Tuesday 23 December 2014

Christmas is a Feeling....

The Christmas season is upon us. Trees glisten and glow, twinkling a red, green and gold. Menus are being planned and tested as fragrances of vanilla and cinnamon permeate the air. Melodies of trusted carols and new ones are heard on radios and in school auditoriums. It is the one time of year where the collective heartbeat of the world is felt beating all around. Wars are still being fought, sickness is still being battled and heartache still pierces the soul but there is something about this time of year that masks all the bad with a protective coating that lasts for a few weeks.

Christmas is by far my favourite holiday. There is something about the warmth it brings to my heart during a cold winter. Growing up, our Christmases were filled with wrapped boxes, elaborate meals and the cacaphony of a big Italian family. My senses still ignite when I am lured back into my ghosts of Christmases past. I hear the baritone voice of my grandfather breaking out into Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle after dinner. He was a jolly man who sat at the head of the table and even though he was the gentlest of souls he commanded a great presence in an unobtrusive way. He loved his grandchildren unconditionally, to the point where he would sit and chuckle as we helped dress him up as Santa. My grandmother, who ruled her house sternly throughout the year, would let down her guard and enjoy the craziness and sit on Santa’s lap with a smile on her face.
For years, my brother and I were the only children at table and that meant the colourfully wrapped boxes under the tree belonged to us. Ask me what my favourite gifts were, I couldn't tell you but ask me about the feeling in the room, I can tell you in great detail. It was chaotic but filled with a sense of belonging. Christmas Eve was blanket that held us together close and warm. I felt safe watching my boisterous family moving from kitchen to living room. I remember seeing the smiling eyes of my aunt and uncles watching as my brother and I dove in and tore apart the exquisitely wrapped boxes. My grandparents and great grandparents would laugh at our expressions and received such satisfaction that they brought joy to their only two grandchildren at the time. But the joy wasn't from the gifts, it was from the sense of family that enveloped us. The adults always tried to organize the process of opening presents but year after year, failed miserably. Who would want to get in between a child and their Christmas present?
As my brother and I entered our teens, our family had expanded. Aunt and Uncle married and with those unions, Christmas was brought alive again by the sound of little voices and feet running through the house. The house was re-energized and new traditions were made. I loved watching the young ones run through the house the way my brother and I did. Four little people who enjoyed the boxes the gifts came in rather than the actual gift. We played board games and cards after dinner while the smell of chestnuts roasting filled our nostrils. At about the time the chestnuts were done, there would be a knock at the door and standing on the other side would be my grandmother's brother's family, who lived three houses down. Let the festivities begin!
The houses would take turns visiting and this was something I looked forward to every year. We saw each other daily throughout the year but the visit of Christmas Eve was one I waited for excitedly. One year they would show up singing carols and the next we would show up with a drum in hand bellowing a very horrible rendition of Little Drummer Boy. It was magical being surrounded by the people who meant most to me. These were the best Christmases of my youth. The two families were close and the memories made are etched in all our hearts. It is these memories we need to carry with us and hold dear.
With the birth of my children, Christmas evolved again. Two new faces, wide eyed and innocent, graced our lives. Gone were some of the old faces. My great grandparents no longer sat at the dinner table, my paternal grandmother watched from heaven above, my grandfather, my uncle and my aunt lived only within our minds and hearts now. The mood around the table changed. Those young cousins were now 20 somethings and our family a few doors down had moved. Instead of a warm, happy time, people sat angry, sad and disappointed that these bodies no longer sat at our table. My children would watch the elders and try to understand why the sadness. It is something that they couldn’t comprehend. For them, they believe these souls are still with us and want us to regale them with stories of years gone by and be happy.

This year is Christmas is bittersweet. The collective heartbeat pounds loudly but there is an over-lying sense of heartache. We are watching some relatives struggle with their health and facing a future that is nearing an end. My children are older now and understand more with a heavy sadness in their hearts. They know Christmas next year will be different with more souls watching from above. But for this year they want to be grateful for the gifts these family members have given them throughout their lives. They want to live in the moment and make sure when that moment passes it becomes permanently inked on their hearts. For them, the ghosts of the past are memories waiting to be created by the stories we share. The ghosts of tomorrow are already a part of who they are and for this they are forever grateful.
The collective heartbeat at Christmas time brings hope, clarity, wonderment and most importantly love. Despite the sadness that lingers in the air, I still crave to be part of this heartbeat and so do my children. Christmas is more than the delicious food, beautiful decorations and wonderful gifts. It is a feeling that lives within our hearts and memories and no one can take that away.
Happy Holidays and may love and happiness surround you and your families!

Wednesday 17 December 2014

My Own Worst Enemy

Looking at the words on my computer screen, I can feel defeat set in. Hot tears begin to pool in my eyes and the muscles in my spine slowly collapse. An eternal conflict between head and heart ensues and my breathing becomes short and quick. I hear that voice screaming in my head, "don't waste your time!" Yet my heart keeps tugging at me gently urging me to never give up.

Any writer will tell you this is a normal experience that is felt often, if not daily. Not only by the wanna-bes but the famous as well. Writing wasn’t something that I just decided to one day take up; it has been a part of my being since I was a young girl. Was it the romanticism of what I believed a writer was that drew me in or was it the overwhelming desire to create stories where readers could get lost?

There are days where I feel I am being pulled in a thousand directions; building upon one idea, coming up with another, moving to something completely different. So much to write about, so much to share and not enough time to get it all down. Hemingway’s words run through my mind daily, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." And bleed I do. Profusely. Yet I feel as though I have accomplished nothing. I don't have an agent. I'm not published. I write because it makes me happy.

Another quote I love about writing is from Anaïs Nin. "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect". Her words excite me. It's a personal journey for me that allows all my senses ignite not once but twice. Yet I often still feel overwhelming self-doubt and want to throw in the towel every other day. Doubt is the enemy and holds fear in its hands. It can stop me mid-sentence and render my mind immobile. I sabotage myself and go to war with my psyche, inevitably believing that I will fail.

But the days in between that ugly cover of doubt are filled with big dreams and a general giddiness that accompanies a feeling of "I think I can, I think I can, I know I can and I will". When I sit in front of that blank sheet of paper, the possibilities are endless and creation is all mine. "A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God". Sidney Sheldon's words ring true. It's not easy being a writer and I truly believe that self-doubt, tears, anger and frustration help elevate us to heights unknown if we don't allow them to infiltrate every moment of our days. Let it percolate for a bit and then toss it aside.

All easier said than done, of course. I end up creating this story around me about why I am not good writer. I don’t have a Master’s Degree in English; I haven’t read all the books from literary geniuses; I am not as good as Mr. or Ms. “X” whose book is on shelf now; Rejection, rejection, rejection; It is so hard to come up with something new, everything has been done. These thoughts lead to my self-doubt and to behaviour that is often associated with someone who has given up. This WAS the story I lived and breathed on my days of doubt but it is not the story I WILL be part of. A good friend and fellow writer, who just happens to have two books published gave me some great advice. “Never compare yourself to other writers, only compare yourself today to the writer you were yesterday.” So my new story is I am better than I was yesterday and my words will be a dialogue with my readers one day.

I am sure that my days of self-doubt will continue to surface like an unwanted rash but I am also positive that my days of believing in myself will last for longer than an instant.

TALK TO ME! How do you push through your self-doubt and inner criticism? What tool do you use that helps conquer the doubt?

Tuesday 21 October 2014

The Bookcase

The books were organized in alphabetical order, lined up perfectly against the edge of each shelf. There were hundreds of them, each acquired by either content or beauty. The special ones, those bound in leather and printed well before the modern day press, were tucked away in a glass cabinet. Some dated back 10 years, some 300 years but all possessed the same magic of being able to transport the soul to another time, another place. 

These were her most prized possessions and price could never be placed on any. Each of these stories touched her in a way that could never be described through her words alone. It was the feeling they brought her, that tiny bit of excitement that begins to swell inside the pit of her stomach when she begins to be drawn in to a story that has the possibility of taking her anywhere. She was free inside the covers, reading to fly across the Atlantic to meet her lover who waited for her on foreign soil. Her love, the one who held her hand as they manoevered through dark and dirty streets, running from the evils that lurked in the shadows. A lover who made her pulse quicken as he slowly unbuttoned her blouse, revealing alabaster skin under a black lace brassiere. 

She ensured that these cases were looked after with the same care a mother uses with her child. Not a speck of dirt could be found. It was immaculate. Dust jackets were in impeccable shape, each protecting and holding it's body close. Often, she would stand in awe before them, running her finger along the spines, remembering the journey she took with it. Minutes would turn into hours as she became further entrenched in her reverie, whisked away to a distant place.

Photo by A.Bresar
The Bookcase
Photo by Audrey Bresar

These cases held the many lives she lived. It pained her when asked if one could be borrowed.  Pieces of her soul inhabited the pages and the possibility of having it lost or damaged caused her a great deal of turmoil.  Just the thought of sharing her treasures gave her palpitations, her palms became clammy and her vision blurred. She could not bear to part with any even for a brief moment. In her mind, it was absurd to share something so personal with the masses. The solace, the intrigue, the love that she found in the chapters was hers and hers alone.

The bookcases that housed these pieces of her sat in plain view for her to enjoy, flanked along side a crimson divan which acted as the vessel that would prepare her for these escapes. The velvet cushion of the sofa enveloped her like warm arms that held on tight. An oasis, her very own Shangri-La, an hegira amid the hustle and bustle of her daily life. 

Shangri-La Photo by A. Bresar
Photo by Audrey Bresar

Talk to me! Do books have the same effect on you?

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Behind the Smile Live Some Tears

Much to some people's belief, I am not always smiles and positivity.  In fact, there was a time where I cried. A lot. More than a lot. In fact, it was daily. I felt defeated, torn down. Alone. Like I made a mess of everything that was ever bestowed upon me. I began to second guess my worth. Fleeting moments of insecurity evolved into minutes, hours, days and weeks. My self esteem had been beaten and battered past the point of recognition. So it really irks me when people say I have a "charmed and easy life". 

Here is the reality. Yes, I work at a job in an industry that I love. I work hard, putting pressure on myself to succeed because the fear of not being able to provide my children with a roof over their head or food on the table scares the hell out of me. The fact is I was not working when we became a family of three. I was home with two babies making sure they were happy and healthy and trying to save my marriage. I knew I didn't want to go back to teaching but what could I do? It took three months for me to figure that out and I have been working hard to get to a place where the worry can subside a bit.

I don't have anyone I am accountable to. Is that positive? For married friends and family, the answer is yes. The truth? It sucks. I have been married twice but I still seem to have eluded true love. This is heartbreaking for a hopeless romantic like myself. But I have not given up. The weight of all my decisions is on my shoulders, there is no one with whom I can discuss things. When the kids want to go out for an afternoon all my household duties are put on hold which results in a frenzy that is arguably the most stressful part of keeping it all together. At the end of the day, when the kids are in bed, there is no one to share stories with. I go to bed alone, void of the warmth of someone beside me. No arms are there to hold me, no warm breath on my neck or soothing words to lull me to sleep. 

My life is what I make of it and the bumps and bruises along the way didn't scar me or push me into a corner. It was these things that made me look at life differently. I couldn't fit a square peg into a round hole so I adjusted. I changed the way I looked at life, fixed the way I carried myself, decided that my attitude could make or break me. There are still hurdles to jump and obstacles to avoid which means there will still be tears, frustration and upset. 

BUT....for the most part, my day is all smiles, interrupted by the occasional tear that flows freely during times of uncertainty or loneliness.

In the end, I live the life that was given to me, not a bad life, not an easy life but a blessed one. 

TALK TO ME! What do you hide behind your smile?

Friday 12 September 2014

My Child...My Teacher

Eleven years ago today, I became a mother for the second time. My son came rushing into this world and hasn’t stopped moving since then. The urgency in which he arrived has not ever subsided. He walks this Earth in constant motion and awe, always searching for the bigger and the better, always questioning the who, what, where, when and (the one that drives me absolutely nuts!) THE WHY.  It is precisely this urgency that makes him who he is and keeps his wheels turning.

Filled with a desire to learn EVERYTHING, I often hear him say he is looking for his passion. I love this about him because he hasn’t pigeon holed himself into one box and is desperate to try everything once, just in case “it” may be his true passion.  But I see what his passion is, learning and discovery.  And I will never tell him this because watching him search for his long awaited passion is marvelous to observe.  I am astounded by the way he absorbs things and I am intrigued by the questions he asks.
His world of wonder started right from the time he could talk.  It began with him as a toddler.  I would kiss his little head goodbye and leave for work, always wondering about what new things he would want to have explained later that night. He would sit with my mother at the breakfast table and watch as she would flip through the newspaper.  “Grandma, what’s that?” he would ask, pointing to a photo and she would explain.  Then the questions would come and she would sit answering what she could. His fascination was with the obituaries and seeing the photos of those who have passed.  He needed to know why they died, what the cause was and how old they were. And then he would say, “that’s sad.” 

The questions never stop.  This intense curiousity courses through his veins like fire.  It burns inside him and I hope it is never extinguished.  However, there are moments when I wish I could put a cap on the number of questions he asks but how do you tell a child that they have reached their quota? Thank goodness for the internet!  He is now at an age where I can say “google it”.  Now, the role is somewhat reversed because although the questions still abound he can figure it out himself and teach me.  And I must say that having an 11 year old explain who Tesla was or why Modigliani and Picasso were frenemies sheds a whole different perspective on things. My child…my teacher.

Through his search for his passion, my son has discovered he has an amazing sense of humour. Yes, he is a boy and can be quite silly but there is more to his humour than wet willies and knock-knock jokes.  It is intelligent and witty and the ease in which his quick comebacks and replies come to him is exceptional. Could it be his acute awareness of the world around?  Whatever it is, this little man makes me laugh daily.  And the best part is hearing his laugh which is absolutely infectious. 
Showing affection is a bit uncomfortable for him at this age. In fact, it is 100% embarrassing.  Hugs are given half heartedly or disguised as something else more manly.  Forget about kisses! EEEEW….they get wiped off his face as soon as they are planted. But little does he know, every night, before I go to sleep, I go into his room, push his hair from his forehead and kiss him ever so gently whispering “I love you”.  And somehow, as he stirs, I can swear I see a little smile appear on his face.

So today, I raise a glass (apple juice of course!) to the most important man in my life, the one who loves me no matter what, the one who makes me realize how wonderful the journey of being a mother is.  Happy Birthday to my baby boy!

Talk to me! Have you discovered your true passion yet?

Tuesday 9 September 2014

If Life Were a Series of Camera Filters

Capturing a moment in time with a single click whether it's with a smartphone or fancy camera allows the photographer the ability to share that moment for years to come. Photography is something I have recently become enamored with and am constantly searching for those poignant instances I know will spark conversations well after I leave this world.

My eye is getting better when searching for the right light or composition. The photos are pieces of art for me and I love being able to change a filter to help evoke more of the emotion I am attempting to catch. The use of filters made me think about what my life would look like if I could adjust a filter to convey a clear message to onlookers about my most pivotal moments.

Graduating from university, the first in my family, would be captured in a bright light, halo around me and a twinkle in my eye. Would I box it in with a frame? No, the world was my playground and opportunities seemed endless. Bright possibilities for an unknown future and excitement about what next lay ahead. This moment would have been shot with a lot of light and sparkle.

Filters with warm hues of orange and red would tell my story of my time living abroad in the land down under. It was an easy time when life was laid back and filled with meeting new people from around the world. The warmth of the hot sun could be felt even under the shade of a tree. An idyllic time of my youth until the dark black and grey filters of a failing relationship seeped in along the edges and slowly dimmed my light.

The years that encapsulated two failing marriages were dim, blurred and sad. No colour filters could be used to capture this time. The lines were harsh and broken, images foggy and my face barely recognizable. The scenes were almost melancholic and heartbreaking. I was lost in the grey and needed to find bright lights and colour again. And I did.

The colour exploded back into my life with filters that have clarity and focus to what became my most important reasons for being, my children. The images were sharp, playful and full of movement. They added vibrancy and depth to my life with the realization that things would be good again. And it was. It is.
So what filter am I using in my life now? Colours are a bit muted, a bit retro. Images are fading into the past, which can only mean one thing. Life is going to change. I feel it. And I think this next chapter will be the most vivid, the most colourful, the most wonderful yet.
Talk to me! What filter would represent your life right now?

Thursday 21 August 2014

Watch, Learn, Grow and Love

Twenty years ago I returned home after travelling abroad. I spent just over a year exploring parts of the world that were exquisite and exotic and fantastic and foreign. Backpacking after graduating university proved to be one of the most eye opening experiences in my life and the lessons I learned then have helped form who I am today.

The flight from Toronto to Australia was ridiculously long so after some consideration a decision was made to start the journey westward by train to Los Angeles where I would then board a plane for Sydney. It was during this sabbatical from the 9 to 5 days of “normal life” when I realized how much I LOVE to travel. I wasn’t sure about living out of a backpack, staying in hostels and travelling by bus, train, plane and automobile.  I just didn’t do these things. They weren’t part of my everyday existence and the idea of leaving my so called “ivory tower” was terrifying. But I did and I lived to share my story.
Up until I left, my world was a small, comfortable place created by friends, family and myself.  The walls that surrounded me were cushioned and there was always someone around to kiss any bumps or bruises I had.  I had always thought I was an independent girl, wanting to do things for herself, never letting fear stop her, taking that proverbial leap of faith when that was all I had. Well, I was wrong. My independence, my true sense of independence came from this adventure.

I was on the other side of the world before the days of the Internet and Facebook. Daily communication with those who had been my security blanket all my life was very sparse and costly! There was no one around to tell me to do this or not do that. I did what I wanted. Reverse bungee jumping, rappelling down an 18 story building, drinking Bundaberg rum until I couldn’t stand any longer. So, maybe some of my choices weren’t the smartest but isn’t that what growing up is about?  Learning how to make these choices, suffering the repercussions of the wrong ones and basking in the glory of the right ones?

Twenty years later I am sitting here reflecting on that year away and my memory is flooded with the good, bad and ugly of the trip. In the midst of all this, I have one memory that has been etched in permanent ink in my mind.  It is one of the places my minds drifts to when I want a break from the monotony of my day.
In the distance, a splendid haze of reddish-orange blasts against a crystal clear blue sky. It is almost 350 metres high and about 4 kilometres long. Ayers Rock stands in front of me, smack dab in the middle of an empty plain known as the Red Centre. The thrill here is to climb to the top and see how vast plains really are. I had fully intended to embark upwards on this journey that would bring me closer to Nirvana.
Walking along the base taking note of the beauty of this magnificent chunk of ancient sandstone, I met a man named Peter. He was a delightful old man who shared the many legends behind “Uluru”, the aboriginal word for the rock.  Every feature of the rock means something to them, from the cracks and fissures to the caves and waterholes. Natives don’t climb the rock as a tribute to their belief and herein lay an issue that Peter struggled with daily: the clash between ancient traditions and what now has become modern tradition – climbing the rock. 
We continued to talk as we walked. I noticed glimmering plaques all inscribed with the names of the brave few who perished in their own battle with Uluru. It was then I made the decision to sit and not climb up with the rest. There are times when I wonder what I missed by not climbing up but then I think about what the climbers missed by not sitting down and enjoying what was in front of them.  I am happy I took that time to enjoy and focus on the moment instead of using mind, body and soul to get me to the summit. An ancient aboriginal proverb says, “We are all visitors to this time, this place... Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love and then we return home." And this is what I learned sitting in the tranquil beauty of theses plains.
Ayers Rock, Northern Territory
Photo credit Audrey Bresar
It was 2 ½ hours since the others made their ascent before I see them cantering down the last part of Ayers Rock exhausted. The battle between man and rock is over. Man has won, this time.  The chatter of how arduous the climb was and how beautiful the sight was from atop began. I listened and smiled politely, noticing that the sun was setting and in the midst of all the excitement, I looked over the crowd and saw the most incredible thing.
Watching the sun set around this sacred piece of rock, a beautiful metamorphosis occurs.  The monolith that stood so majestically changes its colour from fierce red to warm orange and then a deeper shade of crimson and finally a silent grey. The red rock that towers over on-lookers, that holds the secrets of many battles and that defeated some of those who tried to conquer it now sleeps like a baby in the distance.
Maybe it is not so intimidating after all.
Talk to me! Where did you find your independence? What did you learn?

Friday 8 August 2014


I descend from a long line of dreamers. Not everyone in my family walks around with this romanticized version of what life should entail running in their minds. Some are plagued with the acceptance of whatever will be, will be and have no patience for the few of us that do. The dreamers possess this internal belief that today life is great but the best is still to come.
Whether it's my good fortune or misfortune, I am one of the dreamers. I follow in the footsteps of my grandfather before me who was a classic dreamer. A man who dreamed and laughed and lived fully.
Not long ago I was having a discussion with a dear friend who is blessed by the same dreamer tendency and I casually mentioned something that has truly etched itself into the very core of my being. I am not done being great.
This comment is in no way meant to be narcissitic. I don't think I am better than anyone else or deserve anything more than my neighbour. I am simply a person who continually strives to learn, to see, to do. To think that I have done it all would be premature. To deny myself the time to dream about what next would result in a whole world of experience that would be lost to me. So I am not done.
I know this because I am forever reaching; forever pushing; forever doing. I need to satisfy the constant hunger inside of me to evolve. I need my life to be fluid. What I can't explain is what this hunger feels like. Is it excitement? Anticipation? Wonderment or expectation? It's a fire inside the pit of my stomach with everything rolled into one bundle of "what ifs" that drives me.
Dreamer can hold some negative connotation. Dreamers are lazy. Dreamers can't focus. Dreams are just dreams. But what if we lived in a world void of dreamers? There would have been no Leonardo DaVinci, no Martin Luther King Jr., no John Lennon, no Walt Disney. The key is in my comment I made to my friend.
I am not DONE being great.
I can dream all I want. I can feel all the tingle of anticipation of what's to come. But I need to DO. Some people feel that dreamers don't do but I think not all doers are dreamers. Dreamers, the ones that make a difference, are the quintessential doers. It's the passion in these dreamers that catapults them into doing. If DaVinci didn't have passion, we wouldn't have the Mona Lisa. If MLK didn't have a dream, where would the world be today?
There will always be those non-dreamers feel compelled to inject a dose of "reality" into our dreams. It is something I face often. "You will never be famous writing. The market is too competitive", "You won't like to live in Europe. Vacationing is one thing, living there is another" "True love doesn't exist". And these are the simple dreams. Imagine if I shared the more complex ones?! I'd never hear the end of "but I'm only looking out for your best interests". My reality incorporates my dreams, it doesn't work against them. Of course, some don't always work out the way I want but it doesn't deter me from creating space in my mind where anything is possible.
So in the immortal words of John Lennon "you may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one" and I'd rather live my life with dreams than not.
Talk to me...If you can dream it, you can do it. What is the dream that moves your forward daily?

Tuesday 22 July 2014

My Big Fat Greek Vacation

Jet lag is finally gone (I think!) and reality has sunk in. Sixteen days of absolute bliss are now embedded in my memory, only to be drawn upon when everyday life gets crazy. Greece was incredible and it was the much needed break I desperately required to reset mind, body and soul.

Hot days were filled with mini-adventures along the western coast of this Mediterranean jewel. The kids and I stayed with family and our experience was more authentic and true than if we had booked hotels and tours. For this, I am forever grateful to L and G and the multitude of friends they brought into our lives. We were welcomed at the Athens airport by a wonderful Greek man, who offered to pick us up and take us to the bus station. His command of the English language was minimal and my knowledge of Greek was nil but we still managed to communicate using hand gestures and a lot of smiles. Even on the bus, I sat beside a man who spoke very little but managed to convey a hearty "Welcome to my country". I was becoming enamoured with the friendliness and immense pride of the Greek people very quickly.

My children were welcomed into the inner circle of my family's neighbours and embraced wholeheartedly. Again, language was a bit of an issue but children have this remarkable way of communicating without speaking a word. Watching these new friends take the hands of my children, I couldn't help but think "if only children ruled the world". They are already making plans for a longer visit next year, without MOM.

Letter from the kids in the neighbourhood to my children

I discovered that Greece is more than the photos we see of Santorini and Mykonos. Inside the shorelines of the birthplace of so much of the modern world lies many hidden gems. My cousin brought us to one of these treasures, a place called Meteora. It is a picturesque sandstone complex that houses six Eastern Orthodox monasteries that are built on top of each pillar. I had never seen anything like this before and was blown away at how pretty it was. How these monasteries were constructed high above the ground on the surface of each pillar was incredible. The walk up was one that left me shaky and sore for days! Walking around the monastery I felt as though I was that much closer to heaven. The view was incredible and the silence that filled the air was almost mystical.

Photo by Audrey Bresar
A visit to Greece would not be complete without an island tour. As I mentioned, we did not venture to the tourist islands of the south but were able to explore one of the northwest islands in the Aegean, Skiathos. Our boat ride was an event. It made me remember how happy people on vacation are.  The captain, a man lovingly referred to as “Tarzan”, made the voyage over incredibly entertaining. Gathering up all passengers from the top deck, he cranked up the music and taught them the basics of the Sirtaki, a traditional Greek dance. Once the dancing was over, the true spirit of this Greek sailor took hold. “Look a dolphin on the right!” he screamed over the speaker and the entire boatload of passengers ran to the right.  Seconds later, “Sorry, I meant left!” and passengers went left causing the boat to rock. All that could be heard was a little chuckle over the speaker. Rocking the boat was all part of the experience. 

Photo by Audrey Bresar

As the boat sailed up to the port of Skiathos, I gasped. This was what I pictured Greece to look like. Pristine white buildings with pink bougainvilleas flanked against a clear blue sky and turquoise water. Sailboats dotted the port and cafes were filled along the waterfront. Needless to say, I could have stayed forever, sitting in one of those cafes with pen in hand and notebook open, chronicling what I saw and what I could imagine. A writer’s dream. 

Photo by Audrey Bresar

The kids wanted, no craved, more ruins.  They wanted to see the things that they only read about. Fortunately, they both studied Greek civilization and mythology this year and it woke up some intense curiousity on their part. So off we headed to Dion and Mount Olympus. I have to say that walking through the ruins of this ancient and important city was chilling. Alexander the Great walked these steps. My son was completely loving this part of the experience. Mosaics from ancient bath houses, statues of the gods, theatres and homes of the people of Dion had been dug up and made available for all to see.

Mosaic tiles at Dion
Photo by Audrey Bresar
The island of Evia, surrounded by green and turquoise water, was a welcome surprise.  Once thought to have been part of the mainland, Evia possesses a secret known by few, the healing mineral baths of Edipsos.  The water ranges from cool to extreme. Young and old, Greek tourists and locals sit on the pinkish rocks letting the thermal waters flow upon them and work their healing powers. I felt invigorated moving back and forth from the hot running water to the cooler water of the sea. It was blissful.

Photo by Audrey Bresar

The Hot Springs
Photo by Audrey Bresar
Our last stop on this amazing journey was Athens. Now I had heard mixed reviews on what to expect. Beautiful, old, dirty, crowded. I tried not to let other peoples experiences cloud my initial thoughts. What I will tell you is that as the kids and I walked into Monistiraki and saw the Acropolis peaking down through the buildings, I felt chills. This is something we don’t experience in a young country like Canada; the feeling of being part of something so much bigger, of historical significance. It hit me like a tonne of bricks. I was in the same place as some of the great minds that helped shape modern civilization. Walking up (seemed like everywhere we went it was an upward climb!) the Acropolis, the kids were amazed. The Parthenon, thousands of years old, still stood. Of course the questions erupted like a volcano. “How can it still stand?” “Why are parts missing?” “Who fixes them and how do they know what it looked like?” “Did the gods really exist?”  I absolutely LOVE the curiousity that lives within them. (Of course, I had to google everything to formulate an even plausible reply).

The Parthenon
Photo by Audrey Bresar
This trip reset a lot of things. I was able to slow down and catch up with life, with me and with the kids. We had no pressure and enjoyed the moments that seemed to linger just a little bit longer while there.  We did see wonderful things but this journey was about reconnecting.  And we did that through a shared experience and being in the moment without interruption.

So the question now is “Where do we go next year?”

Talk to me! What is your summer adventure this year?

Saturday 28 June 2014

Love to Travel, Hate to Pack

I love to travel. There is something intoxicating about discovering new places and seeing parts of the world most only read about. 

Tomorrow my kids and I head to the land where democracy, the Olympic Games, philosophy, math, science and drama were born. We will be able to enjoy sun, sand and explore Mt. Olympus, mythical home of the Greek gods.  And I am looking forward to every second of this adventure. 

What I DON'T love is the pre-travel crap that needs to get done before I lock my front door and embark on my journey.  

This past month has proved to be busier than most. On top of all the regular running around, there were a few more items that I added to my schedule. As you read in a previous post, I had decided to redecorate my bedroom. This entailed moving things around, purging and moving furniture. The last item in the big overhaul is painting one more dresser, which will be completed today. I have resigned myself to the fact that the finishing touches will have to wait until I return. 

My day job has been quite busy also. I have tried to cram 2 months work into 1 month to ensure there is no lapse in momentum. Montreal and Chicago were also added to my agenda as meetings were booked. There was a point where I thought I wouldn't get it all done but I prevailed and everything should run smoothly while I am away *crossesfingers*

The best part of being a mom are the last minute requests that are thrown at your perfectly scheduled time management plan. This week, in my mind, was supposed to be filled with finishing up laundry, packing, cleaning the house - you know crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's. As the saying goes, the best laid out plans... Monday night at 9pm I heard the frantic cry of "Mom, I need a fruit platter for tomorrow!"  So I shut down the computer and off I trekked to the grocery store.  Wednesday night, the only night where there are no activities, had been booked to take my daughter to a punk rock concert. What was I thinking? It was a school night, the weather was uncooperative and it was LOUD. I sat through 4 hours of musical "bliss", feeling the beat of the music pound in my ears and chest and mentally going through all the stuff I still had to get done before Sunday. Friday night was the annual "End of Year School Bash" at a friend's house that I completely forgot about.

And so where does all this leave me? Well it's Saturday afternoon and I'm still not packed. Our plane leaves in less than 24 hours and I am still pondering if I should buy a bigger suitcase. My laundry is still drying with items that need to find their way into my luggage. And I'm sitting at the tennis courts watching my kids finish their lesson and writing this post. 

Will I get it all done? The stuff I need to do - yes. Everything else?


I'm officially on vacation. 

See you in a couple of weeks with stories of turquoise water, ancient ruins and hopefully a steamy tale of a handsome Greek tycoon!

Thursday 12 June 2014

Taking Back Control

By nature I am a person who likes to stay busy but somehow in the past little while the busy has taken over. Life is coming at me in all directions. Usually I would be absolutely giddy with excitement and tingling all over knowing that things were happening but not so much lately. Somewhere in the middle of doing all the things I must do, I lost control and bedlam set in. Well, guess what?


Perhaps it is time to slow down, after all, the spring in my step is becoming more of a 5lb weight. The problem is I don't want to slow down. I want to stay busy. Whether it is writing or redecorating or travelling the globe, even tackling obstacles in my day job, I thrive on momentum. It is like being on a bicycle, finally getting your stride and feeling the wind brush against your flushed cheeks and the sun kissing your skin. It is a feeling of possibilities. I love being on that metaphoric bike, pedalling up and down the hills and valleys of my life. It makes me feel alive.

Unfortunately, I was pedalling a bit to fast and one of my feet has slipped. So what to do? It is always difficult to just place your foot on the pedal and continue at the speed at which you were travelling. You have to reset. And that is what I am going to do. Lucky for me this slip of the foot has happened right before a wonderfully planned vacation. I leave for Greece in a few weeks and this is the perfect reset. In the meantime, I have become the Queen of the To Do list.

There is a household list on my fridge - wash the floor, pick up dog food, move boxes to storage, pick up wood glue and clamp, finish painting and so on. Then there is the work list - prepare budget, do mid year review, send out sales materials, pack from upcoming business trip, you get the gist? The kid list is composed of enrol kids for tennis lessons, look at summer swim lessons, buy birthday gift for upcoming friends birthdays, take the boy for a haircut. And finally there is the personal list and this is the one that most often gets pushed aside and probably is the one that is most important for that regeneration of the soul. This list includes: book a massage, get to the gym, eat breakfast and lunch (something I don't normally do, bad Audrey!), get a mani/pedi, take a bath, finish reading my book, write another chapter of my book, read blogs, write post for my blog, go out with the girls for dinner and some beverages and maybe, just maybe, go out on a date!

Why does that final list get pushed aside first? This is the list that is supposed to help keep my feet on those pedals at all times. These are the things that make me catch my breath even if it is for one smidgen of a second. All of these help me stay in control of my life by allowing me to take care of me. Yet I don't. I could sit here and say that starting tomorrow I am going to get up early and go to the gym. But I won't because I will have gone to bed late doing all the items on the first three lists. I could say that I am going to soak in a tub after the kids fall asleep but chances are I will drift off into a happy slumber sitting on the sofa before that happens. I will open my book tonight but, again, I won't read more than a page because I will fall asleep before I get to the end of that page.

Ask me how many of the other lists have items crossed off? All of them. Funny how we work.

BUT...I can cross something off my personal list today because I posted something on my blog *doeshappydance*

Talk to me! Do you make lists for everything you do? How successful are you at completing them?

Thursday 29 May 2014

One of My Most Wonderful Gifts

Twelve years ago I was introduced to the first person who would transform my life forever. A person who would teach me things I never dreamt I would learn. Someone whose tears and pain would cut through my heart like a knife. Someone whose smile would take away all my pain and upset the moment I saw it. A wonderful human being whose humility, kindness, grace and soul is unlike anyone I have ever met. 

At 11:20 pm on May 29th 2002, I was blessed with the greatest gift I had ever received in my life, my daughter. 

She took her time coming into the world and this should have been a clue to her personality. Even when she arrived, she didn't do so with a hearty scream. No, my daughter took her time to let the world know she was finally here. Her arrival marked one of the two most important days in my life. 

There is an easiness that she carries within her. Life is to be enjoyed...slowly. And slowly she does. At times her more relaxed nature bats heads with my more rushed way of life. Nothing is urgent for her. Nothing is pressing. Moments for her are savoured one by one, whether it's eating a meal, reading a book or brushing her hair. And I absolutely love this about her. 

She possesses a gentleness that will amaze you. Children, animals and adults respond to her with trust and affection. Her heart is large and she ensures that everyone is okay. I remember walking with her one afternoon when she was about four. We had passed a man sitting on the side of the road with a sign and coffee cup asking for money in what had become hard times for him.  A few feet beyond the man she spotted something and let go of my hand running to pick it up. It was a penny. Turning around with the biggest smile, she ran back toward me stopping in front of this man and dropped the penny in his cup. This man looked at her with tears in his eyes. I was blown away. This is who my daughter is. 

Far from being a drama queen, she does like to inject a bit of flavour to the things she does. This past Mother's Day she gave me a handmade card but before doing so had to set up the "how".  As I sat on the sofa, she walked toward me, iPod in hand, blaring the Katy Perry song "Unconditionally". My life at that moment became a musical. With tears in my eyes, I embraced her as she told me, that like the song, she loved me unconditionally. How did I luck out and be blessed with such an incredible child? Her actions are beyond anything I could ever imagine.

Although she is quiet by nature, she possesses a strong voice and has convictions that drive her. She advocates for justice and candour and will not tolerate lies and deceit. When her brother gets into trouble, she cries. Peace and harmony is what she wants to surround herself in and tries to create an environment where this is possible.

So today, I thank the heavens above for allowing me to be part of this wonderful child's life. Happy birthday my sweet, sweet baby girl. Momma loves you more than the sun, the moon and the universe. 

Talk to me! Who in your life has touched your soul in a way like no other?  

Monday 26 May 2014

Refreshing the Soul with a Bit of Paint

This past weekend was gorgeous! It has only been the second weekend since spring sprang that has been filled with sunshine, warmth and an overall sense of aaaahhh! And what did I do? I spent it INSIDE.

Knowing that my daughter was camping this weekend, I figured I would take advantage of having only one child around and start the redecorating I had been putting off. So I made arrangements with my wonderful aunt to embark on this little project. Had I known it was going to be as beautiful as it was, I may have postponed. In the end I'm glad I didn't. This was a long time coming. 

I've been in my home for just over five years. I remember the day I found this little gem of a condo. As soon as I walked in I knew this had to be mine. And mine it became. I moved in four weeks later and slowly filled this space with pieces of me. 

For the most part, the main living space and kitchen have stayed the same. It was easy to inject who I am in these rooms. It was the bedroom I struggled with. You see my bedroom not only serves as the place I go to lay my head; it also serves as my workspace. And I couldn't figure out how to make the two work. 

For the past few months, I have been scouring magazines, paint samples, furniture catalogue and I finally made a decision. It was quiet obvious once I figured it out. As most of you wonderful readers know, I have this overwhelming desire, this insatiable craving to move to Paris. Well, I can't move to Paris at the moment but why not bring a bit of that Parisian flair to me? And so the plans for redecorating began about a month ago. 

I wanted airy, I wanted romantic, I wanted beautiful. First was the colour. I had to cover the dull light purple walls that surrounded me. Choosing a colour is extremely difficult. I love colour; from warm yellows to midnights blues. How on earth would I decide? I ruled out all the dark, saturated colours filled with intense hues. I wanted a blissful paradise. Usually I'd veer towards my favourite colour or a variation of it but red was opposite of the feel I wanted. The colour had to be light and fresh. And then I saw it. A photo of a bedroom that had the most intricate wall paper behind the bed. It had beautiful drawings of birds all set against a lovely shade of blue. That was the colour I wanted. It called to me and would fit perfectly into my vision. 

A couple of weeks prior I had gone shopping for new bedding and purchased very simple white on white duvet with tiny silver squares strewn across. This fit in fabulously with my Parisian theme. There is something very sophisticated about white bedding. 

Over the past few weeks, I have also purchased a few other items for this transformation. A set of grey bamboo sheets that are softer than anything I have ever felt before. I also found a beautiful cast iron head board in a very elegantly scrolled design painted in antique white (to be delivered this week) The last item that I found was a lamp with a very plain glass base and turquoise shade. Little by little my room, my sanctuary, is coming together.  Next on my list are curtains and new dressers. 

I am finally feeling as though this room says Audrey. I was always hidden in there but something wasn't right. It dawned on me when I started planning. This room, although I lived in it, still had my past lingering in it. The furniture belonged to my ex and despite my purging everything that screamed him, the bedroom furniture was something I never even thought to rid myself of. It was just furniture. It wasn't until I rediscovered who I am did I feel the need to get rid of it. Perhaps that is why I waited to redecorate.

My first night in the newly painted room with new bedding and some wonderful new accessories felt refreshing. I can't wait to finish it.

Talk to me! What space in your home is a total reflection of who you are? Which room are you just itching to change and why?