A Musical Journey

musical notes

Its Sunday afternoon and I’m standing in my kitchen planning what I need to do next week and listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Brilliant Disguise. It’s taking me back to a crazy weekend in Kelowna in the early ’90s. Music, like smell, can take you to a place or time you may have long forgotten even existed. It can wrap you in a warm blanket or make you want to sing into your hairbrush. Indulge me while I take a walk down memory lane.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents are British. Very British. Growing up, the musical selections where typically classical. The exception was Caribbean steel band music. My dad had spent some time working in Dominica and had grown to love their music. In particular the band The Merrimen and their classic tune Big Bamboo. The only time things got crazy at our house was when Katie and Walter Mees came for dinner and the Merrimen was put on the turntable. Dining room table pushed back and everybody let loose; well, as loose as they could get. “She said Sparrow all I want from you, I want from you Is a little little piece baby, just a little little piece of the big bamboo.” Really Dad?

The Rolling Stones somehow encapsulated my entire high school graduating year. It wasn’t even new music. These were songs that had come out ten years earlier. I remember Mary, Deana and Laurie got to sing back up for the guys in the band. They were the cool chicks who could sing and I was so jealous. I did, however, get my moment, except it was a group of us dancing in a big circle singing Shattered at the top of our lungs. Close enough. The Stones seemed to be everywhere that year. Parties, school and even by way of early morning guitar solos in our Palm Springs condo. Thank you John and Graham.

James Taylor will forever mean summer camp on Orcas Island. Warm summer days hanging out on the dock. Sailing trips through the islands to sleep under the stars. Nightly fires in the lodge with a couple of hundred young voices singing their hearts out. All accompanied by a guitar played by a cute counsellor from California. What more could an eighteen year old want? If it wasn’t James Taylor it was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Oh, and there was that one day after camp spent jumping on Theresa’s cousins trampoline to Freebird. That ones a little foggier than the rest.

Banff. Early eighties. Was there any other band being played beside Duran Duran? I think not.

Sade takes me back to the beaches of Greece. We were staying on the island of Paros. Kathryn and I had been touring the islands with a group of six or seven Aussies, a Kiwi and an American (I think). For any of you who have spent any time in the Greek islands in your twenties you know that it can be an endless cycle of late night ouzo fueled parties followed by lazy days recovering from said parties. It was late in the day and the batteries in my Walkman were getting low but I couldn’t resist one last song as the sun started to set on the harbour. That is my happy place. Sade and I soaking up the warm Greek sun.

Okay, here’s a really funny one. Yanni. Ya, you heard me. Yanni. When I left my ex-husband, I stayed with my mom and dad for a few months. During that time they went on a long planned trip to India. My son was really little, I didn’t go out much and funds were pretty right. As a result, I was held hostage by my parents limited collection of tapes. Yes, tapes. So the least offensive choice was Yanni. Listening to it now takes me back to their living room, playing with the baby on the floor and wondering what the hell I was going to do. It was mindless and calming. Just what I needed.

When my current husband and I started dating, Harry Conick Jr. was pretty much all we listened too. It’s probably the most romantic period of my life. Candle lit dinners, roses and bubble baths were a regular occurance. My husband had gone to school in New Orleans (where Harry is from) and was a big fan. Additionally, one of the first movies we saw together was Hope Floats in which Harry Connick Jr. plays Sandra Bullocks very hot boyfriend. Although he can’t hold a candle to my husband, if I needed a stand in, Harry would do.

So there you go. The Best Things in Life always have a soundtrack.

Regrets

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I don’t have many regrets in life. Wait, that’s not true. That first walk down the aisle was way wrong. Okay, so maybe the perm in the ’80 wasn’t my best choice either. Oh, and that time I forced my son to wear socks and sandals to the beach. (Sorry honey. I really do still feel bad about that.) Well then I guess I do have some regrets. My biggest regret though, is that I didn’t keep in touch with a friend.

I met Kathryn Murray in the summer of 1984 in Banff. We both worked at the Banff Springs Hotel. I worked in the kitchen and she worked in the laundry room. I think we met through her roommate? Regardless, we hit it off and spent almost every day off and evening off together. She was from Ottawa and had just finished a year of psychology at Queens. Her dad was a captain in the Canadian Navy and was stationed in Esquimalt. Kathryn was so chill and we just clicked right away. Working in Banff was great but meeting new people was probably one of the best parts.

At some point, after a few Malibu and orange juices one summer evening, we decided we wanted to go to Eupore. We had stolen a couple of large oval trays for the main dining room and were “surfing” down the grass bank behind the staff residences. Life is good when you’re young isn’t it? I would imagine the conversation went something like this…. Me: Hey, pass the Malibu. Her: Wanna go to Europe next summer? Me: Sure. Her: Any orange juice left? Done. We were young and didn’t have a care in the world other than making sure the head waiter didn’t catch us with his serving trays.

banffThat’s me “surfing”

Working in Banff was a lot of fun but it was not a good avenue to save money (most of it was spent at the bars) so at the end of the summer Kathryn went back to Ottawa and I went back to Vancouver and in August of 1985 we met up in London and planned out the next four months. We spent the first month exploring Scotland and Western England. There was a great wine bar in Inverness that my uncle had suggested we try. (this was our idea of exploring) We had been staying in hostels for almost two weeks straight by that point and making our own meals, so the promise of good food and wine was all the incentive we needed. I can remember that evening so clearly. We talked about so many things and drank so much wine. I can still hear her giggling as we stumbled back to our bed and breakfast.

greece

After an amazing month in Greece with a group of crazy Aussies, we made our way up through Italy and then on to Austria, Switzerland and Amsterdam. We eventually made it to Paris in late October and were staying in a really sketchy hotel on the left bank. We were traveling with a girl named Barb from Edmonton that we had met in Austria. I was feeling a bit run down and bummed out and realized one morning that I was done. I was tired of sleeping in a different bed every 3 or 4 nights and eating from street vendors. (Although the crepes in Paris are phenomenal) I made the decision to go back to England and stay with my uncle for a couple of weeks before flying home. Kathryn decided to stay in Paris with Barb and I lost touch with her.

paris

At the time I didn’t think much of it, but now that I am writing this it seems so odd that we could be so close and have such unique experiences together over that year, yet just stop communicating. Well, we were pretty young I suppose. I have tried over the years to find her. I wish I could get in touch with her again. I miss her. I regret not making more of an effort. Would we still have as much in common? It would be one of The Best Things in Life if I had the chance to find out.

Addicted to Organization

Or~gan~ized                                                                                                                                           efficient: working in a systematic and efficient way                                                                      large-scale: existing on a large scale and involving the systematic coordination of many different considerations

Hello my name is Susan and I’m addicted to being organized. I love to be organized. I love things in neat piles, or even better, put away in their proper place. Oh, and even better, in a box with a label on it. I love planning and making sure that all the bases are covered. Let’s face it, schedules and lists turn me on. I think I get it for my dad. My mom wouldn’t have called it it organized though. She would have called it fastidious. If there was a nail out of place on his workbench somebody was going to hear about it. Sounds vaguely familiar to me and my family would second that.

boxes

There are thousands of websites and blogs devoted to organization. People make a fortune from helping other people get organized. When I was first thinking about quiting my job and wondered what I would do, a dear friend of mine suggested that I help other people get organized. She was so impressed with how organized I was with passing on my daughters clothes to her, that she thought maybe that was my calling. I did give it some serious consideration. My only problem was that I couldn’t see other people paying me for doing it my way; and make no mistake, it would be done MY way or it would be wrong. Organization can be deeply personal.

What does this say about me? Some may say that a disorganized home indicates that the person has better things to do with their time than tidy up. That may be true for some. I know that when my life (and in turn my family’s) is organized that I feel calmer. When things are all over and untidy and well, unorganized, I feel a bit panicky. It’s probably not a very healthy or sane thing that I can’t focus on a task well until the house is in order and relatively clean. I’m sure some psychiatrist somewhere would make a case out of that and that’s okay. Everybody has their thing. I’m not like OCD organized (well maybe just a little) but I have to admit I get a teeny bit antsy when things are really out of hand in the house.

In many cases my need to organize stems from my other pastime. Procrastination. There is no better way to avoid a difficult task than to immerse yourself in cleaning out a closet. It occupies your mind so you don’t feel guilty about the fact that you should be doing something else. Plus, if you take long enough to do it then you just won’t have time to do that other horrible thing. Whatever it may be. In my mind, if the house is organized then it’s easier to find things. My husband would argue with this. “Yes, you can find it. But can anybody else?” True, I do tend to put things away and then forget where I’ve put them and forget to tell anybody else resulting in momentary panic when we need my daughters field hockey stick for the first night of practice.

Organization isn’t just about being neat and tidy though. It’s about thinking ahead and knowing where and when things need to get done. If I want my daughter to get into the swimming class that fits into our schedule then I need to know what day registration starts and it needs to be on the list so that I remember. Hear that? It’s called rationalization. And yes, lists are a big part of being organized. I wonder how many times I used the word organized in this post? Did I mention that I like lists?

Some say that an organized life means an organized mind. I don’t agreed. For all my love of organization my mind is often very messy. Thoughts running in and out, switching gears every two minutes, jumping from shopping list to vacation planning to blog writing without missing a beat. I’ve discovered that each week when I go through the process of writing a post for this blog, my mind is very scattered. Thoughts come out all over the place. Each posts starts as half a dozen random thoughts. Eventually those thoughts turn into paragraphs and in turn those paragraphs find their way into a coherent piece. It a process I’m not very comfortable with because….well, it’s not organized.

So how does this fit into my goals of finding my thing?  To be honest I didn’t know when I started writing this post, but now I think I see it. There have been times when I have thought that being organized was a bit of a detriment. (Perhaps re-read the above if you don’t see that.) I have thought that maybe I should just let things go a bit and relax. But now I realize that my little quirk has actually helped me along the way by giving me a focus. This week, the Best Thing in Life is realizing you have a problem and embracing it.

Friends

friends hugging

You know those cheesy posts on Facebook about how you know you have a true friend when you don’t have to talk to them every week, or even every month, yet you still love them? Every time I see one of them I automatically think of Tani. Not because she’s a Facebook over user, but because she’s one of those friends that I talk to maybe once or twice a year but still consider one of my closest friends. We are so different in so many ways but somehow after 35 years we are still close.

We met in grade 9 at an all girls school on the West Side. You know the one. Big ivy covered walls, tartan skirts, stern head mistress. Thinking back, I don’t remember becoming friends; I just remember being friends. We both had a certain sense of adventure. When everybody else in our grade ten class was attending the Governors Ball to be presented to society, we were scoring off sales at a bar on Broadway and going to a party at Wreck Beach with two seniors from Point Grey. Okay, so maybe that was more irresponsible than adventurous, but you get the picture.

I grew up in West Van with very strict British parents. Tani grew up on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in a family that regularly threw roaring jazz parties. My parents drank sherry by the fire and Tani’s parents drank martinis at the Timber Club in the Hotel Vancouver. When we were all wearing white gowns to our grad dance (private school tradition) Tani had the guts to wear a sapphire blue off the shoulders gown. (I’ve always admired her for that). She’s happy to stand out in a crowd whereas I tend to try and blend in. Also, Tani is incredibly smart and always did really well in school. I struggled in high school and pretty much gave up on university after one year.

me and tani

We’ve had some amazing times together. The trip to Fiji with Tani and her parents is still one the fondest memories I have. Long weekend trips up to Winter Harbour to discuss philosophy with her step brothers. Some creative and champagne fueled Halloween parties at her townhouse. Her wedding to Bill. Although, I still haven’t completely forgiven her for making four pregnant women wait to get to the buffet.

We’ve seen each other through some not so great times too. Lost pregnancies, failed marriages, (okay maybe that was just me) and lapses in judgement (yes, that was me again). Tani was my maid of honor the first time I got married and three years later saw me through an ugly divorce. I wouldn’t have blamed her for saying “I told you so”, but she never did. And then there was the time that we both got called to the head mistresses office after a weekend party in Langley. Sitting on that bench outside her office is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody. How she found out what we were up to is still a mystery.

We were roommates in university for a year. Didn’t go well. I wanted to go to bed early and she liked to stay up late playing cards. She liked the apartment to be clean and I would rather go to an aerobics class than clean the bathroom. (Hey, it was the ’80s). We didn’t talk for a long time after that. She moved back East and I went to live in Banff. One night I had a dream about her and the next day felt the need to call her. No, I do not believe in it being a “sign”. I don’t really buy that stuff. Anyways, turned out that she had just moved back to Vancouver and we reconnected.

tani and me in victoria

Over the years we have seen each other less and less. We live in the same city but have totally different schedules and live on completely different sides of the city. She travels a lot for work and I have a young daughter and a husband who travels as well. We have different friends and different interests. Yet somehow we manage to come together once in a while and it’s as if no time has passed. The difference is that now we share stories about raising our own teens. May they never do half of the things that we did.

When I told Tani that I was writing a piece about us, I asked her if she wanted to read it before I published it. “No, I trust you.” And there it was. Trust. Trust, that no matter how bad we screw up, no matter how many times we forgot to call back and no matter how many times we cancel plans, we would be there for each other.  How’s that for cheesy?  Love you my friend. Have an amazing time in Italy.  You totally deserve it!

Easter Memories

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My parents sold their house last fall. They had lived there for 50 years. It was the home they brought me home from the hospital to. So many great memories came from that house and the garden that surrounded it. So many amazing family gatherings, birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings (a few fairly wild parties in their younger years) and anniversaries. For me the best memories always seemed to revolve around Easter. With Easter just around the corner and my daughter asking about the Easter bunny I am reminded of those great times.

My earliest memories of Easter are of my mom getting us ready for church in pastel coloured dresses with white gloves and white wicker purses covered in fake flowers. Even though we were the Christmas , Easter and Thanksgiving only church family, my mom ensured that when we did go, we were dressed appropriately. I remember her inspecting our hands to be sure that we didn’t have any chocolate on our sticky little fingers. In those days the Easter Bunny came very early in the morning and left a beautiful egg on our breakfast plate. Hollow in the middle and decorated with our names in royal icing. “How did that bunny know our names?” I wondered. I learned later on that my mom would get the big chocolate Easter eggs from Woodwards.

When we were a bit older the best memories are of Easter Sunday bonfires. It was Spring, the weather was getting better and my mom and dad would have been working in the yard to get ready for the summer. The yard waste needed to be disposed of and for us that meant a great big bonfire at the bottom of the yard. Usually a couple of other families would come over for the day and there would be a dozen kids standing around the fire roasting hot dogs and burning marshmallows for lunch. Yup, that’s when destroying the ozone, processed meats and sugar were all good.

The big draw for the kids was the tire swing. A large tree stood at the top of a grassy hill and dad had hung a rope from the tree and then attached it to an old tire. When pushed properly you would swing out over the hill and hang 20 feet over the back lawn. I can not even count the number of times I fell off and had the breath knocked out of me. How none of us ended up in the emergency room is a mystery. Every year we had a contest to see how many of us could get on the swing at the same time without falling. Again, can’t believe we all live through it every year.

And then there was the egg hunt. The only acceptable candy was foil wrapped mini chocolate Easter eggs, mainly because they could withstand being tucked into crevices and hidden under logs or rocks in the garden and could survive being transplanted by squirrels if the hiding had been done the day before. Frantically we would search for those little eggs in every inch of that 3/4 acre space. I remember hitting pay dirt at the bottom of the tree that my sister fell out of when she broke her arm. I guess whoever was hiding the eggs got tired and dumped the last dozen or so in a hollow at the bottom of the tree. Score!

As the years passed and my sister, brother and I each got married and had our own kids, things changed. Nobody goes to church anymore, bonfires are now prohibited and the tree that held the tire swing died and the swing was lost. That may have been a good thing as my mom and dad ended up with six grandsons who I can say, without hesitation, would not have been as fortunate as us in not getting injured. But with that change and those grandchildren came different traditions.

I’m not sure how or when it happened but at some point the chaotic search for foil covered Easter eggs in the garden became an Easter scavenger hunt. The Easter egg hunt evolved into my mom and dad creating elaborate clues that took the grandkids around the house and garden. The little ones had pictures to follow and usually an older cousins to help them out. The older ones had the task of not only following the clues but deciphering Granny’s handwriting. If you stood on the front doorstep you would see them standing scratching their heads, looking at the clue and then suddenly tearing around the side of the house when they realized that “Minki’s Flowers” meant the patch of daffodils that bloomed every year where my mom and dad had buried their cat’s ashes. Creepy but really pretty.

Easter at Granny and PoppasMatthew finds his eggs

So now the house stand empty and the yard is a series of little holes where my parent’s friends have dug up my dad’s lilies, roses and yes, the daffodils. We will all go on to create our own Best Things in Life and memories for our kids around the holidays in our own homes. I can only hope that they are half as good as the ones my parents created for us.

Rob

In the business world no endeavor is riskier than opening a restaurant. Few make it. Expensive start up, transient staff, fickle customers and changing trends make it a tough go. So when an establishment makes it, you know you’ve got a good thing. Verdicchio’s Deli was one of those establishments. So why did it close last June?  My friend Rob Verdicchio owned Verdicchio’s for 15 years. When I spotted his new business, Homewatch North Shore, on line, I had to know how and why he made such a huge change in his life.

If you grew up in West Vancouver in the 1970s and 1980s and didn’t know a member of the Verdicchio family, chances are you were living under a rock. “How many cousins do you have?” I asked. “Lots.” Not only where they a large Italian family but they also owned Peppi’s. At the time it was probably one, if not the only, fine dining restaurant in West Vancouver. On the beach at the foot of 25th Street, it was the quintessential Italian restaurant. Red and white checkered table cloths, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and more spaghetti and meatballs than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and even if you were underage, chances are you could get still get a glass of wine with your dinner. So I heard.

peppis

Peppi’s Restaurant

I can’t remember when I first met Rob. I think it was 1981. Rob and I bussed tables at the Ambleside Inn. It was my first job at a high end restaurant and thank god for Rob helping me out or that butter whipper may have gotten the best of me. Both being in the restaurant business on the North Shore, we ran into each other a lot over the years. Many great times. Many late nights at Holidays or Tommy Africa’s. The time Rosemary and I moved all of his furniture out of his basement suite onto his back lawn. That pistachio suit. And of course late nights at Milieu. Good times. So how did he end up owning a successful deli?

Orazio Scaldaferri and his wife Rosana (Rob’s cousin) first opened the deli under the name Scaldaferri’s in Dundarave sometime in the 70’s. Along with another cousin, who came over from Italy, they operated the deli for many years. Rob, at the time, was managing the Beachouse, an upscale restaurant in the building that had housed his families beloved Peppi’s.  When an opportunity presented itself in 1998, Rob purchased the deli and changed the name to Verdicchio’s. It took a few years to re-establish the clientele after things had slipped a bit, but from there business took off. Rob was even able to secure the lucrative, but intensive, hot lunch program for numerous West and North Vancouver schools.

But a few years ago things started to change.  Four years ago Rob gave up drinking. “It was time to end the Verdicchio curse”. Working in the restaurant business and being Italian can be a death sentence apparently. Additionally, his chef was battling cancer.  His kids were getting older, his wife was getting back into her career.  It made Rob realize that life is short.  Owning a restaurant is a hard go on a day to day basis.  Long hours, difficult suppliers and constant upkeep.  So at the end of the day, it was time to move on from Verdicchio’s. A tough decision I would imagine. When you put your heart into something, it is never easy to let go.

So now he’s at home (for now) and his wife is working on her career. “The house has never been cleaner, the laundry is done everyday and heaven help anybody who gets in “my” kitchen.” Rob says with a laugh. After a few attempts at getting back into the restaurant management field, he thought maybe he would try a completely different direction. And so Homewatch North Shore was born. Homewatch is a personalized home watch for absentee owners. As any good businessman would do, Rob has done his homework and the market is certainly there for this service. Homeowners who travel or live oversees can leave their property in the hands of a responsible company and know that it will be looked after.  Check it out.

The last question I asked Rob was if he had an unlimited supply of cash would he resurrect Peppi’s, the family restaurant? “…I would love to. But an updated version.” How great would that be? I think that as we both head into our fifties, we have the Best Things in Life ahead of us. Although, that pistachio suit was quite spectacular.

Time Heals All Wounds

I’m starting to believe this saying is true. Three years ago I ran the Hood to Coast relay. A 200 mile relay done by a team of twelve. Now, inexplicably, I have signed up for another relay. As I think about starting to train, I found this piece that I wrote just after finishing the Hood to Coast.

The alarm went off at 4:30 am on Friday, August 26, 2011. After two days of beautiful sunny weather we were a bit surprised, and concerned, that the skies were now full of lighting and rolling thunder. By the time we were loading the vans and heading out the door it was raining. After a quick drive up Mt Hood to Timberline Lodge the skies had cleared and we all began to feel the excitement mounting. Twelve ladies from Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and San Jose had come together to run 197 miles from Mt Hood to Seaside on the Oregon coast. With our support vehicle drivers Jo and Jen ready to go, our coolers filled with ice, water and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Canada flags flying proudly, The “Eh Team” was as prepared as we would ever be.

We piled out of the vans and headed to the check in booth and our first (of many) trips to the port o pottys. After checking in we stood pinning on our numbers and checking our watches in anticipation of our 7:15 start time. Sharon was interviewed by a local tv station, Andrea snapped some photos of the sun bursting through the clouds and Aimee and I hit the Cliff Bar sample table. Fifteen minutes before our start time, the skies darkened again and rain came in buckets. As we all retreated to the vans Sharon (runner #1) bravely headed out to the start line. Once again the weather broke and we were able to see her start. So exciting to hear the count down and see Sharon fly down the hill with Canada flag cape flowing behind her.

And so it had begun. None of us really had any idea what we were in for but were willing to give this our best effort and deal with whatever came our way. Van 2 left to go back to the condos and clean up. They wouldn’t start for another 5-6 hours. Van 1 headed down the mountain to our first exchange point still a bit clueless as to how this all worked. It didn’t take us long to meet some fellow Canadians and learn how to get parked, find the Port-o-Potties (POPs) and get to the exchange zone ready for runner 1 to come in. As the volunteers called out team numbers, Donna waited by the side line for team 228. Within minutes they called it and our first exchange was done. Piece of cake. And so it went all morning. Run, exchange, drive, POP, and repeat.

Within a couple of hours the temperature has soared to 30 degrees or more. By the time we met up with Van 2 at the Safeway parking lot in Sandy, OR runners were coming in soaked in sweat and guzzling water. Rosa’s first run started at 11:30 ish and when she finished she was so hot she said her head felt like it would explode. Never a good thing. Robyn took the wrist band from Rosa and headed out. Van 2 was now on the road and running through the afternoon. We would see them in 5-6 hours under the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland. It was a bit weird doing a race as a team but not seeing half of your team for more than a few minutes at van exchanges. Never the less, there was lots of support and multiple texts back and forth.

Van 1 now headed into Portland to find our exchange point and have some down time. Parked in a parking lot in the blazing sun we tried to rest, hydrate and dry out our sleeping bags that had been soaked in the mornings rain. After re-fueling on fries, coke and chocolate (sorry Leanna) we readied ourselves for the next 6 legs and some night running. A few tense moments followed when we couldn’t find our required vest flashers but $15 later we were all set and waiting for Moe to exchange. We were off again and Van 2 had a well deserved break which I hear included a Mexican dinner.

My first leg had been a pretty easy 4 mile down hill run at 8:30 am. I now got ready for a 7.25 mile run on rolling hills starting at about 7:30pm. While it was sunny and still pretty hot when I started, darkness came quickly and I switched on my headlamp about half way through. I made friends with a guy named Gill from Salem who was running for 4-5 minutes and then walking. By the time I had passed him for the 6th time we were chatting away. A lot faster than I thought, I spotted the weigh station sign. One mile to go and I felt great! Just before passing off to Aimee I thought “Wow, I can do this.”

I think my darkest hour came after our next exchange with van 2. It was after midnight and we had just experienced our first traffic jam and had kind of vague directions to our next rest point. As we drove for over an hour along a dark country road that curved and twisted and rolled my stomach dip flip flops and I thought I might heave. This was the only time in 32 hours that I thought “this really sucks” But as van 2 ran through the night we reached our destination and bedded down to try and get some sleep. At this point we were well into the countryside and had lost contact with van 2. I can only imagine how it was for them. They had run in the heat of the day and now as the temperature dropped to 10 degrees they ran in the pitch dark on windy and occasionally dusty roads.

So it is now 4:15 am on Saturday morning. I wake up to hear Rosa and Sharon (who slept outside) laughing hysterically at the guy who was wandering around the field at 3:00am trying to find his team. We knew that Moe would be coming in soon so we packed up and got ready for our last legs. It was cold and dark and we were all groggy but eager to go. Unfortunately, Moe is a tad faster than we anticipated and was left waiting for us at the exchange for 15 minutes. General discussion at the POPs revealed that this was pretty standard for this exchange as there was no way for the vans to communicate expected arrival times.

As van 2 headed off for some rest, we looked forward to our final legs. Helen’s final leg was a doozy. Three and a half miles up hill. And I mean UP hill. And then 3 miles back down the other side. She is such an amazing runner and finished with a smile on her face. And then we were done. It was hard to believe but we had finished our legs and had nothing left to do but head to Seaside to meet van 2 and cross the finish line.

Van 2 on the other hand had not only the longest run to complete but a traffic nightmare waiting for them at the end. Orianna’s last leg was just over 8 miles long. I can only imagine how hard that was after 30 hours but she did it and then some. Once they realized that they probably wouldn’t make it to the finish line in time to meet Moe if they stayed in the van, they decided that they would ALL run the last leg together. So Robyn, Andrea, Jen, Leanna and Orianna hopped out and ran 3 miles to met us on the beach. Orianna had just run 8 miles already. Sweaty and tired they found us and we all crossed the finish line together.

I realized while we were waiting for them on the beach that for months we had focused on running. Training, talking about our respective legs and how hard or easy they might be. Running at night, in the morning, up hills and down hills. Running, running, running. But in the end the running became secondary and what really became the challenge was the adventure. Finding our way in the heat and the dark to places we had never been before on limited water, food, sleep and patience was what made the race what it was. Meeting amazing people and finding great friendships. My husband asked me on the way home if I would do it again. My answer…probably not, but I will NEVER forget what we accomplished in those 32 hours.

So here I am, three years later, and I’m doing it again. What can I say. Some of The Best Thing in Life just need to be repeated.

Wendy

Not many people would disagree with me when I say that one of The Best Things in Life is a really good massage. The kind that leaves you rejuvenated and yet melting into your car seat on the drive home. The kind you get from a true professional. Just thinking about it is making me want to pick up the phone and make an appointment. You see, I’m lucky enough to have a massage therapist on speed dial. Not because I’m a diva, but because she’s my friend.

Wendy has known since she was in grade 9 that she wanted to be massage therapist. A competitive rower for a prestigious private school, she was always giving her teammates massages after long days on the water. The feeling of satisfaction she got from that, hooked her in. She loved that she was making other people comfortable and easing their achy muscles but most importantly, she was making them happy. If there is one thing in life that Wendy strives for, it is to make others happy, sometimes to her own detriment.

After a year working at a job she didn’t like, she returned to college to get her prerequisite classes and then in 2002 started the three year course to become a registered massage therapist. “Three years of hell” is how she described it. And at the end of those three years came three written Board exams and then a hands on, live exam. Imagine doing an exam with an instructor as your client and three other examiners standing around watching. Holy crap, talk about intimidating. Massage therapy is a physically and mentally demanding job. Many therapist burn out after 5-7 years, I’ve learned.

She passed, of course, got married, moved to the Sunshine Coast and got pregnant. So, sometime things don’t go quite as planned. Anyway, once things got back on track she set up practice in Gibsons and built up a healthy clientele. Another baby later and Wendy and her family found themselves back in North Vancouver. She currently works at a practice in Lynn Valley. “Choosing where you want to work is a lot about being comfortable in your surroundings and finding the right fit with the practice” she told me. What she likes about the practice she works at, is that it is a multi-disciplinary practice. This gives her the opportunity to consult with other experts in physiotherapy, homeopathy and pre-natal, just to name a few.

“Does the line ever get blurred between massage therapist and just plain therapist?” I asked. “Absolutely”. She often gets people on her table in really difficult situations looking for some relief through massage. And they start talking. Without going into any detail, lets just say that Wendy has had some horrific and traumatic things happen to her in her short life. As horrible as that has been, it has given her a certain perspective on life. That perspective allows her to be completely open and honest with her clients, in the hopes that they can use her experiences to help themselves. The expression “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” has never been more evident to me than in my friend Wendy. Her passion is to truly help people and that doesn’t just make her a great massage therapist it makes her an exceptional human being.

Few times in my life have I talked to somebody who really loves what they do. Who honestly enjoys their job. What a concept. But it’s not just that. When we talked about how Wendy’s past effects her work, the conversation, at times, became emotional and difficult, but when Wendy talks about the joy of helping somebody feel better and improve their life through massage therapy, you can hear the sincerity and caring in her voice. There is something unique about the way the she approaches her craft. It’s honest and vulnerable; just like her.

So the best things I see in Wendy? Knowing what your passion in life is, overcoming life changing obstacles and using them as a powerful tool to take that passion to a whole other level.