A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

An unfortunate nickname for an unforgettable woman

My mom passed away just over seven years ago. Over the last three-and-a-half years, I have been collecting charms that reminded me of my mom, that represented special memories, or symbolized things I'd learned from her. Writing about her and sharing the stories behind these charms has been, and continues to be, part of my grieving process. It's also a way to keep her close to me.

When Mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer Disease I bought a rubber bracelet from the Alzheimer's Association with their symbol, the forget-me-not flower, and the words "Unforgettable." I wore it until it fell apart. It seems appropriate somehow that I can now wear Pandora that represents "Unforgettable Moments." This will be the first in a series of posts about this bracelet in memory of my mother. I call it “My Unforgettable Mom – Her Life in Charms." Or M.U.M. for short!

The amethyst zinnia clip and the fish bones charm
One of the most amazing things that my mom did was write out our family history dating back to the sixteen hundreds when the first Leonard (my mother’s maiden name) emigrated from the UK to North America. After the American Revolution the Leonards left New York and came to Canada as Loyalists (loyal to the crown). They settled in the province of New Brunswick, founding the town of Leonardville on Deer Island. My grandfather Charlie left St John, New Brunswick to work in Cape Breton, where he met his wife Rowena. My mother’s birth (and I suppose her ancestry) is represented by this zinnia clip with her amethyst birthstone. My mom grew up to be a true Cape Breton storyteller. In 1999 my mother, who was then legally blind, dictated stories, which she named the “Leonard Family Tales.” These stories (and photos) are about her parents, and about the life - and antics - of she and her three younger siblings. These stories are precious to us now - my brother and I, and our cousins.

Check out the car ferry! The old-fashioned swimsuits.
And my grandmother wearing her boyfriend Charlie's uniform
My grandparents on their honeymoon.

My mother's first photo album with photos from her childhood
When I first saw this retired “fish bones” charm I knew I had to have it on this bracelet. After my mother died I found her first photo album with this picture of her (below) labeled “Fishy.” That was the nickname she had as a child, as did her two younger brothers, Harry and Walter. My Aunt Edna, 14 years younger than my mother, for some reason escaped this moniker. The East Coast of Canada has long relied on the fishing industry and my great-grandfather and his brothers established a fish processing company in 1878 which they named Leonard Brothers, with branches in St John NB and in Montreal. My grandfather continued this tradition in Cape Breton where he owned and managed the fish market down on the pier in my mother’s home town of Sydney - hence his children’s unfortunate nickname of “Fishy.”

Verna (left to right) in her pram, with her mother Rowena, and in her woolen snowsuit

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Don't be afraid to let them see

This is the time of year that many women dread because it means shopping for a bathing suit! How do you pick the best one? Every magazine on the racks will have advice for making the most of your "rack." Or a style of swimsuit that will give you a waistline. The magazines know that you want the answer to the age-old question, "If you have big hips is a high cut leg more flattering?"

But the best advice I've heard on choosing a bathing suit was from a friend who weighed 400 pounds at the time. She related to us a story about being invited to a pool party. Her "little friend" (her nickname for her friend who is quite short, and not overweight) asked Maria if she was going to wear a swimsuit. The thought implied seemed to be, "Um, you're fat. Are you going to let people see you in a bathing suit?" Maria's response will stay with me forever! Her answer to her friend was, "Of course I'm going to wear a swimsuit! What, like all of a sudden, when I put on a bathing suit, people will realize that I'm fat?"

Colourful racer back swimsuit, tankini tops, and swim shorts
So when I had a foot injury last Winter, and I needed to do exercises in the pool I went swimsuit shopping. And I thought of Maria. I needed a swimsuit that would give me enough support for my "rack." Nothing worse than jumping in an aqua-fit class and knocking yourself out! I wanted a skirt to cover my thighs but during an aquafit class it kept floating up around my hands. With another suit, a tankini, the front piece kept floating up exposing my rather rotund tummy. So now I'm not as worried about what optical illusion we can create with a bathing suit, and focus more on what's functional and comfortable, as long as it keeps all the bits in the right places. But the most important lesson from Maria is, let yourself WEAR a bathing suit, regardless of your size!
Neon workout shirt with my True Colours bracelet
I had a client referred to me from a Personal Trainer because he felt she was self-sabotaging her weight loss plan. I asked her what she was afraid would happen when she lost the weight. She was afraid she'd be more attractive to men if she was thinner, something many overweight women worry about. Of course in her case she was also afraid that with this attention she would cheat on her husband (again). I also asked her what she was NOT doing because of her weight. She had avoided wearing a swimsuit, letting anyone SEE her in a swimsuit. She had never gone swimming with her children who were two- and four-years-old. How sad is that??!! What are you putting off until you lose weight?

Last summer I decided that I was not going to wait to wear colourful clothes. I don't do a lot of clothes shopping but I usually need some new things at the beginning of winter and the beginning of summer. Last summer I decided, "Who says you have to wear black if you're fat? I'm going to get some colourful clothes, colours that reflect my personality, and colours that are flattering with my skin tone." And I did just that! So when we headed to Nova Scotia for our annual summer vacation I took my True Colours bracelet which I could wear with many of the new T-shirts I bought. 

My "True Colours" bracelet with some T-shirts from last summer

And just last weekend I declared that I needed some more colourful clothes to match my Pandora! These colours are ME! 
I named this bracelet "True Colours" after the song by Cindi Lauper. Do you ever feel like you're wearing a mask? That you don't let people see the real you? Many people with depression or an eating disorder are not being their authentic self. I love how this song reminds us to show our true colors. Let people see your true self. Don't be afraid to let them see...
Let them see you in all your colours.
Let them see you in a bathing suit.

YouTube video: Cindi Lauper's "True Colours" with lyrics

True Colours

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh, I realize
It's hard to take courage

In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you

So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
Don't be unhappy
Can't remember when
I last saw you laughing

If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there

And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you

So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
Your true colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow