Thursday, November 15, 2012

Life As We Know It

I can't believe it's the middle of November.  In my mind, I had planned to wrap up this blog of our two year adventure on the west coast a long time ago.  But then life happened, as it always does.  I supposed the "post script" to our time in BC isn't a bad thing to have tacked on to the end.  It gives context and fills in the blanks of what it was like to reintegrate into prairie life and times.

There are times when it feels like we just got back and others when it feels like we never left.

Sometimes when I'm walking in a parking lot or am shopping I'll catch a glimpse of someone who I think is a person I knew in BC.  It's like I'm transported back.  I almost call out a greeting to them but then realize it's not who I think it is and I'm not where I believe myself to be!  I think this kind of thing must happen to anyone who has moved and transitioned.  It's all part of the grand adventure.

Life as we know it is busy.  Busy.  Busier than it's ever been.  I can't say I like that part.  But busy kids usually equals kids who are engaged and involved and so I'm grinning while I bear it.  This isn't the kind of "life" I thrive on.  But growing kids who have dreams and plans don't really have a lot of time to wait around for you to "feel it" before doing it.

Since returning to Winnipeg, Hannah has jumped into to her reality with both feet, at least up to her neck.  She is feeling increasingly more comfortable and at home at her school.  Being at a tiny school like Confederation Park for those two years and then coming back to a huge school with lockers, lots of teachers and tonnes of kids has been an adjustment.  She has found some things and people to no longer be the same as when she left them.  She has accepted this with an amazing amount of maturity and insight.   We often talked, before we returned, that her old friends won't be the only ones who were likely to have changed, but that she changed a lot too.  Life lessons early.

I love the way Hannah taken nearly every opportunity that has come her way.  She is part of the Middle Years Leadership Team, part of the Middle Years literary publication committee, in the vocal ensemble, the jazz band, and still takes piano and contemporary dance.  Her lunch hours are full of meetings and practices and her evenings are full of homework.  She's busy.  But she likes it that way.  She is learning to navigate life with a busy schedule and still find ways to preserve herself.  This is a lesson I'm still learning.  How to refuel, regenerate, and re-engage for more when what you really want to do is curl up in your bed with a book, shut your door and hide.  Hannah is a lot like me.  This occasionally makes for some interesting encounters of the "slamming doors" variety.

Ellie is Ellie.  If you know her, you know what that means.  She's quirky and silly and soft.  She likes school a lot, but would rather stay home if given the choice.  When she's had a hard day or has been though a rough situation she still likes to curl up in my lap and snuggle.    Physical touch is important to her.  She needs time at home to feel connected to her roots in order to go take on the world.  She has managed to reignite some of the friendships she's left behind and even create some new ones.  She has a giant hole in heart where her special friend Nikki took up space in BC.  There are moments and days when she starts talking about Nikki and then dissolves into a puddle of sobs and tears over the pain of not having her as a daily part of her life.  This is heartbreaking to see.

There are a host of other moments when Ellie looks more like this....

Ellie managed to snag the lead role in the school Christmas production.  She went through several auditions to end up with the part of "Cecelia" - a diva-like news anchor who is reporting on the Christmas story for the first time.  Ellie can play up a role like this with great skill.  She's got a thick script to memorize and she's well on her way.  She wanted to do jazz dance again this year, and has class on Tuesday nights and was asked to be part of the performance team which also rehearses Sunday afternoons.  I couldn't believe we were driving her to dance twice a week and then knew that it's just what you have to do.  Sometimes it's not about you.

Sasha still loves school.  Loves it to the point where she gets melancholy and down on Friday nights because the weekend means a break from the classroom.   I'm grateful she wants to be at school.  It was all new to her this year.  New building, new teachers, new classmates, new routine... all of it.  She is quiet and serious at school.  It often appears as though she's having a tortured time, but her reports tell us otherwise.  She skypes regularly with her beloved friend, Heloise, back in BC and still hasn't found a friend here who even measures close to what Heloise was to her.  Relationships take time, I tell her.  But I know it's hard to not have your one true comrade with whom you think you can conquer the world.

Piano makes the world go 'round for Sasha.  She loves to practice and eagerly anticipates her lessons on Mondays.  She has a teacher who makes music come alive for her and who builds her up and makes her feel special.   I don't think it gets any better than that.

Mike is a superhero.  Really, he is.  He is still biking to work downtown, even with all of the snow on the ground!  He gets up ridiculously early to get his gear on and then slaps on that safety vest and takes to the streets like a champion.  In Winnipeg, this is no small feat!  I just put together a tag for his vest that gives his name and says who to contact in case of emergency of accident.  Hopefully no one needs to look at the tag this winter, but in Winnipeg, you can never be too sure.

Work has been good for Mike.  He's loved being back at the Winnipeg office where he is known and connected and comfortable.  He's back in the role of Mechanical Department Head, and has been extremely busy with lots of good projects and people.  Even in the middle of all of that goodness, he still desperately misses BC.

As for me, well, you can find me in our van.  Driving around one girl or three.  I might also be waiting in a parking lot or getting groceries.  I'm also in a classroom at the Uof W as I started my Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy this fall.  I love my course work and the time in the classroom.  The school experience feeds me and generates excitement in my soul.   I've connected with some amazing people who challenge me and help me realize I'm not as smart as I  like to think that I am.

I can also be found subbing at the girl's school in any classroom from K-12.  Subbing affords me the chance to say "no"when I need to.  The teaching part is ok, but mostly I like talking to the kids and making relationships with the kids at the school.  I already have a new little gaggle of friends in a few different grades that greet me in the hallways.  Hannah gets a serious and perplexed look on her face every time I go in for subbing and don't know the grade I'll be in yet.  She'd prefer that I stay as far away as humanly possible from the grade 7 classrooms, while Ellie would just hop right up on my lap wherever I am.  Sasha would like for me to not be so "friendly and embarrassing" when I volunteer or pop in to her classroom.

So, that's mostly our life.  In between all of those lines you might hear some Dan Mangan playing in the background, or maybe Tubular Bells or the new Tragically Hip album.  You might find a book by Jim Palmer lying around the house, or maybe some old-school Beverley Cleary or a copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society.    You'd probably see sketch books and pencils and drawing books out on the island counter top and Halloween candy wrappers lying around the house.  The toques are on, the boots are out, and the air is crisp.  That's life as we know it today.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I've got this friend.
This quirky, amazing, creative, friend who I am celebrating today.

I didn't see her today.
It was snowy, and Sunday, and she was hunkered down with her cat with the sound of her sewing machine whirring away beside her, singing her "Happy Birthday" with its own melody and rhythm.
She likely had a big glass of wine beside her, or maybe a gin and tonic, to toast in the new year of dreams and days that await her.

Funny, that she was sewing today, for it's because of her sewing that I met her in the first place.

It was about 6 years ago, and I had been passionately reading and watching everything on the genocide in Darfur I could get my hands on.  I was speaking about it, writing about it, and consumed by it.  Then one day I opened my Winnipeg Free Press and saw a picture of the cutest blond accompanied by the most amazing story of how she was doing something for the people of Darfur... on stitch on her sewing machine at a time.  She had started her own project of sewing the most interesting and artistic bags using up-cycled fabric, selling them on her blog, and donating 100% of the profit to feed people in Darfur through the UN's World Food Program.  She was just starting then, and the hype was building.

When I read about what she was doing my pulse quickened and I knew I had to meet her.  I also knew I really wanted one of her bags.  So I sent her an email and waited for her next set of bags to go up on the auction block and I snagged one.  I remember being so nervous  the night I was going to meet her to pick up my bag.  I already knew I loved her because I had read her blog.   I just wanted her to like me.

We sat and chatted with her friend Michelle, who is my friend now too!  (Funny how these things work.)  We connected.  I knew it.  And before long we were meeting for long and ridiculous conversations and sharing emails with sometimes only one or two lines from the trenches of where we were.

She became my Joycie, and now I can't imagine my world without her.

I had never known someone so eclectic and authentic.
Someone who gave herself away,
who made me laugh my ass off,
and who knew just what to say to get me to unlock my secrets.

That last one is a big one.  I don't unlock for just anyone.  But I opened up the vault for Joyce because I knew my secrets would be safe.

I have never found judgement in her presence.

I have never questioned her faithfulness.

I have never felt like "not enough" even when she is so much.

She shows up at my door with Sweet Chili Heat Doritos, Rhubarb Ciders, and sometimes even a fresh made lasagna.  These come when my chips are down.  So down.  Down so far I can hardly speak and only she knows.  And we don't have to say much, because we know.

We are cut from the same cloth, me and my Joycie.
There is no one like her.  Not even close.
And I can't believe she's mine.

This is a woman who has sewn her way to raise and give over $30,000 to the UN World Food Program ear-marked for Darfur since she began her Bags4Darfur project.

Who lives her life in the company of toddlers and children, serving spaghetti in a bag and not doing crafts with the best of them, wiping up spills, snuggling, listening to little voices and sometimes shaking her head.

Who is helping to create the four most interesting, unique, tender-hearted, and creative off-spring.

Who not only sees things outside of the box, but set up camp. made a permanent home for herself there, and even makes room for visitors.

Who calls me friend, picks me up, dusts me off, and locks arms with me as onward we go.

Happy Birthday, dear Joycie.
I like being your friend.

Friday, November 9, 2012

(Un)drawing the Line

Lines make things nice and neat.
Easy to understand and make sense of.
Tick off a box here and assign something to this category or that.
Safe and easy to say what or who is in or out.

But I don't live in a world of lines anymore.  I've erased some of them.  Some of them have simply faded away with time.  Some have been bulldozed down with great force and carnage.  I've taken a hack-saw to some of them, chipping away, bit by bit.  Others washed away with tears as though they were painted with watercolors in the first place.

I no longer choose a world of "us" and "them".
I can't be on the "inside" deciding who is "out".
I spent too many years compartmentalizing the world and people -
defining and lining up and assigning a title or label.

Sacred or Secular.
Of God or not.
Inspired or carnal.
Chosen, anointed, appointed, set up high, over....

...while I sit under.

"In whom we live and move and have our being."

That's what the verse says.

Inspiring, creating, advocating, loving, relating, learning, growing, living, feeding.
It is good.
Because it is from Him.  All of it.

That line is gone.  The one that divides what is sacred or secular.
I began to see this years ago in the most seemingly unlikely of places.

Like in the tattoo shop where I got inked for the first time by someone who had no claim to be on the "inside".  He drew the lines on my leg with precision and care allowing healing to enter my spirit along with the ink.   It was a sacred place - that bed in that shop.  It closed one chapter and opened another.

Or in the West End Cultural Centre at a Duhks concert several years back.  Sitting with Mike and watching tears stream down his face - overwhelmed with beauty and melody, rhythm and dissidence.

It was in a dark movie theatre on a Saturday night.  Watching Walk the Line sobbing and overwhelmed with the miracle of redemption.   Letting "story"change me.

It was at the Cultch in East Van at a square dance night.  A room full of strangers holding hands and spinning each other.  Laughing and smiling and stepping in time.  Simplicity and beauty.  Engaged and intertwined.

It was while watching Ellie push a beloved special friend on the swings.  Listening to shrieks and giggles.  Watching loving hands help her off, gentle words offered and hands held.

Up on the mountain - sun glistening over the inlet.  Riding on the chair lift with my family surrounding me.   Letting go and embracing fear.

It's in the story of my lesbian friend and her ability to live a life of courage, even in the midst of great fear and struggle.  Hearing her sacrifice to be honest about who she knew she was and exposing herself even when it might have cost her everything.

Sitting in a theatre seat listening to a spoken word artist weave a tale so raw and vulnerable you can hardly look up.  It's peppered with profanity and grittiness,  but nothing has ever sounded so pure and lovely and true.

It's in the way my friend gets up every single morning and mothers two little girls without their daddy.  Who takes them to visit him in the care home and comes home alone to an empty bed and does it all over again the next day.

Is the sacred.

When I open myself up
to feel
and touch
and notice
and hear
and become confounded with the sacred around me
I come alive.

I will not draw lines.
I will not limit God in whom I live and move and have my being.
I will not decide or discard or disdain.

That's not what I'm here for.
I am here to embrace it - all of it.
Allow its rough edges and nonconformity to transform me.

For I am swimming in a sea of sacred.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"It's My Turn Now" My Evening with Jian Ghomeshi

We all have a soundtrack to our lives. 
Music, words, stories, silence and melodies.

My soundtrack is full and rich.

One huge part of my soundtrack is made up of a voice who brings me questions, queries, laughter and banter, introspection, enlightenment and education.  

Until last night, I had never met the man behind the voice.
But last night, the man, the voice, and an adoring fan were united...

Every morning I'm home or driving, I spend my weekday mid-mornings with Jian.  
He's been my steadfast companion through the years.  
After the 10 o clock news I hear his familiar baritone intro Q and all seems well with my world.

It would be impossible for me to tell you why Jian Ghomeshi and Q are such an important part of who I am.  But that won't stop me from trying.

I've always loved politics and current events.  (Do you know any other teenage girls who sat in their parents basements on a beautiful summer day, crying their eyes out watching Jean Charest lose the leadership of the Conservative Party to Kim Campbell?)    From the age of twelve, I'd watch The National and The Journal every night before bed, developing talking points and opinions and interest that fed my soul.  When I got into radio at the tender age of fourteen, I felt like I'd arrived where I was meant to be.  I spent much of my teens covering news conferences, meetings, and reading the news at the top and bottom of the hour.   For the most part, I could talk most adults I knew under the table when it came to world events, human rights issues or Canadian politics.  The CBC played a pivotal role in shaping my awareness, my passion, and my dogma.

As I got older, I often hated being relegated to the conversations about recipes and baby barf.  I'd catch snippets of what some of the men were talking about - and want to yell across the room - "I know more about that than you do!  Let me contribute something to the conversation too!"  These were the years when the babies and sleepless nights and board books and squeaky toys sometimes felt like they were turning my brain to mush.  And in those days, when the radio was on during nap time I'd catch my hour of Q with Jian Ghomeshi and I felt alive again.  Alive, aware, more intelligent and definitely cooler.  Jian's got cool in spades, after all.

Later, when Q moved up the ranks at the Mother Corp to the coveted morning slot, I felt the world expand just a little more.   Now I got to spend nearly an entire morning with Jian!  He was clever, witty, sharp, cultured, generous,  and he seemed to love the same stuff I did.  Music, books, movies, docs, blogs, and more - it seemed I'd found my match and I happily settled onto the same page he was on.  Over the years Jian introduced me to more bands, artists, writers, politicians and difference-makers that found themselves on my "beloved" list than I would have ever discovered without him.  

Jian is fiercely proud of being Canadian.  Though is lives in Toronto, he has always championed the indie scene of our fair land with gusto and passion.  He finds the undiscovered and the fledgling and brings them into the spotlight to land a place on your player, coffee table, or conversation.   He goes deep, then digs even deeper and brings out the gritty, raw edge to who ever he's talking to.  Sometimes he just makes me laugh.  And many times he's left me in tears.

And yes, I can be honest.  As Rick Mercer likes to say, Jian does have the eyes of an Iranian princess.  But that's not all he has.  I feel the same way about Jian that I used to feel about Peter Gzowski during the Morningside years - and  he was a sixty-something, bespeckled, chain-smoking personality who had the same effect on me during our years together.  Substance trumps the outside every time.  This time is no different.

Just over a year or so ago, Jian told his listeners that he was writing a book.  Music to my ears, it was.  If you've ever listened to Jian's opening essays that start off the show, or read his contributions to mags or papers, you know that his writing is rich.   I couldn't wait.

So it was with great anticipation I picked up my copy of Jian's book 1982 the week it was released.  My anticipation only grew wildly when I found out he was coming to Winnipeg to do a reading and signing of his book at McNally Robinson, come October.  The night was marked on our calendar instantly and plans were made with our friends and fellow Jian-fans to catch an early dinner at McNally's on the night of the event to be sure we'd score a prime spot in the store.  

And, you know, I would have been happy with that.  Really happy.  But then last week Terry McLeod on Information Radio kept announcing a contest to win passes to a private "VIP Reception" with Jian before the event was to start.   It took me all of a few seconds to enter - not once, but twice - once with my name and once with Mike's.  I knew the odds were stacked against me, but hope abounded.  Imagine my surprise and shock last week when I got the call from the CBC letting me know that MIKE's name was selected and two passes for the reception with Jian were his.  (We all knew they were mine.)  I was giddy like a school girl and my mind began to flood with one million questions to ask my morning companion.

Saturday night arrived.  

I was nervous and jittery and anticipated something amazing.  

After dinner at Prairie Ink,  I checked to make sure there was no food stuck in my teeth, reapplied my lipstick and tried to breeze into the reception room like I belonged.  It was a small room - smaller than I thought.  This put the odds ever in my favor that I'd actually get some substantive one-on-one time with my Persian Prince after all.

I grabbed a glass of wine from the bar with my faithful partner and kind and indulgent friend and photographer,  (who's actually a big fan of Jian's too), Mike.  The special events coordinator got up to let us know that Jian's flight had been a little delayed and that he had almost no voice left from the gruelling speaking schedule he'd been on.  So we waited.

In the meantime, I had a lovely conversation with Terry McLeod from the morning show on Information Radio.  Terry is my early-morning companion, so it was only right that we chat up my love for the CBC before the moment I'd been waiting for arrived.

And then Jian swooped in.
My knees went weak while I tried to play it cool.
(That's hard to do when one of your creative heroes is standing just a few feet away from you.)

The next moment was so lovely.  Jian's sister Jila is actually a well-known linguistics professor at the University of Manitoba.  She and her young daughter entered the reception room and Jian's niece ran up to him as he instantly stopped what he was doing and gathered her into his arms for a squeeze.  He's just a man, after all.  A man who adores his niece.

I waited patiently as one of the other winners and her daughter had their moment with Jian.  I stood close by, hoping my time would come.  You've got be appear eager, but not too eager, you know.  There is an art to this madness.

As soon as he had his picture taken with the winner, I marched over to him and said "I'm going to be ridiculously aggressive and say 'It's my turn now'" to which he graciously laughed and gave me his undivided attention for the next five minutes of my life.

We talked about his book and the characters.

How it feels to expose hidden parts of who you really are to an audience....

We laughed a little.  (I did some finger pointing.)

He was thoughtful, engaged, patient, and so very kind.
(I was happy to discover he's taller than I thought).

In true "Karla fashion", our conversation ended with me expounding on how significant he's been in my daily life and what a great honor it was to meet and chat with him.  ("True Karla fashion" means there may have been some tears welling up in my eyes that could have possibly over flowed and then trickled down my cheeks).

Just in time for a shot of me and my friend, Jian.

Though I only had a chance to ask him a few questions, I passed him off to movers and the shakers at the reception and found our friends and a spot to listen to Jian's reading.

He spoke for a lot longer than I expected.  He began by telling the audience about the way the book began and then shared two passages from the book.  They were amazing.  He was gracious, energetic, hilarious and captivating. (Yes, I quite like him).  Afterward, he took questions from the audience, then proceeded to sign books for a huge line-up of loyal fans.

My tears took me by surprise as I thanked him.  I thought of it afterward.  Why would I have cried?

I'm quite sure it was gratitude.  Overwhelming gratitude for being part of my story, and for sharing his.  For offering his words and experience up to be woven into mine and so many others.
"Kind words" were the least I could give in return.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Home Sense

This is what our basement looked like on Saturday.  

There hadn't been a break-in, a tornado, or any other devastation.
Sometimes this is just what life looks like. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fat Girl Rescue

I remember it like it was yesterday.
If you'd take a stroll with me on the playground at the elementary school where I grew up,
I could show you just where I was when the words hit.   "You're fat.  Fatty."
I remember who said the words.  I still know their names.
All this from grade one and two and a lifetime ago.

In the most honest way, they were right.
I was kind of a fat girl.
Rolls and padding with "pleasantly plump" as my tag line.
Memories of crying in change rooms because there didn't seem to be any jeans that would fit.
Lying down on a bed to get the zipper done up.
The boys never had crushes on fat girls like me.
It was the stick-like girls with tiny frames and blond hair.
"Petite" is a much better tag line than the alternative.

Grade 7 came and then I grew.  It was like it happened overnight.
Long legs and lean body.
Maybe even skinny.
And I liked it.
Angular, bony and straight.
 I was right where I wanted to be.
I chased it and embraced it.
A gift put right into my hands.
Because I grew.

I always wondered when the gift would run out.
When skinny and angular would shift.
Desperately wanting to hold on for dear life.
Thinking that a lifetime trapped in a fat body would be worse than a chronic disease.
Hold in stomach.
Check mirror.
Curse softness.
Aspire to the stick figure with all you've got.
Plan ahead.
Preoccupied with fear of fat that would put me right back where I started from.

Babies came and left this body.  Weight with them.
"Will I ever be the same?  Will I be skinny again?"
Strut around in your jeans two weeks after giving birth like you just won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Badge of honor, they were.
Sigh of relief.  You did it.  You lost it.
No one can take that away from you.
Not even three babies.

Mom of girls.
Long legs, tall frames, strong and healthy.
No one calls them fat at recess.
And you secretly thank the body gods for saving them from the curse.
God, save them from the curse.
(After all these years, your thinking is still messed up.)

Youngest  daughter finds friend with glorious soft body.
Strong, ample, and full of life.
Heart full of space and room for that daughter of yours to find a place to rest.
Playing and laughing and exploring in the school yard.
When the voice makes its way from the mouths of the boys.
"You look pregnant.  You're fat.  Look at your belly."
Every.  Single.  Recess.

Your daughter relates the words like a story.
"I told them to stop", she says.
"I told her that it's OK.   Don't worry about it.   I like you how you are."
And I say, "Yes!  Yes!  She is OK.  More than OK.  Her body is beautiful."
And I remind myself to believe it because I know it's true.

No teacher was told.
And so today after school there will be a fat girl rescue.
I will "out" those voices that spill out of those boys mouths before they find their way into her mind.
If they haven't already.
Please let them not have taken up residence there.
I don't want her to be a woman with a memory as good as mine.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That

The grey skies and insane wind of late have made me feel ripped off as the lower mainland has been in the midst of a sunny heat wave.  That's right.  I said sunny.  Here's hoping the forecast for nothing but sun next week makes it up to me.

Hannah can really play her sax.  She's been playing it for a year, but now she can really play it.

If I see even one fruit fly in my kitchen it's war on the little bastards.  Death to fruit flies everywhere.  I hate shopping for groceries when I occasionally notice that there are millions of the suckers milling about the produce department.  It makes me want to run away and scream.  Do I really look dumb enough to transport fruit AND flies home?  I think not.

One of Mike's goals in life is for our family to be like a miniature "School of Rock" in which he is the girl's own personal Dewey Finn.  This has worked out well.  Our girls know their share of the classics. As of late, Ellie's favourite album is Zenyatta Mondatta from The Police.  She sings along.  She requests it.  She knows the lyrics for memory.  Her dad is very proud.

I have been taking the girls on a little Michael Jackson tribute while we drive to school.  Our current favorite is Man in the Mirror.  Ellie sings the gospel choir part and the rest of us are Michael.  It works.   And don't laugh, but it's actually a pretty inspiring song to hear as you're heading to the big world of school.  Try it.

Mike is in Minneapolis this weekend with three buddies for an NFL game and other various shenanigans.  He deserves it.

Have you tried "Sweet Chili Heat" Thincrisps Triscuits?  You should.

I know it's so "last year", but I just finished reading Rhoda Janzen's Mennonite in a Little Black Dress and I was so disappointed.  It felt so incredibly contrived and forced.  I'm not sure what all of the hype was about.

The best book I've read in the past month or so is a memoir of sorts by a midwife called Blue Cotton Gown by Patricia Harman.  It awakened something in me.  It was spiritually rich.

I just got Jian Ghomeshi's 1982 yesterday and I can't wait to crack it open this week.  Sadly, the reviews I've read have not been great, but I still hold out optimism and hope for my Persian Prince.   I gotta start listening to some Bowie before I can begin reading.  You know, set the mood.

Our family joined the Y.  I was reluctant because I loved the gym I was a member at before we moved. I'm a creature of habit and I resist change.  But this has been a good change.  We've hung out at the Y as a family a few times and I manage to make it in several mornings a week.  It's clean, spacious, and bright and there are tonnes of machines and some good classes too.  Mike was right.

Managing the paper trail that emerges with three kids in school is practically a full-time job in itself.

I wonder if the Winnipeg Transit Driver who gave his shoes away last week was miffed at all the attention he got?  I wonder if he would have preferred to remain anonymous?

Finding a church that has something for everyone is not easy.

I am absolutely reveling in the class I am taking this term.  It is comprised of amazing women (and one token man!) with rich stories, a fabulous professor, interesting reading and so much food for thought.  I am exactly where I am meant to be.

I'm glad fall is here so I can bake with pumpkin again and not feel like it's wrong.

Kids grow fast.

It's nearly 1 AM and I am still up.  What's wrong with me?

I found Ellie the best violin teacher!  It took a lot of research and phone calls and writing of emails from way back to early last spring, but I found her!  She's teaching Ellie through Preparatory Studies at U of M and is simply amazing.  I think this is the first time that Ellie has actually been excited about violin.  The very first song she assigned to Ellie was "Angeline the Baker" one of our favorites from the band, Crooked Still.  We knew then that we had a winner.

Sasha is the neatest kid I know.  I don't know where she got this trait from.  She likes everything organized, clean, and tidy.  She did not learn this from her mom.

Mike has been biking to work and back every single day.  Even in hurricane force winds!  He's determined to bike all winter (yes, in Winnipeg).  He also takes 3 showers a day.  He's in good shape, and he smells good!

Winnipeg is not a city built for cyclists.  I hope that Mike makes it home unscathed every single day.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?  God help us all.

Time really does fly.  I wish I could slow it down.

Having your own locker when you start grade seven feels pretty good.  Having independence and freedom and more responsibility for your own life and things feels pretty good too.  It's a delicate dance to know how to play your role in this newness when you're the mom.

Thanks to our neighbor Kiera, I have been introduced to the "Banana Cream Pie" Blizzard at Dairly Queen.  Don't scoff.  It's the best Blizzard I've had.  I noticed that DQ is offering a "Pumpkin Pie" Blizzard as a seasonal offering.   I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Dan Mangan is doing a show in Winnipeg in November.  I could not be happier.

Delhi 2 Dublin is coming to Winnipeg in November too.  We'd really like to go to their show as well.  It's either feast of famine.

It's nearly time to call this blog quits and wrap it up.  It was created for a season, and that season is drawing to a close.  I have plans to begin a new blog that isn't focussed on moving and transitions.

You know it's getting colder when your Magic Bag makes an appearance to warm up your feet when you get into bed.  I think that Magic Bags are one of the world's greatest inventions.  So do my feet.

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Brave Looks Like

Brave looks like a seven year old girl starting a new school.

She doesn't know anyone in her class.  Her school is huge compared to what she is used to. There are people everywhere.  Rooms and offices and hallways surround her.  Routines and transitions and protocol that she's never been part of before, while most everyone else has.   She was known before -  in her other school.  She was centered in relationships with giggles and laughter,  secrets and notes and play dates after school.  Now she is starting over.   She marches in every morning with determination - never hesitating.  She holds her head high and listens, listens, listens so she won't miss a thing.  She watches the conventions, the style of play, the names of the games and the way they're played.  Always learning and observing and waiting for her turn to jump in.  Waiting for the empty space that has room just for her.

Brave looks like a nine year old fitting back in.

Surrounded by faces and names of people she used to know.  People that want to be with her and have her be with them.  Expectations and wishes and lots of "just like it used to be".  But it's not just like it used to be.  It never is.  And that is OK.  She navigates and mediates and works her way through the crowds to find her place.  She knows who she is - that much is sure.  She's just not sure who everyone else is yet - and how she'll fit into the middle of them.

Brave looks like a twelve and a half year old girl.

She watches.   And here is the soundtrack.... "What does twelve and a half look like here?  Does it look like me?  Do I fit in to the layers and levels and patterns and people?  I'm not a little girl anymore and neither are they.  Where do I leave myself?  I want to be a part of something... I just don't know which something that is.  Is anyone else like me?  Maybe.  But they don't know my story yet.  I'm not ready to tell it.  This is where it begins - the choosing, deciding, staking my claim and setting a course.  But I'm only twelve and a half.  I don't even know who I am - I'm just beginning.  Does anyone else feel like me?  Does anyone else see me?   No one else knows how it feels to be me."

This is what brave looks like.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Letting Go

No matter what I've said or written down or repeated I always second guess myself on their first day.

It happened again this morning.
As I drove away from their school after leaving all three at their Winnipeg school for the very first time something felt so unfinished.   And I felt heavy.

That heavy feeling found a comfortable spot and made itself at home.  It's still there.

The "unfinished" part of my thoughts goes something like this....

         Did I say everything I wanted to?  
         Did I assure them of their value?  
         Did I remind them that they're amazing kids?  
         Will they know how much we love them?
         Will they feel secure?
         Are they afraid?
         Are they lonely?
         Will they find someone who could become their safe place?
         Will their teachers have the time and energy to discover what interesting, creative, funny and           
         compassionate girls they are?
         Am I ready to have a daughter in grade seven?
         Will I screw up?  (I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this one)
All this, even with the little family conference last night in which they were reminded of their value and worth and our unconditional love no matter how crazy things may get.

One thing I'm beginning to learn is this - it's never enough.
What you say and communicate and assure them of will simply never be enough.
How could words or sentiment ever be enough when you're sending your very own into the world to navigate and explore on their own without you?

Words can't really compare to how you feel and wish you were walking alongside them so you could occasionally clear your throat really loudly and point at your kid and say to everyone around you  - "Listen up to THIS kid.  This one here.  She's got something important to say.  She knows the answer.  She's really good at this.  She cares about his.  She feels strongly about it.  She's exceptional and extraordinary and deserves her moment in the sun."

And so this heavy feeling just kind of sits here.   The heavy feeling comprised of this tension of so desperately believing and knowing they are ready to be on their own, but still feeling like maybe you're the one who is not quite ready.

So today I'll sit with this heavy feeling.  Feel it and sink into it just a little.

In a few hours I'll leave to pick them up and their voices will all be competing to tell me about their days.  With every story and name of a new friend the heaviness will dissipate and soon I'll be breathing easier....

....until it's time to let go again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Popsicle Drips on Calendar Squares

When my girls were little, summer seemed longer.

There were actually a few times when I longed for summer to end.  Those were the days when having three girls at home for two months wore me down.  A five year old, a two year old and an infant, or a six year old, a three year old and a toddler are combinations that are not for the faint of heart.  Many of you have been there.  Some of you are there now.  In those days I longed for Hannah to return to school and for Ellie to begin or return to preschool so that my routine could begin again and that I would have a few quiet afternoons filled with nap time and fewer bodies and minds to entertain.

It's not like that now.  Now, I wish summer could last forever.

Our days begin with sleeping in or dozing in our beds reading long after the school bell normally rings. We read the paper or the comics, eat brunch, go to the library, ride our bikes, hang out with friends and maybe even swim.  We watch a little T.V. (OK, sometimes a lot of t.v.), lick Popsicles and eat crazy amounts of corn on the cob for supper.  We hang with the neighbors, stay up way too late, wash our dirty feet in the tub and crawl into bed.

I love the lack of rigidity, the free-flowing rhythm to the days that dictates we're never in a hurry.  We aren't bound to someone else's schedule and no one is counting on us.  It sounds selfish and self-preserving to say it like this, but it's all about us.  And that feels good.

As we've been inching closer to September and emails and phone calls and letter trickle in about the fall, the pristine blank squares on my calendar in the kitchen begin their transformation.  Soon they are full of times and stars and reminders and commitments.  Lessons, meetings, classes and field trips.  Promises, follow-through and "we'll be there".  And that makes me nervous.

Just looking at those squares fill up while silently orchestrating  how to make all the pieces come together to get us all where we need to be makes me want to move to secluded island with nothing but books, baguettes and goat cheese.  In a nutshell, I don't do well under time-pressure.  It makes me short-tempered, edgy and harsh.  I turn from a soft-hearted mom who can laugh and chat to a Drill Sergeant who can move her troops with military precision.  We might show up on time, but don't be surprised if one or more of us is crying or gritting their teeth.

I've known this about myself for years.  That doesn't make the feelings go away.  Life with growing girls says that you can't press "pause" and you can't check-out.  You keep moving.  You might yell and scream, but you try to remember to say you're sorry.  There are places to go and people to see.  The pace is relentless and it doesn't show your best side.

Not like now.  I like this side of me.
The side that says, "Sure, read one more chapter.  We're not in a hurry."
The side that changes plans and commitments according to mood or disposition or whether the bike trail is calling us.

That's who I want to be.

But those calendar squares are filling up.
They wait for no one.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Night like This

Sometimes you need a night like this...

Friend arrives oblivious to the corn stuck in your teeth and your greasy, unwashed hair.  She doesn't care about the spots on your dress or the fact that you have dark lines under your eyes and you aren't wearing any make-up.

Friend brings two McDonald's cups filled with ice.  She also brings two Growers Strawberry Rhubarb Ciders which are popped open and poured slyly into the cups.  You raise your wax coated cups to each other and toast the night, then pop on the lids and slide in the straws.

Cups in hand, we drive down to St. Boniface and walk along the sidewalk and through the cemetery talking over the noise of jackhammers and construction crews in hope of finding a bench with a view.   We find a bench.  It's looking at an empty spray pad.  It's also home to a million mosquito's.

We need to find a bathroom.  Since we parked across from the hospital we walk across Tache' and find one just off the entrance.  The entrance is full of couches and chairs and empty spots to sit awhile, free of mosquitoes.

And so we sit. 
In a hospital.
We kick off our sandals and pull up our feet and tuck them underneath us.
We throw our heads back and laugh while our stories trickle out and into each other.
Truth-telling and confession.
Exposition and unraveling.
All on vinyl covered chairs.

Sometimes that is just the kind of night you need.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School

It's almost time.
You can feel it in the way the air gets cooler more quickly in the evenings now.
It gets darker earlier.

Moms everywhere are furiously completing their school supply shopping.
I am too.
Only this year I'm not just doing the planning and preparing for my girls to go back to school.
I'm going back to school too.
In a big way.

This past winter was full of application packages, reference letters, essay writing, and transcripts.
Spring brought phone calls and interviews.
May brought a letter in the mail.
"You've been accepted...." it said.
And I breathed a satisfied sigh.

This fall I will officially begin my Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Winnipeg.

It seems a perfect fit for me.  A part-time program that includes 500 hands-on clinical hours that will result in professional credentials that will hopefully open doors I've only been able to stand outside of.

I am proud of myself.  I wanted something and I chased it down until I got it.
You see, I'm an excellent dreamer.
I always have a plan and a vision - but the follow up is where my challenge lies.
But this time I dug my heels in.
This time I really wanted it.

I am thankful for a husband who committed his support to me as I see this through.
Who finally has has a wife who has all of her kids in school full time and could make use of that great Bachelor's degree she has hanging on the wall  that could afford her a real job with a real paycheck....
..... who still said - "Do it.  If this is what you want, do it now.  I want you to do it."
And so I am.

I am mindful of the gift of the last many many years in which I was able to be home with my 3 amazing companions.
       I was the nose wiper and the apple slicer and the stain remover.
       I was the tear wiper and the story reader and the couch cuddler.
But now they're in school and they've got their own job to do.
It seems it's my turn to find out what I was born to do.
And I start in September.

(If you'd like to find out more about the MMFT program at the University of Winnipeg, read this article published this spring in the Winnipeg Free Press.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

No Hand to Hold Today

My girls have been a lot of places with me over their growing up years.
I'm not talking about exotic locales or entertainment venues.
I'm talking about waiting rooms, doctors offices, and labs.

I never had a husband who could just book off work whenever I had an appointment.
I didn't have my parents close by who could babysit.
I didn't have a live-in nanny.

And so it just me with the girls in tow, venturing off in search of answers, help, comfort,  and sometimes adventure.

We got really good at sitting in waiting rooms together.  We'd read and draw and play games and sometimes grumble while we complained about the wait.

My girls have sat on the floor quietly playing or reading for my teeth cleanings, massages, chiropractic adjustments, routine appointments, and  complete physicals.  I've even been buck-naked at the dermatologist's office standing in the middle of the tiny room while he looks my body up and down for strange moles and circles them with his ballpoint pen.   Let's not forget the infamous appointment with the urogynecologist in which I had to jump up and down repeatedly over a piece of paper after having my bladder filled to capacity with a catheter to see if I'd leak.  I had Ellie and Sasha in the room for that one.  It was quite an audience and I'm sure they'll debrief about it in therapy one day.

At the time, I didn't want to have my entourage with me for all of those appointments.  I wanted to go in and have it be all about me ("why can't this just be about me?") my inner (and often outer) voice would say.

But that wasn't the season.  It couldn't be all about me.  There was always someone to talk to that made the wait seem a wee bit shorter or a hand to hold as I walked out of the office.  Only I didn't see it that way then.

I've been able to go to appointments by myself for a year now.
Everyone is in school with their own job to do.

Today the girls were hanging out at their friend's place for the day.
I had an appointment and I went - alone.

Today I missed a companion.  The way that talking to a little person takes the focus off of yourself and your anxiety as you wait for the door to open.  The weight of the warm body on your lap and the way your hands don't fidget because they instinctively have a job to do or a body to wrap themselves around.  The way the little people beside you give instant context to the professional you're seeing - how they see you as more than just a solitary woman but as a piece of a bigger puzzle.  When another puzzle piece sits on your lap, you don't have to explain its role in your life.

These are growing pains.
All part of feeling out the next season where I'm more often alone than not.
Mostly it feels so good.
Today I could have used a little company.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Here and Now

This past Friday was August 10th.  That day marked one month since we'd been "home" and back in Winnipeg. 

"Home" came fast and furious.

We arrived to a yard full of signs saying "welcome back" and "we missed you". 
And that was lovely.
To me they said, "you were not forgotten" and "we saved a place just for you".

We were welcomed home with cold beer waiting in the fridge, food in our freezer, and tomato plants that had lovingly been planted in our garden.

As I walked through our empty house that first day, before the movers began to unload the truck, it all felt so clean
and sterile
and simple.

There was no mess to clean-up - no crumbs on the counter or drips of milk in the fridge.
No ring around the bathtub or wet towels lying on the floor.
No unmade beds or piles of laundry.

It was home - but it wasn't.

And there lies the tension.

They say "home is where the heart is" and truth be told, my heart hadn't had a chance to catch up to my physical body.  It still hasn't.

The house looks like "home" now. 
The laundry and crumbs and wet towels have all found their rightful places.
When I open the door it smells like "us" now.  That familiar scent that every family owns.
And mostly, it feels like home too.

But there are times - more than just a few - where I catch myself missing what we left behind with such longing, that it takes me by surprise....
       It's a picture of a smiling face I've put on our piano, or an image of the ocean at low-tide when the tide pools are full and warm and salty and oh - it's then I can smell it.  And taste it.
      It's an email from a friend who sounds just like I remember her with news and stories and the words tumble off my screen and sound just like I can hear them in my ear....

      It's a quote I read that I know I just have to share with our dear friends who walked alongside us as we asked more questions than had answers and lapped them all up, never afraid or threatened....

And so I am home.
(At least most of me is).
And home is good.

But I'm beginning to wonder if the parts of me that don't feel home yet, might not ever be.
And maybe I want some of me to stay near the ocean - surrounded by mountains and glorious green.
Maybe some of me needs to stay there.
(I liked that part of me.)
Perhaps she is best left where she emerged, and grew,  and wintered through the grey and the rain.

I know I'll figure it out. 
When a day brings enough time and space  to sit and think it through  -  feel it and weigh it.

For now I'll live in the tension.
At home.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Way Home - Part 4 - (The Wild West)

If you've been following along on this series, "The Way Home", you'll know that we are indeed, almost home.  In actuality, we've been "home" for nearly a month, and this peek back to where we came from and how we got here is just something I feel I need to do.  These tourist-type blog posts are not my forte, nor my love, but there are practical things to learn in the process, and quite honestly, it was a damn good holiday, so why not continue to shelf the introspection for a post or two and just tell you about our time traveling home?

The Wild West.

I had talked to the girls and hyped up the "Wild Wild West" for months.  Ask them.  They'll tell you how irritating my southern drawl had become or how many times they'd heard me say (in said drawl) "I'm looking forward to some real cowboy grub!".   At first the girls didn't believe that we were actually heading into to real cowboy country as we headed East, but it didn't take too long to see our first "real" cowboy.  I then continued to exuberantly point out every single "real" cowboy that we saw for the rest of the trip.  

Let's backtrack just a little.  From our time in Seattle, we continued to head East but also veered a little south so that we could pass through the infamous "Yellowstone National Park".  After all, isn't that a holiday spot that every family needs to do at least once in their time together?  We thought so.

After we pulled out of Seattle, we had a long day of driving which eventually took us to Butte, Montana.  Butte ended up being a convenient place to stop for the night.  It also ended up being a sad, dusty little mining town that looked a little desolate and lonely.

We, however, were not lonely.  We had each other in the van, our "2012 Road Trip Soundtrack", lots of Vinyl Cafe podcasts, sour wine gums, strawberry Twizzlers,  and copious amounts of pipe cleaners.  Trust me on this, moms and dads.  Pipe cleaners are key for long road trips.  They're not messy.  They're creativity inducing, and you can make hundreds of crazy accessories for your van with them as you drive.  At least our girls do. 

As soon as we hit Montana, the landscape changed and we saw a lot of amazing sights like this as drove through the mountain ranges...

After a short night in Butte, we loaded up on what was July 4th, towards our next destination, West Yellowstone.  We wanted to make the journey part of the destination, so shortly pulling out of Butte, we stopped at the Lewis and Clarke State Park to tour some caverns that we had heard about.

To get to the cavern entrance, we had to walk for about 20 minutes on a trail surrounded by awesome scenery.

It was then time to descend into the caverns.  There were about 20 of us in our group with a guide.  Once we made it into the first area, we were warned that after we started moving there was essentially no way out except going all the way through, so claustrophobic or paranoid people need not continue.  That didn't include any of us, so onward we went.

We had never seen anything like it before.  We were all amazed at everything we saw.  Some of our movement involved shimmying through little tunnels or sliding on our butts down polished rock into the next part of the caverns.  It was cool, dark and damp, but we loved every minute of it.

After 2 hours in the caverns, we reached the light of day again and started our trek back to where we started.

After all that exercise, it really was time for some "real cowboy grub".  We decided to head into a real working cowboy town called Ennis for some lunch.  We loved the way the place was decked out to celebrate the 4th of July.  The main drag of Ennis takes you back in time and for the record, yes, we did see lots of cowboys.  So there.

Lunch was at an old soda fountain shop.  Mike and I had the most amazing Huckleberry BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.  Huckleberries are the official fruit of Montana after all.  I bet you didn't know that.

There was one great look-out area after another, all offering Sasha and I the chance to get our inner cowboys on.

After a few hours we landed in West Yellowstone, Montana, for the night.  There just so happened to be a 4th of July Parade going on shortly after we arrived.  Mike and I couldn't imagine a "float" in Canada where a young girl would proudly be holding a machine gun in a family-friendly parade.  I was glad we were only just passing through.

We left bright and early the next morning for Yellowstone National Park.  It was congested, busy, and full of really neat things to stop and look at.

 Like steam vents...

..... buffalo....

.... amazing colors.....

..... and the sounds of bubbling water and boiling and spewing.

Sometimes it felt like we were on the moon.

Soon we made it to Old Faithful - the stop that everyone must make on their way through the park.

We waited along with many hundreds of other tourists for the chance to see the famous geyser erupt.  It didn't disappoint.  It was very prompt and very spectacular.

Yellowstone is HUGE.  Really huge.  You could spend days cruising through the park.  You could also spend thousands of dollars staying in hotels in the park and paying exorbitant prices for food and drinks.  Or you could just keep driving right on out of the park enjoying everything you can as you go through.  We chose the latter.

We drove right on out of Yellowstone until we reached Billings, Montana.  We loved Billings.  We loved our huge hotel suite, the warm pool and the fact that Montana has no sales tax.  We had only planned to stay one night, but we stretched it into two, because we needed a recovery day from the crazy sights and sounds of the wild west.

The rest of our trip consisted of Target, ribs at Famous Dave's, and looking for deals at Scheels.  Not very educational or cultural.  But very therapeutic for this momma.  Ribs are good for the soul.  Time alone in the aisles of Target rates very high on my "happy meter".  While the girls swam, I wandered.  Mike read, and we prepared for the next leg of our trip.

When we left Billings, we were geared up for a good long drive which would take us to Fargo.  The ride was smooth and uneventful.  There was no screaming, crying, or gnashing of teeth in our van.  Our girls are older now.  Mike and I are older too.  We know how to let things slide and when it's time to put on another episode of "Full House".

After traveling through and thoroughly enjoying the Badlands, we pulled into Fargo and spent two nights so that we'd arrive back in Winnipeg when our belongings would.  The whole time in Fargo we had the awareness that the end of the holiday meant the end of the adventure for now.  Home was just a short drive away....

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Way Home - Part 3 (Seattle)

The first stop on our journey back to Winnipeg was a very short jaunt from Vancouver itself.  It seemed silly to start our road trip with such a short day of driving, but we hadn't spent any time in Seattle the whole time we'd been gone and we knew we had to.

Thanks to my amazing friend Lisa, we were able to stay in a huge suite at the Westin right in the heart of downtown Seattle.  We definitely started the trip off at the top!  We were on the 36th floor and had a great view out of our windows.

Anyone who had been to Seattle usually mentioned Pike Place Market as the place not to be missed.  We took the short walk down to the market and made it our first stop.

The Fish Market is one part fish market and one part entertainment venue.  The guys who work there get into the act and are yelling and shouting and throwing fish across the display cases all for the benefit of the hundreds of tourists who are standing around watching them.

You would not believe the bouquets of flowers for sale.  They are unlike any I'd seen and were so ridiculously cheap!  We wished we'd have had somewhere to bring a bunch of flowers.

Hannah knows a lot of obscure facts about different things from reading from sun up to sun down for the better part of her life.  She had told us that we had to visit the "Gum Wall" in Seattle, which is just a few steps away from the market.  Here you will find a huge part of the side of a brick building covered with people's wadded up chewed gum.  It's likely the most unhygenic tourist attraction you could visit.  But it's strangely very beautiful.

Just past the outdoor market was this wonderful older man playing a homemade single-string pail bass.  He was so entranced in the music he was playing.  I loved the simplicity of his instrument and the vigour and commitment he played it with.  You couldn't help but get drawn in.

Seattle has a lot of neat areas of public art.  We found this spot on our walk back to the hotel on our first afternoon.

The view of the city from our hotel was quite amazing.

On our second day it was (shock) raining in the morning, so we decided to start the day indoors at the Pacific Science Center.  We took the easy route and rode the monorail.

Sasha got to sit right up front with the operator.

There were lots of neat things to explore and touch.

Our main reason for visiting the Science Center was the King Tut Exhibit that they had running.  Seattle was the last North American stop for this exhibit.   We had to wait until the afternoon to get in to see the exhibit.  It was packed with people.  There were many rules to be followed including no chewing gum.  I had just passed out gum right before we got let in, and the good Mennonite in me couldn't see the wisdom in throwing it all out.  We all got very skilled in looking for security guards around and being sure not to chew when they were looking at us.

The exhibit was huge.  There were many many artifacts and interesting stories about the pieces and how they were discovered.  Here is just a tiny taste...

We finished off the long day of walking and looking and touching with a little snuggle on a gigantic chair, and then a ride back on the monorail.

On our last full day in Seattle we thought it was only right to have lattes and breakfast at the very first Starbucks.  It is still up and running strong right outside of the market.  Here are the girls in their attempt to look cool and casual.

After a stroll, we decided to drive into a character-rich part of Seattle known as Freemont.  Freemont is known for its artistic community, interesting shops and lots of public art.

After we finished lunch we walked toward the public art piece that we really wanted to see.  On the way along this meadow of beautiful wildflowers and grass lay a homeless man up against this tree.  The juxtaposition wasn't lost on us.

What we really came to Freemont for was to see the sculpture of the "Troll Under the Bridge".    This piece was commissioned a decade ago and is incredibly neat to see up close.  The Troll even has a real VW Bug in his grasp.

I love how places like this lead to the most interesting conversations.  There is a huge statue of Lenin in this little courtyard.  Looking at this piece led to an lengthy conversation about socialism, communism, trial and error, and the lasting impact of it all.

After all that serious talk, it was definitely time for some gelato.

As we were approaching this rocket ship, we were pulled into a guided tour of the Freemont public art.

Hannah was mildly thrilled willing to be pulled into the guide's shtick.  She was a good sport.

Mike and I spent our last night in Seattle going out for a great dinner on our own while the girls hunkered down and ordered room service.    We were all in our happy place.

If you survived that tour of Seattle with me, congratulations for sticking it through!  Stay tuned for our next stop on the road trip - The Wild West!