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FC: My Story

1: Imagine a situation where you are asked to place all of your life experiences in a box. You are then prompted to drop your box into a communal pile with everyone else's box. Finally, you are asked to select any box of your choosing. Who then would choose but their own?

2: I was born on at 4:16 p.m. on a rainy Thursday, August 1, at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia (same hospital where my father works still). I was delivered by Dr. Randy Burrill (Sophie's dad). Mom went into labour in July 31st in a rather public setting- at the annual Scotsburn Barbecue. The BBQ is held on the last Wednesday of July each year and Mom's water broke while they were there. My brother Andrew, just two weeks shy of four years old at the time, stayed with our babysitter Jacqueline while Mom was giving birth. I'm thinking that I may not have mentioned Jacqueline (pronounced Jock-Lin by us) to you before, but as she will be coming up lots in my stories from the early years, I should give you some background on her. When my parents moved to Nova Scotia in 1981 (just months before Andrew was born), they started attending Stella Maris Catholic Church- the church where they were introduced to Jacqueline Lavoie, a single lady of about 50 years at that time, who had grown up in Pictou and who is very active in the church. | Somehow it came about that she enjoyed taking care of children, and so Mom had her come and take care of Andrew at times. Once I was born, she played an even more active role in our lives and remained very present until Andrew was in his early teens. She is my Godmother, and although I hardly see her during the year, it is pretty special when I do, and we always go to her house with Christmas bread on December 24. She is now involved with another family, the Murrays, in town and she is kept pretty busy with their 4 children. Back on track: my Gran and Pop (Mom's parents) came over from Newfoundland around the middle of August, as did my Aunt Doreen (Mom's sister), Uncle June, and my cousin Gorvin. I imagine it seemed like quite a full house! We went to Newfoundland as a family the next Spring, the infamous visit when I fell out of my walker and hit my nose on a coffee table (thought this was at 18 months but it was more like 8 or 9 months!). When I asked Mom for other details, she told about what I ate- loved sweet potatoes and pears. When I started on meat, she would stew the meat herself and freeze portions in an ice cube tray, which I find rather ingenious! Started cereals around Christmas time. Was a bit colicky the first year, but Mom now thinks that was me being affected by her stress.

3: This is the year that I just got cuter and cuter (hehe). Hair grew a bit on the sides so Mom was able to put clips in it. Still sucking my thumb like a maniac (a habit I learned from my brother). My adoration of my older brother also developed during this time- Mom said I always wanted to be wherever Andrew was. Upon waking from a nap, I would often stand up in my crib and say "AAAA--UUUU", which my parents interpreted as a version of Andrew's name. Healthwise, I only had one major incident this year- a case of the croup. To deal with this, Randy sent me to the hospital to sleep in a steam tent for a few nights. Mom said that she slept beside my tent on a cot for those nights, and it was a little heartbreaking because all I wanted to do was get out and sleep with her! Dad would often strap me to his back and bring me to the Pictou hospital on his rounds (there were only a few beds there, now there is only a Veteran's unit). He has always been a pretty proud Dad and these actions, as well as the sheer number of family photos in his office, have often made me feel like a lot more people in Pictou know who I am without me even knowing their name. Pretty sure that Sophie shares this sentiment with me! Speaking of Sophie, she was my first real playmate- at that time they lived on Prince St., just a block away from us, and I have pictures with her on my first birthday. She had lots of dark brown hair, big floppy ears, and huge brown eyes, which makes us quite the opposite in looks, but people still used to mix us up just because our Dads worked together. Speaking of first words, my first word was Ball. It is interesting hearing how your family didn't really take note of this for you, and it makes me think that it could be a cultural thing. I even had my first birthday cake (which I demolished with my hands!) in the shape of a ball. In the fall of my second year, my Aunt Doreen (mom's sister), Uncle June (Junior), and Gorvin (one year older than Andrew), came to visit. Mom says I was a big fan of Uncle June, always wanting him to pick me up or push my stroller. We went on some kind of boat excursion when they were here, I have seen pictures of it. Uncle June, a fisherman who couldn't swim, passed away the following Spring in a boating accident with all of his brothers. Aunt Doreen, as you can imagine, was devastated but 6-year-old Gorvin couldn't quite understand what was going on, and wouldn't understand until much later. It is incredible how much Gorvin resembles his father in looks and, apparently, in personality. Aunt Doreen never remarried and has become one of the most resilient and self-sufficient people I know. Not to mention hilarious. I hope you get to meet her someday- maybe even in Corner Brook this summer!

4: This is the year we went to Disney World as a family. Apparently, when Mom and Dad were first married and had no kids (their first 10 years of marriage), they went to Florida every year, and often to Disney. I get the sense that it was the vacation hotspot for Newfoundlanders at the time. Dad always tells the story of the first time they went, as a group of Newfoundlanders, to Florida and sat their butts down in a restaurant after their long plane ride. They all ordered tea, of course, only to be served Iced Tea, which they had never even heard of! They were looking for good old Orange Pekoe with fresh milk (or canned!). Anyway, we went to Disney during Andrew's March Break. Jacqueline came with us, which was a great help to Mom and Dad. Mom said I was in the middle of potty-training, so she carried a potty in a bag over her shoulder the entire week! They also brought the stroller with them and pushed me around in that. My favorite ride was the Tea Cup ride. There were other rides that frightened me (surprise, surprise!) but that I was a pretty good sport about- It's a Small World After All (in a cave) and the Jungle Cruise- where fake animals would roar at you and come out of nowhere.We stayed at St. Pete's Beach and just spent one day actually at Disney World- also went to Busch Gardens (they had a zoo we loved) or to the beach. I loved playing in the sand and Andrew was happy to help me play a lot of the time. What a guy. | Other than that, I was a good kid. Mom stayed home with me while Andrew was at school, and I would often "help" her in the kitchen, and she said she would sit and read to me for hours on end. Andrew and I both loved books and still do, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate that Mom instilled that love in us! I was talking lots by this point and was pretty energetic. Went to bed easily and got up early. Loved broccoli. The picture I'm sending for this year is of me sitting in Dad's garden, covered in dirt. When I asked Dad about this photo, I found out that the tree that I always knew as 'my tree' (the one that actually fell down two Christmases ago) was not, in fact, planted immediately after I was born as I had always believed, but rather when this photo was taken, which seems like the summer I turned 3! I would help Dad in the garden by digging with my plastic shovel, and used to love finding worms. Dad had this photo blown up to nearly life size and had it hanging in his office for years! But it's cute. We found it rolled up under Mom and Dad's bed a couple of years ago, so it must still be kicking around somewhere.

5: When I asked Mom about this age, she told me how much she used to love to watch me colour in my colouring books. She said she intentionally wouldn't tell me what colour things were 'supposed' to be in the pictures- she loved seeing what crayons I would choose and how I hardly ever stayed within the lines. She says she thinks of it anytime she hears the phrase 'colouring within the lines'. Dad was in on this conversation, too, and he talked about how he used to take me in the bucket seat on the back of his bicycle and go all over town and then would often end up at Bob Naylor's diner, where we would have toast and eggs or something. The location where this diner used to be has since seen many different business. Right after it was Bob Naylor's, it was kept as a diner but owned by someone else and called something else (I will have to ask about this), but I'm pretty sure everyone still called it Bob Naylor's up until a few years ago when it became a Dollar Store (too bad, really!). Bob Naylor lives up from the street from us and he is a wise old guy who is always ready to give advice. Ever since I left high school, every time I see him he tells me that I look like a million bucks. :) Another activity I used to do with my Dad was to go visit Mr. MacCaraville's garden up on Elliott Street (a patient of Dad). I have no memory of this at all, so it may be that Andrew went with him most, but I'm sure I am just forgetting. Mr. MacCaraville apparently had quite the vegetable garden, and he told the story of going up there one time with Andrew on his bike. They were given a cucumber from the garden, which Dad gave to Andrew to hold on to for the ride home- but by the time they had ridden the 6 or so blocks back to our house, at least half the cucumber had been devoured by the hungry little boy! Too cute. I guess that Mr. MacCaraville was a bit of a gardening mentor for Dad, too. When they first bought our house on High Street, the backyard was just grass, but then every year since has seen some growth- Dad started with our trees (one for each of us) and now the garden is actually out of control! There's hardly enough grass to mow, and the remarkable number of trees we now have around the perimeter make it a fairly private backyard. | Mom also mentioned the group of friends they had at this time. The Catholic Church (Stella Maria, star of the sea) was, I guess, where they met a lot of young couples who had children around mine and Andrew's ages. When Andrew was my age, they had had a play group where the parents had time to socialize while their kids played together, but by the time I was born, this church playgroup had faded out, so she decided she would start her own! Basically, it was six families who would get together at one of their houses about once a month for a meal or an afternoon. The families were the Bays, the Ryans, the McKennas, the Hallidays, the McIsaacs, and us. I hadn't realized that this had started as kind of a formal association, but now it makes sense how close the families became and how many of the children became my closest friends in school eventually. The Ryans were our neighbours, so Cynthia Ryan quickly became my closest friend (in more ways than one!)- their daughter Angela is just a year younger than Andrew so they were good friends, and continue to be. Jess McKenna and Danielle McIsaac were both in my grade at school too, so we stayed good friends. The Bays and the Hallidays had only older boys so it was only Andrew who really made friends there. When I was in junior high, both the McKennas and the Bays moved to PEI and have lived there ever since. I remember seeing pictures from a sleigh ride we all went on together when I was about 4 and we went on ski trips altogether when we were a bit older.

6: Around this age, I have a very clear memory of myself, standing in front of the full-length mirror in Mom and Dad's room, in a dress with hair up, looking intently into my own eyes. I was thinking hard about what it was to grow older and how it seemed to mean that you also got 'badder'- I must have been feeling guilty about some little thing I had done without Mom and Dad knowing. (I remember feeling really guilty, but sly, about doing things like writing my name in nail polish inside my dresser drawer). I was looking myself in the eye and having this realization, and probably was trying to will myself not to age any more, so I could stay as innocent as possible. At this age, I was also staying at home with Mom most of the time while Andrew went to school (grade 3), although I did go to play school one morning a week over the hill from my house at Mrs. Hawkes' preschool (not a preschool anymore but I still pass the backyard we used to play in sometimes). There were a lot of magical things about that playschool- namely the kid-size house inside and the tree house outside. Everything seemed so HUGE. We had nap time and craft time and I liked seeing all of my church friends and meeting new friends- Sophie and Amelia (Meme) namely- who were part of the United Church so I saw them less. Mom reminded me, too, that we would often go to Tim Horton's (across the street) after preschool with some of the others- I would usually get a croissant (which I pronounced 'cressant' of course) and Cynthia would always get a chocolate-dipped donut. If I had food on my face after eating (happened a lot!), Mom would dip her napkin in her warm milky tea and wipe my face with that. Can still remember the feel and smell of it. Also started in a weekly music playgroup with Sophie, Amelia, some of their siblings, at the United Church behind my house with Leslie Dunn, who would become my piano teacher the following year.

7: I guess I enjoyed this so much that I wanted more- I remember being jealous of Andrew getting to go to school everyday. I thought it was SO cool that he got to wear his gym clothes under his real clothes on the days he had gym class, so one morning I put on shorts and a T-shirt under my dress or whatever I was wearing and showed Mom. I thought this would mean I could go with him! But unfortunately, I had to stay home ;) Although I wasn't quite as famous as you for singing in church, I was quite serious about my hymn singing at this age. I would always sit down and get my hymn book out (right side up or not) and set myself up to sing when it was time. Mom nearly died of laughter the one time that we were sitting close to the organist and I went through my usual preparations to sing. When it was still quiet even though I was ready, I apparently said, "Okay, lady, I ready now." I knew the organist-lady was just waiting for me, so I guess I thought I should let her know she was alright to go on with her song ;). So, speaking of interesting birthday cakes, we had some mentionable ones too- no book though. Year one, like I told you, was the Ball, year two was a House, not sure about year three, and year four was an Angel. For Andrew's 9th birthday, he had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cake (my Mom is crazy)- the reason that this is so memorable for me is that it was the first time that I pooped purple!! (from all the food colouring, of course!) The photo I'm sending for age 4 is of me in one of my Barbie poses (on the kitchen table, no less!). Those dolls were ridiculously influential, I'd say, and from probably age 4 on, the majority of photos where I'm aware of the camera involve a pose struck by yours truly. What confidence I had at that age! The other thing Mom and I discussed from my pre-school days were the cute things I used to say: rain-brella for umbrella, baking suit for bathing suit, flor-lescent for florescent, pian-you for piano, P.T.I. for PEI... and 'ditty ice cream' for Neapolitan (couldn't say Neapolitan so wanted to say 'pretty', couldn't say pretty so said 'ditty' ahaha)

8: This is hilarious but neither Mom nor I can remember who my first grade teacher was. Hayley was in a different home room (there were only 3 choices) but she can't remember who I had either. Every other grade I can totally remember, but this seems to be a black hole in my memory, haha. In any case, I'm sure it was a great year. I was taking piano (pian-YOU) lessons from Leslie Dunn (same lady who taught me and Sophie music when we were 4), and I believe it was the year I played Holland Holiday in the Music Festival. It was my first competition, and I remember waiting for my turn to play in the old Salvation Army Hall in New Glasgow. I always loved Music Festival because it meant you got to miss some school and go back to class and have a big story to tell. Sophie and I probably had our first duet (of many!) that year too- I remember seeing the other duet partners and being envious of their matching outfits. I'm pretty sure that Meme's mom even made her and Hayley matching vests with puppy dogs on them or something. Back to Holland Holiday, though- I'm pretty sure I got a 78 or something- which I now know is a pretty awful mark, but I was pleased with myself, so I guess that's all that mattered! Around this age, I wore my rubber boots as often as I could. In the fall and spring, we have lots of muddy, damp weather in NS, so I'm sure I had ample opportunity to wear them. The ones that I remember were navy blue with happy faces on the bottom, so that when you stepped, you left a happy face imprint! The hilarious part is that I wore them with any outfit, and since the majority of my clothes consisted of dresses, I often wore a dress and rubber boots. Food-wise, I wasn't picky, especially compared to Cynthia. She would eat nearly exclusively white rice with soya sauce, thick slices of cheddar cheese, white toast with no crust, digestive cookies, plain chips, apple juice packs, white milk and really cold water. For 'dessert', she would often have icing straight from the container or dairy milk chocolate bars. Her grandmother lived right next to her parents' house and would always have a supply of Dairy Milk waiting for her. I kid you not- this was her diet for probably the first 15 years of her life. Amazing. Now, this was in stark contrast with my health-conscious home, where we only had homemade whole wheat bread and homemade cookies, none of the packaged stuff until I was quite a bit older. Of course, this was a reason why I LOVED going to Cynthia's house, and especially to sleepovers at Cynthia's house. Packaged cookies! Processed white bread! This was such a treat! I remember when I was 9 or 10 and having breakfast at her grandmother's house, hearing the comment that I could eat as much toast as they put in front of me. I'm sure I would eat mine and then Cynthia's crusts too ;) I could never eat as many chips as her, though- I can't tell you the number of times that I threw up pure grease after eating chips at her house. Sick!

9: We had fun, though. Spring time would mean lots of time playing outside in front of the United Church that separates our two houses. We both usually got skipping ropes for Easter and we would play Double Dutch and games like that. I had a skip-it one year, the one that you flick around your ankle and it counts how many times it goes around. Pretty high tech for then. Cynthia was really good at skipping, and at basketball- we often played that in her yard, or eventually in mine once we got our net put up. In the Spring, I also played house league soccer and t-ball (baseball with a stand, haha). I'm sure I was one of the slower players, but I had fun. Something that Mom mentioned last night was that we had major renovations on our house in 1992, so this is out of chronology but still important enough to mention ;). We used to have a second set of stairs in our house, that were supposedly the maid's stairs back in the day (house dates back to early 1800's). They were quite steep and Andrew and I used to play on them lots- hide-and-seek or leave our books in between the railings (Andrew called it his library). M & D decided to get rid of them, though, to make room for another bathroom where the top of the stairs had been, and the renovations went on for months. Mom said that I got fed up with it at one point, because it meant that I would always have to eat my lunch in my room instead of in the kitchen because of the dust. I have a distinct memory of eating zoodles up at my pink desk in my room while smelling paint fumes from downstairs. I also couldn't have friends over to play at that time because the house was too messy and I didn't like that either. But, we found interesting things in the walls when they took the stairs down, like old coins and people's signatures, so that was pretty entertaining.

10: My teacher this year was Mrs. McLellan, and it was my last year at Dawson Elementary. Speaking of childhood romances, I had a boyfriend for a brief time, named Matthew Davis. Our 'romance' happened mostly at recess time, as far as I remember. I also remember learning hand-writing this year, and I loved it. Sometimes when I had nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, I would just go sit at my desk and write (mostly doodle) in my journal or on scrap paper. Looking back at photos, this was a huge year for family trips! In March 1993, we went to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine to go skiing for March break. My Dad was pretty psyched for this trip, so when a huge snow storm hit, he was determined to carry on, on our day-long drive to Maine. Jacqueline came with us, and Mom says she prayed on her rosary the entire way. I remember the look of the storm clouds. We had a fun week. First of all, Andrew and I were signed up for ski lessons- every morning we would go with a group of our level and ski and then in the afternoons we had free time with our family. Around the middle of the week, though, I was getting tired from all the skiing, and I started crying in my group lesson because I didn't want to ski anymore. My instructor told me that if I kept crying, I would get tear-sicles on my face, and that was enough to smarten me up for the last hour ;). The other big story from this trip is about my Dad- probably the best skier of the bunch, he was zipping down black diamonds all week. Then on the last day, even though the ski conditions were announced as icy, he went out for one last go down the bunny hill. Ironically, this is where he fell and hurt his knee so badly that he had to be brought back to our cabin on a sled! He had surgery on his knee a year later.

11: Then! In the summer, we went to Toronto for vacation with Aunt Doreen and Gorvin. The most exciting thing on the trip was going to see the Phantom of the Opera. I think we had been listening to the CD for months, in preparation- I would definitely always try to sing along with the really high parts as loudly as I could. Our seats were up in one of the balconies, and I remember not being able to see the faces very clearly, but I was pretty pumped to be there nonetheless!! Miss Saigon was the other show playing at the theatre. We also saw a Blue Jays game, went to the CN Tower, and had a guided tour of the city. Toronto was shocking to us small town Nova Scotian kids, though, because we had never seen street people before. I had the image of a man with no fingers smoking a cigarette ingrained in my head for years after! We also went to Niagara Falls for a day, and stood in line to go under the falls, but for some reason I totally chickened out! My parents were so patient with me! We had seriously stood in line half the day and then one of them had to stay behind with me. After Toronto, Mom had some kind of education conference in Winnipeg, so we flew there to spend a few days before heading back to NS. We bought cowboy boots (I still have mine!), walked along the river, and I walked into a parking meter. Those are my main memories. The parking meter, although you wouldn't see it as a hazard perhaps, got in my way while I was craning my neck to read license plates (My Aunt's favorite thing). It hurt a lot and I cried an unreasonable amount I'm sure, but I have a great story to tell now :)

12: Grade 3. Patterson Elementary School! This school seemed SO far from my house, but really it's only a 15-20 minute walk. It seemed far compared to the 5-7 minute walk I had before, though, and I often dawdled to and from school. When I left for school in the morning, Mom would often remind me not to dawdle, but I did anyway. Sometimes I took so long coming home from school (being social perhaps? stopping in at Cynthia's house?) that Mom would come look for me in the car! I felt SO guilty when that happened, though, so I would be really good for a while after something like that happened. This school was a lot less aesthetically pleasing, but some good times were had here nonetheless. My teacher that year was Mrs. Battist (the bad kids called her Bad Ass behind her back) and I liked her alright. We had a student teacher that year named Nadine McLellan. She was monumental to this year because of something that happened to her at Christmas time. A news crew actually came into our class to talk to us about it! Apparently, she had won a big teddy bear in some kind of raffle, and went to pick it up somewhere in Halifax before Christmas. As she was doing her Christmas shopping at the time, she had taken out about $1000 in cash and had it in her wallet (nobody would do that these days!). When she went to put the bear in the backseat of her car, though, she placed the wallet on the roof of her car so she could open the door. Then she proceeded to drive away, flinging the wallet into the street and not realizing what had happened until much later. Thankfully, a good Samaritan found the wallet, called her, and returned the wallet and all of its contents to her soon after. There were three of us in the class who got interviewed- Adena, T.A Pattinson, and me. I have the video somewhere. Anyway, Adena's interview didn't get on TV because she talked too quietly, I said something like "That was really nice of him!" (wearing a turtleneck and with wisps of bangs that I had cut myself in my face), and T.A. said the most adorable thing, along the lines of "A thousand dollars is a lot of money. He could have bought a mansion with that!" Pretty exciting day in Mrs. Battist's Grade 3 class. Miss McLellan had one glass eye, too, which I thought was pretty cool.

13: This also might have been my first year on the swim team. My classmates Sophie, Hayley, and Meme were all on the team already and encouraged me to join. I had great ambitions of becoming an excellent swimmer, but I think I got bored of it after a while. My interest waned off at the end of Grade 4, right about when I auditioned for choir, so Mom let me quit swimming for choir which I was very grateful for (and still am!). One thing that I never could do was a flip-turn at the end of a lap, I was way too scared since you have to pretty well propel all of your energy toward the wall and hope you don't hit your head, haha. I did enjoy swim meets though, and trying to beat my own best times. This may be as good a time as any to start telling you all about our Christmas traditions (some of which you will no doubt be aware). Apparently, my parents and my brother used to go to the Stevensons' house for Christmas dinner every year. Now, Rod and BJ Stevenson are the couple that sort of inspired my parents to come to NS in the first place. They had lived and worked in the same town, Grand Bank, NL, for nearly ten years (Rod is a family doctor too) so when the Stevensons came over to NS, my parents weren't far behind. After I was born, though, Mom decided that she wanted to stay closer to home for Christmas dinners, so they did, and invited Harry and Fran Inder (the Stevensons' neighbours at the time) to come too. And they did! Which began another hilarious tradition- their Christmas Eve visit. As you know, we have an open house cider shindig every December 24 afternoon. Well, after that was over, Fran would come to the door and tell us, sorry she was late, but she ran into Santa on the causeway with a broken-down sleigh and decided to help him out. Could we give him a warm drink and a carrot for Rudolph? So we would let her in, with Santa not too far behind with a bag of presents. We would sit down and open our presents while Santa drank his whiskey (? scotch?) through a straw. The next guests we added to our Christmas day traditions were Toni and Bob Armstrong, an extremely interesting couple whom I will discuss soon.

14: This was grade 4, with Mr. Lennie March, my first male teacher! We started learning French this year, and i remember him telling us to practice the difference between "un" and "une" when the windshield wipers would flip from side to side in the car. I always was trying to be the teacher's pet, which meant going to their desk and reporting something interesting, like "I read this awesome book" or "my brother and I collect baseball cards", with the hopes of impressing them somehow. This got me in big trouble one time with Mr. March though! Mr. March's son, Patrick, was in grade 5 at the time, and would line up beside me at the end of recess. I always had some dressy clothes that Mom bought me to wear to church, and one particular winter day I decided to wear my dressy jacket to school and Patrick, from the grade 5 line, shouted over to me, "Whose coat is that? Your mother's?!" When I went home that day upset, I reported the event to my mother, whose response was, "Oh that Patrick. He's just a ruffian." Of course, I had never heard that word before, and thought it was awesome, so I decided to tell Mr. March the next day, "My Mom says your son is a ruffian." I must have gone home and told her that I'd told him, or he had called my Mom or something, because she ended up going in to apologize to him in person. Oops! We also learned our times tables this year, which makes me think that we learned them a whole lot later than you did! I was fairly quick at it and I remember going around teaching my classmates the rule about multiples of 9.

15: Our trip to Newfoundland was quite eventful this year- it was "Come Home Once More in Ninety-Four", or come-home year in Brig Bay (where my Mom's family lives). Basically, it's a reunion for members of a town who are mostly related, making it a family reunion of sorts. We got cool t-shirts, had a dance and a meal all together, and had activities for a few days. One of the activities was a scavenger hunt where we had to compile a list of items and be the fastest to bring them all back. I went with my aunt Doreen, Gorvin and Andrew I think, and while we didn't win, we had a lot of fun! The item I remember the most was the Polka Dot bikini. We actually made our own, since no one in Brig Bay would have use for a bikini. Doreen got out one of her old bras and we drew polka dots on it while Andrew and Gorvin were over at cousin Hipsy's house getting one of her (HUGE) pairs of lace underwear to use for the bottom. Hahaha!! We always say that Hipsy's name rhymes with Pepsi (or at least how they pronounce Pepsi up there!). I doubt this was the same year, but we're still verifying these dates- Gran and Pop's 50th wedding anniversary (Mom's parents) was another big event in Brig Bay. We took lots of family photos (I will send you some) and had a great big dinner and dance up at the Plum Point motel (hopefully some day you'll get to see these small communities- like nowhere else I've been!). I had SO much fun dancing and dancing with my cousins Wendy and Nicole (who were already in their late teens, early twenties) and I hardly wanted it to end. I think I spent a lot of time helping out my Aunt Doreen- I spent the majority of my time with her whenever we visited Brig Bay, and she would always spoil us with candy and ice cream!

16: Double Digits! I remember that being a big deal, on my 10th birthday. This was the year I had a perm (or two!) and so I will try to find a picture for you of my fuzzball hairdo! Haha! For grade 5, I had Mrs. Sue Doucette, who I liked very much. She was a real lady, and I looked up to her. She was really particular about neatness, and in learning math etiquette, she always had us put an extra line under our addition or multiplication answers, so that they wouldn't 'fall out the bottom'. She also had us do the Lexicon from the paper every Friday, which I loved (have you ever done one? if not, we should do one together). TA Pattinson and I were a winning team, so I always tried to pair up with him. Oh, I also briefly had Cory Fraser as a boyfriend, one of the cutest boys in the class. I had liked him in grade primary, too- I remember putting a purple silk flower from my dress in his pocket in the coat room to let him know that! Grade 5 was also the year that I quit swim team (which was not upsetting to me at all!) and joined Honour Choir (PDHC). At the time, I didn't know anyone in the choir who was my age, but I carpooled with Katie McKay, a girl in Andrew's grade. This was a pretty big deal for me, and I think I probably bragged a lot about being in this choir. I remember trying to tell my school choir teacher how we did the movement to Siyahamba differently in honour choir, because I thought it was more correct. Might have been a little snob ;). I loved being in the choir though, and it was good discipline for me since at that time, the rules were quite strict. When we passed the audition, we got a handbook outlining all of the rules, one of which was that we had to wear our PDHC golf shirt to rehearsal every week. Doesn't that seem crazy? And all of the new kids had an older choir member as a Mentor. I had a girl whose last name was Mosher and she helped point out where we were in the music, sat beside me, etc. There were so many older kids that I looked up to and I always wanted to be as cool as them. I probably followed them around more than making friends my own age. (This would change as I got older, though). I was put in the soprano section at first, which I thought was the best, since it meant I got to sing all of the high notes! This was my last year at Patterson Elementary School and perhaps my last year of innocence, as things got a little rough friends-wise in Grade 6. But I remember having the menstruation talk this year, and already some girls (Hayley and Sophie included) had already gotten their periods. Hayley was one of the tallest students in the class that year, which is hilarious now, because I don't think she grew past 5'4''.

17: Also, to follow up on Toni and Bob Armstrong- they were a couple that lived on High Street a few houses down from us. When Mom, Dad and Andrew (well, fetus-Andrew) moved to NS in 1981, Toni and Bob made a point of stopping by and introducing themselves. Of course, Mom and Dad were anxious to meet new people so they invited them in often for tea. Turns out they were quite the fascinating pair: Bob was a British fellow who had been a Sea Captain before retiring to NS, and he had met Toni (Antonia) in Barcelona, Spain, when he was stopped there during his travels. I can only imagine how beautiful and exotic she would have been to him at the time. When we knew her, she had the most delightful accent and most extravagant taste in clothes and jewelry. Bob worshiped her, though, and took great care of her up to the end. He was actually 10 years younger than her, but died earlier because of a bad back injury I think. Toni lived to be 95 or so, but for the final few years of her life Bob was gone and she had severe dementia and lived in a nursing home in Halifax. We have great memories of Christmas days spent together at our house, though- they started joining us not long after I was born and did so until they were no longer able. One of the last times I remember visiting her at their house, she was bed-ridden, I was about 14, she made me promise that I would introduce her to the man I intended to marry. I guess that won't happen now! But I'm sure I will think of her on my wedding day, regardless.

18: This was a rollercoaster of a year in Susan's eleven-year-old world! First of all, I loved being promoted to Junior High status- I now got to attend McCulloch Junior High School and we got to use PENS! Pretty big stuff. And we got to leave the class whenever we needed to pee without asking. And the girls all started passing notes (elaborately folded, at that) in class. And we had January and June exams. I felt pretty grown up. I was also starting to understand who the 'cool' girls were and I desperately wanted to be one of them. I was friends with Danielle, Meme, Chandra, Nicky... we went to the movies whenever we could get rides and had lots of sleepovers and walks to the store to buy teen magazines. This is also the time when my parents were thinking, 'what happened to our sweet little girl?", since I was starting to be disrespectful to them in front of my friends (that was the cool thing to do? oh dear). They said they wondered how bad I'd be as a teenager if I was this angsty as a pre-teen (but time would tell that I actually got through all of that in my pre-teens, thankfully!). I think we saw Titanic at least 5 times in the theatre and I had a huge poster of Leonardo DiCaprio in my bedroom. This was also my last year with a babysitter, and I had only had her occasionally, but I really liked her because she was super honest with me. She told me how she and her boyfriend had drank beer and that it wasn't all that good, and she brought me her old YM magazines that I kept under my bed. Her name was Kirsten Sellers. This was also a big time for nail polish, matte nail polish, like white and baby blue, and I was always collecting different colours. Lip gloss was a huge thing, too- bonne bell in the chocolate flavours was my favorite. When we got really bored (and this was only a couple of times), we would actually all sit on my parents' bed and call the 1-800 numbers on the back of our lip gloss or acne face wash. We would pass around the phone and make up complaints about the products until we got hung up on. If the phone rang immediately after, we would pick up the phone and hang it up right away. What trouble! I should tell Mom about this, not sure I ever did! Anyway, it was a great year UNTIL about the last couple weeks of school when things went really wrong I don't remember all the details, but the gist of it is that all of my 'friends' turned against me and I ended grade 6 basically friendless. At least from Danielle, Meme, Nikki, Chandy... but I was so ashamed to have had this happen that I didn't tell Mom until later in the summer. I remember feeling really down about it and not too excited about spending the summer without them. We usually rented a Nintendo 64 for a week every summer so I think that was a highlight, and I tried hanging out with my bro, but he was pretty occupied with his own friends so I had to figure things out on my own. I tried hanging out with Naomi, my choir friend, and Cynthia, my former best friend, but they had other stuff going on. Hayley and Sophie weren't so much on my radar, I guess, since I didn't see them too much but now thinking back, it's funny that we wouldn't have hung out. Anyway, lots of politics with 11-year-old girls. When I did finally confess what had happened to Mom (I thought it was my fault so I wouldn't tell her), she was very sympathetic. Then, when school started back up in the fall, Meme and Danielle were miraculously friends with me again, and asking me to do stuff with them. I forgave them straight up and life went on as normal! What I just found out today, when talking to my Mom about it, was that she actually went and talked to Meme's mom and explained the situation... which probably explains why Meme was so nice to me in September. What a woman.

19: I'm pretty sure this was the year of my first big choir trip (July 1997). PDHC went to Unisong in Ottawa. It was my first big choir trip, so I was pretty excited. Dad went as one of the chaperones, so the picture I'm sending is of the two of us. I definitely had mixed feelings about having my Dad as a chaperone, since I wanted to just hang out with my friends, but I think he probably enjoyed himself lots and we still tell lots of stories from the trip. Our conductor at Unisong was Jean Ashworth Bartle (then of the TCC) and she was really strict with us. Had my first experience with hair dye (Naomi), my first fake nails experience (even got two of my fingers glued together temporarily), and plenty of hotel-room drama. I also began my friendship with a tall, teddy-bear like boy named Alistair Bundale, who I thought was so cool. He had two Moms and was really open about it, so that was probably my first experience hearing about that from someone I knew personally. He had grown up in Ottawa, so he had lots of stories to tell as we were touring the city. We all probably looked hilarious, since we had NS tartan ball caps, WHITE pants, and blue tops. Monica even made us hold hands when we were on Parliament Hill since she didn't want us to get lost in the crowd. Oh yeah, and when we got to Parliament Hill, I remember being SO shocked that it wasn't actually a hill! I mean, I was expecting the parliament buildings to be at the top of a steep hill, but I was thoroughly fooled! ;) This was a great trip because I was finally making friends my own age, including Naomi (whose wedding I'm attending on July 1!), Natalie (who would be head chorister with me in a few years' time), and Nyra (Hayley's cousin). Scott hadn't moved to NS yet so I didn't know him, and Laura was just a little kid who I didn't pay much attention to yet ;). Before I get too far into this, I want to supplement my grade 6 year with the story of my exchange student, Claudine Bouleau! Someone in our church had approached my Dad the Spring before to ask if we would host a Rotary exchange student for three months the next year. A few of my friends had had exchange students and so I was pretty pumped for her to come, and I know that having her here definitely opened up my horizons, and certainly inspired me on the French side of things! Claudine (or Claw-deen as we called her for the first couple of weeks, eek) had just turned 18 and I was 11 so she was like the big sister I never had. I looked up to her lots, and although she kept to herself a lot, we clicked and I really enjoyed spending time with her and learning about her French life. She was only slotted to stay with us until mid-November, but she requested to stay until after Christmas since she had grown close to us. It was so fun to have her join in our Christmas traditions. She moved to the Wilsons' house in the country in January, and then to the Hills' in town around Easter time. I still saw her quite a bit and she actually ended up going to prom with Andrew in the spring (he was in grade 10, they had some classes together). Her family (parents and two sisters) came in July and we showed them around NS a bit. I kept in touch with her lots for the first few years- I actually remember telling her that I would miss her so much that I would write her a letter everyday when she left. She was pretty realistic though, and was like, no, you will never do that. And she was right of course! But I did write a lot. We were in touch sporadically until my trip to France when I got to see her quite a bit (but will write more about that later!).

20: And now on to grade 7! My homeroom teacher this year was Mr. Dave Selfridge, who was AWESOME. He was probably the coolest teacher I ever had. He made science class really fun. Once, he passed out a sheet of questions, tell us to take a look at them before taking them away. Then he told us that it was the test we were going to have the next day! I also had a great French teacher who I would have up until grade 10, Mlle. Walsh, who was a big inspiration to me. She was a strong personality, but I got along with her, and she passed on her love for French to me. As I mentioned before, my 'friends' from grade 6 immediately... refriended? me at the beginning of grade 7 and I was good to go! My social life was pretty busy, and my friends always wanted to come to my place because I had the coolest room. I seriously spent a ton of time cutting pictures of cute boys out of magazines and making collages on the wall above my bed. Was I cool or what? We were into the Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, all of that stuff. I used to make my own mixed tapes from the radio too! The Top 9 at 9 came on every night on 93.1fm and I would tune in and listen to the first few notes of the song- if I knew what the song was, I'd press record as quick as I could. | I was still in choir and band. I had started in band on flute the year before, and now was allowed to move up to Tenor Sax (our shared love! ;), which I really liked. It was a little more obscure than the alto sax that everyone else chose, but had way more interesting lines than the bari sax, which pretty much doubled the tuba. Andrew had started the trombone 5 years before, so Dad tended to call all our instruments trombones after that (with emphasis on the first syllable: TROMbone), bahaha. I lugged that sax up the hill lots of times and would always hate the idea of having to carry it to 7:30 band practice. Mom was great to me, though, and would often drive me up the hill in her pajamas :). Band CAMP was a pretty awesome part of being in band, too! I had gone for the first time with, yes, the flute and then got to go with sax the summer after grade 7. Eventually, I would go to Jazz camp instead of Concert Band camp, and it was way different and more fun in a lot of ways! Both camps were great though, and it was Andrew who had gone first so I knew how fun they would be. The first year I was roomed with Sophie, which ended up being a mistake because we fought like cats and dogs! I don't even remember what we didn't agree on, but I remember finding her really annoying and I'm sure she felt the same way about me, heheh. Hayley was there too, and so was my choir friend Natalie. I made lots of new friends, though, including the most wonderful group of grade 8 girls from Tantallon, NS. I met them sort of my fluke during a scavenger hunt. I heard "SUSAN!?!!" being yelled and responded, only to find out that they were calling to another Susan, Susan Feltham! It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. They were all super goofy like me, so we all got along. Every year we were at camp together we would have big sing-a-longs to 50's music, complete with hairbrush-microphones and dancing.

21: The other girls were Rachelle Freake (my super classy friend who had the long penpal romance with her now fiancée British navy dude) and Teri Gullon (also engaged, works at McMaster University in chemistry)- those two actually went to Mount A the year before me so I got to continue my band-camp friendship at university! The Maritimes are so small, that I actually saw a ton of people I had met at band camp when I went to university. Oh yeah, the band camp took place at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS- a super cute little town that I will hopefully show you this summer! Our family trip this year was to Bar Harbour, Maine. Aunt Doreen came with us and we had a good time, even though every photo from this trip makes me look miserable! It was definitely during my physically awkward stage- I had gained some weight but wore, almost exclusively, my one pair of Adidas pants and my Tommy Hilfiger tank top. I had a 'layered' haircut (made popular by Rachel from friends) which made me look a little like a boy. We also went to Newfoundland that summer, and while visiting my grandparents on my dad's side, I got my period for the first time. I was pretty relieved, since a bunch of my friends had already gotten it, and I wanted to be part of the club ;).

22: Grade 8! This year, I had Mr. Ryan as my homeroom teacher. He is actually Cynthia's dad, and he was a great math and computer teacher. Speaking of Industrial Arts, I definitely had a similar situation with my teacher! He had favorite girls and then was tough on the boys. I made some cool stuff though, including a CD shelf that I still have, and a clock. Mr. Boudreau was his name, and he wasn't always super patient when students were behind, boy or girl, and so he often ended up just finishing up our projects for us. So, I definitely can't take all the credit for my finished products, heheh. For Home Economics, we had Ms. Hall (who also taught us Social Studies). She wrote out all our notes, word for word, on the board and we copied them exactly into our notebooks with the same ruler-lead underlines. We made aprons and tote bags, and tons of yummy food that we got to eat afterwards. Best class ever. In Social Studies, all I remember learning about was Mi-kmaqs. We watched a lot of outdated movies that turned into jokes later. We also learned how to make bannock! Some drama happened this year, including two of my close friends developing eating disorders. Thankfully, I had the most wonderful PDR (Personal Development and Relationships) teacher, Mrs. Vaughn, was fantastic and a real confidante. Both of the friends recovered eventually and are doing OK now! Naomi is actually getting married next weekend!

23: I also had a best friend named Matthew Talbot that year. We had been in school since grade primary and he was quite a character. He sat behind me in homeroom and in math class, and passed lots of notes back and forth. He had some pretty intense psoriasis all over his body and that was kind of gross but everyone liked him, he was a cool kid. I saw him a few years ago and he is doing super well, no visible psoriasis ;) and he was teaching golf in Canmore or something like that. | This was the year that Andrew graduated from high school, so a big year in the family. He was yearbook editor with his friend Anna Kate and they did a freakin' amazing job. I will show it to you if I remember! There is not one blank space in that book, they used it all! He also was voted valedictorian which meant he had to give a speech at his graduation ceremony. In true Andrew-style, he finished the speech and slide show about 10 minutes before we had to leave for the ceremony but it turned out so well! He said once he started talking, he felt totally calm. This is where the "Sunscreen Song" comes in, the one I sent you a while back- it accompanied his slide show. He got a few awards, but the one that I remember most, and that my parents were the most proud of was the McClure bursary, for which the description was 'most likely to develop the highest of moral quality and good citizenship". The summer after grade 8, I was afflicted with a huge cyst on my right eyelid, that lasted a few months. You can see it in the picture with me and Drew on his grad day. Although pretty annoying at the time, it definitely provides us with some hilarious stories today. The best one is probably from when we went to NFLD as a family during the summer of 1999. This year, the Babinecs (Gina, Norm, and Elaine) made a trip around the same time and we did some touring around together. One place we visited together for a meal was the Big Stop restaurant in Deer Lake. Since we had been to this part of the world every summer for our whole lives, we were totally used to how people talked and treated us. Having the Babinecs there, though, gave us a whole new perspective and humorous appreciation. So, we all went for lunch, and as the hostess was seating us, she noticed my eye and commented, "got a sty on your eye, me lover? Me sister gets dem all de time!" (A line that has gone down in the Farrell-Babinec history forever).

24: This was grade 9 and my first year at Pictou Academy. PA has an interesting history so I will have to fill you in on that when you come to visit. In brief, Thomas McCulloch was the founder of PA and also the first president of Dalhousie University in Halifax, and had a real affinity for birds. (He was one of the first to 'put a bird on it!"). His former house is now a museum, actually Allison works there, and you can go see his stuffed birds and his insect specimens. Location wise, it wasn't a big move for me at all, since it's actually right beside my junior high and we share some of the same facilities, like the gym and sometimes the auditorium. For high school, I don't remember necessarily who my home room teachers were for each year, since it became less important and more of just a check-in spot. So I will tell you about other teachers by subject instead. For French, I had Ms. van Vulpen, who I would have again for grades 11 and 12, and then again for Art 11. Although she had a very strong English accent, she did wonders for my French grammar and was probably the reason that I got into a higher level French class when I got to university. We had a no-English rule for the first time, and there was a lot of Franglais going on at first. After grade 9, you had a choice to continue French or not, so some people had already given up. I enjoyed it immensely though. For social studies, I had Mr. Cyr, who was very open about his eye contact problem. He was a wonderful teacher but he couldn't look you in the eye, he always looked above your head. He said he had tried to get help for it in the past but nothing had worked. Pretty endearing, I have to say. Sophie sat behind me in this class and most others I think, and was my best friend and best enemy at the same time. We needed each other to get through the year, but our personalities often clashed and her competitive side was coming out in full force ;). Thankfully we made it through the year unscathed and continue to be great friends today. We were also in band together, a subject taught by Mr. Pos. He's a wonderful man who I still would call a mentor- he actually played at Laura's wedding reception last week! This was the first year that we had him for Jazz Combo (Sophie on trombone, me on sax, Naomi on keyboard/bass, guy named Jacob on drums) and we had a lot of fun. We would both go to jazz camp for the first time that summer too. Our combo was called Funktion and we were regrettably following in the footsteps of the last combo, Split, that my brother was in (3 girls, 3 boys, hence the name). But we had our own fun and learned a ton over the years we were together. Other teachers... Mr. Cotter taught me math, a subject that had never given me any grief before this year. Then, the first test of the year I got a 78! I was so miffed! But then I took a look at all the silly mistakes I had done and decided that I needed to spend a lot more time checking my work before passing it in, and did fine from then on ;).

25: Choir was pretty great this year, mostly because I was HEAD CHORISTER! I can't tell you how excited i was about this. I had not seen it coming one bit, since in the years before, it had always been a graduating chorister who got to be head chorister. In my grade 9 year, though, it just happened that there was a huge number of grade 12's who had just left the choir and a big gap in ages was the result- a re-building year, you might say. So, when I got the call from Monica the July before, I was so freakin' excited. I had been a huge choir nerd the year before, especially with my friend Natalie- we had volunteered at the auditions for incoming choristers just the week before we both got the call. We got to be head choristers together, which was a ton of fun, and I really enjoyed that little bit of responsibility. To be honest, it didn't really entail a whole lot other than helping to organize call-arounds and introducing the choir at concerts occasionally. There's probably more that I don't remember too. I was then head chorister with Natalie until she graduated (she's a year older), and then Chris Jackson (my then kind-of boyfriend) shared the position with me for the final year. We rehearsed at the Mormon church this year, which had no windows. But I remember specifically talking to Scott and Sherise in this church and rehearsing Las Amarillas (Hatfield piece that was the hardest one we'd probably ever sung and we were obsessed with it). This was also the year that choir 'toured' to Sydney, NS for the choir festival Suas E! (meaning 'give it your all!' in gaelic but sounding way too much like "Suicide!"), where we were first introduced to the legend/man Stephen Hatfield. Scott got to sing in the mixed mass choir that Stephen conducted and they did Ka Hia Manu. Scott was totally hooked. For his birthday that year, he asked for single copies of every Hatfield piece ever published! Oh! This choir festival was also the beginning of lots of choir inside jokes, one of them being the 'orgy bed', ahah! Lots of pent-up hormones going on, I'd say. Basically, the orgy bed was just when we would all pile on top of someone's bed in our hotel- one time even breaking a leg off a bed :S. Such trouble.

26: Grade 10! My second year at PA, I was a lot more settled and felt more a part of the school community because of the French trip to Montreal/Quebec City. I should mention that it is a really small school, similar to your high school, that had less than 200 students from grades 9-12. My graduating class was about 35 students. Nonetheless, if you were in a higher grade, you generally didn't associate with anyone in a lower grade, and this trip made all the difference. The French trip was open to anyone in the French classes from grades 10-12 (the grades, again, where you had to CHOOSE to take French), which wasn't a whole lot of kids, so I think we probably had about 40 people on the trip. That included Hayley, Sophie, Adena, Cory, and some others from my grades and then I got to meet a ton from other grades! The one memorable friendship that I formed on that trip was with one Aumrey Moland, who was in grade 11 at the time. We had the same sense of humour and were basically inseparable the entire trip. The girls really got along with him too, and there were many nights in our hotel room spent playing travel scrabble. He was tall and awkward but well liked, and super endearing even though he used way too much hair product... the word 'goopy' comes to mind :). Anyway, we were such good friends that he ended up taking me to prom in grade 11, and we had a great time although nothing romantic ever came of it (although I'm sure I wanted it to). After high school, Aumrey came out of the closet and now lives in the states somewhere, working as a pharmacist, I believe!

27: For Grade 10 math, I had Mr. Cotter again, and was doing fairly well, so when Cory was struggling and asked me to tutor him, I said yes. (Well, he actually put it like "let's study for math together" but really it was me teaching him! But that was ok, because I definitely had a crush on him). As a side note, I'm pretty sure this was the first year that I was totally boy crazy, and the trend definitely went into grade 11. Embarrassingly enough, I still have a strawberry lip gloss that, when I smell it, brings me back to the days I spent tutoring Cory. Anyway, this tutoring vastly improved my knowledge too, and I got my first 100% on one of Mr. Cotter's math tests. When he gave back the tests, he took me aside and said, "Susan, the world is your oyster!"- he was real proud of me. And I knew that material inside and out because of the extra time I had spent on it. I had Mr. Robert Young for grade 9 and 10 science. The story about Mr. Young is that he apparently really wanted to be a doctor when he was young, but couldn't get into Med School. Then his brother, Gordon, got in and is now a well-known doctor in Pictou (they are a well-known family in Pictou in general, but that is a story that would fit into many long emails). So then, Robert was sentenced to years in a career that he sort of hated. He was funny lots of times, and quick-tempered lots of others, but I think people mostly liked him because of how cynical he was. He was also an extremely artistic man (from an artistic family) and creativity was his strong point while organization was not. One of the years I had him, he got tired of teaching us about cell parts and decided to lead us in the making of a cell board game- we made our own mitochondria and electron game pieces, the rules, the question cards. It was really elaborate and I think we worked on it over an entire month or something. I wonder if that game still exists. Sadly, Robert Young passed away of cancer at a young age (50 some) a few years after I graduated from high school. It also came out later that he had an affair with one student, a girl one year older than I, whom he was living with by the time he got sick. They got married before he died, and so she became a widow at the age of 20. Still blows my mind. By this point, Andrew was in his second year at Mount A, and had switched from Science to History. He seemed to have a great social life at university, and that's mostly what we heard about. He had a wonderful girlfriend named Mireille who fit right into the family, and who Mom particularly liked. She was this spunky ball of energy and we loved having her around. She and Andrew were a great pair. They had gone to yearbook camp together at some point, so when they both ended up at Mount A, it seemed meant to be. I loved her as an older sister and really enjoyed it when she would come home with Andrew for the weekend. My brother-sister relationship with Andrew improved a lot when he went away too, since we weren't around each other so much we appreciated each other so much more.

28: I got my license this year! I wanted to be able to drive as soon as possible after my birthday, so I took my beginner's test the first week in August. Then, I did a driving course that fall with 'PictouDriving Academy', based out of a nursing home in Pictou. Sherise,Scott's sister, took the course with me and since the material was SO dry, we spent most of our time scribbling notes back and forth to each other. I went for my driving test on New Year's Eve and passed without too much of a hitch- I lost a few points because, when turning left at a green light, there was a car coming towards me going straight, but they were going so slow I thought they had parked! The route was familiar to me, though, because they always use the same one, through Stellarton, and my driving instructor would take me through it every time we went out. Even today, I could drive that route with my eyes closed ;). Grade 11 was also the year that Andrew didn't go back to university. Turns out he had failed some courses and was on academic suspension, so wasn't allowed to go back. Apparently he knew this from early on in the summer, but didn't tell Mom and Dad until the day they were supposed to drive him back to Sackville, his bags packed and everything. I guess he thought that they would let him go live there for the year anyway, but they told him he had to stay home. It was a huge shock to all of us, since he seemed fairly happy at school, was on student council, had lots of friends etc etc, but I guess he never was very open about his marks. So, long story short, he stayed home and was fairly miserable, but was responsible for driving me to choir rehearsals, piano lessons etc for the first half of the school year. Then, when he wasn't successful in getting a job by Christmas, Dad phoned up a friend of his and got him a job at Tim Horton's- driving the delivery truck full of donuts and muffins around Pictou County at 5:00 a.m. on un-plowed roads. He hated the job, but it was a character-building life experience for sure, and it made him realize how hard some people work for little pay. And my parents let him buy a nice camera with some of the money he earned.

29: In grade 11, we also went to Delta, BC, on a SEVEC exchange with our school band. I actually missed weeks and weeks of school in both grade 11 and 12, but never found it hard to catch up and loved all of the trips I got to take! We stayed for about 5 days and it was my first time ever out west. I loved it. I remember telling my parents that I planned to live there when I was older- Vancouver specifically. I loved how lush and rainforest-like everything was in the spring and how refreshingly different the culture was. I also went to Ottawa to the Terry Fox Centre for a week in March that year- everyone who wanted to go applied and two got chosen from our school every year, and were funded to go. At that time, they sent all of the Maritimers on the train together overnight, so we kept picking people up along the way. It did wonders for bonding with the other participants from our part of the country, and we remained close the entire week. I went to Arts and Culture week, which we re-named Arts and Crafts week, since we ended up doing lots of crafts. But we also did great stuff like tour the parliament, have epic bilingual skit nights, and I even got to see the Vancouver Chamber Choir sing Vivaldi's Gloria at the National Arts Centre. Such a great week! ANOTHER trip from this year was our choir trip to the West Coast of NL. We went on the overnight ferry, and I seem to remember an incident of taking far too much gravol and walking around in a daze. We stayed in the dorms at Grenville College (the west coast campus of MUN) and ate at MacDonald's far too many times, and I ate far too many Chicken Fajitas (two for just 2.99!). This resulted in what was known as the F5, or a very stinky bathroom trip that became a bit of a legend... gross as it is, we had lots of fun re-writing the words to American Pie to describe the situation. A very monumental event of grade 11 was the birth of the Bonnay Singers! After Suas e, back in grade 9, Scott was *obsessed* with Stephen Hatfield and wanted to have a small group that sang mostly his music. Like I had mentioned, he had a bunch of single copies of Hatfield music so we started with those ;) I don't remember where we practiced or how often, maybe we practiced at Monica's house, but we had lots of fun, and entered ourselves in a Chamber Choir class in the music festival. For the uniform, I think Laura and Maren's mom went to Wal-mart and bought us all golf shirts in solid bright colours. They were pretty nerdy and wonderful. We sang the test piece, 'non nobis domine' and then I think... Elibama? by Hatfield. This was the beginning of a pretty wonderful choral experience that I will write about again in the next years' entries :) Original members of the group were Laura and Maren McLean (the Laura who just got married!), Sherise and Scott Jones, Sheri Heighton, Chris Jackson (one of my best friends at the time, we had mutual crushes but never acted on it), Allison Hartson, and me. I should mention that this was the year I switched piano teachers. Probably one of the best decisions that I ever made, in retrospect, since I had outgrown Lesley Dunn years before, and had never been particularly committed or inspired when I went to her. The spring before, I had a moment of inspiration (honestly, was sitting in the car on the way home from a Lesley lesson, I remember the scenery and everything), in which I decided that it was time I should really commit to learning piano and spending some time at it. This sudden inspiration, I'm sure, was in spite of the teaching Lesley was giving me, and in reaction- I had done fairly well on my grade 5 exam, and actually was enjoying playing for the first time maybe ever. She told me that I was finally playing like a 'real pianist' and I continued to ask her if I could skip grade 6 to do grade 7 the next year, so I could possibly finish grade 8 by the end of high school. She groaned and said that it was too much work for HER to teach me all the technique requirements, so no. I was so miffed, that I decided I needed to move on to someone who would teach me grade 7, and that's how I came to be a student of Wayne Rogers. The most wonderfully gay 50-year-old Newfoundlander you could ever meet. We had tons and tons of fun, and he pushed me and encouraged me so much in my first year that I ended up winning some festival classes the next spring and gaining tons of confidence from that.

30: Grade 12. Big year in the life of SJF! The end of the summer before grade 12 is worth mentioning. For most of the summer, I was working at Mrs. Elizabeth's Ice Cream Shoppe on the Pictou Marina. This was pretty fun, since I got to eat lots of ice cream, hang out with my bro who worked with the boats on the Marina, and got to sit outside and read when it was slow (which was often enough!). Then, middle of August, I went to Mount Allison for yearbook camp, with Sophie. We were to head up the yearbook team in the fall, and we were pretty excited about it! You'll notice that this is yet another thing that I did after seeing how much fun Andrew had doing it himself. (Others included band camp, sucking my thumb as a kid, collecting baseball cards, jazz combo, and many more). Then, not long after, I had the most wonderful opportunity to attend NS Youth Choir Camp at Berwick camp, with a then unknown-to-us Scott Leithead of Edmonton, AB. I remember that Monica was a section leader at the camp, and so had received the music in advance and had told us that she wasn't sure of his music selections- fairly simple music with a bit of movement. Boy, did her mind change by the end of the week ;). Most of the Bonnays went to camp and we had so much fun... the music was fun and Scott was hilarious! I promise you that I have a photo of the two of us from drag night (called 'hollywood night', but come on, you take enough high school choir boys to camp and what else would you expect ;), and it is my life's mission to find it. | We sang Adiemus, True Colours, Hodie, I Paradisi, Telele Mama... and others. Lots of the songs that are on the Kokopelli CD from the same year, actually. I was having SO much fun and was pretty bummed when it came to Thursday night and I had to leave since my family was all going on a trip to the Rockies, a trip that had been planned long before choir camp was decided upon. Had a great time on that trip, once I got over my utter sadness of having to leave camp! I kept wishing I could just get on a plane and go back! After missing the first few days of grade 12, I was thrown right into the craziness of the year, including the news that Sophie wouldn't be yearbook editor with me after all. Turns out that they were offering Calculus class at Stellarton High School after school two days a week, and to get into science at university, she needed to take that class, and didn't feel she had time for yearbook anymore. I was really disappointed, and a little stressed because I thought I would have to do it on my own! Thankfully, Kate Heighton, a classmate, stepped up to the plate with me and we actually had a ball. The yearbook room became the grade 12 hangout, too, and we ate lunch in there nearly everyday. Oh man, just the thought of some of those moldy tupperware containers brings me back... gross! During the fall, Scott Jones and I went and visited my brother at Mount A for a weekend. This was the first time I had visited him at school by myself, and we had a great time.

31: Visited with Rachelle and Teri, my former band-camp buddies who were now in first-year university, partied lots, had a meal or two with Drew, and then headed back to Pictou County feeling pretty grown up ;). Also during the fall sometime, I was trying to decide where I would apply for school for the next year. My first choice was Mount A, since I loved visiting my brother there, and second choice was Acadia, since I knew it from band camp. And, they both have stellar music programs. When I was hemming and hawing about what to study, Mom told me "do whatever makes your heart sing", which sounds a bit fluffy, now that I think of it now, but I think it lead to my happiness later and now, and I love her for it. I told Wayne that I wanted to scrape together a piano audition, and we dug right in! He is a Mount A alumnus himself, and was extremely supportive of my desire to attend that university. My audition, in March, was successful, and thankfully so, since I had only auditioned for music at Mount A, and applied for French studies and Biology at Acadia. I was beyond nervous for my piano audition, and foolishly began my program with a Haydn sonata, which I ended with a V-I cadence in the right hand and a I-V cadence in the left. It took me by such surprise that I had no clue how to fix it and just left it, the air ringing with dissonance to end my first selection. I could have died of embarrassment! But, I went on to play a lyrical Schumann piece, a style where I was much more comfortable, and they must have seen enough potential to let me in! Another huge event this year was my first visit to see Lorraine Young, ND. In January sometime, I remember pretty clearly having a teary conversation with Mom about how I just didn't feel good. I didn't have energy at school, I had the worst cramps during my period, and my self esteem was suffering since I had gained a good deal of weight during grades 10 and 11. My Dad's reactions to my cramp complaints in the past had been to suggest I go on the BC pill, but it seemed so unnecessary, and Mom had a much better idea that day in January. She told me about Lorraine, who had actually done her practicum with my Dad, and who was a former patient of my Dad's and had grown up in Pictou, and how I could go see her and see if we couldn't find an alternative way to deal with my health issues. And oh man, just thinking about it now, that was a big turning point! | The changes happened slowly- first was drinking 8-10 glasses of water and cutting out sugars and refined flours. These were big changes and I remember feeling a bit depressed at first. Then, she had me eating more protein between meals to even out my blood sugars, and finally I was awake and alert during class and much less moody! By the time prom came that spring, I had lost probably 20 pounds or so, and people were starting to notice. It was the best I'd felt about myself in a long time. She also had me on some women's supplements to help with my cramps, and they were slowly easing up. She also had me trying new recipes, and I was eating a lot of tofu for breakfast, lots of eggs, lots of beans, lots of veggies. Once I started working at the take-out in the summer, I stopped eating beef, and then pork. Then, when I realized that I had gone a week without meat unintentionally, just by eating healthily, I decided that I should try this out! My mom was very supportive but also adamant that I keep eating fish, to get some extra vitamins and minerals. Lorraine was also very supportive, of course, and gave me lots of advice and recipe ideas. I also started exercising at some point, maybe that summer, and was feeling amazing. I remember one particular moment, sitting outside the takeout reading my book in the sunshine, and thinking, man! I feel great. I want to remember this feeling so that if I ever slip back into old habits, I will know what steps I need to take to get back to this, because it is so worth it. I was pretty well buzzing on good health. That year, I was also part of the Nova Scotia Youth Chamber Choir with Scott and Sherise. We would travel to Halifax one Sunday a month and rehearse music for the upcoming Suas e! festival in Cape Breton. At that festival, Scott introduced me to his friend Michael Francis, who he knew from other choir stuff. Michael was from Cape Breton and had just finished his first year in piano at Mount A, so I had TONS of questions for him. And was super attracted to him! After the festival, we chatted on MSN lots, and eventually, when it was 2 weeks before prom and I didn't have a date, I worked up the courage to ask him, (still over MSN!) if he would be my prom date. He agreed pretty quickly and his dad drove him the three hours to get here for the prom. Can you imagine? We had a fun time at prom and then Mom and I drove him back to CB the next day.

32: First year university. Finally out of Pictou and moved into my own residence room in Harper Hall! This was the residence where my brother had lived previously, in a HUGE room that they called the Bunker. Long story short, he and his buddy Jonathan got put in crappy residences and asked to be moved, and this is where they ended up- a storage room that was turned into a res room with two sets of bunk beds. My new room was still in the basement, but up the stairs from the bunker, which by this point had been turned into two legit rooms with their own bathrooms. Me, I had to share my bathroom with a bunch of smelly boys and a few not-so-smelly girls. I had my own room, though, which was really great. The whole res was single rooms, and mostly upperclassmen. We were about 10 frosh in the whole building, so we clung to each other at the beginning! I made friends pretty quickly with two girls, Bess and Gauri, and a guy named Markus, who was super nerdy but also HILARIOUS so I liked him right away. Markus and I spent ridiculous amounts of time together, especially after I switched out of my sleep-worthy biology lecture to the same Latin class that he was in. We would do our homework together most nights, and study for tests by literally pacing up and down the hallways reciting verb conjugations. And then laughing so hard that our bellies ached. We also ate together at meal hall all the time-- everybody wanted to be at Markus' table, because he was so entertaining. We joked how we had the same stomach because we would often get really bad stomach aches from the bad food they served there. His friend from high school, Lynne, hung out with us lots too, and sometimes would have us over at her residence for stir fry nights- we would each take (well, steal) as many veggies from the salad bar at meal hall as we could, in tupperware I guess, and then meet at her place. She had all kinds of crazy Chinese fermented mushrooms, chilies, sauces... pretty delicious. We had to wash all of our dishes in the bathroom sink since she really just had a hot plate to cook on. Hilarious. But resourceful! Bess, Gauri, and I were great friends and often would head 'downtown' Sackville to Mel's diner late at night for fried egg sandwiches. On their menu, they have Campbell's Tomato Soup. This is a classy joint. I actually really love it there. They also have "Cup Cake" written under desserts- the first time I read it, I was so confused about what kind of cake you would put in a cup! Gauri and I had a lot in common, mainly that we had both briefly dated this guy Justin, who was in our group of friends. Basically, when they 'broke up', or stopped hanging out, he started spending more time with me, which pretty much entailed a couple of weeks before or after Halloween, where we would hang out. Eventually, he started dating another girl in our group of friends and we kind of all stopped hanging out with him. His roommate, Derrick, was addicted to video games, namely Final Fantasy, and actually missed a bunch of his Christmas exams. He was only there for the year, and last time I heard he was working at Future Shop in Moncton.

33: Bess was (and is) quite a character. I was so intrigued by her- from Toronto, she had a wacky sense of style that I had never encountered in my sheltered NSian existence. Her hair was longer on one side than the other, for instance. And she was about 5' tall. Gauri was from an East Indian family and very studious- she has since gone on to study medicine in Poland and seems to be doing quite well from her FB profile.. heh... We had lots of girl nights that included watching every episode of My So Called Life (TV show from the 90's with Claire Danes? pretty classic). Our house party that year was called "Harper gets Hospitalized" and Bess and I dressed up like doctors- we had lab coats and stethoscopes from my dad. This was my first time drinking Corona beer and I liked it a lot! Enough to feel pretty awful the next day, anyway! School itself was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Feeling like I had a lot of catching up to do, I practiced 2 or 3 hours a day at piano and worried a lot about it. The teacher I was meant to have was on sabbatical, so I took lessons from his replacement, a Dr. Sonja Behrens from UWO. She was about 100 years old and wore the same two blouses in rotation. The blouses also had a funny way of opening in awkward places during studio classes and I would have a real hard time holding back giggles! She pushed us really hard and I figured out pretty quickly that she was in the habit of picking favorites. Thankfully I was one of them, as was my new friend Laura Wayne. I honestly think she liked us because we did anything she wanted us to, and never questioned her, which the more advanced students wouldn't have done. In January, I developed some tendonitis in both wrists and had to take a break from piano for a few weeks. Looking back, it was probably my suddenly busy practicing schedule combined with the pressure I was putting on myself to be better and better and better. The tendons in my wrists were like rods shooting up my arms and it hurt to even carry a tray in meal hall! I hope that I wasn't just being a baby, but it was quite real for me at the time. The tendonitis, the winter weather, feeling far from home, all of this left me in a pretty depressed state. I remember having such trouble getting up in the morning, all of my classes seemed like such a chore, (whereas I had previously enjoyed them), I came home physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day and would start crying the minute my room door closed. I was a wreck! But I had my mom to confide in, and she would come often to visit, even just for an afternoon if she could, and she encouraged me to go see a counselor. I went to see someone named Chrisanna at the university health centre for a few months until I felt better. She was the first one to make me evaluate my thinking pattern and made me see how much it affected my overall mental state. Her phrase was "fake it till you make it', when talking about positive thinking. It's taking every negative thought you have and trying to turn it around, even if it feels super contrived at first. It was also really nice just to go and get everything off my chest during those sessions. I felt so much lighter after every one. Gauri and Bess were great to me, too, when I would occasionally confide in them. Gauri also told me I needed to think more positively- one time when I was complaining about my tendonitis, she told me about how her Dad had a similar problem, and every night he would visualize the tendons healing and it was really helpful to him. I loved that, and it was another one of those things that I needed to hear to get me out of my funk. My music class was pretty small, like I was used to at Pictou Academy- there were about 40 of us who would be in classes every morning together, starting with aural skills/theory at 8:30! Whoever makes that schedule has no idea how BAD that timing is. It is definitely the class that got skipped (or slept through) the most! I was part of the keener group, though, and was there every day. I had a pretty wacky group of music friends. We all bonded through the group singing project that Dr. Martin gave us every month in history class (the same Dr. Martin whose farm we will visit!). She put us in groups named after traveling musicians- I was part of the Minnesinger group. This is the group that performed 'Il Bianco Dolce Cigno" with origami swans that we dropped, having no clue that the swans' deaths were representing orgasms... pretty embarrassing! But we all had a good laugh when it was brought to our attention. And that was the year! I ended up getting out of my funk and having a good end to the year, including a successful performance in the last student collegium (weekly concert) of the year. Despite my leg shaking uncontrollably, I got through my Brahms intermezzo with relative ease and had big plans for more performances the next year, including a possible piano duo with Laura Wayne. I was in Elliott Chorale, the chamber choir, directed by Gayle Martin, and enjoyed that, except for the super geeky vests we had to wear (that might have been second year. They were awful though!).

34: This was also Scott's first year at Mount A, and we were inseparable! He had just come out to me, and only me, the June before and so he was going through that, but also entering a community where people were more or less open to homosexuality, so that was pretty refreshing for him. He told his sister Sherise in October or November and she was definitely great with it, and came to visit from Acadia right away when she heard. We had lots of late night practicing sessions at the conservatory, that would often end with practice room chats with Laura Wayne. The three of us hung out a lot that fall. Both Laura and Scott were feeling a bit restless at Mount A- Scott because he wasn't getting along with his piano teacher, Dr. Rogosin (or Rogo, as we called him behind his back), and Laura really wanted to get away and travel. Laura told us she was thinking of doing the exchange to Strasbourg, France, the next year and Scott and I were on board not long after. I had briefly considered doing a Rotary exchange to France right after high school, but my Mom asked me if I would please wait just a few years, and I was happy to wait since I wasn't really ready for something like that yet. It was so exhilarating to talk about this trip with those two. The Strasbourg exchange is not an idea I would probably have committed to completely on my own, and I'm happy I had these two to encourage my adventurous side. | Second year university. After a summer as a tour guide at the Northumberland Fisheries Museum (we had live lobsters!), I went back to Mount A for a second year of school. I actually went back a few days earlier, since I had to go through Monitor Training (RA training). Being a monitor was a great thing for me, since I enjoyed the extra responsibility but also the social aspect of it- just from doing the training, I met a bunch of people from other residences (including Sam) who I might not have met otherwise. I also had the easiest assignment ever- one of the two girls' wings in Harper Hall. Gauri had the other girls' wing and we were the two teams to win every decorating contest all year, haha! But seriously, the only time I had to crack the whip at all was during house parties or when I was on duty for the whole house. I'm pretty sure I had to do one evening a week on 'duty', sitting out in the lobby with other monitor and checking the floors every hour. It was a great job, because people came and hung out with you, or we would watch movies or talk or whatever. I also liked it when girls on my floor would come to me for advice and often left my door open when I was there so they knew they could come and chat. I did have one girl on the floor who let a suicidal comment slip and I had to deal with that, but we had had great training, and I could always go ask for help from some of the other monitors.

35: We went to all the meetings together and eventually Scott and I passed the interviews while Laura had decided to go on a different exchange instead... Cuba I think! My friend Rachelle, from band camp years ago, and now from Mount A, was on the exchange during my first year at Mount A, so I had also heard all of her stories and was inspired by her too. I actually hung out with her lots that year- she and Teri lived off campus not far from my res, so Rachelle and I would meet a few mornings a week for runs in the Waterfowl Park. It was also really nice to go to their place, which seemed a lot more homey than my residence room, and to get away from my monitor duties sometimes. For piano this year, I had Dr. Dawe back as a professor, and we got along splendidly. He was horrified, on his return, to hear some of the stories about Sonja from the year before, and how she treated the students she didn't care for. He actually came back, read her files, and promptly destroyed them, as she was so unprofessional and unkind to most of her students. He is a fellow from Newfoundland, outside St. John's, and we hit it off right away. He pushed me to be a great player that year, I was really committed and quite a bit more relaxed. Our lessons would be big chat sessions, and his quick Newfie humour had me in stitches most times. He's now the Dean of Music at University of Manitoba, and when we do occasionally email, he still remembers how we used to joke about Turkey Neck stew! I performed at least 4 times that year in collegia (up from only once the year before) and had a flute player to accompany (the reason I know some of the rep in your flute book). Ended up with an A- in piano, and with the number of performances under my belt, I was eligible for a recital the next year, but of course, by the time I was back, it was a year later, and I opted against it, even though I'd often imagined myself doing one. My trick for performing at that time was taking a small dose of beta blockers about an hour before I went on, and this eliminated the shaking while leaving me mentally clear and calm. In the years before, I had tried Ativan but it often left me a bit cloudy mentally. The beta blockers worked really well for my extreme nervousness, and by the end of the year, I was a pretty confident performer. So confident, in fact, that I stopped being nervous, and for my final jury of the year, the beta blockers actually had the effect of making me super sleepy, since there was no nervousness to counteract. My heart rate was really slow and I didn't have that 'edge' anymore that would make the performance exciting- I think I would have gotten an A on this jury had this not happened. One comment I had from Dr. Dawe afterwards was, are you feeling ok? You seem like you might be coming down with something! I hadn't told him about the beta blockers, since it was a bit of a controversial topic around the conservatory, so I just said, yeah, I think I'm getting a cold!

36: Strasbourg was still a go for the next year, despite al bunch of drama that happened near the end of the year. After Easter, I came back to Scott who had decided to back out of the exchange. I was totally crushed, and confused about what to do- I had agreed to the trip knowing that I would have the security of my best friend there with me. We had both gone home at Christmas with the idea that we would look at the trip from an individual perspective and make sure we had our own reasons to do it, and not just that we wanted to do it together. I had decided that it would help me toward my goal of becoming bilingual, that I wanted to see Europe, all of that, but I think in the end, Scott realized that he was just running away from his crappy piano teacher and giving up on piano before giving it a real chance. So, instead, he went through the process of changing piano teachers, an awkward and frustrating process, but so worth it in the end, since he got to be with Dr. Dawe, who was a much better fit for Scott. Now, I am completely assured that both of us made the 'right' decision, and we both benefited greatly from the happenings of the next year. At the time though, this put a huge strain on our close friendship, and by the time we went home for the summer, we sort of 'broke up' as friends. It was such a crappy time, and I hated not being able to call him and knowing that we wouldn't hang out for a while. I dealt with lots of those emotions by starting to run, nearly every day. I would pretty well jump out of bed in the morning before I had time to think, and hit the pavement. I had never been a great runner, but now I was really getting into it, and eventually agreed to do a 13 K run across the Confederation Bridge with Rachelle that September. Unfortunately, I never got to that point since I injured my knee mid-July and had to stop running altogether. I could swim and bike no problem, but both my knees were eventually chronically swollen and I was in physio for it. The swelling stayed well into September, despite my efforts, and I had an MRI, saw a rheumatologist, all of that, and it turns out it was just a bad case of patella-femoral syndrome. This was a huge bummer, and made me nervous for my trip to France, but I dealt with it the best I could. The Bonnays had a great summer, though. We practiced a few times a week at the church where Scott played organ, and put together a really great program of (mostly Hatfield) music to perform that August. The two summers previous, we had also done concerts, but this was going to be the best yet, putting together every piece we had ever learned so we wouldn't have to have a guest soloist to fill up time. We did a concert in Pictou and then a couple days later, we traveled to Memramcook, NB, to sing in a beautiful historical church, right on the beach, in a concert series organized by one of our profs, Monette. I have a video of that concert and a CBC recording of the concert in Pictou. That was our last real Bonnay concert, but we went out with a bang. After that, it was just too hard to get everyone together since we were all moving away and coming home less in the summers. But, as you know, we have been quite successful at getting together at Christmases, and now since we are including some other singers, we have more opportunities to get together!

37: STRASBOURG! Another big year! If I remember correctly, my flight to France was on September 21. The school year in France starts later than in Canada, so I spent September visiting friends at Mount A (Scott even had a surprise party for me!) and had a Mom/Andrew/Susan trip to NL to see relatives on the West Coast. I bought my plane ticket with a girl I knew from Antigonish, Jenna MacDonald, and was really grateful to have her as a travel buddy! We went back and forth between excited and nervous the entire trip, but got there safe and sound. I had never been to Europe before, so I was pretty wide-eyed for the first few days. My residence room was great, I was in a Catholic Girls' residence that even had a chapel in it. It was a great place to meet French girls though. We had a shared kitchen and dining room where we spent a lot of time. The Canadian girls in my residence were Sam Read and Christie Kneteman. Sam was super confident speaking French to the other girls right from the start- she had done two summers at French camp already, and Christie made a point of speaking lots of French in an effort to improve her speaking- she very carefully chose all of her words so she would make the least mistakes possible. So, opposite styles, I would say! Sam and I also initially had a deal where we would correct each other in conversation if we heard each other make a mistake, in an effort to both improve. I guess I got a little carried away, though, because a few weeks in, Sam burst into tears and said, stop correcting me! I felt pretty bad! So we stopped that, and we both gradually improved. I had this sweet deal that Rachelle had set up for me, where I would go and teach English to two French kids every Wednesday. Léo was 12 and Alice was just turning 16, and they were a joy to teach! Each Wednesday afternoon, I would go over around 4pm. We would sit down, make tea, have a snack (Alice would often eat nearly a whole baguette before supper time!) and get into the English lessons. I would generally help with homework, play word games, work on conversational stuff. Then, when they had each had an hour or so, we would help Madame Jacquin (Marie) prepare supper. Usually, she would have me cut the apples for dessert, since we often had a tarte aux pommes for dessert. She had this amazing device called a Thermomix, or "un Robot", that would mix all of her pastry, her soups, even ice cream! I have never seen one in Canada but they are pretty amazing things. When Pascale (the dad) got home from work, we would all sit down to our meal- always SO delicious and impressively prepared. Marie often made me fish to go with whatever they were eating, but I also made a point of trying the meat- rabbit, duck, frogs' legs! Pascale was heavy handed on the wine, and I often had no idea how many glasses I had had by the end of the evening. The meal would end with a cheese plate and whatever dessert we had also prepared. Oh la la, those meals were ammmmazing. Riding home late after those meals, I was often a bit wobbly on my bike! I don't think I can blame it only on the cobblestones... I loved having that connection all year though, and they made me feel much less far from my own family. After a few months, I was calling them for advice about traveling and going over there often on Saturdays or Sundays too. I was the 6th or 7th tutor they had had from Mount A- it started with one, and then she passed on the job to friends she knew were coming on the exchange. They often would reminisce about their other tutors, and would have one main trait they would say about each former tutor. For example, oh that Rachelle, she was such a traveler. And oh, that Maren, she was such a dreamer. I was always intrigued to hear what they would say about me after I left, and according to Katelyn and Alissa, who both ended up with the job later, they always said how much I valued family. I thought that was a great trait, and also shows how much I appreciated having them that year. It would have been a very different overall experience if they hadn't been there. School was pretty fun, and really easy. We would have classes most mornings, and all day on Tuesdays. During the first week, we had placement tests, and I got put in DAEF 4, with Jenna. Our classmates were from all over, including Poland, Russia, Japan, Sweden, Columbia, Spain, USA, to name a few. The closest friends that Jenna and I had from that class were Gabriella and Maria, a Swedish couple (we found out later!), and Greg from Michigan. We often hung out on the weekends with them. At the end of the year, in June, Greg and I traveled to Goteborg, Sweden, to visit the girls and had an amazing week. The weather was fantastic so our days were filled with hiking, canoeing, picnics, midnight sunsets. Needless to say, I had a huge crush on Greg, and there was definite tension between us, but he had a girlfriend back in the states, so I'm glad nothing happened. He was a great travel buddy though.

38: I came home for 2 weeks at Christmas, which wasn't nearly long enough, since it made me realize how much I dearly missed everyone! I can probably compare it to your experience coming home in the middle of your tree-planting summer (although, of course, I didn't have an arduous job to go back to), where it was hard to go back. But so worth it! While I traveled a bit during my first semester (to see Claudine in the west of France, to some Christmas markets in Alsace, to Beaumont Hamel for Remembrance Day), the second half of my year was the most adventurous. Not only were Christie, Sam, and I finally going out more- dancing till 4:00 a.m. with the Spanish girls from our residence, coming home to find fresh warm baguette waiting for us... but we were also traveling more. During our February break, Jenna and I traveled to Barcelona, Madrid, and Porto. We took buses in between the three cities and they were pretty amazing rides. We were gone for 2 weeks and by the end of it, ready to kill each other. Needless to say, we didn't travel together again after that, and we did have lots of good times, but our traveling styles were so, so different. I wanted to try the food of each place we visited, while Jenna was more interested in buying cheap souvenirs and eating trail mix for meals, to over simplify things. Anyway, we made it through, and now I absolutely want to go back to these places and have a whole new experience. Then, in April, Jenna Hirtle (a different Jenna!) and I traveled to Berlin to visit my friend Catherine, who was teaching English there. From there, the three of us headed to Prague and Vienna by bus for a week before heading back to Berlin for a week there together. This was a much more positive travel experience, as this Jenna is the MOST positive person I may have ever met. She was wonderful, and the three of us had lots of laughs. Prague was beautiful but touristy, went to the Kafka museum that scared my pants off, and Vienna was drool-worthy. I could actually imagine myself living in that wonderful place someday. So many students there too. In Vienna, we saw the Marriage of Figaro for 2 Euros- it just meant we had to stand for the whole show (4 hours)! Catherine also saw a Wagner opera (more like 6 hours) standing up, but Jenna and I opted to do something else that evening :). Then, Berlin was full of amazingness- and we didn't even see a sizable chunk of the city! There is SO much to do and see it is overwhelming. Saw another opera there, Die Freischutz (often they kill live animals during this opera, but not in the performance we saw, thankfully) and went to lots of museums... including a few war museums and saw some art. One day, we went on a train to a suburb of Berlin to see the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen. It wasn't a death camp, just a work camp, but it was still pretty moving. The day we were there was a beautiful sunny day, so we talked about how the workers must have had days like that too, wondering if would have given them just that little bit of hope. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go see this camp, but Jenna was pretty set on it, and in the end I'm glad I went.

39: My family came over at the end of the year, during May. Andrew came first for a few days before my parents arrived, and he rented a room in my building. Then, when Mom and Dad came, we rented an apartment close to the Vieux Port, where we all stayed together. We had a great time, just cooking for ourselves and hanging out in Strasbourg, having day trips with the Jacquins, that kind of thing. For the second week they were there, we headed to Paris, Rennes, Rouen, St Malo and finally to Fontenay-le-Comte to stay with Claudine's family for a weekend. The stay with the Bouleaus (Claudine's family) was really fun because I got to translate back and forth between my family and hers- I was finally at a point where I was comfortable doing that, and it was hilarious because my Dad was always telling jokes that didn't translate the same, and he couldn't figure out why no one was laughing at his jokes! One of the best meals of my entire life was at a restaurant in Rouen, accompanied by a few bottles of Pinot Noir... my family still talks about it. Escargot with blue cheese, butter beans, they had leg of lamb, other delicious food I can't remember, but I know it was incredible. When our trip was over, we all went our separate ways on the same day- Andrew to England where he was to start a cooking job outside of Leeds, me to Sweden with Greg, and Mom and Dad back to Canada. It was a big travel day and we were so thankful that everything went smoothly on all accounts! After an amazing year of traveling, learning, eating, exploring, growing, I headed back to Canada during the second week of June. I had gotten a summer undergraduate research bursary, so I had to move pretty well straight away to Sackville, where Bess had found us an apartment for the year. The transition back to life in quiet, quiet, summertime Sackville wasn't an easy one, and my productivity suffered for the first bit. Eventually, I went to see the counselor at the student health centre, and she helped me get back to my old self! My research was on the connections between Baudelaire's poetry and Debussy's piano music and I ended up with a big paper at the end of it, similar in size to my capping essay from the U of A actually. The research itself I found pretty dry, but I really loved preparing for my lecture-recital that happened on October 11 (I remember because it's my Dad's birthday :). I enlisted the help of one very eccentric English professor who actually memorized one or two of Baudelaire's poems and performed them in my presentation, before I played the piano pieces that were inspired by the poetry. That was a ton of fun, especially with the help of my favorite piano teacher, Dr. Dawe ;)

40: University, year 4. Back from France, and with a big paper under my belt, I went into the year with a healthy mindset and quickly lost it once I became overwhelmed with everything I had to do. During the summer, I had agreed to accompany a graduating singer, Alan MacDonald. I soon realized that I had too much music to learn in too short a time and asked my classmate Sarah if she would help me out, and play half of Alan's recital rep. So, Team Alan was formed and we worked our butts off. Luckily, Alan's teacher that year was Wendy Nielsen, Canadian opera star, who was teaching at Mount A as a sabbatical replacement for the year. She was/is an AMAZING person and between her and Dr. Dawe, I was mentored through the process and pulled off the recital! I had lost my performance confidence by taking that year off and my old batch of nerves came up again. The week before the recital, I definitely was convinced that it was going to be a total failure. Then, magically, our dress rehearsal went fine, and the recital even better. I had never played so much music at once, including Bach accompaniments, opera arias, modern stuff, and my reading wasn't strong so I nearly had to memorize the music to be able to play it all. In any case, I learned a TON from the process and despite looking deathly pale in every photo from the few months surrounding the recital, I survived ;). Bess and I enjoyed being roommates for the most part. The summer time was the most fun we had, since we were basically without school stress and life was pretty easy. We even got a kitty together, the most precious, tiny kitty who we named Bean. I freaking loved that cat. He was so little that I would pick him up, put him on my shoulder, and he would hang out with me while I was doing dishes, homework, whatever. Then, once school got under way, Bess had less and less tolerance for his meowing at night and confronted me to ask if we could give the cat away. I was pretty attached at this point, and I felt we had a commitment to this creature, so I stood my ground and insisted we keep him. The confrontation ended with Bess yelling at me (let me remind you again that she is not even 5' tall, but it was still terrifying), and me yelling back and then leaving because I didn't want to be part of a yelling fight. In the end, we agreed that I would be the main caretaker of Bean and that if I went home for the weekend, I would take him with me. Pretty dramatic, but so worth it since that cat sort of saved me when school was stressful ;). Unfortunately, when I brought the cat home in the spring, he quickly got very ill and we found out he had had kitty leukemia since he was a baby. He died within a few weeks and it broke my heart into little pieces! I also had the chance to re-connect with Scott that year, which was wonderful. We were in choir together, and in the same piano studio finally. Oh! Back to Wendy Nielsen- I also took vocal methods class from her that year. It's a class meant to teach you how to teach others voice, but it was a mix of voice majors and instrumentalists, so we were often taught by the voice majors, if that makes sense. The two performance requirements involved singing a solo in front of the class; pretty unfair for the instrumentalists since the voice majors would obviously find it so easy. Anyway, I couldn't even remember the last time I'd sung a solo, so it was totally new territory for me. But I prepared with my student teacher and thought, I'll just go up and do this, it'll be fine. But it wasn't fine! My performance fell on the day that Dr. Dawe announced that he was leaving Mount A for U of Manitoba the following year and I was so sad that he was going and stressed that I would have to get used to a new teacher for my final year. So, I got up in front of the class and immediately felt nervous. To try and help me, Wendy asked if it would help if everyone closed their eyes while I sang. As I said the syllables "uh huh", I could already feel the tears welling up. I made it through the song, some kind of lullaby, and then proceeded to break into tears and run to the washroom. Oh man. Wendy was lovely, of course, and we picked a much more up tempo piece for the second performance and it went much better.

41: At the end of the school year, I moved in with Sam (and Michel at the time). We went on a trip up the coast of NL, with Christie, to visit both our grandparents and have a little vacation. We had a great time and Sam loved showing us around where she grew up. Christie had just graduated and had tons of stuff going on- during the week and a half we were away, she accepted an offer for law school at U of A, turned it down and accepted at U of T, and broke up with her French boyfriend. Drama drama! But I think it was only in being away that she was able to make all of those decisions with a clear mind. When we got to Brig Bay, we stayed with my Aunt, and around midnight Christie wanted to go for a walk to clear her mind- both Sam and I were way too tired, but Aunt Doreen accepted! I'm sure Christie talked her ear off but Aunt Do was the right person for the job ;). Then, I actually went to Europe for a few weeks- my Uncle Jim had given me a whole bunch of Airmiles so I could go visit Andrew! So I visited him at the restaurant where he worked/lived, then we went together to Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. Rachelle was living in France at the time, and came to meet us in Dublin for some awesome times! After the UK, I headed solo to Strasbourg, where I actually met up with Markus from Mount A, and we had a great few days there before I headed to see Rachelle in the southwest of France in Pau (in the Pyrenee Mountains). Rachelle and I then traveled together to Bergerac and Bordeaux to visit our friend Sarah who was teaching English there. It was such a great trip!! I was lucky to be able to do it. After that, I went back to Sackville and worked for the CMC (Canadian Music Centre) for the summer.

42: University, year 5! (Victory lap!) This was probably the best year I had at Mount A. Things were awesome- Sam and I had a sweet setup in an amazing apartment, and we had just befriended some of the girls who had just come back from the Strasbourg exchange. Katelyn, Sam and I were at a yoga class together in the summer and we talked to Katelyn after because I knew she had been the Jacquins' tutor that year. We hit it off and starting hanging out that summer. Then, once everyone was back for the school year, we started having theme dinners every week (a different cuisine each week, inspired by the Dinner at Moosewood cookbook) with Katelyn, Ginette, and Becky. Typically, Becky would make the most involved dish, Katelyn would make a salad, Sam and I would make a recipe from the book, and Ginette would bring the wine :). Our one dinner a week turned into three weekly traditions: Tuesday night was sushi night- it was the one day a week where you could buy fresh sushi from Jacob's Larder (health food store), so one of us would buy a bunch and we would meet at Becky's place in the evening to eat it together. Thursday night was Blueberry Beer at Ducky's- no matter what had happened in school that week, we always knew that Pumphouse Blueberry Beer with frozen blueberries was waiting for us! And there was a Thursday night crew that was always there. On Friday mornings, I had my piano lessons with Pauline Spatz, and I remember often feeling pretty groggy ;). Then, Saturday night was dinner night. We often had other people join us, the only condition being that they bring something to contribute to the meal. Not surprisingly, Sam was usually the person who delegated the different parts of the meal to the participants. Without her, I bet we would have been lost! haha. After moving in with Sam, she was always encouraging me to go out and get a boyfriend. She first set me up with Mike Illsley, a friend of Michel's, and actually a guy from Pictou County who went to Mount A with us. We had a few things in common, just being from the same place. One of our dates will go down in history as the WORST DATE EVER, ahahah. Have I told you about it? Basically, his summer job was at the Solid Waste Treatment Centre, so he took me there. No joke. It smelled so freakin' bad. And I got to meet some of his lovely co-workers. So, needless to say, the relationship didn't exactly blossom, actually I guess you can say it went down the toilet ;). During this year, I was also trying to figure out what I would do after I was done at Mount A. My options seemed to be either to study Education or to get a Masters. Back in second year, I had been talking to Dr. Dawe about eventually doing a masters in Piano Pedagogy, but since then my focus had changed a lot. My time in France really gave me that perspective I was needing- that studying music wasn't just about being perfect at piano, and the things that I loved about music actually had to do with choir! Although I sang off and on in the Cathedral choir that year, I thoroughly missed singing in a choir with people my age and really loved getting back into it during my last two years at Mount A. I took every course available to me in conducting (which wasn't a lot, to be fair), and then Dr. Martin had taken both Scott and I on as assistant conductors for the two school choirs, Elliott Chorale and Choral Society. (Think Mads and Mixed Chorus).

43: I had been to Festival 500 as a solo participant the summer before and was convinced from my experience there that I should be going to MUN for a masters in choral conducting. Then in the Fall, Dr Tucker (music dept head) had appointments with all the graduating students to see what their plans were for after Mount A, and to provide any guidance that was needed. I told him that I had pretty well decided on MUN for the next year. I liked the idea of the small program with lots of podium time, liked that it was close to home, I could live with my cousin, already knew some people in the city etc. And if I didn't get in, I'd just do education at the same place. An alumnus of MUN himself, I thought that he would be encouraging, but I was dead wrong! He told me to really consider applying other places than MUN, that for a masters it's nice to be in a bigger, less isolated city where you could really soak up the music scene. He also told me that he knew of a former Mount A grad who had gotten accepted into the MUN masters program after hardly completing his BMus, and so it lost a lot of merit in his mind after that. So, I went and talked to Dr. Martin, who had done a combined organ/choir doctorate at U of A, and she encouraged me to apply there since Debbi was such a wonderful person, and that the program was so well established and recognized. My initial reaction was that I absolutely didn't want to move to Alberta, but Dr. Martin argued that you are so busy studying in your masters that you hardly have time to lift your head from the books, let alone notice where you are. (Which turned out not to be the case at all, but more on that later ;) So, I went about the process. Applying for a choral conducting masters instead of a piano one was attractive to me also because I was under the assumption that you didn't have to audition in person, that you could just send a video tape. Once I got into my applications in November, however, I realized that they did in fact expect you to be at the auditions, and that you had a much better chance of getting in if you did audition. So, with a great deal of trepidation, I sent off my applications and waited to hear back about auditions. When I got the information back from U of A explaining the audition process (sight-reading open score at piano, sight-singing, score recognition, a 25-minute conducting test, an interview), I nearly had a heart attack. I felt so completely unprepared and unequipped for an audition of this kind, and I figured there was no way for me to get in. I called Dr. Martin at home, and asked her, honestly, should I go through with this? I wanted her to tell me if it was really worth traveling all the way, if I really stood a chance at all. She said, Susan, if it's your dream, then go for it, you won't know until you try, or something along those lines. I am so, so, so, so thankful to her for encouraging me that day, and I've told her that several times since. She gave me the kick in the pants that I needed! So, over Christmas I spent all of my free time learning those scores inside and out, got a key to the choral library and hung out there studying scores, sight read a bit every day. And, they loved me! I also auditioned at University of Manitoba with Elroy- Dr. Dawe had just begun his year at U of M and was writing to me and Scott to tell us how wonderful Elroy was and how they were reviving their conducting masters program. There was funding available, too, so I applied and auditioned there too. I tearily asked Mom one day over Christmas if she would come on my auditions with me, I was so freaking scared, and she graciously said yes. Having her there made it such a fun trip, really, and she rejoiced with me after every little success! Both Winnipeg and Edmonton were incredibly cold (it was mid-January), so we braved that together.

44: I enjoyed both auditions thoroughly- once I got in that room at U of A with a choir I'd never met, I felt totally calm and collected. I realized that it was more about communicating with them than necessarily showing off all the studying I'd done. I was cracking jokes and everything! In the end, U of A was the place I wanted to go most (judging by my feeling after the audition), and they offered me the most money, so I had an easy decision! I only questioned my decision when Scott decided to go to U of M. I still wish that he had come to Edmonton with me, since I think his experience would have been exponentially more positive, but he did what he had to do! In the Spring, Podium happened at Mount A. This is when our paths crossed, without us even knowing it! I watched your concert with Prairie Voices with my jaw dropped and loved seeing you guys do African music on the lawn after! I remember Elroy being there and introducing me to Scott! I said, you probably don't remember me, but I was at your camp in NS a few years ago- and he was all like, oh yeah! I remember you! But he admits now that he didn't ;). In any case, it was a cool week because a whole bunch of my worlds were coming together, and I had fun volunteering at the festival, as well as seeing Len and Debbi, my future U of A profs! I remember Len being extra friendly, even approaching me with a beer at Ducky's one night, haha. That summer, I was home in Pictou for an extended period for the first time in a few years. I worked at Carver's Coffeehouse on the water and had one of my best and worst work experiences there. The best parts were the customers- there are a loyal bunch of regulars who would come in most days and always had lots of interesting stuff to say, and also my coworkers who were pretty wonderful. I enjoyed working with Stephanie, especially- a girl I had gone to jr. high/high school with but had lost track of afterwards. We were always laughing together and bonded over how terribly we were treated by Anne, the boss. She could be perfectly sweet one moment and then incredibly mean the next- we never knew what she was going to choose to call us on, so eventually we just gave up trying to guess. Her husband, Keith, though, was the "carver' of carver's and can only be described as a Gentle Giant. For the life of me, I can't figure out how he puts up with Anne, but they must make it work somehow.

45: Edmonton, year 1! After a great summer in Pictou, I headed out late August for my first year of my masters in Edmonton. Even after my great audition, I was still nervous about being under-prepared so I went into the year a bit apprehensive! Thankfully, I found myself at a similar level to my classmates, Maria and Meghan, and we got along really well! Maria and I hit it off right away, but Meghan was more shy and guarded and didn't warm up to us until later in the semester. By mid-semester, Maria was having us over (along with our new friend Jacques from PEI) for lunch at her place in HUB most days. Eventually more people would come, including the second years Mel and Elaine, and our friends Justin (guy in Calgary) and Denis (who would eventually become Maria's bf). First semester was actually surprisingly easy, and the workload seemed a ton less than at Mount A. I quickly realized, though, that your overall success in the program came from what you put into it, and from going the extra mile. So, when Debbi proposed an April recital to the three of us as an optional project, we all said yes. We were great delegators and managed to recruit a full size choir and a small orchestra, choose music, locate scores, and come up with full rehearsal plans by the time we started our rehearsals in February. My accommodations this year were less than desirable. Not wanting to live on my own, I found a room in an 'historical' house in old Strathcona. Photos online seemed great, as did all of my communication with the landlord. I should have been tipped off that something was up when they wouldn't let my bro's friend Nathan go see the place before I agreed to it, but I needed a place and it seemed reasonable so I took it. My first week in the apartment, I was sure I was going to have to move out. Everything was falling apart- railings, floors, stairs, ceiling... and there was an unreasonable amount of dust all over the place. Thankfully, I had the biggest room with a sunny window, and those redeeming qualities, along with the great people who lived there and a lack of desire to seriously look for a new place made it so that I didn't end up moving out. I tried to argue that moving into the house in that state was a breach of the lease, but they said that I had agreed to take it "as is". Throughout the year, we had mice, mold, a condemning notice of the basement (I was upstairs) and a bunch of other sketchy business that happened. Denis St-Onge, a guy from Mount A, lived in this house with me (he had asked where I was going to live and I told him about this grad-student house), as did a guy named Dennis, who ended up being my third cousin or something crazy. He was from Marystown, NL, where my dad is from, and our grandmothers were sisters. My Dad and his Mom used to compete for marks. Small freakin' world. Also had a Korean roommate, a Chinese roommate, a Russian roommate, a Swiss roommate, and eventually a sweet Norwegian guy, who I was convinced for a brief time was the "one" (ask me for this story sometime, has to do with a psychic reading that I had one time). I learned a lot from that experience but still longed to live somewhere much nicer where I felt more comfortable cooking, entertaining etc. So, when Meghan asked Maria and I if we wanted to live in her house on 71st ave with her and her sister the next year, I was definitely game!

46: Socially, this was a really easy transition, since I had my classmates and fellow choristers to hang out with. Choir singers are lucky in that way, that wherever we live, we have a ready-made social group waiting for us in the form of a choir. So, while a lot of my friends were feeling lonely in the first months of their masters programs elsewhere, I was having a great time. Jacques was a theory major (eventually would switch to voice) and he and Isabelle had us over for dinner nearly every weekend. We instantly bonded over our love for food and cooking, and eventually started theming our meals- I remember a Penderecki potluck and a Colour potluck in particular. Jacques and I were particularly close that year- we had similar senses of humour and hit it off. I sometimes thought that he might be spending more time with me than with Isabelle! But we were a tight group and we appreciated this especially when school got busier with recital prep in the second semester. At the end of the semester, we had a few free weeks without school when we were all still in Edmonton. This is when our "Adventure Days" happened- Jacques did his first. I was bored at the time, so I got him to tell me all of his 'surprise' locations and I drew out treasure maps for everyone. I think I've taken you to most of the locations on my Adventure Day plan. We had a few picnics and discovered some cool restaurants, including Langano Skies and Wild Earth Cafe. For Spring Break that year, I had a great trip to Vancouver. Coincidentally, Scott Jones and Maria were both at a conducting workshop in Vancouver the week before the break, so the three of us met up for the last weekend of their trip and the first weekend of mine. I went and saw the final concerts of their workshop and we had a day or two together at the end. I had a great visit with Sophie and Ashvan when Scott left to visit his dad on Vancouver Island. Going to BC in February was probably the best thing EVER in terms of a contrast from the gross cold weather we were having in Edmonton! I remember feeling like I could finally breeeeathe!

47: The summer before my second year in Edmonton, I didn't work, starting a series of non-working summers that I would enjoy fully :). When I had come home the Christmas before, my parents were really missing me, and my Dad suggested that I come home for the summer and not work. I could work on my paper, see friends, go to the beach... Mom was so shocked that she said I should get it in writing ;). But, I gladly took him up on his suggestion, and ended up doing all kinds of fun stuff! I went to Scotiafest in June in Halifax, a chamber music festival. I had emailed Lydia Adams because I knew she was bringing her professional choir from TO, and that they were doing a bunch of Prt music. She said I could hang out with them for the week, so I did! It was cool to see their rehearsals, and I even ended up turning pages for the organist for the Te Deum in the end. Exciting! Jacques was also part of the festival, as was Shawn Potter, so we all hung out lots. Then, I headed to Festival 500 in July with Jacques and Meghan :). I had gone to the festival a couple years before, by myself, and had an OK time, but this was tons more fun. We went to the first rehearsal of the mass choir and decided we thought the conductor was mean, and instead went sight-seeing for the mornings :P. Had an epic night out on George St. where Jacques, Meghan and I all got screeched in and had a generally fun time! I went back to Edmonton mid-August to work at the ACF (had started working there in January the year before, forgot to mention that!) and promptly sprained my ankle on my lunch break one day, while leaving Notables stationery store. It was probably the first time I'd hurt myself in any sprain/break kind of way, and I was a wreck!! Thankfully, Meghan had her parents' car that week and came to pick me up and brought me to the hospital. I had crutches for a few weeks but was fine by the time school came around, and had the Rayments to take care of me :). Second year at U of A, I was much more confident in my skills as a conductor, and classes flew by. We had Debbi first semester and Len the second for conducting class, and I was grateful to have the mix of personalities and teaching style. Len is much more expressive in a less technical and more individual way than Debbi, and we clicked for that reason. Thankfully, I had asked Len to be my recital supervisor, and he was a joy to work with the entire time. I came back from summer vacation with my rep picked, and my rehearsals started in November for my February 3rd recital. Maria had hers first, though, and boy was I glad for that thing to be over!! The stress she was feeling permeated our household and I found her rehearsals quite stressful, and was always trying to fix her problems for her. Anyway, her music was ridiculously hard, and the choir pulled it off, and she passed with flying colours! I had had a few months of Oran rehearsal by the time my rehearsals began, and tried to incorporate a bit of the team approach, working together instead of working against. I am still so grateful to my group of singers- they were so committed and focused! I made them learn a ton of French and they totally pulled it off :). Laurier Fagnan was at the recital and he told me he was impressed by the French diction! So there you go. I also had the joy of learning that the Cantata that I chose could only be played in a certain key by the recorder, and so somehow had to get the string parts transposed, and quick. I spilled to Denis about it, and he was like, I'll have them to you by tomorrow. He honestly stayed up all night and transposed them for me. What. A. Guy.

48: I also joined Oran this year, as you may be aware! After meeting some Oranians the year before as volunteers at Choralfest, I was convinced I needed to be part of the group. I actually didn't know the choir existed until I moved to Edmonton and went to a Kokopelli concert. I was unsure whether I'd have the time to really commit to this choir because of my recital prep, but I soon realized that the stress relief that came from being in this choir was well worth the small time commitment. It took a while for me to be totally comfortable in the group- I loved the music and the feeling I got from the choir, but I definitely felt like everyone knew each other already. I did know Justin Stickel, Erin, Karen Vooys, Katy a bit though, so that helped. After retreat, though, I was golden. Then, TJ asked me out. It seemed totally out of the blue, since we'd only had a bit of interaction at the retreat, and then again at rehearsal a couple of times. But, I guess he'd found out that I was vegetarian and a musician, and that was enough for him! Basically, we had chemistry on the first date. Met at Steeps, went for a walk down Whyte, got some Chinese food. We had chats where he told me he was just out of a three-year relationship, where they had dogs and a house together, but that he thought I was 'relationship material' so didn't want to pass me by. To be fair, I was probably very unclear about what I wanted in the end, other than to be with him. After Christmas, we continued on like we had been, but he started to pull away a bit. Then he got sick with what I'm pretty sure was H1N1. I had already had the vaccine, so I went over and took care of him a few times, made him soup and everything. I loved the idea of taking care of someone else, but he had a hard time letting me in. After a week and a half, I realized that although his physical symptoms had subsided, he was still acting like he was sick, not working, watching hours of TV a day, and it hit me. He's depressed, and probably had been for a while and I just hadn't realized. Once I approached him about it, he told me there was nothing I could do to help and that he didn't want to drag me down. That was the beginning of the end, and although he helped me with my final recital prep, we broke up not long after. We actually broke up as I was on my way to the airport to go see Sam and the girls in Victoria for spring break. It was awful timing, but fine timing at the same time, since I had an entire rejuvenating week with the girls to give perspective to the whole thing. When I got back, he insisted that we still stay friends, and I can safely say now that I needed not to be friends, and it would have been much easier. But, I learned things the hard way, and stayed in some sort of friend-limbo for the next few months until I went home to NS at the end of June. Over the summer, we talked only a few times, with more time in between each time. Every day I was away from him, I felt stronger and better. It was just what I needed to go away and focus on other things for a while. Now, as you know, we have a workable friendship, and I'm happy knowing that he finally has a dog that he can focus his energy on, and a house project, and knowing that I'm not that helpless person anymore.

49: Continuing on, I should mention that I went home for a week in April after school was finished, just to see everyone at home. It was a great week, but I was getting advice from all sides about what to do next, and I was as confused as ever. Monica can be a very persuasive person and she was telling me that I should do education at MUN the next year and then come back to NS to conduct the Honour Choir. You know from hearing me talk about it that I have a strong emotional connection with the PDHC, and she knows that too, and so hearing her say all these wonderful things about me and about how she would feel so comfortable leaving the choir in my hands was heartbreaking and convincing. My parents were also decided that the best option for me would be education. A sure job, a pension, summers off... sounded ideal to them. In my heart, though, it's not what I wanted, but I went back to Edmonton and started applications for MUN education as well as U of Ottawa education (in French). I was quite late for both of these applications and it turned out that I would actually have to travel to Ottawa for a proficiency test. This gave me an excuse to plan a trip to Ottawa with Becky for the middle of July. She had the summer off, too, and we were unemployed bums together all summer :). We traveled to Ottawa by train and stayed with Katelyn. Becky was looking for an apartment for the fall, so we spent some time apartment hunting, went to some concerts at the Ottawa Bluesfest (including Sarah Harmer, Weezer, and Arcade Fire), and generally had a wicked time. We would stop for a coffee at least once a day and read our horoscopes. In Montreal, this coffee would turn into a double cappuccino as we got more addicted ;). For the second week, I had actually been in contact with my old friend John Giffen from the summer before, and he had invited us to come stay with him. By the time Monday rolled around, Becky hadn't found an apartment yet, so I went to Montreal on my own first to visit John. Becky came on the Wednesday and we had lots of fun together, even getting to hike Mt. St. Hilaire with a most incredible woman named Eve-Marie. For our last weekend, we went to stay with Gabi Strasfeld for the night. She was lovely to host us, but very much anxious having guests, so we went back to Becky's sister's for a few more nights before leaving. We then had one more night all together, where we went out with John to celebrate my birthday (early) at an Indian place on Jean Talon, and then out for drinks with his friends. Becky and I actually ended up missing our flights the next day because of a bunch of bus screw ups, but the Air Canada lady was super lovely and put us on new flights for free. What a lady! I was home in time to celebrate my birthday both in Sackville and at home in Pictou, after which I actually got pretty sick and was in bed for a few days! I think it might have had something to do with all the double cappuccinos and rich food ;). I was still deciding at this point what to do in the fall- I had gone to Ottawa with the intention of taking the proficiency test, but they told me I'd have to come back on September 1, no exceptions. I eventually decided it wasn't worth it, and that I would try to pursue my jobs in Edmonton. I had also thought of going to Ottawa to do that Nutrition course, and still thought of it as an option when I flew back to Edmonton late August. I didn't mention that Prairie Voices had me come and do an audition to be their director in May. Kim Denis also had an audition the same time, and they put us in the same hilarious B & B. It was a fun trip, and although neither of us got the job, I was glad to have the trip and the experience. Apparently, I was their second choice, and I'm glad not to have had to move there in the end, even if the choir would have been amazing to conduct. Edmonton had so much more to offer. Also in May was Podium in Saskatoon. Mads was singing and I was in the Conducting Masterclass with the Canadian Chamber Choir, so I had two reasons to be there! I drove down with Len and he pretty well filled me in on the entire history of the U of A music department. I also got to drive his sweet car while he slept sometimes. I had a fantastic week, took a lot of risks in that masterclass, and they seemed to pay off :). It was also a great way to make connections!

50: My first year out of school! This was a big year for me. I came back to Edmonton late August, not completely sure if I was going to stay more than a week or two. At that point, I only had an assistant job with Edmonton Children's Choir keeping me in the city. After a couple of weeks of waiting and thinking, I finally had a couple of days where everything turned around. I was unhappy staying at Chris and Shannon's place mainly because living out past Bonnie Doon made me feel isolated. I wanted to be able to walk to a cafe or grocery store, and thought that living on Whyte somewhere would be the best idea. I couldn't swallow the idea of living by myself, though, and that kept me from going any further with that. Then, I remembered how Scott Leithead had joked with me in the fall that I should be his roomie if I was still working for ACF, since it was close to his house. When I didn't get that job, I had brushed that aside. On a whim, I just texted him to say, 'still need a roomie?' and he responded with, 'yeah! when do you want to come over and see the place?'. Then, I knew that I would need some kind of part-time job to fill in the blanks, so to speak, so the same day that I went to check out the house, I also dropped off a resume at the Duchess Bake Shop, since it was within walking distance. Got the job and a new roomie, and felt so much more settled already. Then, the same week, I found out that I had gotten a job with the Elk Island Honour Choirs, Carmen called me to help with Brail Tones, and I signed up for my Holistic Nutrition course online. A big week! I really enjoyed working at the Duchess, made friends quickly and loved being around that gorgeous food. With Brail Tones, came a new learning opportunity and a new connection to some of my fellow Oranians I hadn't gotten to know as well. At the end of September, I even gotten invited on a hiking trip in the mountains with Fahim, Dean, Lindsey, Rachel and Katryna. We drove to Banff on Saturday night, and the six of us stayed overnight in a hotel room (boys on the floor!). We drank wine and ate Duchess goodies, had great chats. Katryna told us about a story she had read about a guy who had climbed a different tree every day for a year. Fahim was saying how awesome he thought it was, and that someone should dare him to do it! So, I stepped up! Dared him to 30 days of different trees. And he did it! (Escaping with only one minor injury...!) Anyway, the next morning we all woke up and climbed higher than I had ever climbed, going through rain and wind to get there. We actually stopped once it got too snowy, but made it pretty close to Eiffel Peak. Stopped for lunch and ate delicious apple-brie-spinach-dijon sandwiches. After our trek, we went to the hot springs and then out for supper. After that trip, Fahim and I kept in better touch over texts, as he told me about the different trees he was climbing. I also got a good update every week at choir rehearsal! I told him that if he completed the challenge, then he could give one right back. So, at the end of the month, he told me that I was to have at least a ten-minute dance party every day for a month. If I had friends dance too, then I gained a point, and I was to gain 10 points over the 30 days. It turned out to be an awesome challenge, and I had no problem gaining the points, what with Duchess cleaning parties and moving-day dancing. My parents came to visit mid-November for my convocation from U of A, and although it was a short visit, we fit a lot in, and they got to see a bit of my Edmonton life. We went out for sushi, of course, and I think it was really important for them to watch me walk across the stage. Maria was in town so we got to catch up a bit. Before they came to visit, Fahim asked me out for dinner! We had had an afternoon of board games (Mexican Trains) with Scott and Ron, after which Fahim called to say, 'Susan Farrell, can I take you out for dinner?". I said yes, but that it would have to wait until my parents had left, so we said we'd go out on Sunday, November 21.

51: First date was more of a friend date, as Fahim showed up dressed in hoodie (penguin) with jeans. I immediately realized I had misunderstood and took a minute to change out of my fancier outfit. At that time, he was on his second challenge which meant he was to learn a different ukelele song every day for a month. So, even while dressed casually, he did come in and serenade me with "Can't stop falling in love with you". Mixed signals, I'd say ;). When he dropped me off at home after, he told me that he had originally planned our dinner to be a romantic one, but over the week, he had convinced himself that I only wanted to be friends. I told him that I did like him and that I had thought it was going to be a more romantic date. We had a confusing chat about how we could be friends or more but that there was no pressure. He basically wanted to tell me that he thought I was great. Chat ended with saying, if either of us thought of anything we wanted to add, we would text. Later that night, I got up the courage to send the text, "I am looking for a friend, but I'm also looking to be swept off my feet. If I find both in one, even better." He responded with, "Now that I can do." That Thursday was the infamous scavenger hunt that Fahim orchestrated during the last part of Oran rehearsal (he skipped out early). Scott and I came home that night (quite late, I might add) to a heart shaped note that would be the first of four hidden in Paul Kane Park across the street. Scott was really excited about this, and came along on the hunt. At the last note (a love poem), he actually spotted Fahim in the tree and let me know he was going to head inside. Once Scott was out of range, Fahim appeared, shivering, from behind the tree with a thermos of hot chocolate. He had also folded a paper lily for me (to represent Susan). Such a sweet gesture. Fahim got his first kiss on the cheek that night :). We courted over the beginning of the Christmas season, through the last part of Movember, and finally made things officially with our first kiss on December 1st (moustache-free). We spent lots of late nights talking in my living room, Fahim only making it home often in time to return his dad's van for work in the morning. The night before my flight home for Christmas, we even hosted our first dinner party- and found that we worked quite well as a team. I was away for about 26 days, which is the number of letters in the alphabet. My first morning in NS I woke up to an email from Fahim with the subject, 'A fun game? Brought to you by the letter A.' He then sent me a song for (almost) every letter of the alphabet over the next 25 days. It was a wonderful way for us to get to know each other while apart, and I sent him some songs back too. When I went home for a similar number of days in June, we began this project, of writing about a year in our lives for every day apart. That was a great exercise, too, and we learned so much about each other and ourselves from the conversations we had with our families.

52: Choirs were going well. I started with the Elk Island choir half way through September, and had a lot of re-building to do since it was a weak group starting out. I mainly chose music from their library and had a while getting into the swing of things. After Christmas, however, I finally started to get to know the singers a lot better and had an easier time choosing repertoire that they would like, including a Justin Bieber medley that I may or may not have regretted choosing ;). They were a lot of fun, and I enjoyed being in on the board meetings every month, learning how the organization worked. Working with John Wiebe and the ECC was also quite rewarding. We worked well together, eventually establishing a kind of flow to rehearsal where one of us would conduct and the other one would sing or organize music. Over the course of the year, he eventually started giving me more free reign with the Girls' Choir, and by the Spring concert, he introduced me as their new conductor! Was also still singing in Oran, which was tons of fun, and I enjoyed the social aspect of it just as much as the music :). We even went to Cuba with the choir in May, which was SO much fun. We got to hear some incredible choirs and do some sight-seeing and relaxing! It was a great time to get to know some of the other choir members, and a wonderfully romantic place to vacation with a boyfriend! Summer 2011 was one of the best yet. As I mentioned, I went home for the month of June, first for Laura's wedding and then for Naomi's! I even squeezed in a long weekend with the girls in Montreal/Ottawa. In early July, I met Fahim and Kokopelli in St. John's, NL, for Festival 500 and a small NL tour. It was a whirlwind two weeks with the choir, days starting early and ending late, with many daily performances. It was an exciting time, though, and it was a meeting place for people from Mount Allison, U of Alberta, and I even saw Wayne Rogers there! We also were lucky to be put up first by Andrew's ex-girlfriend Mireille, and then by a friend of a friend in a historical apartment that was probably once a church. After the festival, the choir got on a bus and traveled across NL to Corner Brook, stopping for lunch in Grand Falls-Windsor, where we saw Jenica and my Uncle Cyril and Aunt Sheila. In Corner Brook, we did our last concert together and then got up in the morning and marched/sang in the town's Pride Parade! That was definitely a highlight! After saying goodbye to the choir, Scott, Nunu, Fahim and I took off in Scott's rental car for points north. I actually got to call my Gran in Brig Bay and tell her that we would be by the next day for a visit! Scott wanted to go see icebergs, and that we did! Lanse aux Meadows was beautiful, bright, and peaceful the day we went. We met up with Jenica and Katy for a bit and saw dozens of icebergs. Fahim and I stayed with Gran, eating her delicious cooking and drinking lots of tea. The second day there was Fahim's 26th birthday. We had a fun visit with Aunt Doreen, went for a walk around the Point, and then came back for supper at Gran's. Jenica, Scott, Nunu, and Katy met us back at Gran's for pie and ice cream and delicious tea. After that, Aunt Doreen wanted us to come over to say goodbye, and we were all surprised to find she had made a birthday cake for Fahim in the short time since our visit. He was really touched by the kind gesture, and we all sat down for a piece of cake before heading out on the road, second dessert of the night! Headed back to Corner Brook that night, hiking a bit the next day, before Fahim and I headed to the ferry terminal to catch the overnight ferry to NS. I had a great time showing Fahim around my old haunts, and my family especially enjoyed meeting him. They threw me an epic birthday party, including a salad potluck, and we had one epic backcountry camping trip in Kejimikujik. We flew back to Edmonton just in time for Folk Fest! And thus ended the summer of a lifetime :).

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  • By: Fahim R.
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  • Title: Blank Canvas
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