Category Archives: family

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.

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On the road (trip) again

Our recent road trip to Ontario began with an overnight stop in Saint Jean Port Joli, Quebec. It’s a delightful town on the banks of the St. Lawrence River about half way between Riviere du Loup and Quebec City. We found a wonderful park to explore just behind our motel, perfect for a walk with Harley.  There had been a sculpture contest a few years prior to our visit, and the resulting artwork is displayed throughout the walking trails.

Out on the wharf and breakwater there are more things to see, including a functioning lighthouse. Most of the private pleasure craft have been hauled out of the water for the season and are stored, high and dry, behind it.

Our stop in Kingston was brief so I didn’t get any photos of that area. When we arrived in Goderich, ON, however, at my brother’s and sister-in-law’s place, I kept the camera close-by. They are fortunate to live on the shores of Lake Huron – a beautiful and quaint area surrounded by miles of farming communities, much of it farmed by both Amish and Mennonite families.

Bob had to entice Harley into the lake. He wasn’t sure what it was all about but, given the intense heat, he was willing to try. Meanwhile Pat tossed a stick for Barclay to splash after in the lake.

Neither Barclay nor Harley were fans of the intense heat. He was content to have a nap in the shade in the sun room (with the curtains closed and fan running!).

Geese were gathering for their migration south but a tad confused by temperatures well above 30ºC! Is it fall or summer? Not so sure?

We explored the beach and along the shore of the lake each day.  Bob and Pat were great hosts and proud to show us around the area that they’ve grown to love and now call home.

On our second to last morning with them we headed to the beach for a sunrise breakfast. What a gorgeous way to start the day!

And, we finished off the day with a short walk on one section of the lengthy walking trail system throughout the area – one that took us across an abandoned and reclaimed railway bridge. It offered the ideal spot to shoot a sunset, check out the fish in the river leading into the lake, and watch golfers enjoying some end -of-season evening time on the course.

I was intrigued by the many colourful canoes resting on the banks of the Maitland River. The sunset over the lake was utterly lovely and I had to pause and capture the moment!

And, our visit came to an end as we headed back toward New Brunswick.

We stopped for the night in a tiny town between Kingston and Cornwall. The Johnstown Motel is, without a doubt, a hidden gem. It’s elderly, to be kind, and the rooms are small. But, the proprietors are wonderful people, the place is immaculate and the view across the St. Lawrence River through the 1000 Islands to the USA is spectacular. It is well worth a stop and I only wish we’d had more time to see what else there was to see!

I walked the river’s edge early in the morning and the reflections of clouds in the still water of the river were gorgeous.

As we loaded the car for the next leg of our journey toward home, the geese flew overhead toward their winter habitats to the south.

Although it was wonderful to see family and explore a bit of our beautiful country, it’s always good to get home as well. On our first day back from our 3500 km road trip, we got up early. Joel took Harley for a nice long (5k) walk and then we headed to the Sussex Dog Park. I captured the rising sun and Harley got to really stretch out and run. It’s good to be home again!

Harley is Happy to be Home too!

 

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Summer days are flying by!

Summer days are flying by much too quickly. Not quite two months past the summer equinox, our days are noticeably shorter, especially for those of us who tend to arise with or before sunrise. Those who’ve been enjoying long summer evenings are finding the light for their outdoor activities is disappearing quickly too.

But, it’s still warm and people are still out and about enjoying themselves with summer pursuits.

Children enjoying a dip in Bennett Lake in #FundyNationalPark

And the adult pursuits are a bit more leisurely, but no less fun for the participants.

Kayaking on Bennett Lake in #FundyNationalPark

As summer winds down into fall, the days get shorter and colder, and the kids return to school we’ll see more of this…

Relaxing in the Big Red Chairs

Also, have you noticed that the closer we get to the end of summer, the more colourful the sunsets and moonsets become?

Bright sunset August 14, 2017

Full moon sinking behind the trees.

What a summer it has been, though. It’s the warmest and dries in over 25 years, according to The Weather Network. Although the danger of forest fires remains high, and for farmers and those on wells, the worry about adequate water for growing crops, watering livestock and keeping households running is also top of mind, for others it’s been an ideal summer for vacations, visits to the beach and travelling to see family and friends.

#SaintJohn harbour in the fog

I went into Saint John this morning and did a little scouting for vantage points that might work for watching the #TallShips arrive on Friday. As I faced the harbour and the uptown area, the fog was rolling in.

#UptownSaintJohn in the morning fog

But as I turned toward West Saint John things looked a bit brighter.

The view over the Harbour Bridge toward West Saint John

And facing north, it was positively bright!

Facing the north end of Saint John

Here in New Brunswick you can experience a variety of seasons in one day – often in one location – depending on the direction you are facing! I’ll bet people were swimming in Millidgeville!

Meanwhile, back in Picadilly, this lone young buck was hoping to meet up with some ‘ladies’ early one morning a week or so ago. That’s the field they frequent when foraging for snacks.

Yes, summer is flying by quickly but it’s been a pleasure to get out and enjoy it this year.

Coming up soon? The annual Flea Market event is on for the rest of this week and then, the week-end after Labour Day it’ll be time for the annual invasion of the Balloons. They’re always fun to watch and shoot (photographically speaking of course!). I’ll be on my deck, coffee in one hand, camera in the other, to salute the official ‘end of summer’ that is the #AtlanticInternationalBalloonFiesta.

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It’s Father’s Day again!

For some people, Father’s Day can be an emotional minefield. Some grew up without fathers. Others had the misfortune to have abusive or, at best, neglectful ones.

I was fortunate. My Dad was a loving man who did everything he possibly could for me, and for my mother.

My memory bank if full – full of love, full of laughter, full of life – thanks to the man I so admire.

Born without sight

He was born with congenital infantile glaucoma – in other words, really bad sight. He was virtually blind in one eye, and could barely see out of the other. When he was a young boy, he was playing with a stick and injured his ‘good’ eye. In the early 1900s surgical techniques were both primitive and dangerous and, with both optic nerves damaged, the doctors and my grandparents decided that he would lose both of his eyes.

He was one tough and determined little boy, My Uncle Hubert told me tales of the trouble they got into around the little farm in Albert County where they grew up. He also told me of the amazing skills my Dad had, even as a teenager.

Haying season on a farm is a critical time of the year. As a blind child, there were some chores Dad wasn’t able to do. He did, however, learn to drive the team of horses that pulled the hay wagon down from the fields to the barn.

“It was something to see your father turn that team and wagon around and then back them up the ramp into the hay loft,” Uncle Hubert said.

I’ve seen that ramp and I don’t think I could have done it!

Dad went to the School for the Blind in Halifax, NS. There he learned to be both an accomplished pianist and a piano tuner. In his final year of study he was sent out around the city to tune pianos in people’s homes.

Forty-five years later I was studying at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Dad came to the city, by bus, to visit me. The part of the city where I had my minuscule apartment hadn’t existed when he was living there.

I borrowed my boyfriend’s car and took Dad on a tour of the city. Once we got into the centre of the city and I told him we were on Spring Garden Road, he knew exactly where he was. We set off to visit an old friend of his who still lived in the same home as he had when they’d been students together. I followed Dad’s directions, “Turn left here, two more blocks, turn right. It should be the third house on the right, number 23 – it used to be blue I think.” Sure enough, we were right in front of our destination – and it was blue.

Humour makes life worth living

Dad’s sense of humour was legendary.

A new piano tuning client called one day and sounded quite upset. “I have an appointment to have my piano tuned tomorrow,” she said, “and I’ve just learned that you are blind. We live on the second floor. How will we get you upstairs?”

Not missing a beat, Dad replied, “Madam, I can not see, but my legs function perfectly well.”

He was always a busy man. He couldn’t just sit and do nothing. When my son was a little boy I asked Dad to babysit one night so I could go out on a date. David was bathed and tucked in bed and I got ready to leave.

My guest arrived and met Dad. After a few moments of chit chat, we headed out to go to a movie. As I closed the door behind me, I switched off the lights in the apartment. My date was appalled! “That’s the rudest thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.

It took me a minute to realize what he was talking about and then I started to laugh. I said, “He’s blind. He doesn’t need the lights on.” When I was growing up, the last sighted person to leave the room turned the lights out, whether Dad was there or not. I laughed all the way to the car.

When we got home from the movie, since Dad was sleeping in the living room on the hide-a-bed couch, we tiptoed into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. While the machine dripped its elixir into the pot, I grabbed the utensil drawer that was always stuck and gave it a mighty yank. It flew across the room, spewing silverware everywhere clanging and banging enough to wake the dead.

Looking for something to do to pass the time, Dad had gone through the kitchen and had soaped all of the sticky drawers so they’d slide better and then, in the lower cupboards, had hung hooks for all of my pots and pans to give me more room. Good thing I made enough coffee for three of us!

Growing up with a blind father

I grew up with a blind man in the house and it was a good thing. I learned that a disability isn’t necessarily a handicap to life. I learned that a disability doesn’t mean you can’t have joy in your life and give joy to others. My Dad belonged to various organizations, could beat most people at cribbage and definitely humiliated me in the bowling alley. Then again, I not good at a lot of sports and never have been.

He enjoyed a good laugh, often at his own expense. He loved his family and the varied and many pets I dragged home over the years. He cried when each of our cats died, although I’m not so sure he was distressed when Hammy the hamster kicked the bucket. The little bugger bit him many times.

My mother spent the last three years of her life in the extended care ward at the Regional hospital. She had Alzheimers, Parkinsons and she suffered several strokes. Through all that time Dad would take the bus across town to visit her almost every day. In her mind, she thought that, when he left to go home at night, he was, in fact, heading out ‘on the town’ with other women, living the high life. This is my Dad – the man who never drank. The thought was ludicrous.

Then she decided that not only was he living the high life, but that he’d had an affair with one of the nurses on her ward. Not only that, but they’d had ten kids! When she told me that story I decided I’d best speak to the nurse quickly because, in her demented state, you never knew what Mum might say.

The nurses on that ward were wonderful people. They personified kindness and patience. When I told her about my mother’s fantasy, she said, “Your Dad’s a great guy and we all really like him a lot. But, I think he might be a bit old for me.” We had a good giggle over that. Then she asked, “How many kids did we have?”

“Ten,” I said.

“Oh my,” she replied. “There must have been a lot of twins and triplets! I’m only twenty-three years old.”

Yes, it’s Father’s Day, again, and I’m glad to have this annual reminder. I think of him often, but this is the day I focus on those memories. That is his immortality.

 

 

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The ups and downs of Mothers’ Day week-end

I wandered down the card aisle in my local store last week and suddenly realized that, for the first time in 67 years, I have no mother to buy a card for. That realization hit me like a sledgehammer.

The woman who chose to be my mother when I was just four months old passed away in 1988.

She chose to be a mother – my mother.

The woman who gave birth to me and stepped back into the role of mother for me in 1992 passed away last November.

She gave birth to me – and became my mother, again, in 1992 – giving me the sisters and brothers I’d always wanted.

Instead of two mothers, now I have none.

I became a mother in 1973 and learned what an overwhelming, but totally fulfilling, role that was and remains until the day you die. Your baby remains your baby no matter how old they are, how grown up, married or even parents themselves, you still hold that tiny infant in your heart.

I was so young!

It feels strange to be the oldest generation in my family. I did find a lovely Mothers’ Day card for my daughter-in-law. She’s the mother of my two grandchildren and deserves recognition for that role for sure.

Mothers’ Day carries a lot of emotional baggage – not just for me but for many women out there who are affected by the constant reminders: those who’ve lost children; those who, for whatever reason, didn’t have children; those who are pregnant but not by choice; those whose children have abandoned them; those who were abused by their mothers who should have protected them; and so many more.

Perhaps we should celebrate the day for the concept of motherhood alone – for we wouldn’t be here at all if we hadn’t had mothers, would we?

 

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Why celebrate? Why not celebrate!

Last Sunday was our friend’s birthday. Chester McMackin turned a youthful 84. So, Judi and I (and Lola in spirit!) decided to celebrate the occasion with our Facebook buddy – face to face rather than keyboard to keyboard. We got together at his favourite coffee spot in Hampton and shared stories, laughter and, of course, cake!

With twinkling eyes and the lilt of laughter in his voice, Chester regaled us with tales of his childhood and more. In other words, life in general.

His dramatic reading of the cleverly written (and dictated by Murphy the horse) tribute from Judi, accompanying the lovely framed portrait, had us and everyone else in the establishment in stitches!

And then the cake appeared – chocolate upon chocolate – causing the recipients (us) to ooohhh and aaahhhh appropriately in anticipation of the sweet delight – such are our peccadilloes.

Armed with a potentially lethal weapon, Chester divided the booty among us – and the party continued!

Not to be outdone by the ladies’ gifts to mark the occasion (framed photo from Judi, fresh homemade shortbread cookies from yours truly!), Chester presented each of us a treasure trove of fudge to take home. Who could resist?

Yep, it was a very good day. We wish our buddy “Chesterkins” a very Happy Birthday and hope we can all celebrate many, many more!

 

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’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, caring, Christmas, emotions

Coping

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.

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Farewell to a brave soul

Marjorie (Butland) Snow 1933-2016 RIP

Marjorie (Butland) Snow
1933-2016
RIP

My mother passed away this morning taking her brave soul to wherever such souls go. Like the rest of us, she wasn’t perfect. But she tried her best to be a good person, especially in the face of tragedy after tragedy throughout her life including the loss of a baby to SIDS, an adult daughter to an accident, her first husband to an accident, a beautiful grand daughter to illness, her second husband to cancer, her own mother and two sisters, friends and relatives, and repeated battles with her own cancer. Through it all and much more she just kept going, doing her best. And what more can one ask of anyone?

She left a legacy of family members across the country – four generations at last count.

There were many moments of joy too. The thrill of finding a daughter given up for adoption 42 years previously. The delight in the marriages of her grandchildren. And later on the birth of her great, and great great, grandchildren – populating the country from coast to coast! In the 24 years that I’ve been a part of this family I’ve collected a few photos at various event. Many are just snapshots grabbed with a point and shoot camera or a cell phone, but they are just a few of the tangible memories of laughter and smiles I will carry in my heart. Rest in peace, Mum.

https://youtu.be/Z7KBvXSY0bc

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It’s all about relationships

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Relationships exist between people and between people and their critters. If we are lucky, good ones exist among family members.

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of photographing the Smyth family. We’ve been friends for many years and it’s always a pleasure to capture their special moments, memories and milestones.

Our photo session yesterday included two adults, 3 kids, 5 horses, a dog and a bunny. Wrangling a group that size is always a challenge, especially when you want to highlight the relationships among the group members – human and otherwise. But, with lots of cooperation from everyone – even the bunny – we had a good hour+ together and I came away with over 200 shots to choose from. For now, here are a few of my favourites!

 

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