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I was 14, he was 15. The very first day we met, he kissed my hand, very Cinderella style. Little did he know he was kissing the hand of a hopeless dreamer. An incurable romantic. A girl who, even at 14, had learned how to exit the world of her reality and dwell in the world of books, movies, plays and music. My fantasy world was the real one in which I dwelt and the reality of school and homework and parents and such were just the nuisance that had to be endured between escapisms.
Our first date. How ironic it was to a movie. Escapism please!
We went to see The Little Mermaid. When it was first released to theatres (am I dating myself, much?). The song “kiss the girl” was the backdrop to our first kiss. He with his towering height and me with my fantasies and already I had us married off with kids and living in a far away land.
Cut to now, and we’re married with kids and moved provinces, so in a way, my 14 year old dream came true.
My number is inverted now. I’m 41. I still use books and movies and plays and music as a way to leave the trappings of the adult world, a world VASTLY more disappointing than I was led to believe as a child. Sure, I can eat what I want and go to bed when I want, but I also pay taxes and clean and raise children and have a job. But I have my dreams. Tucked away where I can call upon them when needed. I still read books and fall in love with the mythical worlds weaved for me. I even write books where I can bend the fantasy to my own will and whimsy. Songs still transport me and movies are where I give over my heart and soul to be drawn into another place and time.
So, it’s no surprise that when the live action Beauty and the Beast was announced that I immediately professed that I would not only see this in theatre, but that we would all go, husband, wife and the three children still remaining at home. No one minded. When your mother is a dreamer, she tends to influence her children.
The day approached and the closer we got, the more excited we became. The kids would frequently play the trailers on the internet and I, the eternal crier, would more often than not, feel my eyes growing hot with anticipation.

On Sunday we crammed our five adult forms into the car and drove to the theatre where Belle awaited. As we sat in a row at the back of the theatre, I leaned over to my husband and whispered “I love that 22 years of marriage later, you’re still taking me to Disney movies. Only now we bring our children.” He tried to pretend like that didn’t make him “catch the feels” too, but I know it did. He has been much more sentimental since his heart attacks.
The show started and transported is exactly what we were. My youngest, the 15 year old, 6’2 man-child sitting beside me, spent the entire show holding my hand, or laying his head on my shoulder, or hugging me. My girls sat at the end silently letting tears fall. The movie was perfection. It should be held up as an example of how to bring a beloved animation to live action. I won`t go into the details of the myriad of ways I loved it, because this post would simply be too long.
It was beautiful visually, artistically, musically and in it`s composition. The casting was perfect and I truly wanted to step through that screen and into Belle`s world.
We left the theatre that evening to go home to the world that we built. It`s warm, inviting and loving. It`s full of laughter, and yes, sometimes tears. Usually mine. It`s teenagers and adult children who still hug their parents. It`s kids who were brought up to love and to treat people with kindness and dignity and inclusion. With all the mistakes and pitfalls I’ve taken in my life, it`s my deepest source of pride to see the family that we built and what we`ve built it into. Even with my love for escaping through books and music and movies and plays, it’s still that Prince Charming of mine that I come back to.

And he still kisses my hand.

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If you are my friend on facebook you saw me post this song this week and mention that I have watched it about eleventy-billion times. Watch it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
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Wasn’t that beautiful???

And here is why I love it so much.

A few weeks back I wrote a post called Women in Masks. In it I talked about the masks we wear as women to fit ourselves into a given situation or the company of specific people. Men will never understand this about women. How fluid we are, how ever-changing and just how little of ourselves we allow to the surface. We’d much rather show you the face that fits the situation.

Well. Earlier this week a girlfriend of mine posted this song to a group I’m in and I was hooked. I can’t get it out of my head. Because basically it’s a love letter to herself. And she talks about all the same points I was trying to make in my post.

“She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies.
She is hard on herself.
She is broken but won’t ask for help.
She is messy but she’s kind.
She is lonely most of the time.
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie.
She is gone but she used to be mine.”

Someone I know, near and dear to me, read my post about women in masks and immediately got worried. Because he thought it was some kind of cry for help, when really, it was more of a cry of female solidarity. I had SO MANY positive reactions to it from women I know. Messages on Facebook and text messages from girlfriends. Because they knew what I was talking about. But I was hard pressed to explain it to the man who asked about it. And then I heard this song. And I can’t wait to play it for him.

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Over the years that I’ve had this blog, I’ve talked about music often. While I am not much of a ‘player’ when it comes to instruments, it was not for lack of trying on the part of my parents when I was younger. I was put into piano lessons and then guitar lessons. I did better at guitar than I did with piano and even became proficient enough for a while that I played at school and sometimes even with the church band on Sundays. But, then of course came high school and suddenly I was “too cool” to play anymore. However, my love of singing did not wane and I joined the choir in both my first high school and then the second school I attended after a transfer.
I loved choir. I loved that our music teacher was so into the music she taught us, often getting very animated as she directed and conducted us. I took vocal music class as well, an option that sadly no longer seems to be a choice in the high school curriculum.

After high school I was married and busily raising children but still, music played a huge role in our lives. I sang to the kids all the time. When I was in a good mood, I played music. When I was in a bad mood, I played music. When I was sad I had my go-to sad songs to listen to and when I was cleaning my house and feeling funky, I blasted the Billy Joel and danced around with the broom. My kids grew up as I did; in a house whose very walls vibrated with sound.

I didn’t discriminate either. In my house you will hear everything from classical to Cole Porter, from Opera to Ozzy, from the Dixie Chicks to Pop to Rock to Classics to Oldies. And Broadway, oh especially Broadway. In our house the Tony’s are just as important a night to watch as are the Oscars.

I have five children. I suppose a part of me always hoped that a couple of them would be musical. But while I had the options of piano and guitar as something I could learn in grade school, AT grade school, my kids grew up with once a week playing the recorder in grade school. A painful instrument to listen to the early stages of five times over. Then middle school, where two of my kids were assigned the baritone. THE BARITONE! That huge hulking instrument to twelve year old kids with scrawny arms, home and trying to make more than just deep fart sounds. For those two kids, the idea of playing an instrument was drowned out of them by the baritone. If the onerous responsibility of lugging it back and forth to school and then home again weren’t enough, they just couldn’t ‘hear’ the musicality of it through the school program and so quickly lost interest.

And then my daughter, my fourth child. She was given a flute. I can’t remember which heavenly teacher I have to thank for that. Small, easy to carry, and a delightful instrument. She of course also struggled with it at first, but, notes were played. MUSIC was heard. And that piqued her interest enough to pay it some attention. She practiced. She got better. And then she got very good.

My youngest child flirted with guitar briefly but his attention and interest had always been more on the technical and on video games and so guitar quickly went the way of the baritone…left aside for other pursuits.

But Kathryn. Of all my five children she is my musical one. She plays flute beautifully now. She also plays piano and violin. She wants a cello (not in my budget) and she wants access to ALL the sheet music. I mean all of it. Like me, her tastes in music vary immensely.

I work part time at a music lesson business. Every day I see kids and adults come in eager to play an instrument, or take vocal lessons. I can always tell the ones whose love for music has truly taken hold. They have a sparkle in their eye. They talk constantly about what they are learning and what they are working on and what they WANT to learn next and they revere their teachers with awe and love. It’s an amazing thing to see. They never sit and hang their heads, intent on a game on a device until they are dragged into a lesson room by a parent, who then bemoans to me their lack of practice.

However, be they happy invested student or reluctant one who has yet to find their passion in music, one thing seems to be constant. When the lesson is over and that same student comes down stairs and back into reception, they are happy. There is a bounce in their step and a glint in their eye. Music does something to people. It changes them. It impacts them. It absolutely affects mood.

I love music. It gets into my soul. It moves me and changes me and helps me calm down when I’m stressed. It is absolutely the background of my life and sometimes, briefly, it takes the foreground.
It’s so important to take the time for music. Don’t just listen to the local pop station and actively ignore music in your life, try to remember the first songs you ever heard, or remember what music played during a favourite scene of a favourite movie. Get on YouTube and search out more about artists you like but maybe don’t know a lot about. Listen to Opera. Listen to Classical music. Close your eyes and give yourself over to the sound. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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I have a hard core love of reading. It’s been going on now for 36 years, since I first consciously remember picking up and pouring over picture books lying on my tummy in the living room of my house. I can even remember which books were my favourites then. Because books leave imprints on me. And the ones I love, I love forever.

The same can be said for all of the things I’m passionate about in my life. I love music, but some musicians imprinted me and I will always love them over others. Pink. The Beatles. Mozart. Harry Chapin.

Just like I have my go-to songs to listen to depending on a mood I want to indulge, so too do I have go-to authors and even go-to books. I read Tigana at least once a year. I’ve read some of my Maeve Binchy’s so often I’ve had to replace copies. I’ve read Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf about a dozen times. I could go on.

Many years ago, before she was on my radar as a writer, I saw the movie In Her Shoes. 2005 to be exact. I love Toni Collette. I love Shirley Maclaine. The movie is funny and poignant and lovely and then I saw the best thing to see when I like a movie. Based on the book by

Who was this Jennifer Weiner? I went to the library and took out a copy of In Her Shoes. It’s different than the movie, as most books are, but much better. I knew that had I read the book first, I would not have enjoyed the movie the way I did. I am usually suspect of adaptations anyway, they tend to ruin the ‘meat’ of the book, with very few exceptions. (John Green’s Fault in our Stars is an exception. They barely changed a thing.)

Anyway, as tends to happen with me, once I read one book I like from an author, I tend to seek out all of their work. And I did. In the ten years since that moment I have read every book of Jennifer’s and I now own most of them. (I am also a bit of a book hoarder. If I like the author, I will ‘collect’ as many of their books as possible)

I fell deeply in love with her last book, All Fall Down. It was a bit of a departure from her normal but, as I understand, it was also a personal story for her, as her estranged father died from a drug overdose. Stories that in some way connect personally resonate with a rhythm all their own and this one spoke to me on levels that I didn’t even understand well at the time. I’m not a drug addict, don’t get me wrong, but the feelings of being a woman and feeling like you are the only one holding the world together is not an alien concept to me. Probably not to most women, and my love was deeply cemented. Even more so than before.

Three days ago I got my hands on a copy of her newest book Who Do You Love. A bit of a throwback to her previous writing it’s about a couple who are each others soul mates. But, it’s not so straightforward. They lose and find one another over and over again through their lives and what started out for me as a bit of a fluffy summer read by mid point of the book had me sinking deeper into the inner workings of these characters yet again. That’s the thing about Weiner’s writing that I love so much. You think you’re getting a great summer “beach read” kind of book, but then she sneaks in and speaks to your soul and forces you to examine things in your own mind through the minds of her characters. She is brilliant in this.

Rachel and Andy meet as children in a hospital. It’s a chance meeting, she is escaping the boredom of her room where she is a long term patient for cardiac care and he is a scared kid with a broken arm in the ER, alone and waiting for his mom. Their meet-cute is truly adorable and we get to watch them unexpectedly touch lives again and again.
While we wait for Rachel and Andy to grow up and get together, Jennifer weaves us through the tales of their lives and who they are. Andy is that kid with the hard hand dealt to him who rises to the world’s stage and Rachel is that well off, popular girl who realizes one day that her rose coloured glasses have been doing her no favours. As they come to love one another, hurt one another, leave one another, we are left questioning our own ‘what might have beens’ and taking a hard look at the consequence of actions. The fallout of the choices we make. We see Andy’s mighty star rise and then plummet to the earth. We watch Rachel go from protected and pampered girl, to finally a woman who can stand proudly on her own. It’s a beautiful journey.

In my own life, if I love something, like an author, or a musician. A friend or a family member, I love them fiercely and completely. Sometimes wearing my own rose coloured glasses. Sometimes, to my own fall from grace.
In this case though, I know my love is not misplaced or misguided. Jennifer Weiner’s books keep on getting better. She both challenges me and delights me and Who Do You Love is no exception.

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The kids and I are indulging in a little bit of nostalgia today and so, Funny Saturday today is brought to you by Veggie Tales. The goofiest kid cartoon ever. Created to tell bible stories, this is chock full of some of the most ridiculous songs I’ve ever heard and to this day, my kids will break into song if they happen to hear one. Here is one of our favourites:

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My older brother turned 40 a few days ago, and my parents celebrated 43 years of marriage the day before that. They were all back at Mom and Dad’s house in Ontario, the house that I grew up in from the age of 8 until I was married and off living in my own house. The house that we all came back to for Christmases, Easter, birthdays, Sunday dinners, major celebrations and sometimes just because we wanted to sit on that deck in the backyard overlooking the beautiful garden.

I love that house. Everyone in my family did. But it’s sold now and for the first time in just over 30 years, my parents are on their way to live somewhere else. After all, a house that can hold a family of two parents and seven kids is a lot of house for just two people to rattle around in. It’s too big for them now, and we have all scattered so far that it’s not a regular occurance anymore that we all come home for the holidays. The seven of us are now stretched across four provinces and one overseas in London England. We’re everywhere.

So, in reading the little comments by my brother about being ‘back home’ for possibly the last time and seeing the update of friends that we mutually share talking about reconnecting for his birthday party on the weekend, I’ve been feeling more and more nostalgiac for one more day at their house. A day which sadly, I know now will not come. There simply isn’t the time (or the money) for me to go back. I have a new job, I have any and all ‘other’ money I might have had for a flight taken up in trying to sell our old house and my parents leave next week for vacation for a month. By the time they get home, they will only have a month left to pack up and move out.

I said to my Dad that it would be a really great idea for all of us to write some of our favourite memories of that house. Because we all have them. The great memories, the hilarious ones, the sad ones. I want to share a few of them here as I’ve been collecting them in my head for a while now.

When we were all younger, my parents rarely got a babysitter for us, which isn’t surprising, seven kids is a lot to handle. But I do remember one occasion when they hired an unsuspecting teenager to come to the house for the night while they went to a dinner party with friends. Poor girl, she never stood a chance.

Our house was an old house, so old that there were holes in the ceiling, slightly smaller around than a dinner plate, so that back when the house was heated by fire, the hot air could get to the upstairs rooms. There was one in the kitchen, one in the dining room and one in the living room. We convinced this poor girl that our house was haunted. Then, when we went “to bed”, we snuck into the rooms that had the holes to the downstairs, and took turns dropping tiny pebbles of loose plaster through them, so that small noises happened all over the downstairs, freaking her out to the point of her calling her parents.
She never came back to babysit.
Ever.

For a little while there, my hubs and I became obsessed with the original Iron Chef, the japanese show, not the american version that later came on. We introduced the family to it and presto! Iron Chef challenge. For a little over a year, about three or four times a year we would all get together and have an Iron Chef night. At first, we wrote down ingredients and pulled two of them out of a hat. We had the onion and cheese challenge (EPIC good food), the pork and tomato challenge, the mint and chocolate challenge. They we did countries. I can distinctly remember a meal there one night with not only the siblings, but my aunts and cousins as well, each of us representing a different country’s cuisine. Italy, France, Thailand, England, Spain. Good lord the memories of that food still makes me drool a little. My family has always been into amazing home cooked meals (a memory of that house unto itself) but the years of Iron Chef were something of a stand out.

My Nana. Still now, after so many years, I still miss her. She’s been gone nearly 20 years and yet there are days when I miss her like she just left us yesterday. One of my greatest memories of all is shortly after my oldest Liam was born, we brought Nana up to the house. She was in her wheelchair, her fingers bent inwards by the arthritis, her frame tiny. And yet…she asked to hold her first great grandchild. There is a photo somewhere (I lost where it went after her funeral) of myself, my dad, Nana and baby Liam curled up on her lap. Four generations. It is still to this day one of my favourite memories that took place in that house. It will likely always be.

We had house concerts, one day sitting on the front porch in the rain, my brother on his guitar, another brother on the bodhran, singing and playing music. Ceili’s on the front yard. My wedding, in the middle of a blizzard, the reception held in the house.

I could keep going on, but I will save the rest for the memory stories for my parents.

A house is so much more than the bricks and roof that hold it together. A home has a pulse, a heartbeat. That beautiful red brick on 80 Colborne St with the big yard and the trees whose roots made perfect fire places when playing dolls as little girls, the hedges that cried out for forts and hide and seek, the library at that back with the big picture window, the kitchen where we all practically lived and the back stairs, that was my house and my home for so much of my life. Even though I have now lived in other homes for longer than I lived there, it was always the place I came back to.

I look forward to the new house my parents have and imprinting its walls with the love and the laughter of their grandchildren. We have a lot to do to fill it, but I know that there is more than enough love to spare.

And I wish a long and happy life to the new family who is inheriting this treasure of a home from my parents. May your walls reverberate with laughter and song, may the kitchen warm you with light, love and sumptuous meals, may the stars shine at you every night as you lay your heads to rest in the beautiful bedrooms where we once played.

This is not a goodbye. This is a thank you. For as long as I have these memories, this home will always be a part of my heart and my life.

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Mom and Dad's house

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One of the best things about my younger years was the vast amounts of Irish culture that was a part of our everyday lives. My dad was born there, in a small town called Mountmellic; which I had the good fortune to be able to see on my visit to Ireland three years ago.

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It was a visit far too short for the amount of things we wanted to see, wanted to drink in. How do you put into 8 days all the music and stories from childhood? Well you can’t. But we sure tried and we’re hoping to go back next year. IMG_0487

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So today I remember all the wonderful bits of my Irish childhood, the food, the dancing, the laughter and the music.

Slainte to you, and I’ll raise a glass to ye!

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