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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:

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:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

St. Patrick's Day in Fort McMurray

Two of our best friends that we have had since we have moved to Fort McMurray are John and Andrea MacLean. Ironically, we can probably count on one hand how many times we even spoke to each other when we lived in Cape Breton. But when both our husbands left for Fort McMurray Andrea and I talked a few times about whether or not we would make the move. I came first, and was glad when a few months later Andrea and her two boys made the move as well.

But for all our time together out here, we rarely go out together, spending evenings at each other's houses instead always seems a better option. And even when we did go out, I think there was only one night where we went without the kids(and that was to go to Matt Minglewood of course).

So it was so nice on Monday night, St. Patrick's Day that we were all off and free to go see the Barra MacNeils together at Keyano Theatre, and we even went out to supper first! I hate getting my picture taken, and avoid it at all costs, but lately it has bothered me that I don't have any pictures with my friends. So when we had gone out to the gala, I took some pics with my friend Kerin, and on Monday, I got hubby to take some more of me and Andrea.

 The above is John and Andrea, and below is one of me and Andrea during intermission.

The Barra MacNeils were great. I haven't seen them in years and years, and their voices were just as strong as when I had first gone to see them many years ago at St. F.X. But before the Barras took the stage, there was a reception in the art gallery at Keyano, where we found ourselves surrounded by Capers. Cape Breton University was in town last week to tell high school students about the benefits of attending university on beautiful Cape Breton Island. And also in attendance was MP Rodger Cuzner, who was in town to meet and discuss several issues, and to also help drum up the interest and funds for the local Liberals who are facing a by election. As many of you know, I am a political junkie, and over the last few years I have had the pleasure to get to know Rodger a bit better than I had when I was still living at home. There are not that many politicians that I would defend, no matter what their political stripe, but Rodger is one of the good guys. He continues to bring the issues that the Cape Bretoner's in his riding face every day to Parliament and he always stands with them when needed. At one point he lived in Fort McMurray, and many here still speak highly of him, as he was a very active part of the community while here. It was so nice to catch up some with him. 

And then it was time for the Barras.

And they did not disappoint. By the time they finished their encore, "We are an Island", there was hardly a dry eye in the theatre. It is pretty amazing that a band from Cape Breton, that we all love so much can come visit us so far out west and move us with their music and stories. It was a great evening. They sang this following song, and for some reason I had not heard it before, but it quickly became a favourite for many that night.
Thanks to the Barras for coming, and thanks to Keyano for continuing to bring great East Coast entertainment to Fort McMurray. Next up is Jimmy Rankin on April 7th!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A different kind of Saturday!

Last Saturday we were invited by friends and neighbours Tiffany and Frank to go to the Affair for the Arts at Keyano College. We had gone with them last year and had fun, and this year Tim(hubby) was looking forward to seeing William Shatner in person. Turned out that our best friends, John and Kerin went too, so it was a great night. These are two couples that we don't get to go out with too often, and we had never gone to a gala event with John and Kerin before.

But first I had to go through all the trials and tribulations of going out for such an event. I joke with my girlfriends that such an event means I will have to shave my legs, but it's not really that much of a joke. Last year I had gone to Yvonne Lauren, and Amanda, the owner had helped me get dressed. I felt so comfortable there, that I knew that I would be going to see them to get some help again. And besides that, I love their clothes.
The store is located in Timberlea, and ironically I found out last year at the end of my visit that Amanda is from Cape Breton just like me! This year Amanda was away on a buying trip, but her staff took just as good care of me this year. I left feeling that I was going to be comfortable and looking good thanks to them again. They had so many cute things already in for the spring and summer too, so I know that I will be back there soon.

Next up was something I had never done before, I booked and went and got my make-up done. A few months ago I was looking for a change with my hair, and had asked at a girls get together one night who would be good in town to try to tackle my thick hair. A few people suggested one girl downtown at Sweet Escapes, so I booked the appointment. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and it was Vanessa MacDonald(Beks), a young girl from my small hometown of Mabou, a girl who had graduated with my sister. I had gone to get my hair done last week, and she said that the girl that did the make-up applications was very good at her job, and that I would feel comfortable with her.

Alicia looked familiar right away, and of course my first question was, "Where are you from?" She answered Nova Scotia, so I knew she would not say anywhere in Cape Breton. Capers always say Cape Breton, not Nova Scotia. But she went on to add that she did have relatives in Port Hood. I knew it, I asked her if she was related to Lauren MacDonald, she said she didn't know, her great grandparents were Angus and Jean. That would make her and Lauren cousins, lol...and my uncle Dennis is married to Darlene, a daughter of Angus and Jean, how is that for a small world?
I will have to tag Lauren, so she can go meet her cousin...because it is scary how much they look alike.

It was finally time to get dressed, and head out for a night on the town with Tim. Here's the finished product:
And then here is Tim not being a goof, and me not telling him to smarten up for one picture:
We had a great night, and I even got to meet Shatner for a picture, but I don't have the one with him yet, here is one that I snuck(we weren't suppose to take pics, but I didn't know that until after I took it).
I am not a gala kind of girl. And what I mean by that is that I tend to like relaxed suppers at our kitchen table with friends and some good wine over a night out any time. But it was fun to go out with friends(although honestly, we did end up finding a table and sitting there for the greater part of the evening after the presentation by Shatner). We got so carried away with our talking, that we were kind of surprised when the cleaning staff were picking up around us. By the time we made our way to the doors, this was how we left the place:
Nothing like being the last ones out the door! This is the foyer of the Keyano Theatre in town for those who haven't been able to see it for yourself. We found ourselves again there on Monday night for St. Patrick's Day, with a different crowd again, and I will tell you all about it tomorrow!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Haven't forgotten, just a week from hell.

Tim being out of town is not really fun. Even just if he helps with something for 15 minutes in an evening, it makes a difference. And it's not even that I have difficult kids...they are just busy. Hopefully over the next few days, after the birthday parties and gala and St. Patrick's Day, and whatever else comes up, then I will get back on track. LOL.

On the way to cadets Mitchell took these pictures for me:

The two larger brown buildings in the pictures are the provincial and municipal government buildings here on town. They are on Franklin, and we took the picture from Highway 63, which runs all the way through town parallel to Franklin. Until MacDonald Island opened this was where our library was located when we first moved here as well.

This is the building that holds our council chambers, the Employment office, and all of the government offices like Children Services, Forestry, Environment, and it is where there is new construction starting for Jubilee Centre. You can check out the new development when you click on the link.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have some really different pictures for you if my plan works out!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Restaurant where we tend to go most often.

I think I can say that out of all the restaurants in Fort McMurray, The Pantry is the one where we have spent the most time over the years.
It is connected to the Merit Hotel, towards the end of Franklin(which, I forgot to mention, is the main street that runs the whole length of downtown Fort McMurray). At first we went here because Allison, a girl from New Glasgow worked there as a waitress, and we all fell in love with her, and it seemed like the only time we got to see her was when we went to the restaurant.

The Pantry hosted our  family brunches with John and Andrea MacLean over the years on Sundays. It was our time to catch up on all the week's news and have a great breakfast in a relaxed atmosphere. We never feel rushed when we go here. We use to go faithfully, but as the boys all grew older, and we all are so busy, we fell out of the habit. But when we do go, we always say we should do it more often.

Everyone always has a favourite spot, a place you feel comfortable, a place where you can sit over a leisurely coffee. And for us, this is our spot.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday picture, and how is the purge going?

I have some creative pictures coming up in the next few days. Today I was suppose to go to Wal-Mart for a last minute birthday gift, and a new shower curtain. When I pulled into the parking lot with Shayleen, this is what we saw:

It may not look that bad to you, but for those who know me, they know I hate shopping. And I hate shopping even more in crowds. When this many vehicles(yes, mostly trucks) are in the parking lot, you know it's going to be insane in the aisles in this store. It's our only big box store in town, as the Zellers is now closed.

For those following who have never been here, just to the far right of this, there is a Canadian Tire, Staples and Royal Bank. To the left, is the new big Sobeys, the grocery store that I frequent the most. It is the largest grocery store in town, and I love the bigger aisles, that are not packed with stacked boxes or stagnant men. And I find that they have the best fish selection, and that always comes first for me when I am shopping...even when I don't buy fish. When a grocery store has good fish, it usually means that it has better meats and produce, at least that is what I have found over the years. The Safeway in Thickwood has Starbucks, so when I need a chai tea fix, I go there for my groceries, but they will be closing in the next few months, and reopening as a Save-On.

So for those who are joining me in the 40 bags in 40 days challenge, how is it going? I haven't been posting my progress because the after pictures are not that dramatic. But in the last three days, I have packed up three more bags.
Two bags of clothes to be donated, and one bag of toys that will also be donated. It's not as hard as I thought it would be, but it might get harder as time goes by. I will be following the tips on the website to keep motivated.

Friday picture!

So my Friday got a little away from me yesterday. I did take my picture, but my five year old confiscated the computer last night, and since hubby had a long day and homework for his course, I was trying to keep her happy and quiet. So here is yesterday's picture:
I will have to go back in the summer and take it again as it is much better when the colours are better. But doesn't every place look better during the warm weather?

There is a gazebo along one of the trails in Thickwood, not far from Shayleen's school which I showed you on the first day. This picture was taken from standing in that gazebo, and you are looking at the now 10 lanes of traffic that cross the Athabasca River. It connects the downtown area of Fort McMurray to what we call "up the hill", being Thickwood and Timberlea, and of course, all the sites that lay north of the city. The last two lanes, and the Franklin Tunnel just opened in early December. Those two lanes are to the far right, and when you take those lanes, you can get directly onto Franklin, or you can turn towards MacDonald Island, our huge sports/community complex. Those two large apartment complexes you see were originally built by Syncrude in the late 70's or early 80's to house their employees. Many still call them the Syncrude Towers. It is hard to believe that when we moved here just 7 short years ago, this is what the bridge area looked like:
Back then when there was an accident on the bridge, which was a common thing, traffic would halt to a standstill, and would stay that way for hours. Thank God for new infrastructure. Since all these lanes opened, the traffic situation has been much better. There are still some kinks to work out, but I will give kudos to Alberta Transportation for making the situation much better than it was...which is funny if you know me, because the way they tackled the traffic congestion often brought a rant from me. Here's to moving forward!

Thursday, March 6, 2014


For the four different homes that Tim and I have lived in over the years since we were married, I distinctly remember the very first time I saw each place. For our home on the Long Stretch Road, it was just land the first time I drove to see it. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I immediately pictured the boys running around the yard that we would clear. It was our find, and we fell in love. When we moved to Fort McMurray, there was so much anxiety on my part about, well, pretty much everything. Would the boys adjust, would I make friends, would we like it here, and would we find a home in our budget in a good neigbourhood.

I like telling the story of how we found our house. I had arrived in Fort McMurray during a boom in the housing market, and there was lots of pressure to find something fairly quickly, as all our stuff was in storage, and we were in temporary housing. Not an ideal situation with two young kids. Tim was out here working already, and in the middle of a shutdown when we arrived. So I had no help at home, and arrived to no help(from him) in Fort McMurray. I remember dragging the boys to see about 12 houses, and nothing seemed to fit. And then one rainy night the boys and I went to see a house in Dickinsfield, and once again as we walked to the car afterwards we all felt so disappointed. And I remember the next part so distinctly.  I turned on the windshield wipers, and pulled up to the stop sign, and looked across to this scene:
There was a man standing out in the rain, putting up a for sale sign on the lawn. On a whim, I pulled up in front of him, and asked what the asking price was for the house that looked inviting in the dark evening light. It was over our budget, but he asked if we wanted to come in to have a look. I hesitated for only a moment. As we came in, the open kitchen/living room concept that greeted us was exactly what I had been looking for, and by the time we were walking down the hall, the boys were whispering that they thought this was "our house".  And after convincing Tim, and getting the bank to approve, it did in fact become our house. And we still love it. So today, you get to see my house in Fort McMurray, our home.
And Mitchell posing, as we are running to get to cadets.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Always up for a challenge.

I have realized a few things about myself in the last few years, and it seems some of my friends think one of my traits is quite amusing. I like being busy. I am not one to sit still for too long, and it seems that the busier I am, the more I get done. If I have a day where I don't have too much to do, it seems to spiral into a day of getting almost next to nothing done. It's true, give me five things to do, and I will get seven things done. But if I only have two or three things to do, it seems to be a struggle. It's like that theory about things in motion, it seems once I am moving, I just keep going.

And with Lent, I will admit another thing. My Catholic habits have remained a constant, even when I am not aware of it. Fridays seem to bring fish, and I find I still find myself giving up a few of my favourite things during the 40 days leading up to Easter. Funnily enough this year I was thinking I wanted to do something really different to challenge myself this year, but I couldn't figure out what exactly to do. And as usual, instead of doing just one thing, I will be tackling a few.

My first is something to improve my household, and hopefully my whole family will reap the benefits. A new friend on Facebook, Marlene Fargey had posted a challenge on her wall that really caught my attention, it was called, "Forty Bags in Forty Days". And it is just like it sounds, the women running the challenge gives us cluttered moms some tips to help us tackle some of the piles of papers, stuffed closets and mounds of toys. Here is the link to the page, and join along with me and see what we can accomplish over the next few weeks.

And here is the results of my first day:
I tackled some of my kitchen cupboards, and the fridge, throwing out expired crackers, ziploc dishes that no longer had covers, and a few broken dishes that I have no idea why I was keeping them. And you know what? I got a little excited, and I am thinking that tomorrow I may hit up a closet.

I cannot seem to fit more writing into my day, and that is always a goal that I have, so I was trying to think of some other way to do it so that it would be fun. I will let you know how it goes. Tonight I set the timer and said I would blog for 5 minutes, and it has been 15, so if I can find fun ways to incorporate my writing into the day maybe it will get done. So to do that, I gave myself another challenge that I have been promising everyone for well over a year. And that is I am going to post random pictures of things, people and places around Fort McMurray!

The first picture is of Shayleen's school, the same ones that the boys attended when we first moved to Fort McMurray. This is Ecole St. Paul, located in Thickwood. The school where I first called all those seven years ago, and Linda LeBlanc answered the phone and sealed my decision that the boys would attend this school. Linda was from home, her Dad still lives out towards Mira I believe, and she still goes home every year. She is the secretary at our school, and she is like the epicentre of the complex, since she knows both the staff and the families that have children that attend St. Paul's. I also know that there are several people from the East Coast that work here. People that I have been so lucky to meet, like Amanda, who is a wonderful teacher from Cape Breton. I connected with her mom, Darlene through Facebook, and they are a wonderful example of how I get to stay connected with people from home, and people who live here, through this crazy writing habit I have.

And I have one other habit that a priest instilled in me many, many years ago. He said if we could all use Lent, whether we are Catholic or not to just try to do better for those 40 days, and help each other more through life....whether it was these 40 days, or any other 40 days in any given year, then the world would be a better place. I sometimes forget to practice that, but for the next 40 days I will once again commit to doing something a little extra special for the people in my life and my community. And if I get enough feedback, I was thinking maybe we could start a Facebook page so that we could all inspire and share what we could do. I know there are many groups that need volunteers, whether it be for an afternoon, or a day, and I was thinking we could share all those types of things on one page, and the rest of us could be inspired every day to just do that one extra thing, big or small. Let me know what you all think! And well, wasn't this all quite the ramble!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fort McMurray Sunday News

When my column in the Cape Breton Post came to an end I promised that I would continue to share the Fort McMurray news here in this blog. I gave myself a little time to get use to all the changes in my life again the last few weeks, and I am finally ready to get back on track.

So I sat down this morning to make a schedule, and Sunday was usually the day that I wrote my Post column, so I thought why not continue the almost seven year habit, and write the Fort McMurray news on Sunday. So if you just want some news from our fair city, you can check out the blog on Sundays to get your fix. I have received so many emails from home about this, so if you have a parent at home in Cape Breton who use to read my column, please send them this link. And thanks to everyone who said that they would continue reading the news that I share from here because it makes them feel a bit more connected to their loved ones out here. I am doing this for all of you who have shared your wonderful stories with me over the years.

This was teacher's convention week, so the kids were off for the week, and of course, the weather was disgusting. Today it is sitting at -29. Many who work night shifts or outside a lot found themselves with some days off due to the extreme cold. I know many of the kids who had hoped to spend the week at the ski hill were greatly disappointed. Of course, the lucky ones escaped south for the week with the kids, with the flights to places like Mexico, and Hawaii filled to capacity this last week.

Around Fort McMurray it was kind of an odd news week.

This picture was the hot topic of conversation the last few days. The driver called into a local radio station to defend his driving skills, saying that he was cut off, clipped the car, and then ended up on top of two other vehicles in this parking lot. This spot really is crappy, the line up to Tim Horton's frequently spills out onto Thickwood Boulevard, and people get stuck behind them, and then pull back out into oncoming traffic. With a bad intersection right before this spot, and a school zone right below it, there really should be some kind of change made to make it safer. Signs have already been posted stating that people will be fined for blocking the Boulevard, and the drive-thru is now a double line, but still the coffee addicts don't follow the rules.

Not that I am defending this driver, I don't think he was driving the speed limit if he was able to land on two parked vehicles. But I could be wrong, and I hope I am wrong. I am sick of the drivers here, this parking lot is right outside where the public health office is located. Imagine if a woman had just come out with her baby when this happened. Instead of the jokes about the driver wanting to get his coffee, a much sadder outrage would be circling the community instead. I don't know what the answer is, but if really is scary some days to drive here. I hope that the municipality will continue to talk about different safety campaigns, and that the RCMP will continue to crack down on those who make our roads unsafe.

And to end on a personal note this week, our little Shayleen turned five on Thursday. All those who have read my column in the Post have been with us from the beginning with our little girl. It's so hard to believe that it has been 5 years since this little miracle blessed our lives. It was -50 with the windchill the night she was born, but my God, she warmed our hearts as soon as we saw her.

And look at her now!