Monday, 29 July 2013

Life's Highs and Lows

The last few weeks, I've been looking back over my life and remembering memories from my childhood as well as some of the major events that have shaped my outlook on life.

I'm part of Facebook and I recently joined a group of people that reminisce about growing up in my hometown.  It's been interesting reading and it has jogged some memories from my childhood and teenage years.  Recently there was a post about a local street that was not a throughway when I was about 10 or so.  I do remember when the city decided to make it a through street and they started construction.  What used to be a field with long grass became a dirt area with big hills of dirt as they started making the road.  The children in the area used to ride their bikes up over these hills in an effort to become airborne.  This was before there were bicycle helmets.  This was when children spent all day in the summer outdoors and creating their own fun.  I remember trying to ride my bike up over these hills.  I was in shorts and a t-shirt and about 10 years old.  I remember pedalling hard as my legs pumped in order to gain speed up the hill and then try to fly over the top of the hill.  This was with a standard bike in those days without any special gears.  There was only one speed and that was what you could attain with your own energy.  I remember that as I got to the top of the one hill I was attempting, the soft ground gave way and I went tumbling down with my bike.  I didn't get any airlift.  My bike and I didn't become one and a poetry in motion.  Nope.  I was definitely not poetry in motion.  I was in motion but I was going over the top of the handle bars and the bike was coming down on top of me.  By the time I got to the bottom of the pile of dirt, stones and rocks, my elbow was deeply scraped and bloody along with my bloody knees.  I managed not to have a head injury.  I had no broken bones.  So I painfully got up, picked my bike up and started the walk home.  I couldn't ride my bike home because it was bent.  What was a short bike ride from my house and should have been a short walk home, is in my memory a very long and painful walk as I limped trying to force my bike along.  It didn't want to roll very well because it was bent.  I also knew I was going to be in big "doo doo".  I had been forbidden from riding my bike in the construction area even though all the other kids did.  What seemed like such a great idea for an afternoon of fun, was becoming a really bad idea for which I was going to pay dearly.  I remember I got home and I was in immediate trouble.  I was dirty and bloody and my bike was definitely bent.  My mom helped me clean up but I remember the sharpness of her words of disappointment in me.  I was grounded from the use of my bike for a week.  In the summer at the age of 10, that is a very, very long time to be without the use of your bike.  On top of that, it took my dad another week to fix up the bike and bend some things back into shape.  I had forgotten about this memory even though the scar on my elbow is still there.  That facebook group helped jog my memory and relive a simpler time in our lives.

As I relived this memory, I started to think about other events in my life that have given me an inner strength to meet head on life's steep mountains and deep valleys.  As I was travelling through Vermont and New Hampshire in this year's holiday, I couldn't help but remember when my husband took me to Lake Placid, New York for my birthday in the Spring of 2011.  While we enjoyed that trip, little did we know that I would be facing my own personal steep climb to the top of a mountain like Whiteface Mountain later in the year.  This year as we drove through the mountains on our way to Prince Edward Island, I saw rugged rock cliffs and steep, twisting climbs up to the top of the mountains.  As we would come around a curve, the scenery would open up in front of us and we would see low valleys off in the distance.  This drive in our vacation really resonated deeply within me.  My personal journey from 2011 to 2013 has been full of mountain peaks and deep valleys.  As I contemplated this, I realized that just as these various views are all beautiful and peaceful, our own life journeys and trials can also bring positive moments of beauty and peace.  While I was going through the chemotherapy in 2012, I was blessed even in my darkest moments with the love and support of friends and family.  My husband, children and I live in an area where our closest extended family is about 2 hours away.  Some live 4 hours away and some live on the other side of the continent.  While I was battling my way through the chemo through to renewed health, I had positive moments of love, fellowship and friendship from friends who were near, family from farther away and friends as far away as other countries.  I was truly blessed.  I also learned that when negative emotions and events start to overwhelm me, I just need to focus on the positive blessings in my life.  This helps bring the beauty of the lushness of the deep, dark valleys into my view.

I remember while I was in the midst of one of the deep valleys of chemo, all I could do was breathe one breath at a time as I laid in bed and tried to keep the nausea and immense exhaustion from burying me alive.  My mantra at that time was "one breath at a time".  The full mantra is "one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time".  From something that was unpleasant (that may be an understatement), I gained the ability to explore and live fully in the moment.  That meant embracing the pain at times and breathing through it one breath at a time.  I learned to rest, accept and feel the love of friends and family from afar.  I learned what it was like to experience peace at the same time as I was experiencing something very negative.  As one of my friends told me at the time "If the chemo is making you feel bad, then you know it is working and doing its job."  I was able to have a little bit of peace.  At times, I was able to just think and explore my thoughts, feelings and views on life.

So as I look back on my life and more recently my journey through lymphoma and its treatment, I realize that like all vacations and journeys, there's always positive moments that can come from all of it.  I am still a being that is in the process of transforming myself into someone even better.  I truly believe we can all make improvements to ourselves.  As I've been weeding my flowerbeds this week, I have recognized how I'm also in the process of pulling the weeds from my personality and life.  I am embracing life fully with a deep joy of being alive and surviving it all.  My friends in Prince Edward Island showed me what it is like to laugh again.  Life will always be full of mountains and valleys and everything in between.  The lesson I've learned and I am still trying to apply to my daily life is that there is always a positive to offset a negative.  We just need to look deep within ourselves to find the calm, refreshing pool of water that is always in the valley.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Summer Vacation in PEI, Return Home and 3 Month Check Up

I tried to keep up with the blog while on holidays and on a regular basis.  As seems to be my habit now, I was too busy enjoying living and experiencing the numerous moments of joy to sit down at my laptop and update the blog.  I'm home now and will try to do justice to my wonderful holiday in Prince Edward Island.

On our second day in PEI, July 10, my friend and I went to see the matinee showing of "Anne, The Musical" in Charlottetown.  We wandered around the downtown before the matinee.  In downtown Charlottetown, there is a bench with a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald sitting on it with his top hat beside him.  There's room on the bench for people to sit beside him.  As many of the tourists seem to do, I sat down beside Sir John A.  As I turned towards the statue, it really seemed to be looking right through to my soul.  I decided to try to look romantically at him but couldn't pull it off and ended up throwing my head back and laughing instead.  My friend captured that moment on camera.  After wandering a bit more, we headed to Confederation Place to watch "Anne, The Musical".  This is a musical about Anne of Green Gables.  What a wonderful afternoon it was!  Since music is so much a part of my being, it is not surprising that I love musicals for the singing and orchestral performances.  However, I also love musicals for the live dance and the bold colours.  The acting in "Anne" drew me right into the story.  During the performance, my emotions ran the gamut.  I laughed at Anne's antics and joie de vivre.  I empathized with her bouts of being teased for her red hair.  Those moments brought back my own memories of starting kindergarten and being teased for having red hair.  I smiled as Anne earned a scholarship.  I had slow tears leak out as Matthew died.  My friend was comforted to know that she wasn't the only one affected by that scene in the play.  It was a grand afternoon.  On our way back to my friend's home, we saw that a cruise ship was anchored in the Charlottetown harbour.  We also visited my friend's favourite vegetable stand on the way "home".

On July 11, our friends took us on another tour of the area that they live in.  This time we saw a canning factory that their relatives own and operate.  As we drove by the factory, we saw the leftover shells from crab being dumped into blue bins by a conveyor belt.  Once the bins were full, they were moved to a manure spreader to be spread on local fields for fertilizer.  Nothing is wasted!  The factory cans crab, lobster and scallops but also packages them in vacuum-sealed plastic and flash frozen to keep the meat fresh.

On July 12, my husband and I struck out on our own to drive the East Coastal Drive.  In the tourism literature, Prince Edward Island is divided into 3 sections (East Coastal Drive, Central Coast Drive and West Coastal Drive) with circular routes for tourists to sightsee and experience the various areas of the island.  We left our friends' home and drove east towards Woods Island which is where the ferry arrives from Nova Scotia.  We followed the highway all along the coast.  I took lots of photographs as we saw cliffs that are eroding away.  We stopped at Cape Bear Head where we toured our first lighthouse of the holidays.  This particular lighthouse has been moved back from the crumbling cliff once already.  The original site is no longer there due to the erosion.  The current site is also right on the edge of the cliff and we were informed that the lighthouse will be moved back another 250 feet in the Fall of 2013.  As we returned to our van, we saw a small white car emblazoned with the bright green word "GOOGLE" across the sides.  On top of the car was a large video camera.  We saw this same car at the Holiday Inn Suites Hotel in Moncton, New Brunswick when we stayed there.  The car is obviously collecting images to update Google Earth and Google Maps.  My husband had passed this car on July 10 on the way back to our friends' home from his round of golf.  We continued our leisurely drive up the east coast of PEI.  The water was always within view even if it was in the distance on the right with potato fields in the foreground.  Our next stop was at Panmure Island.  This island is connected to PEI by a small causeway.  There is a public beach as well as another lighthouse.  We stopped, took pictures of the lighthouse and wandered along the beach.  The sand was still very red at this point.  When we climbed back into the van, my husband was concerned that we had better stop "dallying" and take a more direct route to our destinations which included the Singing Sands in Basin Head and then on to East Point.  We stopped for a late lunch at Souris, PEI which is a large town from where a huge ocean going ferry arrives and departs for Ile de Madeleine.  We ate at a place called the Sheltered Harbour CafĂ©.  I enjoyed a cup of clam chowder along with an oyster po' boy.  It was very enjoyable as we had a window seat where we could see the vehicles being loaded onto the ferry.  On we went with our tour.  Our next stop was at Basin Head where we walked along a white sand beach which is called Singing Sands.  As we walked on the dry sand, there was definitely a different sound with our footsteps.  We wondered "Is this the Singing Sands?"  As we walked, we saw the ferry from Souris out in the Northumberland Strait.  Then we heard the waves making a very different sound than I've ever heard waves make before.  The waves "chattered" as they travelled along the shore.  Was this the Singing Sands phenomena?  We still don't know but it was interesting none the less.  After enjoying a leisurely stroll in the heat, we returned to our van and continued on up the coast to East Point.  Here we saw our third lighthouse of the day.  East Point is the most eastern point of Prince Edward Island.   It is hear that the waves from the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait meet almost perpendicularly.  It was very windy and very interesting.  As it appears with all cliffs in PEI, there were signs warning of the danger of crumbling edges along with fences to keep people away from the edge.  After wandering around and taking even more pictures, we returned to the van for our trek back to Flat River.  That evening, we went to the Belfast Community Centre for a Kitchen Party.  Our friend plays guitar in the "house band".  It was an enjoyable evening with east coast music.  The house band played for a bit and then opened up the stage and mikes to anyone who wanted to perform.  One person was from our city in Ontario.  He was very good and we discovered later that we've heard his band play a number of years ago at one of our favourite haunts in our town.  A lady played her accordion which I really enjoyed.  There was another local lady that performed impromptu step dancing to the music.  These were the highlights for me.

On July 13, all of us (our friends included) hopped into our van and we drove to South Granville to go to Island Winds where the owner creates wind chimes.  Along the way, we ended up driving down another Heritage Road.  It was beautiful as the sun shone through the canopy of trees and created dappled sunlight on the red clay road.  The artist at Island Winds has transformed an old barn into his studio.  Our friends bought a wind chime from this gentleman many years ago.  During our visit, we saw his son assembling a wind chime.  I bought one that is in the key of C.  The pendulum is a blue stained glass circle that is encircled by metal to protect it.  The glass looks like waves on the sea.  Visually, the wind chime is very peaceful but the sound of the chimes is also very serene.  The chimes have found a home on my patio.  They gently and softly chime away while I work in the garden or while I sit in my glider on the patio watching the various birds and wildlife in  my backyard.  After visiting Island Winds, we drove through Cavendish on our way to Rustico Beach where we climbed out of the van and strolled along the boardwalk from the harbour all the way along the inlet to the beach.  Again, I took lots of pictures which included old wharfs, a blue heron, plovers, lupins, sea grass and beautiful views.  On our way to Cavendish, we stopped in Stanley Bridge where we had lunch at Carr's Oyster Bar.  I had the clam chowder which was very good.  Again, we had a wonderful view of the marina across the river.  As we ate, we watched children jumping off the bridge and swimming to shore.  We also saw fishing charters going out of the marina along with tour boats.  I found it really interesting to see the neat rows of mussel lines in the water.  After visiting Rustico Beach, we continued on our way to New Glasgow where we were going to have dinner at the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.  We arrived in New Glasgow very early so we went to the PEI Preserves Company.  What an interesting array of various preserves!!  If you ever get the opportunity, this is a nice place to visit and do some shopping.  It was very, very warm this day and we cut short our walk through their Garden of Hope.  Regardless of the heat, in my opinion, New Glasgow is a gem nestled in the valley of the surrounding hills.  It is a quaint village with beautiful green space.  Finally we went in to the New Glasgow Lobster Supper!  This is another event that was on my "must do" list on our trip to PEI.  So, of course, I had lobster.  The dinner started off with the most wonderfully fresh baked rolls.  Then we had PEI mussels.  Did I mention the rolls and mussels were all you can eat?!  Then we had our seafood chowder.  Again this was all you can eat.  Next was our salad plate which included coleslaw, garden salad and potato salad.  Now it was time for the LOBSTER!!  It was so good and fresh!  My husband had scallops instead because he doesn't like the effort needed to get to the lobster meat.  We finished our meals off with dessert and coffee.  My husband had the lemon meringue pie which was "to die for".  I had a walnut cake which was also very good.  I think I have forgotten to mention that throughout our holiday we have shared wonderful bouts of laughter with our friends!  This particular day was more of the same.

July 14, we crossed off another  one of my "living list" items.  I have always wanted to go clam digging ever since my family took me to PEI when I was 12.  It was something I wanted to do way back then but we never did.  Our friends took us to the backshore in the morning while the tide was out.  What fun I had digging in the red mud when I saw the air holes from the clams.  It was great fun and we collected just enough clams in order to make a meal for the next night.  I truly felt like a joyful child as I embraced this experience while dressed in my rubber boots, shorts and t-shirt.  Life truly is for embracing and living to the fullest.  I'm trying to imprint every memory and experience into my mind so that I can relive it during the dark valleys that sometimes happen in our lives.  After clam digging in the morning, we relaxed at our friends' home.  My husband and his friend were relaxing in the sun on the deck at the back, while I sat in the shade on the front porch overlooking the beautiful view of Flat River with the Northumberland Strait way off in the distance.  I was also enjoying the breeze and their wind chimes gently making music.  While sitting there, I had a tune going through my mind that I couldn't think of the name.  My husband's guitar was in the back of the van so I went and got it out and tried to "sneak" it around to the front of the house without anyone seeing me.  I haven't played guitar in many years but I figured out the chords to the tune that I was able to quietly sing.  Unknown to me, my husband and friend had seen me go by with the guitar and they were standing inside an open window listening.  My husband was able to identify the tune as "Mull of Kintyre" by Paul McCartney.  Suddenly, we had our own little kitchen party happen on the front porch.  Two guitars were strumming away as we all tried to sing.  What impromptu fun this was!!  Another gem of a moment in time!  That night we went into Charlottetown to The Ol' Dublin Pub to listen to a group called Guiness.  We knew about this group through another friend who grew up in PEI and had mentioned that her sister, brother-in-law and nephew were going to be playing in the pub.  What an enjoyable meal and subsequent night of music!

July 15 we went back into Charlottetown for some errands but also to be tourists.  At noon, we went to the amphitheatre behind Confederation Place where we saw the Confederation Young Company perform "Les Feux Follets".  What a great performance by young adults this was!!  It was about an hour long performance of various musical vignettes acting out the settlement of Canada.  It was during record-breaking heat that we sat, watched and totally enjoyed the performance.  We then had a small lunch at our friends' favourite Chinese restaurant before travelling to COWS Creamery.  We saw the production of the COWS t-shirts line as well as had a sample of their chocolate covered chips and a sample of ice cream.  This was the best ice cream I've ever tasted.  It was creamy and delicious.  Needless to say after the tour, we bought ice cream cones and I must admit to enjoying every single lick.  Mmmmm!  We then picked up a few things and returned to our friends' home for a clam dinner which included the clams, garlic bread and Caesar salad.  It was great!!

July 16 was more of a day of rest.  During our time up to this point, I had been collecting rocks and shells with the thought of having some jewelry created.  My husband went off for a round of golf.  It was not long after he left that I realized I had left all the shells and rocks in the van.  This was my morning that I was going to walk to my friends' neighbour who creates jewelry.  Then I remembered that I had 2 pieces of blue mussel shell that might work.  My friend and I laced up our runners and went for a walk to her neighbour with my shells in hand.  What a wonderful artist and creative jewel this neighbour is!!  We came up with a concept and she was going to be able to produce 2 necklaces in 2 days.  Check out  That night, my husband treated our friends to a dinner of maple spareribs.  Man....we've been eating really well while on holidays!

July 17 was another relaxing day.  That evening we went to our friends' church in Eldon to listen to a Scottish folk group from Scotland.  They were a group of 5 men.  One played guitar, another played fiddle.  The third man played the bagpipes and a group of metal flutes that looked like recorders.  The fourth man played guitar, banjo and mandolin.  The fifth man sang unaccompanied in gaelic.  When the bagpipes and fiddle played a duet together it made chills go up my spine it was so beautiful.

July 18, we enjoyed a walk on the backshore again with the tide fully out.  I truly love nature of all sorts.  The world we live in is miraculous in its beauty.

July 19 and 20 we travelled back to Ontario and home.  We managed to find more red clay roads before we reached the Confederation Bridge into New Brunswick.  We stopped for the night in Edmunston, New Brunswick and then continue on our way through Quebec.  We crossed the St. Lawrence River at Quebec City and avoided Montreal by staying north on some secondary highways which wound through the foothills of the Laurentians.  We crossed back into Ontario at Hawkesbury.

Since being home from holidays, I've enjoyed puttering in my yard and garden while listening to my wind chimes.  Yesterday, I had a check up with my oncologist, Dr. Meyer.  This was an appointment that was earlier than it was supposed to be because he is moving to Hamilton into a new job.  He checked me over and declared that I am "over the hump".  I am feeling great and healthy.  After examining me, he declared that there is only a very slight remote chance that cancer will visit my doorstep again.  This made my day!!!  I still have this overwhelming urge to live life to the absolute fullest.  I still have some items on my "living list" that I want to do or accomplish.  I will now be seen at the Cancer Clinic every 4 months for the next couple of visits.  This was wonderful news to receive especially after such a special holiday with friends.

I will continue to blog when I can.  I will not be choosing to work on the blog if opportunities come up to continue enjoying life to the fullest.  I guess I'm living in the moment more than I ever did before.  This is easier to do in the summer in our climate.  So please feel to drop by and check the blog.  You never know when some gem of an entry will greet you.  Here's to a fantastic life full of opportunities to create memories.  Always choose to leave a positive footprint on someone else's journey through life.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Day 1 on Prince Edward Island - July 9

What a great sleep I had our first night at our friends' home.  They put us up in the RV which was perfect!  The windows were open and a breeze blew across the bed all night long.  We used to live in the country and our friends live in a country setting now.  I love how quiet the night is.  Not a sound is heard.  No sirens.  No traffic.  Just blissful peace and quiet!  So after our refreshing sleep, we had a leisurely breakfast with our friends in their kitchen.  This was a time of chatting and laughing and planning.  This was the day that was going to be a quiet day without too much activity.  On my "to do" list for PEI was a visit to the Heritage Road called "Jack's Road".  I mentioned this to my friend and her husband.  He grew up in Flat River, PEI.  He new exactly where "Jack's Road" was.  He used to ride his bicycle on it when he was a kid!  So the afternoon of July 9, my husband, my friend, her husband and I piled into his 4 Wheel Drive Jeep to go touring through the neighbourhood.  First on the list was a trek on Jack's Road.

Jack's Road is considered a Heritage Road because it is typical of the old PEI roads.  It is a packed, red clay road with old growth trees on either side of the road.  These trees create a beautiful and peaceful canopy of greenery over the road.  The neighbouring property owners have agreed to keep a certain amount of growth in order to keep the character of the Heritage Road.  Jack's Road was narrow and had room for just one car.  The packed red clay was visible as tire tracks.  The middle section of the road was full of grass.  Needless to say, the road is not used very often.  Our friend who is originally from the area, mentioned that this road would be very, very slick and slippery after a rain.  It was full of steep hills and twists and turns.  We drove slowly as the Jeep bumped along. We had the windows open and could hear various birdsongs.  We could hear the tree swallows, robins, blue jays, finches and other pretty birdsongs that I couldn't identify.  There were also crows in the mix.   By the way, at the entrance to Jack's Road off the Trans-Canada Highway, there was a sign indicating that the road was not suitable for RV's and trailers.  We followed Jack's Road through to another paved county road.  Our friend turned left and took us through to Belfast and Eldon which are two small villages in the area.  Our friends pointed out the Belfast Community Centre and Arena.  This is one place that we visited on Friday, July 12.  More will be said about it in that future post.  Our friends also pointed out their church which I will mention in a future post as well.

As our drive continued, our friends pointed out Coopers Gas Bar and Grocery in Eldon.  This is the local gas station and our friends like to support the local businesses.  I was really enjoying the drive as it reminded me of Avonmore which is the community we used to be a part of when we lived in the country.  Supporting local small businesses is very important but also a very different experience to shopping in franchise businesses and big cities.  Our friends continued the tour of their part of the world with a drive through Pinette River and Flat River.  We drove down one of the many local side roads which are almost like lanes.  Some are completely grass-covered and go alongside a cultivated field of hay, corn, soybeans or potatoes.  We were driven to the "backshore" of the property which was our friend's childhood home.  He told about fishing, clamming and swimming at this beach.  His father had been a lobster fisherman.  He parked the Jeep and we climbed out grateful for the opportunity to stretch our legs.  The tide was partially out and we were able to walk a short distance along the beach.  Our friend pointed out a vehicle parked a fair ways from us on the beach.  He indicated that these were "clammers".  They were out clam digging or "clamming" using a plunger for efficient and quick work in finding clams.

As we walked the beach, I saw jellyfish stranded on the beach from the tide going out.  I remember jellyfish being on the beaches when I visited PEI when I was 12 years old.  Seeing them on the beach in this visit brought back the distant memory of my last visit to PEI.  I had been walking the beach with my sister and we saw some other children on the beach as well. I remember one of these children getting stung by the jellyfish stranded on the beach.  The memory became crystal clear and I paid close attention to where I was walking on this stroll along the beach with my husband and friends.  As I looked at the beach, I saw blue shells with pearly white streaks.  My friend informed me these were blue mussels.  I saw large shells that I thought looked like oyster shells.  My friend informed me they were bar clams.  It was very interesting to hear about his family history of the area.  I thoroughly enjoyed this guided tour of the area on my first full day on Prince Edward Island.

As the tour continued, we visited, laughed and enjoyed each others' company.  It was very relaxing and informative.  We toured the various lanes and side roads down to the backshore.  We made our way back to our friends' home where we prepared dinner.

After dinner, my friend in her true fashion (which I happen to love about her) pulled out her pen and paper and we planned out our holiday.  All four of us collaborated to produce a plan for every day so that all the "must do" activities were included along with some other activities that were suggested.  At the same time we plotted out our various dinners.  By the time we were finished, it was time to sit and watch the 10:00 news.  I didn't make it very far into the newscast before I was yawning and needing to head to the RV for bed. It was the end of a great day.  There's nothing like living fully in the moment.  I deliberately avoided going to the laptop or internet so that I could fully engage with communicating in person with my friends. I truly felt very comfortable like I had "come home".  It is not my home as I don't believe I have any descendants that were ever in PEI.  I have a couple who are very special friends and they have made my husband and I feel very much at home.  They have opened up their home to us and treated us like family.  I loved my friends' flower gardens.  Their front porch was a comfortable oasis with wind chimes gently chiming while the local hummingbird visited their hummingbird feeders as well as their lilies.  This was just the beginning of a wonderful holiday.  More to come in future posts so stay tuned.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Travelling from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island - Day 3

After having a short breakfast at the hotel, we packed up our van and continued on our way.  As we were packing up the van, we noticed a small white car with large, green lettering blazoned across the sides.  Mounted on the top of the car was what looked like a huge video camera.  The lettering on the car said "Google".  We assumed that the people staying at the hotel were working for Google and taking pictures in order to update Google Earth and perhaps Google Maps.  Anyway, we left and wound our way down the various highways to Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick.

I saw Hopewell Rocks when I visited the Canadian Maritime provinces with my parents when I was 12 year old.  These rocks are located on the Bay of Fundy which is known for its drastic tides.  The tidal waters have carved out the rock formations on the shoreline into various shapes.  One looks like a flower pot.  Another looks like two rocks kissing each other which at the same time forms an archway.  At Hopewell Rocks, you can enjoy activities both at low tide and high tide.  We arrived at low tide in the morning of July 8.  While the tide was out, we were able to walk on the ocean floor and wander through arches and tunnels which are filled up with water during high tide.  Our admission ticket into Hopewell Rocks was reasonably priced and allowed us the choice to come back on July 9 in order to be there during high tide.  We didn't revisit the site during high tide, but I did notice that we could have rented kayaks and gone on a group kayak tour around the rocks during high tide.  I had packed my rubber boots for our trip to PEI because I thought they may be useful for clam digging at our final destination.  I did wear them at Hopewell Rocks and I was the only tourist out of hundreds to do so.  You can visit the site at low tide in just normal footwear, but it is difficult to keep them dry and clean.  I was quite happy to be able to freely walk around in order to take pictures without worrying about where I was stepping.  I did have to be aware of some of the "mucky" spots because my boots would sink a little in the red mud and they would get stuck.  In the time that we were at Hopewell Rocks, the tide was coming in.  We were there for about an hour and some of the spots where we had stood when we first arrived were already covered with water when we left.

We climbed up the many flights of stairs to the top of the cliff and made our way back to the van.  As we were in the parking lot, a gentleman had just climbed out of his car and asked me if we needed rubber boots to enjoy the site.  My husband answered that he had got along just fine in his running shoes but that I had more freedom to wander in my rubber boots.  The gentleman wanted to buy them from me!  I declined and told him that I still wanted to use them for clam digging later on in our trip.  I changed back into my sandals and we continued on our journey to PEI.  We drove out of New Brunswick and into Nova Scotia.  It would have been a quicker trip to take the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to PEI but we wanted to drive over on the ferry.  We most likely will be using the Confederation Bridge to leave PEI.  We arrived in Caribou, Nova Scotia to await the Northumberland Ferry which would be taking us to Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island.  The view from the ferry dock allowed me to see part of Nova Scotia way off in the distance to my left.  There was an old Subaru wagon in the lineup in front of us on the ferry dock.  It was absolutely jammed packed with musical instruments and sound equipment.  I could see the bass drum pressed up against the back window along with some amps and guitars.  There were three people in the car that I could tell.  There was also a straw hat placed neatly on top of the pile of instruments.  It belonged to the girl that was sitting in the backseat.  My husband got out to stretch his legs and read the name of the band on the bass drum.  We were following "Red Moon Road".   According to Google, "Red Moon Road" is a folk band. While waiting for the ferry, I also found it interesting to read the various names and locations on the transport trucks.  As expected there were a fair number of trucks with Prince Edward Island license plates.  There were also a lot of trucks from Alberta.  I like to look at the license plates of the various vehicles we see when we travel as I find it interesting to see where they have travelled from.  The Subaru in front of us was from Manitoba.  I also saw cars and vans from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.

When the ferry arrived, we were directed downwards into the very bottom of the ferry.  There were 3 levels of cars on this ferry.   It was a very steep descent into the bowels of the ferry.  We were located on top of the engine room.  There were 4 lanes and we were located in the second lane from the right.   After parking, we got out of our van and we climbed the four flights of steps to the passenger deck.  We stood on the top deck to watch the ferry pull out of Caribou, Nova Scotia and into the Northumberland Strait.  We enjoyed the scenery of passing a small island with red shores.  The Northumberland Strait was very, very calm.  It looked like glass with small ripples.  Apparently, it can also be a very rough crossing.  It takes just over an hour to cross over the Strait and arrive in Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island.  On our ferry ride, we had our first taste of COWS ice cream.  Before leaving our home a few days ago, we had heard from our neighbours about COWS ice cream.  They had encouraged us to make sure we had some while on "The Island".  We enjoyed an ice cream cone while we crossed the Northumberland Strait.  As we were crossing, I saw a small dot on the horizon.  It gradually crept closer and eventually we could see it was the other ferry that had left Wood Islands, PEI.  I could feel the thrill of excitement and anticipation start to course through me as I got closer to our destination.  I couldn't wait to see our friends and start the next leg of our trip which was to explore the beautiful Prince Edward Island.  Finally the captain announced that we were to make our way to our vehicles in order to be ready to disembark at Wood Islands, PEI.  You could see PEI off in the distance!

Down to the van we went and then waited to be told when it would be our turn to drive up the very steep ramp to the ferry dock at Wood Islands, PEI.  Finally we were on the road again!  We knew that we were going to go through Belle River and then we would see Flat River.  As we drove, I took pictures of the sign for Belle River.  When I travel, I try to have my pictures add up to be a pictorial journal of the journey.  Next came Flat River.  Now we were looking for house numbers as we tried to find our friends' home.  Finally we were here!!  There were our friends on the front porch waving as we came up the laneway.  Of course I leaned out of the van to take a picture of their very picturesque front yard, porch and house with our friends waving at us.  Such feelings of warmth and excitement filled me to overflowing!

My husband stopped the van and out I hopped to be hugged and my hair stroked.  My friend, Carol, hadn't seen me since April 2012 when I was in the midst of chemotherapy and had no hair.  Now the very thick and curly hair is brushing my shoulders.  I hadn't seen my friend's husband since before they moved away a few years ago.  How nice it was to see him too!  We were welcomed with open arms and ushered into their house.  We were given a tour of their home.  It is an old farm house which they have been slowly updating and renovating.  Their home is full of character with old, original, polished wood.  It's very comforting and a lovely home.  We enjoyed our supper with them and just chatted and laughed for the evening.  We were also shown to our accommodations while visiting with them.  They have an RV and have readied it for our arrival.  How thoughtful this was as it has given us some space to ourselves for whenever we want to sleep, nap or for me to catch up on my blog.  This is why I love this couple so much.  They are always very thoughtful and caring!!

My next post will continue with our exploration of Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Prince Edward Island Here We Come - Day 2

Our plan this day, July 7, was to be on the road by 8 a.m.  I awoke at 7:15 with a start as I realized we didn't set an alarm.  This is how I can tell that I'm in need of a holiday.  I felt anxious that we were late!  I obviously wasn't in a relaxed, holiday mode yet.  We gathered up our various pieces of luggage and packed up the van.  The mountains surrounding Gorham were still beautiful in the morning brightness.  We drove down the street to McDonalds for breakfast.  I know this wasn't very original but I love their Egg McMuffin so it was a treat for me to have that as well as a cup of coffee.  The place was busy with only a few employees working.  The line up was long.  This is when I like to watch the different types of people in line.  There were 2 couples at the front of the line who were travelling by motorcycle.  We had seen the bikes in the parking lot and it caught my husband's attention who has just bought himself at Honda Goldwing this past Spring.  The men and women looked like "bikers".  One couple was more noisy and outgoing while the other couple were quieter but "rougher" looking.  Eventually we got our breakfast, ate and were on the road.  Well, I can only say we were on the road after we filled up with gas.

We left the valley in which Gorham was nestled and followed Highway 2 East as it twisted and winded its way through the mountains.  I stopped taking pictures because they would all look similar to Day 1's pictures through the mountains.  I sat back and enjoyed the scenery.  While we were still in the New Hampshire mountains, we passed a big doe in the ditch ready to jump up onto the highway.  We were past in a flash and I had no opportunity for a picture.  But the image is burned into my memory.  She looked close enough for me to touch when I saw her in the ditch just as the front corner of our van was level with her.  She looked so healthy!  She was well rounded and that beautiful burnished reddish brown colour that deer are.  Her eyes were soft, brown and so gentle looking.  When I saw her, I excitedly called out "Deer!  Deer!" just like a little child.  She was so beautiful!  Unfortunately, my husband didn't see her as he was busy driving on the two lane winding highway.  I was sorry that I wasn't able to get a picture so I could share the image with him.  However, I did describe it but it's not quite the same.  On we continued and as we crossed into Maine the mountains were getting smaller and you could see flat farmland way up in the distance.  We were leaving the mountains behind.  I was a little disappointed to  leave the mountainous terrain because it is so lush and vibrant with all the various shades of green, and all the hills and wonderful views.  However, leaving the mountains meant we were getting closer to our final destination in Prince Edward Island.

We continued our travels through Maine.  At one point, Highway 2 in Maine took us through a small village called Farmington Falls.  I had the camera out in the hopes to catch a photo of Farmington Falls.  Instead of the fall, I captured a picture of an old cement, narrow bridge which Highway 2 took across the river.  It was beautiful scenery and a quaint little place.  We continued on our way and stopped at Rumford Falls in Maine in order to stretch our legs and take some pictures.  Rumford Falls is an original waterfalls which has been harnessed to create energy and run sawmills in the past.  Where we stopped there was a plaque full of information and a small park in order to walk down to the river on the flat rocks in order to wander and take pictures.  Someone has made black metal figures to replicate Indians fishing, cooking, working and playing with a teepee sitting nearby.  This was all made out of metal.  I walked down to the water's edge on the flat, table rocks and took a picture downriver towards the main part of town.  Off in the distance, near the modern bridge, on the left shore was another metal figure of an adult male fishing off the shore.  What a surprise!  This was a beautiful place to stretch our legs and enjoy the drive through Maine.  As we headed back to our van, I saw the 2 couples from McDonalds in Gorham, New Hampshire!  They must be following Highway 2 as well.

We continued through Maine and arrived at the border to New Brunswick, Canada.  We crossed over into New Brunswick at Woodstock, New Brunswick.  We had no problems at the border and continued on Highway 2 in New Brunswick.  We noticed that there were several signs indicating moose crossings.  We also noticed that the province of New Brunswick has installed fencing in order to keep the moose off the highway.  If a moose does get outside the fencing, there are one-way gates at the end of a short narrow fenced alley to get them back inside the forest.  It was an interesting view.  As we travelled farther in to New Brunswick, we could see mountains or large hills way up in the distance.  These were so far in the distance that they were blue in colour.  We did see a wild turkey way up near the trees from the road.  The trees have been cleared so that there is a large distance between the tree line and the road.  We arrived at our destination of Moncton, New Brunswick.  It was just about 6:00 p.m. when we found our hotel.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in Moncton, New Brunswick.  When we booked the hotel from home, we didn't realize it was right beside Highway 2 which we were travelling on.  This made it easy to find.  It was also located just across the road from a casino.  We went to a place called "Magnetic Hill" in Moncton.  Various people had told us we needed to see Magnetic Hill.  So before finding some supper, we drove to Magnetic Hill.  We arrived and followed the directions on the sign.  At the top of the hill, you drive down on the right-hand side.  When you get to the bottom of the hill, there was a white post on the left side of the road.  As you arrive at the bottom of the hill, you pull over to the white post and put your car into neutral and take your foot off the brake.  We saw cars doing this and they would start to automatically come up the hill.  When we got to the bottom, my husband put the van into neutral and took the foot off the brake.  We were pulled very quickly to the top of the hill!  A friend had told me that it even worked with his big transport truck!  This is all an optical illusion.  From inside the car, it really does look like you are being pulled backwards up the hill.  Since visiting Magnetic Hill, I was told that  if you stand on the bank on the right hand side of the road, you can see that you are actually going backwards down the hill.  An interesting experience to be sure!  We then went for dinner at the Tide & Boar Gastropub in Moncton, New Brunswick.  While I was doing chemotherapy in the winter of 2012, I had seen this restaurant/pub featured on a show on the Food Network.  Both my husband and I had the Atlantic Seafood Chowder as an appetizer.  It was magnificent!!!  It is made fresh to order every single time.  There were large chunks of salmon so big I had to break it up with my spoon.  The chowder included mussles, shrimp and haddock.  It was easily the best chowder I've ever had.  My husband had beer-battered fish and chips for his main meal.  I had the Boar Poutine.  It was poutine (French fries, gravy, and cheese curds) with boar as a meat topping.  It was very good but very filling.  My husband enjoyed a local beer brewed in Fredericton and I had a sangria.  It was a very nice meal indeed.  I would definitely go back and have a full meal just of the chowder.

We headed back to our hotel which was a wonderful suite including a kitchenette with table, sitting room, a bedroom separated rom the sitting room with pocket doors and a typical functional bathroom with 2 doors.  One led to the bedroom and one led to the kitchenette.  While I downloaded my pictures onto my laptop, my husband went across to the casino.  That was the end of Day 2.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Prince Edward Island Here We Come - Day 1

After being home from my Cousins' Weekend for only 3 days, I'm off again with my husband to visit friends of our's in Prince Edward Island.  Our teenage daughter didn't want to come on this beautiful trip although I believe it is more the fact of spending hours on end in the van with her parents that she was opposed to.  So not long after we were one the road, we dropped her off (this was planned of course, ha ha) at family where she will stay for 2 weeks.  On this our first day on the road, we drove down into New York State, Vermont and New Hampshire.  The scenery was spectacular.  We drove 8 hours that first day.  New York State was not a new experience for us as we've visited that area numerous times through the years.  I've been to Vermont and New Hampshire just one other time in my existence and that was 26 years ago.

I fell asleep in New York State but my husband woke me just as we were driving past Lake Champlain in Vermont.  I missed a photo opportunity but the image is burned in my memory.  The highway was right beside Lake Champlain.  There was a marina immediately to our right.  The water was still as glass with not a ripple.  In the foreground there were about 4 or 5 yachts at anchor with their naked spars sticking upwards.  In the background was the long bridge that our highway was going to curve alongside the lake and eventually go over the bridge.  The sun was brightly shining and Lake Champlain was a brilliant blue.  It was a beautiful moment in time with the boats crisply outlined by the water with the bridge in the background.  This was the first of many magnificent moments on our first day of travelling.  We continued over the bridge into Vermont where eventually you could see the blue outlines of the mountains in the distance.

As we drove the mountains became closer and were no longer blue outlines but started to show small details.  As we approached the mountains, they became green and then you began to see small trees on the mountainside.  Eventually we were driving through the mountains on a lazy looping highway that gently curved up and through the mountains.  What an adventure it is to go around the curves and have your breath catch in exhilaration as an unexpected view of a valley and more mountains in the distance makes you scramble for the camera.  It didn't take me long to make sure the camera was always in my hand.  I took many photos of the various mountains, valleys and towns in the distant valleys.  There were a few scenic lookouts at the side of the highway.  We took advantage of many of these in order to take pictures and stretch our legs.

We finished our day by stopping in Gorham, New Hampshire.  We stayed at the Top Notch Inn.  We dropped off our luggage and then went for a walk to find a place to eat some dinner.  After dinner, we walked down the main street to a variety store where I bought some batteries for my camera.  I believe that I will go through many changes of batteries in the length of our trip.  After buying our purchases, we walked back to the motel.  I changed the batteries in my camera, took it in hand and we set out for another exploratory walk of the main street of Gorham.  The town was hopping with vehicular traffic as well as pedestrians.  It was the Americans' July 4th holiday weekend.  As a result, there was a carnival with rides and games set up on the Town Commons.  I forgot to mention that as we walked the main street, a little river meandered beside the main street gurgling happily away.  Of course we took more pictures.  I have a new "point and shoot" camera that I am still learning to use and how to use the various settings.  It was a relaxing evening after a long drive and it felt good to walk and stretch our legs.  We went back to our motel and settled in for the night as we had another long drive the next day.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Where did June go?!

I've been feeling great!!  As a result, I've not been able to keep up my blog as I've been busy enjoying life to the absolute fullest.  My last post was about my Relay For Life experience this year.  The following weekend, June 14, 15 and 16 was also a busy, busy time.  On Friday, June 14 I hosted my students' Annual Spring Recital.  This is a formal concert where my piano students, their families and friends and I celebrate the progress that each and every student made during the past year.  This was an extra special event for me this year.  I wanted to publicly thank all my students and their families for their prayers for me during while I was on my leave of absence.  I was unable to do this at the recital because every time I thought of what I would say, I would get choked up and teary eyed.  And this was just in my home in the week leading up to the recital.  I'm glad I didn't mention it publicly as I have thanked everyone personally.

The night was truly a celebration and the students played their music with passion and skill.  The music performed ranged from baroque, classical, romantic, neo-classical to blues, jazz and movie themes.  My husband helped me set up the space by setting up 80 chairs for the audience.  As people arrived for the recital, he had to add more chairs.  It was a wonderful show of support for the students and great to have a "full" house.  As always, there were refreshments including cookies, loaves, juice and water.  After the recital, everyone mingled and enjoyed themselves.  I always feel nervous and maternal for each student that performs.  They all played well and handled their individual nerves with grace.

After the recital, my husband and I cleaned up all the crumbs and put away all the chairs so the space was just as it was before we arrived.  We then drove 2 hours to help family build a deck for the rest of the weekend.  Before we knew it, the weekend was over and we were heading back home for the rest of the busy week.

I spent my week playing in my yard.  I trimmed the hedge.  It took 3 days and I enjoyed listening to the birds singing as I worked away.  I then trimmed my forsythia bushes.  I love the feeling of self-satisfaction after it is all done and the hedge and the bushes look neat and trim.  Next on the list was to cut the grass and pull the weeds.  Also in this week of June 17 to the 22nd, I taught a few piano lessons for students who were getting ready to do their practical exams.  On Saturday, June 22 my church was having a strawberry social.  So on the Friday, I made my favourite white cake recipe which goes well with strawberries.  I delivered it on Saturday, June 22 and stayed to help hull strawberries and then serve ice cream as part of the Strawberry Social.  My husband arrived to pick me up after my "shift".  We bought our strawberry shortcakes and stayed to visit while we enjoyed the sweet bursts of strawberries in our mouths.  I find that I live in the moment now and my senses are more acute.  I hear the sounds of nature and enjoy the sounds of rain.  My taste buds jump with joy when they encounter the various foods that I like to enjoy.  The strawberries certainly made my mouth water as I ate them.  After the strawberry social, I visited the location of the practical exams in support of one of my students who was playing her first exam. She was not nervous but her mother was.   We could hear my student playing her exam and she did very well.  Now comes the art of waiting for the marks and comments to be posted online.

I took Sunday, June 23 as my day of rest.  I went to church in the morning where the service took place outside on the lawn of the church.  The chairs were set up underneath the big maple tree.  What a glorious morning this was.  There had been some rain during the week and everything was dewy, damp and thriving!  The birds were singing away and the breeze was gently shaking the leaves of the trees causing them to whisper above our heads.  Normally, the organ is played during the prelude as we settle and ready ourselves for worship.  This particular morning, the prelude was a time of listening.  I LOVED IT!!!  This is what I love to do all the time.  No music, no television, no noise....just the calm music of nature.  What also made this church service special for me was there were two guests attending who were going to lead us in a Sacred Teaching Circle in the afternoon.  They were an aboriginal couple and she shared some drum music with us during the church service.  It was a great start to my day of rest.  I spent the rest of the day sitting on my patio with the sounds of nature in the background while I planned my summer vacation trip to Prince Edward Island.  It was a glorious day.

June 24 and 25, I travelled to St. Catharines with my son as we attended Smart Start at Brock University.  During our journey, my heart was filled with love and pride as I watch my son prepare to set out on his own next phase in life.  There were many moments in those 2 days that my heart swelled with love.  We reconnected during this time and it was an enjoyable 2 days.  I am sure I will miss him deeply while he is away at university but I also know that I have been a good mother as he is ready to leave the nest and be fully independent.

On my return home, I now needed to prepare for the next adventure in my life.  It was time for the Second Annual Cousins' Weekend at Sauble Beach.  I frantically did laundry, bought supplies for camping and made my multiple lists.  I find now that if I don't write things or thoughts down then I totally forget them.  So I had grocery lists, packing lists, to do lists, cleaning lists and lists of chores for my children to do while I was away.

Friday, June 28 arrived.  My husband and I arose from our nice warm bed and put on the coffee.  We had a leisurely breakfast and were on the road by 10 a.m.  We arrived at Carson's Camp in Sauble Beach at 4 p.m.  We rented a "cabin" and it was put on the site beside my aunt and uncle's trailer.  My one cousin was going to be staying there and my other cousin was across the road in her own trailer with her family.  She's expecting a baby in August and I was really excited to see her.  My husband and I shared our small cabin with my brother and his wife.  We had an enjoyable weekend of laughter, food, drink and more laughter.  I always love the campfires in the evening when I go camping.  Out came the marshmallows.  Some were roasted to perfection which in my opinion is when the whole marshmallow is a golden brown on the outside and gooey in the middle.  If they're done just right, you can neatly take the outer layer off with your mouth and then roast the middle section again.  Some marshmallows didn't even make it to the stick to be roasted.  They were just eaten as is.  Some marshmallows became flaming torches.  This always scares me because I remember my sister flinging a stick up out of the fire when she was young and the marshmallow came flipping off the end of the stick and onto her face.  It gave her a nasty burn.

We enjoyed a potluck dinner on the Saturday night.  We certainly did not go hungry.  On Sunday morning, we made bacon, eggs and hash browns from the leftover potatoes from dinner.  We also cut up the leftover steak into strips to have steak with our eggs.  We had toast with homemade pear jam and homemade rhubarb orange marmalade.  What a great way to start off our Sunday.  My brother and his wife left just after breakfast to return home.  We spent the rest of the Sunday with my cousins.  We went for a walk down to Sauble Beach on Lake Huron.  I was so pleased that I was able to walk that far.  Last year at this time, I did not have the energy or stamina to do this.  We wandered along the beach and went to Main Street in Sauble Beach (the town) where we browsed through a few boutiques.  We then made our way back to the campsite.  Once there we figured out our dinner with my cousins.  After dinner, we walked back down to the beach to watch the July 1st Canada Day fireworks.  It was a great but tiring day!  We stayed at the campsite until July 2 when we left for our trek home.  We stopped in at my brother's dairy farm on the way and shared a cup of coffee as well as some strawberry shortcake.  Too soon, it was time to leave again.  We arrived home on the evening of July 2.

July 2 was my husband's birthday but we celebrated it on Wed. July 3 because that was when the children (I thought) were available to have a family dinner.  Best laid plans always have to be flexible.  As it was, my daughter was scheduled to work so she missed out on the dinner.  She did get to enjoy multiple pieces of cake after work though.

So this brings my blog up to date to the beginning of July.  As I've been busy, I've had moments of anxiety in wondering how I'm going to get everything accomplished.  My mantra that I used while I was going through chemo actually became very useful to me throughout the last week of June.  "One breath at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time."   As mentioned briefly in this post, I was planning a trip to Prince Edward Island.  I will post more on that vacation as time permits. is a grand adventure.