Sunday, December 31, 2017

Here's My Monumental Pile of Rocks for 2017

I can be a bit of a flake at times,  but the one tradition I seem to hold solidly to is revisiting and rehashing my year, on or about December 31st... and exposing it to all my friends and family. Thanks for playing along as I present the latest anecdotes and exaggerations in the lives of Albert and Liana.

This post actually takes me a number of days to formulate, and this year at more than one point I tried to convince myself this is stupid, you don't actually have to do this just because you have in the past.

And then I go to church on New Year's Eve morning and the Pastor speaks of God's people crossing the river Jordan and He instructs them to gather stones from the river bed to construct a monument of remembrance. The purpose of the monument is not to make an idol to hang out with forever, but to create a point of reference which can be revisited at times to show where you have been and how far you've come. And so I present you with my monument to 2017, so that I may revisit it in years to come and know that indeed, I have moved on.

We started off the year still in grief mode after losing our Barbee in December, and we've fumbled along, learning daily, to adjust our lives that she was so much a part of.

We celebrated our 35th anniversary on January 23rd. The traditional anniversary theme is coral and the modern theme is jade. We embraced the traditional by booking our first ever tropical vacation. Unless of course you count the Tropical Island of Newfoundland, we've been there. And I picked up a monumental stone and carried it with me.

Brandi and Kore and Bea made a trip to PG at the beginning February for a gender reveal party. Our 4th grandchild was due June 1st - which is Brandi and Bendigo's birthday. While my heart secretly was convinced that our forthcoming grandchild was a boy, I went out on limb to proclaim that I was on team girl.  While I honestly was just thrilled to be getting my 4th (and quite likely last) grandchild, I knew that my heart was ready to embrace whatever God had in store for our family.

However, I really love being right, whatever side I am arguing for ... as witnessed on camera:

And another stone was added to my 2017 monument.

February also had me having my wired sleepovers at the sleep clinic and confirming that once again Albert was right for all these years - at 72 apnea episodes per hour I qualified for 2 1/2 times the limit considered "severe sleep apnea." With blood oxygen levels dropping as low as 74% during the night, I think we can safely assume my waning brain function is due neither to aging nor wine consumption. I merely have had a lack of oxygen to the brain for the past number of years.

Through the spring months, I kept really busy doing art parties, sometimes as many as 4 in a week. And each time I would do one I would think, "I can't believe this is my job." It's so fun to see completely intimidated people walk into the room and watch them leave with a piece of art they are proud to have created.  The wine helps with that, of course.

It was on my bucket list to do an art party with mother-in-law and 2017 saw me check that off my list.  It was so fun... and she did great! Even without wine. :)

Click HERE if you too want to become an artist with me. It's fun, I promise.

Young or old, you CAN be an artist. You simply make art. Voila.! 

Another stone to build up my monument.

Winter had been really cold but with little snow, unlike the rest of the province - the lower mainland, island and Okanagon had a lot more snow than us. (With slight embarrassment and childish glee, I admit this was a large stone in my 2017 monument.) By mid-March the last of the snow and ice in our yard disappeared and we were itching to get back out to the cabin.

The property at Vivian Lake was purchased by new owners last year and they have decided not to operate it as a resort. However, we feel so blessed that they are continuing to welcome seasonal (and I believe even monthly) tenants. 2017 was kind of a transition year and we didn't have any parties and craziness, but we look forward to resuming our lacklustre hosting skills and seeing many of you out there again in 2018. Bring a guitar. Bring a chair. Bring wine. We'll provide fire. And water. And carry another stone to add to our monument.

In preparation for this annual post, I always look back through my Facebook feed to remind me of the incidents and accidents that made up our year, And being the FB exhibitionist that I am, I always find it a treat to recall things that my mind would have long forgotten had it not been written down. (And I realize my inclination to write and expose my life is indeed my monument of life that I may revisit on occasion and chalk off where I have been and where I am at.)

For example, I never would have remembered that in April I successfully opened both rows of stitching on the bag of basmati rice. Seriously! I didn't have to use scissors, I didn't have to swear, and I didn't destroy the zipper in the process. It was like a Christmas miracle in April.

One highlight of the year, that I do not need a written monument to remind me of, was heading off to Kamloops in May in anticipation of Little Miss Sissy C's arrival. I will never be able to adequately express the honour it has been to be the birthing coach for all four of my grandchildren. I just thank Jesus that both my daughter and daughter-in-law were birthing rockstars and speedy ones at that. God knows that I just don't have the stamina to endure days, or even hours, on end of the glorious trauma that is birth.

I gave birth myself twice on June 1st, missing my Grandpa's birthday on May 30th by two days. I was hoping that baby would arrive on either one of those dates. But little Daphne Maureen decided she was her own person and wanted her own date. She arrived in the wee hours of May 31st weighing a whopping 9lbs 12 oz. They make 'em solid in that Connolly family. All told, it was 13 hours from the time we left the house until we were back at home with our sweet little babe. Our hearts burst with pride for this perfect, smart and beautiful bundle of joy.  9lbs 12oz translated into the biggest stone of my 2017 monument.

Hard to believe Daphne is already 7 months, has her first tooth, says "Mama" and sleeps through the night for months now. 
In June Little Miss Maevey graduated from preschool. She is such lovely girl. No really, she is. She is very social and finds it easy to make friends, but also has a bright academic side to her as well. Kindergarten has been great for her and she is learning to read and is a fabulous little artist. She has known all her letters and sounds for a couple of years, but on one trip to the library, while her brother engaged in piles of books, she announced, "Granny, I'm just not into books that much." And off she skipped to captain the library's pirate ship filled with newfound friends she made.

Xander continues to excel in reading and math and bring joy to our hearts. He is in grade 3 at Spruceland Traditional School. Even after spending 31 years with Jed showing us the reality of each person being unique, we continue to learn and grow and expand our horizons and get a glimpse of just how vast humanity has been created.
There is no personality quite like him. And he fills my heart. 

Jed continues to live with Devin and Shayne in his home share program. And while life with Jed will always be, well, life with Jed, we are so grateful that he has really settled into his routines there. We thank God daily for Devin's patience and kindness and his role in Jed's life.

After a couple of failed attempts at owning used ATVs, Jed managed to save  enough for a downpayment on his new Arctic Cat that he has affectionately named Kaylee. 

July 2017 was deemed "the year of the fires" with many areas of our province burning up. We've known this was likely going to happen eventually after the pine beetles swept through the province about 12 years ago. Prince George and the close surrounding area were actually spared a lot of immediate danger and even the smoke, although terrible on a few days, was not nearly as bad as it was in other areas. Brandi and the girls were essentially house bound for most of the summer in Kamloops.

Prince George became an evacuation centre for many thousands of people, including a family who lived in Ken and Jade's RV in their yard, and we were proud to call it home, and added another rock to the pile.

We were thankful to God that the smoke that socked in Kamloops for weeks lifted in mid-august the day before Beatrice's planned third birthday pool party. Our beautiful and kind little (well, not-so-little, size of a 5-year-old) three-year-old girl got to host her Fabulous Flamingo party.

The September Long was deemed "Ziemer Mini Reunion Weekend."  With the family currently rounding out at a cool 226 members, including spouses, nothing can actually be termed "mini." We held a celebration in honour of Grandma Grace turning 89 years young and the birth of her 100th great grandchild - who just happens to be the one and only Miss Daphne Connolly. Another pile of rocks in the monument.

Daphne and Great Grandma even had a great 2-page write-up in The Citizen newspaper. 

Great Grandma Grace posing with most of her 100 great grands. 

This year we were blessed with our first ever grand-puppy when Ken and Jade added Snoopy to their family. This little Walker Coon Hound is about the cutest dog you'll ever see. And in keeping with their family traditions he is super smart and oh so loveable. He arrived at less than two months old and was immediately house trained and he loves his crate.

Snoopy is so good with the kids and he fits right into their family - even the 3 cats. 

By September, we were more than 12 years into the "5-year-plan" for this crooked l'il ol' house we bought in 2005, and it was time to take the plunge and just do it. Our basement suite had been empty since March, and although we had a few requests to occupy it, as hard as it was to kiss that bit of extra monthly cash goodbye, we really feel like we can use the space more than the money at this point. And we moved into it ourselves.

Demolition is always fun yet labour intensive for menfolk, and I just stayed out of their way, cooking steak and barking orders from afar.

Gone were layers and layers of floor, wall and ceiling.
And after a month of working hard Albert, Jim and I flew away to Maui with Brandi, Kore and the girls for reprieve, and to cash in on that coral anniversary we'd committed to back in January.

And it did not disappoint. I was feeling a little guilty about sorta coercing Papa into coming to Maui to help me "nanny" the girls. However, he fell in love and, sadly I didn't get it in writing, while there he agreed to make it an annual event. However, I am the financier of the family and suspect that maybe biennial is a little more realistic. Either way, it is our full intention to return.

Maui was a fabulous break, but I soon had Albert and JimE back at it when we returned. I had my sights set on Christmas dinner in my new kitchen and my hard working crew assured me they could deliver. And deliver they did.  Pile up more rocks in the monument.

Approximately 72 hours before the turkey hit the oven, I moved the cutlery, spices and frying pans to their new forever home. And even those skeptical of my "Mica Black, Crayon Green, Icon Grey and Pacific Blue" colour palette agree, me and my boys pulled it off.  I'm so pleased with my "new old home" that even though both Albert and Jimmy offered more than once to treat us to dine out for my birthday on the 28th, I opted to dine in - it truly feels like I am vacationing in my own home. I am so blessed. And thankful. And appreciative. And somehow I will figure out how to pay the bank back. I doubt they'll take this pile of stones I've collected. Alb had better continue his dedication to his 2 jobs and I'd better make more effort to create artists out of wine drinkers.

We plan to have some sort of open house sometime in the New Year and Albert has a dream of having a house concert weekend with famous recording artists. He thinks we can cram 50 guests into our newly-renovated-but-still-the-same-square-footage space. Perhaps if we all cram in like a pile of rocks we'll fit. And we'll become the foundation of the 2018 monument.

Happy New Year to each and every one of you who took the time to read through this and add a stone to the A&L monument of 2017.

Maeve Jade Xander Ken Liana Daphne Albert Jed Kore Beatrice  Brandi
My heart bursts with love and pride for each of these souls we have been entrusted with. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I blamed the daycare

Periodic traffic jams in my quiet residential neighbourhood in all sorts of weather.

Currently it is somewhere around -30 degrees and there is a traffic jam on my quiet residential street.

The house across the street, next to the park, was home to a successful daycare/preschool for a number of years. And by successful, I mean one that had a lot of kids attending. And with a lot kids comes a lot of pick-up and drop-offs through the day, and traffic jams on our residential street every day at 9am, 12-1pm and 3:00pm. Many times I had to wait to get out of or into my driveway as parents would park right across the end of the driveway "for a quick sec" while they dropped or picked their kid up.

I tried not to get too grouchy about it as I know decent daycare can be hard to find. Other than the traffic and the incessant screaming and general park noises, the daycare wasn't too bothersome.

Well, the daycare became so successful, it actually moved and took over the Child Development Centre back in September.  Yet still, we periodically get random traffic jams on our quiet street. This perplexed me. So I started paying attention to what it was all about.

It probably averages about once a week - that I notice anyway. There is a sudden influx of vehicles. Everyone sits in their vehicles for about 5 minutes or so. Then they all jump out of their cars at the same time, with their phones in hand. They scurry about for a couple of minutes, then muster together in small groups to chat for a moment or two, and just as quickly dispense from their groups like a cluster of baby spiders after you step on their mother. And they drive away.

I am completely guessing here, but it appears to be a game of Pokemon Go. I am not familiar with the game much, other than I know it was a bit of an obsession for people a couple of years ago. Do they still play? To this degree? Seriously. These are not bored teenagers with nothing else to do on their Christmas vacation. These are grown-ass adults in expensive cars. There are currently no less than nine vehicles in front of my house. And did I mention it was minus 30ish?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


December 6, 2016. The day a piece of my heart was ripped out. 

But rather than mourn and hate the day that I lost my best friend, I choose rather to reflect upon the blessing it was to journey together through the years. 

As a means of reminiscing and counting my blessings I put photos to the memories I shared at Barbee's Celebration of Life. 

Oh my gosh, how I miss her. 

BFF. It’s a term invented by adolescent girls indicating that someone was their Best Friend Forever. Barbee and I were BFF’s. And although we sometimes joked it meant Big Fat Friends, we always knew we were best friends forever. I know we are sisters-in-law but I have always thought of her first as my best friend.

When one thinks about best friends you tend to think of two people who have everything, or at least much, in common. Not Barbee and I. We were actually weirdly opposites in so many ways.

Barbee had musical talent. She loved to play the mandolin, and Albert has always said she has such a pure singing voice. I don’t even know what a “pure voice” means. And if I’m feeling really musical, I might play a stereo. But more often than not, I will just sit in silence until the feeling goes away.

Over the years Barbee has made me endure more than my share of bluegrass music and festivals. I, in turn, inflicted Leonard Cohen and Bob Seger on her.

What a fabulous quilter she was. And hunting down fabric stores was always on her mind when we’d travel together. It’s the only way I could get her to indulge my shopping addictions. And as far as quilting goes… well, I like to nap with quilts.
Finding the perfect fabric in Newfoundland

Barbee knew all the chefs from every cooking show on the Food Network. I don’t even know what channel it’s on. I could have told her who was the number one NHL draft pick in 2005 and who won the Stanley Cup in 2016 … but she couldn't have cared less. (and if you do care for hockey trivia, you know that Sydney Crosby is the answer to both)

 I loved riding across Canada on our motorbike. But we never did convince Barbee to even ride around the block.
The first day of our epic Trip Across Canada in 2007

Barbee was gracious and polite, and when she spoke, she honoured God and encouraged people – even while being funny or goofy. … Yes, she was gracious and polite. And I… I can drop well-aimed f-bombs.

And sometimes I was a bad influence on her.

The day before she passed, I was sitting with her and she wanted to sit up. I sat on the edge of her bed and she sat propped against me for 10 minutes or so. We sat mostly in silence as she really wasn’t really verbal by this point. But she managed to somehow get across that she understood me when I did say something. 10 minutes was about all she lasted. But before she lay back down, Jimmy and Jody figured it would be best to get her meds and a small drink of juice into her while she was sitting.
I propped her up while they administered the “happy drugs and mango juice.” And between our 6 arms, we got the job done. Barbee somehow managed to muster the strength to lift her head and clearly state, “Well! THAT was a fricken fight!” Oh my goodness, we laughed!

I said to Albert that night, “I hope that’s the last thing she ever says to me.” However… Barbee was not going to go out with a near f-bomb being her final sentence to me. And the next day, a few hours before she passed, when Albert and I said our final goodbye, she managed to eke out, “I love you.” And I’m totally happy with that.
Wig shopping at the Canadian Cancer Society

Many times in her last few months, Barbee’s parting words to me were, “Take care of my Jimmy for me.” Sometimes it was a direct instruction and sometimes it was just inferred.

No one can hold a candle to the care both Jim and Barbee provided for each other, as we witnessed when Jim was in the hospital for months after losing half his foot. And again as we watched Jim nurse Barbee through her final journey. And many other times in between.
Albert and I cannot begin to make up for the hole she leaves, but we will do whatever we can to take care of her Jimmy for her. 

Jimmy, please know that your chair is always waiting for you, and I will buy steak in packs of three. 
However, … I will continue to bet you 50 bucks every time I think you are wrong. :) 

Barbee rarely left his side while Jimmy spent months recovering from his work incident. 

While I am a bit of a technology geek, for Barbee it was a technological feat to figure out how to text and facetime – and she only did that so that she could keep in contact with people. Barbee loved people. And I, well, not so much.

Always up for fun and games... even if it made her wheeze. 

Loving people was actually an impressive trait of my Barbee. If she met you, she considered you her friend. And if she hadn’t seen you in 20 years, she greeted you as if she’d been searching for you the entire time.

Over the years, Albert and I have benefitted many times from Barbee’s outgoing friendly nature. Most notably, on our trip across Canada. While Jimmy, Albert and I probably would have bee-lined through Northern Ontario, Quebec and parts of New Brunswick due to our lack communication skills with French speaking people, Barbee was willing to use charade tactics and basic French sentences to get us by. And as a result, we have some really incredible memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
Our first lobster experience
Our second lobster experience
Getting our PEI on...

I have never experienced a storm quite like the one on Cape Breton Island

Thankfully the weather turned around for our amazing Cabot Trail ride. 

But of course, not all of my memories on that trip included other people. Like the time I had to stand guard to make sure there were no other people around while Barbee ripped apart the public coin-operated shower just outside of Winnipeg, where we could see that people had dropped coins under the grate. Yes, after a 10-minute struggle dismantling the place, we walked out of there with… 75 cents! – not even enough to cover the cost of our showers.

Barbee had never worked so hard for 75 cents in her life. 

Yes, for all our differences in character, we have shared so many connected moments as BFFs. Who else would indulge me on my 40th birthday and wake up in the morning and drive to Edmonton to go out for dinner at the Olive Garden? In December? In a snowstorm?

Or drive to Nakusp because we read in the paper that they served the most incredible baked brie. Yes, it’s true. We drove 10 hours for baked brie. Only to get there and learn that they had run out of brie for the rest of the weekend. Oh well. The hot springs were an amazing way to celebrate Barbee on her 50th birthday.

If or some other computer-generated personality-matching site were to analyze everyone in this room, it’s quite likely that there are dozens of you who would be designated as better matches than me to be Barbee’s BFF.  However, in real life, I thank God that Barbee gave that title to me.

And it’s a title I will proudly wear for the rest of my fricken life.  


His Song Has Ended But the Melody Lingers

On November 28, 2018 my world imploded. My husband was my everything, but he also had a profound impact on everyone else in his life. ...