Life is Delicate

I’ve done it. I’ve dwelled on the negative. I’ve thought about things that make me unhappy. I’ve stressed over things I cannot change. I always have the saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff” in the back of my mind, and I know I should heed that advice. However, it’s easier said than done in some instances, and I end up occupying my mind with worries.  I know better than to spend my time doing this. Life is much too short. And over the last few months I’ve been counting my blessings. A lot of bad things have happened to people I know in that time.

Last winter, one of my closest childhood friends (since we met in grade one) was told she had a mass on her breastbone. Obviously she was scared. It terrified her that she might have cancer, and that she might not be around much longer for her 4 year old son. She felt guilty that she would be sad and preoccupied with thoughts of her health during Christmas, and that her son wouldn’t have a special Christmas. She felt terrible that her son might have to see her sick. Thankfully she had her mass removed a few months later, she does not have cancer, and though she has to have regular check-ups to make sure she’s okay, she’s doing great. When she told me about the mass initially, I was shocked and overcome with worry. This was someone I’d known and been friends with most of my life; someone I’d seen and talked to regularly for 34 years. Shannon was my very best friend for many of those years. I cried a lot about it. We cried on the phone together. Hearing her say that she was so scared that her little boy, her only child and the light of her life, wouldn’t have a mom was horrible. It also made me feel grateful for my own good health.

In May, one of my former co-workers, and a friend, suffered a brain aneuryism. His wife, also a former co-worker and friend, made everyone aware of the situation on Facebook, and gave us updates when she could. Sadly, he passed away shortly after. Though I hadn’t seen him or his wife in over 15 years, we were friends, and, though we lived five hours apart, we chatted occasionally on Facebook and Twitter. The two of them had been so wonderful to me when I worked with them at the radio station so many years ago. I would go to their house some days and have lunch and a visit. They were kind and giving. They meant so much to me that I had a dream about them years ago, and mentioned it to Nancy on Facebook when we finally reconnected there about eight years ago. In my dream I had seen them in a nearby town, but couldn’t reach them before they drove away. I was stressed out in my dream because I really wanted to see them and talk to them. Strange, right? They obviously left an impression on me. When I read that Rich had passed away on Nancy’s Facebook page, it was bizarre. It seemed impossible. Rich was only 52, and he lived healthily. It was so unexpected and so sudden. He left behind Nancy, the love of his life and soulmate, and their five year old daughter Zoe. To see that one day someone you love can be here, and the next day he isn’t, without warning, was devastating. I was reminded that you never know when it’s your last day.  I was also reminded to check that my organ donation card was filled out so that I, too, could make a difference in others’ lives.  Rich was an organ donor, and his wife made the decision to donate everything that could be used to help others waiting for transplants.  Because of the selflessness and generosity of the two of them, the lives of at least eight people have been prolonged and enriched.  Rich will live on in them.  Over the last two weekends, Nancy and Zoe have come here to visit with me and others with whom Nancy and Rich worked so many years ago.  We’ve talked about Rich and what happened, and we talked about how wonderful it is for Zoe to know that her dad has saved lives.  That’s truly an awe-inspiring legacy.

Last month, one of my fellow teachers – a co-worker and a friend – was hit while cycling in preparation for an upcoming triathlon. The first thing reported was that she had suffered “life-altering” injuries. Initially we – her co-workers – didn’t know what that meant. We eventually learned the extent of Julie’s injuries. This was someone who was very active: she swam, biked, ran, and coached the cross-country ski team at our school. She also lives on a farm with her husband, and they have two young children. A morning bike ride turned into a traumatic experience that left her with a broken neck, a broken back, facial lacerations, broken teeth, lung damage, and broken ribs. And she’s paralyzed. For now.  And maybe for always.  Only time will tell.  She’s a strong and determined person though, and I know she will work hard and fight to try to be able to walk again.  Not only has she endured a number of surgeries already to repair her body, but she’s also trying to make things better for the community as a whole by advocating for safer conditions for cyclists.  She, her family members, and her friends have been interviewed by the media to bring awareness to the law when it involves cyclists and cars.  Julie is turning the single most devastating occurrence in her life into an opportunity to make a positive change so that others do not have to suffer the way she is suffering.  To be able to focus not on her injuries and how different her life will be, but on helping others is nothing short of amazing.

The close calls, the loss, and the life-altering experiences of others surely remind us all that life is so precious, and it can be too short.  Worrying about small things isn’t worth the time it takes.  Because you just never know.  Things can change in an instant.  “Seize every second of your life and savor it.”

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A Wonderful Time at Wonderland

Summer break is almost over. It’s sad, but true. My youngest will be starting junior kindergarten in a few weeks, my oldest will be in grade four, my husband will be back to work, and I will be returning to teaching after four and a half years off. My mission this summer was to do a number of fun things with my family to make the most of our time together before the craziness begins.  Unfortunately when we’ve had the days off to go on adventures, the weather has been less than cooperative. So the number of fun activities we’ve done has been a lot less than I’d hoped. That said, we did get to go on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls, where my kids experienced the magnificence of the Falls for the first time, and where we all had a blast at Marineland, watching dolphins perform, feeding beluga whales, and going on some really fun rides. Last week we were able to go to Toronto, to an amusement park called Canada’s Wonderland, and spent nine hours riding rides and eating treats. Needless to say, it was so much fun.

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The park is gigantic and so being able to see all of it and do all there is to do there was impossible in nine hours. Because it was a hot and sunny day, and because I’d never been to that part of the park before (it’s relatively new), I wanted to go to Splash Works, which is the waterpark section of Canada’s Wonderland. However, in case it was packed (which it WAS because who doesn’t want to go on waterslides and swim in a lazy river when it’s over 30 degrees Celsius?), we went to Planet Snoopy and KidZville first. My reasoning was so that Zoey, our four year old, would be able to have some fun on age-appropriate rides for a bit, in case there wasn’t much she could do at Splash Works. Planet Snoopy has many rides that are perfect for the little ones Zoey’s age, and Zander, our eight year old, could join her too. There was Swan Lake, Snoopy’s Revolution, Snoopy vs Red Baron, Snoopy’s Space Race, The Pumpkin Patch, Sally’s Love Buggies, and the Character Carousel, all of which she loved. She even rode on a number of them more than once. The lines, despite the park being very busy that day, were not too long.

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There were even different Peanuts characters walking around Planet Snoopy, just like at Disney where you can see the princesses and princes, Mickey and Minnie, and other lovable movie characters. My kids are too young to know any of the Peanuts characters – much to my disappointment because I was IN a Peanuts musical in high school! – but I coaxed my son into getting a picture with me, Snoopy, and Lucy.

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While Zoey and I repeatedly went on the rides above, Zander and my husband tried Boo Blasters, which is a laser tag-type ride that was a little too scary for my boy. After that, they quickly went to ride the Ghoster Coaster, which I remember riding as a child (so it’s been there a long time). The two of them went on the Ghoster Coaster, a wooden roller coaster that is fairly tame, and therefore age-appropriate for young kids who are keen to have a thrill but not have the daylights scared out of them! They rode it three years ago when we went to Canada’s Wonderland, and loved it then and loved it again.

Next up was a visit to KidZville, which is right beside Planet Snoopy. The rides at KidZville are also for a younger age group, and so Zoey and Zander could go on anything there. Zander and I tried out the small but fast roller coaster Taxi Jam, which we had also gone on three years ago.  It’s totally my kind of roller coaster! Zoey took on Swing Time, Zander did Blast Off!, and both kids tried out the Launch Pad, which is just outside of KidZville. Though that one is rated a “high thrill ride” according to the park map, this one is as crazy or as tame as you want it to be. It’s like a Jolly Jumper for kids and adults. Participants are strapped into safety harnesses, which are then attached to rubber-band-type things. And then they just jump up and down on a trampoline under them. The kids really enjoyed it.

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Unfortunately, when we finally made it to Splash Works the place was insanely busy. There were so many people in the kiddie pool that we could barely see water. We just saw people. Although there are some very cool looking slides and rides in that area, we decided not to stay because my husband and I feared we’d lose sight of the kids. That’s definitely the place we’ll go first though when we go back to Canada’s Wonderland, and hope it’s not overridden with crowds.

Just outside of Planet Snoopy is the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. My kids were very interested in it. You walk through a wilderness area with over 40 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. They are scientifically accurate, based on the latest paleontological knowledge. They looked so real that I had to tell Zoey they were “plastic, pretend, dinosaur statues” so that she would continue moving along without fear!  Both of the kids loved seeing the dinosaurs and making them move (it’s interactive), and they also had a ball at the dinosaur digging area, digging up bones.

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My husband and daughter went back to KidZville to do a ride or two there, and my son and I went to Thunder Run. When I was younger, that was my favourite ride at Wonderland. I’m not a fan of roller coasters that have a giant drop or that go upside down (because I’m a scaredy-cat), and so Thunder Run was one I could handle. It’s called a “high thrill ride”, but it doesn’t do loops or drops. It simply goes fast, inside and outside the mountain, which is the “landmark” of the park. I knew my son would be just fine on it too, because when we went to Disney two years ago he went on Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Mount Everest. I did not. Those were much too scary for me. Both Zander and I had so much fun on Thunder Run, and I was happy I could experience one coaster with my little guy.

One part of Canada’s Wonderland that I used to love as a kid was going to see the shows. They used to have groups of people singing and dancing in various closed locations. Because I’m a fan of live entertainment, it was something I looked forward to when I went to the park. Decades later, there are still theatres for shows, including A Cirque Experience (an acrobat show) at Wonderland Theatre, Charlie Brown’s Jungle Journey (the gang from Peanuts dance and sing their way through the jungle) at Playhouse Theatre, and a variety of entertainers at the International Showplace. We didn’t get the chance to see any of the shows when we were there. There’s just so much to do!

Of course it wouldn’t be a Canada’s Wonderland experience without funnel cakes. It’s the first place I ever heard of a funnel cake, and it’s still the place where you can get the best funnel cakes. Delicious.

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We all had so much fun on our little day trip to Canada’s Wonderland.  And I was so pleased that the kids enjoyed themselves.  I always looked forward to going there when I was a child, and again as a teenager, and I still do as an adult.  The entire atmosphere of the place is somewhat magical to me.  As soon as you walk in you see the big mountain – Wonder Mountain (where divers perform acrobatic dives throughout the day) – you smell funnel cakes, french fries, and other delectable dishes, and you see happy faces of people having a whole lot of fun.  It’s absolutely one of the best places to go at any age.  We’ll most definitely be back…and maybe even before this summer ends.

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