Claire Martin

England, My England – by Claire Martin

Getty Images: HGL

There is something profoundly frightening watching live news play out in front of you. Especially when you know that people you care about may be caught in the cross-fire.

I’m writing this from the safety of my office, numb and shaking at the same time.

Apparently a “lone wolf” (as reported by the UK media) has struck London with devastating violence.

My brother is a very proud black-cab driver in London. He has owned his Hackney Cab license for over two decades and loves driving tourists through the city he adores.

Westminster Bridge
Whitehall

Parliament Square

These are all the areas he knows like the back of his hand. And just rolling the names on my tongue takes me home instantly.

On July 7th, 2005 – I got a frantic call from my brother – who just kept yelling “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok” into the phone. I was completely confused and spent several minutes trying to calm him down and ask what was wrong.

The 7 July 2005 London bombings, sometimes referred to by Londoners as 7/7, were a series of coordinated terrorist bomb attacks in London which targeted civilians using the public transport system during rush hour.

The fourth bomb went off on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square – about 100 yards in front of my brother’s cab. He was traumatized by the event, but unharmed. And has continued to drive in London despite suffering anxiety attacks for a year afterwards.

About 20 minutes ago, I got a phone call “I’m ok” he said quietly “I’m ok”. But I can tell he’s not.

WHAT have I done for you,
England, my England?
What is there I would not do,
England, my own?

Claire
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Charlotte Phillips

Caring for Mom – by Charlotte Phillips

Sunday afternoon at Mom’s

“Hey Mom. MOM. HELLOOO.”

“Oh, I didn’t hear you come in. Wasn’t expecting you.”

“Your TV is really loud. I’m going to turn it down.”

“What?”

“YOUR TV IS….”

“I was just watching the golf.”

“Yes, it’s amazing. The BC guy might just win!”

“What?”

“Mom, do you have your hearing aids in?”

“I think there’s a guy from BC.”

“MOM, I THINK YOUR BATTERIES ARE DEAD.”

“So, what’s up?”

“GIVE ME YOUR HEARING AIDS.”

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Lynn Colliar

An Only has an Only – by Lynn Colliar

Lynn and her daughter Teagan.

I am an only child.
You know… spoiled, horrible, always get my way, indulged… all things I heard while growing up.
(*hint: even the littles hear and remember. Especially when it’s repeated time and time again.)

I actually thought I WAS spoiled and horrible. That it was all about me. To the point that as a “grown up” I became the “all inclusive”… everyone MUST feel part of everything. To the exhaustion of many of my friends.

In groups, when people were talking about their families and asking about siblings it was always the part of the conversation I loathed.
Admitting I was an only. The eye rolling. The assuming that I was, in fact, a spoiled brat who always got her way.

It was like everyone was trying to program me to be that way – so I made sure I was the exact opposite.

I was the best sharer. In fact I gave a girl in my ballet class my ring because she admired it.
I gave Shirley Mullens in Grade 1 my egg salad sandwich because she asked for it. She promptly threw it up.

I try to make sure no one feels left out. But there were many times when I was. All kids are – but for me, it cut deep.

Another side effect… I am a terrible arguer. Growing up I didn’t have anyone to argue with. Sure, my dolls and stuffies, but seriously, they lacked interesting perspective and vocal skills.

We moved a fair bit. It always seemed to happen at the worst time. Grade 1. Halfway through Grade 5. Every time I was launched out into a new world… alone.

My parents had all the faith in the world in me. You’re great. You’re funny. You’ll find friends. But they weren’t there the first day of school after spring break when I had to walk into a Grade 5 class full of kids that had been together for years. All looking and knowing… there’s the only child.

She’s probably a spoiled brat.

I used to cling to friends. Afraid they would leave and I would, once again, be on my own.

I am an only child.

Now I am a mother to an only child.

I used to make myself promises as a kid that I would never, ever, do this to another child. Make them grow up in isolation. Alone.
I look back now and realize I was never alone. I have cousins and great friends that have been by my side since grade school.
I have a tribe.
We tried to have many children. I would have had ten if all the embryos had stuck. But only one stuck.
When she was two, Teagan asked when she would have a little brother or sister. Then again at 2.5… 3… 3.5… 4….
She’s seen many of her friends get siblings and keeps asking when she will get hers.
I don’t tell her she’s an only child. I tell her she’s ours. And she has a tribe. And she will never be alone. So please don’t tell her she’s an only child. She’s not.

note from Jody: this is what #mybackyard is about. I could see Lynn and I having this conversation over wine and triple-0 burgers at white spot.  I didn’t request this reaction,,,,I woke up to it in my inbox. Thank you Lynn! We love your perspective here. Let’s keep these conversations going.

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Jody Vance

Singletons. – by Jody Vance

Getty Images: Liam Norris

My family goal always included a houseful of kids.  Growing up with a big brother, and very close with our cousins, often we were four – or more.  We learned from each other – social culture – independent play.  The parenthood dream, for me.

Alas, as you’ve seen on this blog in “Fertility Road Pt. 1”, my struggle to have just one, was real.  When my boy was born I felt incredibly lucky.  We could talk, at great length, about the up/down side of having an “only”, not to mention the pressure to have “multiple” kids.  Today isn’t about that.

Simply put, today, we celebrated the singleton.  No plans, no playdates, few kid-only distractions, just us.  Me, my boy and my partner.  We walked the dogs 5K in old growth forrest (in pouring rain), did major spring cleaning chores, got groceries – and OK, hit the dollar store for crafts and silly string – most of all we were just together.

At one point I asked my, highly social, son if he wanted a play date and he said “nah, I like this.”  At that moment the mom in me, who loves a full house of screaming nerf-gun wielding 9 year olds, said, “Me too bud, me too.”

He’s hit the age where we can really do stuff that matters.  Safeway wasn’t just the adults shopping, this time it was him hunting for specific items we need during the week.  He’s able to run around a store solo and find these things.  Obviously, it would be faster for me to “just do it”, as I have for his entire life.  I felt so good watching him venture out and come back successful in his task.  Life skills.

We are a busy family and often we just need chill time.  Evenings we often default to “you go watch your show, we will watch ours”, this time (after short protest) we chose together.  Planet Earth II is free on demand.  We watched and discussed — the kid regularly exclaiming “how did they get this footage?!” (that’s my boy)

Today, hanging with the singleton – without distraction – punctuated how fast he is growing up.  If I’d had a friend along to happily distract him from our tasks (as I’ve often done) I would have been distracted from the fact that he is quickly becoming quite capable.  He loved showing off his latest life skills.

We all loved it, at the end of the day, and at tuck-in it was decided that we would carve out more of this in future.  I’m in. (and yes, I still do story time – chat – tuck in.)

Only child sounds lonely – but that need not be the case.  They have their village, as they should, they also have the same family dynamic opportunities – without sibs.  Fostering that is my new Mom lesson.

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Jody Vance

Positive Parking – by Jody Vance

Getty Images: Eric Woods

Here’s the scene.

I had a wee fender bender (my fault) a couple of weeks ago and had a loaner car from Jim Pattison Toyota Downtown while they fixed “said bumper”.

That little Corolla was a godsend in getting me to and from all of my planned meetings and such.  I’d added the loaner license plate number to my pay-by-phone parking app (if you don’t use this app, you should!) so it was easy to hop in and out of various busy streets.

I parked my loaner a tonne over the four days I used it — and then I picked up my happy little 2016 Prius before heading out for my planned lunch with my very pregnant friend Robin.  Congratulating myself, I found sweet parking on Granville St – used the app to pay – and headed over to Heirloom.

Tangent: Heirloom is our fave spot to fit Robin’s cravings (can you say apple and old cheddar grilled cheese with home made hot sauce?!).

Two delicious hours later, I returned to my car with 5 minutes to spare on the app.  Fluttering in the breeze was a ticket.  (!?!)  I eye rolled to myself as it dawned on me that the app was still set to my loaner car plate.  DAMN DAMN DAMN!  There was $100 I wasn’t planning to spend on lunch…..

Just for the hell of it, with nothing to lose, I called the City of Vancouver.  For as much as folks bitch about City Hall I must say that every time I’ve called there the customer service has been quite stellar.  After explaining my situation, taking full responsibility for being an idiot with regard to the plate mix up on the app, the woman helping me said, “Oh my gawd, I’ve done that! Stand by.”  She put me on hold for 2 minutes and then came back.  “I see you did pay for the spot you are on, I will cancel the ticket.”

I felt a bit like I’d won the lottery.  There is actually technology for brain farts when parking. It made my day.

I texted Robin to tell her what had transpired and her reply was: “good things happen to good people.”  I laughed to myself as I saw how this unfortunate ticket had actually turned into a nice little silver lining.  Sometimes there are good stories to be found in this world of road rage and price gouging parking.

What’s next?  Well, I may just see if folks let me merge onto the Lions Gate Bridge — go big or go home, right?

Find the silver lining in your Saturday, it’s there, sometimes you might just have to go looking for it — after an eye roll.

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Adopt A Pet

Daxter and Jack – By Kristina Matisic

 

Why settle for one bunny when you could have two! Daxter, that’s me, and my equally adorbs brother Jack, we came to the BC SPCA  after an investigation. We had a ruff start to life and are still a bit untrusting of people.  But if you have a soft touch or maybe a tasty treat or two, we’d be super keen to make friends!  We do need a patient guardian who has time to show us what its really like to be a loved. 
 
In terms of our housing requirements, we need a big enclosure where we can have lots of room to hop and play.  We like to stretch those bunny legs!  We’ve been recently  neutered and litter box training is still in progress.  We’re just over a year old, so we’re still learning the ropes. 
 
We hope you’ll come down and meet us! 
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Sponsored Content

A GREAT Vancouver shopping experience

When I first moved back to Vancouver in 2009, I happened by this great little Kitsilano clothing shop called “Twist Fashions”.  Little did I know just how much my shopping-challenged life would change for the better.  “Very naive”, is how I would describe myself — completely unaware of the genius – downright glorious – fashion styling experience I was about to encounter.

There I was, a somewhat frazzled mom of an 18 month old, with a body that was just beginning to “bounce back” (for real) from baby.  Going in I really had no idea what “size” I was, nor was I all that interested in the horror show that had always been finding a good pair of jeans for my skinny legged body.  The need was real, I had to do the one thing I didn’t have time for, shop.  (While I’m excellent at shopping for others gifts, I’m awful at shopping for myself.)

As I walked through the store, thumbing some of the most beautiful staples — Michael Stars T’s, James Pearse button up blouses, Velvet tops in pretty patterns — you’ve ever seen, I was overwhelmed with want.  While my imagination went to the ease of trying on tops, I was trying to stay focused, “I need jeans!”  My denim nemesis.

It was in this very moment that I was thrown a lifeline by a team of women who’d eventually become my fashion gurus, my trusted shopping family.

It all began with four words that changed my fashion path: “Shall we get started?”

I was a bit perplexed, “started?”.  “Yes, you need jeans, right? We can help with that. Come with me.”

I was eye-balled, head to toe, then lead toward one of the three spacious fitting rooms at the back of the store.  Having picked out ZERO to try on, I was a bit confused as to what was happening, that’s when the learning curve hit: When you shop at Twist Fashions, you let the expert stylists pull your clothes …and you just try things on saying “yea” or “nay”.

I’m not overstating this, with no measuring of any kind……just using their sizing superpowers…..over the top of the fitting-room door came no fewer than 5 pair of jeans,  EVERY SINGLE PAIR fit like a glove.

Me: “You are a genius”. Stylist: “I know, it’s what we do. (giggle)”

I love them, all.

First up were the Citizens of Humanity jeans — like an old friend, they slid over my hips and did up with comfort — and oh my gawd, they fit in the legs!  I put those puppies off to the side thinking “I’m done”.  Already standing there in my underwear I figured, I may as well try on the others.  The Paige Denim were a solid tie!  The fit was perfection, so comfortable and stylish, with their slightly higher rise… Ohhhh…and then, to confuse things further, the buttery softness of the light grey Hudson jeans.

New conundrum: how would I choose?!

I went from having issues finding jeans that fit to having issues deciding from all of the jeans that fit perfectly.  My new “issue” was far more fun than my former one.  (It should be noted that this entire experience happened in all of 15 minutes flat.)

On a budget, I decided to take the Hudson jeans home that day.  (note: this was in 2009 and I still wear these jeans regularly today.)  Quality clothing, made to last, made to stay in fashion.  Staples.  Twist.

Ready to roll with my new favourite jeans, my new best friend stylist asked if I was interested in “trying on one more thing, the hot new trend, New J Brand cargo pants? They just arrived.”  I figured, ‘why not?‘….I was still  in the change room and wasn’t dressed yet.  I slipped into these dreamy pants, pants that could take you from the playground (read: comfy and not fussy) to the dinner out (paired with fab ankle boots and a blouse) SOLD. The first three times I wore them out my girlfriends demanded to know where to get them.  I told them, they went in, and those puppies were sold out by the week’s end. That is when I truly became a Twist devotee.  I would love to tell you that I still wear these cargos, but I can’t do that ….. reason: My friend Cathy stole them from my closet long ago.

You see where I’m going here?

Twist Fashions is a one stop shopping experience for those of us who are a bit shopping challenged — we don’t have time to walk the mall, window shop our way down a fancy street — before finding Sharon and her team at Twist, I admit, my closet was a mess of sale rack shrapnel, from very low end stores.  Clothes that were toast after 10 washes, you know what I’m talking about, right?  Disposable wardrobe.  I committed to saving up my $$ and buy one fantastic pair of pants rather than five crappy, sale rack, pants that end up just taking up valuable closet space and never make the cut to actually wear.

I’m proud to say that, thanks in no small part the team at Twist, my closet is now set up to succeed.

In this blog I’ve only, really, touched on the jeans and cargos — Twist is so much more than that.  These fantastic fashionistas have taught me to not fear horizontal stripes, and now I embrace them!  They know my taste and can now pick out that perfect party dress for me without me even being in the room. They know to call me when there’s a delivery from InWear, sometimes I even get texts telling me to  “get in here, we’ve put a 4 aside for you to try!”  99% of the time it’s perfection.  Those are some good numbers for a non-shopper like me.

The best part of all of this?  There is never pressure to invest more than you are comfortable with spending.  They enjoy the process of dressing you, they will style you up to the nth degree, right down to Shereen Du Rousseau fantastic accessories and AS98 shoes (my faves) — and if you opt to buy only the jeans, no problem!

Trust me, you want your spring and summer staples NOW.  Get set up.  Go to Twist on West 4th at Bayswater.  Do yourself a favour and carve out at least an hour, 90 minutes if you can, to get in a change room and find your fashion flavour, no matter the reason or season.  Spring stuff is stocked, get yourself ready!!

Please do tell them Jody Vance sent you.

(UPDATE!!! Twist is hiring.  http://twistfashions.com/careers/)

Note regarding Sponsored Content:

When we put together the plan for MyBackyard.Press, Sarah, Claire and I made a decision to be very choosy about advertising put into blog content.  We want you to know that the things we endorse are not just about ad revenue.  If you see “Sponsored Content” you can trust that the company represented has been vetted by us, or is a product or service that we use personally.  For more information regarding sponsored content, please contact us via the emails available here on the blog. 

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Claire Martin

PDA – by Claire Martin

I’m a hugger.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that even if I meet you with a handshake, I will generally depart with a hug.

This is absolutely not an inherited trait. I come from a family of true British stiff-upper-lippers (!) who generally frown on tears and find hugging far too intimate for comfort. My hugging is, in fact, an attribute that my family simply considers an amusing personal “quirk”, and no doubt blame much of it on my time in Canada!

I don’t know when or how I got into the habit of hugging, but I do clearly remember certain events in my life where PDA’s – everything from a simple hug, to seeing couples hold hands, became powerful symbols of love, comfort, and humanity.

In the late 80’s for example, I clearly remember watching Princess Diana one night on the TV news, defiantly holding the hands of Aids patients in an east London hospital when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact. I was impressed by her dignity and conviction. But mostly I was impressed by the unspoken offer of love and strength given by simple touch.

This past summer, I found myself alone waiting for skin-graft surgery in Lionsgate Hospital. It was literally a “Hot August Night”, but I was scared and consumed with “what-if-thoughts” for the next few hours. A nurse came over and saw me trembling under my hospital gown. Despite the warmth of the evening, I was chilled. “Ah honey,” she said, “let me get you a blanket”. She came back moments later with a warmed blanket and tucked me in. She then took my hand and asked me about my day. We talked, well, she talked for a few minutes. She never once let go of my hand. I could feel her warmth gradually seep into my fingers, and I literally clung on for dear life.

When we are at our most vulnerable, a simple touch is an absolute sign of humanity.

Two days ago, on the Seabus coming home from work, an elderly couple got on and sat opposite me. Their knees were touching and they were holding hands. Every now and again, the woman would reach over and whisper something in her companion’s ear. He would smile and respond with a tighter grip.

I tried not to stare. But it was simply lovely to watch a couple so obviously still in love and enjoying each others company.

I’m writing this as current world and political events would lead us to believe that we are hurtling towards an unholy mess, that there is little good left in the world, and that decent humanity is a thing of the past.

I want to reassure everyone that we’re ok. Character is, in fact, defined not when times are good, but when they are bad. And as the wonderful former First Lady of the United States said, “when they go low, we go high”… Yes, ma’am!

Mantra for this year then is as follows:
“Go High”
“Show Character”
“Hug lots”

Claire

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Jody Vance

Live TV is the BEST – by Jody Vance

Getty Images: MARK RALSTON

Having spent the better part of my career doing live TV I can attest to it being quite a rush.  It’s amazing when it goes well and when it doesn’t, as long as the subject matter is not life or death, it’s an adventure.

Last night’s Academy Awards certainly counts as an adventure in Live TV.

First, it must be said: I loved Jimmy Kimmel hosting.  Jimmy looked comfortable and prepared — I very much enjoyed his Matt Damon schtick. He seems unflappable even on that massive stage known for swallowing up even the best of the best.  Full disclosure, I wasn’t much for the tour bus segment, but that’s just me. Schtick like that seems like a massive time-waster.  You cannot tell me those weren’t plants….etc…etc.  I thought Kimmel was on point with his Trump jabs too, they were hilarious and yet not hateful. (#merylsayshi)  The candy stuff added quick whimsy.

Today, of course, no one really remembers much of that …everyone is talking about the Final Act of the Oscars 2017. Even if you didn’t watch it live, you now know how La-La Land producers were handed the Best Picture Oscar when, in fact, Moonlight had won it — on paper.  What a fantastic train-wreck to witness LIVE on TV.

Everything goes still.  Awestruck wonder hits.  Could this happen to Hollywood royalty the likes of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty….there to present Best Picture, on the 50th anniversary of their film Bonnie and Clyde?  The golden age of Hollywood represented as the biggest award in Hollywood is presented — that’s when the train goes off the tracks?

Their introduction was classic, filled with that slow cadence saved for stars who owned the screen when silence was golden.  There was Beatty’s quasi-political statement of tolerance and equality, followed by the usual produced piece introducing the nominees.

Cue the Live TV drama.

Did you see it as it was unfolding?  Some suspected that Beatty might be having a bit of a “senior moment” during an, almost uncomfortable, epically long pause.  Did you see the confusion?  The look into the camera (to the control room) then to the wings (to stage managers) his silent cry for help?  Some assumed it was a bad joke .. him stretching his time on stage, but no.  His last gasp for assistance was to show Dunaway the card he’d pulled from the red envelope — unfortunately she was in the Oscars Presenter’s Moment (likely assuming that he was giving her the honour of announcing the winner.) He wasn’t — he was looking for her to HELP HIM handle a highly unusual situation.

The card read: Emma Stone – La La Land.  Dunaway read: “La La Land”

Beatty appeared to be giving show producers every signal in the playbook that “something isn’t right here”.  When he tilted the card to Dunaway, he was looking for an opinion – not an announcement – but how was she to know? When has their ever been a WRONG ENVELOPE at the Oscars?

You know what happened next, the Producers of La La Land rejoiced and gathered on stage. Only to notice that there was chaos ensuing behind them. The Representative from PricewaterhouseCoopers lurking with the stage manager and Kimmel…  Live TV baby!

“Moonlight won”.  The very eloquent Producers of La La Land made it clear, and gave us all an incredible Oscar Moment.  Snatching the gilded card from Beatty’s hands and dramatically turning the official placard to camera, as proof.

Everyone in the audience had their phones out to record the moment. (as if it weren’t covered by a zillion cameras!)  The Oscar Gaffe of 2017 will have folks talking Oscars for days/weeks/months/years to come.  It’s now eclipsed the Snow White Open debacle from 1991! 

Today it is the folks from PricewaterhouseCoopers who are in a spotlight they really don’t want.  This their statement today on Twitter:

We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred,” the accounting firm stated. “We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and [host] Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.

This is Live TV people.  Anything can happen.  This is why it’s such a rush to pull off a “well oiled machine” show, like say, Hockey Night In Canada.  Broadcasters (indeed The Media) make this look easy, it’s not.

Hilariously off the cuff – Jimmy Kimmel blaming Steve Harvey was so defusing.. (referencing his Miss Universe debacle of a winner announcement)  Warren Beatty standing tall to the microphone and being very crystal clear on what happened, and why, explaining himself immediately, the viewer along for the ride.  Live TV.  Don’t you love it?

We re-watched it all, did you?  Are you still talking about it today?

 

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Charlotte Phillips

Don’t get old – by Charlotte Phillips

The significant difference between how life begins and how life ends might be that a baby has no idea what it can’t do on its own and an elderly person knows exactly what independence they are losing with each passing day.

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been caring for my 94 year-old Mom who suffered a stress fracture of her lower right leg. Before she could be treated for the broken bone, she had to endure a flu outbreak at the hospital she was admitted to. The ordeal tested Mom’s will to carry on and challenged my tolerance of the health care system that is trapped under the weight of its own dysfunction. Continue Reading

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