Friday, February 2, 2018

Say hello to my lil friend

Monday morning (11/13) around 2am I wake up with the worst headache I’ve EVER had. A few more hours of sleep and I know I HAVE to go into work this week, we are prepping for a big conference coming up and have some of my field in town this week. I suck it up and take a shower and head into work. All day my head is hurting. Some Ibuprofen, seems to take the immediate pain away, but all day I have such a headache. Come Tuesday, same story. Take some meds to make the headache go away but not much relief. I have a dinner scheduled with the AC’s in town Tues night so I make the best of it, not feeling well. I never pass up an opportunity to see my team when they are in town.

Wednesday morning I woke up with a worse headache and my stomach started to feel bad and I thought I might be getting my first migraine. I stopped by RiteAid that morning to get some Migraine medicine to try out. Coffee, Nutrigrain Bar and Migraine medicine I tried to push on. It was not even 8:30am when I couldn’t even move sitting at my desk without thinking I might throw up if I move to fast. After multiple people coming by asking if I was ok, including my boss I just decided to walk about 10 feet around the corner to our “quiet room” where I could sit on a comfy chair in a room with no one around. I was feeling pretty horrible and then stood up by the sink and threw up. At that point I knew it was time to go into Urgent Care. Lucky for me, Victor had the day off and was able to be there in about 10 minutes to come pick me up. We headed to the Mission Viejo Kaiser because it was close to work. They were great and the Dr. there gave me medication to try to treat my migraine. But I was still throwing up so she was also giving me Zofran to stop the vomiting. It didn’t work all that well. I was giving lots of different meds to try and finally I stopped throwing up and felt a little better. Headed home with some meds ready for bed.

Thursday morning Jack and I were home and all of a sudden the feeling was back. This crazy headache, my head was spinning and I was throwing up! I called Grandma to come get Jack and had Crystal leave work to come take me to urgent care. This time I headed to the Urgent Care in Santa Ana. Kaiser has been so good and they were pretty fast considering. I waited in Urgent Care where they gave me some meds. I made Crystal go back to work and promised I would call her later. The Dr. the day before had ordered a CT Scan of my head to check it out since I had never had any head issues before. So Thurs at Urgent Care they told me to go get my head scan. I sat in the waiting room at Urgent Care for almost an hour waiting for my CT Scan. It was pretty quick once I was there and painless. Fast and easy scan. I was back in a room waiting for the Dr. to come in. Can’t remember his name, but I will never forget his face when he came in and said, Mrs. Gonzalez, looks like you have a tumor in your head.
I mean, really? That’s how you tell people? My first reaction of course was, am I going to die, is it cancerous? Oh shit, I need to call Victor. The Dr. tells me that most of the time these kinds of tumors are benign. That being said, they wanted to take me in an ambulance over to the Anaheim facility where they could treat me better because they had a Neuro Department there with an MRI machine. I gathered myself as much as possible and called Victor. Hunny, I need you to leave work and come and get me. As I started crying, “I have a tumor in my head, I need you to just get here”.

Because I knew Crystal was the closest and waiting to come pick me up and take me home, I called her and said, “Victor is already on his way” and she said why? Again, trying to keep it together said, “I have a tumor in my head and they are going to take me to the hospital”. Crystal was closer and ended up getting there about 2 minutes before Victor. They wanted to take me in an ambulance but I didn’t think that was needed with both my husband and my best friend here with me. So I was told I could ride with my husband, the ER would be waiting for me. The amount of confusion and questions and emotions running through my body at this point was overwhelming. As we walked out to the car, Crystal got into her car to meet us over there and Victor and I got into our car to head over to the hospital. I will never forget that moment. I was like, ok, let’s drive. And Victor needed a moment to take it all in, the look on his face was a look I will never forget. It’s like someone just told him the most terrible news ever. The same kind of face that he had when we had to say good bye to smalls and put her to sleep. He reached over and put his arms around me and just said I need a minute and just hugged the hell out of me for a minute. It was nice and comforting. I obviously don’t get that often, for good reason.

We headed over to the hospital, it was about 3:30 pm so the freeways were full of traffic. 5 miles down the freeway in this situation, it felt like it took us hours to get there. That wasn’t the case, it just felt like it. On our way, I called Jacquie to tell her what was going on and of course she said she was on her way and would meet us there. I didn’t think it was necessary, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, or even what was going on at that point, but like I would have done, she said, I’m on my way, see you in a bit. That was that. We arrived at the ER and within the first few minutes was taken back.

The next few days felt kinda blurry. For good reason I guess. I was in a lot of pain in my head and they had me on morphine every 6 hours. From the nice little room in the ER with Victor, Crystal and Jacquie standing around waiting for the next moves, to my own room, admitted for the next few days. There were a lot of phone calls, more pain meds, lots of doctor’s visits. Some good food, pain, less pain, morphine every 5 ½ hours… Doctor’s coming in and telling me that the tumor in my head isn’t the reason I am having these headaches, Neurosurgeon telling me otherwise….

So yeah, a rough few days. Trying to figure out why I am feeling so bad and trying to understand all the madness. The majority of the doctor’s told me that the tumor is pretty normal in people and it doesn’t normally cause issues. Then I finally spoke to a Neurosurgeon who made me feel normal again. He told me that most likely it was causing the headaches considering I have never had these headaches before. No one could answer for me, how long have I had this, when did it get there, what’s it going to do to me, are you going to take it out. I had so many questions and no one seemed to have answers to them.


Finally on Saturday evening I was ready to head home with meds in hand. Lucky for me Victor’s parents had just come to visit me so they were able to take me home. I was happy to be home but totally unclear of what was going to happen next. The next few days at home I was still having headaches and not feeling well. Monday 11/21 I was back to head pain and throwing up. So I went back into the ER. They tried to get a line in my veins so they could hydrate me because I was pretty dehydrated. 4 nurses and 9 pricks to my arms and hands later they finally were able to get an IV in me!

The next few weeks I spent trying to understand things and visiting lots of different doctor’s, learning and reading about my tumor online. Some doctor’s called it a tumor, some a cyst. No one seemed like they really knew what it was or IF it was causing my pain.


Tues 11/22 I woke up with some very blurry vision and not being able to see well along with the smaller headaches still, but nothing like the pain I had been in before. My appt the next day with an Optomologist. She ran some tests, dilated my eyes and then told me I had swollen optic nerves. That was the reason for the blurry vision and the double vision. But again, at this point she didn’t think it was related to the tumor in my head. Haha. This world.. days before, you tell me I have a tumor in my head and now I have all these things going on but somehow none of them are related? A bit hard to swallow if you ask me.


The Dr. ordered me to get a spinal tap to see what the pressure in my head was. Meeting with the Neurosurgeon he said that if the pressure was low then we would do surgery to take the tumor out, if the pressure was high it could be a pseudotumor (sudo tumor). A pseudotumor is when your brain thinks you have a tumor but there is not really one in there… At this point so many people have said so many different things that I was learning a lot! The next few days I was scheduled for a spinal tap in the office of a new neurologist, Dr. Markus. I was a bit nervous about it but figured it would be cake for me because I’ve had two kids, two C-sections where they had to numb the bottom half of my body the same way. Little did I know this spinal tap was not going to be a fun one! As I sit at the nurses station waiting to take my blood pressure, I see a cute young doctor in a white coat walk into the office next to me and say, “Hi, I’m Alex, I am your resident for the day”. The Dr replies “Hi Alex, ever done a spinal tap?” to which Alex says “no”. “Well you get to today” says the other doctor. The entire time I am praying that’s not my doctor on the other side of the wall, but I can’t tell at this point. Then the Doctor continues “She’s on the larger side….”. The blood pressure cuff and machine attached to me start to go off, so I don’t get to hear the rest of that conversation, but once he said that I was almost sure it was my Dr.

The nurse takes me back to a sterile room and explains what is going to happen, I get undressed and into a gown. The Doctor knocks on the door and in walk the Nuerologist I had meet with and the cute young Resident that was about to do his first spinal tap. OH BOY. The Dr asks me if it’s ok if Alex does the procedure. Of course I say yes, because whatever... someone has to do it so it doesn’t make a difference to me. Plus every resident has to do their first at some point, why not be me right? My Doctor was there to supervise, it would be just fine.

I laid down on the bed in the fetal position for my spinal tap. The Doctor talked Alex through finding where he needed to start and putting the needle in me. The next few minutes felt like it was a LIFETIME of moving that long ass needle around in my spine trying to find the fluid they needed. Every move he made I could feel. Not in the poking me kind of way, but the… I have a needle in your back and keep hitting a nerve in the wrong spot kind of way. It was painful for sure. I laid there and tried not to cry. I prayed that God would give me the patience and the bravery to get through this. After all the outcome of this spinal tap was going to determine if I was going to have surgery to take this tumor out of my head or not! Ten thousand hours later Alex can’t find the spot he needs to be in, so the Dr steps in and takes over. After several minutes of me telling them where my pain was, which leg was hurting, he finally pulled the needle out and said, ok, we are going to have to do it in the Radiology lab under Xray. But that wouldn’t be today, I would have to call and make an appt for it to be done, possibly in weeks from now! My heart sunk in my chest, I just wanted to know NOW. I was in pain and couldn’t see, I wanted this tumor out of me so bad! So what did I do next? I asked the doctor if he could try to do it again, the actual dr instead of the Resident. He said “are you sure you are up for it?”. YES, I am already laying here in a gown numbed up, I need answers now, stick another needle in me. I mean, what the F*** was I thinking? So he said ok! Another long ass needle in my back and away he dug! Moving it around trying to find that spot where my fluid was. He had 4 big viles he needed to fill with fluid! Again, it was painful and tears were streaming down my eyes that was trying to hide. After all, I asked for it, I was brave and needed answers. Ten thousand hours later and again, he pulled it out because he couldn’t find the spot… I was so frustrated. I was going to have to call and make an appt for Radiology to get a 3rd spinal tap at some point. The doctors cleaned me up and left the room and all I could do was sit there and cry. A little bit of pain, but mostly frustration of not having any answers, but had gone through those last 20 minutes all for nothing!!


The ride home was pretty rough, my back hurt pretty bad and every bump felt like a rocky mountain! I got home and called to make an appt for another spinal tap! The Radiology department would use an Xray machine to see where my spinal fluid was, and then insert the needle while seeing where they are going. No one would be going in blindly every again! Of course the next appointment they had available was 2 weeks from now in mid-December. Frustrated again I took the appt and hung up. Oh, what a day that was! That evening Crystal had given me the idea to email my Dr and let him know and see if he could push it up for me! The next day I sent my Dr an email and told him the next appt wasn’t for another 2 weeks and I still couldn’t see well and didn’t feel well, I needed help getting it done now! He changed the request to STAT and it moved my appt up a week! One week was much better than 2 weeks. Everything felt like an eternity at this point anyway!

In the meantime I also had an appt to see an Endocrinologist who had sent my blood in for testing of my hormones back when I was in the hospital. It was time to get my results. Your Pituitary Gland controls your hormones and your vision, so test would show if any of my hormones were jacked up because of this little guy in my head. The Dr was so incredibly nice and was able to explain SO much more to me than most doctors I had seen thus far! Out of the 100% of your gland, apparently only about 10% of it is actually useful and functioning. She explained to me that my tumor was on the non-functioning part of my pituitary gland so that was good news. If it had to be taken out it ideally shouldn’t screw any functioning part up! She drew a brain on a piece of paper and explained where and how my pituitary gland worked and what hormones were affected by it. Lucky for me all of my tests came back normal on the hormone front! That means that my tumor is not affecting any hormones at this point. So from her point of view, I was just going to see her a few times a year to monitor my hormones. If the tumor was going to come out I would see her more often to make sure they didn’t take out any of my functioning part. But as of now, no hormones were affected enough for her to say, take it out. Good and bad news right?


The next week I was emotional, anxious and every emotion in between thinking about having to have another spinal tap. Not to mention anxious to hear if the tumor was coming out or staying in. I couldn’t sleep the night before the spinal tap, all I could think of was how much it would hurt, how many times they would have to poke me and how much I just wanted this all to be over. On the way to the Dr office in the morning my body felt so crazy, my stomach was so upset that I almost threw up. Nerves really had me that day! The lab they had me in looked just like the last time I had an X-ray. The guys who prepared the room for the Dr were so nice and calming, it made me feel so much better. I laid down on an X-ray table on my stomach as the Dr came in. He was so nice, told me all about what was going to happen and the next thing I know there is an Xray of my spine on the monitor next to me. It was cool to see. It was a very EASY process this time. He saw where to put the needle in and poked me. Just like that. Amazing! He was able to tell me right then and there that my pressure was normal and not high, this was not a pseudotomor. He took 4 viles of spinal fluid from me and it was over just like that. I had never been so relieved in my life! It was over, it was easy and it sounds like that tumor was coming out!!!


The second I got home I emailed me Neurosurgeon to tell him about the pressure and I was ready for surgery!! The next few days I was so excited to think that there was an end date to all this madness! A few weeks until surgery (I’m guessing), a few days in the hospital, 6 weeks-ish recovery and back to work by the end of February! I had a game plan, I had a timeline-ish and it made me feel so good and so relived! I was finally going to get this crazy foreign thing out of my head! No more headaches, I was going to be able to see clearly again and I wouldn’t have to worry about it for the rest of my life! YAY!


A few days later I got a call from the scheduling department to schedule my surgery. The first surgery date they had available was going to be 2 months from now… wait, WHAT?!?!? I was placed off of work at this point and all I had to do was to wait for it, 2 months from now was NOT going to work for me. I couldn’t live the next 2 months like that. I nicely told the lady on the phone that she needed to try again and call me back when she had a better surgery date. Haha. So me! Turns out they only do these types of surgery’s twice a month and they need both the Neurosurgeon and the Ear, Throat and nose surgeon to be there as well. So I understand how that would be hard to coordinate. The next day scheduling called me back and had a date one month sooner! That was great news! Surgery was now scheduled for January 11th! That was only 4 weeks from now! It had been 4 weeks since they told me I had a tumor in my head and it was now only 4 weeks until it would be out! I would say all in all 2 months from start to finish was a pretty good timeline!


Finally having some answers and a good game plan I was able to share what was going on with more people. My immediate family knew, but now I was open to telling more people because I knew a little bit more and could share what the plan was. I had a date for surgery and was preparing myself for it! To be honest with you at this point I have everyone who loves me checking in with me on a daily basis. Gosh, you sure know who your friends are and who cares about you when things like this happen! I am so thankful for a handful of people in my life who checked on me. They asked me a billion questions that helped me to find out more about it and understand it. They kept me grounded and even talked me off a few ledges. Some let me cry and just rant about it all and all just reassured me it was all going to be ok! I so much appreciate the people I have in my life!


12/20 About two weeks later my Neurosurgeon wanted me to see yet another specialist. It felt like my vision issues at this point and the minor headaches were the problems I was still having. I was off of work and just ready for this surgery to come and go so I could get back to normal and back to work. This new specialist I saw was a Neuro Opthamologist. He started off by telling me there were only 500 of him in the world, and Kaiser only had a few of them. When things are weird or different people are referred to come see him. He asked me to tell him about my eye issues, starting from when I was little. I pretty much said I didn’t have anything to complain about until about 6-7 years ago when I got my first pair of glasses to see on the computer. Working on the computer all day really messes with your eyes and so I needed glasses to see more clearly. He was very thorough and asked me a billion questions about my vision and if I ever had a lazy eye or problems seeing. There wasn’t much to tell to be honest. Nothing was bothering me and I had never had blurry vision or double vision anytime before the last month after you found a tumor in my head! The rest of the conversation with him was very blurry. He basically told me (his words from his report, cause I don’t remember it clearly.) “This mass even though it’s close proximity and seems to be pushing on your optic nerves, it is not causing any visual loss from the optic nerve standpoint. I do NOT recommend surgery at this time for the pituitary mass if the sole reason to do it is because of visual loss.”


My world came crashing down as did my emotions. I started balling my eyes out, not because I was sad but because I was frustrated. An hour earlier I had a game plan. An end game. A light at the end of the tunnel. A return to work, return to normal life plan. You can imagine how it felt for him to tell me that. The only questions that came to mind at that point were, who the hell are you to tell me after I already have a surgery date and my Neurosurgeon already said we were going to do surgery to take it out? It may not have sounded like that when I asked it, but he basically told me as a Neuro Opthamologist he trumped everyone else……. He even told me that my optic nerves were not swollen, even though the Opthamologist I had seen before him told me they were. So you are telling me that the tumor in my head is close to and seems to be pushing on my optic nerves but it’s not causing the vision issues I am having? That Dr appt did not go very well and I spent the next 20 minutes in a daze. Victor and Jack were in the room with me so I was trying not to ball my eyes out too hard, but I was so very upset. He wanted me to go back to the Neurologist, who attempted my spinal tap, to manage my headaches and to see his Opthamologist that he knows and trusts to test my eyes. I left that Dr appt very confused, upset and I felt so set back.


I had texted the few people I needed to and said we could talk later, I went home, jumped in my bed and cried the rest of the afternoon. The emotions that were running through me were crazy. I was feeling so sad and frustrated. I think everything up to this point I was able to hold myself together for the most part. Just like I do in any kind of thing that goes on in my life. I am strong, I am brave, I am kind of a badass when it comes to this kind of stuff. This one took me down. From that day in Urgent Care when the Dr came in and said, you have a tumor in your head, we are taking you to the hospital to this. I have held my shit together with a positive attitude without too much craziness. Everything I had felt in the last month, I was just feeling it all in one day. In one Dr appt my world had been taken down. I didn’t sleep much that night obviously. I had a billion questions with no answers. I didn’t have a really great explanation to anyone either as to why I was now NOT having surgery to take this tumor out. A week earlier I was finally able to tell everyone who cared about the tumor and that I was having surgery to take it out. Then all of a sudden I had nothing to say. Which doesn’t happen very often with me. I spent the next few days trying to sort it all out in my head. I tried to just take a few days and take it all in, turn myself around and try to get that positive attitude back. This was a really hard one for me. Thank God for my best friend and sister. So grateful for their support every day, every hour when I need it.


The month of January was full of Dr appts, vision tests, and anything to get any answers. The neurologist I am seeing, I don’t think he likes me very much. I get the feeling that when I walk in there, he is like, Oh, it’s Jamie with a tumor, what does she need this time. I was told to go back to him to manage my headaches. He of course says they “could be” due to the tumor or could not be. Referred me to a sleep apnea test because headaches can be caused from sleep apnea. Gave me a “you can try this medication for the headaches”. Basically every day I can take a medication to help with the headaches. I don’t want my end game to be on medication every day so I declined. He did offer a vitamin for the headaches to see if that works. Told me that if the headaches are due to the tumor I really need to weigh my options. Minor headaches or major surgery that could turn out to be taking medication for the rest of my life to supplement the hormones that I might lose.


At this point I am still having minor headaches every day, and my dizziness comes and goes. I have been driving again and moving my eyes all around or back and forth, or flipping my head to see my blind spot makes me dizzy. Just for a moment and then I am ok. Still NOT the normal I want to live with! Vision tests from this new eye dr say that my vision hasn’t changed much from my glasses I already have. Nothing major to report there. A visit to Mr. Know it all, only 500 of me in the world again… does a couple of crazy tests on me where he shakes the hell out of my head and makes me dizzy and then looks into my eyes. He determines that the dizziness isn’t due to my eyes. He says it’s either my inner ear or brain. There is no longer a need for me to see him. My neurologist will take care of my dizziness and headaches. He refers me to an Audiologist to test my ears, thinks I might have vertigo. Tests were perfect, nothing wrong with them and she tells me I don’t have vertigo because my dizziness is more of a rocking motion sickness then a room spinning dizziness…. I could have told you that.


I haven’t had blurry vision for more than a moment in a few weeks which is good news, and the double vision hasn’t really been around either. Which are both things that were keeping me from driving or going to work. So in the hope of getting back to a normal life I am ready to go back to work. This tumor is living in my head now and I do want it out. So it might not be right now or this month or this year, but that sucker will come out. A) I don’t want to live with headaches for the rest of my life. I plan to live a long life and if I have to deal with a headache EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT 50 years, I will rip the sucker out myself! B) Why do I need to worry about when I am going to get dizzy or when my blurry vision might come back?


So I start back at work next week and am very anxious about the whole thing. I’m excited to get back to work for a lot of reasons! I miss “some” of my co-workers, I want to make sure I still have a job and a future there but I also miss talking to adults and having a purpose, work to do and get done! Making a difference and taking care of my peeps! I’m scared to death to be working on a computer all day again. And at the end of a long draining day driving to Santa Ana to pick up the kids, coming home, making dinner, doing showers, homework… life that happens after a long day of work. Anxious for lots of reasons. What if the migraines I had the first few days of all of this come back? What if my vision goes blurry again? What if I am in a car driving home and I get dizzy? So many questions and if’s. BUT at the same time I am ready to get back to my normal. So we will see how this all turns out. I know in a year from now when I am reading this my life will be different and I will be able to look back on all of this as a learning experience. God will not give me more than I can handle and I do believe that!


I went hiking last week and felt good for the most part. Head was throbbing, probably due to the heat, but no dizziness so that was good news! Yesterday I rode 6 miles on my bike and it felt so good! It gave me confidence that I can in fact do the stuff I enjoy and want to do without this taking me down! Is it the tumor causing all these issues? Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell. If you are still reading this, thanks for going through this crazy journey with me. Will keep this updated as my personal diary, after all, no one really reads it anyway. But it allows me to get things off my chest and works as a document for my life cause I don’t remember shit. So in 6 months from now when I am suing the hell out of Kaiser for putting me through all this shit, I will remember it. Haha. Kidding.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

OH CANADA - Just two sesters on a trip of their lifetime!

We bought our plane tickets in June and each week we were counting down the days until we headed for Canada! New suitcases, jackets and boots, it was supposed to be cold and rainy the majority of the time we were there. Jacquie and I were both so anxious to just get there and be in Canada! Be in the Country mom was from! Be just a little bit closer to her than we could have been in the last 8 years since she’s been gone. Brand new Passports in hand, late Wednesday night Jacquie and I drove to LA to prepare for our week long trip. It seemed like a short drive to find long term parking at LAX, but a looong drive up to the 7th floor of this sketchy parking structure. Short shuttle ride over to the airport, short line through security, bags checked and we were finally on the start of our journey!
1am flight out wasn’t maybe the best idea, but who needed sleep when you had lots of adrenaline going through your body? A long flight to Chicago where we saw the sun coming up as we landed and then finally onto Detroit! It’s like we never slept a night, but all of a sudden it was morning and another day in another state. An hour in the rental car building was not ideal for us, but hopping into the car and setting our navigation for Tobermory was worth every minute of the wait! Jacquie offered to drive because she enjoys driving. I enjoy being passenger so it worked out well. 5 and half hour drive ahead and we were so excited.
We had our passports out and ready to cross the border. Both of us very anxious, never having crossed into Canada before and Jacquie had barely been out of CA! Seeing the border and the Canadian flag made me so happy! We were there! We pull up to the border and I hand Jacquie our passports. The Gentlemen at the booth said “Bonjour”. Jacquie and I both in sync said, “Oooohhh, Bonjour”. As if it was the fanciest thing we had ever heard! We both laughed at each other which was good, because we were both nervous! A few questions and he handed us back our passports and we were in! Nothing to it at all. I think we both thought it might be more complicated than it was for some reason.
The bridge in front of us was just beautiful and the scene from the top of the bridge was like none I had ever seen before. The color of the water was so blue and the sky was so very clear, the sun was shining and it was the best weather day we could have asked for! Music on the radio, windows down, Tobermory in mind, the drive went soo smoothly! It could have been a little bit of vacation mode, or it could have just been the truth, but the country of Canada that we were driving through was the most beautiful and breathtaking I have ever seen! The farm life was real in this country! The super cute houses that flew by we talked about owning or building for ourselves one day. The acres of land, the farms, the animals, it was unreal. Even the sky was a different color than it was back in the states! I could say that now, because I was out of the States.
We made very few stops along the way, we had our eyes and minds set on getting to Tobermory. We had great conversations and so many questions. One that sticks out so much is about mom and why for our entire lives she never talked to us about Canada. She never mentioned it and we never asked. Of course when someone is gone you have so many things to ask them. It felt like there may have been some big family falling out at some point with mom, we really had no clue. She was only 13 when she left her beautiful county with her family. Sounded like she just never looked back! Maybe there wasn’t much reason for her to look back. Afterall, those days, moving to Sunny California was a big deal. It was glamourous and full of movie stars. But really, how am I just learning about this entire big family in Canada at the age of 37? Made no sense to either of us. Sure, Jacquie knew she was named after my moms Aunt Jacqueline and to be honest, we remember when we were little that at my Grandma’s house we would talk to her every few years on Christmas. But to us, she was just a distant relative. And really until Mom and Grandma both died, we didn’t even think past our immediate family.
There were a few roads that we went down and were in awe the entire time. With the sun getting closer to setting, the sky above and ahead of us was changing colors. The clouds were rolling in and it made for some of the craziest scenery ever! We went through places that looked like a forest with very few houses, and very far from each other. There were some roads where we didn’t see another car for miles.  Some smaller roads were eerie to drive down. I felt like at any time, some bloody lady was going to come out of the trees onto the road and need us to stop for her. Shit straight out of a horror movie. Other roads made me feel like we were in Forks, watching Edward run right by us! The beauty was all so natural and so unreal. There were a few places that we had to stop and just jump out and take a few pictures! We made a stop at a grocery store for snacks and an ATM for some Canadian cash. The money that came out of the ATM was just so beautiful! It was crisp and green and had Queen Elizabeth on it. Again, I don’t know if it was just being in Canada on vacation or if was the truth, but the prettiest money I have seen! I may have even taken a picture of it with Snapchat and because the Queens face was on it, it was starting to put a filter on her face. Made me laugh, but I had to!
Hours later, finally we saw the Tobermory sign and our hearts knew we were in the right place! We pulled up to the hotel right as the sun was about to set on this beautiful harbor. Before checking in, I had to just stop, run to the river and take a few pictures as I soaked in all the beauty of the sunset over this new little piece of heaven called Tobermory! There was a large ship in the harbor and with the sun gone, it was hard to see the town.
The Grandview Motel was a very small hotel right off the harbor. Our room was on the second floor in the corner which gave us the most beautiful views from the front balcony and through our windows! There was a really big ship in the harbor that covered most of its beauty. Not really sure what day or hour it was at this point, we had been up for about 36 hours. The guy at the “front desk”, and I use that term loosely because it was defiantly a small town motel feel, told us at this time in the evening we could get some food over at the Princess Hotel that was within eye sight and pretty much everything else was going to be closing. It was about 8pm at this point, 3 hours ahead of CA time and we were starving.
We dropped everything in the hotel room, open our windows wide to let the amazing fresh air in and called our families to say we were there safe and sound! The walk over to the Princess Hotel was short, but through a dark street with the lake to the right of us. Being in another country, walking this dark street felt scary but also like there was not a care in the world. After sharing some not so yummy shrimp, bread and spaghetti we headed back down the dark road to the hotel.
The bed was very comfy and with a long day behind us we both slept pretty well all things being considered. We slept with the windows open and the AC on, neither of us could get enough of that crisp air we had never felt before! The sun came up and we both were getting a tad restless in bed but needed some more sleep before we were going to be ready for the day. All of a sudden out of NO WHERE was the loudest ship horn known to man! HONK HONK! Jacquie and I both were so startled, we sat up in bed half asleep and said, WTF was that?!?!?  Then laughed about it because as annoying and unexpected as it was, it was funny. I tried to go back to sleep after that, but not much luck! A bit later we were awake and ready to meet everyone!
I got a cup of coffee and sat out on the balcony and looked at the amazing view of the harbor. With that big ship gone now, you would see the harbor and all it’s beauty! The ship turned out to be the Chi-Cheemaun. It’s a ferry that docks every day and takes cars from Tobermory into Owen Sound. With it’s departure, you could now see the lighthouse we had been looking for! It had been hidden the night before. The water was this amazing color blue that you don’t ever see in CA. The air was crisp and the breeze was just enough to fill my lungs of clean air. The fresh smell and the sounds of the water breaking on the rocks just took my breath away as I sat there and sipped my coffee, I spent about 30 minutes just sitting there taking it all in!
Not many of our family members were in town yet, most of them were driving up that afternoon. We were about the first, so we still had some time before we could head over and meet Patti. Kathleen had called my cell and invited us over to come visit for lunch. We had nothing going on, so after some much needed coffee we headed over to meet our first family members of the bunch. I knew my moms Aunt Jacqueline was going to be at that cottage so I was bracing myself for some crying and big hugs! We pulled up and were greeted before we even got out of the car with hugs and so nice to meet yous! Kathleen was the first out the door for a great big hug and then came Al. Two of the most beautiful people inside and out that we would meet all week! A few more kids to hug and throw out of the way before I could find Aunt Jacqueline! My heart was beating so fast and I just couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around her. I saw her getting up from a chair and I made my way into the house and I ran right over and said, Hi, I’m Jamie, so nice to meet you and gave her the biggest hug I could. She is a spitting image of my Grandma Marty. As Jacquie made her way into the house I gave Aunt Jacqueline a few more hugs and cried and told her how much she looked just like Grandma. Finally Jacquie came in and was able to do the same. This was the moment we had both been talking about for months. Meeting Aunt Jacqueline and giving her a hug was probably one of the highlights of the trip for sure. She was the only person we remembered from our childhood phone calls. But to be honest, she isn’t the best hugger. I thought maybe it was just us, but turns out she is just not the biggest hugger in general. She has a lot of love, just doesn’t hug with all that she is like I do!
We sat and looked at each other and I couldn’t stop looking at her. She was my Grandma and it’s been 3 years since I have seen my grandma, so I just stared at her. The way she sat, the way she rubbed her mouth with her hands, the way she held her hands on her stomach was the exact way that my Grandma did. It was so weird but nice to see! All the questions came in about our flights and drive and how we slept and how we both jumped out of bed to some ship horn this morning, but all we could do was both stare at Aunt Jacqueline in remembrance.
Al and Kathleen were just like everyone said Canadians were like. They were so welcoming and polite and sweet! Was this just because we were new family or because that’s how they just were? Too early to tell, but we sat around the kitchen table and had some very yummy homemade Cauliflower and cheese soup that Kathleen had brought up from home. It was hard to eat sitting across from Aunt Jacqueline, staring at her, again, trying to soak it all in and remember every moment of my Grandma.
As we were eating lunch at the cottage Jacquie and I bring up the fact that mom never came back to Canada. Aunt Jacqueline had some great insight on why. She said because my mom never became a US citizen (which I had just learned a few months ago), she didn’t want to come back and get stuck in Canada. She was still a resident of Canada and most likely wouldn’t be let back into the US. Her new home was in the US so she didn’t leave. At this point, Jacquie and I start to fill up with tears. There was no big family falling out or some crazy story as to why mom didn’t come back? She didn’t come visit as an adult with children because she wouldn’t be able to get back into the states. How crazy is it to think my whole life I didn’t even know she wasn’t a citizen? Had she exposed us to Canada she knows it would all come up and she may have to face some things she had been avoiding her whole life? Who knows why, but at least it made more sense now! Still not happy about it, but if she had gone back to Canada she may have never come back. Her life would have been very different, there would be no Richard Harp to marry. None of us would exists! I am a big fan of the saying “everything happens for a reason”. As hard as that is for me to accept sometimes, I do think it is so true. If mom had gone back to Canada who knows how her life would have unfolded. I am grateful that she made the decisions she did, for whatever reasons she had.
Onto day 2… We finished up lunch and went out onto the Patio of the Cottage to see the amazing view! The Cottage sat on a beautiful Bay called “Hay Bay”. The view from the patio above was breathtaking! Jacquie and I had to go down and take a few pictures. It was all I could do to just sit and take in the view. Sit and just think about how much was going on and all that we were in store for the next few days!
We chatted about what our plans were for the week. We wanted to visit Flowerpot Island we had heard and read so much about. See the lighthouse, tour around town and meet everyone! I felt like within the hour we were eating more people came into the house. Moms cousin Byron, a rough looking man when you first meet him, but one of the best huggers and nicest soles! He was so loving, genuine and such a gentle man. Moms cousin Jack came in after lunch to meet us! He was short and sweet in every meaning of the word! He was definitely more reserved and quiet. He had such a kind look on his face. Jack knows everyone in the town and has some amazing carving skills that we got to see first hand! Because he has friends that run the Flowerpot Tour boats he made a call and was back in 10 minutes with a free pass for us to take a tour of the Island! Jacquie and I were super excited and grateful for that! We had to leave that beautiful cottage on Hay Bay and say goodbye for a few hours. Jack had us follow him over to where the tour was and stood and chatted with us until it was time to board! The front of the building that we were at had his Salty Dog Carvings all around it. I even made him go stand in front of one so I could take his picture in front of his work! It was really cool to see his talent standing there with him! We had expected the weather to be pretty cold and rainy but in fact, this day was one of the best days we had there. The sun was out and not a cloud in the sky. The sun was warm and would turn out to be one of the best weather days we had!
As we boarded the Tobermory Explorer boat, the guy taking our tickets said, “you’re Jack’s family?”. I felt like a celeb right there in Tobermory! The boat had a portion of it that was a glass bottom and was beautiful. The tour started off showing us the shipwrecks right there in the harbor! Seeing them through the glass floor was such a great way to view them and a really different experience! A few stories later and a 30 minute ride out of the harbor we finally came to Flowerpot Island! I was so excited to see the first flowerpot! My Grandma had old black and white pictures from back in the days of the flowerpots that she had taken. The flowerpot is made of rocks that formed there naturally overtime. The Island itself was beautiful and the water leading up to it was the most amazing blue color I have ever seen. We didn’t get off on Flowerpot Island, we just took the boat trip around and then headed back to the dock. We both felt very lucky and grateful that Jack arranged for this boat ride for us!
When we were done, Jack had invited us back to his house so we could see his carvings firsthand! He only lived about 5 houses from where we were. He showed us around his woodworking shop and everything he had made and been working on! I may have said this before and will probably say it again, but the talent in this family is UNREAL! Everyone has some amazing talents! My moms cousins made their own houses, their own boats, all their own everything! They carve, they have some made woodworking skills, cooking and smoking skills! It’s so crazy!
A short visit with Jack, in awe of his Salty Dogs, I picked a few up and just looked at the craftsmanship. He even stained or painted them! They were just so cool! Jack showed us this book about Tobermory’s history that had our family tree in it! Grandma’s name was in there along with multiple generations back! It was so fun to see! I’m going to try and get a copy of the book, I have to call up there to the Press and see if I can pay for it and have them ship it to me! Worth every penny to have!
We had a few planned dinners and lunches while we were there and Friday night’s dinner was to meet Patti, her husband Ed and moms cousin Suzanne. Patti is the one who invited us out to Tobermory for Thanksgiving and the one we had been talking to mostly over the months leading up to our trip! She is the family planner for sure! She booked the venue, created and managed every aspect of Thanksgiving dinner! But she also made sure that Jacquie and I felt like we belonged at every moment. She made sure we were comfortable, she invited us over for every meal we wanted to come over for. She always made sure we had a drink in our hands. She asked ahead of time what we liked to drink so she made sure she had some. She checked in with us every hour of the trip. It was so nice that she was so accommodating for us and didn’t even know us! She was seriously the glue that held our trip together and probably doesn’t even realize it! Family is family, is family. And she made us feel that way from day one!
When we got to the cottage for dinner it was so nice to finally be able to hug Patti and meet her husband Ed, who is another amazing guy! Canada is just full of them! Patti’s mom Suzanne is moms cousin. Her and mom are about the same age and is one of the only people out there who remembers mom because anytime mom would come to Tobermory to visit, they were the same age, so they played together! It’s funny because Suzanne looks similar to mom. She is short and stocky like mom, short hair, light eyes and freckles just like mom. Suzanne is just like my Aunt Jan of the family. She is bossy, gets shit done and is in charge. And everyone knows it. Because I grew up with Aunt Jan in our family I am used to it so it didn’t bother me one bit! Hell, I am the same way sometimes so it was nice to see it does run in both sides of the family! I appreciate that kind of person now as I am older! It was nice to chat with her about mom. Jacquie and I both were hoping for more stories from her but only having summers and holiday’s with mom she didn’t have too much to say about her.
Dinner was so nice and it was great to get to know everyone on a more personal level! Just have the dinner conversations with our new family that we had been missing out on for years. It was a great feeling to be there sitting at the table with them! We ended most of our nights being exhausted, body was still trying to figure out the time change, and with all the emotions running through us, we were just drained. Plus Jacquie and I did such a good job of remembering who everyone was, names and what their family connection was. Who their parents were, who their grandparents were and how they fit into the family tree. That takes lots of brain power as well!
Day 3, Saturday morning we decided to skip the invitation for breakfast and sleep in. We had lunch planned with “the Cousins” at 11:30 so no breakfast was fine with us! Jacquie and I walked down to the Crowsnest where we were going to meet everyone a little early. We hit up the bar, grabbed a drink and headed out to the patio for some amazing fresh air before everyone got there. Lunch with “the cousin’s” consisted of my moms cousins kids. So basically our 2nd cousins. They do this lunch every year and it was so nice of Patti to invite Jacquie and I to join them! They were a fun bunch and everyone was so welcoming! My goal for most of the days was to try something I couldn’t get in CA or in the States at least. Or to try something I had never had before. On today’s menu, Fresh water fish and Poutine! The Fresh water fish was so pretty amazing! Do we have fresh water fish in CA? No clue, but I am going to find out! It wasn’t fishy at all and just had a great taste to it! Poutine was something Jacquie and I had been talking about trying and today was the day! French fries with brown gravy (with no e) and cheese curds. AHHHHH-MAZING! Why had I never thought to put gravy and cheese on fries before? It was very tasty and I think the cousins thought we were a little crazy because we had never had it and enjoyed it so much. Haha. Jacquie and I planned to add it to our life when we got home! It was so simple to do and worth every calorie! While finishing up lunch we all made plans to have a cousins night later that evening after dinner over at Patti and Ed’s cottage with all the cousins. They even had a tradition of playing the card game “spoons”. Which made Jacquie and I very excited because we grew up playing spoons and it was awesome that in another country, thousands of miles apart, with a family we didn’t even grow up with, they all played the same game as we did. I guess family is family even if you don’t grow up together!
Jacquie and I headed back to the motel for some down time before we had a scheduled dinner at Al & Kathleens cottage that evening. Down time for me isn’t great, I need to be on the go, I didn’t want to sit in a motel room and do nothing for hours. We were in another country, in a beautiful town full of our family history. Down time was not going to cut it for me. So I made Jacquie head over to the town Museum with me to check it out. The front of the Museum was so cute and we had no idea what was in store for us when we walked in. The lady at the front was very welcoming and had us sign the guest book. She told us a little bit about what was in each room and floor. We said thank you and made our way around the few rooms. Lots of fun artifacts from the old days, skates, skis, ship stuff. Just like an old museum would have. Coming around to the early school days in Tobermory there were some class pictures on the walls. Excited that my Grandma who went to Elementary school there would be in them, I started searching the names in the pictures. At first glance we saw the name Kathleen Hopkins and it was underlined. We knew there was a Kathleen Hopkins in our family tree so we were excited. The lady at the museum came over to us and asked about it. Turns out Kathleen Hopkins was her mom. So right away we knew we were in the right place and somehow related to this lady standing in front of us. She asked more about who we were and we told her we were Marty’s granddaughters. She said, you guys must be Pat’s daughters! Jacquie and I automatically started to tear up! She knew who Pat was!! Turns out she knew mom pretty well and also was one of her friends who grew up with her in Canada. They were the same age and in the same grade. It was so nice to talk to Ruth about mom. Finding anyone in Canada who knew mom was such a fun thing to us! We found Grandma’s class picture on the wall and her name in the paper, it was so fun to stand there in front of Grandma’s history in Tobermory!
Ruth told us to make sure we went upstairs to check out more specific family history. So we headed up there to find some cool information on Lloyd Smith. Lloyd was my Great Grandpa Dode’s brother and an amazing Craftsman. Not totally surprised at this point…. Everyone in this family… Lloyd was known for his Craftmanship in Tobermory but also known for his boat tours out to Flowerpot Island and his love for preserving the natural beauty of the Island. So fun to read about it and see some of the cool things he made!
One more stop for us outside of the museum before we leave! Ruth made sure to give us a personal tour of “Jacob’s House”. This tiny little handmade house was the 3rd house to be built in the town of Tobermory! The 3rd family to come and build on the land! Jacob Belrose was my Great Grandma Tiny’s Grandfathers brother. (There are many family trees that I will post later) He and his wife Agnes built the house by hand in 1875! Amazing how deep my family history runs in the city of Tobermory! Jacquie and I stood in the doorway of the house and again tried to soak it all in! My poor memory can only hold so much, so I took pictures of everything so I could remember and even then had to ask Jacquie a billion times about how we were related again. Lucky for me, Jacquie has a great memory and was able to piece this puzzle together better than me! The trip to the Museum was worth every minute we spent there and I’m glad we took the time to go for a quick trip! Meeting Ruth was so great and meaningful to us!
Back to the motel to freshen up before Dinner with Al & Kathleen! I’m telling you, everyone wanted to hang out with us, which was so crazy. I felt like everyone was just as excited to meet us and hang out with us as we were with them. I mean, when in your lifetime do you get to have such meaningful time? Al & Kathleen were again, just so amazing. Between their hugs and love for us, it was just so nice! They wanted to know all about our families and what we did for a living. They really took the time to get to know us and share stories with us! Getting to know more about Aunt Jacqueline was such a treat for us! I asked a billion questions about what she did, where she lived and who she was these days! She has such a strong sense of family and for me that was pretty awesome!
Kathleen is a great cook and had made some yummy pasta to share with us. We loved to eat and she loved to feed us! For dessert she made this really tasty apple crisp. Jacquie and I both wanted to try to make it when we got home, our families would love it! Kathleen shared her recipe with us and I made it the first week we got home! Dinner and dessert were done and we were headed over to Patti’s cottage for some spoons with cousins!
Spoons in the states and spoons in Canada were pretty much the same thing! Our second cousins were such a fun bunch of people! Some were quiet, some were more outgoing. It was like we just fit in with them. At least that’s how JQ and I felt. I think they felt the same way. We all had a few drinks and played multiple rounds of spoons! Just like our normally family gatherings there were cheaters and bickering. No one listened to each other, it was loud and lots of fun! No one minded that JQ and I spoke our minds or were opinionated. They were all the same way so we just fit right in. The nice part about meeting them was that we didn’t grow up with them, so they didn’t know us from who we were in front of them that day. They didn’t know our history or who we were or were not when we were younger and maybe stupid. And the same with them. If they were the awkward kid or the bad kid who went to jail, we had no idea. Nor did we care. We took them for who they are today, loved them and look forward to getting to spend some more time with them in this lifetime! A few promised they were going to come visit and make a trip to CA, so we will see how that turns out! It would be amazing if we could get some family out for a visit to Cali!
Day 4 and Jacquie and I were still running on pure adrenaline. Sunday was our big family Thanksgiving dinner. Monday was the official Holiday, but everyone has their dinners on Sunday. I got up somewhat early and walked into town to grab breakfast sandwiches for us at the cute small town Coffee shop! Jacquie and I picked up the rolls I was bringing to dinner from Peacocks grocery store and we walked around that store for at least an hour trying to figure out what JQ was going to make to bring. Everything that she wanted to make, Peacocks, being a small town “grocery store” didn’t have at least one of the items from what she was going to make. So we walked around in circles thinking and looking at what they had. It was frustrating, but it was just small town life at that point! So JQ finally came up with a fig spread to serve with some bread which turned out to be very good! We made our way through the little stores there that morning and picked up the rest of our souvenirs to take home as well!
Jacquie headed back to the motel and I was finally going to meet Holly! She was one of the first people I was in contact with when we learned about our family in Canada! Since April her and I have been in contact, first by email and facebook and then we started to write letters back and forth by snail mail! It has been so amazing to receive her letters and learn about the history of the family. It was finally time to meet her! I feel like I knew Holly so well when we finally saw each other and I gave her a big hug! She gives history walking tours of the city of Tobermory, so I was excited to hear her take on the town where we had spent the last few days soaking up the history! She had a great little book of black and white pictures of what the town used to look like back in the days. It was more of a Fisherman’s town back then. Docks full of fishing boats and nets! It was fun to see some of the first buildings in the city and see some that were very similar to what was there today! Holly and I walked by the house my Great Grandpa Dode and Grandma Tiny built. Next to that house is where Aunt Jacqueline and her husband raised their family. That small little street had lots of our family history on it! All the pictures of my Grandma and the house she grew up in was all of a sudden standing right there in front of me! It was a very cool feeling!
It was time to finally head over to the Legion for our Thanksgiving dinner we had been anticipating for months! At this point in the trip, we had been in town for 4 days so we had gotten a chance to meet almost everyone at different points in the days, so I was excited it wasn’t going to be this crazy overwhelming feeling of meeting everyone at once. The one person I was very excited to meet came in with his walker looking for us! My moms Uncle Albert was the sweetest loving little old man! When I came over to him to introduce myself he may have been a little confused on who I was, but once he got it straight and I called Jacquie over, he made us feel so amazing! He held both of our hands close up to his face and told us we were the only reason he drove up to Tobermory this weekend. He was so sweet and made us feel so much more like family, if that was even possible at this point! His kind words and the way he loved us was just so sweet. Sweet is just the best word I can use to describe him. He looked just like he did when he was younger in pictures with my Grandma. I just loved that man!
Canadian Thanksgiving dinner was very similar to ours in America, but no pilgrims or Indians. They are just being Thankful. Which was a nice gesture! I’m very used to praying before Thanksgiving dinner in all of our families, this time we just were able to take a moment of silence to think about the ones who weren’t there to join us. It was a nice time to think of my mom and grandma who were the direct bloodlines to all these amazing people sitting with us! I just can’t say enough about how welcoming and loving everyone was to us. I wanted so badly to stand up during dinner and express my thanks to each one of them. For inviting us out, for having us, for treating us like we had always been part of their family. I knew I couldn’t do it without breaking down and balling my eyes out. So I didn’t. I regret not doing it because I think it would have been nice for them to hear how grateful Jacquie and I were. But I hope that between the texts, emails and facebook posts we have posted that they get it.
The few things that were different in our dinner were my favorites! My moms cousin Byron brought his amazing smoked fish, but also some smoked deviled eggs! This man has the best talent for smoking food! My second favorite was a simple dish that Holly made. It was carrots and turnips. And I think that’s it. It was so tasty that I even went back for seconds! On both! I’m going to get that recipe from Holly so I can make it this year for Thanksgiving. I think Victor’s family would love it! Dinner was done before we knew it and everyone was standing around talking and just enjoying each others company. It was a perfect time to take some pictures with everyone and just enjoy the conversations! Patti had made a really cool board with our family timelines and pictures on them which was very fun to look at. I had my flash drive there with my mom and Grandma’s black and white pictures. We put them in a laptop and enjoyed pointing out who everyone was in the pictures!
We ended Thanksgiving evening at Patti’s cottage playing yet another round of spoons with our second cousins! It was kind of bitter sweet knowing the next day we would be checking out of our hotel and we would have to say goodbye to everyone that evening before we left. We had a few drinks and won a few more rounds of spoons. My moms cousin Jack, who did all the cool carvings in the town and in his garage had come over to the cottage to visit for a bit and to our surprise tossed on the counter two of his Salty Dogs he had hand carved that we were admiring at his house the day before! HOLY MOLY, Jacquie and I were so surprised and so grateful. Apparently he doesn’t just give his carvings out to anyone so we both felt so privileged to receive one! He is so funny, he came in, dropped two on the table and made some comment about giving them to us and then kind of walked away. That is just who Jack is. He is a man of little words but so kind! I immediately grabbed for the taller one I had been admiring in his garage. Jacquie and I were so excited to bring home a handmade piece from Jack. In our minds, he was kind of a small town big deal there. The day before we had seen one of his carvings for sale in a store there, and we were like, OH, is that Jack’s? Like he was a celebrity and we were related to him.
Before we headed out Patti and her mom Suzanne came out with two purple gift bags. One for each of us! We both opened one up and out came one of Suzanne’s amazing and beautiful handmade blankets!! These people were spoiling us so much with the most meaning gifts for us! For someone to spend so much time making something and just handing it over to strangers who just became family was so amazing to us! The blankets were both beautiful colors and I had picked the purple one, so it worked out nicely for both of us! How lucky were we?? Handmade gifts, amazing family, spoons… it’s like we were on cloud nine and didn’t want to come down anytime soon. We hugged all of our second cousins and cried… it was so sad to be leaving all of these people who in the last few days had become family. Honestly right now as I type this I cry thinking of how special they are. How they are just awesome people and this was one Thanksgiving that I will talk about for the rest of my life! It was very hard to say goodbye to Patti, she is the one that had invited us out, checked in with us all the time, made us feel just like part of the family. I’m happy to say that it won’t be goodbye, just until later. Jacquie and I are 100% going to bring our families back out there. It may not be in the next year but it will be before 2 years for sure! More to come on another trip out.
We headed back to our motel for one final sleep in Tobermory. We knew we had to get up in the morning and check out and start for Owen Sound where we were excited to go, but it wouldn’t be the same. We had such immediate connection with Tobermory from the second we stepped foot in it!
Monday morning came too fast and I sat out on our patio taking it all in again… not ready for it to be over, but knowing we had to move on. Jacquie and I went down to the village for the last time to grab some breakfast before we headed out of town. We ate at the only little breakfast down there called Craigy’s. It was TINY and had about 8 tables in it, but one managed to open pretty fast so we enjoyed some breakfast and headed back to the motel to check out and pack up.
After we left the hotel we had one last stop before leaving town, it was to visit that lighthouse! The Lighthouse for so many reasons was special to me. My Grandma collected everything lighthouses since I was little. She had everything from Salt and Pepper shakers to coasters. Pictures all over her house. Lighthouses were her thing. CRAZY to me that I never even knew why until Tobermory! I had this old black and white picture of the light house with I believe my Grandma at the top of it, and so Jacquie and I had to visit that same spot! It was a pretty cool little spot, filled with tourists that morning. We took lots of pictures of it, but I was most excited to take the same picture that my grandma had taken of her. Because her picture was taken back in the 50’s it was hard to get to a spot on the grounds where I could take the same picture. BUT, I walked back into some trees and over some rocks so I could get as close as possible! It was beautiful!
Heading out of Tobermory our eyes were filled with tears! We came up to the Tobermory sign in the road and pulled over, against all signage telling us not to, parked and got out to take some pictures in front of the sign! Totally worth it!It was only about an hour to Owen Sound where we would meet Holly and Glen at their house where they invited us to stay for a few days before we headed back to the States. The City of Owen Sound was so nice. It was just a little town, bigger than Tobermory, but still a little town feel. The houses were old brick and so beautiful. Everyone had a yard for the most part and the houses just felt homey. Almost like the City of Old Town Orange here. Old but beautiful houses that held history of the town! As we got into town, we noticed that Holly and Glen hadn’t arrived home yet so Jacquie and I found the closest Mcdonalds to break for some Ice Cream. The McDonalds in Canada have a bakery that serves fresh muffins which I thought was pretty cool. I got ice cream and French fries as we sat to pass some time. One of our second cousins, Chris, who we had just meet a few days ago happen to walk into the same McDonalds as a pit stop on his way back to Toronto, which was really funny. We only knew a handful of people in the Country yet we randomly run into one at our pit stop. Nice to say hi and by again to him!
Holly’s house and neighborhood was beautiful! Holly and Glen collect quite a few things which was really neat to walk through the house and see. Everywhere you looked you could see something different and unique! From clocks to these big mugs, porcelain figurines, beautiful wood furniture pieces! It was such a fun house to be in! They both love to read or loves books, so they had these amazing book shelves that Glen had made covering their living room. I could have spent hours looking at all the books they own! I wish I lived closer to come over and borrow some, it would be my own personal library!
We tried to relax, watch some TV, do a load of laundry and have a nice quiet, simple dinner with them. It was nice to sit and not do much for the evening and just veg out because we were so tired from running on pure adrenaline for the last 5 days! I was so thankful that Holly and Glen let us stay at their house and we didn’t need to be in a hotel. Staying with family will always be my first choice. I was so grateful that Holly agreed to let us stay there. She didn’t even meet me before a few days ago! Although we had been writing back and forth for months, I feel like I knew her the most out of anyone else there. But we were still super thankful to be there. The first night in a new place again is always hard to sleep, but the fact that they collected clocks was NOT helping us sleep! It was pretty funny, I didn’t even think about it until the night started to quiet down and I could hear the ticking. There was a beautiful clock on the end table by my side of the bed. Jacquie told me there was no way she was going to be able to sleep with that in the room and I thought I would be ok. BUT the second I laid my head down on the pillow and I heard the tick, tock, tick, tock… that was not going to work for me! I didn’t want to offend Holly or Glen because I knew they loved their clocks, but I already knew there was no way I was going to get any sleep. So I picked up the entire clock and brought it out to the living room and put it gently down on the desk next to Holly. I had to tell her there was no way that was going to work out for me. We laughed about it and she totally understood. Jacquie and I squished our fat butts in a full size bed that night. Not a lot of sleep was happening. Right outside our door was a coo-coo clock that went off every hour. I did manage to get some sleep, but I remember hearing each hour ding… I must have slept between the 4-5 hour ding, but other than that I heard each one every hour. That was no fun and I just had to laugh about it in the morning!
We had a full day ahead of us in Owen Sound, so we started off with breakfast in this cute little place not too far from the house! I had an amazing smoked sausage breakfast that was so tasty! After breakfast we headed over to visit our Great Aunt Jacqueline at the place she lived. To our surprise when we got to her room she had her entire bed full of things she had knitted! She knew that my Grandma used to make us slippers each year so she put out all the slipper she had and gave us each a bag to fill up to bring home for the family! From slippers to oven mits to these really cool teddy bears. She had a bed full of things she made that we could take. Neither Jacquie or I wanted to take too much but we both wanted to make sure we brought home a pair of everything for everyone! So we took a bag full with us. We were able to visit with Aunt Jacqueline for a bit longer, thank her for everything… stare at her a bit longer and then finally say goodbye. Jacquie and I both cried our eyes out as we left. Aunt Jacqueline is 90 years old and going strong. I have no doubt that she is going to live another 10 years, but it was sad to leave her. To leave that connection of my grandma I missed. To say goodbye to yet another family member we had grown so close to within just a few days.
Our next stop was to Holly’s parent’s apartment. Uncle Albert and Aunt Gloria! Aunt Gloria had just had knee surgery so she wasn’t up for traveling to Tobermory for Thanksgiving. She was one of the only people we hadn’t yet met. But because Holly had told me so much about her and we had talked all about her I felt like I knew her the second we walked in. Like everyone there, they were so welcoming and again felt like I had known them my entire life. We sat and chatted for a while and they shared pictures and stories with us! Albert and Gloria are two of the sweetest people, between the two of them they really had so much history in Tobermory. They both grew up there and even raised their family there for the most part, so it was great to chat with them about everything. We took some great pictures and headed out back to Holly’s house to rest for a bit before our last stop!
Turns out that Allan and Kathleen also live in Owen Sound so we were able to spend one more evening with them before we had to leave. They live in a beautiful house not far from Holly and Glen. We grabbed a bottle of wine and headed over for an early dinner! Kathleen is such a great hostess and cook! Again, it was nice to just sit and chat with them over dinner and dessert. They pulled out some old photo albums with lots of random pictures in them! Turns out they had some of our family that Grandma had sent out to Aunt Jacqueline at some point. Weird to see pictures of me and the family in the “old” photo albums in Canada. It was such great bonding time for us but also so nice to have the time to say goodbye to them and cry. The love we felt from Allan and Kathleen was so amazing, it was kind of weird. We just met you, somehow we are so sad to leave you. I feel like I was hugging my Aunt and Uncle goodbye, they weren’t strangers that we had only met a few days ago by any means. It was so nice and comforting to me and Jacquie, yet still so shocking how all of this could happen all so fast! We did not want to say goodnight or goodbye. But with lots of promises we would be back.
We packed mostly everything that night and tried to get to bed at a decent time. We knew we had a really long day ahead of us on Wednesday. We were both very sad it felt like it was over and we had to leave. I will tell you that if I had my family there with me and had the chance to stay there another week, or hell, even forever. I think we both would have. Yes I missed my babies so much, but I was going to miss all of these people so much too!
Wednesday morning Holly and Glen took us to their favorite neighborhood breakfast spot. We packed up and headed for the border. We were still about 5 hours from it so we knew we had a long drive ahead of us. It was very bitter sweet to say goodbye to Holly and Glen. Holly and I had gotten so close over the last few months and we had such an amazing trip, but I was ready to head home! That morning and we headed to the car to search it for our passports, cause well, I hadn’t seen mine since the border on Thursday… it started to rain. I think the Country was crying because we were leaving. I’m pretty sure that’s why. The entire time we were there the weather had been pretty awesome! The sun was bright and warm but the air was crisp and chilly. Never a drop of rain while we were there until Wednesday morning when we headed out when the sky cried.
The drive was long but not horrible. Again, Jacquie drove the entire way! Crossing the border back into the US was no biggy. Where were you, what were you there for? Where are you going now? Easy Peasy. Back to the airport and heading home was the next stop for us! It was a very long day, layover in Dallas, another flight into LAX, shuttle to my car, drive home from LAX. We finally arrived back to my house around 1am. I helped Jacquie pack up and get on the road to home. While we were gone there were some crazy fires by the toll road so it was closed, she had to take the long way home at 1am of course.
That’s our crazy and amazing trip day by day to Canada, my mom and Grandma’s homeland! This really was a once in a lifetime trip for Jacquie and I. I have a lot of people in my life that I want to take to Canada and introduce them to everyone, but I am sure glad that Jacquie and I took this trip together because honestly it was such a good match, we both felt the same way about finding our family out there and both were so excited, we both studied the family trees. We both were just so in awe of the entire experience, there is no one I would have rather made that trip with! Definitely an amazing sister trip to meet everyone! Even though we both plan to go back again with our families, I say once in a lifetime trip because there will never be another time in either of our lives that we will go and visit a place where we know no one, meet tons of family who are so excited to meet up in return and then cry when we leave them because we miss them so much! It’s just not going to happen again and I am so grateful that we were able to go and have such an amazing time. Pictures to come. 12 pages for 7 days, not too bad, but finally documented so I don’t forget it any bit of it!