Valentine’s Day

valentineThe elementary school that my daughters attended had a lovely tradition for Valentine’s Day. This tradition required several weeks preparation, as every child in the school was encouraged to create handmade cards or to bring a Valentine for everyone in their class and to write a sentence describing one thing that they like about each recipient on the cards. The event started with the preparation of the Valentine’s Bags.

Each child (and all the teachers and staff) decorated a paper bag with hearts, etc. and their name. These bags were then affixed to the walls outside each classroom, where the children would “mail” all of their valentines, which would then be taken home at the end of the school day on/or near Valentine’s Day. Parents were invited to post valentines to their children, their friends, teachers and staff, as well.

Sometimes it was a bit of a chore for the children to make 20+ handmade cards complete with encouraging words for each of their classmates, but it was always so much fun for them to drop the cards in the bags and to bring home their own bagful of brightly coloured hearts with kind sentiments written on them from all of their classmates.

This tradition was adapted for parents who attended the Parents’ Advisory Council’s annual workshop, “School For Parents”— a six-week long exploration of parenting styles that encouraged and helped parents deal with the everyday trials and tribulations of raising children in today’s hectic world. At the session during the week of February 14th, every parent and facilitator, pinned a large red or pink construction paper heart to the back of their shirts. Throughout the night, people would wander around the room, stop and write an encouraging message on each heart, describing one thing they liked about that person. Some signed their thoughts, but most didn’t. The idea was to write on as many hearts as possible before the class ended.

This exercise was one of the most powerful and heartening practices that I have ever participated in. I could hardly wait to get home and read all the messages — some of the thoughts were surprising and unexpected (the characteristics that some saw in me, amazed me!), some absolutely delighted me, and some were just simple words of encouragement — all were heartfelt and empowering. It was positive, endearing and reaffirming to read the Valentine notes meant especially for me. I felt so loved. It felt good.

I had forgotten the joy that I felt doing this — how wonderful it was to receive these kinds of expressions and how great if felt to give them to others.

So excuse me, but I have to find some paper and a pen and start writing out some love notes…

Happy Valentine’s Day!


“The Hypnotist”

Hypno_UK_144pxI was looking forward to reading The Hypnotist, there was a lot of buzz around this book and I am always on the look out for a good detective story with a strong and engaging master sleuth. Since The Hypnotist was a best-seller and Lars Kepler was touted as the next Stieg Larsson, I eagerly took it off my “Kobo shelf” and started in.

Unfortunately, I found this novel to be a big disappointment.

The story itself has far too many plot lines that tenuously hinge together through the past and present actions of the main character, the well-known but disgraced clinical hypnotist, Erik Maria Bark. The scenes in the story are dark and violent examples of mental illness and abuse in the extreme, but without any solid follow through the many storylines are just instances of gratuitous brutality serving to shock the readers. The plot jumps from murder to murder in a wild, chaotic frenzy with a very tenuous thread to link them to the story and none of them have a satisfying conclusion. A long (over 100 pages!), 10 year old flashback, haphazardly inserted in the middle, bogs down the narrative, and while providing a little background for the main storyline, leaves the reader with a lot of questions that are never addressed in the book.

The characters are flat, wooden and unlikeable for the most part. They are all psychologically damaged, some more than others, but their stories are not explored or explained. I had little investment in any of them as there was no character development and therefore no way to engage with or understand them.  The main character, Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist, stumbles along in life, popping pills to cope with the increasing tension in his marriage and even when faced with the possibility of losing his son, is incapable of showing any strength of character one would expect in his situation. Erik’s wife, Simone, is a wretched, whiny, self-absorbed woman who, devastated by her son’s kidnapping, fails to use any intelligence in reconstructing the events of the crime and fails to communicate the most crucial information to the police or to her husband. The police detective, Joona Linna, has a minimal role in the novel and lacks the charisma, quick wit and razor-sharp sleuthing skills that I have come to expect in any mystery or action book I read. I did not find the lesser characters anymore compelling, while their stories may have been interesting, the author(s) chose to leave the details and nuances of their lives to the imagination, thus they remained cardboard-like players in this tale.

Overall, I did not enjoy this book. I was frustrated, annoyed and a little bored throughout the story. I did not feel that the plot was compelling and I had no empathy for the characters. I would not recommend this novel.


A Mother’s Heart

3ofusI read an article in the newspaper recently about “helicopter parents” — a phenomenon, where parents have difficulty cutting the apron strings when their children are grown. So much so, that they continue to parent their offspring well into their twenties. Some examples were: a dad sitting in a waiting room while his son had a job interview, mothers who call in sick for their grown children, and even one mother who demanded a change in grade for their university student from their professors.

While I read the report, I was aghast at the depths that these parents go to “help” their grown up kids!

Yet, I got it. I understand the compunction to rescue, protect and help one’s children no matter how old. I’ve felt that pull myself.

Kids grow up and leave home, ready to take on the world. It’s the expectation of all parents, that we spend the first 18 years of our babies’ lives, preparing them to leave the nest, to learn to fly.  And when they do, it is with joy and just a little trepidation that we watch them soar.

Now that my two girls are young adults and they face the usual bumps in the road of life — relationship woes, financial struggles, job/school stresses — I find myself tempted to solve their every problem. I call this “giving suggestions, or advice”. After all, I have been there and done that, I know what they are going through and they should listen to and follow my solutions. Don’t they know that Mom knows best?

But, I realize that I have to turn off  “Mom”  mode and refrain from giving advice, unless asked. I know it’s better to listen, to offer a shoulder, to give a hug and be encouraging. But I am not perfect and I sometimes cannot help but share my well-intentioned answers to my daughters’ problems.

Hopefully, my girls will understand that this unsolicited “help” comes from a place of love and caring. I really just want them to be happy, healthy and to have a wonderful, full life. They are my dear hearts.

So girls (if you are reading this), I promise to listen, comfort, and support you both in all your decisions (even the ones I think are questionable). I will try (very, very hard) to keep my advice to myself unless you ask me for it.  I promise to never be a helicopter parent (I don’t even like to go on job interviews!!). I also promise to be ready to help anytime you need me — all you need to do is ask! !

And one more thing… if you need cash — ask your dad!!