Thursday, January 05, 2017

Better to Have Loved and Lost...

Grieving the loss of someone you love is relatively new to me. Fortunately I have not lost a lot of loved ones. I was only 6 when my Grandma Mills passed away and the loss was much different as a child. My Grandad died when I was 18 but we didn't have a close emotional attachment so the grief was different, yet again.

Losing my Grammie in November was like nothing I've ever experienced. I am so fortunate to have had such a close and loving relationship with this special lady. Not only was she my Grammie, sharing stories of her youth and from the past, but she was also my friend. A confidant. Someone I could talk to. Someone I could LAUGH with. We laughed a lot. She was quite funny.

I feel that I have mourned in gradual stages. Several years ago, I started to see signs of her aging. It became more difficult for her to get around and our trips in the car were less frequent. As superficial as it sounds, she stopped dying her hair and started to look older. She moved from her home of 60+ years to an apartment, to a retirement home and then to a nursing home. Our phone conversations were not as long and our visits were shortened by required naps. All of these stages gave me time to process what was happening and what was inevitable. Although I could not imagine what it would feel like, it wasn't as overwhelmingly crushing as I thought it might be. I'm grateful for the gradual grieving.

However, you never know when an emotional moment will hit you. While putting up the Christmas tree this year, we carefully removed ornaments from the box and hung them on the tree. And then I opened a box that brought out the tears. It was an ornament I had given Grammie many years ago. Last year she returned it to me to hang on my own tree. As soon as I saw it I was overwhelmed with sadness and started to cry. Cody wanted to know what was wrong, so I explained to him that this ornament was very special. I had given it to Grammie and she had given it back to me last year - as if she knew that she wouldn't be with us this year. He rubbed my arm and said "I'm sorry you're sad Emmy."

Today would've been Grammie's 90th birthday. The last two days have been difficult. Yesterday a memory popped up on my Facebook feed. It was a video I had put together for Grammie's birthday 2 years ago. As I watched the photos fade across the scene, I started to cry - right there in my office. Fortunately, no one else had arrived yet so I was alone, but it was a full out "ugly cry" as Oprah would call it. I think I'm lucky to have loved so much to have lost so much.

I will always miss this special lady but am incredibly grateful for the memories I will always carry with me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Draws to a Close

Another year is behind us and a new one stretched out in front. For me, 2016 was an emotion filled year of changes. Change would definitely be one word that would sum up 2016!

Early in the year, Devin sold his house and we bought our new home. When I look back on all that we packed into a few short months, I'm not sure how we did it!  Searching for a house while planning a wedding and doing it from cities 2 hours apart! But we managed just fine and LOVE our new neighbourhood in Mount Elgin.

The first 5 months of the year were filled with wedding planning and preparations. It was great fun to see everything come together for our special day. But, more than anything we were ready to live together as a family.

May 22 was a perfect day. Everything just fell into place and created an ideal day for us to share with our family and friends. Honestly, I could not have asked for it to be any different.

And then reality happened. Ha ha ha. Consider all of this happening at the same time:
  • Closing the deal on my house & moving my stuff out
  • Moving into a new house - living in chaos as we figured out where everything should go
  • Changing my name
  • Changing my address
  • Becoming a wife
  • Becoming a mom
Wow! Talk about adjustments! But, with the support of my very patient husband, we made it through all of those transitions. We enjoyed some fun times this summer with family and friends and went on our first family vacation! In August we traveled to the Smoky Mountains with my parents and spent a week exploring. It was a great time for the three of us to spend undivided time together and an opportunity for Cody to bond with my parents.

As we moved into fall, we felt more settled as a family. We were finding our groove. I altered my hours at work so I could spend more time with Cody after school - which has been such a blessing to our family. Following with the "change" theme ...we bought a truck and sold my Beetle. Yes, the time had come for my little car to find a new owner. We needed something more practical for our family.

In November, I said good bye to my beloved Grammie. What a sad day, indeed, when I got word that she had passed away. I'm so very grateful for the many memories I shared with her and will carry with me forever. She was a very special lady to me and I'm so glad she was able to attend our wedding and share in my joy that day. I believe it has been a gradual mourning for me. Things have changed over the last few years. We took fewer trips out in the car, she moved from her house to an apartment and finally a nursing home. He mind was still sharp and witty but I know she was uncomfortable and did not enjoy her everyday life any longer. So, as sad as it leaves me, I'm relieved that she died peacefully and her suffering is over.

Just 10 days after my Grammie passed away, we lost Devin's Grandmaman. She lived a very full 98 years but will be missed by many.

We capped off the year by celebrating Christmas with our families a week early and headed to Banff for the holidays. Our delayed honeymoon was everything we thought it would be! We stayed at a beautiful lodge in the Rocky mountains, went on a sleigh ride on Christmas Eve and a full day of snowmobiling. The week was a perfect blend of relaxing and adventure!

So, as we close 2016 I'm thinking of all the possibilities ahead of us in 2017. I am so blessed to have the wonderful people in my life that I call family and friends.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Remembering Grammie

On Saturday, November 12 we lost my precious Grammie. If you know me, you know how incredibly special this woman was to me.

I was honoured to be asked to write the obituary and give the eulogy at the funeral. Until I can compose myself to share my personal reflections here, I wanted to share what I wrote earlier this week.

Good afternoon. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Janice, one of Olga’s granddaughters. I’m honoured to have been asked to share with you today – a glimpse of who my Grammie was and why she was loved by so many.

She was born in Manchester England in 1927 and grew up during the war. During those uncertain days, the children were shipped out to the countryside to keep them safe. Grammie and her sister Vera stayed together but were separated from the rest of the family for 11 months.

She returned to Manchester and became a young milk maid. It was at the end of her run one day that she happened to meet a dashing Canadian soldier at a bus stop. She happened to mention where she worked and was surprised to find him waiting for her the next day. The rest, as they say, is history. My history. Our history.

Grandad and Grammie were married in 1946 and soon came to Canada to start their new life. After living a brief time in Moncton with the Murrays, they headed west to Ontario and eventually settled in Corunna. I know we’ve all heard the stories many times – they lived in a four room garage while Grandad built their house. Times were tough – he even re-used nails having to straighten them first. They had to use an outside toilet and pumped water from a well. Quite an adjustment for this young wife and mom.

I often have thought about how it would feel to be 19 and leave everything you knew behind you and set sail for a brand new life. Of course, this was before the days of email and skype to make communication easy. Information was shared by sitting down to write a letter – only to have the contents read many days later! Imagine! I know being a new wife and mom, I have lots of questions for and advice to ask my mom and call her daily! For Grammie, a trans-continental phone call was reserved for only the rarest occasions.

She certainly had determination. She raised a brood of five boys and a girl, went on to have 19 grandchildren and 31 great grandchildren. Her family was her pride and joy. Any chance she got, she would tell you about the exponential growth of the Murray family and would often follow that up with “and there ain’t an ugly one in the bunch”. She was so incredibly proud of each and every one of us – in our own way.

When chatting with some of my cousins this weekend, this was certainly a theme that came up. We each felt encouraged and loved by the way that she loved us individually. She kept tabs on what you were up to and would be sure to ask about it. Whether it was about your soccer team, your job, your kids or your car! She would pick up on what you were good at and compliment you with a “you’re so clever”.

Sometimes people don’t seize the opportunity to tell loved ones just what they mean to them. And perhaps that is the case. But I can assure you that through our many visits – in person or on the phone, I heard about each of you – how much she loved you and how proud she was of you.

As her only daughter, Grammie shared a special relationship with my mom. On many occasions, she would look at me and ask “What would I do without Ellen?” Indeed! I can’t imagine growing up in that Murray house full of boys! They shared a lot of tender moments as well as laughs over the years. Grammie recognized my mom’s big heart and her need to help others and always commented that she deserved to have a break. She was so grateful for the countless ways you helped her in the later years Mom.

Grammie thought a lot of Uncle Cliff. She was proud of his accomplishments when he moved to Toronto and started his life there. She was so grateful for the way Cliff and Penny have cared for Melvin and would often comment how loving and giving you are.

Uncle Doug was pretty special in Grammie’s eyes. I think she loved that he had inherited Grandad’s knack for “MacGyvering” anything. She enjoyed many lovely meals with you and Carmelle, tucked in by the woodstove. I know she missed you so much when you moved to Nova Scotia but was so happy that you were fulfilling your dream.

I remember hearing a number of times how Uncle Russ was such a beautiful baby. He had such lovely curls. And, you still have those lovely curls! I know she would enjoy your trips to Tim Horton’s when you would ride your bike down from Sarnia. Grammie kept me updated on all of your latest adventures and was so pleased with your growing family and the many musical talents of your kids and grandkids.

Having Uncle Dave close by in Corunna for so many years was a blessing to Grammie. She always enjoyed your visits and could count on you to take care of her tech support – hooking up the TV, figuring out the remote, etc. Grammie enjoyed the many family events that she was included in over the years and cherished your quiet and faithful support.

And Uncle Mel. I know there is a special place for the baby of the family and you had that place of honour in this family. Grammie always shared with me about what you were up to and enjoyed your regular phone calls. She was so pleased to see you cutting lawns, clearing snow and going on trips!

She cherished each of us and never missed sending a card on our birthdays. And that’s a heck of a lot of birthdays to keep track of!

We all remember the Merry Murray Christmas. Grammie loved getting everyone together once a year to celebrate Christmas. Uncle Dave recalls going to Kreskie’s with Grammie to do the Christmas shopping and stopping for lunch at the snack counter. He had the inside track of what the older kids were getting for Christmas, but somehow Grammie always managed to have a surprise under the tree for him on Christmas morning.

Uncle Cliff remembers the Christmas chaos that happened each year – after the Christmas Eve service. Grandad would wait to get a deal on the tree and they’d put it up on the 24th. Grammie would be madly wrapping gifts for all the kids and putting the turkey in the oven to cook over night.

When reminiscing about Grammie, there were a number of things that came up that took you back to childhood years. Some of our favourites included:

•    The smell of the woodstove
•    The sound of the clock above the sideboard
•    Putting pennies on the railway track
•    Grandad’s rocking chair
•    Sleepovers with cookies & milk
•    Vacation Bible school
•    The crayon drawer
•    Her spoon collection
•    The plates hung on the wall
•    Getting Avon samples
•    Her hand-knitted mitts, sweaters, ….even Barbie doll clothes!

Another thing we all seem to remember is her pie. She was famous for her pies and Grandad was famous for volunteering her to make them for events at the Moore Museum! It was always a treat when you walked in the door and the smell of fresh pie greeted you. She has passed this skill on to many of her children and grandchildren!

Speaking of the Moore Museum, who remembers the countless events we all attended there? I know it was near and dear to Grandad’s heart, but Grammie continued the tradition. I loved attending the Victorian Tea with her on the May long weekend.

I am so blessed to have many years of treasured memories with my Grammie. I know that my life’s circumstances allowed me this opportunity. For many years we would talk about how I was still single and how she just couldn’t understand why I hadn’t met a “nice young man”. She even joked that there needed to be a war so myself and a couple of other single cousins could find a husband. And as much as I wanted the next chapter of my life to begin, I look back and see what a blessing it was. I was able to invest in my relationship with Grammie in a way that I could not now that I have a husband and family.

One such opportunity was in 2006. It was declared the “year of the war bride” and a big reunion was happening at Pier 21 in Halifax. I had the privilege of attending with Grammie & Mom. What an amazing experience to see hundreds of ladies transported back in time as they reminisced with each other and danced to the songs of the era. I know that Grammie was so pleased to have done that trip and talked about it many times over the past 10 years. I know I will hold onto that memory dearly.

While chatting with my cousins this weekend, another theme that seemed to emerge was Grammie’s tea. Of course, being British, she loved a good cup of tea. But heaven help you if you made it the wrong way! I recall getting a scolding when Josh & I were visiting and I made some tea. I was never a big tea drinker, but when Grammie made it, it just seemed to taste better. And she always had cookies to go with it. Usually Peak Freens. We all loved Grammie’s tea and have a variety of memories of her favourite go-to meal when she had us over. From a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, cold cuts or spaghetti. Food has a way of uniting people.

Grammie had a wonderful sense of humour and we laughed a lot. One of my favourite stories involves this little card here. She has told this story countless times over the years and it only seems appropriate to share it here today.

We were at my sister Connie’s birthday party at a place called “My Mother’s House”. It was an old victorian home that had been converted into a restaurant. We both needed to use the washroom and realized the lock was broken. She agreed to “stand on guard for me” as I put it and I would return the favour. So, she dutifully stood by the door while I used the facilities and then it was her turn. Unfortunately, I got distracted talking to someone and forgot to watch the door. Wouldn’t you know it, someone walked in on Grammie. I was horrified! So upset, in fact, I made this little card to apologize. It’s in the shape of a toilet and says “Sorry”. Grammie was tickled pink with this card and it had a place of honour in her china cabinet for many years. She would often remind me that each time she heard “O Canada” and they came to the line about standing on guard, she thought of me. In fact, when we attended The Nutcracker – they played O Canada before the performance. Grammie and I both had a chuckle as we looked at each other during that point in the song.

I was so pleased to share with her when I met Devin. She was one of the first people to know about him and was excited to meet Devin. She wanted to ensure she had proper notice of when we would visit, so she could put some make up on! Grammie was so accepting of both Devin and his son Cody – welcoming them into the fold.
She made it a goal to attend our wedding, and there were a few times when I wondered if that would be a reality but I am so grateful that she could be there to share in our special day.

These are some of my stories of Grammie, but I know we each have our own memories that we will tuck away in a safe place and savour them for years to come.

As we say good bye to Grammie, we know she is in a better place and reunited with Grandad once again. We are left with an abundance of memories to carry with us and are grateful to have had this wonderful lady as the matriarch of our family.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you today.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Driver Wanted. Driver Found.

If you know me, you know my love of VW's Beetle. I have all kinds of "bug" paraphernalia that has been gifted to me over the years - from Christmas tree ornaments to a cookie cutter.

I bought my first Beetle in 2002. It was yellow and it was my dream car. I had wanted a yellow Beetle since I was a little girl. Finally, it was mine. I loved that car. It really became a part of me - I became synonymous with yellow Beetles, and Beetles in general.

I was heartbroken in 2009 when I was rear ended. I quickly transitioned into my silver Beetle, although it was never quite the same. I had become accustomed to the control panel, heated seats and flower vase. And the silver car had a sunroof!

As we know, everything has a season. And the season of my love bug has now ended. It had a good run - 14 years! We knew that after we were married and settled in, we'd look at getting a more family-friendly vehicle. Two doors and zero trunk space was wearing on me and I was ready for a change.

After being listed just two weeks, I found a buyer. It was comforting to me that my little bug was going to a girl that reminded me of me. I wanted the new driver to enjoy it as much as I had! Devin later commented that when she arrived, she looked like a young Janice. Indeed...we were wearing the same shoes. LOL.

And just like that, it's gone. One last drive into Ingersoll to get the paperwork and I've closed that chapter. OK, there were a few tears, I'll admit. But, the new chapter is just beginning and I can't wait to see what's in store.

I thought I'd include my Kijiji ad here :)

Driver Wanted.

Punchbuggy! Love Bug. Beetle. It has many names and is loved around the world. Picture yourself cruising your neighbourhood while your neighbours stop and slug each other! 

VW’s Beetle has been my daily driver since 2002 and has not disappointed me. German engineering coupled with the awesome service at Autobahn Motors has kept me safe on the road. Rest assured, I lovingly took care of her by having regular service from Chris and his team.

This Beetle came into my life when her older sister met an untimely demise in 2009. She has been a great companion on many road trips! But, don’t fret. VW has a reputation for going the distance.
VW’s Beetle has been my “dream car” for as long as I can remember. It’s now time for my dream to become your reality. My days of being single and footloose and fancy free have matured into family life and a 2 door car is impractical for us. I’m returning to my roots and have shifted into a pick up truck.

Check out her awesome features:

  • Heated seats – quickly became my favourite feature, especially in the winter
  • Sunroof – for those awesome sunny days
  • Impeccably clean interior – very few back seat passengers for the duration
  • Flower vase – throwback to the 60s!
  • Membership into the VW family

Friday, October 14, 2016

Finding Our Groove

As we approach five months as a family, we are finally starting to find our groove. It was been a lot of transition for each of us - moving to a new house/neighbourhood/school, new schedules, new routines, new personalities to accommodate. And, of course, this is all happening while we deal with mountains of paperwork. Paperwork to change my name, change our address, merge our banking, etc. And don't forget the boxes to unpack! We merged two houses into one and the boxes seem to be endless. Although, it finally feels like we are making progress. Yay.

The first while was pretty challenging. As anyone that has moved will know - it's tough to live in a house when nothing is organized or settled. It took time to wade through things and get the kitchen functional and clear enough boxes that we could walk through the living room without it feeling like a maze. And it was tough to get ahead of things when each night we would arrive home at 5:30pm, make dinner, eat and clean up, complete the daily Kumon assignment (more on that later). After getting Cody to bed, we would make lunches and get something prepped for dinner the next day and it would be after 10pm. Neither of us could keep up with that!

Our first step was to get a dishwasher as I previously posted. That has been a life saver. It definitely helps with the time spent in the kitchen. But, we were still finding it difficult to get everything done that needed to be done and be left with no down time for our family. Devin & I discussed the idea of me working less hours to allow some "breathing room". We liked the idea and when I proposed it to my boss, he liked it too.

I'm so blessed to work for such a wonderful husband/wife team. They treat me like family and have been very supportive and accommodating as life's circumstances come up. Marc agreed that I can start a half hour earlier and leave 90 minutes earlier - meaning I'm working one hour less per day. However, this means I can pick Cody up from school (no aftercare) and have time to get dinner ready and have Kumon done when Daddy comes home. It's only week 2 but we are noticing such a difference! We don't feel rushed all the time. Cody has time to be a kid - riding his bike or doing a craft after school. We eat dinner at a decent time and I'm not in the kitchen at 11pm!!

The real blessing in this new schedule is the one-on-one time it affords me with Cody. We are settling in to our new roles and really having fun together. There's the tough stuff - like reminding him to make his bed, flush the toilet and use soap when washing his hands. But then there's the fun stuff like singing songs in the car, making crafts and cooking together. There are many tender moments from this little red head and last night he looked at me and said "Am I making your heart explode?" Ha ha ha. Indeed, Cody. Indeed.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Wedding Video

When planning our wedding, there were so many decisions to make. The options are endless but everything comes with a price tag. Initially we were not going to do a video. It seemed like an "extra" that we didn't really need. However, Jo-Anne convinced me that I would regret not having one...especially with my television background.

After plans were underway, we decided to go for it. What's a few more dollars now when you're already spending so much!?! We are so glad that we did. The day was gone in the blink of an eye and we know there are tons of moments that we missed.

Thank you to Marty Lewis for capturing our day and producing this highlight video. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Duaner

I thought I'd take a moment today to wish my friend Duane a happy birthday. You know how there are some people that come into your life and you instantly feel like you've known them forever? Duane is one of those people.

We met when I started working at the TV station many years ago. We worked some shifts together but where we really connected was when we were on the same team for a company-wide scavenger hunt. Duane (and his then-fiance Debby) drove us around in their minivan - frantically solving puzzles, taking photos and racing around London.

After that, we started to chat more during our shifts and over time Duane became like a brother to me. He has always been great to listen to my issue-de-jour and provide his insight and opinion. Insights and opinions that I value and trust. He was one of the first people I talked to when 9-11 happened, coached me through many relationship twists and turns, listened to family drama, and has made me laugh. A deep belly laugh. He also shared in my excitement - whether counting down to a trip, purchasing my first home or accepting my new position and leaving TV behind me.

He has removed a dead mouse from my kitchen drawer, helped me move and inspired & encouraged me when I went back to school. He loves my hyper-expressive face and pushing my buttons.

Perhaps most importantly, he put my nightmare to bed when he agreed to run the sound at our wedding. I had multiple dreams that I got to the end of the aisle there would not be any music. Or worse, I had to run over and push play myself! Well, Duane (with assistance from his lovely wife Debby) took care of the audio/visual stuff at our wedding and kept things running smoothly.

Imagine my horror when I discovered the slideshow Devin & I had spent hours to put together would not work on the system the Elm Hurst provided. This was despite checking about that very thing the week before. I was so upset to think we couldn't share this with our guests. At the height of my emotion, Duane calmly asked for a key to my house and the password for my computer so that he could go and get the original file and sort out the details. I was overwhelmed. Talk about friendship!

Happy birthday Duane. Hope it's a great one.