Hi! I’m Monica.

Hello! My name is Monica. I’m Dana’s office plant.


I’m rather special if I do say so myself. Why? Because Dana hasn’t killed me yet!

(Although she did leave for vacation for a week and no one watered me and so I was rather droopy when she returned… But I prevailed! I hope we never, ever have a close call like that again. Right, Dana?!)

Apparently Dana has a pretty bad track record when it comes to houseplants. Last I heard she killed about 14 or something like that. She seems rather nice and treats me well (okay, except for the week vacation). So what does she do wrong?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m an office plant. And/or that I’m an ivy. We ivies (ivys?) are a pretty hearty bunch. Case in point: the week vacation. (Oops, I brought that up again.)

I even keep growing more leaves! I’ve been on Dana’s desk for over three months now and my vine has grown extensively.

I have it pretty good here. I have a nice view of the street with the occasional exciting firetruck that goes whizzing by. Dana is quiet and drinks lots of coffee and tea. (Some of her teas smell really good!) She mostly types and reads. It’s a quiet life and I like it.

But maybe one day she’ll bring me a friend?

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Valencia: Where even the animals are chillin’ 

After a couple days in Barcelona we decided to travel to the city of Valencia. The City of Arts and Sciences caught our interest. Plus, there have been protests in Barcelona and we thought it best to stay clear.

It was difficult not to run into protesters in Barcelona’s city centre, who were protesting for Catalonia’s independence from Spain.
Valencia is beautiful. Less tourist-y than Barcelona, less traffic, and a bit slower-paced. (Not that Barcelona was a swarming beehive.)

The view from outside our hotel.
I love the vibrant blue sky up against the colourful buildings!

We took a walking tour of the city…


Artists painting decorative fans (when not talking on cell phones).

…and then went to the BioParc, essentially Valencia’s zoo. Even the animals were laid back! But that was more likely because of the hot weather.

This giraffe was like six feet away. Amazing. The zookeepers must have smeared something on the trees because the giraffes were licking them like crazy.
These ring-tailed lemurs were one of my favourites. They were just up in the trees directly above us!
This gorilla wins the Chillaxin’ Award by a landslide.

At dinner we had beers with unicorns on them, and I had calamari, which was delicious but did not look at all like I had expected!

Unicorns make great beer.
I ate it all!

The next day we went to the local aquarium.

Oh Sharky, how you terrify me…

Last but not least, every city has its oddities. Here are three Valencian oddities we spotted:

1. The first hotel we stayed in was movie-themed. We got the Pinocchio room. (I had a compulsive urge to colour him in.)


2. An elaborate street performer.


3. A man playing a trombone under a bridge.


In the science museum is an ultra-cool sculpture of DNA:


And here are some extra shots of the city:

I tried paella!! But the kind without snails.

Barcelona: Beauties and Oddities

Right now I am whipping through the Spanish countryside on a train that’s going 200km/h. We’re on our way to Valencia after spending a couple of days in Barcelona.

To me, Barcelona is a lovely mix of beauty and oddity. Four of its beauties, in no particular order:

1. The Sagrada Família. We walked there, turned a corner, and BAM! There it was. I literally gasped. 

Pictures don’t do it proper justice. The mish-mash of serious churchiness and cartoony whimsy is my kind of art. I never thought I would be so mesmerized by a church. Unfortunately we were only able to see the outside as tickets were sold out. No surprise there.

2. Park Güell. Fantastic walking trails with a Gaudi masterpiece nestled here and there. The stuff of fairy tales. I’m really digging Gaudi!


3. Tapas!!

4. Sandcastles on the beach—with FIRE!


Then there are the occasional oddities. Here are five and again, in no particular order:

1. A yaht complete with shrink-wrapped helicopter.

2. A man walking downtown carrying an ocillating fan.

3. A young woman walking downtown carrying a toaster.

4. A beepy-boopy electronic tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” coming from seemingly nowhere. Is it someone’s ringtone? No. Is it a car alarm? No. We finally see a tipped-over Christmas ornament on the sidewalk: A foot-long, cheap plastic Santa with a creepy smile on his face. Nothing and no one around it. (I was laughing too hard to take a picture.)

5. Rotisserie chickens spinning humorously and amazingly fast on a spit in a shop window. Maybe it’s a special cooking trick.

The train has arrived in Valencia! What beauties and oddities await us here?

Small friends, school, and survival 

Last weekend at the cottage I found my little half-tail friend! And like no time had passed, s/he took peanuts straight from my hand again.

Half Tail is back! And s/he took the biggest peanut.
I think Half Tail is going to take the biggest one again…
It had been over a year since I’d seen Half Tail, since this summer was rather cold, buggy, and rainy. But on the very last day before we went home we found each other. Amazing that s/he remembered after so long. 

The meeting was bittersweet. For me it marked the end of another summer. The next day would be a flurry of back-to-school. Well, back-to-school for my 7-year-old son, and the very first day of school for my 4-year-old daughter. Nervous prickles started to line my skull and my stomach.

My own very first day of kindergarten is my earliest vivid memory. I remember thinking that my mom was going to stay with me, so when she turned to leave I flew into a panic. I chased her down the school’s hallway, howling with tears streaming down my face. Bless Ms. Loveland, my kindergarten teacher, for having patience and for calming me down.

I like to think that I couldn’t have been too traumatized since I ended up staying in school long enough to get my PhD…

So on my own kids’ first day of school when I saw the tears well up in their eyes, I understood. And it all came rushing back to me. I tried to think: what eventually calmed me down? I honestly can’t remember. My husband and I tried to soothe our kids but to no avail. I told them how I used to cry, too, but I learned that everything is okay. We eventually had to leave them, tear-streaked and stressed. 

Oh, what a long day at work that was…

I picked them up as early as possible. My son was just fine, chattering away about who is in his class, how his teacher changed the seating arrangment because my son was talking too much (!!!)… Is this the same kid I dropped off this morning?

My daughter, on the other hand, looked haggered. She apparently cried for an hour after drop-off and cried again during the transition to the after-school program. Oh, my heart broke to see her looking so sad! Cortisol rushing through her body all day….she must have been exhausted. I gathered her in my arms and gave her the biggest hug possible. “You made it through your very first day of school,” I whispered proudly. She just buried her face deeper into my neck.

I was a full week of tears. And the beginning of this week, too. 

I know my daughter is in good hands. Her teacher is a tiny willow of a woman who always wears bright, happy-coloured head scarves, and who is not afraid of giving a hug when one is needed.

I know my daughter will survive. But I want more than just survival for her. I want her to enjoy school. To love school. To look forward to it every day.

Maybe one day she will. And maybe she won’t.

For now my husband and I will do our best. To reassure her. To comfort her. To love her. 

School is a big transition. It will get better. It will get better, it will get better…

Saturday mornings need lop-sided pigtails

The bedroom door is flung open with a burst of hallway light blasting my eyes.

“Momma, can you get up now?”

I squint at the clock. 6:09 a.m. On a Saturday.

My sleepy brain groans. My body feels like a bag of bricks. “Wait until the clock says seven-zero-zero,” I mumble.

“Okay!” And she slams the door.

What feels like thirty seconds pass when the door is flung open again. “Momma,” she calls in a loud-ish, raspy whisper, “It’s time to get up!” 

Before I launch into a restrained adult-tantrum about the necessity of older people sleeping in on weekends, I open my eyes and see her standing there, with three lop-sided pigtails in her hair and dressed in her ballet outfit. I can’t help but smirk. In her own way she knows how to celebrate a Saturday.

My daughter’s self-styled hair and outfit choice…

It is now 8:27 and we’ve ploughed through a plate of pancakes, a page in a colouring book, two episodes of Paw Patrol, a mini-dance party, and a funny-face competition. 

Suddenly it is eerily quiet. I peek into the living room.

The child is asleep on the couch…

Darth Vader’s Guide to Bumblebees

Greetings, to whoever is reading this record of my discovery of this planet called…Earth

I am the almighty Darth Vader, and I have been seeking to destroy the Jedi across the universe. I have been in search of Jedi on this planet Earth and I believe I have finally found them.

They are very small, these Jedi. And covered in fur, like Ewoks or Wookies. (I hate Ewoks and Wookies…) 

They fly, these small Jedi. And make a BZZZzzzZZZzzz sound. Quite annoying, actually. (But then again, all Jedi are annoying…)

The Force is strong with them. Their navigational skills are impressive. And they wield a weapon that strikes like a compact Lightsaber, searing and burning the skin upon impact. 

Like any cowardly Jedi they only strike on the defensive, never on the offensive. Although they are quite stealthy: one of these small Jedi flew up inside one of my Stormtrooper’s uniforms. He died a painful, arm-flailing death.

My scientists tell me these small Jedi have a weakness for colours and fragrances. Rather odd. But then again I have a weakness for JiffyPop, so who am I to judge?

In the meantime, while on Earth, I guess I will stay out of my Hawaiian shirts and lay off the Chanel No. 5.

Looking back on 40

Happy Birthday to me! I’ve been 40 for a year now. I didn’t mind turning 40, and I don’t mind turning 41. But I’ve made a few observations over the past year…

  1. People refer to me as “Ma’am” more often.
  2. Each time I look in the mirror I find more white hairs.
  3. Wine makes cleaning more tolerable.
  4. I miss watching the howler monkeys in Costa Rica.
  5. Sometimes you have to make your own luck.
  6. Having patience is hard. Really hard. But it always seems to pay off.
  7. You can get a lot done in 10 minutes when you know you only have 10 minutes.
  8. I just can’t eat a bag of Doritos anymore.
  9. It hurts too much to overeat, period.
  10. Sleep is a glorious thing.
  11. So is a good cup of coffee.
  12. And fresh air.
  13. Aches and pains where I never had aches and pains before. For instance, I hurt my calf muscle running a little while ago. I’ve been running for years! What’s up with that??
  14. I need more motivation to exercise these days. But like patience, exercise always seems to pay off.
  15. Opportunities will sometimes come racing up to stare you in the face. Seize them, even though your fears might try to convince you otherwise. 
  16. I have come to appreciate shoes and a good tube of lipstick.
  17. Hearing my kids laugh is a precious thing and also one of my favourite things.
  18. If you stop caring about what other people think it’s amazing how much lighter you feel.
  19. Did I mention wine?
  20. I know I must be getting old when the hairstyles youngsters have these days seem stranger and stranger…
  21. If I don’t have time to squeeze in meditation, I can make other things a meditation. It’s not quite the same, but close.
  22. Kayaking on a lake is a real treat.
  23. I can’t fit into my favourite old pair of jeans from a few years ago. And that’s okay.
  24. Family is truly a precious, precious thing.
  25. Kids won’t be kids forever. It’s easy to forget that when you’re racing to get to work on time. Or when you’re woken up at 6:34 am on a Saturday…
    Me walking our dog, Spirit.

    The best necklace

    This morning I came downstairs in a rush, dressed for work, and ready to go. My four-year-old daughter suddenly appeared in front of me, held up a chunky kids’ necklace, and asked, “Momma, can you wear this today?”

    Screech! went the tires of my whizzing mind.

    I looked at the huge purple flowers. The sparkles. I did a quick comparison with my white blouse and cranberry skirt. Not my first choice of accessories.

    Then I looked at my daughter’s big doe-eyes. “I made dis myself,” she added.

    How could I refuse?

    So I slipped it on. Looked in the mirror. You know what? I thought, It works.

    My daughter’s eyes grew even bigger as she smiled.

    I resolved to wear the necklace all day.

    Two compliments and counting!

    My first visitor!

    I was sitting on our new patio yesterday afternoon when I heard a BzzzzZZZzz…

    My heart did a little skip. I looked over at my flower bed and saw…a bumblebee!


    My first fuzzy-buzzy visitor to my little garden! And she chose some purple flowers that I had thought would catch the eyes/antennae of a bumblebee or two.

    I’m not sure what those flowers are called, but the bee did indeed spend quite a bit of time on them. Then she moved on to my spray of catmint.


    I was thrilled to finally see a bumblebee on my flowers! Not only just for the sake of having bees in my garden, but mainly because I’ve seen so few bumblebees in general this year. It’s rather alarming.

    One thing we do know about bumblebees is if they find a good patch of flowers, they tend to return to it over and over again. Will I see this little cutie on another day?

    Sure enough, this morning I looked out the kitchen window and spotted a speck hovering amongst the catmint. A bumblebee! The same one as yesterday? I went out to have a look and she looked similar, but I’m not certain. 

    It still amazes me that as big as the world is compared to the size of a bumblebee, she was able to spot my flowers amongt everything else in the backyard. Are the purple blossoms like a bright, blinking beacon? Or was she reeled in by the scent, almost undetectable to the human nose? Or both?

    Please come back, busy-buzzy bee! And bring your sisters and friends.

    What is it about horses?

    Yesterday our kids went to a birthday party at a horse farm, where they got to groom and ride horses and ponies.

    My daughter grooming a horse named Henry. She insisted on wearing a ballet outfit.

    The kids did such a good job brushing the horses that most of them almost fell asleep.

    They rode the horses in circles in an arena for quite a while. On occasion the horses were instructed to go a bit faster, and it was a hoot to watch the semi-terrified-but-thrilled looks on the kids faces as their backsides bounced significantly up and down on the saddle as they sped up.

    Henry woke up in time to give my daughter a tour.

    As I watched the kids ride around and around (and around and around…), I noticed each one had a huge smile and were enjoying themselves immensely.

    (I also noticed I had a slight twinge of envy, having never rode a horse myself.)

    I couldn’t resist giving some of the horses a rub on the nose or a pet on the side. And to just stare at them for a while.

    What the heck is it about horses?!

    The attraction is different than that to dogs, cats, or other domesticated critters. It’s deeper down in the gut, more fundamental. More primitive. Or maybe more mystical, like there’s a part of my brain that’s still 5 years old and expects the horse to sprout a horn and/or wings and transform into My Little Pony. 

    Or maybe there’s a cultural archetype burned into the female psyche of a princess and her loyal steed (I admit I’m rusty with my Jungian psychology…). That as soon as she mounts the horse she is no longer [insert name here] but is now Princess [insert a much more flowery name here]: Ruler of Lands and Fairest of them All. Forever and Ever.

    Who knows. I’ll try to ride a horse one day and let you know if I channel my inner princess.

    A horse named Honey. She was a bit grumpy but I liked her.