Wednesday, December 31, 2008

20/20 (as in, hindsight is...)

Since I'm feeling particularly uncreative since the busyness of Christmas and because having my hubby home has taken a lot of my emotional energy (which is a good thing!), I've stolen this recap outline from Sharon, who stole it from someone else. Thanks, guys!

I wish you all a very happy new year!

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Sent my husband away to the Army and spent three months living in my own house alone...with Dora, of course. It's the single life I never had, without all the expensive and tiring partying and dating! We also experienced our first pregnancy, but lost it at 5 weeks in August.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't make NY's resolutions. Mainly because I know I'll find some excuse to break them. Besides, life is so full of twists and turns that I generally don't need them to keep me striving for something new or good. As for 2009, though, I think I will say to myself that I will resolve to be a more open, gracious and kind human being. I will also try to cut back on chocolate (ha! - right).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, but Julie's about to pop! I hope she gives birth on my bday - Jan. 23.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My grandpa. He lived in Ontario my whole life but did fly out for our wedding in 2006 (he ended up having a heart attack that morning and spending the evening in ICU - my aunt delivered his speech very well). He was a lovely man and I have fond memories of him. Wayne's grandpa also passed away, though I didn't know him too well.

5. What countries did you visit?

USA (Alaska) - we hope to make it to France sometime in 2009!

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

A better attitude and less anxiety

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 15 - the day my miscarriage began
August 21 - the day Wayne was officially accepted into the Armed Forces as an Officer Cadet
December 14 - the day Wayne flew home after graduating from his Basic Officer Training Course. He is now a 2nd Lieutenant.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving the three-month absence from Wayne and decorating our home in the meantime.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not spending enough time with Christ, and not trusting His plan for our family.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A miscarriage

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Our new car - love it! And the personalized dog tag I bought Wayne for his grad. It has my vows inscribed on it and our photo.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Wayne's - anyone who joins the Forces voluntarily, in my opinion, deserves to be celebrated!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Mostly my own.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Bills, the dog, and care packages for Wayne. :)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My first trip to visit Wayne in Montreal in October.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

I listen mostly to talk radio, and Praise 106.5 tends to repeat a lot, so I can't say.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:?
a) happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter?
c) richer or poorer?

HAPPIER, the same weight, and definitely poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Decorating and cooking. Oh...and exercising.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

Yes. I fell in love all over again when I reunited with my hubby.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

LOST! And So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Hate is a trap.

24. What was the best book you read?

My Love, My Life, which is all about being a military spouse. And The Shack - if you have not read this, read it now!

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Amy Winehouse - she's crude, but she's got talent!

26. What did you want and get?

I wanted Wayne to pass boot camp and he did. To work closer to home again, and I do. A couple of other things I won't list here...

27. What did you want and not get?

Another doggy.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

Oddly, I really loved Iron Man. The growth from an uncaring, immoral and emotionally void human being to a compassionate, righteous man was really interesting and entertaining.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 26 last January and Wayne took me to Federico's on Commercial Drive. I wore my LBD - it was a hit. ;)

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Not being separated from Wayne and not losing the baby (yes, that's 2).

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Joe Fresh and Forever 21. Concept? "Bargain-fab"

32. What kept you sane?

PRAYER.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

The character of Desmond Hume on LOST.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

While I was torn about the presidential candidates' values and background (they each had some good and some bad), I really was impressed with Obama's acceptance speech. Because I was a speechwriter briefly this year, all I could think of while he spoke (he didn't read much, I might add) was, "Whoever wrote this speech is brilliant - and now rich!"

35. Who did you miss?

Wayne, when he's gone.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I have to say it's a three-way tie between Angela, Erin and Marion. Great gals!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

God's timing is far beyond our comprehension; there really is a reason for everything. I need to let HIM write my story - and just go along for the adventure.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"I'll be home for Christmas."

What about you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sara's story

Two-and-a-half months ago, family friends of my parents moved to Vietnam on a two-year contract, as the husband works for the Canadian government in Immigration. His name is Jack, his wife is Shirly and their daughter is Georgia, 20. They have a crazy dog named Mickey. Not surprisingly, they live on a compound filled with North Americans, who are working in Vietnam, with their families. Most of them employ locals as cooks, gardeners, housekeepers and drivers.

I have pasted below the unedited story Jack & Shirly sent us last month, a story about a woman who works in their home and needs help - in a big way. The story is long, yes, but moving. Heartbreaking. At the end, there is information about how to help. If you feel so inclined, please contact me or Wilf personally. I plan to help, as well.

***

This is the story of Sara, her recurring nightmare and her simple dream. Sara is 47 years old, is married with two children, a boy of five, and a daughter who is eight. Sara is of mixed race, half Arabian, half Vietnamese. She is looked down upon by other Vietnamese, though she was born here, went to school here, speaks only Vietnamese, and is married to a pure blooded Vietnamese man.

Sara works seven days a week from five in the morning til late at night. Her day begins by getting her children up and started on their day. She’s at the local market by 6:30, picking up food for breakfast, kids lunches, and dinner. She also buys food for the family that she will go and work for. She returns home from the market, feeds the children, makes her husbands breakfast then leaves for work on her motor scooter.

She cleans and cooks for a family of foreigners who live in an extravagant home that is safely hidden behind high walls. Sara and her family live in one room. She comes to this majestic house Monday through Friday, cooking, shopping, doing the laundry, the ironing, washing floors, bathrooms, and more. She sees how this family live together in harmony and love. She sees the parents make plans for their two children and how they interact together. She sees the children go from their International school to a language school on weekends. She sees these children flourish.

Sara didn’t get much schooling in Vietnam. In Vietnam you have to pay for your children to go to school. After grade four the cost goes up. If you are poor you must leave school. This is the reality of the new communism in Vietnam. Her children seem destined to follow in their mothers’ footsteps.

On Saturday’s, Sara comes and works for us along with her sister-in-law, Yen. Sara doesn’t speak English, but Yen does. This is how we have come to know Sara and her story.

Sara must work hard every day because her husband doesn’t. He has not worked in a long time. He’s capable of working, but doesn’t. Maybe it’s because of this that he beats her and the children. Maybe it’s because of this that he carries on an affair with another woman and keeps telling Sara that he is going to leave her and the children. Maybe he beats her because she is not pure enough. Maybe he beats her, just because.

Sara is afraid of what will happen if he leaves them. She is afraid that she will be shunned. She never knew her father because he left Vietnam right after she was born. Her mother is dead and she has no siblings.

Sara was born in Saigon. She has spent every living moment of her life in this city of eight million. She has never ventured out beyond the city limits. She has never seen life beyond the perpetual day-in, day-out, need to work from dawn to dusk. She has to work. She cannot stop for one minute. She has no health care. She has no pension. She has no family to go to. She has no one to care for her.

But Sara does have one thing. She has a special thing she holds onto. She has a dream, a very simple dream. She dreams of going to Dalat with her two children for a little holiday. Just the three of them. In Vietnam, Dalat is the destination of choice for newlyweds. Dalat is a place for romance.

Dalat is in the central highlands, a six hour bus-ride from Saigon. The cost of the tickets is a pittance. The cost for the one star hotel, probably less. But it is beyond her reach and why it lives as her dream.

Shirly and Georgia put our Christmas tree up this past week and it looks fabulous. For the first time we will be without family for Christmas and it feels a little strange. But then we start thinking about Sara and our loss seems so trivial and insignificant.

We want to do something for Sara and her two children. We want Sara to live her dream and more. We want her children to have an opportunity to escape from their reality and have a chance for lives that take them beyond the city gates.

We want her children to have the dreams of childhood that we once had. Dreams that have a chance. Not dreams that are still-born at the moment of their conception.

The key to this is for the children to get a good education. A good education in Vietnamese and English. The ability to speak good English combined with a minimum grade 12 diploma will give them a chance. A chance to compete for something higher. An opportunity to meet other students who are being properly prepared for the future. An opportunity to aspire for something above and beyond what they know. A possibility of going to university.

Did you know that economists are predicting that by the year 2050, Vietnam will have a larger economy than Canada? With their work ethic, population size, and natural resources, this will probably happen. These two kids can be a part of that and we can give them their chance. We can make a real difference in the lives that they will lead. We can show them the value of helping others and working together for a better world.

With your help we can raise enough money to help fund their Vietnamese schooling and English language training. The plan is to put it into a trust fund that pays only to a school that the children attend. I can set that up here with HSBC. I’ve met a man who runs HSBC here in Saigon. He’s from Canada and lives on our compound. He will help us with the logistics.

This being the run up to Christmas, it is the perfect opportunity to tap those friends on the shoulder to contribute to Sara’s Christmas story. The beauty of Vietnam is that a dollar will go a long way.

Language classes at the best schools, ie, being taught by English speaking teachers cost approximately $100.00 U.S. (yes, we’re back to that) per student for three months. That’s approximately $500.00 per child per year, if they go year round. That’s $1000.00 per year for ten years for the two of them. Then there is regular school fees that must be paid. It’s a lot of money, but then there are a lot of us. I’m sending this to everyone I know. If each of you reach out and get five of your friends involved, we will make this happen.

Many of you have friends in the corporate world, some who own their own businesses, many of them influential and connected to others who are looking to make a difference. If you believe in a world of possibilities, if you believe that dreams can come true, then we can make this happen.

Feel free to share Sara’s story to others. If you could see the way she is in spite of her situation, it is awe inspiring. She is quick to smile and her face lights up with joy, which turns to bashfulness in her self consciousness. Standing in front of us in her bare feet, in clothes that would be turned away by Sally Ann. She makes me know that the stars were aligned in my favour when I was born. How lucky I was to have been born in Canada to the family I have. How lucky I have been to have had the parents that raised me. How lucky I was not to have been born in Vietnam. If not there but for fortune? How true it is.

The trip to Dalat can be done in a first class way for less than $300.00.

Apart from us giving bus tickets, hotel reservations, and money for food and miscellaneous spending, Sara will never have access to the funds. If she does, her husband will force her to give it to him. This can never happen. She cannot be put in a position where he can abuse and exploit her any more. The reason for a Trust fund.

Neither Shirl nor myself have done this type of thing before. We know that many of you have lots of experience in this area. We welcome all suggestions as to what should be done, could be done, etc. If you would like to give a gift of hope this year, then please join us in making this dream come to life.

We will be sending this out to over 100 people that we know. You are one of these lucky people. If you get just 5 of your friends involved, then we’re quickly at 500. If 500 people threw in $25.00, we will have the funds to turn Sara’s dream into reality.

John Lennon wrote a glowing song to his baby boy, Sean. In the song he has a great line, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”. Lets make a plan to help two young lives take a different path from the one they’re currently on. Let’s help their mother get on the bus to Dalat for that trip of a lifetime.

That is Sara’s story. We hope you will join up with us.


***


UPDATE

from Jack

I want to thank all of you who so kindly gave me feedback and suggestions as to the next step. After much discussion, we have decided that the best thing to do at this time is to try and get as many donations as we can, and then see if we can turn this into a longer term project for the future. Setting up non-profit societies, getting registered charity status, tax numbers etc, will take time and we can't do it from here in the time frame that we are looking at. As they say, strike while the iron is hot.

To that end, I would ask that you make out a cheque to me, ie, Jack Avery, and notate on the sbj line "donation for Sara's Kids". My esteemed brother-in-law, Wilf has kindly volunteered his time to collect the cheques and deposit them. Once he's deposited them, I will do an electronic transfer to HSBC here in Ho Chi Minh. I will give you all a full accounting of how much money we raise, and how the money is dispersed. You can feel good about your donation in that there will be no administration fees. Every penny will go to the recipients.

In terms of getting the money to Wilf, there are three ways of doing this. You can send it to him by mail. You can arrange to meet him and give it to him. If you are holding more than one cheque, ie, family, friends, etc, he has volunteered to come by and pick them up. Best way to reach Wilf is by email at wilfreimer@gmail.com. He lives in Metro Vancouver.

The response to this has really amazed Shirl and I. People are sending her story to friends, who want to contribute etc. To all of you, we say many thanks for your generosity. Your contribution need not be a big one. If you can get some of your friends, associates, etc, to also contribute, then the amount will grow through the generosity of many. Like the seed that finds the crack in the sidewalk, maybe it will find life and surprise us.

Her story is a sad one, but in spite of her situation, she is quick to break out into a big, beautiful smile when you engage her in conversation. I will get a photo and post it in the near future so you can see what we mean.

That's it for now. Stay warm and dry. We think of you all at this time as Christmas nears


Salut..........Jack and Shirl.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hurricane Wayne

Wayne has been home since Friday night and you'd think a bomb had hit the house! While I enjoyed having everything clean and tidy in his absence, it really left not much trace of his presence. Now that he's there and in and out with Dora all the time, there are muddy paw prints on the foyer floor, dirty dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor of the bedroom...you know, guy stuff. And as much as those things themselves infuriate me, the novelty has yet to wear off. It's nice to see evidence of my man around our home. It's also nice to have someone else walk the dog, empty the dishwasher and make my breakfast. I'm really being spoiled.

Wayne's graduation was awesome. I got on my flights there and back - praise the Lord! - and we even got to spend time together on the Tuesday night before the ceremony on Wednesday. I took public transit from Montreal airport to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which, in the thick of a new storm system, took as long as getting from Vancouver to Montreal! But hey, I could have paid $140 to sit in the same traffic in a warm taxi, or a total of $12 (with transfers) to hop from bus to metro to bus to bus, and end up in the same place. It's not like I was busy doing anything else!

I have never felt cold like that, before. The day I left was -13C, and it's so dry. Standing at the bus stop for 30 mins. in that was less than ideal. But for my 2nd Lieutenant...anything! I'd better get used to the cold, especially if we are posted to Petawawa or Shilo next winter.

I shot video of the ceremony - thanks to Christy and Ryan for lending me their camcorder! (I'll return it to you Saturday when you come over) - but I am still trying to figure out how to get the video onto my P.O.C. (piece-of-crap) computer and then post it here. Argh. Afterward, I met all Wayne's platoon mates in the bistro and they are a great bunch. Wayne took me to a fancy Italian restaurant for supper, where many of the grads and their families ended up. It was so fun.

I am so proud of my man for getting through this phase. Even though he's being bombarded with questions everywhere we go now, he's being so gracious and loves to tell his funny stories. He came home with four certificates and three photos to frame, one of which is a professional image of him all greased up with his can paint and lying in the brush with his weapon. It's strangely scary but so cool at the same time. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to seeing him in that environment, but he sure loves it.

He doesn't have to be back in Gagetown, NB, until January 14, so we have a whole month together. I apologize in advance if you come over this holiday season and the house is less than stellar. But you'll have to deal with it; I've got more important things to occupy my time than cleaning. :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monthly (?) update - ha!

Yes, I'm still alive. I have officially received "complaints" about my blog tardiness (it can't be that interesting, honestly). So here I am, at 10:51 pm, procrasinating as I prepare to arise at 4:45 am tomorrow to head to Montreal for Wayne's graduation. Blech.

This month has been (and will continue to be) one of transition: I finished up at Coast Capital after being lured back to Focus on the Family Canada by a fancy new title and a one-year contract to cover the mat leave for the gal who took over for me when I left in March. I've been back a week and it's really like I never left.

***Random blurt: I just signed in to Internet Explorer and randomly some smooth jazz-type music automatically started playing. First it was "Autum Leaves," then "Popsicle Toes" by Diana Krall...now it's some flamenco-type jazz guitar. It's awesome music but...where the heck is it coming from??? My computer has acquired an ear for good tunage! Should I be concerned?

I digress: In the theme of transition, I have painted the main floor of the house and a wall in the master bedroom (tip: one standard wall takes almost an ENTIRE gallon of red paint!), my dad spent the day here yesterday installing crown moulding (looks HOT!) and two IKEA floating shelves we've had for ages. Now, I get to see Wayne Wednesday (and possibly a brief visit at the base tomorrow night) and we hope he'll be heading home this weekend (if not, then next weekend) for 3 to 4 weeks.

My man has worked so hard these past 15 weeks, I can't wait to have him home just to dote on him hand and foot! It may sound lame, but he asked me last week, "What do you want to do first when I get home?" Know what I said? "Your laundry, make you supper, and sip a beer while we watch your episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger" (I bought him the entire box set for his bday). Yes, this is lame - why would I want to do his laundry? As much as chores suck the fun out of a day, I just can't wait to be needed again, to feel useful to the one I love, and to express love in practical ways. I may have had a different experince if I had never known the wholeness and unity of marriage thusfar - being alone in a home I call my own for four months may have had a different effect on me. But carrying around a heart heavy with longing for unscheduled and enduring connection has painted this experience in a more sombre light. True, I've enjoyed getting the house in order, bonding with my puppy, eating in front of the tv nightly (!), and shopping for only me and cleaning only one toilet (double HA!). Oh, and impromptu girls' nights rock, too. But to come home to everything the same as I left it (initially, a blessing), to come home to a dog I know I'm fully responsible for, to have no one to cook crazy new recipes for, to have no one to kiss my cheek goodnight and good morning...these things have been a little tough.

By no means am I diminishing the plight of others who've endured immeasurable heartache comparatively. However, I only have my life to live, and I only know what I know. And so far, this has been a flash in the pan of time, while simultaneously the longest four months of my life.

And it all ends this week. :)

EDIT: I wrote a longer conclusion with some meaningful points, but LOST IT in the preview box! Argh! Now you knwo why I blog so "frequently."

See you Friday!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

3 years ago today…

…I was hiking the Skookumchuck Trail on the Sunshine Coast with my boyfriend, Wayne, wondering which pocket of his my engagement ring was hidden in. I, who had known for a month that the rings were bought and this trip was planned to facilitate a proposal of the nuptial variety, had carefully applied a little mascara and lip gloss, knowing that at the end of the trail, in front of the swirling rapids, a photo would be taken to commemorate our new status as fiancé/fiancée.

The poor guy thought he was so slick, and to this day tries his darndest to make surprises, well, surprises. It doesn’t usually work (like the time he bought me diamond earrings for Christmas on our joint VISA, then threatened to return them because the surprise was ruined when I looked at the statement).

But today, it worked. The man of my dreams, who is stuck in Quebec and has much more stressful things to worry about, had his father deliver flowers to my office to commemorate that moment three years ago. The card reads: “Remember the Skookumchuck. Love always, Wayne.”

Life only gets better. What a prince! Happy (engagement) anniversary, Wayne!

The engagement pool at work - they bet on what day and time during that weekend away that he'd pop the question.



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Silver Jewelry contest

Want to win some really gorgeous silver jewelry? Then head over to Silver Treats, and enter your email address for a chance to win!

I remember

Today was my first Remembrance Day wearing not only a poppy, but the Military Families of Canada pin. As I watched the parade come down the street to the tune of the bagpipes and saw the flags waving to the rythym of the synchronized march, I couldn't have been more proud to now officially be a part of this special celebration. I can't imagine what it feels like to have lived through WWI - the end of which is the reason we celebrate Remembrance Day. Hopefully, I'll never know what living in war feels like. However, for those who do, I now have a glimpse into the past and can see just a touch of how the families of these valiant men must have felt 90 years ago today, when the Armistice was signed and the Canadians took part in the triumphant entry into Mons, Belgium. While I watched, hoping never to have to experience that for myself, many stood there simply thankful to have seen their loved ones survive.
When the Girl Guides arrived in the field, I had a flashback: I was 10 years old again, wearing my blue Girl Guide dress and hat and tights, with my winter coat over top. I remember standing there for what seemed like hours (though it was barely one) in the rain and the cold, not able to see through the grown-ups in front of me to the riser where the speaker stood. We sang O Canada and God Save the Queen and "Taps." I never fully understood what it was we were honouring - some old men and women who wanted to lay wreaths on a stone? Feet soaked, hair stringy, we'd trudge back to our cars and go home for a hot bath and a tuna melt or some other hot lunch to warm us up. And as soon as we were home, safe in our kitchens, we forgot all about the morningtime, the two minutes of silence, the fly-by, the soldiers.
But now, I remember. Today, I came home to my warm house with my wet and smelly dog, thankful to have a place to call my own, the freedom to live and work and drive a vehicle and cook whatever I find in my fridge. I am thankful to have a husband who had the choice to serve this great country in the Forces - he was not drafted, he didn't have to hide or lie to keep from joining. Thanks to men like our grandfathers and our great-grandfathers, Wayne was given that choice. And to honour them and their sacrifices, he chose the Army life.

Wayne was able to attend their ceremonies today in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and salute the flag during the singing of O Canada, something he'll remember for the rest of his life.
Thank you Grandpa Wood. Thank you, Grandpa Primiani.
Thank you, Wayne.




Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 11

10 am.
Be there.
Our grandparents were...

Vancouver
Victory Square
Hastings and Cambie

Vancouver
Memorial Park South
41st Avenue (2 blocks East of Fraser)

Vancouver
Grandview
Commercial at Charles

Vancouver
UBC
War Memorial Gymnasium

North Vancouver/Lynn Valley
Victoria Park
Lonsdale and Keith

West Vancouver
West Vancouver
Marine Drive at 20th

North Burnaby
Confederation Park
Willingdon and Pandora

South Burnaby
Bennett & Nelson & Imperial

Coquitlam
Cenotaph
Portier and Winslow

New Westminster
City Hall
511 Royal Avenue

Richmond
Municipal Hall
#3 Road at Granville

Delta
Memorial Park
Ladner, 47th Street/Delta

Port Moody
Adjacent to Legion Branch 119
2518 Clarke

Port Coquitlam
Wilson Centre
Wilson and McAllister

Maple Ridge
between Lougheed and Dewdney Trunk
224 Street at McIntosh Crescent
Crescent Legion
2643 128 Street (inside service)

White Rock
City Hall
15322 Beuna Vista Avenue

Whalley
Whalley Legion Branch
Corner of 106th Avenue and 135 A Street

Newton
Surrey
13564 73rd Avenue, Surrey

Cloverdale
Surrey Museum
17710 56A Avenue

Abbotsford
Corner of Montrose & Laurel

Langley
Langley Branch #21
20702 Eastleigh Crescent

Monday, November 3, 2008

38 days and counting

This is how I feel some days...
38 days until Wayne graduates. When he comes home, I still don't know. They may release the grads immediately; they may keep them another week for light duty. All I can do is hope for the best but expect the worst.
Sometimes, it feels like he'll walk through the front door. Other times, I feel like my wedding and 2 years of marriage were but a dream. Even seeing him in Montreal for two days was surreal.
My parents recently came into ownership of my grandparents' original wedding and early marriage photo album. These black and white photos, in a used, emerald green, leather-bound book, are so precious. Most of them are dated 1945-1950 and many are in Montreal, where my dad was born. The one photo that really got to me is an image of my recently deceased grandpa (love you, Grandpa) in his Army uniform - going to or coming from battle, I'm not sure - with my uncle John as a baby on his lap, and my stylish nana (then, a real knockout, Ginger Rogers-style!) standing behind him in this incredibly well-tailored women's suit.
One thing I know: when I am standing proud, watching my husband march into the ceremony in his new uniform, gloves, weapon and all, I want to look good. Really good. The way my nana looked in that photo: hair coiffed, lips done, accessories modest but elegant and a smile on my face.
I've decided that this mission calls for:
the ultimate tweed suit.
In the next week or two, I'll be patrolling the local shops, looking for a real knock-em-dead suit that's wearable in a Montreal winter but sexy and conservative at the same time (yes, it can be done!)
So far, other than the image of my nana - and the costume design from every episode of Mad Men on AMC - the photos below are my inspiration:
A modern twist on a classic - not sure what's going on with the collar, though.


This one is straight out of the 1940s. Ugh, I was born in the wrong era. Not sure how to walk in snow with pumps, though?


Not a tweed suit, but a business casual take on femininity?



YUMMY. This, I can work with.

***If anyone has suggestions for stores I should check out for these types of styles, please enlighten me! I'm planning to visit:

Winners
Laura
Mexx
Le Chateau
RW&Co.
Dynamite and Zara in Metrotown (if all else fails)


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Owl-o-ween


Back to baking...
Yes, these owl cupcakes are supercute - and easy! I found the idea from my Google reader list yerterday, which includes Foodgawker, a gallery of enticing food photography submitted by talented food bloggers, which link to their original posts. So I must declare upfront: this idea was not mine, though I wish it was.
Today was the boss's bday - so close to Halloween. I made a dozen of these and they were a hit. So fun!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sleep deprivation week

No, I'm not talking about myself. In fact, I feel bad for even changing my FB status to a comment about my lack of sleep.

That's because this week, from Monday to Friday, Wayne's platoon is enduring "Sleep Deprivation Week" in the field. That means not only is it a cumulative, hands-on test of everything they've learned up to this point in IAP (Initial Assessment Period), and not only are they stuck outside for five days in Quebec, where it's already dipping to -4C at night, but they have FOUR HOURS OF SLEEP allotted over the ENTIRE five days. (!) I suppose it's an hour per night - or smaller segments broken up.

Yes, it's as disgusting as it sounds and if there are two things in this world Wayne despises, it's being tired and being cold. harumph.

Speaking to him last night for the last time (until this coming Saturday) was the first experience we've encountered where we were both scared for him and neither of us could do or saying anything to make it better. They call it Hell Week. I can't imagine why...

It gets so bad that they can't go anywhere without a buddy and they can't even use live ammo in their weapons in case of accident; they are using blanks instead. I don't know how the human body can survive this experience, especially in the cold and wet. Today and tomorrow, it is raining and hovering around 5C, while Wednesday will be snow mixed wth rain and around 1C. Thursday will be -3C and Friday, their final day where there are also forced to do a 13km rucksack march, will be 10C.

The only positive thing I could think to say to Wayne was, "Better to learn how to survivie this here where you're safe than in the Afghan mountains." I didn't feel too supportive.

Please pray for Wayne and his platoon this week. He's already dropped 25 lbs. and really doesn't want to lose any more. They are eating Army rations this week, too, which will be a shock to the system.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lulu


Not loving the price, though ($198).
Wayne has invested in Lulu ginch - who knew marching caused so much chaffing? Poor guys. Now that he is a paying customer, I'm inching my way closer and closer to becoming a regular Lulu consumer myself. I MUST have the apres yoga jacket.
PS - Sorry about the lack of posts. I've not vacuumed in three weeks and my dog is filthy. Once these chores are completed, I'll feel better posting a real blurb. I have yet to write about women's retreat and Montreal, among other things. It's just one of those seasons...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Love carrots

See these carrots?
I have dubbed them the "love carrots." My boss brought them in from her garden for me - they grew together this way! She gave them to me and told me they have grown together and fit each other perfectly. It's obvious that they are meant to be together, even when they are apart.
Like Wayne and me.


She made me cry. And now I have love carrots in my fridge.

Love you, Wayne.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Rockridge '08

The Pinnacle Trail
Rockridge Canyon
Princeton
Ladies' Retreat 2008
Cedar Grove Church See that peak on the mountain above? I was there yesterday. No, really. I was.

It started out like any other trail: a sign, an arrow, colourful leaves beckoning us to explore the unknown territory beyond.


"What a beautiful setting," we ambitiously say to one another as we set off on a tw0-hour hike, which our guide, Amber, says, "Isn't too hard, but it's steep and narrow."

Pffff, we think to ourselves...

...until we hit the inclines. Until our lungs begin to ache. Until sweat begins to drip from our heads and backs.

45 minutes later, we reach the magnificent peak and the tumultuous skies that have rumbled all day open up and release the rain. What a feeling. No cars, no sirens, no dogs barking. Just us and the Lord, face to face, with the sky moving a million miles an hour and the valley below reminding us of how far we've come.



This, my friends, is accomplishment.
***
More on the message of the weekend to come.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good enough

A good reminder from one of my favourite bloggers, galadarling...

"Stop comparing yourself to other girls, no matter how pretty, clever, cool or cashed-up they are.

No one will ever have your unique twist of talents, perspectives or beauty.

You do enough. You have enough. You are enough.

Stop comparing yourself to other girls, no matter how talented, well-dressed, popular or capable they are.

You improve the world more than you can possibly comprehend, just by being true to who you are every day.

Go outside & be fabulous. Watching who you are, & seeing what you’re becoming, makes us so proud to know you. The world delights in your presence. We all love you very much."

Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cops for Cancer

The Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley wrapped up last week, and look who was a not only a rider, but who donated her ponytail! Yes, that's Jilly, my favourite cop.
The riders arrived at Central City at 9 am Friday morning, where tons of volunteers and students cheered them on after days of gruelling biking 800 kms around the Fraser Valley (see Jill's blog for exact route). There was a donated pancake breakfast and the "corporate headshave," where people who've raised money toward cancer either chop their ponytail to donate to be used as wigs for cancer patients, or shave their head completely! One cop decided that day he would shave his head if he raised $1,000. Not only did people standing around donate the amount, the manager of the Central City Brew Pub threw in $2,000. Way to go!
All in all, Tour de Valley (only one of four tours) raised more than $213,000 for kids living with cancer.
This year, our corporate headshaven exec was our VP of Marketing, Lawrie Ferguson. She raised over $6,000 to shave her head and boy, does she look great.
Here she is before...she has quite a mop of thick hair!

Her donation.

The result. A success.
Here is the video of the riders arriving - it was quite emotional, actually. I got choked up thinking about the time these folks have spent on their bikes, training and riding, visiting schools, and getting almost no sleep. They really are champions for kids with cancer.


video

Until next year, guys!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Home

While the week in Quebec was wild and crazy (man, I am glad I'll never need to be in another wedding - it's fun, but tiring!), I am so glad to be home, in my quiet, clean house, with my sweet fuzzy roommate, Dora. We missed each other very much and our reunion rivalled that of long lost twins - okay, maybe not. But I was happy to see her nonetheless. Nana & Papa Baxter took good care of their furgrandbaby.

I ended up not taking many pics, as Remy's camera takes better shots anyway. I must say, we looked hot, all of us. The different coloured dresses were gorgeous (Danya has had this fall wedding planned for as long as I can remember!) and even though we had a hair fiasco (aren't the French supposed to be style leaders? - my "updo" consisted of 5 bobby pins and a look reminiscent of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), it was a glorious day. I ended up redoing Remy's and my hair, as well as Kate's, and all was well.

I could live in Quebec - the people are so gracious and kind, even if their English is as poor as my French. It's so neat to learn about another Canadian culture. Their wine may be quesitonable, but the beer is amazing. I proudly purchased Wayne a La Fin du Monde beer glass, because we buy a beer glass at every destination we travel to.

Here is a shot of my furkid from Nana B. from while I was away. Wedding pics will come in the next week or so. Salut!



Sunday, September 14, 2008

Safe and sound

Just arrived at Danya's quaint little home in Quebec! What a beautiful city this is, although it's grey, foggy and rainy (we left behind 30 degree weather for this?!). I'm 3 hours from my hubby but cannot see him. Ah, well...

French, French, everywhere...I gotta learn this language! And beer at the gas station and grocery store -w00t!

Pictures to come!

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get married..."

Yes, that's White Rock pier. Yes, we're jumping off in our skivvies at midnight. This was about four years ago. The scaredy cat at the top of the pic is Danya, a BFF. She's getting married next Saturday! And I get to travel to good ol' Quebec, where she transplanted herself, to be in her wedding. Remy and I leave tomorrow night.

Here is an ode to Danya, with pics revealing only a sliver of the shenanigans BFFs get into over the course of 13 years!
::Saying goodbye to "the girls" as she heads off to Quebec to follow a "boy" - her soon-to-be-husband, Dominic Lambert, also a respectable soldier for the Armed Forces::


:: Doing what she does best::

:: Helping me at my wedding dress fitting in 2006::

::Not real, but cute nonetheless - Danya, circa 1994::

::Before jumping off the pier::

::I was her date for a wedding where she performed::


::At 1827, in Fort Langley - a Christmas girls' night!Look how French she's become - such style! A certain je nesais quoi, oui?::

::Hm...spilled something on her front and getting personal with the automatic dryer at a club downtown while at a Swingset Champion show::


::Ah, the same show...pre-stain::

Can't wait to get there, Danya. Your wedding will be a blast! Bon soir!



Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sniff

Sure do miss my hubby. This is a pic of us at his going-away BBQ. I figure it's not too incriminating - if one of his platoon mates stumbles across this photo, they wouldn't tease him or anything...right?
I leave on Sunday for Danya's wedding in Quebec - I'll be a half-hour away from St-Jean Garrison, where Wayne is training...but I can't see him. Boo.
He is doing okay, even though his feet are all ripped up from doing so much running and marching. Yesterday they had pool drills: they had to plunge off the high dive board into a pool in full gear and tread water for a certain time, among other exercises. Sounded scary to me, but Wayne said he "killed it."
That's my man.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

**New series!** Recipes I shouldn't make in a one-person household

Episode 1
::Pretzel-Toffee Chip Brownies::
Photo credit: Recipegirl.com

So these are pretty much the fulfillment of every woman's PMS-induced fits of rage, uh, I mean dreams.
Pretzel-toffee chip brownies. Salty, sweet, chocolate, chewy, crunchy - what more could you ask for? I stumbled across this on Foodgawker the other day thought it would be wrong of me to not try these out. So after church, on my socially jam-packed Saturday night (gross popularity exaggeration), I whipped these together in about 20 mins., popped 'em in the oven and drank decaf tea and watched an episode of Walker (hey, don't knock it til you've tried it) while waiting for these to bake. FYI, I found these needed an extra five minutes - maybe because I intentionally left out the chocolate chips? But they sure are yummy.
Needless to say, while I froze a few to keep for cravings, there's no way I should, I mean can, eat all of these. Even if Wayne were home, he's not a huge choclate fan (I know - why is it that men are denied this gene?!), so they still would need to be eaten somehow. And I have to fit into a bridesmaid dress in two weeks, anyway, so these ain't gonna help matters at all.
This is where my trusty coworkers come in. Homemade goodies don't last long in our department, so I always know where I can take the balance of my baked goodness. Angela, Erin, Sheira, Elaine and Divine - tomorrow, you can look forward to a Pretzle-toffee chip brownie invasion in the Corporate Communications department!
::Pretzel- Toffee Chip Brownies::

½ cup butter (1 stick)

Two 1oz. squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup granulated sugar

¾ cup flour

2 large egg, well beaten

8 ounce bag toffee chips (I used 4 Skor bars ground in my mixer, instead)

11.5 ounce bag Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips (I left these out completely)

1 cup broken up stick pretzels

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a square pan with foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray or grease with butter.
2 Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan. Transfer to a bowl. Add sugar, flour, and eggs and whisk together. Add chocolate chips, toffee bits, and pretzels.
3 Pour mixture into prepared pan and spread evenly (batter will be thick and chunky). Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until brownies appear firm and done.

Yield: 2 dozen brownies (yeah, right. More like 16 decent-sized ones - hey, just being honest)

Recipe Source: Adapted from San Diego County Fair 2007 Cookbook

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday love list, a la Sharon

Inspired by Sharon – a Friday “love list”:

Song you love: Right now, I’d have to say Hosanna by Hillsong United.
My favourite part is the bridge:

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart from what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom’s cause
As I go from nothing to
Eternity

Word you love: I’m currently a fan of saying “supermarket,” rather than “grocery store.” Very American, I know, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons. Angela at work brought up another good one today: “chesterfield,” instead of “couch.” That’s commitment right there, folks.

Academic subject you love: I really loved Media and Society – could’ve been because our instructor was so awesome.

Hobby you love: Cooking…and decorating. But cooking’s cheaper, so I tend to lean toward that one. I love cooking the best when there’s someone waiting for a hot meal. That’s a deadline-driven journalism grad for ya!

Type of baked good you love: Anything chocolate – and fresh croissants. Mmmmmm…

Type of sky you love: Streaked with the magical colours of a summer sunset hovering over the Pacific.

Beverage you love: Currently digging vitao, by Nestea. Favourite flavour: mandarin white tea.

Vacation you love: Europe. Haha. No seriously, though. I would move to Germany in a heartbeat.

Restaurant you love: The Harbour House on Crescent Beach...before it was taken over by Lebanese people, who changed the wicked West Coast menu. :(
Now, I'd say Cielo's on White Rock beach, or Capone's, on Hamilton.

Way of getting around that you love: Dreaming. :)

Person you love: Wayne. I miss him terribly.

Room in your home you love: I’m loving our main floor (all one room) more and more. I finally hung drapes and bought a new rug – it’s becoming very stylie!

Movie you love: The Notebook. ‘Nuff said. (sniff)

Book you love: I really loved The Birth House and Clara Callan. Any reasonably modern Canadian fiction is good for me!

City you love: Vancouver, B.C. No matter where we move to, this will always be my home. I’d still love to own a condo on Beach Ave. or in Yaletown one day.

Future plan you love: Babies. (sigh) I can’t enough of ‘em.

Form of communication you love: Writing. Duh.

Junk food you love: Dark chocolate. 70% or higher. Yum.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

H.A.G.S.

Ah, yes. Don't you remember the ultimate "I have nothing nice or creative to say to you so I'll just write this" yearbook insult?

H.A.G.S. = Have a Great Summer

What a cop out this silly saying was. However, I must say that my little generation must have been ahead of the curve on the current text-talk craze, since we clearly were brilliant enough to come up with this catch phrase.

Ok, maybe not.

But seriously, isn't it SO true that if you conjured up the courage to FINALLY ask your high school crush to sign your yearbook on the last day of school, and he wrote this thoughtless, patronizing acronym, it was a surefire way of telling that he wasn't really into you?

{Side note: You leave it until the last day so that if he scoffs at you for walking near him without bowing down in worship, at least you wouldn't have to see him for the next two months!}

I digress. "Why is she writing about yearbooks?" you ask. "Isn't she, like 35? When was the last time she wrote in a yearbook?" ;)

In my blog journeys today, I noticed that VDO Princess posted a new link to one of her favourite timewasters: http://www.yearbookyourself.com/. This nifty site allows you to upload your (or someone else's) photo and it takes you on a high school journey from 1950 to 2000, revealing your youth in all its generational glory! What a fun time I had with this - I thought you'd get a kick outta these:


::1996::
Very Becky from Roseanne, don't you think?
(The first Becky, not Sarah Chalke)
Denim vests, anyone? You know you had one...

::2000::

I'm pretty sure I looked NOTHING like this

when I acually graduated that year.


::1952::

So sweet, isn't it? LOVE the finger waves. How'd they do that?

::1960::
Lisa Loeb/librarian wannabe?

::1970::

Yes, a fresh "Donna" from That '70s Show look will do just fine.

Maybe I will be able to pull off long hair, after all.

::1980::

Nothing good came out of the '80s. Nothing.

And this is proof.

And finally...

::1994::

Watch out! That hand under the chin is SO sincere.

It's my tribute to Napoleon Dynamite's Uncle Rico.

Try it out and send me your pics! They're awesome.