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Happy New Year!

In this coming year, remember how your words and actions impact those around you.  Whenever you can, spare a gentle thought or kindness.  Smile to strangers.  Hold the door for a friend.  Give of yourself in small ways.  Those little gestures can ripple out in ways you’d never expect.

Wishing you all a year full of love, joy, and happiness!

Happy New Year!!!

Spencer Harrison – Artist in Residence and True Friend

I intended today to write about Spencer Harrison, the artist in residence for both Camp fYrefly retreats.  But I find myself at a loss for where to begin.  As soon as I met Spencer I felt a connection with him, and we spent quite a bit of time together during Edmonton’s Camp fYrefly.  I attended each of his three workshops, we shared many meals and conversations, sometimes all it took was a glance and a grin in passing…  but I always found a reliable, comforting, spirit that in many ways mimicked my own (or perhaps it was my spirit who mimicked his).

Spencer is close to defending his PhD dissertation, the culmination of a lifetime of work.  And his dissertation is as unique and splendid as he is.  A circus tent, painted inside and out, a coming out story of freak show proportions.  A literal freak show, painted and detailed on every panel…  the exterior dedicated to the visible and well known people of the traveling circus shows we all know, and the interior to the inner freak show that was a young boy growing and coming out in Ontario, the boy who spent seven hours stuffed in a locker while everyone else left at the end of the school day.

Open, warm, and willing to share, Spencer is encouraging and giving.  Saying good bye at the end of Camp fYrefly Alberta was easy, knowing I would again be in his presence at Camp fYrefly Saskatchewan.  I have to admit, it will be a far more difficult thing on the 21st when we’ll have to say goodbye for a much longer time.

I truly feel blessed to know Spencer Harrison, in a way I haven’t felt blessed to know someone in a very long while.  The memories I have of him are ones that I will treasure, and carry with me for a lifetime.  He gave me some pretty incredible gifts.

Want to know a little more about our Artist in Residence?  Check him out at:

http://www.spencerjharrison.com/

http://www.ocad.ca/faculty/profile_articles/20100210_spencer_harrison.htm

If I build up the courage, I might just share an art piece done up under his watchful eye during the last of his sessions.  IF I build up the courage.  😉

Onwards and Upwards

This month has ended up on the record books (at least for us) as completely chaotic.  Nana passed on very early in the month.  Her death prompted an emergency trip to Calgary.  For those not familiar with Canadian geography, that’s roughly seven hours from us here in Saskatoon (by car).  Because of our animals, we don’t take many trips.  It’s hard to orchestrate things…  finding families each willing to take in someone while we’re gone is tough.  But when push comes to shove, in emergency situations like this, friends are always there to help.

So before anything else, a huge thank you to: Susan and Ray who watched Roo (Chihuahua) and Zenora (Congo African Grey), Dani and her boys who watched Brandibuck (Havanese) and ended up picking up Neddie (Chihuahua) from the airport and watching him for a day too, Amber, Mike and Ainsley who took care of Thora (Lurcher), and my parents who let Liz (Miniature American Eskimo) tear through their house.  Without your help we would not have had the chance to go and gain the closure we so needed.  THANK YOU ALL!

We left Saskatoon on a Sunday, with plans to return home on Thursday (the day after the funeral).  During our planned stay we spent an afternoon at the Calgary Zoo.  Lily-Ann and I are both animal nuts (and Damon loves us so grins, shrugs his shoulders, and humors us), and the zoo in Calgary has a vast array of exotics we  don’t see at the Forestry Farm Zoo in Saskatoon.  So we took in the sights, sounds, and smells on the Monday after we first arrived.

River Otter, Swimming

Lily's favourite this trip was the River Otters

The following day (Tuesday) was Nana’s wake.  It was hard.  But it was nice to see family we hadn’t seen in a few years.  Seems it always takes an occasion like this to pull folks together.  It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.  I wasn’t sure how I’d handle things, so thought it was best that Lily-Ann not attend the viewing.  She stayed with our cousins, Sheena and Madison (who, like Damon, are Nana’s grandchildren).  In the end, she probably could have come…

In the morning on Wednesday we took Lily-Ann to visit my Auntie Risa.  It was the day of the funeral, and that wasn’t something we were ready to bring  Lily for.  We were (and are) very grateful that she was able to watch the wee girlie.  It made the day much easier knowing we didn’t have to worry about her.

I’m not big on funerals.  For some, they can be very cathartic.  For me… well…  they are a mixed bag of emotions, and most are not positive.  I would be much happier with just a group of folks who loved the deceased getting together to share stories.  That, for me, is where the catharsis is found.  That said, Nana’s funeral was lovely.  It was presided over by a pastor who knew Nana very well, and who loved her.  It was personal, and exactly what Nana would have wanted.  It was beautiful, and I am grateful to her pastor and her church for that.

Later in the day, everyone gathered at Debbie and Brian’s home (Debbie is Nana’s only surviving daughter).  It was a wonderful time.  Grief was the order for quite some time… but as stories and memories were shared smiles glowed all around us.  And late into the night we found ourselves enjoying being with one another, and even found ourselves laughing full heartedly as Debbie attempted to sing an incredible (and hilarious) rendition of “Back in Black”.  There was a lot of love in that room.

the whole family gathered around to play Rock Band

"Back in Black" with the whole clan

The next day we set out for home, after many hugs and sad goodbyes.  Most everyone from out of town was hitting the road at some point.  Seemed we were in the middle.  Many had already left, but a few stragglers remained when we loaded into our car and headed onto the highway.

However…  Our trip home was not to be.

About 45 minutes outside of Strathmore there is a stop sign on the highway.  You can turn right to head to Drumheller, or continue straight to Three Hills.  We did neither.  Our car stopped normally, but there it stayed as smoke billowed forth.  Believe it or not, we remained on that stretch of highway for almost twelve hours before being towed back to Strathmore, and then picked up by Debbie who took us back into Calgary.

stranded at the side of the highway

Following Daddy

The next week was a series of highs and lows.  Ordering part after part, having less and less confidence in the mechanics who held us hostage… but having no choices but to just keep waiting.  I packed our bags FOUR times during that week, each time expecting to be going home, only to find out from the mechanics that one more thing had gone wrong, and one more thing was keeping us from our trip home.

We are so grateful to all our friends and family who watched over our animal family members during our extended stay.  And to Debbie and Brian who played host for so much longer than they’d initially signed on for.  And to Auntie Risa who came by one afternoon to allow us to escape, at least for a little while.  And to Damon’s mom who loaned us the money we needed for the repairs.  And to David and his family who tried to help us fix the car before we finally gave up and called for a tow.  So many people came to our aid – including strangers that day as we sat in the ditch.  The semi driver who spent over an hour with us under the hood.  The families who offered us a ride back into town.  The fellow who gave us a car charger for our cell phones when they had died.  The woman who stopped and offered us water (and beer).  It was a horrible experience, but was a wonderful reminder about the kindness of strangers.  And that was something I needed.

Being involved  in politics you often see nothing but the negative.  So much back biting, ignorance, and just a failure to listen to anyone but “yes men”.  It can burn a person out.  I’m involved in the “game political” to give a voice to regular people…  as it’s been too long that we have been ignored.  I refuse to let the game get to me, and I refuse to stop listening, to stop  learning.  But it can get to you.  So it was nice to be reminded WHY I’m involved.  It’s for all the people, like us, who stop to help when they see someone in trouble.  All of you deserve to be heard.  THANK YOU!

So, we’re back home.  Thankful to be back home.  Grateful to be back home.  It’s been a long couple of weeks.  We’re exhausted.  But we’ll recover.  😉  And I’ll be back at it, working to make things better.  And my project 365  blog will be back to its old self in June.  See you then.

Eliana, mugging it up for the camera.

Lily-Ann and Madison playing

Nana's Great Grandchildren

Exhausted, sleeping at the table.

an almost nekkid baby

Making Pizza with Mommy

Wee girlie enjoying her pizza.

At the park with Auntie Risa and Kahlid.

Damon pushing Lily-Ann and Khalid.

Sheena, Madison, and Lily-Ann.

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