A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Monday, 24 August 2015

Mommy and Daddy need time "just the two of us"

Parenting is hard work, especially co-parenting. I don't think I realized how hard, how tiring, until our twins (11-years-old at the time) were away for a week visiting their cousins, and my husband and I were in Mexico for five days, just the two of us, for a friend's wedding - on the beach.

Taylor and Mitchell flew from Ottawa to Nova Scotia - their first time without an adult. It was still winter in Canada...

... but warm and beautiful in Mexico!

And then we all returned, back to reality, on Monday morning, with lunches to make, agendas to sign, knapsacks to pack, and email to send. This vacation, our "unforgettable moment," will be commemorated with this "palm trees and coconuts" charm.

It was the first time we have both been away from the kids for more than two nights, and our first vacation... just the two of us. We had dinner we didn't have to make ourselves, read books of our own choosing, walked on the beach without carrying someone else's "treasure," swam in the pool without hearing, "Mommy! Daddy! Watch this!" ... and slept the whole night... by ourselves... just the two of us... naked!

This charm, on my "Gift from the Sea" bracelet, will remind me that parenting is hard work, and we deserve vacations (or staycations or date nights) "just the two of us." *cue music*

Grover Washington Jr. "Just the two of us"

Dolphins... and a dream come true

I want you to know that "dreams really do come true!" And I want to introduce you to my dolphin charm to commemorate one of my dreams coming true: swimming with dolphins. This was two years ago on our trip to Mexico, the same trip that I shared a story about a few days ago. The charm is photographed in a beaded bowl, a traditional art in Mexico.

The dolphins I swam with that day were so smart, so responsive, and so happy. After the group got comfortable with the dolphins, we each had one-on-one time with a dolphin. Mine "kissed" me on the cheek, and I held his snout in my hand and kissed him back. Then he let me give him a hug. I even held his pectoral fin and we danced - what a hoot! In the top right photo I was going for a "belly ride;" the dolphin is belly-up and I am holding her two pectoral fins - it was exhilarating! We were in the water for a total of 45 minutes, but I could have stayed forever! I don't know if words can adequately describe the joy I felt.

To be honest, these are the kinds of dreams I never really thought would come true. We have a limited income and haven't really travelled except to visit family. But it all happened because this special friend was getting married.

The groom, John, is one of my husband's best friends; he has known him since high school. Our kids call him Uncle John. He really is an honorary member of my husband's Hayden family, so my mother-in-law wanted somebody from the Hayden clan to attend - and she said she would pay for it. Mike's siblings all had young children so they couldn't really travel, and we became the designated representatives. My mother-in-law offered to come and stay with our kids but instead they flew to her and spent their Spring Break with their cousins - all thanks to Grammie!

It made me realize, that in my depression, I had assumed that I would never get the chance to do this. It reminded me that even then, when you've given up hope, there might come an unexpected opportunity - for dreams to come true!

I hadn't previously looked at this dolphin charm in person, but as you can see in the photos, it's an incredible likeness to the real thing! And when I see this charm, and watch him twirl around my bracelet, I can still picture the dolphins jumping and diving. I am reminded of the humour and playfulness of a dolphin giving kisses, singing for us, and making rude noises - and letting us hug him in return. And I can remember the sensations and emotions I felt in that moment - the trust required for her to roll to her back so I could rub her smooth pink belly, and the trust for me to allow her to swim up behind me and take me for a ride. And I was struck by the gracefulness of her movements, and the power in her body. It truly was - as Pandora coins it - an "unforgettable moment." I smiled the whole time. What you can't see - or rather hear - in the picture on the top right of the collage, is that I am hooting and yelling, "This is awesome!!"

There is another side to this adventure, when you battle depression, anxiety and panic attacks. In my ongoing recovery from my eating disorder I had to wrestle with the demon telling me that a vacation in Mexico was "wasted" on someone as fat as me. And I had to face my fears of putting on a bathing suit... in public... and in pictures... which I am now sharing on Facebook, Instagram and my blog - eek! I had to face the fear that they wouldn't have large enough life-jackets. And I had to face the fear that I would be told I was "too fat" for a dolphin to pull. Yes these were the things I was anticipating, and was anxious about. So this charm is very significant and will remind me to "face your fears" and "don't put off living - or chasing your dreams - until you are the perfect weight, shape, or size."

So my friends, what are you putting off? What are you waiting for? What are your dreams?

YouTube video Norah Jones "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Sheila and Mike's Excellent Anniversary Adventure

To celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary last summer, my husband and I took an epic road trip along the South Shore of Nova Scotia. When we returned home I had this "vintage heart" dangle engraved to commemorate this achievement - and our adventure.

We stopped first in the beautiful town of Mahone Bay, famous for its three church steeples. The town has many homes with beautiful architecture, painted wonderful colours. I wonder if it's because the weather is often grey and foggy? We then stopped in the town of Lunenburg for lunch. It's a UNESCO world heritage site, and home to Nova Scotia's iconic racing schooner, the Bluenose II. In Lunenburg there were more colourful heritage homes. I would have taken more photos if I hadn't been encumbered by wearing an air cast on my injured ankle, but here is a sampling.

One architectural feature that is prominent along the South Shore is this rounded dormer over the front door; sometimes there is also a rounded part on the first floor around the door. A local Pandora friend tells me these are called the "Lunenburg bump." I've never seen this anywhere else.

After lunch we took a ferry across the LeHave River and explored a number of beaches. There was Green Bay where we had hoped to search for sea stars but it was high tide. And we found the sound of the surf at Beach Meadows was hypnotic.

And then there was Carter's Beach, where I tried my best to capture its beauty. It had rained so you can't really tell in the pictures how white the sand is, and without much sun it was hard to get a photo of the turquoise colour of the water. We will take our kids with us this summer and see if we have better weather.

One of my friends, who recommended these hidden jewels, says these beaches in the Port Mouton area are the best in the world! But my husband says the beach in his father's hometown of Lockeport is nicer. The jury is still out since we couldn't drive that far in one day. But we have booked a cabin on the beach for this weekend and we will bring the kids with us; maybe we'll come back with the verdict.

Our last stop was Summerville Beach. We had our anniversary dinner in the building on the far right.

We ate on the "deck" which sits OVER the rocks and is floor to ceiling windows. Nothing like eating your dinner to the sounds of crashing waves and watching the tide go out, right under your feet.

For our celebration dinner I had the plank salmon, and Mike, the chicken linguini. Mike is allergic to shellfish, and doesn't like salmon, so I often get it when we are in Nova Scotia, where fresh fish and seafood abound. Cheers to 20 more years!

The "vintage heart" dangle - engraved with the "20" - is the centrepiece of this two-tone bracelet I call "Vintage Charm." It is filled with retired (aka "vintage") two-tone charms that I have slowly collected over the last few years. A special bracelet, a special charm, a special day, and a special anniversary.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The "Essence" of our marriage - an anniversary story

I was surprised Thursday morning to see a Pandora gift bag on the dining room table when I sat down to eat my breakfast. I was even more surprised to see the lovely note my husband left for me! All this for our twenty-first wedding anniversary.

I remember very clearly when Pandora first released the Essence line because my husband Mike was off work for the Remembrance Day holiday, November 2013. He said to me, "I want to get you one of the new bracelets, but I want it to be just for charms that you get as gifts." Who was I to argue?! I will admit it has been difficult not to buy those beads for myself, but he has given me Essence charms for most special occasions since then. And this year for our anniversary I received the "Friendship" and "Faith" beads.

Always and Forever bracelet
Mike's anniversary note (below) will make more sense if you first read my blog post from last June called The beginning of "Always and Forever", where Mike tells me that kissing me is like kissing his sister. If you haven't read the "Marriage Monday" series of stories about my "Always and Forever" love and marriage bracelet, you can scroll way down to the bottom of the blog (web version) and under "Labels" click on "Always and Forever bracelet" to pull up the stories for each of the charms. You can choose "Older Posts" to find all of them.

Happy Anniversary Sweetie!

I constantly look back to this day, twenty-one years ago, as my favourite day of my life. I was able to spend the whole day with family and friends and share and celebrate with my best friend. It felt like it was just yesterday but it also feels like it has been you and I together forever. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I love you Sweetie and I love my life with you.

The Essence "Friendship" charm

I bought you two charms. I don't know if they will fit on that bracelet with all your others. The "Friendship" bead is to represent the fact that our relationship is based on the fact that we have always been friends. Even though I didn't realize it at the time, the best relationships are built on friendship. I'm glad I figured that out.

The "Faith" bead is to remind you to always have faith that everything will be okay. Sometimes proof isn't always in your grasp, but if you just convince yourself that everything will be okay, that will give you the strength to make it so. To top it off, I thought both beads were pretty and would look good on you.
Enjoy your day and I know I'm looking forward to spending some time with you this evening. Happy Anniversary!

Lots of love,

My Essence collection
I shared a story some time ago (called The spark, the passion, and the attraction) about the fact that one of the things my husband and I have in common are art and literature. So it shouldn't surprise you that we spent the evening of our anniversary at the National Gallery of Canada to see an exhibit of the works of the iconic Canadian artist Alex Colville.
In case you are not acquainted with Colville's work, one of his most celebrated paintings, and familiar to many around the world, is "To Prince Edward Island" showing a woman with binoculars on a ferry and a man behind her. According to Colville, the binoculars are meant to express the active and intuitive power of a woman's vision: "the woman sees I suppose and the man does not."

To Prince Edward Island 1965 

Colville was born in Toronto but grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He went to university nearby, at Mount Allison University (aka Mt A), where he met his future wife. He and his wife Rhoda were friends before there was a romantic interest between them. Somehow I feel that bodes well for Mike and I since we also met at Mt A (during Frosh Week in 1982) but were friends for some time before we were a couple.
Colville studied Fine Arts at Mt A. It was interesting to learn in the exhibit that, despite the fact that the faces were often indistinguishable, all of the women in his paintings were his wife, often nude. She once said that she didn't like posing for nude photos but she was jealous and didn't want him to paint anyone else nude! It was very moving to see all those paintings of the artist's wife in one place; a history of their 70-year marriage and the honest depiction of how his wife's body changed as she aged.

Woman on Ramp 2007

Colville was a war artist during WWII but returned to Mt A after the war to teach at the university. During those years he created a mural about the history of Mt A which was prominently displayed in Tweedie Hall, the common room of Trueman House, the men's residence where Mike lived for five years, as his father had done a few decades before. Tweedie Hall also happens to be the location of our first date at the Christmas semi-formal.
"The History of Mount Allison" mural 1948
Tweedie Hall, Trueman House, Mt A

Another Colville mural at Mt A was a constant presence in our lives because it was displayed in the lobby of the Athletic Centre where we spent much of our time. Mike played varsity basketball for five years and I played volleyball for four; as friends we always went to each other's games. Mike also spent lots of time there as a child when his father taught Phys. Ed. at the local high school and his mother was the Women's Athletic Director. When Mt A athletes, including Mike and me, get their photos taken it has always been, and presumably always will be, in front of this mural.
"Athletes" mural 1960
Athletic Centre, Mt A
In the 1970's Colville and his family moved to another small university-town called Wolfville, to his wife's family home. Wolfville just happens to be the same town where Mike and I got married (read about it in the story A little church charm for a little church wedding) in the Acadia University chapel twenty-one years ago.
The Alex Colville exhibit book, my anniversary gift to Mike