I am innocent…

salem

Last weekend was my daughter’s 21st birthday trip. I had offered to take her on a trip somewhere fun…you know, like Vegas, New York, or New Orleans. Nope. Not my kid. She wanted to go to Salem (Massachusetts, outside of Boston). Even the customs official on the way home thought that was weird.

She wanted to go because I’ve been there a few times before, as has my best friend. My daughter is also the one who goes to all those scary Halloween Haunt things, so it kinda makes sense. Fun girls road trip!

Birthday trips aren’t supposed to be educational, but I think she learned some things while we were there. Between psychic readings, souvenir shopping at the “Harry Potter” stores (Remembering Salem and Wynott’s), and the pirate museum.

I think it’s a fascinating period in Puritan history, but my daughter didn’t know why Salem is filled with all kinds of witchy stuff. It’s where the Witch Trials of 1692-93 took place.

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It’s great when places bring history alive, and at the Witch Dungeon we heard the story about two young sisters who were messing around with a fortune telling game. You can imagine that this would be bad for the girls if they were caught. The younger of the two saw something completely terrifying, and immediately went into a state of shock. She couldn’t move. Their parents called the doctor, who couldn’t explain her condition, except to say she must have been bewitched.

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The little girl was sent away, and later came out of it. It was Puritan Massachusetts, with a lot of rules, and very little excitement. Mass hysteria ensued. The rest of the girls in Salem wanted the same kind of fuss made over them, and mimicked the same “symptoms”. Things like this don’t just happen. Someone had to be responsible. Picture a Jamaican immigrant named Tituba, a healer who also practised voodoo, working in one of the girls’ homes. Her husband made “witch cakes” for the girls. Four years earlier a woman named Goody Glover had admitted to afflicting children. Maybe it was still fresh in their minds as a valid explanation.

Over the 18 months the witch trials took place, 150 people were imprisoned (until the prison was at capacity),  19 were hanged on Gallows Hill, and one man was pressed to death.

Why some were accused:

  • Pipe-smoking beggar woman
  • Being an aged cripple
  • The neighbour got sick and died
  • Selling to the natives
  • Stepping in a mud puddle, without getting wet
  • A child said so

We had an evening tour on the anniversary of Bridget Bishop’s hanging. Sure, it’s a little creepy standing at the witch memorial on that exact day. Because they were prosecuted and executed as witches, no one knows exactly where these people were actually buried. There are stones like this to remember each of them outside of Burying Point, Salem’s oldest cemetery.

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When you know the history of the trials, the memorial is a quiet place of community and reflection. It always makes me sad.

Maybe it’s because of recent events.

Maybe it’s because they didn’t have to die.

Maybe it’s because had my daughter, my friend and I lived during that time, we would have been accused too.

…or maybe it’s because, ultimately… we are scared of the things we don’t understand.

 

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Ich bin ein Berliner…

Well, actually no I’m not from Berlin. But I am going there, again. This will be my third time there. Vacation is booked for April. Yes, prepare yourselves for future touristy photos!

It will be my son’s 18th birthday, so we’re going on a mother/son trip. He’s never been to Germany, so I get to play tour guide. I’m so excited!! Flights, hotel and even the local transit cards are booked.

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Berlin Wall 1987
The last time I was in Berlin was in 1990. It was also the year the wall came down. I had been working in Flensburg that summer, visiting family on weekends. When the work contract was done my aunt and uncle asked me where I would like to go. There were only two places were on my list, Lübeck (home of Niederegger marzipan, which is AMAZING!), and Berlin. I wanted to see the difference from when I was there three years before.

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Berlin Wall 1987
We went for a walkabout, and I still remember my uncle saying, “stop, stop!” and how much it confused me. “Look down,” he said. I happened to be standing exactly where the wall had once been. Goosebumps!

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(not the happiest of faces, probably because of the bad hair)
After the wall came down there were, of course, the usual complaints about how the governments of both halves of the country managed the reintegration of citizens. Families were reunited after decades of separation.

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Berlin Wall 1990
I didn’t find out until years later that our family roots (on my mother’s side) were from an area that became East Germany.

Berlin is a city that is absolutely rich in history. Founded in 1237, it became the capital of Prussia in 1701, the German Empire in 1871, then the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. The city was divided by the Allies (USA, UK and France) and the Soviet Union under the London Protocol of 1944. East Berlin belonged entirely to the Soviets. It was too difficult to maintain West Berlin as the capital under a rotating Allied government and surrounded by Soviet territory, so West Germany’s capital was moved to Bonn in 1949. The nation’s capital unified again in Berlin in 1990.

In 1963 Kennedy gave a speech on a platform in front of 450,000 people:

“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!”… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

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Source: findingdulcinea.com
I want to give that sense of deep culture to my son. He’s been to Montreal and parts of the U.K. Now it’s time for Germany.

Maybe he’ll become a Berliner too.

I love Paper Planes…

I seem to know some really talented people. Friends I’ve made at school, at work, and believe it or not, on the train. I like to support my local musical friends, going to gigs when I can, clapping, and whooping my head off.

Then there’s one I can’t do that for. I can show my support by spreading the word. I’m so sneaky, she doesn’t even know I’m doing this.

My best friend has musicians in her family, particularly one beyond talented cousin from Liverpool. Shannen Bamford. This is “Left Behind” on YouTube: http://youtu.be/q5lU1XpqXqI. I caught myself humming this the other day, and thought this would be a nice post.

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Source: liverpoolacoustic.co.uk

Shannen has more talent in her pinky finger than most people in their entire bodies after years of playing music (my other friends excluded, because they’re damn talented too).

Two years ago she put out an EP, which became my relax and unwind jam. She has this hauntingly beautiful voice. Let me make it easy for you, you can download it here: https://itun.es/ca/hWZiM

The CD release happened while my bestie was visiting the UK. Shannen wrote a sweet personal note to go with the copy my friend brought back for me. Did I mention she was 20 that summer?

She’s played at music festivals and around the local establishments in Liverpool. She gets written about all the time, last time in November: http://www.liverpoolsoundandvision.co.uk/2015/11/07/shannen-bamford-gig-review-studio-2-liverpool/

I’d like to see her play to adoring fans in Toronto. I even have guitars she can borrow so she doesn’t need to trust hers to the airlines. Heck, I’d like to sing and strum along with her. Maybe tweet Shannen and ask her to come play here.

I’m just tickled that she made the trek to Canada for a visit with family over the holidays. How many times do you get to say, “yeah, I listen to her all the time, and I had lunch with her!”

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(not the best pic of me, but isn’t she a sweetie?)

 

 

Where are you Christmas…?

Is it just me?

I’ve been having such a hard time finding my Christmas spirit this year. Maybe it’s work stress, or the pushy people shopping, or that this was always Mom’s holiday and she isn’t here again. I don’t know. I’ve been looking for it everywhere.

We decided not to put up the Christmas tree until the 23rd. Okay, not because we lack the holiday vibe, but because Stitch (otherwise known as “the damn cat”) will only try climbing it and knocking all the ornaments off it…again.

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This isn’t him, but you get the idea.

We’ve never put lights on the outside of the house either. They’d look really pretty, especially with a light dusting of snow, but then I think of the hydro bill and shudder. So instead, I rely on the neighbours down the street. They have holiday spirit, and decorations, to spare. You can’t hear it, but the house on the left has music.

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I will say this. I almost finished my shopping and the stocking stuffers last week. One last thing to pick up for my son and I’ll be done. I had enough energy afterwards to wrap for 3.5 hours. Mission accomplished. Stocking stuffers did however need somewhere to go. My daughter’s boyfriend didn’t have a stocking at our house last year. We don’t want him to feel left out. He’s been around for a couple years, so he’s become part of the family.

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We don’t have a fireplace, so I put four nails in the hallway outside the kitchen. Yes, that is spackling hiding behind them. I’m getting ready to paint, don’t judge.

Why do people hang the stockings on the mantle anyway? Granted, Santa comes down the chimney so it’s convenient to have them right there, but if you light the fireplace, all the tasty chocolate inside would melt. I like my solution better.

I found something that finally made me smile about the entire holiday ordeal.

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It’s a bit of childhood nostalgia, but the Abominable, “Bumble”, was always my favourite. I miss the days of settling on the couch with my mom to watch the old Christmas specials. The old stop animation with Burl Ives as snowman narrator. Maybe the holiday spirit can be found again on the island of misfit toys. We all want someone to love, and somewhere to belong.

There were two packages at the office when I got there today. My aunt had emailed that there were two on their way, with a reminder not to open them until Christmas. It was tempting, let me tell you. The one for my kids I wouldn’t dream of opening. I can’t wait for them to see they have mail from Germany for Christmas. Growing up that was the best part. Mail from grandparents, and aunts and uncles, that we knew would have chocolate of some sort in it. There’s something about the wrapping paper too. It’s thinner, and even feels different. Special. Doesn’t even matter what the package contains. It’s the fact that somewhere out there, someone thinks and cares about you.

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Maybe I found my Christmas spirit after all. It was in a reminder of when I was little, and that it was always family that made the holidays special.

I’ll be with my kids, my daughter’s boyfriend, my brother and Dad on Christmas Eve. We have loved ones both near and far, and that’s what matters.

…and then knit happens…

Pardon me dear readers, it has been three weeks since my last post….or something like that. I have a good reason, as I’ve been quite ill. Back on track though!

After a couple of weeks of suffering I managed to get my fanny out of the house to go to the Port Perry Christmas Craft Show, to visit my daughter who was exhibiting.

Craft shows always end up only giving me more DIY ideas, and this one was no exception. I really think I need a Christmas ornament made of a cross section of birch tree that says, “everyone thinks I’m nice until they watch hockey with me.”

I digress. I was there to see my daughter. It was her first craft show ever, so all things considered it went really well.

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Cowls (infinity scarves like the one she’s wearing), dishcloths and cup coozies were on display. She shared a table with her boyfriend’s aunt Karen, who makes these adorable little wood ornaments.

Since there’s still time to get orders in and made before Christmas, I’m sharing the Facebook page (KnitHappens95) and email (knit.happens@outlook.com) again. You know you want a pair of these…

knit-happens-2015

My son looks like Norman Bates, should I be worried?

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I just binge watched Bates Motel. All seasons. It creeped me out. Yes, because of the storyline, but more so, because every time I looked at Freddie Highmore on my screen, I see my son.

Okay, so we’re clear, my son and I do not have some weird Norman/Norma Bates relationship. He sleeps in his own room, thank you very much.

It’s more so in the sullen facial expressions, and the way Norman moves.

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It doesn’t hurt that they’re both tall and slim, and have similar fashion tastes (bow ties and all). They even have similar hair. My friends don’t see it, but my son himself does. He then gives me that Norman Bates blackout stare.

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Thanksgiving, and cutting the neck skin off the turkey, did point out one huge difference. My son was revolted, so taxidermy won’t be in his future.

Guess I don’t need to be that worried after all…

I am thankful for…

epicurious.com

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

I truly wish that this holiday was as relaxing and perfect in reality as it is in my head when I am planning it. I wish that my turkey, potatos, stuffing and gravy turned out as well as it looks in the header picture. I wish that we had that Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, where everyone sitting around the table shares in one sentence what they are most thankful for this year.

rockwell-freedom-from-want

Then there’s the reality. More like a National Lampoon’s Thanksgiving, with lots of “that’s what she said” jokes, discussions of bodily functions, and playing with food. Anyone ever notice that a dinner roll looks like a little bum? Maybe that’s what happens when there aren’t enough adult referees.

Oddly, I didn’t feel like I was slaving away with very little reward this year. Maybe because it wasn’t really about the food, it was just appreciating time with the hooligans. Families don’t sit down at the table together any more. Everyone is in too much of a hurry, eating on the run, working, or eating in front of the TV or laptop.

The turkey really did turn out like the picture, the gravy was perfect. We used my mother’s good dishes, and I didn’t stress about not having matching bowls for everything. I only burnt my arm once.

So we didn’t go around the table and share what we’re most thankful for this year. We have our health, home, food on the table, and each other. Even Tucker enjoyed a plate. We’re thankful for him too.

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Maybe there should be Thanksgiving Awards. The winner shall be embarrassed by having their behaviour posted online for all to see. This year’s winner at our dinner table was my daughter, with the twerking dinner roll.

Can’t be any worse at your house, right?

Knit Happens…

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My daughter is just like me. Kind of a loaded statement, but for the purposes of this blog post it is quite innocent.

She’s crafty. Also a loaded statement, but true. She knits, and crochets.

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A couple months ago she started “Knit Happens”, custom wool wares.  She’s made baby blankets, hat and bootie sets, socks, sweaters, hats and scarves, mittens. Actually, there was a homeless guy behind her apartment building in Peterborough (that town with all the old record shops). To keep him warm in the winter she made hat, scarf, mitts and socks for him. Homemade goods show people they care. Anyway, I digress.

On November 28th, she’ll be taking Knit Happens to the Port Perry High School Christmas Craft Show. She is sharing a table with her boyfriend’s aunt (who will be selling some wood items). The high school does this every year as a fundraiser for their music department, to buy new instruments, upgrade old ones or for special workshop for the students. It’s art helping art.

Ever wonder what it looks like when someone is getting ready for a craft show? Look no further. This is just a very small portion of the supplies.

knit-happens

All of this will be turned into cowls, slippers, washcloths and mug sweaters (mugs like to stay warm too). Pictures of the finished projects will appear once I’ve gone to the craft show, or as my daughter starts posting them on her page, but you can email requests any time! Just write to knit.happens@outlook.com.

If you’d like more information, you can visit Knit Happens or the Port Perry High page on Facebook. If you’re in the area, or know someone who is, be sure to stop by!

I was wrong…

I was wrong.

There, I said it, and it will likely never happen again. I always thought that I inherited my strength from my mother and grandmother. Turns out, it wasn’t just them.

I’ve been a single Mom of two “kids” (kids, as they are 20 and 17 now) since my son was 8 months old. My mother raised two on her own. My grandmother raised three on her own after WWII. You see the pattern and why I have had the belief I did. They were role models. If they can do it, so can I. Certainly, my situation was never in my wildest nightmares as bad as my grandmother raising three little ones post-war. It’s just unfathomable.

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Oma Annemarie, 1990

My Oma Annemarie (Mom’s mother). My fondest memories of her always seem to involve cake, knitting, or a bit of adventure. Maybe that’s just what grandmothers are supposed to do; stuff your face with sweets, make things for you, or go fun places with you. She made that feel special. Of course, there was the time she told me no way would I be able to finish even a single piece of cake at this bakery in Schneverdingen (Germany), and promptly ordered two pieces for herself. Yes, she finished them, and they were huge.

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Oma and children, maybe 1945

My grandfather passed away a few days after his 37th birthday, in 1948. He had pretty much just made it back home (he was a PoW in the U.S.) when he got sick.  A year later he was gone, and my grandmother was left with three children on her own. My aunt was 9, my uncle 7, and my mother just 6 years old. My Mom’s parents had an unbelievable love for each other. Oma never remarried.

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Mom 1971

My Mom. She was the most kind-hearted, loving and cheeky person I know. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how she ever survived our teenage years. Okay, my teenage years. I wasn’t horrible to her, just played a lot of pranks. Whenever I think I shouldn’t bother trying something new, I think of her learning to downhill ski in her 50’s. Mom was daring.

She was everyone’s rock. Mine, my brother’s, my friends’, and later my stepdad’s. Our house always seemed to have an open door and all were welcome.

I like it when my brother tells me I’m just like her, though I sometimes wonder how I’ll live up to her memory.

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Me, with Anne (and her husband) August 2015

My aunt Anne (Mom’s sister). She is one of the most thoughtful and caring people I know. She isn’t daring like my mother, but you’ll never meet a more genuinely nice person. Everyone has their own burdens to bear, and for my aunt, it’s her health. Put one foot out of bed after the other in the morning, continue to breathe, muster through and don’t let any of it get you down.

And above all else, don’t let anything change the way you treat other people, with dignity and respect.

Last month I went to visit family in Germany, that I haven’t seen in 25 years. The trip was too short, but oh I learned so much! I heard some stories about the other side of my family, some things I knew, and others that were eye-opening.

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Me, with Anke, 1990

My aunt Anke (Dad’s twin sister). I don’t think anyone else I know has been plagued with her maladies.  Another aunt who continued to march on, despite the mental torment she was experiencing. She always had a ready smile, incredible imagination, shared my love of reading, and let’s be honest here, creating all sorts of mischief. I think she may be the reason I have always had a black cat.

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Me, with Doerte, August 2015

My aunt Doerte (Dad’s sister). My aunt is a feisty, sarcastic being, just like myself. She’s awesome. I wish more than anything that we could get the last 25 years back. Alone with her husband, she carried the burden of caring for her sister. I love my brother dearly, but I know I’m selfish and couldn’t possible do what she did. I know my limits.

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Oma Rosalie 1971

My Oma Rosalie (Dad’s mother). This is where things get interesting, the things you learn when you spend time actually listening.

It’s always hush-hush, but in every family there are those nasty little secrets that eventually do come out. My grandfather is “rumoured” to have had an affair for years with a woman he knew through an association he was a member of. He traveled a lot, and left my grandmother alone with very little money and four children. I wish I had known this grandmother as well as I knew the other one.

The few times I spent with her (which wasn’t often given that we were on opposite sides of the ocean) she was always very quiet. Maybe because my brother and I were slightly exuberant children. As an adult, I now find respect for the Oma I didn’t really know. There was enormous strength in her quiet and infinite tolerance.

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Oma with grandchildren, 1960

My great grandmother Anna (Dad’s grandmother). I have another picture of my great grandmother, though it isn’t as flattering. It was the one photo I had until last month’s visit. Because of that, I always thought she was an angry old lady. The photos I have seen since, she has the most striking smile, always surrounded by family, her children or her grandchildren (pictured above, my uncle, his wife, and Doerte and Anke). During this visit my aunt gave me some old family documents, including my great grandfather’s death certificate, dated 1914. They had six living children, of which my grandfather was the baby.

I told my aunt that I always had the misconception that I only got my inner strength from my mother, and her mother. Looking at the women in my family and discovered I have strong female roots on both sides. My heart swells with pride that THIS is where I come from. They are my family.

Wonder if stubborn determination, mischief making, and sarcasm are genetic? It would certainly explain a lot….