Friday, August 31, 2007

On the doorstep

As I watched Maddie play in the water on the slide the other day, I came to an odd and rather uncomfortable realization. I have spent the past 5 years preparing for her funeral.

I watch her play and more often than I care to admit, a fleeting thought passes through my mind. “How will we describe her at her funeral? We’ll talk about how delighted she was to splash in puddles. We’ll recount some funny stories about her. We’ll say she was a ray of sunshine after the dark. We may even play some of her self-produced videos.”

It’s not that I spend a lot of time worrying about her imminent death. She’s a healthy, robust child who barely ever got sick until this past year at daycare when she was exposed to all the pesky bugs that love to breed in a room full of small children. Yes she has a heart murmur, but the doctors tell us it is very, very slight and nothing to be concerned about.

So then why am I preparing for her funeral? I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Nikki and Julie’s funerals, why Maddie?

The thing is, when you bury one child, death perches on your doorstep and you can never again live in a fantasy world that “it couldn’t happen here”. After we lost our son Matthew, we had a miscarriage. Throughout my pregnancy with Maddie, I waited for the day when the pregnancy would end. It seemed inevitable somehow.

When Maddie was born a healthy beautiful child, I thought “well, I’ll enjoy the time I have with her because it won’t last.” When the doctor discovered a heart murmur, I thought “no big surprise. I knew it wouldn’t last”. When they told us the heart murmur was so slight it was of essentially no concern, I thought “okay, then it will be something else that will take her.” I never said these things out loud, but somewhere in a hidden corner of my mind, I believed them.

I know it’s crazy and irrational, but it’s what the mind does sometimes. I don’t obsess about it, and it hasn’t made me into one of those overly-protective can’t-let-the-child-out of-my-sight parents, but it sticks with me and pops up now and then when I watch her.

I think it is the memory of Mrs. B. standing at her son’s grave that has brought this all back to me now. I wish I could banish death from my doorstep and go back to the fantasy that it could never happen here

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Too soon

Eleven months ago, we said good-bye to Brad. 40 years old. Motorcycle accident. Too young to die. Today they will bury his mother. 62 years old. Heart attack. Too young to die.

Are you ever old enough to die?

Are you ever ready to say good-bye to someone who shares your life?

The last time I saw Mrs. B. she nearly crumpled to the ground at her son's grave. Overcome with grief. Now the only remaining family members - her husband, her only remaining son, and her four grandchildren - will stand by her grave and try to fathom life without her just like she tried to fathom life without her Brad.

There are hardly words to express the depth their grief must be.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My people

I spent the weekend with some lovely mer-people, and other members of my family. It was the kind of weekend that serves to remind a person how rich it can make you feel to have good people in your corner. Tonight, my corner feels full. And I am content.
You can see a bunch more pictures here.

(We missed you, B&S&A&B.)

Speaking of people in my corner, thank you SO much to all those people who replied to my last post. I feel affirmed and delighted. I am excited about this idea and I'm glad you are too. If you haven't had a chance to respond yet, please do. I'll need just a few more people on the list to make this viable. I'll keep you posted on the details as they unfold.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Creativity + Women + Retreat = My Dream

A few years ago, I facilitated an eight week creativity workshop which was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. For eight wonderful weeks, a group of about 8-10 women came together to get inspired, share the fruits of their labour, encourage each other, find a safe space to create, try new and daring things, get their hands dirty, and discover that they were more gifted than they’d ever thought they were. For most of us (myself included), it felt like an awakening - an un-shackling. It wasn’t about painting the most amazing, critically acclaimed work of art, or writing that great novel that would launch you into stardom, it was more about giving yourself permission to pick up a paint brush or pen or camera or guitar or whatever your tool of choice may be, close the door on the laundry room, and just create to your heart’s content. It was about acknowledging that creativity is as high a calling as any and there is value in the process even without any astounding results. It was about discovering that, despite what our highly productive society too often preaches, creating art just for the sake of enjoying it is NOT a waste of time.

Last week, while I was blog-surfing, I came across a reference to a “creativity retreat”. Something stirred inside of me. It was that old longing again. A longing to go back to that place where women were safe enough to admit their fears of failure and yet encouraged to find the boldness to try anyway. A longing to once again serve as a midwife to other women’s art-babies. A longing to see the tears well up in someone’s eyes when they gave themselves permission to create. A longing to listen to the whispering of the muse and to help other people hear it too. A longing to see the bold yet terrified looks on their faces as they laid the fruits of the labour before the rest of the group.

I have waited nearly five years for the chance to do it again. I’m done with waiting. It’s time to go back to that place. Who wants to come with me?

Here’s what I want to do. I want to set aside an extended weekend (perhaps 3-4 days) where a group of women can escape to a quiet place to be inspired, to cheer each other on, to make art, to tell stories, to sit in silence, to let the tears flow, to laugh with delight, to birth and share their art-babies, to have a-ha moments, to forget about unfinished laundry, to think bold thoughts, and to just be safe for awhile.

I expect that the time-frame for this will be some time in November. Yeah, I know it’s not the BEST time to be at a retreat centre in Manitoba, but hopefully I’ll find somewhere with a cozy fireplace.

I haven’t worked out the details yet, but I thought I would first “cast my bread upon the water” and see if I can find enough interested women to make this worth the effort. Who’s willing to give it a shot? Anyone is welcome (well, any WOMEN anyway – sorry guys), as long as you can get yourself to the Winnipeg vicinity for a few days. You don’t have to be an accomplished artist, you just have to be willing to open that tiny door to the creative space in your brain.

I’m not sure of the cost yet, but I’ll work that out as I put the plans into place. (It’s not a money-making venture, so the costs won’t be astronomical.)

For now, just let me know if you’re interested. No, I’m not promising you’ll be imparted with great wisdom from a creativity guru or accomplished artist, but I can promise you that, if you are willing to share of yourself and open yourself up to new ideas, you will be inspired. I may not be the most qualified “teacher”, but I do believe I have some gifts in “facilitating” creativity and learning. Most of your learning will not come from me but from the other amazing women who choose to offer something of themselves.

Who’s with me? Reply in the comments or send me an email.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No previous experience required

As I was cleaning out my junk mail folder, I found myself wondering about the people who write these emails. Were they hired for the express purpose of writing and sending spam to millions of emails around the world? Or do they contract themselves out? Do they have business cards? If so, what's their tag line? "The best spam writers money can buy"? or "We annoy people for a living." or "Wanna lose your credibility? We'll show you how."

Can you imagine the job interview questions? Picture some young college graduate with big dreams and an advertising diploma tucked into his back pocket, walking into one of those obscure job interviews held in an undisclosed location with company X.

"Thank you for coming. Can you close the door behind you? You didn't tell anyone you were here, did you? Good, good, then let's get started. How are your writing skills?"

"Very good. Would you like to see a sample of my work?

"Nah, that's okay, we'll take your word for it. We're not talking about anything too complicated here. Have you written ad copy before?"

"Yes, I took a course in it and I got an A, so I'm sure I'm well suited to whatever you have in mind."

"Are you one of those anal retentive people who has to spell everything right, or are you okay with a few intentionally misspelled words?"

"Well, I suppose I could live it it, for the right purpose."

"Good, good. Do you have any qualms about annoying people for a living? I mean... you're in advertising after all..."

"Umm... well... can you explain yourself? Annoying people?"

"Let's move one, shall we? Do you have any experience with, um, pe*nis enlargement?"

"Excuse me? My mom told me you weren't allowed to ask me any personal questions."

"Oh, that's only if it doesn't have anything to do with the task at hand. Do you?"

"Well, not any PERSONAL experience."

"But you think you could write creative ad copy about them?"

"Well, I suppose..."

"Very well then. Would you be willing to share any na*ked pictures of yourself? Or at least a reasonable facsimile of your pe*nis?"


"Oops, I'm sorry - my H.R. advisor said I wasn't supposed to ask that until you've been offered the job. Forget I said that. How's your email address book? Do you have at least a hundred friends whose emails you'd be willing to share?"

"Ummm... I don't know..."

"Don't worry, it will all be anonymous - they'll never know you're involved. One last question - do you have any hobbies? Like perhaps fishing? Sorry... make that phishing?"

"I'm confused... just WHAT was this job for anyway?"

"We'll get to that. Okay, one last thing - how desperate are you to make money? Got any bad debt hanging over your head? Maybe a collection agency that wants you dead?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Yesterday afternoon, while I was trying to do some paperwork, Maddie REALLY wanted my attention. "Mom, can you help me build a fort? Mom can you play a game with me? Mom can you watch a movie with me?"

Getting rather impatient (because I hate paperwork and really wanted to get it over with without further interruptions), I said "Maddie, I just don't have time right now. You're going to have to find something to do that doesn't involve interrupting me."

A few moments later came her reply. "Mom, I've found something to do that doesn't involve interrupting you. It's being MAD at you."

Monday, August 20, 2007


- I think the fruit flies are almost vanquished. Almost. One taunted me as I came up the basement stairs this morning, and a few more met their fate in the vacuum cleaner just before my bath.

- I have to go back to work tomorrow. Holiday's over. Sigh.

- Yesterday, Julie and I collided on our bikes on the way to church. Neither of us was seriously injured, but she took the brunt of it. It wasn't a very pleasant moment, looking down at my girl lying on the pavement clutching her head and crying "oh - my head! my head!" Especially since the collision could have been avoided if I'd been paying more attention. Later she told me she'd thought she was going to go to sleep at that moment because the pain in her head was so bad. She seems to be fully recovered today though, other than a little stiffness.

- Today is school supply shopping day. Gulp. Does that mean summer is almost over?

- I still enjoy school supply shopping even if the shiny new pencils and markers are not for me.

- This year, Maddie joins the fun. Kindergarten! Somewhere along the line, I must have blinked, because suddenly I have three children in school.

- Because it was the last night I could stay up late and sleep in the next morning, I went to a late show last night. "Becoming Jane". LOVED IT!

- My sister's new house is perfectly lovely. I covet her big open kitchen and patio doors to the deck. Perhaps someday, if our remodeling dreams come true, we'll have our own.

- After our trip and the resulting build-up of dirt and crumbled snacks and unidentifiable substances in the back seat of the car, we thought we'd treat ourselves to a full-service car wash. It felt like such a luxury in these cash-strapped days. While we sat in the comfortable waiting room, I fantasized about a similar service for houses. How could I pull my house up to the building and have it emerge at the other end clean and sparkly? My fantasy was dashed however when I saw what a lousy job they'd done of the car. We had to get them to re-wipe the dashboard because it was still dusty, and re-scrub the bugs on the front end. And then on the way home, we realized they hadn't even gotten a rag anywhere near the disgustingly grungy cup holders or door handles. And the trunk? Didn't even bother to look at the crud on the carpet. How disappointing!

- Why is it that I only seem to be able to write rambling lists of random stuff these days? It must have something to do with summer distracting me.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I am woman, hear me VACUUM!

I have declared war on the fruit flies. I am a one-woman army with a vendetta. Just picture a female Rambo, but with a vacuum hose and a bottle of balsamic vinegar as my weapons. I will NOT be beaten!

Alas, the flies, they are a-multiplyin'. They are taunting me with their beady little eyes. I swear I can hear them laughing at me in their evil glee. They have taken over every room in my house. There is absolutely NO FRUIT anywhere in my house (other than sealed in the fridge), and yet they have found some place to breed and lay their eggs. And multiply, multiply, MULTIPLY!

Last night, after catching at least a hundred in my traps in various rooms of the house (yes, I made 4 traps and Marcel made one - one of them is sitting on the desk near me, but the flies are simply circling around it and laughing at me. I can hear them!), it was time to pull out the full arsenal and DECLARE WAR.

I searched every website I could find, read every comment on every bulletin board that talked about getting rid of them, and did EVERY SINGLE BLASTED THING anyone suggested.

- Balsamic/cider vinegar traps in cups with paper funnels taped to the top to keep them trapped? Check. (And then, when you've got thirty or so trapped, add a little baking soda to watch them FRY! Hey - I didn't say I was humane!)
- Pour bleach down every drain in the house in case they've been breeding in the gunk that collects in the drains? Check. (No, I didn't pour a whole bottle like some sites suggested - I'm a little more environmentally friendly than THAT!)
- Take out all of the garbage in the house, seal up all food sources, wipe every kitchen surface clean? Check.
- Look behind dressers, in pantry shelves, in lunch bags abandoned since the last day of school for abandoned fruit or vegetables? Check.
- Put a piece of fruit in the oven, leave the oven door open overnight, and then sneak into the room quietly in the morning, close the oven door and roast those suckers? Check. Nyah-ha-ha!
- Vacuum up every single pesky bug you can find? Check. With twisted and rather pathetic delight. Again and again. (Note: If you're doing this late at night and your bleary-eyed daughter walks into the bathroom to find you looking like a mad woman and waving a vacuum cleaner hose in the air, you may get some funny looks.)
- Clean out the gunk that sometimes collects in the bottom of the toothbrush cup in case they're breeding in there? Check.

And yet... and YET - the battle continues. They are not vanquished. As I type this, two of them just flew past my computer screen (and I'm in the corner of the basement furthest from the kitchen and any source of food for them). The AUDACITY!

These flies WILL NOT BE THE DEATH OF ME! I WILL win! I WILL! (Whimper.)

(Incidentally, my friend Whippersnapper is fighting the same battle at her house. Together, we are Rambo and the Terminator! Don't mess with two angry chicks with vacuums and vinegar!)

(No, I am NOT petty enough to bring one of my traps over to Whip's house, drop a rotting apple behind her dresser, and open the trap. It wasn't my fault! She had them before she came over to visit, and I haven't been there for months.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Random, with pictures

- We have an infestation of fruit flies. Yuck. They were already here before our trip, but they multiplied while we were gone - even though we didn't leave any fruit around for them to feast on. They're in every room of the house. Just now I washed my hands in the bathroom, and there must have been thirty of them on the mirror - perhaps attracted to the windex Marcel just used to clean it. I figured out how to trap them, and I'm sure I've trapped about 100, but there are at least that many more still in the house. I may have to look for more aggressive measures.

- Do you want to see an ugly case of poison ivy? No? Well avert your eyes then, 'cause I'm showing you anyway (and this is just his legs - it has spread to his arms and back too)...
- As part of our housewarming gift for ccap and her boy and Abby, we bought them each a special plate. Guess who gets each one...
- And here's a picture of the happy homeowners... (here's hoping ccap doesn't hate me for posting a pic before she gets around to it, but I thought perhaps her downloading cord was already packed.)
- My friend Whippersnapper just stopped by for a little visit. She's one of those rare friends that, after nearly 10 years of not seeing each other, we can just pick up where we left off and still laugh just as hard and be just as relaxed with as we ever were.

- My holidays are almost over. Bummer. They sure have been good though. And thankfully, I have a job that I never hate to go back to.

- Yes, I know I've still got plenty of hormonal years to deal with, but I'm quite enjoying my preteen girls right now. During the camping trip, I kept marveling at how much easier it was to set up and take down our campsite, because they were both willing contributors in the work. And this morning was cleaning day, and my basement is VERY clean and I didn't have to lift a finger (or even nag). They've moved past that stage where you usually have to do a spot check and clean up after them.

- Speaking of cooperative kids, I think some of it has to do with the lack of TV-watching this summer (we extended TV-free month to two months). Every time we give up TV for awhile, I find I like my kids more. They seem more settled and less irritable. Plus they do more creative things. Sometimes I think we should give it up permanently.

- Tonight's an exception to TV-free month. My two preteens have waited all summer for High School Musical 2. I would be the worst ogre to walk the face of the earth if I denied them that.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And now, in pictures...

In between loads of laundry and cleaning the spilled dishwashing liquid out of the camping box, I managed to upload my vacation pictures. You can find them all here.

A sampling...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


We're home again! Didn't know we were away? Oops. I forgot to mention it. On our anniversary last week, after a lovely breakfast out, we set off on a week-long vacation. And now we're back.

Before I expound on the vacation, I'd like to share a quote with you from the book I've been reading, "The Paradox of Choice - Why More is Less" that says alot about the quality of our vacation. It's hard to find the perfect quote that puts it into context, but this is a good start...

"As our material and social circumstances improve, our standards of comparison go up. As we have contact with items of high quality, we begin to suffer from 'the curse of discernment.' The lower quality items that used to be perfectly acceptable are no longer good enough. The hedonic zero point keeps rising, and expectations and aspirations rise with it."

In case you're afraid I'm going to say how bad our vacation was because our expectations were too high, no, it would be quite the opposite. I'm just using that as an intro. to explain how a week-long vacation that involved 6 nights in a tent and only one in a hotel, most meals over a cookstove or barbecue in a campsite and only a few in restaurants, and many degrees of "on-the-cheap" could be one of the most incredible weeks I've had in a long time.

You see, five years ago, we gave up a lot of things so that Marcel could go to University. Vacations was one of them. When you haven't had much chance to go away with your family, almost ANY kind of vacation feels downright luxurious. I can't imagine we could have had much more fun if we'd been in an expensive resort somewhere.

We spent a week south of the border in Minnesota, the state that borders our province. If you've never camped there, I'd highly recommend it. It was perfectly lovely! In fact, we'd originally planned to cross over into Wisconsin and Michigan, but we were having so much fun where we were that we didn't bother.

Here are some of the highlights of the trip: (Sorry - it might be a bit long, but it's serving as my trip journal)
- The absolutely picture-perfect campsite we stumbled upon when we took the wrong road near Bemidji (and spent most of the evening dealing with a flat tire on the utility trailer we'd brought for bikes and camping gear, but that's another story). This campsite felt like a little piece of heaven, with a lovely little private beach (dotted with tiny intricate white snail shells that we couldn't resist collecting and bringing home) about 20 feet from where we pitched the tent. It was rustic (outhouses and a manual water pump) but it was so beautiful we stayed for 2 nights.
- The amazing bike trails near all three of the campgrounds we stayed at (even though we didn't end up using the third one because we had so many other fun things to do). I was SO glad we'd bothered to take the bikes. I had no idea Minnesota had spent a fortune on miles and miles of beautiful PAVED bike trails through pristine forests, beside peaceful lakes, over hills, through prairies - you name it. A cyclist's dream. We stuck to the easy trails, but there were lots of more challenging ones too.
- Campfires. Almost every night. And s'mores. Yum.
- The whole family shampooing their hair together in the lake in our little private beach. The giggles that accompanied the moment.
- Bike rides. Oh, the lovely bike rides. A long one with Julie (she was so thrilled to put on 21 kilometres in one day), another one with Nikki and Julie, one with the whole family, and one all by myself up a very gentle incline until I was high in the hills with the most spectacular view of Duluth and its picturesque bridges. Talk about a perfect moment! Stopping to eat chokecherries and watching a deer bound off into the bush made it so far beyond good I almost felt like stopping to write a poem.
- A ride on a miniature train with Maddie in Bemidji.
- Good people everywhere. It was the kind of trip that helps remind a person that people are predominately good at heart, generous, and helpful. There was Jeanette at Cass Lake who drove me 30 miles into Bemidji and back when we were stranded with a flat tire on the trailer (plus a flat spare), and then phoned ahead to the campsite to make sure they had a spot for us; there were Emma, Chloe, and Summer - the new friends the girls made in the campground near Duluth; and there was Curtis and his children Heidi and Timothy, who spent an evening with us in the Lebanon Hills near Minneapolis - first at the beach and then around the fire at his campsite after the kids were in bed. And then there were all the other people whose names we didn't catch - the woman who lent us cooking oil for our pancakes, the woman who gave me change to finish my laundry and her husband who helped Marcel the second time we had a flat tire, the woman in the washroom who gave us recommendations for campgrounds, and the friendly proprietors at all three campsites - especially the one who found a spot for us even though the campsite was technically full.
- Wandering along the boardwalk on the shore of Lake Superior at dusk in downtown Duluth. Beautiful. That's all I can think of to say.
- Chatting with the family on lazy mornings in the tent.
- Riding the trolley car through downtown Duluth.
- Coming up with fun pictures to take of Joe Banana in various locations (more on that later).
- Watching the massive ships go in and out of the harbour at Duluth, while the sounds of the waterfront blues festival (ccap - another festival for us to visit some day!) wafted across the water.
- Visiting the aquarium in Duluth.
- Seeing the looks of excitement on the girls' faces when I let them pick the absolutely least nutritious breakfast cereal. Did you know they made chocolate chip cookie cereal? Funny thing was that after the initial excitement wore off, they didn't actually like it and when we left the last campsite, half of it got tossed in the dumpster.
- Getting lucky with three really great campsites. The first one (Cass Lake) held tonnes of rustic charm. The second one (Indian Point, near Duluth) was a little more crowded with not as much charm, but it was close to Duluth, our site was near the play structure and the laundry room, and it was close to the Munger Trail that led me up into the hills on my bike. The third one (Lebanon Hills in Apple Valley near Minneapolis), had beautiful secluded sites (we seemed to luck out and get the best one), we were right close to the most beautiful washroom and shower I have ever seen in a campground, and it was close to a beach, Valleyfair, and Mall of America.
- A day spent at Valleyfair. Again, because our kids have not grown up with expensive vacations every year, they are absolutely THRILLED with a one day visit to an amusement park. And I had no idea Valleyfair was so impressive. I happen to love rollercoasters, and there were so many of them we didn't even manage to ride them all. And did you know that you go SIXTY-EIGHT miles per hour on the steel venom?! I'm glad my two oldest daughters love rollercoasters as much as I do!
- Seeing the African acrobats at Valleyfair. Just like the ones I saw in Kenya.
- Good moods. The girls were all such good sports on this trip, even when there were less than ideal moments. I thought for sure they'd panic or get cranky when they had to stay with daddy on a secluded dirt road with the flat tire as the sun was setting (and after Jeanette had mentioned the possibility of bears), but they handled it remarkably well. And the one and only time rain briefly hampered our activities (just as we were getting ready to eat supper) we all hunkered down in the tent for an hour or so and actually had alot of fun laughing and talking.
- The final night in a hotel, especially when we lucked out and got a poolside room for an unexpected discount (that the clerk gave us just because she felt like it) right across the street from Mall of America. We even got into the room several hours before check-in.
- Watching the lightning and rainstorm through the windows while floating in the hotel pool, and knowing that we didn't have to sleep in a tent that night.
- Wandering around Mall of America with the girls, buying Lego with Maddie, candy with Julie, and clothes with Nikki (and that pretty much sums up each of their shopping priorities). Plus shopping at Ikea with Nikki.
- The absolutely incredible weather we had all week. Only two short rainfalls, and neither of them drastically impacted our plans, nor did we ever have to pack up wet camping gear. We had perfectly sunny days on all the days we wanted to do outdoor things, and comfortable nights for sleeping in a tent. Sometimes - like when the temperature dropped from the mid nineties when we first arrived near Minneapolis to a pleasant 83 degrees when we spent the day at Valleyfair and then back to the mid nineties when we were at MOA and the hotel the next day - it felt like the weather was custom made for us.
- A remarkably bug free week. The only exception was the afternoon on our private beach at Cass Lake when there were some pesky biting flies. But we fended them off by staying submerged in the water or biking faster than they flew.

There were only two downers on the trip - the trouble with the trailer tire, and the severe case of poison ivy (or something else that causes a really bad rash) Marcel picked up along the way. He's at emergency right now trying to get some relief from the itching. He was a good sport about it though, and didn't let his discomfort dampen the fun we were having.

Unfortunately, with the end of a vacation comes unpacking and laundry and clean-up. That's what I'll be doing tomorrow - at least up until the time that I get to go see my SISTER'S NEW HOUSE! Yay!

Hopefully soon I'll get a chance to catch up on your blogs. And maybe tomorrow I'll get some pictures posted.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Fourteen years and counting

You want to see what Marcel and I looked like, fourteen years ago when we said "I do"? We looked like most newlyweds look - young and hopeful. Little did we know what kind of sometimes wild, sometimes rocky, sometimes ecstatic, sometimes painful, sometimes boring, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes agonizing ride we'd have in the upcoming years. Little did we know that we'd conceive 5 children and get to raise only three of them. Little did we know that we'd say good-bye to some really special people in our lives. Little did we know that we'd get through unbelievable trauma when Marcel's life almost ended. Little did we know that he'd have to watch me slip into a strange and eery psychosis while pregnant with the son we'd lose. Little did we know how lucky we'd be to still love each other and still find lots of things to talk about fourteen years later.If I look slightly terrified in this next picture, it's because I was. This was the moment I dreaded most out of the whole day - our first dance. Not that I didn't want to dance with my new husband, but I come from good ol' Mennonite "dancing-is-for-heathens-and-besides-we-have-no-rhythm-anyway" stock and Marcel comes from good solid French Catholic "we-came-out-of-the-womb-dancing-the-Red-River-Jig" stock. I was almost positive I'd trip over his feet in front of all of our friends and family. Fortunately, my fear was ill-founded - I managed to stay upright. But he's had to put up with my clumsiness ever since.
I sewed my own wedding dress, and the one flaw in the design was that it showed off a little too much cleavage. My sister's bouquet came in handy when I needed to look more "virtuous".My how times have changed! Two of these people (below) are now bloggers (my sister ccap is beside me, and my friend Whippersnapper is next to her), two of these people (other than us) are now married to each other (Marcel's brother on his left and my sister on my right) though they were far from considering it at that time, one of these people is divorced and remarried, one of these people I have lost touch with (my third bridesmaid, who was my "Little Sister" at the time - through Big Sister's Association), and most of these people now have children or stepchildren.
The changes don't end there. Since that day, we've had to say some painful good-byes to some of the special people who celebrated the day with us. Looking through the wedding pictures brought back alot of memories, good and bad. Here are some of the people who've left us since then...

My Grandma, who was an inspiration to me, doing bold and wonderful things long after life would have slowed down a lesser woman. She traveled to Africa after she'd turned eighty.
One of the most important people in Marcel's life - his dear Mémère. She was an incredible woman who believed in people even when they didn't believe in themselves. There were things Marcel confided in her that I don't think he'd ever have told anyone else. When I was trying to be a writer, she made a special effort to come to one of my plays, even though it was in a grungy little downtown theatre. She bought me my first brand new sewing machine (that I still use) because she knew I liked to sew.Our crazy friend Brad, who loved to laugh and make people laugh. He lived life on the edge and died the same way. And of course, my dad. He died the day after our tenth anniversary. Celebrating our anniversary always has a bittersweet feeling to it, because the next day is an anniversary of a very different sort. I still miss him with a powerful ache. This picture, taken at the cemetery next to the cathedral where we had our wedding pictures taken, seems a rather eery premonition. It's been four years now, and I still don't feel like I'm finished saying good-bye to him.
It's been a full and mostly good life these 14 years. Sometimes, you can't help but ask yourself - if you could foresee all the pain that the journey will take you through, would you still go? Today, my answer is yes. I can't imagine this journey without my best friend by my side. He cried with me through the loss of our children, he held me up off the floor when my knees buckled when the phone call came about my dad, I held him close when Mémère slipped away, we grinned at each other when our beautiful daughters came into this world - I wouldn't want it any other way.

We all know it's not always easy being married, but for all those times I've felt less lonely and less frightened, it's worth the effort.

Happy sigh

Remember my vacation list from a couple of posts ago? Well, my vacation has only just begun, and I've already done almost everything on the list. Plus a few other things like:
- visited the farmers' market with Julie
- brought home a colourful bouquet of flowers, just for fun- had a weiner roast with Marcel's parents
- ate s'mores around a campfire
- went for an evening stroll in the campground with Julie and Maddie- held hands with Maddie while she drifted off to sleep in the tent beside me
- stared up at a midnight sky blanketed with stars
- pointed out the big dipper to Julie and Maddie
- cooked an absolutely delicious meal on a grate over the fire pit
- waded in the beach while Maddie went for a late evening dip (how delighted she was to be almost the only one in the water!)
- took pictures until Julie was almost ready to swear at me
- ate fresh vegetables from my father-in-law's garden
- and a bunch of other things that might not make the top-ten-list of ultimate vacations in any travel magazine, but were delightful to me.

About the only thing short of making this the perfect August long weekend was a missing daughter. Nikki spent the weekend at a friend's cabin. We missed her, but we had fun without her.

Tomorrow brings even more holiday adventure - starting with an anniversary breakfast with my husband. Come back tomorrow and I'll share our fourteen-year-old wedding pictures, for a good laugh. :-)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pinch me, I must be dreaming

Tonight at the mall, I let the girls pick out a bathing suit for me. I tried it on and bought it. Just like that.

Do you KNOW how remarkable that is?!? ONE bathing suit! And it was on the clearance rack too! There was no stack of discarded bathing suits taunting me from the fitting room floor, no tears were shed, and I didn't even need to drown my "I'm WAY too fat for a bathing suit" sorrow in a cinnamon bun dripping with icing in the food court.

Perhaps I need to take my daughters shopping with me more often. It won't be the most beautiful bathing suit on the beach, but my daughters like it and it's got support for my ample... um..., well, you know. What more can a girl ask for?

In other news entirely, I took a page from the amazing-spy-lady-Vicki's book and snapped the following picture, which answers the question you've always wondered about - "where do the cops hang out when they're not at the donut shop? The lemonade stand!"

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Random Summer Thoughts

1. Why is it that no matter which direction I’m cycling, the wind always seems to be going the other way? I think while I’m at work, it does a little happy “let’s mess with Heather” dance and then switches directions, just in time for my ride home.

2. Speaking of cycling – aren’t you supposed to lose weight if you exercise in a sauna? Then why haven’t I lost twenty pounds cycling in 30-40 degree (Celsius, that is) heat these past two weeks? Especially against wind?

3. I need a haircut.

4. I tried to check out the liquidation sale at United Army Surplus during my lunch hour today, but the line up of people just waiting to get into the store wrapped all the way around the building. Apparently, lots of people are in the market for cheap camping gear. I’ll pass.

5. Why do hotdogs only taste good when they’re bought from a street vendor outside on a lovely summer day?

6. Do you know how weird it is to live nearly forty years of your life with a mother whose daily longing (not to mention pleading) it is that her children and grandchildren will come to visit, and then suddenly one day you find she can barely fit you into her busy social/travel schedule?

7. At the same time, it is a pleasure to see her so happy after a trip to Alaska.

8. In the final results, Marcel’s dragonboat team came in eighth out of 51 teams. Our team came in twentieth. He claims it’s because of their Metis heritage and all the canoes their ancestors paddled. I claim it’s because he was the oldest person on a team of young, virile university students.

9. Oops – I may get into trouble for calling my husband “old”. He tries to forget that most of the other students in his university classes are young enough to be his children.

10. My children have discovered that if they mix a batch of cookie dough, it’s more fun to eat the batter than to make the cookies.

11. The other day, while I cycled home, I was almost run over by a woman smoking a cigarette AND talking on her cell phone while driving a car. Woman, your lifestyle is NOT compatible with driving a car. Give someone else the keys.

12. Two more days of work before my holidays. Yay!

13. I want to sit on a beach, read a good book, sleep in a tent, hang out with my children, rest from an absolutely insanely busy month at work, help my sister celebrate her new house, go on an anniversary date with my husband, ride my bike WITH wind, glance back in my bike’s rearview mirror and see my children behind me, eat ice cream, enjoy an evening drink on our new little front yard patio, turn off the alarm clock, go on a road trip, sit around a campfire, watch butterflies, get my feet wet, and have a picnic. Not necessarily in that order.

14. This will be one of the first times I’ll take summer vacation without any “projects” in mind. I don’t plan to renovate any bathrooms, paint any bedrooms, or try to accomplish anything more significant than preparing an occasional meal.

15. One exception to #14 – I’ll help my sister move. But that will be a delight, not a chore.