A Decade in Saint John: A Month-Long Celebration

A decade ago this October, I packed up a truck-load of all my worldly possessions and drove into Saint John as this city’s newest resident.  I was moving to the Port City to take my first real, grown-up job as a Cytotechnologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Driving into town for the first time, I missed the exit I was supposed to take and ended up driving over the Harbour Bridge.  Classic rookie mistake.  It did, however, give me a chance to see a bit of my new home town.  I remember thinking as I passed through, what is this place?  With the audacity to have its own Hollywood sign and a major highway straight through its centre?

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I think I loved it, right then and there.

It makes sense that I would love it here, really.  Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, I’ve seen so many communities struggle just to stay alive, in much the same way that Saint John has struggled.  Just as people like to root for the underdog, I like to root for the undervalued and unappreciated places in the Maritimes.

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When I first took the job in Saint John, people tried to tell me not to move.  It seemed that Saint John inspired a rather apathetic response in Maritimers, at best.  Why are you moving there? was a common question I received as I prepared to move my entire life there.  That is, except for a couple I met at the restaurant where I worked, who lived in Saint John. They boasted about the beauty of their city and its friendly people.  After chatting with them for a few minutes, I decided that there was hope for my new city, after all.  As it turns out, they were right.

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I haven’t regretted a moment that I’ve spent here.

In many ways, I feel as though I’ve found myself here.  I met the love of my life here and we married three years ago.  We bought a home, set up a busy, satisfying life here.  I have a rewarding career and enough hobbies to keep me busy 24 hours a day.  In the past couple of years I’ve unexpectedly discovered a new purpose: to use my passion and love for the region to spread the word about all the inspiring people and remarkable things that are happening here. Because this place deserves to be seen as more than the Armpit of the Maritimes.  It deserves to be a destination in its own right.

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If you saw the recent CBC documentary about Saint John, City on Fire, then you’ll understand that it’s an exciting time to live in Saint John.  There is a momentum building in the city, and it makes you want to get involved.  To be a part of the movement.  To prove that a community can take control of its own destiny, and decide for themselves who they’re going to be.  We don’t (and shouldn’t) have to wait for government to bail us out.  We can build a better community, all by ourselves, for ourselves.

To celebrate 10 years in the Port City, I’ll be bringing you posts of all my favourite places in the area, all month long.  Those most visited, and those I couldn’t live without.

So, after a decade in Saint John, the only real question left to answer is this: Can I offically call myself a Saint Johner now?

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun (Except Absolutely Everything)

Earlier today I posted this photo and caption on Instagram:

It got me thinking about this concept.  If there really is nothing new under the sun and we’re all destined to repeat the same tedious and mind-numbing cycles over and over again, why do we even bother?

Why do we get up in the morning?  Why even step outside the door?

Why do we bother to travel and explore the world, if it’s all been seen before?

And that got me thinking about that Barenaked Ladies song, “It’s All Been Done”.  Here it is, because I know you’re all singing it in your heads now:

I understand it can be frustrating, when you’re trying to be original and create something truly unique, only to find that it’s been done already.  So, what’s a gal to do?

I say, do it anyway.

Whatever it is, it hasn’t been done by you.  That story hasn’t been told by you.  And so really, it hasn’t been told at all.

This is not permission to plagiarize someone else’s work, please do not misunderstand me.  But we have to give ourselves permission to be creative, even in this exceedingly ‘it’s all been done’ time we live in.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a great book about living a creative life, called Big Magic.  In it, she discusses the difference between originality and authenticity.  She says, “These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity.  Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.  Just say what you want to say, then, and say it will all your heart.  Share whatever you are driven to share.  If it’s authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original“.  Smart lady.

The same concept applies when exploring the world.  If it’s the first time you’ve been somewhere, explore it like you’re the first to set foot there.  Because, to you, it is the first time and it feels the same anyway.  I can tell you that the sense of wonder I feel when I hike a new forest path or visit a new-to-me place is not in the least diminished by the knowledge that thousands of people have been there before me.

So, let’s take the sage advice of the folks at The North Face and Never Stop Exploring.  

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Because yes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Except absolutely everything.

 

 

Winter Project

Winter is the perfect time to take on a little home decorating project.  It gives you something to do while your waiting for the evening light and warm temperatures to return.

This January I decided to take on redecorating a small bedroom in our home.  A room desperately in need of a fresh coat of paint and a new purpose.  The task?  Turning this drab, unused space into a cozy reading oasis.

Seriously in need of help

The idea took shape when I spotted this amazing print from Sweet Sycamore in a Canadian Living magazine.  The idea grew from there.

You can’t not sing the song

A great shade of paint (Antiqued Aqua, Benjamin Moore), a comfy chair, some lighting and a few bookcases later and I love my new room!  It’s a great place to hang out and chill, with plenty of storage for future book purchases.

A cozy corner

 

Lots of space for books

 

Now I have somewhere to display my cloth bound books and tea set!

I’m still searching for the perfect curtains (aren’t they so hard to find?) and I may add a few details over time but overall I’m very happy with how it turned out.  It was a great use of my indoor winter time and now I have a space that is much more useful for me.
A special feature of the room that my husband insisted on are hammock hooks.  You know, in case chairs just aren’t your thing.  I was resistant at first but it was a huge hit at our annual Stoutfest party last weekend and I must admit it’s pretty comfy (don’t tell my husband!).  Also, it’s easy to take down so it doesn’t have to dominate the room all the time.

I’m trying to pretend I don’t like it.

Have you taken on any indoor winter projects to get you through the coldest months?

I’d love to hear about them!

A Tale of Two Winters: A Photo Comparison

I don’t know about y’all, but looking at the bare grass on my front lawn and thinking about what it looked like this time last year is sort of freaking me out.  Because this week we’ve had a couple days where we broke records for February daytime high temperatures and last year at this time it felt like we were in some sort of frozen, never-ending hell of snowmageddon.  I guess it just goes to show you how very different winter in the Maritimes can be from year to year.

As un-Canadian as it may be to say this, winter is not my favourite season (shocking, I know).  I find the short days and the long hours of darkness challenging.  Always having to wear snow boots and tracking snow and ice through the house (and then stepping in puddles of cold water in your sock feet, ahh!).  Shuffling like an old lady across the parking lot so you don’t fall and break a hip (don’t laugh, it happened to people last year!). I try to make the most of it and I do enjoy an afternoon’s snowshoe or a morning of skiing, but for me, winter gets old pretty fast.

This winter, we’ve gotten off pretty lucky so far, at least here in the Saint John area. Mother Nature makes no promises however, and we could get slammed everyday from now until April (and maybe even after that).  In fact, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. For now, I’ll take more of what we’ve been getting.  Thanks, El Nino!

I put together a few comparison shots, so that we can all take a little stroll down memory lane of the winter-from-hell and thank our lucky stars that it’s 2016 and not 2015.

Top: February 21, 2015 Bottom: February 2, 2016

 

Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

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Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

Top: February 7, 2015 Bottom: February 4, 2016

 

Left: February 28, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

Good luck out there, Winter Warriors!

How do you survive the winter months?

 

Share Your Maritime Love!

Today marks my one year blogiversary.  It’s been one year since I started writing regularly at Maritime Love.  It’s been a wonderful year full of self discovery and creative expression.  Thank you to everyone who has visited maritimelove.com and read, shared and liked my posts.  It’s so amazing when people reach out to tell me they enjoy the site. I really appreciate your support!  This has been a labour of love, in an effort to give back in some small way, to a place that has given me so much.

I’ve enjoyed sharing my stories here over the past year and I will continue to post about my adventures around the Maritimes in the future.  But this year I want to focus on connecting with people in the region and learning what it is they love about the Maritimes.  So, I’m launching the Share Your Maritime Love Project, where I’m inviting you to share what you love about this place and why.

More specifically, I’d like to know:

  1. Do you live in the Maritimes? If so, where do you call home?
  2. What do you love most about life in the Maritimes?
  3. What do you find most challenging about living/doing business here?
  4. What is your favourite place(s) in the Maritimes?  Why?
  5. What do you think we can do to build a better Maritimes?

I would like to feature someone new on the website each week.  It could be a born-and-bred Maritimer, a new resident, someone who has left the region or a visitor.  I want to hear from all of you!

By doing this, I aim to learn more about the Maritimes and the people who live/have lived here and I hope to gain insight into what we can do to improve life for Maritimers.

If you are interested in being featured on Maritime Love, please comment on this post or reach me through social media (links on sidebar) and I will be in contact with you. Please share this post with anyone you think might be interested.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

And don’t forget to use the hashtag: #ShareYourMaritimeLove

My ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Story: A Do-Over

I have a confession to make: Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the year.  I like it better than Christmas Day.  To me, the true magic of the season lies in the anticipation and lead up to the big day rather than the big day itself.  I love the peaceful stillness that fills the house after everyone has gone to bed on Christmas Eve.  But there’s also an undercurrent of excitement, a quiet hum of anticipation for the coming morning.  It’s unlike any other night of the year.  And in my house growing up, my mother would often cook our turkey on Christmas Eve, so that when you went to bed, the house smelled oh, so wonderful.  To this day, the smell of a cooked turkey brings back memories of sleepless nights impatiently waiting to see what Santa brought for me.

When I was a kid, in that little two room schoolhouse I told you about, we had Christmas concerts, just like any other school.  One year I got this crazy idea to memorize the entire ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem and recite it at the school Christmas concert.  I don’t know what possessed my little 8 year old self to tackle such a challenge, but tackle it I did.  I spent weeks learning the poem, going over and over it in my mind.  The idea was to recite the poem for a couple younger school kids, as if I was telling them the story by the fireplace.  My teacher would prompt me if I forgot my line.

When the day of the concert came, I was a nervous wreck.  My stomach was in knots as the time ticked closer to my performance.  When my big moment arrived, I froze.  I couldn’t do it.  I had a major case of stage fright.  My teacher and the crowd tried to cajole me into performing, but I was having none of it.  No way, no how.  I was not going on that stage.

My parents were none too pleased with me and I was disappointed in myself.  I think I realized that my rather tenuous short-term memory was not going to survive all those faces staring expectantly at me.  But I also regretted not at least attempting it, which goes to show the old adage is true: you only regret the things you didn’t do in life.

We don’t often get do-overs in this life, so I’m going to take mine now.  So here I am, reciting (from memory) the now infamous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, for my 8 year old self.  Better late than never!

I wish you all joy and happiness in the coming week!  Merry Christmas!

 

Making Sense of Insensible Acts

I think we’re all still reeling from the horrific events that took place in Paris last night.  I know that I am.  Images and sounds that we can’t get out of our heads.  Innocent people enjoying their Friday evening, only to discover the worst of humanity.

Much like the stages of grief, I believe there is a natural process that we go through as we watch traumatic events like this unfold (which are becoming far too frequent):

 1.  The first stage is disbelief – what did that last tweet just say?  Bombings in the heart of Paris?  This can’t possibly be true!  We scour the internet for any morsel of information that we can glean, in an attempt to disprove our worst fears.

2.  When it’s been confirmed that this is indeed happening, there is an immediate coming together in solidarity.  Social media feeds were filled with messages of love and support for the people of Paris, even as events were still unfolding.  And with our advanced level of connectivity, we are easily able to follow events in real time, which is both a blessing a curse.  It provides us with the most up-to-the-minute information but can also lead to a lot of misinformation and increased anxiety on the part of people who can’t seem to disconnect themselves from the story.

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The World lights up for Paris

3.  We get really angry – there are a lot of emotions involved in seeing your fellow world citizens being gunned down in public and fleeing for their lives.  The most intense of these can be anger.  And that anger wants to be directed somewhere, which leads into the next stage…

4.  We look for someone to blame – this is completely natural.  In order to make sense of something that really makes no sense at all, we need to find someone or something to blame.  Somewhere to place our anger and disgust, our sorrow and grief.  The problem is when we start to place blame where it doesn’t belong.  When we condemn a group of people based on the acts of a very few.  Don’t get me wrong, the people who commit these acts are heinous people and worthy of appropriate punishment but let us place the blame where it properly belongs.  We don’t want to look back on this time in history and feel shame at how we conducted ourselves.  Let’s be on the right side of this history that’s unfolding.

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This was trending the morning after the attacks

5.  We get depressed and feel the world is going to crap – this also is natural.  Some very bad things are indeed happening in the world, and not just in Paris.  It can be overwhelming when we try to take it all in.  But we must resist the urge to give up on the world.  We must look for those helpers that Mister Rogers told us to look for, because in them, we will find our salvation.  When you realize how many more people were willing to open their doors to strangers, rush headlong into danger and work around the clock to assist the injured than the few who perpetrated this evil, you realize that darkness can never win.  Because evil is desperately outnumbered.  And this is how we must fight terrorism, with undying light and hope.  And what better place to lead the charge than the City of Light?

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We Remember

Today, we remember.  We remember sacrifices made and lives lost.  We celebrate courage and bravery.  We practice gratitude for our remarkably free lives.

We also remember those innocent lives lost – the victims of war.  Those legions of men, women and children not in uniform.  We remember those who toiled in support of the war effort, and those who waited at home for loved ones with trembling hands and hearts.

We remember those who fought on the front lines and those who fought in the shadows.

And those who fight still.

The poppy is our symbol of remembrance – our tremulous link to a shocking past. Pinned on our breast, we wear it with pride and with trepidation.  We gather once a year to honour all those brave souls who risked it all, but also to prevent a history that repeats itself.  As if by gathering at a cenotaph each year, we can ward off the demons of war, by standing together as one, a united front of peaceful intentions.

So, for me, Remembrance Day is not only a remembering of all those that fought, but a remembering of all that we wish to gain.  And that red poppy we so proudly wear? It’s a symbol of hope as much as loss: of what we could be, of what is possible, of what is necessary.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scare heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

John McCrae

A brief history of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance: Inspired by the red poppies that stubbornly grew over the war torn fields of Flanders, Belguim, Canadian field surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel John Alexander McCrae wrote his famous poem 100 years ago.  In 1918 an American woman, Moina Belle Michael, read the poem and was so moved by it’s message of keeping the faith that she came up with the idea of wearing a red poppy as a way of remembering all those who died.  But it was a French woman by the name of Madame Anna E. Guerin who took the symbol of the poppy worldwide.  Today, millions of poppies are worn in Canada, U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and in 120 other countries worldwide.

I love this response to In Flanders Fields that I found while doing research, written by Moina Belle Michael:

We shall keep the faith  

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet – to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.


We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields.


And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We wear in honor of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields we fought.

Thanksgiving Weekend Fall Foliage Tour

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

It’s that wonderful time of year when friends and family gather to stuff themselves silly on turkey and pumpkin pie and oh yeah, pay thanks for all the wonderful gifts we usually take for granted.

This year, my husband ventured across the border into Maine to attempt his first hike of Mount Katahdin.

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Spoiler Alert: He made it to the summit! Photo credit: Ryan Orser

I traveled home to spend some time with my family in Nova Scotia.  I love driving this time of year because it’s a great way to see the fall foliage in all it’s glory.  It sort of turned into a fall foliage tour of upper Nova Scotia for me. Saturday was clear and cool but great for capturing all those glorious fall hues.  I ended up driving around Cumberland County, stopping the car for a photo op every few minutes.  And while the trees certainly are brilliant, it’s always the blueberry fields that really knock my socks off this time of year.  If you have never seen a blueberry field in it’s fall coat, you’ve really been missing out, fall foliage-wise.  They turn a shade of red so brilliant that they almost look like they’re on fire.  I took a shot from the same position as one I took when we were harvesting the blueberries to show you the dramatic transformation:

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Soft greens turn to brilliant reds

If I live to see 110 fall seasons, I will never tire of seeing these brilliant colours.

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Fields of fire
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This section had a more orange/red fire effect
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Magic hour in the country
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My childhood schoolhouse
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Love the way the sun highlights these trees

The combination of soft evening light on pretty country roads and time spent laughing with loved ones soothed my soul this weekend.  And even though my mother is currently fighting her second battle with ovarian cancer, we feel very lucky to have all that we do. Many warm memories were shared and made this weekend.  It’s important to remember that the only moment we are promised is this one and it’s the only one that counts.

I hope that you had time to spend with loved ones this weekend and also that you took a moment to look around at the beautiful show that Mother Nature graces us with every year around this time.  Gobble, gobble.

Hard to Make a Stand: On the Syrian Refugee Crisis and Animal Cruelty

I was all set this week to write a pretty, happy little post about how great September is in the Maritimes, but I feel that I’m just not up to it.  I’m not up to it because I’m sad this week.  And I’m sad this week because cats are getting stuffed into dog crates and left to die and because families are being forced to flee war-torn countries, stuffed into little rubber dingys and children are being left to die.  So I feel I just can’t write that happy, pretty blog post this week.  I hope you’ll forgive me, dear readers.  It happens to the best of us.

Even die-hard optimists have off days.

I’m sure I’ll be back on point next week but for now, let’s talk about some serious stuff that’s happening around us, shall we?

By now, everyone should know about the little Syrian boy who died fleeing his country with his family.  If not, where have you been all week?  I’ll give you a moment to find the story.  Just go to any major news outlet.

Are we all up-to-date?  Good.  So, here’s why we should all care about what happened to that family and so many more just like them: because it could happen to any one of us.  I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it could.  And if it did, I would want someone across the world to care enough to want to help me.

Sometimes we forget just how good we’ve got it here in the Maritimes.  We sit in our comfortable homes and spend time with our families on this lovely long weekend and we feel like these kind of troubles are a million miles away from us.  The vast majority of us have no idea what it’s like to have to flee your country in the middle of the night with your family, with just the clothes on your back.  The Kurdi family was crammed in a little rubber dingy, trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Greece, to safety.  As we know, not all of them made it.  Every time I see that photo of the little boy’s father crying, I can see how he will carry his grief for the rest of his life.  It’s absolutely devastating.

Now there is a sea of refugees making their way to Austria and Germany, where these countries have generously set up refugee stations.  Icelanders have been offering up spaces in their own homes.  I think of this vast, wealthy country we have and I can’t help but think: we can do more.  We should do more.  What if we added our voices to the multitudes urging our government to take action?  What if we inundated the policy-makers of this country and let them know: this is not okay with us.

This week, Brian Gallant announced that the province of New Brunswick would be sending $50,000 to help Syrian refugees and that he would be open to welcoming refugees to N.B.  Smart move, considering we are a shrinking province and could use a boost to our population.  I applaud him for taking action.  But these people need help now.  And I know so many Maritimers are seeing these news stories and want to help, but don’t know how.  There are things that we can do.  Here’s a link to a CBC article telling Canadians how they can help.

The other story that gave me a hard time this week was the story of 15 cats found crammed in a dog crate and half buried, left to die in a field on the west side of Saint John.  Six of the animals were found dead at the scene, another seven were euthanized upon arrival at the Kannon Animal Hospital. In the end, only one cat survived.  All of the cats were reported to be wearing collars, so they were obviously pets.  The Kannon Animal Hospital released a video this week of the lone survivor, appropriately named Fanceen, meaning “to be free”.

There is an ancient quote by Terence which states: “I am a human being.  Nothing human can be alien to me”.  I really try to understand this and look at life with this quote in mind.  But I find it extremely difficult when I hear stories like the one about those 15 cats.  The person(s) who committed that crime must have known how those animals would suffer, left to starve to death in a box there was no escape from.  Some people out there might even say, “hey, it was just some cats”.  But here’s the thing: if this is how we’re going to value life, it’s a slippery slope from it’s just a cat to it’s just those people over there, to it’s just one little boy.

Life is life is life, no matter where it comes from or what form it takes.

We have to respect it, in all it’s forms, or we have nothing.

I have so much respect for those people around the world, and close to home, who are fighting for the rights of humans and animals alike.  The work you do is good.  The work you do is important.  Thank you.

I’m reminded of a song I love by Sheryl Crow, Hard to Make a Stand.  Because it is hard to make a stand.  But it’s so very important.

“Hey there, Miscreation.  Bring a flower, time is wasting.”