Friday, April 06, 2018

Canada's Top Tech

After acing the written test and coming in #2 in the first round of Cummins Top Tech competition, we set off for Montreal last week so Devin could compete with the other 2 technicians that made it into the next round.

We arrived just in time for the Pointe Claire branch reps to take us out for dinner with the other competitors. It was a nice opportunity to get to know the other guys as well as the people that put together the contest. Devin stayed modest and commented that it would be tough competition, but from the first time I had heard about the competition, I felt he was going to win.

The next morning he was picked up at the hotel at 8am. I had no idea how long the competition would be and since we had taken Devin's work truck - I was stuck at the Holiday Inn. There wasn't really much that I could walk to without crossing a 4 lane highway, so I indulged in a day of relaxing by the pool, reading and watching HGTV. I kept looking at the clock and wondering when he would finish and when I would finally know the results. Although I knew he would win, I had to mentally prepare what I would say if he didn't. I had not really considered that before!

It was nearly 6pm when I heard the card in the hotel room door. He walked in and casually asked me how my day was. I quickly responded by asking how HIS day was. He said it was alright and then dropped the bomb. "Well, you're married to Canada's Top Tech!" What!?!?! How exciting. I was so proud of him. He just proved himself to be the top Cummins Tech in all of Canada! And, as a bonus, won $5,000 US. He will now move on to the next round of competition in May. We are both invited to go (expenses paid) to Indiana where Devin will compete against America's Top Tech and Mexico's Top Tech. The competition will be fierce, but the winner will go home with $10,000 US in his pocket!

We went out to celebrate in Montreal that night. A Google search provided a fantastic restaurant called Gibby's. It is in an old stable from the 1600's so the atmosphere is quite unique. The food was exquisite and the service was impeccable. Our waitress Mona took excellent care of us and when we told her that we were celebrating Devin's win, she brought out a cake and took our photo. At the end of the meal, she brought the bill and a small card which had the photo tucked in it as a souvenir. So sweet!

We spent the next two days exploring Montreal: wandering small markets, checking out the biodome, meandering old Montreal and sampling exceptional food along the way. It was such a wonderful and welcome getaway for the two of us.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Diving In

It may seem strange for many people, but I never learned to swim. We lived in the country and driving "into town" to take swimming lessons wasn't a priority when I was growing up. As a result, neither me nor my siblings learned how to swim.

It was always something in the back of my mind that I thought "I should really take some lessons". But, never got around to it. Last summer, Jo-Anne & I were at the beach with our families when the guys took a load of stuff to the vehicles. We were left with the boys on the shoreline. Not a big deal, but the waves were huge that day and they wanted to get in a few more before we had to leave. We were both uncomfortable with them being in the water since neither of us could swim. I think that was the moment I decided I needed to act.

So, a few weeks ago I inquired at our local pool about adult lessons. I signed up and suited up. My instructor is great! By the end of my first lesson I was actually swimming!

I must say, it is quite an unusual and amazing feeling to push off from the edge of the pool and feel my body hovering at the surface. I am now able to swim 15 meters!

I don't expect to compete in any races or achieve any accolades, but conquering my fear of the water and learning to swim at 41 feels pretty good to me.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

My Top Tech

I want to take a moment and shamelessly brag about my husband. He deserves it!

In December, Devin & I volunteered through Cummins to pack hampers for the Salvation Army. The gentleman that organized this event is Cummins' trainer. He's the guy that teaches all the techs how to service the different engines. That day, Mike was encouraging the technicians to enter Cummins' Top Tech Challenge. He explained there are three levels to the competition, each with a cash prize. As he pointed out, it can't hurt to try.

I was intrigued. I knew Devin's abilities and thought he had a good chance at winning. Unfortunately, he was in the Arctic when the written test was administered. We thought he would have to pass this year, but they actually gave him the opportunity to write the test when he returned.

Several weeks later, Devin received an invitation to participate in a call regarding the competition. I eagerly awaited his phone call to give me the update. He tried to play it cool and ask me how my day was going, but I knew he had news to share!

Out of 49 participating technicians across Canada, Devin has the TOP score in the written test. The overall mark is made up of this test, plus his manager's review, safety rating, efficiency, etc. So, with that factored in, he was in second place - by a hair! The top score is 92.3 and Devin's score is 91.7. Talk about close!

He has won $500 USD and moves on to the next round of the competition. At the end of the month, we will travel to Montreal where the top three technicians will compete. Should he win that hands-on challenge, he will win $5,000 USD and move on to compete against the top American and top Mexican technicians in Indiana. I may be biased, but I think he has a great chance of winning!

Monday, February 12, 2018

There Goes Rhymin' Simon

Last week, while casually perusing my Facebook feed, I saw a post from Paul Simon announcing his retirement. I don't say I blame him, nor was I surprised. He is, after all, 76 years old! But, I was saddened. In my mind, he is a musical genius.

I first discovered Paul, together with his pal Art Garfunkel, during the days of Columbia House music club. Do you remember that? You would sign up for a ridiculous low cost of $5 or something and get about 10 tapes. was in the days of cassette tapes! Then you would purchase a certain amount at regular price over the year. Along the way, there were deals to be had. Each month, I would scan the catalogue to see what might be of interest. Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits seemed like something I would like. They always listed a couple of the songs on the album and I liked "Mrs. Robinson" and "Sound of Silence" so I checked the box. It arrived, I popped it in the deck and I fell in love. The beautiful harmonies and poetic lyrics grabbed me and drew me in.

I soon purchased all of the Simon & Garfunkel albums on CD - yes, I was moving into the future by getting compact discs! Columbia House even featured a special boxed set with rare recordings - which, of course, I snatched up! It wasn't long before I was curious about Paul Simon's solo recordings. I purchased Graceland and was further intrigued. What a diverse talent!

When you're an old soul like I am, sometimes it seems like it might be a dream to get to see some of your favourite artists. As a teenager, my favourites included The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Mamas & Papas and Simon and Garfunkel. Not really the names that were showing up on the newly formed Lollapalooza line up! So, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be content to listen to them on my stereo only.

Imagine the thrill I got when I discovered in 1999 that Paul Simon would be touring with Bob Dylan. I couldn't believe it. I wasn't a big fan of Dylan, but my friend Carrie wanted to see him, so we got tickets to the show in Detroit. I was mesmerized by the eclectic array of instruments and musicians that joined him on stage and the beautiful arrangements that recreated all those old songs! With the exception of suffering through Bob Dylan's unintelligible mumbling, the concert was amazing!

The next year, he released You're the One and I convinced my S&G sidekick Karla to see him at Massey Hall in Toronto. Amy and her new boyfriend (now husband!) Patrick joined us for the incredible show. Massey Hall is one of my favourite places for a concert.

One year later, Paul toured with the legendary Brian Wilson. Well, I just had to go to that show! Once again, Karla & I set off to see him - this time in the 10th row at Molson Amphitheatre. Wow! What a show. My favourite concert. Brian Wilson was pretty sedentary as the opener, but his Beach Boy classics were great to get the crowd on their feet and dancing. Before we knew it, we were leaning on the stage. From our vantage point, we thought we saw Jim Creegan of the Barenaked Ladies. It wasn't out of the question to think it might be him since they are from the GTA. Sure enough, the Ladies were backstage and joined Brian Wilson on stage for a few surfin' classics before singing their very own song called Brian Wilson. It was a wild ride and Paul hadn't even come out on stage!

He did eventually come out and sing a few songs with Brian Wilson before taking over the stage. What a fantastic concert! Outdoor summer concerts have a completely different feel and this one was so amazing! We were movin' and groovin' to classics like Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes and Cecilia. At the end of the show, he walked along the edge of the stage and grabbed the hands of everyone standing there. INCLUDING ME! Ya, it was a moment for sure!

By 2003 I felt I had had a good run with Paul Simon. I had got to see him THREE times! And then the announcement came. Simon & Garfunkel would reunite for a tour. NO WAY! Naturally, Karla and I were all over that. We booked our tickets and headed to The Palace of Auburn Hills to see our music heroes. What a beautiful evening filled with our favourite songs. If we closed our eyes, we could picture it was 1981 and we were standing in Central Park :) This reunion was a dream come true for the two of us. I'm so thrilled I was able to see Paul & Art together AND I did with with my very best friend who shares a passion for their music.

After that show, I had an eight year Paul Simon gap. In 2011 I was just finishing up my time at Fanshawe and I heard he would be playing at Massey Hall. I had to go. Favourite artist, favourite venue. By this time Karla was busy having babies so she was out and I couldn't convince anyone else to spend the money on a ticket. So, I did something I've never done before and may never do again. I bought a single ticket. I'm glad I went but, I didn't like the experience. I didn't have anyone to turn to and express my feelings about the song. However, it turned out to be a pretty awesome decision to use my TIFF experience and wait around the exit door after the show. I had heard Massey Hall is a great place to get an autograph, so I gave it a try. Wouldn't you know it, I succeeded! He came out and was very nice to the small group of people that had gathered. When I gave him my photo to sign his comment was "why would you want that picture signed?" I exclaimed "I love that photo!" He did sign it and I gushed about how amazing he was.

I had the privilege of seeing him in 2014 together with Sting. That was a great show. They truly co-headlined - each singing their own hits plus doing some duets with each other. I went with a former coworker who was totally pumped to see Sting - so it worked out for each of us! Although, I must say I prefer his solo shows so I get all Paul all the time. LOL.

And now it's time for me to see him one last time. I was relieved to confirm my tickets for the show in Toronto in June. Devin is going to experience Mr. Simon with me for his first and my last time. They say seven is a lucky number - it will be my 7th time to see him. It will be bittersweet, but I'm grateful for the music, Paul.

A sidenote on the autograph: I clearly lost my head with excitement as I was holding my silver sharpie ready for Paul to sign at any moment. When the time came, he started in the upper left of the photo and the marker was dry. It wouldn't work. I panicked! What a rookie mistake for me to make. Fortunately, the guy beside me quickly handed him his black sharpie and all was well. That is why the ticket is placed so closely to his head. LOL. To cover up the mistake!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

We Found Treasure!

Last night, in our quest to unpack and organize our basement, we stumbled upon a box of VHS tapes. Many of these tapes were filled with things that I had recorded from TV - a variety of stuff I thought was cool at the time. But, more precious than that - the ones with personal recordings: birthdays, Christmas, etc.

After Devin had set up the VHS machine, I popped in a tape. It flickered and some familiar faces came into view. It was from my sister Connie's bridal shower. As the camera moved around the room, the ladies introduced themselves and shared a story about Connie. Wow! Look at all those young faces. I progressed my way through the tape (and a couple of others) to witness Jo-Anne's bridal shower, a cute clip of the kids I used to babysit and multiple birthdays. It's funny to see such a similar scene each time we celebrated: Mum at the island, lighting candles on a homemade birthday cake, then carrying it over to the table as we would sing and the celebrated one blowing out the candles.

The thing that struck me about these tapes is that the content which we thought was important at the time (the gift that was being opened or the location of the event) is not at all what I want to see now. I want to see the faces and hear the voices of these beloved people 25+ years later!

As I watched the casual interactions of our family, I was struck by how much things have changed. I loved being transported back in time to when we all (or at least most of us) still lived at home. Mum was busy in the kitchen making dinner. My siblings were coming home from work at different times. (Jo-Anne madly chowing down on her pizza so we could serve the cake!) Dad constantly teasing someone. But, my most favourite part about this slice of life was the music. So many times we ended up in the living room in song. I loved seeing Jo-Anne & Connie pounding out a duet on the piano, only to be overtaken with laughter and couldn't get it just right. Then there was me during my hippy stage - strumming on Dad's guitar to an old folk song or a worship song from church. Then we were back to the piano and Connie was tickling the ivories while John played along on the guitar. And, of course, during all of these sessions, we were all singing along.

What a surprise to see Grammie & Grandad show up at multiple birthday parties. As their faces appeared on the screen, I was overwhelmed with how much I miss them. I could see and hear what they used to be like - in their younger days. Days I remember well, but what a treat to have a video representation to help my memory.

We also watched some of Devin's tapes and I got to see a four year old version of my husband. It was amazing to watch and listen to Cody's twin! Ha ha many times I said "that's Cody!"

We have many more tapes to make our way through, so we will be taking more trips down Memory Lane. Which is just fine by me - being the nostalgic gal that I am.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Holiday Retrospective

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My Christmas Song

The weeks leading up to Christmas were always my favourite. I loved listening to Karen Carpenter croon away some holiday classics while I made little shaped cookies. Or watching the Grizwalds while I wrapped gifts. Those weeks were filled with all sorts of special events or gatherings. And then the big day would arrive - December 25th. Despite the fact that I was celebrating the birth of our Saviour and all that represents, there was an emptiness inside me once Christmas finally arrived.

As the years passed, many tears were shed on Christmas. For some reason, this holiday has a way of holding up a big mirror and showing you the things you feel are missing in your life. Christmas is a time for family and although I enjoyed celebrating with my parents, my siblings, their spouses and their kids, it was a reminder that I was alone. More than anything, I desired a family of my own to start Christmas traditions and celebrate together.

This Christmas pushed all of those other Christmases out of the way. With a wonderful husband and adorable red head by my side, we enjoyed all of the festivities together and my heart was full. We finished our shopping in November so December was reserved for Christmas movie nights, LEGO advent calendar, making cookies with Grammie, and gingerbread house construction.

On Christmas morning, Cody crawled into bed with us for some snuggles before we made our way downstairs for Dad to read the Christmas story and open gifts. We stayed in our jammies and had a decadent breakfast, played with new toys, went tobogganing and watched Home Alone. It was the perfect day of relaxing with my family without having to pack up and drive anywhere. Actually the whole week is planned to be the same! Not much on the schedule but enjoying our time together.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I'm reflecting on how God put together my family - like a jigsaw puzzle. It is not the conventional family I had thought I would have, but what a blessing they are to me. I couldn't ask for a more thoughtful, caring or kind husband. And, yes, I have to share Cody with his bio-mom on holidays like this, but I'm the one that gets to tuck him in every night. I get to have neat conversations as we drive together in the truck. I know what he struggles with at school and what makes his heart sing. I am so grateful for the relationship we have been able to forge.

This Christmas my heart is full.