Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I know my recent blog posts have been focusing on my grandmother, but she was a special person and I am inspired to write when I think of her. There might be a few more posts about her in the next little while.

I found these pictures while I was looking for the perfect photos to include in my 10 Things I Love About Grandma post. They didn't quite fit any certain category, but were still beautiful photos I wanted to use in some way. I love how these pictures focus on just one small part of the body, but convey so much.

Bryn and Gram walking together

Care shown through touch

Support and love

Thank you so much, Mum, for taking these pictures over the past few years. They are truly wonderful portraits of exceptional love.

Monday, January 13, 2014


I knew as soon as Jonathan nudged me awake and said, "Ali, your phone is ringing." I fought off sleep and grasped for the buzzing phone, dropped it because it was plugged in, and finally reached down and picked it up. But I was too late, the call had ended. Immediately I called back to my Dad's cell phone number, only to hear my Mum on the line. I knew what she was going to say before she even said a word, but the words didn't really register when she told me that Grandma had died about half an hour earlier.

My brother texted a couple minutes after I got off the phone with my Mum, asking if he could come over for a little bit. When he walked in, he gave me a big, puffy-coat-ed hug. We sat in the living room and talked, a little bit about our sadness, but mostly about logistics for when and how to leave for the funeral.

When he left, I got on my computer for the first time since Friday night. I had a backlog of e-mails and blog posts on my Reader that I worked to catch up on. Then I got a new e-mail notification. It was from one of the elders (via the pastor) at my home church with my grandmother's name in the subject. I clicked to read the e-mail and that's when reality sunk in. Seeing the words in black-on-white, carefully and lovingly written to both inform and give hope to our church family, my eyes misted over and my throat tightened.

Yes, my beloved Grandma died this morning, after struggling long weeks to stay alive and spend more time with those she loved. But I know that she is just resting in Jesus, waiting in peace now until He comes again. And oh how I want to be there right beside her on that resurrection day!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Five Minute Friday: See

Every time I talk to someone from home, my parents or my sister, they tell me how my grandmother is doing. They describe how things are going for her, how she looks, what living day-to-day is like for them all. And I can't imagine it. I have seen people - close family friends and church members and an uncle - wither away because of the cancer racing through their bodies, but somehow I can't seem to see my Grandma in that shape.

I am not there to see the changes that have happened to my Grandma since I left BC in early December. I can only read or listen to my parents' and my sister's descriptions. I'm not sure which is worse, which is more sad.

My musings on the prompt 'see' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

10 Things I Love About... Grandma!

The past couple days have been sad for our family as my Grandma's health is failing fast. In this time of sadness, I wanted to bring a little happiness to my family and those who know and love my Grandma. A 10 Things I Love About You post seemed like just the thing to do that. So here it is.

10 things I love about my Grandma are...

1. She loves her family and will do just about anything for them.
My Mum and her two sisters (Mumma is the baby)
My grandparents and their family
Gram with 7/8ths of her grandkids (at the time)
Grandma and her oldest and youngest daughters in August 2011
Grandma visiting her sister at the nursing home
Bryn and I in Cairo, Egypt Skyping with the hometown family on Christmas Day 2010
The extended family at Grandma and Grandpa's 60th wedding anniversary celebration in August 2012
Whether it's helping a family member out with something, making yummy food to share, writing love notes, spending evenings playing games, making and sending out "birthday chocolates," or just hanging out having quality time (and countless other things, too), Gram is a master at loving her family. And we all love her back. A lot!

2. She has such a strong faith in God.
My baby dedication at the Orchard City Seventh-day Adventist Church
A special prayer for Grandma by Pastor Brian after church in October
My grandparents and parents have been such an inspiration to me in my spiritual life. They have all been very involved in our church and in witnessing (door-to-door, to those who come to their doors, and through friendship evangelism). My Grandma has always been so faithful at doing little things, things that others might not know about, but ones that really make an impact. Things like sending cards or visiting those who are sick or lonely and forgotten. Things that have a huge potential for brightening up someone's day and making them feel loved and cared about.

3. She appreciates good music and instilled that into her children and grandchildren.
Baby Ali plunking on my grandparents' piano
(In the background, the best ever SDA songbook!)
Mum and me practicing violin together
My Grandma had each of her daughters take piano lessons, and later on had them learn another instrument of their choosing. This early musical training that my mother and her sisters had was very likely the reason that my siblings and I were so involved in music ourselves (well that and some adorable beginner violinists at SMC in the late 70s). And Grandma has always enjoyed listening to her children and grandchildren play music, no matter their age or ability.

4. She has a passion for traveling and learning about more of the world.
On our Hawaii trip (Gram opted out of the picture...)
Riding Via Rail from Moncton, New Brunswick to Quebec City
I might have missed the loving-to-cook gene, but I sure got the loving-to-travel gene! My family has an interest in going to and learning about new places. My grandparents started it all by taking their three daughters on trips all across Canada and the US from the time they were young until they were going away to college and beyond. I have been so privileged to have been born into a family who values travel, seeing new places, and learning from different cultures. Some of my favourite trips with my family and grandparents have been: my Mum and Grandma taking the kids to Oahu, Hawaii in 1990, driving to Alaska in our motor home in 1991, a whirlwind tour of Europe (10 countries in 10 days) in 2004, and an Eastern Canada trip in 2008 to experience some of the areas of Canada we hadn't been to yet.

5. She loves flowers and pretty things in nature.
Gram with a beautiful bouquet sent from a friend
My grandparents on their annual spring trip to Art Knapps for flowers to plant
Grandma with her colourful selections
As far back as I remember my grandparents' yard had many flowers. Most of them were perennials, so they bloomed year after year in the same flower beds. My favourites were always the nasturtiums - we loved biting off the tip of part of the flower and then sucking out the sweet nectar. When my grandparents moved from their house to a condo they still wanted flowers around. Potted plants and bouquets from family and friends frequently lived on their dining room table, but even so, each spring my grandparents planted a few of their favourite flowers in their small flower bed off the porch. Flowers always make me think of Grandma, both because she always tried to have some around and because they are so cheery to look at and they buoy the spirits so well.

6. She's always up for a good joke or a bit of fun.
A funny prankster man who started dusting Gram and Mum while we were walking around Quebec City
Good-natured Gram modeling a "gift" from Mum and me
^I can't remember where this fake pearl jewelry set came from (probably a freebie from a bank or grocery store or someplace like that), but my mum and I brought it over to Gramps and Gram's house and played a little joke on my Grandma. We gave it to her and said it was a present for her. When she opened it up she was quite surprised, but laughed about it with us and even modeled the necklace and bracelet for a photo. :)

This is just so typical of my Grandma. She is always ready for a laugh and if it's with family or good friends it's even better. I have so many memories of her and my Mum and sometimes others having giggle fits about the silliest things. I'm so glad I grew up in a family who knows the benefits of laughter!

7. She always encourages.
Writing Christmas thank you cards with my super-cool coloured pen
This one (and the corresponding picture) is two-fold. Firstly, my grandma always encouraged me in my writing. From the time I was nine and would send her ridiculous little stories when my family lived in Alberta, she always told me how much she loved what I wrote and that I should always keep writing. She is one of the main reasons I eventually decided on a writing major in college and have enjoyed exploring creative writing. She has always given me wonderful feedback and encouragement with my writing, whether it was a post on this blog or a short story I wrote up.

Secondly, my Grandma has instilled in me the importance of encouraging others. She is always writing thank you notes, encouraging letters to people who live far away or who can't get out much, and visiting people who need a pick-me-up. Her care for others is so inspiring and I hope I can be as much of a blessing to others as I know she has been to many.

8. She loves sports.
Gram helping my older sister Becky learn how to play baseball
I always loved listening to my Grandma and her siblings talk about the games they played while growing up back on the family farm in Saskatchewan. They sure came up with some great ideas! One game that inevitably came up in conversation, though, was baseball. Hearing about them all playing catch or organizing pick-up games of siblings and friends made me realize how fun sports could be. My Grandma and Grandpa both were instrumental in teaching me how to hit a baseball, and I would be a whole lot worse at mini-golf had Gram not taught me the finer details of how to position my feet and swing my club.

9. She believes books and reading are important.
Gram listening to my niece Coral read a book
My deep love of books and reading definitely came from my Mum. And her love of them came from my Grandma. The whole lot of us are a book family, through and through!

10. She loves traditions and celebrations.
Santa grandparents - Their Christmas picture from a couple years ago
My grandparents with Jonathan and me at our wedding in August 2011
Cutting the cake at their 60th wedding anniversary in August 2012
Celebrating their 61st anniversary in their home
One reason traditions and celebrations are so important to me is because they were important to my mother and my grandmother. I guess it's true what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree. :) Special family traditions give us character and things to look forward to, and celebrations break up the every-day and make us realize what a good life we have. (Incidentally, optimism is another trait Gram has.)

All in all, I am so happy to have had nearly 29 wonderful years of knowing and loving my Grandma. I am so privileged to have her as my grandmother and to be able to learn so many things from her. Last night after Jonathan and I sang a hymn to her she told me how much she loved me. When I said "I love you so much, too, Gram," she countered with "I love you more!" I'm not sure. I think we both win that competition.

(My apologies for the large number of pictures. There were just too many good ones that I couldn't leave out. The vast majority were from my Mum, but one was from Jonathan and the rest are my own.)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Making pies with Gram

Last March I went home for three weeks while waiting for US Immigration to send me back my passport after my immigration interview. During that time I took a multitude of pictures. Unfortunately, while I really enjoy snapping candid pictures, I rather dislike taking them off my camera and actually doing anything with them. Alas, it is my photo downfall. I have pictures that I want to blog from last year, this summer, this past Christmas, any many more occasions, but I might never get around to them all simply because I like taking pictures a lot better than I like culling and editing them.

Tonight, though, it is time to put up one series of photos, pictures from last spring that I am so glad I took. My Grandma is a wonderful cook (as is my mother). I, on the other hand, can cook reasonably okay meals, but seldom am actually inspired to do so - I claim that the joy-of-cooking gene skipped me over. In our family, though many are great cooks, nobody makes pies like my Grandma! Because her pies are so delicious, I have been wary to attempt making any myself and stick to baking sweets that I feel confident about - mostly cookies and brownies. But when I was home in March I requested a pie-making lesson, and my sister and I spent a delightful afternoon at Gram's house learning how to make her pies. Here is the afternoon in picture-story form.

Mixing up the pie crusts
Rolling out the dough for my pie
Bryn's crust ready to be put in the pan
Gram's skilled hands molding the crust into the pan
Blueberry filling
Gram showing me how to make pretty designs on the top crust
The finished design
Putting on the top crust
Gramps camping out in the dining room to read the paper while the ladies make pies in the kitchen
Using the leftover dough to make another yummy little treat
Bryn rolling up the sweet roll
All ready to snack on :)
Our pies fresh out of the oven
Bryn showcasing her pie
Hey look, Gram taught me how to make pies!

These pictures are so special to me, and I'm so, so glad I brought my camera over to Grandma's house that day so I could snatch it up with floury-sticky fingers and capture these pictures of the process and the experience of making pies with Gram. Although I have no special passion for cooking or baking, I do enjoy making food with other people, especially people I dearly love. For me, making food is more about the experience and the memories made with others than it is about the actual results. And I will remember and cherish this wonderful afternoon with my Grandma for the rest of my life.

Thank you so much for teaching me just one of your baking skills, Gram! I hope my future pies taste even half as good as yours always do!

Friday, January 03, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Fight

First it's something that our parents are proud of.

"Yep, he's a real fighter," a new father exclaims to his friends as he passes the kicking and screaming newborn over to his wife to be fed.

But after that first, proud stage wears off, it's something we are told not to do, something we are admonished against.

"Don't fight with your sister." "I hear you two fighting. Don't make me come up there!" "If I see you kids fighting you're all getting a time out!"

Somehow we get through those early years, learning every day how to get along with each other, and using more mature methods to work out our differences.

Next we're told to get scrappy.

"You need to work hard, and fight to get in to that university." "Just fight through this down time. Keep your spirit up and keep on applying. You'll get your dream job soon." "If you want to get to the top of your company, you need to fight your way up there."

Then we become the parents, the ones who tell our own children not to fight, and the cycle is repeated.

And then...then someone we love and care deeply about starts to lose their health or gets into an accident or gets a dreaded illness. Then, it's an urgent plea.

"We know you can get through this. You just need to fight through this hard patch." "You've always been a fighter. Don't give up now!" "I don't know what I'm going to do without you. Please keep on fighting to live, to breathe that next, hard breath."

Fight. It's a little word that can mean a whole lot.
What will you fight for this year?

My musings on the prompt 'fight' for Five Minute Friday. Join in next week if you feel inspired!