amm Today *archived*

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The format of amm Today is changing. I have decided to transfer the updates to the Home page like a traditional blog. This will allow comments if anyone is interested in leaving their responses to my updates. Sometimes I write a post and wonder what others may remember of that particular memory, or if anyone else have had similar experiences. Having amm Today in blog format will create an environment where these comments from readers would be easy to share. If anyone wants to that is… I’m not expecting anyone to, but the option is now there.

I still have more tweaks and formatting to do before I have the website as I want it…but again, finding chunks of time for figuring out websites is hard to do these days! 🙂

Friday, August 13, 2010

Arrine received a special gift in the mail from JoAnne. When amm was ill, JoAnne told me the story of when she and amm attended a conference in Calgary and amm made sure there was time to stop in at her favourite shoe store, Arnold Churgin. And there was also the mention of how important red shoes are to a woman’s wardrobe. The card JoAnne sent with the gift read, “Someone (amm) once told me every girl needed red shoes so…” and the wonderfully wrapped gift contained the most fabulous red leather shoes with white polka dots.

I look forward to the first time Arrine wears her red shoes and I tell her the story of Grandma Anne-Marie and her connection with red shoes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010
When amm and I would hold hands, she would squeeze mine three times. It meant ‘I love you.’ I can’t remember when she started doing this. It was just always this way. Nick and I now do the same. I look forward to when I can hold Arrine’s hand, squeeze it three times and tell her it’s Grandma Anne-Marie telling her that she loves her.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I am going to be fiddling with the website format and settings over the next few days/weeks…so please be patient! I am easily interrupted these days! 🙂

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Coincidence? Last night I finished reading the August issue of Canadian Living. The last page always showcases My Canada, where readers can submit articles about what Canada means to them. August’s My Canada was written by a retired kindergarten teacher living in Grand Forks, BC. She wrote about inner tubing down the glacier rivers in the summer. It reminded me of amm telling me about her inner tube experience a few years ago. Charlie and amm were in BC visiting friends and they all geared up and headed to the river for some tubing. I was amazed to hear this, as amm has never been one to seek out water activities. amm said how she really enjoyed it and was proud of herself. While amm was in the hospital, her friend visited and emailed me pictures of their tubing adventure, which I added to the website at the time. Since then I haven’t had much contact with amm’s Tubing Buddy. So while I read the Canadian Living article I decided I should include this story on amm Today.

This morning I woke up and checked my email. Who had emailed me? amm’s Tubing Buddy.

Hugs to you Geri!

Friday, July 30, 2010

At a craft sale a few years ago I came across a great card company, Hug and Kiss Designs. But don’t let their name fool you. Their cards are off the cuff, sometimes so rude they are funny and some are just so out there they are ridiculous. I have enjoyed purchasing many of their hilarious cards, and better yet, seeing the reactions of those I present them to.

Two Mother’s Day ago I gave one to amm. I used to always tease her that I knew she loved me more than Anthony, so the card was very appropriate.

FRONT: You did a great job raising me, mom. INSIDE: But I wouldn’t be so proud of the others.

I wrote on the card to change it to singular from plural to fit our family. I did buy her one for Mother’s Day last year, but never had the opportunity to give it to her. This year I bought one for Charles for Father’s Day and I know amm would have giggled. For those of you who know the relationship that Charles and I have, you will completely understand.

FRONT: Every year I become more and more like you. INSIDE: And I hate it. Happy Father’s Day.

Check out their website. But again, I will warn you, some of the humour is not for everyone!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I remember one time in the backyard with amm. I was quizzing her on the various things/weeds growing around our yard. And by ‘quizzing’ I don’t mean that I was testing her and I knew the answers. I didn’t know the answers to anything! I was getting her to teach me about the various plant life that I knew nothing about. It was mostly so I knew what I should be pulling up and what I should leave to grow.

“Mom, what is this?” I asked, pointing to a thin stemmed ‘plant’ with a few leaves, growing between a crack in our walkway. amm replied with a twinkle, “KK, that’s a tree.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Now that I am a mom myself, I am remembering things about my childhood that I wish I could tell or ask amm about. We are working on getting Arrine to fall asleep on her own at night, without rocking or being held, and it’s going quite well. This reminded me of when amm would stay in my room with me to help me fall asleep. I can remember feeling bad that it was taking so long to fall asleep and that my mom was spending so much time in my room, so I would pretend to fall asleep so she could leave. I wish I could ask her now of she knew I was fake sleeping those times. I am guessing she did. Moms somehow know these things…

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Birth House by Ami McKay. This book was suggested by amm’s bestest friend, Marlene, to include under amm & Books as one of amm’s favourites. amm had given this book to Marlene to read just as Marlene gave it to amm to read. A sign of true friends, connected to one another. Marlene urged me to read this book while I was pregnant but I just got to reading it now, and I loved every word. I read amm’s copy that has a pink Post-It note in the front cover: Anne-Marie – Another book about a strong woman! (heart) M

It’s a story about a young woman living on the east coast in the early 1900’s and her role in learning the trade of a midwife and the challenges she faced, including a new doctor who didn’t feel midwives could provide proper care to pregnant mothers. I had to force myself to turn off the light each night and stop reading to get some sleep.

While pregnant, I had this internal feeling of the need or want to have a natural birth. I know part of it was related to amm as she would have supported this ideology with a full heart. Never telling me what to do, but supporting me in a way that I knew she approved. That was her way. While reading The Birth House I felt connected to amm and it made me even that more tied to Arrine through her Grandma Anne-Marie.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A little update to amm & Grandbaby.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I call Arrine “my beautiful girl” many times a day. I will just say it to her with no other words or phrases attached. I will just be holding her and say, “My beautiful girl.” Or I will smell her head and brush her soft baby hair and whisper, “My beautiful girl.” When I am actually speaking to her, or having a conversation, I will add on, “my girl”. “What shall we play with now, my girl?” “Let’s put you in a fresh onsie, my girl.”

Just the other day I realized that this is how amm spoke to me…

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Happy Anniversary to amm and Charlie.

Here are some pictures I took about a week ago of amm’s Edmonton perennial garden and a few of my potted flowers…. I also put out the willow garden angel that amm bought me (she joked and called it my garden witch) and the sun and moon stepping stones that I gave her and have returned to my yard. And there are even more blooms on the rose bush since I took these pictures! Oh, and we set up the hammock that she had in her yard…

Tuesday, July 5, 2010

Arrine, Nick and I just spent the most fabulous two days with Grandma ‘Leen, amm’s mom. We giggled and told stories and cuddled the baby. Grandma ‘Leen talked about when amm was young. It just made me feel warm all over. Years ago amm started using a voice recorder to tape stories that her dad, Grandpa John, would tell her about ‘the old days’. While amm was in the hospital I started videotaping Grandma ‘Leen telling stories of the past. I considered it a continuation of what amm had started with her dad. And this continued on this visit too. I look forward to the day when Arrine and her cousins Madeleine and Elizabeth, can watch video of their great-grandma sharing wonderful things about their Grandma Anne-Marie.

For those of you who know Grandma ‘Leen (Eileen Tomporowski), you will know she has a way with words. Not only by being a stellar Scrabble player, but with her phrases. This visit I learned, “There’s a cracked cup for every cracked saucer.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

A few years ago amm told me about this fantastic new product she found – Oil of Olay Daily Facials. They are pre-moistened facial cleansing cloths and amm was in love. She raved about them! I bought myself a pack shortly after learning about them to use while camping and I was so impressed! They were great to have out in the wilderness and be able to freshen up and feel clean, without needing running water. Doesn’t a clean face somehow make the rest of you feel clean? I didn’t buy any more after my camping trips though because I had my other regular face wash that I used normally. But when amm was in the hospital, I found her Olay Daily Facials stash and this is what we used during our beauty routines, day and night. amm’s dear friend Ann kept us stocked!

Now with Arrine there are some mornings that she wakes up before me and I was rushing to wash my face to feel fresh before getting her out of her crib, so that I felt a bit more awake. And some mornings she does not want to wait for me! I thought back to the Olay Daily Facials. Well, maybe this is something that would be handy when I needed a really quick way to start my morning off with little Arrine. I bought a pack the other day but was a bit worried that the smell and idea of them would bring back too many difficult memories of while in the hospital. But nope! Only good memories of amm each time I use one…

Monday, June 28, 2010

It is with sadness that I write that amm has another Beta Sigma Phi Sister with her, by her side. amm’s Beta Sister, Susan Lukas, passed away on Saturday. I remember amm speaking about Susan quite often. It was usually followed by, “…she lives down the street.” Susan and her sister visited amm while she was in the hospital and even brought us supper. My heart, prayers and thoughts are with Susan, her family and all her Beta Sigma Phi Sisters.

My memories of Susan are that she always looked so well put together, from her hair to her make-up to her clothes. So stylish and fresh looking. A dear, kind soul.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I’ve added a page entitled ‘Too young…”

Friday, June 25, 2010

Today I had a totally amm day, without really realizing it until this evening. It started when I held Arrine while she had a little catnap this morning. I had a good cry while thinking of how much I miss amm and wish she could be here with me, helping Nick and I raise Arrine. Then in the afternoon Nick came home from work to give me a little ‘me’ time. I spent almost two hours in the yard, weeding of course. But I started with amm’s perennial garden, and darn it, does it ever look sharp. Then I just continued about the yard, weeding away. Of course there is still lots to do, but I got a lot accomplished. Minos and Albatross were my assistants and they were very well behaved. Not a single attempted escape! I really really wanted to wash the house too, but with little Arrine snoozing inside, I didn’t want to take the chance of waking her.

Then this evening while Nick was with Arrine again, I got to some long overdue mending. While I was stitching away, I thought of amm and her needle point and how I will someday finish the pieces that she never had a chance to. Minos sat with me and watched the needle and thread closely, pawing at it a few times. And again, I was reminded of Minos sititing on amm’s lap, helping amm work on her needle point.

PS After I re-read this post, I realized that I used a phrase that amm always did… ‘looks sharp’. Huh.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How did I miss yesterday? National Aboriginal Day and the Summer Solstice! Probably because I thought today was the 21st, but alas, it’s the 22nd. If amm were here still, she probably would have sent me some newspaper clipping about NAD events being held throughout the province. And maybe some bookmarks or posters.

amm told me about Native Reflections, a company that sells all aboriginal themed items for educational purposes. amm bought me a few things from this site, a day calendar, business card holder. Before amm became ill, I was volunteering for my professional engineering association’s Aboriginal Mentoring Program. Every two weeks I attended an elementary school with a high aboriginal population. I talked about engineering and science and my job. So much fun. I even bought some games from Native Reflections for the sessions. I remember telling amm the for first time that I was involved in the program. I am sure you can imagine how excited she was, and I could tell how proud she was of me.

I also remember years ago amm and I looking at a Native Reflections catalogue together and she gushed over the rugs. She said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have one of these expensive rugs in your office?” Ummm, the main page of Native Reflections today is advertising their “Huge Rug Sale”… I wonder if Nick would notice a $1200 credit card charge…

Sunday, June 20, 2010

It’s been confirmed! Peony!! Thanks Marlene and Karen!

As for the dead thing, it’s no longer an unknown that I care about. Albatross uprooted it yesterday…

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ok. So I got some pics uploaded from amm’s Edmonton perennial garden. It’s looking so great. Lots of buds on the rose bush. I can’t wait to spend more time in the yard. Maybe this weekend…

And as I previously mentioned, another unknown plant. I thought this small dead thing was the peony I planted, but then what is this with all the green? Is this a peony? Help me Green Thumbs! If the green thing is a peony, then I have no idea what the dead thing is. Mark your plants!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Still weeding…yesterday I weeded amm’s Edmonton perennial garden. Nick weeded under our fir trees in the backyard, where only weeds will seem to grow!

amm taught me the importance of marking what you’ve planted, so you don’t forget what the flower or plant was! As much as you think you will remember what you planted, chances are you will forget. Well, I didn’t listen to amm for her Edmonton perennial garden. Earlier this spring, before any green had really shown up in her garden, I noticed a tuft of grass in her garden. This perfect circle of grass. Mind you, I was seeing this by looking out the back door to the end of the yard where the garden is, as Arrine held me hostage for those first number of weeks. I kept thinking, ‘Isn’t that odd, how such a perfect clump of grass would grow? You would expect bits of blades here and there, wouldn’t you?’ A few weeks later when I got to see the clump up close, I still couldn’t figure it out. Luckily at that time I didn’t dig it out. Because just last week when I was checking up on her garden again, the clump of grass had little purple flowers!! Chives!! Not grass. Of course. Seeing the purple flowers reminded me that at the end of last year and I learned that chives are perennials, so I dug my chives out of the potted herb garden and planted them in amm’s perennial garden…mark your plants!!

But alas, there is still another unknown plant…more information to follow….

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weeding. amm instilled in me the importance of proper weeding…which led to my obsession with needing to weed. Having Arrine at the end of March has not been conducive to my need to weed. I have looked longingly out the window, wishing I could be weeding. Finally, I got to. Nick brought Arrine outside and I weeded away. I could have spent hours out there (I do need hours to catch up) but bath time interrupted me…

I need to share with you the most fabulous new lawn care tool we purchased. amm was always buying Nick and I tools for the lawn and she would have LOVED this. The Fiskars Weed Puller.

I saw it advertised by Canadian Tire and the advertising worked. We went specifically to Canadian Tire to buy it and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. No bending over to pull weeds. It’s fun. It’s actually fun! amm used to use this little wooden handle, forked tool, where you had to dig around the weed and be on your hands and knees and fighting to get the roots out.

But no more! I now have the Fiskars Fun Tool! I still have lots of weeding to complete before the yard is ‘caught up’ from my weeks of neglect and then there will be the upkeep weeding. And with every dandelion I pull, I will be thinking of amm.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Anne-Marie Merle Service to Children Award 2010 Recipients and Nominees have been added! Check out the updated page!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My new mom hairdo is a french braid. It’s easiest for me to shower at night when Nick is home and can be with Arrine. Then I pull it back into a braid so my hair is out of the way, and is an ok do for the next day. So smart! When Nick saw me braiding my hair one of the first times, he said that he knew how to braid…but not how to french braid. I told him that he would need to learn so he could do Arrine’s hair once she was older.

This reminded me of all the times I spent sitting at the living room table while amm would do my hair. The most vivid memories are buns and french braids for dance. She always needed it to be perfect, even if it meant taking it out and starting over again. I was so grateful once she finally mastered the bun and she didn’t need to take 2 or 3 tries to get it right!

Friday, May 28, 2010 – I am making this update today, as tomorrow we will be on route from Sylvan Lake to Calgary.

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. One year. I thought today would be the perfect day to include the lyrics to Seasons of Love from Rent. amm and I saw this musical together a number of years back.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love.

Seasons of love. Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now to sing out,
Tho’ the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Seasons of love!

Oh you got to got to
Remember the love!
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I have said it before and will say it again. amm plans things very well. As the days lead to the first anniversary of amm’s passing, our family is consumed by other events. Charlie leaves today for NB to attend the Service Award ceremony with the school board. Nick and I will head to Calgary with Arrine to celebrate Madeleine’s 2nd birthday. I wish Charlie could be with the rest of us on the 29th, but he will be surrounded by friends and he also plans a little trip to Batoche as well.

It’s hard to accept that it’s a coincidence that all of amm’s granddaughter’s birthdays fall very close to dates related to amm’s illness. Elizabeth when the symptoms first were really noticeable, Arrine when we received the diagnosis and Madeleine when amm passed. In all the years to come we will have happy reasons to come together as a family during these times and share stories of amm with her granddaughters.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It’s that time of year again. Yes, amm needs me to wash my house. Today we are focusing on yard work. Nick has mowed, trimmed and fertilized the lawn. Now he is cleaning the eve troughs. Then I will take over and handle the weeding. The house will have to wait for another day…

Friday, May 21, 2010

amm would tell me that when/if Nick and I had children she would come to us for the Christmas holidays. And I know this applied for other visits throughout the year too. amm remembered and understood all the prep and organization for traveling with kids and vowed to come to us, instead of the other way around.

But of course, there are the times when you need to travel, like this weekend, when we are staying with Nick’s parents in Sylvan Lake to attend our dear friends’ wedding reception in Red Deer. I started packing on Wednesday for our departure today. “Ok, Arrine needs about 12 diapers a day, times that by 3 days and add 10 more for good measure… Ok, Arrine spits up about 5 times a day and of those 5 times, at least twice we need to change her onsie, times that by 3 days and add 3 for good measure…”

amm will be with us as we pack the car and determine if you really can get by with a baby and car, instead of a full capacity mini-van!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Access Television has a news talk show called Alberta Primetime. The other week they had a panel discussing the issues surrounding full time kindergarten. There were representatives from the government and school boards and I totally pictured amm being on the panel and doing a kick-butt job. I remember her speaking of the full time kindergarten pilot project she worked on, and the great results that came of it. You could really tell how proud she was of the program by the tone of her voice and the excitement in her eyes. I wish I knew more about the project. Maybe someone can fill me in?

Monday, May 17, 2010

amm’s granddaughters were all together for the first time on Saturday. Little Elizabeth and Arrine and big sister / cousin Madeleine had a few good hours of visiting with one another. We know that amm would have been tickled pink to see such an event in person, but we know that she was with us in a different way. All her granddaughters are super cute and of course, very intelligent for their ages. And amm’s other girl, Lise, was present as well. She sent two quilts that she made (yes, quilts – she is amazing) PLUS a tutu for each girl!!! Madeleine was trying to put hers on before she even got it out of the box!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

amm loved to read Vogue. I was reminded of this the other day while flipping through another magazine and thinking, “Man, there are a lot of advertisements in here.” amm would tell me how she loved to read Vogue and her favourite part was all the ads at the beginning of the magazine, because they were always so unique and interesting. Imagine – buying a magazine for the advertisements!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother’s Day. Last year I boycotted it. I think I am sort of doing the same this year. However, I did buy some Old Dutch Salt n’ Vinegar chips today while grocery shopping, thinking of amm and how they were her favourite.  And I called Grandma ‘Leen, but she wasn’t home. I would guess either at brunch or the casino! 🙂

Friday, May 7, 2010

I am honoured to add a new page under ‘more amm’ – Anne-Marie Merle Service to Children Award!!!

Monday, May 3, 2010 – Part 2

amm assisted with my dear friend Jessica’s birth of her second child. Her little guy was born in February of this year and she sent me an email on the evening I went into labour, so I never read it until after Arrine arrived. Jess talks about hypnotizing. I guess at some point in the past amm had shared her labour experiences with Jess, as amm used hypnobirthing for both Anthony and me for her pain control. Here is her email…

‘And I wanted to tell you, I truly believe your Mom helped my get thru my crazy labour.  On the way to the hospital I just kept thinking of her and what she told me about hypnotizing herself, if it wasn’t for her advice and looking over me I seriously do not know if I would have made it before the baby was born.  You may think I am crazy but I wanted to share that with you and was waiting until we talked but wanted to tell you so that maybe it would help you too.’

Of course I don’t think she’s crazy! It’s just amm, doing her thing!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Today amm would have been wishing her daughter-in-law Julie happy birthday! And amm would have sent a card that would have arrived on time and probably had some sort of confetti in it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Here is an email I received from amm’s dear friend Sherron on amm’s birthday. Sherron, along with a few other dear friends, JoAnne, Brian & Leanne, would come visit amm on a regular basis. Many of their visits involved singing and sharing memories and stories and always continued learning between all involved, as Sherron shares…

‘Hi Kirsten,

I have had 3 different friends share this poem with me, three times since AMM’s passing. And recently at an artist’s gathering we were taught a song based on this poem and then incorporated it into a puppet show our group, Collective Voice Theatre, wrote and performed in Feb. The poem means a lot to me and seems connected to what I learned from your mom. She taught me not to be afraid, even of sorrows, to welcome it all. She knew there is much to learn from everything we face in life – both the good and the bad. It seems a good day to share this poem with you now. Here’s to Anne Marie!

Rumi’s “The Guest House”

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
—translated by Coleman Barks


Saturday, May 1, 2010

amm has reminded me to enjoy the seasons. Last year when I was in North Battleford with her, I was really able to take the time to notice the change in the weather, from March to May. Although I didn’t spend any time outside, I was able to take notice of the changing temperature and trees on my drive to and from the hospital each day. It reminded me of so many times in the past when I would suddenly realize that the trees had leaves on them. Or the opposite, all the leaves had fallen. It’s like life has you so preoccupied with other things, you don’t even notice your environment transforming around you.

This year I have been able to do the same. I spend a great deal of time on our living room couch, feeding Arrine. And I find myself looking out our window a great deal. This has again allowed me to really notice our spring this year, and the various weather we have had – snow, rain, hot days and now some cool days.  Again, I haven’t been able to enjoy our spring outside at all, but I can still marvel at the transitions.

I have found that many of our friends who grew up in Canada but now live in other parts of the world, talk about how they miss the seasons in Canada. From now on I am really going to focus on noticing the change in our seasons. I think it’s what amm would want us all to do. Take joy in the world around us. As simple as noticing leaves budding on a tree.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Remember the lovely quilt Vera made with amm’s pj’s? Well, she outdid herself again, making the most cuddly and soft red blanket for Arrine. Last year Vera and her husband spent an evening with amm and Charles in March, which happened to be the night that amm’s symptoms really started to show. When the red blanket arrived, Vera explained to me that, ‘The red cuddle blanket was my chosen way to channel those memories and, in a distant fashion, share them with you and amm’s granddaughter.’

And here is Minos getting in the box with the red cuddly blanket, even before I had completely opened the package and knew what was inside! Again, Minos felt the connection to amm through Vera’s loving creation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Arrine Atea Marchand – Crime Fighter by Night, Cute Baby by Day!!

Arrine caught some bad guys the other night. There we were, having a lovely feed at 3:00am, when I looked out the front living room window and saw that the interior light of our car was on. And it was on because there were people inside our car! Well, I rushed to our room and woke Nick up, so while he was watching outside I called 911. Long story short, the police came, used their dogs to track the suspects down and caught the guys! Turns out these guys broke into a number of vehicles all along our avenue! So if it wasn’t for little Arrine, I would speculate that they would have gotten away with it!

When I thought of adding this update to the website, I figured that the only real connection to amm would be that she would of course brag about her brave grand-daughter and her sleuthing skills. But when we figured out which cd’s were taken from our car, including my Jersey Boys soundtrack and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Running for the Drum, I realized that amm is a Crime Fighter by Night too! Because why would two young punks choose those cd’s to steal and leave Nick’s Offspring collection?

Monday, April 19, 2010

amm helped me pick out which of her treasures to pass along to her friends. When amm became ill, I started to choose some of her things to pass along to her friends, just as little tokens of friendship and thanks. Some of the items I knew the friends had given amm, or they were things that I thought related to the individual. Well, for amm’s friend Edie, whom she has been close to since the Holbein days, amm definitely chose the treasure for her. Edie, Iris and amm were the closest of friends growing up, remained close after high school and continued their friendship into their older, more mature years. 🙂 Although distance kept them apart, living in various parts of the country, the three girls made efforts to get together on a regular basis.

The treasure I chose (or thought I chose) for Edie, was a Willow Tree figurine of a dark-haired girl sitting and reading a book. It’s title is ‘Wisdom’. It just reminded me so much of amm.

Well, here is the response I received from Edie after she received the Willow Tree figurine in the mail. “Your parcel arrived yesterday. What a lovely surprise. Thank-you so much. Yes the girl does remind me of AM. I will treasure your very thoughtful gift. It’s sitting on my livingroom windowsill, beside the last gift that your Mom and Iris gave me, when my Mom died in November, 2008. It is another Willow Tree figurine entitled ” Sisters by Heart” ……..and that we were!”

I’m sure amm picked out the Wisdom figurine for Edie, for the connection to the other last gift amm gave her dear friend.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Soon after I graduated from university, amm told me that I needed to have at least one set of matching shoes and handbag. Although I was nowhere near marriage or having children, amm explained that once I did have children, the matching shoes and bags would no longer be an option for me! Well, I probably took this advice to the extreme, purchasing more than one designer handbag and pairs of shoes over the years. My favs are Burberry, Kate Spade and Lulu Guinness. Well, just the other day I emptied out the two bags I was using at the time. A fabulous purple patent leather Lulu Guinness handbag and a vibrant green leather Kate Spade shoulder bag. I found their storage bags, tucked them away kindly and found a spot for them in my closet, along with my other designer bags…

I now sport another type of designer bag. A Ju-Ju-Be diaper bag.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

amm has been having us ask questions and more questions these past few weeks. I have had different struggles with feeding little Arrine, so Nick and I have been to the health clinic a number of times, reading books, talking to other parents, searching online. Today Arrine and I went to see a lactation consultant at one of the hospitals. During our discussion, I had mentioned the book I was currently reading and replied that I had already been to a website that she was going to recommend. The LC responded, “Well you sure are asking the right questions and accessing all the resources available to you.” Immediately I thought of amm and her reminders to ask questions until you get the answers you need. I had never really realized that Nick and I had been taking amm’s advice all this time.

amm also would say that if you ask a question and don’t get the answer you need, then ask it again. This holds true as well, as some resources were telling us that the feedings were all as they should be, but I just knew something still wasn’t right. Which is when I asked for a referral to the LC. And I am glad I did. The LC noted something no one else did, and it seems to make sense, so now at least we have a plan to get Arrine’s feedings back on track.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Before becoming pregnant, I heard about Pregnancy Brain – forgetfulness, can’t think of basic words to phrase sentences – and I experienced this full force. I now have Mommy Brain, which is pretty much the same thing! I thought I updated the website already about amm shopping for fabric, but now I can’t find the update anywhere! Let me know if you’ve heard this one already!

amm went fabric shopping, which she loves to do. My dear friend Christie sewed me 10 beautiful receiving blankets for Arrine. In the meantime, amm’s friend Vera started sewing us receiving blankets too, until I told her that I received 10 from Christie so Vera stopped at two. Well, wouldn’t you know that both Christie and Vera chose the same red patterned fabric for the blankets??? amm must have been with both of them while fabric shopping.

The red receiving blanket fabric can be seen in this sneak peak of Arrine’s newborn photos by Alisa Groves.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Today amm passed along her love of reading. Nick and I met with our doula Pam, to discuss our labour experience with her and provide feedback. We have said over and over how she was such a significant part of us experiencing the labour that we had hoped for. In our appreciation, we gave Pam amm’s copy of The Red Tent. Pam has yet to read the book, but has heard wonderful things about it. It was an emotional exchange. I will admit it was a bit hard giving away such a treasured item of amm’s, but it just seemed like the right thing to do in my heart. Plus, I ordered myself a replacement copy from Amazon already. 🙂

amm loved to share her books with those she knew would enjoy them. And when Pam replied that she would treasure this book, I knew we had made the right decision, and amm would approve.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A litte addition to Butterflies…

Sunday, April 4, 2010

amm would tell me that I had “Grannie Utley hands”. This meant that my fingers were long and slender. amm would always use this phrase to describe my hands whenever someone commented on my tiny ring sizes or noticed my long digits. Grannie Utley and I had the same hands.

During our newborn photoshoot on Thursday, the photographer commented on Arrine’s hands, saying, “Her fingers are so long and slender.” Right away, I thought of amm and how she would say, “Arrine has Grannie Utley hands.” Arrine is doing well so far, living up to her namesake.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Yesterday, or early this morning I guess, amm had me cut my nails. amm always had lovely manicured nails. I never knew her to go to the salon to get them done, she would sit down in front of the tv and get our her nail file and buffer and maybe a light polish, and tend to them herself. Which is where I know I picked up my habit of always having my nails done too – toenails included. When amm was in the hospital, doing her nails was the highlight of her spa treatments. amm’s nails were naturally gorgeous, with good nailbeds and strong white tips. She never had to use polish to make her tips white – it was a natural french manicure all the time!

Well, I am officially a mom now. Not because I have a real baby that is outside of me that I need to care for. But because I cut off all my nails. I found myself on more than one occasion poking little Arrine during a diaper change or feeding with one of my long nails. So it’s done. I cut off all my nails. Man, I must love this little girl! I have mom nails! 🙂

Sunday, March 28, 2010

amm must be bursting with pride! Her second and third grand-daughters were both born in her birth month. Arrine was quite early, not expected to arrive until April 3rd, but I guess amm had other plans.

Elizabeth Christine arrived on Thursday, March 11th. Anth, Julie and Madeleine are all doing well with their new addition.

Arrine Atea arrived on Tuesday, March 23rd. Weighing in at 8 lbs 6 oz and 18″ long. We think (key word being ‘think’) we are slowly adjusting to our new little one!

So as you can see, updates to the site will probably not be as frequent in the upcoming weeks (months???). Thank-you to all of you that I know check-in regularly, and know that I will update when I can!!

On a related note, I think the arrival of Arrine has been excellent timing. These few weeks are when last year we were facing amm’s diagnosis, the trip to Saskatoon and then North Battleford, and the complete chaos our world was facing. Having Arrine to focus on has taken away any time I have had to sit and think, and probably dwell, about last March. It wasn’t until about 10:00pm on the 25th when I realized it was a year ago that we received the diagnosis of CJD. Again, I think amm has played a significant role in bring Elizabeth and Arrine into our lives at just the right time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Well that resting was short-lived!! amm’s grand-daughter arrived yesterday morning, Arrine Atea. And her 2nd grand-daughter arrived only a couple weeks ago to Anth, Julie and big sister Madeleine, Elizabeth Christine. This is just a teaser – more details and pics will follow. Napping, and of course tending to Arrine, are our new priorities!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

It’s been a number of days since the last update. I can honestly say that these last few months have been one of the the most overwhelming periods of my life. Last spring was obviously bad too, but I wouldn’t describe that time as overwhelming. I haven’t felt in control lately, needing to meet work deadlines and prep for Itty Bitty’s arrival. There was just never enough time. But I had my last day of work this past Friday and I can now focus on relaxing and resting, not only physically but emotionally too. You know the phrase, ‘I don’t even have time to think?” That has been me for the past few months.

Of course amm has been at my side during these times. I wish that I could be thinking of the good things about amm, but right now all I can think of are the events that were taking place last year at this time. These weeks have consumed me by remembering her first symptoms and the time our family had no answers and then the diagnosis. I relive the seconds and then days and then eternity.

I know that these memories are normal and to be expected and this is just a time that I need to get through with my grieving process. I am encouraged in thinking that now work is done I can commit to taking care of myself and Itty Bitty and Nick, and that my amm thoughts will become more positive too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

amm would have sent us a St. Patrick’s Day care package, complete with green confetti, some sort of gift card and treat, and whatever else she could find that was themed for the day – maybe shamrock socks! And if we were with her, she would have made us green milk, as she always did for our cereal in the morning when we were little. (Don’t worry – she just used food colouring!) And she always had this pin that she would wear to work, that said “Erin Go Bragh”. I never knew what it meant, and still don’t.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A quick update to Butterflies…

Friday, March 12, 2010

Today amm had me kick some ass. That’s right. I did some ass-kicking, in a non-physical way of course. I won’t go into details as the situation needs to maintain private, but one of amm’s best phrases was, “don’t mess with my kids”.  Silly people who think they can mess with me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

amm had Nick and I have a “Clean Out The Fridge Night” tonight and yesterday night. This is what amm would call nights where supper consisted of leftovers and a mis-match of items. Sometimes she could whip up a meal that seemed to actually go together. Other times we would be having leftover pasta with broccoli and cheese sauce. But she would lay everything out on the counter and we would all fill our plates with leftovers and clean out the fridge. It’s sort of satisfying in a way.

Last night we had leftover veggie burgers with fries that we had made with chicken fingers the night before. And tonight we used up baby potatoes and made the yummiest non-mayo potato salad  (I despise mayo) – just potatoes, grainy mustard, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, a bit of olive oil, dill and salt & pepper. Oh and we ate some taco chips with Marlene’s homemade salsa which we also finished.

Now our fridge is clean and tidy and ready for another load of groceries!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Minos is not a lap cat. She is actually the opposite of a lap cat. She does not like to be picked up. She does not like to be brushed. She does not like rubs when she hasn’t indicated she wants rubs. But every now and then, when amm was visiting us in Edmonton, Minos would find a spot on amm’s lap. It was usually when amm was working on her needle point or cross stitch projects, as amm traveled everywhere wither her tapestry bag that held her current project so she could pull it out and get some stitches in whenever she could.

Minos is now a lap cat…as long as you have Vera’s amm quilt on your lap. I keep the quilt in our bedroom at night, safely tucked away from the kitties. But I quickly noticed that Minos would find ways to catch snoozes on the quilt, sneaking into our bedroom during the day when we are home on the weekends or making a move after I leave the living room for a moment when I had the quilt with me on the couch.

I don’t want Vera to think that she spent hours and hours creating amm’s quilt for a cat though!  But here are some pictures to prove that Minos knows that the quilt is a connection to amm. There is no other explanation! Minos is attracted to this quilt like no other blanket we have ever had. It’s amm making Minos a lap cat for me!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

RING THOSE PHONES!! It’s Telemiracle weekend in Saskatchewan. Every year growing up, I remember amm having Telemiracle on the tv for the entire weekend. I also remember being allowed to call in a donation, which would then have me glued to the tv for hours, watching for our name to scroll across the bottom of the screen where they would list the names of donators. I don’t ever remember seeing our names! They were probably displayed at 4:00am or when I left the room for a snack!

So make a donation! And think of amm while you do. I just did online – it was super easy!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A few weeks ago I received a package in the mail from my dear cousin, Lise. For anyone who knows her, you would understand when I say that there really aren’t any words in our English language to truly capture her spirit. She is bigger than life, like our Baba, is one of the funniest people out there, makes sure to have some sort of fun everyday, is a wonderful mother and wife and to top it all off, very thoughtful.

In this package she included a set of napkins that amm would have embraced and probably bought more than one pack. Last weekend when Marlene and I had our visit, we used these napkins!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thank-you for everyone’s emails and comments about amm’s birthday. I have loved reading each and every one!

Thursday, March 4, 2010 – PPS

Ok, this is just weird now. Nick picked up a parcel from the post office for me today and brought it home at lunch. It was a box of handmade receiving blankets from my thoughtful friend in Unity. Her note spoke of learning to sew, being taught by amm back in junior high! And then I received a card in the mail from another one of amm’s friends that had a big red flower on the front. All these amm goodies arriving today can’t be a coincidence…can they?

Thursday, March 4, 2010 – PS

I since found out that there will be an amm birthday celebration in Vanguard tonight! Complete with amm’s favourites – Baba’s Chicken Divan, Sticky Toffee Pudding and wine! I think it’s just so frickin-fantastic that we are all finding ways to still celebrate amm’s birthday.

Thursday, March 4, 2010 – amm’s Birthday

Happy Birthday amm!! I wonder how you are celebrating today. Your dear friend in Regina has painted her toenails red, is wearing red as well as the silver butterfly that she gave each of us girls at your cremation and plans to drink some wine this afternoon while reading Jane Austin. I think you would pretty much be doing the same! And your dear friend from Blaine Lake called last night to say how she is thinking of you, especially on the eve of your birthday and how she is missing not receiving a birthday card from you in the mail. It is lovely to know that so many people have you in their hearts and thoughts, especially today.

I had full intentions to make Andrea’s Chocolate Cake with Caramel Fudge Icing and then cut the centre piece out first, leaving all the edge pieces as I normally would do to your baking, just to be a wicked child. But I am sick. You always told me how I would get sick before stressful times in my life, without even recognizing it. So maybe your birthday was on my mind more than I even acknowledged.  So instead I am wearing my favourite sweater of yours (the one that Lise so desperately wants to steal from me) and I bought some Dairy Queen yesterday in place of the cake. Just in case I don’t get to the kitchen today. And now I am having a good little cry.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

amm loved to send newspaper clippings in the mail. Sometimes magazine clippings too. But with the newspaper clippings she would always indicate which paper the article came from and the date, if it wasn’t shown on the cut-out piece. In particular, she always sent me articles pertaining to the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan, especially when there were news bits about the status of accepting membership applications. As I have mentioned before, amm never was able to gain her official Metis status through the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan due to their membership application freeze. However she was super pumped when I was able to gain my status in Alberta.

Well, what did I receive in the mail the other week, but newspaper clippings about membership applications with the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan. amm’s friend Barb sent me a lovely note with the article included. Thanks again Barb!

amm is finding ways to still have her work done for her down here!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

You know those days where upon looking back on it, maybe only a bit later in the day, you think, “Well, wasn’t that the perfect day?” I had that yesterday. The afternoon in particular.

amm’s bestest friend Marlene came to Edmonton from Regina with her husband Claire to spend the weekend with Charles. Marlene came over around 11:30am and we started chatting right away. Then had some lunch and tea and cuddles with the kitties and more chatting. We literally talked non-stop from 11:30am to about 4:30pm, only because Marlene was in charge of making rice at Charlie’s and he came to pick her up to start on her kitchen duties!

What I love about Marlene is that we chat about things that I would chat about with amm – we talked about babies and health and our families and food! Of course we talked about amm a lot and she was totally part of our afternoon. It didn’t seem abnormal at all for us to actually address the picture of amm that sits on our coffee table. We would joke and laugh as if amm was sitting in the room with us (although I am sure she was in the room one way or another).

And another thing that I love about Marlene is that although we have little emails going back and forth each week, we haven’t chatted on the phone since amm was still ill. However our chat yesterday was as if we talk on the phone every day. We just started talking and never stopped.

I am honoured that amm’s friend now considers me a friend and we have a special connection, including amm.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My mother-in-law Karen gave me a lovely picture of amm after she passed. It may be in the Gallery – amm is holding a glass of wine and looks like she’s cheers-ing with you. Karen put it in a glass frame that has the words “love & laughter”, “Family, “togetherness”, and “A lifetime of memories” around the edges.

When I get up first thing in the morning or am getting ready for bed at night, I normally have the bathroom light on with the rest of the house dark. The picture is on our living room coffee table and the light from the bathroom hits the frame just right to create a reflection of the frame on our living room wall. I don’t know what it is about seeing that glimmer of light on the wall from the picture frame each morning and before bed, but it’s like amm’s light is saying good morning and good night to me each and every day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tonight I watched Joannie Rochette skate and I cried with her.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Sunday afternoon update under amm & Grandbaby.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

amm let Nick and I know that she was with us in Jamaica. On our first day while we were walking around the grounds of the resort, a bright yellow butterfly fluttered by us. I was so focused on watching the butterfly I wasn’t watching where I was walking and just about poked out my eye in a huge palm leaf hanging over the walkway. So of course I scolded amm for being so silly. Then later that night while we watched the resort’s entertainment the performers danced to ABBA and amm, Nick and I grooved to Dancing Queen.

The butterfly visited us throughout our time in Jamaica. Mostly when we were by the pool reading our books. Go figure. 🙂

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Here is an excerpt from an email I received from amm’s friend Rojeanne Chadwick about a month ago. When I read it I wanted to share it on the website and Rojeanne agreed! I love hearing how amm still plays a role in her friends’ and family’s lives.

‘Hi Kirsten:
Are you familiar with the fact that your mom ‘rushed’ Leah Milton into our Beta chapter about three years ago? Anyway Leah has been Vice President of the local Chamber of Commerce over the past year with the knowledge that 2010 would be the year she would be installed as President.  I remember last winter your mother saying at one of our Beta meetings that ‘next year at the Installation Banquet’ we would all have to go and support Leah. Well tonight was the Installation Banquet.  Your mom has been in my thoughts quite a bit over the past month as we purchased tickets and prepared to attend. It was a wonderful evening at the Gold Ridge Center – wonderful meal with wonderful service, and the speeches weren’t too long! Our 95 -year old Gert Millbank accompanied me to the banquet.

Glad to hear you are keeping well. I could never get African violets to bloom either – so I bought an artificial one – isn’t that awful!  However it is always in bloom!

Bye for now,
Love, Rojeanne’

Monday, February 15, 2010

Yesterday amm gave me a quilt and two baby blankets…with the help of Vera Krismer. Vera, and her hubby Bob, have been such a wonderful support system to our family during these last number of months. While we were in the hospital with amm Bob & Vera were regular visitors, including having us over for lunch and getting dad on the golf course. Vera always seems to know exactly what to say or do to bring comfort to the situation.

This weekend the Krismers came to stay with dad and take in some Edmonton hockey games. Vera presented me with the most special quilt in the whole wide world. Vera took amm’s pj’s and house coats and created a piece of art. I wrapped myself in the quilt the moment I took it out of the gift bag and it has been close to my side ever since. It’s like amm is hugging me every time I have it around me. Vera said the most beautiful words to me when she presented the quilt, “From Anne-Marie’s heart and my hands.” Or something like that! I had started crying and don’t remember things exactly. Maybe Vera can correct me!

In addition to the quilt, Vera made Nick and I two baby blankets, one pink and one blue. Each blanket has binding that came from amm’s pj’s as well. So our little one will be able to be wrapped up in an amm blanket too, always having hugs from their Grandma Merle.

How can you ever truly thank someone for such good deeds? To the Krismers – please know that you have helped us through our hurt in more ways than one.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Today amm had a photo shoot. We met with a photographer who took some belly shots…and I guess Nick and I were in a few pictures too. Her name is Alisa and came highly recommended – which was quickly apparent based upon her approachable personality, extremely quick turn around with some initial pictures and her patience with our kitties (whom she is allergic to).

amm played a key role as you can see in the picture that was already sent to us.

Friday, February 12, 2010 – again

Well, wouldn’t amm have loved the Olympic Opening Ceremonies? From the Metis dancers to the drumming to the tappers to have the audience bang on their own drums? And KD Lang. Oh, and how could I forget the prairie section with the wheat fields and Both Sides Now (Clouds). The entire ceremony seemed to speak ‘amm’. What a prairie girl she is…

Friday, February 12, 2010

Today it was a school bus. A school bus made me cry! I had recently realized that it’s been quite a few weeks since I had a cry. Although amm is always on my mind, I thought that maybe I have been so focused on work and baby prep and my long To Do list, I haven’t had much down time to think of how sad I still am. It’s just a sadness that’s always there without me really acknowledging it. But today on my way to work a school bus set me off. After I leave my back alley, there are two residential intersections where I have the right-of-way and then the third I have to yield. As I do every morning, I drove through the first two intersections, slowed down at the third, looked both ways, saw the coast was clear and started through the intersection. I was halfway through when all of a sudden a school bus was on my left hand side. I literally did a double take and thought, “Where did that come from? How could I have missed an entire yellow school bus?” And then instantly I thought of amm. I was listening to the soundtrack from Glee and thought how much amm would have loved this new tv series. So then I had a little cry. And used the last Kleenex that I had in my car.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So it’s been a few days since the last update. Even though I don’t post something new everyday I am still on the site, checking how many viewers we’ve had and what search engine phrases have caused a link to the website. I just find it so encouraging to know that random people doing internet searches come across our little website.  A common theme are people searching geneology. There are a lot of words like ‘Metis’, ‘Letendre’, ‘Parenteau’, ‘Batoche’, ‘Prairie’, etc, that bring people to I think amm would be very happy to know that when people are searching for their Metis roots, they come across her website.

Another source of connection is the Alzheimer Society of Canada website. I posted a link in their forum a while back, and in the past few weeks quite a few people have accessed the website through my post.

So to all of you just coming across this website by chance, thank-you for taking the time to read about amm and please do leave a note in the Guestbook!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

amm loved to host July in January Parties. This January amm’s dearest friend Marlene decided to host a July in January Party for the first time. Marlene said that she remembers amm talking about the parties and how much fun they were, and Marlene reports that her July in January was a great success. The menu consisted of bbq ribs, various salads, a frozen daiquiri dessert and of course beer, coolers and sangria. All of Marlene’s guests arrived in the proper attire – shorts and sandals!!

Saturday, February ??, 2010

It’s very early in the morning. We have returned safely from Jamaica. Ya ‘mon. Updates will begin again once the kitties are picked up from Kitty City, laundry has been started, our fridge is restocked with fresh items and the laziness I perfected while in Jamaica rubs off as we re-enter the real world…

Thursday, January 28, 2010

PS Nick and I leave for Jamaica tomorrow and will be away for a week. Updates will continue when we get back!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

amm used to say a cute phrase about Charlie. Whenever there would be a situation where amm just had to shake her head at his antics or giggle at his expense, or throw up her hands in frustration (sorry Dad, but that’s how it was sometimes 🙂 ), amm would say, “Well, I’m not letting him go now. I have spent over ‘x’ number of years training him, and I’m not going to let some other lady get the benefits of all my hard work!” Which really was a compliment in a way, right? And as much as they would poke fun at one another, it was never ill-intended. It is clear to see the deep love that they share between them.

I would like to say that I have learned well from amm. I’m not going to go as far to say that I have trained Nick. Because really, his parents did the most wonderful job raising him and giving him the tools and attitude to be the most supportive partner. But I will say that I have made him ‘more aware’ of things. For example, a number of years ago when a pile of his things had been sitting out for a few days or a load of laundry was ready to be thrown in the washer, I would need to verbalize this to him. And to be fair to him, his response was that he just didn’t recognize on his own that these were things that should be put away or done. I think it’s just a natural difference between men and women. Well, these instances have grown few and far apart over the years.

The other day I took the cushion covers off of a chair we have in our living room to wash. They had been downstairs on a drying rack for a couple of days and putting them back on the cushions was on my mental list of things to do, I just hadn’t found the time yet. Well, last night Nick just appeared in the living room with the covers and began to put them on the chair all by himself. I squealed with delight and said, “Oh! I have trained you well! amm would be so proud of me!!!”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken Rolls! I know that I have highlighted this recipe already, but Nick and I made Chicken Rolls for supper last night and man oh man, are they ever good! You really must try this recipe if you haven’t already. We made a simple side of green beans with a peanut sauce. We adapted the recipe from a friend of ours, where all we do is put the steamed green beans in a bowl, then glob a spoonful of peanut butter on them and some dashes of soy sauce and roasted sesame seeds, stir it all up and the peanut butter will melt and make a lovely coating. This tastes really great with brocoli too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baba was the best grower of African Violets. She had many small pots on her window sill all blooming beautiful flowers, all of the time. When Baba passed away, amm took over the pots but was not as successful. Practically every time I went home to visit she would show me the violets and say, “Look at these darn things. I can’t get them to bloom, no matter what I try!” She became quite frustrated with them. So frustrated that last February she brought me 5 of them and said, “Here! You are in charge of these now. See if you can do any better than me.” I kept the pots at work and while I was away with amm in NB a co-worker watered and took care of them for me. He had almost all of them blooming when I returned to work in June. Since then they were finicky and refusing to bloom, but within the last few weeks two of the pots started buds and now there are flowers on them! And even more buds! I think amm finally figured out how to get those darn African Violets to bloom!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A couple of weekends ago Nick and I made pizza from amm’s recipe. We love making our own pizza’s, especially since we just pour all the ingredients into our KitchenAid Mixer, attach the dough hook and in mere minutes we have scrumptious homemade dough! Nick timed me – it took me 30 minutes from starting the yeast to rolling out the dough. Not bad, hey? It is so worth the little effort it takes! Plus, we used the Pampered Chef Baker’s Roller that amm’s bestest friend gave us for our wedding (among other treasures). It was an amm & Marlene meal!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tomorrow Nick and I have tickets to see Fiddler on the Roof at the Jubilee Auditorium. We have season tickets to Broadway Across Canada which includes the major musical theatre productions that come to Edmonton each season. Many times we would buy extra tickets and amm would come to the city and see the show with us.  I’m pretty sure amm will join us tomorrow night to enjoy the show and share the experience. Plus, we have really great seats – second row centre!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I am tired. This whole growing another human inside of you really takes a toll on ya! Besides normal house things, like groceries, laundry, cooking and tidying, Nick is playing hockey, I am taking prenatal yoga classes and we have our prenatal classes through the hospital. Oh, and figuring out what you need to care for an infant and I am working hard at getting all my tasks at work wrapped up before this baby arrives. I am not intending to complain – I simply just want to let everyone know why some of the updates on this site aren’t so spectacular lately. I know things will improve once we get things all in order for the bambino.

amm is still having me do things as she would if she were still here-here with us. Like yesterday. I got to the point where I really didn’t know what else could happen during my day as it was so poopy. So what did I do? I had a good cry. Whenever I was feeling frustrated or sad or angry, amm would tell me to have  a good cry, get those emotions out and carry on. It makes you think clearer after a good cry. And she’s right. The next time you break a nail, then put salt in your tea instead of sugar, you hear the news that your Amazon book order is delayed and your oven breaks down, just have a good cry, get those emotions out, and carry on!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Speakers page has been updated with another set of words spoken at the amm Wear Your Red Celebration…

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I re-read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant over the holidays. This was one of amm’s favourite books and I read it several years ago after amm recommended that I read it. The story focuses on the life of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob who is mentioned in Genesis. But The Red Tent focuses on Dinah and her mother and aunts and the significant role that women play in society, especially childbirth. I found myself feeling very empowered and encouraged surrounding the idea of childbirth being a natural process and our bodies are designed for this! I felt amm with me every word I read and I know that she would have told me the same words of wisdom.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 – Part Three

Phew. amm has worked us to exhaustion today! And yesterday. Nick and I spent the weekend holed up inside. No going out for a relaxing brunch, or shopping for Itty Bitty. Nope. amm had us work around our house, organizing, labeling and crossing items off of lists, just as amm taught me to do!

I won’t go into details about our productive weekend, as although very exciting to Nick and me, I’m not sure how interested you are to know that Nick carried empty boxes to the garage or that I purged and organized our office closet. But you would be interested to know that I reactivated amm’s Legacy Guestbook. This Guestbook is a provided service through the newspapers that hosted amm’s obituary, as well as on their online newspaper. But the Guestbook goes inactive after a certain time period. So I have paid the fee to keep the Legacy Guestbook activated for one year from today. Check out the link under amm & Media to see the comments made about amm in her Legacy Guestbook.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 – Part Two

I finally got to the box of things collected at the amm Wear Your Red Celebration. I have now been able to add the words that Doreen Wells shared with us about amm and the Speakers page has been updated to reflect this.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

amm has kept her family very busy over these past few days. Charles spent hours and days organizing and setting up amm’s library. In his guest room he now has multiple bookshelves that house amm’s book collection. He has organized them alphabetically by author and there are almost 500 books. While in North Battleford, one of amm’s friends got us labels that say “From the library of Anne-Marie Merle” and we started placing them on the inside of each book. Charles needed to get more labels and on the last day he even needed to go to IKEA to buy another bookshelf. But the task is now complete. If any of you are in Edmonton, we encourage you to get in touch with us and take a look through amm’s library and sign out a book!

Friday, January 8, 2010

As I have mentioned in other areas of this website, the Creuztfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance System (CJDSS) through the Public Health Agencey of Canada is an invaluable resource to families coping with a diagnosis of CJD. Among the many services they provide and research they are working on, one process that they have in place is an interview with the family of someone who has passed away from the disease. My understanding is that it is an interview asking a number of questions on a variety of topics, to assist them with their research of the disease.

Next weekend Charles and I are driving to Calgary to be with Anth and Julie and we will meet with a nurse from CJDSS. She travelling all the way from Ottawa for the interview. Over the last number of months, almost everyone from our family has spoken with her about amm and she answered our endless questions and assisted with so many things that we weren’t even aware of. She has been such a provider to our family through this journey and we are all so excited to meet her in person finally.

This is just another way that amm’s story can be told and hopefully help in some little way.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nick and I have a new juicer. A Jack LaLanne juicer no less. This all started a while back when I bought fresh apple juice and grapefruit juice from a local organic market. We drank the juice and loved it so much and thought it would be great if we could make our own. Nick and I have never been big juice drinkers, mostly orange juice for weekend breakfasts, and I think part of it has to do with all the added sugars and artificial flavours that can be added to store bought juice. But since my eating habits have changed a bit over these past few months, I find myself wanting to drink juice so it has become a normal purchase during grocery shopping.

For the holidays Nick received a gift certificate to Canadian Tire and he asked me what we should get. After a quick search online I had the answer – a juicer!!! Last night was the first try. Two apples and a carrot produced about a 3/4 full serving in a small glass tumbler. But man, was that juice ever delicious. During the process of reading the instructions and setting up the machine and making the juice I kept thinking of amm. I think she would have been quite interested in our juicer, as she was notorious for reading labels and nutritional values on products. I think she would be happy that we are taking a healthy approach to drinking juice now.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Yesterday amm had me make banana bread. I had stock piled enough brown bananas in the freezer to make three loaves. After the loaves cooled, I wrapped them in wax paper and placed them in a freezer bag. amm would normally do the wax paper wrap and then place in a saved and reused bread bag. This was one of amm’s kitchen habits, but I always recyle my bread bags straight to the blue bags without reusing them.

Almost every visit from amm would include some sort of loaf, presented in wax paper and a bread bag.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding pictures have been added under amm & Recipes!!! Keep sending them in! I also know a few of you have made the dessert and told me about it as well. Thanks for the lovely feedback.

I found a set of butterfly cookie cutters while in Las Vegas back in November. I split up the set and sent a few of the cutters to amm’s friends and family. amm’s friend Ann told me how she was rolling out the last batch of cookie dough when her husband brought in the mail and there was the cookie cutter. She did what she could to decorate with what she had on hand (I think they look great) and promises to better decorate next time!

Friday, January 1, 2010

I realized over the holidays that I left out a page from the Beta Sigma Phi Christmas Chronicle that had two of amm’s recipes. So I have added these to amm & Recipes, as well as the page under the Christmas Chronicle.

They are a traditional pizza dough recipe (spend the time making dough from scratch – it’s totally worth it) and a fruit pizza that is always gobbled up at summer potlucks and bbq’s.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It’s been a few days since an amm Today update. I have been very busy sleeping in, reading for hours and watching movies in Sylvan Lake with the Marchands. We just returned home this afternoon and spent the day unpacking (there is still more to do), getting groceries and doing laundry. This would be the type of day that amm and I would have called each other and had a good chat.

Once we are settled back into Edmonton life I have some good updates planned for the website. Most importantly Sticky Toffee Pudding pictures! Stay tuned!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Merle Clan! amm has been  a significant part of our celebrations this year, just in different ways as before. Last night we treated ourselves to Sticky Toffee Pudding (pics to follow) and this morning we will have a coffee cake with breakfast, as coffee cake was a tradition that amm had for Christmas morning brunch. There have also been a lot of butterfly themes in decorating and gifts. Karen has butterflies on her Christmas tree and I have received a butterfly tree decoration from both mom’s bestest friend and a friend of mine, plus a butterfly tea set from Santa. It’s wonderful how we find ways to still include her. And the traditions will carry on as we prep for Christmas dinner too – including many favourites of amm.

We chatted with the section of the Merle Clan who are in Costa Rica right now and they are having a great time. Reports are that Madeleine loves the water and spends as much time as she can at the pool and the beach.

Oh – the coffee cake is ready! I gotta go!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tonight Nick and I spent hours prepping food for the upcoming days in Sylvan Lake with his family. I made a coffee cake, the cake/pudding for Sticky Toffee Pudding and a Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball. Nick made mushroom stock for a mushroom risotto and a honey curry salad dressing.  While in the kitchen we remarked at how much work it is just for food prep for the holidays. And we are only doing a small amount. We gave props to our moms who we know did everything themselves for years to serve wonderful meals to their families over the holidays. Sweet Nick then said with a twinkling eye, “And when you’re a mom, you will be able to do everything yourself.” I just stood and stared at him until he noticed the glare I was sending his way.

Nick made another joke at my expense when I was measuring out flour. At some point in our relationship I would have shown him how amm taught me to never measure out ingredients over top of the mixing bowl incase you over pour and then mess up your amounts. Well of course I wasn’t doing as I was told, over poured the flour and was giggling at my mess. Without a second passing, Nick quipped, “Aren’t you not supposed to pour over the bowl?” Huh. Well I guess he retained amm’s teachings – at least to tease me with them. amm would be so proud of her son-in-law.

Monday, December 21, 2009 – Part Deux

During these blustery Canadian days and the time you spend shoveling the walk, brushing off your car and shivering at the bus stop, please think of my dear brother Anthony and his wife Julie and their daughter Madeleine. They are all sunning themselves in Costa Rica with Julie’s family for the holidays. And please think of the little one that will be added to their family in late March!!! (Julie is expecting so our babes will be cousins that are only a few weeks apart…potentially!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year. It symbolizes rebirth of the Earth and the beginning of lengthening daylight. amm taught me that seeds are used to celebrate the solstice as they represent the start of growth. In past years I have always done something to recognize the solstice and would then let amm what I chose to do that year. Mostly it was as simple as getting a tea from Second Cup and thinking about the day, or having a fire in the backyard fire pit. This year I made the Winter Solstice cookies for the first time.

A number of years ago amm gave me a copy of Women’s Rituals by Barbara G Walker. I find it to be a very good reference guide for all Earth based ideas. Today was the first time I pulled it from my bookshelf since amm passed away. I read the little bit about the Midwinter Solstice and though of amm the entire time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Today Nick and I wrapped presents. amm had a very organized box of ribbon and bows and cards and we made sure to use some of her supplies on our gifts.

I have also added a new page under amm & Media. The dear Beta Sigma Phi Sisters included the most touching piece about amm in their Christmas Chronicle this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tonight I made Winter Solstice Cookies – check out the new recipe under amm & Recipes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A few of amm’s friends and relatives have told me how they are going to make Sticky Toffee Pudding this holiday season. We plan to have it on Christmas Eve as we did last year. It gave me the idea to create a spot on the website where you can take pictures of your Sticky Toffee Pudding Experience and send them to me to add to the site. Whether it’s the baking process, enjoying the product, or sampling it at a restaurant! Send me your pics and I will add them to Sticky Toffee Pudding under amm & Recipes!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I had a good cry the other day. I went through pictures from last year during the holidays and there were so many great memories of amm. It’s hard to comprehend that the happy faces in the pictures were only from a year ago. And just days before going through the pictures, I was washing and organizing some of amm’s sweaters, and one had black, pink and cream horizontal stripes. amm is wearing this sweater in a number of the holiday pictures. The new link for Holidays 2008 is located in the Gallery.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When Anth and I were young amm made many of our Christmas presents. Later she told me how after we would go to bed, she would head to her basement sewing area and work away late into the night, creating wonderful toys that we cherished for years.

When I was at dad’s a few weeks ago I came across Cheer Bear. Cheer Bear had been tucked into a box by amm, I’m not sure how many years ago. And as I remember, Cheer Bear was a special friend that arrived Christmas morning one year. Cheer Bear now has a special spot on our bed and many nights I find myself having a cuddle with Cheer Bear as I fall asleep. You can see all the love Cheer Bear has received over the years.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On Sunday Nick and I went to Chapters as I needed to buy a magazine. One magazine. That was my list. After quite a while in the store and walking out with a total bill amounting to over $100, I said to Nick, “All I needed was a magazine and we spent over $100!” Nick replied, “Your mom would be proud.”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Last night Nick and I had an amm evening without even planning it! Nick indulged me and I got to choose the movies we watched. First I chose Twilight. I have seen the movie already but I am going to see New Moon this evening so I wanted to refresh my memory. I remember amm telling me how she was reading Twilight and was hooked. And then she read the rest of the 4 book saga and loved the story. I even found papers of hers writing about the characters and their relationships to get them out of her head so she could focus on her own writing. I read the series and can easily see how she was drawn into it. So when I was in the hospital with amm I bought Twilight on dvd and amm and I watched it together. I don’t know how much she absorbed, but I still can say that I watched Twilight with my mom.

For supper we ate popcorn with cheddar cheese and pickles. That’s how I grew up eating popcorn, prepared by amm.

Then we watched Confessions of a Shopaholic. The first weekend I saw amm in Saskatoon I was supposed to see this movie with a girlfriend, which we didn’t end up seeing. Later on my dear friend put together a care basket for me and a copy of the dvd was included.

So it wasn’t until about halfway into the evening when I realized that all of these independent, unplanned events, caused us to have an evening all about amm.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A new page has been added to the website: amm & Grandbaby. Yes, it’s true. Nick and I are moving up from cat babies to human babies!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 1 of the Advent Calendar. Nick is not sharing. And I don’t even have any rebuttal to this, as amm would always buy him ‘his own’.

Sunday, November 29, 2009 – Part Two

amm’s bestest friend always hosts a Grey Cup and Superbowl Party each year with fabulous menus to reflect the teams in the game. This year lime green shooters were the drink on the menu. amm must have left the room for another shooter with a minute left on the clock!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Charles reminded me on Friday that today will be 6 months since amm passed away…and the Grey Cup. I think the Riders might have some extra help this year to bring home the big win today.

I remember amm telling me how she would enjoy going to the Rider games in Regina with Charles when they were younger. “Football players’ bums look really nice in their tight pants.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Nick’s dear aunt emailed me today, letting me know that she finished reading the copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that is being passed around, in honour of amm. She had the lovely idea of creating a spot where readers can reflect on this book, here on the website. So I have created just that. Check out the new pages under amm & Books.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I spent the weekend in Las Vegas with a dear girlfriend. I spent a lot of the time thinking about amm as we were together in Vegas in December 2007 for Lise’s wedding, and just this January amm, Charles and Grandma ‘Leen returned to Vegas and met up with Lise once again. There is a picture that Nick, amm and I took of ourselves in front of Treasure Island where we stayed, and when I walked in that exact spot this past weekend, I thought of amm and how we were just there a couple of years ago. I’ve decided to add some of my favourite amm pics from our Vegas 2007 trip under the Gallery.

(Note: while going through the Vegas pictures, I noticed a grey wrap that amm is wearing in a number of photos. Charles just found this the other week and I took it! I can’t wait to wear it even more now.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chicken Rolls. A favourite in the Merle household. For every planned visit home, amm would ask Anthony and I what we wanted for suppers. Chicken Rolls were always at the top of the list. Even for special occasions like birthdays and graduation, it wasn’t pizza, or chinese food, or any take-out, it was Chicken Rolls.

A few weeks ago I had an urge to make Chicken Rolls. Nick and I bought all of the ingredients and it was my job to make them one Thursday after work. On that particular evening I ended up having to work late and by the time I came home, Nick had the rolls made and ready to put in the oven. I am lucky to report that these days Nick cooks supper more than I do and he was willing to try out this recipe for the first time.

I’ve added this recipe to amm & Recipes. It’s a must have in your recipe collection.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Socks. amm loved to give me socks. Various holiday themed socks. Socks with pompoms. Socks with cats on them. I can’t remember a time that she didn’t give me socks as little treats. Just the other day Nick asked me when the last time I had bought socks. There was the time just over a year ago I bought three pairs while we were in Ireland because I ran out of clean ones. Other than that, I think amm totally funded my sock collection my entire life.

When amm was diagnosed in Saskatoon, the next day Nick and I stopped to pick things up for her before we hit the road, like toiletries…and socks. I bought a variety pack for her. All of those socks are now in my drawer and I love wearing each pair. How fabulous is it that every time I put on a pair of socks, I am reminded of amm?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I am finally the proud owner of an iPhone. It has been over a year since I first fell in love with it. And what is protecting this new item that I cherish so much? A beautiful red cover. Red for amm.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Each November 11th, amm would watch the Remembrance Day services in Ottawa on cbc. After I left home, each year we would chat in the morning, either just before or after 11:00am, connected by cbc through our tv’s. Today, like every year, cbc connected me to amm. After watching the service, Nick and I spent the rest of the day going through more of amm’s things. I had one good cry when I found a binder that she kept of emails that Anthony and I had sent her. She later started sections for Julie and Nicholas. To just think, that these emails were so important to her that she took the time to print and save emails from her kids. I wonder how many times she went back to that binder to remember, as I did today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

amm loved to write. amm love to read. amm especially loved to read the hilarious antics her niece Lise would create. However ‘niece’ doesn’t quite describe their relationship, as I know they were much closer than a typical auntie/niece union. When Lise arrived at the hospital to see amm for the first time after her diagnosis, I am sure amm called Lise her daughter.

That being said, I need to ask for your help, for Lise, on behalf of amm. Lise has entered a contest through the Globe and Mail to be a correspondent for the Olympics. The contest consists of entering a written submission and then readers vote on them. My understanding is that you can vote once per day. So here is the link to Lise’s article. I don’t want to tell you to vote for Lise’s if it isn’t your favourite, but I’ll save you the time of reading all the submissions, by telling you it’s the best of the bunch.

Vote and vote everyday!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How many of you had the old Dymo label maker? The one where you insert the plastic tape, then rotate the letter dial around and around, spelling out your desired label? amm did. And she loved it. And I grew to love it too. I made so many labels with that thing. Somehow I was lucky enough that it was passed onto me a number of years ago. Fast-forward to a few weeks ago. Remember our Costco trip with the Lindt advent calendar? Well, a digital Dymo label maker made it into our cart that trip as well. I had been thinking about getting one for a while. I thought I remembered amm telling me the she had upgraded from the vintage Dymo, but when going through her things, I haven’t been able to find it.

So for the past few days I have been too busy to post on the site because I have been making labels like nobody’s business. I have been meaning do a thorough clean of our office as well as the little room we have downstairs for my ‘sewing & craft room’. (Those words are quoted as it’s been years since I actually sewed or crafted anything.) So I’ve started. Both rooms are in shambles right now, but at least there are a few boxes, neatly labeled, loving being organized. I listed to CBC while labeling, as amm would have done.

Dymo label maker, I love you. And you too, amm.

Dymo Label Maker

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A  diagnosis of CJD can only be confirmed through an autopsy, which amm had. We just received the results last week, and as hoped/expected, it was confirmed that amm had the sporadic form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

On a related note, the wonderful nurse through CJDSS that our family has relied upon through this entire journey, suggested that I add the Alzheimer Society of Canada website to this site as it is a great bilingual resource for CJD information (CJD falls under the umbrella of dementia diseases). In addition to me adding this link, there is a forum on the website where I have left a post about this website. Hopefully it will help reach more families facing all the unknowns we did when amm was diagnosed.

Monday, November 2, 2009 – another post

A few weeks ago in dance class a fellow dancer commented on my rings as I now wear amm’s wedding set on my middle finger, next to my wedding set. She said, “Sparkly.” In the moment I decided to just answer that they were my mom’s and not go into any other detail. I made this decision because I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable with me telling them that my mom died. But right afterwards, I regretted my decision and wished that I had told her more details. amm wanted her story told, so I should be telling it. And since this wasn’t the first time I was caught off-guard with a question relating to amm, I felt even worse. So of course I told Nicholas how I felt bad about not saying more, and as usual, he reassured me that it was all right and I would tell people when I was ready to in situations like these.

Fast forward to tonight. Sitting in french class, working on some exercises with a new partner, never chatted before. She asked, “What are those rings for?” and pointed to amm’s rings. Without hesitation I responded, “They were my mom’s. She passed away earlier this year, so now I wear them.” It was much easier than I thought it would be. Then she asked quite a few questions and I told her about CJD and a few other things and it felt really great.

So I am ready for the next time a similar situation arises. I need to remember one of amm’s quotes and live by it. “You can’t control other people’s feelings.”

Monday, November 2, 2009

Remember just a few days ago when I wrote about amm and advent calendars? I was at my dad’s yesterday, organizing the final piles of boxes (just determining where they should go, not actually going through thing yet…) and what did I find in a box labeled by amm “Christmas Decorations to Save for Anth & KK”? The felt with yarn advent calendars. They were just as I remembered them. So those came straight home with me. I will use them this year for my own advent calendar. Nick can eat all the chocolate.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallowe’en. Samhain. Today had many meanings to amm. For Hallowe’en, it meant hand-sewing costumes for her children when they were young. It meant handing out candy to the little dressed-up ghosts and goblins. Each year amm would keep track of the number of kids that came to the door by ticking off the numbers on a sheet of paper near the candy. Then she would reference it the following year to know how much candy to buy. For Samhain, it meant gathering with her women friends who celebrated this day, among others during the year, based upon earth based religion. To quote amm’s friend who emailed me about today, “Tonight is Hallowe’en, when the veil between the worlds is thin, and we can sense the presence of our dear departed ones as ghosts/guests in our homes.”

Perhaps I will have an extra guest to tick off on my paper tonight…

Thursday, October 29, 2009

TGIF! amm started a tradition of emailing her kids – Anth, Julie, Nick and I – at work every Friday with updates on her plans for the weekend. Then we would all respond during the day with our plans and responses to each other’s plans. It was a neat way to stay connected with everyone.  When amm passed I wanted to keep this tradition going. Anth gets Fridays off in the summer, so we started TGIT emails instead, and have carried on amm’s initiative to keep us connected.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

amm loved advent calendars. This was definitely one of amm’s holiday traditions. When we were really little I remember each of us having a felt strip with yarn ties for the days in December, leading to Christmas. Each yarn tie held a candy that we savoured each day, one by one. Then there were the beautiful nativity advent calendars, complete with sparkles, but without treats. So amm would buy us a box of chocolates to eat along with opening the doors of the Wise Men, the manger and the always shining star. When we became older the advent calendars didn’t stop. amm would find some sort with sweet treats and put them in the mail after we didn’t live at home. Even in these most recent years amm would send them to us, she said especially for Nick, and each morning we would share in the advent calendar together.

Today we were at Costco and came across a Lindt advent calendar. It made it way into our shopping cart and is now tucked away in a kitchen cupboard. On December 1st, we will open the little door, savour our chocolate and think of amm.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Yesterday I had a good chat with a dear friend and we had a good cry together, over the phone, thinking about amm.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nick and I tucked amm’s perennial flower bed in for the winter today. We put away all of our patio furniture, put our summer yard decorations in the garage and organized some boxes I had from North Battleford on new shelves Nick put together. amm’s dear friend Ann taught me how to prepare the rosebush that other friends of amm gave me to plant, so I went through those steps as well. There was still one bud that hadn’t opened though and I felt bad covering the rosebush up. But I thought that if it still blooms while tucked underneath its protective blanket, that’s quite all right. It would be a metaphor as to how amm still blooms for all of us but we can’t see her.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“Extra! Extra! amm saves Thanksgiving!!” Yes, the headlines are true. amm did save Thanksgiving this year. Let me explain… A few years ago Nick and I hosted Thanksgiving in our little house. That was the year that amm taught me how to cook a turkey – which consisted of her doing everything and I watching. Oh, I may have put a Ziploc bag on my hand at one point and poked the bird. This particular turkey missed the step where his neck gets cut off, so there was amm, hacking away at the poor turkey neck with a somewhat dull knife to prep the turkey. I remember thinking, “Now that is a mom! Only a mom could saw away at a turkey neck.” Since that Thanksgiving, I had no real involvement in turkey cooking, until this year.

Julie did a lot of research into turkeys, but she was relying on the knowledge amm handed down to me many years before. I was quite surprised at all I remembered. Like reaching in the cavity to pull out the neck and bag of innards, rinsing the turkey inside and out then patting dry, how to keep the skin in tact to tuck the legs back in once the bird was stuffed, giving the bird a little rub of butter to brown and crisp up the skin. Julie and Anth were impressed. But one thing was different – the cavity that contained the neck, didn’t contain the bag of innards. Julie explained that it was a fresh organic turkey, so I just thought maybe it was different than the regular Co-op turkeys I was familiar with. Anth and Julie stuffed that bird and were lifting it to get into the roaster, when I saw the flap of skin over the neck. I remembered how amm taught me that she could always get a bit of stuffing in the neck cavity too. I contemplated not even saying anything, until something made me say, “Hey! Wait! Mom would stuff the neck area with stuffing too!” So Anth and Julie took the turkey out, Julie lifted up the flap of neck skin to stuff it full, and exclaimed, “Oh my! What is this?” And she pulled out the plastic bag of innards!!! amm made sure that we did not ruin the turkey by leaving the plastic bag inside while cooking – can you imagine?

Thanks amm for saving our Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We are in Calgary for Thanksgiving. Tonight Anth & Julie made a delish roast and afterwards during clean-up, Anth said to me, “I am going to pull an amm.” I asked, “What are you going to do?” He replied, “I am going to put the leftover gravy in a Ziploc freezer bag and label it ‘Gravy, October 2009’ with a black marker on a slant.” And it’s true. amm would always label her freezer bags in this way. But if Anth really wanted to do it right, he would have measured the volume of gravy and also wrote how many cups was in the freezer bag.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It has snowed in Edmonton. We woke up this morning to a light skiff of snow on our cars, and now when I look outside, the soft snow is collecting on the grass too. So today I wore my pink Burberry scarf that amm bought me a couple of years back when she was in California for the winter. I wrapped it snuggly around my neck and held it close to my heart.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I met a friend for tea on Whyte Ave on Sunday afternoon. I also did a bit of shopping. I bought a new dress from Nokomis – it’s grey wool with a heavy duty zipper up the front. And I had this strong need for red boots. amm always loved her red shoes, and I remember very vividly last fall when I was in Calgary for work, stopped in at Arnold Churgin and bought the most fabulous pair of patent candy apple red shooties (shoe & boot cross-over) and called amm right afterwards to share my excitement (all the while my male co-workers thought I must be a bit off). So this year amm wanted me to have red boots. I stopped in at Gravity Pope but did not have any luck. Yesterday I stopped at Southgate Shopping Centre, on my way to French class after a dentist appointment, and headed to Pravda, another fav shoe store. Here they had many red boots to choose from and I settled on a wonderful pair with a small chunky heel, zipper up the back and ruching up to the knee. amm loves the boots.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Canadian Living is a magazine that amm loved. I can never remember a time when amm did not have a subscription and once I became older, she always made sure I had a subscription. Julie too. In the August 2009 there was an article titled Rachel’s Butterfly Garden. It told the Make-A-Wish Canada story about young girl who needed a space to play, ride her bike and grass to run. Landscapers created a magical place in her backyard and chose specific plants and flowers to attract butterflies. The story just seemed so connected to amm and her visiting us in butterfly form.

Thursday, October 1, 2009 – Part Deux

Happy Birthday Charlie!

And here is a picture that Marlene took while in the English Gardens in Winnipeg. She had a butterfly follow her the entire time…

Marlene Butterfly

Thursday, October 1, 2009

These days have flown by! This past Sunday my dear friend who lives in Saskatoon came to the city and presented an Arbonne party at my home for a few girlfriends. I need to post a recipe from that event still. Then on Monday I started a French class, as it was my 2009 New Year’s Resolution to relearn French, Tuesday was dance class as that has started up again for the fall and last night Nick left on his yearly golf trip with his closest buds.

Today at work I pinched my finger in a door. It hurt enough for me to hear amm say, “Say a bad word! It will make you feel better!” That is another one of amm’s quotes – she would always say that if you bit the inside of your cheek, or stubbed your toe, or did anything that was a silly way to hurt yourself.

Say a bad word. It will make you feel better.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Today I wore amm’s red leather flats from Arnold Churgin for the first time. I wouldn’t say that I had a day where I rocked a meeting or came up with a creative new way to approach a problem, but I had an extra ‘something’ about me today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – Part Deux

I was craving chicken fingers on Sunday and amm has a yummy chicken fingers recipe. I checked the cupboards and had all the ingredients…then I realized I didn’t have any chicken! So after a trip to the grocery store later that day, the chicken fingers came to be last night for supper. Nick said, “You sure do know how to make chicken fingers!” I’ve added the recipe to amm & Recipes…

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yesterday I experienced my first “cry out of nowhere”. I was warned by a dear friend who lost her father when she was in her early 20s that when you least expect it, something you see or smell or hear, will trigger such a powerful memory that all you can do is cry. This happened to me while driving to work yesterday. I had my iPod randomly playing when I Am Woman by Helen Reddy came through the speakers. The melody and lyrics brought back such vivid memories of amm putting on the record in our living room, turning the volume up, and her and I singing along to our unspoken theme song. I could hear amm’s voice singing each word, exactly how it sounded last time she sang it. And I cried. At the time I didn’t realize how much amm was teaching me about womanhood and the power we possess.

On my way home from work I put I Am Woman on repeat and sang and sang and cried and cried. All the way home.

I Am Woman

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

Oh, yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Oh, yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong

I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We had a lazy weekend around the house. The next two weekends Nick is away and then it’s Thanksgiving already, so we needed some time together around the house. On Friday night we went to Lee Valley, the store that amm loved to find neat home and garden items at. We purchased two CatStops (long story about neighbourhood cats), an ingenious knife block that lets you put your knives of any size anywhere, a meat thermometer that Nick wanted, and garden stakes for my perennial garden to hold up my lilies and salvia. On Saturday Nick golfed and then we went to supper at Famoso. Famoso is a newer pizzeria in Edmonton, featuring thin crust pizzas. Afterwards I said to Nick how I will always specifically think of amm when we eat there, as that is where we ate the Friday she came to Edmonton for the last time – the weekend when her symptoms really started to show. She had the Mediterranean Flatbread. Today I spent some time in the yard with the cats starting on my fall cleanup. Our front yard is covered with leaves and there is a crispness in the air, even though some days the temperature still reaches the high 20s. I put away a few of my outdoor knickknacks and weeded the perennial garden, but I couldn’t let myself put away the garden decorations that are in the perennial bed I made for amm. I told Nick that I will wait until the first snow fall to put those special items away. I plan to tidy up the rest of our yard in the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our house cleaners come today. Nick and I have learned over the years, that it is best for us to find room in our budget to pay for cleaners, than us to try to find the time each week (or every two weeks) to clean our house. It’s not that I don’t like cleaning. I actually feel quite satisfied after a good scrub of a bathroom, but again, the time to do it always escapes us. And the company we use, Green Clean Squad, uses all natural and chemical free products, that make us feel better about what’s being used in our home and around our kitties.

The reason I have brought this up, is another saying that amm used. She loved to say that she performed “a lick and a promise” cleaning of her house. This was when she made things look clean, but maybe didn’t have the time to really spend scrubbing out the hard water stains in the shower.

What have you given a lick and a promise lately?

Monday, September 14, 2009 – Part Deux

Isn’t it funny how little compartmentalized things in life seem to be connected, when you least expect it? A few days before leaving for Cuba, I stopped at Coles and spent about $40 on various magazines, mostly choosing Canadian content. One magazine I chose was the August edition of Lou Lou – Canada’s Shopping Expert. This is a magazine that I have only read one other time and had never ever bought before. Maybe because the cover was read – whatever the reason it made it into my pile. Fast forward to about day 5 of Cuba. I’m reading Lou Lou and become intrigued when an article is highlighting shopping in Regina. And didn’t I just about drop the magazine when I read the Fab Finds For Foodies, when they highlighted Zest Restaurant and mentioned their Sticky Toffee Pudding?? Zest was a restaurant that amm’s dearest friend Marlene asked me to add to the Links page, as amm and her loved to go to Zest and treat themselves to the Sticky Toffee Pudding. amm made an appearance in Cuba!

Monday, September 14, 2009

More on Birks. Birks plays a very serious role in the Merle family history. Charlie’s mom, Baba, worked at Birks for over 20 years…if not longer. We heard many stories growing up about her clients and some days her returning home with no pay cheque, as she used all her earnings to buy jewellery instead! Baba taught us not only the importance of fine quality jewellery, but the importance of customer service, which Birks still excels at today. I have been lucky enough to inherit many Birks pieces of Babas. And when I wear them I feel a bit more saucy! Not only did Baba work for Birks, Birks assisted Charlie through university, amm’s and Auntie Elaine’s wedding bands were from Birks, as are mine and cousin Lise’s, not to mention numerous other pieces collected over the years. Birks plays a special role in all occasions. A tradition that I have carried on is gifting Royal Doulton Bunnykins to new little ones, as Baba gave to us when we were small. And now, I have inherited two very special pieces from amm – her wedding bands and a clattery, out-there, busy silver charm bracelet. Each charm has a story to tell and I love sharing them when people ask about the bracelet.

amm and I loved to window shop in Birks or go in to get our rings cleaned. Or just go chat with the salesperson. Next time you pass a Birks, stop in and look at some beautiful pieces for amm. Heck – why don’t you buy yourself something nice? 🙂 amm would approve!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Today I picked up amm’s wedding rings from Birks. I dropped them off before I left for Cuba to have them resized. I wear them on my middle finger, right next to my wedding rings. I love when people comment on the rings so I can tell them that the one on my middle finger was my moms. I love how they catch the light and shine tiny flickers of brightness all around me. I love having something so close of amms so close to me, all of the time. I love how she adored her rings and now I get to adore them too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

amm taught us to respect books. Never ever do you write in a book, except for two exceptions. You can write in the front of a book with a note, like who the book was from, or a message if you were giving the book as a gift. And you can write notes in your recipe books.

The other night Nick tried a new recipe from our favourite series of cookbooks: Whitewater Cooks & Whitewater Cooks at Home. are cookbooks that Nick’s family have brought back from BC while visiting family, and every recipe is so delish. Nick tried a herb crusted salmon with rice pilaf for the first time. I told him to write: “Salmon, 10/10. Rice, 6/10.” And he did. I love flipping through recipe books to find notes from long ago, like “kk loves this, aj did not” and “use half the sugar but double the chocolate chips”. amm was constantly learning and bettering her recipes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A co-worker’s 16 year-old son is fighting cancer. This morning he shared with me how his family is currently waiting to hear back if there is a match for a bone marrow donor and how there are 800 Canadians needing matches right now. Through the Canadian Blood Services One Match program,, you can take about 15 minutes to read about the program, fill out a questionnaire, and begin the process of being entered into the system to be a potential match for someone in the world who needs your help to live. I did this afternoon. Imagine being given the opportunity to provide the chance of life to someone.

I also encourage you to look into donating blood, or other blood products. I have many memories as a young girl, going to the blood donating clinic with amm, waiting patiently for the cookies and juice I got to share once amm had finished her donation. Once I graduated university and had more free time, I began to donate regularly. Only an hour of your time can save multiple lives. How empowering is that?

Monday, September 7, 2009

I have arrived home safe and sound from my Cuba getaway. I hope to get organized and back to our typical routine in the next week so I can make some good additions to the website. I have an interesting story to share about how amm visited me in Cuba…stay tuned!

Saturday, September 5, 2009 (I think)

I am on Cuba time. So I am not exactly sure of the day. Although I come home tomorrow and then I will get back on track. We have had a lovely week of laziness, beach, reading, naps. But we are ready to come home to familiar comforts and our families.

amm and my aunt’s pictures are in my room with me – they are enjoying our vacation too…

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lately I have felt that everything is catching up with me. I emailed my dearest Merle Girls Lise and Julie (well, pseudo-Merle for Julie), and asked them to accompany me on a lazy vacation. Of course they both wanted to. Lise and I leave for Cuba on Sunday. Unfortunately with the timing Julie won’t be able to join us, but she will be with us in spirit, and the mini-Merle Girl, Madeleine! So I will be away, reading, napping, reading, relaxing…

Updates for the website will be on vacation, while I am on vacation.

See you next week!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Last night was hard for me. Today is our 3 year wedding anniversary. I was thinking of how long ago it seems our wedding was, but at the same time, so short that in that in less than three years later, amm would no longer be with us. I thought of her helping me into my dress, and her speaking at our ceremony, deep words of spirituality with Anthony playing the drum she made, and the outfit she made and wore.

amm always followed the traditional wedding gifts, paper, cotton, and this year, leather. When amm was still in the hospital and I was going through her office, I found a sheet where amm was keeping track of what she had given for anniversary gifts to Anthony & Julie and Nick & me. She had already written out what she was going to give us this year – a leather stool that was her grandfather’s and she had refinished. The stool now has a spot in our living room and I find Nick and myself sitting on this hard little stool, more than I had expected we would.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It’s been a busy week. Two of my dear friends at work needed a pick-me-up, so one night I made amm’s Brownie Miniatures for them. amm used to make these during the Holidays…and we learned that they taste the best straight from the freezer! I’ve added the recipe to amm & Recipes. I also added amm’s Spring Trifle Recipe, which I have never made, but others always rave about it.

I spent one evening at Charlie’s condo, going through boxes. There is still so much to go through. In one box I found photo albums from the 60s…I marked that box for me to revisit again, on a blustery winter weekend.

Today I have devoted a chunk of time to update the website, with recipes that I’ve mentioned, more pics from the Celebration, as well as starting to add the words spoken at Wear Your Red.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

amm had me weed this afternoon. So many weeds!!! They never end. And then I disturbed a wasp nest and it was time for the weeding to be put on hold and Nick and I to take the kitties inside to safety. So now inside, the only thing left to do was to bake a chocolate cake! Dad gave me all of amm’s baking ingredients, which included a can of pre-made chocolate icing. It has been calling to me. I have held off just eating the icing alone straight from the can…it would be best to eat it on a cake. So Andrea’s Chocolate Cake is baking in the oven right now. This is a cake that amm would make for her dear friend Marlene’s daughter Andrea, because it has no eggs or dairy. And it is the moistest chocolate cake you will ever have. amm made this recipe for Madeleine’s Edmonton Shower..and then we decorated it into a baby pram. Normally I would ice the cake with caramel fudge icing if I didn’t have the pre-made can…I have added Andrea’s Chocolate Cake and the Caramel Fudge Icing recipes to amm & Recipes…the sweetest combination!

amm would also make a white cake with the caramel icing. When the cake would start to get a bit dry after a few days, amm would put a piece of cake in a bowl and fill the bottom with a little bit of milk. It would moisten the cake and make the cake last and last!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Last night I had vinegar on my french fries. Classic amm move.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A couple of weeks ago for work I spent a day visiting a few different sites with a Field Operator across the Alberta landscape. On two occasions I needed to trek through a field wearing my coveralls and steel-toed boots. Each step I took, it seemed like thousands of grasshoppers leaped from their hiding spots. It brought back such vivid memories of family trips to southern Saskatchewan near Vanguard, to spend time with my mom’s dear friend Iris and her family. I wished that I wasn’t wearing my coveralls so I could feel the grasshoppers against my legs. Vanguard has memories of a beautiful old farm house with a wrap-around porch that I always wished was mine, playing ping-pong in the cool basement (I think it was ping-pong) and hearing crickets chirp once the sun went down. Picking eggs from the hen house and walking in the fields. And grasshoppers.

When I returned to the office I commented to a co-worker about the grasshoppers and how it’s been years since I had walked through a field with grasshoppers. And how I missed it and felt I needed to experience it more than I have. His response was, “You must be from Saskatchewan.” I thought to myself, “I sure am. And amm would have loved to be walking those fields with me.”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

We are home from the wedding and picking up the kitties from Grandpa Charlie’s. He reported that they were almost totally well behaved; Albatross loves to be up high so he found some favourite spots on top of the kitchen cabinets… I have a long list of things to do regarding amm and I hope this next week will have time in it for more website updates…

Tonight I had another amm supper – cooked baby carrots and Grandma ‘Leen’s famous pickeled beets!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Last night amm had me finish some mending. I bought a cute little dress from a favourite clothing store on Whyte Ave. I took amm there almost every time we were shopping on Whyte. It’s called Nokomis and exclusively features Canadian designers. Nokomis mean “grandma” in Ojibwa and if you take in a picture of your grandma they will hang it on their wall and give you a discount…I still need to do that. dress was on sale for $40, so I still bought it although I needed to adjust the straps. So that’s what I did last night and will wear the dress to a wedding we are going to in Calgary this weekend. With the cutest pair of pale gold silk Steve Madden pumps that amm would have loved.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hrmmm, what did amm have me do today? Nothing fun. Well actually, I made guacamole for supper…yes. Guacamole and taco chips for supper. That’s very amm. Let me explain. Nick was out golfing all night so I was on my own. I have so many memories of dad and Anth being away, maybe for hockey or golf, and amm and I would have just potatoes for supper. Or cheese and crackers. Or popcorn with cheddar cheese and pickles. Or a “real” meal with no meat. As long as we had food in our bellies and it wasn’t junk, maybe every meal didn’t need to be balanced?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thoughts on the Anne-Marie Merle Wear Your Red Celebration: I was dreading this day. It was a day that I had no control over, in how the day would feel, what people would say to me, how people would react to the celebration. And looking back, I was most dreading speaking. I knew that I needed to speak and would regret if I didn’t, but I knew it would be so difficult and I would cry. But I told myself it was okay to cry, because it was sad. And after I spoke, the relief I felt was indescribable. I could sigh and it was a good sigh.

The day was overwhelming. Overwhelming in a good way. All of the people who attended and showed their support wearing their red. All the wonderful things people told me about my mom. The food. People who introduced themselves to me that I had never met before and explained their connection to my mom.

And the afternoon passed all too quickly. There were so many people that I didn’t have the chance to speak with.

I would like to send a huge thank-you to everyone who helped with and contributed to the day. Marion, Alex, Shirley & George for the wonderful help with the food and cleaning up and all the things they did without me even knowing, the Beta Sisters at the Guest Book table, the Beta Sisters for the Ritual, the Honour Guard, all those who spoke, Shirley at the museum…oh, who am I forgetting? The staff at Milbankes with the flowers. I know there are many more people – please accept my general thank-you!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pictures have now been posted from our Batoche trip under the Gallery. Yesterday Nick, Charlie and I went for lunch on Whyte Ave and fought the crowd at the Strathcona Farmer’s Market. Nick and I spent the afternoon in the backyard with the kitties, reading and working on a crossword in  pre=”in “>amm’s hammock. Charlie spent more time unpacking at his new condo. We had planned to bbq and watch the Rider game, but a late afternoon thunderstorm caused us to order pizza from Funky Pickle instead. And the Riders won!

Today the three of us golfed and then I ironed. Two of amm’s least favourite things!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ahhh. The weekend. The long weekend. I hope to find time to get some good updates on this site. Tonight I was able to post the pictures I have from the Anne-Marie Merle Wear Your Red Celebration, under Events. Please email me your pictures to add to the website.

Monday, July 27, 2009

There is so much I want to add to the website: thoughts about the Celebration, words spoken about amm on Saturday, photos from Batoche…once I get back to work and Charles gets moved into his new condo I will be able to get to all these fabulous additions. In the mean time I suggest visitors to share their thoughts about the Celebration on the Guestbook.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I am so tired I am goofy. I will write about the Celebration once I get some good rest over these next few days…

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I can’t believe I forgot to mention the most important part of yesterday! While we were all at the grave site of Rosalie, an orange butterfly visited us! She fluttered about the group of us three different times while we were all standing together. amm wanted us to know that she was there with us all…

Friday, July 24, 2009

amm had a big day today. We had a caravan from NB to Batoche this morning, traveling across the prairie under the hot rays of the sun. This was the first time Julie and Madeleine had been to Batoche and it was many years since Anth and Dad had been. Nick and I had been to Batoche about 6 years ago with amm, Grandma ‘Leen & Grandpa John.

We first stopped at the church and then walked to the cemetery. We quickly found amm’s great-grandmothers’ gravestone, Rosalie Letendre. We placed the dried flower petals that I had made from all of amm’s flowers while she was in the hospital on her grave. Then we each placed a yellow rose. Then we placed tiger lilies that we cut from amm’s perennial garden. Then we placed a small angel figurine that amm’s mom had brought amm for in the hospital. Then we placed the two rosaries that amm received, also while she was in the hospital. Then we just enjoyed the calmness and serenity of the open prairie.

After a bannock break we headed home. But first stopped at Homestead Ice Cream in Saskatoon and picked up supper at Saigon II.  Now it’s bed time as amm has another busy day planned for tomorrow!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The entire Merle Clan has arrived in North Battleford…except for the Craven tribe.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On Thursday night I went out for supper and drinks after work. The bar/patio we went to on Whyte Ave is called the Black Dog. I would describe it as a masculine lounge – we sat on the rooftop patio which consists of heavy dark wood for benches and tables. The inside booths have deep leather seats. And there attached on the outside white lights, strung above the patio, were two brightly coloured fabric butterflies. My first thought was, “Those seem out of place.” But I quickly realized that it was just amm, saying hello and reminding me to drink lots of water with my bevvies and to get to bed on time because it was a work night!

Yesterday Nick and I got onto the golf course for my first time this year. And on two different holes, amm in her butterfly form stopped by to check in on us. I told Nick that she was wondering why I wasn’t spending my free time shoe shopping!

We are busy with the final planning and prep for the Anne-Marie Merle Wear Your Red Celebration next Saturday. Our family looks forward to seeing all our friends and family who showed so much love for amm and our family during these last few months.

Oh, and I just finished reading Halfbreed by Maria Campbell. My sis-in-law Candice gave me this book, along with In Search of April  class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”April “>Raintree by Beatrice Culleton Mosionier, as they were two books amm and Candice discussed the weekend amm first showed symptoms of her CJD. I have added notes to the amm & Books page about this, and other books, that are connected to amm.

Monday, July 13, 2009

amm had me make cauliflower and cheese sauce for supper tonight – Nick bbq’d salmon. Cauliflower and cheese sauce was one of amm’s favourite comfort foods. A number of years ago she wrote out the proportions of liquid, fat & flour you need to make different consistencies of sauces, especially for the cheese sauce. I’ve added this to her recipes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

amm checked in on her kids this weekend. Nick and I made a quick trip to Calgary and spent the afternoon with Anth, Julie & Madeleine. We hadn’t been to their new home yet and loved every inch of it. While on the deck in the backyard, Madeleine spotted a black and orange butterfly land on a nearby tree. Anth and I called to Julie and Nick who were inside the house. The five of us just stood there. Looking at the butterfly. Longing for it to stay with us. I thought, “Hi mom.” It lingered for quite a few minutes, then flew away, bobbing about in the warm air. I wanted that butterfly to stay with me so badly.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chas received the most heart-warming letter in the mail. It was from a 16 year-old girl who displays many of the same qualities of amm. Her name is Amy and she is currently in Africa building a school. amm’s cousin donated to her Africa travel fund in amm’s name, knowing how excited amm would be to learn of this young girl with a huge heart, dedicated to education and sharing knowledge. I contacted Amy and her dad, to ask permission to post a link to Amy’s website documenting her journey, and I was told that they would be proud to be connected to her. So here is Amy’s story:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Yesterday amm had me make a Frozen Mocha Cheesecake. This is one of my most favourite desserts that amm ever made. Many times she would make one without even telling me and then it would be a surprise to find it in the freezer.  In 2005 I asked for the recipe – the date is on the email that she sent me with the information. I remember making the cheesecake and realizing how easy the recipe is and telling amm that I thought it would be much harder. And how I thought she would have spent hours making me the cheesecake over the years. She just said that I never asked! 🙂 I should note that the version I make isn’t really Mocha – I leave out the coffee – as it’s all about the chocolate for me. But I still call it Frozen Mocha Cheesecake. It’s not the same if I don’t.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

amm has kept me busy these past few days. I’ve spent a lot of time in the perennial garden and finally have some pictures to share. I have memories of amm touring me around her garden when I visited NB and she would show me new buds and how certain plants were doing. I would always be interested her updates, but it wasn’t until I now have my own perennial garden that I understand the pride that amm had for her garden. I check each plant in detail before I go to work in the morning and then check again later in the evening. The plants change so quickly. Here is amm’s Edmonton perennial garden.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Today amm had me wash my car. I will admit that I love Edmonton for its many drive-through touch-less car washes or the businesses that just wash your car for you! But amm loved to wash her car herself. She would get out the hose and soapy water and vacuum, and spend the time washing her car. So that’s what I did. Umm, except I didn’t vacuum. I thought of her the entire time. And even though it will probably be a while before I wash my car by hand again, I will always think of her while getting a touch-less wash, sitting in the confines of the car as the water pulsates against you. When I was little and we were living in Saskatoon, it was always a treat to get a drive-through car wash and see the big brushes slapping against the car and everything getting dark. I still get a different feeling of being very isolated and alone while in a car wash…but I like it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I want to return to a cd I mentioned earlier in the updates.  My sweet sis-in-law, Candic-i-o, put together a care package for amm and I right after amm was diagnosed. In the care package was Buffy Saint-Marie’s newest cd, Running for the Drum. We listened to it practically every day while in the hospital and I now have it in my car.

The song that connects to me the most is Easy Like the Snow Falls Down. One day while with amm, Nick was reading the cd booklet and came to me and said, “Have you read this?” I hadn’t, so he just passed it to me, I read it and cried. Here are the song lyrics and introduction from Buffy.

This is about being there when somebody you love is having a hard time. Dedicated to all the hospice caregivers helping families struck by Alzheimers and dementia diseases.

When the heart’s too big and the world’s too small

and there’s no one there to love

and you overflow with an urge to fly

and there’s nowhere left to go

Come to me

Easy Like the Snow Falls Down

Come to me

It’s easy

When the mind’s too quick and a dream’s too slow

and you long for something real

and your life has gone on it’s own somehow

and you long for something real

Come to me

Easy Like the Snow Falls Down

Come to me

I’m your angel

Come to me

Easy Like the Sun Falls Down

Come to me

Thursday, June 25, 2009

amm had Chas and I work in her Edmonton perennial garden yesterday. We put the cement block trim down, with the help of the kitties of course. Minos has taken it upon herself to be in charge of fertilizing the garden, but only after she has mixed the soil around by rolling in it first. And Albatross inspects each flowering plant each time he’s out, just some sniffing and monitoring the progress of blooms. Tonight Nick hung a beautiful iron butterfly hanging that I received from dear friends on the side of the garage which is the backdrop for the garden. amm would love it.

I need to update the amm & Books page. I finished reading The Shack while on the way home from New York. amm’s dearest butterfly friend had given it to her for her birthday, but I don’t think amm had started reading it, although I found it in her bedroom. And another friend of amm brought The Shack to her while she was in the hospital and read to her. So I needed to read it. And I read it and it was amm the entire time. I cried many times while reading it, but all good tears. I will write more in amm & Books as soon as I can…

Monday, June 22, 2009

We spent our final vacation days at the Carr Bed & Breakfast on a northern peninsula of Long Island, to be closer to the PGA US Open. The B&B was built as a summer home (just a little property of over 12, 000 sq ft) and was completed in 1902, built by H.E. Donnell as a gift to his wife. Our room was decorated with a butterfly collage… amm would have loved the peaceful veranda with cozy white wicker furniture. A perfect spot for getting comfy with a good book, fresh air and a good cup of coffee in the morning.

Carr B&BCarr Front GardenCarr RoseCarr ButterfliesCarr Purple Butterfly

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Well, as suspected, amm is thoroughly enjoying NYC with us! From a man on the subway having a bag with a small rainbow butterfly print, to a restaurant playing a jazz rendition of My Favorite Things (a song I told amm’s consistent Lunch Break Singers that she loved so they brought the lyrics in to sing to her while in the hospital), or a monarch butterfly following us along a street in Greenwich Village while on a restaurant tour…

Charles is spending time in Calgary with Anth, Julie and Madeleine and will return to NB, probably when Anth gets fed up with his pops beating him on the course day after day!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

amm is ready for NYC! I did all things amm today – Nick and I worked in the perennial garden, went for a yummy Italian supper with friends/family, packed some great shoes for the trip and hemmed a torn seam. I am surprised at how surprised I am for catching myself realize throughout the day that practically everything I do has been either taught to me by amm or involves a love of something she has passed on to me.  The last musical that we saw together was Annie in mid-March. Here’s a send off to our trip from the show: NYC , You’re standing room only, You crowd, You cramp, You’re still, The champ, Amen For NYC.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Okay. I have finally learned something that amm did not teach me: perennial gardens are a lot of work. 🙂 I haven’t been able to update amm Today for these past four days because I have been in the dirt the entire time! Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it is a lot of work – especially to start one from scratch. I am happy to report that all but one flowering plant is in the garden, but the dug out dirt still needs to be replaced and the boarder bricks need to be installed…but that will all come along. Well, hopefully in the next two days because we leave for New York on Sunday.

A chum of mine and I were chatting the other day – she lost her mom just within the last year. We were discussing about our mothers visiting us. Hers has, while amm hasn’t stopped by for a glass of wine with me…yet. But I said jokingly, “I am sure she’ll show up in a few days. She’ll want to come to New York with me.”  And I know it’s true. amm will be with me as we see fabulous theatre, sample fine fare and shop for designer shoes and hand bags!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

amm had me go to the greenhouse today and purchase flowers for my potted plants and something new this year – a perennial garden! I have fond memories of amm taking me to the greenhouse every spring to purchase plants and flowers for our yard.  And today the familiar potpourri smell of sweet scents and the muggy-ness of the greenhouse was the same it was so many years ago.

This year I chose all red flowers for the pots. Since amm loved her perennial garden so much I felt it was time to start one myself. I’ll start out small and see how it goes. I am excited to get it started, which is on tomorrow’s To Do List.

I encourage you to either add a red flowering plant to your perennial garden, or plant some red petunias in your flower pots, or buy a fresh cut bouquet of red flowers for your kitchen table.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It doesn’t seem right for the amm Today page to just stop. Because even though amm is no longer “with us”, she is still with us.  So I think I will use this page to update on how amm is still living through us or I guess just whatever else I think we need to share. As I think it will be a great outlet to learn even more about amm.

Well, today amm had me wash my house. No, not vacuuming and dusting, I washed my house. The outside that is. amm loved to wash her house in the spring using her garden hose and spray nozzle. I remember giving her a hard time about it when I was younger and didn’t understand the pride in home-ownership. But since my hubby and I bought a home in 2005 and two summers ago the hubby and father-in-law worked very hard painting the exterior, I now can understand the need to wash your house. Last year I bought a nozzle with a soap chamber for the garden hose but didn’t quite get to the task. So this being the first day that I have returned to my home in over two months I felt it was time to wash it. I will admit that the soap chamber nozzle did not work as well as my regular spray nozzle…so I washed it without soap. I will have to learn for myself what works best. I guess instead of just being able to call up amm and ask her for her know-how, I will have to ask the questions myself to figure out the best process of house washing.

I encourage you each to wash your house. It’s refreshing and felt very therapeutic – to wash away the dust and dirt that has accumulated over the days and start fresh.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A lot has happened in a few short days. amm traveled to Saskatoon on Friday so an autopsy could be performed as CJD can only be confirmed by autopsy. We have been told that the results can take up to 7 months to be completed, as there needs to be waiting times between the preparation of the samples and two separate pathologists review amm to ensure a proper diagnosis. Also, information from the autopsy will be used by CJDSS and the research team at UCSF. Keep on teachin’, amm!

amm’s cremation was on Saturday morning in Regina so on Friday evening we traveled to Saskatoon to spend the night with amm’s cousin and husband. Then we finished driving the rest of the way Saturday morning. Due to amm’s illness, only certain crematoriums posses the credentials to properly handle amm (she only gets the best of the best, as she should), which is why she needed to go to Regina. Our immediate family, amm’s niece, husband and son, and amm’s dearest friend and husband (the original butterfly lady) attended the cremation. It was simple and respectful and we got to write messages with big red markers on her box – last little notes to her.

After the cremation, the obvious next step was lunch and wine! We had a lovely outdoor lunch in a tree house restaurant and drank sangria and told stories and laughed. Then after more visiting the Calgary folk left for home and the rest of us drove to near Craven to spend the night with amm’s niece at her new acreage. At one point while dune-buggying across some field, my cousin said to me, “Wouldn’t Auntie Anne-Marie love seeing us do this?” And I nodded in agreement, keeping my mouth closed to reduce the number of bugs I ate.

We are now back in NB, doing things around the house and just “being”.

Friday, May 29, 2009

amm has started the next chapter of her story. This morning she took her last breath while Buffy Sainte-Marie sang one of amm’s favourite songs, He’s An Indian Cowboy In The Rodeo.

Shortly after her diagnosis amm assured us that her spiritual journey had already begun. We are confident that amm’s  journey continues…because amm is always right.

Blessed be.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Just in case amm wasn’t sure that we were all aware of her amazing-ness, she’s decided to prove herself just once more. amm’s vital signs are all still strong however her breathing is starting to become more shallow. We now all take turns cuddling with her in bed and giving her hair rubs and beauty treatments. She is getting the care and attention that she truly deserves.

And somehow I forgot to list our most favourite cd – The Schematics – Realtime.

Friday, May 22, 2009

We all new this day would come. amm is still with us but is moving closer to another set of special people who love her dearly. The days draw near to when Grandpa John will be able to hug his little girl once again and tell her about all the people he has met since they last spoke. Like this one young fellow who happened to deliver milk to a gentleman he knew at the coffee shop, or something like that – Grandpa John could always find a friend. And Grannie Utley will tell her grand-daughter more stories of the past and the strong Métis women in their family. And Baba and Papa will have a stiff rum n’ Coke poured – at least for themselves – and most likely a crisp white wine for amm and they will tell their daughter-in-law about all the fantastic friends they have had over for dancing and great food. And Auntie Elaine will make amm laugh and laugh, as Elaine always made you smile. And Khoshka will rub up against amm’s legs, let out a soft mew and purr contently.

The Merle Family thanks everyone for their friendship, support, kind words and prayers, as we know they will all continue. amm is surrounded by her family – Anth, Julie and Madeleine arrived yesterday and Nick will be here soon. At this time amm is going to focus on being with her husband and children, so we kindly ask that you now allow her time with just family.

Updates may not be easily made in the next week or so. Please just know that amm will be overwhelmed with love, laughter and beauty treatments.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quick update today. amm had a very restful day as she slept very calmly the entire day. She didn’t open her eyes but her muscle spasms were very small, which allowed her to have a good snooze all day.

One other thing to note was that I had a chat with a CJD specialist through the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance System (CJDSS) this morning as I had questions about amm’s coma state. Although amm’s doctor explained the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to us earlier, the specialist explained that the GCS does not really encompass amm’s state as CJD comas are not the same as someone who’s experienced a stroke or head trauma, for which the GCS is mostly used. This doesn’t take anything away from what amm’s doctor explained to us, as amm is in a coma, it’s just more detailed information for us. Always learning…

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

amm has been opening her eyes a number of times throughout the day since Friday. Today was much the same. She would open her eyes and we would have a good chat and then she would close them. She still suffers from the muscle spasms, but as before, rests well in between. She still has the fluid collecting in her throat but does not cough near as much as she did when it first started.

amm loved her perennial garden in her backyard, as well as the smaller ones by the driveway and front door. I am sure she was excited when I told her today that there are shoots of her tulips coming up nice and green next to the driveway, even though the weather hasn’t been the nicest.

I am also sure that amm got a kick out of how Julie, Anth, Joan (Julie’s mother) and I spent our Sunday night – Anth and Julie were going through some boxes that amm had organized of our old things and found a boardgame that Anth made while in elementary school – Grand Prix – a race car theme. So each of us pulled up a seat on the floor of basement playroom, Joan and I on blankets, Julie a pillow and Anth a piece of cardboard, poured ourselves a beer and played Grand Prix. (I won, but Julie was in the lead until she was slowed down by a pit stop and falling into a tar patch.) Which leads to another amm Parenting Tip. When Anth was small and was first playing boardgames he initially became quite upset when he lost at the Winnie the Pooh Colours Game. But amm and Chas taught him that if you don’t win you should say, “Good game. Let’s play again!” More words of wisdom.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It’s been a few days since an update which is due to amm’s busy social schedule. On Friday Anth, Julie, Madeleine and Joan, Julie’s mother-in-law and dear friend to amm, arrived from Calgary, as well as Nicholas and the kitties from Edmonton. On Saturday Julie and I spent the day with amm while the men golfed. Then we had a wonderful bbq steak and lobster supper on Saturday night while mom’s dear friend Ann visited amm. Today mom has had wonderful visits with her mom, brother and sis-in-law.

amm still has the cough and muscle spasms but sometimes will have a restful sleep for hours without a cough or spasm. Today she has opened her eyes a number of times, mostly when her mom was visiting with her.

For our listening pleasure we have the soundtrack to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat playing today.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

amm’s vital signs are all strong and don’t show any indication of her losing strength. These include her blood pressure, pulse, temperature and oxygen saturation. Her cough has continued though and she now has fluid pooling in the back of her throat. When she isn’t able to cough or swallow the fluid the nurses suction it out the best they can. What is promising for the comfort of amm is that the fluid has not progressed to her lungs so she is still very peaceful. Also, what I’ve been told by smarty-pants Julie from her studies and mom’s doctors and nurses is that the coughing is much harder for the care-givers to watch than what amm would be feeling. amm hasn’t really opened her eyes today, but she also hasn’t had many muscle spasms, which have allowed her to rest calmly.

I am sure that many of you would have heard amm say at one point in time, “Now this is Old Lady Merle speaking.” And then continue with something important. Well… “Now this is Old Lady Merle’s daughter speaking. For everyone who does not have a Living Will, or an Advance Directive, make an appointment with your lawyer to create yours.” amm was very specific with how she wanted medical decisions to be made for her if she became ill and unable to make the decisions for herself. This has been such a relief to our family as we have no need to discuss these excruciating topics as amm already had them all laid out for us. So please consider taking the time to create or update your Living Will. You are helping your family and allowing them to not feel any guilt with the tough decisions they may be faced with.

Now, music time! If you haven’t seen Slumdog Millionaire yet…see it! When amm and Chas were in Edmonton in February I took them to see it at the old Garneau Theatre (my second time seeing it). The movie is great in all aspects – the story, the cinametography and the score. So we have been enjoying the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire. It’s funky.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Over the weekend amm has developed a cough. amm also opened her eyes a couple of times today which we always love to see. She’s still sleeping most of the day with muscle spasms coming and going.

amm is very pleased that we have finally brought in new music for her to listen to! One of our favourites is the soundtrack for Jersey Boys. This musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. We had a Jersey Boys dance party yesterday, which consisted of amm watching me sing and dance old school style while Charles watched the hockey game. When amm was in Edmonton in March I had the soundtrack playing in the car and amm was excited when she recognized the music and musical. She was even more excited when I told her that Nick and I had tickets to see it on Broadway when we are going to be in New York in June.  I know she will be watching the show with us.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

We are having a Girls Day today. Nick arrived from Edmonton last night and took Charles out golfing this afternoon. They aren’t expected to be back until supper time. Normally the women would be shopping for shoes or on a patio drinking a refreshing beverage while the men golf, but instead today we are staying in and enjoying one another’s quiet company.

amm has had a restful day so far. She has had about 4 different muscle spasm sessions throughout the afternoon, which have each lasted about 10 minutes. But as always she got through them while I reminded her to think of her favourite things – books, Madeleine, our trip to Scotland – and she was able to rest once they passed. There hasn’t been much of a change this past week.

I suggest you listen to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack…we like it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

amm has decided to open her eyes again! Each day is such an unknown, but yesterday and today, she has opened her eyes a number of times, and been able to keep them open for quite a few moments. So of course, we are blabbing away to her while her eyes are open, trying to cram as much as we can tell her in before she closes her peepers again. She probably gets tired of listening to us ramble on so she decides to sleep again! 🙂 She is still having muscle spasms throughout the day, which we power through with her and once they pass she is able to calm down again.

Various references about CJD indicated that amm would progress to a coma. For myself, I knew that my idea of a coma was affected by tv and the media, so one thing we asked her doctor to explain to us was the medical definition of a coma. Her doctor taught us about the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), which is a tool to rate someone on their conscious state, based upon their eyes, verbal and motor skills.

A good reference is

On a scale of 3 to 15, we rated amm about a 6 a few days ago, which does indicate that she is in a coma, however, there are different levels, as can be seen from the GCS. And now that she has been opening her eyes it changes the score again. But either way, it is a good tool for us to assess her day to day, and to explain “the coma” to those who ask. So although based upon the GCS she is in a coma, she still does respond to certain stimuli and can make noises.

And what are we listening to today? The Mama Mia movie soundtrack and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s newest cd, Running for the Drum.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

amm has had a few muscle spasms again today, but as yesterday, she sleeps very soundly otherwise.

One question that many people have asked us is if she feels any pain. When amm could still speak, she never indicated that she was in pain and various medical staff asked her that many times over. She never said she felt any pain, tingling or numbness. Some of our research shows that if the pain receptor part of her brain was damaged in the early stages of the disease then she won’t be be able to register any pain. Anne-Marie isn’t – and hasn’t been – on any pain medication. The only medication that she currently receives is a scheduled dose of a muscle relaxant twice a day to decrease the severity of her muscle spasms, and a slight sedative only when she requires it between her muscle relaxants, to help calm her if she has any on-going spasms.  The slight sedative could very well contribute to her sleeping most of the time, however we know how much the spasms frustrated her when she was more awake so we feel it is better if she can rest calmly.

Most everyone would know about amm’s love of the arts. But did you know that she is a musical theatre junkie? And she’s passed along her love of musicals to her daughter? Some favs we listen to each day are Hairspray and Les Miserables.

Monday, May 4, 2009

amm opened her eyes quite a few times. Sometimes she would close them within a few moments, while other times she kept them open for a couple of minutes. She also had a number of muscle spasms, which could have contributed to her eyes opening and waking her up, but she rested peacefully otherwise.

As I mentioned we always have music playing. Each update I will note a couple of our favourites that I would recommend you listen to yourself…it will be like you are grooving along with us. amm really likes Neil Diamond – 20 Golden Greats and Buffy Sainte-Marie – Up Where We Belong.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Anne-Marie rests peacefully for the majority of the day. She may open her eyes a few times, however she can’t keep them open for long and they close within a few moments.  We always have music playing for her and we talk to her throughout the day, as we believe that she still hears everything, she just can’t form any sort of response.

The only unsettling symptom of the disease is myoclonus which are involuntary twitching or spasms of muscles or muscle groups. Some days she will sleep the entire day without any spasms, where other days she may have a few that wake her up. We just sit tight through them as they do pass and she can rest again. And they can vary from slight movements of her eyelids to her entire body flexing on and off for a few minutes. But as everyone who knows amm, it’s not a suprise that she fights through them and does it with her quiet strength.