Friday, March 19, 2004

Sifting Through Memories...

This is going to be a wonderful weekend... and a very hard one.

We started it off in grand style by taking Nick out to a local restaurant called “Jungle Jim’s” that has lots of stuff to look at around the room (jungle theme, tiny plastic animals hidden in the fake plants, strings of lights in the shapes of peppers or parrots etc.) The girls proudly announced that it was their Daddy’s Birthday Dinner and so the whole staff (two of whom are former students and almost all of whom remember the 40th Birthday embarrassment last year) came out to sing the wonderful “I don’t know but I’ve been told.... someone here is getting OLD! I don’t know but it’s been said.... someone’s face is going red.... Happy Birthday... Happy Birthday to YOU!” chant that my girls just love. Since Nick is allergic to chocolate, we just ordered a piece of cheesecake to stick the sparkler into rather than the free chocolate cake. I’d like to have him around for 42!!

Tomorrow is the last session of swimming and gymnastics for the girls and a fairly quiet afternoon finishing off presents for Sunday. Sunday morning is Nick’s actual birthday, so I expect the girls may pounce on him instead of letting him sleep in. Erin is singing in church as part of the Sunbeam youth choir and there is a special soup luncheon afterwards. We’ll head home after that and get ready for the special party/celebration/goodbye event at our house that night.

Nine years ago, 6 other teachers on staff with Nick were pregnant during the same time as I was. Everyone joked that there was something in the water cooler that boosted fertility. Nick and I started the mini baby boom off with Erin’s birth in April and the last baby was born the following October... but it made for lots of baby jokes and we even started having some “Moms & Tots” parties after the kids were born. From that larger circle, two other families stayed really close with ours and our kids have all grown up like cousins to each other. We have shared joys and tears, life events and lots of giggles. When one of the families moved out West for almost 2 years, it felt like forever until they were home again. Now the other family is moving 1 1/2 hours away to Fredericton. It will be hard to say “goodbye”, but at least this is close enough that we can still plan some of our special get togethers and yearly traditions like visits to the apple orchard and making Gingerbread Houses together!!

I put together an album of some of my favourite photos of “our gang” to send with Clan Tremblay (Twins took their family from 4 to 6 last year, so I think they deserve clan status) and while it was fun to relive some of those wonderful memories, it was also hard... because I know that I will miss them. I wonder if this is how my parents felt when so many of their friends left Quebec in the mass exodus after Bill 101 when many companies relocated offices to Toronto or elsewhere in Canada?

Life is all about change and growth.... but I don’t think any kind of goodbye is ever easy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

A Tired...But Proud Dragon!!

Ever since Bethany started “helping” me with the groceries on Wednesday mornings, I have had a little pact with myself (and with her). Before I go anywhere near the store, I get an hour’s workout in at St. Patrick’s Family Centre where we have a family membership. For the past 2 years, it has been a one hour aerobics class of step and sweat, while Bethany plays with other “workout orphans” under the watchful eye of Brenda, the incredible lady hired by the centre for parents who want to get fit.

After Christmas, I decided that my body was just a little too used to the type of workout I’d been doing (and occasionally teaching)... so I decided to take a 10 week session of adult swimming lessons. Just another way to exercise... right??

Wow! I discovered that some of my muscles didn’t get used in aerobics... that doing laps of crawl is much harder than doing step routines and that somewhere along the line after I finished taking swimming lessons, I stopped trying to breathe on my left side during crawl and just stuck to my right. The first two weeks, as I struggled with bilateral breathing and not trying to drink half the pool, I felt like I was that awkward kid again who was never good at sports. By the time I finished 2 laps of the pool, my arms felt like lead and I had no style or form what-so-ever. But... I was certainly getting a more intense workout than I had been in a while! I was even learning how to do the Back Crawl... which I had never mastered at all during my Red Cross Swim lessons over 30 years ago.

Today was our “evaluation” session since the program wraps up next week. I managed to do 100 meters of crawl ( 6 full pool lengths) , 100 meters of back crawl, 50 meters of breast stroke, 50 meters of elementary backstroke and then an endurance swim of 324 meters (18 pool lengths and one more length than I needed to because I hated ending up at the “odd” end of the pool and had to swim back to the tester anyway). To cap it all off we did sculling and treaded water for 5 minutes. I feel like I have used more muscles in my body than I knew I had, but I am also very proud of myself. I won’t know for sure until next week, but I think that will put me at Level 10 swimming!

As I was showering, I wished for a moment that I could travel back in time to put my hands on the shoulders of that little girl who was convinced she had absolutely NO athletic ability at all. Would I hug her and tell her that she needed to just stick with it until she built up some muscle and endurance?? Would I have discovered a jock side to my personality and actually played sports or just enjoyed being fit for fun??

We humans only dance through time one way. I know that when I would come home discouraged at how poorly I did in any sport or attempt to do something physical, I would almost always pick up a pencil and start to draw... or lose myself in the magic of a good fantasy novel. Would I have been as creative if I hadn’t spent so much time drawing??

What I understand now, at long last, is that learning anything takes practice and time. Yes, there will always be cases where there is raw talent and ability... but if it is not honed or given a chance to be used, natural talent won’t make that much difference compared to persistence. I should have seen that, even though I might never have chosen a career as an athlete, I could have still enjoyed being active as I do now. I know that is why I make sure than both girls have the chance to move and learn skills while they are young and as they grow.

I won’t ever be a champion swimmer... I certainly didn’t break any speed records in the pool... but I am a VERY proud dragon tonight!!

Monday, March 15, 2004

Making that First X...

I had several e-mails today from new stitchers (YAY!) that had picked up one or more of our patterns to stitch... but one of them wasn’t even sure how to make that first X. It brought back memories of my own stitching beginnings...

A male, colour-blind friend of ours taught both Nick and I how to stitch. I love telling that to people and watching their faces! Tim teaches high school biology and loves anything with flowers, whales or birds. He worked on some beautiful Cross Wing Collection designs, lovely huge florals or humming bird designs and lots of whales. The fact that he sees most of the design in shades of grey, with only hints of colour, does nothing to detract from his enjoyment of the hobby. As Nick once said “After a day of teaching, it is nice to work on something that doesn’t talk back to you and stays done!”

It was sifting through Tim and Anne’s magazine stash that I found the Lori Birmingham design that made my fingers itch to try this stitching stuff, even though I was still a bit unsure of how much fun it could be to make the same type of stitch over and over again. Ok... so I was horribly wrong and totally underestimated how addictive that little X would be!!

Off I went to our local craft store. I didn’t even know that such a thing as a NEEDLEWORK store existed!! I walked in with the magazine and asked the sales lady for something called “Mushroom Lugana”. She smiled and asked me how long I had been stitching. When I explained that this was my first piece... she looked a bit troubled and suggested that perhaps I might like to buy a small fridge magnet kit to stitch first.

I know that she was trying to be helpful.... I also know that I was very lucky to have someone sit down with me and get me started like Tim and Anne did. Cross stitch can be learned all on your own, particularly with all the helpful information out there on the Internet... but it helps to see someone doing it or to know that you have someone to turn to when you have questions. I don’t think that “beginners” should have to start on simple designs. Maybe not pulled thread and specialty stitches on 32 count linen right away... but if you find that image that makes your fingers “itch to stitch” ... I think you will be far more likely to stick with something because you care about that picture. If I had run into problems on the fridge magnet... or gotten bored... I am sure it would have ended up in a drawer somewhere. Then I might never have gotten hooked on just “doing one more area to see how that colour looks”... or started to see pictures in my head that were made up of little floss Xs instead of line drawings and watercolour paint.

Isn’t it funny the twists and turns that our lives take. Sometimes we only see the pattern as we start to look back at the design behind us.