A Tribute To My Dad

First of all, I would like to wish all of the fathers out there, a Happy Father’s Day. Today, I am going to pay tribute to my father, but I’m going to tell you a bit about him first. My father is a jack of all trades. The old phrase is “jack of all trades, master of none”, but my father has proven that wrong. He is a talented carpenter and contractor. With the exception of the reno done by Debbie Travis, my father has done every single renovation on our family home himself. When I was a kid we never had to buy paintings because my father is also a talented artist, and paints just as well–if not better–than any of the artists selling prints. My dad can also sew, and make his own patterns. I didn’t know this until I found him in the basement one day, cutting out a pattern so he could make his own pajamas. (He used the sewing machine, and everything!) He also has a beautiful singing voice.

I tell you all of this because my father is too humble to tell you himself. (And there’s nothing wrong with that) One of the first lessons that my father ever taught me was that a person does not have to be loud and controlling to be a leader. He has led this family for almost 40 years from behind the scenes. My mother is the one who gets all the attention, but she would not be the woman she is today had it not been for my father’s constant support. In the mid-to-late 80s, Dad stayed at home part-time to take care of my brother and me. He was comfortable enough in his skin his to allow his wife to be all she was created to be, without feeling threatened.

My dad led our household, not with an iron fist, but with an open heart. My brother and me followed the rules out of reverence for him, not because we were afraid of what would happen. (We still were afraid though! He’s a big guy.)

Over the years, Dad has given a lot of good advice. Here are some of his best lines:

“You can’t protect people from their own stupidity.”

“Find the laziest person on your job and do the opposite of what they do. Laziness is a liability.”

“If you can’t fight, just be quiet and leave people alone. You don’t want to take a beating for running your mouth.”

“Guard your singleness. I’d rather you be happy and single, than miserable and married. I don’t want to go to jail for beating the man that messes with my daughter.”

“No job that gives you an honest wage for legal work is beneath you. You need the money, so you can’t afford to be picky.”

“When you do something, do it right the first time, so you don’t have to go back to correct your mistakes.”

“Don’t be a respecter of persons. Everyone is valuable, whether you think they are or not.”

And finally: “[We] don’t start fights. People bring fights to us, and we finish them.”

My father established his role as the earthly head of our family without drawing any attention to himself. He made sure that every person knew how important his or her role was, and admonished us for stepping out of line. When I was younger, I’d get annoyed when mom said, “You’re just like your father!” Now I’m proud of it. Being just like my father means I have a calmness in the middle of a storm. I pay an equal measure of respect to all, regardless of title or position. It means working hard, and having the ability to laugh at oneself. But most of all, it means that I recognize that I am the vessel through which the gifts of God flow rather than the source of the gifts. Thank you, Dad for being all that you are in my life, and in our family.

I am truly blessed to have him in my life.

Blessings to all men, everywhere, whether you are a father or not.

Erie

12 Reasons Why My Mom Is Awesome

  1. She’s kind and caring, but still manages to be tough as nails.
  2. She is protective without being smothering.
  3. She is brave.
  4. She is forgiving.
  5. She has many amazing talents and is humble about them
  6. She is wise and gives great advice.
  7. She is really funny.
  8. She loves without conditions.
  9. She leads by example, not domination.
  10. She is encouraging.
  11. She doesn’t think twice about rushing to help other people.
  12. She is a strong woman of faith.

I could go on for ever, but really, how much more evidence does one need?

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom ♥

Erie

Introducing…Buddy!

I was one of the first people my sister-in-law told about her pregnancy. Upon finding out the news, I screamed, “I’M GOING TO HAVE A NEPHEW!!!”

At the time, I had no idea whether or not the fetus was a boy, but I think my subconscious knew better than I did because less than 8 months later, I did have a nephew. I was (grudgingly) there for his birth, and the first thing I noticed about Buddy–apart from the fact that he did not cry, was the way he looked around the room as though he already knew what was going on.

From his first day on earth, I knew the kid was remarkable.

In less than 24 hours, I went from a child-loathing grump, to a doting “auntie”. Watching him grow into a kind, empathetic, and intelligent 12 year-old has added so much to my life. Buddy looks a lot like my brother, but he has his mother’s eyes as well as her temperament. Thank God!  (Just kidding, bro!)

Case in point: my brother once told me about a Tae Kwon Do bout that Buddy was in when he was younger. He was doing pretty well, but seemed to be holding back. When my brother pulled him aside and asked why, Buddy replied, “I didn’t want to hurt him.”

(That is not how my brother rolls. Baby-Doll is similar to him in this regard.)

He is such a gentle soul that every single book and toy he had from his early childhood was in pristine condition. That is until Baby-Doll came along, playing her role of the pesky little sister to the hilt by breaking and/or ripping a lot of them.

I don’t boast of my own achievements because they are so few, but I will tell anyone who will listen how phenomenal my nephew is. He is a talented musician who learned to play piano by ear. (Piano lessons? Please. Buddy taught himself to play ‘Ode To Joy’ when he was seven.) He also plays the trombone, the drums, and any other musical instrument he can get. (My nick name for him, August Rush)

He is a silver-medal winning athlete. He is one of the best hip hop dancers I have seen, and when something catches his attention, he approaches it with a unwavering focus that is unmatched.

He is also smart, funny and caring.

I am so grateful that such a brilliant young man is a member of my family. I pray that he will always be aware of how influential he is. That he will continue to be the empathetic, respectful and polite. I pray that there will be a hedge of protection around him wherever he goes. That he will grow up to be a strong man, an outstanding leader and that whatever God intended for his life will come to pass.

Most of all, I want him to know that his auntie will always be there for him. To listen; cheer him on; encourage him, and to remind him of the person he is and the legacy he has inherited. (And to occasionally kick his butt when he steps too far out of line)

Life is not necessarily about what a person can gain from the world. In the end, what a person adds to it is what will remain. I am sure that the family name is safe in the hands of Buddy. In him, the family tradition of creativity, love, activism, faith,  and music will move forward to the next generation.

I could not be prouder.

Have a great Sunday!

Erie

Reasons Why Having A Big Brother Is Awesome

They toughen you up. My big brother does not mince words. When I was little, he teased me about everything, from my pointy forehead (what?) to my razor-sharp mouth. If I wore a ridiculous outfit, he would say, “That outfit looks ridiculous”. As a result, I wasn’t surprised when other kids teased me. I was annoyed, but having to deal with an older brother took the sting out of being picked on.

You don’t have to compete with them. I never felt the need to compete with my brother growing up. He had his place in the family, as the firstborn son, and I had mine: the only girl. My brother was involved in everything from sports to student government, yet I never felt threatened by his success, or felt as though I had to get from behind his shadow. (Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t mind being in the background. I actually prefer it) I was able to carve out my own identity because I had different interests from him.

They protect you. I believe that every girl needs a strong male role model in her life. I’m blessed to have two of them. (I have an equally strong-willed father) My brother was (and still is) very protective of me. According to him, no man is good enough for his baby sister though, a few have been deemed “passable”. (That’s the highest praise any man will get from my brother. Passable.) The neighbourhood thugs wouldn’t even approach me out of respect for my brother. And while my brother can make fun of me for being a bookish weirdo, he’ll beat the snot out of anyone who tries to do the same.

They give great advice. Who was the first person to tell me I didn’t belong in art college? My brother. Who was the one who advised me to invest in RRSPs early? My brother. And Who told me that I should do my own taxes instead of paying someone to do them for me? My brother. Basically, when my brother tells me to do something, I’m inclined to listen. Unless, I think his idea is stupid.

They’re fun. My brother inherited the storytelling gene, so he can take a seemingly mundane event and make it sound exciting. (Whereas, I’ve inherited the opposing gene that takes interesting topics and somehow makes them boring)  He’s also witty and has the same snide sense of humour as me–only he’s less of a diplomat. That fact alone automatically makes him fun to be around.

They’re really smart. My brother is a smart guy. Like, 3 degrees smart. He knows a lot about a variety of different topics that he is enthusiastic about sharing. Plus he’s kind of a know-it all. Then again, so am I. I think it’s genetic.

They have cool stuff. My brother used to have a big metal Tonka truck that I quickly commandeered, painted with pink nail polish, and began using it for my Barbies. This was not the last time I borrowed something of his. Through the years, I’ve listened to all of his cassette tapes, read a good portion of his mandatory reads for university, and even repossessed his leather bomber jacket, which was too small for him anyway.

They don’t allow you to feel sorry for yourself. I love women, and I love being a woman, but sometimes we can enable each other to wallow in self-pity, when we should be encouraging each other to move on. My brother didn’t give me the space to wallow.  (Or the time) Instead, he encouraged me to do something other than think about everything that was wrong with my life. Since he was well-versed in the history of our ancestors, he reminded me that a lot of people would love to have the opportunities that I take for granted, so I may as well enjoy my life. And he should know. In spite of his status as a pessimist realist, he is able to see the good in the most awful situations.

They’re brave.  When I was six, my brother jumped off the roof of our house onto the ground. A few years later, he jumped from the ground, over my (very tall) uncle’s head, and onto a tree branch. He also carried a burning frying pan outside–with his bare hands. (And with a giant flame blowing in his face. It was a sight to behold) I was timid for a long time, but watching my brother face down a lot of tough situations with boldness let me know that I was capable of being as courageous as he was. (We do have the same DNA, after all)

I always wanted a sister when I was little, but I wouldn’t trade my big brother for anything. Growing up with him as my third parent/antagonist/confidante/friend/protector helped form me into the person I am today. Without him, I wouldn’t be nearly as tough, snarky, patient, and smart. (Hey, I read all of his books. I’d better be smart!) Instead of two princes or princesses, duking it out for household supremacy, my brother and I were the prince and princess of a well-run kingdom. We knew our roles, without trying to overrule each other. (We’re both too stubborn, so it’s pointless to try to make us do something we don’t want to do. Pointless.) Also, we were independent leaders, rather than followers because our parents encouraged us to think for ourselves. I don’t think they knew what they were in for.

Because of my brother I learned the importance of sharing. (Mostly because, he wouldn’t share with me, so I just took what I wanted) I learned how to study. (By watching him do it) He was the first person who taught me how to drive. (Which is why I still don’t have my licence at 32. Ha.) He also made sure that I kept writing–even when I didn’t feel like doing it. Basically, my brother is great.

If you have a sister, God bless you. For me, brothers are where it’s at.

Peace,

Erie

Sharing Saturday: It’s Cleaning Day

As a kid, no three words could strike more fear in my heart than “It’s cleaning day”. My mother is the type of person who, when observing you in the middle of a leisure activity, will say, “Oh good, you’re not busy. Help me paint the dining room.” And just like that your day of watching Saved By The Bell  reruns while eating potato chips is over. Naturally, cleaning day was Saturday, the only day my very busy mother had time to clean the house thoroughly. (And the one day that I had absolutely nothing to do)

I was almost always enlisted to help, whether I agreed to it or not.

It isn’t that I hate having a clean space. I’m fastidious when it comes to tidiness and order, and I like to be organized. However, I also like to rest, and I am willing to overlook a mountain of unfolded clothes if it means I get to sit down, drink a cup of tea, and read a book. (Always)

My mother doesn’t understand because she grew up during a time when kids were basically one step up from indentured servants. They were working to pay off the debt they caused by being born, I guess. She had a heavy workload as a child that included homework, and she works hard now because she has always worked hard.

Me? I was given three household duties that I did poorly until my mother intervened. I dusted all the wooden furniture (we had a lot of wooden furniture), cleaned the bathroom, and swept and mopped the floor. Every weekend I had to be reminded to do them, even though I did the same three jobs each week. The first few times I did them, my mother had to go over and clean them again. Taking the time to explain how she did what she did so I wouldn’t forget.

Needless to say, I soon learned what her standards were and adhered to them. As per usual, I found a life lesson in this. (Leave it to me to make connections between things that are totally unrelated)

When I turned thirty, I made a vow to “clean house”. Anything that was not useful or productive–relationships, habits, belongings, etc… was thrown out. Simplicity was my new buzzword, and anything that added chaos or complication was rejected.

The way I see it, there are already too many things that are out of my control without me adding new ones. If I hadn’t simplified my life, I would still be clinging to relationships that were not going anywhere, and hoarding possessions that I never use.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote,  “Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

By refusing to be encumbered by excess baggage, I’m free to do whatever God wills. Being weighed down by possessions only looks appealing. The truth is the more you own, the more you feel the need to protect. That’s why I have such admiration for people who are monetarily wealthy but live modest lives because they aren’t defined by what they have.

Having a clean house means that you always know what you have. There’s a place for everything and everything is in its place. If dirt accumulates in a clean house, you always know where it is because it stands out.

I would say the same goes for your life. So, whenever possible, live clean, pack light, and get rid of the dirt.

Live Well 🙂

Erie

I Don’t Have A Catchy Title For Monday Posts

 

I requested today off of work because I had some important family business to attend to. It all turned out really well, (All thanks to God!) and I spent the rest of the day “window shopping” (which meant that I actually bought a new purse and a snazzy eye shadow palette. Note:I always end up buying all of my gifts early and spending the money I’ve saved on myself. Every single year) On the way home, I began thinking about forgiveness. The last couple of years have been trying ones for everyone in my family. It seemed as though we were perpetually taking one step forward, and 3 steps back. The situation was beyond our control, but thankfully, that’s where our faith filled in the gap.

Whenever we became discouraged, something would happen to give us hope. We learned not to look to our outward condition to give us an accurate picture because it changed by the week. Instead, we grew to count on our faith in God, something that has never failed us. All of us had plenty of opportunities to allow bitterness to rule us, and it was definitely warranted. But, holding onto resentment would not have made any difference in the outcome. It would have altered us in destructive ways. In order for us to gain clarity, we had to treat everyone involved with a measure of respect. Even the people who least deserved it. I honestly believe that once we changed how we saw the situation, we were better equipped to handle it. (Plus, some wise counsel helps :D)

Choosing forgiveness freed us from focusing on the past. Yesterday, my pastor said in his sermon that our past is meant to be a place of reference, not residence. We could look back and see every false step we made, but we didn’t camp out and live there. Learning from our mistakes gave us the momentum to advance, and conquer the obstacle that was placed in our way. I am grateful for all of the adversity I have had to face, either with my family, or by myself because it has given me the opportunity to learn something I would not have experienced otherwise. What was meant to break us actually ended up bonding us closer together.  While I was going through the difficult times, my favourite verse was this one: “Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.”

I took comfort in the fact that hard times do not last forever. Eventually, the clouds will part. The sun will rise, and there may even be a rainbow, but first you have to believe it’s possible.

I think I’ll call future posts “Maudlin Monday” 😆

Peace,

Erin

You’ve Got Potential

I was going to write about Remembrance Day (Or Veteran’s Day in the U.S.), but I opted out mainly because this day reminds me of my grandfather (a veteran of the second world war), and thinking of my grandfather always makes me cry.

Instead, today’s topic will be talent and potential versus persistence and opportunity.

Everyone on earth has an equal measure of talent and potential. But if there is a lack of opportunity to nurture the potential, or no persistence in cultivating natural talent, natural gifts will remain dormant.

For example, my great uncle is a talented artist. He has never studied art formally, but he can sketch realistic drawings of anything he sees in front of him. His influence is one of the reasons that my father decided to become an artist. My dad remembers  being a young boy watching his uncle draw complex battle scenes on paper and deciding that he wanted to learn how.

My great uncle has more natural talent than most people, yet growing up as a black man in a rural town, in Canada, he never had the opportunity to grow his talent any further than sketching on paper to entertain his nephews. No amount of persistence would have made him an artist–in spite of his talent–because he had no chance to.

My father, on the other hand, had plenty of opportunities. He had a family friend who would encourage him to practice his drawing and gave him the supplies necessary to do so. He earned a high school diploma and was told that he could attend art college to fine-tune his technique. Most importantly, he had the persistence to achieve his goal.

Though his education was cut short, he never stopped painting, sketching, and learning. He used every opportunity to share his art with others and was rewarded by having his work exhibited all over Canada. My father had the potential, which was cultivated into talent, and his persistence turned talent into opportunity.

When I graduated from high school, I was (stubbornly) fixated on attending art college as my father had. But during my first semester, I knew immediately that I made the wrong decision. I, like my father, had the potential to be a great artist. I had raw talent that, if managed correctly, would have given me a successful career in the fine arts. I had plenty of opportunities to learn when I was in college. The only thing I lacked was the persistence to continue.

After a year, I dropped out. In the decade since I left university, I have painted 3 paintings and filled 20 journals. Writing is a necessity for me. I am not a great writer, but I am persistent so I won’t give up until I become one.

I think that talent only carries a person so far. There are a lot of talented people with potential, waiting on tables, serving coffee, and deciding which outfit looks best on a pear-shaped figure. Some are where they are because there is no opportunity for them to move forward. Others have stalled because they either don’t know what they want to do, or because they aren’t determined enough to work to achieve their goals.

There is an inordinate amount of celebrities who seem to have no discernible talent, yet they are always there, in your face, on TV, in magazines. Persistence can take a person with no obvious talent and make them famous. (Perhaps their talent is being famous?) And we’ve all heard stories of models, actors, and singers being discovered in the mall, at the gym, or in sleazy bars–this is where opportunity comes in.

Being in the right place at the right time is important, but opportunity doesn’t always knock for everyone. The truth is everyone is not supposed to be famous, so if that’s your goal, nip it in the bud. We all have our little corner of expertise, but if you try to infringe on someone else’s talent rather than developing your own, you run the risk of never finding what you’re truly good at.

You might never find your window of opportunity because you’re too busy looking into everyone else’s windows for something you want to take.

A few years ago, I was assigned to be a greeter at my job. I’m an introvert, so I hated greeting. One day, I came home complaining about it, when my mother stopped me and said, “I know you don’t like it, but while you’re at that front door, be the best greeter that you can be. You may not be where you want to be, but wherever you are, you may as well enjoy it.” 

I have since taken that advice and applied it to my current job, as well as the one I held prior to this one. I’m not where I want to be in life. I’m not the best writer, I am not the best shipper/receiver, and I am definitely not the best person. But I don’t give up. I never rest on past victories, or live in my glory days. For me, every day holds the potential for victory, and my glory days are happening right now.

What is common among the people I truly admire is their staunch refusal to squander the gifts they’ve been given. My mother has the gift of music, nurturing and hospitality. My sister-in-law has the gift of making anyone in her presence feel at ease. My grandfather was a gifted electrician and all-around handyman. My brother is a gifted teacher, and my father is a gifted artist,carpenter, and singer. (My family is huge, and everyone is talented at something, so this list could go on for a while.)

Each of these people had to make the choice to either use their gifts or hide them. Thankfully, they’ve chosen to use every gift they’ve been given. They have set a stellar example for me to follow, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Even if, your gift is to clean hotels, be glad about that–not everyone can do that job, and even fewer can do it really well. It is more prestigious to find something you’re good at and work toward excellence, than it is to be mediocre in a profession that is supposed to be prestigious.

It is up to you to uncover your own potential. If you have a natural talent, use it. You might not ever be famous, but at least you’ll be using your gifts for something.

Sometimes, that’s good enough.

Peace,

Erie

Children Are Different

For the past couple of days, I have been spending a lot of quality time with Buddy, Baby-Doll, and Muffin. (My niece and nephews)

Baby-Doll likes to commandeer my computer to play games on Nick Jr.

Buddy is content to play video games, look up video game cheats on the internet, and talk to you about video games.

Muffin likes to run, jump, and roll. (If he doesn’t end up participating in the 2030 summer Olympics as an athlete I will be shocked)

Yesterday, I happened to be watching the Olympics on my computer when Muffin toddled into the room. After saying hello, he climbed into my lap and watched synchronized swimming with me. Whenever the women emerged from the water, Muffin would point at the screen and shout, “Ducks!”

I guess he figured that ducks are the only ones who splash around in the water, so in his mind, Splashing=ducks.

I love  toddler logic 🙂

“Ducks”

This routine is awesome, by the way 🙂

****EDIT****

Later that day, I caught Muffin trying to imitate the synchronized swimmers/”ducks”. The kid is definitely a natural athlete!

Have a great Tuesday 😀

Erie

Introducing…Baby-Doll!

Baby-Doll hanging out in the pool. 

My niece, Baby-Doll, looks so much like me that when we’re together strangers think she’s my daughter. She is a lot like me as well. She loves books, and make-up, and ‘girly’ things. She’s strong-willed, caring, and completely unintimidated by other people. Not only does she march to the beat of her own drum, she has her own band. In her mind, she is the princess, we’re her subjects, and we should all just get over it. If I believed in reincarnation, I’d say that this isn’t her first time going through life. She’s definitely what I would call an old soul–with savvy 5 year-old wisdom to keep things exciting. I never know what she’s going to say next, and I love that about her.

Her and her brothers have melted my formerly child-loathing heart.