Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tribute to Teresa

Last Monday, my cousin and dear friend Teresa passed away.  She collapsed near the end of her daily early morning run and couldn’t be resuscitated.  All week, I – along with everyone who knew her - have been struggling to comprehend how someone so vibrant and full of life could be gone just like that.  I know it happens all the time, but it shouldn’t have happened to Teresa. She was the life of the party, the centre of attention, a presence in every room she entered, and always had something funny to say about everything.  She was a wife and mother to three beautiful children.  My heart aches for them and I feel so sad for the huge hole she has left in their lives and many others.  I know that my loss is nothing compared to that of her husband, kids and family, but I’m devastated at losing such a close cousin-friend (I never know whether to call her my cousin or my friend, so I sometimes combine them).  A lot of you knew her, but for those you didn’t, here’s the story of our cousin-friendship.

I was born five months before Teresa and it always pleased her greatly that she was younger than me.  When we were little, Teresa lived about 20 minutes away (which was far when you live in the country), so I didn’t see her as often as I would have liked.  When she was 13, her father passed away suddenly and shortly afterward, she and her family moved closer to us.  I was so happy when she started going to my school in grade 8, and we became very close.  She lived just over three miles away and we would bike or drive our dirt bikes to each other’s houses.  We spent so much time together - driving around in her old green pickup truck, going to the Morris Super Variety store for slurpees and to rent movies, watching satellite TV in her basement, camping at Falcon Lake with her sisters, hanging out at school, going to the city together, and lots of other things I can’t mention here.  We’ve shared a lifetime of inside jokes and experiences that no one else would find as funny or as interesting as we do.

After high school, Teresa and I stayed close.  We were each other’s maids of honour, and we hung out a lot with two other cousins and their spouses.  We all went camping at Falcon Lake every summer and had so many great times.  When Dale and I moved away for five years, she sent many letters and her and Anthony came to visit us a couple of times when we lived in Toronto.  The day we moved back to Winnipeg shortly after Chloe was born, she and Anthony helped us move into our new place.  It was the first time Teresa met baby Chloe and the baby gift she gave us was a doll: Chloe’s beloved Sophie, who still sleeps in her bed to this day.

All of us looking awesome in Toronto in 1996

Ever since we moved back, we’ve seen each other regularly. When our kids were little, we’d get together during the day for play dates and swimming lessons and lunch.  We’d also get together as families on weekends and she was always the leader, the planner, and the organizer.  She booked our annual fall weekends in Grand Forks two years in advance.  She organized our summer weekends at the yurts, Canada Day festivities, birthday celebrations, and dinners out.  She loved to entertain and was an amazing hostess who made you feel welcome from the second the front door opened.  We all loved going there; she made us fancy drinks, delicious appetizers and amazing main courses, but it was dessert I looked forward to the most.  I was never disappointed.  She tried new recipes, which turned out every time.  (She laughed at me because I’m an unadventurous cook and almost every time they came over here, we’d have fajitas.)   

One of the things I’ll miss most about Teresa is her sense of humour.  She was irreverent, sarcastic and had the quickest wit of anyone I’ve ever met.  She could find something funny in every situation.  She loved laughing.  She loved funny people.  She loved funny TV shows.  Every time we got together, I knew my face would be sore from laughing so much.  Her and Dale loved to tease each other; they would often disagree about things and they each always KNEW they were right.  She brought out the funny in others – I was definitely funnier when she was around (or at least I thought I was!).  The world feels less bright and less fun without her in it.
Teresa loved being the first to wear a new fashion, download a new song, try a new trendy restaurant or see a movie on opening day.  She was beautiful and rocked big earrings, a black leather jacket and her aviators.  She had style and the confidence to pull it off.  She had determination and passion; she got up early almost every single morning even in the dark dead of winter to go for a run, followed by an online workout (or maybe she did the workout first, and then the run?).  She ran a half marathon many years ago, long before it became popular.
She was a hard worker and involved in so many things.  She was creative, she loved efficiency, and people who said yes.  For my 40th birthday party, she made Dale lists of what he needed to do to prepare.  It was a long, detailed list, with everything from renting dishes to making sure there was a big rug on the floor by the front door for people to put their shoes on.  She baked the cakes and brought food and flowers and helped make it a great party.  She baked my birthday cake almost every year and always gave me fabulous presents.  In my heightened awareness this week, I’ve realized she’s given me a lot of things that I use all the time: my purse, jewellery, dishes, and the painting in the dining room, just to name a few.  One of the things she gave me this Christmas was a book called “Girlfriends Guide” with all kind of different personal topics in it.  When she gave it to me, she said, “I don’t know why I got this for you; we talk about everything in there already.”  I’ll miss those talks so much.

Me, Teresa & Lorie in December
I know I’m making her sound too good to be true.  Like everyone else, she had her imperfections.  She had strong opinions about a lot of things and rarely admitted she was wrong (she’d say that’s because she never was).  She took charge of things even when you didn’t necessarily want her to.  But I loved her and always knew she cared about me, so I didn’t mind.  She was the glue in our circle of friends, and my stomach hurts at the thought of carrying on without her. 
I wish I’d called her last weekend.  I wish I’d brought her a frappucino as I drove through Rosenort two Fridays ago.  I wish I had told her I’d recently started using the running app that she’d been ranting and raving about for years.  I really, really wish we’d gone to Cuba with her & Anthony and Doug & Lorie in March.  Most of all, I really wish I could tell her all of this in person.  She’s impacted my life in more ways than I even realize, and I know part of her will always be with me.  Keep her family in your prayers, hug your own family, and do your best to live with no regrets.

Here’s the link to Teresa’s full obituary.

(Comments are very welcome.  Because of spam comments, I changed the settings - you can still comment anonymously without a Google ID, but your comment won't appear instantly because I need to approve it first to filter out the junk.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Belated Easter and kids' activities

This morning I dropped Neve off across the street from her school.  I watched from the van as she crossed the street with the help of the crossing guards and then kept walking towards the school stairs.  Suddenly she slipped on some ice, and instantly two of the patrol kids ran to her, helped her up, made sure she was okay, and even dusted the snow off her clothes.  This is so unlike me, but as I watched how kind they were to her, I got tears in my eyes.  I'm blaming my emotions on the Boston bombing (and every other violent crime that comes to mind again at a time like this); I couldn't help but despair about what is WRONG with people, and then seeing such instinctive kindness reminded me that the number of good, caring, decent people way outnumber the bad.  So that's what I'm going to focus on.

And then I will update my blog.

Since my parents got back from Florida on the Easter weekend, we planned our family Easter for last weekend instead, so Dan flew out from Vancouver to join us.  We packed his itinerary so full that he probably needed a holiday after his holiday.  On Sunday we spent the day at parents.  The whole family was there except for three people: Dan’s wife Jenn, who is in London taking care of her sick mother, and my niece Cheryl and great-niece Nixi, who was recovering from the flu.  It was too bad they couldn’t come, but 21 out of 24 isn’t bad.

My mom made her annual Easter baskets and also her special chocolate Oh Henry eggs, which is a tradition that must never end.  The kids hunted for chocolate, people went on the zip line, played games, and rode Jim’s mini-ATV.  It was a fun day.

On Monday, my parents and Dan came over for lunch before heading to the airport.  It was so good having him here, and nice that it will only be a few months until his next visit.

There were a few other things going on this weekend as well.  On Friday, The Chamber had a big 140th birthday celebration.  We had a luncheon with 850 of our members, with Rick Mercer as the guest speaker.  He was a great speaker and the whole luncheon was a big success.

Chloe had her last cheer competition of the season on Saturday.  Her arm was pretty much all better after spring break, so she got in a couple of practices before the competition.  A bunch of friends and family came to watch, which Chloe was thrilled about.  The bad part was that one of the girls who was supposed to “base” (lift her up for the stunts) was grounded the night before, and her mom wouldn’t let her come.  I don’t like to question anyone’s parenting (haha, who am I kidding – I love questioning people’s parenting) but I hope this girl did something heinous and evil that was worthy of this punishment, because it affected the entire team.  The coaches had to alter the routine, girls had to switch positions, and Chloe could only mock the stunts on the ground instead of in the air.  The mother who grounded the girl took away her phone and computer and didn’t even let her call her coaches or teammates to let them know she couldn't come.  However, teenagers can be resourceful when they want to be, so she somehow (smoke signal? tin can telephone?) managed to sneak a message to one of her friends, so the coaches had a few hours to figure it out.  They did great under the circumstances, and Chloe still got to be at the top of the pyramid, so she still got her minute of glory.  

Since cheerleading is over for the season, there was a banquet at the Radisson that night which she got all got fancy for.  They also had a team wind-up a few days later, where Chloe received the "Team Choice Award."  Probably the best few days in Chloe's life so far.  Can only go down from here.

Showing off her sparkly eyeshadow

On Saturday afternoon, Spencer had a fencing tournament.  Scoring points in fencing is still a bit of a mystery to me, but according to the refs, he did really well and ended up getting silver (2nd). 

He was so pleased, as was I; not so much because he won a medal, but because it was a huge confidence booster for him.  He's been having a tough time with school the last few days; there are a couple of projects he's working on that he has a lot of self-inflicted anxiety about. One of the projects involves putting together a brochure for health class on the topic of ... stress.  The irony is not lost on him, but does nothing to relieve his stress.  This has been an ongoing issue this year that escalates whenever major assignments are due.  He has had (and continues to have) professional help, but Dale and I are struggling with helping him manage his anxiety on a day-to-day basis.  Lots of deep breaths and focusing on the fact that this will pass!

I will end with a picture I love taken at Easter at my parents'.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


It seems I’ve got some catch-up blogging to do.  I’ve been too busy staring at the mountains of snow that are lingering well into April.  But I am holding off on complaining about the weather because: a) despite the below-normal temperatures, the snow is slowly melting; b) April is usually a write-off month anyway with the odd warm day getting a person’s hopes up, only to be dashed by flurries the next day.  If the weather hasn’t smartened up by May, brace yourself for a torrent of angry, frustrated and/or despondent posts.

Backing up ten days to Spencer’s 12th birthday… we usually let the kids choose where they want to go for dinner on their birthday, so Spencer was debating between Subway and Ichiban.  The fact that he was even considering Subway made me question his judgement.  If you’re not the one picking up the tab, Ichiban seems like the obvious choice.  Spencer eventually came to the same conclusion, and since it wasn’t his year to have a friends birthday party, we still got off pretty easy.  We’ve been to Ichiban with the kids twice before and always had a lot of fun, but I think the novelty is wearing off a bit.  The chef does the exact same tricks every time: throws an egg, makes a fire, pretends he’s going to make you catch a knife.  They need to freshen things up a little.  But the food was good and there was a lot of it.  Spencer seemed pleased with it all, but was eager to leave the second we were done so he could go home and play with his new Wii game.

On Friday, we had my family over – it was mostly because of my brother Dan who was in for the weekend, but we threw in Spencer’s birthday celebration for added value.  We had pizza and this awesome ice cream cake:

In case you don’t recognize the dishevelled smoking guy, it’s Stephan Pastis, the creator of Pearls Before Swine, one of Spencer’s favourite comics.  The Dairy Queen decorator girl did a great job, working from an image I emailed her.  Spencer had a great day and the cake was the icing on his … cake, I guess.

Here’s the part where I reflect upon the last twelve years and marvel at the amazing pre-teen Spencer has become, just in case he reads this someday.  Who am I kidding - as long as Rick Riordan, Stephan Pastis, and the guy who writes Big Nate books keep being so prolific, he’ll never read this.  And anyway, I’m not really known to reflect or marvel.  But twelve is a good age.  He’s independent, but he still likes spending time with the family.  Best of all, he can now babysit legally.  He broke the law a few days before his birthday by babysitting Neve and his little cousins for an hour or two, and it went well.  He’s stayed home with Neve for small periods of time, which seems to work out pretty good.  He’s a good kid.  He’s smart and funny and has a good heart.  He usually does his chores without being asked, or at least the instant I ask him.  He never needs to be reminded to do his homework or practice his trumpet.  (If you’re imagining a perfect child, don't.  He plays way too much Minecraft, struggles with anxiety, always leaves his socks lying around the house, and doesn’t have the greatest manners, among other things.)  Every day he surprises me with obscure facts he knows or words he uses.  I forget most of them, but here are some things I’ve written down in the last little while.
Neve was making a birthday card for her friend, using the letters of the friend’s name to come up with different adjectives to describe her.  We were helping her out with suggestions, and Spencer said, “Too bad there’s no ‘i’ in her name or you could do Intangible.”

He came home from school one day and said, “I am arguably the loudest kid in grade six.”
(I have a bad feeling no one’s arguing.)

Dale and I were talking to some friends about a person they know who is an albino.  Spencer overheard us and said, “Oh!  Albinism is my favourite genetic mutation!”  Not only did he know the correct term to use, he’d obviously given this some thought.  Not sure what his second-favourite is.

So that’s my 12-year-old.  I’ll post another update or two in the next day or so.


Random picture from party

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Spring Break Recap

I don’t blog for a few days and then suddenly it’s someone’s birthday again.  I always have to dig deep for some enthusiasm by the time Spencer’s birthday comes around.  Sorry, Spencer of the Future.  It’s not your fault.  Your conception was ill-timed.  If someone ever writes a parenting manual, the first chapter should be on spacing out the birthdates of your children.  Except if you’re my aunt Esther, who had two children on her birthday and one on her husband’s birthday 26 days later.  That’s just awesome. 

I believe Spencer’s day got off to a good start.  I made scones for breakfast and he walked to Starbucks before school to get his free birthday frappucino.  I'm pretty sure that any day you walk into your grade six classroom holding a venti cookie crumble frappucino in one hand and a bowl full of cake pops in the other is guaranteed to be a good day.  My friends Kristin and Corinna wanted a cake pop lesson (since I’ve made cake pops twice before and am basically a cake pop expert. My cake pops NEVER fall off the stick - haha), and we just happened to plan it for the day before Spencer’s birthday, so that was lucky for me.  So much more fun than starting it at 11:00 the night before and then realizing you have to bake a cake first.  Thanks, girls!

I’ll do a full birthday report tomorrow or next week or just before the next birthday.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures and an update.

I already posted some pictures from spring break; here are a few more.  If ever a week flew by, it was that one.  I hope Easter doesn’t happen during spring break again for many years.  It shortened spring break and it took away the anticipation of Easter.  

Besides the few days at my parents’ house, the only deliberate spring break activity we did was going rollerskating at Wheelies.  Neve went to a birthday party there a few weeks ago and has been asking to go back ever since.  It was pretty fun and brought me way back to school trips to Saints Roller Rink.  Those were magical times, with music and dim lighting and holding hands with boys as we skated.  Wheelies wasn’t quite as magical, possibly because Spencer kept asking every five minutes if it was time to go home yet.  Dale and I did skate a few laps with intertwined fingers; my heart wasn't beating quite as fast as it did back then, but the conversation was less awkward, so that was good. 

There was a limbo contest, so I thought I’d get right in there and be the cool mom.  I made it under the bar twice before I realized all the other participants were under 12 and there was no way this was going to end well for me.  Smacking into the bar?  Embarrassing.  Winning?  Even more so.  I quietly withdrew with grace and dignity, and Neve ended up winning the whole thing.  The prize was a bag of blue cotton candy, so I was even happier I didn’t win because when I was young, my mom told me that cotton candy was a sin.  Just when I was old enough to wonder if maybe she was exaggerating, I started having kids and realized it really is a sin.  But Neve happily ate her blue sin, so apparently I’m not as effective as my mom is in getting that message across.

Chloe grudgingly arrived home from Miami on Monday night.  She had the post-holiday blues, answering each of our excited questions with a mournful, “I wish I was in Florida.”  She had the time of her life; going to the beach, to Key West, shopping, an epic Easter treasure hunt, and most of all, just hanging out with her cousin.  She did great with all her flights and connections and handled everything well.  I can't blame her for not wanting to come back to our prairie snow, but it’s so nice to have her home again.