Suzy Snapper
Friday, September 29, 2006
My sister in law sent this to me today and I thought I'd share here:


A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her Mother. As they talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clicked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.

"Don't forget your Sisters," she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass. "They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need Sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them.

"Remember that 'Sisters' means ALL the women... your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too.

"You'll need other women. Women always do."

'What a funny piece of advice!' the young woman thought. 'Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake! A grownup! Surely my husband and the family we may start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!'

But she listened to her Mother. She kept contact with her Sisters and made more women friends each year. As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her Mom really knew what she was talking about. As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, Sisters are the mainstays of her life.

After many years of living in this world, here is what I've learned:

Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Men don't do what they're supposed to do.

Hearts break.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Careers end.

BUT......... Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you.

A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach. When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end.

Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you. Or come in and carry you out.

Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, daughters-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, Mothers, Grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended family, all bless our life!

The world wouldn't be the same without women, and neither would I.

When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other. Every day, we need each other still.

(and on that note, a very public thank you to the two of you - and you know who you are - that were there late into the night last night talking me through the scary news from yesterday.)
The Appointment
Ok, I know I promised to post about the weekend. And I will. As soon as I have a few minutes to myself to do it justice.

But first, I have a strong need to write about what happened yesterday.

As some of you know, I've been having chick problems. There have been a lot of words - very scary words bantied about. Endometriosis. Hysterec...the word that I refuse to repeat. Over the last 6 weeks or so, I've been having a battery of tests. The good news as I mentioned before is that it looks to be correctable, but I hadn't talked to the specialist yet.

Yesterday was that appointment.

Let me first say that getting into a specialist in 17 days is a record. Once my doctor got my results back from the ultrasound on September 11, she put a request in for the gynecologist and was able to get me an appointment in just under 3 weeks. Unheard least in my medical history and well, I've had quite a few things to go by.

I met with her yesterday and she is a very sweet-seeming Russian-accented woman. Not only very learned, but also a very good bedside manner. I was put at ease immediately.

However, she had some not so good things to say. There is a reason for my discomfort and a big one. I have a 5 to 7cm fluid mass in my uterus. It's not cancer. It's not tissue but just fluid. Thankfully. It is why I have been in constant pain for several months. Imagine bad imagine that every single day for months. Sadly, you get used to it. Some days are worse than others but it's just always there.

She said to me...'Are you [sic] stoke?'. I asked her to repeat herself. 'Stoke?'

'You know...someone who don't talk 'bout it when things aren't right?'

Ooooh, STOIC! Of course! Well, I wouldn't call myself that, but maybe in denial? If I ignore it, it'll go away, right?

Bottom line is I'm going to be booked into the hospital for day surgery. It should be able to be taken care of with a D&C. I don't know much about that, so if you can shed some light on the after effects, feel free to email me.

Of course, because it is only fluid and not life-threatening, it will not be immediate. While they will keep me on a priority, I am looking at approximately 3 months wait. Which means New York is temporarily off the radar until this is cleared up. That makes me sad, but at the same time, just the mere thought of being pain free is making me very happy. Could that actually be possible?
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
What a Crazy Few Days!
Let's just say there are times when Blogger is just not fun at all. I have been trying to post for days and it has crapped out on me each and every time.

First of all, let me just say THANK YOU for all your kind wishes on my special day. As I mentioned the week before last, I was really having a hard time with it. I didn't know if it was the actual number or just more the place I was at. However, lows always give way to highs and by the time it actually arrived, I was back to myself. I have so much to be thankful for.

My birthday itself started out a little unfun. I was at the dentist bright and early for a cracked tooth. Let me just say, since I have such unbelievably disgraceful luck with dentists, she was phenomenal. Not only was it filled within seconds, but without anaesthetic as well. This was a very large leap of faith for me, given my fear. I tried to be calm, but tears were rolling down my face. However, it was done before I even knew it.

I went off to lunch with my ex-coworkers at a local golf course. I hadn't seen a couple of them since leaving last April, and was touched they'd come out for lunch on what is typically the busiest day in the office.

In the afternoon, I made a little trip to the camera store. And now the D80 is mine. Oh yes, she is mine. She is beautiful. It's a fantastic camera with an 11-point autofocus, and so many bells and whistles I have only begun to scratch the surface.

When it was time for dinner, I went to my parents' where the rest of my family was gathered. We have a new addition in our extended family. She is beautiful. 8 weeks old, 16 lbs. and a personality to melt your heart. Her name....Kali. The Goddess of Destruction.

Kali had a very traumatic trip to her new home the day before. Travelling by car in her crate from southern Missouri to Little Rock, Arkansas. Hopping a plane to Atlanta, Georgia where she missed her connecting flight to Seattle. Thankfully, there was another plane just two hours later but by the time she arrived at the gate, she'd been in that crate for nearly 16 hours. She was shaking, terrified and very dirty. None of that mattered though. She was home. Or at least with her new family. Another 3 hour drive, but this time on the lap of my niece, she snuggled right in and hasn't stopped since.

You would think my brother has gone soft. The man who swore that dogs don't belong on couches, let alone in bedrooms sat eating his dinner on the staircase so he could watch his little princess sleeping soundly on the pillow he'd propped her up with on the couch. 'She's had a rough couple days', he intoned. We giggled.

The rest of the weekend was busy as well, with my first paid photography job. I will write about that later but for now, I just wanted to get at least one thing updated.

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Fingers Crossed

With luck and a little creative financing, I'm hoping this baby will be mine tomorrow.

The D80, for those not following the market, was just released last week. It has a 10.2MP CCD sensor and about a bazillion more features than my D50.

My D50 has done me proud. It has allowed me to learn photography to a level I had no idea of just a year ago. But unfortunately, I have outgrown it. I have ideas and knowledge now that make the D50 become more and more frustrating as I learn what else I could do if given the opportunity. Not to mention, during that flight to Vegas in February, it got damaged in my packed luggage. It's still very good, and the damage did not affect the photo taking at all, but it is visible when one looks through the view finder.

Can I afford it? Probably not. I should really wait but at the same time, I want to spoil myself too. Besides, it's my day and I want to do something special.

On another note, Ms. Thang has turned into quite the Diva Princess of late. It's funny to see her come into her self of late and take notice of her own style. I often wonder where she gets it from, given that the women in her life are not overly concerned with physical appearance.

As a treat on the weekend, her mom allowed her to have temporary streaks put in her hair at the salon. Little Miss sat proudly in the chair, with the hairdresser putting foils in her hair with the patience of a saint. She has not stopped touching her hair since.

Personally, I was a bit horrified at first. Why dye those BEAUTIFUL blonde tresses at such a young age? And if I'm honest, I don't actually care for the look. Not sure I've gotten old and crotchety these days, but it seemed a little over the top.

But at the same time, it's not permanent and it was her Mom's decision. And no matter what, I'm still fiercely protective of her and a negative comment about it from a friend of mine just about brought out my inner MommaBear. I guess it's just one of those 'Here we go' moments - they grow up so fast!

It's A Small World After All
I am constantly reminded that the world can be a very small place. Whether it be in business, in family, in personal life.

That whole 'six degrees of separation' thing? I believe it wholeheartedly.

When I was 7, I was in Hawaii with my family. I remember walking along the beach and running into a friend from school that had moved away the year previous. A chance meeting that at the time I seemed too young to realize the odds of.

Similar in future trips later on. Disneyland, 1982 - my brother's old friend who he had lost contact with. In Hawaii in '92, meeting up with an old teacher.

One of the big coincidences and one that defied most odds happened during my travels in South Africa. I was meeting my then-boyfriend's family and he took me to meet his sister at Rhodes University. In her dorm room, a girl walks in...a girl I'd met during my previous travels to Europe. She and I stared at each other dumbfounded. She knew her dormmate's brother had met a Canadian girl when he was in Europe but never thought it could possibly be the same Canadian she'd met.

I have come to the conclusion that whereever I go now there will be some link to some section of my life. I'm not sure if I'm the exception or whether this happens to everyone though.

At my previous job, one of the other employees' daughter was a good friend of my nieces. I'd heard my niece refer to an 'Amanda' but never thought more of it. Not to mention another person there had a cabin two lots down from my other brother's property. He'd helped my brother chop wood just the week before we'd realized this. In true male fashion, only knowing each other's first names and not bothering with the last.

Yesterday, two incidents happened that made me once again feel like this world consists of only a handful of people.

I joined a Scrapbooking group forum. It had some great photography hints and seemed to be a great source of support and techniques. I'd been reading on and off for a while, and noted there were 935 members in the group from all over the world. Imagine my surprise when the wife of an ex-coworker of mine popped up. Someone I'd met and spent time with. We had actually been emailing back and forth for the past few days regarding a project for her side cakery business. Very bizarre.

About the same time, I got an email from a coworker that had heard about me doing the photography for his high school reunion on Saturday. While I've only been at this company for a few months, I haven't really had the chance to get to know too many people. His name seemed vaguely familiar but only in such a way that reading a more unusual surname might. Turns out not only was he the year ahead of me in high school and grew up on the street next to mine, he used to hang out in front of our family bakery waiting for the day olds. I remembered his first name, but hadn't clued in to his last.

I used to be shaken when I heard of these coincidences, but I've been now learning to take them in stride.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Start Spreadin' The News
It would seem that our little plan of going to New York might actually have some validity to it. I've been online all night researching and it would seem that things might actually fall into place.

I can't believe how much this has lifted my spirits. I have been feeling that need for a vacation for such a long time! My niece is also doing her research on the spots she'd like to see. We're hoping, if all goes well, to go in mid to late November.

Sure, it'll be cold, but we can bundle up. We're good Canadian girls, right?

Although I did go to Vegas in February and had a great time meeting Teresa and seeing my other friends, the trip itself was more than a bit challenging. I was only a few days from surgery at that point and in retrospect, had no business travelling by myself in such a disabled state. Coming back was likely the worst experience in all my travels and one that still catches me up in the throat when I think of it. I very nearly missed my plane because of my inability to walk. By the time I got on the plane they were closing the door and I was glared at by dozens of passengers who seemed to think I somehow intended to be late for the flight, rather than having to have been trying to go from one end of the airport to the other with a cane and a knee that was giving out every two or three steps. When I got on the plane, I thought to myself that it would be a very long time before I attempted airline travel again.

But wanderlust is again in my blood, and I need to get away.

Just the mere thought of going to New York and seeing all those places I loved back in '99 and a few new ones puts a big smile on my face. Let's just hope the rest of the plans fall into place.
New Experiences
When I get into a funk, it's usually time to mix things up a bit. I'm still sorting through some drama, but instead of letting it get to me, I am working very hard to stay positive.

So, this means new experiences.

I've decided to start taking courses in scrapbooking with my niece and best friend. My niece and I will be going for a course next Monday night on family journalling. One of the projects floating around in my head is to do a lifestory of my parents and family, starting from pictures of my parents when they were children. When they had their 50th anniversary in 2002, I did a slideshow video, which went over well, but not something you can physically hold.

Then on the 7th and 15th, my best friend and I will go to a couple of courses on general techniques. She is one of the most creative people I know so I'm very enthusiastic about seeing what she comes up with as well.

I took Friday off as well to celebrate properly. I made a little vow to myself that, if possible at all, not to ever work on my birthday again. So I will spend the day as leisurely as possible, have lunch with friends from my old work and arrive in the evening at my Mom's for a family dinner. That, in itself, is a gift as my Mom can't manage big dinners anymore. She realized though, that more than material presents, I was more wishing for memories. She's pretty perceptive that way.

This weekend will be my first paid photography assignment. It's the Class of 86 reunion of my high school. I am fighting the demons right now about my skill though...I see so many fantastic photographers out there and wonder what makes me think that I can actually do this better than they do. I know it's my own insecurities talking though, so I'm doing my best to ignore them.

The following weekend is a first anniversary party for a couple of friends of mine who were married last year in Mexico. I had hoped to do something extravagant and get a special cake in the shape of a sombero, but so far have not heard back from my queries to a local specialized cakery. So instead, I'm looking into a Plan B of a homemade tiramisu cake. I absolutely love baking but never seem to find the time. So maybe this is that opportunity.

My other niece and I are in the planning stages of a trip to New York. Not sure when, but it's something both of us have wanted to do. For me, ever since my trip in '99, I've wanted to return. For her, she just wants to stalk Jon Stewart. ;-) I have enough points for both of us to fly and stay in Midtown for 4 nights. In 2000, she and I went to Australia but it did not go well. She was a moody teenager and I was too nervous of letting her out of my sight. No bloody way was I agreeing to her going to a RAVE in Sydney on my watch! But it's been 6 years...we've both changed. I will agree to pay for the trip, but she must do the planning and buy me a ticket to a Broadway show. I believe that's a fair exchange, don't you?

And next week, a friend of mine is trying to convince me to join her on a speed dating event. Very intimidating but why not?

In any case, it's been a good change of focus. I still have some lingering drama, without a doubt, but there's always time for that later.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
The More Things Change
Today, I attended the first meeting of my 20th year high school reunion committee.

As mentioned before, I have mixed feelings about high school. There were highs, but there were a lot of lows. Mostly from memories of a very clique-y group who were absolutely stereotypical of every teenage movie. We may not have had cheerleaders or sports teams in our school, but we did have those that would have excelled in the role.

Most of these girls I knew from elementary school. We were friends up all through those pre-teen years but as high school came, we parted ways. They partied. I studied. Yup, I was a geek. A self-conscious, studious, shy little geek. I know that now and realize it was part of what I needed to be to get to where I am today, but that little geek still exists in me when I am around that particular group. Hence, my need to face that little insecurity and be part of this committee to overcome that.

I told myself today as I was getting ready the whole pep talk. I've done well, seen a lot, experienced much. As I got into my car, I felt good.

Walking into the house today, I was instantly transported back 2 decades though. The host is still living in her parents house - inherited after her parents passed, and the house is almost exactly as I remember it. Except now, it's her children running down the halls instead of us. An odd deja vu I had not expected at all.

The other girl, our lead coordinator...well, have you seen Mean Girls? She is the original Plastic. I'm sure there must be more to her, but given that her story apres-divorce is how to compete with an ex-husband who has his own jet. "I got my son Billy backstage tickets to Hilary Duff for his birthday last month, and wouldn't you know it? His FATHER had arranged the jet to fly him down to Disneyland for the weekend!"

Lastly, there was the girl I came to consider my nemesis. For reasons I can barely remember, we became mortal enemies from age 10 onwards. Even our mothers were involved and to this day, the bare mention of her name to my mother gets her glowering. Imagine my surprise when this down-to-earth very sweet woman walked in carrying a 2 year old. Gone was the big 80's blonde hair and MadonnaWear. She was nervous, I could tell, but so was I. But by the end of the meeting, we ended up even joking with each other! Would never in a million years expected that!

Tonight I'm going through the old yearbook scanning pages and setting up a database. I think of some of my friends who chose not to go the reunions as there aren't many people they still want to talk to. But as I look through this book, I'm struck by names and faces I hadn't thought of in years. People who I wouldn't have considered good friends, but friends just the same. It makes me wonder what they've gotten up to as most I'd love to have a chat with, but for no good reason we've lost contact.

The event itself isn't until October 2007. Lots of planning to do beforehand, but I'm invigorated by the challenge.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Climbing Out
Thanks, guys, for the support. It was a bad day yesterday for more reasons than I can even go into. The most painful one I wrote yesterday, and another one is festering but I can't go into that right now. Having said that though, I have to recount something very special that happened yesterday.

Having been feeling the depths of despair, and lower than I have in a great while, it is foreign to me. Normally, I'm pretty upbeat and take hits fairly well. Seems my shell is a bit fragile these days though.

My niece called last night. She reminded me that no matter what I do, whatever I say, whereever I am, whatever I am, she is there for me. It made me tear up to think that this little girl that I held in my arms as a newborn baby in 1982 had grown up to be such a good friend too.

At her wedding, I tearfully toasted my brother and thanked him for 'growing me a friend'. I meant it then, and I mean it now.

We have our tiffs and I know there are days when I want to wring her young neck. I look at her sometimes and wonder where she came from, as often she has a great habit of saying whatever comes to her mind - and not all in a positive way.

As she was growing up, I missed a great deal of her life. My boyfriend of the time was not accepted by my family and I, in my immaturity, chose him over my family. A mistake I will not make again.

When she was in her rebellious teens, it was me she came to. Me who consoled her teenage heartache, and soothed her as she went through those tumultuous years.

When she married 4 years ago, I was so proud of her and happy to see her walk down the aisle. I worked tirelessly to help with that wedding. I brought in a dress for her little one that by the time it had come through Customs and Shipping cost me the better part of $200.

Somewhere along the line our closeness blossomed from relatives to friends. As a child I would often wish that I'd had a sister. I had 4 older brothers but that wasn't the same. But now, I realize that I do have one, thanks to my brother.

Last night, she said softly to me 'No matter what, you always have me. Don't forget that.'

She may be a decade younger than me, but last night, I knew that no matter how things pan out over the next little while, I have her in my corner and I'm not alone.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Almost another one
I'm feeling very vulnerable today for a variety of reasons. I want to close into my little cave and never come out. It was absolutely everything I could do to wake up and come into work with a smile on my face.

My birthday is next week. I've always looked forward like a giddy school girl to my birthday. Age has never really bothered me. I look back on my life and think I've done a lot in my time her so far. My accomplishments are to be proud of, and while I don't like to bellow it from the rooftops, I can smile looking back. Certainly not to say I've not had my battles...more than I'd like to admit, actually but even the darkest days have given rise to a higher moment.

But this one. This 37. It is just not sitting right. I am not getting my head around it very well. My friend likes to tease me that she had the baby but I gained the postpartum. Ever since Little C was born, I am feeling very antsy.

For the longest time, I was under the belief that I could not have children. At first, it was a very difficult thing to overcome. I love children dearly and I'm never happier than when I'm with the little ones. They are so open and honest, and non-judgemental. They don't talk about you behind your back and they are so true in every way. But some people are just made to be Aunties and that is me. I came to accept my infertility as an 'unanswered prayer'. I was the one that got to spoil the wee ones and then go home. The children for other people, and I didn't have to worry and stress over the raising of a child of my own.

Now, with the variety of tests I've been through recently with my 'girl parts', it has turned out that the doctor who advised me back in 2001 was incorrect. There is nothing physically wrong that cannot be easily corrected.

I've spent 7 years accepting this and knowing that parenthood is not for me. Then this revelation has pushed me into a dark abyss that I had no idea I could even find. It's been my shield, my bubble in any burgeoning relationship. Telling that possible person in my life was a good way of weeding out the true from the not so true.

Now I'm faced with a myriad of questions that I have no idea how to even begin to work out. Do I actually want children? Part of me thinks I'm not so sure. I certainly could not do it alone. I pride those who can, but it's not me. It couldn't be me. Part of me thinks wistfully of a future without ever having that immaculate joy that my best friend is now experiencing and it makes me profoundly sad.

But now I'm 37. Or will be next week. Time is ticking. Actually, when I told a friend the other night about that, that was his first comment 'Tick Tock'. Ouch.

Even if I met someone today, which of course is entirely unlikely, it would be a long time until we were ready to have 'that talk'.

I'm grappling with the fact that I've lost 7 years of my life accepting myself as someone I'm not. Something I'm not. So much has been based on this one fact that I'm having difficulty even beginning to know where to start dealing with it.

I'm angry. Angry at the doctor for not being more thorough and just simply diagnosing me too quickly. Angry at myself for not pursing it. I should be happy that I've been told things are normal, or at least normal enough but I'm not.

Even typing this I'm cringing. While I know I have some very good and supportive friends that read here, I am well aware of the fact that this is 'public'. But at the same time, sometimes good can come of reaching out, right?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Nana's Lipstick and other meanderings

When did she grow up? Ms. Thang has turned into quite the little poser these days. While I prefer the candid shots, I must admit there are a few times that a posed shot makes me smile. The other night, she joined us for dinner at my parents place and immediately when to my Mom's makeup cabinet. Before the blink of an eye, she had the REDDEST lipstick smeared all over her lips.

Right after, we taught her the word 'blotting'. This little girl loves her makeup though! Unfortunately, she's somewhat creative right now. On the weekend, she drew her eyebrows in with ballpoint pen!

Yesterday, she began preschool. While sometimes life seems to go slow, I often sit back in awe as to how quickly she goes through life. Wasn't her own mother that age just yesterday?

In my attempts to work on action shots, she was a willing partipant throwing herself off the couch with each chance she got. She must have jumped off 25 times before finally exhaling 'But I'm tiii-eeerd now....'

Today is a bittersweet day in our family, which bears mentioning. My aunt lost her 3 month old daughter today in 1958. Jill and my brother were born a day apart. Sisters having their babies together. They had other children, but these two were born so close together.

When Jill was just 3 months, she developed a cold. On the night of her parents anniversary, she simply didn't wake up after napping. They rushed her to the nearest hospital, which in those days was about 45 minutes away. It was too late. However, she lives on in our memories.

My mind is wandering today. I have a busy weekend coming up with a couple photoshoots planned and a meeting with the planning committee for my 20th high school reunion. It's definitely been a busy few weeks, and no sign of slowing down yet!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Next Day
Yesterday was such an emotional rollercoaster. I had intended to give time to read as much of the 2996 Project as possible. When I realized I was still not making a dent, I calculated the numbers. Assuming one spends 1 minute on each page, that would be just over 49 HOURS of reading.

Some tributes are absolutely phenomenal and bring that particular person back in everlasting glory. Some are much smaller, heartfelt nods. Each and every one though pulls at heartstrings though. I read as much as I could, left comments where ever I went and felt very proud to be part of such an amazing project.

In the end, though, I did bring in fresh baked triple chocolate chip (white, caramel and milk) cookies to work.

I decided not to make a big deal about why, but simply to leave them on my desk with a little sign saying 'Help Yourself!'.

It went over like a .99 cent sale on payday!

I talked to a lot of people and many that I barely say hello to told me some great stories. One older gentlemen told me my cookies reminded him of his childhood.

'Grandma's Rocks', he smiled, "I haven't tasted cookies like this in 50 years. We used to call them Grandma's Rocks when we were kids'. As he left my office, he winked and said 'I'll make sure I give you a little more lead time on that next order'.

Another man came in sheepishly asking if he could have one. 'Of course', I said. He smiled and said 'Oh, I thought you'd made them just for your friends or something.' I told him I did, and that's why he should have one.

I've done things like this before, but yesterday seemed to be particularly poignant. It was a sad day but just by doing a simple act like bringing cookies, the day seemed to be so much better. I had some laughs and the day went by so quickly too.

So I think I may have to start doing that as a tradition every September 11. Why not make a terrible evil event into something that brings people together?
Monday, September 11, 2006
Angel In The Rough
As part of the 2996 Project, the following is a tribute to Manette Marie Beckles, who left this earth on 09/11/01 as a result of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, New York, New York. **UPDATE - 2996 has been shut down due to bandwidth restrictions. Please click here for a mirror site.**

Today marks a solemn anniversary. It has been 5 years since four commercial airliners were hijacked and turned into weapons slamming into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, and a field in Pennsylvania.

2,996 people lost their lives that day. People who were mothers, fathers, children...loved ones to someone. People who have left voids in others lives' that have not yet even begun to dull. While the day itself has morphed into a beacon about a turning point in North American history, we often forget the true story. That of the people who were directly involved. Not the numbers, not the statistics, not the companies, but the true hearts and souls that were silenced that day.

Today I honour the life of Manette Beckles. For this, I chose not to attempt contact with her family. I felt, out of honour and respect. they did not need me intruding on what must be a very delicate and painful time. My heart goes out to all who knew her, including her daughter Brandice, sister Thelma, brother George, cousin Estelle, close friends Denise and Dannon and many many other friends. I hope, if they come across this post, they understand why and that my words do some justice to a truly phenomenal woman.

Manette was born the same day as my brother back in 1958. May 19. As I began my research on Manette, I was struck by the coincidence of that. My brother, who grew up to become a police officer and later visited the Ground Zero site in 2002 as a representative of his local police detachment to lay respects for those lost.

She was a wonderful, kind soul. The single mother of a 15-year old daughter, she worked at Fiduciary Trust, WTC Tower 2, as an account processor. She'd been there since 1998 and had become an icon of the office. Manette was the one who would look at you with those bright, shining eyes and say, "Hey, what's for lunch?" at 10:00 a.m. or "Give a sister a break!" when she wanted her way.

Her coworkers wrote in her memoriam:

Manette was the type of person who would go out of her way cooking and ordering food for everyone. She loved to see people eating and having fun. Yet she would be the first to say that she was no angel-always trying to give the appearance of being tough, when in reality, she was truly an angel in the rough. Manette was a good mother, a hard worker and someone you could depend on. She was always there for her family and friends.
Fiduciary Trust was located on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center. They lost 96 members of their company that day. A company that prided itself on being like 'one big family'.

Manette was born and grew up in Queens, NY. From the time she was a little girl, she brought happiness to all who knew her. Childhood friends remembered her as a warm friendly child, who hadn't changed a bit - well, except maybe the lack of pigtails that were her signature at aged 12, often seen riding her bike up to Cunningham's on 99th Avenue for candy.

She grew into a vivacious, young woman with boundless energy. Quick to smile, always there for her friends, and willing to go the extra mile for anyone who needed it. Whether it was trips to Cancun, or helping with Kwanzaa preparations, or just being a shoulder when someone needed it, Manette was there.

At 43, she left this world far before her time. A true angel, brough to this earth to teach us all about human spirit and all that is good in this world.

I leave you with her daughter's words:

My mother, Manette Marie Beckles, was a very warm, high-spirited human being.
She loved to make people laugh and smile. She always smiled herself. I would do
anything to bring her back because I love her. I will miss my mother a lot, and
I just wish she could be here with me. It was not her time to go. She was a
loving mother and tried to do her best to provide for me. It is just a shame
that she is gone. But my mother will remain through me, and the hearts she has
touched. And that will be a very good thing.
-Brandice Williams
God Speed, Manette. I am thankful for this opportunity to have gotten to know you - even if it was after you'd left this earth. You have made me look at things in a different light, and brought a smile to my face as I learned of the happiness you brought to others. To Brandice, as you begin your twenties this year, my deepest condolences on the loss of your Mom. While nothing I can say can be of comfort, I can only say please know you don't walk alone.

To my readers, I hope you can take this as a little suggestion. In Manette's memory, bring in something to your work for others to share next week. Be it cupcakes, cookies or just a smile. Stop at that person's desk you don't usually have time for and have a quick chat. Bring a smile to someone else's face. Trust me, it will be a very rewarding experience and Manette will be glad you did.
The Days That Change Your Life
On September 10, I'd never heard of blogs. I'd never thought to question that what was shown on the evening news might not be the complete and utter truth. My interest in current affairs was strong back then, but from a decidedly superficial view.

There's a few posts today that have truly caught my eye and heart. One is at Daimnation!, a Canadian perspective on the events of that day. And Girl On The Right asks us if we remember what normal was?

When I first flipped on the TV, my first thought was disbelief. Followed very quickly by a deep foreboding. I called my mother and my first words that day was 'The world's gone MAD!'. The funny thing was all 4 of my brothers had also called her. In times of stress, don't we all just want our Mothers? It was only 6:30 in the morning, yet still my Mom was the one that gave me that calm reassurance that we'd get through this together.

Many planes were diverted to the Vancouver International Airport as well (Gander was the Eastern gate) and I remember driving by the tarmac that afternoon and seeing more planes than I'd ever thought possible. I knew at a very core level then that everything had changed.
Thank you for sharing your remembrance.

This is what I wrote back on December 12, 2004 of my remembrances of September 11. I will repeat it today.

The days you remember always

There are a few days in your life where you remember every second like you are still living it. Snapshots of time that seem to live on in some sort of infinite loop in your memory bank. Some are personal, like the time my Mom called from the back of an ambulance to tell me they'd been hit head-on and my Dad didn't look good or how I was with when my cousin when she died. Some are more localized, like the Tall Ships Festival in 2002 here when we had 400,000 people come to check out the beautiful ships and entertainment in my village. 4 days of amazing sights, but imagine 400,000 people in your backyard and well, it ain't all so sweet.

Then there are the moments of time that change history. Change your entire perspective and everyone around you. Those moments that generations of people talk about. I grew up hearing my grandparents tell me of seeing the Titanic in dock being built. They came to Canada on the ship just before the Titanic called the Teutonic. Thankfully, it's experience with icebergs was a little bit more fortunate. My parents would tell me stories of growing up in the Depression, of the War where my mom's brother fought, and later, of the day Kennedy was shot. How the world felt like it stood still that day, and the schools were all closed even here in his honour. My Mom was a news junkie too, but in those days, it was mostly print news and she has kept the newspapers from every major event since the 60's. Those are some of my most prized possessions.

In my 3 1/2 decades, my generation has experienced a few momentous occasions of it's own. One of my oldest memories is of hearing that Elvis died. I remember this well because I was in the backseat of my sister-in-law's yellow VW Bug. She was driving and my other sister-in-law (although she was just Girlfriend then) was in the passenger seat. The news came over the AM radio and she freaked and swerved the car off the road narrowly missing a pole. Yeah, won't be forgetting that moment.

Others that stick in my memory like little frayed bookmarks include Lennon's death (although at 10, I thought it was the guy from the Odd Couple - Jack Lemmon), Mt. St. Helen's eruption (we heard the sonic boom here), and of course, Diana's death. That last one was a little more personal as I was in England about a week after her funeral and the flowers were still piled 3 feet high at the cathedral and at Buckingham Palace. The smell of flowers in the air as you walked close was overwhelming! We also drove through the tunnel in Paris and saw the skid marks still fresh where she and Dodi died. You could have heard a pin drop on that tour bus and I'm sure all 47 on the bus that day would remember it well.

This brings me to my point for today. September 11. A day that will always instill great sadness and coldness in me. Some have moved on and most people don't really even want to talk about it anymore, but it made deep marks in my conscience. I was asked by an American friend recently about how I remembered it. He didn't realize that other countries grieved along with the Americans, or that Canada was effected the way it was. I don't know if his feelings were indicative of most Americans or if my memories are not of a typical Canadian, for that matter. But that day plays in my head often. Oddly, I somehow seem to look at the clock when it displays 9:11 almost every day. Another friend of mine does this too. We've tried to theorize that we probably look at the clock at other times but the other times don't register on our consciousness. Probably true, but it still seems to touch a nerve each time.

September 11, 2001. I woke up early as we were having a "company day", a sort-of play nice and bond outside of the regular duties kind of event. It was being held at a local movie theatre and we had to meet there at 8am. Usually my day doesn't even start until then. So I set my alarm for 6:00am. I woke up and as I do every day, I flipped on the TV and saw the WTC smoking. It was the oddest sensation, and my brain didn't want to even take it in. Then I saw the smoke rising up in Washington, DC from a distance. I thought, I don't can't see New York from Washington! In 1999, I had traveled to DC for a friend's wedding and we'd taken a side trip to New York. So these images on the screen weren't just familiar sites, I'd been there! I'd flown over the Pentagon and I'd stood in the lobby of the WTC (we didn't have time to go to the top). It just didn't make sense.

I stood transfixed to the screen, as so many of us did. I saw the second plane make it's perilous trek. I couldn't comprehend it at all. I remember feeling so confused and scared. Very scared. Just after 7, I called my Mom and the first words I could spit out were 'Turn on the news. The world has gone mad.' My brothers apparently also called her soon after. It's strange. No matter how old you are, you still need to hear your Mom's voice sometimes.

Driving to work, I felt physically ill. I turned on the news radio and heard the newscaster saying "It's collapsing right now. It's 7:27am here, 10:27 there, and the tower has collapsed. Nothing seemed real. Everything seemed just wrong. I didn't want to go to work. I didn't want to play nice with everyone else. I wanted to stay home, and stare at the TV screen. I thought about my friends in New York, and in DC and wondered how they were and if they were ok.

I arrived at the movie theatre, and met two coworkers and told them the news. They hadn't been listening to the news and had no idea. They both looked ill and one was a Middle Eastern fellow and I'll never forget his words..."Life will never be the same again." In the movie theatre, our president came to the microphone and said they had considered canceling the event, but instead decided it would be good for us to bond under difficult circumstances. Then we stood for a minute of silence. Many people were crying.

The event of the day was a photo scavenger hunt. I wasn't part of the team but instead stayed behind to help with the organization. Because I wasn't at my desk, I was unable to get in touch with my American friends and that weighed heavy on my mind. I called my Mom throughout the day and heard the updates as they came in. Things like '40,000 dead' and that there were more than a dozen planes missing. Of course, these later ended up to be false but at the time, there was a feeling of this being the Armageddon. When airspace was closed, planes began to be diverted to Vancouver and other Canadian cities. There were CF-18's in our airspace circling and our airport was becoming deluged with stranded Americans.

While we waited during the day, we began to hear stories from our colleagues. One staff member's husband was talking to a broker when the planes hit and they were cut off. Another staffer we later found out visited WTC on her vacation just the day before. Our HR Department started doing a head count of who was where in our company. Although a Canadian company, many of our execs and employees are American and it affected many of our group personally. It was great to see how much our company did for those of our group (and their families) that were stuck and no expense was spared to ensure they didn't have more trouble than needed.

In the afternoon, another friend and I decided to try to find a television. We had been getting updates from people who called in but we had to see for ourselves. So he and I went through the mall by the theatre and finally found a tv in a sport store. He and I sat there on the shoe bench, watching the tv with a group of about 30 people and tears dripped like rivers on our faces. Everywhere you looked, people were crying and one thing that struck me was that everyone looked so pale.

On the way home, I drove past the airport as I do every day. But this time was different. There were so many planes on the tarmac I wondered how they could even land anymore. I tried to take a picture with my digital camera as I drove past but it didn't come out well. Later, I heard there was approximately 200 planes parked there and I wouldn't be surprised. I drove past the Salvation Army church and there were busloads of stranded travelers streaming in the doors. The radio announcers were pleading for people to help anyway they could, be it extra blankets and pillows, or to offer beds. Hotel rooms were fully booked and many people had to sleep on the floors of churches and school gymnasiums. I felt guilty that I couldn't help with extra room and I felt so bad for those people who were stuck.The worst of all was hearing these people were coming off planes diverted here and had no idea at the time what had happened. They had only been informed that they were not landing in whatever city they had been expecting and that they were in Vancouver. So most were only going on very limited knowledge and were in a strange city with no idea when they were leaving.

I heard from my friends in the States. They had some terrible stories to tell. Ian, in NY could smell the fires burning from the WTC. J's brother in NY had fled the area close to WTC and found his friend walking down the road, dazed and splattered with blood from someone who had jumped. A friend was working on Capitol Hill and when it was targeted, they were told to get under their desks and stay there. Her daughter was at daycare on the floor below and she was forbidden to go to her. That decision still shocks me to this day, and I can't imagine how traumatic it must be to think you're about to die any moment and you are unable to get to your toddler when she's so close. Another friend actually saw the plane as it hit the Pentagon. He still goes for counseling for that as it brought his long-buried 'Nam dreams back to life.

The next morning, during my commute to work, I was late because the Armed Forces were on the highway by the airport spot checking the commuters. It scared me. I didn't want to have a world where I had to go through checkpoints just to go to work! That next day at work all we did was surf the 'net to find more stories about what was happening. We heard the stories of people trapped alive in the wreckage, of them calling on their cells and emailing. I still don't really know if those stories ended up being true or not but it fed that helpless feeling that all of us felt. I thought about my NY experiences. Of meeting these NY firemen when we were lost and them teasing us about being tourists...I found out later that particular station lost 3 men. I thought of all the firemen and policemen and thought about them being guys like my brothers. Good men, with families, just doing their job. Then I realized, with some horror, that one of my vendors I'd been talking to on September 10, was actually in the WTC. I only knew her first name and although I haven't seen her name as a victim, I do wonder if she made it out ok. I also thought about what it would have been like to be on those planes, and know that you were going to die and there was nothing you could do about it.

Another thing that haunts me from the newscasts are the sounds of the firemen's alarms as they lay motionless. That wee-ooo, wee-ooo sound. I knew instantly what it was and it made me cry inside. I phoned my fireman brother, whom I rarely spoke to, and told him how I felt.

On Friday of that week, the day was declared a National Day of Mourning. At work, we all left our desks and went outside where an American flag was raised in honour of our American coworkers and those that had lost their lives in the attack. They played the American national anthem and even though it was not our own, we felt a kinship with our southern neighbour.

Over the next few weeks, I did different things to process the events. Of course, I read every piece of news I got my hands on, I watched every show I could, I wrote a lot in my journal and I made a CD of a bunch of 9-1-1 tribute songs. I made them for my friends too. A friend from work got married a couple weeks later and it happened to be on the day we invaded Afghanistan. On that day, my friend's family was at the wedding from South Africa and they had no idea if they would be able to go back as the flights were still being delayed and cancelled left and right for security concerns.

My parents went on a cruise around this time too and they had a bomb scare on the boat in LA. There was a report of terrorists boarding a ship and it had to be checked out. My mom said they were all herded off the boat into a holding area of the docks in LA, while men with big guns stormed the ship. Thankfully, it turned out to be a false alarm.

As time went on, the rawness dissipated, but it has not been forgotten. I bought books telling stories of the survivors and those not so fortunate. I read lots of websites, some compelling, some just drivel but all showed different perspectives of what had happened. Yes, other countries experience terrorism on a much more frequent scale, but that doesn't make this any less tragic. The conspiracy theories kind of get to me too. Like the Pentagon friend SAW that plane and nothing is going to make me believe otherwise.

The world definitely did change that day. For not just the US, but for other countries too. It was big blow where people did not expect. And I don't believe for one minute that it couldn't happen again. The saddest part, though, is that it will happen in the least expected manner and at the least expected time. These theorists that try to predict really can't hold water. Anyone can create a scenario, and security can try to be tightened up, but when someone wants to do harm, it will happen and a way will be found.

A lot has been said about terrorists coming in from Canada and it makes me feel sad. There are terrible people who wish to do harm in every society, but they are not indicative of the general group. And besides, when we cross the border into the US, we go through American customs - not Canadian. So if there needs to be tightening up, maybe the US Customs should be looking in the mirror. I have noticed we are asked many more questions going through now than before, and I don't mind at all. Go ahead, ask away. And sure, I'll open my trunk for you if you ask. If that's what it takes, it's a small price to pay.

So when someone asks if I 'remember', well, yes, I do and I do so every day. I also remember what happened in Bali for the Australians, in Madrid on 3/11, in London 7/7 and India 7/11. This is a very scary world, and we need not get complacent or to let these tragedies fade into the distance of time.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Purse Presence

Where to begin? I was tagged graciously this morning by my friend, Kate over at The Last Amazon. She's one of the strongest female writers out there in the blogosphere in my humble opinion and I often aspire to be as profound as she can be. So when she decided to unbuckle her purse and show us the inner workings, who am I to say no?

My purse...isn't it funny how we can feel so naked when we are not carrying this piece of cloth? From the time we're preteens, we've been toting a bag around of some sort. I remember being so jealous of the girls in high school who had the 'hobo bag' so popular in the 80s. We actually called them 'Bitch Bags' in my school, but oddly instead of the insult, it was a compliment at the time. I still think fondly of that Christmas morning in 1986 when I opened my presents and found my black 'bitch bag' and suede pixie boots. I was over the moon!

Now, fast forward and the purse I now carry is a bit of an extravagance to myself. This one and the one before it are Coach. Way too expensive for words, but trust me when I say I got bargains on both of them. Still though, over a day's pay on each. I like to tell myself that spending more on something that I use every day is smarter and cheaper in the long run. But if I was being honest, I just love them on a completely shallow level. They're pretty and they make me feel girly. I like that.

Inside my purse, you find some secrets about me. I'm a packrat. I'm not organized at all inside that little world.

I've got a wallet, but no cards in it. Over time, they've migrated to the bottom of the purse after I was too lazy to put them back where they belonged. What does my wallet have in it? A card from a restaurant where my friend sang her first solo with her new group. A handwritten post-it note from my niece when she was just 12 or 13 (she's 24 now) that says 'I love my Auntie Sue! She treats me like a reale person.' Ok, spelling was never her forte but I look at that note often when I'm needing a pick me up.

The rest of my purse is a miss-mash of papers, cards and memories. Two tickets to recent concerts - Great Big Sea on September 1, and Kenny Rogers on September 6. If you've been reading my blog recently, you know how I feel about the latter, but the former? Beyond amazing. Those boys know how to throw a kitchen party!

I carry my passport everywhere. I am not entirely sure why, but I do. I live 20 minutes from the border and my best friend lives right at the border. But we don't go across as often as we used to. Still, I carry it. I think it has to do with patriotism and my need to remind myself constantly of my country. Or maybe I've just been remiss in putting it back where it belongs.

There's medicine. Tylenol 3, which I need to take almost daily. Wish I didn't, but it's my cross to bear. There's Immodium, or as I like to call it Vitamin I. I don't need that daily but when I do, it's gotta be close by.

A little point-and-shoot camera. It doesn't take great pictures anymore, but it's something I carry around always. It's too hard to bring around my DSLR everywhere so this little guy slips quietly in my purse and is always there when I need it.

The basic are there. A pen, paper notepad for those lightbulb moments. A grocery list. Map printouts to places I've been lately. Frequent shopper cards for La Senza, Chapters-Indigo and a few other clothing stores. I'm a shopaholic, what can I say?

Lots of coins, or what I've found myself referring to as shrapnel. Not quite sure where I picked that vernacular up from but it seems to work. Lots of pennies...can't seem to get rid of those anymore. I recently heard a study that it takes 1.2 cents to even produce a penny. I suspect their days are definitely numbered.

There's hairspray. A friend gave me that last week after she'd been given it by her hairdresser. I thought it was so cute and immediately put it in my purse. The funny thing is I'll probably never use it. I don't for the most part use any styling products in my hair.

What's not in there? Pictures of my family. You'd think with my passion for photography there would be, but there isn't. I am always sending pictures off to friends via email, or printing them out for my less-than-technical relatives but I seldom keep them for myself. I always think I should probably save some for me, but somehow it doesn't seem right. My photographs are for others to enjoy, I guess.

And that, my friends would be pretty much the contents of my purse today. Today also being the day that I was switching to Summer Beige Suede Coach to Winter Chocolate Brown Suede Coach.

Tagging? I'm very curious to see what Monica, Karen and Shannon's purses hold. Care to share?
Saturday, September 09, 2006
In Retrospect
Monday, of course, marks a very solemn day. A day that changed the thinking and direction of many over the entire world. Everyone has various memories and remembrances of September 11, but I'd like to remember how it unfolded in retrospect to my town.

I live in Richmond, where the Vancouver International Airport is located. That day, once it became clear that airspace had closed, inbound planes were diverted to our local airport. Canadian officials agreed to let planes land in Canada - in Gander Newfoundland on the East Coast and Vancouver on the West. While much has been written about the hospitality of the Gander, our own local hospitality has been something more of a quiet admiration.

For me, I remember driving home that day past the airport and noticing more planes on the tarmac than I thought were possible. Imagine the largest airshow all full of 747's and 767's. All those people, diverted to our country and stranded here for a few days put a toll on our local services, but that was met with a smile and an attitude of being in this together. People opened their homes, and their hearts and businesses donated food and supplies to anyone in need. I remember every radio channel turning into a dispatch center with notes of 'Salvation Army Church needs more bread and buns'. It was as if the community, in a time of complete unknown and uncertainty, just pulled up it's sleeves and said 'Let's go.'

This weekend's paper has a few memories and I'd like to share them here. The following is a highlighted version of events as printed in the Richmond News this weekend.

It was five years ago Monday that the most devastating terrorist attack in
America took down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The event happened on the other side of the continent, but the reverberations were felt around the world and particularly here in Richmond. With 34 plans bound for the United States suddenly diverted to YVR, Richmond was not just an observer but a player in the crash that shook the world.

With the planes grounded, Richmond suddenly had thousands of stranded passengers to accommodate.

A phone bank was also set up and Richmond residents were asked to call
in if they could put up passengers. The response was overwhelming. So many
people wanted to help, but in the end it seemed the hotels were able to
accommodate the passengers.

Owners of the local grocery store dropped off truckoads of groceries to the Baptist Church to help out. But ironically, the efficiency of the city, the airlines and the airport meant there was little the residents could do.

"There was real frustration in that", said the fire chief. "People wanted to do more".

Bruce McK, a retiree, feeling a sense of helplesness took his bagpipes to the dyke across from the airport. With the tails of hundreds of parked airplanes in the distance, he played lament after lament as about a hundred people gathered and cried in a spontaneous wake.

Stacey B was at her father-in-law's house preparing for his birthday
when the call came from the church. They owned a bakery and the church was
inquiring if there were any supplies to be had. They felt they wanted to do more
and opened their home so she went to the church looking for someone requiring

Mrs B was hooked up with a bright, charmingly goofy 15 year old
boy from Boston. "I have kids and I just thought how I hope someone would take
my child in if he were stranded at an airport".

During the boy's 4 day stay with the family, the boy's mother was able to phone a number of times to keep in contact with her son.

"I would do it over in a minute", she says "My only regret was that at the time we didn't have a lot of extra room so we couldn't take in more".

The Tree Man
The phone rang last night. Ms. Thang has returned from her family camping trip. I don't want to say exactly how much I missed her, but well, it might have been a little bit. Maybe more than that.

The little voice said "Annie'll never guess what happened when we came home".

"What, sweetie?", I smiled at the giddy sound of her voice.

"A man moved into our TREE!", she exclaimed. Not knowing what exactly she was talking about, I asked her for details.

"A GNOME Man! He moved into our tree so he can watch over us and make sure we're ok. Alex and me."

Somewhat confused, but having a vague idea, I asked "Like a faerie? Is he a little spirit in the tree?"

Exasperated, she explained to her slow Auntie, "No! Like a GNOME! Faeries have wings and they live OUTSIDE trees. GNOMES are INSIDE!"

Silly me.

My brother emailed me soon after with the pictures of their new guest.

The Gamble Part II
Thank you all for your awesome support regarding my "open letter". Originally I wrote it because I was angry and for me the best way of working through my strong emotions is to put fingers to keyboard, or pen to paper. And often when I'm truly worked up about something, my words tend to be pretty powerful.

Monica, Shannon - thanks for your letters. That's very cool, and I'm humbled that you would do that for me. As far as Alabama, I would see them in a heartbeat. I've heard very good things of them over the years and they are definitely a band I would put my money to. Of course, Vancouver's not too "country" of a town, so tours up this way aren't too common. Maybe my next visit 'south'.

I did send it to his agent, but to be honest, I've gotten myself in a bit of hot water with my mother over it all. I broke two rules of hers. One is to speak publicly of her illnesses, and the other is to speak negatively of her one true obsession.

You can see how happy she was to be there though, and I need to remember that while I am disappointed, she had a very good night.

She refuses to accept that his performance was less than stellar, although she did admit finally this morning that she thinks he 'may not have been well'.

I uploaded a video though. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 07, 2006
The Gamble
An Open Letter to Kenny Rogers:

Dear Mr. Rogers,

Last night, we had the opportunity to attend your concert in Richmond. I had originally purchased the tickets as soon as they came available for sale, as it was part of fulfilling a dream for my mother. We were fortunate to be able to buy 4 tickets, front row centre in the 5th row.

You see, my Mom has advanced COPD which means every step for her is a challenge. Each breath a victory. She's tough though. You'd never hear her complain or ask for help. I've watched her health decline over the last year to the point that she now can't leave the house without a lot of difficulty. Recently, much to her chagrin, she was issued a disabled parking license. She is very embarassed about that, but for us, we know it's a new lease for her. We know now she may be able to get out of the house more - something most of us take for granted.

Your music has been an inspiration to her for the better part of 4 decades. She has every album, every movie and pretty much anything you have ever done. She has been to each concert you have performed in Vancouver and still talks about the shows back in the 70s as if they were yesterday. In fact, you were the first concert that I ever went to as well as she took me when I turned 11. That was the year you toured with Dolly Parton, in the concert-in-the-round style. It was an amazing night.

Actually, you may want to know a funny story. My Mom used to play 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town' so often in my childhood that to this day, when I spent extra time putting on my makeup or doing my hair, I will hear that song flow through my thoughts. "You painted up your lips, and curled your tinted hair" will sing in my head as I put on my makeup. Not a happy song, if you think of the words, but for me, it reminds me of happy times. Of a carefree childhood.

When I heard you were coming, I decided to go overboard. I bought 4 tickets. For my Mom, my Dad and my Mom's sister. My Mom's sister is a tough old girl. She's buried her husband and two of her children and now at the age of 76 is helping raise another grandchild and nursing her eldest daughter through breast cancer. Trust me when I say they don't make 'em like that anymore. When I told her she was going, she cried. I don't think I've ever seen her cry. Even through her husband's brutal death from cancer, nor through all the trials and tribulations that she's been through. But she cried about this and you know why? She had never in her entire life been to a live concert! And your music was so moving to her, that it often reminded her of her late husband.

I am telling you this because I need you to understand how incredibly important this night was to us all. It is becoming more and more precious to be able to have these family moments and to create these incredible memories.

So when you showed up on the stage obviously drunk, I was beyond disgusted. It was all I could do not to walk right out. You stood on that stage, swaying back and forth in a shirt that wasn't even done completely up. Your hair was standing straight up as if you'd simply gotten up off whatever couch you'd been lying on right before popping on stage. Did you not look in the mirror before you walked out? Did you not, even once, consider that we - your fans - paid dearly for this night?

Your attempts at humour were degrading, in poor taste and downright rude. 'I told them to turn up the lights so I could watch the stupid looks on your faces while you watched me', you cried out. Why? We were there to see YOU, not the other way around! If it had stopped at that, I may have been able to let it go, but for you to single out people in the audience and shout 'You! The one with the red hair? Do you realize how funny you look? Don't get out much do you?' If that had been me, I would have been mortified.

You then picked another man out of the audience and berated him for not being a true fan, even to his protestations. The man told you straight to your face how much he enjoyed your music and what did you do? You laughed and told him he was lying. Looked up at the audience and told us 'I can tell liars a mile away'. Then you proceeded to throw money at him, telling him to buy a CD and find out but 'don't buy that Garth Brooks crap'. He may have taken your money, but I doubt you bought his loyalty.

You sang the hits, I'll give you that. But without soul. You giggled through the middle of ballads. When we attempted to sing along with you, you told us we 'sounded pathetic'. When we stopped trying to sing along, you shook your head at us with some sort of disappointment. What did you think we would do?

I left feeling very angry. You, sir, are a disgrace. You talk about your 'incredible' career but did you ever realize why that career happened? You have a great voice, sure, but so do a lot of people. Your fans are what gave you that comfortable lifestyle you live in.

Take Glen Campbell for instance. He came to Vancouver last week and provided a free concert to his fans. People are still talking about what a fantastic night that was. He was very down to earth, and while I was never a big fan of his, I would definitely give him a second look if he was to come into town again.

To show up inebriated is intolerable. I wouldn't dream of showing up to my job under the influence, so what gives you the right to show up to yours in such a state? To think I spent nearly one weeks' pay to see your concert and to give my family a special moment makes me ill when you clearly have such a lack of respect for those around you.

You have had your last dime out of my wallet.
Monday, September 04, 2006
In Memoriam

We live in a very beautiful area, one of breathtaking sunsets, uninterrupted water views and incredible beauty. However, there is a high water table.

What this means is that our loved ones cannot be buried in the area they grew up and lived in. There are no cemetaries here.

So many people buy memorial benches along the edge of the marshlands, tidal flats and water. It becomes a place we can go to sit and think of our passed loved ones, and one that also gives others a great place to stop and rest while they enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.

They're not cheap. $1,000 -$1,500 to start, plus a yearly maintenance fee.

This is our family bench. It's a tribute to my uncle and my cousin..paid for by my aunt, who can no longer visit herself. The walk is just too difficult for her.

Lately, there have been many comments in the paper about these benches being damaged and vandalized. Not just mere initial-engraving or the odd hack, which as distateful as it may be, is almost expected in a public area, but severe disfiguration. A local WWII vet found his wife's bench covered in carved swastikas and cigarette burns in the seats. This is a well-known member of our community, and it was also well-known that his wife passed away of cigarette-smoking illnesses and he had become very anti-smoking since.

Another lady found simply vulgar, racist slurs carved into her bench, referring to her ancestry (or from what the perpetrators had gathered from her last name).

My aunt, with all her health problems, had been reading this and becoming increasingly frantic that she could not check on 'her bench'. She was convinced that hers was also among the damaged, and while we tried to convince her otherwise, we could only hope. My thoughts were from a mere statistical point of view. I knew where the two benches the paper were mentioned were located and they were far from where my Aunt's is. On top of that, given the sheer number of benches, I would be surprised if hers were included in the vandalism.

Last night, after dinner with her and yet another concerned plea, I decided to go check it out myself. This was not easy - it's a good 1/2 mile hike which is still somewhat difficult for me, but I felt necessary.

Unfortunately, her fears were not without merit. I found the bench covered in grafitti. I couldn't make out the words, and can only be thankful that whatever message the "artist" wanted to say was not foul, just messy.

We have decided not to tell her for now. It would do her no good in her current state of health, but will have the bench restored. I took pictures last night, not only of the beautiful sunset pictured above, but also of the damage. I will take more when it's redone and those will be framed for her. It just makes me so sad that these individuals who feel the need to deface property in this manner likely have no idea the true damage they cause.
Taking A Chance
I decided to take a chance. To try something new.

So after an extraordinary amount of reflection, I decided to join E Harmony. I figured it was worth a try. The selling point for me was the more in-depth matching algorithm. I also figured, due to the cost, it would weed out those that were not too interested.

It's been a few weeks now. It has not been that way at all.

Guy A. Bio: 43 years old, works for as game designer for a major software company. He seems very literate, topical and educated. The picture is a wee bit dorky. He's wearing a fanny pack and a shirt that is far too small in his apartment, but I think...don't be so judgemental, give him a chance. First email, he can't wait to tell me that he makes a 'BOATLOAD of money' in the second line. First red flag. Second email, his favourite pass time is Dungeons and Dragons! Do people still do that? Apparently he and 5 of his best friends get dressed up and roleplay with pen/paper and a gameboard all weekend. Again, I tell myself if I dis' him because he doesn't do the same things I do, then I'm no better than those that have done the same to me. It's just another form of board game, right? Some people play monopoly, and other play different games.

I write again. Yes, he plays the games in his parent's basement. He's not yet left the nest, so to speak. So I ask him how long he's been single and what brought him to E Harmony. Well, let's just say he was played by Steve Carrel in the movie. He had never even had a DATE! I gave him the 'I think we're just too different' speech.

Guy B. Bio: 38 years old, says he's self-employed. He starts off VERY angry, critiquing my pictures and telling me that I look like I've aged a lot between them. (3 years apart for the record). Definite chip on his shoulder, and ends his email with 'I know you said no drugs, but I smoke pot. Hoped you'd be open minded like everyone else in this province.' Again, red flags, but I'm feeling charitable. I write back, tell him that maybe he's taking the wrong approach by being aggressive in his emails. More flies with honey, that sort of stuff. Then I ask him what type of self-employment is he involved in. He delivers NEWSPAPERS!!!! 38 years old, lives with 3 other roommates, smokes pot and is a paperboy, working 3 hours a day. I'm not looking for moguls but quite possibly by the approach of the 4th decade, you'd think he'd have enough ambition to find something more that a 15 year old could do! So, buh-bye #2.

Guy C. Emailed this morning. First line in his email. "I live in x. I noticed you live in y. That's a bit of a commute. Will you consider moving in with me? By the way, I have 4 kids living at home.' Slow down! I don't even know your full NAME, dude!

So this morning, I go in and give it one more chance.

No matches can be found! What? Is it really that slim pickings in this area? No wonder I'm still single!

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer trapped in a corporate buyer's body. Steel shopping by day, and freeflowing prose by night. One day I hope to have the nights become my days, but am intimidated by the sheer amount of people who share my dream. So I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.
This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from cdnsue. Make your own badge here.