The view from here

I’ve struggled to write lately, because there’s at once so much and so little to say. Life – full of to dos, visits and meetings – is blasting by at warp nine. Yet, it all feels rather pleasantly humdrum.

But instead of letting you believe I’ve been eaten by Odie, my blog left to wither tragically, I thought I may as well share some updates from Elmvale.

1. The Lefaive girls are back in business

Gen has returned from the distant land of Guelph to eat mom’s food and work at ye olde Disco Harbour. It’s been great to see her more regularly.

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2. Odie is a sweet terror

He playfully flattens all children. JF says his wagging tail feels like a bludger to the crotch. He also accidentally crushes your toes when accosting you for affection. On the upside, he now knows how to sit AND walk on a leash (little victories!).

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3. Wedding plans are progressing

We have a location, a tent, a caterer, flowers, a dress and an officiant. Plus a lovely friend has offered to make 100 invitations by hand. Please make note of their loveliness when you get yours.

4. We’re regularly visiting the sands of our youth

We splurged and bought a Tiny Township beach pass for Tobias. I’m pissed at the cottagers who erect barriers (physical and metaphysical) to keep locals out – my family has been using these beaches a century longer than yours! – but glad this option for pseudo access still exists. Here’s to the smell of coppertone.

3183_10151304130796177_1713857898_n5. I joined another board

Yes I know, I was just whining about how busy I am. But I couldn’t say no. It’s with La Clé – an organization that’s vital to the health and well-being of the local francophone community. I’m delighted to represent both my hometown and my age bracket.

6. My garden has expanded

Helena and Owen devoted a whole day to helping me create a new garden bed in the yard. It’s looking a little sparse, but (finally!) intentional.

7. My choir did another concert

Minus a few terrifying bars, it was quite good. We were mostly on key and everything. And I always feel good after singing with friends.

8. The 2015 Humber High reunion took place

The gals from PR school do an annual general meeting. It always includes food and shenanigans. This time, we had a big breakfast then went to Body Blitz, sat around in warm water all day, and talked. It rocked.

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here's last year's AGM

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here’s last year’s AGM

9. I painted a wolf

Or rather, a wolf cutout, at Quest Art. Several acrylic-splattered howlers, including mine, will be available at le Festival du Loup through a silent auction benefiting both the gallery and local francophone musicians. Win win!

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10. We bought a Roomba

This shouldn’t be news, but this little round robot is so beautiful to me. He whirls around, bumping into furniture, happily beeping and sucking up dirt. We’ve named him Rambo and I dedicate this song to him.

I think that’s kind of it, folks! I figure since I’m getting as granular as dirt on my floor, it’s probably time to stop. The road goes ever ever on (how many nerd references can I fit into one blog post?).

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Ring-ing in the new year

Well, it happened. Nine and a half years after our first date at Festival du Loup, JF asked me to marry him. We’re excited and happy. And slightly terrified at the prospect of planning a big, boozy, Lafontaine-style party.

This is us, right after he asked me.

This is us, right after he asked me.

A lot of people are surprised at this news. I was too! For years I hoped – but didn’t expect – to officially commit to the world’s handsomest Franco-Ontarian engineer.

Before you ask, yes I thought of proposing to him. But I wanted him to want to get married, and uncertainty meant waiting. Which, when you’re with the world’s handsomest Franco-Ontarian engineer, isn’t so bad, really.

Just look at how handsome he is. xo

Just look at how handsome he is. xo

In any case, he timed his proposal beautifully. We were in the lush gardens of a Portuguese castle, by a waterfall. The sun was setting. We’d spent a lovely week in Lisbon together. We were relaxed and full of delicious custard tarts.

The proposal, however, was a bit more authentic. He was wearing his ugliest toque. We were walking up a big hill, so I was sweating and wheezing. I had to pee. As we swung by the waterfall, JF grabbed my hand and said: “so pickle, wanna get married?” I was confused, so he added (for clarity): “wanna get married soon?”

Ring. Check!

Ring. Check!

I laughed, then hugged him and cried. Then – in true JF fashion – he gave me a spreadsheet of ring options. We settled on a simple and pretty pearl, or, as I’ve come to think about it, shiny clam poop.

When I told my avo we were getting married, she said: “that’s nice – and it’s good for the one up there” (she pointed to heaven) and then continued to discuss her arthritis.

That about sums it up. It won’t change much, but it is nice. And it’ll be lovely to have people —friends, family, government, and sure, God—recognize that we’re pleasantly stuck together for life.

Another one of us in Portugal, just for kicks.

Another one of us in Portugal, just for kicks.

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.

You get what you give

Volunteering is awesome. Maybe it’s my non-profit background talking, but I think everyone wins when you join a committee, sit on a board, or commit to a weekly shift.

A group of people sits around a table

I snapped this photo at the last 2014 Festival du Loup Committee meeting.

I volunteer to support organizations that do work I find valuable. But when I sign up, I know I’ll also get to meet great people, gain valuable experience, learn new things, watch my impact over time, and (big picture) build up my community. Plus there’s that “I’m awesome!” high-fivesque feeling you get at the end of a great event, meeting or project.

There are downsides, of course. My mom taught me that committing to something means giving it your all. Pile a few volunteer roles together (I can’t help myself!) and the result is a packed schedule. When I’m tired, I’d just rather sit on my couch and eat Cheetos.

But in the end, the pros always outweigh the cons, orange puffed cornmeal snacks and all. Especially now that I’m giving back to my community – the place that shaped me before unleashing me on Toronto in my late teens. My recent causes include:

Le Festival du Loup: I’m Franco-Ontarian, and this event brings frenchies like me together for a weekend of live music, beer, dancing and gossip. The tunes are toe-tappingly good – sometimes square-dancingly good. This year’s festival is on July 18, 19 and 20 in Lafontaine. We’re currently looking for sponsors, recruiting artisans, and figuring out how to sell tickets online.

The Midland Cultural Centre: North Simcoe is a secret hub of artistic greatness. We’ve bred authors, painters, musicians and everything in between. The MCC means all those talented people finally have a place to hang out, and an outlet to share their work. If you haven’t been to Saturday Open Mic or visited Quest Gallery, you should. Or better yet, sign up to become a regular box office or event volunteer.

The Georgian’s Got Talent (or not) Benefit Concert: What better way for me to give back to my employer than to help with its annual talent show/benefit concert? I’ll be singing and playing – which, frankly, is terrifying. All proceeds support Georgian College students who need a financial boost to get through school. Performances are on March 20 and 21 and you can buy tickets through Bear Essentials.

There are so many great organizations to get involved with around here, it was really difficult to decide where to direct my occasionally flailing enthusiasm. Some of my other local favourites include La Clé, Shelter Now, Chigamik, Community Reach, Waypoint and United Way of Greater Simcoe County.

Wherever you are, you’ve no doubt got similarly awesome local non-profits just waiting for someone with your skills and talents. If you’ve got time, consider diving in and helping out – you won’t regret it.

Francophonie

I am privileged to be able to call myself Franco-Ontarian. Yup, that’s a thing. We have a flag and even an unofficial anthem.

My father’s family has been living in Tiny Township, en français, for well over a hundred years. The school at County Road 6 and Concession 12 once had so many Lefaives attending it that they named the intersection after us.

The school at Lefaive's corner. That's right, we have a whole corner.

The school at Lefaive’s corner. That’s right, we have a whole corner.

The Lefaives eat tourtière (well, except me the rando vegetarian), play the fiddle, and wear métis sashes on certain special occasions. My mémère and pépère used interesting expressions like « va don plugger l’canar pour moé, ma belle » which losely translates to « would you plug in the kettle for me, dear? »

Mémère et Pépère, sur les plages de la Baie Georgienne.

Mémère et Pépère, sur les plages de la Baie Georgienne.

I’m proud of my heritage, weird idioms and all. I also applaud and support any effort to keep our language and culture strong. It’s hard work, but it’s important. Sometimes it feels like we are on a rickety french raft — or maybe a birch bark canoe? — in a sea of english, but we keep paddling. Now that I’m local, I’m looking forward to lending my slighlty wobbly paddling arm more often.

At the centre of that canoeing (?) effort is one of my favourite events of the year, le Festival du Loup. Organized by local people, it takes place at the park in Lafontaine: the core of the french community.

The festival was this past weekend, and I was delighted to be able to share it with my « France French » friend Sylvie. We volunteered Saturday morning, donning beautiful yellow smocks and fastening neon orange paper bracelets to people’s wrists at the entrance.

Sylvie, showing off the Festival du Loup volunteer smock.

Sylvie, showing off the Festival du Loup volunteer smock.

Minus a brief stint at the beach, we spent the afternoon and evening listening to live, french music. My cousins Kelly, Jill and Nicole performed as Ariko, my childhood crush and longtime friend Joël Forget played some of his original songs (one of them about me), and JF’s brother Damien Robitaille was the headliner.

Mes cousines, Jill et Nicole Lefaive, en pleine performance.

Mes cousines, Jill et Nicole Lefaive, en pleine performance.

Why do I love this festival so much? Because, in the words of Larry Lalonde, it feels like a great, big family reunion. Folks I grew up with come in from out of town and hundreds of people of all ages living in and around Lafontaine make a point of being there. It’s a great opportunity to catch up on gossip, re-connect with friends, and just enjoy dancing at the heart of a community I know and love.