6 millimeters and yet so far!


We strategize about so many things: career moves, financing, making our kids do things and playing chess, something I just can’t get into despite my dad and now my son’s best efforts. But I never had to strategize how to get to the bathroom to wash my hair before....wait yes I did...about 30 years ago.

I slipped and fell at a Christmas party when I became too adventurous with a certain dance step. Some of you reading this blog may remember.


I jumped up out of sheer embarrassment hoping to finish the dance with no one noticing until I looked down and saw my misshapen left wrist and I began to faint. A lump of cartilage or calcium or something and a dull ache when it rain reminds me of that night in the hospital emergency department in my black, lacey cocktail dress.

Fast forward.

Sunday morning, breakfast table..."I think I will just top up my cof.....”

I stand up, turn and over I go on that weakened right ankle I sprained so many times before. I inherited my Dad’s weak ankle ligaments. Here I go again.

24 hours later, after hobbling to teach my last class for the semester, we are back at the same Urgent Care Centre we visited two years ago.  Just a sprain then but I needed crutches to MC an outdoor concert with Robbie Lane. Some of you reading this blog may remember that!

 Just in case, we bring those crutches and a pair of baggy pants with us in the car. The doctor says he’s never heard of anyone coming to the hospital so prepared for a broken bone. And sure enough it was broken…it being the 6 millimeters above the tip of my fibula. And yes they still use plaster casts.

Well I got that pendulum swing action down with the crutches. Stairs were a different matter at first. I bummed it. I can lean on things and thanks to years of yoga, I balance on one leg pretty well and hop. A week later after watching videos online, I manage up and down steps.

But it was that old keeping-the-cast-dry-conundrum .

So this brings us to mission: hair wash.

Broken akle1

Garbage bag-check

Masking tape-check

Shower bench that belonged to my dear aunt-check

Hand shower-check

Shampoo, Conditioner-check

Razer ( for my good leg)-check

Body wash while I’m there anyway-check

They say you should do something that scares you every day. I thought I had conquered all: live TV without a script, interviewed prime ministers and movie stars, climbed up blast furnaces in high heels and hidden behind a tree during a stand-off between police and someone holed up with a gun. But here I am facing a 2 1/2 foot gap between the toilet and shower. It might as well have been 2 1/2 miles over burning hot coals. I pendulum swing into the bathroom, settle onto the bench, Dave (my Uber driver and general slave now) in tow with garbage bag and tape. Waterproofing complete;hand shower on!

 I throw back my head and turn to the warm, welcoming water and for a brief few moments I know victory! I am free and euphoric as water cascades over my body....just like Daryl Hannah in the movie, a green garbage bag as my tail, I am....a mermaid! 


*The following night I manoeuvre into the bathtub, celebrating with candles and wine! (thanks to my Uber slave).

Broken ankle2

**One week later I graduate to an aircast and discover the incredible Iwalk! -to be continued...

Strangers and Mom

So how does someone whose brand is Always Good News, write about the most painful chapter in her life? I learned how today.

I read an article in the newspaper called "Talking to strangers can change your life", by Nadia Bokody of the Washington Post . She tells her own story of how opening up to strangers felt good. and cites studies that have found that talking to strangers can indeed boost your mood and further that others will rate you as more physically attractive.  Well then! I made a point to share this with my  journalism students next class.

Fast-forward a few hours: I met my sisters at the usual Starbucks and the usual table to discuss our dear Mom's estate paperwork. It's been just over four months. Since her passing the three of us pledged to stay close and get together as often as our busy schedules would allow. We talked about our weepy moments and how life has changed so painfully forever.

The next moment startles us out of our sorrow. With our eyes brimming with tears, an older gentleman approaches and says with a smile, "So this is the sisters table!" 

We look at each other like deer in the headlights and say, "Yes  I guess it is." 

"You must have a wonderful mother.", he says.  Stunned, we explain that we lost our Mom in December and yes she was a wonderful mother.

This kind stranger explains, "I watch people you know, and I can tell by your closeness that you loved her very much." About to let those tears go, he then says, "You're lucky because my mother-in-law is evil!" At that, we literally, burst out laughing. 


"Oh yes, she has us all under her thumb", he explains as he gestures with a thumb grinding into the palm of his hand."  "But I take her on" , he adds with a twinkle in his eye. "So you are very lucky to have had such a great Mother."  We all nod in unquestioning agreement.

"Thank you for making us smile", I tell him.  The gentleman returns to his table and joins his friend.  We turn to each other in amazement.  

In an unexpected  moment in time, a stranger appears to us and lifts up our injured, aching spirits.  We finish our paperwork and tea, with a renewed energy and sense of hope for the future knowing we will always carry our beloved mother close to our hearts forever and learn to smile at her memories again. We hug each other and plan to connect for the next get-together and as we leave the coffee shop, I catch that man's eye  and say, "Until next time..."  I hope we see him again but I will never reveal his identity to protect the innocent from the evil mother-in-law.

In memory of Audrey Jessie (Cooper) Smith

Audrey Jessie (Cooper) Smith

December 2017- It is with broken hearts that we announce that our beautiful Mom has left us to be with her angels, predeceased by our Dad, Robert Prahm Smith five years ago this month, leaving behind her cherished daughters and their husbands: Connie and Dave, Claudia and Randy, Barbara and Stewart, adoring grandchildren: Candice and Scott, Chase and Dubi, Calvin, Aiden, Jordan and Sierra and great-grandchildren Chloe and Mia who brought her so much joy. Mom's quiet courage, grace and joyful spirit will inspire us always.Thanks to the kind professional staff at Joseph Brant Hospital and to Dr. Jim Rogers and Susan Rogers for their wonderful care and support. Donations to Joseph Brant Hospital or the Burlington Humane Society would be appreciated in Audrey's memory.


MOM- December  15, 2017

When I was five years old, Mom told me she wouldn't be there to meet me after school one day but a neighbour would take me home.  When the bell rang and I went outside, she wasn't there and I started crying.  Even though she told me she wouldn't be there, my heart couldn't accept it. That's how I feel all these decades later. 

Because she has always been there...after school, in the front row for all our speeches, plays, dances and recitals. Mom had after school snacks, picked us up for orthodontist appointments, went to the parent-teacher nights, drove us to work at the Red and White store where Claudia, my friend Terry and I used to work, picked us up, was there to hold my head when I drank beer for the first time at the Casa Carlo next door to the Red and White.

When we were growing up, between work and the military, our Dad was away a lot. So it was Mom and us every Friday night...in our pyjamas and with our pillows, cokes, mars bars and chips settling in for the double fright night feature on channel 7 Buffalo.  It was Mom, the centre of our universe throughout our school years and careers. She'd stay up to make toast and tea if we worked a late night, our biggest supporter, cheerleader and fan. Always there during life's ups and downs, never lecturing, judging, demanding or complaining just showing us the way through her gracious approach to life and its adversities.

Mom was our princess-forever young and beautiful--we remember watching the getting ready ritual for the Princess Ball...her once-a-year ritual for the military gala at Hamilton's HMCS Star, hair, make-up, the tiara and ball gowns. (but then she'd long for the night to be over so she could just come home to us, for we were the centre of her universe too)

She loved pink and sparkles, and warm and soft sweaters. In fact, she had a running gag with Dave teasing her about her sweater collection that was rivaled only by her shoe collection.  (more about love of shopping?)

She never looked her age and never acted her age either.

Mom was smart and a life-long learner. She earned a college certificate in her 50's and when she and our Dad got a computer it was Mom who embraced it; she wanted to keep up.

She was still checking email and Facebook on her ipad days before she left us.

Mom always looked for the good in everyone and the humour in everything. Mom was funny and she loved to laugh! She made up a voice and would pretend it was our dog Bonnie from Bobberlobberville talking, teasing us and we would reply to the dog!  She would make up crazy songs and when our Dad would ramble on saying grace at Christmas a little too long, she would be the first one to start giggling and she'd get us all going. (biggest laugh about the FB photos she inadvertently posted)

She showed such courage and grace throughout her illness, always a smile and a thank you to all the wonderful caregivers at JBH. But that was no surprise because everyone who met Mom loved her.  She was a beautiful, gentle, loving soul.

She had a joyful innocence about her...we'd sit at the cottage and I'd see her peering up...up at the sky, describing shapes of animals she'd see in the clouds...her eyes full of youthful wonder...some believe clouds are messages from angels that they are always with us.

Whenever I see those white fluffy clouds against a brilliant blue sky I will always think of you dear Mom, and know you are with us.








The Girl on the Train

 I took the Go train into downtown Toronto today...and as we approached Union Station, my mind flashed back a few decades, well 45 years ago to be more precise. As I looked at my reflection in the window, I remembered my 18-year-old self doing the same thing. I had my hair done in an up-to for a blind date I would soon meet.

My high school friends Cheryl and Debbie were nursing students at Toronto General Hospital. I was studying communication arts at Mohawk College. Most of my girl friends went into nursing or teaching. So I was invited to a nursing students dance at their residence.

A long, aqua dress adorned with matching ostrich feathers I borrowed from my sister was neatly folded in my overnight bag. I can’t remember my date’s name, maybe Gord, but he had very long hair that didn’t impress me but we all had a good time. I do remember a bed being loaded into the elevator and spending an inordinate amount of time in the washroom as I wasn’t used to drinking so many Singapore slings. I don’t think I’ve had a Singapore sling since.

Years went by. Cheryl and Debbie are now retired from successful nursing careers. A few years ago we reconnected and reminisced about that crazy night.

I look back at my reflection in the Go train window this March 21st, 2018. I’m no longer that nervous young girl wondering where that night would lead me and the days, weeks and years after that, but I see that same face looking back at me.

So many years later, so much life lived but here I am riding that same train into Union Station with the same excitement and anticipation of meeting a handsome young man. No blind date this time. It’s my son.

I’m meeting him at his office downtown Toronto. I’m so proud...yes of him...but also of myself....for he is my greatest accomplishment and I know that shy young 18 year-old girl whose face I saw in the Go train car window would agree.

connie calvin.jpeg