My Best Mothers’ Day Gift Ever


My beautiful daughter came into the world, foot-first, on Mothers’ Day. She arrived two weeks early, as if to say, as she has so many times in the decades that have followed since then, “Come on Mom! Let’s just get on with it!” She has been my cheering section ever since. Never one to dawdle, she still approaches life with her best foot forward, and at break-neck speed. No matter what difficulty the task ahead encompasses.

I had no labour pains on the afternoon of her birth. Just a little snap as my water broke, minutes after a bountiful Mothers’ Day supper at my Mom and Dad’s. We left our two-year old son, Steven, in the care of my younger siblings and headed off to the hospital. I made my husband stop the car at our home, on the farm next door. There, I hastily removed my mascara, (I didn’t want post-labour racoon eyes; I was twenty-one and vain), and I grabbed my hospital bag.

Fifteen minutes later, I was standing alone and naked, in a small room in the maternity ward,in Strathroy Hospital, putting on the gown the nurse had just given me. Meanwhile, my husband Rolly was at the front desk, signing the admittance papers.

Suddenly I felt a strange sensation and glanced down in shock, to see a loop of the umbilical cord in full view! Shouting ensued…. Me, shouting for the nurse…. the nurse SHOUTING for a second nurse….that nurse, SHOUTING for someone else to “CALL THE DOCTOR!”

That was when a little foot made its appearance. The first nurse knelt on the floor and sprayed the cord, and the little protruding appendage, with antiseptic.The second nurse attempted to push the foot back up to where it belonged. Then the two of them hastily assisted me onto a bed, where I was told I was to attempt to stand on my head to avoid the baby pressing down on the cord.

After a few agonizingly frightening minutes, I was transferred to a gurney, which began rolling down the hallway. At this point I was unable to see anything but the white sheet under my forehead, in my imitation of a “Downward Dog” yoga pose a humbling position, but one obviously very conducive to prayer, as it was prayer that I was frantically engaged in at that particular moment. Meanwhile, Rolly was shocked at being handed a surgical consent form, on the very heels of the admittance form he had just signed.

And that was how I met the hospital’s surgeon. He came running up beside my breathless entourage and said, “I’m Doctor Hoffa. We are going to do a Caesarean Section.” I asked him then if everything would be alright. His answer was honest and brief. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

I woke an hour and a half later, in the middle of a booming thunderstorm, aware of my husband’s soft hair against my arm as he rested his head on the bedside. “We have a baby girl” he said quietly. “Is she alright?” I asked. “She’s perfect.” he answered.

Much like the circumstances of her birth, it seems that Carrie Ann doesn’t have any speed but fast when she begins a task. Sometimes, I have jokingly said that even before her arrival she just put her best foot forward and got on with things. Albeit, there were a few people who were determined to try to put that little foot back in that day.

As an adult, Carrie has also been the one to take the lead in most situations involving the two of us. When I started up a bakery in the village of Komoka, when she was still a teenager, she took a keen interest in perfecting her already notable culinary skills. She began training under the mentorship of some extremely skilled pastry chefs and instructors, while also working with me. Very soon, I passed the management reins over to her. She just knew how to say “Come on now, let’s just get on with it.” so much better than I ever could. After ten years of working together, and successfully bringing our bakery to a key milestone, we made a mutual decision to sell it and move on.

Carrie moved on up in the food services industry. At Western University, she trains and teaches others, and motivates them to do their very best. She is very successful in her profession, because she gets actively involved in the process of making good things happen, rather than just standing on the sidelines waiting for things to happen.

She is also very loved and treasured by all of her family and friends, for those very same reasons. In all areas of her life, she is always putting her best foot forward, and bringing people joy.

That is why, Carrie Ann, you were and always will be my very best Mothers’ Day Gift ever!

For My Mom, The Best of Them All



My Mother has just turned 87 years old, and in honour of that special occasion, I am posting this poem that I read at our family celebration, here on my blog. She is the best German, Hungarian, Schwabian, Austrian, American, Canadian you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. Yes, She’s all that! The verses describe the time both before and after she was born:

To Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the land of the USA,
Where the Ohio, the Allegheny, and Monongahela wend their way
Through a place once known as “Iron Town”, for the strength of the people there,
And the industry that drew them, they came with a hope and a prayer.
They came for the chance to “make it”, to pull their own weight and more;
In the year of our Lord, 1906, they knocked on America’s door.
The parents of a daughter (as yet, unborn) Gisella and Louis came,
With their feather ticks, and their pots and pans, and barely a cent to their name.*
Their’s was a people in need of a home, in a country filled with strife;
Like all Schwabians* living in Hungary, they hoped for a better life.
These German speaking Marath’s, were Austrians* in their hearts,
But the borders had changed, and fortunes had changed;
What they needed most was new starts.
New countries, it’s said, are built by those hewing wood and hauling water.
Louis hauled that water as blocks of ice, for the sake of his sons and daughters,
Who all were born, with the passing years, as he tried to put money away,
To return again to his shoe-making trade, before his hair turned grey.
Silver dollars could buy his freedom from ice blocks, and cart and horse,
But the best laid plans of mice and men oft come to naught, of course.
A thief broke in, one fateful night, and stole their nest-egg away.
The shoemaker, bent by the weight of his load, must wait for another day.
Then finally it came, that longed for time, when dollars exceeded their need;
So leather was bought, and shoe-making lasts, and in his hand was a deed.
When Gisella was forty-two years old and Louis was forty-five,
And ten other siblings were already born, the eleventh one did arrive!
Her oldest sister had children by then, who came right over to meet her
And hold their aunt, and kiss her, and whoop round the house, just to greet her!
Her parents called her Regina; in Latin her name means Queen.
She was Queen of their hearts from her very first cry, but most people called her Jean.
Which very soon became Jeannie, of course, to those who loved her best;
That was all that she would answer to; she chose to ignore the rest ―
Be it the priest on Holy Communion day, or the nuns at Catholic School,
So her parents enrolled her in public school, breaking a family rule.
All that whacking of pointers on their desks, and other nun-approved habits,
Had been too much for this sensitive child, friend of pink Easter chicks and rabbits.
So the doctor made her eat brewers’ yeast to clear up her itching skin,
(Which was most likely caused by the nervousness of helping do Easter chicks in,
When they had grown tall and gangly− like the one sister Mary had caught.)
She had tried to kill it with a very dull knife, which proved to be all for naught,
For it still had plenty of stamina to chase Jeannie round their yard,
Wings down, and severed head flapping, with total disregard!)
After fleeing from zombie chickens, she was under adrenaline’s spell;
She would spend her leisurely Saturdays, jumping over an open well!
She and her girlfriend would bet one another, about who could make “The Leap”.
If nobody fell in the well, to their death, their allowance they got to keep.
Jeannie also rode tandem down “Suicide Hill”, ’til her cousin knocked out her teeth,
And stole ribbons from the graveyard next door, from every funeral wreath!
The gold-foiled “Daughter” plaque over her bed, sure gave her mother a start!
But the one thing that Jeannie never did, she never broke a heart,
Unless there was a secret admirer on that day that Jeannie left
For a brand new home in Canada, where she arrived, completely bereft,
On the day of her sixteenth birthday, at a house near the township dump,
Where the horse was huge, the cow was crazy, and the rats were well-fed and plump.
The winter they spent there they nearly froze, as the house had no insulation.
They had no car, so she rode her bike to the store by the reservation.
When spring arrived they got to move, when the farm-buying terms were complete.
Then Jeannie started going out a bit, with neighbour friends she would meet.
One special night, at a town hall dance, she met a man named Bill.
The stars shone bright on that fateful night; and their very first kiss was a thrill!
Soon wedding bells were ringing, as he took her for his bride,
And she lived happily ever after, with William Peter at her side.
They had a lot of children; she was such a wonderful mother,
That as soon as the crib was empty they filled it with another.
(Well, sometimes not exactly the crib, sometimes the bassinet!)
Marsha, at not quite one years old, needed her’s longer yet,
So they got themselves a second crib, and later two little beds,
For Vonnie’s, little Keithie’s, and baby Jeannie’s sleepy heads.
And soon enough, they bought bigger beds, as the bigger kids grew and grew,
Then there was one for Kathy, one for Janice, and for Jimmy and Donny too.
Well, sometimes kids got to share a bed, (whatever the room size allowed.)
And they all grew up on a farm so neat that it made every one of them proud.
Mom and Dad worked hard to give us all that any family needed.
They both tried hard to teach us right, and Mom, I’d say you succeeded.
We have not leapt over open wells, or caused any missing teeth;
Nor ignored any nuns at any time, or ripped ribbons from funeral wreaths.
We have tried to make you proud of us, and followed your example,
Except for us having lots of kids. (One or two seemed more than ample.)
But we’re glad that you thought differently, and that you took a gamble.
We’re glad that we’re all here because you and Dad chose to take a leap,
And your parents did too, or they wouldn’t have had you,
And moved near that garbage heap,
Where no one else great would have taken you out, for fear of lurking vermin.
And then you met Dad who would love you so much, Hungarian, Austrian, or German,
Or Schwabian, or American. Well, who could ever determine?
In the end, only one thing matters; this one thing I know is true.
You are a part of the people we loved. And we are a part of you.


*The Schwabians are the German people who settled in Hungary, at the urging of the Habsburgh monarchy of Austria, during the eighteenth century, after it was wrested from Turkish occupation.  Although these peasant settlers were from places such as Baden, Bavaria, Alsace, Lorraine, and Schwabia, eventually all of them were being referred to as Schwabians. There were two million of  them in Hungary by 1900, a few years before Louis and Gisella emigrated to the USA. in 1906, seeking, as did many of their countrymen, a place of greater opportunity.

*Louis Marath identified himself as Austrian on his draft registration for the U.S. Army in 1917.

*Our grandmother, Gisella, was a member of a poor peasant family in the early 1900’s. She worked in service as part of the kitchen staff at Apponyi Castle in Lengyel, Hungary, which belonged to  Count Apponyi of the Hungarian royal family. The roof of the castle was destroyed by fire in 1905. This likely led to her loss of employment and subsequent emigration in 1906. The castle roof was  later reconstructed, and the site is a tourist attraction today.

Back Seat Sex Education

Back Seat Sex Education

I`m busy selecting and editing pieces from my blog to put into a project I`m working on. I thought I`d share this piece again from three years ago. Hope it makes you smile.

Yvonnes Musings

I got my earliest sex education out in the middle of a field of daisies, in the back seat of a car, on a hot August afternoon. It was definitely the true and honest facts about what would happen to me if I were to do certain unmentionable things. Things that must be so bad that they could not even be mentioned in the book. The slim worn hard cover book that we were all wrestling for and groping over, as the perspiration trickled down our overheated faces and into our eyes. Eyes wide open in a stunned silence at the graphic explicitness! The total horror of it all… Child birth!

If the pictures in the manual on how to deliver a baby had been in colour and not black and white, all four of us girls, Christine, Patsy, Marsha and I, would surely have upchucked. We would have tossed…

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The Salvagers


Yvonnes Musings

imagesMy father, a major restorer of order and tidiness to all things within his reach, had done an amazing thing for a man with his character traits. He had taken something built by someone else’s hands and torn it down. One day it stood as a testament to the hard work of the many hands that had made it, and the next day it was a scattered heap, lying across the ground.

The enormous elevated barrel— the water tower next to the CNR tracks, in nearby Strathroy, was where steam locomotives had filled their tanks with water for generations. It was no longer necessary when diesel engines took over. The tower was up for grabs, and our dad’s bid won. After careful planning and consultation with his Uncle Fred, a lifelong railroad man with many skills himself, the measurements were all worked out, and the distance of the fall was calculated…

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The Girls In Yellow Dresses


For Janice and Kathy, who enjoyed yesterday’s reposting of my experience at the wedding they were flower girls at many years ago, here’s another one for you.

Yvonnes Musings

Janice and Kathy (on right) Janice and Kathy (on right)

There is nothing better than having baby sisters. I was blessed with three of them, Jeannie,  Kathy, and Janice. I also have another treasured sister, Marsha, who is almost a year older than me as well as three younger brothers, Keith, Jim, and Don.

I wanted to write a little here about a sweet memory of my two  youngest sisters,Kathy and Janice, after I found this picture of them in their matching yellow flower girl dresses. These were the little girls who were born after I’d finally grown up enough to be able to help with baby care, which happens very young in large families.

Disposable diapers weren’t commonly used in the  50’s or early 60’s,  so changing diapers involved using those very large diaper pins which could really inflict a painful injury if not handled deftly. Our Mom was of the two-pin school of…

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If The Shoe Fits It’s Not Likely Yours!


I hope you enjoy this story I’ve decided to repost.

Yvonnes Musings

English: A pair of high-heeled shoes.

I will never forget the thrilling feeling of wearing my first high heeled shoes. It was 1963 and my sister Marsha and I had been pushing Mom and Dad for several months to allow us to wear nylon stockings for the very first time, knowing, of course, that ladies only ever wore stockings with fairly exciting shoes. As far as we were concerned shoes with rhinestones on the straps, shoes with bows, shoes that were any colour but brown or black were exciting.

We were both sick to death (it doesn’t take much to make a 13 year old or 14 year old sick to death. Apparently we could “just die” for any number of reasons—boredom, embarrassment, or starvation when dinner was a half hour late.)We were sick to death of the ugly brown utilitarian ones we normally had to wear, the kind with laces, or the kind with old…

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