Thursday, July 7, 2016

30 Things I Love About Canada #25: My kids made friends.

Sometimes I worry about how frequently moving from city to city is affecting our kids. Next month my son will turn 14 and will have lived in 7 houses in his lifetime. My daughter often nonchalantly says things like, "Next time we move, I want a pink bedroom." as if moving is something that's inevitable. The question, "Where are you from?" is a difficult one for us and often involves a lengthy explanation where the person who asked the question ends up looking at us like we're crazy, or lying, or on the lam from the law.

I'm jealous of families who are able to raise their kids in one place, who have friends with kids that grow up with their kids and family nearby. I long to have history in a place and connections within a community when I look for a job. I would love to stay in one house long enough to see several seasons of fruit come from the trees we plant. I'm tired of starting over from scratch.

The tradeoff is that our kids have seen more of America and Canada than most kids. They've camped in National Parks along the west coast and travelled through half of the Canadian provinces. They've visited landmarks that most people only see in photos and explored numerous art galleries and museums. They've experienced different climates and cultures and landscapes and points of view. And along the way they made friends.

My son is not the kind of kid who seeks out social situations (maybe because he's worn out from his parents dragging him all over the continent). He prefers to hide out in his room and draw or read or play video games and talk to people (about video games) on the internet. This year though, after a rough start, he started to spread his wings and made a few good friends. He asked to go on the grade 8 trip and spent 4 days with his friends touring Quebec City. Among other end-of-the-year activities for his senior public (aka middle school) festivities he went to a Blue Jays game at Rogers Stadium and attended a formal dance aboard a party boat that sailed on Lake Ontario around Toronto. He's ended up experiencing parts of Canada the rest of us haven't even seen.

My daughter is the extroverted one. She made friends the very first day and has attended several birthday parties and playdates and sleepovers throughout the year. She made a BFF and they choreographed a dance to Taylor Swift's song Blank Space which they bravely performed for the talent show. Despite the difficult year the rest of us have had here she maintained a positive outlook and in doing so, she helped me to see the bright side too.

Monday, July 4, 2016

30 Things I Love About Canada #24: Lake Ontario

The first time I experienced a lake that looked like an ocean was Lake Eerie. I was just a kid and Eerie seemed like a fitting name. It was eerie to look out on the horizon and see no sign of land or life on the other side and it was all freshwater, not an ocean. That same uncomfortable feeling gripped me when I first looked out onto Lake Ontario.

It was late August and the beach was deserted. There were no mountains or trees in the distance like we were used to seeing across Lake Washington.

It didn't look any more inviting in the fall, just brown and lonely.

The winter was even more barren and foreboding and uncomfortably cold. I took to calling it the blue-gray abyss.

Still, we kept visiting it. It wasn't until Spring that I started to see it in a different light.

It wasn't always ominous. Sometimes it sparkled.

And sometimes the color was hard to describe. What would you call this? Teal? 

The water became daily therapy for our old arthritic dog and searching for beach glass became a daily meditation for me.

Somewhere along the way I realized this place is not the depressing abyss I once thought it was.

    It all depends on the way you look at it.

30 Things I Love About Canada #23: The Beaches

    When I say I love The Beaches I don't mean "the beaches," although we've visited several in Canada and must say we loved camping on MacKenzie Beach in Tofino, British Columbia a few years ago. After coming upon several full campgrounds on the peninsula, we asked the campground host at MacKenzie Beach if there were any spots left and she answered,

"Yah, fer shure, no doubt, absolutely, eh."

 ...which is pretty much the quintessential Canadian greeting.

    The beaches I'm referring to in this post is the neighborhood known as The Beaches, or, The Beach, or simply BEACH, depending on who you ask. (I can't get a straight answer.) I recently bought this tea towel because it features some of our favorite spots. 

    We didn't know Etobicoke (pronounced E-toe-bi-COH) from Scarborough when we first arrived in the city and started looking for a place to live. (I do not recommend this random throw-of-the-dice method of relocation.)  By chance and circumstance we ended up here and despite the difficult time we've had in Toronto, I love this neighborhood. Our immediate neighbors have been the best we've ever had, we've had no shortage of restaurants within walking distance on Kingston Rd. and Queen St,. we're close to Glen Stewart ravine, and we're blocks away from Lake Ontario. If the cost of living here weren't so damn expensive or if we had friends or family or connections to keep us here we might even stay. For now, we're simply appreciating the time we have left in this beautiful place.

30 Things I Love About Canada #22: Canadians respect our president

Canadians have a lot of respect for the president of the U.S., even more than Americans do I'm sad to say. It's embarrassing really. I've been asked why it seems so many people in the states vehemently and proudly express hatred toward the leader of their own country and it's hard for me to answer. 

How can I concisely explain how 200+ years of ingrained racism still affects people? How can I explain why some people are are afraid of their government taking away their guns and giving them free health care and letting two people who love one another get married? How can I explain why the Republican party thinks a blatantly racist and sexist blowhard with multiple bankruptcies like Donald Trump would be a better person to lead our country? I can't. The rest of the world has seen America's racist flag-draped signs and memes and violent rallies on t.v. I don't want to talk about these things because it's embarrassing to admit that my country can be so hateful.

Canadians see a president who is doing a relatively decent job compared to the last guy. As an American living in Canada it makes me simultaneously sad and proud that president Obama has to visit his neighbor to the north to receive a warm welcome. I'm sad that my home country can't do this, but proud of Canada for giving him the respect he deserves.