Archive | Life Updates RSS feed for this section

End of the curse

4 Aug

Decades ago, around age 6 or 7, I’d say, my sister and my parents and I were out on a lake in northern Ontario. We were in our red canoe, my mom at the bow, my father in the stern, and my sister and I at the bottom on either side of the middle thwart.

We were all fishing, but since we were so young, my dad gave us kids rods without reels. We knew pretty much nothing about fishing, except that we should be quiet. Nemmy and I sat as still as we could, with our hooks dangling beneath the canoe, listening to the gentle “whirr” of my dad’s rod when he would cast.

Suddenly, there was a tug on my line. A mighty pull. I think I started to pull the rod up, but a second later, a shining body leapt out of the water and flashed in the sun. It landed with a great splash and my line went light. Gone was the fish − a pike, I should think − and gone was the hook.

And that was the last time I caught a fish.

I went fishing a few more times on family camping trips. And there was that deep-sea fishing experience in PEI the summer before grade 12, where everyone on the boat caught something. Except for me.

I was convinced that mighty northern pike had cursed me for trying to hook him. None of his fishy brethren would ever come near me again.

These past 6 months have been very heavy for me as Michael and I begin the process of separation and divorce. It has been an intense period for many reasons and I have had some very dark and broken days. Part of my strategy to redefine myself is to do things I have always wanted to do, but never have got around to. Last Saturday, for example, I went on a 6-hour solo hike up a mountain. I don’t think I’ve ever actually done that before.

Earlier this week, I contacted my friend Valery and asked her to take me fishing. And tonight we did just that.

We drove out the Hidden Lakes, a couple of which are stocked with rainbow trout and kokanee. Valery explained how to rig and bait my line for trout and showed me how to cast. She said that since it had been such a warm day, the fish might not actually come close enough to shore to bite, but we’d have a nice evening out, at least. Since I had no expectations, that was fine by me.

A wee 4-incher nibbled at Valery’s line early in the evening. After that, the fish were pretty quiet, though we enjoyed the company of a loon calling a few times, and a beaver and a muskrat showed up, as well. Valery would tell me little bits about fish behaviour in between casts, and I worked on getting my hook out a decent distance from shore.

And then suddenly, there was a tug on my line.

I wasn’t sure at first that it was a fish. Perhaps my hook was simply caught on an underground log. But the waters near the shore are clear and in moments, I could see the silver body of a rainbow trout fighting the pull of my line. Moments later, I had landed it on the shore.

Valery was every bit as delighted as I was. She showed me how to bleed it, and then she also showed me how to clean it properly. It was a female trout (Valery showed me the roe!) and 13 inches, so not huge, but a respectable size so everyone in the family can have a taste at dinner time tomorrow. We’d have taken a picture at the lake, but neither of us had a working picture-taking apparatus. So this kitchen shot will have to do, instead:


Thank you, Ms. Trout, for the gift of your life. Thank you for breaking the curse, and thank you for feeding my family.

And thanks to Valery for showing me the “ropes”.

Halia the Brave

14 Oct


This morning, Halia shouted out at the breakfast table in great excitement, “Mama, it’s loose!!!” In the way of small children, Halia has been waiting impatiently for her first loose tooth, feeling as though she is behind everyone else.

Yesterday we noticed she has an adult central incisor already coming up behind the baby tooth, but didn’t notice the baby tooth being particularly loose. But this morning, it was moveable.

By the time Halia got off the bus after school, the tooth was positively precarious and Halia spent a lot of time crying as she ate her afternoon snack and kept accidentally bumping it. Finally, while I was cooking supper, I had a closer look and realized it was barely hanging on.

“Halia, do you want me to just pull it out for you?” I was surprised when she nodded a tearful yes.  (Jade has adamantly refused to let us touch her loose teeth.) “It will hurt for a moment,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “I want you to pull it out.”

I decided the best method, rather than using my fingers, would be to do the old string-attached-to-the-door trick. We got a long length of floss and it took me three tries to get a good knot around the wibbly-wobbly thing. Then I got Halia to stand right by the door and tied it onto the knob.

“Okay,” I said, “now stand back a bit so we can slam the door.” She stepped back. Further than planned. And the tooth was suddenly hanging on the end of the line, swinging from the doorknob. Halia and I looked at each other in surprise and she burst out laughing.

I’d tied such a good knot to the tooth that it took me a minute to extricate it. Halia gleefully took the prize into her eager hands and ran off to show her sister.

As you can see, she’s pretty proud of losing her first tooth.



Pleased as Punch

21 Sep

Jade is going to be a little Harlequin doll in this year’s Northern Lights School of Dance production of The Nutcracker. She is pleased as punch about it!

Speaking of “pleased as punch”, I decided to read up a little bit on the history of the Harlequin character and learned a number if interesting things, including that commedia dell’arte is the ancestor of the British “Punch and Judy” shows.

I’ve only ever heard of Punch and Judy in books and songs, but have never actually seen one. I didn’t realize that many of the glove-puppet characters I’ve encountered in my life are actually typical Punch and Judy characters.

On top of all that, reading about Punch and Judy suddenly reminded me of a song I learned a long, long time ago, probably in the very first year I was taking piano lessons, so perhaps just after I turned 4. I haven’t thought of the song in years and at first just the first line popped into my head. After about an hour, I think I have recalled the rest of the lyrics, as well as the melody.

“Punch and Judy are in town,
Oh, what fun to see them clown.
Hurry, hurry, sister Sue,
Show begins at half-past two!”

Strange how music can stick so firmly in our brains and be recalled three decades later.

I’m betting Jade will long remember the thrill of being a little Harlequin doll in The Nutcracker. I know that I’m delighted for her.

And it’s not just because I feel a little smarter now that I know whence comes the expression “pleased as (an apparently often self-satisfied) Punch”.


Treasures from the greenhouse

31 Jul

Thanks to Michael’s hard work planting the greenhouse and garden this year, plus our friend Robert’s diligent watering while we were away in Europe, we now have some multi-coloured treasures to harvest.

I can’t wait to turn the tomatoes and oregano into a salad. I think I’ll sprinkle on a few precious grains of the “Fleur de sel de Carmague” salt my Oma gave me years ago; I use it sparingly on my best dishes where the salt will shine and really boost the flavour of the dish. We drove through this region last week and I smiled in recognition.


There was a little girl who had a little curl

26 Jul

We are on our last half a day in Europe and in this one moment of stillness, I thought I would relate a trivial — but curious — discovery we made.

Jade has a ringlet of curly hair growing at the nape of her neck.

This may seem unremarkable, but the rest of her hair is straight. She was actually born with curly hair and had soft curls until after her second birthday. After her seizures started, with her hair getting longer, I noticed the hair growing in was flat. Thinking her hair was getting too long and weighing down the curls, I had it cut… and that was the end of her curls.

I supposed that this was just a case of baby hair being different from bigger-girl hair and she has had straight hair ever since. Until now, that is.

So I am left wondering if her seizures or her diet affected the curl of her hair, whether she is going to get curls all over her head, if it’s the humidity in the European air, or just one of those random, strange things hair sometimes does…

On Sant Pol beach in Spain

20 Jul

Here’s where we are today. No commentary needed.







A few more pics of the European whirlwind tour

18 Jul

It was a long day of driving today, marred by wrong exits (adding 40 minutes to our itinerary!) and bad traffic around cities, but we ended up in the Pyranees and the last hour of driving was absolutely spectacular. It also started off with a delightful visit to Michael’s ancestral home of Lusignan, also home of the legend of Mélusine… but before I get into that, I’m going to take you further backwards on our trip…

Our last night in my Oma’s home was also the final World Cup game. I’m generally not a watcher of sports, but it was very exciting to be in Germany, watching the Germany team win the gold. I was impressed that my Oma knew such a lot about the individual players and about the rules of soccer — pardon me, I mean football. I guess because I grew up with my dad being so indifferent to team sports, I assumed that was the attitude of the whole Fritzen clan.20140718-073105-27065938.jpg

Oma’s cupboard of mugs is a cupboard of childhood memories. Each of her grandchildren was allowed to pick his or her own mug from the local store called Hettig, and that was forever his or her cup to be used at Oma’s house. We often had hot chocolate from them in the mornings. I still remember that Heidi’s was the blue one with the sun and birds (or did that one belong to Johannes?), Victor had the rhinoceros, my sister had colourful balloons… Mine is the one with the multicoloured umbrellas.20140718-073106-27066779.jpg

Our first stop on our first day of driving was Bremen. It was fun telling the girls the tale of the Bremen Town Musicians as we drew close to the city. We impulsively stopped in the town centre since it was close to lunchtime and sought out this carillon concert (“Haus des Glockenspiels”), which Michael remembered from our visit here in 2001.20140718-073108-27068555.jpg

As you can see, the girls were captivated.20140718-073107-27067670.jpg

After lunch, the girls were delighted to see how many times they could spot the Bremen Town Musicians as we walked around town. (They are everywhere!!!!)


The Schnoorviertel is a touristy area full of shops and the girls were nearly in fits with all the things they wanted to take home. Despite that, it really is a delightful and charming place to wander, with some impossibly narrow streets (still with shops in them!) that make you feel as though you’ve discovered a secret passageway. This wasn’t even the smallest street here…


Our final destination on our first day was “Sneek” (pronounced “snake”) in the Netherlands. Beautiful architecture and canals abound, along with the singular sight of sailboats making their way across a farmer’s field (although, of course, in reality there’s a canal there, just where you can’t see it). It felt strange to me to be in a land where I couldn’t read the street signs, although Dutch is often just close enough to German (and at other times to English!) that I can figure stuff out. This jug at the restaurant De Lachende Koe (where all things are decorated with a laughing cow) made me laugh. I’ve always teased Michael that his Saskatchewan accent makes him pronounce certain words oddly. For example, he says “melk”, not “milk”. Perhaps he actually has Dutch roots?20140718-073240-27160499.jpg

The highlight of our brief stay in Sneek was visiting the sand-sculpting competition. This is an annual event and Michael and I both wondered how the sculptures could stay so well-preserved against the elements of wind and rain, as they evidently are viewable for a couple of months. This year’s theme was Hollywood. Halia’s favourite sculpture was this depiction of “Toy Story”.20140718-073241-27161371.jpg

And then the girls got to make their own sculpture!20140718-073352-27232193.jpg

There, now I think we are mostly caught up…

Except I haven’t shown you a thing from today, of course, and we saw some amazing sights. But now it is closing in on midnight. I am sitting on a comfortable bed in a perfectly charming bed and breakfast perched on the mountainside, with a five-year-old softly sleeping and waiting for me to join her. Outside, a rainstorm broke out minutes after we arrived, so we are soothed by the sound of raindrops on cobblestone, the rumble of thunder, and the soft, cool breeze that is a balm after two days of sweltering weather. I believe I shall sleep well tonight!