Christmas Letters

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends. These yearly letters summarized our family activities and highlighted our proudest moments. A few decades ago, I mailed each one in a Christmas card via Canada Post (also known as snail mail) to all our family and friends. That was the only way to go back in the day. I managed to save a few copies in with my Christmas decorations and I’d like to share them with you over the next few days.
TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER WAS WRITTEN 31 YEARS AGO – DECEMBER 1987, including Original pictures. Here it is, word for word, which was typed on a Commodore 64 computer and printed with our dot-matrix printer.

 

Greetings from the Mellways-on-the-Rideau! Has it been a year already since we sent our best wishes for the season? We’ve been so busy this year that we’ve hardly noticed it go by!

 
Marty has been a full-time delight. Already 16 months old with curly auburn hair and blue eyes, he keeps us hopping and literally on our toes continually. He loves to look at all the colourful Christmas lights and the many birds who visit our window feeder. Christmas ’87 will require some ‘creative decorating’ to say the least!

 
Kristi is five already and just loving Kindergarten! She is full of confidence and energy and more than holds her own with her big brothers. Ballet classes are her latest joy (our little angel in pink tights!!).

 
Taylor still astounds us with his enthusiasm for learning (anything!). Now 7 years old, he participates in Beavers and plays the recorder. He and Kristi are in our community Christmas choir and will perform on December 20th.

 
Darin is almost 11 now and since the beginning of the year has made a conscious decision to become a vegetarian. He’s active in team sports and will be joining the ski club at school in the new year. Finally, Linda will have someone to ski with again!

 
Well, Robin finally surpassed his parents in height hitting 5’5″ at 12 years old! He’s in grade 7 now and still plays the Saxophone in the Intermediate Band. His biggest thrill of the year was flying Air Canada to Chicago with Linda and Marty.

 
Most of Linda’s time is spent Home Making – she even took a 2 month hands-on house building course last winter with baby Marty in tow. It’s been a tremendous help as we finish our home and plan the upcoming renovations to the kitchen and outside veranda addition. In her spare time she continues to practice Midwifery and has recently opened a Breastfeeding Clinic to help mothers and babies.

 
Dean remains active in many aspects of wheelchair sports. He’s still Executive Director of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and plays tennis in the summer and sledge hockey in the winter. Look for him at Ottawa’s Winterlude again in February ’88!

 
We’ll be home for Christmas this year with both Linda’s two sisters and their families joining us on Boxing Day for a traditional Christmas get-together ~ turkey with ALL the trimmings, skating on the river, and good times.

 
May you all have a safe and happy Christmas and 1988.

1987 kidswm

L-R: Darin, Robin, baby Marty, Taylor, Kristi

BackyardHousewm

Backyard 1987

 

Front Housewm

Front of our house 1987

 

Reading Nancy Drew

With the ‘lazy days of’ summer waning, I have been making some time for myself.  I can always find myself doing other things that need to be done like house cleaning, gardening, grass cutting, or computer work.   In fact, I could do that constantly if I don’t force myself to do something relaxing.  Once I decided to take a break, it didn’t take long to remember those innocent days of my childhood summers and reading Nancy Drew Mystery stories.

My sister Betty got me interested in reading Nancy Drew – in fact, in reading, period.  Before then, I was an outdoor girl, always climbing trees or hiking or basically living outside when not in school.  Betty is two years older than me and had already a collection of several N. Drew (as we still affectionately call them) books.  One boring day, she threw one at me while I was lounging on my parent’s bed.  I clearly remember studying the hard cover of The Secret of Red Gate Farm, even reading the back cover with interest.  Then I slowly opened the book in true dramatic fashion – well that’s how I remember it anyway.   I couldn’t put it down until I was finished reading it!  The rest is history.

NancyDrewBooks

The Nancy Drew books were written by Carolyn Keene, who was actually a series of ghostwriters over the years.  The first mystery story was The Secret of the Old Clock published in 1930.  I have a first edition copy of that treasured favourite along with several other first editions.  Today, there are new (and different) Nancy Drew mysteries for young audiences but I LOVE reading the old classic books – the first 45 mysteries.  I love how I’m swept away to another time when life was simpler, except for Miss Nancy Drew.

Both Betty and I bought hard cover Nancy Drew books while we were teenagers.  I know I continued to purchase them even after I grew up, married, and left home.  There was one book, out of print by then, that I was missing to complete our collection of original books but I found it at our local second hand book store.  Actually the owner had taken my name and the specific book I was looking for and when it came in a year later, she called me.

When Betty’s daughter Brodie was a teen, all the books I had were sent to her to read.  Then when my daughter Kristi was a teen, all the books came back to me where they have remained lovingly tucked on the top 3 shelves of my bookshelf.

First Editions Collection

First Editions Collection

This summer, I wandered downstairs on a mission to choose a N. Drew book to read.  I thought I would be able to leisurely spread the reading over a week, but alas, I was swept up in the mystery story and finished reading it a few hours later.  Now I have a few Nancy Drew books on the table beside me so I can read whenever the mood strikes me.  I know why I like these books because the print is larger than most paperbacks and the paper is heavier.  It’s easier on my eyes.   AND because 50 years has passed since I read my first N. Drew story, I can’t remember how they turned out so it’s like reading them for the first time!

I have to admit, I STILL love reading Nancy Drew books.  I have to thank my sister Bet for lending me her first books to read and starting me on a lifetime path of reading.  And yes, Betty, they are still YOUR books!  lol

International Women’s Day

 

Today I celebrate International Women’s Day.  I honour all the women who are part of my life and I pay tribute to all the women who have influenced me in the past.  Some of these women include:

First and foremost, My Mom

My sisters Betty and Faye

My daughters Kristi and Nellie

My granddaughters Kalia, Olivia, J & H

My daughters-in-law Amanda, Jeannette, and Nici

My Grandmother “Mom”

My nieces Brodie, Jennifer, Kari, Kathryn, Terri, Melissa, Meg, Kate, Emily, Dana

All my darling cousins like Maureen, Carolyn, Verna, Dale, Jacklyn and all the rest – and their daughters and granddaughters

My sisters-in-law Janet, Cheryl, Amanda, Penny, Wanda, Debbie, Lynda, Wendy, Mimi, Holly

All my Aunts

My long-time friend Kristi

Cherished friends Sharon, Aleta, Andrea

My mother-in-law Florence

Lil

Good neighbours

High school friends who have reconnected

Wise women like Elsie Cressman, Ina May Gaskin, Margaret Mead, and Marian Thompson.

My friends in La Leche League and all the mothers I’ve been honoured to help over the years.

The women I assisted with the births of their babies while I was a Midwife – and all those baby girls, many of them now adults themselves

The women around the world who I will never even meet who have impacted my thoughts and actions over the years.

I apologize if I haven’t mentioned any lady in particular who has been part of my life.  You are still important to me.

Mum

 

 

 

The Secret Wish

My dear, sweet Grandmother lived until 102 years of age (1904-2006).  She witnessed the most incredible changes in the history of mankind:   she was born in the horse-and-buggy day where most people still lived on farms with no electricity or indoor plumbing and used hand tools.  She saw the introduction of the automobile in the early 1900s followed by airplanes in the skies…….. and watched a man walk on the moon in 1969.   She bore witness to 2 World Wars.  My Gramma lived when electricity was discovered and distributed to homes across North America!  She raised a large family through the Great Depression.   My Grandmother watched the revolution of television followed by home computers and the internet (even though she never had a computer).  She gave birth to a large family in an old farmhouse with no modern conveniences.  My Grandmother was an amazing woman – my cousin Marc describes it best “Her door was always open, they were not rich, but there was always a pot of barley soup on the stove. She raised her own 11 children and many grandchildren and even great children were always at the farm.” Whew!  What a time in history to have lived!

my Grandparents

my Grandparents

I knew her for my entire life but I had no idea that she harboured a personal secret wish:  to simply find her long lost sister Alberta (‘Bertie’).   Alberta had moved to the United States to work when she grew up in the 1920’s and my Gramma kept in contact with her until the 1960s.  Alberta had two children, Frederick and Lloyd and had two husbands.  Then they lost touch.   Recently I discovered that, when she was 100 years old, my Gramma told her daughter that she wished she could find out about her sister ‘Bertie’:  “the best gift I could ever have would be to find out where ‘Bertie’ was, if she was dead or alive or her last known address.  I know it is in Norfolk” (VA, U.S)…….. Sadly, we were never able to fulfil her secret wish before she died.

Our family history reports that my Grandmother had 7 or 8 siblings but I never really thought about whatever happened to them.  I met her brother Kermit and her sister Gladys because they lived down home in the same town as my Grandmother  (a.k.a. ‘Mom’ as we affectionately called her).  I feel guilty now for never inquiring about her siblings and parents…..    My Grandmother’s parents, William and  Ellen,  moved back to New Carlisle, Quebec on the Gaspe from Shirley, Massachusetts in the U.S. when my Gramma and her sister Bertie were just babies in the early 1900s.  They cleared the land and built a home where they raised their family.  The foundation of that century homestead still exists.  Our family historian, Auntie Mary says that when her mother was a teenager, her and Bertie moved to New Brunswick to work.  Then Mom’s Uncle John and Aunt May brought Bertie back to the U.S. with them to work.  My Gramma moved back home where she married and lived for the rest of her life.

1930s Only picture of my great-grandmother

1930s Only picture of my great-grandmother, back left

When technology and computers were developed, my Gramma often wondered where Bertie was and said she’d love to find her again.  But it was not to be during her time on this earth.   Then, a few years ago, my cousin Marc was playing around with a free trial of Ancestry.ca and my Auntie Mary wondered if he could “find Mom’s sister on that thing?”  They typed in Alberta’s name, her birthday, and the names of her two husbands and incredibly, her name popped up in someone else’s family tree!  My cousin sent a message to the person who entered the family tree information and it turns out HE was Bertie’s son!  Marc wrote to him saying It is hard to believe that my grandmother searched half her lifetime and even on her deathbed and we have finally found you and your family”.  Now our family has been reunited once again.  My dear sweet Grandmother who spent her life giving, has once again given us another gift of dozens more family members by her simple, solitary secret wish.  I can’t wait to get to know my new cousins and even meet them some day – we share the same great-grandparents.

My Aunt Mary said it best:  “it’s never too late….. better late than never”.

3 Generations - early '70s

3 Generations – early ’70s

Hockey Returns

Okay, let me say right away that I was totally bummed (disgusted) by the National Hockey League (NHL) strike – millionaires bickering with millionaires about…… well, money. But that said, I’m sitting here watching Hockey Night in Canada at 3 p.m. in the afternoon : Ottawa Senators (my team) vs. Winnipeg Jets. Oh, I did get my 3 days of wood chopped, the carpet vacuumed, the snow on the solar panels swept off, and convinced Nellie to make cookies before it started. I said to myself, when they were ‘on strike’, that I was never going to watch those greedy millionaire hockey players ever again. But I guess I can’t fight genetics…..

2 yr old Kalia playing hockey with Nellie 2006

2 yr old Kalia playing hockey with Auntie Nellie 2006

My earliest memory (2 years old) is of watching NHL Hockey Night in Canada almost 60 years ago every Saturday night. Hockey came on at 8 p.m., right after Don Messer’s Jubilee, a Canadian folk music TV program that we sang and danced around to. We often got to have our own bottle of 7Up soft drink during the game. Back in those days, there were only 6 teams in the NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins, and New York Rangers. Our family’s favourite was the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were hot in the 50’s and 60’s winning several Stanley Cups, the championship trophy. The biggest rivalry was between Toronto and Montreal and I believe it still is today. When the theme song came on for Hockey Night in Canada, we came running from wherever we’d wandered off to and took our place on the floor in front of our 15″ screen, black and white television. It was a good spot to be when our team scored so we could jump up and down cheering. Inevitably, I’d end up on my Mom’s lap and alway fell asleep during the game.
Regrettably, I was never to see the Toronto Maple Leafs play at Maple Leaf Gardens (even though I went there to see The Beatles in concert twice), before they moved to the Air Canada Centre. In fact, I’ve never seen Toronto play at home. We finally went to a NHL game about 15 years ago at Scotiabank Place to watch the Ottawa Senators and have gone every few years since. Once, my sister Faye and her Husband Joey came up and we went to a game with the Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (our first live Leafs game). We had a ton of fun even though we were way up in the ‘nose bleed’ section (ie. so high up you might get a nose bleed)!

Our River Rink 2006

Our River Rink 2006

I honestly didn’t know earlier this week if I’d fit today’s game into my day. After my sister Faye called to remind me it was going to be on, I decided to watch. Well, as soon as the theme began to play, I just envisioned Faye, in her chair at home, excitedly breathing a sigh of relief that hockey was back! And that childhood excitement flowed through me! NOW I know what I was missing on Saturday’s this fall!
Hockey is quintessential Canadian, like snow, ice skating, trees, mountains, oceans, prairies, -30 C winters (-22F) and hot summers. Maybe Canadians are just hockey-lovers……… maybe we feel that it’s the ultimate sport, for our kids, ourselves, and those rich players. I know that my sister gets a real aerobic workout watching her Toronto Maple Leafs on TV – she works her arms shaking her fists at them when they get scored on and her heart sure pumps hard as they almost win another game. A perfect workout in my opinion! And she doesn’t even have to leave her house or pay any gym fees! Sweet!

I dedicate this post to my sister Faye, the most die-hard, faithful, Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan I’ve ever known!

Our own Hockey Night in Canada 1994

Our own Hockey Night in Canada 1994

My Sister Faye’s Visit

 For the past week and a half, I’ve been busy with my visiting sister Faye, from Hamilton, Ontario.  I had actually planned on going down to visit her, but a change in plans for me initiated HER ‘Plan B’:  taking the train up to visit me!

My Sister Faye

Of course, we began our visit with a trip to town and our favourite store, Giant Tiger.  There has been alot of development in town in the past year, so I was able to give my sister the ‘5 minute tour’ of all the growth.  We spent the next day at home so I could bake some Cinnamon Buns, Banana Bread, and put on a pot of Chili.  On both Saturdays that she was here, we were invited to my neighbours’ for supper and several games of Euchre.  Della and I are always partners while Faye and Ron have a winning team.  We lost 6 of the 8 games we played!  Oh well, it’s just nice to play cards with them and talk to other adults for a change.  The next day, Faye and I went to a nearby town’s Steven’s Creek Country Market, right across from the Farmers’ Market.  Faye was happy to find a few button-on tea towels for her stove.   Then we spent a few enjoyable hours driving around the countryside, stopping in at little shops along the way.

‘Gal pal’ day on Tuesday was extra special with Faye here.  Since her retirement, every Tuesday, Della and I go into town to do some shopping and have lunch.  This Tuesday, we dropped in to a record number of stores and shops.

Wednesday, I had to drive Nellie to Smiths Falls to meet my son-in-law Mike, who needed her to babysit.  So Faye and I plotted out a course of Thrift Stores to visit while we were in this town.   Faye scored a new (to her) winter coat and an exercise outfit while I came home empty handed.  On Thursday, I did some work outside while Faye kept an eye on our dog Yukon – he likes to ‘wander’ over to the neighbours to ‘visit’ their puppy Mexi.

Third World Bazaar

We started out bright and early Friday morning heading for the Third World Bazaar.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous with sunny 22 degrees C (72F).  Since the Third World Bazaar buildings are not heated, we enjoyed the warm temperatures.  We ooohed and ahhhed at all the fair-traded products from around the world, walking around and around several times over.  This TWBazaar is only open for six weekends in the fall from Thanksgiving, so Faye’s timing of her visit was perfect.   We bought a few things and ended our visit with a lunch of Thai food from vendor on site.  It was Faye’s first experience eating Thai food and she loved it!

Third World Bazaar Masks

We took a little tour of Manotick while we were near and then stopped for ice cream at Kelly’s Landing waterfront restaurant on the way home.  We had actually planned on eating lunch here on the patio along the Rideau River, but we ate Thai earlier instead.  Oh well, next time………..

Kelly’s Landing

I had made a promise to Nellie to drive her to her friends on Friday afternoon, so after dropping her off (and Melvin at his girlfriends), Faye and I headed into town to the Auction!  I had gone to that auction about 20 years ago but not since then and Faye had never been to an auction in her life, SO we were excited to experience this.  After viewing all the items to be auctioned off, we took our place at the back of the room.  We decided not to get a number since we were not going to bid on anything.  The auction started promptly at 6 p.m. – 2 kitchen items at a time.  Then the auctioneer said that they likely wouldn’t get to the big stuff (furniture) until 10:30 or 11 p.m., so Faye and I made a hasty exit.  We were NOT going to stand  all evening long……….. and it was kinda boring……..  We made a quick pit stop at the Dollarama, then arrived home before dark!  Aren’t we a couple of sad sacks!  But with Nellie and Melvin gone for the evening, we were anticipating having the quiet house (and T.V.) to ourselves.  Faye fell asleep in her lazyboy chair by 9:30 and I managed to stay awake abit longer until Nellie arrived home at 10 to break the silence.  LOL

Saturday morning, we were off to the Church ‘garage sale’ inside the hall.  I bought 3 full skeins of new yarn for Nellie’s crocheting and had a lovely time chatting with the ‘Church Ladies’.  Next we went to Geronimo Cafe in beautiful downtown Kemptville for a tea and muffin.

Faye at Geronimo’s Cafe

What a lovely place!  The exposed brick wall, children’s play area,  and well-worn comfy couch was SO inviting!  It’s run by a nice young couple and her Mother – while we were there, the Grandparents came by and brought homemade Halloween decorations for the cafe……. and then an Uncle showed up.  A real family affair!   I just LOVED it and will return.   That day, the downtown businesses were celebrating Kreepy Kemptville – owners were all dressed up in costumes and little children and their parents dropped in for special treats like the candy apples Geronimo’s had made and were giving out.  It was so heartwarming!  After tea time, we went to another church’s bake sale.  On a whim, we decided at the last minute to stop into the Salvation Army Thrift Store since Faye had never been downstairs where everything else but clothes were displayed.  Faye found the perfect vegetable peeler (25 cents) which looked brand new even though it was the thinner old style.  I found 2 boxes of new Crown/Jewel glass ‘canning’ jar rubber rings for 40 cents and a new, unopened pack of spare ‘Monopoly properties’ for a quarter.  Upstairs, we had a ball looking through the racks and racks of surprisingly good quality, gently used clothing and actually found some real treasures.  Then just when we thought we’d had enough, we passed a garage sale sign and headed down the river road – I bought a wicker basket for our cat to sleep in, a 2 tier lazy susan, an almost full bag of  polyester fiberfill (that I need for the new dog bed I’m making for Yukon), and a rubbermade stepstool – for 25 cents each!   We had such a great day!

Faye had a challenging time trying to fit all her ‘purchases’ into her compact suitcase and backpack – until I remembered the large suitcase I had to borrow from my other Sister Betty in July when I went out to British Columbia (and couldn’t fit all MY B.C. treasures into my small suitcase) lol.  Faye left to go home today on the 12:45 p.m. train ………… I’ll miss her alot until next time.  I love it when my sister comes to visit me.  (Betty, I love it even more when BOTH my sisters are here!).

Third World Bazaar
South American Clothing

 

 

 

Sisters

I am the luckiest person in the world!  In addition to having seven wonderful children, 4 great children-in-law, and 4 beautiful grandchildren, I have TWO amazing Sisters!   We are BFFs:  best friends forever.

My sisters, Betty and Faye, and I grew up in a pretty normal household with hard-working parents in the ’50s.  When we were young, we lived in post WWII housing along side of  many other families.  There were LOTS of kids in the neighbourhood and we were never bored with nothing to do.  Every year, our parents took us on some kind of vacation either down home to the east coast or camping or visiting a relative, often bringing along a  neighbour.   When I was 11 years old, our parents bought their first home and we moved away from our beloved neighbourhood.

During our teen years, my sisters and I kinda went our own separate ways, having our own individual friends.  I have to forever thank my sister Faye for giving me the gift of life:  never smoking.  She did this by making me take a drag off of all her friends’ cigarettes once when she had a party and I was SO sick, I NEVER, EVER wanted to smoke.  Betty was our family “rebel” during her teen years, exercising her independence often. lol.   The two of us shared a bedroom growing up,  until the day she got married.  She always said I “breathed too loud” when I slept and “kicked” me out of bed often…..lol.   But that’s okay, I knew my Sisters loved me anyway.  It was great being the youngest sister too.  When I finished my basketball practice at high school on a dark winter’s eve, I knew I could always call my sister Faye and she would hop in her cold car (in her Robe and curlers) and drive the 5 miles to the school and pick me up so I didn’t have to walk home alone in the dark.  Thanks Faye.  And because I was a few years younger than Betty and she got a job before me, I had lots of nice clothes of hers to wear to highschool….thanks Bet!

We lost our Mom suddenly when I was in my early 20’s and we were devastated.  Betty and I were married at the time, but Faye still lived  at home.  We were crippled by our loss for many, many months afterwards.  BUT we always knew we had each other.  No matter what.  And nothing and nobody would ever come between us.  It was like an unspoken pact we made with each other which has held the test of time to this day.

WinterludeOver the years, we’ve taken alot of vacations together with our families and have had the BEST time!   We’ve gone down home to New Carlisle on the Gaspe, with most of our children and stayed in a couple of cramped chalets on the beach.  We had a great time taking walks along the ocean  looking for “beach glass”  or visiting our Grandmother, Aunts, and Uncles or having an amazing feast at my cousin Maureen’s …… My Sisters and I haven’t lived in the same city since 1972 .  Presently, Faye lives 4 1/2 hours away from me and Betty lives across the country on Vancouver Island.  Faye and I will go out to B.C. to visit Betty or Bet will come east to visit us in Ontario nearly every year.  When we  get together, we all talk a mile-a-minute at the same time AND can actually understand what each other is saying!!  My kids laugh!   Faye and I see each other more often since we live closer.  Several times a year, Faye takes the train to visit me while I’ll often catch a ride to her place with my daughter Kristi when she has business meetings in Toronto.

In recent years, we’ve been able to have “Sister-time”  in beautiful British Columbia, exploring beaches, mountains, and trails, many times with our children who live nearby.  My two Sisters actually tried surfing in Tofino a few years ago!

It’s funny…..the older we get, the more we seem to have in common.  When we were growing up, my sisters didn’t want me (the little sister) hanging around, but now we can’t get enough of each other!  We are truly best friends.  We know that we have each other’s backs and will always be there for each other in times of need.  We talk on the telephone at least weekly and now can Skype each other, bringing our worlds a little bit closer.

Sisters in Vancouver

 

Previous Older Entries

hip roof barn

Crafting a frugal life

Charlies Mama

Suddenly, he was my everything.

Powell River Books Blog

Life, Family, Friends.....

The Wedge

Closing Canada's Media Gap

Peace & Environment Resource Centre (PERC)

The Ottawa Peace and Environment Resource Centre (PERC) is an incorporated, registered charity. It is primarily a volunteer-run, grassroots organization with a Board of Directors to govern its operations.

Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness

Practical advice for off-gridders, homesteaders, preppers. 40 years off-grid homesteading experience. Blog, videos, podcasts, book (print, ebook, audio)

The Radical Homemaker

Warning: Blending authenticity with joy may arouse contempt.

Mother Matters Burlington

Pregnancy, birth and postpartum support. Conscious parenting too!

B&H Your Community Grocer

Supporting Your Community Since 1963

Just another Day on the Farm

Living a step back in time

Vulnerable Watersheds

Life, Family, Friends.....

Pete's Alaska

Pete's Alaska — God, family, country my view out the cabin window.

Cam Mather

Books • Speaking • Consulting • etc.

Lactation Matters

The official blog of the International Lactation Consultant Association