Christmas Letter 2003

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 2003, word for word.

Hello and Merry Christmas!

This year I decided to try a different strategy – get all my shopping done (almost), the Christmas tree cut -put up- and decorated, all my baking done (except the cherry cheesecake on Christmas Eve) and the parcels mailed to B.C. BEFORE I wrote my annual Christmas letter. So here are the highlights of this past year….

After my last year’s letter, I DID get the baking done and the parcels mailed to B.C. before everyone began to get sick.  On Christmas day, we ended up in the Emergency department of the Kemptville Hospital with Melvin who ended up in the Childrens’ Hospital in Ottawa for 5 days in January.  At one point, both he and Marty had pneumonia; Doctors thought Melvin had leukemia (he didn’t – just double pneumonia and whooping cough); then the next week they thought Marty had a tumor (the lesion on his lung was the size of a quarter and was a scar from Histoplasmosis, which we never knew he had years ago!).  So that’s how our new year began!!  By the end of January they were all back at school!!!!!!

Nellie turned 11 in January – she’s almost as tall as me now with beautiful long hair. She’s now in grade 6 at the same school in the little town of Kars that all her siblings attended. Darin turned 26 in January and he and Amanda still live in Ottawa.  Of course, you’ve probably heard of their new daughter, Kalia Emily, who was born November 15th.  She’s the cutest baby in the world – honest, I’m not biased just because I’m her Gramma!

Taylor turned 23 in February and he still lives in Vancouver – we are hoping that someday soon he’ll come home to visit.  He still works at the same restaurant/bar, ‘Avantes’.  Marty is now 17 and towers over me!  A few months ago he picked up a guitar and hasn’t stopped since!  He’s a natural!!  He’s in grade 11 and doing very well.
Kristi is 21 now and in her third year at Carleton University.  She still works in the ER at the Ottawa General Hospital and also for Foreign Affairs Canada on her days ‘off’.  Her and Mike are still engaged and hoping to get married in 2005.

Robin (now 28) and Natasha (29) still live in Victoria, B.C. where Robin is still in school pursuing a Masters degree.  I will never forget his first day of kindergarten – he refused to go and get on the schoolbus: he actually grabbed onto the fence and clung for dear life – honestly, I couldn’t unhook his little fingers, until the bus left!!  Now we can’t get him out of school!  Ha! Ha!  We are very proud of him – actually of all of our children.

Our little Melvin turns 9 tomorrow!  He’s in grade 4 at the little school in North Gower where all the kids have gone for the past 22 years.  guess I’m the most veteran parent in that school.

During the winter, we still enjoy hockey games with our friends on Saturday nights in our garage/party room and skating on our backyard rink on the river.  Spring, summer, and fall find us working in the yard.  The pond is nearing completion with the stream/waterfall which we accomplished this year.  Chris built a little arched bridge over the stream and several arbors/trellises for around the yard.  I’m forever planting and dividing/moving plants.  Our vegetable garden is being taken over with more perennial flowers which I’m trying to start from seed or find in a heap.

Well, I sure hope that you will come and see us sometime. If not, just write and keep in touch. Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New year.

Ten Years Later ….

Yes it’s been 10 years since Chris died at home on March 2, 2008 around 5:30 p.m. as the setting sun streamed through the window onto his face, surrounded by the loving embrace of our family. At times, it feels raw just like yesterday and other times it seems like a lifetime ago.

1

Chris, Nellie, & Melvin 1999

 

We’re okay. We’re just fine. It’s hard to comprehend all the life that has occurred in these last ten years – life that Chris has missed. Life that we’ve been blessed with.

Ten years ago, the five oldest children were grown up and off on their own. Only 13 year old Melvin and 16 year old Nellie still lived at home. Our darling grandchildren, Kalia and Olivia, were SO small ~ now they are teenagers AND have been joined by SIX MORE cousins! My life has been enriched with joy and pride beyond measure.

I’ve learned, painfully at the beginning, to be me. Not part of a couple any more. Finding ‘me’ has been an amazing journey that is still evolving.

Over the past 10 years, we’ve watched 3 Olympic Winter games, jumping for joy over Canada’s gold medals in hockey. Chris would have loved that. Ten springs, summers, falls, and winters.

Not too much has changed around the house. A few years ago, my grown kids fixed the mudroom door and built a new deck out back. I still have my pond that Chris built for me – and I look after it faithfully, bringing in the goldfish every fall with the help of Kalia.

 

2

 

Until recently, nothing much changed inside the house. I wanted things to stay just as they were: the paint that Chris put on the walls has been comforting. Recently though, with Nellie’s encouragement and support, I’m ready for change. I’m ready for fresh paint now! And Nellie’s started painting – her Daddy would be proud of her because she’s pretty darn good at it! We started with my bedroom because I had mold growing in the corners – Nellie and Taylor ripped out the drywall right down to the studs and replaced the insulation and drywall. Then Nellie and I taped and mudded it. Now Nellie is painting the entire room, door, and trim. Thanks Nellie! And for the first time in my entire life, I have my very own new bedroom furniture! I don’t have to share it with my sister (love you Bet even though you used to kick me out of our bed for breathing too loud when we were growing up, hehe) or husband or wee ones or anyone ~ just for me! It only took 65 years. It’s beautiful!

Next is the livingroom painting and finishing up a few jobs (like the floor) that Chris was too sick to do – Nellie is on a roll.

Every day we think of Chris and miss him.

Moving forward, crawling at times, but definitely moving forward.

 

3

Dear Lawn Tractor,

 

Thank you for your 21 years of service to our family. Every time you cut the grass for me, I get to ride on you while the breeze cools me, watching the sparkling river, seeing how my garden is growing, or looking at the fish as we zoom past the pond. I’m grateful every time you start without complaint.

LawnTractorWM

 

I apologize for ignoring your needs especially over the past 8 years. I’m sorry for not changing your oil for 10 years. I’m so grateful that even with such inexcusable treatment, you still keep on going. Well, I did sort of have an excuse because I couldn’t get your oil plug off – it was screwed in SO tight by Chris that I didn’t have the strength to undo it. But yesterday, I was determined!

OilPlugWM

Removing Oil Plug – it helps having the right tool!

 

Luckily, my motto is “never give up” so I put all my brute force behind it, with echos of Chris saying “give ‘er!” and reminding me in my thoughts to just ‘force it’. Well it worked! And I felt the screw budge and finally start to turn! Eureka! It helped finding the right tool that would fit in the slot (among the hundreds of options I had in Chris’ tool chest). So now your engine can bath in fresh new 5W30 oil instead of that black stuff that came pouring out – all 4 liters of it……… sorry I overfilled your oil. You don’t have to apologize to me for not wanting to keep running especially when I kept adding oil beyond the safe limit.
I know you have more energy now too! That new battery must feel like a Red Bull energy drink! I realize that when you refused to start last September you were just putting your foot down and begging me to pay attention. I’m really glad that you continued to work through the long summer without much complaint even though you had every right to quit. Thanks for going on strike so I would be forced to attend to your needs.

AirFiltersOldNewWM

Left:  old air cleaner.  Right:  new air cleaner

 

Did you notice that I put in a new air cleaner? And a new fuel filter? And a fresh new spark plug? I’m sure you did because you ran SO smoothly when I cut the grass last night I almost felt that you were dancing for joy!
I was glad to clean up around your insides of all the debrise and oily dirt. And I dusted off your outside too. I promise to give you a wash soon.
My dear lawn tractor, you have been a vital part of this family helping to maintain our property over the years. You go girl! (Of course you’re a girl with THAT much stamina)

 

backyardWM

Backyard at sunrise

Spring Is Here!

I think.  It’s beautiful and sunny and temperatures are now above seasonal! After a cold start to April with lots of snow, we’ve finally turned a corner into spring.

Last evening, I brought in the last of the maple sap and took the taps out of the trees. Maple sap runs when overnight temperatures are below 0 Celcius degrees (32F) and daytime temperatures are above zero. Those days are behind us now and the trees know it – sap production has dropped drastically in the last couple of days.

The last pot of maple sap is boiling down on my wood cookstove. I really don’t even need to make a fire these days with wake-up temperatures around zero but I want to finish up my maple syrup. This year I boiled down about 48 litres of maple sap and ended up with about 7 cups of pure, natural maple syrup and a half cup of maple taffy.

SparklingWater

My Lake of Shining Waters

The ice is all gone now. My pond finally melted this week and now the wild Mallard duck couple, who come back every year, enjoy swimming in it. The river broke up weeks ago. Great Blue Herons, Robins, Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks, and Red Wing Blackbirds have all returned from their southerly winter homes. The little Goldfinches are changing from their winter olive colour to their summer bright yellow. Beavers swim by close to shore at dawn now too. Raccoons are up and about and I imagine the Black Bears too. Daylillies, daffodils, and tulips are poking through the ground and buds are swelling on the trees. The sun is SO bright especially when it reflects off the river and sparkles brilliant light. I’ll be glad when the leaves grow on the trees and shade my windows which will be much easier on my eyes in the morning. Thanks Robin for planting that Maple tree beside the back deck over 30 years ago!

This week, I hung some laundry outside on the line. WOW, do I ever love that fresh smell when I bring it in! The line was completely full of sheets and blankets that first day with the wind blowing them dry in just a few hours. I’ve hung laundry outside every day!

Forsythia

Forsythia

Outside chores are staring me in the face. Leaves have to be scooped out of the pond and the leaf net removed. Then I have to reconnect the pump hose that I accidentally disconnected before I hook up the pump and filter. That’s my first plan of action. I hope to revitalize my garden this year with a load of rotted horse manure; plant another row of raspberries; plant the 70+ trees/bushes I ordered including some Serviceberries and Highbush Cranberries to add to my berry production; pick up all the branches that blew down from the trees during the winter; rake leaves; freshen up the house trim, porch, and garage door paint; and spread the dump truck load of wood chips sitting in my driveway. After being diagnosed with skin cancer this winter (which I’m still waiting for treatment – I was recently told it would be six months!), I was feeling somewhat reluctant to plan a lot of outside work because of the fear of sun exposure. But I can’t live my life in fear of being outside so I’ll just continue to keep on keeping on…… with sunscreen now.

I know that Spring is really here because my son Taylor left this week for his job at the hot springs in northern British Columbia. I was sad to see him go because I know I will miss him but happy for him too, knowing he’s on a fabulous cross-country drive.

A Day in A Life that Was

It’s been 8 years today since Chris died.  This year, I salute his life in a series of unpublished pictures to try to show what our life with him was like.

1.1992 Teaching Nellie Mini-putt

Chris was a patient person, even trying to teach baby Nellie Mini-putt!  We always tried to find mini-putt whenever we went on vacation since the kids loved it so much.  Chris would do anything for the kids and me.

2. Carving Pumpkins

2b.Pumpkinmobile

At Halloween, every kid had their own pumpkin to carve…..after Chris scooped out most the seeds!  One year, he created the “Pumpkinmobile” for Halloween night by strapping onto the top of the van, a large carved pumpkin with a blue flashing light inside.  We drove the kids around our neighbourhood and nearby homes so the kids could trick-or-treat.

3.BuildingGarden

Chris was always building something around the house:  the front garden or the playhouse or the pond.

4.Patio

One of our favourite summer pastimes was ‘Patio’ where neighbours (human and canine) would gather at our house to visit and sing.

5.Rink

Chris prided himself in his skating rink out on the river.  This one had a rink plus a skating oval around it.  He’d spend hours cleaning it off after a snowstorm and flooding it on -20C days.  He hung lights for nighttime skating too.  Every winter, we hosted our annual skating parting for neighbours and friends.  We skated on the river, keeping warm at a bonfire at the beach then shared a potluck supper in our garage/party room.  Every Saturday night during the hockey season, we would host a ‘hockey party’ where we would watch NHL games while playing darts or pool with our friends and neighbours.

6.WhaleWatchingTadoussac.png

Chris would always take us anywhere we wanted to go at any time.  This picture shows us at Tadoussac, Quebec where we went whale watching and stayed at a cottage overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  We were on our way down home.

7.TorontoZoo

One year, we took the whole family to the Toronto Zoo and Wonderland for the weekend.

8.Waterskiing

At home, he loved boating on the river in the summertime.  He patiently taught our kids and friends to water ski.

9.JoeyVisit

He loved it when our brother-in-law Joey came up for his annual visit.  This picture shows their favourite spot to sit and talk and enjoy a cold ‘beverage’.

12.HardatWork

He loved working with Mark and Simon, travelling at times to Niagara and British Columbia on jobs.

 

9b. SantaGrampie

Chris was such a good sport:  he played Santa to all the kids in the neighbourhood at our annual Christmas Party.  Here he is with Kalia as Santa Grampie.

10.Camping

What an incredible man.  Even though he was in the middle of daily radiation treatments for cancer, Chris insisted we didn’t cancel our family camping plans.  We camped on the St. Lawrence River and him and I just drove up to the Ottawa Hospital for his treatment then back to the campground.  Pain and the side-effects from radiation treatments didn’t stop him from sleeping on the ground in a tent so the kids would still have a holiday.  He was adamant that he would try to make the kids feel like life was as normal as possible, until it wasn’t.

13.LastFamilyPhoto

Our last family photo when everyone came home in 2007.

 

 

 

May Day

 

Today is May 1st, May Day.  Today I celebrate spring in all it’s glory.  For the next 6 months, I look forward to warm weather, no snow, gardening, my pond………….everything that goes with spring and summer.

While I was working outside today, I took some pictures to share with you:

The daffodils are finally blooming!

Daffodils are blooming

Daffodils are blooming

And the ostrich fern ‘fiddleheads’ are beginning to unfurl.

Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads

Pond stream

Pond stream

I managed to get the leaf net off the pond and the pump in and running.  It’s nice to see it going with the anticipation of adding the fish, which have overwintered in my cold-room.  There are already some inhabitants who have made a home there:

Bullfrog in the pond

Bullfrog in the pond

The wild ginger is up along the pond’s edge and I noticed some of the hostas have started to poke through the ground.

Wild ginger

Wild ginger

Of course, flies have awakened from their winter slumber. 

Fly

Fly

Yeah, the rhubarb is up!!   That’s a sure sign of spring!

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

And the cheerful forsythia is in full bloom.  I bought a cutting of this bush at a local school plant sale several years ago and it has thrived beautifully, faithfully blooming first thing every spring.

Forsythia

Forsythia

A few days ago, I moved the flagpole to the riverside and put up a new Canadian flag.  It helps me see which way the wind is blowing for hanging laundry while being patriotic.  I now have a spring list of chores to do which I hope to accomplish in due time. 

Ready for Winter

Winter Sunrise

Well, I think I’m finally all ready for winter now! I made a list earlier in the season to help me get all my tasks done:

1.  Woodstove cleaning:  Last week I cleaned out my chimneys’ soot – Darin had swept the rooftop chimney for my cookstove a few weeks ago and today I swept the pellet stove chimney that sticks out the basement wall about a meter (3 feet) above ground.   I just had to spend a morning taking off the cookstove burners on top and the nameplate on the front  then scraping the soot that accumulates around the oven into a bag or shop-vaccing the corners.   I washed the nickel-plated trim and porcelain coated doors with a little hot water and dish soap then coated the cast iron stovetop with a little Olive Oil on a rag.  Downstairs, I gave the pellet stove a good cleaning out of ‘fly ash’  – I keep saying to myself that I’m going to clean my stoves in the late spring after heating season, but then I don’t, justifying it to myself that the fall would be better in case a bat or bird spent the summer inside.  I spread two ashbins full of ashes in my garden, which always helps sweeten the earth.

Clean and ready to burn

Cleaning Cookstove top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Driveway:  On Friday, I was outdoors in the beautiful sun sticking reflective markers along side of the driveway for winter snowplowing.  For the first time in my life, I’ve decided to hire somebody to plow the snow from my laneway this winter.  I’m really afraid that we are going to get walloped by tons of snow this winter since we got off SO easy last winter.  Melvin and I were able to cut a path through the heavy snow in the driveway last winter but this year he’s finished high school and may be busy working.   I had Chris’ plow truck (3/4 ton diesel Chevy 4X4) until last year – I sold it since I only used it for plowing in the wintertime and it was just alot of truck to keep on the road for only that purpose.   I even dug out our old snowblower and worked on it for days (soaked the carburetor in ‘carb cleaner’) but I just couldn’t get it started.  I sent it to the Co-op to get fixed but a simple Carb Kit didn’t do the job and I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a new carburetor that might not even fix the problem….. oh well, I tried, but I don’t know what else to do.

Driveway in Winter

3.  Firewood:  The woodshed is full plus next year’s firewood is piled up outside.  I’ve phoned my firewood guy Gerald already to order 10 cords for next spring – he cuts it during the winter and ‘bucks it up’ to dry abit.  He’ll bring it out in April or May when things ‘dry up’.   My pellet order was unexpectedly here today………but I was not (@ Darin’s doing the snow tires).   So this week I should have my one and a half ton of pellets delivered and stacked inside my garage.

4.  Pond:  At the beginning of November, I disconnected the pond pump and brought it indoors for the winter – I keep it in water in the big winter tank that my fish go in.  I’ve already placed the leaf net on the pond weeks ago after I removed the fish.

5.  Garden Hoses: All the garden hoses have been rolled up and put away for the winter.  The outside taps have been turned off and drained.

6.  Coldroom storage:  My potatoes, onions, squash, canna lilies, etc. are all stored for winter use.

7.  Windows:  I gave some of the windows a cleaning, inside and out,  so the warm winter sun can shine through.  I love looking outside through clean windows!

Mourning Doves on Clothesline

8.  Outdoor Furniture: I put away the chairs and took down the screened Gazebo about a month ago.  It was challenging waiting for a dry weather.  But having my sister Faye coming up for a visit in October really gave me incentive to get stuff done before she arrived!  The dock out on the river still needs to be tied against the shore and the canoe needs to be brought up beside the Playhouse but it’s better to wait until it snows because the canoe slides effortlessly on the snow-covered grass.

9. Winter Snow Tires :  On Sunday, my son Darin put on my snow tires – it was actually a beautiful, sunny, warmish day.    This was the final winter preparation task that needed to be accomplished.

Rideau Canal Fun –
Skating and Beavertales!

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