02 June 2011

Half a Century and More Beautiful Every Day

This past weekend Cat turned 50. I know, hard to believe. For her too. Although it helps that I had crossed the threshold four years ago, so she had some time to get used to the idea.

We had a great party to celebrate with her. Both Hugh and Dawn, her parents, were able to be there, and as well, three of her four sibs, all flown in from Vancouver for the weekend. Pictured here from left to right, Charlie, Francis, Catharine, and Prisca. Laurence, who is scouting out locations for his family in Jakarta, is understandably missing.

Although the party wasn't a surprise, their visits were. Prisca casually wandered in to the kitchen on Thursday and asked if she might stay for supper. Cat nearly had a bird on the spot. Charlie repeated the scene at breakfast Friday morning, having spent the night flying the red eye. And Francis managed to sneak in during the party prep on Friday, late afternoon, so that Cat almost bumped into him in the kitchen. Great happiness and tears in each case. She really was touched by them and their efforts to be with her.

Lots of family and friends joined us. Everyone having a good time as far as I could tell. And the highlight was a poem by Alexander, read aloud by Charles (Alex was in Montreal and unhappily unable to be there). Here it is.


There are days when I’d rather stay at home
With chicken soup, you brewed the bone to make
A witchy stew. But then I’d rather roam
Away from you with hands and feet that flake,
With breaks and aches that match my shifting mind,
Doubts about which you can always surmise,
Because I am your child, on my face lies
Unspoken thoughts, easy for you to find.
Weight feels less heavy and bones feel less sore,
Nights I come wandering back through the door.
Words of wisdom bring me in from the wild.
Greyhound-bound and all my troubles are mild,
A lighthouse beacon, a maternal star,
One thing I know, peace is wherever you are.

> Alexander

Fran posted a bunch of photos here


22 January 2010

When your calendar is a moral document

Found this video in an email newsletter that McKinsey's sends me each month. I think he is posing some important questions. It will be difficult to get a consensus on the need to tackle these issues, let alone come up with solutions. But the current crisis does seem to be a good place to start.

When your calendar is a moral document—A conversation with Jim Wallis, the CEO of Sojourners discusses the imperative for rethinking values after the crisis.

13 October 2009


It started as a beautiful Canadian autumn day, sparkling blue skies and the early reds and oranges of the maple trees. The extended clan from the Guelph and Toronto area gathered for a longer hike (then planned) in the Halton Regional forest. By the time we had finished, the clouds had rolled in and it was starting to feel like late autumn. We all repaired to our place for warming hot chocolates, followed by a big feast of turkey and fall vegetables -- topped off by pumpkin and apple pies from Monica and Marg, respectively (mmmm...).

Great visits and conversations. The kids had a good time playing tennis, shooting nerf darts and ended up parked in front of an old VHS tape of Disney's Hercules to finish the evening off (good thing I found that old VCR in the pawn shop!).

See the photos or the slideshow. If anyone wants to send me more photos to add, just email them to me.

04 January 2009

Happy 2009

After four-and-a-half years in Paris, we are now living in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. We had a luxurious adventure in Paris, which was life changing for each one of us. While Richard still works for Alcatel-Lucent HQ in Paris, his ex-pat assignment ended and we headed home. We toyed with the idea of staying on under a local French contract but the pragmatic overcame the romantic.

Instead of returning to Ottawa, where we had lived prior to Paris, we chose Guelph as it feels like our home in Canada, perhaps because three of our four parents are here, along with others of the Hamilton clan, and many good friends.

It took Max-the-dog about a month to figure out he could stay out in his garden and didn’t have to come straight back in. Now, even on cold, snowy days he stays out for long periods, happily chewing on sticks. He knows there’s a park across the street and when he thinks it’s time for a walk, he’ll ask to go out the front door – direction Park, instead of out the back door - direction Garden.

Charles (15 on Dec 27) is in a Grade 9 French Immersion program, meaning half of his courses are in French. He’s on the swim team, in the choir and has participated in competitions and concerts recently. He also takes Fencing, and has successfully completed a lifesaving swim course: Bronze Cross, to enable his working as a camp counselor in future summers. Socially, he is thriving. He made new friends on the first day of school, and at the end of the first week of school three girls from his school showed up one evening with chocolate chip cookies for him! Things have happily continued in this vein for him. He has grown 3 inches since we left Paris and is mistaken for his father or brother on the phone.

Alexander (19 on Dec 21) graduated with a bilingual International Baccalaureate (IB) from his French High School in May 2008. In June, he and Richard were the guests of our friends, the Greigs, for a one-week sailing trip along the Sunshine coast off Croatia. In case that wasn’t enough of a finale to our European adventure, he then went on a Euro rail trip with two friends! He spent July and August working and sailing in Vancouver. Alexander now attends McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He’s in the Faculty of Arts & Science taking second-year courses (his IB was worth the equivalent of one-year of Canadian university credits) in Math and Physics, philosophy and history. His passion, thus far, lies in Physics. Otherwise, he’s on the Sailing team and has gone to regattas in Boston and Rhode Island. From what I can tell he has a full social life and loves life at university.

Although Richard’s office is in Paris, he works from home most of the time and travels to Paris, New Jersey and Ottawa. While he enjoys the natural setting of our home, he is a ‘city mouse’ and misses the stimulation and excitement of Paris, not to mention working in an office. Richard’s work, as VP of Corporate Image, continues to challenge him especially since a new CEO came to lead Alcatel-Lucent in the summer of 2008 bringing fresh energy and direction with him.

As for me, I’m finally beginning to catch my breath, nearly six months after the move. The summer and fall are mostly a blur with December, winter, birthdays and Christmas suddenly happening. As the ‘country mouse’, I feel happier in a quieter town, with a slower pace and easy access to nature. I’m glad to be closer to family and old friends but miss my Paris friends and European relatives. It’s all about balancing …

May 2009 bring you good health, prosperity, peace and equilibrium!

(Written by Catharine)

13 April 2008

Gwen's Visit

Gwen is the daughter of our very good friends, Alan Cumyn and Suzanne Evans, who live in Ottawa. She was able to get 2 weeks away from her job to make a quick visit with us in Paris before we left. We have photos of Gwen and Alexander feeding each other sand on the beach at Meech Lake, aged 2 or so. So it was a bit surprising after nearly 5 years to meet this graceful and self-possessed young woman at the airport.

She seemed to enjoy herself a lot and, of course, Paris in the spring is always delightful. These photos were taken last weekend when she, Alexander, Catharine and I made a quick visit to the Louvre to see the Babylon exhibit. Lots of clay tablets with cuneiform markings on them. Mind-boggling how anyone was able to decipher them. Anyway, we puzzled our way through the tablets part, enjoying seeing along the way some interesting artifacts such as the actual piece of stone on which Hammurabi's code was scratched. Then a quick tour of the high points of any Louvre visit, including the Mona Lisa and the statue of Victoire, followed by an Italian supper on the left bank.

We said good-bye to Gwen this morning, as she flew back to Ottawa. We wish her luck with her upcoming auditions for theatre school.

View the photos or the slideshow. Beware, some of the more abstract photos come from Alexander and I spending time in the coffee shop waiting for Gwen and Catharine to visit the dungeons. Our artistic sides were clearly being stimulated: pay special attention to Alexander's studies of a cafeteria table top.

30 March 2008

Alexander Goes to the Prom

Alexander went to his high school prom last night. It's now 3:30 in the afternoon the next day and he's still not home because he stayed at the Greigs -- but we did get a telephone update a couple of hours ago and he seems to have had a good time. Just thought people would like to seem him in a tux (un "smoking" en France). Lots of shots of his parents looking proud and him looking a bit like he's being held captive.

Photos / Slideshow

Ski Trip to Samoens

This year's ski trip to the Alps, probably our last for awhile, took us to Samoens in the area known as the Grand Massif. It was a funny week for weather with a couple of days of really hot sun, a few days of thick fog and a few somewhere in between. In the end, I think we might have had the most fun skiing in the fog as a group. Talk about trust and letting go of that need for control!

We were four families (8 adults and 8 kids) in a large chalet on a working farm. (In the photos I included one of a steaming pile of manure just to emphasize that point.) We had big group dinners every night with large quantities of wine and good cheer, music and movies and board games. Charles broke his wrist on the first run (bad luck Charles) but there were always kids around to play with and he ended up having a good time. Cat didn't get any skiing in after Charles broke his wrist (I think she took about 4 turns) but did get some x-country and hiking in.

See the photo album or slideshow.

Chateau Amboise

On their kind invitation, we joined Bob and Sue Greig for a quick trip to Chateau Amboise in the Loire valley for the weekend. We had a wonderful supper on the Friday night and spent Saturday exploring the chateau and its environs. The Chateau is most famous as the resting place of Leonardo da Vinci. It is where he spent the last years of his life. It is an interesting story (and better told on Wikipedia than I can manage). The visit solved a mystery for me, which is "why does the Mona Lisa hang in the Louvre and not somewhere in Italy? He brought three of his favourite paintings with him from Florence: the Mona Lisa or "La Joconda" as the French call it and the famous one of St. John the Baptist pointing skyward. I can't remember the third. But this is, I suppose, why these paintings are in the Louvre; they simply stayed in France. As you can see from the photos the day was spectacular. I wasn't able to take any of the house where Leonardo lived, but it was a lovely home down beside a small stream that joins the Loire at Amboise.

View the photo album or slideshow.

22 October 2007

Charles Sings in Antwerp

We had a great trip up to Antwerp with Charlie and Anne to see our Charles sing with the AMIS Middle School Boys Honor Choir Festival. There were boys from international schools all over Europe and the Middle East (London, the Hague, Paris, Antwerp, Bilkent, Frankfurt, Beirut, Aberdeen, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Luxembourg, Munich and Zurich). They practised at home before gathering on the Wednesday to start rehearsals. The concert was given Saturday night. Charles had a great time and we loved the music. You can enjoy it too. Sorry the video is so small but the sound should be fine, especially if you plug in headphones or small PC speakers.

YouTube only allows videos to be 10 minutes long, so you have to watch the concert in chunks, scrolling down to see them each in sequence.

1. Welcome, Cantate Domino and A Song to You I Sing

2. Der Tanz, Homeward Bound, Toccata for Voices and Erie Canal

3. Mississippi Mud, Rainstorm, California Dreamin' and September

4. Encores: California Dreamin' and September