Our Life in our Magickal Cottage

Raya, Tovah and I lived in a little white cottage in London, Ontario for 10 years. It was not fancy.  I couldn’t afford any upgrades but I also didn’t want any.  I adored our wee bathroom with the wood paneling that resembled a sauna and our tiny clawfoot tub that I could comfortably soak in because I’m only 5 foot 2. I loved our country style kitchen with no counter space and no fan above the stove.  Tovah was constantly annoyed with me for broiling chicken without closing her bedroom door making her room and her clothes smell of chicken.  It still makes me smile.

Early in 1990 I sold our 3 story duplex.  I couldn’t afford the repairs and upkeep on the house.  We rented a lovely 3 bedroom home in the neighbourhood. With the sale of the house, I paid off all our debts, bought a new (to us) car and we spent the whole summer in Norway.  That is another story for another time.  We were in the rental only a year when the owner put the house up for sale and the next year was spent with real estate agents looking at our home, open houses and all that entails.  A whole year of it!!

One day I was sitting in my taxi – yup, I was driving a taxi full time that year.  I just didn’t have the capacity to work in a normal workplace environment.  I needed a break from bosses, corporate culture and all the BS that came with it.  So I’m in my taxi and I say a prayer.  “God, I need a house that my girls and I can live in until they graduate high school.  It has to be in the South Secondary School district.”  South had a great reputation as one of the best high schools in the city with about 95% of the graduates going on to post secondary schools.  That was my goal for my daughters.  I opened up the newspaper (that’s what we did in 1994) and there was a little ad “Rent to Own”, 3 bedrooms, Old South.  I called immediately.  Where is the house located?  It was exactly where I needed it – within the school district parameter. I’ll take it, I said.  The owner asked if I had seen it yet.  Nope.  He insisted that I go and look first and call him back.  I was annoyed since it meant checking out of work to go look and losing money that we desperately needed.  

I drove across town to find this adorable little white cottage.  I walked through to find 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and a bathroom.  The basement was dry and clean and completely unfinished.  The backyard was ginormous!!! There was a long driveway and an old wooden garage.  Perfection!!!!!!!  I called him back and we arranged to meet at 4pm.  He told me the monthly mortgage amount – same as I was paying at the other house.  He said if I paid on time every month, he would get me a bank mortgage.  I found that very unlikely but a year later his wife cosigned for a mortgage and the house was really mine.  We lived there for 10 years. 

 The other miraculous thing he mentioned was that he knew we would want to paint and fix the house up so he would give me the keys right then and there.  We weren’t supposed to start paying for 2 months.  He said he didn’t live in town and he only asked if I was going to be there often to switch the utilities to my name!!  Later that day I called our landlord and gave notice asking if we could move in 1 month.  I had not put up a security deposit and there was no last month rent paid.  They called me back an hour later and asked if I would consider moving out earlier.  The end of the month was a week away.  I quickly agreed.  2 months without paying rent gave me the down payment I needed.  The next week was a whirlwind of cleaning and painting our new house, moving everything and cleaning up the old house.  I was working 12 hour shifts six days a week at the time.  My best friend Alice, Raya, Tovah and I became painters.  I bought our paint on the backroom shelf at the paint store for $5 a gallon.  Raya was about 14 years old and Tovah was 11.  We had our house and I had my miracle.  I chose fun colours – forest green for the living room, yellow for the kitchen, a green for my bedroom,  yellow in Raya’s and turquoise in Tovah’s.  A few years later it was evident that the colours were bothering Tovah and we painted her room and the living room white.  It was an instant attitude change for her.  

It’s a rainy summer afternoon today and it just reminded of similar hot and muggy days in our cottage home where I would sit out on the porch under the aluminum awning (listening to the sound of rain) stretched out on a papasan chair that I probably scavenged from the street. I loved finding things out on the street and bringing them home –  I still love a good find.  “Is that garbage?” brought a smile to all of us.  I once embarrassed Tovah because I took old railway ties that were out in front of the home of one of her friends.  They were there to be taken but Tovah was having none of it. Mom, how could you do that??  I found a child’s swimming pool and dug out a pond using the railway ties as a little walkway to it.  Hmmmm, wish I had a photo of that. Eventually I spent money on a pond liner.  I put in some goldfish and just loved this space.  I also had a hammock.  Memories that I am recreating on my little balcony here in Toronto.  Memories that bring Tovah into my space and hold her in my memory.

I can feel her here today as I can feel the humid summer air on my skin.  I have chicken cooking on a little indoor grill.  I would often grill chicken on an old gas barbecue that I inherited but I would fill it with charcoal because I also have a fear (like my fear of birds) of propane tanks.  I love summer so much and I hate using air conditioning after spending most of the year being cold.  This was an ongoing argument in our little house.  One day I came home to find an air conditioner in the kitchen window.  My girls had asked their father for one and he had come over and installed it for them.  Both their bedrooms opened onto the kitchen and this gave them the cool air they wanted.  I closed the door between the kitchen and living room where my bedroom door was.  Open windows and a fan!!! Summer breeze!  Summer bliss!

One summer I bought an above ground pool that was on sale at Canadian tire.  The upper rim was inflatable and you only needed to fill the pool from the outdoor hose and it took shape and we had a nice sized 3 foot pool.  At night the girls and I would wrap ourselves in sarongs and go out into the backyard – no lights on – and slip into the pool completely nude.  We’d swim around, talk, laugh and cool off.  Then into the house for a comfortable night’s sleep.  The girls with a bit of air conditioning and me with fresh air from my window.  

I remember one day I smudged the house with sage to clear the energy.  I don’t remember what was going on at the time but it felt like something that needed to be done.  I learned smudging when I had a contract facilitating a women’s group at the Oneida Community.  I have adopted it as part of my own practice since then.  Tovah came home from high school – the house was sparkling clean because that’s what I had been doing all afternoon.  Tovah was furious because she was certain that I had been smoking marijuana.  She wouldn’t believe that it was sage.  It’s funny because I don’t like marijuana (it makes me paranoid and is not fun).  There was no changing her mind or convincing her.  Tovah could have some very strong opinions.  For instance she was also absolutely certain that I ate raw ground beef. She swore she saw me do it!!   I never did but I did marinate steak and would eat it raw while putting it on the skewers to grill.  Just last year she was still convinced that I ate raw ground beef.  

At one point Raya lost her wallet.  She looked everywhere.  We all looked for it but we couldn’t find it.  One early evening Raya came into the living room and asked if I would use my pendulum and see if we could locate the missing wallet.  I felt it was worth a try but didn’t have much faith in the process.  I spun the pendulum – clearing the energy and asking for guidance.  All of a sudden Tovah comes barreling out of her bedroom and runs into Raya’s room.  We here some crashing and banging and then Tovah yelling, “I found it!”.  She had the wallet in her hand.  She said that she was sitting on her bed and out of nowhere she could see the missing wallet in her mind.  It was in Raya’s room tucked back behind a solid wood bookshelf.  That was my magickal daughter.

I asked Raya today what Tovah would have been doing in her room.  I realized that kids didn’t have the electronics they have today.  Raya said Tovah would try on clothes, play around with make up, do her hair and that she was always listening to music and both singing and dancing.  That’s my Tovah.  Raya asked Tovah’s friend Heather the same question and she said that Tovah talked on the phone ( we had a portable one).  She remembered Tovah’s comforter – white with jelly beans on it.  She didn’t think Tovah spent a lot of time in her room.  We often watched television together.  We ate dinner together almost every day.  Raya, Tovah and Mom – we were invincible, inseparable and we always had each other’s back.

Raya, Tovah and Mom in our little white cottage home

Visit From the Other Side

I have an irrational fear of birds.  I’ve had it as long as I can remember.  I have never seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”.  I’ve just always been afraid. It’s silly and irrational but it is what it is.  I especially think they are going to attack my head and ears!! That will explain my plan to solve this dilemna. 

My daughter Tovah was with me in October, 2006 when I found my apartment.  She looked out the window and said that it was perfect for me since the balcony was completely netted and would keep out the birds.  We always joked that her eyes were like x-ray eyes – nothing got past her.  This sealed the deal and I signed the contract.  I love it here.  Eventually Tovah met Wesley and moved near me which was an added blessing.  She loved this Beach neighbourhood as much as I did.

After Tovah died, people including her sister Raya, said that she was visiting them as a Robin.  A robin came up to Raya and sat at her feet squawking loudly at her.  I have never heard of a squawking Robin.  I said she wouldn’t come to me as a bird because she knows how irrationally afraid I am.  Raya said that she thought she would anyway.

Just a week ago, I met with a spiritualist.  I truly believe that she made contact with Tovah.  I will write more about it soon.  She told me that Tovah wanted me to watch for hummingbirds  – especially the way they flap their wings wildly and don’t move.  There is a message there for me.  I have visited a butterfly conservatory and they also had hummingbirds.  At first I didn’t think I could go in but in the end I did and found that the hummingbirds didn’t frighten me. I was sure that this was the bird that my girl would visit me as.  I was wrong.

This morning I found a robin on my 100 square foot balcony.  Inside!!! Pacing on the railing.  Sitting on my hammock! Flying around!!  Trapped!!! I didn’t know what to think or what to do!!!  I texted Raya and my brother Peter.  Help!  What should I do???

A few days after Tovah died, I woke at 2am and felt an incredible urge to sit on my balcony.  I felt compelled  to sit there day after day bundled up in blankets with warm furry slippers that both Tovah and I loved.  I started making my balcony my haven and I have spent hours there.  One of Tovah’s friends gave me a gift card and I used it to buy a hammock.  I bundled up and laid and rocked in it since late in April.  I often nap in it or sleep a few hours in the night.  I feel closest to my baby girl when I am on my balcony.  

This morning I found that robin – trapped and afraid.  My anxiety was over the top!! What should I do?  I wanted to do this on my own.  Face my fears.  Be brave.  My brother suggested a broom to gently nudge the bird up to rip in the netting.  Raya suggested getting someone to help or to contact my building manager.  She reminded me that the wee bird was also very afraid.  A good friend then  called me out of the blue and agreed that she could come around noon to help.  That was 3 hours away.  So what should I do?

I decided to try.  First –  a hat to protect my head.  I had a large floppy brimmed hat that belonged to Tovah. 

The floppy brimmed protection hat

I then took out my Priestess Pom Poms that had been given to each womyn in my cohort at our ordination last summer. 

Then I prayed.  I stepped out on the balcony waving my Pom Poms and she flapped her wings.  I moved toward the end where the opening was and waved upwards and out she flew!!!!!!!!!  The whole thing was less than 30 seconds.

Warrior Priestess

I miss you Baby Girl.  I love you.

Joseph and Julian,

Sandra Ruch was so friendly and professional. We wanted a Jewish ceremony with some elements added in from our Greek/Egyptian heritage – Sandra helped us blend all these elements elegantly. She provided us with great templates and guided us through creating the ceremony. During the ceremony she was so friendly and spoke with warmth and gravitas. It was a great, easy and a positive experience. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Joseph and Julian, December 2019 venue Jam Factory, Toronto

Finding My Way at Christmas

The holidays loom ahead for many.  I totally understand this and I remember the first Christmas after my divorce.  We had agreed that the children would spend it with their Dad – Christmas eve until Boxing Day.  I remember how we both spent too much money on presents that year.

I had already celebrated Chanukah for 8 days with my daughters.  I had invited people over for a latke dinner. I gave the girls a little gift each night and we lit the candles.  It didn’t compete with the Christmas hype but it was a tradition that I was determined to grow in my home. I decided that I would no longer celebrate Christmas.  I was going to leave Christmas and all the traditions with their father. We had always celebrated both Jewish and Christian holidays in our home. In my house, we would only have Jewish traditions. I had to learn to accept that and let the rest go.

Light the Chanukah lights

I was genuinely tired – working full-time as a retail manager in a large chain store and raising two young children.  I had custody and their father had them every other Thursday and every other weekend. Those Christmas breaks were times when I could just be at home with only myself to think of.  The world around was closed and there was no where I had to go. I wanted to eat turkey so I bought delicious turkey wings, sweet potatoes, green beans and whatever else caught my fancy.  A simple meal cooked in a roasting pan. I watched Christmas movies on tv, walked our dog and really rested.  

Home cooked 1 pan chicken roast. Dinner for one,

Over the years, sometimes others were around but I always kept Christmas day as low key as possible.  35 years later, it has become a tradition, my tradition……..I am at home, I am alone and I am delighting in my own company and indulging myself in rest and relaxation.  It feels holy and sacred and it is mine.

I moved to London at 20 years old with my new husband.  My brother was in university there when we arrived but left for good just a few months later.  We made new friends through our work and we celebrated every holiday Jewish and Christian. We invited new friends for meals and we were happy with whoever came.  We made our own traditions and this continued to be my way long after we divorced. I never felt cheated that we didn’t have family or whatever else people say is missing.  I, we, made the best with what we had. 

Great words to live by

I encourage people to do the same – gather up other holiday orphans and celebrate.  Maybe everyone is busy on Christmas day so have a dinner on a different day. Create your own traditions or like me celebrate you!  My own children still celebrate Christmas with their partners and with their in-laws as well as their father. Chanukah this year fell over the busy days of Christmas so we celebrated Chanukah early.  A gathering with people who love you anytime is more than enough for me. Like we say at Passover, Dayenu – it is enough. No matter what you do- be kind and patient with you. You deserve it.

Tell it to me like a story

Caroline Boye was my best friend. She died on December 14, 2010. Caroline and I spoke every day on the phone for many years. She would say, “tell it to me like a story” and I would then tell her all about my day.  Caroline was my greatest champion. She believed I could do anything. I believe she was pivotal in who I am today. Caroline would be very pleased if she were here today.  

Caroline grew up in Kingston, Ontario.  I never knew her age but I suspect she was 20 years older than me. Her parents were lovely – I met them a few times but I knew them through the eyes of Caroline’s daughter, Wade.  Wade adored her grandparents, Blanche and Lester (Nana & Poppy).  They were solid and “normal”. Caroline must have really surprised them when she left for Mexico after graduation to study and become a flamenco dancer.  She was beautiful. She looked like Elizabeth Taylor.

I met Caroline in the early 90’s.  I had just started selling African clothing and crafts with my Sudanese husband, Hassan. I was selling in outdoor markets and from my home.  Caroline called me one day and she wanted to see what I had. She was opening a consignment store for plus size women and wanted some pieces to accent the store.  She bought a piece of mudcloth from me and had it made into this beautiful piece.

Mud cloth transformed to a duster

Caroline brought adventure and fun and beauty into my life when times were pretty tough.  She took me to restaurants that I could not have afforded. She would have me drive her to Detroit or Buffalo for shopping adventures.  She would pay the gas, lunch and usually a little treat. She would shop all the plus size stores, the wig shops and more. Once she asked me to paint 2 unfinished canes with an African motif.  I had never painted anything in my life but she believed I could and I did and they were great. She used them as a prop in her shop. She encouraged me to be a plus size model.

Her daughter wrote her obituary, “Caroline will be remembered as a vibrant, eccentric person, known for loving all things cultural and beautiful “over the top“ jewellery, make-up, nails, and knock-out wardrobe, especially animal print. With this in mind, please honor her memory by dawning something of this style to her memorial service”.  I wore a wig in her honour. Caroline had many wigs and wore a different one every day.

Caroline dressed me.  She pushed my limits and she made me feel beautiful.  Caroline believed voluptuous, full figure were beautiful – she wanted us to dress with big jewellery and colourful, flowy clothes.  She inspired so many women. Her store was more than a place for clothing. Womyn came in to shop but stayed to talk. Caroline suffered with depression and was not able to work from time to time.  She would hand her store over to another woman who was between jobs. Once it was my sister – another time it was me. We grew in this store and we found the willpower to recreate and go back into the “real” world. Her store was magick.  Caroline was magick.

Caroline also taught me so much about spirituality. She introduced me to her guru -known as the blue man. His name was Christopher. Christopher travelled around North America teaching chanting, tuning fork healing, healthy eating, sexual healing and more. Caroline told me she knew him first in her dreams. His teachings helped me to develop as a healer. At my ordination this summer I felt Caroline’s presence and I remembered Christopher.

I have many good friends today.  I am blessed. I will miss Caroline forever – “tell it to me like a story”.  She inspired this website and my calling to inspire women to live life large. Tell me about your best friend and tell it to me like a story.

How to be Organized

Once again I draw on that old saying – do what you love and you will never work another day in your life. I love organizing. It’s my passion. I could do it everyday, all day and always feel satisfied. Although I might get physically tired, my mind is happily racing away with ideas and opportunities for organizing.

Recently someone asked me what approach I use to organizing a home or other space. I have so much respect for Marie Kondo and her gentle, simple approach. Mine is similar but slightly different. I do prefer to tackle one room at a time. The categories are similar – clothing, paper, books and magazines, toys,etc and miscellaneous. In the kitchen I like to empty everything out and start from scratch putting everything back and keeping categories together. It’s important to have a map of where everything will go. I am convinced that the process must be led by you- the client – your pace and your standards. I can’t make that decision for you.

Marie Kondo says to keep what gives you joy and give away what doesn’t. She tells us to thank things that we are sending away for the value they gave us. I love it!! The point is if you think you need 10 mixing bowls and I think you need 2 – the decision always has to be yours. This is your space and your precious belongings. I honestly respect that and we have to work together as a team. You, however, always have the final say.

I am also committed to reusing, repurposing, recycling and keeping as much as we can out of landfill sites. We owe this to ourselves, our children and our planet.

Getting to Know Puerto Penasco, Mexico

This adventure of mine starts in Puerto Penasco – also known as Rocky Point, Mexico.  It is a border town and located about 4 hours from Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.  It is referred to as Phoenix’s beach.  The town is full of people from Arizona.  It is a desert situated on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.  I guess that makes it an oasis.  I remember learning about deserts and oases (had to google the plural form) in grade 4.  I can actually picture my drawing of an oasis in my notebook. 

I am here on a work exchange – room and board in exchange for helping with the family’s AirBnb business.  I am responsible for some online editing and some property management.  My exchange is with the sister of a close friend of mine in Canada.   

I arrived here in mid November – the same weekend as the famous Rocky Point Bike Rally.  During the rally the population almost doubles with over 10,000 bikes and 60,000 tourists I am told.  My host and I were selling tequila with a friend of hers to raise money for a children’s charity.  I made a few new friends and also heard lots of rock music. This is the beginning of the winter or off season.  The water is cooling down and only the bravest are swimming now.

The weather is not hot but it is also not humid and the sun is bright and warms up the air every afternoon. The temperature is usually in the mid twenties in the afternoon and night lows around 10 celcius.   There are small trees with bright and beautiful flowers but a lot of this town dusty, dirty and impoverished.  It is the reality of a Mexican border town.

There a few very posh developments here with huge homes that are mostly owned by Americans.  There are condominium developments too.  I attended a brunch that was a fundraising event in one of those areas – about 75 mostly American women paying $20 USD for brunch and bidding on silent auction items and raffles to raise money for a women’s shelter in Puerto Penasco. One item went for over $600.

I am living in the old part of the town on a dusty unpaved road that leads to the beach. The street is about 1.5 kilometres long. I make this walk a few times a day often bringing the family dog, Cilantro.  There are many dogs in every house and they come out to greet me as I walk – barking loudly and running towards me.  Many, many Chihuahuas. Actually one of my new friends adopted a little one before returning to the states.  Meet Lara.

Often Cilantro (the house dog where I am staying, will block the barking neighbour dogs from getting to me or distract them.  He is such a sweet, quiet fellow – I love him.  The only time I hear him bark is when a stranger is around the property at night and he also howls at the whistle of the train as it crosses through the town around 2a.m. every night.  A- woooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There isn’t much to do here especially in the off-season.  There are a few bars, many restaurants, an American legion and not much else.  I don’t enjoy spending time in bars and I am not one to eat out that often.  That is for both financial and health reasons.  I heard there is a bingo game in a bar somewhere. (not interested in that either).  I was thinking of volunteering to tutor English in the women’s shelter but now I am leaving early so I won’t be able to.

I’ve eaten out only a few times.  This week I had the enormous Wednesday special at the German KaufeeHaus.  It was very good – salad, ham steak on a bed of creamy sauerkraut, a German sausage and meatball with a big helping of mashed potatoes along with two thick slices of homemade rye bread twith sage in it.  Too much food but the change I needed from Mexican cuisine and my own home cooking.  The price was a very reasonable 165 pesos which is less than $10 in both US and Canadian currency.  They have a huge breakfast menu as well with so many kinds of omelettes. It would take you an hour to choose one, I think.

Bryan’s Sports Bar is another popular place that has specials on different days and on Thursday there is a pasta special and a drink for $5 USD.  I ate there on my first night in town.  We arrived at 9pm and went directly to Bryan’s for a quick meal.  I had linguine and shrimp in an Alfredo sauce. Yummmm. This  is a shrimp town and shrimp is easy to find and will run you about 100 pesos for a half kilo.  It’s fresh and big and absolutely delicious.  I cooked some the first week I was here and promise to do that a few more times before I leave.

There are several big, luxurious hotels in town but I honestly have not been to any so I am not able to give an opinion.  There are many AirBnb listings and I have been helping with 10 of them.  I really can recommend the properties owned and operated by my hosts Rita and Tommy.  They are clean and well kept and offer good value for your $$$.  Check out the many options on AirBnb or on the website Welcome to Go2 Rocky Point or click  here.

How to Discover a New Town

I’ve been in Puerta Penasco for over 2 weeks .  It’s time for me to discover this town – figure out on my own how to get around and how to direct our guests in the AirBnb properties.

I’ve gone on several walks in a variety of directions (don’t ask how far I get) but I now have a much better sense of where I am and where many of the main streets are.  I started driving this past weekend.  In Mexico you can purchase a car insurance on your driver’s licence for $90 USD that gives you liability insurance on any vehicle that you drive.

Walking to town

This isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve worked and lived in Greece and Israel/Palestine. I’ve had to learn my way around Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank.  Also in Greece in Athens, Pireaus, Aghios Nickolas and other places on the island of Crete.  I often travel on my own with poor language skills.  It’s an adventure that I truly love.

So now here I am in Mexico – in this small town of Puerta Penasco with a population of just over 60,000. Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, is a Mexican fishing and resort city on the Sea of Cortez. It’s known for the dune-backed Sandy Beach and Bahía la Choya’s tidal pools.  Neither of which I have seen yet.  I am looking forward to whale and dolphin watching.

For the past week, I’ve walked to the beach about a kilometre from the house and from there a little to the left and the right along the sand. The rest of the time I have been in a vehicle with someone else driving and it’s really hard for me to get a sense of where we’re going.  I have to go on my own and get lost a few times. I don’t have data on my mobile phone so I need to get directions for where I am going before I leave the house.  I now have a little tourist map in my bag. 

How do you discover a new environment?

Cleaning Chemical-Free

Full disclosure – my Enjo representative is also one of my very best friends.  She is honest and Enjo is her first foray into the world of business.  Next full disclosure – I am frugal (some may say cheap), committed to taking care of the environment, super sensitive to yucky chemicals and known in many circles as a clean freak.

Yolanda Tomaszewski
Yolanda T.

 

 

 

 

 

The Enjo products are not cheap but they really work and they have value for your buck. They last …and last…..and last. They are good to our planet.

This week Yolanda left me a small portion of the Enjo Marble Paste to try around my house.  It was really just a few crumbs in a tiny container.  She also left the Enjo Kitchen Scrub.

Kitchen Scrub

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to try it on my silver collection. Yowza!  It really worked and it worked quickly.  My silver was really tarnished and I had been ignoring it for several months.  I decided I wanted it back on display and looking fine!  It took me less than a half hour to polish everything with no scrubbing or hard rubbing and no smelly chemicals.

Before

After

I wanted to experiment so I tried the paste with a kitchen sponge and also with a micofibre cloth.  It still removed tarnish with the Enjo Marble Paste but not with the ease and success of the Enjo Kitchen Scrub and Enjo Marble Paste.  I don’t understand those Enjo fibres but they work!!  They work on tarnished silver, on cleaning your dirty oven, your  greasy pots, your floors, your windows and more.

I’m hooked.  I am a believer.

2 thumbs up.  For more information check out Yolanda Tomaszewski’s FaceBook page or email her at ytomaszewski@enjo.ca