to Jack.

“Be right back.” He walked down the dock towards the parking lot. Jack busied himself unloading his fishing gear onto the dock. After a few minutes he heard footsteps behind him.

Mitchell was back, with scuba gear he laid into the boat. Jack climbed out of the boat and Mitchell got in.

“Well, enjoy ‘er,” said Jack. “Don’t go too far out; it’s too small a boat for big swells.”

“I’ll manage,” said Mitchell. He was checking his equipment and did not look up.

Jack picked up his gear and walked back to the parking lot. The sun was getting lower in the sky, casting cool shadows over the beach. Reaching his car, he opened the trunk and tossed in his fishing pole and tackle box. Behind him, he heard the familiar roar of his boat’s motor. Closing the trunk, he turned and watched Mitchell untie the rope and push off from the dock. Mitchell turned the throttle and the boat began moving through the water. Suddenly, he made a throwing motion and Jack saw something sail from his hand and land on the dock. Mitchell revved the engine and sped out to sea.

Curious, Jack walked back to the dock, then down its length, toward a dark object lying on the boards near the end. When he saw what it was, his gut tightened. Bending over, he picked the object up and looked at it.

Car keys.

“Shit,” muttered Jack. He turned and ran back up the dock, looking for a policeman.


The coolness of the water enveloped him. Lying with his back against the coral reef, Mitchell breathed his precious oxygen in and out, marveling at the stillness of the underwater world. He was about 20 feet below the boat. Fish flitted past his mask; one bumped into it. He chortled softly into his mask.

Fuck everything, he thought. Fucking job, fucking boss, fucking wife. See how you like this.

He was 45 and his life was over. His daughter was dead, taken from him by a stupid, treatable illness – if you had health insurance. He didn’t. His wife moved out, blaming him for not saving their child. Then, last week, he’d lost his job.

He was done.

The only love of his life left was the ocean. Diving the coral reef had always been his escape from a chaotic world; a world of illness, misery, politics and death. The reef was where he wanted to end it.  Cradled in the embrace of this silent utopia, he would just drift away with the fish.

The light filtering through from the surface was dimming. He stared into the blue, remembering his daughter. Her laugh; her face when she slept; their first trip to the ocean, where they built sand castles and he showed her crabs and starfish. The feel of her little arms around his neck. Daddy’s girl.

He shifted his weight slightly; the coral was digging into his leg. Probably have about 5 minutes of oxygen left. He breathing sped up a little; his heartbeat quickened.

This is gonna hurt.

Anxiety boiled in his stomach, irritating him. He didn’t want to be scared; he wanted this over. But his primal instinct to survive was starting to fight, trying to make him panic, get up, swim back to the boat. He clung to the reef, trying to calm himself.

His fear was building. He could almost hear the needle on his oxygen gauge dipping towards 0. His breath was coming in rapid pants.

Goddamn it. I can’t.

Sitting up, Mitchell started swimming towards the boat anchored above his head, tears of anger in his eyes.

The crushing blow hit him from behind, propelling him through the water like he’d been hit by a car. Pushed forward at blinding speed, his mask was torn from his face. He couldn’t breathe; he couldn’t see. An agonizing force of compression was around his legs and pelvis. Yanked back and forth, everything was boiling water and flashing light and pain.

Suddenly the jerking stopped. The grip around his legs disappeared. Panicked, out of air, he swiveled his head, trying to understand what had just happened. An object drifted past his vision, slowly sinking back down towards the reef.

Comprehension dawning, he tried to scream, but there was no air. He saw a huge, dark shape moving like a torpedo through the water towards him.

With the water turning red above the reef, Mitchell’s leg softly came to rest on the coral.

~~ The End ~~


The subtle bouquet of life’s leafy green
devoured by the hot friction of steel.

The sun-ripened sweetness of deciduous flesh
rendered to powder by man’s industrial teeth.

Tears of sap flow, leaves scattered like severed fingers
curling inward towards rigor and death.

The idling beast surveys the remaining victims,
a forest’s death row awaits the next execution.

Last Requests

** 8th Place Winner – Writer’s Digest Short Short Fiction Competition (2015)

Last Requests

By Lisa Hoadley

The night air was cool, yet soothing in its gentle caress of her face.  The dank smell of freshly turned earth wafted past her nose.  She paid scant attention, immersed in her task.  The only sound besides the occasional night creature scurrying through the crisp leaves was the rhythmic, soft thunk of falling clumps of dirt.

She paused, stood up and stretched her back, then leaned against the shovel.  The hole beside her was deep.  It had taken three hours to dig and was taking almost as long to fill back in.  But it had to be deep or some animal might catch the scent and start digging.  He had taught her that.  She was back far enough in the bush that she had only moonlight to see by, but it was enough.  She knew this place like the back of his hand.

Still resting, her mind wandered, sifting through snapshots of their past.  They were just nine years old when they met.  She could see his frayed jeans cuffs, battered sneakers and pale blond hair.  She could still feel the sudden jolt in her chest when their eyes met.  He told her years later he had felt it too.  He said it was two souls that had been together in another life recognizing each other again.  She said he was nuts.

Shaking her head, she put down the shovel.  She needed a break.  Turning, she stepped over the sheet lying on the ground and walked the short distance to the swamp.  Sitting on a moss-encrusted log, she contemplated the silvery flat mirror of the green water.  An owl hooted nearby, making her jump.

Their life together had been a gift, although he had not been easy to live with.  He believed in soul travel, psychics and natural remedies, while she believed in rules, secure finances and regular bedtimes.  A true woodsman, he had survival skills rarely seen anymore and was spiritually, almost psychically, linked to the earth.  He could smell the weather coming, danced under lightning storms, and grew restless during the full moon, feeling a pull he could never explain.

He never held down a regular job.  He never had a driver’s license, or a credit card, or even a bank account.  He dressed in jeans and t-shirts, wore his hair in a ponytail and his hands were always dirty from gardening or painting.  His volatile nature and total rejection of authority made him a misfit in such a conformist society.  He never had any money, or security, and he didn’t care.

It’s all bullshit, babe.  Life is for living.  I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

A slightly sour smell reached her nostrils and she wrinkled her nose.  She would have to hurry and finish before that got worse.  Rising, she sighed, dusted off her jeans and returned to the hole.  Picking up the shovel, she resumed throwing scoopfuls of dirt into the dark crevasse before her.  The smell dissipated.

The memories continued to come, distracting her from the pain in her arms and back.  Playing tag and building tree houses in these woods; catching tadpoles in this swamp and taking them home in jars; the burning look in his eyes before their first kiss.  The first time they made love, on a night very much like this one, in the nightshade of a tree.  He had often said he wanted to be buried under that tree, since that was where their life together had started, and she would laugh.

He was so alive.  Every fiber of his being crackled with energy, in his snapping blue eyes and hearty laugh, his constant movement and explosions of anger.  He belonged in the woods, or in some wide open space – somewhere he could live life free of modern society’s constraints.  He was Pa Ingalls, and Wild Bill Hickok.  She felt bad that her job kept them near the city, but he brushed it off.  He built himself an oasis in their backyard with trees, gardens, and a fire pit.  No primly pruned suburban garden, it grew wild like the meadow they once played in.  He would spend hours there, his fortress of solitude, shared with some rabbits that found refuge from the concrete jungle under his woodpile.  He could grow any flower, name any plant.  He could have been a botanist if he’d been able to sit still long enough to finish school.

I don’t need anything but this, and you.  And when my time comes, I want to go with your arms around me.  No hospitals, babe – promise me.  And she would promise.

Then suddenly his time did come.  Too soon his dry cough became worse, then worrisome, then the symptom of the eventual diagnosis.  Stage 4.  The doctors pressed him to undergo chemo.  He told them to fuck off.  He reminded her of her promise.

Not here…take me home.

He was determined, yet resigned.  He was a strong believer in destiny and was convinced everything happened for a reason, even leaving her too soon.  His requests were few.  To die at home, in his garden.  No medicine, no treatment.  Last visits with his friends, a few beers and some laughs.  To end his life the way he had lived – on his terms, bending to no-one’s rules.  To be buried under their tree.

Just have me cremated and sneak out there one night and do it, babe.  No-one will know.

He was gone so suddenly.  Stretched out on a lounge she put in his garden, the arms about her went limp.  The long exhale into silence, an agonizing dead zone of sound…it was over.  She had lain with him awhile, studying every line of his face.  The shape of his nose, the shine of his teeth; running her hands over his hair, his arms, his thighs…she touched every part of him, branding his image on her mind, not wanting to forget a single thing.  Eventually it grew dark and she had reluctantly risen, going to collect the supplies she had put aside weeks ago, preparing for this day.

She stopped shoveling; the hole was full. She scattered the last of the dirt, then grabbed some fallen branches and leaves and began to camouflage the site as he had taught her years ago.  Not that it was likely anyone would come by.  Kids didn’t play outside anymore – too busy texting.

Finished, she leaned against the tree for several minutes. There was a faded heart carved into its trunk, the time-worn initials “SH + LM” barely visible a few feet above her head.  Tears dripped from her eyes and fell onto the mossy roots that had once pillowed their heads.  Straightening, she picked up the shovel and sheet and walked back to her car, dragging a large pine bough behind her to brush away her tracks; just like he taught her.  She stopped once to look back; the full moon was shining on him.  She wondered if he could feel it.

Back at the road, she tossed the shovel and sheet in the trunk.  As she dropped into the driver’s seat, exhaustion finally washed over her.  She was miserable and elated at the same time.  He was gone, but she had honored his last requests – save one.  She hadn’t bothered asking permission to bury him; it would never have been given.  She was a rule-follower, but this time she did things his way.  Just drove up here and did the deed.   It was surprisingly easy.  The hardest part had been getting him in the car, and carrying him through the woods.

Cremating him would have been an abomination.  Destroy that beautiful body that had held her and kissed her, laughed with her and curled up with her at night?  Sacrilege.  She was determined he be laid to rest in his natural state, returned whole to the earth.  She was sure that would satisfy some mystic belief of his, although she couldn’t say which one.  But she knew he only asked to be cremated so she could get him here – cremation didn’t fit into his belief system.  She wondered if he was watching her, delighting in her audacity.

Didn’t know you had it in ya, babe…right on.

She started the car and drove down the road, reaching up to run her finger gently down the braid of hair hanging from her rearview mirror.  The car disappeared into the empty gloom.  Behind her the wind grew stronger, the trees bending sharply, their boughs reaching like ghostly arms toward the moon.

– The End –

Mommy Magnetism

This is a slightly edited re-post from 2014, when my kids were 16, 15 and 10. Now they are are 20, 19 and 14, one’s away at university and one has a job, the youngest is three years away from college. I think about these days a lot now, as they don’t happen very often anymore. I miss it.

I remember learning about magnets in school, but only understand on an intuitive level how they work.  Metal attracts to metal, and it has something to do with poles and fields (no-one ever accused me of being scientifically-minded).  Now that I am a mother, I have discovered another magnetic effect, an attraction not between metals but between organic materials, manifesting itself on a daily basis in my house.

My kids are magnetically attracted to me.  It’s the only explanation for why I can’t get  more than four feet away from them before I find them trailing behind me.  The trigger for this effect is any attempt on my part for a few minutes of alone time.  I can go unnoticed by them for hours when they are busy with their own activities, a comforting presence in their peripheral vision, but leave the room and all three kids gradually become aware that something in their universe is amiss. One child will eventually start a search.  From my basement bedroom, where I’ve gone with my tea to escape the atmospheric onslaught of music, video games, movies and sibling arguments, I can hear the process unfold:

“Mom?  Mom… (footsteps)… where’s Mom?”

“I don’t know.”

Footsteps down the hall.  “Where’s Mom?”

“I don’t know.  Get out of my room!”

Door slams, followed by more footsteps to the living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom; then they head to the top of the basement steps.

“MOM?  YOU DOWN THERE??”  I don’t answer; it’s not really necessary.  I sip my tea, awaiting the inevitable.  I’ve been down here less than ten minutes.

The footsteps now come down the stairs.  There is a pause, and then my ten year old daughter, Mikaela, appears in my doorway.  A huge smile, tinged with relief, spreads across her face.

“Hi Mommy!”  She comes in and throws herself on my bed.  “Me want cuddle with Mommy,” she says, clambering over the mattress to snuggle under my arm.  My drink sloshes precariously.

“Watch my tea.”


She chatters away, wanting to know what I’m drinking, what I’m reading; can she taste my tea; why am I down here.  Looking for some quiet time, I say.  Me too then, she says.   While we snuggle, I listen, waiting for what I know is coming next.  Sure enough, more footsteps now cross my ceiling, heading for the basement stairs.  Seconds later Max, half past 16 and ostensibly beyond caring about my whereabouts, walks in.

“Here you are.  What are you doing?”

“Having quiet time,” says Mikaela.

“Cool.”  Max joins us on the bed and starts talking as fast as only a teenager can, telling me about school, activities and friends in a verbal tsunami of information.

I try to sip my tea as I listen, which is difficult now that there are three on the bed and the mattress is not quite still.  I am trying to get as much of it down as I can before Act III commences.  Then another head appears in my doorway, and quiet time is officially over.

“Hey, why’s everyone down here but me?” says Meredith, 15 and brimming with middle child ostracization issues.  She climbs up on the bed, complaining loudly that there is no room for her, while her siblings protest that they were there first. They push and prod each other, fighting for territory.

“Hey Mom, can we look at our baby box?”

“Ya!  Baby box!”

I put aside my tea, now cold, and pull out the box I have with all my keepsakes of their respective babyhoods.  Birth announcements, ultrasound pictures and first birthday cake candles; Mikaela’s Spiderman pajamas, Meredith’s first shoes.  There are several pacifiers, or “nukkies” as we call them, and there is spirited discussion over which ones belong to which kid.

The four of us sit on the bed, sifting through memories, my quiet time forsaken for this precious time with my babies.  I don’t mind; all too soon every day will be quiet time.  We go through the entire box while I tell them yet again the stories of their births.  Eventually, there is a fourth, heavier tread on the stairs and ten seconds later my husband appears in the doorway.

“There you are!  I was looking for you.”

Day trip to Dundas a Christmas treat

Inside chocolateThe Christmas season always bring nostalgia.  Suddenly feeling more strongly the coldness of their internet connections, people start yearning for old fashioned family dinners, walks through snow-laden dells and the smell of cider and pine.  This condition lasts exactly three weeks and then disappears with a suddenness suggesting mass hypnosis, but for a short time everyone is pleasant, less rushed, and enjoying yet again the story of Rudoph’s triumph over schoolyard bullying.

It was this frame of mind that sent my daughter, Mikaela, and I to Dundas, a small town just shy of 25,000 souls with a popular shopping district showcasing local artists and boutique stores. A 25 minute drive from Oakville, the road signs are easy to follow and take you right to King Street, which is lined with buildings showcasing original 19th century architecture.  Parking is sufficient and, wonderfully, free on weekends.

The first thing we saw was a horse-drawn wagon offering rides through town.  I love these things, even though they entail nothing but sitting, shivering, on a rock hard bench for fifteen minutes while the horses plod resolutely along their route at a brisk 6 kilometers per hour.  But they’re just so Christmassy, the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves beating a magic cadence that never fails to lift my spirits. I was ready to jump on, but for some indescribable reason my otherwise horse-loving pre-teen didn’t want a ride (yet more proof she’s smarter than me).


Our first stop was the chocolatier, delightfully named Beanermunkey Chocolates (the combined childhood nicknames of the owner’s sons).  A mouth-watering array of artisanal chocolates made on-site are provocatively displayed on artistically arranged trays and baskets.  The kitchen viewing window allows patrons to watch the chocolatiers at work.  I purchased some chocolate-dipped peanut butter cups, candy cane bark, peanut brittle and a small bag of chocolate dipped sour keys. I reluctantly left, after partaking of my free sample of their “Madagascar vanilla bean confection, with a white chocolate ganache centre dipped in Belgian white chocolate and finished with a dark chocolate design.”  It took less time to eat it than to say it.


We next visited several clothing stores, offering goods of a quality not seen in any of Ontario’s ubiquitous chain stores in years.  There are also many gift stores, cafes, shoe stores, a bridal boutique, medical facilities and several banks.  Everything you need for day to day living is here.

For lunch we went to The Winchester Arms, a British pub with beautiful decor, red oak beams and deep green upholstery, with a bar trimmed with brass and glass.  The place was packed with regulars and cheerfully noisy.  The menu was extensive and I longed to try the chicken pot pie, bangers and mash or fish and chips, but I knew if I ate a lunch that heavy I wouldn’t make it back to the car, so I settled for chicken wings and garlic cheese toast.  Mikaela had chicken fingers and fries, and a Dad’s root beer which is bottled like real beer, making for an amusing photo-op.


(Read the label, people – it’s root beer)

After lunch we strolled the street, passing some carollers and stopping at the Carnagie Gallery showcasing  paintings, photographs, pottery and jewellery of local artists, then turned in at the Body Sense Boutique and Spa where we purchased some natural soap and a “bath tea” for soothing sore muscles, a gift for my mother.

Our last stop was The Keeping Room, a veritable play land for kitchen store junkies. Every single surface is covered with casseroles, muffin pans, wine glasses and serving dishes, and every other imaginable utensil to make cooking fun.  They even have food-themed socks.  I could easily spend my entire paycheque there, but I responsibly selected some ballerina and Eiffel Tower-shaped cookie cutters and a batter measure, and three pairs of socks.

On our way back to the car we stopped at Village Bakery Dundas and bought half a dozen shortbreads and six intricately decorated sugar cookies, which explains why they cost $27.00.  Eating our Santa heads we drove back to Oakville.  We will definitely be returning.

From Toronto: take the QEW west to Hwy 6 North.  Follow Hwy 6 to York Road; turn left.  Follow York Road to Regional Road 8.  Turn right on Road 8 and follow to King Street West.

True Nature

How freeing it must be
To be the wind.
No conscious destination,
Just free-floating whimsy.

No shackles of debt or love
Or need,
No restraint of one’s nature,
Just being.

To be the wind
Is to be softness and light.
Sometimes fierce;
Never insignificant.

If I were the wind
I would endlessly caress my darlings,
Glory in the loving touch
Never marred by want or greed.

How Do I Let Go

Four months left
‘Til she leaves this house
To begin the journey of her life.
University beckons, home already
Fading in her mind.

The school’s been picked
And she is going
Very far away;
Four hour drive, five hour train.
A journey that for the first time, won’t include me.

How do I stand back and say goodbye
To the little hands that once gripped me tightly,
Not wanting to leave mommy,
Not even to sleep over at Nana’s
Who lived three whole blocks down the street.

In four months she’ll be gone and I will be left here
Staring at the cavernous emptiness of her room.
Sure, we have internet; Facebook and Skype,
But they offer only the insufficient consolation of visual connection.
No warmth, no hugs, no life.

It will never be the same,
And I am not ready.
Never will be, to accept the end
Of 18 years of always being there
For every, single, thing.