Wedded bliss

Well, we did it! Almost 11 years after our first date, we got married.

Weatherpeople predicted hail, thunderstorms and even tornados for our wedding day, but in the end, it was just a bit cool and windy.

More than 200 people came to watch us say our vows. They all toasted to our long and happy lives together. We’d like to thank each and every one of them for being there. Jf and I both felt very supported and fortunate.

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No event is without its glitches (our tent filled with angry smoke when someone tried to light a bonfire despite the wind) but mostly, we had a grand old time.

So many friends and family members worked hard to make our day great – far too many for this post. We owe about a trillion favours. But my uncle Andy deserves a special thank you. He delivered the most spectacular home fireworks show I have ever seen in my life. It was better than Canada Day in Midland, truly.

We spent Sunday cleaning and quietly recovering from the party with family. On Monday afternoon, we were leisurely packing when we realized that our flight left at 5 :30 p.m. not 11 :30 p.m.

Despite a few heart palpitations, we managed to cram some things into random suitcases and speed to the airport, leaving a sad Odie, and hasty instructions for his care, behind us. We (barely) made it onto our flight.

I thought I’d hate Venice (a.k.a. Americans-in-Italy-land) but I quite liked it. It was charming and beautiful. JF and I have decided Slovenia is the perfect country. People are kind, groceries are cheap, tourists are scarce, and the scenery is gorgeous wherever you look. We spent a few days in Croatia, mainly tanning on the coast, before heading home.

Now, we’re settling back into reality again. Everyone asks me « how does it feel? » to which I answer « exactly the same as before.» Because after a decade there is no mystery, just well-worn, comfortable, wonderful love.

A life well lived

My avô (grandpa) died a few weeks ago. I loved him very much, so I’m still quite sad.

This is my grandpa, Dinis Rebelo. Isn't he handsome?

This is my grandpa, Dinis Rebelo. Wasn’t he handsome?

The end of his life was hard. He spent five years in a dementia ward. I still can’t bring myself to say his death was a blessing, but I’m glad he’s free of that place.

When he first got there, he walked around confused, running his hand against the wall and staring at all the blank people. With time, he became one of them. He lost the ability to walk, forgot our names, and stopped feeding himself. I cried the first time I watched him read the Toronto Star upside down.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It robs people of dignity, history and identity – three things that were vitally important to avô.

I prefer to remember him as he was most of his life: proud, handsome and sharp as the tools in his garage. He was a farmer, winemaker, Maple Leafs fan, devout catholic, carpenter, volunteer and family man. You can read more about him, if you’d like.

For over ten years, avô was our neighbour. He helped my grandma care for us after school. In my gangly years, he drove me to basketball and picked me up after piano. He was at my recitals, tournaments and graduations. In many ways, he was another parent.

I was going to write a post about all of the happy things that have happened lately. There have been many! But somehow, that just didn’t feel right. My grandpa lived life well. I needed to acknowledge that – and him – first.

If you have potent red wine or beer on hand, fill a tumbler to the brim and toast Dinis Rebelo. He was a good man.

Serving alcohol - as he always did when there were guests

Here is my grandpa serving alcohol – as he always did when there were guests.

Garden progress

My mother’s garden is beautiful – a layered work of art. My mémère’s garden had a spectacular assortment of roses and lilacs, perfectly pruned. My avo’s garden is full of robust vegetables, and blooms that smell like her islands. They all putter in big hats.

Yet, their skill continues to elude me – like their cooking genes. I’ve got a black thumb and it sucks. BUT, like Charlie Brown with his football, I keep trying anyway. And lately, I’ve actually made some progress.

  1. I put a lot of tasty plants in pots. They help me with mojitos, pizza and salad.
Herby pots

Herby pots. Mmmmmm.

2. With help from Helena, Fina, Andy and Owen, I added a new garden bed. Don’t ask me to identify plants.

Plants donated by my mother and my aunt, plus the lilac bush JF bought me to honour mémère

Plants donated by my family, plus the lilac bush JF bought me to honour mémère

3. I expanded my herb garden. Problem is, I already had all the “normal” herbs. So if you ever need sweet woodruff or russian sage give me a call.

Herb garden

Plus some ferns and a bush from Heather and Jerry that I can’t seem to identify. Anyone know what it is?

4. We have beautiful old trees and little sunlight. That means a lot of hostas.

I've added some trumpet vines and bee balm to this garden bed

I’ve added some trumpet vines and bee balm to the hostas

5. I added forsythia and creeping jenny to this garden bed. David is looking solemn and beautiful as ever.

David, peeking through the lilies and hostas.

David, peeking through the lilies and hostas

6. I created a shade garden last year. No flower will ever bloom in this dark corner, but it’s starting to look green and happy.

Hostas, hostas all around

Hostas, hostas all around

7. This is my hopeless cause. The hostas, ferns and hydrangeas are filling in nicely. So is this creeping evil plant that is temporarily pretty but then just swallows up everything else.

So, so, so full of weeds, punctuated by hostas

So, so, so full of weeds, punctuated by hostas

There are tons of other problem spots (a weedy stone path, those damn dandelions, illogical decks) but I feel like I’ve made some progress. I’m celebrating the small wins.

It’s not my mom’s garden, but it’s something.

You had me at hello

There are romantics, and then there’s my dad.

My dad, performing at a pub in Midland last year.

My dad, performing at a pub in Midland last year.

On father’s day, most people buy their dads fishing rods, barbecue sauce, beer and power tools. My dad, a musician and poet, always insists he only wants hugs. We get him candles, notebooks, rom-coms, and treble-clef-covered tchotchkes.

I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be more sappy. But about a year ago, while on vacation in England, his gushy idealism reached a whole new level.

Before settling into a train ride to Edinburg, my dad – single for the last 15 years – placed his suitcase on the seat next to him. A few minutes later a woman asked him if he would kindly move it so she could take her spot. He acquiesced, and they chatted through the whole trip.

About a week after that, Nora met him at the airport to say goodbye. They went out for hamburgers and vowed to keep in touch. Over the following weeks, they talked every day – using FaceTime to bridge the enormous distance between Midland, Ontario and London, England. He was head over heels.

Dad went to London for Christmas 2013, and when he got back, they were engaged. I had never seen him so happy. By March, he had moved there.

 

Things got a little dicey with immigration over the summer. And I have to admit to wondering whether the whole thing might be an elaborate scam. But I can now safely say that my sisters and I will be donning our best togs and toasting their marriage on December 28 – in jolly old Britain.

This is a beautiful story for about a billion reasons. They were both lonely. They didn’t let a single obstacle get in their way. They will live happily ever after. But most of all, it’s beautiful because it’s proof that anyone – even the most romantic of romantics – can find true love.

And I must be my father’s daughter because the whole saga makes me believe in pixies and pots of gold.

Félicitations, Pa! xo

Félicitations, Pa! xo

Scrumptious summer

I’ve come to accept – almost enjoy – my hectic pace of life. I work hard, visit with many beautiful people, volunteer a lot, keep a cleanish house, maintain a decentish garden and try (rather unsuccessfully) to squeeze in time for JF, writing, exercise, reading and music in between.

Still, there’s something about summer that forces even the busiest of bees to slow down. I swear every time I hear the hum of a cicada or the whirring of a lawnmower, my shoulder muscles relax subtly. Here are some highlights from the last few warm and wonderful weeks.

Festival du Loup

After months of hard work, the Festival du Loup committee (of which I am a lucky member) enjoyed a successful few days of great Franco-Ontarian music, local food, and cool artisans.

More cheap stuff

In my latest garage sale haul, I picked up an original piece by local painter Ila Kellerman as well as an ancient croquignole board.

Garage sale treasures

Garage sale treasures

A little romance

When my calendar is filling up, the first item on the chopping block is usually date night with JF. But lately, I’ve been making and enjoying a lot more time for us. Here’s a shot from our visit to Penetang’s “World Famous” Dock Lunch.

Me, stuffing my face as I always do on date night

Me, stuffing my face as I always do on date night

Omazing Ontario

We’ve also hung out on Tiny’s Beaches, visited Awenda Park with our dear friend Pascal, and eaten a lot of fresh local produce. My avo’s garden is dripping with beans and it makes me such a happy camper.

La belle famille

But my favourite event was Thursday, when dear friends and family surprised me with a patio party to celebrate my “new” job. I was so touched, and so delighted to see everyone. Thanks guys!

Some of my favourite people

Some of my favourite people

My house may be a little dirtier, but at this moment I’m feeling refreshed and relaxed. And for that reason, I say long live summer.

Summer of sibs

If my life was a movie, my sister Geneviève would be the kind supporting character played by Ingrid Bergman. My sister Alicia would be the comic relief played by Sandra Bullock. And I would be the slightly eccentric (but smart and assertive!) heroine played by a young Judi Dench. Because this is my blog and I say so.

With that cast, it would be among the most bizarre, most quirky movies Hollywood has ever made. But think about it — you’d want to see it.

That happy disjointedness is perfectly representative of my relationship with my siblings. It may seem like we don’t go together, but we do. We have little in common, but somehow it works. In fact, our differences make us interesting.

Until April, my sisters and I hadn’t spent two weeks in the same town in nearly a decade. So it’s been wonderful and strange to have them both so near.

We’ve enjoyed impromptu weeknight sushi dinners and leisurely weekend breakfasts. Last week, we toasted Alicia (a.k.a. Leash, Leashy-babe, or Monkey) as she celebrated the beginning of her 27th year on this earth.

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As the eldest, it pains and delights me to see how adult and graceful(ish) they’ve become. Especially since they were both little hooligans, once. Geneviève was an early nudist whose favourite hobby was hanging her dolls’ laundry in the back garden. Alicia spent her summers happily digging deep, muddy holes with her Tonka trucks.

IMG_3646

Us, in our early awesomeness.

I’m so proud of their grown up selves and regularly find myself choking down advice. At 26 and 19, they hardly need it.

In a few months, Geneviève (a.k.a. Gen, Miève, or Mièvy-boo) will be back to guzzling Starbucks with the rest of Guelph U’s student population. Until then, I’m going to soak in as much double-barreled sib time as I can. Bring on the obscure board games (Ninjato! King of Tokyo! Pandemic!) and Lord of the Rings marathons.

The Paint Fairy returns

I hate to say it, but I think I might be a (rather unhappy but) slightly better person when JF is away. I watch less television, sleep more, eat better, and get more done.

While he was in the Yukon, I:

  • put up some floating shelves
  • hired a new handy man
  • cleaned the house top to bottom
  • practiced my piano scales
  • exercised
  • re-organized my filing system
  • volunteered a lot
  • re-mulched the front garden

He’s only been back for four hours and I can already feel my brain descending into happy slothfulness.

In any case, my greatest accomplishment – while JF was slurping on Bonanza Browns by the Klondike – was painting the attic.

JF's man attic - desperately needs a coat of paint

JF’s man attic, pre-paint. And covered in spackle because it was once a studio.

Months ago, my aunt JoAnne (a.k.a. the Paint Fairy) offered to come by and help me finish the sucker. The rest of our home was painted last fall, but somehow the pocked-marked upstairs nook was intimidating. So many unusual angles and corners.

The Paint Fairy’s kind proposal — and my aunt Denise’s paint donation — finally gave me the kicks in the arse I needed.

The job took two coats and a whole day to complete. I couldn’t have asked for better company. We painted, paused for toasted tomato sandwiches, painted more, puttered in my garden, painted again, and then celebrated our success with wine and roasted potatoes.

Here’s the room in stages:

Merci, mes tantes pour vos beaux cadeaux. Our house feels more finished for them.