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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…

Gone With the Wind

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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 …

A brand new year …

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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

We will remember them…

Living on the “wet” coast, Remembrance Day in Port McNeill is more often than not drizzly, cold and grey. Seems appropriate somehow.  Most war movies include scenes of tanks and trucks bogged down in mud, soldiers wet and cold in foxholes. It’s the least I can do to stand at the cenotaph for an hour in the rain to honour the brave souls who fought.

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The number of veterans in our Remembrance Day parade gets smaller every year. It makes me teary to see men and women marching wearing medals, badges and insignia they earned at such a high price.  The vets that march in our parade now are ones who served in more recent conflicts like Afghanistan.

Years ago I started asking family members how war touched their lives.  Because he was born with only one arm, my Grandpa Collings couldn’t join the regular forces in England during WWII.  Instead he was active in the Home Guard spending evenings driving through the countryside to enforce blackout conditions.  My father remembers there was a shed on their farm full of dynamite and ammunition in case it because necessary to fight.  Fields on the family farm were pocked with shell craters.  The village school was bombed and completely destroyed.  Everyone knew the importance of diving under the beds during air raids.  That’s my Dad lower left…a little boy living in a country under attack.

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My great-uncle John was in the Royal Tank Corps.  That’s the unit recovering tanks from the battlefields.  When I visited England in the early 80’s he gave me a pin that he reckoned came from an Egyptian soldier’s hat. And I’ve always wondered…was the soldier killed on the battlefield?  My happy ending self wants to believe he simply lost his hat.

Leaving family and friends behind in small village England, my great-aunt Dorothy boarded a ship headed to Detroit Michigan to start a new life with her American GI. One of the thousands of war brides.  Not knowing that some day both her sons and a son-in-law would be drafted into the Vietnam War.  Two saw combat.  One was shot while flying in a helicopter.  All three came home forever changed.

My mother & father-in-law met while serving in the Canadian Air Force just after WWII.  Doug was a pilot, flying fighter aircraft during the Cold War.  A different time, Buddy had to quit when they got married. Stationed all across Canada, France & Germany.  My husband remembers whispered talk of the Cold War, nuclear bombs and Russia.

Another generation now wears a uniform…our nephew Stewart right now as a Corporal in the Canadian military.  A journeyman power engineer on a base in Quebec.  We know what he agreed to when he signed up and my prayer is…well…you know what the prayer is.

I think of myself as anti-war but pro-military.  This proud Canadian wears a poppy, will stand at the Cenotaph on Friday and then go to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281 afterwards to shake hands with veterans and thank them from the bottom of my heart for their service.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Robert Laurence Binyon

Shades of Autumn

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 !!