12 Days of Gratitude – Days 6 to 12

During the Ice Storm, I often though about my 12 Days of Gratitude challenge.  Even though I couldn’t blog about it, I often thought about the things for which I was grateful.  Here is my abridged version:

Day 6…I honestly can’t remember and have no intentions on making something up.

Day 7…Good Neighbours

We have been very fortunate to have some pretty great neighbours.  When we lived in our condo in downtown Toronto, our next door neighbours (to the North) were a super nice, fun and hip couple.  Our current neighbours are a lovely family with three young children, the youngest is a little boy who is only a few months younger than Kid.

The best kind of neighbours are the ones who are friendly and “neighbourly” without being intrusive.  Our neighbours are exactly that with a great sense of humour – the kind that you would want to invite over for a glass of wine without making you feel obligated to do so.

Day 8 (the day of the Annual Christmaspalooza)…Cousins

My family is huge!  Mom and Dad each are the second youngest of families with many siblings.  Dad’s family spans three generations and Mom’s family spans four generations.  I have a total of 45 cousins ranging from the age of 28 to 60, living all over the world (i.e., Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, BC, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Arizona, China, Hong Kong, India, Dubai and Sweden).  Family is very important in Chinese culture and especially with Mom and Dad.  Growing up, we spent a lot of time with family and that means, I spent a lot of time with my cousins.  I love hanging with my cousins – even if we haven’t seen each other in awhile, it is like no time has passed.  Sure, some of my cousins drove me absolutely bonkers but cousins are family and we accept family as they are.  They are like a close of group of friends who are immediately accepting of you and who understand all the family dynamics.  There is a certain sense of comfort with having that type of relationship.

So, when I see Kid (aka Liger) developing a relationship with his cousins at the Annual Christmaspalooza, I can’t help thinking about my own cousins and the great relationships that I have with them.  I can already see that Liger is drawn more to Nephew G and Nephew O, who are 1 year older and 1 year younger than Liger, respectively.  I am looking forward to seeing Liger growing up and getting into mischief with his cousins.

Day 9 (Ice Storm)…Papa and Zia

We were homeless during the Ice Storm.  With no power and no heat, the temperature in the house dropped to 41 F (approximately 5 C) and so we couldn’t stay.  At the time, we thought that power would be restored within 24 hours – little did we know that it took three days during some of the coldest days of a Canadian winter.

I am so grateful to Papa and Zia who housed and fed us until we got out power back.  Papa and Zia were more than gracious – they allowed Kid to take over the living room with his toys and made us feel right at home.  The three and a half days that we stayed with Papa and Zia were fun and memorable.  The best part is that Papa and Zia got to spend a lot of time with Liger and Liger got to bond with them.

Day 10 (December 23)…Acts of Kindness

During the Ice Storm, we got to witness many acts of kindness from friends to strangers.  People offered their generosity in many ways from empathizing and sharing the challenges of being without power and heat to opening up their homes.

Day 11 (Christmas Eve)…Toronto Emergency Workers

Employees of Toronto Police, Fire, EMS and of Toronto Hydro and other city workers and volunteers, to name a few, are some of the people to whom I am truly grateful for maintaining order and safety in our city during the Ice Storm and for restoring power and heat to my home.  These men and women worked around the clock.  A lot of them worked outside in below freezing temperatures.  Warming centres were open to provide people with a place to shower and sleep and volunteer workers helped run these centres and ensure that people were fed.  They all had better things to do, like being with their own families over the Christmas holidays, but instead, they gave of themselves in a time of crisis to help others.

Day 12 (Christmas Day)…Kid (aka Liger)

I started these posts with one of the most important persons in my life and I’m ending up with the other most important person in my life…Liger!  Liger is my precocious son who brings me so much love, joy and frustration and I wouldn’t trade it or him for anything.  This post could not do him justice and so I intend to write a standalone post (akin to a love letter) to him.

Hoping that there is no Ice Storm next winter to interrupt my 12 Days of Gratitude 2014.  I much prefered my more detailed posts.

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We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you Ice Storm 2013

My last post was Day 5 of 12 Days of Gratitude.  Days 6 to 12 are coming soon (albeit in a condensed version) but allow me to give a quick update as to why I had stopped so abruptly after Day 5 (notwithstanding the busyness that comes leading up to Christmas).

December 21: Papa (aka Husband’s dad or FIL) and Zia (aka Husband’s stepmom or SMIL) host the Annual Christmaspalooza the weekend before Christmas in Toronto, Ontario.  It’s a crazy fun time with Husband’s sister (aka SIL.E) and family making the trek from Ottawa, Ontario and Husband’s brother (aka BIL.M) and family joining us from Oakville, Ontario.  Uncle B (FIL’s brother), Aunty S and Cousin A also join in the festivities.  All in all, there are 5 Nephews (B, S, G, O and E), 1 Niece and Kid going absolute bonkers playing with each other and unwrapping presents.

December 21 late evening: The Ice Storm hits Toronto and the GTA.

December 22: We wake up to this:

IceStorm2013 - Backyard

and this…

Tree branches heavily coated with thick ice had broken off and tore at the hydro wires – all power sources were cut off from our neighbourhood grid.   After a few hours, the temperature dropped rapidly in the house and news sources were reporting that outages could last up to 72 hours (during some of the coldest Winter days thus far)!  While Husband and I could tough it out, we couldn’t stay in the house with Kid.

Neither Mom and Dad nor Oma (Husband’s mom) had any power or heat.  My cousin and her boyfriend had power at his condo (most condos have back-up power generators) and offered to put us up for the day but we needed a short longer-term solution (remember? up to 72 hours!).  Fortunately, Papa and Zia (who live in a newer neighbourhood with fewer old and large trees and hydro wires built underground) had power and heat and room for us.  We packed up a few things and an air mattress with linens and made our way back to Papa and Zia’s.

At the highest count, 300,000 customers (customers are houses, buildings – the number of people that were affected was much higher – estimate about an average of 3 to 5 people per customer) were without power.

Toronto was a picture of ice beauty and devastation – check here for pictures of Ice Storm 2013.

December 21 to 23: No power at our house.  We made several trips to the house to pick up clothes and other miscellaneous items, including toys, kid snacks and the rescue of Bubbles (our neighbour’s fish who we were pet-sitting while they were away), as well as to check the house, cut the water supply and drain our water pipes, all the while hoping that power had returned.  Husband had to work so Papa, Zia and I kept Kid entertained – Kid was amazing throughout the whole time even though we were a bit displaced and completely out of routine.

December 24:  Still no power.  While Zia watched over Kid, Husband and I head back to the house to drain the radiators and pick up clothes for a few more days and pack up Christmas at Papa and Zia’s.  The thermostat showed the temperature at 41 F (approximately 5 C) on the top floor of the house.  The main floor couldn’t even register a temperature reading!  Then this happened:

Toronto Hydro to the Rescue!

I almost cried!  I was so overwhelmed and happy, Husband and I grabbed a box of Turtles, a couple of bottles of wine and a Starbucks gift card and rushed out to greet the Toronto Hydro workers.  The Toronto Hydro workers had been working around the clock to restore power as quickly as possible – most of these are men and women have been working in below freezing temperatures and all of which I’m sure would have rather spent their Christmas break/Eve/Day with family and friends.

On our way back to Papa and Zia’s house after Christmas dinner at Mom and Dad’s (power restored on December 23) with my side of the family, we passed by the house with our fingers crossed…

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December 25:  Santa found all of us at Papa and Zia’s house.  Christmas morning was wonderful with a delicious brunch prepared by Husband and FIL, all of us opening our stockings and special presents from Santa.  That afternoon…we moved back home.  While we had a day full of chores – cleaning the fridge of spoiled food and loads upon loads of laundry – and no internet, cable TV or phone access, there is definitely no place like home.  Merry Christmas!

December 30: We finally get our internet, cable and phone lines back.

December 31: Wishing you a very Happy New Year!  May your 2014 bring you love, joy and many fond memories!

12 Days of Gratitude – Day 5

I think I may be a day behind on my posts but this focus on the big and little things for which I am grateful is giving me fantastic endorphins!  I will just have to keep up with this natural high!

Day 5…Comfort Food

I.am.not.a.cook (see bottom of 12 Days of Gratitude – Day 1).

So, it should come as no surprise that I got pretty stressed out when Husband let me know that he would be working late yesterday and that he needed my help with dinner for the family.  Much to Kid’s dismay, my damn pride would not allow me to serve another round of grilled cheese sandwiches and canned chicken noodle soup (he would eat this at every meal every day if he could).  Instead, he got some steamed rice with this:

Stir-Fried Pepper Beef

…stir-fried pepper beef with snow peas.  Yes, I made this from scratch (but following a recipe).  Kid ate his entire dinner, Husband had two servings and neither is feeling sick. #Winning

Food has always been very important in Chinese culture and definitely in my family.  The sight of Mom cooking in the kitchen (Dad would also cook but Mom ruled the kitchen) and proudly serving an over-abundance of succulent Chinese dishes has been etched into my memories.  Mom sits back and is content to watch us devour everything she has made.  It still happens today when Husband, Kid and I head over to Mom and Dad’s for dinner – at 9:00 a.m., Mom will call me to ask me what I want on the dinner menu and she will spend the entire day making it to perfection.  What’s her “ancient Chinese secret” ingredient?  LOVE.  It is the reason why Chinese food, especially home cooked Chinese food, is my comfort food.  When I eat Chinese food, I feel connected to Mom and all the love and good intentions she puts forth in each and every meal.

I am learning to cook and have offered to take charge of more meals (mostly Chinese food since Husband doesn’t cook a lot of Chinese food and I want to develop Kid’s palette for food coming from one-half of his genetic make-up) as a way to build my confidence in the kitchen.  I do it as part of a self-challenge but also to make something out of nothing for the two biggest loves-of-my-life, Husband and Kid.

I am really fortunate to have food on our table and especially Mom’s home cooked comfort food.

My own gratitude for Mom’s cooking has been a gentle reminder to me that not everyone is so fortunate.  So many people go to bed with empty bellies and fears about how they will feed their children.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could eliminate hunger year round?  Let’s start with this holiday season – no one should go hungry at Christmas.  If this post has touched you in away, please consider donating to your local food bank.

Thanks for reading.

12 Days of Gratitute – Day 3

I missed publishing my post yesterday.  While Sundays are usually a relaxing put-your-feet up kind of day for most people, I find it generally busy.  Husband starts his 5-day work week on Sundays – this means: (1) Saturdays are our only “family day” so most of the day is spent on Q-time rather than chores; and (2) my chore day is Sunday while I solo parent and have some one-on-one Mama/Kid time with a very active preschooler.  This Sunday was no different except that my parents decided to come for a visit.  Without going into too much detail, I love that my parents want to spend time with their only grandkid but this visit left me feeling like I was I was looking after not 1 but 3 kids!  Of course, after they left, I got a visit from good old-fashioned Chinese guilt.  The silver-lining of this episode of Chinese guilt is that I also started thinking about the amazingness (and not in a Barney Stinson way) of my parents which led to this post (although published a day late).

Day 3…The Parents

Mom and Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Studios)

Mom and Dad were born and raised in a very poor part of this world.  Each of them is the second youngest of a number of siblings in the double digits (just imagine the guest list for my wedding – 3 generations of family on each side to start and we haven’t even gotten to Husband’s family and our friends!). They travelled across oceans and settled in Canada in the 1970s in the hopes of creating a better life for them and for their family – to give you a sense of the magnitude of this decision, picture two persons in their mid-20s, travelling across continents with less than $100 in their pockets to settle in a place where they had one relative and where their first language is not the spoken language – yeah, not sure if I have the guts to do this.

Over the years, they worked very hard – they raised two kids and put them through university and college, the Family House (which they/we have lived in since the late 1970s) is paid off, they are finally retired (well, Dad is semi-retired – he goes back to work whenever his old company needs help because he loves it) and enjoying life through travels and spending time with their siblings.  The family was very modest (my parents were very frugal) yet I never felt like I lacked for anything (maybe my own car when I turned 16 but being much older now, it was a smart decision on their part) – we had food on our table (and let me tell you, Chinese home cooking is.the.best), I wore pretty trendy (but not designer) clothes and there was a roof over our head (where I didn’t have to share a room with anyone); I went on all the school trips, family dinners out, presents at Christmas and a lot of family vacations.  It’s not only “not bad” but it’s pretty freaking amazing given Mom and Dad’s very humble beginnings

However, growing up, I KNOW that both Brother and I were challenging (this is probably an understatement) and we took Mom and Dad for granted. We were rebellious – always wanting to do what our friends were “allowed” to do – no matter what they did for us, it was never enough.  Mom and Dad were (are still) on us for everything no matter how big or small (Mom “gently suggested” that I should visit my doctor to confirm for HER that everything is OK with me to produce a second grandchild for her and Mom has also called me numerous times worrying about Brother passing his training exams or whether he and his girlfriend are fighting).  At the top of priorities led Family and Education – it didn’t matter if he was a cousin five times removed who never socialized with my family, if there was a drop of family blood, it was enough and help was given freely and don’t even get me started if I came home with anything less than an A (yes, I have Tiger Parents but they weren’t as intense to ask for an A++).  They still parent like we are 10 years old – note that this has extended to Husband as well because since our wedding, he is family and therefore Mom and Dad feel they have somewhat of a free rein with him (Dad has raked the leaves in our backyard and cleaned out our garage – much to Husband’s dismay as he could not find anything in the garage after that and Mom brought me a new dish rack since the one I currently have is not big enough – not the first time Mom and Dad buy and give us random things  – i.e., an old spice rack, wine decanter, Costco size Coffeemate, back scratcher, etc.).

I could go on and on with many stories of my parents. Their quirks can be exasperating but one theme rises above all – they only do things with great intention.  Mom and Dad would do anything in their power to make things better for Brother, Husband and me.  This is why Mom worries about Brother (and me).  This is why Dad rakes the leaves and cleans out the garage – because Husband and I are busy with our respective careers and an active preschooler.  This is why Mom and Dad buy random stuff for us – because they believe we could use the stuff which they found on sale and we don’t have time to shop for sales. By example , they have shown me to be generous at heart, to care and value family and education and to lead a life with good intention.  I have not perfected these and still slip up but just as they forgive me , so too I have learned to forgive myself and try to do better.

I love you Mom and Dad.

12 Days of Gratitude – Day 1

2012 was not a great year…a lot of sh!t went down that negatively affected me and my family.  Friends and family that were “privileged” to witness all the happenings and the aftermath knew that I/we couldn’t wait to get to 2013.  Now, here we are…coming to the end of 2013 and it hasn’t gotten any better.  In fact, 2013 bestowed on us additional hardships and challenges.  Sure, we have had some highs but it’s been a lot of serious lows.

My birthday was a few days ago…it was a low-key affair.  Sure, I’m busting almost 40 but it was more than an age thing, I just did not feel like celebrating.  Yeah, I’m at THAT point – “What’s there to celebrate?” – It’s a “poor.me.pity.party”.  After flitting in-and-out-of-wallowing (no guarantees that it won’t re-appear here and there) and with the Christmas season upon us, I’m challenging myself to take my attitude into my own hands and write about my 12 days of Christmas gratitude.

Day 1…My Husband.

This is my Husband:

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(Photo Credit: Jonathan Ponce)

How do I even begin to put down in words how amazing is this man?

Husband is many things: husband, father, son, brother, friend and he balances all his different roles with a sense of humour and humility.  He is also my rock and my best friend.

Over the course of our relationship from dating to marriage to parenthood, Husband has put up with a lot – I am not the easiest person to love (or sometimes even like) but yet he goes on loving me anyway.

Husband is a caring and strong man who selflessly puts both me and our son ahead of himself.  He is smart (yeah, he kicked my ass at Trivia Pursuit), insightful and principled – he is not afraid to call me on my sh!t.  His easy-going and extroverted nature draws people to him – he can walk into a party by himself and easily walk out with 5 new friends.  His sense of humour is like his dad’s – witty and sometimes just plain stupid but it’s that sense of humour that has made me laugh every day.  He makes this crazy thing called life easier.

We have had such a wonderful adventure so far and have created many great memories.  He has shared with me in the not so great memories but as a team, we will persevere.  He remind’s me that it is really us “against” the world and that’s what I mean when I say he is my rock.

It really is quite difficult to describe all the wonderful things that make up Husband – after all, he is so multi-dimensional.

Don’t get me wrong…he has little annoyances too and as with any relationship, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs and he has pissed me off as much as I have pissed him off.  But that’s just what humanizes him and makes him all the more endearing.

I don’t know or want to imagine what my life would be like if he had never touched it.  I don’t think I could be half the person I am without his constant love and support.

So, thank you Husband for asking and thank you for you.

By the way, did I mention that he is a mean-ass-chef?