Wedding Bells

One of my best friends married her amazing partner this past weekend.  They are fantastic people and I love them dearly.     She “allowed” me to speak at the reception so I wrote a special poem for the two of them.  

Ballad of Tracey and Cam

‘Twas once upon an October night

Dark and stormy, no moon for light

When Tracey and Cam met by chance

In Roberts Creek Hall at a Halloween dance. 

Who knew such a relationship could come forth

When a blonde belly dancer from the Harbour up North

Met a questionable ginger from the city

With coke bottle glasses, wig and teeth not so pretty. 

Though first contact elicited a spark

A few weeks went by with no remark

Until one day a text did appear

Asking if TLG knew someone Cam worked near 

Thus started this couple that we all know 

A blossoming romance began to grow

Snowshoeing dates and chocolate fondue

Cypress, Dakota Ridge and other areas too. 

From the North Shore to the far reach of the Bay of Lee

Cam did venture to meet the children of Tracey 

The adventures continued through with this group of four

And then one day they decided they wanted more 

The time had come to find a home for them all to stay
They looked far and low and decided on Halfmoon Bay

Cam’s commute continued into the city 

He sucked up those early morning drives, didn’t expect any pity 

The family grew further with Wendy the cat 

A dog named Baxter who yes, only “weighs 50 pounds”,flat

With Johnny, Sarah, the pets made it six strong

Cam and Tracey decided there should be one more to come along

And Miss Piper arrived a few days early in August. 

Then Cam thought it was time to make his woman honest. 

When I learned Cam asked Tracey to be his bride

I’ll admit I did more than tear up, I full out cried. 

This man and this woman, a more perfect pair cannot be found

They laugh, are good friends at home and baseball mound. 

And while Cam may have shirts that proclaim we “suck this much” 

We know how large his heart is, its bounds you cannot touch. 

Tracey is our best friend, a vault and Nana’s princess 

Every piece of advice she gives, not a word she minces. 

With all these words, I ask you to raise glasses in toast

For our dear friends, this family we love most. 

To Cam and Tracey, may the life you’ve found with each other 

Be colourful, joyful, crazy- not a feeling should you smother. 

We celebrate your love on this day full of romances 

And Thank God for Roberts Creek Halloween dances. 

Lessons from Amanda 

I lost a cousin to cancer on April 11, 2005. She was twenty-three years old.  Incredibly young.  Amanda fought cancer valiantly and we actually thought she had it beat at least once.  Sadly, it was not to be the case and the tumours ravaged her body, taking control of her organs and systems.  

I’ll always remember the last time I spoke with Amanda.  It was a few months before she died, and she knew her prognosis was terminal.  She was taking the time to call and say goodbye.     I was in complete denial, staying upbeat and cheery “you’ll get better”, continuing to prepare a dinner of rice and steamed veggies for my family.  Amanda is my first thought every time I use that rice cooker, the memory of our last conversation replaying in my head.    Regret fills me, as all I could talk about was the journal I had sent for her to write in, but not hear her tell me she was too weak and had no desire to write.  I burned myself using the rice cooker, the steam scorching my bare hand, making it necessary to cut our conversation short.

Even with such a short life, she left a legacy in our family.   Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from her.

  • Find the beauty.  My aunt Shelley, Amanda’s mom, has a beautiful recollection of the peace in Amanda’s room as she took her last breaths.  The calm in the room offered solace to those who entered, whether in grief or as part of their employment.  Nurses, family and friends all felt the solemn grace.   Beauty can be found in even the most difficult situations.
  • Let go of the baggage – Don’t take it with you.  Amanda’s tumour had gotten quite large before she died, even earning itself a name.   It was important to her to not be buried with her and her last request was to have it removed after she passed.   Whether your tumours are literal masses attached to your body or figurative emotions, hurts and chattels your mind festers upon, they become cancerous to your well-being. The person who cut you off in traffic, your husband’s dirty clothes all over the bedroom, the friend who gossips about you…   Let them go.
  • Listen to what people are saying.  Hear them.  You may never have the chance to speak with them again. I would give anything to turn back the years to that last phone call.   I would have walked away from the kitchen and spent a few uninterrupted moments with my cousin’s voice.   Hear her say goodbye.   And talk about anything she wanted to tell me.
  • Take time to Remember – after Amanda died and her apartment was being cleaned out, the family kept finding pennies everywhere.  Apparently, before she died, she joked that she would continue to visit.   The sheer volume of pennies gave birth to the family axiom that every time you find a penny, someone in heaven was thinking about you.
  • Life is short.  This reflection not only comes from my cousin, but from other young (and older) people lost in my circle.   Love, dance, sing… enjoy the time you have.  Hug your children, your sister, call your best friend.  Visit your grandmother.  Sightsee.   Laugh.  Get the dragonfly tattoo.

While it has been twelve years since she passed, it feels like only minutes have passed.  Thank you for your legacy, Amanda.

Repurposing America’s Oldest Mall

The oldest indoor shopping mall in the US has been repurposed  from stores to tiny homes.    The Arcade Mall, located in Providence, Rhode Island, has a waiting list for the forty-eight micro lofts.

The main level of the mall contains boutique shops and the housing units are on the second and third floors.  The resulting effect is a calm indoor ‘avenue’ of shopping and residences.

Developer Evan Granoff had a few challenges through the process, including the issue of cooking facilities.   When city ordinances didn’t allow for cooking facilities due to the size of space, Granoff registered the property as a co-housing  facility, which allowed for convection microwaves.   Residents find it to be an acceptable compromise as they can easily purchase meals on the lower level of the mall or create simple menus within their space if they are home or dine in one of the many local restaurants in the Providence downtown area.

Quite the interesting endeavour.   It’s certainly worth the few minutes to watch the video at the end of this post.

People talk about saving historic buildings, but often the only way to save them is to make them economically viable.   – Evan Granoff

The concept of adaptive reuse – repurposing unused buildings into usable facilities-  has been around for some time.  Developing standing buildings – such as warehouses, mills and distilleries-  into homes not only minimizes urban sprawl, it reduces the waste created by demolishing and constructing new structures.    There are issues that can occur; modernizing electrical, plumbing, and internal structure while ensuring any harmful chemicals such as asbestos are not within walls coupled with zoning and local bylaws that will allow for changes to the original building.    Not an easy task.  But if you look at some of the links below,  you’ll see some pretty amazing spaces with incredible architecture.

Unusual Buildings Converted in to Spectacular Homes

Architectural Digest Gallery of Converted Spaces

 

 

For additional reading:

Adaptive Reuse 

Business Insider – Oldest Shopping Mall in America

Historic Buildings Modern Uses – Saskatchewan

Historic Places:  Affordable Housing and Neighbourhood Improvements in Canada

Unusual Buildings Converted in to Spectacular Homes

Architectural Digest Gallery of Converted Spaces

 

In Memory of Shawn 

I lost a dear friend to suicide in 2016.   He was married to my best friend and the father to five amazing children and adoptive father to a truly gentle soul.

Shawn was not an easy person to know.   Years of a troubled childhood had made Shawn prickly and closed.  He allowed very few people to get close to him, and I was lucky enough to only see the gentleman he could be. He was a big brother, a protective man who always looked out for me.

Over the years, there were subtle changes in his behaviours. Or rather, as I saw him infrequently and he could easily hide these changes from me, they appeared subtle.  He became sullen and closed, his temper volatile and unpredictable. The family he adored was no longer a treasure but a burden he could not handle.

When Shawn walked away from his family,  he was angry and resented the life he felt had trapped him.   The details in the months away are sketchy; a few accounts from those around him paint a wildly partying life, full of travels.   During this period, he attempted suicide at least twice and was eventually located by police to be admitted to an Albertan mental health facility for observation and assessment.

After just over a month, he was released in early January.   And promptly disappeared.   The remaining weeks of his life were a mystery to his family until after his body was discovered in April.   From there, they discovered how he had been living at a childhood friend’s home since his release, having no support from the health industry due to “just missing” a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder.  There were other mental health concerns but inconclusive diagnoses did not support further treatment.   Shawn was ready for help but nothing was available within the provincial health care system.

Suicide follows the surviving family.  It becomes the unspoken topic when you are with friends, the whispered conversations of neighbours. The spouse and children feel as they are under constant scrutiny and every movement is being questioned, studied and judged against the deceased’s actions.   As my best friend says, “It is the White Elephant we cannot escape.”

Mental health issues are becoming more widely spoken of, yet they are still not supported and treated with the same seriousness as physical maladies.   Lack of understanding and stigma within the general populace, insufficient funding and structure from government agencies, and stretched front line workers add up to a vacuum of support for affected citizens.

It’s time to get beyond the stigmas, silences and sideways glances.

Whispers don’t save lives.  Speak up and OUT LOUD.

Reach out.

#mentalhealth

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Need help for you or a loved one?

Centre for Suicide Prevention   https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resources/

Canadian Mental Health Association  http://www.cmha.ca/

Alberta Health Services http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/amh/amh.aspx

British Columbia Mental Health http://www.bcmhsus.ca/

 

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Additional reading: Alberta suicide rates remain high despite ‘encouraging’ 20% drop – (from CBC.ca Dec. 14, 2016)

 

Happy 75th Birthday to my Dad

My father turns 75 today.

Born in a blacked-out Vancouver two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, he was the first child of Bill and Edna Pratt.   My grandparents had moved to the coast for different opportunities and a new life away from the extreme conditions of the Alberta and Saskatchewan prairie where they’d been raised.
The lustre of the big city didn’t take long to dim and they soon moved back to Esther, Alberta to complete their family with Marjorie, Wilf, Anne, Dale, Shelley and Gayle.

I have so many stories to share of my dad, and so many things I have learned.   We have not always had the easiest relationship – my stubbornness rivals his, and as he’s always encouraged us to learn and read as much as we can, debates and arguments could be well-informed and quite heated as neither of us would back down from our positions.

In spite of himself, he raised me to be a feminist – I constantly challenged the gender stereotypes from his generation and clamoured to learn how to drive tractor, shoot gophers and be taught the same things as my older brother.   When he wouldn’t teach me within the timeline I demanded, I learned on my own.   As I got older, there were certain things he insisted I master – knowing my vehicle’s motor as a prime example (oil and tire changes, even taking out an axle once) – so I would not be disadvantaged in the marketplace nor rely on others to look after me.

My dad has always been one of my strongest cheerleaders and has told me I could “take on the world with a bucket of water and win”.

I’ve heard from his siblings what a great brother he has been, offering counsel and advice  and as a fantastic uncle to their children.

I wish I could be there to help celebrate your birthday today.  You’ve been a great dad and an amazing grandfather.

Thank you Dad!

A Moment of Silence

Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on our past and current conflicts.  We honour the countless soldiers, humanitarians and citizens who have served and continue to serve in the name of freedom and safety.     Their sacrifices in the pursuit of hope and peace should be cherished and never forgotten.

Please take a moment to reflect today, and every day.

#NeverForget

mfielding-poem

Poem written by Michelle Fielding, November 2013

The picture inserted is a poem written by my youngest daughter in 2013 for Remembrance Day.