Kids at the Condo

This year I happily hosted my sister and her family and my brother and his family (separately!) in my little postage-stamp sized condo – at one-bathroom, one-bedroom plus den, it’s an intimate arrangement.  I am not sure how much longer my nephews and nieces, never mind my brother and sister’s spouses, are going to entertain overnight visiting as much-fun, but for now they keep coming and I love hosting.

It is during these visits where I am included in the little worlds that my nephew’s and niece’s inhabit as they curiously expand their intellect.

A few of my favourite moments this year in no particular order:

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It’s a miracle!  I am cooking in my condo kitchen for my family.  Mind you I am making the simplest of dinners – fajita’s.

We are chatting away, my nephew and niece are playing with bits and pieces of Lego when I hear this question:

“Aunt D-D, why do you need a kitchen in your hotel room?”

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“Aunt D-D has the biggest house! She even has an elevator!”

As they enter the smallest living space they’ve ever seen in their life-time.

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We leave my condo, I pull down my prescription sunglasses so I can see what I am doing and I lock the door. My nephew quietly twists and turns making his way down the hallway in front of me reaching the elevators first.  We can hear the “beep, beep, beep” of the elevator as it climbs up to our floor.  In serious thought my nephew turns to me and dead-pans:

“Auntie D-D,” long pause as he fidgets his shoe against the carpet, he stops and stands-still looking directly at me, “You look K-E-W-L”

He doesn’t wait for an answer, he turns around to focus on the nothing at the other end of the hallway.

Points for me and my shades!

Post-Valentine’s Day 2016

“Puberty destroys Valentine’s Day.” Unknown man said to the barista. “I’d rather be single than be in a bad relationship. And I think most people if they thought about it would prefer that too.” He continued, “When we are mature and we find someone is nice but we realize that there isn’t a connection, we then can make the decision to be friends instead.”

Amen to that, unshaven, dishevelled man who clearly lives on his own. And I mean that in the most endearing manner. The same could be said for me, in my high top kicks, flannel shirt, and 5 year old faded jeans. I can’t remember if I washed my face this morning. A-T-T-R-A-C-T-I-V-E!

I was struggling to focus on reading my book, the conversation behind me diverted towards the philosophy of changing political beliefs, “Often time as people age they become more right-wing rather than changing their beliefs from right-wing to left-wing.”

I nod to myself, according to Pew Research, the older generation today in the US is certainly more conservative on the extreme.

But not to get political, that was the start to my Valentine’s Day 2016. I can pretend to dislike Valentine’s Day but the fact is I rather like it. It is the one day out of the year that complete strangers are compelled to talk to one another about their beliefs on love and relationships and … politics.

There is that undertone of love gone wrong, a memory of a past relationship not quite reconciled, a little baggage here and there and it’s ok to share in riddles.

We are connected through our experience of pain?

I’ve yet to overhear complete strangers on Valentine’s Day discuss relationship stories of great love and gain.

But perhaps I simply need a new coffee shop! 🙂

Valentines Weekend Coffee

A real weekend isn’t complete without at least one trip to the coffee shop.

What could be better than sitting in the bay window of the shop, enjoying a quiet moment, sipping my coffee?

Well of course the only obvious answer: having a random conversation with another patron.

Trust me, I mind my own business while in the coffee shop and this particular day I was busy writing a personal note to myself.  Something along the lines of: “while coaching my students on being faced with possible failure, what is worse, the fear of failure or the failure itself – and here I am sitting sipping coffee more concerned of failure itself.” I don’t know where that thought was going because I was interrupted by an older gentleman.

“May I sit in this chair?”

“Why of course,” and I turned back to my tablet in an attempt to finish my grand thought when I was interrupted a second time.

He wasn’t about to sit there across from me and let me “play around” on my tablet while I could have a real conversation with a real human being and not my conscious mind.

And so there I sat conversing with a man, a recent retiree who has figured out how to have the best of both worlds.  He told me stories of his adventures and at some point I believe it turned into a game of how much he could make me laugh, my sides hurting, me twisting in my chair to alleviate the discomfort of sore abdominal muscles.

In any event he told me of sweet Maria, the Brazilian, so classy, to be clear – not sluty.

“You know, similar to Sônia Braga,” he paused “who was linked to Robert Redford, Maria has that same…” he twisted his lips into a pout as he thought of an appropriate descriptive word.  I wanted to blurt out “sensual” but I was intrigued by how he made his lips form a perfect rectangle.

‘How does he do it?’ I thought distractedly, ‘Does he practise this in the mirror? Is it genetic?’

He found his word and proclaimed “Sensual!”

He paused a moment looking up to the ceiling.  He nodded yes, agreeing with himself, then re-formed his lips into a perfect rectangle and said once again with confidence and all the passion he could muster, “Sensual, she is s-e-n-s-u-a-l.” he dragged it out.

And there you have it, sweet Maria, the Brazilian who would remind you of Sônia Braga, is classy AND unbelievably s-e-n-s-u-a-l.

I Don’t Do Sarcastic

Said with a straight serious face and with hardly a pause, looked down at the worksheet  shared the thoughts scribbled out.

This past summer I found a kids mentor/volunteer organization that is giving back to the youth in our communities.  I was intrigued and wanted to be part of giving back.

l filled in the online volunteer form, not once , not twice, but three times before I clicked submit. Was I capable? Would the kids treat me like that poor supply teacher I had in grade 7? Would I be leaving each mentor session in a heap of tears?

Bravery it turns out isn’t the absence of fear but rather taking action despite the fear.

And that is how I ended up, armed with one binder of material, once a week in a front of a classroom of 10 grade 7 and 8 students.

The first day was easy, only 6 kids, all as nervous as me. The second, as I was warned by the school consellor, would be a “different dynamic with all 10 kids.”

And so it was and in the middle of a 15 minute sharing session, assuming l had connected with the kids, I made a sarcastic comment to which I was promptly corrected,

“If you want to talk to me, l don’t do sarcastic.”

It took everything in me not to laugh at myself, at the situation, at the directness.

The Conversation

Discussing Jian Gomeshi makes me feel so angry inside.

Today at the coffee shop an older gentleman needed access to some wall charts behind me.

He respectfully stood quietly in front of me waiting for an opportune time to interrupt my reading.

”Excuse me miss, I don’t need you to move but want to let you know I am going to reach past you to write on the wall charts.” He paused and added, “I want to let you know what I am doing so you don’t think I am going all ‘Gomeshi’ on you.”

Immediately I felt a happy sadness. I wanted to stand up and give him a hug but of course I didn’t.

l smiled and thanked him and went back to reading but he wasn’t done. He was compelled to talk about how he felt about the situation. He felt sad and angry that women didn’t feel they could have come forward “the day after or even the night it happened.”

l smiled, weary. What of value could l share, from woman’s point of view, with this stranger? Most of us have a story or know of a story to tell but telling it publicly doesn’t always have a positive outcome.

l simply acknowledge his statement and reply, “Yes, it’s complicated.”

Armed with my non- answer, he answers his own question, “I suppose the cops don’t always believe the women so that’s probably why.”

Perhaps he catches my hesitation, I certainly wasn’t prepared for this discussion and we agree to end the conversation there.

I am thankful we are openly acknowledging and having tough conversations about a real issue that transcends Jian Gomeshi and the CBC.

A Coffee Shop Date

A Coffee Shop Date

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It had to be their first date. It seemed they’d not met before, at least not in person. Perhaps not even on “the internet” *gasp*. Maybe he responded to a newspaper ad, or maybe she did?

Or could this be a blind date, set up by two of their best-friends who knew they’d “click”.

I can’t be certain how they found themselves sitting across from each other, sharing nothing but dialogue, but there they were.

Updating each other on the most intimate details of their lives in a public space:

“How old are you.”

“Do you have siblings?”

“Do you have a job?”

His opening lines upon settling into their unforgiving wooden chairs, hot drinks in hand,

“Literally I can rip apart a house”

“If there is a problem, I can fix it right away.”

Then he moved on to the brass-tacks on why he possessed such mad-skills setting himself up for date number two,

“The job market was tough; I voluntarily left my position in the finance industry, other people had children and mortgages and I had an opportunity to work with my uncle.”

His uncle isn’t just a contractor. He’s a Valentino contractor. He’s the contractor everyone wants to hire and everyone wants to work for. They wear tuxedos when they work, and dust? Did someone say dust? Dust is non-existent under his uncle’s watchful eye. It’s more like magic than it is like actual hard work contracting.

Did he learn. He learned all the trades while working for his uncle. How to rewire a house, install everything from insulation, drywall, shingles, bricks, roofing, lawns, driveways, duct work, cement, foundations. After 2 years of tutelage under his uncles watchful eye, you name it, he learned it and a pro he is! All while wearing a sharply pressed, dust-free tuxedo.

She blissfully watched him. Taken by his oratory prowess and general expertise, not one word escaped her lips. She leaned into the table to get a little closer to the story and probably to him too.

After his stint with uncle Valentino he moved on to the shipping and receiving industry. And boy, he’s taken the industry like a storm.

Yes-sir-ree. It took him 6 months to turn around that loading dock. Counting boxes on skids is hard work, so is reducing shrinkage, checking for damaged goods…too many acronyms and terms for me to remember. The story goes that he was promoted to be come their leading Sales Agent!

Top grossing Sales Agent to be correct and are we surprised?

I can see him selling me something, maybe not a date, but he could definitely sell me some shipping if that’s what I needed.

His closing lines to seal in date number two with his lovely doe eyed lady,

“If she shows up in daisy dukes,” rolls his eyes, “she might well as not have showed up at all”, and continues pointing at himself “see what I am wearing, jeans, sports jacket and a nice collared shirt,” he self-congratulates himself, “why can’t a girl just show up in modest clothing.”

She quickly jumps in not wanting his disapproval, equally eager for date number two and points out, “yes, like I wore my yellow coloured khaki’s and this smart, light-purple sweater set.”

How old were these two potential remote-controlled lovebirds?

25.

And how do I join their cool club?

I wore a ratty sweatshirt and jeans, and I am eavesdropping!! Do I make the cut?

Maybe.

My Coffee Shop on a Long Weekend

My Coffee Shop on a Long Weekend

IMG-20130430-01190.jpgMy blog is feeling a little neglected the past month or two. Apparently, this is what happens post-retirement, when we go back to working and start making a living to pay the bills.

Sad, I agree.

This weekend has been a welcome dose of downtime. I’ve spent it pretending I don’t own a car and have done my share of walking.

I even found time to visit my coffee shop not only once, but THREE full-morning’s in a row.

The first morning, I asked my barista, “has it been busy?”, thinking to myself, ‘it’s a long weekend, likely a slow day.’

She replied, “It’s been quite busy,” rubbing the sweat from her brow, “you see, Birds and Beans customer’s do not stray far from the coffee shop,” raising her hands to demonstrate a small radius, “not even on beautiful long weekends.”

Touché, is all I could muster for a reply.

Are your shoes some sort of plastic?

Are your shoes some sort of plastic?

IMG-20130414-01161.jpg It has been way too many weeks since I’ve made time to spend a few hours at my coffee shop and to share a blog post.

Today has not disappointed.

I brought my new book “Lean In”, bought myself a muffin and coffee and found my favourite chair in the back of the shop.

I was quietly reading, when a woman appeared out of nowhere. She stopped in front of me and looked down at my feet and declared, “I really like your shoes. Are they made of plastic or something?”

Not letting me answer, she continued, “I have never seen shoes like that before. They must have cost a bundle.”

I wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer or just wanted to tell me what was running through her mind so I smiled at her.

Turns out she just wanted me to listen as she sat down in the chair beside me and continued on a new train of thought.

Advice, and maybe advice I simply needed to hear from a complete stranger, “You have to listen to your heart. No matter what your mind is thinking, your mind and heart are intertwined,” and she demonstrated with her ring covered fingers.

She wasn’t done, “I like this place, it’s like coming home. You can put your feet up and just relax. Talk to people or just be by yourself.”

She liked talking to people, this was obvious as she sat there sharing thoughts and snippets of her life with me. It was a mostly one-sided conversation and I can count the words I said on my left hand.

She decidedly informed me, “You have a beautiful spirit and a wonderful heart and a beautiful smile, I bet you have a lot of close friends and a really good job”

Then distracted, she looked over at my phone that was blinking, “You should really get your phone, I bet someone is trying to get a hold of you.”

I nodded at her but she wasn’t satisfied until I reached for my phone. She stood up, smiled and said “You have a great afternoon.”

She disappeared as quickly as she’d appeared taking her many rings with her.

Act 3 – On Reading Material

I am happy to say, “Living History” is complete!  My only regret is that I did not pick it up sooner…9 years sooner.  Who can say how it may or may not have impacted my life, but what I do know is regardless of political allegiances, Hillary’s book was worth each minute and hour I spent reading.

With her book out of the way and after two autobiographies, I was looking for something a little more……fiction to read. 

Good thing my coffee shop acquaintance who had me demonstrating my inner clutz, spilling water and essentially tripping over myself as I tried my best to keep composed and adult about my utter childishness.

It was the second time we’d had a verbal conversation.  He was making fun of my choice of reading material and with great fervor, kindly suggested the next book I should read.

He promised me that I was “not going to be disappointed” and if I was, “you can come slap me on the side of my face.” 

And he demonstrated on the left side of his face, “Right here, you can slap me right here,”

He stopped, tipped his head down and to the side, looking at me shyly he said “..not too hard.  Just a little bit, but not too hard.”

“I promise you, everyone I have suggested this series to has LOVED it, nobody was disappointed and so far none of them have come to slap me on the face.”

He took a breath, “But if you don’t like it,” he reiterated, “my offer stands and you can come find me and slap me on the face and you’ll be the first one to do that.”

On his suggestion, the other day I picked up “Game of Thrones”. 

Let’s see how I like it 😉

The Floorman

I am not sure if I promised to tell the second story from my floor searching adventure, but I’ve decided it is time to write it out.

After receiving solid husband finding advice, I stumbled upon my future husband?!

The first problem is he is definitely not German. Why do I know this? He has dark skin, he looks Arabic, and he is working at a hardwood flooring store. I don’t know, it just seems Germans would likely be more of the manufacturer than the sales person. Doesn’t successful selling include some emotional connection between seller and buyer?

It started out very similar to my conversation with Antonio the Italian.

“How can I help you today?”

“Well, I am looking for either laminate or engineered hardwood for my condo project. I am looking specifically for Walnut or Acacia wood/finish. Do you have anything like that here?”

He said yes and directed me to the back corner of the store. This should have been my sign.

He showed me what he had available, pointed out his “best-seller”.

“I’ve put this in many condo’s all over Toronto. It looks really good. You live in Toronto?”

“Not exactly, I live just on the border of Toronto.” And I told him the general area.

“Oh that’s great, that’s close to downtown Toronto, you can easily get into town and it’s nice for hanging out. Like I’ve said, I’ve sold a lot of this flooring to condo owners in Toronto.”

Why was this man so obsessed with Toronto? I hardly EVER go downtown Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really cool spots in Toronto, but it isn’t the center of the Universe. Munich is – doesn’t he know this!?!

He pulled the four plank wide sample from off the wall and laid it on the floor. We stood there staring at it. He started getting restless at my continuous concentration that was directed squarely at the sample on the floor.

“What can I help you with?”

“Well, I am torn. This laminate is a good price but it just seems really shiny and unlike clothes, boyfriends and couches, once I install my floor if I don’t like it I can’t return it. I am stuck with it unless I sell my place. I am just not sure.”

“Let me get you a sample from the back you can take it home and think about it.”
“Sure that sounds like a solid plan.”

Before he procured me a sample we were interrupted by an older gentleman. He opened up the front door, peered into the store and asked, “Do you have a cigarette lighter?”

The salesman looked at me. I scrunched up my face and wondered to myself, do you think I have a lighter?! After a few awkward seconds the salesman reluctantly reached into his pocket and produced a red lighter and handed it to the old fellow.

“You can keep it.”

“Oh no, I just need to light my cigarette.”

Keeping the door opened a crack with his upper body the old man turned his face and cigarette towards the street and lit up. Success and with his left hand he gave back the useful and most convenient lighter and left as quickly as he arrived.

“That was odd. He could have just kept the lighter.” Said the salesman, pretending he wasn’t a smoker.

He forgot about getting me a sample, pulled out his phone and started punching away. I wasn’t sure what he we doing so I kept staring at the sample laying on the floor.

After a few moments, the salesman lifted his head and declared, “With installation, flooring, under pad, and baseboard I can get your floor down for $2,000.”

Hmmmmm, I think to myself. That sounds like a good deal but that means this floor is likely not even a mediocre laminate. It is most likely a terrible laminate. Not to be deterred I ask, “Is that painted baseboards and how wide would the baseboards be?”

“They wouldn’t be painted and 4 inches wide,” he paused and said, “I could throw in 5 inch baseboards.”

“5 inch baseboard,” I gasped, “How wide is 5 inches!!!” I asked incredulously.

It wasn’t lost on him. He smirked, did his best not to laugh out loud and walked over to the wall and said, “I’ll show you 5 inches….”

And I was pretty sure he just might.

Now you may think this is the end of the story but it’s really only the beginning. There may not really ever be a worthy ending, but there certainly is a hilarious middle.

Another post for another day.

For now I must go pick up my 4 1/2 inch wide German engineered plank flooring from the other man I actually purchased from. As for promised 5 inch baseboards, I am holding out for 6, 7, 8.