Move North, they said. It’ll be an adventure, they said.

Today, this is happening . . .

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I took that picture around 10 o’clock this morning and as I’m writing this it’s 5pm . . . we’ve just finished shoveling/blowing that same amount of snow yet again. Weather Network is predicting 25cm before the day is out (that’s close to a foot, for my American friends.) Now it is turning to rain. ish. Not quite sure what that is falling from the sky now or what it will be.

It was a fun Christmas, and I’m glad all of this waited until all of that was over with. But still, the coldest, snowiest months of the year up here are still ahead of us!

I will not panic. I have chocolate. And soup. And puzzles. I have a cozy ‘fire’ and Netflix and a guy who loves snow days (not the shoveling part so much. But at least he now has a new toy – his second-hand snowblower that I have christened ‘the little beast’, his truck being ‘The Beast’.)

With all this snow and cold weather, who knows. I may skate on a pond like I did in my childhood, I may try skiing, or snowshoeing, or take a ride on a snowmobile. Or I may just go into hibernation, anything is possible.

If you don’t hear from me for a long time, don’t worry … just send someone to dig me out in March. Thanks!

#SweetEsther

Bravo!

The local movie theatre is packed, but there is no movie playing this afternoon. Today we have come for a very different kind of show, for a concert not typical in a venue like this.

The violins and cellos are being tuned, musicians are warming up, the eager crowd is trying to find seats. The stage is simply and tastefully decorated with a garland of tiny white and blue twinkle lights. The house lights go down, the stage lights come up, The Northern Orchestra is about to begin playing Corelli’s Concerto No.8, Notte di Natale.

Northern Orchestra Christmas Concert
Northern Orchestra, Director Gordon Lucus

 

What was I expecting of an orchestra in a town of 4,500 people? To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this! Over the next two hours, Conductor Gordon Lucas and the amateur musicians and choir he directs will take us on a musical holiday journey through Corelli, Bach and a beautifully done rendition of Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’. All so wonderfully done. And occasionally you will hear the less experienced musicians rise above the more prominent first chairs and soloists (who are just amazing, I must add!) But that’s part of the charm, because everyone is welcome here. Everyone is honing their skills, or sharing their experience and proficiency, and it’s so wonderfully inclusive that I feel a bit verklempt just talking about it.

No, it’s not the VSO. It’s even better, because I recognize the faces of people I’ve met in the community recently, the names of people I remember from college and the children of people I went to high school with. And here they all are, pouring their hearts into this one standing-room-only performance in our little single-screen movie theatre. There are even home-made Christmas treats available in the lobby during intermission. And this, all this, for the very affordable price of just $10 ($7.50 for seniors).

And at the end of it all, we come home with full hearts, to our (finally!) decorated house and pour a glass of wine, throw a meatloaf in the oven, and offer up thanks for this amazingly different and wonderful Christmas….Vanderhoof style. And it’s not over yet!

 

Photo credits: Orchestra & Principle Violin, Karyn Schlamp – Randy Forgo
Photo credit: Concert Master, Kevin Teichroeb – Elise Forgo

#SweetEsther

Holiday Greetings from the Great White North!

Forgo Christmas Card 2018 image
This artwork for our Christmas card this year was done by local mixed media artist, Maggie Saito. She’s amazing! facebook.com/MaggieSaito 

2018 has been an adventure for us. Selling our condo, living with relatives for 2 months (eternally grateful for the hospitality and getting to make up for all the years of not seeing enough of a dear sister), travelling all over British Columbia like a couple of gypsies in a Westfalia, and finally buying our fixer-upper house in Vanderhoof and starting the ground-up restoration … literally. Somewhere in there we have found a little time for our writing and a smidgen of time for visiting with mother and other relatives and experiencing small-town life, northern style. We sincerely hope that 2019 will bring more of all that to us. We make plans, but life rarely follows them. Like I said, it’s an adventure.

To those dear friends we left behind, to new friends and followers in the blogoshere, to far-flung family we don’t see often enough and to the ones who have always been dear but are now also near . . .

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

Elise & Randy

bungalow line drawing (3)

#SweetEsther

…and that’s what Christmas is all about…

It’s a campground in the little town of Vanderhoof, BC, on the bank of the Nechako River, a world renowned bird sanctuary and home to some great hiking and biking trails. But today, in the bitter chill of a Northern December day, it’s a series of stages where the greatest story ever told is unfolding as we walk, shivering, down the winding path . . .

Isaiah the Prophet

Very long ago, the prophet Isaiah tells the oppressed and despairing people of Israel of a coming savior…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us. A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. And when it comes, his reign of peace will never end. Don’t despair, it will come!

Hail Mary

700 years later, the angel Gabriel visits a young Hebrew virgin, Mary, with the amazing news … the child you bear will be the son of the most high God, that he will free the people from their sins. And Mary believes and accepts her mission…Let it be as you have said!

The Journey to Bethlehem

And in those days a decree went out from the oppressive foreign rulers, that everyone should be taxed. And Joseph went up from Galilee to the town of Bethlehem, to be taxed with his promised wife Mary, who was already very pregnant.

No Room at the Inn

But when they reached Bethlehem, there was no room for them at the inn! The stables were all that was left for them. And so …

Manger Scene

Mary gave birth to her first-born child, the long-promised messiah, in a stable and laid him in a manger.

Shepherds, abiding in the fields...Sheep

And on the night of his birth, the angels visited humble shepherds in the field : Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE, GOODWILL TO ALL PEOPLE! And the shepherds said: Let’s hurry to Bethlehem and see this miracle!

3 Mennonite Wise Guys
The 3 Mennonite-Wise-Guys were my favourite. I hope the original Magi had that much fun!

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the East and we understand the significance of this miracle for the whole world.” And when they had seen the child, they worshiped Him and brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And as the journey and the story ended, I was shivering with cold and so grateful for the free TimHorton’s hot chocolate and the warm fire at the end of the trail. But I was left with something more significant. I was touched by the amazing cooperative effort of all the churches of the town, coming together on this very cold day, to perform this play for us, without compensation, with joy, with humility, in a spirit of cooperation. And I believe, with all my heart, that The One at the centre of it all, would approve!

Happy Christmas!

The Cross

Thirty Days Hath November…

…and I have used them all up without finishing the novel I was supposed to write as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). In fact, I wrote the first 494 words and that’s it. Then I spent the rest of the month working on the cellar restoration and being too exhausted to write.

The cellar is a story in itself. When we bought the house, we knew there was a bit of work to do down there, but we designated 3-4 weeks, start to finish. Ha! Four months later and it’s still not finished. The proverbial ‘can of worms’ has been opened and we could not close it up without addressing each and every part of it. We’re nearing the finish line, though, and it’s going to be awesome when it’s done. Sometime in December. Sigh…

Where am I going with all this? Nowhere. It’s just the last day of November and I felt the need to write and publish something, anything, even if it was just a blog spot about not writing. And now I’ve done that, so, back to the cellar…

November View
The view from our deck in November.

 

Thirty days hath November,
April, June, and September;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

 

#SweetEsther

Redneck Weekend

Picture it, a cold rainy Saturday in November (just two days ago, actually.) Two exhausted middle-aged people wake up late in the morning and frantically start packing up to drive to ‘the city’ (Prince George, BC) for a John Mellencamp concert. They need this little break desperately after months of grueling work on the old house they bought in a small northern town this summer. So they’ve booked a room for the night near the venue and they look forward to just kicking back, a little romance (they’ve splurged on a nice bottle of wine), a relaxing dinner out and a rockin’ time at the concert. This will be so much better than aching bodies from the cellar reconstruction, so much better than bickering with each other and worrying about the unmanageable amount of work still to do before the snow flies.

They’ve set up a dehumidifier in the cellar and determined that it can run for 24 hours before the 5 gallon bucket it’s draining into will overflow. They jump in the car – bicker bicker bicker – in the pouring rain and drive about 15 minutes out of town before someone says do you have the tickets?  and someone else says Oh crap! Drive back to town in awkward silence to get the tickets.

At least they’re not bickering!

It takes about an hour to drive from Vanderhoof to Prince George. This is when it will start to be fun, they think as they arrive at their motel to check in. Until the desk clerk informs them that their reservation is for tomorrow night. What?

Are you going to the hockey game? asks a couple waiting in the lobby.  –  No, we’re going to the John Mellencamp concert, they reply.  –  Hockey tonight, the couple says, The concert is tomorrow.

They awkwardly step aside to discuss their options:

Let’s just stay an extra night!

We can’t.

Why not?

We have a bucket in the cellar that will overflow in 24 hours.

Crap!!

They go to Costco and get that shopping out of the way at least and eat hotdogs for dinner. They drive home in the dark, in a rainstorm, with nearly zero visibility. It takes more than an hour. Everyone is exhausted/headachy, a whole day lost that they could have been working on the house. The bucket still has another 48 hours without fear of overflowing.  Crap!!!

They sleep. They wake, they head back to the city. About 15 minutes out of town they realize they still have no heat in the car. And the temperature gauge is behaving weirdly; the radiator is leaking. So, back home and they pile their bags into the truck.

The Beast
I call it “The Beast”. But this old boy proved this weekend, when the sissy little Mazda city car can’t make it, he can still get-er-done!

The 26 year old beater of a truck they just bought last month and have never driven more than 3 miles from home in good weather. (This is not good weather; the bright sunshine has now turned to wet snow.) The truck looks really rough, it guzzles gas and it smells kind of weird, and the windshield wipers only work sporadically, but it has heat. And once you get used to the sticky clutch, it almost never stalls in intersections!

 

Around 4:30 they roll up to the motel and check in (on the right day, this time). It’s a nice room, clean and warm. But no one is saying “this is where it starts to be fun” anymore. Moxie’s is just about a block away and they walk over for dinner – good table, cheerful service, delicious food. It’s snowing harder when they stroll back to the room, but they aren’t worried. They put on some awesome jazz music, uncork that lovely bottle of wine, and  . . . an hour later, they call a taxi to get to the venue on time, not that anyone is worrying about time anymore.  A cab costs less than paying for parking, and that beautiful wet snow just keeps coming down.

JM Concert

The concert is amazing! John Mellencamp is in great form on his ‘Sad Clowns and Hillbillies’ tour – he still does all his old songs SO perfectly and his newest songs are interspersed and they are GOOD! (Love that bluesy sound. Mellencamp’s voice was made for it!) The band …. the band is awesome! Could this be any better? (Well, a couple screens so you could see closeups of JM now and then, would have been nice. Just sayin’.) But it’s a fantastic evening and they buy a CD and step outside, deciding unanimously that it’s best to skip the taxi line-up and just walk back to the motel.

It’s a winter wonderland. And no one cares that their footwear was not suited to walking in snow. No one cares that all four shoes are soaked inside and out, that they will spend the night drying on the radiator. They even pause at Denny’s, wet feet and all, for tea and pecan pie. Monday morning they will stop at Marks and buy real winter boots, they will stop at Starbucks and get some real yummy lattes, they will drive home in the sunshine on clear roads with beautiful snow laden trees all around.

It’s easier to smile now. It’s so easy to speak gently, to hold hands, to believe that it’s all going to be alright. Because it is. That’s what they’re learning here – In the end, it’s all alright. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.

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The End!

 

Photo Credits: Randy Forgo (except ‘The Beast’, that’s one’s mine…and it shows!)

#SweetEsther

Hello, November!

Nov 1 snowIt’s the first of November. And it’s snowing. Beautiful, blustery snow day! A good day to write a catch-up post, since I’ve not been blogging much lately.

Yesterday was Halloween and the rain stopped in the morning, and the sun came out, and it was a perfect crisp evening for trick-or-treaters and for watching fireworks from our deck. Which we did. Twice.

One of our neighbours set off fireworks in his backyard earlier in the evening – have you ever been this close to fireworks going off? It’s nuts. And awesome. But don’t do it, kids, it’s dangerous and almost certainly contravenes town bylaws … still, pretty awesome!

We actually got trick-or-treaters this year. Not the hoards that we saw a little deeper into town, where the streets are better lit, but we had some. We already made plans for ways to decorate tastefully next year to attract more kids. It’s like a bird feeder, only with fun-sized candy bars. When I was a kid, Halloween was a simple home-made affair. Costumes were things like hobos and gypsies, witches and ghosts, things you could do by rummaging through your parents closet. There was a woman in our neighbourhood who was famous for her homemade popcorn balls every Halloween. It’s too commercialized now, for my taste.

5 minute pumpkin
If you wait until October 31 to shop for a pumpkin in Vanderhoof, you won’t find one. They’ve all gone to the pumpkin walk the day before! But Randy posted a fb ad and came up with this little guy at the last minute – he carved it in 5 minutes. I love it!  – photo credit: Randy Forgo.

In between handing out candy to trick-or-treaters and watching the fireworks from our deck, we hustled down to the Pumpkin Walk. I went to the first Pumpkin Walk 18 years ago, when it was a very wonderfully simple, homey things. It’s huge now, loud and flashy, crowded and commercialized. Quite amazing for a town of this size to pull off, quite frankly, and very well done. But I personally was happy to get back to my quiet deck to sip hot spiced apple cider with my hubby and my sister and watch the official town fireworks and do some star gazing (we can see SO many stars up here, even the milky way, right above our house!) Far from the madding crowds!

I sound like a cranky old goat! “back in my day, we didn’t have these fancy store bought costumes . . . too loud! . . . uphill both ways! . . . ”  It may be because I spent a good portion of October in relative isolation, frantically writing stories for three important short story competitions all ending…well…yesterday. I made the deadline for 2 of the 3. Yah! This month I have committed to NaNoWriMo, which should have me in possession of a finished rough draft novel by the end of November. Let’s hope I don’t end up completely de-socialized, complaining about Christmas carols (never gonna’ happen!)

SweetEsther tucked in for a long winter nap. Sweet dreams of adventures that await us in the spring!

#SweetEsther