Random stuff, reflections on the meaning of life and death, humour, self-deprecation, a bit of bad poetry.

Sometimes I feel like an imposter in my own life.

This evening, my rockstar husband and I are playing a gig at our beloved Mariposa Cafe to raise money for the St. James Drop-In Centre, a wonderful community resource that supports members who are coping with homelessness, addiction and mental health issues. Our friend, Antonella, volunteers in the art therapy program there and her enthusiasm for the program and compassion for its members convinced us to support the cause.

It is less sold out closer to showtime but for a few weeks it was!

We played a similar gig nearly a year ago, selling copies of our self-funded cd of cover tunes and raising close to $1500. This year, all proceeds from the $15 cover charge will be donated to the cause.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

From music teacher Mrs. Bloomer with the chinny chin hairs and frightening side part insisting I draw what I feel while listening to Chopin’s funeral march in primary school to Mr. Hay, my high school music teacher, snatching the tenor sax from my poor, hobbit hands and replacing it with a mid-sized clarinet when I told him my fingers didn’t reach the keys, and forever marking my failure as a sax player by taking aim with a stubby piece of chalk (he later claimed he was aiming for the student behind me, as if that made it okay), throwing it overhand, and hitting me smack-dab in the middle of the forehead. Owie.

Then there was the time my friend and I auditioned for a high school variety show, singing You’ve Got A Friend, only to have the the cheeky grade 11 student judging our audition tell us to come back when we’d practiced.

Or that time in my early 30s playing in a guitar quintet, when I sat for several minutes on stage tuning my classical guitar down to drop D, before realizing that the other four people in my group, not to mention the conductor, had already taken their bows and left the stage. I can only imagine that the members of the audience were holding their collective breath waiting for my rendition of Passacaglia by S.L. Weiss. It is much more likely however, they were politely waiting for me to leave so that they could go home.

Sometime in between the above, I think I was in grade two, I begged my parents for a guitar. Miss Rona, my teacher, used to play and sing for us in between lessons, songs like Jamaica Farewell and Yellow Bird. Those singalongs transformed me. I was smitten. It also didn’t hurt that Miss Rona was beautiful and had two eyebrows instead of a single V-shaped one.

“And if your eyebrow goes straight across your head, you will most likely become a murderer.”

“Oh, my God!” someone shrieked, touching their face.”

— Elaine McCluskey, The Most Heartless Town in Canada

She also didn’t throw chalk at me.

I got my first guitar at the end of the school year. It cost $20 and came in a cardboard box from a bottom shelf in the “music” department at Miracle Mart.

Fast forward several decades that include hundreds if not thousands of hours of lessons, probably a gazillion hours of solitary practice, a romantic interlude with a 3/4 violin, and back to the guitar, an acoustic mini now, and here I am playing music again.

And singing. Way out of my comfort zone. With an untrained, reedy warble reminiscent of George Harrison ( i like to think). Into a mic. In front of an audience. Next to a gifted music teacher. Gifted because he inspires everyone to sing and encourages them to sing with their own unique, authentic voice.

If there is one thing I have learned is that music is to be shared. It is community. Musicians need listeners and vice versa. The best music is about heart and not ego. So just play or sing or do both. Find a safe and welcoming place, take a deep breath and let the song out.

“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”

— Ludwig Von Beethoven

From a Facebook post 3 years ago today. I have no idea where the umbrella in question is. I’ve since moved on to one of those inside out models with the ergonomic handles.

Fed up of all the cheap models breaking or opening up at the most inconvenient times like in the middle of the highway or going through a doorway, I bought the mother of all umbrellas at the pharmacy today and promptly hit myself in the face with it getting into my car.

It was on odd feeling, kinda like getting out of bed and realizing you can touch your toes without bending over or carrying your shopping bag out of the store with your arm extended only to realize it’s dragging along the floor.

I haven’t even opened it yet but I’m already worried it might lift me up and carry me away on a windy day.

My search for the perfect hood/umbrella combo continues.

“Grandma says if I eat too much rice it will make me unconscious.”

If it weren’t for facebook memories, I would forget these little gems.

Wish I’d written them all down but I didn’t.

If I think hard, these are the only two that come to mind: 1) “Mummy, can I play on your pincuter?” And 2) “Just read the constructions.” The latter in response to a gazillion lego pieces falling out of box instead of the fully-formed Star Wars space ship on the cover.

This morning a hooded figure headed down to the basement for a work-out. He says it gives him positive energy to start his day.

Now there’s something I should write down.

I found a crumb on my bosom the other day. That’s where they usually land when I eat. The less buxom among us find them in their lap.

I have this habit of changing my clothes right before I eat. Depends on what I’m already wearing (anything light or white, for example) and what we’re eating (anything that isn’t white) but I usually cover all the bases by putting on something that hides tomato sauce stains really well, like my navy blue Canadiens tee shirt.

If it’s supper time and I plan on wearing said tee shirt to bed later, without looking like a crime scene, I will take extra precautions and tuck several sheets of paper towel into my collar. You see, I have a bad habit of multi-tasking when I eat, not mindful at all, and my shirt knows it.

Back to the crumb. Wasn’t meal time but I had eaten a snack a little earlier. Didn’t think twice when I pinched that morsel between my thumb and forefinger and popped it in my mouth.

I don’t know what I expected. Knowing me, I probably hoped for sweet but resigned myself to the possibility it might be salty.

Well folks, it was neither. Ever tasted bird pellets? Not the poopy kind but rather the seeds. Betty White flinging her food around again. Landed on my chest. Tasted like stale cardboard. And I ate the whole thing.

At least it didn’t leave a stain.

Next blog topic: what not to eat on a first date.

Betty White

The best dog walks are the ones where I don’t bump into anyone. Just me, the fur kids and nature.

I know I’m not the only anti-social, lone wolf out there. Indeed, I recognize the body language in others: head down, eyes averted, the abrupt change in direction, the slowing down or quickening of pace to avoid that awkward crossing of paths, ducking into the woods to stare up some random tree like you lost your favourite kite/kitten/raptor, pretending to look for dog poop in long grass, untying then re-tying your shoelaces in double knots real slow.

Yep, I’ve got dozens of strategies to avoid people, but alas, they are only effective when it comes to adults.

I’d almost made it home intact this afternoon when I heard the sound of running feet, lots of them. Flashes of navy blue and Kelley green. Reflector strips on grubby sneakers. Three pairs of sneakers.

“Can we pet your dogs, lady?”

I looked up. Three boys already crouched down with arms extended before I could answer.

“Sami, sit!” I tugged on his leash to stop him from jumping and he sat.

“Hey, my name is Sam too!”

I looked more closely at the boy named Sam and recognized him from my son’s former elementary school. They are about five years apart and I hadn’t seen Sam since my son was in grade six.

“Oh my goodness, you’ve grown, Sam! What grade are you in now?”


I asked the other two boys what grades they were in and they replied five and three, respectively and told me their names were Natarajan (pronounced Na-tarzan) and Santosh. Both boys had their left ears pierced, one with a gold stud in it and the other with a small gold hoop which I thought was totally cool.

We chatted about school and homework and they tried to get Gamin to sit, switching to French when I told them Gami was French but of course, he still wouldn’t sit which they thought was a hoot.

After a while, I was itching to get home so I pulled the dogs away from the boys and headed towards the house, thanking them for the visit.

“Bye Sami! Bye Gamin!”

Almost home. Running feet again. I turn around.

“Hey, we got snacks for you!”

Sam with outstretched hands. In them, a Kirkland granola bar, a cheese and cracker snack pack and a small bag of sour patch kids. Natarajan and Santosh flanking him to the left and right.

“That’s really nice of you but the dogs can’t eat those.”

“But they’re for you!”

You know the scene where the Grinch’s heart grows three times bigger? That was my heart then and there.

So thank you, Sam, Natarajan and Santosh for interrupting my walk today. Thank you for your running feet, your guilelessness and most of all, thank you for your generous hearts.

I always thought a pomade was a type of waxy paste that you slicked through your hair when going for that pompadour look, open palm at your hairline, fingers spread wide as your rake them back towards your crown, then up to the heavens with a final squeeze, tease and tug of your digits at the end of the maneuver. This required you to lock eyes with the image in the mirror, tilt your head downwards while maintaining that gaze, sneer your upper lip, raise your collar with a shrug of your shoulders, and sling your 1956 Gibson around your back.

The only time I ever performed this move myself was in the 1980s. My version required a comb for teasing a little more texture into my bangs, followed by extra-hold hairspray. Here’s a hair hack for you: use a blow dryer with your head tilted downwards to keep it all in place.

Yesterday, I discovered that in some Francophone cultures there’s a “pomade” for every skin ailment you could possibly think of : dry skin, itchy skin, painful skin lesions, and mushrooms, which explained why the gentleman in question insisted on putting some between his toes.

Apparently the origin of the word pomade is from the Latin root pomum meaning apple (the world’s very first hair gel back in the 16th century) and the French word pommade which means ointment.

Ahh …

Next time I see my family doctor, I will ask him to prescribe some pomade for my eczema.

In the meantime, I have traded in my 1980s hair pomades for some calming balms to tame the voluminous Brillo pad growing out of the top of my head.

Have a great hair day, everyone!

This showed up as a memory on my facebook feed this morning:

“It’s never a good sign when a dying patient says you look tired and the next day a 95 year old man with Liberace hair and a tan tells you the same thing.”

Eight years later and I’m still tired. Mind you, back in those days, I used to gulp down two cups of coffee before leaving the house. I’ve since reduced it to one cup, mainly because the second cup was never a mindful one and I was working on mindfulness back then,

My fashion sense is definitely tired. And my hairstyle.

Like most people, I hate that Monday feeling. Not crazy about the Sunday before Monday feeling either. And when I have a Monday off I get that Sunday before Monday feeling for two days before it’s Tuesday but feels like Monday rolls around.

I think I need to practice a little gratitude today, and put on a happy “yay, it’s Friday” face.

How do you cope with Mondays? One cup or two before leaving the house?

The worst part of yesterday was hurting my back. I’m not sure how I did it. It’s possible I overdid it at the gym before work. Could have been reaching for something on my desk with these Hobbit arms. Or maybe it was just a random poke reminding me that I’m no Spring chicken.

I first felt it trying to put a client’s shoes back on after removing them to check his ankle movement. I was on a joint visit with a collegue, an occupational therapist to boot, who suggested jokingly that like most of the kids today, I had been spoiled by velcro. Almost. My feet are child-sized but I wear a ladies 6 in an effort to make my feet appear more adult below Chidren’s Place yoga pants. Essentially, I can slip my too-big shoes on without having to untie and re-tie the laces.

It’s been almost 35 years of back-breaking work but knock wood, it’s been over 8 months since I’ve had to pay a visit to Doctor Andre, my go-to person. Yesterday’s pain was located around my left sacro-iliac joint, radiating through my left muffin top. Today, it’s much better. Doctor Andre will have to wait. Phew!

The best part of yesterday was when that same colleague confessed to me, in the elevator on the way down to the lobby, that prior to our visit, she’d been ready to pack this job in but that our mutual visit had inspired her to stay on. Thank goodness ‘cause this OT is brilliant and the universe needs her brilliance.

On January 3rd, 2020, I will have worked 35 years in public health care. I could retire but I won’t. Not yet anyway. I’m not ready. And I am too attached to the people I work with Monday to Friday.

Instead, there will be cake, for the whole team, with gratitude, for inspiring me to stick around for all these years.

I now have 10 followers on the WordPress version of my blog versus the 11 i boasted on Blogger (two of those followers were the same person). Confession: I am following myself, not because I am desperate to increase my stats but rather because I want to make sure each new blog entry is emailed to the others. Uhn huh.

The opposite of follower is leader. Honestly, I am more comfortable following than leading though I am sometimes in the latter position by default at the office (i.e. being the oldest person there and having survived several health care reforms).

In other news, I was up with the birds this morning. Actually, it was so early they were still sleeping under cover. Apparently a good night’s sleep discourages egg-laying so we try to keep the females covered at least 12 hours straight so that they get their beauty sleep and have less time to think about nesting.

I heard Limoncello, our Linnie, stirring under the covers first, her birdy oink-oinks letting me know she was awake. Between the oinks I heard what was clearly the faint whistle of the Addam’s Family theme. Now that’s definitely Eugene’s shtick (he copied famous social media cockatiel Pidgey after listening to me play it over and over again on instagram).

Linnies are known to whistle but not the females. Linnies also like to burrow which is what Limoncello “Chelly” is doing now between the two layers of newspaper flyer lining the bottom of her cage. Hope that’s not a sign of nesting!

Happy Sunday to the followers and leaders alike!


My friend Marisa in Vancouver texted me on Monday to ask if I’d seen Shawn Bergman’s emotional facebook post pleading for information on Canuck the Crow who’d gone missing. I barely got through the video, an awful feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, creeping up through my heart and throat. And I didn’t sleep a wink on Monday night. I’m not the only one. He has fans and followers across the country, world wide even.

If I you don’t know the story of Canuck and I, watch this documentary. It’s how I first became acquainted with the very special bond between Shawn and a wild crow and I’ve been following the story on social media ever since.

A couple of months ago, Canuck became a federally protected bird and now wears a numbered leg band to add to the red leg band on his other leg. It’s what will identify him if he’s spotted and as such, a close-up picture of Canuck’s banded legs is being shared throughout social media, a wanted poster of sorts, offering a $10 000 reward for information leading to his safe return home.

I share the photo over and over again because it’s the only thing I can do being closer to the East Coast than the West. Many of my social media contacts have shared it. I write periodically to my new Vancouver friend, Janet, a lover of all things feathered too, and a volunteer at the Greyhaven Bird Sanctuary, to ask if there are any leads. She has trouble sleeping too.

What is it about this wild crow that has touched us all so?

Meeting Canuck was on my bucket list of things to do while I was in Vancouver this past April. It certainly was feasible as he used to hang out with Shawn not far from where I was staying. On my last day in Vancouver, I visited Janet and her birds instead. The other to-do item was to visit the Still Creek Rookery in Burnaby, where Canuck and hundreds of other Vancouver crows go to roost each night. That bucket list item was ticked off and folks, it was the most mystical, spiritual experience I’ve ever had. It’s likely Canuck was there that evening. It’s possible I saw him and didn’t know it, a crow shadow on the edge of a building top, or a black bird profile in a tree.

Still Creek Rookery at dusk. 2019-04-21
©️Sharon Cheema Photography
Waiting for the other crows to arrive. 2019-04-21
©️Sharon Cheema Photography
The crows arrive. 2019-04-21
©️Sharon Cheema Photography

It’s been over a week since Canuck was seen. Is no news good news? That’s what I tell myself to avoid the awful alternative. In the meantime, I will share the wanted photo again and again until there is no hope because doing something, anything, is better than worrying.

Why this bird? Why birds at all? You can read about my reasons In a blog post here.

Or read something better written from this list of favourite books about birds:

  • Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation — Kyo Macclear
  • Corvus: A Life With Birds — Esther Woolfson
  • H Is For Hawk — Helen Macdonad
  • Grief Is the Thing With Feathers — Max Porter
  • Bird Therapy — Joe Harkness
  • The Genius of Birds — Jennifer Ackerman
  • The Wonder of Birds — Jim Robbins
  • Penguin the Magpie: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family — Bradley Trevor Grieve & Cameron Bloom

I may have forgotten some. Feel free to add your bird-themed recommendations. Joe Harkness writes a blog called Bird Therapy and June Hunter runs The Urban Nature Enthusiast blog and makes beautiful bird art.

And please, do share Canuck’s poster. You never know. As my friend Marisa wrote, “ Thousands of candles can be lighted by a single candle. And the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Wherever Canuck is, he lives on.”

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