A Week of Celebrations

other birthday girlThe celebrations started last Sunday – dinner at a Greek restaurant with the family.  It was a double celebration, Sloane having turned six just days before.

Then we headed North to a friend’s cottage and had a meal rich with the summer’s harvest: corn on the cob, potatoes cooked with garlic on the barbecue, and orange glazed salmon.

Seems, we celebrate with food.  The next day, we drove into one of the larger towns and had Mexican – one of my favourites.


ladies seadoOn the actual day of my birthday, I woke up deciding that I would ride the jet ski – a risk I had been avoiding, as driving has not been something I can do since the onset of ME.  Even the motorized scooter we purchased proved to be too much for me, but I decided I’d strap on a life jacket and do a quick tour.  Something to mark my 60th.

“Was it fun?” my friend asked me after.

“Not really,” I responded honestly; “I was too tense.”

But I did it!

You couldn’t have done it a year ago! my daughter-in-law messaged after I posted the event to a group chat.

She’s right.  There is progress to celebrate.

I napped after the excitement and then we drove into a different town, and had dinner overlooking the water.  Just as we sat down, a cormorant dove down and came back up with a large fish in his mouth.

“Good luck,” I thought.

A heron flew by and settled into the brush nearby, and three otters popped their heads above water long enough to give us a show.  Of course, I didn’t bring my camera.

heron in nestOn the way home, we picked up the eldest granddaughter for a few nights stay.  Together we went exploring – she with my iPhone for a camera, and I with my Sony.  We found fish swimming in the nearby pond, a waterfall, and a heron hunting at the water’s edge.  While she tried to creep closer, I noticed a beaver making its way to her side of the pond.  A large splash sent her running back to me, eyes wide with surprise. The heron, too, had disappeared, but as we turned to go, flew back overhead, landing on a nearby tree and then taking to flight again.

“Look Grandma!  There is still a bird in the tree.  It must be a baby.”

The young heron squawked, and Finley mimicked it, keeping up quite the repartee.

We had stories to tell upon our return.

sunburst lilyThe week ended up with another celebration of birthdays, this time for our youngest daughter.  We hosted a barbecue, and then everyone went fishing.  No fish were caught, but the stories more than made up for it.

Sometimes we celebrate because the occasion calls for it, and sometimes we celebrate because life just gives us so much to be excited about.  This week it has been a bit of both.

Thank you to Olga at Stuff and What If… and Sgoeil for their contributions this week.

See you tomorrow for a new challenge.


The Gift of Friendship

I am the one who put forth the relationship challenge this week, and I have to confess, I am struggling with how to articulate my feelings.   Fast approaching my sixtieth birthday, I find I am sentimental, or maybe, it’s that after years of isolation due to illness, I now treasure relationship more than ever.  Either way, how can I do justice to something that means so much?

Our trip this week was to the home of a very dear friends, whose acquaintance dates back to high school days.  L is the anti-thesis of me:  calm, and steady.  Just being in her presence puts me at ease: I feel safe, respected, and accepted.

There are times in my life when L has been my champion.  During an unwanted pregnancy scare, she confronted my then boyfriend as to his intentions.  When devastated by an unforeseen divorce, she hugged me and told me I didn’t deserve it, and then furnished a home for the kids and I.

Recently, she told me that people are naturally drawn to me, that I make them feel better about themselves.  Her words surprised me – are we mirrors for one another?

The gift of her friendship, knowing that I am always welcome in her home, has value beyond words.  Of course, the same welcome is extended to her and her husband, but as I always do, I wonder what I bring to the relationship?

Loyalty, for certain, but I hope something more.  I hope that I bring to her a comparable comfort, a knowing that she is loved for who she is, and a reassurance that she is never alone – that I care always, even when we are apart.

I have struggled with relationships, likely the product of a troubled childhood, and I chastise myself often for not doing enough, for not being enough.  I feel as if I’m overbearing, and a burden, and worry that I have taken more than I give.  Even as we pulled away on Saturday morning, and a warm glow lingered, I felt the doubts seep in.   It is a demon I have to overcome.

Forty-six years of friendship should teach me otherwise, and the text I received when we got home:  Love having you…anytime…any (or no) reason!

How blessed I am.

How about you?  Is there that one relationship that makes you feel better about yourself?

Love to hear from you.

(Featured image is from personal collection.)

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #4: Relationships

“The people we are in relationships with are always a mirror,
reflecting our own beliefs, and simultaneously
we are mirrors, reflecting their beliefs.”
                            – Shakti Gawain

A friend of mine used to say (and I paraphrase).

“May you experience as many relationships as you need to be whole.”  

I like the way she thinks.  It is unreasonable to expect that one person will fulfill all our needs.  Romantic relationships aside, our friends, children, siblings, parents, and co-workers all contribute to our sense of self and how we interact with the world.

This week, I am challenging myself, and any who follow along, to examine a connection and ask the questions:

  • How does this relationship inform who I am?
  • What have I learned about myself through this connection, and…
  • How, if at all, has it made me a better person?

I might also ask what it is that I bring to the relationship.

All are welcome to participate.

Just add a post to your blog on the topic of relationship, and create a link back to this page, or enter a link in the comments below.

The challenge is open all week (and ongoing), so feel free to post at any time.

You might add VJWC as a tag, and or use the challenge banner:


Looking forward to your responses – always enlightenment to be gained.

Relationship Ruptures

The sign on the community pool clearly indicated that the pool was closed, and the gate was locked, but that didn’t stop my friend from scaling the fence and jumping in.  Our other friend hesitated only briefly before joining her, and I stood by in disbelief.

It was day one of our girls’ getaway, and as I had signed on for the rented condo, I felt the weight of responsibility close in around me.  I turned and walked back towards our unit, listening as the hollers of my fellow travellers echoed through the resort. Regret flooded me.  How did I ever think this would work out?

Friend #1, whom I’d known since childhood, was more of a sister to me.  An extreme extrovert, with a tongue that could win medals for speed, made her the life of any party.  Friend #2, a colleague of mine and longtime neighbour of #1, was quietly confident, and not averse to having a good time.  I, a non-drinker, had been struggling with my health for sometime, and while I enjoyed company and good conversation, I preferred quiet, intimate settings.

“I think this vacation is a mistake,” I told my husband in muffled voice the next morning while waiting for the other two to wake up.

“Well, come on home if it’s not working out,” he suggested.

Except, I had been the one to drive, so leaving meant stranding them, and I couldn’t do that.  I decided to the make the best of it:  be the designated driver, and hopefully, get in some sightseeing.

backoffduckThe fighting between #1 and I started the moment she woke up and announced that she hoped I wasn’t going to be a stick-in-the-mud all week.  I countered that she had a drinking problem, and tempers flared out of control. (Told you we were like sisters.)

As the week progressed, and my stomach turned into a ball of fiery pain, the rupture in our friendship deepened.  I vowed that it was over.

“Let’s go for lunch and talk about it,” #1 said weeks later.  “I can’t bear not having you in my life.”

I acquiesced.  We agreed never to go away together again.  We vowed to resume the friendship.

Maybe I was too uptight, I cajoled myself.  We have been friends for a long time, after all.

“She really does have a good heart,” my husband and I agreed.

And then I got sick.  Really sick.  So sick that I could no longer leave my bed, or even talk with her on the phone.

“Let me know when you can come out again,” she said once during a brief conversation.  And another time:  “Are you better?  When are you going back to work?” And then, more recently:  “I’ve talked it over with others, and we agree you should be working now.”

I haven’t seen her in over a year.  She has no idea what my day-to-day living looks like.

“You don’t need toxic people like her in your life,” my health-care aide once said to me, overhearing our conversation.  “You need encouragement and understanding.”

Black PhoebeI am a dog when it comes to loyalty.  It is hard for me to recognize if a relationship is healthy or abusive.  I am not good at setting boundaries.

We have been home for a bit, and I have not called #1.  I am thinking that I might not bother.  It is causing me grief.

What would you do?

(My poem at One Woman’s QuestA Falling Out, is based on this story.)



Back to Campbell River

We’ve just had lunch in Comox – a quaint, mostly retirement community, judging by the services that line the main street.  Mary’s, a small cafe with gluten-free options, is where we met up with Pippa for our last day of exploration on the island.

gullcondo.jpgThe plan from here is to head north.  I tag along with Pippa and Sammy (her dog) and Ric follows behind in the pickup.  The day is overcast but no rain yet.

Oyster Bay is the first stop.  We park and follow the short path to the water’s edge.  A few mergansers float at the water’s edge, and a number of gulls squawk in the distance.  These two have found the best perches and are in no hurry to give them up. We take some pictures and deterred by the chilly wind, decide to keep going up the coast to Campbell River.

CampbellRiver.jpgThere are actually two rivers in Campbell River – the one bearing the name of the town, and the Quisnam River.  We stop at the Campbell River for some photos and then drive on to the Quisnam where Pippa and I decide to walk the trails for a bit.  The trilliums and fawn lilies are in full bloom and she wants to show me.  The woods are also full of birch trees, which remind me of childhood and my father’s garden – a favourite.

3fawnliliesRic has stayed back in the truck and when we return, he is napping, so we carry on along the trails on the other side of the road.  This is Pippa’s neighbourhood, and Sammy proudly shows off his comfort with the area.

There is something so soothing about the sound of a river’s flow.   I love this place.

birches.jpgWe stop by Pippa’s house for a tour of the gardens.  Her property – nearly an acre, is surrounded by tall trees, and sloping grounds.  There is a pond on one side of the property, and a roadway on the other, so she has wonderful privacy.  Benches are set at strategic points offering a number of places to sip tea and enjoy the beauty, but today is too cold, so we decide to get tea at a cafe back in town.

Part of Campbell River’s waterfront has been strategically maintained for public use – no development on the water side.  Along the paved path sits a shack on a concrete slab – Fogg Dukkers.

Katiethebarista“It’s a little rough inside,” Pippa warns.  “If it’s too much we can bring out drinks back to the truck.”

It is rough, but it’s a classic.  A barn-like door opens into the large, open area.  A wood stove pumps heat from one corner while locals sit around in plastic lawn chairs.  Signs with funny sayings line the walls, and in a back room a young woman, Katie, waits to take our orders.  Surprisingly, they have a wide range of offerings.  I opt for a mint tea while Pippa orders Americano, and Ric a dark roast.

“In nice weather,” Pippa explains, “people come here with their dogs and sit outside.  They usually have a fire going and sometimes there will be a jam session.”

FoggDuckersinterior.jpgOutside, there are more plastic chairs, some tables and picnic benches.

We linger over our drinks, chatting about everything, none of us wanting this day to end.  When the rain comes, it’s a reminder that we have a fair distance to travel home.

We say our goodbyes.

I am beyond tired, and hungry again.  Ric knows of a place in Nanoose Bay where we can have a decent meal.  I try to sleep but the day is still very much alive in my mind.  Besides, there are so many emotions flooding me right now.

I could see myself living on the island, and yet, I am feeling the tug of home.  If only I could transport my family here with me.

The highway has come to a halt just at our dinner turn-off.  There must be an accident ahead.

rainyhighwayIn the restaurant, I overhear the waitress telling another table that there has been a fatal crash.  The delay could be hours.  So we take our time, lingering over tea and coffee after our meals, and striking up conversation with the woman at the next table – also waiting out the traffic situation.  Apparently there is only one road running between here and Nanaimo.

Finally, google shows the route is moving again, and we head home.  It’s been an exceptionally good, and long, day.

Tomorrow we pack up.


The Gift of Friendship

Friends.jpgPippy has driven down from Campbell River with her girlfriend, Sandy and her dog, Sam.  We decide to leave the men to bond while we women go out for lunch and some catch up time.

I take them to Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe, where Ric and I ate on our first day here.  It is busy and there is a bit of a wait, but we are in no hurry.  The weather forecast called for 100% chance of rain, but it has actually cleared up a bit and the window seat we finally procure is a perfect little nook for a visit.

Pippy is that perfect blend of pragmatic and eccentric, her presence both reassuring and fun.  I love what she brings to our relationship, and realize how deeply I have missed the repartee that comes only in the company of women.  Sandy, I discover in the moments I stop talking (which are embarrassingly few) has much in common with me, and it is only after they leave that I realize what I missed.

Tired after the outing, we all return and lay on the bed, sharing photos and more stories.  Sandy and Pippy paint together and have joined a singing group. The picture they portray of life on the island is so alluring, but I also realize how important relationships are to my well-being.  I need to get home to family and the friends I’ve left behind.  The years of isolation have taken their toll.

somaliwomenThey leave just before dinnertime, and exhausted from all that talking, I return to the quiet of my bed, glowing from the warmth of our time together.

Friends, I realize, each hold a key to our identity.  Pippy knows a particular side of me, and has always been encouraging and supportive.   Other friends  reflect different angles; all part of who I am, and all necessary for me to understand my wholeness.

It is easy to get stuck in isolation; to decide that solitude is a comfortable and suitable place, but it can also be stagnating.  Relationships provide the mirrors that we need to see ourselves, and if they are healthy, can be catalysts to real growth and change.

Thanks for holding the mirror up for me today, Pippy!  Hope I did the same for you.



Driving up Vancouver Island

One tooth is repaired, and the other, accompanied by another prescription for antibiotics, will have to be pulled when we get home.  At least I can eat on the one side.  The dentist thinks the muscle spasms I was having in my face caused me to clench and the pressure broke my teeth.  Anyway, TMI.

It is raining still, and early morning when we leave the dentist, so Ric suggests we drive along the scenic highway and tour a bit.   I have brought my camera along, hoping I’d have a chance to use it, so I am game.

We pass Parksville where Ric stayed when he came out by himself a year and a half ago.  He loved the island so much that every call and text home contained the same message:

We need to move to the island.

diningheronTaking advantage of pullouts along the route, we stop every so often so I can take some pictures.  Ric has left his camera at home, so I am shooting for the two of us, but I have no confidence that anything will turn out due to the weather.

At one stop, I am scanning the water with my zoom out when I spot something that looks like the top of a large sea mammal breaking the surface of the water.

“I saw something!” I exclaim.

I look again and I can see more than one body moving along the water.

“Could they be whales?”  I ask.

“More likely sea lions.”

They are gone and we move on.

sealionsBC.pngA little further up the water is teeming with bodies – these are sea lions.

“Maybe they were porpoises I saw before,” I say, still pondering the last sighting.  “Seemed much bigger though, and the behaviour wasn’t the same as others I’ve seen.”

The sea lions are noisy, and as I raise my camera, I realize there are floating docks covered with them.  Funny creatures.

We arrive in Qualicum Beach and decide to drive around the streets, looking at the houses for sale and dreaming.

“I really like this area.”

It is very attractive.

CoquillambeachWe follow signs to a waterside pub and stop for lunch.  To my surprise, they have gluten-free and vegan options.  Civilized.

After lunch, Ric continues to drive north.

“Just for a bit and then I’ll turn back,” he says.

I am ready for a nap, so put the seat back and turn on the seat heaters.

“Where are we?”  I wake up disoriented and groggy.  “Headed back?”

“Look at where the water is,” Ric says, indicating my window.  “We are not far from Campbell River.”

“Really?”  I have a friend in Campbell River that I haven’t seen for sometime, but I don’t have her number with me.

I check my phone and see she has tried to call.  I call her back.

oysterbay.png“What time are you off work?”

So we plan to meet for tea.  We pass other pullouts, but now I am just interested in getting to Campbell River.

And then we are waiting in the Stonehouse Tea House for Pippy to show up.  She arrives and I am overwhelmed with emotion.  So much time and life has passed since we last saw each other.  She looks great.  I am now a white-haired old woman.  Yet, no time has really passed.  The conversation is lively and passes easily, and then it is time to go.  She will come to us next.

Warmed by nostalgia and sentiment, we climb back in the truck for the long drive back to our camp.  I sleep again.

“Tomorrow we’ll just take it easy,” Ric suggests when we get home.

“Good idea,”  I say.  I’m ready for my bed.

It’s been a good day.

And then, just as I’m settling in, Ric calls from the front of the bus:

“There were three Orcas spotted in Qualicum Bay today.”