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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SNOW falls all over NZ!

Snow seems to be the 'hot topic' at the moment with me! You may have heard of the amazing snowstorm that is hitting NZ at the moment. It is surreal! I have never heard of anything like it...even Auckland hasn't had snow for something like 72 years!!! It has brought much of the country to a standstill. I can just imagine the cold....Kiwi houses are NOTHING like North American houses - they are often uninsulated and rarely have double glazing, have no furnaces, and are not really built to keep in the warmth. For those lucky enough to have hung on to their open fireplaces, I hope you are toasting marshmellows and making the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience! I wish I was there!!!

Check out this clip on the NZ Herald website. It encapsulates the sheer amazement and delight of such a rare and unusual occurrence…..snow in NZ! I laughed to see how some of the kiwis had dressed….definitely NOT used to weather like this! And some were definitely UNimpressed…hehe. Watch this clip – it’s lovely!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The closest thing to snow in sunny Queensland!

Yesterday began like any other in the sunshine state. Blue skies, sun, and more sun. It is winter here – the BEST time of the year to be in Queensland! The climate is temperate (although locals may be seen shivering in their fur lined Ug boots, thick jackets, warm scarves, and beanies….but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all relative!). And there’s always sun to be had (albeit without it’s usual summer ferocity).


However, just as the school bell rang at the end of the day, the black clouds started to roll in…..and the loud claps of thunder were pretty impressive! It certainly got the attention of parents and students alike!



Within minutes, hail and torrential rain were pelting the Southeastern suburbs….but everywhere else, there were still blue skies and sunshine! Bizarre.

For about 30 minutes, it pelted down. And then the skies dried up. It looked like Queensland had suddenly been transported to the northern hemisphere! Hail lay thick like snow…..in fact, this may be the closest many Queenslanders may ever come to ‘snow’ / ice! And probably the closest Queensland will ever come to looking like a winter wonderland!


Because the ground had been so hot beforehand, as the cold hail evaporated, clouds of mist and steam rose up from the ground. People were outside fascinated with the vapour from their breaths! (Now, I know this is par for the course in the northern hemisphere, but down here, this was like “WOW”!!!”



But good old Queensland…..the sun never stays away for long. Half an hour later, and we were back to the blue skies and a beautiful sunset!



Whoever said we don’t have distinct seasons in the Sunshine State??!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Laughter is the Best Medicine!

It's been a gloomy week and the weather sure hasn't helped.
I don't know what it is... possibly delayed grieving, maybe an overload of responsibilities and meetings, or it could be the absence of genuine spring weather. Cold and grey. Blech.
Whatever the case, I find myself heaving deep sighs and struggling to smile.
I woke up this morning, a Saturday, and continued the gloomy sighing. Went to the chiropractor. Went shopping and ran into complications. Came home. Sigh again.
And then, it happened. Little Joe turned on The Office, possibly the funniest tv show I know of. And I laughed! Woo hoo!

Gotta love that Dwight!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Bloody Post - Beware!

"Mum, get the camera!"
When my Little Bear says these words, I know that something has happened. As a rule, this boy tends to avoid photos. He is particularly uncooperative when I want to take pictures of him. But when something spectacular is going on, he is only too happy to invite me to capture the moment.
Especially when it involves blood.
I have memories of his barnacle cut on the Italian coast. Look at that grin!

His wipeout in the gravel parking lot at school.

The sad tobbogan collision with a tree, resulting in a lost front tooth.

And then I heard those words again today.
"Get the camera!"
Sigh. It was the dirt bike. And his arm. With dirt ground into it.
And the Superman shirt didn't seem to help him at all.

I have this wicked thought. Maybe in the future, I can somehow draw blood when I want to take photos of him.
Do you think it will work?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Trip to the Cabin

We drove late into the night and arrived at the cabin just after midnight... this morning. Good Friday. And once we built a fire to take the edge off the cold (this is not Cuba!), turned on the electricity and water, unpacked our food boxes, and crawled into chilly beds, we slept verrrryyy well.

It was lovely to wake up to the peace of the mountain, sun shining through the windows and birds twittering in the trees. I could hear the fire crackling in the fireplace and reveled in the loveliness of a holiday. So good!

I love having a musician son who fills my life with good songs. Cory sat on the porch in his pajama pants and no shirt, completely comfortable in the chilly air, and played for us. Tim captured the moment and after working some HDR magic, featured the results on his blog.

Good to be away. Good to have music. Good to be with family. Good Friday.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Warm Memories

I got home from Cuba on Sunday night, just in time to return to school the next morning.
How was it?? Well, maybe this photo can tell you how it was... mojito in hand, beautiful pool, blue skies, warm weather, and see the bar in the middle of the pool? All inclusive! (I was very moderated, let me tell you. However, it was most enjoyable to wander up and ask for a drink when I was in the mood!)
The beach was gorgeous and the water was a lovely temperature.
Our day in Havana left me hoping for another visit very soon.
I loved it!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cuba - Si!

Hola! I'm currently in beautiful Cuba, enjoying the sun with my mum for a week. What a great place to escape to, especially for sun lovers! We spent today touring Havana, an intriguing city of faded glory that makes me want more. I'll have to share the highlights of our trip with you when I get home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Missing Dad

Grief is a very odd thing.
One moment I'm just fine, and the next, I am liable to fall apart at the smallest word or thought.
Last week I heard Dad's voice on the voicemail greeting. It was lovely to hear him again, strong and healthy. Today I called, and hearing him almost rendered me a sobbing idiot on the freeway. Bizarre.
One of the memories that repeatedly stabbed my heart when Dad was in hospital over Christmas was how he would double me on his bike. I cherish this photo, and just thinking about it was almost too much for me to handle. Usually, he would have me sit sidesaddle on the crossbar in front of him. I clearly remember the feeling of the gear cables under me and the way his knees would stick out.
And this one is just heartbreaking. He was so young and handsome, and proud of his new baby. That's me, by the way. Kind of cute - look at those rosy cheeks!
I don't know if it's completely normal, but the same memory or thought can simultaneously give me a massive lump in the throat and a smile on my face. Over and over again, I picture myself arriving at my parents house, opening the front door, and hearing a hearty, "Andrea!" with his favourite jazz tunes playing in the background. My dad would greet me as though he'd been hoping to see me all day, and would then hustle me into the kitchen to get a drink or a snack.
It's happening right now - the lump and the smile. And blurry eyes. Such sweetness, mixed with the sadness of never again.
And now I'm really fighting the tears as I think of one day, that day when we'll have a happy grand reunion. I know exactly how he'll sound.
So grateful.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Party's Over: A Long Recap

This past week has been a whirlwind.
Last Sunday, after Dad had been at home for a full day, he quietly stopped breathing and stepped into eternity.
I had been at a ladies' spa afternoon and had just left to return to Mum's house when I heard the news. I stopped by the river to text you, Southern Ange, and to reflect on this momentous event. It was a beautiful day and I thought how Dad would have loved the view of the water, the barges, and the late afternoon light.
I'm so, so glad that we had taken Dad home; it would have been horrible to have him die in yukky Surrey Hospital! Instead, it was a lovely time with the sun shining through the windows, the plants all around, the peace and quiet, and the home atmosphere. What a blessing, and now that sun room is even more special to us.
Over the next days, we had so very much to do.
First, we visited the cemetery and chose a plot. We went from there to the funeral home to make all the appropriate arrangements. For me, this was all uncharted territory, and despite the sadness of losing Dad, it was kind of fascinating.
We all went into the casket room and roamed around; this particularly spectacular casket, with its seagulls and "Going Home" on baby blue satin, was morbidly mesmerizing. Please, never choose a tacky casket like this!
I still can't wrap my head around the amount of money you can spend on a box that gets put in the ground. Even more so, a box for burning. It is mandatory to have the body placed in a rigid container before cremation, so we had to choose something. But to spend more than a thousand dollars on a box that will just get burned up... it goes against everything a thrifty Scot believes! I think Dad would be very pleased with our frugal choice, and it was definitely not the seagulls! Blech!

Tim was our director of organization. He carried a black book around with him and wrote everything down as we made arrangements. Where would we have been without him??
The days flew by and every waking moment was spent fielding phone calls for Mum, answering the door, receiving visitors, and doing all those billions of jobs. The people in the church were amazing and brought us lunches and dinners every day! We were all exhausted and I didn't feel that there was any time at all to cry or focus on grief. Until Thursday, when I was actually at home alone to work on my tribute speech. There I was, happily writing away and going through photos, when something clicked inside me. Dad will never meet me at his front door again, enthusiastically calling out my name in welcome as though he had been hoping all day to see me. And down I went. It was probably a good thing to cry and cry.
On Friday, the big day, I was so tired after a late night of last minute planning, but excited to be able to celebrate Dads life. My Uncle Mac had flown in from Ottawa to represent Dad's siblings; it was wonderful to have him there!
The Delta Police Chief (Dad was a volunteer with Delta Police) had decided that an escort was in order , so we drove all the way to the cemetery behind a police car with lights flashing. We went straight through the stop signs with the siren going, and all kinds of vehicles pulled over for us. When we got to the traffic lights, they had blocked the intersection with another police car so we could go right through. Dad would have been in his glory!
It was a cold, blustery day. We stood under the little tent to reflect and bury Dad's ashes and had a piper there. Another detail that Dad would have loved. Pastor Andreas cried with us and preached a marvelous short message about grace.
Tim placed the ashes in the ground; it was very emotional for him.
After the cemetery, we went back to the house with our extended family and had some lunch before the memorial service. And then it was time. The piper was outside the church, piping.
Inside, my three boys were playing piano, guitar, and bass, while photos of Dad were shown on the screen. It was perfect.
Everyone in the sanctuary stood as the family walked down the aisle to the front row. It was so emotional; I couldn't hold back the tears as I walked past the crowd. 422 people had come to honour my humble, unassuming dad!
The music was wonderful. Big Bear played piano and sounded great, as usual. One old friend hadn't noticed the musicians and suddenly recognized the distinctive sound of his playing from years gone by.
The four grandchildren read a wonderful biography that Andrew had written for school back in December, after interviewing Dad about his life. How timely that he was able to do that! They all spoke so well and I was very proud of them.
Tim and I both gave a tribute to Dad. I thought I'd be able to hold myself together, but it didn't turn out that way. However, I thought we both did pretty well. I was so honoured to be able to speak about my wonderful father and my heart was full. It's such a sweet sadness that comes from all the goodness.
The Ironmen's choir that Dad was part of sang Amazing Grace, then the piper led us up the aisle.
After the service, we had a reception and talked with so many people. Mum had a huge lineup of people waiting to speak to her. We finally left the church at 5:20, over four hours after the service began. It was such a good day.
We all had dinner at the local Greek restaurant and toasted Dad.
Today, I have been quiet and stayed at home. I received a lovely flower delivery from you, Southern Ange; what a beautiful treat! Thank you so much for your love, sent all the way from Down Under.
And now we begin the business of living our lives without Dad. I'm not too sure what that will look like, especially for my mum. She told a friend that it will be like going about her life with one hand tied behind her back. They loved each other so deeply.
As for me, I've said before that Dad was my greatest cheerleader. It will be so hard to live with a hole in my heart, but I like to remember that great cloud of witnesses spoken of in Hebrews 12. I think that he's still cheering for me, along with those who have gone before him. It will just be harder to hear his voice.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

He lives on in the hearts of all he touched

VLUU L100  / Samsung L100

Ange of the North, thank you for sharing with us, your dad’s journey over these past few weeks. He was truly a fighter to the end, and a precious, wonderful man!

Although we cannot be there physically with you at this time, our hearts, and thoughts, and prayers go with you and every member of your family.

We ache for you all, having to say ‘goodbye for now’ to someone you dearly love. Cherish those precious memories of your dad – nothing can ever take those away from you. Together we stand with you, looking forward to the day when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears, and only joy that will last forever.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Notable Day

Yesterday was a very eventful day. We left Surrey Hospital with Dad for the last time - yay! No more noisy nurses station, no more smelly corridor, no more walking past patients's beds in the hall, no more pushy ladies walking in and demanding meal trays, no more slow elevators, no more paying for parking. And no more monitor - that may be a bit difficult to get used to...

As wonderful as it was to contemplate having Dad at home, it was a process fraught with paperwork, endless arrangements, and possible disasters, so I think we were all sitting on the edge of our figurative seats the whole time.
Before the epic journey began, we needed to be trained. I am pleased to announce that Lea and I can now begin our new nursing careers! We know how to give subcutaneous meds, irrigate catheters, and all sorts of useful things. I gave Dad a dose of morphine before he left the hospital, under the watchful eye of our lovely nurse, Teresita, and passed the test.
I raced back to the house ahead of the ambulance to get the bed ready. And barely made it!
We had two nice paramedics who were very good to Mum on the trip home. And then Dad was settled. It was quiet, peaceful, and quite lovely in the sunroom, where Mum put his new bed. It's too bad that he's not able to enjoy his new digs.
We were well supplied with all kinds of goodies, kindly sent by the nurses at the hospital. Linens, equipment, and meds are all ready and waiting in the living room.
I spent the night here with Mum and after a quiet night, the sun is shining into Dad's room. He's sleeping peacefully after I did my nursey stuff and cleaned him. Thankfully, we'll be getting some visits from a real nurse starting tomorrow.
So, our journey continues. Every day I wake up and wonder what today will bring. I pray for God's grace and perfect timing and for the right people to cross our paths. Most of all, I pray that God will continue to hold Dad and our whole family in his hand.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friends Bearing Gifts

I went to school this morning feeling exhausted and discouraged. How long can we live on the edge of our seats like this, always hovering on the verge of a crisis? It's difficult to concentrate on school when I'm always so aware of Dad lying in the hospital, quietly laboring to breathe.

Our hospital room is kind of bleak and filled with icky medical things (that's the technical term). Not the sort of place where you'd really want to hang out day and night. Today, though, we had some welcome visitors who came bearing gifts and brightening things up.

One of Dad's buddies brought vegetables! Imagine that! We've been eating (...bad word...) from the hospital cafeteria for the past couple of weeks; I have no idea when I last ate real vegetables. Along with the veggies came a whole bunch of bottled water, just what we need for hydration. So smart!

And this sweet treasure... Dad's municipal emergency measures volunteer ID card, freshly issued. He has always loved being part of the ham radio club and taking part in emergency preparedness exercises. I know that he would be pleased to get this card.
The best gift, though, was the news that the radio club just voted unanimously to make Dad a lifetime member. I'm so proud of him!
It was a poignant visit. As we sat chatting and chuckling over corny jokes, I looked over at Dad lying there and thought about how he would have enjoyed this time with his friends and the gifts they brought.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hanging On

On Thursday we were told that Dad was dying and that it was likely he would go within a couple of hours. We said our farewells, laughed and cried, and prepared ourselves to see Dad slip away from us.
He didn't.
On he goes.

Yesterday, we were moved out of the noisy windowless fishbowl in ICU and given a small private room on another floor. With a window!! We have our own washroom - no more leaving the unit for the only shared washroom on the floor! And we even have an extra bed so someone can stay overnight (better than the chair I slept in on Thurs night!).
It's almost like we're staying at the Hyatt! Without the room service and chocolates on the pillow.

So today, with all this privacy, we've brought
music in with us and are singing for Dad. He's kind of a captive audience, not being able to move, but I suspect that he's enjoying it.
If not, he's being awfully gracious about it. Typical Dad!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, February 25, 2011

Today in ICU

Hospital life can be surreal. We are in a double room with no outside windows, so it could be midnight and blizzarding outside, and we wouldn't be aware of it.
Despite the emotional strain, we are still able to enjoy each other. This morning, we celebrated when Lea rolled up the rim of her Tim Horton's cup (it's a Canadian thing...) and won a doughnut! Too bad it wasn't the car.

Last night we were all here gathered around Dad's bed and had a sweet time singing together. It looked like he was enjoying it deep in the depths of the morphine haze.

I've been more emotional today as Dad labours to breathe. It's not so much sadness though, but rather, a full heart that overflows. I'm so very thankful for the goodness in my life that has come from Dad, and it is making me cry.
What richness I have known. Thank you, God, for this wonderful man!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The View From the Bed

Here we are, back in the ICU, this time in Surrey. Just a bit closer to home. Same ventilator, same monitors, same sedation, same feelings of sadness and wondering. Different nurses. And not such a nice unit; a shared room, no privacy. At all.
It's kind of frustrating, to say the least.
Back again, walking down the same road.
This is what Dad would see from his bed if he could open his eyes and drag himself back to consciousness.

Legs under the sheet, all wrapped up in air-filled pressure cuffs, with cold feet at the end. And a very dedicated and loving son-in-law who has spent lots of time by his bed. The nurse is just outside the window, always watching (okay, maybe she wasn't there when I took the photo...).
The respirator is hissing and the family on the other side of the room is chattering; there are people in and out all the time.
Back again and not happy about it...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sweetness

Happy Valentine's Day!The sugar was everywhere today; in the staffroom, in the classroom, and in the children's valentine bags full of cards and treats. My little students spread the love with enthusiasm and excitement!

And then I trekked out to the hospital. We'd thought we were done with that.
Poor Dad is delirious. He can't put more than a couple of words together, if that. Can't follow instructions or answer questions. Doesn't know where he is. And the doctors can't figure out what's causing it.
His feet hang over the end of the narrow emergency room bed, where he is now spending his second consecutive night and his third in the past week. It's noisy and busy outside the thin curtain. And it's hard to know if the nurses remember to check on him regularly.

But one thing is certain: his sweet smile is better than all the Valentine's Day treats. It lit up the room and crinkled his eyes when I walked in, and every time he woke up from a nap, he shared it with us.
He might not be able to say our names, but I know that he knows, deep down inside.
Happy Valentine's Day to my wonderful dad, lying by himself tonight in the ER.

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