Thursday, August 29, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Family

**I've been away at camp for a week and am now catching up at home and at work and in life, so blog posts will be forthcoming shortly. In the meantime, here are some Throwback Thursday photos**

My parents and my sister are some of my favorite people ever. 

One day when we were in our early twenties we went for a walk. 
And mom and Jenna were up to all sorts of sillyness.

That face of my Mom's is the face I miss - this new Alzheimer's version of her is less lit up. I love the spark of joy you see here. 

When I was 22 and living in Victoria Jenna came to visit. We went out to Cactus Club for our birthdays. I remember trying so hard to dress up and look nice and then feeling like I'd gotten it wrong again. Jenna has always been such a great dresser - sometimes it was hard trying to measure up. But I remember how kind and fun she always was - she never acted like she noticed any difference in our abilities to look good. Though looking back, this photo shows clearly that there were differences indeed! Also this photo was before my breast reduction surgery, obvs. 

That same trip we went out to a nearby German restaurant for Mothers Day with the Wiebes and Nana and my folks. 

My Nana is one of our favorite people and she HATES being in pictures. And in fact will hate this blog post when she reads it (thank you lovely loyal reading Nana). BUT this is one of my favorite family photos - she said she couldn't possibly smile for a photo as she'd look we decided to look terrible on purpose. It was a great memory. 

We did get one nice photo together though. See you can look awesome Nana!

Then we got a photo with Mom for Mothers Day. This is a year after we started noticing the signs of Alzheimer's but it's at least 2, if not 3 years until the actual diagnosis - still alert and clear and sparkly. 

Also in person her shirt wasn't see through - not sure what's up with that. 

And me and my gorgeous sister. 
We take a lot of sister selfies.

Case in point, this photo, circa April 2006 at a Women's Retreat on the Island. 
I'd been saved just a few months and was loving reconnecting with my sister and with God and with our home church. Despite the strange yellow hue on my teeth, this photo has in a frame in every home I've lived in since we took it. 

In 2004 (I think) we went to Europe as a family. We got a pic of mom and Dad with a Croissant in Lucerne, Switzerland. This trip was our first inkling of Mom's coming disease - and it also was a trip that brought to a head my non-Christianity and my families Christianity. It was a great family trip, very memory building, but in many ways my insecurity and personal choices took away from what could have been even better. I obviously can't change that and am just thankful for this time with my family.

We hit up 13 countries in 3 weeks - it was a whirlwhind but we laughed and talked and made so many wonderful memories. 

The summer I was living in Victoria I headed back to Port with my old boyfriend and visited with my family - Jenna came over from Vancouver and we hit up the tall ships. We had a blast. 

Classic Tara/Jenna sillyness photo.

We had a timeshare in Kelowna and would go visit every couple summers. Summer 2006 I'd just gotten saved and we'd gone to Kelowna with Lyndsay instead of Jenna. I love this picture with my parents. My memories of my mom from this trip are among some of my last where she's really herself. After this the disease starts to take over more. I'm glad for pictures like this that remind me of when she was really herself. I miss that Mom a lot. I wish I'd known how briefly she'd be herself - there's so much I would ask or say or tell her. 

And for sure I would record her saying kind things to my Dad. I'd make sure she wrote him in detail how much she loved him and who he was in her life so that now while she can't write he could still receive letters for her. I wish I knew more about her fears and concerns, so that they would be instinctual for me to work with now. I wish she'd been able to give me a cheat sheep for this new mom that she's become. I could really use it. 

These next photos are from when I lived in Nanaimo the second time, after I got saved. I thought my hot pink crocs were the best things ever. My family was over to visit me and we had classic photo fun.

Mom was wearing an outfit that Jenna and I had bought her earlier that year at Woodgrove Mall for her birthday. Do you want to know how I can tell when these were taken? Obviously it was before my breast reduction surgery, so it's before 2007 and it's also before Jenna is married Feb 2007 as she has no wedding ring on BUT it's after I got saved January 2006 as that's when I found out about Lulu Lemons and bought my first pair (which I'm wearing in the photo). I got them Easter 2006 - so my assumption is that this photo took place spring 2006. 

Am I the only one that tells time this way?

I love this walk way - right near where we are seated in this photo there's a small beach. One year the "Walk for Jesus" was held in Nanaimo and ended at this park. I remember getting to go play at the beach with my barbies - playing barbies at beaches and lakes was always the best. My barbies went swimming and climbed into caves and I had the best time. 

Here's mom and Dad at a wedding in Port around that time - I was at the Stagette for the bride and remember it being summer 2006 as the Stagette was at Gwyn and Lisa's house on Hammond Bay road. Despite the fact that my mom had Alzheimers here, the disease is still not detectable just from looking at her the way it is now. 

Here's us as a family - Jenna's "new" husband Colin. This was for my Grandma's 80th birthday and was just after I moved to Vancouver in fall 2007. I can tell because Jenna and Colin are married (Feb 2007) and I'm wearing my new "office girl" clothes that I bought before moving to Vancouver at Urban Planet in Woodgrove. 

Seriously, this is the best way to tell the dates.

Here is where I think you can start to see my Mom's disease in photos - she's less sparkly and focused - a bit more vacant in the eyes. Also Jenna's bangs aren't the best - sorry sister! her jacket is super cute though. Also Colin and Dad hated the hover/lean forward pose they had to do. There was much laughter and complaining. Also you can't see because I cropped it out, but once seated my jeans looked like high waters. 

And lastly.....fall 2003 - In this photo I've just recently left Christianity but still love my family. I remember being thankful that we can still be a family and that they can still love me despite my decisions against God. I still loved them, I just didn't want to follow God - I wanted to sin. I wanted to get drunk and have sex. I still loved my family. I'm thankful for how my family loved me through all of this and for their honesty regarding their walks to God and their relationship with me - it was how they grew and changed and got closer to God that really helped me see that maybe I could chose to follow God. It was watching Jenna grow into a godly woman that sparked something in me - this God had power! Power to change! Power to be confident and stop flailing under the weight of insecurity. That was a God worth following. I'm thankful to my family for that. 

I love this shot for so many reasons - it's in Portland at an old friends wedding - I'm at my thinnest with my rad red hair that I loved. Jenna and I are in matching silk wrap shirts and being silly. There's like 20 more photos in this series someplace and they all make me laugh. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Celebrate good times, come on!

What a week! After a fun filled weekend the week just kept giving out more fun! 

Monday and Tuesday night we had 3 friends visiting from the Every Nation church in Calgary - Crystal, Shannon and Karisa. When I got the text the week before from Crystal that they were coming to town I was ecstatic! And when I realized they needed a place to stay I was even more stoked - we love guests! We all had dinner together Monday and sat around and talked - the girls who live with us (Rachel, Ana and Kayla) joined us all to chat and we stayed up way to late talking. 

[Shannon, Rachel, Karisa, Ana, me, Kayla & Crystal]

Can I tell you what is so extra awesome about these visitors? I like them all SO MUCH. I remember having great conversations with all three of them at Harvest Institute last summer and possibly even the Harvest Institute the summer before that as well. Paul had great talks with them this visit. I had great talks with them this visit. They had great talks with our girls. Crystal, Shannon and Karisa are outstanding young women - and we loved getting to talk with them about everything - faith, life, relationships, church...just everything! It was amazing. They are such wonderful ladies - and I'm so glad to call them friends - even if we do only ever see each other once a year. I will just keep up my continual prayer that Calgary/Edmonton and Vancouver somehow are shifted closer together geographically. 12 hours is too far! Thanks for blessing us with a visit ladies - our door is always open. 

Well actually, it's usually closed and locked. But we'd open it for you - any time. I promise.

[Seriously, love Crystal's attitude here, so much fun!]

Tuesday night was lifegroup - we ate Zucchini Lasagne outside, and celebrated Josh's birthday with a Heather-made Skor cake - score indeed! Then the whole gang played some ultimate frisbee ( I sat on the side and watched, obs) and then we made it back to our place for a fire and smores. I also stayed up until midnight chatting with our visitors and though tired the next morning, it was TOTALLY worth it. 

Wednesday was a rainy day, which was fine - I was spending the evening helping a friends sister with wedding planning stuff and then Paul had earlier picked up a giant load of free furniture from some family friends. We were ecstatic. So I made a rad dinner to thank Paul and his friend Travis for their hard moving work. 

I whipped up a pasta dish that I invented as I went - I cooked up some Fettucini and made a parmesan alfredo sauce with Johnny's garlic seasoning. I also fried up bacon in a skillet and left a small amount of the grease in the skillet. Right near the end I tossed the sauce and the pasta together with chunks of crab meat and while that was all warming together I patted dry scallops, tossed them with a small bit of flour and seasoning and then pan fried them in the skillet. I put the pasta mixture into plates, sprinkled some bacon and added the scallops on top. I was so pleased with how it turned out!

Paul and I also stayed up until 1:30am moving furniture around in our living room and family room. We are so happy with how both rooms have turned out. The living room is slightly less esthetically pleasing than before but a thousand times more useful. The family room looks better because anything would be an improvement - we've never finished that room up. 

Thursday was another busy night - our dear friends Ereka and Vic are getting married on Sunday so we were having a wedding rehearsal for them. It was a great night of friends, and laughter and great food - thanks for the awesome meal Arlene!

And that brings us to today - Friday. Or as it's known around the office today, Irene's birthday. Irene and I are coworkers, but first we are friends. I met Irene through her now husband Tapiwa (TC) when she came up from Texas to visit him 5 years ago. We've been friends ever since - we had lunch on one of her first visits and I'm so glad I made the choice to get to know her better then! Our friendship has grown steadily over the years - through friendship and church involvement and so much more. We both love to plan and decorate and dress well - and she loves organization as much as I do! We got married the same spring - helped at each others weddings - made friends with each others friends and serve in a bajillion ministries together. On top of that she works with me! When I went away last summer she took over my job, and now we semi job share. It's great. 

Today was her birthday and she isn't one for a big fuss. She likes small groups and pretty things. And since our boss is away on holidays, we both can't leave the office. So I decided to throw a small lunch for her in a board room at work - just me, her and her other close friend Dudu. It was perfect. We had Thai food and laughed and talked and totally surprised her. I'm thankful to get to celebrate Irene and am so thankful that God gave me her as a friend. She is a blessing in my life. Also a shout out to TC - thanks for marrying someone rad! You are also awesome and I'm glad I like your wife so very much. 

I wanted to make lunch special - but since we needed to stay here that seemed tricky. I didn't have much time to plan with this busy week behind me, so I grabbed some printed paper as I headed out the door and some burlap. I figured everything else would fall into place. I laid out the burlap as a table runner and placed three trays from work on it. I planned to use the white trays for food and the wood tray for flower placement. 

I grabbed three bottles of perrier from the fridge at work and emptied their water into a pitcher to mix with juice as a "punch." Then I striped the labels off the bottles and added 3 Gerber Daisies to the perrier bottles (love how great it looks despite how simple it is!). I found napkins downstairs in a dollar store that were white versions of the print on the labels (score!) and placed those on plates from work. I labelled the types of food for fun and presentation, more than for any real helpfulness. And lastly I ordered Thai Food from down the road - knowing that that was an Irene favorite. 

She was so surprised and so so happy. 

All in all it was a huge success - simple and easy decor, easy and tasty food, thrown together with lots of love from both Dudu and I. Perfection. 

I love this snapshot of the party - captures every bit so well.

And now that the week of celebrations and fun is over it's time for a week of crazy awesomness! Paul and I are off to Camp 8 at Anvil Island (Daybreak Point Bible Camp) for a week, Saturday to Saturday. Paul is a cabin leader and I'm on program staff. We're excited for a week of serving 16-19 year olds and helping to create a space for them to engage with God and each other. Also, we have some pretty rad friends up there this week - and we know the deep and profound truth that when you're at Anvil God always feels closer. Can't wait! See y'all in a week!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lake Days

This weekend was my idea of a good time. Lake Days. There isn't much in this world that makes me happier than lake days - whether that's to rest and rest or to rest and hang out with people - I like it both ways. 

Saturday was a BBQ day at Alouette Lake in Maple Ridge at Golden Ears Park. A group of people from our church had organized it as they do every year and we were keen to join. Especially as the organizing group was Philipino! That means fun people and BBQ skewers in abundance. It was AWESOME. 

Filipinas are so fun. I love how they do photos - two girls decide to take a photo together, before the picture gets taken another girl walks by and they invite her in, then they start calling for every female in the area to be in the photo. Next thing you know you have a photo of like 20 people happening. It happens at every philipino gathering I go to. I LOVE it. 

My home stay student Ana came with us as well and Irene and her student Miyo. It was such a perfect time - sun, water, fun. I floated for a while with friends in tandem - we hooked our rafts together and floated back and forth across the swimming area. We later all played games on the grass. My team "Group 2" won - woo! Also I won for "most enthusiastic player" - awesome. The day flew by in the best way possible. 

[Classic Philipino picture posing]

Then with the women involved in a friends wedding we went away to a cabin overnight - it was a perfect time to celebrate someone I love and get to keep resting! We stayed at Pitt Lake Wilderness Cabins and while rustic, the place was gorgeous. The lake was lovely, though low - only a foot or so at times. The ladies were great and it was a good time. A very small group of us were celebrating Ereka - Ereka is one of the campus ministers at church and is also a dear friend. I met her when she first came to her church and while she is now a friend to all (hundreds, thousands, it would seem) I like to claim that I was one of her first friends! There were a few of us that met her that first sunday and had a great connection with her right away. It helped that I was in Campus Ministry so I got to go make time to go see her and build that friendship as part of work - and now she's in Campus Ministry and we've got to talk about that a lot and it's super fun. Ereka is a hardworking, loving friend - she always looks for those on the outside and draws them in. She finds people where they are and draws them closer to Christ. I would hate to do church without Ereka. 
[Pitt Lake is gorgeous]

[The boat rides there and back, with Lou our boat guide]

[Ereka and I / Girls resting on a dock]
[Diana, Irene, Ereka, Deve and Maan all looking gorgeous in the sunset]
[Playing fetch with buddy, Paul would be so proud / Ereka and the China Dolls]

[Shots from around the cabin]
[I love this shot because that's less than a foot of water I'm in - it just barely covered my body]

{I heart this photo because Arlene has been a wonderful friend of mine since I first started coming to this church in January 2006. She has supported me in ministry, in life and in so many other ways. She makes me laugh and is always honest. I love spending time with her - her authenticity is refreshing and her enjoyment of life is contagious. Also this picture is rad}

[The girls heading back on the boat]

[Another of the girls on the boat - LOVE how this shot turned out]

I left the girls early to take the boat back and meet up with Paul and our friends the Papali's. It was Prakash's birthday so Kathleen arranged for us to spend the day at the water - Kash loves to fish and him and Paul love to hang out. So it was perfect. We were out on the dock fishing from 8am to 2pm - the boys were in heaven. Kathleen and I alternatively chatted and rested - I napped on and off laying on the dock for almost 2 hours. It was so very lovely. And it was gorgeous there - seriously, Pitt Lake is stunning. 
[From the boat I could see Kash and Paul already fishing with kathleen resting near them]

[These guys were so happy - fishing from 8am to 2pm!]

[Kathleen and I, trying to keep warm in the morning chill]

[Us girls tried our hand at it - also it got nice and hot later!]

[We found some marshland and small rivers to fish in after the lake]

[While the boys fished, we played Skip-Bo on the side of the road]

[Paul and Prakash went exploring]

After our outside part of the day was over we headed back to the Papali's for skewers and slurpees. I got to drive back with Kathleen and we got to keep talking - I love having friendships that have lasted as long as ours has - and that are real and deep. We have earned our friendship - not shying away from hard moments and being willing to change and grow together. I'm thankful for friends like Kathleen, and like Prakash. When we got back to the house and were eating we got to do the birthday game and have Kash tell us highlights from the past year and hopes for the future year. Then we enjoyed a couple games of Pandemic - I really enjoy this game! The four of us are used to playing normal competitive games that pit us against each other - pandemic is about working together, and that is fun for us to do!

[1 win for us, 1 win for the board]

Then it was 7 and time to head home - there were lunches to make - dinners to prep for - AND there were apples to use up. I noticed when we got home that there were quite a few fruit flies starting to congregate near the apples - the apples were still ok but not for much longer. Enter plan "baking for the win". 

While I was peeling the apples I put a few scrapes and a splash of sangria into a wine glass with saranwrap on top to make a fruit fly catcher (it totally worked there are like 40 dead fruit flies in there now]. I also cut up 7 apples for one of my favorite apple recipes. I made two batches of Echoes of Laughter's Apple Brownies

It's easy to whip up quickly - bakes in under an hour - and my roommates were ecstatic when I pulled it out. It made the house smell AWESOME while it baked and then tasted great also. Over the next two nights we polished off a whole one - and still have 3/4's of one left for snacking on this week. So good. 

And that, my friends, was my weekend. Absolutely lovely. 


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