This is my Hubbie and I 20 years ago. This week is our 20th wedding anniversary, which means I have been married for half of my life.
That is the statistic that startles me most regardless of how many times I say it. I have been a wife and mum for half of my life, Wow! I remember my Mum saying the same thing when she was 38 so now it seems mad that I can say the same thing. I honestly don’t feel old enough!
The day itself was a simply one, I’ve never been one to make a fuss, a simple church service with an informal reception for our family and closest friends, it suited us perfectly.
There are many differing views on the ‘ideal’ age to get married but I believe that every couple is different and what works for one might not work for another. I don’t think age is the deciding factor on whether a marriage will work or not, it’s all down to your personality and your desire to work at it, whether you are inclined to give and take or if you throw in the towel at the first hurdle.
Hubbie and I are very alike in some things and complete opposites in others. We have identical standards and morals and enjoy the same things yet have some personality traits that are the complete opposite. Hubbie is a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ type person he is very vocal and speaks his mind readily, I am more cautious and a planner, and while being opinionated I keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself.
I would never offer advice on what makes a happy marriage but I will tell you what works for us. Teamwork. We approach everything as a team, we rarely do things on our own, unlike many couples who have individual friends and social lives and seem to spend too much time (IMHO) thinking only of themselves. We’ve always done things as a family and being a team is what gets us through life’s ups and downs.
So this week we are celebrating 20 years of being happily married. We’ve come a long way in that time, which poses the question what, will the next 20 years bring?
My youngest Son has just turned 13…13 I can’t quite believe it?! We are no longer a household of 2 adults and 2 kids we are now 3 adults and one teenager. WOW!
Luckily this isn’t the first time I’ve been through the teenage years with a Son so I am completely prepared, although Eldest Son breezed through them and youngest son is a completely different kettle of fish!
He was born very quickly on an extremely foggy February morning after a very difficult 8 and ½ month pregnancy. Hubbie was away working and fortunately I had my Dad nearby to take me to the hospital. Complications meant he arrived a couple of weeks early and hubbie missed the birth itself but I was so relieved the baby arrived safe and sound I really didn’t care. I guess my views on childbirth are a bit old fashioned but I really didn’t mind if Hubbie was there or not second time around. I was away with the fairies after large amounts of gas & air and I wouldn’t have known if Queen Elizabeth II herself had wandered through the labour room!
Youngest Son soon began to show his happy, smiley personality and was too cheeky for his own good!
He has always had a very cheeky sense of humour and loves a photobomb…or two!
and has never shied away from the camera
He is bright and witty and adores his friends and his family
and is growing into a truly wonderful young man.
What is commencement you may ask…? Like many things it is something that everyone knows about except the expats. There is one really annoying thing about moving to a new culture and that is when everyone knows what something is and totally assumes you know about it too because it is such a basic part of life. Take harvest festival, for example, as a Brit it is something you did every year in school so when your kids come home from school asking for donations you just know you need to get a shoe box, hunt through the cupboards for a few tins of food and send them off with said child back to school. Why would you think for a minute that would need an explanation? So can you imagine the confusion if you had never even heard of the term Harvest Festival…?
When we got a message about ‘Commencement’ we were baffled, we had no idea what it was, what it meant and what we have to do. On Friday night we found out what it was all about.
Commencement is a graduation ceremony held at the end of high school, it is basically a celebration of the graduate’s achievements as we send them off into the big wide world. You see, unlike in the UK, if you don’t get the required grades and pass the required courses you don’t graduate from high school.
Needless to say we were incredibly proud of eldest son when he graduated high school and this commencement ceremony on Friday was extremely special to us. When you don’t have a shared background with people and common experiences, making friends becomes more difficult so we want the boys to have as many of those early experiences as possible to help them with the transition between countries.
Emigrating when he was just 16 was a tough thing for him, making new friends, spending two years at a completely different school with different expectations and where everything is unusual, being the new kid, with a strange accent at that difficult age is just a small amount of what he had to face… Thankfully he made the most of it, it was no mean fete and he didn’t just survive, he thrived.
As he stood there on Friday in his cap and gown to accept his High School Diploma, something so quintessentially North American, I had a huge lump in my throat and I was literally bursting with pride. My little Essex boy taking part in a something I had only ever seen in the movies.
On Thursday night, Hubbie and I headed out to our district school board head office so that I could collect my Volunteer of Distinction Award.
At the end of the last school year the Principal at youngest Sons school told me that I was being put forward for the award, I was completely stunned. I work at school on a voluntary basis between 3 and 4 times a week, I have a group of kids that I give speech therapy to, I help kids who have ADHD with their reading and generally giving them one to one attention. I help with the immunization clinics, occasional admin work and our SCC (PTA) weekly pizza lunch fundraiser and although I am there almost as much as the teachers I never make a fuss about what I do, other volunteers tend to be a bit more vocal about their contributions but I do it because I enjoy it and never expected anything from it so I was really surprised when I was recognized for my work.
On the way to the event I felt more like I was going for root canal at the dentist rather than an award ceremony, I never do anything that draws attention to myself so I was extremely nervous and kept imagining all kinds of scenarios where I tripped in my heels and face-plant on the stage in front of everyone! Fortunately that didn’t happen, I’m relieved to say I walked onto the stage collected my award, smiled for my photo and didn’t embarrass myself in front of hundreds of people, phew!
I received these beautiful blue roses, a certificate and a lovely engraved pen. I do what I do because I enjoy it and because I like to be feel useful, so to be rewarded for it was such a lovely magic moment for me 😀
I had the most amazing magic moment last Friday
I may not have mentioned before but I had ones of those ‘big birthdays’ coming up next weekend. You know the one that means the imminent mid-life crisis is just around the corner.
Funnily enough I feel fine about turning forty. My kids are almost grown up at 19 and 12, we’ve run our own successful business for years, have travelled to some lovely parts of the world and have spent the past two years living here in Canada so it’s not like I’m wondering what I‘ve done with my life, I’ve been busy. What I hadn’t realized was that I wasn’t looking forward to ‘the big day’ itself, mainly because my family and friends are over there in Blighty so it wouldn’t have been such a big day at all. My birthday is just a reminder of the worst parts of expat life.
I woke up on Friday morning feeling weird, I don’t know why. I had a nervous tummy and felt strangely anxious. I busied myself with the housework while keeping an eye on skype as I wanted to have a chat with my mum and dad. I’d only spoken to them two days before but for some reason I felt I needed to speak to them. All day long they remain persistently off line. That was odd. While I worked around the house my anxiety became worse and my brain began to work overtime, I began to realize that there was definitely something strange going on. At about 3.30pm I couldn’t stand it anymore and called my sister. I asked her if she knew where our parents were, ‘ Nooooo’ she replied innocently. I told her how odd I was feeling and that I knew something just wasn’t right….
Twenty minutes later Hubbie got in from work, another odd thing, he was home early. He called out, “Come and give me a hand with something in the truck will you?” I stomped down the stairs mumbling something about how I’m sure our big strong 6 ft tall 19 year old son could help instead. As I walked out onto the driveway someone called me from behind and as I turned around to look, there were my parents standing beside me grinning from ear to ear! They have flown in for 12 days to spend my big birthday with me. Isn’t that just the best birthday surprise ever?
Our for a stroll together on Sunday
It seems that many of my Magic Moments posts are animal related whether it’s moose, turtles, coyotes or beaver but I suppose that is all part of emigrating to a different continent. Animals that you would normally view in the zoo suddenly become part of everyday life and can be spotted wandering around your neighbourhood. This weeks Magic moment post is no different
Who’s observing who…?
Crush and Bubbles our 4 year old Tortoises
We have a bit of an affinity with our shelled friends in this house. Both the boys have pet Hermann Tortoises which we went to an awful lot of hassle and expense to bring from England to Canada with us when we moved.
So we were very excited on our recent camping trip to spot not only these very pretty Painted Turtles basking in the sun
but also this very friendly Snapping Turtle who appeared to be living under the dock on the lake.
Whenever we walked out onto the dock he would pop up to take a look at us.
He didn’t mind posing for an underwater shot either!
They really do look prehistoric don’t they?
In an attempt to head off the doom of September that I had last year I have decided to be a bit more proactive on the Friend front. There are some lovely people out there but holding them at arms left just in case they turn out to be utter b*tches is probably not the best idea. So Thursday night I sent a message to a school mum and fellow expat on FB suggesting I meet her when she walks her dog in the morning and as fate would have it it turned out to be a great idea.
We were walking my usual route along the lake shore when a couple stopped us to say they had seen a coyote in the bushes and to be careful as my friends dog was off the leash. So we decided to investigate, at a safe distance of course! I could have kicked myself that I didn’t have my camera with me but thank Apple for Iphones 😀
I managed to get these few shots, not the best pics admittedly but still you can see them clear enough. What was pretty surprising was not only their boldness, coyotes are generally fearful of humans and pretty reclusive especially in broad daylight but also the sheer size of them, these two were the size of a German Shepherd. This has lead to speculation (by people that know far more than me) that they are in fact Coywolves, a growing population of coyote-wolf hybrids discovered in these parts a few years ago.
I was so excited to see them and, whatever they are, it is both amazing and scary that these predators are roaming around my neighbourhood.
the carrying of a boat or its cargo between two navigable waters
We bought a canoe a fortnight ago and hubbie was itching to get out and explore during our camping trip ‘up north’ last week. Our first two trips out with the boys were quite sedate, we travelled about 10km viewed the local wildlife and marveled at the scenery but the day before we were due to return home hubbie got it in his head to try something more adventurous. The boys decided they had had enough of the fresh air, exercise and leeches (!) so opted to stay put in the campground while hubbie and I attempted a 14km route with 2 portages.
The first stretch was along the Mattawa River, an historic canoe route for the native peoples and the first European explorers to Canada. There’s something very therapeutic about the total silence broken only by the plop-swoosh, plop-swoosh sound of your paddle as it enters the water and we completed this leg quite easily despite the heat.
Phase two involved navigating a river littered with fallen trees and a 30 meter portage to the connecting river. We surprised ourselves that we managed this section well and as we completed our first portage we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. A 210 meter portage was our final obstacle to the last leg of our trip. So with achy arms and sore backs we yet gain found ourselves struggling to get through fallen trees at the end of the river.
After struggling to get out of the water, with the canoe, paddles, buoyancy aids and kit bag we started the hike to the last lake. After about 10 minutes of hiking uphill, sweating buckets, with my pretty pink pedicure covered in black swamp goop, carrying all our kit and hubbie lugging the canoe I couldn’t help but screech in a rather unladylike manner ‘210 meters my a*rse!”
Eventually I glimpsed the lake shimmering through the trees.
We launched the canoe and after another 20 minutes of paddling and we’d made it to the end of our journey. It was hot, sticky and exhausting but the sense of achievement was awesome.
This was the view as I looked back across the final lake that we had just travelled using nothing but grit, determination and the power of our arms.
I have been very fortunate that I have been able to cross a few destinations off of my bucket list and one of them was The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
After spending three Christmas Holidays in the Canadian Rocky Mountains in sub zero temperature we decided a warm holiday would be a pleasant change, so in December 2009 we headed off to Sharm El Sheik in Egypt. The holiday itself did not turn out to be all that I had hoped and I have very mixed emotions when I look back on it.
Negative memories aside we did get to visit the Pyramids which was something I wanted to do since I studied Ancient Egypt in school. The journey itself from Sharm El Sheik to Cairo was long, difficult and quite frankly pretty dangerous but as we approached Giza and got our first glimpse of the pyramids over the buildings it made it all worth it.
The top of the Pyramids over the buildings
By the way the Pyramids are not in the middle of the desert like you imagine. The busy, bustling city of Giza extends almost to the foot of the Pyramids and to the paws of the sphinx.
The boys in front of the Sphinx
It was quite an experience walking around theses vast, ancient structures and I fell totally awestruck being so close to something so huge and so old with so much history and mystery around them. Amazingly we were allowed inside the Pyramid of Khafre to climb right up inside to the burial chamber. Now I’m not entirely sure we should have been allowed to do that but what you quickly learn in Egypt is that there is always someone there with their hand out trying to take your tourist cash and you can get pretty much anything you want as long as you are willing to pay for it!
Hubbie climbing up to the burial chamber in Kafre’s Pyramid
The inside was cramped, hot and a little claustrophobic but it was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ moments that you have to grab with both hands and do it.
My last Magic Moments post ended with us taking off from Gatwick Airport en route to Toronto. See Part 1 here
The flight was pleasant enough and before we knew it were on the final approach to our destination.
Fortunately we had already done our official landing a few months before so we had our permanent residency cards in hand and the majority of the endless paperwork was done…or so we thought.
At baggage reclaim we were astounded to find hubbies shotguns just sitting on the floor with all the oversized luggage and strollers sporting a huge pink sticker that declared them as FIREARMS to anyone who noticed them, shocking. With two baggage trolleys full to bursting with our bags we entered customs to declare our tortoises and shotguns. Due to my preparedness, which reached almost obsessive levels at times, Customs were happy and sent us on our way quite quickly to collect the tortoises from a cargo warehouse and that was where the fun and games began.
We had the misfortune of landing on a day predicted to be the hottest on record and with humidity values at over 40C it was a bit of a shock when we walked out of the airport, to say the least. After picking up the car we drove to cargo to start the wait, It took over 4 hours for a vet to check our pets before they would release them to us and then he had the audacity to question the authenticity of our paperwork and suggest that we had photocopies and not the originals and threatened to refuse to give our Tortoises to us. I explained, begged and pleaded, argued and so very nearly lost it all together until eventually he signed the release papers but that still wasn’t the end. We then had to travel to Customs a few miles away to give them the vet’s authorisation so customs could check them off our accompanying goods list, what a palaver! The guy at customs for whatever reasons insisted on calling our tortoises ‘turtles’ which really wound me up, bare in mind I was extremely hot, jet lagged, had been awake for 22 hours, was emotional and frustrated, I’d lost all sense of reasonable behavior and quite frankly that dude was really getting on my nerves! I couldn’t stop correcting him every time he said it and I started to lose my temper. My meltdown was imminent when he finally stamped the piece of paper and let us go back to collect our pets.
Making their debut on my site, meet Bubbles and Crush our well travelled tortoises. Born in Croatia, exported to UK now living in Canada, pictured enjoying the sunshine in my garden.
We arrived at our hotel and temporary home at around midnight after being up for almost 24 hours, one look at the state of us (it must not have been a pretty sight!) and the staff took our car keys and sent us up to our room while they brought in all our bags for us, I was so grateful for the help I could have cried. We fell into bed and were asleep almost immediately, I slept longer and deeper than I had in months. We’d finally made it… we were in Canada at last.