Friday, May 11, 2018


Keith and I had been dating for a few months when he decided he wanted a dog and the dog had to be a Golden Retriever. He found a breeder and we went off one day to choose a puppy. As we approached the cage filled with tiny fluff balls Keith spotted two lone pups out of the corner of his eye and asked about them. I can't remember the exact response, I think it was that they had gotten too old and everyone wanted puppies. They were brothers, around 4 or 5 months old and Keith said "I want that one". And "that one" came to forever be known as Troy.

I don't think I've ever known more gentle and yet strange boy. What Retriever hates water? What Retriever cannot catch a ball nor has any interest in bringing it back to you? What Retriever wants chocolate over steak?

Troy came with us from South Africa, joining Dexter and Jessie in their new home. Being the third child he was always left to his own devices. He loved the cold so preferred to sleep with his nose under a door than snuggled up to a warm body. In South Africa he would spend the entire night sleeping outside on the grass. He loved people more than dogs, so much so that if left to his own devices he would follow certain people from the park. I remember having to run off and retrieve HIM many times!

There are too many moments to share, too many stories to tell, too many photos and videos that I am so thankful for because he will never be forgotten. How do you write about someone that has been a part of your life every single day for 14 years?

Today we bid the gentlest soul I have ever known farewell. It was a decision not taken lightly, there was nothing easy about this and yet at the same time it is a privilege and a gift to have been able to do it. It's been more than 2 years since Troy was rushed to the emergency vet with internal bleeding from a ruptured tumour. After that surgery we begged him to stay with us for one more summer despite being told he may not live past three or four months. He stayed around for a lot more than that.

We said goodbye at home, it was peaceful. I have never heard him snore that loud.

Our hearts are shattered. Goodbye golden boy. I will miss you forever. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018


Family means different things to different people. For me, for the longest time, family were my friends and Keith's people. Those who know me well know why and I’ve written about it in various posts. Despite not having much blood family around me one existed in Israel in the form of an aunt (my dad’s sister), her two kids, their 5 kids, their 7-ish kids, their spouses and partners. They were there but I stayed away, for no real reason at all. Well, not one that matters anyway.

After I turned 40 I started to yearn to know more about my father and his history so one day I googled him and his father just to see if anything came up. Much to my surprise I stumbled across a pretty extensive family tree online.  I joined the tree and started adding some of my own info and got in touch with one of the admins who happened to be one of the 5 above. We soon connected on Facebook and so started the family reconnection.

One day an email from my aunt arrived, in her usual style, inviting me to visit but only if I actually remembered that I even had an aunt. She went on to say that if I loved Keith then so did she and he should come too. From then on I nagged Keith to go to Israel. It took a while but we finally went in May last year, joined by our friends Brooke and Christina. It was an incredible experience, there are few words to describe it. Not only did I remember how much I loved Israel, we were all welcomed with open arms. I heard the stories about my dad that I had longed to hear, we sat in the sun in a park and shared laughs at our similar traits and mannerisms,

and I sat at a table of more than 10 people who were related to me by blood for the first time in my life.

It took 43 years.

After I went home I quit my job and joined a new company who just happened to have a large office in Israel. And so I found myself on a plane back to Tel Aviv 5 months later. My aunt had a stroke two weeks before I arrived and I was devastated at the thought of not being able to speak to her again, or to receive a WhatsApp message asking if I had forgotten that she existed (the Jewish guilt was strong!). On the plane on the way over I watched the movie Lion, a story about family reuniting; the emotions resonated strongly with me.

My aunt was strong, her face glowed when she saw me. My cousins embraced me, we ate and drank and shared stories and we said “till next time” when I left.

My aunt passed away this week. There won't be a next time. But life is not worth living if full of regret. I am sad for the years that were lost yet I am grateful for the moments that I gained. I will always be able to remember her voice, read her WhatsApp messages to me and take comfort in knowing that I told her I did remember (love) her. And with that, I am content.

  1. 1
    in a state of peaceful happiness.

    "he seemed more content, less bitter"

    synonyms:contentedsatisfiedpleased, gratified, fulfilledhappycheerfulgladMore
    1. 1
      satisfy (someone).

      "nothing would content her"

      1. 1
        a state of satisfaction.

      Tuesday, January 31, 2017

      What a Gay, White, Jewish, Romanian, South African, Canadian, Emigrant thinks.

      My father and his family fled Romania around the time of WWII. There is much talk right now about the world as it is today under the influence of Trump and Bannon as compared to that when it was under the influence of Hitler. Interestingly, articles appeared online today in response to calls for the UK to rescind it's invitation to Trump, or at least to prevent a meeting with the Queen, saying that if she could handle Nicolae Ceausescu, she can handle Trump. 

      It hurts my brain to even start to muse on what I think. We laughed when he threw his name into the ring for US President, we laughed when he got the Republican ticket. Many aren't laughing now, but where were they when the US voted? How many voted for him but won't admit it? Does Gary Johnson now understand that his ridiculous insistence on running threw votes either way? Do we get it now that the anti-Vote doesn't work? 52% of eligible American voters did not vote. THAT! boggles the mind. I've always said to my Canadian friends: "Don't talk (complain) to me about Politics if you didn't vote".

      I am no stranger to racism nor hate. I grew up in a predominantly racist country. I grew up sheltered from Apartheid and (thankfully) more liberal than most due in part to a European parent who didn't give a fuck and allowed Black people to eat at the table with us and sleep in our house when it was illegal. I was called bloody Jew and had the swastika painted on my school bag. Funnily enough I was never called Fag. I am both. I learned not to be affected by words. 
      For a long time I struggled with the ways things were in South Africa. This post is not about that so I won't go into details but when I turned to a trusted mentor she told me to take notice of the things that were upsetting me, to pay attention to how they made me feel, not to be so arrogant as to pity anyone or anything that I knew only from my single perspective, and to realize that things are perfect the way they are. She told me to learn compassion, to learn to understand. She taught me to take a step back, detach and observe. 

      I watch the News (I have no choice, Keith won't allow anything else), I read articles online, I scroll through Facebook and day by day Trump consumes every corner of these pieces that make up that part of my life. We had friends over for dinner on Saturday night and it was the first thing we discussed. It is rare that I ever make a political comment (I leave those to Keith) but it is becoming more and more difficult not to. It's starting to feel that I must speak up!

      I have tried to live a non-judgemental life. This doesn't mean I don't judge; I'm human. It means I try to be as accepting as I can be without ever compromising my own sense of integrity. I am less politically correct than many of my Canadian friends; I think we can be too PC. Yet I am struggling as I realize that some of my Facebook friends are not who I thought they were as I see posts and shares in support of behaviour/actions/beliefs that I am unable to not-judge. Granted not one is a close friend and so I think to myself that I should just un-friend them yet don't because inherently I try to accept that not all beliefs are the same. I am generally confrontational and yet I can't bring myself to ask them why they agree/disagree because I am tired just reading, and engaging would require a lot more energy.

      We are all being affected by this significant change in US Politics. But what strikes me the most is how it is dividing us and how it is uniting us. Trump's actions are extending far beyond his borders. It is forcing those of us that usually post pics of our meal to take notice of what is going on in the world and to pay attention. It is showing up prejudice and is it bringing out tolerance. 

      I'll keep watching, unless of course I un-friend you. 

      Monday, November 28, 2016

      I (didn’t) fail(ed)

      I am 284 posts short of meeting my goal of blogging for a year yet I don’t feel like I have failed. I ended my inaugural blog tonight one year ago with the words “Maybe this will be my own personal challenge and maybe this in itself will challenge me”. The latter part of this sentence was certainly true. I never wanted to be that person who had to write something every single day for the sake of writing and so it wasn’t long that I was running out of spectacular ideas to write about. It did challenge me and when I realized that I was more stressed about letting my “readers” down I knew I was writing for the wrong reasons.
      Then I started writing birthday tributes to my friends but soon that also started to feel like a chore accompanied by guilt for writing about some and not others. When I received a notification that one of my 11 followers had deactivated their auto emails after the third or fourth tribute in a month I gave up.  It didn’t mean that those who got a tribute were more important than those that didn’t. The common lesson for me was reinforcement that when things become mundane, they lose their appeal. It is more about this than it is about finishing something I started.

      I posted a video on Facebook a few months ago with the promise of a post. The message is simple; you should watch it (click here).  My sister worked hard, saved what she could, put a lot away towards retirement and died young. She left behind a lot of money and not enough of what I know she really wanted to do. 

      “Look at the people who live to retire, to put those savings away. And they when they are 65 they don’t have any energy left”. 

      Keith and I are different because we change it up constantly. We try new experiences (I get dragged along most of the time) and we take vacations with friends. Sometimes things cost more than we planned but we worry more about living now than saving for then. He has taught me that and for this I am always grateful (despite sometimes being frustrated). Next adventure starts April-2017. Watch this space.

      My job involves a lot of travel and a few weeks ago I was flying back from a meeting. I am a frequent flier and so often get upgraded. This flight’s upgrade included a lie-flat bed. It’s a typical scene - sitting there watching the passengers walk by you and having them comment on your seat while they do. When we landed a family moved forward to disembark and the son of about 12 or 13 announced loudly “when I am world famous I will own this as my private plane”. I looked at him and thought to myself “be careful what you wish for”. 

      “We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end.  And the thing was to get to that end. Success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing, or to dance while the music was being played.” 

      When my life flashes in front of my eyes I want to have done enough cool shit to give myself a show.  

      Thursday, July 21, 2016

      Making a decision that is not about you

      I read a very interesting article a while back entitled "I know you love me - now let me die". The article speaks about the ends we go to in today's world to prolong life, and often suffering. We have at our fingertips machines, technologies and medicines that can be used in a multitude of ways to prevent us from ageing, to make us look and feel better, to heal us from illness that was previously deadly, to make us live longer. When faced with a fatal disease, and I speak less from experience than from exposure, it seems that a will to live kicks in, both in the patient and in his or her circle of family and friends. In an earlier post I wrote entitled "Musings on death and dying" I wondered about the choices we have and the fears we face. 

      When I was studying pharmacology at University we were told that the goal of chemotherapy in the treatment of Cancer was to kill the Cancer quicker than it killed the patient. This is certainly a dramatic over-simplification of the process and todays therapies are vastly different to those available when I was a student. I currently work in Oncology Clinical Research and so am continually exposed to novel and seemingly ground-breaking treatments working in ways that often could not have been envisaged or made possible twenty years ago. We can treat or cure many more diseases now than what we could before, and in 100 years they will say the same. But it is not always an easy path to choose. On more than one occasion someone has contacted me and asked for information about a treatment and I have said that while it may give a few more months, the end result is often the same but the path there can be vastly different depending on the choices made. 

      I am not the authority. I speak less from experience than from exposure. 

      My dogs are my children. They are my family. My life is made greater and fuller because of them. I sometimes struggle to fully grasp the impact they have on me, the unconditional love they offer freely, the naivety and simplicity in which they live and the joys that they experience in every smell and every treat. But their lives will always be shorter than ours; they are here as companions and teachers of love and letting go. And they get Cancer too. When Jessie got sick at 5 years old we decided to treat her with radiation because it was non-invasive; she had no side effects at all and she lived to almost 11. We still laugh at the underhanded methods of getting her in and out of the human treatment center (click on her name to read about it). Dexter was sick for about a month and we struggled to figure out what was wrong. On the day he was diagnosed with a brain tumour we let him go. 

      In February, Troy got sick and was rushed to the emergency veterinary hospital for surgery. A tumour had perforated his bowel and he was suffering from sepsis. He spent almost a week in ICU but he recovered remarkably quickly and came home to rest and recuperate. Within a few weeks he was back to his old self, barking and rolling around on the grass. Two weeks ago he had a follow-up and they found another tumour. We ordered some specific tests to find out exactly what it was and decided to try oral chemotherapy. He started his first dose on Monday and within hours he was throwing up. After his second dose he stopped eating and just slept when he wasn't being sick. There wasn't even a hesitation in either of our minds that we would not subject him to one more tablet ever again. In fact tomorrow I may just bake him a chocolate cake, because chocolate is what he loves the most and because dogs don't eat chocolate so he doesn't get that (well sometimes he gets a little piece but only when he asks really nicely and only when nobody is looking). 

      Just because we have the ability to treat, doesn't mean we should. Or should we? Troy currently has no clinical signs or symptoms of this tumour. Any symptoms he has experienced are as a direct result of me putting a tablet in his food. I put that tablet there to see if it will make the tumour shrink, or stop growing, so that I can have him longer than an undefined period. He knows nothing of this other than Sunday he was barking and rolling around on the grass and yesterday he was throwing up. By tonight he was back to his old self, symptom free and barking and rolling (this is what he does best).

      Troy is 12 going on 13. These tablets are not going to cure him. I have no more control over his end date than I have over my own. He is an old man. He is a happy old man. He is not a sick old man. We choose to let him be. We choose to let him bark and roll around in the grass until he can't any more. We have no idea when that will be because this is how things are, and how they should be.

      When he is done, it will be because it is his time, and not because we made him too sick to be a happy old man.

      I hope the same would be afforded to me, if it were me.


      Thursday, June 9, 2016

      A letter to Christina via Hamlet

      Dear Hamlet, please read this note to your mom as soon as you wake up tomorrow (I'll make it short because I know you have a busy day). Tell her that this has nothing to do with her birthday, because we decided not to celebrate them any more. This is just a hello message from a friend who wanted to say something and it just so happens to coincide with her birthday.

      Dear Christina,

      Despite my ragged park clothes you agreed to come over for dinner; you let me into the inner circle. You noticed when I lost Jessie and walked up to me one day with a card. I was barely a stranger but it's a testament to the kind person that you are. You are thoughtful and generous. I can never adequately explain how much it means to me that you have opened your home to me as if it were my own. 

      It really is not possible for me to tell you in words how much your friendship means to me. If I have reciprocated a third of what you have given me, then I am happy. 

      Thank you for always being there, for knowing when to ask if I am OK, for giving without any expectation and for making me laugh so much that it hurts. 400 what?

      I leave you with these important words: "Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sounds like a boy"

      Happy Birthday 

      With all my love,



      Tuesday, May 31, 2016

      No. More. Zoos

      Humans really can be despicable. Much of our actions can be attributed to naiveté but there comes a point where we have no excuses anymore. I often give a talk where I speak of human experimentation done in the past that brought us to where we are today in terms of medical research. I caution those listening to me speak that we must put ourselves in the time and place of those conducting experiments that they thought were humane. I do not speak of crimes against humanity conducted under the guise of science. I speak of infecting a young girl with cowpox that resulted in the eradication of an epidemic and invention of the vaccine. I speak of countless surgeries performed on women without anaesthesia that allows many of us to benefit from specific treatments, using special tools, today. 

      They didn't know better but we judge them based on what we know today. They probably did the same when they looked back in time, and there is little doubt that the same will be done of us. 

      But. We. Know. Better. Now.

      We do not need to stare at animals in the Zoo for our enjoyment. We do not need to hunt them for pleasure. We do not need Circuses. We are destroying our planet. We have eradicated species. And we just don't stop. 

      I grew up in Africa. I grew up watching animals in their natural habitat. I grew up watching African animals in their natural habitat. I did not need to see Polar Bears in Africa. I have never seen one. I am absolutely OK with that. 

      A magnificent animal died today because someone wasn't watching their child. It is not for me to decide whether that child's life was worth more than the animals. He* should not have been in that Zoo in the first place.  

      We can learn from incredible National Geographic programmes today. We can travel to sanctuaries and watch them in their natural habitat. I do not discount the scores of people that rehabilitate and care for, and learn from the millions of creatures in captivity. I know that we can't just release those animals that won't survive in the wild. If you really need to see an animal in the flesh then become a game ranger or volunteer to wash oil off a penguin. 

      Let's love these creatures more than we do the Selfie. Or the Celebrity. 

      * Harambe
      * The kid


      Friday, May 13, 2016

      To Gabi. A Birthday Tribute.

      Gabs, I bet you thought I had forgotten your birthday. I didn't, I was looking for these........

      It's been a long time that we've been friends. and while we don't connect much because of distance I have the best memories of the times we spent together. I remember the meals at your home, the peppers you made on the stove and I still tell the story of you putting on lipstick in the ER with your back out because the doctor was so hot. 

      You are one of the most genuine, kind people I know. You are beautiful inside and out. You have weathered so much and come so far. I admire and love you, even from a distance. 

      Happy Birthday........sent with love and a touch of lipstick. 


      To Nicki. A Birthday Tribute.

      "The Faktors are coming back", they said. It was all anyone could talk about. 

      I think the year was 1989 (could've been (probably was) 1988) and I was still relatively new to Carmel High School in Pretoria but most of my new friends had lived there all their life, and this very exciting creature and her family were returning to South Africa from Israel. We were all very excited. I wasn't quite sure why.

      She returned and almost immediately re-integrated into the class as if she had always been there. I was more than intrigued. I was in love. A few months later I would be chasing her in the dark at Lapalala Wilderness Camp. 

      It is absolutely impossible to write down all the memories I have of a friendship that has now spanned almost 30 years. When you move or emigrate, you make new friends. I did it when we moved from Pietersburg to Pretoria and again when I left South Africa for Canada. You lose touch with the ones that have known you, and who you know. It takes time to build new friendships. I am blessed because I have friends in Canada that I have known for maybe 3 or 4 years, who are worth 30 to me. I am thankful that somewhere in the world, are people that have experienced every part of my life alongside me.

      Nicki and I never lost touch, but we drifted as we moved through new relationships, different countries, careers, boyfriends (me) and marriage/children (her). In 2014 I happened to be in San Francisco and we met up. I wrote about that here. It was a profoundly soul-satisfying day. 

      Something happened that day that fused our re-connection that has been tethered ever since. 

      A book arrives in the mail. A hand-written letter is sent. Hugs appear in my inbox exactly when I need them. Impromptu weekend visits occur. Long (and often funny) voice-mails are recorded. She is West. I am East. 

      Thank you for loving me like you do. Thank you for millions of thoughts and memories and for the deep down inside feeling that I feel when I think of you. 

      Happy Birthday Nix. To 30 more.


      Sunday, May 1, 2016

      To Violet. A Birthday Tribute.

      You almost ruined our friendship with your mom and dad. When we found out they were having you we seriously thought about un-friending them. We were having none of it. But we hung around for a while and watched her belly grow and then one day your mom asked us if we wanted to go for lunch at a new place on the corner of Parliament and Carlton. The conversation (over lunch) went like this:

      Lawrence to Mima: "Why are you making that face?"
      Mima to Lawrence: "I'm a little nauseated"
      Keith to Mima: "You aren't eating much"
      Mima to the table: "I'm in labour"

      And a bunch of hours later you arrived.

      I have to admit you haven't ruined our lives as much as I thought you may. You're cute, very friendly and you like to hang out at the HOP where we drink caesars. There really is no better feeling than having you snuggle in our arms, no funnier moment than each time you decide to poo on Keith, the look on your face when you see yourself in the mirror, your chucky-moments when you don't realise the camera is looking.

      Unfortunately your mom and dad have done it again and find themselves harboring a womb-fugitive that may escape any day now. This time they've gone too far. We may need to reconsider their friendship. You, however, can stay.

      Happy First Birthday little Goose. The world is a better place with you in it. 


      To Andrew. A Birthday Tribute.

      In continuation of my current year of birthday tributes, here's wishing Andrew the very happiest of birthdays, a fat kiss and a bit of dust.

      The history of our friendship can actually be found in Stephan's post here but it wouldn't be fair to not add to it. Whenever I arrived at 18OC it was Andrew that greeted me at the door, hand outstretched to take my bag and soon after putting a drink in my hand or licorice and sour gums at my side. And when it was time to say goodbye he would always walk me to my car and wave in the rear view mirror as I drove off.

      Andrew is a passionate guy, hes committed to what he does, dedicated to his family and friends and that has made him the successful person that he is today. He loves flying and planes and we have a shared appreciation for the (one and only) Concord.

      I hope your birthday is filled with love and brings a year of health, happiness, and a visit to Toronto......where I'll be waiting with wine and food, a hug and a bit of dust.


      Saturday, April 30, 2016

      To Thean. A Birthday Tribute.

      I got a phone call from a friend who said that a friend of his had just moved to Toronto and asked if I would reach out. First I stalked his Facebook profile. Then I sent him a message. We met at a restaurant downtown for dinner and we realized that we actually did know each other from South Africa. We worked out at the same gym, though never spoke and he had apparently spent a night at our house, but not with me or Keith......

      Thean is a happy guy. Often he messages me about something that he is excited about, be it a new car or a technological invention or a funky pizza place. He has a constant level of enthusiasm that amazes me. He's a glass half full. 

      Because we both work from home, and he's always been close by, he has always been available for a coffee break and a quick stroll around the block with the dogs. Tyson, my Boxer, adores him and leaps up to say hi when Thean approaches from the West. 

      I long gave up my partying days but every few months he convinces me to get out and get down. On those nights we dance, and scream, and throw back the polar bear shots and stumble home at some ungodly hour. On others we take in a midnight movie and stop for pita on the way home because they boys behind the counter are really cute.

      We see things the same, and we see them differently but we have never clashed. He's always jetting off to some exotic location, but don't expect me to travel with him, he has the worst luck! To friendship, to enthusiasm, to a glass half full.

      Veels geluk met jou verjaarsdag maaitjie!


      Sunday, April 17, 2016

      When a book touches you deeply, you stop

      I have always been an avid reader. When I was a kid I used to spend a Saturday afternoon lying on the couch reading, and eating chips. I would take at least 4 or 5 books with me on any holiday. I vehemently resisted the transition to eBooks because I love the feel of paper, the weight of the book, dog-ears and coffee stains. I have re-read my favorite books so many times, and will continue to do so even though I know the stories well. 

      Over the past few years I have struggled to sink my teeth into a really good book. For some reason I dislike anything that is recommended. I've started so many books and just left them because they didn't grab me. I think I have Reader's Block.

      Until Sunday 6 March when I received a text message from my friend Jen. It went like this:
      "I'm reading the best worst book of my life. So well written but so devastatingly sad."
      "What's it called?"
      "It's called..."
      (I am not going to disclose that because I have recommended this book to some friends, because this blog is about one aspect of this book, and because I don't want to give the plot away. If you are one of those friends, stop reading now! Come back when you've finished the book.)

      "I was up reading until 4:30am. I slept for 2 hrs, got up and read again. And then hit such a devastatingly sad part that I went back to sleep to cope with what I'd just read."

      Tuesday 15 March
      "I started the book. Struggling to follow whose who! But slowly reading."
      "Be patient. It will all crystallize about 150 pages in."

      Thursday 7 April
      "OMG that's blog inspiring."
      "What part are you at?"
      "I'm almost done. But I feel like I should read it again"
      "I could never read it again. Too heart breaking. And haunting. For a while I regretted reading it".
      "It is. It's really upset me"

      Thursday 14 April
      "I finished the book. I'm devastated."
      I was devastated because it was finished. I was devastated because I could feel the book, the story it told. It is truly one of the most spectacular books I have read in a long time. And as Jen said, it's one of the most devastatingly haunting ones too.

      There were many parts that touched me. One aspect that the story deals with is suicide. I have one friend that managed to evade it, I have two that succumbed. And if the book weren't enough of a memory, last week I spoke to a friend who was on the phone with someone that had taken an overdose and kept her on the phone while calling 911 and waiting for help to arrive. 

      I have never understood suicide. It is not something I believe I would ever consider. I have experienced depression and lived with a bipolar, borderline mother that threatened often but never followed through. I have thought it to be a cowardly act, and a brave one. I remember being told by my friend that evaded it that unless you can truly understand the welcoming solution that it offers during your darkest moment, you can never understand it. Google "suicide trance" and you may be offered some insight. In the book, one of the characters describes this trance and says "Once he had decided, he was fascinated by his own hopefulness, by how he could have saved himself years of sorrow by just ending it - he could have been his own savior. No law said he had to keep on living; his life was still his own to do with what he pleased. How had he not realized this in all these years? The choice now seemed obvious; the only question was why it had taken him so long." 

      Of my two friends that succeeded in their attempts, one was likely a mistake. But it didn't make the loss any less traumatic. I happened to text him one night from a hotel room in Cape Town because I needed him to do something for me. His son responded to let me know that he had passed away. A friend confirmed what we suspected. We will never know the truth. I think of him often.
      The second tried twice. The first time he threatened, and his wife called me to try to talk him down. I had just landed in Vancouver on a visit from South Africa to attend a wedding. I stood in line waiting for the customs officer to call me and told my friend to think of one thing; his children. I reminded him about what it felt like to not have my dad around. I knew why he wanted to do this, I could see the other side of the challenge. I knew he could survive it. But he didn't. And when his wife called me a few weeks later and I saw her number come up I knew he never would.

      I am still sad today that they are gone. I don't think of them always, but I think of them often enough. I stand firm in my belief that there is more to life than this, that they are somewhere, doing something. That it makes sense. To me, it doesn't. Because it feels like they have missed out on so much. Maybe they haven't. It reminds me that time is short and unpredictable. It reminds me to stay present. To let go. To live and to enjoy.

      I remember them. They touched my life. So did the book. It made me stop for a moment. It made me remember. This is for Ian and Nick. May it be peaceful, wherever you both are. 


      Monday, April 4, 2016

      #To #Petra. #A #Birthday #Tribute.

      We were sitting outside on the porch enjoying the sun when this little girl, not more than 17 or so, skipped past us. She was holding a tiny puppy in her arms and I shouted out for her to come over so that I could see the dog. The girl was Petra, the dog was Ruby. A friendship slowly started. I work from home and there would be days that I would walk past the front door, that was always open in the summer, to find Petra and Ruby sitting outside on our step. Waiting for someone to appear. One night I opened the door to find a jar sitting there with the words "Eat me" on a post-it note. I wasn't sure if someone wanted me dead or not; turns out Petra was trying to feed us.

      She's been stalking us ever since.

      Petra enjoys the things that we love most, our dogs, good food (boy can she eat) and wine, and travel. And we have experienced all three with her over the past almost-decade. We have tried out amazing restaurants together, spent days at the park or the beach and visited Costa Rica, Chicago, Mexico and South Africa together. 

      I have survived her laugh, falling asleep at the dinner table and her driving. We have laughed, a lot. She's a friend, she's beautiful, stylish and she always smiles. 

      Happy Birthday Petra

      (I'm not wearing a tie. Tsst.)


      Monday, March 28, 2016

      Being pragmatic

      My friend Carrie called me "pragmatic" this weekend. We were talking about interactions and how people communicate. It started with me asking (married) friends if they fight. We were sitting at the dinner table and chatting. Carrie said that I am a good listener, but I start off with "First, stop crying" and then move straight on to the facts without emotion. My mother used to tell me that I am not very sympathetic. But I think that I am both sympathetic and empathetic. I just don't melt down. Carrie learned early on in our friendship that we can argue, and that it will never affect the friendship. In fact it has made us understand each other, be more open, find it easier to turn to each other in need instead of think that one fight will be the end and that we can be so vastly different and so incredibly compatible.

      I generally stay away from commenting on Facebook on politics or sensitive matters. I read posts and react to them but it is rare that I comment publicly. When I do, it's because I feel strongly about the subject, like the time that someone gave Keith a hard time when he posted about people that didn't want to swear the Canadian Citizenship Oath. Generally I say what I need to say, to the person I want to say it to.

      When I was younger I was not as brave. But many experiences have taught me that it's actually pretty easy to confront someone with an opinion or idea as long as you are open to receiving it back. Over time I have found myself a lot more comfortable being confrontational, and less tolerant of today's passive-aggressive behaviour I see, especially on Facebook. Maybe confrontational is the wrong word; I'm communicative.

      Social media has changed the world in such a big way; different to what I grew up with and no doubt more different to that my grandparents knew. When I was growing up we spoke among ourselves in a confined space. This happened in our homes, over the phone, at school, over dinner. Sometimes information would flow outwards from these conversations and sometimes it would flow back. But today there are few boundaries. There are constant talk shows with panels of people spewing forth their opinions, there are tweets and posts and statuses (stati?) and it is a simple thing like security settings that determine how far outward the information flows. 

      When you come home from work, and experienced something on the bus that annoyed you, and post a comment about it on Facebook is it venting? Is it just being silly? Do you really think the man who spat near you on the sidewalk on you will read it and apologize? When he did it, why didn't you say something to him? Or do you just want your friends to know about your awful day and commiserate? Does it matter? Am I being too serious? Sometimes I am.

      Last week, a Facebook friend posted multiple comments that I wondered at. It was not the first time he had posted about this specific person, the circumstances were different, but the sentiment was the same. As with so many posts, I read it and opined and moved on. But a specific comment made me stop, and I decided to ask him about the comment(s). Sure, I asked in the public forum, but I directed it to him in response to a public post. His response was immediately defensive. So I explained myself; that I would rather ask directly to understand than to post my own nondescript public comment that was actually directed at him but yet cryptically exposed to the world instead. There to gain public opinion but not the answer I seek. He said he understood. I'm not really sure he did, I think he was still pissed at me. But that's OK. 

      Things are as they are. We live in this world that we adapt to and fit in to. I will continue to read the comments, mostly with amusement, but sometimes with a resulting comment of my own. If you are my friend then know that I will always say it to your face. If it's worth saying.


      Monday, March 14, 2016

      To Cherise. A Birthday Tribute.

      Once upon a time there was a girl who lived in a flat in Glenhazel (I think) who was friendly with a boy from school. That boy met another boy with the same name and they became boyfriends. The boy introduced the boy with the same name to the girl. This was in 1992. They've been friends ever since.

      The boy with the same name went to hang out at the girl's place. She lived with her sister (I think) and she had a dressing table in the lounge. The boy thought that was a little weird. The girl was a waitress at the Black Steer in Yeoville.  The boy was impressed, because the girl had her own credit card. She seemed to be quite grown up.

      The girl decided to go to school and study computers and make something of herself. The boy knew she would be successful even though the girl always said she was not clever enough. Little did she know that she would become quite an expert in her field (to her constant denial) and a strong woman very much in control of her life and her future. The boy always admired that about her.

      For a while the girl disappeared. She had gone to live in London. This made the boy sad.

      He found a way to get her back many years later, by giving her cell phone number to his mother.

      The girl and the boy have a friendship that spans more than 20 years. Through these years they have grown, shared, nourished, flourished, loved, cried, lived, lost. It is important to the boy to have people in his life to whom he can say "remember when?". The girl remembers. He does too.



      Friday, March 11, 2016

      To Olga. A Birthday Tribute.

      One word comes to mind when I think of Olga and that is dependable. I know that it doesn't matter where she is, or what she is doing; if I need something, Olga will do it for me.

      Our friendship started through Keith, and the more that they started spending time together, the more that I got to love her. She is a free spirit, a strong woman, a caring and loving friend. She will give you the shirt off her back, and her room in her house. I know she's done that. 

      In 2010 Keith was turning 50 and I had planned a surprise trip to Amsterdam. I knew that he would like nothing better than to see Olga and of course she said she would meet us. Keith and I flew from Toronto to Chicago and after getting him settled in the lounge I met Olga and she followed me back to where we were sitting. She just sat down in front of him, he looked at her and you could see his brain was trying to compute but computer said No. It took about 5 seconds before he realized that his best friend was sitting right in front of him. It was a priceless moment.

      One of my favorite memories is seeing Olga drive past in her little black car, with this huge Boerbull sitting in the back. All you could see was Diesel's head staring out the window. He was a beautiful gentle giant.

      Thank you for years of friendship, we don't speak often and we are far away but when I need you, your voice is there. I love you. I don't know anyone that doesn't.


      P.S. Remember what I said about you at the beginning of this post? I'm still waiting for copies of that TV show ;-)

      Tuesday, March 1, 2016

      To Traci. A Birthday Tribute.

      I honestly don't remember when we first met. My earliest memory of Traci is at her townhouse, her green car, checking out her living stuff and realizing that her neighbour and I were old friends. I think it was around the time that she and Ken were deciding on living together.  I can say for sure that we all approved. There are so many stories I could tell, so many moments and memories that I sit here struggling to write them all down.

      If you look at our Facebook profiles you will see she has listed us as siblings. Traci has called me her brother for as long as I have known her. And treated me as good as my sister did when she was alive. 

      Leaving South Africa was tough for so many reasons, but one of the hardest things we had to do was say goodbye to Ken and Traci. Not a week went by that we didn't see each other and when you move across continents and time zones it is not always easy to keep the connection. But despite the distance, there is always that moment when a silly email pops up in my inbox, or my phone beeps with a hello or a funny (rude) pic (at 3am) to remind me that she's not far away. 

      Traci is the purest soul I know. She is kind, and beautiful, gentle and warm. I love her stories, her gestures, her mannerisms, her laugh. She has comforted me in crisis and she has walked with me when the world was speeding by and I needed to go slow. 

      Happy Birthday Traci. You are truly loved. 



      Tuesday, February 23, 2016

      To Mitch. A Birthday Tribute.

      It must have been sometime in 2012 when I was walking my dogs through Cabbagetown that I happened by a guy walking his puppy. I know that we stopped to say hi because I had Tyson and wanted to start getting him socialized. Also, that's what you do in Cabbagetown. The encounter didn't last very long. Thereafter we would see that guy again but when he saw us approaching would cross to the other side of the road. Or stare straight ahead as we walked by. I was flabbergasted that anyone would not want to stop and relish in the enjoyment of an encounter with me and my dogs. I thought he was rude. He didn't even notice, he was busy training his own dog. Neither of us knew that before long we would be fast friends. 

      Or that Keith and I would try to sell his house when he and Mima were on vacation.

      It must be an age thing but I don't know these days how many of my friendships started. The people in my life are there, and feel like they always have been. The communication slowly improved through frequent encounters at Riverdale. Turned out the guy was actually pretty friendly. Soon we progressed from Maggie and Tyson's dads to Mitch and Lawrence. Before he knew it Keith was cooking dinner for a bunch of strangers and not long after we were brunching Sundays at the Hop. 

      I have always joked loudly about not liking kids and when Mitch announced his intention on becoming a dad I threatened un-friending on Facebook. But I fell in love with his daughter. Who wouldn't?

      Mitch is a solid guy. He's a good friend. He's my movie buddy. His door is always open and beer and food are always available. Chances are you would struggle to find yourself a nicer guy.

      Happy Birthday dude.


      Saturday, February 20, 2016

      To Stephan. A Birthday Tribute.

      I've always traveled, both for work and pleasure. It must have been around 2004 when Keith told me to check out a friend of his' new guest house in Cape Town. I was used to hotels, having only stayed at a guest house once before and so with trepidation I booked myself in on my next monthly visit.

      18 on Crox, named for its address at 18 Croxteth Rd, was newly opened and soon became my home away from home. I don't remember actually meeting Stephan and his partner Andrew for the first time, I am sure that we behaved with absolute professional courtesy. For about a minute. And I never stayed anywhere else again when I visited Cape Town.

      Before long we were friends. I looked forward to every trip. My room was always ready for me, licorice and sour gums at the side of the bed, berry juice in the fridge. I would leave for work in the morning with ready-made protein shake in hand following a pot of fresh coffee. I would return from work and hang out in Stephan and Andrew's bedroom, with their dog Misha, usually eating something but always drinking. They worked incredibly hard to make the most beautiful, stylish guest house that was loved by anyone that stayed there.

      Keith and I were so incredibly honoured to be a part of their marriage ceremony in 2006. We have all since move on; Keith and I to Canada and Stephan and Andrew to Spain. It's been a while since the four of us hung out together, but we are always in contact. Stephan is a beautiful man, who always makes me laugh, calls me affectionate names and sends me inappropriate messages.

      I miss you, I miss the easy conversation, lying on your bed gossiping, talking for hours and moaning about our weight.

      Happy Birthday my friend. May this year bring you only joy, happiness and health. And hopefully in the very near future a chance for a proper in-person hug.  I love you.