Category Archives: caring

A time for peace

“The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost


A friend of mine died last week-end. Finding her was oh so hard, but she’s at peace and her trusty dog stayed by her side until help arrived. As the details are dealt with, and no one’s business but hers alone, it’s time to celebrate the woman she was.

Vanessa Packman was known by many in our small community and beyond. She was active in several groups, most of which supported animal welfare, and the celebration of what was good about our community.

But more than being the consummate volunteer and community supporter, Vanessa was a whimsical soul. She saw beauty and hope around many corners and dreamed of a better world for all, especially our animal friends.

Last year, for her 50th birthday celebration, her friends got together to host a surprise “Alice in Wonderland” themed garden party. Vanessa was most definitely surprised.

Vanessa arriving at her party

She quickly joined into the spirit of the occasion, donning a special gown just for the occasion.

‘Nessa in Wonderland

A buffet meal suitable to a garden tea party was presented along with the requisite cake and most thoughtful gifts.  As queen for the day, Vanessa reigned over the assembled group with aplomb. Her “Lady in Waiting”, KC, was never far from her side (and the food).

“Lady in Waiting”, KC

Whatever else was going on in her life, Vanessa always had time to talk to her friends, share the bounty of her garden, and ask after others’ families and wellbeing. Those who knew and cherished her will miss her bright smile and never-ending ideas for the betterment of all.

Cheers and “pinky up” my friend. Rest in Peace.

Vanessa and I at her garden party.



Also posted in BLOG, New Brunswick, seasons Tagged , , , |

It’s been a year

Mum and Me at her 83rd birthday party, 3 months before

Hard to believe that she passed away a year ago today. The call came shortly after 6:a.m. After two weeks in Palliative Care at the #SaintJohnRegionalHospital, Mum slipped away.

For quite a while she’d been struggling with cancer and she told us that she’d reached a point where she was tired. She wanted to wait until all of her kids made it home to say goodbye, and she did that. Bill got here from Calgary, Jerry and Bob from Ontario, and the rest of us were already around the area. She got to visit with us, several of her grandkids, nieces, nephews, siblings, spouses, cousins and friends. For a while there was a steady stream of visitors to her photo and memory-laden room – as one by one, alone or in small groups, we had a chance to share memories with her and each other and make peace with the reality of her impending death. Even so, that phone call was heart wrenching, as were the calls I then had to make to let everyone else know.

The next couple of days are a blur in my memory – visiting the funeral home with Bob and making arrangements, ordering flowers, answering phone calls and then being there for the two-day visitation. Then there was the funeral itself. Through it all there were hugs, tears and, as she would have wanted, laughter.

It took me 42 years to find her and I enjoyed 24 years getting to know my mother (and the rest of our family) before she left. I wouldn’t have missed that experience for the world. RIP Mum.

Also posted in BLOG, death, family Tagged , |

’tis the Season for Sharing

It is the season for sharing – every television program and advertisement says so. And by their definition, sharing also means caring – or showing that, in fact, you do care one way or another.

There’s a story going around on Facebook right now and it says:

“My child, each year ask me the same question. After thinking about it, I decided I’d give you my real answer:

What do I want for Christmas? I want you.

I want you to keep coming around, I want you to ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help.

I want you to come over and rant about your problems, rant about life, whatever. Tell me about your job, your worries.

I want you to continue sharing your life with me.

Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me, I don’t care. Hearing you laugh is music to me.

I spent the better part of my life raising you the best way I knew how, and I’m not bragging, but I did a pretty darn good job.

Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work; I’m pretty proud of it.

Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don’t mind. In fact, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I want you to spend your money making a better life for you, I have the things I need.
I want to see you happy and healthy.
When you ask me what I want for Christmas, I say “nothing” because you’ve already been giving me my gift all year. I want you !!! I love you dearly xoxo

When your all-grown-up children and their families live far, far away, some of these things just aren’t possible. No small hands raid my cookie jar. No little people sit on the couch to watch Christmas movies on TV with me. That is life in the world as we know it. Sad, but reality.

The media builds the hype of the season – blissful families sharing tender moments of joy and peace together around a festive dinner table. While I wish that for one and all, the reality is often quite different. Whether it is due to distance, finances, loss of loved ones or just the inherent ‘busyness’ of life, many people are lonely at this most festive time of year. Despite access to amazing technology like Skype, FaceTime, or even a simple telephone call for keeping in touch, far too often time goes by with no connections made.

Since it is the season for sharing we all have choices to be made. Do we wallow in self pity and loneliness? Or get up and out and join the festivities?

We are, indeed, responsible for our own happiness. If we depend on others to make us happy we are doomed to disappointment. Instead, enjoy the myriad of wee things that happen every day, those little moments of joy that are too easy to overlook. Be kind to others. Surprisingly when you go out of your way to make someone else’s day joyful, your own improves too.

So, my wish for those who read my words is that you do, indeed, share and have a happy and joyful holiday season – whatever it is that you celebrate. Enjoy the little things that give you pleasure – bright coloured lights in shop and house windows, sweet treats on a pretty plate, a good meal – whether alone or with friends and family. Give hugs and receive them with pleasure. Pat the dog, stroke the cat, nuzzle the horse. Inhale the wonderful scents that make life sweet.

Merry Christmas to one and all and as the New Year rolls in, lift a glass and give the toast favoured by my Jewish friends, “l’chaim – to life!”.


Also posted in BLOG, Christmas, emotions, family


Everyone has his or her own way of coping with loss or drastic change. For me it means grabbing a camera, putting a leash on the dog, and going for a walk on a country road just to stretch and breathe slowly, letting the stress out with each deep breath.

Last vestiges of fall foliage

Last vestiges of fall foliage

Sometimes if you take the time to peek into the ditches you’ll find remnants of the amazing fall foliage colours the Maritimes are famous for – and it will make you smile in spite of yourself.

Not letting go

Not letting go

And at the edge of the road a loan leaf clings to the naked branch of a bush, its comrades blown away by the last strong wind.

After two weeks of travelling in to the hospital to sit with my mother, brothers and sisters while her life ebbed away, and another week of frantic activity after the not-unexpected 6:a.m. call, the hubbub has slowed and the exhaustion has set in. When you are sad it is hard to get motivated to bundle up against the cold and go outside, but Mother Nature offers solace, encouragement and the rejuvenation needed to keep coping and moving on.


Supermoon (Beaver moon) Rising

Supermoon (Beaver moon) Rising

Last night I had intended to go out and set up my gear to capture the rising of the Supermoon over the local hills. One of the side effects of grief and attempting to cope is the inability to remember things properly and motivate yourself in a timely way. Instead of preparing, I sat down and ate dinner with my husband, only realizing after the fact that I’d missed that moment of the moon appearing over the crest of the hill. The best I could manage was a quick snap of it rising rapidly through the naked tree branches across the road.

Supermoon setting

Supermoon setting

My alternate plan, since I’m an early riser anyway, was to get out this morning and capture the giant orb setting over the Town of Sussex to the west of us. Mother Nature played a cruel joke on my plan and hid most of the moon behind cloud cover, showing just enough to taunt me!

Look closely and you'll see the lights of Sussex at the bottom of the photo.

Look closely and you’ll see the lights of Sussex at the bottom of the photo.

Everyone has different coping strategies. For me it will be more walks with Harley and perhaps a camera over my shoulder too. It’s been a long several months and no matter how prepared for someone’s death you think you are, you aren’t. A death brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others. Hopefully those who cope by striking out against others will find their way back to those who support each other in coping with the loss of the linchpin that held it all together.

Also posted in appreciation, Autumn, BLOG, death, emotions, Fall Foliage, family, New Brunswick, photography, rural living lifestyle, seasons, writing Tagged , , |

We remember

We Remember

We Remember

For an hour before the actual ceremonies began people from Sussex and the surrounding areas began to gather at the Cenotaph on Broad St. to proclaim “We Remember!”

_DSF1949 - Version 2

They walked, they rode bicycles, infants were carried and toddlers rode in strollers. Some hobbled up in walkers, other arrived in unique vehicles. But they came. Hundreds of them, filling the boulevard outside the Regimental Museum.


_DSF1937From the very young to the very old, the silence at 11 o’clock was deafening – not a murmur, not a cry. Just profound respect for those who’d made the ultimate sacrifice so we would have the opportunity to gather in public without fear.

_DSF1935When people ask whether or not today’s youth understand and respect the tradition and the meaning of Remembrance Day you really only need to look through the crowd that gathered in Sussex to give a resounding ‘Yes’ in answer to that question.





As far as the eye could see, people stood shoulder to shoulder to pay their respects together. Along the surrounding streets there wasn’t an empty parking space. Despite a slight chill in the air and a fresh breeze, they stood, silent, watching and listening as prayers were offered and wreaths were laid. All joined in for the singing of our national anthem and it felt good.

Here in Sussex we do, indeed remember.



Also posted in appreciation, BLOG, Canada, New Brunswick Tagged , |

Dirt Road Trip

Three friends and I set off on a dirt road trip today. We went to #AdairsWildernessLodge for a nice lunch. Just past the lodge, the pavement ends and then it’s off on dirt roads in all directions. Mary, Nancy and Corinne knew where they were (at least most of the time), but I had no real clue until we circled around and came back out on the pavement.


Corinne took us to see an ancient grave site hidden deep in the woods. It was fascinating to read what we could on the tombstones and to realize just how young people were back in the 1800s when they died.

Next stop was at the Londonderry church and graveyard for another history lesson. Peeking through the windows we could see a lovely well kept knave and the grounds had obviously been tended by someone fairly recently.

Then it was off down the dirt roads until we hit power lines and pavement again, bringing us home to Sussex. I really enjoyed my afternoon dirt road trip exploring areas heretofore unknown by me.


#NewBrunswick really is a beautiful province with so many hidden and unknown sites and interesting places to visit. Sadly there are also areas that are less than beautiful – hundreds of acres of clear-cut forests soon to be repopulated with softwood instead of being reforested with a mixed growth of soft and hardwood species providing habitat for birds and wildlife.

The rural way of life seems to be waning, and that is sad.

Also posted in appreciation, BLOG, New Brunswick, seasons Tagged , , |

Grandparents are people too

Today would have been my father’s 104th birthday.

He was 39 when I was adopted – not young at the time to become a first-time Dad. But, he took his role seriously and in his embrace I felt loved, safe and protected from the world as I grew up. He taught me many things, not the least of which was integrity and being true to my word. And he taught me that being a parent sometimes means making tough choices so that your child will become a better person  and a better member of society as a result.

I miss him.

Dad the day they brought me home

Dad the day they brought me home

When my son was born, Dad became “Gramps”. He loved David with all of his heart and looked forward to every opportunity to spend time with him, playing or telling stories. My fondest hope is that David, now a grown man with his own family, carries a piece of Gramps’ love, generosity and kindness in his heart every day.

Dad as “Gramps” with David

Parenting is never easy. In Dad’s case it was made more challenging by the fact that he was totally blind – and had been since childhood. He never saw my mother, me or his grandson but he knew who we were ‘inside’ and that was most important.

He set high standards for me – to be the best person I could be; to make a contribution to the world; to be the best mom I could be – and I tried hard to live up to his example, no doubt failing miserably at times. But, you do the best you can.

Hopefully I have passed some of his wisdom, ethics, standards and caring on to my son so he can in turn pass them on to his children. Our immortality exists in the memories of those who come behind. I hope my grandchildren will remember me fondly one day and pass on kindness and caring to their children and their children’s children when they become grandparents.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Also posted in BLOG, family Tagged , , , |

Another June memorial

Our first show - way back when

Our first show – way back when

Beau (formally known as “Crescendo” was just four years old when he came into my life. He stood 16.3hh and was a Canadian x Hanoverian. We met on an ice covered windswept hilltop outside Quebec city and, despite his owner’s description that he had an ‘ugly head’, it was love at first ride. Barefoot, he carried me carefully around the slippery riding ring, never setting a foot wrong and I knew he was destined to be mine. By the next spring we entered our very first dressage show together, a comical affair at best. But the bond was formed and for the next sixteen years we shared adventures, successes, failures, stories and tears.

He was my constant companion through a tumultuous divorce, a new relationship and so much more. We travelled to live in Nova Scotia, then Alberta and back to New Brunswick together – a solid constant in my life. We bought a small hobby farm so he could live at home with us, and he watched our wedding unfold on the front porch from the corner of his pasture.

Not shy, he expressed his opinion of the miserably cold and SNOWY weather in Calgary - in JULY!

Not shy, he expressed his opinion of the miserably cold and SNOWY weather in Calgary – in JULY!

Beau's pasture in Smiths Creek.

Beau’s pasture in Smiths Creek.

He loved to spend his days roaming around his very own 3-acre pasture overlooking the Kennebecasis River. Even on the coldest days in winter it was his preferred place to be, tail to the wind and snow, watching whatever was going on.

He came alive in winter

He came alive in winter

With his thick, black coat (sun-bleached to a mottled brown in summer) he found the heat oppressive. But, true to his Canadian heritage, he came alive in winter challenging the snow to slow him down.

Circumstances changed and we sold our small farm. Beau went to live at a friend’s stable in Geary where he entertained with his antics, begging for carrots or any other treat that might come his way, and teaching others the skills they’d need to ride him and other horses in the future. He had the best of care and some wonderful friends.

I visited him in early June and remarked that he looked wonderful, healthy and strong for a 20-year-old horse. His eyes were bright, his coat shiny. Such a relief after just losing Hoover, our much loved dog.

Then, not even a week later I got the call that no horse owner ever wants to get. Beau succumbed to a colic-like episode and died the night before, despite everyone’s best efforts. At least his friend Bonnie was with him and I can’t even imagine what it was like for her to lose him because I know she loved him almost as much as I did.

He had a good life with many adventures, travel and friends from the east coast to the west. It’s been a year now and I  still miss him and find it really hard to visit the stable where he lived knowing he’s no longer there.

Goodbye again, my friend. You were well loved.



Beau's beautiful floral tribute sent by a caring friend.

Beau’s beautiful floral tribute sent by a caring friend.

Also posted in BLOG, family, horses, lament Tagged , , |

June is a cruel month for us

Hoover's first day in Smiths Creek, NB, 2008

Hoover’s first day in Smiths Creek, NB, 2008

Looking like a wee black bear cub, Hoover came into our lives in 2008 and left us a few short years later on June 3, 2014, tearing enormous holes in both of our hearts. Not a day goes by that we don’t mention him, think of him, miss his loving soul and goofy antics. Even now, a year later, seeing his wise eyes in the many, many photos I took of him, brings unbidden tears to my eyes and Joel’s as well.

For us, June is a cruel month. This year, not only has the weather been abysmal, but with the first anniversary of Hoover’s passing, we’ve learned that grief truly doesn’t diminish, at least not quickly.

I hope that those who’ve lost spouses, family members, children (the absolute worst), or friends will not see these comments as disrespectful of their losses. Far from it. Grief is grief, regardless of the reason. The stages are the same.

Barely two weeks after Hoover’s death my horse, Beau, died. He was 20 years old – still young-at-heart – and should have had many years ahead of him, but it wasn’t to be.

Beau head


He’d been with me for 16 of his 20 years, traveling from Quebec to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Alberta and back again. He was my rock through a divorce, relocation, new relationship, new marriage and new life. His mane soaked up many tears over the years – tears of regret, sorrow and then joy.

In his retirement years he was helping other riders to learn the skills they’d need to ride all kinds of horses. Unfortunately his second career was cut short.

Just four years earlier, in mid-June, we lost our Rag Doll kitty, Triscuit, to diabetes, a condition we’d never associated with cats. It seems it is quite common. Like Beau, Triscuit had lots of miles under her paws, moving from Hampton to Halifax, Calgary and back to Sussex. I swear she thought she was a dog when traveling – content as long as we were with her.

"Triscuit" 2000-2010

“Triscuit” 2000-2010

So for us, June is a triply cruel month – filled with memories of warm hearts, warm furry bodies, eyes that see into your soul – each having left paw or hoof prints in our hearts.

Now we have one furry companion – Halo. She was 13 years old (we think) last month and we hope she’ll be with us for a long time to come. She has taken on the role of guardian of our hearts, making sure both of us are provided with lots of snuggles, lots of purring and ‘head bonks’ – in exchange for an endless supply of kitty cookies and warm beds.

Halo4903 - Version 2-web


Such is life with animals.

RIP our old friends. You may be gone but you will never be forgotten.


Also posted in animals, appreciation, BLOG, cat, death, dog, emotions, family, horses, life changes, losing Tagged , |

Hearts, flowers and winter storms

Rose4900 - Version 2-webToday’s the day for gifts of flowers to be given to loved ones to celebrate ‘heart’ day – Valentine’s Day! I’m one of the lucky ones. My hubby went to our local florist (Goold’s Flowers) and came home with some lovely flowers as his gift of love to me – much appreciated I might add!

HaloProfile4912 - Version 2-webThe sun was shining this morning so Halo was content to enjoy the warmth of the rays and pose beside the vase – at least for a moment.

LadySlipper4908 - Version 2-webEvery stem had a beautiful blossom on it in cheery colours to dispel thoughts of the blizzard predicted to arrive tonight and tomorrow driving all optimistic thoughts of spring far away – again.

Halo4903 - Version 2-webWho could skip checking out the wonderful scents emitting from flowers and foliage? Not Halo, that’s for sure. She, too, is looking forward to the warmth and stronger sunlight due to arrive with spring in a few, hopefully short, weeks.

Tulip4886 - Version 2-web

Another friend gave me some tulips to celebrate the day and to remind everyone that spring WILL come… someday. In the meantime, these gorgeous blooms will distract us from tomorrow’s howling winds and 50+cm deposit of snow – we hope.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Also posted in BLOG, photography, winter Tagged , |