Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Saturday in Spring

Spring "springs" earlier here than on the Prairies.
It feels funny, because in some ways, it feels like Spring never really left.

There is something magical about Spring on the Prairies.  If you've ever survived a winter in Manitoba, you know what I mean.  When you experience one of the first warm days in March - the kind when you turn your face to the sun and it actually warms you from the inside, when you're sure you can see the snow evaporating and you can hear the drip - drops of water from your roof - it's amazing.  I swear you can hear the entire city breathing a collective sigh of relief.   It's truly beautiful.  No, not the dirty gravel and salt on the roads, or the blackened mounds of snow left on the curb.  The beauty is in the expectation that something good is coming.  That change is about to take shape.  That green grass will sprout again and you are a survivor.

Here on the Coast, the arrival of Spring is much more subtle.  The air is warmer.  The rain lessens.  If you didn't pay attention, you might miss the transformation.  Except for one glorious thing.  Blossoms.   Within the first week of March we were enjoying glimpses of color from crocuses, daffodils and tulips.  By last week, we were stepping into the beginning of the blooming of the Cherry Blossoms.  The color and vibrancy and the smell - oh the smell of these things of beauty is enough to remind you that yes, Spring is indeed here.

Last Saturday we went for a drive to spend the day at Stanley Park.  We made sure we stopped to smell the flowers along the way....

When we got to Stanley Park, we parked at our favorite spot near "Second Beach".  We had picked up some sandwiches for lunch, so we began by hunting for a good picnic spot.  Mike felt confident in his navigational skills, so he led us on a jaunt around "Lost Lagoon".  On the walk we spotted a Heron stopping for a rest.  Can you see him? 

After a little scenic stroll around the Lagoon, Mike found us a little dock that jutted out from the trail.  We laid down our blanket, started to eat, and soon we were greeted by these beautiful swans.  They swam right up to us, posed for a picture, and then swam gracefully away.

As we were walking to the lunch spot, we had noticed some Raccoons (or "Coonies" as Ellie calls them) near the water.  After lunch as we walked along the path, they came right out onto the path for a "meet and greet"with the Penner Paparazzi.

As we turned onto a trail to lead us back to "Second Beach" we met up with a Vancouver City Police Officer from the Equine unit.  Horses are used to patrol the park every day, and also provide crowd control at big events in the downtown.  She was wonderfully friendly and stopped to chat with us for awhile.

I still can't get over the amazing trunks of the trees in the old growth forests here.  It truly is an awesome thing to have such an immense and magnificent green space protected, preserved, and maintained in the heart of such a huge city.  Thanks, Lord Stanley.

Mike noticed these two trees and stopped to draw our attention to them.  He said it looks like an old tree has put his arm around a young, fledgling one and is saying, 
"This way, Little One.  I'll show you the way."

The colors here were so striking.  
I love the image of new growth coming from and growing over what is old and dead.
It gives me hope.

After our walk we stopped to explore the shore awhile and then played at the playground.  It was a special kind of day - as it was exactly a year earlier that we had been at Stanley Park together for the first time imagining and considering what a year in Vancouver would be like for our family.  We had just finished 3 months apart, and were on the cusp of another 3 with Mike in a different city.  In some ways that seems like so long ago, and in other ways, it seems like yesterday.

One thing is sure - it's good to be together.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Job Sucks Sometimes. But Sometimes it Rocks

Most of the time, I enjoy my job as an engineer just fine.  It may not be as intense and exciting as, say, a Formula One race-car driver, but I find the type and variety of the work I do to be interesting, and I have a good balance of working independently and working with others (which, for me, means the ratio is clearly weighted to the side of working independently).

But sometimes, my job sucks.  Working for a consulting company, there are times when things are a bit slow, which is when I struggle.   I absolutely HATE when it’s slow at work.  The days are so long and boring.  Thankfully, over the 12 years I’ve been in the consulting business, there haven’t been very many slow times . . . perhaps half-a-dozen, the longest of which lasted a month or so.  During those times, on occasion, I have actually started listing other career options that I would like to quit my job to pursue.  The list includes everything from police officer, firefighter, bus driver, postal carrier, electrician, welder, power engineer, high-school math/physics/calculus teacher, daycare worker/manager, accountant (like that would be more exciting), astronomer, and personal trainer.

But then there are the times when my job absolutely rocks.  Admittedly, these absolutely rocking times occur less frequently, but I had one recently that I thought I'd share since it occured on the West Coast.

The company I work for was hired by a well-known insurance company that is financing a small run-of-river hydroelectric project.  Our job as the financer's engineer was to provide due diligence services of the design and construction.  As part of our work, once a month, I got to take a small float plane from Coal Harbour to the Sunshine Coast to visit the site and review the construction progress.  Here are a few pictures taken from the three trips I've taken so far.

 My ride . . . a DHC-2 DeHavilland Beaver (produced between 1947 and 1967).

My pilot . . . probably flew the plane when it was new.

Canada Place viewed from the plane before take-off. 

Taking off from Coal Harbour. 

Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver - we've hiked the trails to the lighthouse.

 Landing in Sechelt, BC on the Sunshine Coast.

 Second leg of the trip - up Jervis Inlet to the site.

 Jervis Inlet

The view from the construction road at site. 

Jervis Inlet on the return trip.

It was my lucky day - we saw a pod of porpoises and the pilot circled around so we could get a good look.

The harbour at Sechelt.

Cargo ships in English Bay.

Downtown Vancouver with the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park in the foreground and Coal Harbour on the left.

Coal Harbour / Downtown Vancouver. 

My job rocks . . . sometimes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I saw them there -
on East Hastings.

Shuffling towards each other,
anticipation on their faces.

       Matted hair
       Dirty clothes
       Scrawny and gaunt
       Hollow cheeks
       Where teeth used to be.

Their eyes are locked
On each other -
In the midst of the storm that surrounds them.

They embrace.
Throw themselves into each other's arms.
Rest there awhile.

There is safety there.
      A knowing.
      A living.
      A losing.

The light changes
And I drive away.

Their embrace rests heavy on me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Really Really Disgusting Post by Ellie

When Grace and Mary were here, we went to the Aquarium.  We saw a Hagfish.  I think Hagfish are the most disgusting thing in the whole wide world.  They enter dead bodies of sea creatures and eat them from the inside-out.  The Hagfish has a lot of slime to slide easily in and out of the dead bodies.  They kind of look like giant slugs.

When we were at the Aquarium with the Wortley's, Adrian thought that Hagfish were really disgusting.  Guess what I found out, Adrian?  People eat them in Korea.  Ewwwwwww!

Here's a picture of me, Ellie, with the Hagfish.

Did you know that there is a day where you celebrate Hagfish?  It's called "Hagfish Day"!  You can celebrate for a day, a week, or even a year.  You can read all about it here.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Grace and Mary Come to Play

Last year about this time, when we announced our move to friends and family, there were a few souls who signed up for a spot at the Penner Bed and Breakfast immediately.   I think Mary and Grace may have had the first reservation!

Grace is a dear friend of Ellie's from Linden Christian School.  They met in Kindergarten and have loved each other ever since.  I am thankful - not just because Grace is a great friend for Ellie, but because I really love Grace's mom Mary.  When you're a stay-at-home-mom type, you've got a lot riding on the friends your kids choose!  Chances are, you'll be spending some time with them over the years!  I knew I'd be friends with Mary when I realized it was safe to expel the drivel that comes from my oft-naughty mouth in the hallway at the Christian school with her around.  Not only was it safe, she'd actually laugh. She'd usually offer some of her own drivel and I'd laugh at her.  She'd also make rude comments when she'd see me with bed-head and my toque on my head at 3:20 in the afternoon almost daily.  Now that, dear readers, is a friend!

SO, we were all delighted when Mary planned to take Grace on a "Girl's Weekend Away" over the weekend of Ellie's birthday.  We counted down the days, purchased chocolate and Diet Pepsi and began the wait.

Mary and Grace arrived just in time to catch some of the Voices of Nature concert at the girl's school.  Nothing like a BC baptism by fire!

The next day was Ellie's eight birthday.  After breakfast and some presents, we were off to the Vancouver Aquarium.  The girls had planned to lick lollipops from their friend Megan all the way there!

One of Ellie's presents from Grace was an awesome t-shirt that reads, "I (heart) being Me".  I adored this shirt from the minute I saw it!  Mary and I lamented that there should be some of these t's in ladies sizes for us too!  Here are the girl's sporting their new t's, scarves, and 4-D glasses waiting for the movie to begin at the Aquarium.

After our day at the Aquarium, the girls played....and played.... and played.  During the weekend they played some more.   Those girls can play without coming up for breath.  It was so good to hear giggles and laughs and secrets and watch plays and shows and commercials they created.  If playing were a sport, those two would be on the podium.

We spent Friday night celebrating Ellie's birthday at The Boathouse restaurant in Port Moody.

I love food.  I love reading about it and looking at pictures of it.  So now I'm going to make you do the same,  Mary and I both ordered the "Westcoast Grilled Chicken Salad".  I think it may have been the yummiest salad I've ever eaten.  It featured mixed greens, grilled chicken, roasted red pepper, edamame, mango, Okanagan goat cheese, crispy wontons and a citrus vinegarette.  I had to take a picture of this masterpiece.

Saturday was spent doing what girls do best.  Shopping.  We shopped till we dropped at Metrotown with all the girls - then we came home for some R and R and left the girls to go shopping again - just me and Mary.  We had a great time - ending the evening with appies and Bellinis at Cactus Club.   Our biggest surprise of the shopping trip was stumbling upon some good finds at - wait for it - Stitches.  That's right - the Tween headquarters of Stitches came through big time as you will soon see.

Sunday included a dance-off in the living room to Ellie's new Dance Mix...

....and me and Mary showing off the mom equivalent of Ellie and Grace's t-shirts -
 "Love Hooo You Are".  I may be wearing the same t-shirt as some of the girl's in Hannah's class at school.

I'm OK with that.

Thankfully Sunday was full of sunshine, so we headed out to Lynn Canyon on an afternoon hike.

Before we knew it, it was time to drive Mary and Grace to the airport for their flite home.  It was a whirlwind of great company and good memories.  The Penner Bed and Breakfast has a room available for those two anytime.