are over achievers

Beginning the first year we were married we made a gingerbread house every Christmas. I would make the gingerbread. E would design and make the structure and later when we had kids they would gather around the kitchen table with bowls and bowls of candy to decorate.

The houses became more and more complex. At one point E was melting hard candies to make stain glass windows and lighting was fed up through the floors to illuminate the colors.

Years ago, I worked for a big blue company. There were a lot of woman in the office who were around same age as me with small children. One winter a Christmas cookie exchange was organized. Mainly the event was an opportunity to drink wine and have some fun . Coming home with a car full of cookies and treats was an added benefit.

So the concept was each of us was to make ten dozen cookies of one type. Ten woman were invited and each one would go home with ten dozen cookies, ten different types. You would be well supplied with a selection of baked goods to take to family dinners, children’s parties at school or for some of us, to eat when no one was looking.

My friends and I gathered in a beautiful new home in Lynne Valley. The evening promised to be great fun and it did prove interesting to see what each woman made. I remember my contribution was less than stellar. I made thumbprint cookies with store bought strawberry jam. Not my finest moment but still I tried.

I did better than the skinny co-worker who showed up with one dozen cookies. She thought she would just take one cookie from each batch. One dozen cookies was all that skinny could imagine needing over the holidays.. Imagine???????

The last woman to arrive to the party brought her contribution in large card board boxes. She had to go to her car three times to get all of the boxes. The other nine of us stood proudly beside the dining room table where our achievement was so beautifully, we thought, displayed. Once her coat was off and her boxes assembled  in the centre of the room  she sighed  “There. Now can someone help me get these on the table?” We all stared in disbelief as the box lids opened to reveal ten individually created gingerbread houses.  Each house came with fencing and trees and lego people playing in the yards. She had made ten F*#@ing gingerbread houses.

You gotta appreciate having people in your life who

are over achievers

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proof Santa exists

As was the custom when our kids were young, family dropped in on Christmas Eve. The winter of ’92 or ’93, their uncle brought with him a wooden puzzle he had had since he was a kid. He couldn’t remember how to put it together and hoped his nephews would help.. They were 3 and 6, I think.

As the evening wore on most gave the puzzle a try. My mother and I didn’t even attempt it. Neither of the boys could do it. Their uncle said he had given up.. His older brother, the kids father, E, couldn’t do it… Everyone was frustrated. Enter Papa, the kids grandfather and E’s Dad. He knew everything from engineering to nautical history. No one knew more than Papa… He sat down to the puzzle with the boys at his knees watching.. Nope, Papa threw it down on the coffee table in disgust. “There must be a piece missing!” he puffed.

As the evening wore on the puzzle was forgotten on the coffee table. The children pushed it aside to lay out milk and cookies in front of the fireplace for Santa. He would be sure to see the snacks when he arrived. The Night Before Christmas was read and the children sent happily off to bed at a most reasonably negotiated hour.

The adults continued their evening of conversation, rum and mince tarts. Shortly before the midnight hour, uncles and aunts and my Mom went home. Papa went upstairs  to our guest room and E and I collapsed in a heap on our bed. The next day would be a long one with the house filled with more family for the turkey dinner.

No sooner had we shut our eyes than the kids were up. As tradition required they were lined up in order of height and paraded down the stairs singing jingle bells. Singing jingle bells, as everyone knows is the universal signal to the beginning of Christmas morning festivities. We opened the door to the living room, the tree lights were on and there were presents everywhere. The stockings were packed full as they hung in front of the fireplace.

Yet, with all there was to see under the tree our youngest son stood staring at the coffee table.The milk was gone. There was a small scrap of paper with a few words written on it laying on the plate where the cookies had been. Beside the the plate was the completed wooden puzzle. The note read ” Thanks kids, for sharing your puzzle. That was fun” Love Santa

There has never been any doubt about Santa in our family. We had

proof Santa exists

but unconditional love

Hi Mom,

Well it’s done. I handed over the keys to your house tonight. I am back at the hotel for a long soak in a hot bath and to finish off the bottle of red I started last night.

When you asked me to be executor I thought it was kind of an honour.. No one tells you its a giant pain in the ass. E is still working on his Moms estate and she died three months before you.. I’ve said it before.. They do not make it easy to leave this world.

But, contrary to what E and Craig thought I was doing these last three months….. which was watching kitten videos on my laptop while they worked.. I was actually trying to get your will probated and the estate distributed in record-breaking fashion so sister and brother could move on with their lives… and I did it. Our friends think I’m concerned about how long our reno is taking, they don’t understand how many other balls in the air E and I are juggling.. The reno schedule is our schedule and the it is coming along perfectly.

House sold, monies distributed, estate finished 3 months to the date of your passing. I think I set a record… Brother has taken your gift and moved to a lake on the west coast and sister has bought a house outside of a tiny fishing village on the Atlantic ocean…..I have not taken offense that it is as far as she can possibly get from us, as I figure its her time to have a life. Lord knows she did right by you, staying with you so you could live your 96 years in your own home..  lucky you..

But I’m sad Mom. I left your house today and that is it. We have no more ties to the town where we raised our three kids.. all of us.. you too.. It was you who drove them to and from school and sat with me on the sidelines while E coached every conceivable sports team. I can still picture you and sister walking down the road every Christmas morning to watch the kids open their presents.

Imagine how lucky the kids and I were to have you, just a couple of doors away from me. Really, for my whole life, until I moved to the island.. Sorry about moving.. I know you understood though. You would have come with us if you could. The desire to live on the water was so ingrained in us our whole life. Is it any wonder all three of your children have taken your gifts to enable them to retire on the ocean or beside a lake?

I have had trouble writing since you have been gone. This blog was for you.. To share with you our life.. I can’t tell you how often I stop to call you to tell you the news. Craig figured out how to meld the old roof with the new, our first grand baby is coming on Aug 28 by scheduled C-section, our two youngest kids are coming to visit for the weekend, I saw an eagle swimming under our house… its endless. Every day I want to tell you something.. I had you with me for sixty years. I know, very fortunate indeed, Many don’t have the privilege. But still its hard.. I never had a Dad, you were my best friend.

I’ve been so busy, but tonight it hit… The realtor told me you would be proud of what I have done.. I called bullshit.. You don’t know what I have done. Your gone…Neither of us believed in an after life. However……………………………………… just in case we were wrong.. and you are watching me.. I did it.. I did everything you asked of me. Because my whole life I received from you nothing

but unconditional lovesep 22 010

 

 

 

 

To skate across

It was the summer of 1970 something and my friends and I spent every possible waking hour down at the beach. In those days the Vancouver beaches were divided up by high school. Our sand was at Spanish Banks West, while E’s high school claimed Locarno. 

That was the summer we met Don. He was the lifeguard at that end of the beach and we all became good friends. Life guarding in Vancouver at the time was, as to be expected a seasonal job with its obvious December employment issues. That winter proved different.

Don was called in to be a lifeguard over the Christmas holidays on the frozen Lost Lagoon. Vancouverites eager to play pond hockey and family skate like their Eastern Canadian peers grabbed their skates and headed to the entrance of Stanley Park. The ice was precarious at best but Don was thrilled for the work. It’s been forty years and we have never seen that activity on Lost Lagoon since.

E and I have three nights left in this house, huddled by the stove. Minus degree weather has everyone on the island taking extra care and attention with their water systems. With the crews absent over the last weekend from our cliffside house we had to borrow some boiling water from Mr. Ho to restart our system for the crew’s return on Tuesday.

When we leave Soho for the last time this Monday we will shut off the water and put antifreeze down all the drains. After we move back into our place and our house is occupied full time again we shouldn’t have any further water issues. But first, we have a week long family road trip. We are taking our boat up to town to catch the ferry to the city, to rent a van to drive twelve hours across the Province. We hope..

Two days ago Mr. Ho went to town in their 21 ft. Manaro and the harbour was frozen. Their boat had to play the roll of ice breaker. The crunching of ice, scary as they tried to power through it. They haven’t been able to get their boat out of its slip since. We are hoping the harbour clears by Monday as we need to get our boat in there to start what will be a long snowy adventure with our family and I am too old 

to skate across.

water at Christmas

“What do you think of E?” I asked of my mom at the 1980 Hycroft Christmas tea. I was twenty-two and E and I had been dating about eight weeks. “He doesn’t talk much” she observed. “Well, I’m going to marry him, so you better get to know him somehow” I replied.

Two weeks later, on our first Christmas I demanded he come to my mom’s house first thing in the morning. Looking back, his  family must have been pretty disappointed that their big brother was disappearing Christmas morning to see some new girlfriend. But true to his word he arrived at our door first thing on Christmas morning. He was still in his pj,s and house coat. It was in his house coat that he played bartender all day meeting various friends of my mothers for the first time, as they stopped in for a drink and A Merry Christmas.

Just before we sat down to dinner, someone, I don’t know who or why noticed the basement was filling with water. The sump pump was broken. There were no plumbers for any price at all, in 1980 Kerrisdale who would answer their phone. My sister, brother, sister-in-law and my new boyfriend waded around with me in the stinky dirty water. Mops and buckets, towels and rags couldn’t keep up to the flow. We could smell the turkey upstairs and I think that was what drove my sisters determination to be rid of this sump problem. She grabbed a sledge-hammer my father left behind and hit the sump pump as hard as she could. Whoooosh.. The water all sucked out the drain…. We rolled our Jean legs back down and E, his pj’s and we all went up for our first Christmas dinner together.

Today, for the first time in five years we had to pump out our septic system. Truth be told, we were dreading it and have procrastinated as long as we could… It didn’t prove to be any where near as nasty a job as we expected. I guess that is a testament to well functioning bacteria in our system

I don’t really know why I thought the story from 1980 was relevant to today’s activity but there you have it. If I could think of a moral to the story I guess it would be:  if you start your relationship mucking out stinking dirty water on Christmas you will be content, thirty six years later, to still be mucking out dirty stinking

water at Christmas

 

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Such nice guys

Years ago my friends nephew was walking in a market in Cambodia, alone on Christmas Day. He got to talking to a Canadian couple who insisted he come home to their apartment for Christmas dinner with them. “He shouldn’t be alone” they said. During the dinner they discovered that his Aunt (my friend) had been their next door neighbour in Prince George back when they were first married. Small world.

My friend, taking note of her nephews good fortune to be welcomed at Christmas in a foreign land payed it forward. The next year, while walking on Granville Island on December 24th, ran into a backpacker travelling alone from Australia.  She invited him home to the Christmas dinner with her children who had all travelled to Australia and could well understand his place at their family dinner table. 

We are currently renting our house to a crew of trades working on a neighbours house. There is more than one house rented to these guys at the moment. They are good guys and taking great care of our homes.  Winter is upon us and these guys are working long days in cold conditions to try to get the walls in before Christmas. When we see them as we drive past the construction site, my old arthritic bones ache just watching them out in the rain. They come over to the island on Mondays with their coolers of “milk” and cans of chef Boyardi. After their long days of physical labour they sleep in sleeping bags on pull out couches and window seats. It’s not ideal… But you do what you do to make a living. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like a nice hot home cooked meal. I remembered my friends story and decided to pay it forward. 

They came tonight at 6:30. Ten of them. Before they were allowed through the door I made them turn off their cell phones… Island rules. It was a night to laugh a bit and fill their tummys… I didn’t want to be competing with their friends and hockey scores. I know my neighbour Duanne says he didn’t get a handbook when he moved here outlining the island rules. But trust me, if there was a handbook.. Rule number one, no cell phones when enjoying a meal together.

 We had two huge pots of chilli, bowls of salad, loaves of homemade French bread, two types of cake and lots of “milk”. The fire was well stoked and the house warm and cozy.. I figured they must have been starving so we got straight to the meal. Even the two dogs seemed to understand that this night was about the guys and their chance to sit back and talk about something other than rebar and 2 X 4’s… We didn’t mention work. 

People ask me why I like living on this island. Hey, where else would I get to have dinner and spend such an enjoyable evening with eleven 

Such nice guys

Bring it on

We used to have a live in  nanny from the Phillipines. For seven years my house was clean and our clothes were ironed… Oh, and my kids were well cared for.. When it came to the end of the year the nannies would stress that it was important   on December 31st that the cupboards, freezer and pantry were full. It was good luck. It meant that the cupboards would  never be bare in the  year ahead. The fact that I had overspent at Christmas was irrelevant to them. Those cupboards had to be replenished. And so I did. Far be it from me to tempt the Filipino abundance Gods.

We went to town today. First time since August 15th. We set a personal record for shopping stops.TWENTY! …again I say, where is Woodwards when you need them. There is not one store that has all that we need or even most of what we need. I get my fish food and bird seed (black oil sunflower seed) from Buckerfields but my bird food (suet) from the dollar store.  I Get  my dog food at Walmart, my spices from the bulk store, my boat oil from Canadian Tire and my daffodil bulbs from Costco. We saw Doctors and pharmacies, had blood work and an X-ray. The dog had a haircut!

It was exhausting but I don’t mind. Cause at the end of the day, by the end of September it will all be done. My cupboards will be full. The pantry will want of nothing, the generator will have diesel and my propane will be  full. 

I have had to take the lessons from my nannies seriously. It is not only good luck, and good Karma to have the cupboards, pantry, freezer ( and generator) filled at the beginning of January. But, living on this island, it is a matter of common sense and responsibility to start the off season well prepared. It is no ones fault but our own if we run out of fuel, food or wine. If the seas are high and we run out of TP, it’s our own damn problem. So…. With that in mind, as I sit exhausted in my chair from my trying day.. I look at the well stocked pantry and say.  Ok, winter

  

Bring it on