Losing our Virtignia

On March 31st, a dear friend and sister was taken from us, and a beautiful voice was silenced. For those of you who only knew her via her blog, you know that Renelle had stage 4 cancer. She was taken from us on that fateful day with her loving daughters Julie and Jessica (see pic below) by her side as well as her husband, her “rock”, Franco.

hatfranco rock

We had become accustomed to “hearing” that voice in daily emails and in her blog, “Losing my Virtiginy”.  Now there is a terrible sense of loss–a loss we can only deal with by writing this last blog post. We will never, ever forget Renelle but this may help to bring closure.

Who are we?  We are Jo-Anne, Renelle’s sister, and Dennis, Jo-Anne’s partner.  We loved Renelle and Virtignia, hated Roamin Carcinoma, and were proud to be part of the “good cells” in the blog.  So now we offer our voices, not to replace Renelle’s, but to honour her memory with our memories.

Dennis:  My very first memory of Renelle is of a witty wordsmith who could toss out bon mots and wisecracks almost without thinking.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear some of these witticisms because Jo-Anne would start laughing (and I mean guffawing) before Renelle would finish.  Sisterly connection there, I think.really funny

Jo-Anne: Guilty as charged. I would start laughing before she was finished talking, knowing what she what going to say (which was funny) or knowing that it was GOING to be funny. Renelle had a way of attracting people to her. She made them instantly feel at ease and that she was their friend. She volunteered at 2 old age homes, going there once a week to sing for the “old folks”. She had a wonderful singing voice and would sing their favourites. She also had stories about the people in the home – one of them having to do with a set of maracas that an elderly lady didn’t want to give back to her.


Dennis: Renelle’s singing for people who had little in the way of entertainment in their lives was an example of her giving nature.  She was also an emotional woman, and would cry often, frequently because she was happy.  She cried when she learned of the impending marriages of her daughters, when she found out she was going to be a grandmother, and when she was able to pick the name of her yet-unborn grandson.  At my first meeting with her, Renelle sang a song she had written for Franco, and cried through most of it.  I found her emotionality very endearing.


Jo-Anne: Renelle and I shared a love of reading. As a librarian, I was always so pleased when I suggested a book title and she told me she had put it on reserve at her local library. I was even more pleased when she told me she had really liked a book that I too had enjoyed. As you know, Renelle would sometimes ask advice of Virtignia.

Renelle: “Virtidge – what’s the big deal about 50 Shades of Grey? I has 500 holds on it at the library!”

Vitidge: “ Er – you might not want to go there…”

Dennis:  Among the many things Renelle  loved—her family, singing, going for walks with Franco and her friend Paulette, knitting, writing, etc, was a love of wine, especially white wine.  Last year in May when I visited with her and Franco, Renelle and I shared a nice white wine, and we got into some karaoke, singing many old favourites and having a great time while Franco, in his gentlemanly way, politely watched and listened while I provided off-key harmony to Renelle’s beautiful vocals.  I felt it was like fingerpainting over a Rembrandt, but it was much fun for both of us. A bittersweet moment I won’t forget.

Jo-Anne: As mentioned above, I got very close to my sister during her illness via many many emails. I felt comforted (being 4,376 kms  away – I Google mapped it) that she was being honest with me about every aspect of her treatment. She INFORMED me and not COMPLAINED to me – big difference. She gave her cancer a name, Roman Carcinoma, so that she could kick it in the ass but he proved to be too vicious an adversary as it has unfortunately been the case for millions. We all have a “cancer story”. For me, this one just struck a little too close to home. For the rest of my life, there will not be a day that goes by when something as innocuous as seeing a hummingbird, brings back memories of her and what the world lost the day she was taken from us. Renelle – I love you. Rest in peace little sis knowing that you made a difference in this world to all those who crossed your path.



Like Renelle used to do, we wanted to include a song at the end of the blog. Lastly, I know that she was grateful to René who sent her tunes “to sooth the soul”.


My Family Day message

I wonder if some kids who had a day off last Monday, were given an assignment by their teachers. Something to the effect of “Please write a short essay on what Family Day means to you”. I used to like these kinds of assignments and because I’m no longer in school, I have to assign them to myself. So, true to form, it’s a few days late, so I’m going to lose marks for that, but here goes.

Renelle Rico

(insert your name here, you’ve been given the teacher role)

English 2001

February 20, 2015


What Family Day Means To Me


I believe that Family Day is a wonderful idea. Our government, in its endless effort to control our lives make our lives more pleasant, has decreed that, in Ontario, the third Monday of each February should be set aside for spending quality time with one’s family.

Well, it is a wonderful idea and I only wish I had been able to spend it with more family. Sorry Virtignia, of course you’re family, but you know what I mean. Try to amuse yourself while I continue on with my essay.

The very first Family Day was observed in the province of Alberta in 1990. It proved to be such a popular idea that Saskatchewan quickly followed suit and had their own first Family Day in 2007. That really got the ball rolling.


On Family Day, many people plan activities that can include the entire family, such as visiting relatives, going to a museum or a movie, or maybe just spending time together, enjoying each other’s company over a board game. Because February is usually so cold, the activities might include cups of hot chocolate, freshly baked cookies… 

This reminds me of my sister. You may remember Jo-Anne from a previous post.  How I would love to be sitting in her kitchen right now, watching her put together dinner in her own inimitable way. “I hope you like homemade deep-dish pepperoni and cheese pizza with a side of spinach salad.”  Well, of course that sounds delicious. It will turn out that she doesn’t have enough flour on hand to make the dough, but that she does have a few nice tortillas left from the other day’s fajitas, so no problem. “Oh shoot, does anyone feel like running out to the grocery store to pick up the pepperoni? Never mind, I’ll defrost this chicken and we’ll be good to go. Oops, it’s turkey – same thing right?” And that’s when I might casually ask her if she’s remembered to pick up mozzarella cheese and she would look at me like I’ve got two heads and exclaim that of course she’s got mozza cheese, what else would she use to make deep-dish pepperoni and cheese pizza. What am I, some kind of philistine? I probably don’t have to tell you that she likely wouldn’t have any spinach but does have a gorgeous head of romaine lettuce. Jo, the queen of substitution is herself, a one-of-a-kind; nothing and no one could ever take her place.

God decided that my sisters and I should have only one brother and in his infinite wisdom and kindness, he gave us the best one. A terrible stroke tried to take Jack from us, but he must have known that he was still needed here. I can’t imagine having to face my cancer without being able to call him and hear him tell me that he loves me and that nothing will do but that I get better. He’s promised to be with me through this terrible journey and I in turn try to help and support him through his own ordeal of rehabilitation and acceptance of his greatly changed circumstances. We depend on each other. Sometime soon, I need to write a post specifically about him and I know that you will see why I love him so much and why he’s such an important part of my life. In the meanwhile, every time I see or talk to him, I notice that he is continuing his incredible comeback to us with each day. My funny, feisty, busy, irreverent, gadget-loving brother is almost good as new – maybe even better!

Families, being living things, evolve and grow. Our beautiful daughters find soul mates and suddenly we have two sons to love. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that additions to the family are the absolute best. You’re probably hoping thinking that all this rambling will lead somewhere. Well, scroll down…



PicMonkey Collage

Yes, that is correct, in mere months there will be a new wonderful little person in the world who will be calling me Grand-maman. I feel fairly certain that he or she will master this somewhat difficult French word before he/she even says Mama or Papa or anything else. Why am I so sure of this? Because I’m going to be there. All. The. Freaking. Time. That’s why! I’ll be indulged in this because of my status as cancer grandma. My daughter and her partner will slowly come to loathe me as I show up for the morning’s first feeding and stay through the day until baby goes to bed for the night.

imgurcomThey will start pretending not to be home, but I’ll know better. I’ll go to the parking garage and their car will be there. Even if they turn off all the lights, I will wait by the door until I hear the baby cry and then I will pound on it like only a chemo-crazed grandmother can do. “What are you doing to MY baby?”

Aw come on Julie…Jeff, I’m just kidding. Stop that packing immediately. I promise to be a good granny. I’ll come only when invited (snicker). I’ll be helpful without being overbearing, curious without being nosy and loving without smothering. I can smother a little right?

In conclusion, it is my opinion that Family Day underlines and honours the meaning of family and family life. It has been my experience that the glue that holds most families together is the grandmother. In light of her significance to the family, she should be included in all family events so that everyone can benefit from her wisdom and loving ministrations.


That sounds like the kind of grandmother I want to be. I know you are going to be very concerned about baby’s teeth when they emerge and I promise not to bring any candy that you will ever know about. You will want him/her to learn responsibility and earning one’s own way, so I’ll make sure tmemberstripodcomhat you don’t know where we hide the money that I will secretly be giving him/her. Seeing as how Jeff is a great coach and sportsman himself, I promise that I will wear good disguises when I show up at games and scream at any other child who dares to get into my grand baby’s way. I’ll be good…

I promise…

Le Shopping

Clothes shopping for me, is either a dreaded affair or a delicious treat. I often dread it because I’m just not very good at it. I know a lot of people who can go into Winners or H&M, and come out with armloads of beautiful clothes, whereas I walk in, take a look at all the racks and I’m defeated. Nothing makes me more frustrated than delving through a rack labelled my size, finding a gorgeous piece, only to discover that it’s the wrong size. People please, put things back where you found them. I just might be coming in after you!


Sort of like shopping in a sixteen-year-old’s bedroom!                                                                                                               looking-glass.ca

Sometimes shopping’s a treat because it seems that items I love just jump out at me without having to sort through a bunch of ugly to find one pretty. And here’s my favourite treat; every now and then, everything I try on fits to perfection and looks good on me. That makes Renelle a happy girl.


But do we really need this? I’m just saying. http://www.styleite.com

Lately, it has been too frigid to walk outside and my new treatment makes me very sensitive to the cold. A nice brisk walk, which used to be one of my favourite activities is now verboten. When I left my chemo treatment the other day, my eyes kind of froze walking from the hospital to the car parked directly across the street. That was horrifying and gross – they felt a bit like marbles. I pictured myself telling Jessica “Honey, I hope you don’t mind that I don’t have eyes for your wedding, but I’m told that my new wig looks great!”

bad wig

…and my makeup job is divine. stevenhager420.wordpress.com









From now on until it’s warmer out, I’ll have to cover my whole face with a scarf and hang on to Franco for dear life. But back to walking. Sometimes, in desperation, I try mall walking. This really doesn’t work too well for me. I start off at a good pace and try not to look around me too much, but pretty soon, as if by teleportation – thanks Scotty! – I find myself inside a clothing store. Well, this exact thing happened to Virtignia and I a couple of weeks ago and there I was, holding a hanger which was supporting a very stylish and elegant jumpsuit. The garment was all black with some white piping and featured a not too deep vee cleavage and a racer back top. I really liked it. I could tell it was slim fitting, which is a look I’m always happy to see come back into style, because it suits my build. However, I wasn’t going to get caught up in this because for one thing I had no need for an item like this as I already have dress up clothes that I rarely get to wear. Also, I was mall walking and not supposed to be shopping. So I hung the jumpsuit back where I found it and rather than find temptation elsewhere, Virtidge and I just walked straight back home.

As I walked home, my mind strayed back to the jumpsuit.


Me: I don’t need it
V:    It’s on SALE
Me: I have nowhere to wear it to
V:   What about Jessica and Tony’s engagement party?
Me: That party is more casual than that
V:    You’re the Mother of the Bride! You can wear whatever you want! 
Me:  Black is not a very happy colour
V:    You could wear your red, red. red shoes with it, red is happy, happy, happy!
Me ! : And I could buy a great flowery red pashmina to bring it all together
V:   You don’t really need it Renelle.
Me !! : It’s on SALE!!

…and so on. I’m an adult, I don’t have to have everything I want. I’m an adult with cancer, if I don’t buy what I want now, when will I? My mind is playing games with me and I don’t like it one little bit. I’m being manipulated by my own silly greed. When you have cancer, you’re allowed to be greedy, in fact, it’s encouraged. It is not! I would so love to wear my red shoes to the engagement party.

Now I have it all planned out. I get my ever-patient, handsome chauffeur to drive me to the mall. Of course I’m referring to Franco; who else? I’ve already added a red purse to my list of accessories. Mexx has a huge going-out-of-business sale (may I get a moment of silence for Mexx?), so I check there first for the pashmina and purse. No joy, but I know these items are easily found. I already own the shoes, so back to Le Chateau and walk straight over to where the jumpsuit was displayed. And there it is – GONE! I hurry to the nearest clerk, knocking over a display of silver shoes in my haste – ooh they’re nice too. Stop it! I explain to the clerk exactly what I’m looking for. She can’t remember. It was here two days ago and there were like twenty-five of them. Is she new? In a great moment of clarity, she recalls that there are some black jumpsuits hung up behind another display of black jumpsuits. We rush over, well…I rush over, managing not to destroy any displays this time. Eureka! It’s there. We take out several sizes as my size has been changing quite a lot due to my enlarged liver, which is forcing my other organs to compete for space. This makes for a very unattractive, wide abdominal section. Thanks Roamin Carcinoma! I make the mistake of using the word “bloat” with the clerk and she gives me one of those looks. You know the looks I mean right? Please tell me it’s not just me. Anyway me and my illusions enter the change room and try on my usual size and it fits quite nicely on the bottom (quite nicely – I’ve still got it goin’ on in some areas), but of course, the top won’t zip up for love nor money. That’s okay, we’ll go one size up. Now, I manage to zip up the top part, but the bottom looks all baggy and I hate it. The whole thing looks hideous. No amount of red accessories is going to change this fact. And so ends another dismal shopping trip. I guess I’m going to be shopping for two-piece outfits from now on. Stupid cancer!

The good news is: I found another outfit that was perfect for the engagement party in my existing wardrobe. The red shoes didn’t go with it, but c’est la vie! The bad news is: on the morning of the party, I woke up sicker than four sick dogs put together. All day I hoped for even a minor improvement; just enough so that I could drag myself into a shower, throw on my clothes and get there. It failed to happen and at about five p.m., Franco and I were forced to concede to the fact that we weren’t going anywhere. I missed my daughter’s engagement party…I still can’t believe it. I despise cancer…

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Celebrity Apprentice

When I began my blog last April 2014, I had no idea what I was getting into and what twists and turns my simple little blog about being dizzy would take. If I thought I was dizzy before, I can tell you that a cancer diagnosis was enough to knock me on my butt, and if the diagnosis wasn’t sufficient, then the chemotherapy certainly was!  In those nine months of 2014, I managed to publish over twenty posts. I never thought that I would have been able to do that and I know I wouldn’t have, had it not been for your encouraging comments and support. My thanks and my love go out to each of you. In the spirit of Losing My Virtiginy, I would like to wish you all a Happy and Preposterous New Year 🙂

New year’s resolution – do I make one or not? While chatting with Virtignia about it she suggested that instead of resolving to do something that I probably wouldn’t stick to, why wouldn’t I just resolve to work at being a more well-rounded person? I thought about it, and decided that this was something I could really sink my teeth into, and I proceeded to do just that. I sunk my teeth into apple fritters, poutine, chocolate, in fact, pretty much all varieties of super fattening foods and though I wasn’t necessarily happy with the weight gain, I was rounding out very nicely. I happily reported my success to Virtignia who advised me to look up the meaning of well-rounded. Shoot! According to Dictionarycom, it means “having desirably varied abilities or attainments”. I have varied abilities! Did I not just show you, in my last post, a picture of the hats I knitted? As far as attainments, well, I had to check in with Dic.com again to find out that this meant achievements. Did I not just show you, in my last post, a picture of the hats I knitted? What’s a girl gotta do to become more well-rounded?

Judging by how many times I have to check with good old Dic.com, I could probably round out my vocabulary a bit. I have been trying to do that for several years now. Each day I get an e-mail from (who else?) Dictionary.com, with a new word, its definition, origin and how to use it in a sentence. I might add, that I receive this in English and Spanish. I also receive a new French expression from another source each day.So that’s three new things that I’m supposed to learn every day and yet I’m still consulting the dictionary every other minute. Could it be that Dic.com is sending me bad words that I don’t need and will never use? Impossible! For example, today’s word was periphrasis which means ” the use of an unnecessarily long or roundabout form of expression; circumlocution” and a few days ago we had the word incunabula, “extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type”. Okay, so maybe those aren’t the best examples, but apparently I’m still lacking in the palaver and need nearly constant help from the dictionary.

Anyway, having figured out that I was already giving my vocabulary my best effort, I knew that my quest to garner more attainments would have to come from elsewhere. I began to watch the news and read newspapers. Here’s a word for you – depressing! As you know, my life already has it’s full quota of depressing elements, so the search continued. “Virtignia, I asked, what can I become more knowledgeable about to help me become a more well-rounded person?”  And then it hit me! Celebrities and their shenanigans. Too trivial you say? When you read this stuff, it’s got plenty of new vocabulary, most of which I can’t include here if I still want to consider this a family-friendly bog. It also contains a fair bit of news that’s not too terribly depressing and in some instances is downright hilarious. What some of these folks get up to will boggle your mind.

Did you know that Katy Perry and Taylor Swift hate each other?


bluebuddies.com with a little embellishment from me.

Yes, it’s true! Smurfette hates Barbie. My well-rounded instincts tell me there must be a Ken involved somewhere. They deny it of course citing some sort of business disagreement, but didn’t they both date John Mayer? Oh, but everybody has dated John Mayer you counter. That may be so, but I’m still new at this celebrity gossip thing, so you’ll have to cut me a little slack alright?

Apparently John Mayer and Katy Perry were seen “canoodling” (see how much better my vocab is already?) at dinner just the other day, according to The Daily Mail and, no doubt, countless other enlightened purveyors of important news. Imagine the vitally important discussions these two must enjoy. Oh to be a fly on the wall or in the soup as it were.


Picture by http://www.look.co.uk Words by me

As fun as my foray into celebrity gossip blogging has been, I don’t think it’s for me, or for you either.  There are already so many celebrity bloggers and I positively shudder to think that I might find myself at a Blogger Awards Banquet at the same table with Perez Hilton.

Please check out the new CREW page if you have another minute. It should have been there a long time ago, but I can’t think of everything ferheavensake.

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Yes Virtignia, there is a Santa Claus

A couple of weeks ago, Virtignia and I were chatting, as we tend to do on afternoons when she attempts to soothe my racing mind and churning stomach. She is such an innocent and yet so wise and thoughtful. By that I mean full of thought, because she may not always be as considerate as I would like. That aside, her mind like those of many of us, was focused on Christmas, and she was troubled by something that mean old Roamin Carcinoma had told her:

Renelle, Roamin told me there is no Santa Claus, and as much as I try to convince him otherwise, he still insists that he doesn’t really exist. I told him that I would ask you because you usually know about these things. So please tell me, is there really a Santa Claus?

Virtignia,, consider who Roamin is and what he does.


I borrowed this image from protomtherapy.wordpress.com, but it’s pretty close to what I imagine Roamin Carcinoma might look like.

Of course he’s going to tell you such things. All the same Virtignia, Roamin is wrong. How can I be so sure, you wonder?

Just this year alone, I’ve received more blessings than I can tell you. Does that sound funny coming from a person who has stage four cancer? No doubt it does, but there’s more to me than my disease. For example, I’ve had the privilege of meeting lots of wonderful people and have reconnected with a good many others. Some of the nicest folks we met were fellow travelers at a resort in Cuba.The trip was a Christmas gift that Franco and I gave each other. The new friendships were an added gift; thank you Santa!

You know I love meeting new people, no matter what the circumstances. The first time I had to be hospitalized, one of the nurses on the ward noticed that I was feeling scared and lost, so she came over and simply wrapped her arms around me and held me as I cried. If Santa is the personification of generosity, then she is the proof that such selflessness really does exist.

Spontaneous generosity of spirit, love freely given just because it is needed at that moment, these are what make a dreary day sparkle, what enable us to believe that Santa is as real as my friendship with you, dear Virtignia. If you can’t believe in Santa, then how can you believe in love or in friendship? How can you be moved by a piece of music or touched by a work of art? Santa is like a child’s innocence that we attempt to preserve for as long as possible before the harsh realities of life come rushing in. If we are lucky, we find and nurture the child within who in turn allows us to laugh at silly jokes, to dance because the music tells us to, or even to jump in a puddle no matter the mess.



I’ve learned that it’s okay to tell my friends that I love them without worrying that they’ll think I’m weird. I am weird; there’s no getting around that. My friends keep me sane, especially when we’re acting crazy. They make me laugh, really laugh and I’ve learned it’s not just a tired cliché to say that laughter is the best medicine. Santa’s mantra is HO HO HO; need I say more?

My friends and family have shown me such selflessness, especiially this year. It would take me too long to recount their many kindnesses, but indulge me in just a few.

Virtidge, remember when I found the picture of that hat that I fell in love with?


© Jo Storie

I was determined to make it for my daughters and began what turned into quite a frustrating endeavor to order the knitting pattern from England. I tried and both of my daughters tried also. One evening I took to my Facebook page and asked if anyone had any suggestions. By the next morning, not only did I receive several suggestions, but I also found a PDF copy of the pattern in my email inbox, purchased by a dear friend. Another friend bought the hard copy and sent it to me by mail and still another had contacted friends in England who were attempting to get me the actual hats. I was blown away. If you know me at all, you know that I cry easily; I bawled. No, of course I’m not crying now, but hand me a tissue will you?


This is the finished project worn by my two favourite models Julie and Jessica. A side view would have been better so you could see the cable work, but I just love their pretty faces so much!

You yourself have commented on all the cards and flowers I’ve received to encourage me through the tough times. And what about my sister Jo-Anne’s trip to see me? You may remember her, she can pack a suitcase like none other. I was afraid you might end up in it. Did you know that I also have two very nice gentlemen who send me music to soothe my soul?

Just recently, a gigantic box arrived at my door containing all kinds of goodies, items to bring me comfort – from scarves to gel booties – a little Tony Bennett with Lady Gaga (who knew the Lady could sing jazz like that?) and loads of other things. It was from a group of ladies that I went to high school with. The one item that they included that touched me most, was the greeting card full of individual signatures with messages of love and encouragement.

I won’t deny that I have allowed myself moments of self-pity, when I wondered what I had done to deserve this cancer, but I’ve spend much more time in grateful puzzlement, wondering what I had done to deserve such magnificent friends. As I’m writing this, I’m picturing them all wearing Santa hats, (they’re much too cute to have to wear the whole getup) because they’ve given me the gift of their friendship, and I, in return, offer them each a piece of my heart. The beauty of this, is that I could go on and on and…wait a minute..WAKE UP Virtidge!

This year has been a lesson in love. One of the many things I’ve rediscovered is how lucky I am to have such a loving family.  Franco has been endlessly patient as I forget things, cry for no apparent reason, rage at Roamin Carcinoma, and  push myself until I drop. We are a little like a brand new couple. All the things that I used to find charming at the beginning, that became a little tiresome later on have regained their charm again.  Please don’t tell Franco this as I don’t want to spend the rest of my life pulling his finger 🙂



My girls continue to bless me with their sweetness and love. They give me endless things to look forward to. Have you figured out what to wear to Jessica and Tony’s wedding yet Virtignia? I spend so much time looking at Mother of the Bride dresses online, I barely have time for my blog.

Are you starting to understand that Santa is real no matter what anyone else says to the contrary?  A wise man once said,

 Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

                                                 Francis P. Church

So, phooey on you Roamin Carcinoma! Go spread your lies somewhere else. We’re not buying it. This song is for you…


Please treat yourself to the original that I so blatantly stole from. I hope I don’t get arrested or something.


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Happiness is…

As you may recall, my last post was about our recent flight to Spain and the quirkiness of air travel – even when you’re still on the ground!!  Logically, it would follow that I should now tell you all about our actual time in Spain. How I hate to be predictable, so maybe next time.

In the meanwhile…

dreamstimecom megaphone

Yes, I guess you could say that I’m happy about it.  Over the moon?  No, not really, well, YES ACTUALLY!!

It happened shortly before we left for Spain. Franco and I were sitting down to dinner one evening, when the phone rang. We picked up and when we knew it was Jessie we just put her on speaker phone so that we could carry on with our meal. I dang near choked on a piece of broccoli when she announced her engagement.  Not that we hadn’t been expecting it, but I guess we thought it might happen around a special occasion like Christmas or birthday, not just on a regular Friday evening.  Jessica was so excited and so were we.  We ended up hanging up and getting onto FaceTime.  Are you familiar with FaceTime? It’s almost exactly like Skype but for Apple products, and this way we could have a look at her beautiful ring.  And beautiful it is; it even has a bit of a story to it. Want me to tell you? Are you sure? Too bad, I’m telling you anyway.

When my mother passed away, she had a few beautiful rings that she left to her daughters. The one that I got was a solitaire with quite a large diamond and a large setting as well. I wore it for a while, but the setting was so high, that the diamond was always getting caught in sweaters, coats and whatever else. Sometimes it would get caught on other people’s clothing and I would have to apologize.

“Excuse me, but my huuuge diamond is stuck in your scarf. You should be more careful with that thing.” or “Oh dear, I think my beautiful diamond ring just made a pull in your sweater. Gosh, I hope my ring is okay.  Out of my way, I must get to the diamond emergency clinic.”

Well, of course I’m kidding. I would never say anything like that. Not out loud anyway.  On with the real story. When Jessica and her beau Tony moved in together and announced that they planned to get engaged, I saw a perfect opportunity to put my mother’s ring to good use. I gave it to Jessica and told her that she and Tony should bring it into a good jeweller and have it redesigned into a ring she would love.  Tony took care of that; he and the jeweller did a beautiful job in turning a slightly ostentatious ring into just the right engagement ring for my baby girl. I just know my mom was smiling to see Jessica so ecstatic at the sight of it.

Engagements are such happy, romantic times, but they’re not just about rings  I must apologize at having been remiss in sharing this news sooner, but I didn’t think we would all zoom into action so quickly. The first time I got engaged, we put the ring on my finger and then just kind of basked in bliss for a few months before we started making preparations.

These days however, you have to start right away unless you don’t mind a three-year engagement.  So in we plunged. First things first. The dress of course. What would that look like? We needed to consider the skirt of the dress. Straight or trumpet? A-line or mermaid? Ball gown or sheath?  What about the back? Would we dare go for a glamorous plunging back or would it be wiser to keep it a little more covered there? Then there’s the waistline to consider. I love the empire waistline, but it’s not for everybody. The neckline is terribly important.  A deep plunging Vee may be cringe worthy to family and guests. The sweetheart neckline is always a favourite, while the square and scoop are equally popular. Phew! It’s enough to make your head spin. And at some point we needed to consider the bride’s dress as well l!  It’s her day after all; not everything can be about me all the time.

I knew that with Jessie, the dress would be no problem whatsoever. She’s like a little doll and would look good in anything. As soon as we started talking bridal gowns, we started getting the inevitable comment. “She’s so pretty, she could wear a potato sack and still look amazing!” Of course it’s true, and it got me thinking. Why should we go all traditional and dare I say, predictable. If the girl would look great in a potato sack, why not go that route. It would be something no one would ever forget and in my opinion, would make a very bold statement. It would also free up a considerable amount of cash that could be spent elsewhere.

So I got up my nerve and suggested it to her. Who knew such a pretty girl could make such a nasty face?

sarahvintagesblogspotcom potato sack

Okay, so I learned a couple of things. First, Jessica was going to want to have the whole wedding dress experience and I certainly wasn’t going to stand in her way. The second thing I learned was that I could still outrun her.  Thank goodness she always wears such high heels.

And so the shopping began. It was important to Franco and I that Jessie get whatever her heart desired, so we told her that she should not let a little thing like a price tag hold her back…unless of course the tag read more than our agreed-upon budget.

I’m happy to report that she did say yes to the dress. I’m getting a little weary of that phrase, but hell, it fits. We had done a lot of shopping before I left and it was while I was away that she found the dress of her dreams. I was so happy to find out that this had happened when she was shopping alone with her sister Julie. What a beautiful moment for them to share and such a wonderful memory to cherish. Jessica being Jessica, was absolutely not going to deny me the experience of seeing her model the dress in the little shop where she chose it. She arranged a special appointment to try it on again and we drove there just the two of us (I didn’t even invite Virtignia) so I could see it on her. It’s a moment I will always remember. I keep imagining Tony’s face when he sees come walking up the aisle. He’s going to be sooo blown away! Oh go ahead and blow your nose; I’ll wait for you. The whole thing made me cry too.

waiting hand

Take your time…no rush…hurry up already!

Now that the dress has been chosen, the venue booked, photographer hired, menu decided and a hundred other details taken care of, can we please start thinking about MY dress?  Let’s see…


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I believe I can fly

I believe I have some ‘splainin’ to do! I have been away from my blog for quite some time now. Most of it without any other reason than I just wasn’t feeling that great and couldn’t quite get into the zone. Having recently returned from a two-week trip to lovely Malaga in Spain, I’m feeling quite a bit more inspired now. Let me tell you a little about the travel portion of my visit.

It was October 21st and we were at Pearson International Airport in Toronto getting ourselves sorted out for the trip. I have been traveling as a handicapped person for quite some time already and I can tell you that the wheelchair services in Toronto’s airport are far from what they should be for a world class facility. The people who actually have to work at this service are some of the nicest and most helpful I’ve had the pleasure to meet, but they are too few and so bogged down with paper work it’s amazing they ever get anything done.


NEXT!             theblueberryagency.co.uk

This time was no different and I had to wonder what was on that paperwork, because there are so many additional questions. Can you walk through the Security check point?  From the Security area to a golf cart? From the golf cart to the waiting area? From the waiting area to the plane? Onto the actual plane and to your seat? Having been through this rigmarole many times I tried to save them time with a quick explanation of what the problem is hoping the rest would be self-explanatory. They politely thanked me for the information and followed up with, yes but can you walk through…and off we went again.

I reminded myself to be thankful for having this service at all and that it wasn’t the fault of the nice person who was just trying to get me onto my flight.  But wouldn’t it be nice if there weren’t so many people abusing the system? They’re sitting in their wheelchairs getting pushed ahead of all the lineups and getting seated first, etc., but then you see these same folks arriving at their destinations. At this point, they are too impatient to wait for the service, and before you can say “your wheelchair has arrived” they are hauling their luggage off the baggage carousel and sprinting to their waiting vehicles. It makes you want to cry out “It’s a miracle folks!” as my friend Freddi did in a similar situation.



Getting onto the plane:
The helpful flight attendant directed us toward the aisle and seat as indicated on our boarding passes, and we still  managed to get it wrong which would have created all kinds of havoc in the aisles if the plane had not been only half full. We finally found our correct aisle and seat, but when we were standing there we noticed that the row number printed above the seats was just a few inches off-centre, thus making it difficult to tell if row forty-five is the one on the right or the one to the left. We took our best guess and hoped not to be embarrassed. This has happened to you too right?

Overhead bins:                                                                                                         We’re finally getting there! Let’s just get our carry-on stuff into the overhead bins. Surprise! The lady who could just barely walk a minute ago has transformed into a Ninja and has jumped onto the seat in front of us. She is hurling her carry-on stuff into the bin while everyone in the immediate vicinity is trying to avoid the whirling and twirling of her great Ninja cane.
alkimachon.gr ninja

That’s it, we’re pretty much ready for take-off…or are we?

Flight Instructions:



Before being allowed to take off we are treated to a series of instructions in the official languages of the various countries we are departing from and heading toward. That’s always about when I appreciate being Canadian with our two official languages. This means, on international flights, we will likely be listening to instructions a minimum of three times. It could be worse though; Zimbabwe has 16 official languages according to the Guiness Book of World Records. Usually the destination country’s language, on this particular flight it was Dutch, is the one most easily spoken by the entire crew. So first they covered the instructions in English and French. The English was understandable, but the French sounded like Ewokese, however both were short and sweet. Then they started in Dutch. This lasted considerably longer and was punctuated here and there with laughter and sometimes even applause. What were these incredibly entertaining instructions? Certainly not the boring rhetoric we had just listened to. And of course, this is where my paranoia kicked in. Here’s what I imagine might have actually been said.

“Good afternoon dear passengers. Before we begin, I would just like to point out that you are flying with quite a few Canadians today who can’t understand a word I’m saying. The following instructions are meant for those of you who can.

There are several emergency EXITS on this aircraft. Please take a moment now to locate your nearest EXIT. If we need to evacuate the aircraft, floor-level lighting will guide you towards your EXIT. The Green Light is for Canadians and the Red Light is for US. The Green Light will lead the Canadians to a further EXIT thus getting them there just after the slide has detached and become a life boat, allowing US to deplane with relative comfort and time. (A smattering of polite applause may be heard at this time) Each door is equipped with an inflatable slide which may also be detached and used as a life raft. Oars, which the Canadians have no idea about,(quiet tittering now) are attached on each side of the raft and may be used for navigation purposes and have also proved useful in batting away any clinging Canadians trying to get on and use up space that is meant for US (loud laughter accompanied by applause).

We remind you that this is a non-smoking flight. In order to have a cigarette in peace you are advised to ask one of our crew to disable the smoke detectors located in the lavatories.

We are pleased to offer the Canadian passengers a choice of rubbery meat – let’s call it chicken – or pasta with some sort of sauce for their in-flight meal today.

flyatsleeptypepadcom meal
Yummy. Can’t wait to tuck into that!flyatsleeptypepad.com


If you would prefer something decent to eat, please knock twice on your tray.*

*Please note that the above is strictly a product of my own imagination, but please don’t try and tell me you’ve never noticed or wondered about in-flight instructions.

Once we arrived in Amsterdam, the flight crew told us all to remain seated with our seat belts securely fastened, but this was roundly ignored by most and the same frenzy with the carry-on baggage ensued, only in reverse. We stayed on guard for Granny this time.

In case you haven’t traveled much, or have been lucky enough not to have experienced stopovers, allow me to expain what this annoying part of travel entails. They are usually long enough to make you crazy from the wait and start arguing with your partner over someone something stupid.


– If YOU finished the water then YOU should go get more – NO, if you want more water YOU should go. – But I bought the first bottle!! I HATE traveling with you!                           dailymail.co.uk

On the other hand stopovers are mosty too short to actually leave the airport building and see a bit of a city/country you’ve never visited before. This is likely to turn you into a snobby travel liar. “Amsterdam is gorgeous, I would love to go there again when I can spend more time.” Translation: Amsterdam has a really pretty airport and maybe someday I’ll be able to get out of the airport and visit the city too. On this latest trip, when we were ready to board on our return flight, I sent my sister a snotty little text saying, “gotta go now, but I’ll be in touch when I get to Paris.” I could have just said, “when I get to the next airport”, but that’s so boring Dahling.

This reminds me of a time when Franco and I were traveling to Spain and had a stopover in Heathrow Airport in England. We were waiting to get on our flight to Malaga and somehow our request for wheelchair assistance was misplaced. We were fretting and checking with the assistance desk every thirty seconds or so, when over the loudspeakers came a very polite English accent advising the following: Will Mr. Francisco and Mrs. Renelle, kindly make your way immediately to gate number 43. You are delaying the flight and your luggage is now subject to be off-loaded. Thank you.

I honestly didn’t know how to react. Wow!! My name was just blasted across all of Heathrow Airport. How cool is that? Or – Holy crap!! The plane is leaving without us. The assistance people were quick to reassure us that since it was the airport’s fault, the plane would definitely not be leaving without us. This doesn’t make up for the angry glares of all the other passengers who had been forced to wait for us. “Sorry, airport screw-up.” Yeah right, their faces said.


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