Saturday, 9 May 2015

A Letter to My Mom

Dear Mom,

As much as we both despise Mother's Day, you have to admit that it does offer some glorious time for reflection on the nature of family and the ever-evolving relationships carried within. It has been several years since I publicly informed the world that not only do I love and respect my mother, but that I actually like you and adore spending time with you. For some women, this admission would be tantamount to smearing one's body with honey and running naked through the forest, but for me it was a natural as breathing.

You see....

I think that my mother is probably one of the most fascinating, brilliant, and talented people I know.

Now that I have said all of that, I can hear her cries of self-derision and embarrassment pulsating through my screen. But frankly Mom, it's time you listened and truly took to heart what I know to be true about you, even if you yourself can't see it.

You complain vociferously that you aren't smart enough or clever enough. This nonsense is being spewed by the same woman who worked her ass off and persevered through dyslexia, at a time when it wasn't on any educator's radar, to shatter old-time quotas placed on Jewish women entering nursing. You followed your passion when it wasn't always easy or "ladylike" to do so, and you lived it because you felt it completed you. How could your daughter not look at that drive and determination and not see a brilliant and powerfully independent woman?

And you have never rested on your laurels.

You continue to study, learn, create, beautify, interact, engage, experience, seek out, and acquire new ideas and skills. Your self-deprecation, while charming at times, infuriates the shit out of me. (And yes..I know that you wish I didn't swear so much.) I wish you could see what I see, but you come from a generation that pushed its boys forward into the limelight while allowing its girls to remain quietly in the shadows. You have never been shy about expressing yourself with me, but out in the world you prefer to stay buried in the background. I have never been able to fully reconcile these two sides of you. The greatest gift that you ever gave me was to push me out of my own comfort zone and onto a public stage where my gifts would be recognized and appreciated. Do you honestly believe that I could have achieved all that I have without your counsel, wisdom, guidance, critical eye, and unwavering support?

You have been my confidante, my guidepost, my biggest fan and my most needed and essential critic. You have been my shoulder to cry on, my organizational guru, my therapist, my role model, my mentor, and my friend. You are my rock. Our daily conversations (sometimes many) are sustenance to me.

There is no disputing that these have been challenging times for you, Mom. Nobody, least of all me, expects you to ever be fully whole again. There is a part of you that is broken and perhaps beyond repair. That's ok. It really is. Just accept it. But, I would like to think that maybe you are being remodelled, much in the way that fractured bones mend. There is a perpetual weakness where the break occurred, and even pangs of sharp pain on occasion, but there is strength in the resoluteness of the core to continue on and make the most of what is left. That strength has always been a part of you. You just need to dig fairly deep down to summon it now. I have no doubt that you will. There is still so much left for you to experience; so much that is yet to come.

I love you, Mom. But more importantly, I like you. Not in a smarmy "Sally Field" kind of like, but rather a true admiration and esteem. Our relationship is one of the true joys of my life.

Oh...and by the way...this is your Mother's Day present! ( taught me sarcasm as well!)

Love always,


Saturday, 2 May 2015

Spring Cleaning

Over the past several weeks, The Husband and I have embarked upon a massive and long-overdue spring cleaning exercise. As we rapidly approach our thirtieth (yes...that's 3-0!) wedding anniversary this June and are now most definitely full-time empty-nesters, it seemed like a good time to sort through the years of accumulated "stuff" that has managed, true to everything George Carlin ever prophesied, to expand to the size of our house.

We decided from the outset that we would downsize the bits and pieces and dispose of the odds and ends. We needed to accept and embrace the idea of binging and purging, as painful as it might be. We needed to adopt a ruthlessness that would go hand in hand with the inherent sentimentality of wanting to save every scrap of paper, weep over every photograph, fawn over every elementary school art project, and relive all of the "good old days."

Some of it has been easy and straightforward. Finally ridding ourselves of over twenty years of paper receipts and tax information was extraordinarily cathartic. As we shlepped close to two hundred pounds of outdated scraps and forms to a local shredding company, it felt as though we were flipping off Revenue Canada, and there was tremendous pleasure in it.

And did I really need to save the ugly seder plate given to us as a wedding gift from a relative whom I couldn't stand then and has been out of my life ever since? Dropping that into the Goodwill pile was a no-brainer.

There is no sentimentality in keeping broken and damaged luggage no matter how wonderful the trips associated with it might have been. And the Halloween costumes that I poorly constructed for the boys (I am not a craft person, nor can I sew) went out with the trash.

But, some of it has been extremely difficult and painful. As I sorted through the certificates, awards, and assorted framed documents that my children earned over the years, I was awash with nostalgia and immediately transported back to school gyms where I watched with immense parental pride as Older Son kicked ass during speech competitions and Younger Son swept up the yearly scholastic prizes. I remembered music concerts and karate tournaments, and I recalled family events, picnics, car rallies, vacations, and I found myself weeping for people who had shared much of this with me and who are now gone and sorely missed. There is an acute self-awareness that goes along with this job that transcends the simple disposal of junk. There is a need to accept that which is firmly rooted in the past, and to move decisively forward through the present into the next phase.

I have noticed that while we have methodically, yet schizophrenically, advanced this project, I have felt moments of deep spiritual cleansing. Could it be that while de-cluttering our physical space, I have de-cluttered my inner space as well? Is it possible that I have finally been able to compartmentalize instances of anger, pain, love, family, illness, and loss? Have I finally been able to shed chunks of emotional baggage that have been weighing me down? I think so.

This is surely an ongoing exercise, both the physical and the spiritual. While I continue to pack up junk, outdated technology, (assorted VHS tapes to anyone who wants them) and memorabilia, I am  finding new comfort and joy in reminiscing and catharsis in the copious tears. And....saving a few special and well-chosen mementos helps the process along nicely.

 Shabbat Candlesticks from both Older Son (left) and Younger Son (right) (Kindergarten projects)

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Of Death and Dying some time in the past must have declared that one is never too old to learn new things. While that adage is most definitely true, there are many things that one wishes never had to have been learned. Such has been my renewed education over the past month.

I have written several times about my father-in-law's decade-long struggle against PSP and all of its debilitating and miserable effects. From the very moment of his correct diagnosis, we were all very aware, including him, that this was a battle that could not be won. We talked about inevitabilities and game plans. We discussed end of life care and longterm goals. We engaged in philosophical debates and angrily cursed God. We ran the gamut of emotions and we attempted to find a new normal by which to live our lives amongst the constant background noise of death's footsteps.

But we knew.

We all knew.

Three weeks ago, we all sat close by him as he slowly and silently just sort of stopped being. It was the death that he wanted, the death that he chose when he still could verbalize his thoughts. There was no feeding tube, no intubation, no monitors. He was simply gone.

And while we all had years to prepare for the moment; while we all intellectually understood that this death was a dignified death, it didn't lighten the load of grief one iota. The tears flowed easily and copiously, and the pain of his absence will be felt for a lifetime.

I have officiated at many funerals over the course of my career and I have led many shiva services. I have been there while close relatives have sat and I have overseen many a shiva house. Death is not a foreign concept for me. But this was the first time that we had shiva in our home, and my education grew exponentially over the course of those seven days. We were overwhelmed with kindness and thoughtfulness and our gratitude truly knows no bounds, so please don't mistake what I am about to say as bitching or moaning. I simply want to impart some life lessons learned so that others might take them on for the next time they are confronted with a similar situation.

Here are a few handy tips you might want to remember when dealing with mourners and visiting a house of mourning.

1. Please go and pay your respects to the mourners first, even when the house may be overflowing with people. In a busy house it is sometimes easy to forget that it isn't a social gathering and perhaps this isn't the best time to catch up with long lost friends and family. I understand that it happens, but try and remember why you came in the first place.

2. When you speak to the mourners, try and avoid cliches like  "Well, at least his suffering has ended." or "He's in a better place now." These statements don't help. If you honestly can't come up with something to say, a simple hug and "I'm so very sorry for your loss" will suffice.

3. When visiting, please understand that mourners often need a timeout. A walk, a nap, or simply just some solitude. They may not be there right when you come to visit. That's ok. If you can wait, great. If not, we understand and thank you for your visit.

4. I realize that there is a natural curiosity about the end of a person's life, but please don't demand that the mourners recount the final few days ad naseum. The Husband desperately wanted to remember the father of his youth, not the father that had wasted away for the last ten years. Stories and photos from the past make for far better conversation.

5. Kids are great. We love kids and kids have an inherent way of reminding us that life goes on. But, if you are bringing children to a shiva, please come prepared with books, colouring supplies, video games etc,. and be prepared to police and discipline. Not all houses are kid friendly and houses of mourning are not necessarily the best places for kids to be running around or sliding down railings. If you have a problem with this, best to leave your kids out of your visitation.

6. I know that everybody is so very well-intentioned and well-meaning when they ask "Do you need anything? Just call and ask." And believe me I did. Many times. Of so many. Thank you is simply never enough. But a far better response might sound like this. "I noticed that you needed milk and were running low on soda. I'll be over in half an hour." Sometimes just doing is better than asking.

7. God bless the people who took our garbage. We were overflowing with it and couldn't possibly store it for more than a day. Several people just put it in their cars without even asking and removed it to the dump, put it out with their own, or disposed of it in ways I would rather not know of. Thank you to all of you.

8. Yes, I know that we didn't do a great job of recycling during the shiva. It isn't that I didn't want to maintain our "as green as possible" lifestyle, but convenience and exhaustion were simply too powerful. But, thanks for pointing it out. (Sorry. I couldn't resist just a bit of snark.)

9. If you are asked to take food home, do it! We have two very large refrigerators and freezers and we were still overflowing. Providing food for the mourners is the Jewish way of saying "We love you", but it becomes overwhelming. The Husband and I simply could not consume all of the leftovers in a year of diligent eating. Taking food home when offered really does help relieve some of the stress felt by those residing in a shiva house. Give it to a shelter if you wish. Just take it when offered.

10. Running errands is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the mourners. Can you pick somebody up or take somebody home? Can you do a Walmart run? Can you speak to the Chesed committee about details? Can you stay at the house during the funeral? Can you stay late and vacuum? Can you make phone calls to inform people? Can you......????

We are approaching the end of shloshim and the loss that we all feel is still very keen. Living with a prolonged illness and ultimate death of a loved one stirs up a myriad of emotions, many of which are in conflict. Some day soon I will write about all of that, but right now it is just too raw. For now it is enough to remember and give thanks.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Subjectivity of Art

Okay, folks. Here we go.

I didn't like Lady Gaga's performance at the Oscars.

Deal with it.

I will acknowledge that maybe my initial posting was a bit harsh, but hey... give me a break. It was past 11:00pm, the show was grating on my nerves, and for many reasons best left unexplained, Gaga was trampling on an area of musical theatre which I hold sacred. But because of my exhausted state, the vast number of people who called me out on my opinion, and the fact that I am apparently in the slimmest of minorities on this subject, I went back and re-watched her performance. And you know what?

I still didn't like it and I am comfortable saying so.

I am also very happy that so many of you were so very passionate about it and that you felt it necessary to express your opinions.

Why? Because that is what art is supposed to do. It is supposed to spur conversation. And emotion. And spirit. And enthusiasm. And heat. And ardour. And fervour. And dissent.

Many years ago on a trip to Rome, The Husband and I found ourselves face to face with Michelangelo's La Pieta.

It occupies a place of enormous stature and honour inside The Vatican. There were throngs of people trying to get an up close and personal view of the great masterpiece. Many of them were brought to tears by its beauty and image.


 I was underwhelmed.

There are many reasons for this reaction, not the least of which is that I have little feeling for the religious fervour that it so obviously invokes. But as a piece of art? It did little for me. I had the same experience upon my first in-person viewing of Mona Lisa. (Cute smile, pretty girl. But, meh!)

And guess what? That's ok. It is ok that these great works of art didn't speak to me the way they so obviously do to so many others. I am certain if I gave a list of the many artists that I consider geniuses in their fields, most of you would scoff at my choices. (Pssst...Much to the consternation of The Husband, I loathe Bob Dylan the singer. Bob Dylan the songwriter is a savant, but the singer....OY! I am certainly not on the side of the angels on that one either.) But, that is one of the best things about art. We are given the freedom of critical debate, and encouraged to engage in it.

There is irony in this particular conversation. I actually like Lady Gaga. I think that she is enormously talented and an incredibly brave performer. I just didn't enjoy her Oscar moment. But I have enjoyed the spirited debate accompanying it and through it, I certainly have enjoyed watching people become more passionate about the arts. It is a whole lot more invigorating and exciting to me than is politics.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

My Facebook Diet

For the past week, I have been on a Facebook diet. Not a fast nor a total abstention, mind you. A diet.

You see, lately I have noticed a more intensive polluting of my Facebook feed. I have been dismayed by the level of mindless shares, toxic discourse, junk science, and disheartening advertisements that have grown exponentially on the site. I thought that if I could dramatically cut back on my postings and instead become an acute observer of what was developing on my homepage, I might begin to bring Facebook back to a level where I once again feel comfortable in engaging. I really wanted to become a leaner, sleeker, better informed user of the product, so I decided to conduct a little experiment.

For one week I didn't "like" anything on Facebook. Nothing. Nada. Rien. I didn't wish anybody a Happy Birthday with the exception of Younger Son which I managed by way of a photographic post. (If I missed your birthday this week, I apologize and wish you all good health and many many more!) I didn't share a single article, blog post, (mine or anybody else's) newspaper article, and with only one exception last evening, I didn't post a single status update. I did post pictures relating to my latest strange obsession, bird watching, but I limited them to one per day. I did engage in a few short conversations on those particular photos and I did visit the site often in order to observe what was happening on my feed.

Here are a few things that littered said feed this week that I pointedly avoided.

  • The Grammys
  • Kanye West vs Beck
  • Brian Williams
  • Jon Stewart
  • Measles
  • Anti-Vaxers
  • Bibi's congressional speech
  • Bibi's perhaps cancelling of his congressional speech
  • Rob Ford
  • John Baird
  • Stephen Harper
  • Barack Obama
  • GMOs, Gluten, Toxins that might be invading my foods, vitamins, makeup, or beverages
  • American Sniper
  • Stupid or Cute Cat, Dog, or any other animal videos
  • Animal rights stories
  • Sun News
  • 50 Shades of Grey and BDSM (Thank God!)
  • The Leafs (Are they still playing?)
  • Stories that were clearly anti-Islam, anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-religion, anti-liberal, anti-conservative, anti-democrat, anti-republican or anti-anything.

And that is only a small sampling. There is not a single thing on this list that I feel as though I missed out on, but I did learn a great deal.

Here are a few of my observations after a week of Facebook dieting.

It is clear that there are some individuals who are all about sharing other source's content rather than creating their own. When I first started using Facebook, I was excited to have a social conversation with friends and family. I loved the reconnections. I loved the photos and the catching up. Sharing the odd article of interest is certainly part of that conversation, but many people on my feed are sharing 20 or more posts from outside sites or other users a day. A day! That level of sharing is going to dilute anything of value that you may wish to convey, because believe me, I will, and have already begun to ignore you. If you are one of these people who over-share other people's content rather than create your own, you probably have been muted in my feed.

Avoiding the "Like" button, even for a few days, has certainly led to an increase in the diversity of posts I am seeing. I know absolutely nothing about algorithms and the manner in which they function, (that's math, right?) but I do know that being more judicious in my "liking" has cleaned up some of the more distasteful ads on my feed. If I haven't "liked" your posts this week, please know that I probably really did. I will most likely go back to "liking" certain things, but I will be far more attentive as to when I press that insidious little button.

Too many of us are lazy users. If Facebook is to function properly, it requires the collective masses to have a basic working knowledge of how it works. Today, a friend posted that Miep Gies, the lady who helped Anne Frank, had passed away. The problem? She died four years ago. A closer reading of the date of the article would have cleared up the confusion, but this friend didn't take the time. It happens with old photos and statuses as well. Please take care not to "like" a photo that is older than three months. All it takes is one person and the damn thing jumps to the top of everybody's feeds.....AGAIN! Just look at the top left hand corner of the post to discern the date and be careful what you are "liking".

By thinking more carefully about my own postings, I became far more conscious about things and opinions that might have been better left unsaid by many. That was a difficult lesson for an opinionated b**** like me, but it was a very worthwhile one. Look, I am fairly open, honest, and vocal about my preferences and interests. You can read all about them right here in this space. But, I refuse to get drawn into hateful discussions with trolls who clearly revel in their anonymity on social media in order to advance an agenda. If you have expectations that you might possibly be able to bring me around to your position,  I will only engage if the conversations contain meaningful, rational, and polite debate. If you cannot follow these simple rules, you are blocked. Facebook is supposed to be fun. It has become less so.

Facebook is an amazing tool. It affords introverts like me an opportunity to interconnect while maintaining a safe environment in which we feel comfortable. But it has lost it's focus and it is up to us, the individual users to bring it back to a place of usefulness. There is much that I love about the site, but I have learned a small amount of judiciousness goes a long way.

Be wise, be wary, and be careful.

That said....I saw a black swan today. No picture, so no Facebook post, but it was just as exciting.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Dawn's Personal Movie Awards

I have spent the past few weeks catching up on this year's crop of Oscar hopefuls. Like every year, some of the nominees have left me extraordinarily puzzled as to what the various branches of the Academy saw when they handed out their lists of finalists. While I am not a critic nor am I in any way involved with the movie industry other than being a fan of great work, I thought it might be fun to share with you, my twenty or so devoted readers, my personal film awards for this past year.

Here are the rules.
  • Any film which I have viewed during the past 12 months is eligible.
  •  Since this is my space, all decisions by the judge (me!) are final and binding.
  •  These awards do not mirror the actual categories, because...well...I made them up and they involve some very worthwhile films that many will not have seen. 
  • As for the actual Academy Awards which will be handed out on February 22nd, I have managed to view most of the top contenders. (Boyhood is next in my On-Demand queue and will probably be the last, because I frankly have no interest whatsoever in American Sniper nor in Foxcatcher, although I might still change my mind about the latter.)
Here we go.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: David Oyelowo for Selma. Whomever does win the actual statuette in a few weeks, should understand that he will always have an asterix following his name. The fact that Mr. Oyelowo wasn't even nominated for his transformative performance in one of the best movies of the year (historical inaccuracies notwithstanding), is a travesty that Oscar might spend years trying to live down.

Actor/Actress Most Deserving of the "Career Oscar": Julianne Moore for Still Alice. I really liked this movie and I thought that Ms. Moore was incredible and heartbreakingly authentic, but let's be honest. It's her turn. She has been nominated five times and the Academy loves her. It is a rare year where a women in her fifties is even in the conversation come awards season, so I am willing to put aside my bias for Marion Cotillard in order to back this one.

Best Musical: This one is easy. Into the Woods isn't just the best musical this year, it is the best movie musical in more than ten years. I had serious reservations about Hollywood turning one of my all-time favourite stage musicals into a film, but I was richly rewarded. Having James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim intimately involved with the adaptation of their project was a wise decision and one that is rarely made. And...Meryl Streep isn't even the Best Actress in the film. Emily Blunt was a revelation and might have been nominated by the Academy had her name been Emily Streep instead.

Worst Musical: Jersey Boys. Clint Eastwood directed this hot and holy mess. They actually took the music out of a musical. What a horror show.

Best Movie that I'll Bet You Haven't Seen or Even Heard of: Begin Again Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are perfect in this piece about a struggling record executive and a talented, but yet undiscovered singer/songwriter who collaborate on a unique project. Both Knightley and Ruffalo are nominated this year for higher profile films, but they are incredible in this indie gem. From the director of Once, I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. (Note: The Academy did recognize it for a Best Song nomination. Not enough!)

Best Feel Good Movie: Chef I am not a foodie, but I loved everything about this movie, including the food porn. Sometimes a movie's sole purpose is to entertain and this one does it magnificently. Jon Favreau should act more often.

Movie that Was Saved by Critics' Best of Year Lists: Whiplash This is hands down my favourite movie of the year. It was first screened at last January's Sundance Film Festival and was all but forgotten until the critics' lists started appearing in November. This is a story about how much the artist is willing to suffer for his art. J.K Simmons is flat out fantastic and is proof positive that a great part and a great actor are often symbiotic. If he doesn't win the Oscar, I will need to buy a new television because I will have thrown a brick through it.

Weirdest Movie of the Year: Birdman I thought that the technical aspects of the film, i.e the fact that it appears to be one long take, and the amusing hook of Michael Keaton's real-life portrayal of Batman interesting, but I am still trying to figure out what the ending was all about.

Most Overrated Movie of the Year: The Imitation Game I like Benedict Cumberbatch, (hello Sherlock!) but I was disappointed in this movie. Maybe it was the hype or maybe I just wanted more details about the genius of Alan Turing. Mostly, I just wanted it to be as good as the documentary Codebreaker which told Turing's story much more effectively.

Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie I need to admit that I didn't see all that many animated films this year, but I loved this movie. So clever and so artistic. How this was overlooked by the Academy is anybody's guess.

Best Foreign Language Film: I loved loved loved 2 Days, 1 Night and Marion Cotillard was phenomenal, but it wasn't even her best performance of the year. The Immigrant was a stunning pictorial of the miseries faced by single immigrant women when they came through Ellis Island. Ms. Cotillard spends chunks of the movie speaking Polish. (A third language?) She is a remarkable actress. But my favourite foreign language film this year was Ida. I don't want to give it away. Trust me. See it. (As an aside....put some effort into foreign language film viewing. It is so worth it.)

Best Movie I had Never Heard of But Discovered on Netflix: Girl on a Bicycle Once again, put some effort into those foreign films.

Best Documentary: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me Come on!! It's Elaine Stritch. Enough said.

Best Comedy: To be fair, really good comedies are in short supply these days, but I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. I love anything and everything that Wes Anderson makes. Ralph Fiennes is great and a true Oscar snub.

Most Authentic Romance: Stay Starring Aidan Quinn and Taylor Schilling, (Orange is the New Black) this film deals with real people and real problems.

Two Hours I Will Never Get Back: The Interview What a piece of crap.

Worst Remake of a Foreign Film: The Grand Seduction Oh, how I wanted to like this movie. It is Canadian, set in Newfoundland, and an English language remake of the excellent French film Seducing Dr. Lewis. It was missing so much.

Movie I Should Have Enjoyed More: Mr. Turner It was just so very long and so very pretentious.

Best Adaptation of a Book: Gone Girl Rosamund Pike is the creepiest leading lady since Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Once again, it helped that Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay adaptation of her book. Where is her Oscar nomination?

Best Historical Drama: Belle I love period pieces and this is a really good one.

Best Special Effects: Bwahahahaha!! This is MY list.

So there you have it. My Personal Movie Awards for this past year. I realize that there is much that I have yet to see, but I am simply calling it like I see it. By the way, if you are not already a subscriber to a movie streaming service, you are missing a lot of great films. Most of these were in theatres for about five minutes. Netflix is my personal choice, mostly because Amazon Prime Video is not yet available in Canada and Apple TV is more costly, but do yourself a favour and sign up for one of them. Don't let the studios dictate what you watch. Support the industry and the art. I welcome your comments and criticisms of my list, and I would love to hear some of your favourites. I'm always looking for something new to watch.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Routine Is Not An Ugly Word

One of the many things that I had hoped to accomplish following my retirement was to dispense with daily schedules. I really wanted to let my life choices dictate the clock and the calendar, rather than allowing the clock and the calendar to dictate my life choices. I certainly didn't have any grand notions of existing within a "Freedom 55"  commercial at the still very youngish age of 52. Me sail away on a schooner? Yah...not with my motion sickness. Instead, I saw the the future as a giant tabula rasa that could only be limited by personal preferences.

Naïveté is a peculiar circumstance.

While it is true that part of my mind knows that there is nothing stopping me from staying in bed until late morning on occasion to luxuriously read the newspaper, another part screams obscenities at me if I laze around for too long. My reason says "Relax. Take your time.", while my body yells "Enough already you lazy arse. Get your shit together and let's get moving." And so it is that I find myself back into an early morning exercise regime. 

While I am comfortably ensconced in The Southern Home, the majority of that activity consists of a lengthy early morning walk, either around the neighbourhood or down on the beach. After all, we have all been told that sitting is the new smoking, and since I have never so much as taken a puff, I figure that I need to get some real value out of my $99.00 FitBit Flex. 

It's funny. Even though my schedule has become much more fluid and flexible, the world around me, both human and natural, obviously still adhere to theirs. During those walks, I have encountered the same school children waiting for their buses, the same landscapers going about their business, the same locals exercising their dogs, and the same customers at Starbucks purchasing their morning caffeine injections. That's normal and to be expected. What was gloriously unexpected was my encountering of the same wildlife, in the same locations, doing exactly the same things every single morning. There is the squirrel in the park who actually responds to my mother's call and expectantly waits for bits to be dropped. (I won't allow her to give in to her better urges simply because he is a squirrel and I consider his northern cousins to be mortal enemies.) There is the large orange iguana who has taken up residence with his family in the mangrove trees abutting the Intracostal near our home. But I am most totally engaged with these White Ibises who cross my path daily.

As you can see, they are unfazed by human involvement and they are just quietly going about their morning routine, which usually consists of breakfast and crossing the street. Note to self: Resist urge to tell Ibis crossing the street joke.

They are awkward looking creatures who are as ubiquitous down here as sparrows are up north, but there is something about their patterns that has me mesmerized. I see them every single morning on my walk, and then miraculously, every single evening at dusk, an entire flock (I'd like to think it is the same birds) flies in perfect formation low in the sky right in front of my balcony. I could swear that they are dipping their wings in a familiar salute to me as they pass. (I have tried on several occasions to grab a photo or video clip, but they simply move too quickly and I am simply not that great a photographer.) I know it seems crazy, but it feels like my own remarkable interspecies moment. I have actually taken to parking myself on the balcony for an hour or so before dusk waiting for my friends to arrive. It is a magical moment that I now joyfully anticipate.

Yesterday as I watched my new friends perform their evening ritual, it struck me that schedules aren't the evil notions that I had made them out to be. Rather, it is how and what we choose to fill them with that truly matters. So far, mine doesn't suck.