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Many, many years ago we camped.  The kind of camping where you sleep on the ground.  With sleeping bags. In a tent.  No flush toilet or kitchen or electricity.  Loads of fun when you’re young.  I wouldn’t trade those happy memories for anything.  Like trying to pitch a tent in the dark.  Or me leaving the zipper open for raccoons to steal food.  My bff Yvonne just reminded me about that crazy trip when we were teenagers.  Now, with achy bones and having to get up multiple times in the night that kind of camping just doesn’t work anymore.  Our daughter & her husband spend most summer weekends camping.  Not wanting to be left out of a trip to Cluxewe Resort, Chris and I rented a trailer for a week.  A local bed & breakfast owner delivered her fully equipped trailer to the campsite for us.  Levelled it, pulled out the awning and had the hot water turned on and ready to go.  All the bedding, dishes and gear required for our home away from home.  Added perks like stereo, tv, microwave, heat & shower.  Wow camping sure has changed since our blow up mattresses and kerosene lanterns.

After putting away our clothing and food we immediately set up lawn chairs for our favourite part of the glamping program.  Sitting.  Cold beverage in hand and wearing my touristy straw hat during the day with arms & legs lathered in sunscreen and at night hoodie drawn tight and wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea. Imagine me sitting still for minutes at a time…relaxing.

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This happy one-year-old couldn’t get enough of the outdoors.  Rain or shine.  By stroller or wagon Bowen happily traveled from one end of the property to the other every day.  Including umpteen visits to the park. There was so much to touch and pick up and put in his mouth: weeds, grass, rocks and dirt.  With friends and family visiting every day there was always someone to follow our curious boy on his expeditions.  Being so close to forest and reports of cougars in town made us a little more cautious than usual.

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We saw lots of familiar faces during the week.  Locals out for a walk, camping or visiting the cafe for a meal.  It may only be 10 minutes from home but Cluxewe is very popular with North Islanders.  We share the same coast but the scenery is different.  The Cluxewe River, estuary and ocean sit side by side with oodles of shore & water birds and lush green vegetation.  The beach being more exposed washes up all kinds of driftwood and huge clam shells as far as the eye can see.

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The nights did get a bit chilly but that’s what campfires are for — and look at my perfect s’more.  Thanks to Nate for the perfectly roasted marshmallow sandwiched in between two chocolate covered digestive cookies.  Sweet, sticky goodness.

Some of the stories around the fire had me laughing until I cried.  Don’t worry gang — what is said at Cluxewe, stays at Cluxewe.  The very best part of camping though is the food.  Megan and I carefully drafted up a menu ahead of time, shopped for all the ingredients and then feasted at every meal.  Burgers & potato salad, mac & cheese with Caesar salad and garlic bread, perogies & sausage.  This photo was taken on Saturday which was an appy dinner.  Visiting family and friends all contributed a dish and thanks to our camping neighbour Erin the stand out for me was deep fried halibut bites.

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Our next few trips away will be by motorcycle.  Next month we’re island hopping to Denman & Hornby.  And in August we’re looking forward to meeting up with my brother Dan and cousin Brian who are hopping on their Harley’s in Ontario for some iron butt riding to BC and back.

Hugs the beach…

http://www.cluxeweresort.com/

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There is so much going on in our small community of 2300 souls.  Yesterday the Rotary Club of Port McNeill debuted their 1st Annual Rugged & Wild Race to build support and awareness for the next phase of the Rotary Trail.  A dear friend and president of the Rotary Club Deborah Murray hoped 50 people would turn up.  I pooh poohed that number and guessed at least 100 would come.  We were both wrong.  There was at least 200 people in attendance with 160 registered to bike/walk/run the 5km and 10 km routes.  The registration table was overwhelmed running out of waivers twice, sending a volunteer to find a photocopier stat !!

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I named our 3-generation friends and family team “Bowen’s Babes.”  And that’s my Rotarian husband explaining the why’s, where’s and how’s of the event.  And we’re off down Mine Road to Beach camp where volunteers at the first check point offered water and a pit stop.  And then the parting of the ways.  Not wanting to slow down our team mates — the 50 somethings in our group said goodbye to the younger members just as the skies let loose.  So glad I brought a rain jacket.

From Beach Camp to Beach Drive the 2nd check stop in front of the Harbour Office offered apple juice & silly string.  Past the marina and across Broughton Boulevard to the Community Hall we followed the trail up through Broughton Campground, onto logging roads and out to Hwy 19.  Back onto the Rotary Trail and down Campbell Way towards the finish line.

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At the one hour and 55 minute mark Cheryl and I were the last ones to cross the finish line.  Thanks to the volunteers who waited for us.  We’re happy you saved a few hotdogs and candy for two wet, muddy and tired walkers !!  After hugs & high fives Cheryl and decided we’ll definitely do it again next year.  Everything I wore went into the washing machine and I’ve never been so glad to step into a hot shower.

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As soon as Chris finished his MC duties he hopped on the Harley and headed down to the Show ‘n Shine in front of the IGA.  The waxing and polishing paid off and Chris came in 3rd place out of 22 bikes.  Torrential rain and hail didn’t stop these intrepid riders.

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Hours later we headed to the Lion’s Hall for their annual Action Auction.  The Lions Club is celebrating their 50th anniversary and the Auction is their big fundraiser. This year there were 174 items in the live auction with everything from bbq tools to loads of gravel.  Chris and NISS Principal Jay Dixon were co-auctioneers this year coaxing the crowd into bidding just a little bit more for items donated by local businesses and individuals.  I walked away empty-handed this year but had a great time watching the action.  Oh and I really enjoyed the deep-fried pickles.  Thanks to the Lioness Club for all the great goodies coming out of the kitchen.

Nobody can ever say there’s nothing to do in Port McNeill.  It’s more a case of how do we fit all the events into our schedule.

Until the next adventure…

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For those who haven’t met me in person I smile.  A lot.  Ditto with laughing. Sometimes until I wheeze.  Best medicine EVER !!  My family have seen me laugh to extremes quite a few times.  Usually when I’m overtired and something hits my funny bone.  Highly embarrassing when it happens at an inappropriate time or place.   “Uh oh Mom’s gonna blow,” my daughter warns when she sees a laughing fit on the way.  And I’ve learned that trying to rein in the hilarity only makes it worse.  I once broke into a rash trying my best not to alarm shoppers in the greeting card aisle at the drugstore.  It wasn’t pretty.

This week I had so many reasons to smile.  One morning after a late leisurely breakfast at Tia’s Cafe with my daughter & grandson we walked the town centre to run errands.  Spring flowers at the Post Office are so cheerful even on the greyest & rainiest of days.   Daffodils are my absolute favourite.  Note to self:  plant some in our garden !!  These foot vase/planters at the drugstore stopped me in my tracks.  Whimsical, a tiny bit creepy and I’d like to ask the artist, why is the big toe curled up?  We browse through the gift section often.  This week there’s a batch of wooden signs using old records.  How retro !!  And a great way to use up that vinyl collecting dust in basements all over the world.

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Eleven months ago this little munchkin started charming us all.  On this particular day he was most interested in what Grandpa was doing outside on the ladder. We knew Grandpa was power washing winter grime from the vinyl siding but Bowen looked at it as a game of peekaboo.  “Where’s Grandpa?” “Where did he go?” “Oh there he is.”  I dare anyone to keep a straight face watching a baby process the world or when they bless you with a gap toothed grin.  Yesterday in Port Hardy Bowen carried on quite the conversation with an old fellow who was happy to speak the goo goo gaa gaa language babies understand.

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Waking up every morning my routine is simple.  Shuffle into the kitchen, turn the coffee pot on, and gaze out the window.  Time for my own weather forecast.  Today I’m guessing: scattered clouds, mostly sunshine, wind from the south and a high of 12 degrees.  We’ll need sunglasses or ball cap today to keep that glorious sunshine out of our eyes. That makes me smile.

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And on the agenda for today.  Baking large batches of banana chocolate chip muffins.  Homemade goodness that will go perfectly with afternoon tea.  With a view !!  One more reason to let my happiness shine through.

Hugs from the beach…

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Way back when.  In old timey movies.  Before fades & cutaways, dissolves and fancy modern transitions.  Old school movie makers had to be creative.  My favourite segue is wind blowing sheer curtains almost horizontally accompanied by the overly dramatic “woooooooooh.”  The viewers cue that something dramatic is coming.

On Christmas morning I unwrapped a big cardboard box.  Inside was a new gym bag.  Hmm.  Curious.  I didn’t ask for a gym bag.  I didn’t know I even needed a gym bag.  I had made a few off hand comments about going back.  But you know. Some day.  Did I just feel a slight breeze?  Opening the bag I found work out gear, a new pair of runners and a post card that welcomed me to a two month transformation challenge.  Ah there it is.  My always amazing and ever thoughtful husband providing the not so subtle nudge to let the winds of change blow !!

On January 16th I nervously showed up for my first session with Joel my personal trainer.  Eeeek what have I signed up for?  I have never done so many lunges or squats or jumping jacks in my life.  The next day I was taking the stairs gingerly one at a time  owie, owie, owie !!  Funny though it didn’t take long for my dormant & dusty competitive spirit to kick in.

I CAN DO THIS…my new mantra when I’m huffing and puffing and see other people working hard and not whining

I AM STRONG…and getting stronger.  I will never refuse to pick up my adorable grandson when he waves his perfect chubby hands in the air

I FEEL GREAT…walking away pumped full of endorphins after an intense workout

Two weeks into the challenge I flew to Ontario to spend time with my Mom after her hip surgery.  Instead of my regular gym and work outs with a trainer I came up with a few adjustments.  Walked outside if it was warmer than -4 using a local plaza with a huge dollar store for a warm up station.  Other days I power walked the five floors and stairwells of my Mom’s apartment building or pieced together a basic workout with 5 pound weights and an elliptical machine in the tenant’s basement gym.  My apologies to the residents who opened their door while I was racing down the hall.  I know I startled a few seniors and I was fully prepared to explain myself to the superintendent or the police 🙂

One of the side challenges in our transformation journey has been to post selfies on our private Facebook page. The first few weeks I took plenty of pictures but over time I was focussed more on losing one…more…pound and gaining a teeny bit more muscle tone on my arms.  You know the part I mean.  The jiggly bit underneath.

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Woofit selfies including our illustrious leader Joel Woo and one of our shyer transformation team members

Our “Woofit Transformation Challenge” group includes one man and 9 women. Ages from late teens to late 50’s.  We all want to make healthy changes.  Lose a few pounds, get fit, eat healthier & drink more water, attend the gym regularly and learn more about the gym and equipment.  Being an introvert I’m not always comfortable in a group but this one is different.  Fist bumping at weigh ins, funny meme posts on our Facebook page and encouragement.  So much encouragement.

This is the last week of the program.  I’m curious to see how the “after” pictures will compare with ones from eight weeks ago where I reluctantly let it all hang out. No sucking it in or wearing a flowing shirt.  I don’t handle change well (says Captain Obvious) but this journey has been worth the time and sweat and achey muscles. Blow wind blow !!

Love from a fitter me …

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New Year’s Eve without the headache?  Quite simple actually.  Stay home, drink tea and tune into CNN to see how long it takes Kathy Griffin to have Anderson Cooper giggling with embarrassment.  Less than one minute by the way.  Being three hours ahead of New York we didn’t have to force ourselves to stay up to midnight. Yup — that’s how we rolled this New Year’s Eve.

Year in review shows were a blur of conflicts & terrorism, celebrity deaths and scientific breakthroughs.  For me 2016 was made up of more highs than lows with lots of in betweens.  Cycle of life stuff.  One of the most amazing moments of my life was being part of Team Megan in the delivery room the day our grandson was born.  Our daughter was so brave and a marvel to behold from the first contractions to the moment we met the most beautiful baby in the world Bowen Michael.  I’ve gone almost cross-eyed staring at those pinchable chubby cheeks and soulful blue eyes.

Ticking off one of the biggest items from our bucket list Chris and I hopped on the Harley for the “big trip.”  See the many posts below 🙂 The whole year was broken into chunks of: planning for the trip, being on the trip and post trip.  Thankfully I blogged as we went because I couldn’t hazard a guess as to how many state lines we crossed or remember all the places we visited.  We have so many memorable moments like the impromptu bluegrass festival At Elmer’s General Store, the chef who came out to meet us when she heard we were going to blog about her homemade flapjack syrup or sharing a beer in a hotel parking lot with another motorcyclist after a torrential storm forced us off the road.

In my own “gone but not forgotten” tribute — 2016 was a sad year.  My Uncle Don Lane and then his daughter, my cousin Jennifer Lane Robinson both passed away. And who would have imagined at my age and a grandmother myself that I would be sharing the news that my 96-year-old Nana was gone.  Joan Mary Collings was the matriarch of five generations.  Celebrating her birthday in July we gathered for brunch and she reminded us of the importance of family.  Yes she lived a very long life and no it wasn’t a surprise when she died, but I felt out of sorts for a few days.  Mopey that my Nana was gone.  My last grandparent — the end of an era.  And then I smile when I think of how our daughter described her as “a real sassy molassy.”  A proper British Nana whose stern and no-nonsense manner put me on my best behaviour as a child but when I did some growing up I adored her independence and sense of humour.  She and I went for dinner occasionally when we both lived in the same city.  We would share our funny dating stories and she once tried to give my phone number to a good-looking waiter.  We were pen pals and I treasure all the letters that were signed “with fondest love Nana.”

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My last visit and hug with Nana in August

Resolutions for 2017? I’m thinking along the lines of eating healthier & trying to be more physically active.  My husband totally surprised me at Christmas with a gym bag full of work out gear, running shoes and sessions with a personal trainer.  The “transformation” starts on the 16th and I’ll let you know how that all works out.

Yesterday I got an email from myself that I’d totally forgotten about.  Futureme.org is a website where you write yourself a letter and they send it to you a year later.  Here’s the last paragraph and I still feel this way.  Happy New Year !!!

You have enough !!!! More than you ever dreamed of actually. Be grateful for the house on the beach, a girl cave for crafting, a pantry full of food, a car to get you where you want to go. And married to your bff for more than 30 years. A beautiful daughter happily married and now a wee one. JUST BE GRATEFUL. Pray more, be silly more, get outside and breathe fresh air more, get to the gym more and one more reminder WRITE MORE.

Love Me xoxoxo

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Since arriving home from “the big trip” just over a month ago, I’ve been gently easing myself back into healthier eating and more walking.  Two and a half months sitting on the back of the motorcycle and all those restaurant meals came to a screeching halt.

Yesterday was one of my favourite kind of days.  Cool and crisp.  Overcast but no raincoat required.  Happy, happy, happy.  Donning my warm hoodie and throwing on my knapsack I pretty much ran out the door.  To be outside, sniffing that glorious sea perfume.  Having been gone all summer I felt like George in “It’s A Wonderful Life” when he’s running down the main street yelling at the top of his lungs.

Hello Port McNeill seawall !!!!!

Hello you wonderful old abandoned house !!!!!

Hello big monkey tree beside the harbour office !!!!!

That beautiful red bush catches my eye every time I drive down our road.  It’s gorgeous and just so….red.  And I love that yards & doorsteps are being decorated with pumpkins and scarecrows.  First we have Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and then a very big deal for our little town HALLOWE’EN !!

And the doorway through a huge hedge has always reminded me of The Secret Garden.  The old manor was barged over from the mainland many years ago and was a b&b for 30 years.  Now it mostly sits empty.IMG_1684.JPG

While we were gallivanting across North America this summer, a new clock was erected in front of the marina.  A thank you to Gerry Furney, one of the longest serving mayors in Canada.  The clock chimes every 15 minutes and reminds me of my husband’s parents whose clock sang the very same song.

And there’s the old house I pass every time I walk downtown.  Once occupied by Olive Tunnicliffe who worked next door at the laundromat for many years.  Olive was what my daughter calls “a sassy molassy.”  Her bark was definitely worse than her bite!! Olive was a kind hearted little old lady who loved her family and friends, made great gingerbread men and knit a few million miles of yarn.  It’s sad nobody lives there now and with the broken front window I wonder what sorts of wildlife have found their way inside?

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Leaves are changing colour and carpeting yards all over town.  Another one of my favourite fall smells.  Earthy and rich !!  Soon we’ll be firing up the wood stove to keep the chill away.

I leave you with a sacred part of my walk along the seawall.  Memory benches where locals and visitors can rest for a bit and enjoy the incredible view.  This bench remembers a local woman — a wife/mother/daughter & friend and the family lovingly care for the plants and add seasonal touches.

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Wishing our Canadian family & friends a Happy Thanksgiving.  Turkey dinner is my favourite meal to make and my favourite to eat.  Thank goodness for stretchy pants !!

Blessings from the beach…

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STUPID LEUKEMIA !!!  She was only 48-years-old. That’s the sanitized version of what I muttered when I read the Facebook post last week that my cousin passed away.

I’m the oldest child of the oldest child on my Dad’s side of the family.  He’s one of seven children.  And they all had kids and so on.  Five generations of us with my beautiful and feisty 96-year-old Nana the matriarch.

My cousin Jennifer was 8 years younger than me.  I remember her as a cute little blonde.  Younger sister to Stuart & Jamie.  Every year on Boxing Day the whole clan gathered for Boxing Day at my grandparents house for a big turkey dinner. When Grandpa passed away Jennifer’s parents took over hosting the party.  In their old school rec room we all had in our basements back then.

Because she was so much younger, we never really connected except for kid play at family parties or croquet in our grandparents garden.  I moved to the Northwest Territories in 1984.  Jen would have been 16-years-old. She was busy with high school and all things teenager. I was dealing with life away from home and a brand new relationship.

Back in the pre-Internet days we had to actually write letters to each other or spend big money to call long-distance.  I savoured letters full of family news & gossipy tidbits. Of course being so far away you usually give each other the short, sanitized version. The one where everyone is “fine” until births, weddings and tragedy make the family headlines.  The Ontario family are more involved in the daily fabric of each other’s lives.  I’m an outsider that blasts back in occasionally for a family fix.  I don’t always know the stories behind the stories.

Through the grapevine I learned Jennifer had grown up into Jen — a travel agent. And then the exciting news when she became Mrs. Jen Robinson. Not having children of her own she channeled huge maternal love towards her nieces & nephews.

I love this picture of Jen and her dad, my Uncle Don.  He was a man’s man with a loud booming voice, worked restoring classic cars with his sons and I know he adored his little girl.

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A few years ago I found Jen on Facebook.  We caught each other up in a few sentences. The “I’m fine” with slightly more meat.  Jen was managing five travel agencies and doing mostly corporate work.  She and her husband Gary had a comfortable weekend routine spending time with family.

My Dad was the one to tell me Jen had been diagnosed with leukemia.  She would have to undergo many rounds of chemo before a bone marrow transplant was possible.  The family rallied to provide rides, meals and whatever Jen & Gary needed.  She spent  Christmas in the hospital, missed her nephew’s wedding and spent more time in the hospital than at home.  Then this summer the shocking news that Jen was being sent home — no more treatments — bone marrow was no longer an option.

Anytime I private messaged Jen she always got back to me right away.  I, on the other hand am notorious for not always being so prompt with my replies.  August 9th my last message to her starts with “love you too Jen” and “yes I agree wee babies are cuddly.”  Half written, I never finished the conversation.  Thought I had but went on to something else and totally forgot.  I just realized it today when I looked up our conversations to see how long we’d been Facebook friends.  Made me so sad I hadn’t pressed the send button.

Keeping us all up to date Jen posted each trip to the hospital when she spiked a fever and then her joy to be home again.  The last heartbreaking post was Jen “feeling blessed” as she checked into hospice and sending her love to all.  Those last few pictures of Jen surrounded by family…still smiling.

She loved, she was loved.  To me Jen was an earth angel with the extraordinary gift of making everyone around her feel cherished and a little bit better about themselves.  A beloved daughter, sister, auntie, wife, friend, and cousin.  Now a shining star.

Rest well Jen — you will be missed !!

 

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