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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve, old memories.

The last few days I have been pretty lonesome for my Nanny. For those who don't know, Nanny was my father's mother, and she lived just a few hundred feet from our house as I grew up in Mabou Harbour. Christmas was her favourite time of year, she took great delight in watching the kids opening their gifts, and having family all around all the time. When I think back now, I don't know how she always managed to have so much food available for everyone who came through the door. 

It was ten years ago today since Nanny passed away. The sadness comes every year, but I never know when that deep sadness will come, you know, the sadness that makes you wish you could call up a lost loved one just to hear them one more time. It came for me last night. I fell asleep wishing I could at least dream about her so that she could feel close for just a little while. Instead she sent her sign this morning, when I woke up to a bell on my phone, at the exact same time that I got the call ten years ago that Nanny had died. 

When I was about 8, Nanny and I were walking down our lane, and we promised each other that whoever died first, they would let the other one know that they were okay. Years went by and we never talked about that promise. And then I got sick, and had to have a bone marrow transplant. I made it home for Christmas, and on New Year's Eve me and Nanny had a long, long chat. And she asked me if I remembered our promise from years ago. She told me she was too scared to ask me before that, because she didn't want me to think that I was going to die. We didn't talk about our promise again for years. It wasn't until she was dying with cancer that we once again talked about the fact that we needed reassurance. I knew life would never be the same again without my Nanny, and I honestly worried about how I would cope. She was always the one who could help me get my priorities straight, who made me realize that I was worrying about silly things, and the one who loved me no matter what...I could be silly, self-centred, or whatever, and she was my constant. She loved unconditionally, and I could not imagine life without her. 

I had left the hospital through the night of the 30th-31st, and when the phone rang early that morning, I knew before I answered it that she was gone. As I hung up, I looked out the window and the yard was full of birds, and she was always watching the birds. I took that as my first sign. And while others may not believe in heaven, or signs, or whatever, the signs that I have gotten over the years have been my way of coping with the loss of a wonderful woman from my life. I know I watch for signs, and I believe she sends them. 

So while I always take stock on New Year's, it is a day that is full of memories of my Nanny, and this year, the ten year mark seems a little more sad. It feels like it was yesterday, and it seems like it was a lifetime ago. I miss her stories, I miss how she kept me connected with all my cousins, I miss her voice, I miss her cookies and rolls, I miss her great conversations, and I miss just her presence. We could just sit and not say a word and be comfortable. 

Nanny was an incredible woman, who loved her family more than anything. She really was something else, and every year as I sit down to think about her, I make a little resolution that I will once again to try to be as good a mother as she was, and hope that I will someday be a Nanny who will be loved as much as she was. If you have a grandparent, give them a hug for me today, and I want to send special hugs to my Dad, and all my aunts and uncles. We were all lucky to have had Nanny in our lives, and she loved you all so much. 



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why can't others get such media attention?

Last night my Twitter feed blew up, with the rage over the Bill 10 filling up the page. There was an outpouring of how people felt this was so unjust, and wrong on so many levels. As a quick synopsis, the bill will mean that youth wanting to form Gay Straight Alliances at school, can form them, but the school will be allowed to say whether or not it is allowed. If the school does not allow it, students can appeal to the school board, and then if they also deny it, they can take it to the Court of the Queen's Bench.

While I do not support taking away the rights of youth to form any type of group, I kept waking up all through the night with so many thoughts going through my head that I had to share. Because if you force me to answer, I will say that Gay Straight Alliances are more for the parents than the youth, and I would be very interested in seeing how they would run. Because you know what makes me sad? That people think we need such "alliances". An alliance to me suggests a "us against them" line of thinking, and I think that is wrong. Let me explain my line of thinking.

When I went away to college, I made all kinds of friends. I felt like I had been thrust into some kind of bakery where suddenly I could find a pastry to suit my tastes instead of always just settling for bread because of no variety. I met people from different cultures, races, and countries, and I hungrily learned about the way they grew up and how we were all different. And there was one girl that I started meeting up along the route to class, and we had so much to chat about, we quickly became friends. I loved that she loved talking about books and music, and politics and she was just fun to be around. We ate together, we hung out after class and chatted about life. Now remember, I was from rural Cape Breton, and I had very limited interactions with people of colour, of different religions, and with gay people. In fact, I would say I knew gay people growing up, but I never knew they were gay, it just was not talked about at home, and when people moved away and finally "came out" it was still "the talk" for a while afterwards.

Christmas exams came and went, and we were getting ready to go home for the holidays, and this young girl asked me to go for supper downtown. I could tell that she was nervous, and I wondered aloud almost right away about what was wrong. Turns out she was gay, and I had no clue. And she was terrified of telling me because she was not sure how I would react. And I will never forget that moment, because I was so sad that she thought it would change how much I liked her. Twenty three years later, we still keep in touch. And it still makes me sad that people need to create alliances because of how they choose to live, what religion they are, or even if they are a woman or not. That's just me, it makes me sad. This video kept popping into my head last night that I saw a few years ago.
I want that for everyone. I don't care if you are gay, transgender, straight, bisexual, whatever.

But I was upset last night for another reason.

Last week it was reported that in the last 8 months, 18 children have died in the Child Welfare system of Alberta. Just stop for one minute and think about that....18 children. 18 children that are just like your children, just like your grandchildren, children that will not grow up and ever have the chance to have the lives that we all so often take for granted.

I am willing to bet you didn't hear that story. And this is what makes me angry and sad over and over again. Where is the outrage for those 18 children??? Why are we not flooding twitter and screaming about THEIR rights?? We have been fostering for 6 years now, and I will admit I have become a bit jaded with the system, as it doesn't work for the children, it does not have their best interests at heart, and it needs to be fixed in so many ways. So why keep doing it you ask? Because of those 18 children, and all the others who keep getting lost in the stupid government bureaucracy.

But it's not just the government at fault. People in general, just don't care about foster kids. It took me  6 years to say that, but it's true. If you have a dog found in a dumpster, more people will react to that story that they will to a story about a child in foster care who has died. It's like everyone puts blinders on to these kids, they are someone else's problem. And as foster parents, we are often silenced about the system because we don't want to cause trouble for workers, or the agencies we are with, but I think that is usually an initial reaction, and many of us find our voices and try to bring some changes for these children. Problem is that the government is not listening to us. And children will keep dying in care. We are lucky in Fort McMurray to have two wonderful agencies which supports their foster parents. I don't remember, and cannot find a story of a child dying in care up here. Maybe the government could start by looking at what is different up here?

And lastly, on the Bill 10 issue, I have been talking with a young woman a lot lately(not from Fort McMurray, but she does live in Alberta), about this bill. And last night we were messaging back and forth when she said a few things that really struck me. First of all she said that having these clubs would be nice for some at school, but in general, gay people don't go out trying to "form alliances or friendships with straight people specifically, so why do straight people feel the need to go make gay friends?" And she also made another point that people of her age(she is 16), don't care what "the suits in Edmonton decide".  And that point really struck a nerve with me, because I started thinking about my own youth, and when politicians made decisions that I thought really sucked....generally, their decisions or their thoughts on matters really didn't change my life that much. And like this girl said, youth today are way more socially intelligent then I was at their age. They are like me in college, where they really don't stop and analyze if someone is gay or not. So maybe it's time for us adults to just back off some, and make sure that your kid is growing up feeling loved at home, and they know that they and their friends can gather at your house to discuss whatever in the heck they want.

My final admittance is that I have always been a parent who believes that it is not the school's duty to raise our kids. Yes, I want schools to be a place where all students feel safe and secure in expressing themselves, but I will forever think it takes a village to raise a child, and I feel that way too much responsibility can be put onto the schools just so that some parents don't have to actually parent. But that's a whole other post.

I guess the point of my rant is that while it sucks that some students might have to fight for a right to form a club, I would rather focus on the children who are being denied so many other rights. Alberta, can we can a little more upset about dying children then about the right for a club that many will probably not even join in the first place?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I am so glad this wasn't taped.

I have finally found some motivation. Yep, nothing like trying to get all dressed up and stand in front a few hundred people to get a person motivated. While I tried to enjoy the evening on Saturday, while getting ready I kept thinking that I hoped that those spanks were going to work their magic. And afterwards I kept thinking it's time to really start working towards some goals.

So this morning I did my first Jazzersize class at Oranj. And yes, at the end I felt like I had accomplished something, and I had finally started, and I didn't pass out, throw up or feel completely out of place. But I think Tim(hubby) may be right, and in certain situations, I think too much. And I am guessing that during hard fitness classes is one of those situations, because my brain was going off in different directions every other minute. So much for the yoga classes and learning to quiet the mind.

The one thought that kept going through my mind was, "If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger." It seemed kind of funny to me at the time, since I actually sign up and pay to go to these classes. It's not like anyone is trying to kill me, but at moments, I thought the instructor might have a personal vendetta against us all and really was trying to kill us all, or at least make us pass out for a short period of time.

I learned from one of the other women in the change room afterwards that the instructor, Angel Jutzi is a dancer. I had kind of figured since she and several others had seemed so graceful and coordinated. Unlike myself. I realized today that one side of my body is more coordinated than the other, and none of it really wants to work with me once we got about 40 minutes into the hour long class. And let me tell ya, I kept wondering every three minutes or so, "HOW MUCH LONGER?"

My only motivation was that looking around the room I kept thinking that I wanted to some day squeeze into one of those t-strap shirts that the skinny girls wear, and I also want my butt to some day look half as good as Angel's. Yes, I can dream, leave me alone. I will at least settle for getting into one of those shirts without it turning into a wrestling match, where I am sweaty just from getting dressed.

But in all seriousness, I met some great ladies today who welcomed me to the class and told me their horror stories afterwards, so it was all good. I enjoyed it enough to come home and see when the next one was, and to pick out my class for tomorrow. Thanks to Angel and all the ladies, staff and patrons who are already helping me on this new challenge.

Oh, and it was still a good thing that Angel reminded me to breath again today, so that will be another goal in the coming classes, to try to remember to do that without someone having to tell me. And when she was smiling and encouraging us to do the same, I might have thought the following....for just a second.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What the hell was I thinking?

When was the last time you agreed to do something and then as the day drew closer you thought, "What the hell was I thinking?" I am totally having that reaction this week. As I shared in the last blog post, I will be co-hosting the Festival of Trees Gala on Saturday night in Fort McMurray along with Kim Rizzi, and Phil Meagher will be joining us on stage to auction off the trees. At the Remembrance Day ceremony yesterday I casually said to Phil that he will be my go-to man if I get stuck, and he laughed. Little does he know that I will be looking to him to provide guidance through out the night.

So many of you have sent such nice messages, wishing me luck, saying how proud they are off me and how we are involved in our community, and lots of advice. Funnily enough, the biggest advice was to either have a drink, or imagine everyone naked. Not sure how well either of those will work for me, as both could make me giggle and blush or both at the same time. I really truly have some wonderful people in my life who believe in me, and are my biggest cheerleaders. Some are friends, and I am lucky enough to have met so many online who are always so happy for us. You will never know how much your kind words, support and your friendships mean to me. Of course, a special thanks always goes to Tim, who not only supports me, but listens to me second guess myself all the time. I saw this quote the other day, and thought of everyone who has been so happy to share in all my happiness over the last year, and of Tim. Thank you each and everyone of you, my goal is to not disappoint anyone on Saturday, including the hard working organizers who believe that I will represent the Northern Lights Health Foundation in a respectable manner. Your trust means so much to me, and I will keep repeating, "Don't screw this up" to myself all night.



Unfortunately, with being so busy with the gala, I will be missing out on another wonderful event in town on Saturday night. I grew up in Mabou Harbour, Cape Breton, and our closest neighbours that were not related were either the Beatons or the Cummings families. Shelley Cummings was and still is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We grew up across the field from one another, worked together, lived together, laughed and cried together and she really is one of the most genuine people you will ever meet. Her baby brother, Eddie, was quite a bit younger than us, so I did not get to know him as well over the years, but I have fallen in love with his talent. On Saturday night, Eddie will be taking the stage at Live Bar and Grill to entertain the crowd, and I am so sad that I will miss seeing him play. If you don't have tickets to the Gala, you really should go check it out. For those who may not know, Live is located under the Keg downtown, and the food is out of this world. You all know I love a good meal out, and I have never been disappointed by the food there, and the service is also always the best of the best. Andy and Tammy are my favourite servers there! I can assure you, the effort will be worth it if you go, and he's coming all the way from Cape Breton, so please make him feel welcome!


Friday, November 7, 2014

A huge community event and another secret revealed!

Last week I wrote about signing up to volunteer, I will be writing about different events each week, but just to mention again, the Syncrude Food Drive, and the Habitat for Humanity both still need volunteers, you can sign up using these links:http://www3.signupgenius.com/mobile/index.cfm?action=signups.signup&URLID=60b0c4dacac2ba75-20131 and http://www.habitatwoodbuffalo.ca/.

Next weekend is the weekend that everyone in Fort McMurray seems to love, it's the Festival of Trees! It's a great way to kick off the lead up to the holiday season, with events for everyone in the family. The Ladies' Luncheon and The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party are sold out, but the public can go to lots of other events, including the Santa Workshop and the Family Fun Skate. Of course, everyone loves to go down to look at all the beautifully decorated trees and all the beautiful decorations. You can see the full list of events for the entire weekend here: http://www.northernlightshealthfoundation.ca/docs/schedule_of_events.pdf

On Saturday night, the last I heard, there are a few tickets left for the Christmas Tree Festival Gala. You can purchase them here: https://www.dollarsatwork.org/eventsatwork/EventLogin.aspx?EventCounter=312.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the event, and it literally continues to grow every year, with more groups and businesses from the community getting involved. The foundation does so much for our community, and it is always heart warming to see the outpouring from the community in support of their work during this weekend. The programs and services that the foundation provides are far reaching in our community, so the more they are supported, the more the residents of Fort McMurray benefit. I don't want to just mention a few, so you can read all about the great work they do using this link: http://www.northernlightshealthfoundation.ca/programsandservices.htm

This year I am pretty excited to reveal that I will be co-hosting the Gala evening along with Kim Rizzi, who is the General Manager of the 2015 Western Summer Games. And the community minded, Leaf loving, Phil Meagher will be entertaining us while doing the live auction. I am both honoured and terrified by the challenge, and can only hope that I do not disappoint the organizers. Usually if you find me at a gala I am in back cleaning up the plates. And therefore I have to mention, the whole weekend is a success because of the the generosity of the donors, but it runs on volunteers. There are literally more than a hundred people behind the scenes, so if you can't get a ticket, how about donating your time? There are literally jobs for everyone, so sign up the whole family! Here is the link to sign up, please share this blog and encourage your family and friends to get involved. When we moved to Fort McMurray, this was the first event that we got involved with, and we are happy to say that the tradition will continue this year! It's a wonderful way to meet wonderful community members while giving back to the health foundation. http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4fa5a62baaf94-festival1


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Find out what I did for the first time in 6 years!

So the last few weeks I have been saying I want to start looking after my body again. Yes, it's true, like many women, I make sure the kids have so much physical activity, I encourage my hubby to get to physio, and I just assume my body will do as I tell it. Alas, I haven't lost much weight, and I heard myself saying to Shayleen yesterday, "You can't just expect to learn all your words right away, we will keep practicing and it will happen." And for some reason that clicked with my own body issues. If I don't do something for it to help it be healthy again, it's never going to happen.

Shayleen will be six in February, and it has been that long since I have been inside a gym for myself. SIX YEARS, how the hell did that happen? I can remember when we were young and newly married and I so naively told myself I would never be one of those women that gained weight over the years. I was going to eat right and exercise and all that bullshit we tell ourselves when we are young and have no kids and think we have all the time in the world. What the hell did I do all day before we had kids? I don't even remember, but even back then, I didn't go to the gym, lol...back then I never had issues with my weight. Even after the boys were born, I didn't have weight issues. It was after I lost two babies that I first started noticing that I was keeping extra weight. And more honestly, in the last two years, since Tim's accident I have come to realize that I have some major guilt issues about the fact that I am able to be more active than he can be. So I haven't been. It was about a month ago that I finally admitted this to Tim, and of course, he told me not to be so crazy and that if I wanted to join a gym again, I should. So I started looking. I wanted to find a gym that would be a good fit for the challenges that I would face, where I would feel comfortable, and where I would stay committed to a plan. I was honest with myself while I went looking. I realized that I would not feel comfortable right away jumping back into the things I liked before, like weights and water aerobics. I am just dealing with too many issues to feel comfortable. I finally settled on Oranj here in Fort McMurray, which is just a year old this month, and it is more a studio setting, with dance, fitness, yoga and spin classes.

I had taken a few yoga classes last year and really enjoyed them, so I thought, that will be a good way to start, so this morning I went off to my first class. If someone had been taping it, in maybe a year's time I would laugh, but I thought I would share it all with you so that you could have a laugh, but you could also realize that we all have our insecurities when in settings that are a bit out of our regular routine.

The first thing I noticed when I entered the room was that I had no idea which one was the instructor, they all looked pretty fit, and like they knew what they were doing as most were already laying on their mats and doing some type of yoga pose. Crap, where should I sit? I took a breath and gave myself a pep talk. I picked a spot and rolled out my mat. Two minutes later the tiny little instructor informed me that I had my mat upside down, and wouldn't you know it, I picked the spot right beside the instructor up at the front of the class instead of blending into the back like I had hoped. Crap, crap, crap.

Overall the I enjoyed the class, but every time I caught myself and others in the mirror, I couldn't help but notice how much work I actually have to do. I am embarrassed that I have gained this much weight, but even more so, I realize that if I don't do something the weight could potentially affect my health. And many years ago, after being given a second chance at life, I swore I would never take my body for granted. Yet here I am, I have done everything I swore I wouldn't. But if I don't acknowledge it all, it will never get better. So here I am, laying it all out there, and starting again.

Yes, I was sweating at the end, yes, every time the instructor said to breath she was probably talking to me directly as each time I realized I was holding my breath. And yes, it will take some getting use to, and I forgot my water bottle already, lol. But I did it, I started, and I have so much more to share about what is going on in my life right now! It's an exciting time for me lately, and over the next few days I will tell you some more BIG secrets!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

What 3 Things Can you Do?

Over the summer, this purple 3 kept popping up around town, and it's picture appeared on social media every time it was in a different spot.
This is of my favourite pictures, since it has some wonderful people in it who do so much for our community. You can often see their smiling faces volunteering at a variety of events around town. So you can go to 3thingsforwoodbuffalo.com to find out more about this idea. But basically it is a challenge for people to go out and do three things for their community, or for the people living in it. I fell in love with the idea right away, and kept wondering how our family could do our three things and somehow challenge others.

Fort McMurray has been so good to us since we moved here, and in our times of trouble in the last few years, we felt supported and loved. I have been noticing with the challenge that some companies and radio stations have taken it on, and have done some fantastic things. But the thought kept popping in my head that not everyone can do "big things", and sometimes the best things in life are the little details. And something clicked. A few weeks ago everyone was challenging three people to share what they were grateful for, why not do three things, and pass on the challenge to three people? Then go to the website and tell everyone what you do, when you share, you inspire others.

We all do our regular everyday things, but why not step outside our boxes and do something different? This weekend our family is going to volunteer with the new build that the Habitat for Humanity is working on in Fort McMurray. If you want to sign up to help out, here is the sign up page.http://www.habitatwoodbuffalo.ca/

Also this weekend we will be volunteering for the Keyano Gala, and if you want to lend a hand at that, please email me, at mackdale@hotmail.com. And our third thing is that we signed up for the annual Syncrude Food Bank Drive. It's a great way to get the whole family involved as there are jobs for everyone! And here is the link to sign up! http://www.signupgenius.com/go/60b0c4dacac2ba75-20131

And lastly, I am going to send out my challenge to three families, and I would encourage everyone to do the same, even if you don't live in Fort McMurray, why not challenge the residents of your community? Positive deeds for others can only bring good feelings, so we all win. So my three challenges go out to the MacLeans(John, Kerin, Sam and Colin), more MacLeans...(John, Andrea, Brandon, Tyler and Alyssa), and lastly the MacLeods(John, Kim, Brooklyn and Morgan). And yes, we know a lot of Johns, lol. Let's get creative and have fun with this, and remember to share what you do, and pass the challenge on to three others, via Facebook to make it easy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Following my Heart.

The emails or comments that I still get the most are from people who say that they miss my column in the Cape Breton Post. Many of the people who I hear from are parents or even grandparents of people who are living out here in Fort McMurray. They liked getting the news from out here so that they could carry on conversations with their loved ones about the town they are living in. And at first I thought I would keep posting here just like I did in the paper. But then the self doubt crept in, and I thought that no one really cares about the silly things that I write about around town, so I let it go. In fact, I let a lot of my writing fall to the side, as I found myself writing about things that were not as interesting to me.

I stopped posting about local Fort McMurray news, East Coast talent, my journey in weight loss and even my person of the week idea. A few months ago a very good friend asked me what did I really want to do with my blog. What purpose did I want it to have, why did I start it in the first place? And because I value this friend's opinion, and he often makes me think about things, I kept thinking about his questions. And the one thing that kept coming up for me was that I started the blog to share whatever was happening with me so that if someone else was going through the same experience they would not feel so alone. So while it may not have any great "purpose", it's honest, and real and even silly at times, and I will go back to writing whatever moves me, and I will keep people posted about local events.

I am creating a schedule that I hope to stick to, and have several pieces ready to go. I will continue to do my person of the week, and that person can be from any where, you never know where you are going to meet someone wonderful, or how someone will impact your life in a positive way. But I am also going to start writing about groups or people that may need help. I want to write about volunteer opportunities, fundraising events that strike a chord with me, and groups that need people to help out in different ways. I always have loved talking about ways to volunteer or help out, and I am hoping through the blog to tell you about some wonderful groups that are always working so hard in communities right across the country.

So if you have a parent on the East Coast that once read my column with the Post, please feel free to send them this blog link and tell them to follow along, I am pretty excited to go back to my old ways.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Looking through someone else's eyes.

The last few days on Facebook everyone has been posting their pictures of their kids since most are getting their school pictures back. I remember always buying the boys a new tie or shirt so that they could be all dressed up and looking clean for their school photos. I have them all layered, and hanging in the hallway. Each year brought a new look, even if it was just that they looked older. This year I will be adding Mitchell's final picture, his grad pic. I commented on a friend's picture of her girls the other day that I thought they looked even cuter since I have gotten to know them a bit more. They are two girls that are always well-behaved, well spoken and just pleasant. Their mother responded to my comment by saying that since she sees them every day, she did not always see them the same way, but that I could be right. Her comment kind of stuck with me the last few days, and I thought of it again last night as I sat at the Sawridge, and took in the evening's event. We can often be our own worst critics, and I think that at times we can do the same to our children. Last night, as Mitchell was presented an award for being an "X-Ceptional Kid" I watched it unfold not as a mom, but as an observer.

The awards are held by the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce every year, and it is a night where local businesses and individuals are recognized for all their hard work, dedication to the community and they present various awards to the winners. Nexen was the sponsor of the award presented to Mitchell, and to another well-deserving young woman from Fort McMurray, Sam Wells. Sam's mom, Theresa, is a well-known blogger/communications woman from Fort McMurray, and someone at the table joked during the evening that with two bloggers at the same table then the event should be well covered. I think it's wonderful that Nexen would take the initiative to recognize local youth, because really, they are truly our future. There were two young interns at our table from Nexen, and if they were any indication of the quality of people that work for Nexen, then it definitely must be attracting the cream of the crop. They were both so engaging, and spoke so highly of their work, where they were from, and of Fort McMurray. It's always fun at these dinners when you are in arranged seating and get to meet some new people. 

When I first told Mitchell about the nomination, he was his usual humble self, and we talked about what it means to win such an award. Mitchell has done so much for his community in the last number of years, and has shown me on many occasions that when you give your time and heart, you really do feel better about those around you and your community in general. I cannot count how many conversations we have had after an event and Mitchell has started the conversations by saying, "You wouldn't believe the person I met that...." and he would then go on to tell me about meeting someone who shared their story with him during their time together. It has been all those people that he met and interacted with over the years that kept inspiring him to do more, to be more and to dream more. I have often said that Tim and I have little to nothing to do with how great our kids are turning out. While we have provided the love and stable home for them, we have had support and inspiration from teachers, coaches, the cadet group, and all those people who share their time and their hearts with our children. So I guess we all play a part in nights like last night. 

Years ago Tim and I received lots of advice when we first had Mitchell and then Nathanial, and it always stayed with us. The first piece of advice was to pick our battles, if it was not something that would matter five years from now, then don't argue about it. So hair styles, clothing choices, and silly things were never argued over. Another tidbit was when you felt yourself getting upset, pretend there's a video camera on you...if you were being taped, would you be okay with showing the tape to your best friend or a teacher tomorrow? I caught myself on more than one occasion finding better words when I thought of a video tape showing up, lol. But my favourite piece of advice has always been to build up your child, tell them you love them and that they are amazing, because no else has to. As a parent, it's our responsibility to make sure their self esteem is the best it can be, because when they go out in the world, too many bad things can happen and life can be cruel at times. But if they feel good about themselves, than they can handle the bad stuff. That's our job, as parents, give them the love they need to help them realize they can do whatever they want, and that they are loved. 

So am I proud of Mitch? You darn friggin right I am. He is everything we had ever hoped for in a child, and he is now a young man, who's ready for the world, and I can't wait to see what he is capable of doing with his life, and for his community. But even in receiving this award last night, Mitch still pointed out in his humble way that there are so many other great kids in our community. Ones that may not have support at home, who still have jobs, volunteer and do great in school. So if you know a great kid, please tell them you think they are doing a great job of growing up. Help build up that self-esteem, because we all benefit from having wonderful people around us. 

Below is a picture from last night of Mitchell, with one of our local MLAs, Mike Allen. Thanks again to the chamber of commerce, with it's sponsor, Servus Credit Union, Nexen and whoever thought of Mitchell to nominate him. It was another memorable evening in Fort McMurray. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

My weekly confession.

My weigh in at Tops this week was not as great as I had hoped. I was down only two pounds.

The hard part about it was that I walked every single day, and at the end of the days, if I did not have my 10,000 steps in on my Fitbit, then I went for another walk, even in the rain. So I had hoped the results were be a bit more on the scale.

But if I am honest, I have realized over the last few years that I am an emotional eater, and with sad news this week, and Tim out of town, my friends, carbs, were more than willing to comfort me. So this week I will try to watch a bit more closely on what I am eating, and really try to stay on track.

I have to go out of town for a few days for some fun "work", and while others may say that they gain when they go on trips, I tend to be the opposite and I hope that I will be just as good on this trip. It probably has something to do with the fact that I love to walk through new cities and discover what their streets hold.

The hardest hurtle that i will have to face now is that the weather is getting colder here in Fort McMurray, and my rosacea does not like being out in the cold. After just a few cold morning walks, I look like a clown with my rosy cheeks. So in the next few weeks I may have to come up with some alternatives. Maybe start hitting the walking tracks to stay warm so that I don't lose my motivation?


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Going to Try Again!

The Ultimate Blog challenge started again today. It's a way for bloggers to connect, and for more people to find your blog. But the big thing for me is that the challenge pushes you to be more consistent. And for anyone who already follows this blog, you know that's a challenge for me. But the last few weeks, since school started, I have become a bit more consistent in somethings in my life again, like exercise, house work, and healthier eating. And for those who know me, you know that I do none of those things very well.

To be honest, today was one of those days where my heart and my thoughts and everything in my life was focused on other friends of ours that are currently going through a terrible nightmare, every parent's nightmare. So while I have been sitting here trying to force myself to write something, anything, it just won't come tonight. So all I can say is give your kids a special hug tonight, because you are lucky you can, and tomorrow I will try to be more professional, and yes....consistent.




Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Person of the Week!

A few months ago, at the end of each column that I did for the Fort McMurray Today, I would write a line or two about someone I had met who had made an impression on me for one reason or another. I called it My Person of the Week, and I loved sharing about the wonderful people that I had either met or heard about because they have been doing wonderful things in our community.

I had played with the idea for weeks now of doing the same thing here in the blog, and then in the last few days I have had four people mention to me about how they loved hearing about my Person of the Week in the paper, so since I am always looking for signs, I thought it was time to finally start sharing here. So each week, on either Saturday or Sunday I will tell you about someone who is doing something positive. But it won't just be someone from Fort McMurray, although since I live here I am sure many of them will also be from here. But if you have someone in your community that you would like to tell me about, please send me their story!

Over the last few years I have many wonderful people, so this will be a fun blog post to share each week, and probably an easy one to write!

This last week I met someone who really helped me to make the decision to write about wonderful people again. His name is Mohammad Zafar Iqbal, and this week we sat down over a coffee to talk about his latest humanitarian work. He made quite the impression on me, and I had to tell everyone about him.

Zafar has been living in Fort McMurray for about 6 years now, and he has his family in Ontario. The first time I met him was briefly a few years ago when he was volunteering during the July 1st festivities in town. And then more recently I have been watching his cultural clips on Shaw TV, called The World Meets in Wood Buffalo, where they have talked about everything from weddings to parenting from the point of view of the different cultures that are all here in Fort McMurray. Here is one where he talks about what a wedding is like in Pakistan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x-vM8J7QZU

I was very curious to meet him to hear about what he was working on lately. Did you know that over one million people have been affected by the floods this year in Pakistan? I am embarrassed to say that I did not know the far reaching effects that the floods have had this year. Instead of the annual rainfall staying around 78-80 mm, this year over 200mm came in the same amount of time in September. Once I started watching more news about it the last few days since meeting with Zafar, I have learned that damage is estimated at almost a trillion dollars! Thousands have been left homeless, and hundreds have died or are now suffering with water born diseases.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/13/world/asia/india-pakistan-monsoon-flooding/

Zafar has been working hard since he has heard of the devastation from the flooding, meeting with local media, businesses and organizations to get the word out about what is happening in his homeland of Pakistan. He has been able to get the Red Cross to help him with his effort, and if you now donate through the Red Cross for the Pakistan Flood Relief, a donation of $20 will be issued an official tax receipt. But Zafar is hoping that if you cannot give $20, that you will consider donating even $1. When I asked him if he had family there, why was he so motivated to help so much, he started to tear up. I was almost ashamed of myself for asking the question when he answered, "It makes me sad that people have to have a motivation to help their fellow human beings. We should all try to help each other, no matter where they live, what their color or race." And indeed Zafar lives this mantra in his every day life. As I mentioned him to several people this week, many had stories to share about him. How he helped new community members to become more involved with events in Fort McMurray, teaching some English, giving others a place to stay and even bringing others to doctor appointments to help.

Zafar is the type of person that when you meet him you leave the table thinking that you should really be trying to contribute more to your community, and yes, even to the wider world, where ever kindness may be needed. I can only hope that I will get the privilege of some day calling him a friend, because he is definitely someone I want to spend more time with in our community. And I am guessing that if I just continue to volunteer that our paths will cross again soon.

If you want to donate to the Pakistan Flood Relief effort that Zafar is coordinating there is a donation station at MacDonald Island, several businesses have donation cans at their cash registers, and you can call Zafar himself at 780-880-1604 or email him at: m.zafar.iqbal@live.ca. If you get the chance to talk to him personally, it is something you will never regret. 

Tune in next week for some more inspiring people! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

First confession

I totally screwed up this week, my first week for weigh in. We had gotten tickets to the movie, The Grand Seduction for last night at Keyano. So I missed my first weigh in at Tops, but according to my scale at home, I am down about three pounds. So next week I will have a bit more pressure, in that I have to stay focused and be down even more when I go on Thursday.

I am using my Fitbit to get my steps in, but I have to admit that this summer I fell down some stairs, and I am feeling that ankle when I go for my longer walks. Hopefully it will get better as I get used to walking more again. It is definitely easier to stay on track when everyone in the house is trying to eat healthier too, it even makes a difference having Shayleen in school and they are talking about better choices. So here's hoping that I can stay on track, I know that it will get harder as the weather gets colder, but I will just have to get creative on how to keep it up, right!?


Thursday, September 18, 2014

One promise I wish I hadn't made!

I really never thought I would be one to have such a struggle with weight. On the day Nathanial was born, I was my heaviest ever, and that was around 166, that was before I gave birth too. And then something changed, could have been that I was getting older, but after losing two babies after Nathanial, I found that I started having a harder time with my weight. Last year I thought I was finally in control, and was taking the pounds off. And then life threw us some curve balls, and I stopped going to TOPS(Taking Off Pounds Sensibly)....and the weight started to creep back on. Last year when I posted that I was going to start a weight loss journey I started at 214.

Last week I had posted that I would start sharing my weight again, it's a good motivator for me to have to check in and actually say if I gained or lost, in fact, I lost every week. But I have a bigger journey this time because I went back to TOPS tonight and did my first weigh in, and I kind of wish I hadn't said I would post it, because it's a big number. But let's face it, if you see me, you can see that I have put the weight on, so it's not like it's a big secret. So here we go, this week I weighed in at 225.4. Yep, I have been heavier, but not in such an official way. I think I topped out around 230 a few years ago, but I had stopped weighing myself, and it was never written done because I did not want anyone to see it.

So join me in my weight loss journey, if you are in Fort McMurray or Nova Scotia and need some encouragement, I have a Facebook page called Losing it from Fort McMurray to Nova Scotia, and I will once again start trying to find some healthier recipes and posting them, and feel free to post any motivators you like! Here's hoping that next week I can say I lost, we booked a trip to Mexico in January, and I would like to be under 200 to go, so let's get started....AGAIN!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

It's not just about Matt you know!

This weekend is my weekend, Matt Minglewood is in town, and we went last night and we will go again tonight. Every year I have a few people ask me what it is that makes me such a die hard fan. And last night on the way home I thought I finally had the answer, but I had a few drinks too, and the perfect thought that I had last night was gone from my head this morning. Come to think of it, the drinks might have just made me think it was perfect, but who knows.

I have loved Matt's singing since I had his 8-track tapes as a kid. Then I moved to albums, then tapes, then CDs, and now I have a downloaded collection on my phone. And over the years I have gotten to know Matt and his wife Babs personally, and it just made me love them more.

But there's something else about Matt for me during these nights, and that's what's always hard to capture. It's the whole effect he has on the crowd. When we lived back in Nova Scotia he was able to do it too, so it's not just a Fort McMurray thing and we are all brought together for our love of something from home. I love watching the people that go to see and hear Matt. Last night for example there were people 20 years younger than us who knew every word of every song, and there were people 20 years older that knew them as well. There was the token drunk East Coast, die hard Matt fan who stood by the stage during Can't you See and sang his heart out, and there were some there that hadn't heard Matt in years and felt nostalgic in that hearing him brought them right back to a certain time of their lives.

Some times people give me a hard time for my love of Matt. But you know what? I feel sad that not everyone has a Matt in their lives. Music has always been such a part of my life, I can play songs and remember the first time I heard them, who I was with, what we were doing. For me, Matt has been part of the biggest days of my life, and some of the saddest, and he didn't even have to physically be there.

Last night as Tim danced with me to Can't You See I looked around the room, and saw a few tears, I saw some huge smiles, and I saw everyone singing. What a way to spend the night, and I got to see some old friends and made some new ones.

But I have to mention how wonderful my friends are too, old and some newer ones. I had one message from a high school friend, who I haven't seen in like 15 years, Shannon, who was concerned about me because I didn't go to see Matt on Thursday. She wanted to make sure I was alright, because she had never heard of me doing such a thing before. My friend out here in Fort McMurray, Kerin, texted on Thursday and asked if I was sick. How lucky I have been over the years to acquire such wonderful people in my life is beyond me, but I feel so blessed.

So tonight I will gather with more friends, and we will dance, and sing, and catch up. My soul will feel full and I will be happy for weeks with the memories of another night spent in the company of Matt Minglewood. Oh, and did you know that Matt is the entertainer to beat at the casino out here for the one who has brought in the most money in a weekend in Fort McMurray? Yep, he holds the record.

Thanks Matt, for all the wonderful nights, all the great memories, and the entertainment you provide with your wonderful voice. You are the soundtrack of my life.

Here's a short clip from last night, I got busted by security for taping! Hope to see you tonight! But go early if you want a table.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF4U6O53kB4&feature=youtu.be



Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's all about the weight, again.

So for all my talk last year, about how I "finally got it" about getting healthy and losing weight, I'm back in the same boat, and maybe even a bigger boat than before! From Christmas of last year until August or so, I lost. I made the connection and I was looking after myself pretty well. During those months I even said how I realized that when things came up I tended to put myself on the back burner, and I wasn't going to do that any more. But guess what? Life threw us a few curves, and again, I didn't put my health or myself first. In the last week or so I made some hard confessions to myself, and to Tim(hubby). And so I thought I would share with you all as well.

The first confession is that since Tim is still struggling with pain and some issues from his accident, and can often be restricted from doing all that he used to do, I have some terrible guilt about being able to do more. So I don't. I haven't been going for walks or to the gym, or really, anything. And of course, Tim is/was the first one to say that I should not be feeling like that at all. And he doesn't want me to be feeling gross/unhealthy because of his situation.

The second confession is that I just cannot get motivated this time around. I thought that in going home I would get motivated to lose before we went, but nope, it didn't happen. And since we came back from Nova Scotia I have to admit I have been in bit of a funk, one that often comes in the fall when the kids go back to school, but it came early this year.

So why can't I get motivated? I am not sure, but I thinking that on Thursdays I will once again start posting my weight. It was a motivator for me when I did it last year, and I found that so many others were joining me in their weight loss journey. Someone said to me the other day that when I was posting maybe it was a huge motivator to me not to be humiliated by gaining, maybe she's right.

This last week I know that I felt inspired for the first time in a while to get back on track, and that was thanks to Morley Googoo. We went to school with Morley many moons ago in Nova Scotia, and about three months ago he had a heart attack and had to undergo surgery. He spontaneously posted a video and challenged other males to get serious about their health, especially Aboriginal men, who have a very low life expectancy in Canada. Morley has always been someone who spoke from his heart, and he has such a genuine concern for his community and his people that it just struck a real nerve with me, and that afternoon, I found myself getting my sneakers on and going for a walk. And then again the next day, and the next. I will post the first video he did, and he is going to start a page, but in the meantime if you feel inspired to join him, he is posting updates every day and I know he would love to hear from others who have felt inspired as well.

I have picked Thursdays to post this time around, because that is TOPS(Taking off pounds sensibly)night, and when I will be getting weighed out here in Fort McMurray. If you see me chowing down on something unhealthy some where in Fort McMurray, feel free to call me out on Facebook about it,  I need all the help I can get. Next year is our 20th wedding anniversary, and Mitchell's graduation. Two events that I would like my husband and son be proud of how I look, and that I fought to get the weight off.

One week from tonight, the weight postings will begin, and I am quite sure that I have gained all my weight back, that's pretty humiliating to admit, and I am sure the first few posts will be quite painful. I just have to remember that it is just a number and that those that love me will not love me less because I publish how much I weigh. It's just a number, right?

Here is the link to Morley's video! Just copy it, and then go to it to watch.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10154578414135338

And one for fun.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What the hell do I do now?

I'm sitting here in total silence. Nothing. No Max and Ruby playing in the background, no dog chasing Shayleen down the hallway while she giggles in delight. No yells outside the bathroom door earlier when I went in there, nothing. And it will be like this for hours. Today Shayleen started first grade, full days. Days full of silence and a lot of nothing for me. New friends, new teacher and lots of adventures for her. And the two boys? Nathanial starts high school today, grade 10. And my first baby, Mitchell, is off to his last year.

If you were to enter the house now you wouldn't hear silence, I have been sniffling and sporadically breaking into my ugly cry all morning. For better or worse, my life is defined by my kids. The night before my maternity leave was to end when we had Mitchell, I can remember curling into a fetal position beside his crib and calling Tim, who was away working at the time and hysterically crying. The woman I had picked to come babysit our baby just didn't seem good enough, I didn't want to leave my baby with her, and I was in a total panic. I don't remember exactly what Tim said, but I remember him just being soothing and saying that it was okay, we would work it out, I wouldn't go back to work. And for the majority of the last 17 years that's what we have done, I have stayed home with the kids to be here for them as much as possible. It doesn't work for everyone, and in those earlier years we really did without a lot of things and some years it felt like we barely made ends meet. But we did it. 

After moving out here to Fort McMurray, I did take some full time jobs those first two years. First so we could get a mortgage and then because I loved working for the local newspaper. But when we decided that it wasn't a good fit for our family, I was surprised at how happy the boys were that I would be home again to get them off to school and greet them when they came in the door. And then we decided to adopt Shayleen. In some ways the last five years we may have paid more attention to her in some ways. It felt like we had to make her stronger for when she would go out into the world, and with all the kids we wanted them to never doubt how much they are loved. 

So this morning, Mitchell and Nathanial kissed me good-bye and told me to not worry and to have some fun today. And then they got in the truck to drive themselves to school. Shortly after I buckled Shayleen into the car and drove her for her first day. On the way she reminded me that this was only temporary, as she wants to get on the bus. And then she hugged me and said, "See you after school mom." Tim and I always wanted them to grow up to be strong minded, and independent thinkers, but now that they are stepping away from us I just want to grab them and hold them close and keep them a little longer. 

When I was pregnant with Mitchell I kept a calendar and I marked off the days until he was due. In the back I wrote down some notes about milestones in his life, like first birthday, first year of school, and I also marked down that in 2014-15 he would be graduating and leaving home. And here I am, starting that year. I have always been one that has never taken my kids for granted, nor the time that I have been able to spend with them. They are my pride and joy. And while I am pretty sad this morning, I am so proud of them and the young people they have become. 

Tim, we did okay, it wasn't easy all the time, but I still thank you for always supporting my decision to stay home with our children. And thanks in advance for all the times you will have to listen to me weep this year as we prepare to watch Mitchell leave the nest and really go off to make his way in the world. 

I am a bit more emotional this morning because I am also thinking of our dear friends, Mel and Rick. Their son Drew was in a terrible car accident on the weekend and they are in Edmonton with him. When Shayleen first came to us, we didn't know how long she would be with us, but we fell in love right away. And then she was very sick and in the hospital in Edmonton. Many asked how I could leave my "real kids" to be with her down there, and some said I was becoming too attached. Not Mel. I remember her calling me late one night and totally dismissing me when I started justifying why I was there instead of home with the boys. "You are right where you need to be, that little girl needs you Verna, and you love her, so you need to be there for her or you wouldn't forgive yourself." Mel always got me...we moved West from Nova Scotia in the same year and while our sons had brought us together through their friendship, it was our connection that has grown and stayed strong. She is one of those friends that no matter how much time goes by we can still pick up right where we left off. She was the only person who drove all the way to Edmonton when Shayleen was in the hospital, on my birthday to see us. She is the ultimate mom, and my heart is breaking that she, Drew, Rick and her daughter Ally are all suffering now. So this morning, I would ask for your prayers for her family. I can't stop thinking of them all, and can't wait to see Mel later this week. I would give anything if she could be sending her kids off to school this morning like I am lucky enough to do. So for Mel, I will not wallow this morning, I will do what she would want, and I will make the best of the day, and I am thinking of all my "mom" friends, and I hope that you all have a wonderful day too. 


Sunday, August 31, 2014

What the heck is a Fitbit?

A few months ago, Tim(aka hubby), was out of town for work, and our anniversary was coming up. Over the years he has surprised me with a romance novel where we were the characters, a painting of a portrait from our wedding day, and a trip to see Phantom of the Opera in New York City. So when he texted me saying that he had a surprise for me, but that we would both enjoy it, my mind started thinking about what he could possibly surprise me with for our special day.

I wasn't really thinking about how much I had been talking about how I wanted to start getting healthy, and start losing some weight again. He landed home with two Fitbits, one for me, and one for himself. Mine sat on the table in the box for two weeks before Tim opened it up and set it all up for me. And now a few months in, I'm completely hooked. So what is it?

A Fitbit is like a little bracelet with a little chip inside that keeps track of your step, calories and even your sleep. I don't keep track of my sleep as much any more, because I have never been a good sleeper, and I don't need to be constantly reminded, but it has been interesting to note that I sleep way better when hubby is out of town(probably a coincidence, right)?

Anyone who knows me and the hubby, you know that we have always been a bit competitive, it has always kept things interesting. But today I caught him giving his Fitbit to our 5 year old so that he could keep up with me on my steps as I took an extra walk. It has made trying to get our 10,000 steps a day a bit more interesting. When we are on vacation, we are the opposite of most, and getting our steps every day was not a challenge at all, but since getting back, I haven't been hitting my daily goals at all. I am hoping that will all change again this week when the kids go back to school.

The other fun aspect of the Fitbit is that it is kind of like Facebook, and when your friends buy a Fitbit, you can add each other to your "Dashboard" and you can see if they are beating you in steps for the day and week. Each week your Fitbit will let you know who the leader was, and who was in last place. Since other couple friends have bought them, we can taunt, cheer and message each other about how the day is going, or if you are Tim, you pick on the rest who lag behind.

There is also an upgrade you can get on the website once you sign in and they will send you a food plan that you can follow to help you take off the weight faster. I am debating adding that in the next few weeks. Right now I just want to meet that 10,000 step goal for a few weeks before the weather gets cold. So if you are in Fort McMurray and want to pound the pavement, let me know, as I will be jamming some extra walks in every day, as all the way around our subdivision only gives me 3400 steps! And after not being good all summer and adding some pounds back on, I will be needing all the motivation I can get!

The Fitbit will set you back about $100, but it is a fun way to get motivated and you can even add the App onto your smart phone so you can check your steps there too! And they come in a variety of colours so that you can pick your favourite. I'm always looking for new ways to stay motivated, so if you have some good tips, feel free to share in the comments!



Monday, August 18, 2014

What's up with our love/hate relationship?

I sometimes write things, and I think I will have some response, and I never get it. And then I write other things, and I will never figure out why there is such a strong response. The blog I wrote yesterday falls into the second category.

I mentioned that I was playing with the idea of giving up social media like Twitter and Facebook for six months. I could not believe the emails that I received. People that said they too wanted to try it, or had already made the leap. Women who said they felt disconnected from their immediate families or their spouses. Men who said that they felt that they had no relationship with their kids except for on Facebook. Others who said that they were totally heartbroken by dramas that played out on the internet. Many said that they had developed "fake" friends and tiptoed around family members. And many, many who said that they felt so compelled to start their day by checking everyone's status that they had lost themselves, and needed to disconnect to try to figure out their lives.

It blew me away. We all seem to have a love/hate relationship with the technology in our life, and the relationships that we have through it.

After dealing with a few editors, I was trying to look at my Facebook more as a part of my possible writing career, and indeed, many would not have found this blog except through sharing it on a Facebook page. But it is still the random postings of someone's daily news, of how they are doing with life that keeps me most interested.

A few months ago a woman that was on my FB disappeared for a few months. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing the story here. She eventually sent me a message saying that she had been dealing with some issues, and all my "happiness" on Facebook was just too much for her to handle. I had others admit to me that they had taken me off their pages because I had kids and they didn't, and all my postings about my kids were too much. And a few said that I seemed to have forgotten where I was from and they were sick of all my posts about Fort McMurray. I am happy to say that they woman is now back on my page, and I love her contributions.

Do I have to defend myself? No, but I will. After being married for almost 20 years, and dealing with kids from all ages now, medical problems, accidents, miscarriages, depression and just life in general, I don't think I have ever said that our lives are perfect. But do I try to focus on the positives? Yes, because otherwise life would just be depressing, and I don't want to go through life feeling overwhelmed all the time. Do I love my kids, and Fort McMurray? Damn straight, but I also try to share what drives me crazy about them all at the same time.

For now, FB is my outlet, it's where I go to feel connected, where I see how everyone is doing, and if there is any news around town, across the province, around our country and from my friends around the world.

So I guess we all have our love/hate relationships, and we all need to figure out what makes us the happiest. Again, I find myself saying thank you....when I share and you respond we all feel a little less alone with our issues.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Seasonal writer.

This past week I received a lovely email from a woman in England who had googled Fort McMurray bloggers and came across my blog. Towards the end of the email she asked if I was a seasonal writer because of the nice summers here or not. I had never really thought of myself as a "seasonal writer" before, but it made some sense to me. The nice thing about having a blog that is my own is that I don't have to answer to anyone, and while the kids are off for the summer and the days are long, I have been enjoying the days with them.

But lately I have been starting to think about getting the kids back into a routine, especially Shayleen since she will be starting her first full days of school in a few short weeks. And with routine and structured days, I should have more time to write, right? I have been working more and more on my fictional work, and staying off social media more the last few weeks just to see how I felt about it. A few friends in the last few months have totally given up Facebook and Twitter, and I have to admit that I am toying with the idea. What would life look like for a six month period with no social media? There are people on my Facebook that do not interact with me either on there or in real life any more, so why not focus on the people around me that are part of my every day life? The downside of course, is that I would not be connected with people that do not live near me that I love hearing from through Facebook. I have also met many wonderful people through social media, so it is definitely something I will still have to think about before giving it up cold turkey, lol.

I am not sure if it is the fact that Shayleen will be starting full time this year and Mitchell will be graduating, but I feel that my life is moving towards a new chapter and to be honest I have dreaded this year since I was pregnant with Mitchell. But I am now suddenly determined to make it a good change and embrace it all instead of seeing it as a sad year. It will also mark our 20th year as a married couple. So there is lots of happiness in all those years. So here's to new changes, new chapters(in more ways than one) and finding my way through it all. Maybe if I keep sharing more rather than less with you all, I will find the most comfortable path through all that this next year will bring to my family.

I do know one other thing about myself that I have been honest about the last few years, and that is the fact that I struggle with some depression every year when the kids all go back to school, but I am determined that since I am now more honest about it, and expecting it, I will be able to stay busy and focused and keep it at bay this year. I am thinking that more fun is the answer! So in the next few weeks I am going to make my mental health, and staying happy a priority and I am making the commitment right here to not take on any projects that don't bring me happiness. Hold me to it!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On Days Like Today

This last month has been filled with fancy dresses, nights out, and even a special award. But none of that moved me enough to write about it. But today did. Today our little girl, Shayleen came home from her last day of Kindergarden, and in her little pink Dora backpack there was a certificate. It was just a little piece of paper that stated that she was being promoted to Grade One in the fall, and she will stay in French Immersion.

They had pajama day today, so I snapped a pic of her in her princess nightgown clutching her certificate. She has a huge grin on her face, and slipped out to the deck to have a quick little cry as while many others might take such days for granted, we never will.

We made the commitment to all our kids that we would do our best by our children when we had them, and we mean that for all the kids in our lives, whether they are fostered, biological or adopted. All parents usually make the same promises. We all stay up all night with them as babies, and when they are sick. We do late night pick ups and early mornings with coffee in hand. Sometimes I think that we are so worried about doing things wrong with Shayleen that we spend extra time with her than we did with the others, but we were so dedicated to our boys as well, that I don't know. Maybe we just feel more protective of her, because we want her story be more of a "happy ever after" than to just remember the terrible start she had in this world. Because as many don't know, our two boys are absolute miracles too. We were never suppose to have them, and I guess we look at all of them as such treasures. As all children should be....treasures.

Mitchell came in the door today and said, "I'm officially done grade 11." And Shayleen came home this afternoon finished kindergarden. I have joked for many years that I will need medication to deal with the baby being in school full time in the fall, and the oldest in his graduating year. As it draws closer, and I see all kinds of other friends going through it this year, I might not joke any more.

But for tonight, let's all celebrate life, children, hard work, and the end of the school year!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finding my Voice and losing it again.

I struggle with what and how people think of me. I always have, and it's not a good problem to deal with, as I keep learning. You would think that at 41, I would not care any more, but I still spend some nights in tears because of how I wish things could be different. I know people will be surprised by this confession, since I seem to have no trouble sharing my opinion pretty openly in my columns, on Facebook and especially some nights on Twitter.

I had a huge shift in my life about two and a half years ago. Every few years I go through scares with my health and that winter of 2011-2012, I felt like I was completely overwhelmed, and scared to death. For months I only shared the details with close family members, and some very special teachers who helped me deal with the stress that the boys felt about the whole situation. I wrote a column for the Cape Breton Post about it, and at the last minute I pulled it because I did not want anyone upset with me. I bottled it all up, and kept it to myself, and it all festered. Tim and I booked our first trip alone in 17 years without the kids. And we came back, and life continued. Thankfully. But something changed in me during that winter. While I had kept up some form of writing the last number of years, I often held back my true opinion on things so as to not upset people. But that winter I realized that the people that love you and give you support through the hard times will not suddenly hate you for being honest.

And then came July of 2012, and our whole family changed again. We often say now that we had life "before and after the accident". Tim was hit by a drunk driver, and two years later, he still is suffering the consequences, physically, financially, and emotionally. While we are not suffering physically with him, it has been painful to see him more limited in what he can do, and not be able to do anything to help him. That summer as he lay in bed for long periods of time, I sat beside him, or parked myself on the couch and started writing the way that felt really good. I found my voice. I used my voice. And in hindsight, as a result, great things began to happen to me.

Over the last two years I have gotten to know more people in Fort McMurray than I did in the five years before that. But I also made friends from around the world who connected with my stories about going through my bone marrow transplant, and dealing with some of the struggles of life.

A few months ago I started doing some other work for Your McMurray Magazine(YMM), and I took on some other new projects as well. Things that I never would have dreamed of doing a few short years ago. But in doing more work, I found that I was not blogging, not sharing, and not writing for fun. I came up with 20 reasons why I wasn't blogging when people asked why I hadn't written anything lately. I was too busy, the kids were busy, I was working more, the house needed attention. And then the other night I got an email from an old friend, who completely called me out. I had no reasons, just excuses. And she was right. But she said something else that really got me thinking, and ironically, made me want to sit down and write again. She said that for as long as she had known me, I would retreat when given positive attention. I play it down, I don't want people to think that I am "getting too big for my britches" so to speak. I have had many wonderful things happen the last few months, and one of them was that I was nominated as a "Woman of Inspiration" here in Fort McMurray. The gala for the event is on Saturday. So many sent their congratulations, and happiness for me. Some didn't, and of course, it is their lack of happiness for me that is affecting me. I still want people to like me, even if they never bother with me or my family. It's that one sentence that I need to deal with, and finally let it go. My friend pointed out that I always tend to focus on the five negative people instead of the hundred positive ones. And then in withdrawing I was just giving my power away, my voice. And here I am suppose to be going to a gala, for Girls Inc, which is all about girl power, strength and using your voice as a girl and as a woman. I feel like a fraud.

Over the last few years I have once again realized that life is short. You don't know what each day will bring for you or your loved ones. I have fallen in love with my husband again, have engaged with my community more than ever and kept my children more happy through it all more than I was doing when stressed that winter over two years ago.

Why am I sharing all this? Because I am ready to find my voice again, I feel better when I am writing, sharing and hearing from all of you. And in sharing, I always hear from so many who say they can relate to what I am going through, that's the reason I write, so that someone, somewhere can relate.


Friday, April 4, 2014

So much sadness.

This blog post has been months in the making. Even as I sit down to write it, I hesitate, but it will only linger and keep coming into my head, so here it goes.

The last few months have been filled with some very sad losses for us, and for many people at home, and sadly, cancer has been the demon that robbed us of some wonderful spirits.

It was over Christmas that the first loss came. Tim's uncle Joe passed away on Christmas Day, and it took us by surprise. We knew that he had gotten worse since the summer, but if you ever met him, you knew that he was so full of life that it was hard to imagine that he had not won the battle against cancer. Joe and his wife Denise and their three sons live in Ontario, so we only got to see them in the summers. And I honestly have never met a family like Tim's mother's family, as they enjoy each other's company so much, and they are in their glory when they are all together. When I first started visiting with them I would often feel like an intruder as they were all so closely knit. I will never forget the first time Tim was away working and there was a wedding in the family, that I would be attending on my own. The church was not so bad, but as a young bride still finding her place in the family, I remember being so nervous going to the reception. And that was when I first fell in love with Joe. He saw me standing by the hall doors, looking around for someone I knew, when he dragged me onto the dance floor and then proceeded to introduce me to every last family member that I had yet to meet. He made sure I was safely ensconced in conversation with some aunts before he continued to work the room. It was probably something that he never thought twice about, but I thought it was the nicest thing that someone had done for me in a while. The pride he had for his family was the thing that always came through the most in our chats and messages, and I really can't imagine how much they all must miss him. The summers will never be the same at home.

During the same days, Tim's great uncle Bowden became very sick after complications developed after a surgery. And although he was Tim's relative, I had actually gotten to know Bowden better over the years thanks to the fact that during my high school years his daughter, Elaine and I were best friends. If she wasn't at my house, I was at hers. Tim's grandfather, Kenny, and Tim's father, Clifford remind me so much of Bowden, they all have the unbelievable skill of telling great stories, and they are/were all men that if you love them, you always love them, and you do so completely. They are men that people respect, and at times can be very intimidated by. I was terrified of meeting every single one of them, and became their biggest fans almost immediately after doing so. On the night that we got the call that Bowden passed away, we discussed me going home. I wanted to be able to say good-bye, and I wanted to be there out of respect for the family. Bowden's wife, Sadie, has been so kind to me over the years...she knew how hard I took it when my Nanny passed away, and she insisted on making me eat at her house the day after the wake started. She did it out of kindness, but she also did it because she was worried I wasn't eating, lol, they were always so good to me. I have never gone home and not gone to their house, and sat at their table to have tea, and to listen to some of Bowden's stories. I still can't believe he is gone. Some men just never leave your heart, no matter how much time goes by from the last time you saw them.

I don't really remember the first time I met Martin Beaton. It might have been at a work party, as he and Tim both worked at the mill in Port Hawkesbury, or it might have been at the rink, as he seemed to be a permanent fixture there when his boys were playing, and later when his grandson played my son Mitchell would be in the same age division. But it was through our love of politics that we finally became the closest of friends. And it was just 10 days after Bowden passed away that we got the message that Marty had lost his fight with cancer as well. We had just talked to Marty on Christmas Eve, and he was getting out of the hospital for the holidays. So we were shocked at how fast everything happened. He had been talking about the summer, and how he couldn't wait to see the kids when we went home. He and his wife Joan had been so good to our family when we lived in Port Hawkesbury, and we spent many nights doing political things, sharing laughs and a few tears over the years. I really think he was the first man that ignited my love of politics. He too could spin a story and was bad for pulling my leg on more than one occasion. I don't think I ever met anyone who didn't like Martin, and we were lucky enough to be part of his extended family.

All of these deaths made me wish I could spend more time with my own dad, and Clifford, Tim's dad. It made me think of some of the conversations that we have had, and the things we have done, and made me wish that we all lived closer so they could make some memories with my children.

This past week brought the latest blows. Ruby was a woman that I got to know through facebook, but we became such good friends the last year that you would never know we hadn't known each other for years. We exchanged messages on her birthday, and she was always so positive that I didn't realize that she was losing her battle, so it was a shock when I got up on Sunday to hear that she had passed away. Her love for life, friends, and her dear family made her absolutely shine. She was a person that you knew would have a positive comment, or a funny post to brighten your day, and she will be so missed.

Donald "Tiger" MacPhee is the reason that I finally sat down to write. Over the years he had fought different physical battles, but like Joe, he was someone that you thought would just bounce back. I tried to tell my best friend what Donald was like, and it was her that encouraged me to sit and write about him. In our small Harbour community, I was lucky enough to grow up next to the MacPhees. With 12 siblings in the family, there was always someone at Mary and Danny's house, and over the years we would share the fields between our houses, for sledding in the winter, and haymaking in the summer. I would not even wager a guess how many times we walked that worn path over the years. Donald had worked away for many years, but was always home for the big events in life, marriages and funerals, anniversaries, and birthdays. But he finally returned to live in Mabou about six years ago, and when I went home for weddings and visits, he would be parked on his scooter in my dad's garage, and always eager to catch up on all the news of what was happening in our lives. It would be hard to meet a kinder, more wonderful soul than Donald. Many called him Tiger, but I never did, as it never felt like it fit his nature. If anything, he was a total pussycat, and even when you wanted to be mad at him, he would give you that wink and grin, and you would find yourself chuckling right along with him. He was one of those people that you meet that you really can't explain what he is like, just that he was wonderful, and I was lucky enough to have known him.

Another friend is saying her good-byes this week, and so many hearts are breaking with the loss of a beautiful mom, daughter and friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to Bonnie Jean's family, but if I know Bonnie Jean, she would have talked to everyone, and told them not to be sad. She always had a smile on her face, but I know that many tears will be shed in Cape Breton as her loved ones surround her family during this hard time.

Hug the ones you love, and tell them you love them...it won't hurt.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Housewives of Fort McMurray, unite!

Two weeks ago I wrote a column about the Real Housewives of Fort McMurray, and I am still getting emails about it. Here is the link to the article if you didn't get a chance to see it:
http://www.fortmcmurraytoday.com/2014/03/20/murphys-current-the-real-housewives-of-mcmurray.

Years ago when I still lived in Cape Breton I had a group of friends who would gather for brunch on Friday mornings, sometimes we had a few kids with us, sometimes it was just great girl time. But it was a set time, and some weeks not everyone could be there, and some weeks, we had new faces at the table. But everyone was always welcome, and it was always a great way for us to start the weekend with the kids home, and it was just a relaxed group of women bonding. There was no gossip at the table, and to this day, I still miss that group of women.

Over the last two weeks, after reading all the emails I have been getting, and talking to some of my friends, I realized that many women in town feel that they are missing some connection. They are always putting the kids social lives ahead of their own. And if their husbands want to do something, they do it, while the women feel that they have to move mountains to have a night free to themselves.

So I decided to try to do something about it. I thought, what about starting a Facebook group, called Fort McMurray Housewives? And every month we will have one set event that everyone can come to, which we will try to make it appealing to women of every race, religion or political stripe. And during the weeks, it will be a place for us to rant(not gossip or post negative or racist comments), and post about things we would like to do, and maybe have someone join us.

Post if you want to go for a walk, where you are starting and how long you want to go for. What about a glass of wine some night to just connect with like minded women? Are you free for lunch tomorrow and want to try a new restaurant out? I have been meeting so many wonderful people in town, and I think this will be a fun way for all of us to connect, have fun, and MAKE each other have some fun, but even more importantly, take TIME for ourselves.

And I will start! This Saturday coming, April 5th, I am inviting anyone who might be new to town, or who has been saying to me that we should get together for months to come to my house. If you want a drink, bring your favourite, if not, just bring yourself! I will provide munchies, and we can talk about what we will do next month! Once you join the page, and let me know if you want to come, I will send you the details. Maybe a movie,or a supper out at a restaurant? Let's make it fun! I am challenging all my friends who have been saying we should get together to join and make this a priority, and I hope that women from around the city will join us!

I will post events that might be of interest to women on the Real Housewives of Fort McMurray Facebook Page, so please like and share the page! Here is the link:
https://www.facebook.com/RealWomenofFortMcMurray