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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My Kindred Spirit

This week my very best friend celebrated a birthday. Although we don't see each other nearly enough, this occasion caused me to pause and reflect on our special relationship.

I met Karla Ann on February 25, 1994. I remember this because it was George Harrison's birthday and, well, I have a thing for remembering such things! We met through our mutual friend Leza Bygrove - and all because I had a crush on a boy. Ha ha ha. I thought Mark Colvin was the cat's meow and when I found out that Leza went to his youth group, I arranged to join her. We caught a ride with Karla and her brother Jeff. That was the beginning.

After that we were nearly inseparable and our friendship grew into a true kindred spirit kind of friendship. Since I went to LCCVI and Karla was home schooled, we spoke on the phone every day - to ensure we were current on the goings-on. In fact, since it was long distance (ie: costs money) from our homes, I usually talked on the pay phone outside the girls locker room. Who knew teenaged girls had so much to talk about?

As we matured, so did our friendship. We went on trips together - exploring interesting corners of the world while making great memories together. We laughed, we cried, we had a lot of fun. But the one thing that strikes me about this friendship is the foundation it is built on. Our faith. Through all of life's events - ups, downs and in between, we can share in these moments with a similar lens.

Life was considerably different when Karla Ann got married and started her family. The essence of our friendship remained but we were at such different stages of life, we just seemed out of synch. Opportunities were fewer and further between for us to connect. Until one day when we met in Strathroy for coffee to catch up on life. I shared with her about someone I had met and she immediately knew where my life was headed. What fun it was to once again get together as we planned another wedding - this time it was mine!

As we sat on my porch one day, she said something to me that was so poignant. Jumping into life as a wife and mum might not have been in my plan all along, but God has a way of surprising us. "In fact," she said, "I consider this such a blessing that you have now caught up to where I'm at and our families can now get together because our lives are in a similar spot in life."

Brilliant. I had not considered this, but it was so true!

I recently watched the video from our wedding - including toasts and speeches. The tears trickled down my cheeks as I realized what a treasure I have in this dear friend. Time and distance may keep us apart but I know that she is a forever friend and cherish the memories we have and the foundation those have built.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


I've heard lots of stories about home renovations: they always take longer than you think, they always cost more than you think, etc. Well, it's all true!

When we moved into our house it had an unfinished basement. At the time, it didn't seem like that big of a deal. We could finish it the way we wanted and expand our living space. After nearly a year of unpacking and settling in, we decided to tackle the project.

We got a couple of quotes from local contractors that left my mouth gaping. Surely we wouldn't have to pay that much just to finish the basement!?! Well, no. We wouldn't. Because we found Mike. Mike is our neighbour who is very handy and has endless energy! He has quarterbacked this project - putting in countless hours at our house and he has had great ideas and suggestions because he's done this type of thing before. Devin has been helping out - which saves on our cost but he's also learning a ton along the way. A win win!

We started out with a mountain of boxes haphazardly strewn about the entire lower level. We had not unpacked all of Devin's stuff when we had to vacate my house. It was the hottest day of the summer when we moved my stuff so all of my belongings were shoved into the basement for the sake of "getting it done". After that, it seemed like an enormous task each time we went to the basement... a mountain of boxes to make our way through.

Slowly but surely we eliminated some boxes - unpacked for our use, donated to Goodwill, sold on Kijiji or just plain garbage. We still have plenty left to go through, but we at least had a manageable sized mountain to deal with. We moved all of these boxes into our "unfinished" area and Mike got to work on framing some walls. It was amazing to see how quickly things changed in the early stages. It went from a big ole empty room with insulation and vapor barrier to walls with drywall and eventually paint. Then came a bathroom, lighting, flooring and a fireplace!

We are nearly at the finish line and are so excited to have this new space to use as a family. The countless hours of working down there is now about to pay off. Although, it has me holding off on the pending kitchen renovation!