Monday, December 27, 2004

When I was a little girl, the Serbian community was tiny.
We pretty well knew each other, or of each other.
Since the bombings, the Serbian community has exploded here.

Many of the “refugees” or immigrants don’t want to be here.
This is a bitter wave, and people of my generation often have the attitude of "shut up, and go back if you don't like it here, but stop yer bitchin' and get on with life..."
But, this wave is fundimentally different because, they are here out of necessity, sending money back home to those family members who are helping to rebuild.
They want to be back home.
But, home is so destroyed that many young people don’t feel that they have a future.
Pensioners are committing suicide because of the conditions they are forced to live in with no money, in a country that went without paying it’s workforce while it was rebuilding itself.

Why do I mention this today?

Because I was watching a CTV documentary called Teaching Peace in a Time of War and it brought tears to my eyes.
For so many reasons…. so many reasons, many which are hard to articulate.
To see and realize that there are children of my heritage who are not familiar with peace.
To know that as that time was passing, now over a decade, that for some reason I was out of touch with the reality of time passing.
That the children and future generation of the people of my nationality do not know what living without fear is.

That this country, that I have such fond and loving memories of has been bombed into a third world country.

To the average Canadian watching this documentary, about a Canadian Teachers’ mission to teach conflict resolution strategies to Serbian Elementary and High School Teachers, is a feel good experience.
When I was a young girl, I used to pine for my culture to be depicted somewhere in film, now I cringe…because I know that it will be a biased and insulting characterization.
This documentary made me sad, because it depicted an educated and civilized culture as backwards, and obtuse.

To me, it’s a painful, sad and bittersweet commentary on a country and culture I love pointlessly destroyed protecting its own land, and rebuilding itself again.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

And So The Holiday Season Begins.

For me, the holiday season starts with Sveti Nikola, and ends with Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. The Misters family functions are sprinkled in between.
One of my stepsons is totally with the program now.
He knows to kiss everyone three times (for the Holy Trinity).
He knows to cross himself, and take a spoonful of zito as soon as he walks in the door.
He knows to keep his cognac glass full if he doesn't want to drink it anymore.
He drinks turkish coffee (he doesn't drink coffee otherwise)
He knows a few words in Serbian.
I figure, in a couple of Slavas, he'll be a Serb.

Today there was eating.
There was laughing.
There was drinking.
There was Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling.

This Slava, wasn't much different from the Slava I described here.

I did get Mama to confess something though...

When I was a young girl, there used to be an old building next to what is now the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.
Back then, Mama told me that it was a reform school...a jail for bad kids.
Whenever we drove, or walked past that old building, my mother used to tell me that if I didn't behave, she'd put me in there.

Today, as we were passing 1001 Queen Street (formerly 999 for those that are older than 20 here in Toronto) I reminded Mama of what she used to say to me.
She laughed.
I asked her if the old building was really a reform school.

Her reply:
"Ok. Yu ketch me. I lie...I don no vat da buldink vos..."

You have to love her.
Well, at least I do.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Mama Answers:

MissKikiRiki asked:

I have da perfect questions for Mama.My slava is coming up (st. Nikola), I'm only having baklava for dessert (because I don't know how to make anything else..and I can't buy anything because it's a lenten slava)..My question: Is the baklava enough variety ? Should I have another type of dessert? How should I respond to my grandmother when she will undoubtedly critisize for only serving baklava? Thank you.

Sretna Slava. Tis iz our slava too!!! I don follo too mach da rules. Bat eef yu gatta, den da froot iz alveys goot. Da froot an da deep, or froot salata.
Crabby asked:

Will we enjoy a white Christmas this year Mama?

Eh, hoo nos? Mebee, Mebee. Tis Kountry hev da stoopit vedder. Van dai nice, nex dai no so nice. Even saamyime da...vat's hees name? Da gai on the CFRB, Haarol samtink...even he's rong he's da meteormen.
Jacqueline asked:

I have a question...What the heck is misskikiriki talking about? What is lenten slava? Is this the eastern advent?

Read about fasting for Christmas (January 7) here.
Read about the Serbian Slava here.
Benjamin asked:

What should I get for my new sister-in-law? She just got a whole bunch of wedding gifts and is well-off so she has just about everything. I'm stumped.

Sen her to da spa. Aal da ladies, dey like da spa. Dat's vat da peopl mit da maney like, no?
Sonja asked:

The whole family is invited to my younger sister's for Christmas dinner and my older sister's brother-in-law will be there, too. Nobody likes this guy and he is RUDE and OBNOXIOUS - give me some advice so that I won't be arrested for grievous bodily harm.....
oh sorry mama I got so excited it's my older sister's husband who is the rude and obnoxious one - already I'm getting all riled up just thinking about him .....

Ven he staart takkink, yu no lissen. You tink abaout odder tings. Jas geev heem da durty looks eef he talks too stoopit. Hahahah.
Darek asked:

Mama, could you go Christmas shpping for me? I am sooooo behind!

Ice Queen asked:

Every other mom seems to be getting their kid's teacher a present. In my day, we didn't give persents to our teachers. It was unfair to kids who couldn't afford presents so it was against school policy.I don't want to get her present. But everyone else seems to be and I'll feel like a heel if I don't. I was thinking of something homemade. What do YOU think, Mama? She IS a nice lady. But still!

Hev yu keeds mek da piktur of her and pud eet in a frame. Tis is cheep, bat nice.
Cicada asked:

Mama, My mother-in-law is a nice woman, but she expects me to wait on her hand and foot when she visits. She came for Thanksgiving and it was like having the Queen living at our house. Her son and I have been married for ten years, so it's not like we've only done this a couple of times. I hate making and serving coffee all day.How can I make my mother-in-law feel welcome and stop waiting on her without starting a holiday fight?

Lissen, she's yu madda too. She kam to yu houz, yu eat et for da van dai. Don mekka da problemas mit yu husban becas of hur...tis iz hees madde...Mebee she van to mek da problem, an complain det yu no like her. Don let dis to heppen. Yu pud app mit it fo da van day.
Jacqueline asked:

Third slave here. Actually it's not the usual mil (stepmom), but rather the out of town bio-mom.She'll just watch me bust my ass and all the time yak at me about her latest boyfriend.I have another question for Mama though. My sister (older) is having big financial troubles. I would like to give her a gift certificate for the grocery store. Do you think this would embarass her though? Maybe I should give it to her on the side.

Geev her da maney. Kesh. Everybady like da kesh. An yu sai samtink like..."I deedn't no vat to buy dis year..." or samtink like det so she no gonna feel bed for hevink da maney trouble.
Peopl still gadda de pride. Yu don vanna her to go to big depression...den mebee yu gadda bigge problema to hendl.

Dantallion asked:

Mama: What does one bring to a pot-luck, multi-denominational Christmas dinner, where you don't know anyone going?

Kek. Everybady likka da kek.
Or froot. Tis is alveys saf too. Don forget to bringa da mek every houz heppy to hev sambady to bring da flowers.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

West Indian Parenting Skills

West Indian parenting is very similar to European parenting.

A couple of years ago, The Misters cousin was having trouble with his teenaged daughter.
Typical teenage things.
Arguing about how late she was allowed to stay out, how much make up she wore, how she dressed and so on.
One day, they were arguing about her curfew, when she stomped out of the kitchen, into her room and SLAMMED the door.

The next day, Cousin Mister took the door off it's hinges, exclaiming:
"Is MY door she slammin'. When she 'ave she own door, she cyan slam all she like...but while she livin' in dis house...there'll be no slammin' door 'roun 'ere!!"

She went two weeks with no bedroom door.


Last night, I observed this:
Child running through the house, between people's legs and crawling all over the floor.
Parent told the child to stop twice, in a calm voice.
Child still running, slips and falls and starts to cry.
Father says:
"What I tell yuh?!? Next time, I gunna beat yer'ass...yuh hear???"
Child calms right down and stops his nonsense...kept in tact by dad giving him the raised evil eyebrow every so often throughout the evening.

Now THAT's parenting.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Professional Shopping

My sister in law (from here on known as Insane Woman) talked me into going to the Umbra sale at the C.N.E. today.

My sister in law is a professional shopper.
I am an amateur.

Two weeks ago when she said "come to the Umbra sale with me", I was all like, "sure".
Until she told me that I would have to get up at 5:00 am on a Saturday morning.
Then, I took the steps I thought would be sufficient to get myself out of going.

Insane Woman wasn't having any of it.

See folks, I'm not a full fledged chick.
I hate shopping.
I hate crowds.
I taught myself to sew just so I could avoid some shopping.

When, Insane Woman showed up at 6:00am with coffee, muffins and a highly annoying chipper attitude, it took everything I had in my body to not slam the door in her face, and go back to bed.
I even said, "If you weren't so damn cute, I'd fucking kill you right now".
She gave me the finger and told me to get in the van.

Yes people.
The Van.

When we got to the Automotive Building at the C.N.E. at 6:20am, the line was already half way around the building.
It was then that Insane Woman told me that the doors didn't open until 9:00am.


"It's ok" she chirped, "I brought you extra mittens, a hat, and I even brought you a little backpack so that you don't have to carry your purse"...with that, she grabbed her collapsable chair and made a dash for the line.

As the line started to move at 9:01am, one woman tried to butt into the line by claiming that she was looking for her sister in law.
All the people in line were watching her like chicken hawks....murmers went through the crowd, and I have a feeling that if she had attempted to get into the building, they would have attacked her.

Have any of you ever been to one of these sales?
These people are serious.
They push, shove, elbow, thrust their boxes at you, and move really quickly.

I got some great deals.
I couldn't wait to get out of that insane asylum.
Early in the game, I lost Insane Woman.

When I took this picture

I was done, and hiding in a corner of the building waiting for Insane Woman to finish.

Never. Again.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Losers on Parade

Years ago, before I met The Mister, I dated my share of losers.
I went on many dates, my friends that I really shouldn't have gone on.

The interesting thing about losers is that some of them have excellent concealment skills and can fool a girl into thinking that they are normal.
At first glance and "getting to know you" conversation, a good miscreant can trick a girl into thinking that he is an average, conventional guy.
You might end up out for a few hours before Mr. Idiot or Mr. Inappropriate makes his first appearance.

Like the good looking musician I went out with on two normal dates, only to have Mr. Inappropriate make his appearance on our almost third date.
I say almost because here's how it went:

The musician, (we'll call him "Chip" or "Dale" for the sake of argument) had invited me to his apartment for dinner. As I mentioned before, we had been out on two dates previously, so his offer to cook dinner seemed ok at the time.
When I showed up at his apartment and knocked on the door, Chip opened it wearing nothing but a small girly type apron, and announced:
"Rules of the house. Clothes come off at the front door" or some shit to that affect.
It took me a moment to comprehend that I was not, in fact, in a Fellini film.
I then immediately turned on my heels without saying anything and made for the elevator.
Quick as my high heels could take me.
He came out into the hall, but I guess thought better of coming after me with his "Dale" hanging out.
I wouldn't return his calls anymore.

Or the guy I went out with once who seemed relatively normal, and I liked well enough who sent me flowers at work the next day, thanking me for pleasant evening.
Which I thought was a nice thing to do.
Only to start to fill up my answering machine tape with message after message asking me why he couldn't reach me.
It didn't scare me when he left the first message, it was after the 11th in the span of 5 hours that alarmed me.
I kept that tape, because it's an excellent chronicle of normal to lunatic.

Or the U of T student who thought I'd like to see the skinned monkey from the lab in his car trunk.

Or the guy who took me to the airport for dinner.
I like the airport.
It's one of my favourite places, but not for a first date.

Oh yes my darlinks...there were many more frogs before The Mister rescued me from the dating pool.

Tanks Got.

Tell me your worst date...C'mon...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Cashew Bark

1/2 Cup Butter
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Golden Corn Syrup
1 1/2 Cups Cashews
1/2 Cup Sweetened Coconut (Optional)

In a large saucepan, combine butter, sugar and corn syrup. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until melted, smooth and bubbly. Cover and cook for 1 minute.

Add nuts and increase heat to medium-high. Cook uncovered, stirring constantly until nuts are lightly browned, and syrup is a warm and golden colour (about 5 minutes).
At this point you can throw in the coconut, if you are so inclined.

Pour mixture into a foil-lined and lightly buttered baking sheet, spreading as thinly as possible. Cool until hard. Peel candy from foil and break into pieces.

*The brittle can be saved in an airtight container, at room temperature for up to a week.

**A word of advice: Wash the saucepan immediately after you pour the candy out.
For obvious reasons...why make more work for yourself if you don't need to.
It's my motto for everything.

***The above pictured is the recipe doubled.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

There are some people who age like fine wine.
People who may have been relatively attractive when they were younger, but who really came into their "prime", (as Miss Jean Brody once said) as they got older.

Two people who come to mind immediately are Tina Turner:


Pam Grier

I know that they are celebrities, and that they have plastic surgery at their disposal, but I have met people in my day to day life who are more attractive now than they were when they were younger.

Maybe my taste is changing.
Maybe I've learned to appreciate the experience that shines though as a person gets older.
The laugh lines that I see and find charming, and the lines I once found just plain old, to represent the soul of the person I'm talking to.

My mother used to say that the face you have at 40 is the face that you've earned.

God knows that I've earned every grey hair that I skillfully hide, with regular visits to my hairdresser.
The lines I'm forming on my forhead and around my mouth are representative of my sense of humour and bittersweet experiences.

Faces that I once saw as just plain "old" are now faces that I look at with a different view.
There are sweet faces, and bitter faces, and kind faces.
Faces with crags and cracks that represent a personal journey.

I can only hope that I'm aging gracefully, and not tragically.

Monday, November 22, 2004

To see some pictures of our day trip to Ottawa, click the above picture of The Argos receiving the Grey Cup last night.

The Mister and I are back from Ottawa, and I must say I had forgotten what a beautiful city it is.

So even though I am not a football fan, I did enjoy the experience.I have never seen so many happy and soused people in one place in my entire life.

Supposedly, there were 53,000 people in the stadium, and I've never heard "O Canada" sung at the top of 52,998 sauced lungs, and it was pretty cool.

We had a good time, and it was nice to get out of T.O. for a day.

In other news (Since we're on the topic of sports):
For this tidbit of new to reach me, it's gotten to the point of ridiculous.
What is up with Vince Carter?
When did he turn into such a whiney suck?
Shut the fuck up, and do what you're paid for.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Just 'Cause I'm Sentimental

Image Source Parkdale Photo Gallery

Parkdale is my old neighbourhood.
The above picture is of the old bus station diner and the Edgewater Hotel.
When I look at it, I am immediately shot back to my childhood.
That corner was one of the two corners that I used to wait for my mother to come home from work when I was a child.
I used to walk to either to Lansdowne and Queen to watch her get off the Landsdowne Bus or I used to wait at the Greyhound Bus Station Depot to wait for her to get off the King Car at Queen Street. At both corners there were diners.

At Roncesvalles and Queen, the diner had a waitress named Margaret who wore her red hair in curls on the top of her head with a little bow. Her eyebrows were drawn on and she was a little on the chunky side.

Margaret was kind to me.

While waiting for my mother, Margaret would give me hot chocolate in the winter and pop in the summer.
She never charged me.
She knew through our conversations that I was waiting for my mother and she took care of me.

She looked out for me.

Me, in my too short pants that my Tetka Ljuba made for me from the odd pieces of fabric left over from her factory job, and my brown winter jacket with the broken zipper, my house key hanging from a string around my neck.

As an adult I see what Margaret must have seen when she saw me come in every weekday.
Back in the ‘70’s, people still looked after children.
Margaret would chat with me and pass the time until my mother would step off of the King streetcar.

My mother never met Margaret.
I never told her about Margaret.
Margaret was my secret friend and took care of me.

Free of charge.

Thanks Margaret, wherever you are.

God Bless you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Long Goodbyes

When I think about my early childhood, I am fraught with memories of good-byes.

Whenever my mother and I went “home” to Petrovo Selo, my mother would never tell my grandparents that we were coming. It was always a surprise.

We would usually pull up in front of their gray mortar house in the middle of the night. My sleepy eyed grandparents would come to the door, and the tears of happiness and surprise would flow from all of us.

When we would leave to come back to Canada, my family would all gather in front of the gray gate in front of the house, and once again the tears would flow until we would get into the car, and I would watch them from the back seat as they stepped out onto the dusty road, waving until they were out of sight.

And I would cry.

Cry off and on, all the way through the small villages until we got to Belgrade, or Frankfurt and boarded a plane to come back to Canada.
Cry like a person who doesn't know when you'll ever see the people you love again when there is so much land and water between you.

When I got to be about 10 years old, my mother started sending me alone for the summer.
Preparations would be made, my Tetka Ljuba would sew me a traveling outfit, and I would be packed up with suitcases bigger than me full of gifts.

My mother would put me on a plane where I would be passed from one kind Air Canada Flight Attendant to another considerate Lufthansa Flight Attendant on my stopovers in Frankfurt. Then on to Belgrade, where usually my Uja Lazar would pick me up and we’d make the long drive to Petrovo Selo to my grandparents gray mortar house that had been the only thing in my life that ever stayed the same.

When it was time to come home to Canada, it was always the same.
My whole family would gather in front of the house like the Clampets waving goodbye until we were out of sight.

When my mother would pick me up at the airport here in Toronto, she would silently cry as I told her how everyone was, and of all of the things that happened over the summer.
She told me that she cried because she heard “home” in the regional dialect I had reacquired during my visits.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to Petrovo Selo.

One thing stayed with me though.

If you come to my house to visit…
when you leave…
I’ll stand on the stoop and wave to you until you are out of sight.

Old habits die hard.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Pumpkin Tarts

You need:

Preheat oven to 375F
1 16oz can of Pumpkin (yeah I was lazy..what of it?)
2 boxes of prepared tart shells (I'm not making hand done pastry for a fundraiser)
3 eggs (separated)
1 cup of condensed milk
1 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp (Mr. Goudas Mixed Essence)

Mix all ingredients together except for the egg whites.

Whip egg white into stiff peaks.

Fold in to other bowl

Bake until pastry edges are golden.

**this recipe is much better (in my opinion) by substituting the pumpkin with 1 large, cooked and mashed sweet potato. It's great with some whipped cream. Since you have the mixer out anyway, some 18% whipped at high speed adding sugar to taste goes really well. I would have done sweet potato pie...but seeing as it's October, it was a freakin' Pumpkinfest.

Thank you to the reader who nominated me for a Diarist Award for my September 25th post about my Grandfather. I really appreciate it.

Friday, October 15, 2004

I don’t smoke in MY car…but if I want to smoke in MY car, I will damn well smoke in MY car.
When the OMA buys me a car, I won’t smoke in it.
Until then,

Fuck off.

It’s MY car.

I swear, Communism wasn’t this intrusive.
Or even this invasive.

Between the soccer mom special interest groups, and the government, we’ll have to call someone for permission to have a pee in a couple of years.
Just equip us all with satellite tracking systems and be done with it already.

…oh wait…wasn’t that the flu shot campaign they were shoving up our nostrils last year?

In other news, I got a huge laugh out of this:

“ZAGREB (Reuters) - A Croatian armed robber abandoned a bank hold up after the
cashier laughed at his order to stick 'em up, state news agency Hina reported on

“The masked robber entered a bank at Zagreb's main square in
plain daylight and threatened the clerk with his gun.
Knowing she was behind a bulletproof glass, the clerk laughed heartily, rang her boss to say she was being robbed and asked him to call the police," Zagreb police spokeswoman Gordana Vulama told the agency.
The humiliated robber turned and took to his heels, she added.”

Monday, October 11, 2004

Years ago, before I met The Mister, I had bad taste in boyfriends.
The nice ones were “boring” and the bad boys were “commitment phobes”.
It took me a long time to figure out that it was me who was the commitment phobe.

Here’s how I figured it was.
Stay with me…
I was so afraid of committing to loving someone, so afraid of being abandoned without being prepared, that I set up my relationships so that I would know the outcome.

Pretty clever, huh?

That’s right, date an asshole who treats you like shit…voila!...self-fulfilling prophecy with built in, “it isn’t my fault, he’s an asshole” clause.
I did this for a long time.
Until I got tired of the drama and pain…which is when I came up with my “dating system”.
It was shortly after that (very shortly) that I met The Mister.

Love is a leap of faith.
Once you allow yourself to love someone, you open yourself up to all kinds of anxieties (ok, maybe not you…maybe just my neurotic self).
Perhaps something will happen to the person that you love.
That they will be hurt while they are out in the world, and you will be in unbearable pain if this happens.
I believe that fear of this stops some people from loving others.
Men from loving women.
Women from loving men.
People from loving people.
Even parents from loving children.

It takes courage, and not everyone has it.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Shortly after I walked in and sat down, he started pulling chairs into a circle.

I hate roll play.

"Let's have a dialogue about this..."
"How are you feeling about what is being said?"
"Are you ok with that?"

I don't know how many meetings I've been in throughout my career where minutes spanned into an hour or more, where I came out of a meeting wondering what the speaker was actually getting at.
Exercises in patronizing double talk.
I am realizing that we are living in an age of no negatives".
Everyone is worried about "self-esteem", like we're all fragile and will fall into depression at the mere suggestion that we're not fantastic.

We need things to "dovetail" and "synergize".
We need things to be "seamless", "streamlined".
We need them to be "win win".
We need to "converse" and "convene" and be "validated" and "empowered".
To get in touch with our feelings about our goals and "who we are".
We need to ask permission to move on in a conversation.

With all of's a fucking wonder that any work gets done at all.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I might be going out on a limb here.

But, here goes anyway.....

What is up with indignant dog owners?

This morning I saw a woman have a hissy fit because the Bank Manager asked her to keep her two huge dogs with her, on their leash.
She had left them, unattended sitting at the entrance.

This is much like the parent problem.
Not everyone loves your dog.
Just like not everyone loves your kid.

Actually, some people are irrationally afraid of dogs.
How fair is it to leave your two gigantic dogs unleashed by the entrance of any public venue?

Same goes for those assholes in the park who think that their dogs running freely off their leashes is more important than the children playing in the park who are totally freaked out by a dog bigger than they are galloping toward them.
Not to mention those same assholes that don't pick up after their dogs, or let them drink out of the public water fountains.

Geez, get over yourselves.

Friday, October 01, 2004

It Ain't All That

I’ll preface this by saying that I now work just a notch north of the neighbourhood I grew up in. This is very wonderful for two reasons, I’m very, very familiar with the neighbourhood, and what teeny, tiny bit of my family that is here in Canada, is just down the street. So, I get to see them without much traveling time.

Now, on to my tedious thoughts…

On my way to work this morning, I saw someone I went to Junior High with. In Junior High, he was “IT”. He was the cutest, the most popular, the boy all the girls wanted to go steady with.
How do I know it was him?

He looks exactly the same.
I mean exactly.

Walking along the same street he would have been walking along to go to Junior High. It’s not the first time I’ve seen him in the neighbourhood since I’ve come back to work here.
It’s just the first time I’ve thought about it.

What is it like to stay in the same neighbourhood your whole life?
To never venture out?
I’ll add that he looks a little sad and scruffy too.
Which got me thinking about the popular people.

All the popular people I knew in Junior High and High School, that I’ve seen since we’ve all grown up, didn’t measure up in adult life to the status they had during their High School Heydays. In fact most of the geeks and misfits are the ones who seemed to have done well.
A couple of years ago I described “Lisa” one of the popular people who used her power for evil, and how a geeky girl triumphed in this memory .

I wonder why this is?
Why don’t the popular people do better when they grow up?
They have such a jump start on the rest of us.

Saturday, September 25, 2004


When the summer wanes, my mind always drifts to my Grandfather (I called him Deda).
It is at this time in September when he passed away.
My Deda was a gentle man, at least he was as I remember him.
I am told that he was hard and tough, and had a temper unrivaled.I never knew the man that they described in that way.

My Deda was one of the most non-judgmental people I have ever known.
I had never heard him say an unkind thing about anyone. He used to carry me around on his shoulders making clucking noises, stick his finger in sugar and then in my mouth, when I was very little.
He was gentle and silly with me. I knew that he had suffered in his life. He spent time in a Hungarian work camp because his brother who was a big Communist fingered him as anti.
I know that he spent time in the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Story tells that he was in the Pijaca (open market) during WWII when a snipers bullet killed a German and at that time, the Nazis took 100 for every 1 German.
My Grandfather was one of the one hundred they rounded up and took to Dachau.
He survived.
He never, ever talked about his experience in the Camp to anyone.
I know.
I’ve asked. Everyone.
However, he did say that when he came home, he came home a different person. From a man of 95kilo to a man of 44kilo. He said that the Russians dropped him at the New Yugoslavian border at the end of the war, and he walked the hundreds of miles home. When he reached that same old gray house that I hold as my life touchstone, he wouldn’t enter it.
He (and Majka (Grandmother)) said that he went straight out to the field at the back of the house, Majka prepared a lye solution, he buried his clothes and shaved his body and used the lye solution to kill the lice and other things crawling over his body before he touched anyone in the household.
He said that bodies were floating in the Tisa River, coming downstream from wherever they were murdered and dumped. I was told that the Tisa River is still considered the river of the dead. I cannot argue with that.
My mother almost drowned in that river when she was a young girl, and I saw my first dead body on the grass by the banks of that river when I was 11 years old.
A young man had drowned when he was caught in the current. I stood fascinated by his young blank face and blue pallor…thinking to myself over and over again “he’s dead”. I couldn’t come to grips with the idea that someone so young could die.
When I was 21 and visiting, the whole town attended the funeral of a young man who had waded into the river and shot himself in the head from sadness or depression.
People said that the river holds the memory of many suicides, because the people who chose to kill themselves preferred to go and “be with their ancestors”.

But, I digress…When I was a young girl visiting one summer, a man came looking for my Grandfather. When he passed the window of the pantry, I thought it was Deda back from the field…it wasn’t. It was his brother.
A brother that I didn’t know existed. He visited for a few minutes, and said he would be back.
I hounded Deda to tell me why I never knew that this brother of his existed. Deda told me that they (he and his brother) hadn’t spoken in over two decades. “Why” I asked over and over….
I was relentless. Finally, he told me; he said that his brother was in love with a Hungarian woman before the war.
He (his brother) was also in Dachau because he was one of the 100 for 1, picked up on the same day in the same market as my Grandfather. However, over the two years that Deda and his brother were in Dachau, they were separated. When Deda returned to Petrovo Selo, he regularly went to the Post Office to check the lists of the dead to look for his brothers name, and one day, he saw it.After a few days, he went to the woman that his brother loved and told her. She hung herself. A few months after, his brother returned….and never forgave him.
Deda held that. As irrational as it sounds, he understood that.
When I think about what the people of their generation endured, my heart swells. Deda’s stories, and a million others.

When I hear memories and stories like these, I understand why Serbians have such a heavy spirit. Why during the bombing of Serbia, Serbs held hands over bridges and sang while NATO bombs fell. Why they stood up, even though they knew they didn’t have a chance. Why there is such a word as “Inat” (meaning “whatever the consequences”). Why people were partying in the streets while bombs fell. My Uja Lazar said, “if it’s going to be our last night on earth, let’s celebrate and not die like dogs cowering in the corners of our homes”.
I understand that.
And I miss sitting on Deda’s little bench in front of the house, with my head on his shoulder smelling the mixture of hay and rakija on his sweater, listening to him talk.

Rest in Peace.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Me and Tata

Yesterday, while I was driving along the lakeshore, I pulled up next to a car and the driver looked like my father.

I have been estranged from my father for 20 years.
Since in my minds eye, he will always look like he did the last time I saw him, I would probably not fully recognize him if I saw him now.

I got a pang of melancholy.

People would say (even I) that,
“it doesn’t matter”.
“He wasn’t really a father to you”
“he’s essentially a stranger”.

All of these things would be, and are true.
But when you think that you see someone, who loomed so large but absent for so many years.

Even though you are an adult.
Even though he wasn’t really a father to you.
Even though he’s essentially a stranger.

Just for a split second, you wish it were him…

So that you could make him pull over, and tell him how well you did despite him.

Fathers matter.
Even though some people say that they don’t.

They do.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Mama Answers

Reece asked:

Dear Mama,

Do you think a man and a woman can ever really be friends, or do you think sex(uality) will always tend to get in the way, even if just a little?

Ya, I tink so. Da vooman is alveys in control of dees tinks. Eef da vooman vant to be mor dan da friends, den eet ken heppen dis vey.

Erik asked:

If the dead were to rise from the grave (a la zombie style) should I embrace religion in an 11th hour conversion, stomp them Milla Jojvich style, or hide in a deep dark hole somewhere and hope for the best?

I tink yu get da religion rite avay. Yu should get da religion anyvay.

Anyvay, dis iz no gonna heppen. So don vorry.

Chris asked:

Mama, there seems to be two schools of thoughts about sharing recipes. Some
people will give them away to anybody who asks for them while others will
treat them like hidden treasures, perhaps giving small peeks from time to
time but otherwise keeping them locked away. What is your opinion on this
and to which one do you practice?

I geev da recipes. Vai nat?

Kim asked:

What do you do when you've had a dog since November, and despite all your best efforts, he's STILL not 100% potty-trained?

Da dag shood be outside anyvay. Vai you let him to do det in da house? Tis steenks. I vould get reed av da stinky dag.

Jacqueline asked:

My mother-in-law always wants us to go to her place for thanksgiving, but we don't want to.

Two words = Tofu Turkey.

We keep a vegetarian household, but it's really important to us to eat turkey at Thanksgiving.

How do we break it to her?

Vat to break to hair? You invite hair to yu houz and yu mek da tourkey and yu mek da vege-tables. She don like eet? She don hev to eat. Eef yu invite da peepl to yu houz yu shood mek vat dey like. She like da vege-tables rite? She's da vegetareean...she don need da tourkey.

Chris asked:

I don't get the whole Tofu Turkey thing. If people are vegetarians that's fine but give up on calling it Tofu Turkey, Tofu burgers or Tofu dogs. Just by appending a tasty meat name to the end of Tofu, doesn't change the fact that it is nothing more than coagulated soy milk . I vote that unless there is actually turkey in the food you can't call it turkey.

Oh, this is the Ask Mama thread. Hmm my question would then be, Right Mama?

Rite, rite.

David Roaten asked:

Dear Mama,
Have you ever been to a fortune teller? If so what happened? Should parents be allowed to disown their children?

Yes. I bin. Dey don no vat dey takkink. Dey jas van yu maney.

No. Da parants Kannat deesovn da chilren....meybe yu van to, bat dey steel yours.

Ice Queen asked:

Ice Prince is misbehaving at kindergarten. How can I make him obey me and the teachers?

Geev heem a kappla shamars an da battam. He gonna lissen efte dat.

Mark mai vord. Tis alveys vork for me.

Sonja asked:

Why do men like to walk around the house with barely anything on (usually with underwear only) and women don't....

Becaz dey don hev nattink to hide an da tap.

Lilly asked:


How can Crabby get her cat to stop puking every single day?

I don no. Mek heem go outside.

Lilly asked:

Mama, should Joe and I get married at Niagara On The Lake or in some cheesy, kitchy 'chapel' (I use the word loosely) in tacky downtown Niagara Falls?

Nee-a-gaara on da lek. Tis is da nice place.

Rada, she get da maarried der.

As I've said in the past. If you don't like the answers, welcome to my world.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Tour My Hometown

Mark of Check Mark and Exclamation Mark invites us to Tour his hometown, with a little history and some pictures, and asks us to invite him to ours.

Here's a little tiny tour of the part of Toronto that I grew up in.

When I was a kid, Parkdale was a neighbourhood full of Eastern European and Caribbean immigrants. Over the years it has declined, and run down...but I'm noticing that it's rising from the ashes and becoming trendy.
Just like my Uncle said that it would!

Let's start with a little story I told about the Greyhound Bus Depot at Roncesvalles and Queen, and then move on to another one about Harmony Records at Queen and Sorauren.

The Parkdale Theatre (later known as The Comesee) was where I saw my first movie.

I crossed this bridge to the lake every summer day until I was in my teens to spend time at Sunnyside Park or go swimming in the pool.

Everyone in my family who either lives here or has visited has a picture next to the Maple Leaf in High Park and The Horseshoe Falls at Nee-a-gaara.

Most of my teen years were spent nursing a cup of coffee or a plate of french fries and gravy under Peter and Spiros's watchful eye at the:

(They are still there, believe it or not)

Here ends our quick little tour of a small part of my hometown.
Yes, as I was reminded recently...I've got a soft spot for Parkdale.

There you go Mark.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Beginning of the End

For those of us who live and grew up in Toronto, the C.N.E. (Canadian National Exhibition) or "The Ex" marks the end of the summer.
The last day of the "Ex" is also the last day of freedom for students who have to go back to school the very day after the "Ex" closes it's Princess Gates.

The Mister and I went down yesterday for the first time in a really long time, and shared our memories of the fair.
Both of us being west enders, the "Ex" was a summer staple.
I grew up in Parkdale, so the last three weeks of summer were consumed by the "Ex" for me.

My very first job, (unpaid of course) was to stand in the driveway of our Tyndall Ave home with a rolled up newspaper and wave cars in for parking on the lawn during the time that the Ex was on.

My very first paid job was in the Ex, on the a restaurant, where I bussed the counter back in the day when your boss could yell at you, and tell you that you are useless and didn't know what you're doing.
And he was right, since I was 12 or 13 and had never had a job before.
I got fired for bussing a plate of french fries right out from under a customers fork.
Well, I imagine it was for a culmination of things....the french fry thing being the last straw, so to speak...

I got fired from that job, but went back to the job trailer and got another job within the hour.
This was one of the wonderful things about the C.N.E.
Another wonderful thing about working at the Ex was that I got to meet other kids my age from all over the city.
This was certainly something big, since at that time my world was pretty small.

The C.N.E. seems very different doesn't smell as bad, for one thing...but one thing does remain for me...

The memories.

P.S. I have 5 G-mail invitations available...if you're interested in one e-mail me.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Confessions of a Purse Snatcher

Benjamin at Iracible Musings wrote this entry on first memories.

In the comments, I mentioned that my first memory was of a picture taking session in a park.
The above picture is from that day.

My cousin (it turns out that she's a fan of Benjamins) weighed in with her first memory of me accidentally hitting her in the head with a gigantic crystal ashtray.
I mentioned that she had an obsession with purses when she was little.

Turns out that it runs in the family.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Olympic Musings

The Mister and I are watching the Tae Kwon Do competition, and I'm going to be frank with you...from what I'm seeing (and I'm no Tae Kwon Do expert...believe me...) the object of the game seems to be:

To bounce around, bow your head a lot, and be the first one to kick your opponent in the ass.

That being said,
I'm wondering why Serbians aren't champions in this sport?
I spent most of my life avoiding getting kicked in the ass when I wasn't looking...just for fun and teasing.

Someone needs to bring this to someone's attention, because Serbia-Montenegro is missing out on some medal attainabilities.

Ok...if you are a Tae Kwon Do expert, don't e-mail me to explain the importance of the ancient sport. I don't care about most sports, Tae Kwon Do is not exempt.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Cry Baby, Cry

J-Walk Blog led me to Metafilter's post on Tear Jerker Movies...which led me to a list of my own.

To Sir With Love
The scene at the end when Sydney Portiers students present him with a gift and he fights back emotion.

Joy Luck Club (2 scenes..the whole movie actually)
One of the mothers talks to her daughter about accepting that her marriage might be over, and how she had fought all her life to be strong, but having a "weak spirit" had passed this on to her child...well, you get the picture.

One of the other mothers explaining to her angry daughter that she chose the "worst quality crab leg" because she had "the best quality heart"...(you have to see it)

Love Actually
When the wife realizes that her husband might be having an affair, and she excuses herself and paces her bedroom while listening to Joni Mitchell and hysterically crying...then pulls herself together....smooths the marital bed, and collects herself to put her face on for her family at Christmas...

Imitation of Life
When the daughter comes back to her mothers deathbed, and her mother forgives her.

Shindlers List (but practically the whole movie...this is the only movie that The Mister openly shed tears at...)
When Shindler realizes that he could have saved more people.

Mrs. Doubtfire
At the end when Robin Williams gives that little speech on all the different kinds of families.

Good Will Hunting
When Matt Damon breaks down when Robin Williams tells him "Son, it isn't your fault".

Antwone Fisher (The whole freaking movie actually)
When he meets his long lost family is a non stopper.

Hokey...but I bawled almost all the way through, and was absolutely torture teased by The Mister through the whole movie.

Sam I am
The whole movie

Admittedly, I am a big crybaby, blubbering, kleenex grabbing, sucky lover of tearjerkers.
This is a neverending source of teasing pleasure for The Mister, which is why he usually gets to choose movies when we go choosing, and I watch these movies alone.

What are your tearjerker favourites?
I'm dying to know...especially from the men who visit.

Monday, August 09, 2004

From Siberia to Serbia

While celebrating different cultures on a daily basis, I overheard this conversation between two children discussing my nationality:

Child #1: "Hey, Mrs. M. is from Siberia!"

Child #2: (With a look of disgust) "No she's not!"

Child #1: "Where is she from then?" (mocking tone)

Child #2: "She's from suburbia!" (superior tone of voice)

That my friends, was my laugh of the day.
Believe you me when I tell you that the children are the best part of my job.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Adrenaline Rush

Yesterday, I stopped at the bank and parked on a busy downtown street, without purchasing time from one of those fancy shmancy meters that are so far apart, that it's a gigantic pain in the ass to purchase said ticket.

I figured I would go in and see what the line looked like and if it was long, I would go back and purchase some time from the meter.
I walked to the door and saw only two people in line.

This bank always has a line up!
So, I naively go in and take my place in line....little do I know that there are only two Tellers working. 
After about 10 minutes in line, I figure that one customer must  be negotiating a mortgage, while the other must be doing the year end audit for a small country.
I was in the bank for over 30 minutes, far longer than I had anticipated.

Well, I headed out of the bank and down the street....and...what?

"Dude, where's my car?"

There was a large cube van parked where I left my car.

I got that "holy shit" feeling.
The one that says, "I've got a ton of shit to do this afternoon and my briefcase and everything is in my car!"

I got my cell phone out and started to dial the towing company telephone number from the sign right in front of me, while walking toward the cube van...only to realize that the cube van was hiding my car.

The sense of relief was overwhelming.

Have you ever had your car towed?

I have, and it was an experience I will never forget.

See, when my car was towed...I was already late to get somewhere.
I was pissed.
When I got to the trailer/towing company "office", I walked in shouting about being towed, which immediately resulted in two Great Danes jumping up onto the cell-like bars that went from the counter to the ceiling, and barking.
Which resulted in silencing the absolute shit out of me.

The people behind the bars could only been seen through a cloud of cigarette smoke and the trailer reeked of stale smoke.
It was disgusting.
Listen, I'm a smoker.
If I say it was disgusting, it was disgusting.

The woman that approached the counter only removed the smoke from her pie hole while she repeated over and over, "cash, VISA or Mastercard" while I tried to argue with her about the ridiculous amount of money she told me I had to pay to get my car out of the pound.
Frankly, all of them should wear masks while they collect money.

While I was paying, two men came in shouting just like I did when I came in, which alerted the two horses disguised as Great Danes to commence the barking routine, which silenced the two men and scared the shit out of me for a second time.

I got my car, and fought the $20 ticket that was an insult to my injury.
I had the opportunity to go to night court.

Ever been to night court?

I paid $8 for parking.
Spent 2 hours at Old City Hall.
My ticket was thrown out.

My visit to night court was worth the price of admission.
It was entertaining.
The Judge was hilarious...
He was sarcastic, and mean

...but not to me.

heh heh.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Conversation With a Child

About an hour ago I had the following conversation with a child who was brought into my office, hysterically crying.

I waited until he completely calmed down and then asked him to explain why he was in my office.

The conversation went like this:

" sister was pretend marrying my friend Fabricio? was going to, um...Best Man? And then, I her up the isle...and then, umm...she said she didn't want me to be the Best Man anymore?"

"So what did you do? Did you hurt her in some way?"

Him: "No"

Me: "So why are you in my office?"

Him: "I stopped the wedding."

Me: "How did you do that?"

"I wouldn't give the ring back."

The Cracks in Crackdale

Everytime there is a long weekend, I come back to work to find more vandalized public property.

It grieves me to think that the young people who live in this neighbourhood are so desensitized that they would actually get pleasure from destroying a beautiful old school that has been here for over 150 years.

The fact that the repairs (if they ever get done) cost the taxpayers of this city almost triple what it would cost to be fixed by a private contractor because of the inflated rates that the school board charges to get their own maintenance contractors to do it.

What amazes me about this phenomenon is that there is all this pissing and moaning about the city not giving a shit about this neighbourhood, but it's the residents themselves who trash it.

Let's face it folks, if you live here and don't give a shit about it, why should anyone else?

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Listen Up White People

I am forever amazed by the graciousness of the black people I know who tolerate the ignorant little faux pas made unknowingly by well meaning white people.

Last night we were visiting with my sister in law and her husband when a neighbour happened by.
He was friendly and humourous and very welcoming.

He invited us all over to the front of another neighbours house for drinks and chat. There were a number of neighbours there already and the drinks and chat were flowing.

Now, generally when I am with my inlaws, I am usually in the minority as a white person. To say that I have never experienced a bias or ignorance being the minority at an event would be a lie...but I do not experience it regularly, therefore it is easier for me to swallow than it would be if I had to deal with it daily.

Last night I heard quite a few little inappropriate "jokes" made, and quite a few gracious accepting of those jokes with a touch of satire mostly from my brother in law.

I have such a feeling of shame and apology when they have to accept these stupid little ignorant comments meant as "jokes". I know that with many white people, the attitude is "What? Now I have to watch everything I say? I have to be politically correct?".


You just have to put yourself in the position.
Stop bringing it back to race.
If you're Italian, do you want references made to the Mafia and pasta regularly during conversations?
If you're Irish, do you want constant references made to the Irish being big drunks?

Think people.

One joke, ok.
One every five minutes, not ok.


In other news,

I finally rented "Love Actually" on Crabbys recommendation.

The opening of the film exposed one of my secret loves.

The arrivals level at the airport.

I was instantly in love with the film.

I love the arrivals level of the airport.
People don't understand why I'm so willing to pick them up from the airport if they are coming in.
I am a suck, and love to watch people re-uniting.
As the movie stated, "when I lose faith in the human spirit, I visit the arrivals level at the airport. It's there that love is all around us".

The arrivals level is the place for this.

Go to arrivals when you're sad and feeling hopeless.

Rent "Love Actually" for a little boost for your spirit.

That's all.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Smoking and Talking

My Uncle doesn't smoke anymore, but some of our best conversations and some of his best stories were told with a cigarette and coffee.

The other day I was visiting and we were talking and reminiscing about what it was like when he first came to Canada. I reminded him of a few that I remembered, and he didn't...and he told me a new one.

It went like this:

"Bora an me, ve go feeshink, an ve drivink bek ve get laast.
Bora, he mek a u-toorn an da politz dey stap aas.

Da politz-man he say,
"Yu don see da sign say 'NO U-TURN'?
and Bora say to da politz, he say:

"No, you turn...bat me o.k.!"

Da politz-man he leff an ve look at each odde an tink...
mah...he crasy.

Bat den ve see da den ve leff too."

I love these stories.
There are so many of them that I forget until he tells them again, and they never get old for me.
I suppose that it's the way that he tells them, or that I love him so much that it doesn't matter how many times I hear them.

I don't know which, and I guess it doesn't matter.
So long as he's here to tell them.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Single Chicks Myths About Marriage

It's Just a Piece of Paper
It's a piece of paper that carries a lot of weight; in society, at the bank, and in court.
I once heard an idiot over dinner say that the fact that he didn't marry the mother of his two children and stayed with her, proves that their relationship is stronger than a marriage.

Not really.

What it proves is that he can bullshit the woman he lives with into not bothering him about legitimizing his children and making a commitment to her and his children and making them a legal family.
It keeps his options open...and since he was exposed as living a double life right here in this house, when one of our other friends recognized him as the man his cousin was "engaged" to for the past three years...nuff said.
His common law wife said that it didn't matter to her that they weren't married, a devout Catholic.

I guess that's why she wore a wedding band anyway, huh?

Common Law is just like being married.
It's not.
You can walk away from "common law" without a big "marriage law" hastle.
Oh sure, you can go to court, but your rights are not the same.
Just ask anyone who's done it.

Marriage will change him.

If you believe this, I'm the Queen of Romania.

If he was a controlling, cheating, gambling alcoholic, chances are that he'll still be that after the reception.

If I have a baby, he'll marry me...

Maybe he will, but if he didn't love you enough to marry you without the belly, it's a miserable life you're setting up for yourself and your child.
If he doesn't marry you, you're a statistic.
Way to set up a stable life for another human being you're bringing into the world.
A child is not a K-Tel product you can send back if you don't like it when it comes out of the box.
Ask any foster parent who has taken in children who ended up unwanted.

Why do I bring this up you ask?

It's because I'm tired of listening to young single women who malign marriage until someone proposes to them, then they start planning the wedding of the century.

It's the whole "I'll piss on it until I'm getting married", that irritates me.

And while we're on the topic...
As mama told me:
"Iz aboud da life, nat aboud da day".

That's all.

Asshole hightailed it out of the party before the woman he proved he "loved more by not marrying" before she glommed onto anything fishy going on, and we haven't seen him since...since the cousins lived down the street from us...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Put The Carny Back in Carnival

Today, on my way home...I stopped by one of those roadside Carnivals.

You know the ones....
They set up rides and games temporarily somewhere for a week or two and then move on.

I noticed something very odd.
None of the Carnys (or is it Carnies?) had tatoos.


In this day and age where everyone from your whore to your hairdresser has a tatoo....what?....Carnies don't have them anymore?

Heed the signs people....

Carnies sported tatoos when it was an outlaw kind of thing to do.
Years ago, only certain kinds of people had tatoos.
Sailors, whores, bikers, biker chicks, circus folk.....and Carnies...

Carnies all over the place at this roadside attraction...not one tatoo.

All the Carnies in clean clothes, no smokin'...everyone had all their teeth...what the hell is this world coming to?

The times, they are-a-changin'.