Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Memories


My childhood memories of Christmas do not centre on religion, presents or family meals. What has remained in my memory all these years is the feeling of magic, which is part of the innocence children experience when they are young and which we sadly lose when we discover that the holiday is a man-made event.

When I was a little girl, growing up in a German household, Christmas was a time of many secrets. Although I did not know it at the time, money was scarce in our household and gifts were kept small, although my mother was always very generous. In the lead-up to the big day, there was never any sign of wrapping paper, nobody ever talked about lists or having to go shopping. The only pre-Christmas excitement came from opening a window a day on my Advent calendar throughout December. Everything else just appeared as if by magic, making the possibility of angels and Santa Claus and elves seem very real.

The biggest secrecy of all was around the decorating of the Christmas tree. It was always done on Christmas Eve, behind closed doors by the grown-ups. Kids were absolutely forbidden to watch or participate. To ensure that there would be no peeking, the curtains were drawn and the door to the living room was tightly shut. All my cousin and I could do, was listen to the rustling and murmurings coming through the keyhole as we waited impatiently to see the end result.

Once it was dark, all the lights in the house were turned off and the door was slowly opened. The sight of our tree all decorated and lit up with real candles, never failed to excite us. It was, in many ways, more splendid than the gifts underneath the tree. Adding to the sense of wonder was the smell of singed pine needles, which our grandparents would snip off as they walked around the tree, bucket of water and scissors always at the ready.

Eventually, after the gifts had been distributed, the candles on the tree would be extinguished, one by one, and the lights turned back on. We would get cookies and chocolates while the adults drank mulled wine and sang German Christmas carols.

Although we have, for the most part, kept to our old traditions, there were a couple of years when hubby and I took the kids to celebrate Christmas in Florida.  Near the villa where we stayed was a pool where all the visiting kids congregated to play. It was there that our then five-year old son heard one kid declare loudly to all the others that there was no such thing as Santa. Shattered, our son turned to his older sister and said: “it’s not true, is it, there really IS a Santa!” To which our daughter, truthfully replied that, no, the kid was telling the truth, there was no such thing. Our son’s disbelief was heartbreaking to witness and I remember having to console him for the rest of the afternoon.

This year we had two little children visiting on the day hubby and I trimmed our tree. He and I were snarling at each other because the last strand of lights wouldn’t light up and I wanted that taken care of before the girls arrived. I quickly sent hubby to the hardware store around the corner before it closed to get another strand. He came back with outdoor lights. He went back. He returned with indoor lights this time only the strand was too short. Back he went again. This time he returned with some sort of weird contraption; a net with light bulbs that was meant for an outdoor bush. We should have been laughing but we were both seething by then. He finally got it right just as the store was closing. It was then that I found the spare bulbs that would have salvaged the original strand of lights, at the bottom of the box holding all the decorations….

We hurriedly put the basic decorations up, leaving the rest for the little girls who arrived shortly thereafter. They are six and four respectively so they still believe in magic and their faces, so full of wonder and awe, were the best Christmas present hubby and I could have asked for. They giggled and chatted about Father Christmas as they added some decorations wherever they could reach. I found it in my heart to not try and make the tree perfect after they had left, preferring to savour their pleasure every time I see two balls of the same colour hanging side by side, which in my childhood home would have been 'verboten.'

May you experience simplicity and see the joy of innocence on the faces of those you love this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November Snow



I woke up to a white world this morning. The first snow fall is always magical and takes me back to my childhood when winter was just a pile of days and weeks in which to skate and toboggan and make snow angels, instead of being the interminably long period of time it is now. The concept of time changes drastically as you age.
When you are young you never believe that you will grow old. It is something that will happen to other people, not you.

As you grow up you begin to accept that you likely will grow old but later, much, much later. Certainly not now, in the prime of your life! You will be active! You will be positive! Aging can be delayed, postponed, put off for decades!

In your middle years you can no longer hide some of the signs that start to creep into your daily life; a bad back, crow’s feet, having to wear reading glasses. For women, the big one is grey hair, which is like a neon sign, seemingly telling the world that you are no longer in your prime. Some say that gray hair makes you invisible.


Your kids grow up, your friends start to have ailments, some of them serious. Your parents begin to need extra help with certain chores and the mirror offers you proof on a more regular basis that you are aging. The hope, at this point, is that you’ve acquired a bit of wisdom along the way, and a life philosophy to guide you, otherwise this stage can be positively frightening.
And then you arrive at what I call the invisible timeline. Once crossed, and that happens when you least expect it, you cannot ever go back. From that demarcation point onwards, you see everything in a different light.  You may feel youthful but your youth is behind you. You may be healthy but illness is no longer an abstract. You may look great for your age but energy levels have changed. At best, that knowledge  is a very sobering nanosecond, one in which you look in the mirror and see whatever is your truth; you will never become a brain surgeon , never again fit into a size 8, never recapture wasted moments….and yes, those really are your  jowls looking back at you.

Mercifully, once this sobering act is over you are free to live your life as you see fit. Mother Nature (or is Father Time??) help you settle into your new mindset, one in which you clear a lot of mental debris in order to make room for new priorities. It’s a long process, hopefully one that will take many years to complete. With all that clutter gone from your mind, you are free to enjoy small pleasures without guilt.


The snow is still coming down but I am nice and warm sitting in my living room. I think I will read my magazine, the one with Tony Bennett on the cover. At 85, he has just recorded a new album…

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A State of Mind


It has certainly been a year of transition in our household. The latest twist, one that came out of left field, is that hubby has retired. A better explanation would be that he has sold his shares of the company at a time when he is still healthy enough to enjoy other activities. In an unplanned, two week period, my husband has gone from being a full-time entrepreneur, to a man of leisure.
With our adult children long gone from the nest we have often been in deep discussions about how ‘retirement’ would look for us when we got there. I had hoped that 2012 would be the year so was a little startled a few weeks ago when hubby announced the moment to leave the company had arrived. With the economy being what it is these days we knew that such an opportunity might not come again for many years, so we jumped at the chance, knowing we would work out the details as we went.

My husband has always loved what he does and he always approached work with a very positive, can-do attitude. Tenacity is his middle name. But many months of battling overseas, combined with a genuine longing to slow down and ‘smell the roses’ as they say, had worn him down and made this past year very stressful for him. You get to a point in life where you simply don’t want to live like that anymore.

These days, the word retirement brings to mind something completely different from how it was for the previous generation. It is no longer about getting a gold watch after 30 or 40 years of being loyal to one company. Retirement today brings many choices to the table and ends up being a time of great transition which might include everything from travel, going back to school, learning a new language, doing part-time work, consulting, mentoring, volunteering, exploring artistic mediums, to sports, or possibly all of the above. . With good health, longevity and the all-important good financial planning, a retiree today can hopefully enjoy these things for some 20 or even 30 years.

All those things require a sort of re-aligning of priorities and a financial plan to back it all up. Do we downsize or stay put? Should we entertain the idea of having a second home, either, a country house, a beach condo or a shack in the woods? Is this when we buy ourselves a motorcycle and take off across the continent? Or will we offer our time to work in Africa with AIDS orphans for a year?
The biggest and most immediate change, or so people tell me, will be to our daily routines. Hubby will apparently now want to ‘do’ stuff with me all the time and will, therefore, cut into my time. Luckily, we have always traveled well together and we have equally always been very respectful of one another’s space which speaks volumes now that we really need those qualities. No doubt he will continue to cycle and train for his marathons, leaving me to pick the films we will see or the art galleries and museums that are of interest. We balance each other well and that may make this whole retirement business very enjoyable.

One thing is for sure. Retirement is no longer a destination, it’s become a state of mind, and that means a constant measuring with adjustments as you go.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering

I will address the question of the day, especially as I have actually been asked more than once this week: Where were you on 9/11?


I was in Vancouver, about to film two back-to-back episodes for a series on women and their financial situations. The crew and I had just finished a three day shoot in a beautiful place called Christina Lake up in the mountains and had then driven down to Vancouver along some of Canada’s most scenic routes. I remember how grateful I felt to see such wondrous sights and to travel with such a great group of hard-working, dedicated people. We had, by then, logged many miles together, having crossed Canada from coast to coast in search of our stories, which we often found in small, out of the way communities that required sleeping in crappy motels and eating bad food. So we were excited to finally be in a big city where we were booked into a decent hotel and where we knew we would all be able to satisfy our craving for good, fresh food.

Filming days are traditionally very long so we always had a hearty breakfast. On September 11th I headed down to the hotel coffee shop around 7:00 a.m. With the time difference, the life-altering events on the east coast were already well under way. Our director of photography was already at the table and I noticed right away that he looked ashen. What’s wrong? I asked. He pointed to the tv above the counter, unable to speak.

My first reaction upon seeing a plane flying into a skyscraper was that this was some kind of joke. Like millions of people all over the world, my brain would not compute what my eyes were seeing. My stomach lurched as I realized it was not a joke. I took what I was looking at to be a terrible accident. I sat down and my colleague said a very bad swearword in French.

Other crew members started to trickle in. Nobody in the restaurant spoke above a whisper. We were still trying to get our heads around it all when the tv showed images of the tower being hit. Our collective numbness was suddenly replaced by fear for our loved ones. We started to think about people we knew who lived in New York and we all reached for our phones. I called my husband.

He reassured me that our children were safe, that he had already been in contact with their schools and that he himself was heading home to be with them. He sounded as incredulous as I felt. I was due to fly home the next day but it was already becoming clear that air space was being emptied and that all airports were shutting down.

Next, I called my Executive Producer who had family in New York. They were, mercifully, accounted for and safe. Going home the next day was going to be out of the question. He suggested that we just stay where we were and sit tight until things became clearer.

So my shell-shocked crew and I decided that we would go ahead with the work at hand. We proceeded to the house of our next subject which was high up in North Vancouver with an incredible view of the harbor. It was a brilliantly sunny fall day. I wondered how something so awful could be happening on such a nice day but then we focused on the task at hand. We needed to be doing something normal and familiar.

I remember nothing about the actual interview. I do remember, very clearly, that we all stayed very close and very quiet. That evening we huddled in our director’s room. We stopped watching the news and turned on a movie instead, just to get a reprieve from those awful images. We kept calling home to report that all flights had been cancelled and that we were stuck. We had philosophical discussions about the Middle East, about Palestine, about Islam, and the folly of our times. We did not yet know who was to blame for the attack.

Three days later Vancouver airport slowly came back to life and we headed there with the hope of getting home. I will never forget the sight of all those airplanes as we approached. Vancouver had been one of the first airports to receive American planes ordered to land; the tarmac looked like a giant parking lot.

Inside the terminal, the lineups were long but the chaos was organized. Airline employees were making the rounds and handing out bottled water to waiting passengers. Although we all wanted to get home, we also dreaded getting into an airplane and the mood was thus very somber. The thought of the thousands of victims made me tearful. I was not the only one to shed a quiet tear and it seemed normal to pat the back of a stranger.

In the end, my crew flew out on one plane while I ended up on another. I thus had a few hours on my own to contemplate the greatest tragedy of my lifetime, one that would forever change the way any of us travel. There can be no doubt that we are all more afraid of flying since that day and terribly irritated by the inconvenience of the ongoing security measures that are now imposed on us. The horror and absurdity of 9/11 filled every one of us with collective anger and grief and I wanted more than anything, that day flying home, to be with my children, even as I understood that nothing I could say or do would erase the dreadful images that were played relentlessly, over and over.

I think every generation has catastrophic moments that turn the tide of history. Those who witnessed the liberation of death camps after World War II, for instance were surely also marred by the images before them. The mass graves of thousands of Cambodians, the slaughter of innocent people anywhere, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq; even violent death by natural disasters like tsunamis or earthquakes, all are terrible events which the media brings into our homes over and over and over again .

I won’t be glued to my tv this weekend, watching images that are already imprinted in my mind. Instead, I will send positive thoughts to the families who suffered losses and hope that time has helped them heal.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

HOME AGAIN

After three months of living abroad I now wrestle daily with being happy to be home and at the same time also missing some of what I have left behind. It isn’t that one place is better than another, far from it. It’s more about how each place makes me feel.


At home everything is comfortable, familiar, predictable and safe. These are all good things and I value them for what they are; the culmination of years of hard work and the trappings of a very blessed life. Above all else, being home gives me access to my children and that is a gift I never can take for granted for it is a given that our off-spring are ours for only a short period of time and that they will eventually make their own way towards where they need to be, which is not necessarily going to be by our side.

Being away from home for an extended period, as opposed to going on a two week vacation, whether to Ireland or anywhere else, immediately offers a different dimension to life. You are thrown a little off-balance every day by new experiences, whether negative or positive, and you always have to check what your reaction to any given situation is. It’s a bit like constantly taking your own pulse and thus getting to know a part of yourself that doesn’t often come out in familiar territory; the excited you, the scared you, the euphoric you, the curious you...

It is through this process of questioning and finding answers that the shedding of old ideas and the embracing of new growth, comes from. This automatically means you feel more alive, living more on the edge, with all senses coming into focus a little sharper. I discovered, through this process, that I have a bit of a nomadic wanderer in me and that living in another culture and climate, far from all that I hold dear, actually suits my temperament and my restless nature. The experience made me more interesting to myself because I gained a new dimension.

I am back home now and happily so. Yet I am not quite ready to lose that part of me that I found in Dublin. I genuinely rejoice at once again having access to family and friends, and of course, those silly little things I missed, like a shower that doesn’t dribble, a clothes dryer that actually dries clothes, the warm colours of our walls, cotton bedsheets and the peaceful view beyond our window, just to name a few. But I confess that at the end of the day, lying in our comfortable bed waiting to fall asleep, a part of me pines for what was in the tiny, noisy flat above the friendly Lemon Jelly restaurant. It's where I discovered that there is more to me than I remembered.

As the saying goes....wherever you go, there you are.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer in Dublin

It is a sunny18 degrees here under bright blue skies and anyone who can sit outside drinking a pint of Guinness or a coffee, is doing so. Summer has descended on Dublin at last and the euphoria of being able to shed rain jackets, scarves and closed shoes, is shared even by me.


In the first week of July, street planters, which had mostly been disappointingly empty since my arrival, suddenly were filled to bursting with colourful floral arrangements. I never saw anyone working on them so must assume that those same leprechauns who handle street sanitation were responsible. Every main street and restaurant is suddenly bedecked in an abundance of flowers.

As though on cue, tourists are arriving here as fast as Ryan Air can fly them in. They bring much needed money and a vibrancy that is palpable as one walks along Dublin streets, especially at night when young people from all over the world take over the bars and pubs. Many is the night that hubby and I have been woken from a deep sleep by happily intoxicated people below our bedroom window shouting or singing lusty songs in various languages. Living centrally has its disadvantages.

My favourite pedestrian shopping area, Henry Street, which is near our flat, is filled not only with the usual local shoppers, it now also has mimes, buskers, and students being paid to hold signs that tell tourists where they can go for a cheap lunch, a quick Tarot reading, a haircut. Mothers with prams mingle with street vendors peddling cherries and grapes, while elderly men try to get spare change for tap dancing on a piece of plywood or singing an Irish song. Shopping was never so entertaining.

In the three months I have been here I have gone from being a tourist myself, to feeling native. Just the other day I was asked by a French couple if I knew the way to O’Connell Street. I was pleased as punch to be taken for a Dubliner. On another occasion, I overheard three girls query a route among one another so I went over and showed them on a map the best route to take. I am paying forward the kindness that was shown to me when I first arrived.

On the other side of the Liffey, in Temple Bar and beyond, young smokers mill in doorways, music spilling onto the streets from establishments that advertise live entertainment and a set menu. The Early Bird Special is popular here, especially with North Americans who are used to dining before dark. The cycle of 24 hours is very different here; it doesn’t get dark much before 10:30 which makes for a long day. Hubby and I have taken many walks along the river at dusk when the lights begin to be reflected in the water and the bridges are lit up. Pure magic and it’s for free!

My time here is almost done but I will leave Dublin on a high, a mental summer festival that will be remembered till the end of my days. There have been so many highlights and so many genuinely wonderful moments that I will need months to sort through all my memories. As a writer, I can  now confirm that this city makes a great impact on those of us who need to express themselves with words.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Discovering Dublin

It’s rare to hear any horns honking here. Dublin traffic flows as though choreographed, with the utmost respect shown to pedestrians, many of whom, like me, are tourists. We are reminded at every street corner to ‘look right’ or ‘look left’, words that are actually painted onto the pavement.

Even if there is a red light directing you to wait, you are expected to cross the street if there is no car coming. You look like an idiot if you stand there and wait as nobody else does that! If the light is red and there are cars heading your way when you reach a corner, you have to hit the button that just about every crossing is equipped with. The light will change  to green within seconds, emanating a bird-like sound to help the vision impaired. No talk of  jay walking here, no fear of being mown down or given the finger by an irate motorist like back home!

A further civility exists when you ask a Dubliner for directions. Well, now dear, let me see. Ah, you see that church over there? Well, you want to be making a right turn when you get to it! I’ve actually had a man give me directions and then walk with me all the way to my destination, just to make sure I got there. How nice is that? He was a barrister, as it turns out, on his way back to the office after a morning in court. I tried to dissuade him, especially as it was a rainy day, but he would not hear of it. When we got to the right street he just walked off without another word!

It’s true that when it comes to directions, things can get a little complicated, due to the fact that street names are not always posted, and if they are, they more than likely will have changed in the last block. For example, Suffolk Street becomes Nassau Street which becomes Leinster Street South and then changes to Clare Street, which in turn becomes Merrion Square North! So you could be on the right street all along but not know it if you were a block away. I no longer look at street signs, I simply use buildings and bridges as my guide.

I have seen very few dogs here, which is good because they don’t seem to have a poop and scoop policy.  They are also very lax about littering. I have observed elegantly dressed women in suits and high heels, flick their cigarette butts onto the street like seasoned truckers. All street corners look like giant ashtrays.  I have also seen people throw food wrappers into the river while crossing the footbridges when in fact there are many bins throughout the city.

Although there is litter, there are armies of people  (leprechauns?) who come out in the night to clean so that every morning is a fresh start. It's a radical idea but perhaps, in an economy where the unemployment rate is at an all-time high, littering is a way of keeping people working.

Not only is unemployment high, there are also many homeless people. They are young and they are old, men as well as women. In the neighborhood where I live there is an elderly lady who regularly makes the rounds of the many restaurant terraces, begging for change, crossing the bridge back and forth with her walker.

Travel opens your eyes to so many things, some delightful, some frightful.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dublin Days

My first weeks in Dublin have been a series of grins and groans as I slowly get accustomed to these new and unfamiliar surroundings. I have juggled with loneliness and homesickness but have also felt great surges of joy as I discover things that fill my soul with new energy.

I am now better acquainted with the area and the building where hubby and I are staying, a corporate apartment that costs a very pretty penny, as it's in a wonderfully central location, but which is essentially a small, five-story walk-up.

Not even when we were first married did we ever live in such close confinement! The thought of spending a summer here was, at first, quite daunting, but I have to admit that the bed is very comfortable, the towels are big and fluffy, there is plenty of hot water and climbing stairs daily is a great cardio workout! Besides, I have to confess that I have already grown very fond of the clang- clang the tramways make when they stops at the bottom of our street and anyway, I did not come here for home comforts.

Even though I still don’t know where most things are, I am aware of having been transported to a place that is unique and which offers me many different experiences. That is what makes an adventure; you must get lost every day but never feel lost. You must never look for anything in particular, you just walk and absorb sounds and images as you go and let them impact your thoughts without restraint.

Never have I had such unstructured days. At first it made me feel somewhat rudderless to have nothing in front of me but time and space, but now I find it liberating to walk out of a building in an unfamiliar city and just see where my instincts take me. That is how I managed to take a photo of Queen Elizabeth waving from her car, found a wonderful woman from the Ivory Coast who sews in a tiny shop above an Internet cafĂ©, discovered a magical Victorian tea room at the back end of an old department store. Who knows what discovery I might make tomorrow!

My ears are slowly adjusting to the musical way the Irish speak. I am getting used to crossing the streets that have traffic coming from the ‘wrong’ side. I have figured out the money system. I now know that I must always wear layers, even on the sunniest of days and that it isn’t worth getting my umbrella out when it begins to rain because it’s really only a fast-moving cloud spitting a little. I am aware that at the end of the day, when my head is crammed full of new impressions and my feet hurt from miles of walking, that I have collected another fine batch of memories for a time in the future when I will no longer want to have this kind of adventure.  I suppose you could say that I am living my days to the fullest and that it's not always easy but at least I won't have regrets later on when I look back. At my age, that's important.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Summer Adventure

As I look around me at the cherished circle of friends I have gathered over the years, I see that little cracks are forming. An illness here, major surgery there. It has begun, the process of time eroding our collective health and vitality. We shall all fall eventually, of course, but for now it is still a crapshoot with none of us knowing what the future holds.

It is much too sobering to live this way, waiting to see what will befall us next, so the only option is to live in the moment and truly savour what each day brings. While I have followed this philosophy for years, and am thus pretty open to new experiences,  I was completely unprepared for the unexpected surprise that came my way recently; an invitation to spend the coming summer in Dublin with my husband.

I have been wanting to see Ireland ever since my girlfriend took me to see the film "Ryan's Daughter" many moons ago. The movie had a visual impact that four decades have not dimmed in my mind. I am so excited at the prospect of actually being able to see that craggy coastline and those deep green fields for myself in a matter of weeks, that I am starting to pinch myself. My stomach jumps in happy anticipation when I think of all the things that await us.

As excited as I am about my upcoming adventure, I also have a heavy heart about leaving behind my family and friends. Because I know that time and space alter things and that even if everyone is still standing when I return, we will all have changed because of new experiences and things will therefore never again be as they are now. Therein lies the ambivalence; you can't stay too comfortable if you want to experience a full life but in order to have adventures that will add colour and spice to your life, you have to get out of your daily routine and embrace new challenges. Life really is a series of hellos and good-byes and treasuring the memories one creates in between.

While musing over this remarkable opportunity, I happened to come across the following quote by Mark Twain who said: "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Dublin, here I come!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

International Women's Day

I had dinner with a close friend yesterday, International Women's Day. While looking at old photos and chatting over a glass of wine, I thought about all the women who are out there fighting; for human rights, to be heard, to create change, and this very much includes the women I try to help through Kiva, a micro-lending organization which reminds us that "women perform 66% of the world's work, produce 50% of the food, but continue to earn just 10% of the income while only owning 1% of property."

As  my friend served up organic chicken and roasted vegetables, I asked her....if you could have dinner with any woman you admire, past or present, who would it be?

She thought about it and after a lively discussion came up with Eleanor Roosevelt, (she was ahead of her time) Jane Jacobs, (she made things happen) Katherine Hepburn, (a total original) Queen Victoria (she changed the world) Flora MacDonald (quietly worked on improving social programs even after retiring from politics) and Carol Burnett (she is one funny woman).

On my side, I would also have invited Eleanor Roosevelt but since she was already spoken for I moved on to Golda Meir, (a true pioneer) Audrey Hepburn, (classy, talented, aged beautifully and did good work for the UN till the end of her life) Anita Roddick, (founder of The Body Shop and one of the first to understand the connection between business and social/environmental responsibility) Zanaib Salbi (founder of Women for Women International, an organization that has, to date raised over 24 million dollars in aid to help women in war-torn countries rebuild their lives) and Dorothy Sayers, the English writer and poet who apparently said: "A woman in advancing old age is unstoppable by any earthly force." You have to love someone who can say something like that and believe it!

As an after-thought, my friend added Rachel Carson, the environmentalist and author of Silent Spring while I wondered why we had mostly chosen women who are no longer with us instead of more iconic contemporaries like Oprah. Media saturation may have something to do with that.

There are so many brilliant women out there, doing so many interesting things as they go about their often difficult lives, that our little dinner game was almost silly. But in discussing some of the women who had influenced our thinking along the way, we were paying tribute to many more in our own way. In the end, that is what we must hope for; that we are given the opportunity to do work that is meaningful, that we do it to the best of our ability, and that we inspire others as we go. But what we have to strive for, all of us, is that women everywhere are treated respectfully and given an equal chance at anything they choose to do. And not just on International Women's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Of Dreams and Nightmares

Back in October 2004 I was shocked like everyone else in my town to read about the senseless murder of a young woman named Kelly-Anne Drummond. By all accounts, she had been an out-going, vibrant girl, an accomplished athlete who had just completed her degree in Communications and who had recently worked as a production assistant on her first film shoot.

My reaction to her senseless death was very much coloured by the fact that my own daughter has a birthday in October which we were about to celebrate. I often thought about Kelly-Anne's mother and what she was going through. By what stroke of luck or fate did I get to keep my daughter, while she had so tragically lost hers? It consumed my mind for quite awhile and I followed the story right up until Kelly-Anne's boyfriend was convicted of her murder and sent to prison two years later.

At around the same time as Kelly-Anne died,  I was writing a book (Silent Women) which deals with the subject of abuse and how easy it is for people to lose themselves when they get enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship. Abuse comes in so many forms....verbal, sexual, emotional, physical...and it can be delivered so subtly that the victim, at first, doesn't even realize what is happening. Abuse can happen to anyone, at any age.

While I continued to work on my book, I was approached by a friend and colleague who asked me to help her with a film she had just finished directing. She had shot it but the storyline wasn't working for her and she needed to give her images new meaning in order to salvage the footage she already had. The film was entitled "Dreams and Mirrors".

The film depicts the emotional landscape of a young girl who is trying to come to terms with her past and the relationship she had with her late father. The breath-takingly beautiful images evoked strong emotions and were a natural outlet, given what I was writing in my book, to further explore the topic of women who choose to be silent about their inner pain. What cannot come out, goes deep within, and in the case of Sara, the character in the film, the end result is a sequence of dreams that eventually lead her to make an important decision. To quote from the narration: "The women always walk without speaking, knowing that silence is expected of them, that all shame must be borne without ever making a sound. This might have been my own fate had I not heard the wave of eloquent anguish coming from these silenced voices, showing me that pain is the force that either keeps you down or makes you rise."


"Dreams and Mirrors" is finally going to be screened this weekend after years of hard work and a tenacious belief in the message from all who were involved in the project. One crew member will not be able to attend the screening. I never knew until yesterday that the production assistant on this film, was Kelly-Anne Drummond.

I dedicate what I wrote for "Dreams and Mirrors" to her memory.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011

Too much champagne, not enough sleep.


But we made a good start to the New Year, hubby and I, and that’s all I had wished for as we clinked glasses and made our toasts.

Along with mundane thoughts and a tiny headache this morning comes a yearning to reinvent myself. This is nothing new as I get like this every so often, a throw-back to earlier years when it seemed a good idea to always keep moving.

They say that at the end of your life, what you regret the most is what you haven’t done. So reinventing myself while I still have time is simply a way to get back on track with what I want my life to be, by shedding what I no longer want, re-assessing what I actually need, prioritizing, and then taking concrete steps to attain those new goals. I know from experience that sometimes that process leads to chaos and sometimes it leads to peace of mind. I’ve had the pleasure of both and can attest to the fact that introspection and inner-growth can come from either one. Change is always good, even if, especially if, at first it causes pain and discomfort.

As I step into this New Year, I feel that familiar inner pull tugging at my spirit once more. There is a strong sense of urgency this time, a reminder that I no longer have oodles of time ahead of me. I look around at family and friends, some of whom are tackling huge life issues, and I am convinced that the old poster over my bed when I was a teen, held a truth we can only fully appreciate now that we’re older; today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Let’s not waste a moment.