Category Archives: friends

Goodbye, Europe!

Dear, Zsofi in Hungary. You live 4,446 miles from me. Please move closer.

I miss you already.

As you’re reading this, I’m in the process of flying home from what I suspect (this was written in advance) was a fabulous time in Eastern Europe.

Prague. Vienna. Budapest.

Oh, the travels! The sights! The people! The fun!

I can hardly wait to tell you all about it. But first, I have about a gazillion miles and hours of flights to get through.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, think of ways for me to help convince my Hungarian pal Zsofi to move closer to me.

Canada is nice, don’tchya know? And, I’ve heard OK things about the United States…

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Hello, beach!

Poor attitude, Dude. Poor attitude.

I heart the beach. Really.

Beach vacations are the best sort of vacations ever. You get to spend your days in a swimsuit, slathered in sunscreen, lounging in a chair, laying on a beach blanket, sipping rum and Coke water, snacking on M&Ms and chips fruit, feeling the hot ocean breeze, frolicking in icy waters and praying you won’t need a coating of aloe vera before bed.

Unless you have small children. 

Small children change things up just a wee bit. Parents still get to experience spending their days in a swimsuit, slathered in sunscreen, sipping rum and Coke water, snacking on M&Ms and chips fruit and feeling the hot ocean breeze. But, they spend far fewer hours lounging in a chair, laying on a beach blanket and frolicking in icy waters.

Because small children do not particularly enjoy lounging in a chair, laying on a beach blanket and frolicking in icy waters. Shocking, I know.

But, no worries. This beach vacation is going swimmingly well. And, it started with a bang, because, 5 a.m. is kinda like BANG! Our wakeup call was followed by a 12-hour SUV ride with two adults, one 14 month old, a Pack N Play, two strollers, snacks, one suitcase, an Aerobed, snacks, two dufflebags, two canvas totes, a diaper bag, snacks, a Garmin, two AAA Trip Tiks and a JUMBO “here’s a pile of things to do in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia” travel book. Quite frankly, we looked like we were leaving and never ever ever ever returning. Ever. Suffice it to say, Erin and I do not travel light.

Twelve hours later, we were still going strong. And, not just us, but the 14 month old. I will bet you $1.73 that if, after pulling into our final destination, we had stopped a random mother on the street and asked her to guess how long the small child had been harnessed into his seat, she would have guessed “5 minutes?” because that’s how refreshed he seemed. For seven hours, he chattered and chittered and sang to himself. For three hours, he slept. And, for two hours, he ate. That boy sure can enjoy a meal.

No crying. No screaming. No GET ME OUT OF THIS SEAT, MOM!

It was awesome! I’m not even joking. Best long trip experience ever! We decided in Hour 10 that even if said child screamed for the last two hours of the trip, this trip would still be the best ride we ever took to the beach.

Thank you, Austin!

So, vacation highlights beyond the ride down?

  • Weather? Perfect.
  • Company? Excellent.
  • Children? Wonderful.
  • Tan? Coming in nicely.
  • Hair? Haven’t done it since Saturday.

Vacation low points?

  • I cannot remember to use my camera.
  • I wake up at 6 a.m. daily.
  • I cannot stay awake past 10 p.m.

Which will make for an excellent trip to the Norfolk airport tonight to pick up Adult #9. Someone should probably go turn on the coffee pot soon.

Oh, I love the beach!

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Where is July going?

July started off with a bang! But, doesn't it always?

It’s July 7, and I haven’t posted one thing this entire month. Yet. Maybe because this month took off with a bang. BANG! BANG! BANG! And, I haven’t had time to catch my breath yet. Or, maybe, I’ve simply had nothing to post about.

I’m going with the former.

First, there was the G20 Summit in Toronto and all the excitement it brought to the city. And, the riveting, edge-of-my-sofa-seat, moment-by-moment coverage by CBC News and 680 News. “The protesters are getting closer to the buildings. The protesters are now on the sidewalks next to the buildings. The protesters look to be reaching for something in their pockets. Possibly something to throw at the buildings? Something to hurl at the windows, to break them? Something to show their displeasure with the police and security guards and G20 leaders? Oh, those are cameras.”

Sure, the summit took place at the very end of June, but its coverage by the news networks continues. As does coverage of the filing of lawsuits by protestors. “Were the police in the wrong? Was too much force used against protestors? Were protestors rights’ violated? Did the police act unlawfully against those who were burning cars, breaking into businesses and causing massive destruction?” And, of course, the unending attempts to answer the most popular question: “On what, exactly, did the city spend the summit’s $1 billion price tag?”
 
It’s a real conundrum.

Then, we had friends over for dinner. Very fun. Then, there was the giant bake-off leading up to Canada Day and prep work for the barbecue that we had with other friends and their children. The weather was perfect; the company was lovely; the leftovers were plentiful.

Really, stop by, and I’ll share some with you. Buckeye candies, anyone? How about a hotdog bun?

Then, there was the first anniversary of our wedding on July 4. “What?” you ask. “Didn’t you have a wedding anniversary back in April?” Oh, yes, we did. But, July 4 is the day we publically celebrated our marriage and put on a fantastic show wedding. Really. It was fantastic. And, July 4 is the day we’ve chosen to actually commemorate our anniversary, because, let’s face it; having multiple anniversaries is just plain confusing. And, July 4 is pretty hard to forget. July 4 = fireworks and marriage = fireworks, right? Can’t forget that.

We celebrated our anniversary a day early by taking a trip to Stratford, Ontario, which hosts the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Each year, 10 or so theatrical productions (some Shakespeare-related, some not) are performed throughout the months of summer and early fall. If you ever get the chance to visit, do it! Stratford is such a beautiful town with plenty to see and do. Cute shops. Cute cafés. A cute river to walk along. Cute, cute, cute.

We took in a performance of The Tempest, starring the one-and-only-very-awesome Christopher Plummer. He was fantastic, as was the rest of the cast. But, Christopher Plummer. Come on! You can’t not go see Christopher Plummer in whatever he’s performing in, and the part of Prospero was tailor-made for him.

I feel like singing “The Hills are Alive” just thinking about him.

Following the performance, we had dinner at Langdon Hall, where we were married. Also, a wonderful place with wonderful grounds, a wonderful ambiance and wonderful food.

There was a lot of wonderfulness going on that day.

On our actual anniversary day, we did yard work. It was warm. It was humid. It was holy hotness with a side of sweltering. But, it was fun.

Then, the heat wave stuck around. And, the Queen of England came to town. And, Toronto had a power outage. Not the best showing for the Queen’s appearance, but she seemed to have a good time. Even if she did re-wear a gown to dinner one evening. Thankfully, I had CBC News to keep me up-to-the-second-updated with all the goings-on. “We have no power in our newsroom. You can see that we do not have power because lights are out in the studio. We are on back-up generator power. Let’s go to John in the street who will tell us what it’s like where he is. John, are you there? Are you without power? Tell us what you’re seeing. Are you seeing pedestrians throw themselves into the street to help direct traffic? Tell us what that’s like.”

Thank you, CBC News!

Then, we got a new web cam. And, on an unrelated note, Natalie came to town, and we went to dinner in Toronto. Hi, Natalie! Thanks for meeting me for dinner and introducing me to some of your co-workers! And, for reminding me of why I miss having a job.

And, now, almost a week of July is gone. And, it’s still holy hotness with a side of sweltering. But, I truly love summer, and the heat is just part of the fun.

I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. Even if you are sweating.

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What to say when friends lose loved ones

I hope Jesus is up for sharing a banana split.

When you’re young, your parents and your friends’ parents seem immortal. This is because they are your parents, and they give you piggy back rides and make you egg sandwiches and pack tasty juice boxes in your lunches and buy cool toys for your birthdays and chauffeur you to practices and never run out of band-aids for your skinned kneecaps. Surely, they will live forever.

When you’re a teenager, those same individuals seem a little less immortal because you’re quick to zero in on their shortcomings (because you don’t have any) and lack of knowledge (because you know it all), because you’re a teenager, and you know everything and you’re always right. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your friends’ parents though, because your friends’ parents are cool and hip and do everything right.

When you reach your 20s and begin doing “parent-like things,” such as getting married, raising families, working 40-plus hours/week and taking on home ownership/mortgages, etc., all those individuals begin to look much less immortal, because, well, they are not immortal. Raising you was really, really hard work. Also, you realize now that your friends gave their parents a few grey hairs, too.

Inevitably, our formerly envisioned immortals lose their youthfulness, and their spryness begins to fade. They ever so slowly transition into that word previously reserved only for grandparents, great-grandparents and next-door neighbours: elderly. An adjective no youngster, teenager or adult ever really imagines their parents to be.

It’s a heartbreaking thing, this thing we call life. Because we all know that life and being elderly only lasts so long.

I have been fortunate to experience only a few family members’ deaths and those who passed on lived long, long lives. Their leaving us was not entirely unexpected. What has been unexpected is the number of friends around me who have lost and are losing loved ones well before their time. Well before entering the elderly stage even.

“What’s the right time?” you ask. I surely don’t know. When is anyone’s right time? Death never comes at a good time, even if you’re prepared for it. If it did, it certainly wouldn’t be called death. It would be called “going for ice cream.” Because, you always look forward to ice cream.

And, when you try and think about all the things you can say to comfort someone who has lost a parent, words fall short. Very short. Because you can’t fully understand unless you’ve lost someone. And, even if you have lost someone, everyone responds differently to loss.

Which can leave you at a loss for words beyond “I’m sorry” and “He was a wonderful person.” Perhaps, though, those are the words needed most. And, just knowing that someone is thinking about you and your family and caring for you and praying for you. And, most importantly, remembering your loved one.

So, tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with the Buck family, following the loss of their father, David. He truly was a great man and a wonderful person.

I hope he’s having some ice cream.

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Closing a fat-daddy chapter

Many gold stars to you, Liz, for finishing your thesis!

I mentioned back in November that several of my graduate school pals were on a race to the finish line, as they work to complete their master’s degree requirements before the Summer 2010 deadline.

Today, my friend Liz will cross that finish line, as she defends her 150-page thesis in a few hours, thus ending her long, long, long journey toward earning a Master of Science in Journalism at Ohio University.

Congratulations, Liz!

And, kudos to those who will also be finishing their theses and professional projects and defending in the coming days and weeks. And, really, to all of us who made it through the coursework all those years ago.

We all get gold stars in my book.

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Say “cheese”!

I do a horrible job of taking photos. That doesn’t mean I take horrible photos. It means I do a bad job of actually using my camera. To take photos.

I’ve never really thought much of this before. Growing up, I never had photos of me with friends and family plastered on my bedroom walls. In high school, when I had to complete a scrapbooking assignment for a Grade 12 English class, I pillaged my mother’s photo albums. Don’t believe me? Ask to see her albums. It’s like she never had a daughter. At least, not a daughter between the ages of 0 and 17.

In college, I noticed my roommates coating their walls with tons of photos of them with their family and friends. I began to think that I, too, should have something by which to remember my family and friends, so I purchased a camera. And, it wasn’t just any camera; it was a special camera that required special film that produced special panoramic images.

What? My family is long. I thought it a wise choice.

And, there certainly was a lot of specialness produced. Costly specialness, too, as I had to pay to print all those special panoramas. I’m pretty certain that was during my sophomore year of college because I seem to only have photos from that year. The only reason I have any photos of me playing volleyball in college is because my mom was sweet enough to document my entire senior year on film, presenting me with an end-of-the-season scrapbook. Thanks, Mom! My other photos came thanks to Erin’s love of buying double prints. Thanks, Erin!

When I went away to graduate school, I went without a camera (the panoramic coolness had died). And that was OK because I really didn’t make a lot of memories that I cared to remember.

Sometime after I started my first professional job, I decided that I really did need to be a camera owner, again. So I purchased a Canon SureShot. Stepping into the digital world was wonderful, and I could take as many (and delete as many) pictures as I wanted. I printed a few here and a few there. It was nice.

But having a camera didn’t do much to entice me into using the camera. I’d take a few of my family and a few of my friends and that was about it. And then I met my husband, and I began to wonder if I should be taking more photos. You know, for that moment down the road, when, perhaps, small children enter the picture and want to see photos of us pre-small children.

So, I started taking photos. Or, I should say, started trying to take photos. But, Husband wasn’t (and still isn’t) all about having his photo taken. He tends to be a willing subject, but requests to see all taken photos and then deletes all images he didn’t like.

Which means our two-plus years together can be pieced together with 9 photos. OK, that’s an exaggeration, Mom. It’s more like 19.

Thank goodness we hired someone to take some engagement and wedding photos, or we’d be coming up very short. Whew!

I’ve already warned Mom that if a small child is in need of photos of his/her parents, I’m sending the wee one to her. Or to their Nana.

Which could be why I’ve seen my mother-in-law’s camera out as often as I have these past few days.

“Cheese” already!

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A woman named Lara

I know a woman named Lara. Pronounced LAR-a. NOT LOR-a. (Don’t ever forget that.) She is feisty; she is sweet. She is boisterous; she is no-nonsense. She’s a pistol that Lara. And I love her to pieces.

I first met Lara in college in a media ethics class with Professor Rich Smith. Lara had the curliest brown hair I’d ever seen, and she knew all the answers to all of Professor Smith’s questions. Or, at least she was the only one who ever had her hand up. Well, she and my roommate Andrea who to this day is VERY angry with Professor Smith for docking her participation points when it was very clear that Professor Smith simply loved Lara more.

I digress.

Lara is a no-nonsense kind of woman. You want to make something of yourself in life? You have to be the one to do something. Don’t like how the world is treating you? Change the way you’re treating the world. She speaks her mind, whether you want to hear her or not, and she never backs down. That’s Lara.

A very happy couple

A very happy couple

Lara has been through her share of ups and downs. And, 10 days ago, she had the “up” of a lifetime as she married her love, Brian, in a poignant (and euphoric) civil ceremony that they shared with their families (and me). She was beautiful; he was handsome. All were ecstatic.

I can’t verbally express how much joy these two bring to each other. And, I wish them all the happiness in the world, knowing that any ups and downs they encounter, they will face together—hand in hand.

Congratulations, you two!

Happy anniversary to Erin and Ryan!

Holy-moly cuteness!

Holy-moly cuteness!

Five years ago today, I participated in the absolutely most-freezing-cold wedding ever. My best friend Erin had always wanted an autumn wedding, and her October 16 date seemed like a solid choice. The leaves would be gorgeous. The air would be slightly crisp. No one would sweat.

Little did we know that Cleveland would have its coldest October 16 weekend to date, complete with freezing rain and all around nasty weather.

Hooray for tea-length, strapless dresses and open-toed sandals! Where’s a charming groomsman who will give up his coat when you need one? How about his pants, too? Oh wait, they all had wives to keep warm.

Erin called me a few hours ago to let me know that the current weather is 10 degrees colder and drearier than it was that day.

Thanks, Erin. I feel better.

Despite the cold temperatures all those years ago, the day was wonderful, and I got to be a part of a new beginning in my college roommate’s life. I can’t believe that it’s already been five years! Five years, one house, two vehicles, two dogs, one marathon and one gorgeous baby boy later.

And that’s just her life!

Congratulations on your first five years, Erin and Ryan! I wish you many, many more. Very happy ones, of course.

Mister Lee’s Chinese, please

I see Mister Lee's in my future.

I see Mister Lee's in my future.

I like Chinese food. Specifically, I like the Chinese food at Mister Lee’s Express. Sure, it’s not authentic Chinese food and, yes, maybe it’s more fast-food Chinese food than Chinese-Chinese food, but I still like it.

Mister Lee’s. Mmmmmmm.

Last evening, my friends Anna and Ryan and their son Heath and my brother Justin and sister-in-law Erica gathered there for dinner.

We’ve been going to Mister Lee’s for a long, long time now. Anna introduced me to the restaurant—and Mr. Lee and his family—when I was a senior in college, sometime during the fall of 2002. Anna herself had been a regular for years prior. Like since her sophomore year of high school. It was THAT GOOD, she told me then.

And, good it was. In college, we’d go maybe once or twice or—OK, yes, I admit—three times a week. Hey, we were somewhat athletic; we thought we’d be OK devouring that many calories. Anna would always, always, always order No. 6. Chicken fried rice. Erin and I would order No. 5. General Tso’s chicken. Somewhere between years three and four, I switched from General Tso’s to chicken fried rice. And, while I played around with No. 11 spicy chicken from time to time, I always returned to chicken fried rice.

Every so often, the Lees would go on vacation, closing the shop for weeks on end, and We The Faithful would drown our sorrows in soup at Panera Bread hoping the family would soon return. We dare not be seen at another Chinese food-serving establishment in town, less we be deemed traitors.

More often than not, boyfriends and friends would join us. And family members. Hence Justin’s introduction. And Erica’s, too. The Lees knew us by name. And, they always knew our orders. They knew about our schooling and trips and sports. They came to know our boyfriends and, after college, our fiancés and husbands. And now our kids. They love the kids. How can anyone not love the kids? They’re adorable!

Last night, Anna, Ryan, Heath and I strolled in, and Mrs. Lee waved at Heath, trying very hard to resist running up and grabbing him out of Anna’s arms. Her daughter walked up to the cash register and said, “No. 5, No. 6 and No. 6?” Absolutely, sister! She then asked if Heath was walking yet (Oh, yes! Running actually), how life in Canada is (Fantastic, thank you!),  and if my brother and sister-in-law were going to join us (Oh, they just pulled into the parking lot).

If one person wants Chinese, you can bet we’ll attempt to gather as many of us Mister Lee lovers as possible. We’re always more than ready for some fast, hot Chinese. Well, after 11 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays that is.

Mister Lee’s. Mmmmmmm.

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The thing about running

bigstockphoto_Running_Woman_web

Here’s the thing about running: I hate it. Hate. It. Which is a shame because it’s such a great workout. And because I’m receiving more and more invites from friends and relatives to run in 5Ks and half marathons, etc.

Sorry, folks. I don’t run. Unless I’m being chased.

I used to run. In high school, we would run for 10 minutes before the start of every volleyball practice. Some days we would run to one of the athlete’s homes, sit for 8 minutes and then run back to the gym.* During basketball season, I spent many a practice running line sprints. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I joined the track team.

It turns out I could run really fast for really short periods of time. Really, really short periods of time. Hence my former OK-ness with running line sprints. However, anything beyond 400 meters was problematic. Long-distance running was pure agony. Not because it hurt to run, but because it was so boring.

In college, I roomed with cross country and track athletes. I’d go play volleyball. They’d go for a run. And they would run and run and run and run. Every once in a while, they would ask me to join them for a jog, and I’d usually decline. The only time I ever ran is if our volleyball team was being punished for unsavory behavior like losing. We rarely ran.

On the odd occasion when I did consider going for a run, I’d make it about three minutes before I was certain I was dying and certain there were a million other things I could be doing. Apparently, peak volleyball-playing shape and peak running shape are two different shapes. Give me a bike, inline skates, an elliptical machine, anything, and I’m good to go. Just don’t make me run!

Of course, it never helped that the more volleyball I played, the more my knees (and other body parts) would scream NO WAY, JOSE, WE’RE NOT RUNNING whenever I thought about actually running.

These days when I’m at the gym, I wistfully watch individuals effortlessly** log mile after mile on treadmills. Leaving the gym, I watch others running down the sidewalks. Again, I’m wistful. Not wistful like “Gosh, I wish I could run like that” but wistful like “Gosh, I wish I liked to run.”

I think about my college roommates who have continued to run and run and run. Erin completed a marathon before giving birth to her son. She’s now training for a half marathon. Anna completed a half triathlon and ran right up until a few days before the birth of her son. Sixteen days post-delivery, she was out pounding the pavement again.

In fact, this coming weekend, Anna and her husband are competing in the Ford Ironman Louisville. 2.4 miles of swimming. 112 miles of biking. 26.2 miles of running. That’s a lot of miles of everything. I admire their courage, stamina and fortitude. And their insanity, because let’s face it, you have to be just a little bit insane to want to participate in an event like that. I wish them all the best and then some.

In October, I have family members participating in the Niagara Falls International Marathon, and I received an invite. Some of them are running. Some are walking. I applaud them for wanting to be active and for wanting to compete.

And, likely, I’ll be there in-person. To applaud them from the sidelines.

*Sorry, Coach Ellerbrock.
**As effortlessly as one can look running 6-minute miles.

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