Prayers & Laughter-Father George Retires

Prayers & Laughter-Father George Retires

When I moved to Kingston last year, I missed many things about my hometown and top of my list; St. Francis de Sales Church. I grew up in a Catholic home and never missed mass. Since I moved here, I have been trying to connect with a new one but haven’t found one that feels like St. Francis. A big part of the gap is it doesn’t have Father George. Sadly, Father George Maloney is going to say his final mass at the end of December and then will retire after 52 years.

Father George has been a big part of my family’s life. Not everyone can say there mom is called “Mother Theresa”; but that is Father George’s nickname for my mom Lillian and my dad Ernie Ward has been an usher at the church since the 80’s.They will really miss Father George as will so many of the parishioners.

With his twinkling blue Irish eyes, he always has a smile, a joke, and a kind word for his congregation. He isn’t preachy and his banter with his Deacon Gordon Bryan, his choir and his servers always brings a smile to our faces. His sermons are engaging and you can always find a way to relate. He calls out birthdays, wedding anniversaries and his comedic timing can make the parish laugh and smile. He returned to his beloved congregation in 2005 and has remained the glowing light of our church.

He knows his parishioners, and with numbers dwindling in churches, St. Francis always seemed to stay on track. He’s a loving and kind man; I wish his replacement the best; but I don’t envy him. Father George is an icon in the church. He is a good listener, cares about his parish and he gets to know the families. He baptised my niece, performed the wedding ceremony for my older sister Lisa and her husband Paul, and has been involved in countless school masses and special ceremonies.

Even when situations change; he doesn’t judge; he guides and helps. Unfortunately I will not be in town for his final mass; but I will be in town this weekend and will be saying goodbye. I really feel I haven’t connected to any church in my new town because it doesn’t have the warmth of my church. I guess you can say, I was spoiled by Father George. He doesn’t have long drawn out sermons, but what he does say; has meaning and humour.

I wish Father George well in his retirement. I know he will be among people who love him at his new retirement home. I’m sure he will enjoy all the many visitors and new residents and will delight them with his wisdom and quick wit. As for my parents; they are saying goodbye to a mentor and friend. I’m sure many a tears will be shed when he hangs up his collar for the last time. Father George; you touched so many lives, including mine and my families. Even when situations are rough, faith is waning and belief is hard to find, your kind words can make the difference; or your gentle reminder that laughter and prayers really matter.

As this is the final edition for 2013, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I also want to wish my parents Happy Anniversary. For those who are travelling through the holidays, safe travels. All the best!

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Longing for Home

Last week, the emotions that had been brewing for months, finally made their way to the surface. Not sure what triggered it; could be the holidays, may be a few unfortunate turns of events and disappointments, might be too many Christmas movies, but whatever it is; the floodgates opened and released all that was weighing me down. My first reaction; I was missing my hometown. It took everything in me not to hit the highway and return to the people I love and miss so much in Cornwall. Yes, I was homesick.

I was longing for a calming cup of tea with Mom and Dad, while Carlo, their little chihuahua curls up on my lap. I was missing my sisters, nieces and nephew. I wanted to see my friends; laugh with them and take in every detail of what is going on in their lives. I wished to walk downtown, browse through the decorated and inviting stores and run into twenty or thirty people I knew and catch up. I craved to sit in a café or local restaurant and listen to what was happening in my community. I wanted to be home! So I did the next best thing; I caught up online. I read every post, I looked at the photos of Christmas trees, pets getting into mischief, children visiting Santa, parades. I reveled in the holiday plans, seethed over the tanks on the Waterfront; I reconnected with what was missing.

I am still such a Cornwall girl, that I have not given up my Cornwall cell number, and this week; it got a workout. To say I was on the phone all night was not an understatement. I spent all night Monday talking to eight Cornwallites, and messaged with even more. Who needs food? I got the soul replenishment I needed. One thing that is not known by many is I have an incredible memory, and can recollect minute details about conversations and people, even to what they were wearing and where we were. Talking to them, I felt like they were right there with me. I reached out to them and they reached out to me. My mornings were brightened by the many texts and instant messages I have received from my loved ones and sweet dreams were achieved as they wished me good night.

At the holidays, it is even more apparent on what is missing, and for me; it is my hometown and the friendly and caring people at the heart of it. So to all of you who reached out to me; I thank you. I will miss my very first Team Cornwall/City of Cornwall Year in Review, but I will be thinking of you and there in spirit. I will never forget the kindness and support I felt there. It is a wonderful city, and I am proud to say it is my hometown. xo.

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O’Christmas Tree

In just a few short weeks, it will be Christmas again. A magical time of year where everything seems possible. Okay, maybe I am watching too many of my favourite holiday movies; but with the right attitude, it can seem better, no matter what the circumstances.

Last year, I made a monumental move to a new city, and let go of so many things. I knew I was missing some of my treasures and hoped they hadn’t been given away or tossed out during the move, but a friend who stored some boxes for my when I moved, had the missing pieces.

As I unpack all of the decorations I held onto, I was able to set up my tree and decorate it. This is the first step to embracing the season for me . I accomplished this last night, while watching some of my favourite Christmas movies. I realize I came up a bit short on my multi-coloured lights, and considered starting over again, but instead continued with the bright white ones on top. It wouldn’t win and tree decorating contests, but it is a reflection of me. When combined with all of my treasured ornaments, I merge my Christmas past and present and maybe a touch of the future.

My biggest connection to home is my beloved Pommier angel ornaments that my father has picked up for his girls over the course of many years. They adorn the tree with their message of hope and peace. Amongst the many angels are my Disney ornaments that I collected when Brad was very young. Characters from Gone with the Wind, Rudolf , Gremlins and even Spiderman makes an appearance. My tree is not aesthetically balanced, but it does show what matters to me and my family.

The best trees are the ones that are a reflection of the person or family that set it up. It doesn’t need expensive ornaments, or have be 7 feet tall, it can be a mishmash of handed down ornaments, home-made decorations, boxing day collectables, or whatever inspires you. I recently watched a Christmas movie called the Twelve Trees of Christmas. The library held a tree-decorating contest that was concocted to save a beloved library and the participants incorporated ideas that are a reflection of them and what is important to them.

Brad is away at college, and is unsure when he is returning, so I decorated without him, but every ornament on that tree has a piece of him in it, and the “Love you Mom” ones are still very special. So whether your tree is real or artificial, pre-lit or meticulously placed, has an angel or star at the top, colour themed or a mismatched array of all that is you, enjoy it. There is nothing more appealing than sitting by the twinkling lights of a personalized tree. O Christmas Tree!

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The Comfort of Home

There is a method to my madness; most people wonder why I keep my car services in my hometown which is now just under 2 hours away from where I currently live? Well service is part of it, and it does give me a reason to visit. With the news of an impending storm, I made an impromptu decision to return to my hometown last weekend. I completed the last of my big events for this year; Donor Night, and called Seaway GM to see if they could install my winter tires that were in storage. They were able to fit me in, so I dashed off after work and arrived shortly before they closed on Friday so they could work on it in the morning. I also called my mom to see if they would like some company. I made the decision to stay in Kingston for Christmas this year and so this could be my last trip home before the holidays.

I returned to my parents’ home and my mom had prepared a feast which could be considered my first Christmas meal. We caught up on everything as I gravitated towards one of the 3 gliders in her kitchen. It didn’t take long for my niece Ella and nephew Josh to arrive and join the conversation. Not seeing me as often, they had plenty to tell me, including their Christmas list. They pulled out the catalogues and flyers to show me what they were talking about; this took me back to not only my son’s childhood, but my own. I used to be well-versed on what kids want, I knew all the toys by name and now as I glance at the book, I realize that there are many I am not familiar with; although many are popular again. Their mom Melanie joined us and after I called my oldest sister Lisa, she came by as well.

Lisa’s daughter recently moved to Texas and so she joined the wonderful world of Facebook and Skype. On that particular night she was heading home to Skype with Monika and then packing to see her youngest, Emily in Sudbury. Everytime I lament about distance, I think of her because she really has to travel far to see either daughter, and is hoping to head to Texas for the holidays.

We decided to bypass the gift exchange this year, except for the little ones, because reality is that funds are tight. I’d much prefer to spend time with them when I am not in a rush and maybe in the new year, we can have our girls’ weekend where they come and see me. This impromptu trip gave us a chance to catch up, and although my staying over is something my niece and nephew can’t fully grasp, it was great to return home. In the morning my dad treated us to Tim Hortons’ as I waited for my car to be ready. There are some things to expect with my dad; he’ll drop everything and go and run errands for his girls and his grandsons and that includes a Tim’s run or a quick jaunt for ingredients or supplies needed. He is one of the true family men. I was proud when he brought me to the college to drop off something and he was able to see the Donor Wall for the Difference We Make campaign I worked on, and to see my name in its full glory on the appreciation wall. He also could see how many people have contributed to the Cornwall campus.

My car was ready before noon so I returned home to say my goodbyes. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip home if I didn’t leave stuff behind, I brought a box of stuff to give away, and she sent me back with my repaired shoes, some homemade beets from my Aunt Huguette and many other treats and some boxes I stored there after I moved. My instinct was right to get the tires changed as our first big snowfall arrived a few days later, and although a snow day was declared in both cities; I had no problem navigating with my trust Michelin’s.

Sometimes I assess my life and think of what is missing, but then I realize what I have and give thanks. Truly the best presents are the people in your life who love you and I have several.

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Taking Back

It has been a whirlwind year, and now as the winter season approaches, I realize it is time to take stock and take back what I have given up or lost control of, and also decide what to let go of. This is a time of year when I reflect on the year that was. In some ways, I made great strides, in others I have faltered, but instead of holding a pity party, I am moving forward in what I hope will be a defining year.

Being someone who makes decisions based on my heart, I have re-examined what this means. Sure, I still want to keep what makes me who I am, but I also know that I have often caved when I really wanted to stay strong. I made some holiday plans, I’m reducing my traveling and also learning to plan ahead more. In my writing course I realize that I am not the best planner or plotter, and this is something I want to work on.

After the Open House at the college last weekend, I picked up what I needed and went home and made a delicious chilli which simmered throughout the day. I had dinner ready and enough to freeze and eat the next day. The following day I made a hearty potato soup and again planned ahead. It was nice this week not having to worry about meals and I wasn’t doing the end of the week, didn’t eat it so have to toss it dance. With a little pre-planning, some list making, I can enjoy time and ensure I eat properly.

I also was asked to continue in the Fitness Program at work and training with one of our students. This will help keep me on target and helps me to centre and balance my life. I achieved personal goals and now I can continue and maybe achieve a few more.

I also assessed my spending and where I can cut. This means picking priorities, saying no more often and enjoying what I have. It is also time to say goodbye to what isn’t working. After work last night I headed over to see my friend Kim and we discussed everything. We are both making changes, and while talking to her I could visualize the changes I wanted. I voiced them and gave her encouragement made me realize it is time to let go in some ways and take back in others. Keep smiling and moving forward no matter what!

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Girls Getaway Weekend

After the busiest week, I was given an opportunity to go away on a girls weekend with some of my closest Kingston friends. They planned it several months ago and when one couldn’t make it and I was asked to join them for a weekend in Montreal to see Bon Jovi and explore downtown Montreal and le vieux Montréal.

As a long time Bon Jovi fan, it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, and travelling with these savvy sassy ladies would be a treat. So as I wrapped Donor Night in Cornwall, I headed back to Kingston to pack for the excursion. The next morning, my friends pulled up and we set out to Montreal. They have been friends since their children were very young, all being involved in their school councils and living in close proximity. I met them through one of my closest high school friends and I have shared many adventures with them, from house parties, to concerts to birthday extravaganzas. This trip gave me a chance to get to know them better.

We talked all the way there, and I got to know more about their families, their roots and even their dreams. We all shared and had a great time. They arranged for us to rent a condo for the weekend, so we were able to have most of the amenities from home and all stay together. We were in the downtown area and the trip to see Bon Jovi meant I had to ride the Metro for the first time, and now I can say many times; as we got weekend passes. We ended up walking much further than anticipated when we missed the Metro, but after some directions; we found our way.

This being my first Metro or subway, I was uneasy. I’m sure my death grip on the pole was amusing to them. I don’t particularly like elevators and going sideways in jerky motion was no better, but I was a trooper and made it. The Metro brought us right to the Bell Centre and the place was packed. We had great seats and just after 8:00pm John Bon Jovi and his band took the stage. From the first note, the crowd was electrified. It was a mix of all ages and both male and female. Doesn’t matter how much time passes; John keeps getting better with age. His voice still enthrals us and he is not only a gifted singer but a musician as well. Some of his band members were absent and this was his last concert of his North American Tour, before he heads off to Japan and Australia.

Bon Jovi delivered 3 hours of music, much of it from his Lost Highway, but the well-known crowd favourites were covered too. They gave us 4 encores and the crowd was phenomenal. For my first concert in Montreal, I was impressed with the audience interaction. They sang along to every song, followed his gestures and the entire night was spectacular. We returned home, a little cold, had an extremely steep hill to climb up to get back to the condo we were staying at, and stayed up talking about the concert and getting to know each other.

The next morning after 6 women get ready, so it took a little while, we sat down to a homemade breakfast, cause these ladies can cook, talked some more and then headed off to explore downtown Montreal. I bundled up in my coat and hoody, didn’t care about appearances, just warmth. Being fluently bilingual, it was nice to take out my French every now and then. We split up with a rendez-vous point, stopped for a bowl of soup to warm us up and then back to the condo for a bit. Overall we spent equal time exploring and chatting.

When Sunday rolled around we gathered for breakfast one more time; packed everything up and headed back home. The volume in the car on the way back was a lot more subdued, but one thing was certain, this was good for all of us. We are all at different places in life, some of us have kids in college, some are in their final year and exploring college and university options and others have younger ones. Two of the ladies on the trip have 4 kids, so working around schedules can be tough. Most are married, but we all love our kids and families very much. I am very lucky that I got to know these wonderful ladies and consider them my friends. They definitely helped me transition from one city to another, they are supportive and fun to be with. The culinary treats were awesome, the concert was amazing, but it is the food of the soul that made this trip so special.

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Achieving Personal Goals

November is here and all I keep wondering is “Where did October go?” It was such a busy month. My time with my personal trainer at SLC comes to an end, and I will miss it. Although I was uncertain how successful I would be; twice a week, I’d don the fitness gear and head to the gym. I knew I had weak arms and my goal was to tone my muscles. A major part of the program was working with weights, something I always shied away from.

In the end, after 9 weeks, I can see a major difference, particularly in my arm strength. This was apparent when I needed to move a heavy storage bin to a height that was over my head. With no help in sight, I was able to do so. That is not all though, as I went through my training, the weights increased in increments and extra circuits were added. There was an overhead weight lifting pull that I used to need assistance with, and at my final class I was able to do so on my own.

These little triumphs really made me proud. I never could do a chin up, in fact some of my worst childhood memories was staring at that bar and praying that I would finally find success. Well it took about thirtysome years, but I finally can say I can do it. The method is a bit different as we use an exercise machine, but I was able to so in 12 reps. Push-ups were another struggle for me, but in the end that improved significantly, as did the plant and several other strength moves.

I always knew I had strong legs, but the exercises gave me even more strength and some guidance on how to improve. I am still blown away that I could do a leg press of 246 pounds and back leg pulls of 80 pounds each leg.

I am not the only one who felt the difference. Sure we sometimes whined on our way up or afterwards, but in all, we feel stronger, fitter and motivated.

Congrats to the class of Fitness &a Health Promotions at St. Lawrence College-Kingston campus. We appreciate the time and effort, as for my trainer Kris Klith, well I know sometimes I was a bit too talkative, asked a lot of questions but I enjoyed every minute and will carry this experience with me. Hopefully I won’t lose the momentum.

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