Tag Archives: Mom

The Dogs Fault

Dogs come and dogs go.

Lou, our beloved, slightly deranged 14-year-old dachshund, will leave us soon. His health is poor; his quality of life declining with each passing day.

But this story is about mostly Toby, my aunt’s 4-year-old maltase mix. That’s 28 in dog years, for those of you contemplating the math. 28 to Lou’s 98. Quite the disparity; quite the gap to mind.

Louis and Toby lived together, as brothers, for three glorious days (or maybe the relationship was closer to great old uncle and weird little nephew). My aunt gave Toby to us because she was recovering from an illness and believed she couldn’t handle the all the work a dog entails. Dogs are, admittedly, a lot of work.

We picked Toby up from her house with Lou in tow to make sure they’d get along.

No fights. Lou remained largely indifferent to Toby, much to Toby’s disappointment.

That night, the texts and emails began.

Hello Cindy! How is Toby? Can you send me pictures? I am sure he will be happy with you because you are young and can take him to the park and for walks and things.  

Hello Cindy! Did he cry in the car on the way to your house? I hope he ate all his food.  

Hello Cindy! Did Toby sleep well last night?  

Hello! You took the dogs out walking together! Did Toby have a good time? 

Hello! Did Toby eat his food this morning? How much did he eat?

Hi! Is Toby still OK? How are his eyes?

Hello Cindy!


Hello Cindy!


Hello, Hello, Hello!

On and on it went. I was inundated. I have never been quite so inundated before, in my life, ever.

Finally, a phone call on the third day: “Auntie, do you want Toby back?”

She came the following afternoon, a stressful trip as I had inadvertently gave her my old house number instead of my new one and she had to stop at more than a few gas stations and ask to use their phones because she doesn’t have cell phone and didn’t have any change in her pocket but then she couldn’t reach me because my cell was acting up and didn’t receive any of her phone calls until, finally and all at once, it did.

But that is another story.

And although Toby seemed to have settled rather nicely into his new life at our place, he was as overjoyed to see my aunt as she was to have him back in her life. Lou, as ever, remained totally unaffected.

End of story.


A month later my mom told me that Toby had taken ill. Addison’s disease. He needed emergency surgery and will be on various medications for the rest of his life in order to manage this otherwise debilitating condition.

“Your poor auntie,” said my mom. “But lucky you. You see?” It was, to her, all a matter of simple fact and she let it die right then and right there.

Not so for me.

You see? See what? What did that mean, you see?

That you shouldn’t give something away unless you are sure you don’t want it back? That fate, it seems, can intervene and undermine even the best of intentions? That Mom Knows Best?

Whatever happened, it’s not the dog’s fault. The dogs are blameless. As far as I know, Toby is doing well (better, at least, then poor Lou), but the medications are expensive and my aunt is not sure how much longer she will be able to afford them.

Still, it’s not his fault. After everything, he is totally without blame, completely without fault and actually there was never a need to exonerate him, ever, was there?

He didn’t do anything.











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Filed under Change, Death, Dogs, Family, Pets, Relationships, Time

Much Alike

My sister and I look very much alike. Her friends and mine confused us for each other all the time. Still do.

My parents always wanted me to be more like my cousin – poised, prim and perfect – but I look nothing like her.

My relatives say that I look like my mom. But she’s had some nips and tucks and doesn’t quite look like herself anymore (which, of course, is the point).

I must look what she used to look like, even though she never looked like my sister and bares no resemblance to my cousin.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask my sister’s friends. They’ll tell you. After all, they’re right about half the time, if not even more than that.

Looks can be deceiving, but not all the time and certainly not for everyone.



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Filed under Childhood, Family, Friends, Relationships, THE PAST


I constantly ask myself: “Is this at least $10 worth of fun?”

That seems to be the limit. Any more than that and it just doesn’t seem quite worth it.


1. Let’s Go To The Motherfu*kin’ Movies

My best friend got $50 from her parents for her birthday, which was a lot of money, especially for a fifth grader. It was the most money I’d ever seen a kid our age have. It was more money than I’d ever had.

“Shouldn’t’ you save some?” I kept asking.

“Why? We’re already here,” she kept saying back. Here was a movie theatre attached to the mall where we’d already spent a good portion of that $50 on junk food and other things I can’t even remember what.

We saw an animated film that was a bit young for us, but which was the only thing playing at the time. It had odd musical numbers that ultimately proved memorable only because they were slightly less worse than the film itself.

Movie tickets back then were under $10.

The next week and we were broke again, and would remain that way for weeks to come. For weeks on end.

It was almost worth it.

Anyway, it was the best we could do. It was everything that we, between us, could have done.


2. Wholesale $50

My dad found $50 on the ground next to the wholesaler’s where we went to every two weeks to pick up vegetables for our small grocery.

“Don’t tell mom.” That was the first thing he said. “Let’s go for pho!” was the second.

We ordered pho dac biet, the special. It came with everything. Usually, we’d get fast food or something else, something cheaper, but a wholesale $50 is a wholesale $50.

“Here, you can have what’s left,” said my dad. He gave me the change from the bill. But the difference between what he gave me and the cost of the meal did not add up and I told him so, thinking perhaps we’d been shortchanged by the server.

“I took $5 for lottery tickets,” he said.

Was it a confession? To this day, I’m still not sure.


3. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Stephen and I once found a crisp $50 bill at the foot of a frozen waterfall during a hike in the snow. It shone red against the white of the forest floor; a beacon on a cold winter’s day. A sign, if there ever was one.

$50? Think of the possibilities. An easy $50, free and clear!

But. We were living a new life in a new city and were still in the process of settling in. Extra money therefore meant extra responsibility, or at least the sinking feeling that we should act extra responsibly with it.

We used the $50 to buy groceries. Also, toilet paper. The good kind.

No lie. It was everything.

Double ply, double happiness.

Fun notwithstanding.




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Filed under Childhood, Family, Food, People, THE PAST, Thrift

Nepal: How My Mom Saved My Trip Before It Began

And away is up. And away.

When up is away.

Stephen bid me farewell as I headed toward the gate at Toronto’s Pearson airport.  He was very supportive of my decision to buck work and responsibility for the beauty and grander of the Himalayas, but I detected a certain melancholy in his demeanor upon my departure.  He would miss me as I would miss him, but there was little we could do about that. So I did what I could at the time, which was text my friend, Dejan, to enlist his help in alleviating what I imagined was Stephen’s crippling emotional turmoil:

From Me to Dejan:

About to board the place.  One thought: can you take Stephen to Hooters or something to cheer him up? He’s a little down.  Also, tell him I was kidding about the Sherpas.  OR WAS I??? See y’all when I get back 🙂 03/15/11, 5:54PM.[1]

From Dejan to Me:

You’re rude.  But funny.  Have a good trip!!! 03/15/11, 5:55PM.[2]

To save a few dollars (actually a few hundred dollars), I booked a rather meandering and dawdling flight to Kathmandu.  It started with a 7 hour and 20 minute flight from Toronto to Brussels, plus a 2-hour layover.  Then it was a 7 hour 55 minute flight from Brussels to New Delhi, followed by a disorienting 9-hour layover at the ultra-chic New Delhi airport.  From there, it was a mere 1 hour and 35 minute flight to Shangri la itself, Kathmandu.

As I sat by Gate 171, legs thrust out confidently in front of me and hands folded jauntily at the belly, I began to muse about the adventure before me.  I thought about how fucking awesome I was, headed into the unknown, facing head-on the challenges that were sure to come my way, of the people I would meet and the places I would see and, of course, of all the amazing food I was sure to encounter…

MOMOS!  Those delicious steamed or lightly fried dumplings that come with a sweet n’ sour spicy red sauce perfect for dipping MOMOS. A traditional delicacy native to Tibet, Nepal, West Bengal and Other Places, I had had momos (WONDERFUL MOMOS!) during my last day in India – devoured them, actually, from a street-side cart where the vendor shook his head in bemusement at my insatiable gullet.  I gave him many rupees and he gave me many, many momos, and it was GLORIOUS.

But in Nepal…

…in Nepal, I had heard, there were momos of all shapes and sizes, of all robust plumpness and delightful bounce, all savory delicious in their own way.  More than that.  You could get them in the streets.  You could get them in the mountains. You could get them stuffed with yak cheese!


Yak cheese. How to explain? It's like if all the other cheeses got together and tried to be just a little bit better and fell just a little short of that, THAT would be yak cheese.

And I did.

As I daydreamed and fantasized and whetted my appetitive in grand anticipation of ADVENTURE, my immediate surroundings faded in and out of conscious thought.  One minute, I was expertly navigating my way across bamboo suspension bridges and prodding bravely on while others collapsed at my feet due to altitude sickness and weak characters.  Another moment, and my backpack was poking me sharply in the spine as I slumped in my chair.  I saw the awed faces of the folks back home as I regaled them with stories of momos (MOMOS!!!) and snow leopards and yaks, and irritably wrenched my eyes open to check the clock above the airport bathroom to see if the plane would be boarding soon.  Then I heard it.

My mother’s voice.

“Ngọc!  You sure you are at the right gate?  Are you SURE?  ALWAYS CHECK.  You need to check.  Check now…check now…NOW.”

It was more than mere coincidence.  My mom and I have travelled many Places together, and it is always at the airport – on arrival and departure – that we very nearly unravel as a mother-daugther pair.  It’s the planes.  My mom, she’s terrified that they will leave without her – she is convinced, in fact, they are trying to leave without her – and in her single-minded drive to beat the planes at their own game, she will abuse airport staff, cut lines and DESTROY fellow travellers should they by some poor, cruel twist of luck get the slightest bit in her way.

These are Things I know.

And yet, I still don’t know any better.  Because I always try to defuse my airport Mom-Bomb by yelling at her to “RELAX, CALM DOWN, NOOOO, PUT IT DOWN!!!, and this has always and will always end with me feeling ashamed and guilty and her basking in total validation at my eventual apology.

So as I waited for my plane I tried, REALLY TRIED, to ignore The Voice.  But it was an exercise in ultimate and utter futility.


“…always…                                     ….check…                                    …always…




                                                                   …always…                                     ….check…                                   









                                                            …check…                                                            ….now…





NOOO!  I AM at the right gate.  Of COURSE I’m at the right gate!  Gate 171.  I’m sure, o.k? 

“HOW sure?”

Very sure. 

“Are you?”

Sure as sure. 

“Are you??”

Y-yes.  Sure.

“ARE YOU???”

Well, fairly sure…

Endgame.  There was no point in arguing with the me that was my mom in me any more than it was trying, however heroically and massively, to ignore it.  I sighed, reached for the travel wallet that was hanging around my neck, and proceeded to (double) check my boarding pass.[3]

Jet Airways.  Check!

Flight 229.  Check!

7:25 PM.  Check!

Gate 179.  Check.

Oh.  Lord.

Below are my actual, real notes of my reaction, given to you in their entirety:

March 15th, 2011  


(see above!)  Jesus GOD!  Rookie mistake.  Made it just in time, thanks to frantic

running, Tilley hat bashing against my pack as I flew.  Lesson here: ALWAYS

check.  Only way to be sure.

Always. Check.

The me that was my mom in me did a victory dance that day.

Thanks, Mom.

Hours later, in Brussels, I parked myself at Gate B33 and waited with bated stupor for the plane, making sure to check and re-check the gate every two minutes during my two hours at the airport.  It was a Herculean task in concentration.  8:00AM in Brussels meant 5:00AM in Toronto.

In travel time, this meant that from my perspective it was daylight out instead of dark and there were people about instead of none, and there was a sense of purpose in the air instead of listlessness.  My body was confused, aching and thirsty, but my mind disregarded all physical discomfort in order to focus on this one mantra:

Gate B33…Gate B33…Gate B33…


[1] I wasn’t kidding.

[2] I am.

[3] Travel wallets are dorky and lame.  They are.  I admit that.  However, they are terrifically convenient in busy airports, especially when you’re trying to stow away wayward liquids and gels, untying and re-tying your shoes, getting patted down by someone who, frankly, should have tried harder in life, and when you’re required to keep both your boarding pass and passport at the ready while dragging along your carry-on.  So there.

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Filed under Travel