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

My son was accepted into the Liberal Arts program at a local college. I’m happy for him, envious almost, because I too had hoped to go into the arts (literature or music) at his age but had been dissuaded by my pragmatic father to go into a field of study that was more guaranteed to land me a job at the end of it: health science.

Looking back, I never really enjoyed my science classes except maybe for biology. Despite my OCD tendencies for measuring ingredients when it comes to baking, I really sucked at labs, once nearly blowing myself and my classmates up in organic chemistry by making bromide gas outside the fume hood.

My favourite classes were the humanities, one in particular: Ancient Religious Thought. It’s nearly forty years later and I still remember some of the class discussions.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job, one that has given me financial security and stability. A job that allowed me to pursue my true passions as hobbies.

My boy’s favourite subject is history, with philosophy and ethics side by side in second place. He’s done well in all subjects but has decided to follow his bliss, at least for now.

Readers, did you follow your dreams after high school? Any regrets?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary had five different definitions of the word « baseline ».

Healthcare workers use this term a lot as a reference point for comparison. For example, we ask, « Is the client at his or her baseline level of functioning? » In other words, how is the client functioning now compared to how they were before a specific event such as a hospitalization?

After a period of convalesce or rehabilitation, we evaluate the client and determine if they have reached their baseline or if they have a new baseline level.

I have slowly begun to accept that I have a new baseline level of functioning, that my running days are over and that on bad days I will walk with a limp. It’s been a challenge getting to this point but it’s okay. I’m okay. I’ll be okay.

I checked in with my dad today and we spoke about the London, Ontario attack that killed four members of a Muslim family and seriously injured a nine-year old boy.

He wondered if the family had been wearing traditional clothing that may have identified their faith.

« It’s better to assimilate. », he said, « to blend in. It was a very difficult decision to cut my hair but I felt my turban would hold me back from opportunity. »

(In Sikhism, kesh (sometimes kes) is the practice of allowing one’s hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of God’s creation. )

I reminded my dad that he was still a brown man with a Punjabi name and a funny accent. Cutting his hair may have opened doors that would otherwise have been shut but he had faced discrimination nonetheless, all at a terrible cost.

I never fully appreciated the sacrifice he made until, on a family pilgrimage to India in 2001, I witnessed him practicing his faith at a Sikh temple in New Delhi: head covered with a borrowed handkerchief, fingertips touching forehead to each of the marble steps ascending to the temple, and lips reciting the Granth Sahib (sacred Sikh scripture) by rote. I had never seen him do this in Canada and that made me incredibly sad.

While I appreciate what my father gave up for his family and his new country, part of me wishes he had stuck it to the man and kept the turban.

My parents in the Punjab circa 1962
Me and my folks circa 1963

The only picture I have of my dad’s uncut hair, without his turban. Circa 1962.

I rolled into cubicle land last Friday morning, the day after the big office move, to find an unexpected gift on my desk: a beautiful painting of a red cardinal. Even if it hadn’t been signed, I would have recognized the characteristic style of painting.

A red cardinal to brighten up my cubicle space.

Tears in my eyes, I sought out the artist, a dear colleague and fellow bird mom. She told me she had been inspired to try to paint backyard birds after seeing some of my bird photographs on social media and was quite pleased with the results. She’d painted two cardinals and had thought of giving one to me as a retirement gift … except I never retired.

I am incredibly touched by this kind gesture. It lifts my heart and lightens the drudge every time I see it.

Funny, my last office space was filled with personal touches: cards and notes from clients, pictures of my husband and son, artwork by the children of friends. I took it all down when we moved and had no intention of putting it back up.

I’d forgotten how important these personal touches can be: how therapeutic, calming, inspiring and validating.

Thank you for the beautiful gift, Lynn. I will treasure it forever.

I started off writing about a trivial topic tonight but was stopped in my tracks when I discovered through a facebook post that a Muslim family of five had been deliberately mowed down by a truck in London, Ontario. The lone survivor, a nine-year boy now in stable condition in hospital, has lost a grandmother, both his parents and his fifteen year old sister, to hate.

The suspect was apprehended and charged with four counts of murder, premeditated, and one count of attempted murder. In Canada of all places, darling destination of immigrants for its positive multicultural policies and attitude towards immigration.

Islamophobia is clearly alive and well in this country and not only in Ontario. Quebec has its own history of the mass murder of Muslims with the Quebec City mosque shooting in January of 2017. Six worshippers were killed and five others injured during evening prayers. Despite this, our premier denies the existence of Islamophobia. He also pushed through the controversial law 21 that targets Muslim women in particular, a minority group already marginalized.

I am sick about this latest incident. I am sick of the denial that Islamophobia exists. And I am sick to death of our complicity in allowing a law that goes against the charter of rights and freedoms, pushed through without the checks and balances of debate or public consultation.

Being East Indian, my dad is wont to leave out prepositions when he speaks. He is also low vision now, no longer able to drive and depending on his recently purchased CCTV machine to decipher bills and financial statements.

The other day my mother and I were emptying the fridge of expired food items, dumping them unceremoniously on a section of newspaper flyer placed in front where my dad was sitting at the kitchen table, having recently finished his lunch.

« What hell is this? », he exclaimed.

« It’s recycling, dad. »

« Recycling? », he repeated, not understanding.

« Compost, dad. Organic waste. »

« Oh. »

Yesterday, he asked me how the office move was going.

« It’s okay. », I responded. « We’re in cubicles now. »

« Oh. How many people in your cubicle? »

Laugh out loud.

« Only one, dad. That’s the whole point. »

He’s recently been suffering from very swollen and painful fingers on one hand. I asked him how it was.

« Funny you should ask, my whole body was stiff this morning. »

« How did you manage?», I asked, not really interested because I do this all week in my cubicle and like to take a break from other people’s pain on the week-end.

« I pound my back twenty times and then I’m able to walk », he replied, demonstrating for effect.

A week ago when I visited my parents, I noticed my dad’s head had sprouted two unruly « Bozo » puffs of curly hair on either side (if ever I wondered about the origins of my crazy hair, here was my answer). Yesterday, he sported a buzz cut.

« Nice haircut, dad. »

My mother piped in, « Doesn’t he have a nice shaped head? »

« They molded and shaped my head when I was a baby. It’s what Indian people do. »

Wish my Indian aunties had molded and shaped my head as a baby but my Welsh mother wouldn’t let them. As a result, I’m left with a flat spot that means my pony tail never quite sits right.

Happy Sunday, peeps!


Every Friday evening my mother calls me with a grocery list. I reorganize the list according to the layout of my local grocery store and complete the order on Saturday. Once the bags are unloaded and unpacked, my mother directs where items should be stored.

For two elderly people of average size and modest appetite they sure have a lot of food, enough to feed a small army I would say. Their split-level house hosts two fridges, a large freezer, wire shelving units lined with staples in the basement, all this on top of what they have in the kitchen cabinets.

Having enough food for themselves but more importantly to feed others is the type of house I grew up in. The definition of a party pooper in the Cheema household would be that one guest who declared they were on a diet when my dad tried to heap a generous second helping on their plate. More often than not, the dieter soon succumbed to my dad’s charm and persistance.

Before my parents fell ill, I’d go home regularly with a doggie bag. This was especially appreciated post divorce (I don’t cook) because I could stretch it out over a few days and feed my son healthy, home-cooked meals.

No doggie bags these days but my dad’s instinct to feed us all is ever present so he tries to give me money for take-out when I’m leaving which I politely decline.

I’m not certain where this compulsion to make sure we are well-fed (over-fed is probably a more accurate description) comes from. It may in part be from the Sikh concept of langar, or community kitchen. My father was sixteen when he had to flee for his life during India’s Partition in 1947. Despite the hardships he endured as a refugee, my father insists they were well-fed at the camps, with everyone participating in the preparation and doling out of the communal food. Once my father was safe and reunited with his family, he gave back to those camps by volunteering his time to feed other refugees.

What was your experience with food and community growing up? Has it influenced your attitude towards food, in particular receiving guests today?

I may not cook but I am my father’s daughter when it comes to making sure my guests are adequately fed and hydrated.

My parents and son, circa 2011. I took doggie bags for granted back then.

Most days I am up with the birds, or rather, before the birds. I’ve always been an early riser no matter how late I go to bed.

I love the deep quiet of the house at that time, the sleepy dawn light, and the slow awakening of nature.

There are chores to take care of first. I hoist my two shih tzus out of our bed, one at a time, then the three of us pad down the stairs to the back door where I let the boys out to relieve themselves.

If there is a bit of light out, I can usually spot two or three squirrels waiting hopefully on nearby branches for me to throw out some bird seed or peanuts.

I feed the fur kids as I prepare my coffee, black these days (you get used to it) and settle in for an hour of reading, contemplation and social media.

Back to chores as I give my sick parrotlet his meds, feed him and my other two birds, make my husband’s coffee and head up to shower.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday I participate in an online weight training class. If there’s time, I do a dog walk with my husband before heading to the office.

What’s your morning routine? Do you wait until the last possible minute before getting up or are you like me, preferring to let the morning unfold at a leisurely pace ?

My seventeen year old boy got his first COVID vaccine today. (Exhale mom … ) Gone are the days when I had to hold him down, distract him, or bribe him with candy and dollar store goodies. He didn’t need my consent to receive the vaccine and took it like a trooper. How grown up is that?

Up to now, everyone in my family bubble has received at least one dose of the vaccine apart from my husband’s daughter but she is scheduled to receive it in a couple of days. I will breathe a lot easier when everyone is fully vaccinated which will be September at the latest.

As well, we have been lucky to escape the virus itself despite some close calls. This doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet, but we definitely have sunnier days ahead.

What are you looking forward to the most with deconfinement?

The health care worker giving the vaccine was awesome. All four of her kids are vaccinated. That’s right, four!

Our healthcare service is moving to a new site after 21 years at the old one. I woke up teary-eyed and emotional this morning. It’s not the change in building (though the new one is much further from the community we serve) that bothers so much as the fact that the new site has an open-plan space based on the dreaded cubicle-model.

What I am losing is an amazing office space, albeit run-down and worse for wear, and the camaraderie and support of a great bunch of colleagues.

I’ll never understand why a field that values evidence-based practice chooses to ignore the scientific data when it comes to this kind of logistical planning. “Today, studies show that these open work spaces have the opposite effect they were meant to, and actually reduce productivity and lower employee morale.

When we minions question these decisions we are told by management that we shouldn’t be negative even if the evidence tells us otherwise. If I sound jaded it’s because I’ve been down this road before: reforms, reorganization, moves.

One thing I can say for certain, this will be the last move of my career and if cubicle land becomes too unbearable, I will simply pack up my boxes for good.



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