Was I born on the wrong continent?

I was born to European parents who immigrated to Canada and they raised my siblings and I with European customs, traditions, and foods. Settling in a major city, as many immigrants did, it was easy to maintain their European way of life. Ethnic foods were easy to find, as were the social clubs and organizations that made Europeans feel at home. They created their own ‘little Europe’.

My husband and I relocated 17 years ago, to Canada’s east coast where the population is substantially smaller, and diversity almost nonexistent, so finding the foods that were familiar to me was difficult and sometimes impossible. I didn’t appreciate my European connection until I lost it and I often wonder if I wasn’t meant to live in Europe. Could it be I was born on the wrong continent?

It’s funny, as a young girl in school I shunned my European heritage, I just wanted to fit in – to be like the other girls, but I, like other immigrant children, was different. Our names weren’t as simple as “Smith” or “Jones”, our parents all had heavy accents; many spoke no English at all and our food was very different. When the other kids at school ate peanut butter sandwiches on white bread with chocolate milk, I had liverwurst on rye and a thermos of buttermilk.

Christmas Eve was the holiday of celebration – we ate raw pickled herring, and while we did observe the Christmas tree, the hanging of stockings for Santa to fill was not a familiar custom. We embraced Thanksgiving more because the ‘harvest time’ was universal, nothing to do with any Pilgrims, and Halloween was foreign to us. Social gatherings always included homemade hooch, an abundance of cake, and an accordion, and they invariable ended with everyone breaking into song (ethnic song)

So fitting in for all immigrants was (and still is) a challenge and the creation of their own little communities is how they stay true to their roots. I miss my rye bread, plain sour yogurt, and traditional ethnic foods. I miss the folk dance. I miss the language. I miss the music. I even miss the accordion blasting out a foot stomping polka. As a kid I used to cringe when my father pulled out his accordion to play for my friends – it was so ‘ethnic’, and I didn’t want it then.

Funny how as we age, we return to our roots. Suddenly those very customs that made me feel embarrassed are a source of pride now. I have searched out where to find a good European rye and in the last few years my local grocery store started importing liverwurst and European salami. (could our numbers be growing?) I’ve learned to cook my favourite ethnic foods and thanks to the internet I can download international music whenever I need to reconnect to my people.

I have a stronger respect for all immigrants. They left behind all that was familiar and comfortable and if I, a first generation nonimmigrant, can feel the longing for the homeland I do, I can only imagine the void they must feel. When I find myself questioning whether I was born in the right place, I need only look around to see the growing faces of change, and I feel the connection. Home is here.

Diversity is a wonderful thing and we are so blessed to be in a country that supports and encourages it.

folk dancers


I had a sinus cold recently and went to my local drug store for a decongestant. The pharmacist, kindly offering to assist, inquired as to any medications I might be taking before making her recommendation. I told her I take daily medication for high blood pressure and she advised that the only decongestant I could take, that wouldn’t conflict with my medication, was a nasal spray.

That surprised me because I’ve taken oral decongestants in the past and no one ever told me it could spike my blood pressure, so I bought it, but I wasn’t too excited at the prospect of shoving something up my nose. She also mentioned that nasal sprays can be highly addictive and advised I should only use it for 3 days at a time. (Wow, addiction to a nasal spray, really? Weird!)

I waited a few days hoping my cold would improve but it didn’t so I stood in the bathroom, spray at the ready. Following the instructions, I tilted my head back, rammed it up my nose and gave it 3 good squirts. Then I gagged. This was really gross but I was halfway there so I repeated the process on the other side. Then I gagged some more. (Ok, people get ‘addicted’ to this,,,are you kidding me? It’d be like an addiction to an enema!) Who comes up with this stuff? (And who would like it enough to become addicted? Jeeez!)

It got me to thinking about medication in general and I suppose I’m lucky I don’t have any illnesses that require the consistent administering of drugs. People with diabetes have to prick their finger to test their sugars, and/or inject themselves regularly with insulin (now personally, I’d sooner take an injection before I cram something up my nasal cavity again!) but where it’s a part of their daily routine, I guess they simply learn to live with it, and its’ side effects. I suspect bruising would be an issue but that’s a small price to pay for good health. Do they suffer any other ill effects?

You see ads on tv all the time for a new drug. This wonder drug will stop heartburn in its’ tracks BUT the side effects are headache, nausea, diarrhea, heart palpitations, swelling of the glands, muscle spasms, stomach cramps, hair loss, insomnia, loss of appetite, and in rare cases possible stroke and/or sudden death. (Wow. Wouldn’t it be better to just drink a glass of club soda and let out a good belch?) You’ll note most of these drugs, when Googled, are not yet approved for general use by the FDA, so it’s baffling that they would be made available to the public, but they are, as long as they list the potential side effects. (Who takes the time to read those risks?)

Even ‘approved’ medications come with issues. Many antibiotics cause allergic reactions, rash, and/or stomach discomfort, but when you have an infection, they’re your only choice. For those with more serious illness and where so many medications are largely chemical, it’s easy to see where our bodies would or could, react negatively to them. We weren’t designed to ingest chemicals. On the other hand, look at how much longer we’re living? We can keep people living longer on pills, pipes, and hoses, but is it worth it?

I think it’s safe to say that natural remedies, where possible, are your best bet. If you have diarrhea, eat a block of cheese. Constipated? Eat prunes. Flu? Rest. Head cold? Get a vaporizer, drink lots of fluids, and rest. Got pain? Pop a couple of generic pain relievers and get a heating pad. In short, stop whining already, cause if these are the only ailments you have to contend with, you’re lucky. Those suffering with serious illness have no choice but to take medications that will, on one hand, save their life, but on the other, potentially compromise the quality of it.

I consider myself lucky to have good health and I try to avoid taking medications unless absolutely necessary. You might say I’m drug averse. I’m also a wimp, so I poured that nasal spray down the drain and bought myself the oral decongestant. It’s worth a slight spike in my blood pressure to keep foreign objects out of my nasal cavity!


Never judge a book by its’ cover

People aren’t always what they seem at least not by the expression on their face. I had a neighbor many years ago, a lovely young woman whose natural facial expression was always a frown, but the minute you engaged her attention, her face lit up with warmth and sincerity. She didn’t seem to realize that her unconscious expression was a deterrent, i.e a frown, and I wonder how many people she may have unintentionally put off.

I guess we’re all so busy with our lives and worries we don’t notice that we’re wearing our innermost emotions on our faces. Rarely do you see strangers walking about with a smile plastered on their face, but when you do (and it’s rare) you can’t help but smile back. (or you think they’re nuts)

It’s so easy to judge another by their facial expression; judging the book by it’s cover, but is it a fair representation of the individuals character? Not likely. For that matter, have you ever caught yourself in a mirror, unaware? And if you have, were you pleased with the expression you portrayed? Probably not. So is it safe to assume that we are all guilty of judging the book by its’ cover? Probably.

Ok, so where do we go from here?

If we force a smile on our faces and plow through the streets of society we’ll probably end up in a looney house so I guess it’s not as superficial as our ‘expression’. What we need to focus on visually, is what’s behind the expression. Read between the lines.

The seemingly oblivious mother whose children are running wild on the bus may be struggling with financial woes, a sick parent, spouse, or child. She may well be an irresponsible parent who cares not for her children’s behavior, but that’s unlikely.

The sullen teen who glares at the mere mention of authority, or rolls their eyes at any and all offers of conversation. Maybe they’re struggling with peer pressure, family issues, bullying, or self-esteem.

The enraged driver who steps out of his vehicle just itching for a fight after you accidently rear ended him. Is it really the fender bender than made him lose it, or maybe job stress, marital issues, money trouble?

Whatever causes the expression of the moment, you can bet it’s not the true essence of the person. It’s the passion of the mindset at that moment; the straw that broke the camels’ back, the final blow that pushed them over the edge, and it is not the true character of the individual. (we have to believe that, otherwise we’re no better than animals)

So how do we deal with it?

The indifferent mother, the teen oozing attitude, the irate driver – they all have internal struggles, and we can react with like behavior, or we can look beyond the cover to see who they really are. Someone has to be the bigger person in these situations and at some point we will all experience both roles because we are so very human and vulnerable to human emotion, even when it’s irrational. Taking the higher road will gently prod the aggressor to look within, re-evaluate their behavior, and if they’re still of reasonable mind they’ll likely be somewhat embarrassed. They may even be startled by your rational reaction to their aggression because they would be expecting like behavior – you now have their attention, and very likely their respect.

Occasionally the aggressor might be so aggravated that they are beyond reason and any attempts to pacify them will only fuel their fire. In this case you can only accept that you cannot diffuse this situation and you’re best to remove yourself (run like hell!) It’s not easy to turn the other cheek but it’s the only way to ensure that our civilized society remains civilized.

And above all else, don’t judge the book by its’ cover, because behind that cover is someone just like you who doesn’t want to be misunderstood.


Dont judge a book

The wonder of you…..and me!

As humble humans we find it difficult to blow our own horn and yet we have no problem listing our faults. Every now and then we meet someone who’s so high on themselves we have to step back and marvel at their sheer audacity…..or is it confidence? We all ride the hills and valleys of life basking in the highs, when they come, and wallowing in the lows, usually unaware of what brought either on. And if there’s one thing we all do excessively well, it’s beat ourselves up. We are our biggest critics.

I recently determined to make a list of my strengths and weaknesses, just to test the theory of ‘humble’ human behavior and I was struck first by how short my ‘strengths’ list was compared to my list of weaknesses (which by the way is still in progress) and secondly, by the severity of my self-criticisms. (I’m a lot meaner than I thought)

Weaknesses – I have short legs, thick ankles, an unhealthy fondness for wine and salty food, a tendency to ‘speak my mind’, a fashion sense I’m told borders on ‘risky’, a quick temper, and painfully straight hair. I ride my kids too hard, nag my husband, judge too harshly, act impulsively, spend too much (ok, this was my husbands addition, not mine), demand too much of others, and over react in too many situations. Wow! What a mess! Can this be fixed? (maybe you should just shoot me)

Strengths – I don’t bite my nails, smoke, or eat spicy food (and yes, I consider that a strength cause eating spicy food is just a cop out for avoiding healthy food!) I recycle religiously, brush my teeth AND floss every day- twice, and cross only at designated cross walks. (what’s not to love?)

Ok, this is way harder than I thought! I decided it was time to cut myself some slack so I reviewed both lists and clearly modifications were in order.

Thanks to my short legs I can comfortably fit in the back seat of most cars. Strength.

Thick ankles just means I can’t wear anklets – there’s money saved on jewelry for my legs. Strength.

There is medical proof that red wine is actual healthy for the heart (ok, one 4oz glass a day is recommended for optimal heart health…..perhaps I take that one 6oz glass further to maximize on my cardiovascular well-being) Salt is the flavor of all food (and without it we’d all be reduced to eating tasteless, grainy mush, aka a vegan diet) Besides, salt makes me thirsty, which prompts the consumption of my heart-healthy wine (I’m nothing if not diligent about maintaining a healthy diet) Strength.

Speaking one’s mind is honest and forthright. It lets people know where you stand (whether they like it or not) and sets boundaries for how you expect others to treat you. Not always popular, but not necessarily a weakness. Strength.

A risky fashion sense just tells the world that you’re confident about how you present yourself. I like ‘fitted’ clothes. I like bright colour, and I wear both liberally. If you want to drape yourself in drab, over-sized, dowdy clothing, go ahead. It’ll just make me stand out that much more and I’m ok with that. Strength.

A quick temper…..ok, maybe it’s hereditary.

Painfully straight hair. I have made it a mission to employ a hairdresser that is discreet and does whatever is necessary to give the illusion of curl. Failing that, I just wear hats. Neutral. (I was born this way,,,,this is Gods’ fault)

That I ride my kids too hard, nag my husband, judge too harshly, act impulsively, spend too much and demand too much of others,,,, what can I say except, YOU’RE WELCOME! (I made you stronger, wiser, tolerant and more efficient. You are able to cope in this world of misfits because of me!) Strength.

Add these ‘revised’ weaknesses to my list of attributes and whoa!!!!! I’m a force to be reckoned with! (don’t mess with me)

So you see, it all comes down to perception. Those traits in my character that I perceived to be weaknesses are actually strengths (when you put a positive spin on them) That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, and I highly recommend that you do the same. If you’re anything like me, your list of weaknesses greatly outweighs your list of strengths and that just undermines your confidence. We are, in short, our own worst judges.

Accept that you are what you are. We all have strengths – we all have weaknesses. And if you weigh the impact of each you may be surprised to see that your influence in this world is much better than you could’ve imagined, and the older you get, the better you look. (or at least, the more you can get away with it)

So the next time you see someone blowing their own horn, stand up, applaud, (cause it should be you) and follow their lead. You are amazing!

you rock you rule