Sweet Sixteen

I love this Rock Glam Musical and, in particular, this song Midnight Radio.

Hedwig is an angry, selfish, cruel and fabulous almost-Diva, but ultimately a human who finally accepts that life throws, fleeting and unpredictable, both joy and pain.

While the story definitely uses gender as a fulcrum, the action, music and lyrics vibrate with the angst, anger, disguise, exploration, recognition, revelation and acceptance of identity or the meaning of one’s life.

I dedicate this to all the sweet sixteens of the world who will not get this until they are 30.  Happy Birthday Blue Eyes.

A European Traveling Adventure with my Teen Boys

I’ve done several trips with just one child sans husband and they were all memorable.  The first was with my son to Bermuda.  We were a walk from the beach with lots of restaurants and at age eight he was surprisingly not bored once.  The second was with my daughter also at age eight to B.C.  Another beach and more good food.  We were joined at the hip for tandem biking in Stanley Park, singing lustily on the drive from Nanimo and kayaking in Tofino.

For my son’s 16th birthday I invited his best friend, also turning 16, and we experienced the Netherlands, more specifically Amsterdam, and Paris and Biarritz, France.

Some people like to tour on buses or boats, some like to create their own schedule, some like to wing it – I like to find small personal operators and “experience” somewhere in between.  For the French part of this trip I hired Evelyne Dufau, a neighbour of mine from Toronto.  She owns and operates Expérience Authentique

After two consultations, Evelyne designed an experience to please both myself and the two boys in France by connecting unique accommodations, transportation, food, shopping, outdoor activities, French language and art. Here were some of the highlights from this memorable 2006 trip.

We took the train from Amsterdam to Paris and a taxi to The Marais section, one of Paris’ oldest and most visually stunning areas with it’s narrow cobblestone streets and gorgeous French men.  There we stayed at the Hotel de la Bretonnerie which is gently loved, well priced, quaint and wonderfully located.

The Marais reminds me of SoHo with lots of dining along narrow streets, very different than the wide avenues of central Paris.

The Marais reminds me of SoHo with lots of dining along narrow streets, very different than the wide avenues of central Paris.

Of course, immediately after I paid for dinner on our first night, the boys ditched me.  I reassured myself that with the hotel’s card in hand, a map, their rudimentary French and charming smiles, they could find their way back and they did.  The boys breathless arrival was accompanied by a story about their walking into a “sports” bar and finding it entirely male.  They weren’t sure why everyone was staring at them or why they were having such bad luck finding any teenage girls.  I had not bothered to mention that the area in which we stayed was the “gay/hip” area of Paris, but it appears that they found out.

While they had their own Paris adventure, I stumbled across a film festival within five blocks and enjoyed an evening of free short films on a balmy Paris night.   It was no matter that my French is pretty pathetic, the films were all subtitled.

Stumbled across this free event complete with deck chairs and emcee Charlotte Rampling

Stumbled across this free event complete with deck chairs and emcee Charlotte Rampling

Our visit to Paris was brief and beautiful, including my bribes to visit the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in exchange for surfing lessons later on in Biarritz.  Like the trip to Amsterdam, we mixed equal parts of Anne Frank House and Dine with Dutch with Coffee Shops, the Cannabis Collage and a graffiti walkabout.  It all worked to expand all our Cultural minds.

These Canadian boys were a fascinated and a little freaked out by the gendarmerie who were smiling broadly while carrying automatic weapons.

These Canadian boys were a fascinated and a little freaked out by the gendarmerie who were smiling broadly while carrying automatic weapons.

My triumph was seeing a brief look of awe with the sheer scale of this painting.

Triumph was seeing mouths agape and a brief look of awe with the sheer scale of this painting.

Instead of climbing the tower, we decided to sit and watch the tourists and mess with the gypsies who tried to mess with us.

Instead of climbing the tower, we decided to sit and watch the tourists and mess with the gypsies who tried to mess with us.

We had been advised about the swarming rampant at tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur [Sacred Heart Church].  It’s so easy to let fear itself be the thing that ruins your travel experiences.  I’ve done that to myself in the past and found the best antidote is be prepared and use humour whenever possible.  I discussed this with both boys and we managed to sidestep the bracelet-making circus at the Sacré Coeur, but under the Eiffel Tower my son was approached by a group of women who proceeded directly with their scam.  My son, ever the polite Canadian, decided instead to mischievously pretend he was psycho and began gibbering and laughing maniacally.  The women were shocked and unsure of what to do.  As they backed off, my son trailed them and I, with ice cream cone in hand, watched from a nearby bench with some concern.  At the point where I was sure the husbands or a Gendarme would appear – it was over.

Traveling with teens can be as challenging as living with them.  They are not yet adults and clearly too big to put in a time out.  2006 was before the day when every child had a cell phone and I was glad as it forced me to do things differently.

First I had to trust that they were able to make good decisions and second they had to agree to make them.  I worried, but the entire point was that I wanted them to have the experiences.  To see that there was a different world out there that they could navigate and to plant the seed about equal parts of curiosity and responsibility being the best part of being human.


The people in Biarritz reminded me of Canadians. It was cool and windy, but everyone was out in their bathing suits.

In Biarritz, Evelyne had booked us into another spectacular place overlooking the ocean, which included breakfast on the terrace, in Villa le Goeland.  We walked everywhere including to the beach where she had arranged surfing lessons for Colin and Mike.  While the boys surfed I managed to get in some shopping, mostly table and bed linens which my sisters and I are addicted to.

The staff and the surf kept the boys engaged physically and mentally and they dropped into bed contentedly having only grumbled once.  Apparently the gaggles of French teenage girls disappeared at night and the only people they ran into were the gendarmerie who teased them about Canadians lax laws concerning pot smoking.   What?

Evelyne’s specialty is South West France, particularly the Basque Regions that straddle France and Spain.  My sweet sixteen year old boys were excited about what I told them would be bar hopping, but they were in for a cultural surprise.  Our driver regaled us with stories of the Basque people and history [comparing it to Quebec] and we soon arrived to the beautiful City of San Sebastian.  We parked in the port section, cleverly not dominated by condos and whose medieval architecture was home to a large number of bars in close quarters serving beer, pintxos or pinchos and tapas.

Having ordered a selection of small plates of hot and cold food to share, the beer arrived and eyeing it my son whispered that they were ripping us off because the glass was just one third full.  Our guide laughed and said yes, but since we had four more bars to go there was no use filling up in one place.  Pace yourself he said, enjoy the food, the beer and the company.


I can't say enough about how adventurous the boys were about eating.

I can’t say enough about how adventurous the boys were about eating.

If you didn’t already guess, food is really important to me as a travel feature, heck as an everything feature.  On the last night  in Biarritz, however, the boys were ready for some comfort food and ordered fresh shrimp, “French” fries and Coca-Cola – I could not believe at last that the novelty of ordering wine or beer had worn off.  The night’s finale was a fisherman beside the roadside restaurant who swung his catch, a wiggling squid, around the crowd, the screaming girls, and the catch discharged to be someone’s calamari.  Welcome to France!

What the Heart Wants

The heart wants what the heart wants and I wanted you so badly.

In your face I saw my future unfold.

All things fall away when you are safe.

You are not a friend, nor a lover

two things that gravity pulls to me.

You are a teacher of life’s

joy and pain.

Never mine, always yours

as my mother taught me.

Time does pass and I will go.

Know that you are loved , son of my heart.

Teen Crushes and the Undiscovered Gyrl


Cover Art by Ellie Manos Source: Soundcloud

I met up with a friend last night for drinks and learned that her daughter is now producing films in, where else, L.A.  One of the things I am looking forward to upon the release of her film, Undiscovered Gyrl, is the original music on it from several young female musicians.  Maybe the writer-director, Allison Burnett, couldn’t afford to pay for the rights of songs from established bands, but in any case he held a contest.  This brilliant idea led to the introduction of new talent including Niki Black.  Her song, Until You’re Mine, struck me immediately of a time when as a 15 year old I suffered relentlessly from a crush on a boy who did not return my affections.

He was not the first crush I had, nor the last as I was a bit boy crazy.  Out of curiosity I looked up this same boy at age 21 and *shudder* after meeting him briefly was very happy that I had let that crush go.

Do you have a favourite crush song or movie?

The Beauty of Abandonment

Feelings of abandonment, and fear of abandonment, run deep for many people. Here’s one writer’s look at the beauty of …

Aware of Awareness


I spoke with my father today, for perhaps four and a half minutes. After a bit of courteous small talk that revolved around the weather and summer plans, he rushed to get off the phone.  I’m not sure why.  I didn’t ask.  Perhaps he had company, an appointment or something pressing on his mind.  He might have been in physical pain.  As a survivor of a traumatic accident, my father has multiple health challenges.  Walking is profoundly difficult. Even sitting isn’t easy for him.

I’m not sure what reason he had for getting off the phone so quickly, but I can’t say I was surprised.  Our last call – about six months ago – was similarly brief.  I felt so many things in those four and a half minutes. Concern about his health. Happiness at hearing the warm, deep tones of his southern drawl.  Guilt over waiting so long to call…

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My other Hat[s]

Is it weird to re-post yourself?  I’m going for it anyway and ask you to visit my essay blog for my business FeeFiFoFun Costumes


and my house construction blog Black Oaks, the Quiet House


I really have neglected them both, but the work continues even though the journal writing about it is rather spotty.

Hopefully between costuming, home building and short stories, you’ll find something either helpful, funny or interesting.

It’s still Cool … so let’s make Soup

I’ve seen some good ole Canadian guys and gals pushing the shorts and sandals, which is a bit silly since this is the coldest spring I’ve felt for a long time in Ontario.  Rather than trying to bait Mother Nature into warming up before she’s ready, I’m opting to make a nice spicy soup like Thai or Mexican to keep me warm.

Shop with Robin should change her blog’s name to either Shoes with Robin or Soup with Robin as  she’s a self professed addict of both.   Last week she turned me onto this Tortilla Soup recipe.

Mwuah Robin!

Dressing for your Age

My friends from yoga are all over 50.  Yesterday we talked about the rise of wearing people wearing costumes which, over the past 10 years, has been nothing short of meteorological.  The consensus of my friends is that costumes for kids under age 10 is very acceptable, but for young adults that it may be overwhelming and confusing.  Over age  25, the general feeling was that except for the odd party, it-is-not-so-much-accepted.  This got me thinking again about self-expression as we age.  You see those photo-editorials in fashion magazines about dressing in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  Should fashion get progressively drabber and boxier as age?  What constitutes “grown-up” behaviour in fashion and costuming?

The term Cosplay is short for costume play.   Like Halloween and other forms of theatrical performance, Cosplay is still the one place where people regardless of age, gender, economy, race, ability or sexual preference are judged for their enthusiasm, not their skill or the size of their weapon. 😛

There is, however, always the thought that one will be judged.  I was no exception to this as I prepared for FanExpo 2013.  I had decided to cosplay a character, Annie Leonhart, as known as the Female Titan in Attack on Titan.  Attack on Titan, it’s Japanese title Shingeki no Kyokyjin, is a manga series written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama.  It also had an April 2013 animated series release.


Annie in her human form from the Japanese manga, Attack on Titan


Annie Leonhart in Titan form.

Before I get into the Annie character and my cosplay, I want to say that cosplay is dominated by the 16-25 age group, both male and female.  However, there is much ballyhoo over young women cosplaying provocative characters from comics, manga, anime, film and television.  Before we get into the whole skanky slutty costume argument, here is a nice piece by Sushi Killer about the CONsent message.  ‘Nuf said.

My worry was still that no amount of padding or make-up would disguise the fact that I am over 50.  Would I be accepted?  Would other attendees think I should be acting/dressing my own age?

Luckily, my desire to cosplay was encouraged by my co-op students who still believe in the Live and Let Live message.  The view at FanExpo is like visiting an unfamiliar country with brightly coloured birds, exotic animals, rare butterflies and the occasional scary spider.  At this point, I was more anxious to see if the character would be recognized.  I had taken the liberty of cannibalizing a Morph Muscle suit by handpainting what I felt the character representation would be – more like fan art than meticulously recreating the character in the manga or in the anime.  On Saturday, as I walked the aisles of art art, t-shirts, new games, autograph sessions and panels I saw a lone Eren Yeager cosplayer in human form on Saturday, but he bit his hand so I ran away.  That’s an inside joke as when the human Eren bites his hand he transforms into a monster Titan like me.


Posing for a Fan at the Nerd Mafia vendor booth.

It was finally gratifying when the few groups of young adults wearing Training and Survey cosplay recognized and wanted a picture with me, their nemesis – even this funny one where the Survey Corp cosplayers are towering over the supposed Titan.

The Colossal Titan [also a small female like me] made a brief appearance on Sunday, however, I think I was the only Female Titan during the entire FanExpo.  This excited me because the series is gaining popularity and you can’t buy the cosplay costume online.  Meaning that my costume was unique and I had to make it all from scratch which other cosplayers really appreciate.

Those who did not recognize the Annie-Female Titan character still complimented on on the hand-painted costume which I had laboured over for two weeks.  The tiny plastic figurines I had created for Armin Arlert and the Spinning Man were also a big hit.  They created conversation and gave me an opportunity to learn how to pose.  I’m sure some cosplayers spend hours in front of a mirror finding poses that are in character and show off the costume.

As the hours went on, I felt more comfortable and started to relate more to the character.  I came home happy and exhausted to a very understanding husband, who made me supper and poured me a glass of wine as I excitedly related my experience.

As for my clients at Fee FiFoFun Costumes & FX4 Costume Concierge, my goal is to find characters that are interesting, enjoyable and can be pulled off confidently.

Please visit my facebook page and my web store !

This article has been adapted and originally August 2013 in my In Disguise blog on all things costuming.

The Ward – a Fictionalized True Story

It was 6:30 a.m. as I washed my face and heard a faint warble.  For the two weeks  leading to Halloween night my iphone had been beeping non-stop with requests from Spider-Man to Doctor Who.  In a Pavlovian response, I scanned the media for meaning.  One stood out.  No Caller ID arriving at 3:00 a.m.

I hate those calls, when all you can think is that somebody died.

The message was from my son.  He was incoherent.  Blubbering that he had fucked up.  I’d never heard him blubber before, but then he was calling from the psych ward at St. Joe’s Hospital.  I was thinking, hoping, maybe he’d finally hit rock bottom.   I know that sounds callous coming from a mother, but sometimes rock bottom can be the place from which your children can rise fully formed.

Driving my SmartCar with Lake Ontario’s bright sparkling water conflicting my day, I realized that I wasn’t panicked.  I could no longer remember, though, if that calm was part of my personality or whether I was like a triage nurse who’d seen it all.

There was a lot of comfort in the fact that my son had called and not the Hospital.  He was alive and I was grateful, but still I had that sour metallic taste in my mouth.  An emotional knee jerk reaction.  Not because he was in trouble, but because I’d been here before with another family member.

You might be thinking, oh maybe mental illness runs in her family, but neither of these ward members are genetically related to me.  After miscarriage and infertility, I’d hoped to give Darwin a good fight.  There was a time when my sisters and I laughed thinking my adoption of children would improve our family DNA, like replacing our flat Scottish bottoms with a real bouncy round derriere gene.

We stopped laughing so much after the deaths of our father, mother and sister.  Half of us were gone and there was no stopping the trajectory of  stomach Cancer in our family.   My goals had changed since the average lifespan in my family was now 57 years.   I just wanted to see my kids grown up and happy.

Emergency was quiet and orderly.  The occasional voice of a wailing child rose and fell with the opening of the pneumatic door into the Juvenile Room.   As I stood behind the yellow line I thought about getting a coffee, but did not want to miss my turn.  Finally with the mention of my son’s name the sliding glass doors opened from the waiting room into the treatment areas.  My reluctant feet knew their way past the thread bare curtained rooms where knees were stitched and bones were set to the heavy door separating the crazies from the almost crazy.

The door had a window.  I did not look in, but leaned against the wall, hand paused above the buzzer.  The last time I was here I made a choice to leave alone.  The memory of the small shocked face of my daughter getting smaller in that same window as I walked away, is difficult.   For seven years that face, that memory, had me chained to hopes and dreams shattered by alcohol and drugs and what comes with it.

What was I committing myself to by walking through this door again? I was alone physically and emotionally with the indecision of loving my son and potentially threatening my own well being.

I pressed the buzzer.  The staff and two beefy security barely glanced up.  Who would though, I’m the tiny WASP blonde grandma.  Not much of a threat.

The control room dominated this ward.  There were no privacy curtains only small locked treatment rooms, a bathroom and a bank of seats.  My 23 year old son was sitting on an orange chair fatigued to the pallor of a 40 year old Bay Street broker with too much credit and no self control.   I let him ramble through a bizarre tale of over-drinking with friends to the point of paranoia.  A mad run, through the neighbourhood he grew up in, from someone who was trying to “kill him”, ending up crouching inside the local convenience store.

He said he’d called out for help, but the store clerk had disappeared, increasing his paranoia that he was in danger.  The next thing he remembered was breaking through a plate glass window only to be faced with a squad of armed officers.   I’m thinking, what was he on to get that crazy and thank god the clerk hightailed it out to call the Police.

Toronto’s finest took him to the Hospital and not the Drunk Tank.  Miracle One.  After a series of tests, the Doctor let him call me, but he said he was terrified that I wouldn’t show.  His father thought we should leave him here to toughen him up.  I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted to do.

I sat back finally in the chair.  A small Asian woman walked the perimeter of the ward, I thought like a mouse retracing it’s steps, sure that they’ve missed an opening or a morsel of food.

I was sad.  Like my daughter, my son had narrowly escaped accidental death more than once.  What was the universal meaning in this?  I rubbed my face, thinking about what to say.

I wanted to understand what happened, so I queried like Agatha Christie.  Was someone angry at you?  How much did you drink?  Did you mix it with pot?  Who else was there?

I could see truths skirting around the edges of my son’s eyes, but impairment is subjective.  He could be mixing up days of drinking with fears rising like hallucinations.  One tiny piece of information could put the story together for me or break my heart.  I’m glad he doesn’t tell me everything.  Mothers shouldn’t know everything.

A young man with dark hair and dark eyes, who had been lying on a gurney, arm over his eyes, rises.   Boredom, curiosity, or maybe even hope drive him into the bathroom and then to sit beside us.  Shock still in a blue gown, listening to the murmurings of a Mother and son.  Where is his mother, I think.

A smell was now making it’s memory or rather demanding recognition from me.  Not like death, or illness or even hospital disinfectant which were all now in my 54 year old life’s repertoire.   I couldn’t put my finger on it, till I thought, it’s neither pleasant or unpleasant.  It’s just there, like something deciding.

The woman passed again, her competency and speed increasing as her hands stretched out, tracing the contours of the wall.  The kind of person who you would appreciate filling your 7:45 a.m. Timmy’s order.

Having made no progress with understanding my son’s story I went to the nurse’s desk.  I’m that typical Canadian.  Waiting politely to be acknowledged.  Sure that there is something more important than myself  that is keeping them.  The woman now stands beside me and says in no particular direction, “I’d like my toothbrush now.”

The nurse says, “The Doctor will be right with you. ”  I wonder how he knows that.  The phone didn’t ring.  Is it some magical telepathy developed by psych room staff only.  The woman’s voice says confidently,  “I’d like my toothbrush and a change of clothes.”  She is almost standing on my toes, like we could merge into one person to make us bigger, more impressive.  Almost an afterthought, she says, “I’m ready to go home now.”

As they negotiate her surrender, I retreat.  An orderly has offered a tray to my son and myself.  We both take one and I realize that I can’t, being celiac, eat anything on the tray.   My son’s tray of all beige food also stays untouched.  “Why do you take it if you don’t want it.”, I say knowing that we are both food snobs and it is my fault.

Dark Boy asks if he can have the food and says he and the woman are here voluntarily.   He is waiting for us to share the story.  My son is amiable and gentle as they chat.  With this incongruency, I have to stand and stretch.

A man, who looks like all the other staff except for a clipboard, crosses to us.  The Doctor.  After small talk about how my son got here he says,  like I should know, “So you see, he really shouldn’t be here at all.”  “He’s alright to go with you,” he continues as a question.

I am confused, but not really.  He’s asking if I have any concerns about my son’s mental health.  Anything that would necessitate a Doctor enacting the health act which states that my son could be kept if proven to be of danger to himself or others.

The forced practice of the staff to ignore unreasonable requests has the   woman now screaming at everyone and no one.  I shake my head, “No, he’s fine to come home.”  I am not lying, but with only the violent insanity of my daughter seven years ago to compare him to, he is fine.

I stand, but the Doctor has his hand on my arm.  “We found something”, he says.  I sit.

The woman flies by muttering, “I want my toothbrush.  I want to go.  I want …”, then the door to the bathroom slams and the screaming turns to wailing.  On the exact opposite side to the Juvenile ward where the toddler screams, the irony about the fragility of human beings is not lost on me.ColinDrMac

My son is now perfectly quiet, like a sharp intake of breath before you blow out a candle.  “We did an x-ray of his head and found a dark spot on his brain.”  I am thinking, why did they do an head x-ray of drunk boy-man?  Miracle Two.

“I think it’s a brain bleed, but I want to consult with St Michael’s.”,  he offers.  “Is this spot in his brain related to his strange behaviour?”,  I blurt.  I’m ashamed now, but for a nanosecond, part of me was desperate that my son isn’t an addict, spoiled or poorly raised.

I have too much fucking information, now thinking about my mother who survived skin cancer and a brain aneurysm only to die in her sleep from a heart attack at age 67.  Her best friend, Joan, was supposed to meet her for an early supper and she didn’t show.  Joan told us girls that she didn’t suffer.  That she was curled on her side in that way that she sleeps which is so familiar to me.  Was so familiar to us.

I didn’t wait for the Doctor to answer.  Instead, with my palm on my son’s back, I open that heavy steel door with the tempered glass and we walk out together.  Miracle Three.