Sunday, March 06, 2022

My Dear Friend Laurie

As we slid into our seats at London's Centennial Hall for the Vinyl Cafe Christmas show, we were so excited to experience Stuart McLean in person - together with all of the festive elements of the show. This was a delight and we determined at that moment it would become an annual tradition. In fact, why wait for Christmas? Our adventures would one day earn our hashtag (who else would care but us?) #LLJMAdventures  

When I think of Laurie, inevitably, I think of our Vinyl Cafe outings. But, there are so many other moments that pop to mind as well. She loved the idea of an "adventure" and seeing where the road would lead us. I loved our times together for she was a kindred spirit. We laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. 

Last Christmas when she told me she had been diagnosed with leukemia I was astounded. How could that be? We were so young and full of life and energy? I was relieved when a friend from church shared with me that her husband has the same type of cancer and it is very manageable. He's been living with it for 8 years. I could relax a bit.

But, you know what really sucks? When life gets in the way. Over the past 2 years life has been turned upside down and face to face friendships have been put on hold. Laurie and I had many plans for checking out a local artisan market or just coffee in our kitchen but each time something came up that roadblocked our plans. We were both flexible as this has always been the case with trying to arrange a time that worked for us both. 

Looking back, I wish I had taken the time to make the phone call we had talked about. But, once again, life got in the way. We had planned to talk on Sunday afternoon but after getting home from church and having lunch and going to pick Cody up, I had forgotten. 

Within a couple of weeks, Laurie was in the hospital and the outlook was not good. I was dumbfounded. On December 23 I was notified that she had passed away. 

How could that be?

I've never experienced the loss of a friend before. My emotions were all over the map - shock, disbelief, sorrow, anguish, anger, sadness.... And this was all happening the day before Christmas Eve. Needless to say, it weighed on my mind as we celebrated this year. I kept thinking of the gifts she would have picked out and probably wrapped under the tree for her family. The thought was unbearable. In our last text conversation, she shared with me about their annual trip to get their Christmas tree. I always look forward to their Team Lane photo with the tree. I had no idea it would be the last one.

It has been a couple of months and I'm still processing. There are days that trigger emotions... like today when I saw this pic of Laurie's daughter Emma picking out her wedding dress with her Dad. I saw the photo, read Emma's caption and burst into a full-on ugly cry. Laurie was so excited when she shared with me about Emma's engagement. She was so looking forward to planning that special day with her daughter. It seems so unfair to both of them that she is not here for these precious moments. I am so thrilled that Emma and Bobby have Dave for their Dad. Of course, he is dealing with his own grief but the way I have seen this family face this tragic hurdle has been nothing short of inspirational. 

Facebook memories pop up with a post that Laurie tagged me in and I laugh and cry at the adventures we shared. I am so grateful to have had our times together. And I'm certain that Laurie is rejoicing with her Lord and had come to terms with God's plan for her.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Lost Treasure

 My heart is broken. Yesterday I lost my treasured Aunt Peggy.

Anyone that knew my aunt Peggy loved her. She was a gem. Putting others before herself, an eternal optimist and a fierce fighter. She entered the world as a preemie in 1925 and has been fighting ever since! The last decade has been full of health challenges but each time she met them face on, determined to overcome them. In fact, several stories come to mind when I think of this.

1.      After suffering a heart attack, she was flown to London in a helicopter. When I popped into her room to see how she was doing, she told me it was pretty exciting to be in the helicopter, but more importantly her attendant was a "very good looking fellow". Ha cute.

2.      Another time while visiting her in the hospital, the curtain was drawn between the patients. She did not have a view of the window but as soon as I walked in, she smiled and said “it’s a beautiful day outside, isn’t it?”

I have shared that story many times to emphasize how important your attitude and outlook are. In fact, during my last visit with Peggy three weeks ago, I felt compelled to share that with her. I explained how she had touched so many people and I often shared the windowless story with my friends. She thought nothing of it because that’s just who she is.

Her outlook and attitude, I’m certain, is why she made it to #96. I recall visiting her (in hospital) months before her 87th birthday. Things were serious but she told me that she had been thinking and she would need to live until at least 90 to complete all the things she wanted to do. I was thrilled to celebrate that milestone with her…and six more besides!

Nearly 20 years older than my dad, Peggy was more of a grandma to me than an aunt. We lived close by and as a kid I would hop in the car any time my parents were going for a visit. Many, many evenings I spent in her living room or around her kitchen table. Instant coffee was always served (it’s where I started drinking coffee) and usually a piece of pie or slice of bread with butter and homemade raspberry jam. She shared our turkey dinners, birthday cakes, graduations and recitals.

I always called her Peggy but she also went by Kathleen or Kay. Kinda confusing, right? Well, as I mentioned, she was born a preemie and named Kathleen Irene Mills. But when one of the Irish neighbours came by for a visit, he told my grandparents that name was too big for a little thing like her and she needed a good Irish name like Peggy. Believe it or not, that name has stuck with her for 96 years! Some folks call her Kathleen, others call her Kay but to me she will never be anything but Peggy!

Peggy grew up on a farm and worked just as hard as any of her brothers, helping her dad with work in the field and her mom with work in the house. Her self-sacrificing spirit meant she was always there for anyone that needed her. When she was a bit older, she became somewhat of a midwife. There was no training involved, but she would go and help deliver neighbourhood babies and then stay for a few weeks to help out the new mom. I thought it was really cool when I discovered that she actually lived at the Petrolia Hospital for a time. We were driving by the older part of the hospital one day (which used to be a house) and she pointed at the turret and said "Oh, I used to live up there. I really liked my room."

There were many afternoons or evenings spent listening to stories from the past. I love hearing history from the people that lived it. Peggy really changed the course of our family when she became a Christian as a young woman. The change in her life prompted a change in many other lives. She loved Jesus and was passionate about living out her faith.

The past year and a half has been a challenging one for many reasons, one of which is that Peggy went into a nursing home in December 2019. So, her ability to visit with friends and family has been very limited. We did our best to stay in touch, sending fun things in the mail and calling regularly. I am so very grateful that I had a visit with her just 3 weeks ago. She loved hearing about my canning so I took her some dill pickles and peach jam. She was thrilled. I was thrilled. Hugging her that day was extra special. I didn’t know it would be my last. My heart broke when I heard she had left us. But, I know that she is rejoicing in heaven and that brings me great joy.


Random memories:

·        Yard sales – she loved a good bargain

·        Picking strawberries – she just loved it

·       Going to London Dairy – Peggy would order a pineapple sundae and give me her whipped cream because she didn’t like it

·        Eating out and Peggy ordering liver and onions

·        So many clocks and none said the same time!

·        The carefully folded paper creations I made and she kept in her china cabinet

·        Teaching me how to quilt

·        Her crocheted bowls

·        Salmon sandwiches

·        Learning her phone number before my own!

·        She would always ask about Cody playing the piano and commented that she “loved a man that plays the piano”.

·        She would also always ask about Devin and ask if he was “working hard” (important character quality)

Our grins were the result of her whipping her cane over on the grass and declaring she did not want that in the photo!

Friday, February 12, 2021

She Found Her Lobster!

My cousin Carol Ann is one amazing person. We didn't spend a lot of time together when we were kids, but discovered each other as young adults and a beautiful friendship grew from that.

I've always admired Carol Ann's ability to take on challenges with great determination. She headed back to school in her mid 20's to get a degree and become a teacher. After graduating, she headed off to South Korea for her first teaching adventure. I always loved hearing about her new life and thought it sounded pretty exotic and she was pretty brave to venture out on her own like that.

After South Korea, she moved to Kuwait. It was during her time here that we started talking about traveling together. She was going to Egypt on her spring break and it had always been on my travel bucket list. I seriously considered joining her, but in the end, I decided to go back to school myself and needed that money for tuition, books, etc.

We didn't give up on the idea of traveling together and did a few small trips when she was home in Canada. We did a weekend jaunt to Cleveland to do Cedar Point, shopping and take in The Beach Boys concert. When there was a Titanic exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum, we took off for the weekend to check it out (and do some shopping). We traveled well together and fun getting to know each other as cousins and as friends.

In 2012 she invited me to join her in Paris for Christmas. Wow, what an invitation! And when would I ever have that opportunity again!?! It took some thoughtful consideration on my part as it would be my very first Christmas away from home. In the end, I did it and I'm so glad I did. We met in Paris and spent about a week casually wandering the Christmas markets and sampling the amazing French cuisine. We squeezed in the essentials like The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre and Notre Dame on Christmas Eve but it was a very relaxed and comfortable trip that we both enjoyed immensely. We didn't have an agenda so everything we did was perfect!

For a long time, Carol Ann and I were perpetually single at all the Murray family functions. Grammie would joke that there needed to be a war so we could meet a soldier like her. LOL. She was very happy for me when I met Devin and Cody and enjoyed getting to know them on visits here and when we visited her parents in Nova Scotia. And one day, about 2 years ago, I got a message "I met someone". I had questions and her answers were pretty exciting. I thought "I think she's going to marry this guy". Today, she did. 

My adventurous "fruzzin" as I like to call her (friend/cousin) lives in Qatar and married a British man, so, in the middle of a pandemic they had a ZOOM wedding. They will have celebrations in England and Canada in time but today we celebrated online.

I'm so thrilled that this wonderful woman has met her match. Someone that appreciates her humour, enjoys reading & photography as much as her and is also a globe-trotting adventure-seeker! For all the Friends lovers out there, Phoebe put it so well when she explained that lobsters mate for life and Carol Ann has found her "lobster".

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Celebrating Cody

It's hard to believe another year has come and gone and this kid is now TWELVE! In fact, while enjoying a lazy Saturday morning recently, he pointed out that I've now known him half his life.

The past year has been interesting to say the least. Just 8 weeks after Cody's birthday life changed when the pandemic entered our lives. In many ways it was a huge disruption that caused many problems and devastation. In other ways, it was a blessing. I treasured the time I could spend with Cody as we were both home together for months on end. I worked reduced hours so we both finished our work around lunch time and could spend our afternoons going for walks or bike rides. We played board games and worked on a project called "The Grandparent Diaries". Each day Cody would record a video question and send to his grandparents and they would record their answer and send it back. It was a fun way to discover some neat things about some special people.

Over the past year I have watched Cody grow and mature into a very thoughtful and kind young man. He has befriended some elderly neighbours and checks in on them regularly. He is quick to point out when someone is not being kind and shares his thoughts with me on how the situation should be handled. He can see when someone is upset or down and is quick to offer a hug or some encouragement.

I am particularly proud of how Cody has learned to choose his reaction to situations and use more appropriate solutions to problems. Academically he is taking much more care in his lessons and his progress has accelerated! 

Most of all, I treasure the bond we share. I will never take for granted the joy and gift this relationship is and I am forever grateful to God for stitching my family together. Now, we will enjoy this last year before.... the TEEN years! Am I ready?

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

The Big 4-oh!

Forty is a milestone. I can recall both of my parents turning 40. We had a surprise party for each of them - and they were truly surprised! So, as Devin's 40th approached we talked about how to celebrate. Would we have a party? Go on a trip? We decided on both LOL. 

We thought it would be super fun to have a pig roast and invite our family and friends. We had planned for outdoor games and a fun way to gather all of our people together. In addition, we were planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains. Devin has always wanted to drive the "tail of the dragon" and we planned to drive the Cobalt down to the Smokies for a week.

And then it happened.

We had to change our plans. The borders are not open for travel and gathering together is either not allowed or certainly frowned upon (depending on the day of the week). So, I made alternative plans. I discovered this great service called which allows you to gather videos from people and edit them together for your loved one. That was a fun process and Devin LOVED the result. 

We also had the Koiters over for a fancy dinner the night before his big day. It was fun to get all dressed up at home, bring out the nice dishes and eat by candlelight. And, on his birthday I surprised him with a "drive by party". It wasn't quite as big and exciting as in my mind (which is typical) but he enjoyed the day and felt very celebrated.

What is it like being married to Devin? Well, it means I laugh a deep, belly-laugh each and every day. It means coffee is brewed to perfection. It means feeling safe, protected and treasured. It means listening to the same stories over and over. It means meticulously cut veggies in my lunch. It means fearing for my life as he jumps out of his hiding spot. It means falling more in love every day.

I am so grateful God brought this man into my life and look forward to what He has in store for us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Father's Day

Time seems to be flying these days, despite more time at home. Father's Day was here before we knew it! I am so grateful to have three amazing fathers in my life.

My own Dad...he's known me my whole life! A man of few words and actions speak louder than words ever could. Family means everything to my dad and he sacrificed many times over the years to provide for us and give us opportunities he never had.

My dad loves to travel and we went on many family adventures in my younger years in our motor home. Even as I got older, I was able to travel with him and Mum to see the Smoky Mountains and the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. I'm pretty sure Dad ingrained my love of travel in me with all of those trips. And not just my love of travel but also country music :)

Growing up on the farm, there were always lots of jobs to be done to help out. At the time, I hated it. But, now I appreciate the work ethic he was instilling in each of us. Despite not finishing school, Dad is very capable in a wide variety of trades and skills. I like that about him - I always felt he could do anything I asked him!

Then I met Devin. Not only did I fall in love with this man as my husband but I also fell in love with the Daddy that he is to Cody. He lovingly guides him, corrects him and leads by example. He takes his role seriously and invests in his relationship with his son regularly.

Devin is the perfect blend of a manly-man that knows his way around the garage and a tender-hearted, caring and encouraging daddy. I am so blessed to walk beside him on this journey.

And...what a bonus! When I met Devin, I met Randy :) Randy is Devin's stepdad and I immediately knew we would connect. I saw a lot of similarities with my own dad and could see the evidence of his love and sacrifice in the lives of Devin and Cody.

Before I met Devin, I really didn't know any step families. There just weren't many in my social circles so the thought of becoming a step mom was foreign to me. God knew I would need a mentor and He gave me Randy. He has been an inspiration from day one - showing me how to love a child that is not biologically mine without any hesitation. He does not call Devin his "step son"...simply "son" and I have done the same with Cody.

Before 2015, I had only ever had one dad. Now I have two :) I have adopted Randy as Dad and love him as if he were flesh and blood. I received a pretty special Mother's Day card this year. Dad has not been going into stores so he made it. He was concerned I would think it was awful but instead I thought the opposite. It brought tears to my eyes, but you can draw your own conclusion from the picture below. He used a piece of cardboard he had in the house, paint from a model car and a Sobey's flyer for the envelope. Oh, my heart.

I am blessed to have these men (and one red-headed up-and-comer) in my life.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Mother's Day

What a wonderful Mother's Day this year turned out to be. Typically, Cody spends the day with his biological mom, but since COVID 19 he has been staying with us. That meant that he was with us for the weekend - what a blessing!

Mother's Day has typically been a difficult holiday for me. There have been many tears shed through the years with my mum, wondering if I would ever get the opportunity to become part of the club. What an unexpected and delightful surprise when I met Devin and Cody. I am honestly so amazed at the bond I've been able to forge with Cody. It truly is a remarkable relationship.

The first time I met Cody was May 9, 2015. Devin & I discussed when the right time would be for us to meet as we didn't want it to be too early. By May, we felt it was time and Devin arranged a very special (surprise) afternoon to commemorate what we knew would be a day for us both to remember. He took us on a helicopter ride over Niagara Falls! I felt like I was dreaming as I realized God bringing the pieces of my life together.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but on Sunday morning I woke up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and my 2 favourite boys waiting for me on the couch. After online church, I opened my gifts and was delighted to be crowned "Queen for a Day" complete with a tiara, royal decree and personal pedicure. Devin was a good teacher for Cody, showing him how to fill up the foot bath and then use the tools to remove the callouses from my feet. They even painted my toenails! Such royal treatment!

We followed that up by playing the game of Life. Devin was ahead by a long shot, but when we re-read the rules of how to win, there is a clause that allows you to "bet the farm" and try to win by becoming a Millionaire Tycoon. Basically, place your bet on one number out of ten and spin the wheel. If you spin the right number, you win and the game is over. If you lose, you spend the remainder of the game in the poor house. I had nothing to lose, so I put all my money on number 8. I spun the wheel and I GOT AN 8!! It just seemed appropriate for me to win on Mother's Day. LOL.

I didn't see my own dear mother, but we did have a visit on the deck the week before. The weather was beautiful which allowed us to spend a few hours outside having a visit, while social distancing. I'm so glad we went the week before as Mother's Day was cold and wet.

I'm so grateful for the precious relationship I have with my mum. I've always felt we shared a special bond as I was the youngest and often it would just be the two of us at home or out on an errand. She has always been unwavering support and one of my closest companions. I miss being able to see and talk to her as much as before I was married. And although I know she misses that too, I also know she is thrilled that I now have a family of my own and all of those tearful Mother's Days are behind us.