Friday, 30 June 2017


I am Canadian. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? However, for much of my early life I remember defining myself not so much as Canadian, but more as what I wasn't. My Father's family haled from England; York to be exact. My Mother's family were Barbadian. Here I was, born in Canada. I was not British. I was not Bajan. I was Canadian. But the true beauty of those three words had not yet sunk in. I was too young to appreciate them.

My early education consisted of no daily pledges of allegiance, no excessive flag waving and no nation-centric history. I learned as much about U.S. and European history as I did, Canadian.

American TV and news dominated my adolescent and teen years - the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy and King assassinations, the Vietnam War, the LA riots...... Although I was not an American, my attention was frequently riveted by happenings south of the border. I was Canadian, but my psyche read that often as "not American". I was, though, beginning to appreciate the "not American".

As with most concepts, what it truly meant to be Canadian began to take form as I aged, matured and travelled. It is said that, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." How true! From Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island to Cape Spear in Newfoundland  Jim and I have been awestruck by the sheer vastness and breathtaking beauty of our Canada. Not infrequently have we been reduced to tears by the glorious landscape before us. An appreciation of our settlers, whether gold rush miners seeking their fortunes, prairie farmers battling the elements, voyageurs exploring our waterways or fishermen arriving on our shores in search of cod, these early adventurers' bravery, ingenuity, struggles and ability to survive the hardships of their new world form the basis of our nation today. And then there are the welcoming, interesting present day fellow Canadians of every religion, race and language group who we have met along the way. The seed of understanding what it means to be Canadian took root.

Travelling overseas put the blossom on the seedling of my citizenship gratitude. Of course there is much to be learned from other countries - Swiss seniors and their extraordinary level of fitness, Italians' passion for family and life, to name a few. With the exception of Ireland, which we found to be massively pro-USA and marginally disappointed to discover that Jim and I were not American, great admiration for Canada exists. To a greater degree than many Canadians, Europeans recognize what our nation has created. How often we have been eagerly hugged by an Italian, "Canadese, si" or met with a Frenchman's huge smile, "Canadien, ah oui". During our travels we have been gratified to discover that Canada is universally respected and admired.

Flying home from the European continent or from the U.S., there is nothing I now love more than entering Canadian airspace. No, I am not a nervous flyer. Being in Canadian airspace means that below me lies my great nation. My eyes lovingly take in the rivers, lakes, green fields, cities and towns passing below. I am blessed to be home once again.

Our little town of Uxbridge has sponsored five Syrian families from Aleppo. To see Canada through their eyes, to experience their sheer joy at their new life filled with safety, peace, and friendliness fills my heart with love for Canada and the haven we have offered to so many over the past 150 years.

Yes, this understanding of what it truly means to be a citizen of our beautiful country has been a learning and growing process. But today, on Canada's 150th, I say a quiet thank you for the country of my birth, the 'true north strong and free'. My heart swells with understanding, love and gratitude as I say I AM CANADIAN.

Friday, 16 June 2017


As an child, I was plagued with body image problems. My issues were not the result of the skinny models in ads nor were they caused by growing up with the impossibly-figured Barby Doll. Even then, I had enough intelligence to realize that those did not represent the norm. My Mother, god bless her soul, was relentless in her determination to create a thin elder daughter. It never dawned on her that her gourmet cooking skills and dessert after every meal may have been at the base of my problem. My sister, who was slim and beautiful, ate what I ate. It never occurred to Mom that Jo possessed the metabolism of a race car and me, of a slug, Nor did my Mother ever understand that her ongoing negative comments about my weight would have a life-lasting impact, that, no matter what my weight, I would never learn to accept my physical image.

I believe in my heart that Mom felt she was encouraging me. Child psychology was not exactly front and centre at that time. Sadly, in those formative years, comments can bury themselves deep in one's psyche. Motivational speakers refer to, "garbage in, garbage out". What you believe is what you are. Take it from me, don't ever 'encourage' your child in that manner.

"You are big-boned like your Grandmother Brown; you take after her. Your sister takes after the Toppin side of the family." Not only was my Gramma Brown obese, but I found her to be a nasty, negative person whose company I never enjoyed. Granny Toppin, on the other hand, was slim, generous and gentle. Try mentally absorbing that comparison as a child. I wanted to cry with joy when my family doctor confirmed that I do indeed have a slow metabolism and that I am not 'big-boned'.

Mom's best comment? "No one will ever want to marry you." Dear God, who says that to a young teen? Guess she didn't count on Jim.

As I passed into my late teens and into my own life - university, wife and mother, real estate broker - I found strength in my accomplishments and body issues faded. I graduated "summa cum laude" from U of T, married a fun, loving, wonderful man, raised two fine young sons, became a grandmother (!), and worked my way up through the real estate industry to own my own brokerage and earn invitations to serve on both Toronto Real Estate Board and Real Estate Council of Ontario Committees. My confidence soared.

Only lately, as time passes, have I noticed the reemergence of my body image problems. I hate seeing my image in windows, photos....whatever! Even worse, I hate trying on clothes. It is stupid really. I exercise regularly, am very fit, have a resting heart rate in the 60's, "admirable" blood pressure and low cholesterol counts. My life is good and relatively healthy.

Perhaps my current issues stem from the loss in retirement of my career identity or the irreversible aging process and its impact on my body. What I do believe is that those negative comments, long buried in my psyche, are sneaking out.

Why write this now? This morning, I was enjoying a pre-swim coffee when I glanced out the window and watched a woman, dressed in a hot coral tank top and knee length tight black leggings, walking purposely into town. So what? Honestly, this lady has fifty pounds on me. I would be horribly self conscious dressed as such, but she looked absolutely, glowingly beautiful, exuded confidence and "owned her appearance". She is my new hero. I was truly envious. So it's time for some self talk. Time to exize my demons once and for all! Don't allow my psyche to bully my self image.That is my new retirement challenge. Now where can I buy a hot coral tank top and some black leggings.