Thursday, May 31, 2007


That's really the only word to describe how I'm feeling today... Last night was incredible. Honestly, one of the most meaningful events I've ever had the privilege of being involved with.

About a month ago, I agreed to speak at The Arthritis Society's first annual Celebrity Roast night, being held in honour of Charlie Spiring, CEO of Wellington West. Last night, I did NOT feel like doing it. I'm still feeling kind of sick, I'm exhausted from a combination of engagement / return to work / jetlag / fibromyalgia, and I didn't want to do it. I had to give myself a pretty big pep talk before I went inside. It helped so much to have my mom there to encourage me too. Talking to yourself always appears *slightly* less insane when there's someone else in the car.

I presented my story as the evening's keynote speaker. It's amazing to me that I still get choked up talking about my experiences - getting sick, getting sick again, my fight to be normal, my Joints in Motion projects, the support of my family and friends, and my hope for a cure. I wasn't polished. But I was honest and authentic. And I know that people - no matter how fancy shmancy they may be (and there were many of Winnipeg's who's-who in the crowd last night) - respond to that.

The evening was a genuinely good time. The speakers were hilarious, intelligent, and extremely witty. The food was amazing. And The Arthritis Society raised a heck of a lot of money, which made everyone's huge efforts absolutely worth it. I was very proud to be able to help out for such an important cause and a successful event.

I talked to so many people after - people who were encouraged, people who were inspired, people who had been quietly and secretly living with arthritis for years and who were finally set free and ready to talk about it. And at the end of the night, those people dug into their wallets and brought me almost $1,200 closer to my fundraising goal for Greece. Amazing.

Oh, and Ace Burpee came to find me after my speech to inform me of the fact that I am one of the funniest people in Winnipeg. Which would have made my night all on its own. Take THAT, Chuck and Kyle. (My charming co-workers have spent months telling me that I'm not funny. They rarely even smile when I crack a joke. They just sit there, look at each other, look at me, and then shake their heads. They actually keep track of the *actually* funny things I say, because they think it happens so rarely... I know. My life is so traumatic.)

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


You. Can. Only. Type. One. Word. No. Explaining.
(Not as easy as you might think!)

1. Where is your cell phone?
Winnipeg :)

2. Relationship?

3. Your hair?

4. Work?

5. Your sister/brother?

6. Your favorite thing?

7. Your dream last night?

8. Your favorite drink?

9. Your dream car?

10. The room you're in?

11. Best time of year?

12. Your fears?

13. What do you want to be in 10 years?

14. Who did you hang out with this weekend?

15. What you're not good at?

16. Muffin?

17. One of your wish list items?

18. Where you grew up?

19. The last thing you did?

20. What are you wearing?

21. What aren't you wearing?

22. Your pet(s)

23. Your computer?

24. Your life?

26. Missing?

27. What are you thinking about right now?
Boy :)

28. Your car?

29. Your kitchen?

30. Your summer?

31. Your favorite color?

32. When is the last time you laughed?

33. Last time you cried?

34. School?

35. Love?


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Return to Reality

I think that - if people are going to get engaged - they should definitely consider a destination engagement. I really appreciated the couple of days it bought me before my life got really, really crazy. I feel like I had a few 'bonus' days to kind of absorb the news and just enjoy lots of non-wedding-planning time with Geoff. (Did I mention that he surprised me with breakfast on the last day of our trip? He's so good to me.)

Honestly? (Can I be honest here?) I've spent the last couple of years of my life being a little bit afraid of being engaged. It all seemed so exciting and romantic when I was younger... Now, after living a fabulous single life past what would be considered a 'typical' age for marriage in the small town where I grew up, there has been a tiny element of fear associated with this announcement. Fear that nobody would care, because marriage was something so many of my friends had done so long ago and most of them have moved on to the mommy stage already (and everyone knows that baby trumps wedding). Fear that my single friends would be somehow different toward me, that my married friends would treat me differently, that my anti-marriage friends would make comments that hurt more than they're funny. Fear that my life during our engagement period wouldn't be happy. And most of all, fear that I would somehow change and not be the same person I have always been.

So far, it's been pretty okay. More than pretty okay - it's been really okay. I'm so grateful for all the emails and messages and hugs from friends and family and people who are genuinely happy for us. I'm a very lucky girl (and exactly the same person I was a week ago, plus a gorgeous ring). And I tell Geoff every day how lucky he is :P

Anyway. My parents and Jessica picked us up at the airport just before 10 pm last night. We were greeted with lots of hugs, a bridal magazine from my mom, and an immediate ring comparison from my sister.

And so it begins.

I woke up in Winnipeg today and it was cold and rainy outside. I'm running a tiny bit of a fever, I can't breathe out of my nose, and my throat is scratchy. And I had to get up and go to work. Ugh. It's really good to be back and dealing with normal stuff, but it was a harsh reality check.

I'm speaking at a fundraiser for The Arthritis Society tomorrow night (and another one this weekend), and I haven't started writing either speech yet. I haven't even thought about unpacking, other than fishing out a tank top from my big suitcase and my make-up from my small suitcase. And when I was digging out the aforementioned tank top, I discovered that one of my hair products had exploded inside of its ziploc bag on the flight home... and naturally, leaked into the rest of my stuff. Awesome. That will be a fun project.

But I have a date with my fiance this evening, at *our* fabulous new house. And my cell phone arrived from Kamloops by courier this morning :)

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

All About Jason & Amy's Wedding

I got to do such a fun thing today. Ever been to one of those weddings that is utterly and magically JOYFUL? A celebration of the purest form of love, totally Christ-centred, and full of *something* you just can't help wanting to be around.

Geoff and I were absolutely honoured to be a part of my friend Jason & Amy's special day today. It was held at Furry Creek, on the Sea to Sky Highway that continues on to Whistler. Gorgeous. We were shuttled up the mountain for the ceremony, overlooking the ocean, and the reception was at the country club. It was the most beautiful wedding (and not just because Amy happens to be a model). There were thousands of happy tears cried, and lots and lots of laughs.

Jason & Amy's wedding ceremony

Cake cutting at the reception

I'm tearing up again just thinking about today... Jason is a special friend, and I was so excited to meet his Amy today. She did not disappoint. She was just as sweet and warm and friendly as he'd promised. A lovely girl. And a lucky one, because J is one of my favourite people in this world. We met so randomly - online - and quickly bonded through our shared sense of sarcastic humour and our jobs in advertising and marketing. We realized soon that we shared so much more than that. This was only the second time I've spent time with J in person, but I couldn't begin to estimate the hours we've spent on the phone, on MSN, and on email. J is my encouragement, my reality check, and my post-first-date debrief guy (though I haven't required his services in a while). He shares so openly and asks tough questions. He does not tolerate excuses for anything less than 110% of everything I can give to something that's meaningful to me, and he demonstrates that same passion and determination in his own life. Oh, and he tells the worst jokes you've ever heard.

It meant so much to me to be able to share this day with them, the beginning of their happy ending. Thank you, J (I know that you'll read this eventually, whenever you two lovebirds come up for air and have internet access).

Me with Jason

After the wedding, Geoff and I detoured to Horseshoe Bay and enjoyed a short walk along the harbour while we waited for our (incredible) takeout sushi. A wonderful end to a wonderful day spent with wonderful people.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007


Just want to make sure that all my loyal blog visitors take a moment to scroll down... I've managed to add a few pictures from my trip!

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A Little Bit About A Little Bit

Didn't really do very much today, which was a nice change of pace. The last week or so has been starting to catch up with me and I'm exhausted. Geoff and I ran a few errands today - picked up groceries and developed some pictures for Alan and Marilyn.

Then I had some therapy time. Geoff and his parents went to run a few more errands, and I took over the kitchen. Ray and Carole (Geoff's oldest sister) had invited us over for a barbeque, and I made some salad, smashed potatoes, and apple & pear cobbler to bring along. As great as it's been to get to know everyone out here, it was really kind of amazing to have an hour to myself and just do something NORMAL.

We had dinner with the family - including three out of four of their kids (Cheyanne, Niles, and Sean [Justin was at work]), plus Ray's daughter Gaby and a family friend. Their backyard is gorgeous, and it was good to just spend some time getting to know them. Sean (who's six) decided to seranade us over dinner - in his favourite winter boots - which was absolutely charming and hilarious.

Sean, who is apparently quite the ladies' man in his kindergarten class :)

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Friday, May 25, 2007

All About The Engagement (and meeting the rest of my new family)

Okay, I'm going to attempt to back up and fill in a couple of blanks. It's been a BUSY couple of days since I last managed to post here.

Wednesday was a really great, really fun, super low-key day. Geoff and I drove into Vancouver in the morning and spent some time picking up house stuff at Ikea (one of those dorky little things you just can't do in Winnipeg). After that, we drove through Stanley Park and I finally checked out the Vancouver Aquarium. I'd tried on one prior occasion... A story that involves my friend Jason, a rather important set of keys locked in an old Sunbird, and an almost-missed flight to Vegas. Anyway. This time, with Geoff, we made it - and I was like a little girl around all the dolphins and sea otters and jellyfish. Super fun.

From there, the surprise evening adventure began. Geoff had made reservations at this amazing restaurant at the top of Grouse Mountain.We sat overlooking Vancouver's downtown - and someone was apparently excited, because we had barely ordered when a rather important question was asked and a rather sparkly ring produced. (I said yes.) We had the place entirely to ourselves until around the time our dessert came. It was perfect.

Our table at the restaurant

The amazing view over dinner

And a couple of 'after' pictures...

Later, we picked up Starbucks and drove to the beach, where we sat while the sun dipped behind the mountains - and I called my parents, who were more than a little bit excited. We got back to Abbotsford and his parents were equally thrilled. It was a really great night. Not a real shock (or even a real surprise) to anyone, but it feels so incredible to finally make this official.

Sunset on the beach

Yesterday morning, we packed up and drove to Kamloops, where we had a pre-arranged lunch date with Hannah (Geoff's sister Joanne's oldest). We spent the rest of the afternoon and all evening with Al & Joanne and their kids (Hannah plus Ruth, Elizabeth, and David). It was so great to meet everyone, and our time felt really short. Kind of crazy that - in a few months - I'm becoming an instant aunt to EIGHT nieces and nephews between the ages of 5 and 17. AND two big sisters AND three brothers-in-law (brother-in-laws? I'm too tired to check).

Feeding Kamloops' marmot population with Joanne (Geoff's sister)

What's a marmot? That's what I wanted to know too. So I found out everything I ever wanted to know about the wascally creatures here. (Now aren't you sorry you asked?)

Oh, and did I mention that I made a very clever first impression on this family by leaving my cell phone in Kamloops?! Awesome. I could not actually feel more stupid about this. FedEx should have it back to Winnipeg in a couple of days. So don't try calling or texting for a little bit :)

Today, we drove home from Kamloops the loooong way, through Kelowna, Penticton, Summerland, Osoyoos, Princeton, Hope, and who knows where else. It took forever, but it was a gorgeous drive through wine country and some absolutely incredible mountain views. Oh, and some hilarious hick towns.

Our beautiful drive 'home' to Abbotsford

Tomorrow should be pretty low-key, then Sunday is Jason & Amy's wedding (Jason of fated prior trip to Vancouver infamy). Then we fly home on Monday afternoon/evening.

Hope all of you in Niverville and the surrounding area are planning to make an appearance on my behalf at Steve & Esther's big fundraising garage sale!

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Tiny Little Bit About Our Big News

Sorry 'bout the delay here, just wanted to make sure a few special people found out before the general global population. Crystal was right about the fishy plans... Geoff (officially) asked me to marry him yesterday. Oh, and I said yes :)

Lots more details to follow... For now, we're in Kamloops til tomorrow - meeting and visiting his sister, her husband, and their four kids.

I'm smiling. The ring is gorgeous and sparkly and perfect. And Geoff's still kind of giggling...

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Kinda About Our Daytrip To America

Spent a very quiet day yesterday just kind of hanging out. Marilyn and I visited for most of the morning, then when Geoff FINALLY woke up, we all went hiking at Rolley Lake. In the evening, Geoff and I went in search of ice cream - only to remember that everything was closed because of the long weekend. We settled for a couple of Half Baked ice cream bars (mmm...) at 7-11. Not quite as classy as the gelati we'd planned on, but very yummy.

Geoff and I hiking at Rolley Lake

Geoff and Marilyn (his mom, in case that's not obvious)

I actually fell asleep in the middle of The Colbert Report last night. Shocking, I know. I was just SO TIRED. We've been getting lots of exercise here, and between that and the rain - and maybe still a touch of jetlag - I have not been enoying my usual energy level.

Today, Geoff and his mom and I packed up and set out for Washington state. We had lunch at this funny little Mexican restaurant in Lynden, stopped at a grocery store so Geoff could find his dumb American breakfast cereals, then continued on to Bellingham. Shopped pretty much all afternoon (didn't do *too* much damage), then came back in time for a late dinner at home. Y'all will probably die of shock, but I actually managed to spend the least out of the three of us. Just a cute new sundress, a pair of jeans, a purse, and more pink tennis balls to add to my ridiculously girly collection of sports equipment. The pink ones I have are bright, and now these new ones are baby pink. I mostly just got them because I know how much it will disgust and irritate my dad when we play together at the lake. In all, less than $75 - there may be some Mennonite in me after all! Who knew :)

On the way, we stopped and took pictures of these incredibly funny wood carvings...

I was a little bit concerned about the chainsaw-wielding American bears (blame it on too much Colbert)

And it turns out I was right to be concerned, because they attacked Geoff quite savagely a few moments later

And we stopped at a dairy that makes their own ice cream, and I got a picture of myself enjoying it in front of the cows who so generously donated the key ingredient.

Thank you, American cows

A very fun and relaxing day. Tomorrow's going to be spent in Vancouver, though *someone* refuses to tell me what he has planned. HELLO. How am I supposed to know which shoes to wear?! :)


Oh yeah, I just checked out the unofficial results of today's vote on the Elections Manitoba website. And an official shout-out to the other 527 people in St. B who voted Green. Results aren't all in yet, but I don't really think we'll *quite* manage to pull it off this year ;)

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Mostly About The Wedding

Went to church with Geoff and his parents *early* yesterday morning. They have an 8.30 am service, which I find kind of strange... But it was a great church, and a really good message. I'm always so interested in attending new churches and seeing how they do things differently - for better or for worse. Their church is doing this whole series on why church is relevant in our lives, and yesterday we were talking about how it's critical to our personal spiritual growth.

The rest of the day was spent at Rob & Vicky's wedding.

Geoff and Rob

Rob and Geoff have been friends since they were young, and it was really great to finally meet him in person. It was a beautiful wedding at a country club in Langley. I took myself out to Stabucks in between the ceremony and the reception (Geoff was the best man, busy with pictures), and then Rob's family totally adopted me at the dinner. They were really great people - other than their time spent brainstorming why on earth I'm dating Geoff and how on earth he managed to convince me - LOL. The dance went LATE, and we didn't get back to Abbotsford until around 2 am.

I've been so impressed with everyone here so far. People are so genuinely excited to meet me, and are all making me feel so welcome. Which is great, because I'm excited to meet all of them too. I feel like I'm just kind of absorbing all of Geoff's context - these pieces of his family and his friends and his background that all make him into the person I've fallen in love with.

Hoping we might actually see the sun today... I feel absolutely soggy already. Not really ideal arthritis climate, that's for sure.

Geoff, Rob (the other groomsman), and Spencer (the ring bearer, and a total womanizer)

Me and Geoff (who wasted no time losing the jacket as soon as it was socially appropriate... despite the fact that it was FREEZING at the reception - BOYS)

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

All About My Hair

Okay, I had been in BC for less than 12 hours before I realized that packing my hair straightener had been a useless waste of space. Oh well. As hard as we try, it's so difficult to shake our superficial tendencies. (I say 'our' just to make myself feel better, in hopes that I'm not the only one who lives like this.)

I forgot how beautiful it is here. It's been raining non-stop since my plane landed last night, but it's beautiful. It's SPRING. I missed flowers and trees with full leaves and all of those wonderful, beautiful things that mean new life and fresh beginnings. I'm actually excited to see what Geoff's street looks like when we get home - the trees will be amazing.

Last night, Geoff, his mom, and I detoured on our way 'home' from the airport to check out the Richmond Night Market. Didn't really find much, but it was cool. All these vendors set up side-by-side in a dark parking lot (and an almost ten-minute hike in the rain to get to them). Personally, I think the best part was the karaoke-style singing contest going on. The low point was smelling street meat and mini donuts in a little too close proximity. Ew. His dad stayed up to meet me when we arrived. Geoff's family has been so incredibly kind and friendly to me, I felt comfortable with them almost immediately - an answer to prayer, for sure.

Today, we visited the farmers' market in Abbotsford and ran some errands. I met one of Geoff's nieces and two of his nephews in the afternoon. And then I spent the evening with the family walking through Geoff's baby pictures - so fun. It still makes me giggle to see him with hair, though... Though probably not much weirder than when he sees pictures of me as a blonde :)

Tomorrow is church with his parents in the morning, then Geoff's friend's wedding in the aftenoon/evening. I have yet to figure out what the heck I'm going to do with my chia pet hair and how I'm going to make that look formal and beautiful.

Reminds me of that Friends episode... Monica and the table tennis tournament... Proving once again that every single, solitary (somewhat insignificant) life moment can be related to an episode of modern classic television.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Something about leaving for a trip is always just a little bit unsettling. I love it. It's the perfect amount of controlled chaos in my freakishly well-planned-out little world.

I think that maybe it's just the anticipation of a change of scenery and a change of pace. Any change of pace is a positive change of pace when you're used to living life at 'advertising agency speed.' I always get borderline panic-attacky at the idea of leaving work behind for so long. Then I think, 'Lindsay, get over yourself. People can actually manage without you.'

I also get concerned about the grossly inadequate number of shoes I can fit into my suitcase. But that's another issue.

In any case, I think I'm ready to go. Bags are in my trunk. Vacation notes have been duly submitted and reviewed. Client have been notified. All that's left is to shut off my computer and step onto the plane (obviously, I also need to get myself to the airport - but that's Anja's job tonight). I'm exhausted. Getting ready to take a vacation is so much work. My brain is spinning so fast, frantically trying to figure out what I've forgotten to do.

All this running around will be worth it when I step off the plane tonight and Geoff is there. Even when I'm still in full-on chaos mode (often), there's something about his presence that calms me right down.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Girls Night

A quick shout-out to Anja and Kari-Ann. Thanks for Girls Night yesterday... Sad that I missed the dinner/sushi portion of the evening. But it was awesome to just sit and drink coffee and talk a mile a minute and laugh about everything and nothing. I am incredibly lucky to have you guys as friends.

It made me kind of nostalgic, actually. Our shared Righteous Single Girls Summer was amazing... Who knew that drinking martinis all afternoon while lying in a kiddie pool in the backyard could be so incredibly fun? Can you believe it's been so many years?!

We're kind of grown up now. Not really sure how that happened. The titles on our business cards are getting fancier and our lives are getting fuller. I'm so glad it's still priority to make time for each other every once in a while. Nothing's as special as a couple of really great girl friends.

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The Absence of Muse

So Geoff and I accidentally ended up at the My Chemical Romance concert this week. Long story, but basically, this amazing band - Muse - was supposed to be opening for them (we won't even comment on why MUSE was opening for MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE... anyway). They didn't. We found out a few weeks ago that they wouldn't be in Winnipeg after all. And so, we were left with some pretty wicked seats to a My Chemical Romance concert. After a little debate, we decided to go anyway - but we'd be going late because he was working and I had a class.

We got there a few minutes after the band started their set, and had to go through security. The security lady looked at my - in my pinstripes and heels - and smiled. 'We don't really need to check you, honey. Have fun.' A stop at the Tim Horton's kiosk netted similar results. As the lady there handed me my large double-double, she made a face and said, 'Sorry we don't sell Advil.'

At this point, I am pretty much panicking. Who the heck is at this concert?! We stepped inside and were immediately greeted by giant fireballs, a sea of screaming children, and a lead singer with a penchant for eyeliner, BAD tight pants, and jazz hands.

It ended up being pretty fun. But mostly just because I laughed hysterically through the entire thing. I don't know if I've ever felt so old.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Belated Mothers Day

Aaron posted this to his blog yesterday, and it was too beautiful not to share... I apologize in advance for the massive size of this post :)


My First Lesson in Motherhood
Elizabeth Fitzsimmons
The New York Times - May 13, 2007

I SAW the scar the first time I changed Natalie’s diaper, just an hour after the orphanage director handed her to me in a hotel banquet room in Nanchang, a provincial capital in southeastern China.

Despite the high heat and humidity, her caretakers had dressed her in two layers, and when I peeled back her sweaty clothes I found the worst diaper rash I’d ever seen, and a two-inch scar at the base of her spine cutting through the red bumps and peeling skin.

The next day, when the Chinese government would complete the adoption, also was Natalie’s first birthday. We had a party for her that night, attended by families we’d met and representatives of the adoption agency, and Natalie licked cake frosting from my finger. But we worried about a rattle in her chest, and there was the scar, so afterward my husband, Matt, asked our adoption agency to send the doctor.

We had other concerns, too. Natalie was thin and pale and couldn’t sit up or hold a bottle. She had only two teeth, barely any hair and wouldn’t smile. But I had anticipated such things. My sister and two brothers were adopted from Nicaragua, the boys as infants, and when they came home they were smelly, scabies-covered diarrhea machines who could barely hold their heads up. Yet those problems soon disappeared.

I believed Natalie would be fine, too. There was clearly a light on behind those big dark eyes. She rested her head against my chest in the baby carrier and would stare up at my face, her lips parting as she leaned back, as if she knew she was now safe.

She would be our first child. We had set our hearts on adopting a baby girl from China years before, when I was reporting a newspaper story about a local mayor’s return home with her new Chinese daughter. Adopting would come later, we thought. After I became pregnant.

But I didn’t become pregnant. And after two years of trying, I was tired of feeling hopeless, of trudging down this path not knowing how it would end. I did know, however, how adopting would end: with a baby.

So we’d go to China first and then try to have a biological child. We embarked on a process, lasting months, of preparing our application and opening our life to scrutiny until one day we had a picture of our daughter on our refrigerator. Fourteen months after deciding to adopt, we were in China.

And now we were in a hotel room with a Chinese doctor, an older man who spoke broken English. After listening to Natalie’s chest, he said she had bronchitis. Then he turned her over and looked at her scar.

Frowning, he asked for a cotton swab and soap. He coated an end in soap and probed her sphincter, which he then said was “loose.” He suspected she’d had a tumor removed and wondered aloud if she had spina bifida before finally saying that she would need to be seen at the hospital.

TWO taxis took us all there, and as we waited to hear news, I tried to think positive thoughts: of the room we had painted for Natalie in light yellow and the crib with Winnie the Pooh sheets. But my mind shifted when I saw one of the women from the agency in a heated exchange in Chinese with the doctors, then with someone on her cellphone. We pleaded with her for information.

“It’s not good,” she said.

A CT scan confirmed that there had been a tumor that someone, somewhere, had removed. It had been a sloppy job; nerves were damaged, and as Natalie grew her condition would worsen, eventually leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Control over her bladder and bowels would go, too; this had already begun, as indicated by her loose sphincter. Yes, she had a form of spina bifida, as well as a cyst on her spine.

I looked at my husband in shock, waiting for him to tell me that I had misunderstood everything. But he only shook his head.

I held on to him and cried into his chest, angry that creating a family seemed so impossible for us, and that life had already been so difficult for Natalie.

Back at the hotel, we hounded the women from the agency: Why wasn’t this in her medical report? How could a scar that size not be noticed? It was two inches long, for God’s sake.

They shook their heads. Shrugged. Apologized.

And then they offered a way to make it better.

“In cases like these, we can make a rematch with another baby,” the one in charge said. The rest of the process would be expedited, and we would go home on schedule. We would simply leave with a different girl.

Months before, we had been presented with forms asking which disabilities would be acceptable in a prospective adoptee — what, in other words, did we think we could handle: H.I.V., hepatitis, blindness? We checked off a few mild problems that we knew could be swiftly corrected with proper medical care. As Matt had written on our application: “This will be our first child, and we feel we would need more experience to handle anything more serious.”

Now we faced surgeries, wheelchairs, colostomy bags. I envisioned our home in San Diego with ramps leading to the doors. I saw our lives as being utterly devoted to her care. How would we ever manage?

Yet how could we leave her? Had I given birth to a child with these conditions, I wouldn’t have left her in the hospital. Though a friend would later say, “Well, that’s different,” it wasn’t to me.

I pictured myself boarding the plane with some faceless replacement child and then explaining to friends and family that she wasn’t Natalie, that we had left Natalie in China because she was too damaged, that the deal had been a healthy baby and she wasn’t.

How would I face myself? How would I ever forget? I would always wonder what happened to Natalie.

I knew this was my test, my life’s worth distilled into a moment. I was shaking my head “No” before they finished explaining. We didn’t want another baby, I told them. We wanted our baby, the one sleeping right over there. “She’s our daughter,” I said. “We love her.”

Matt, who had been sitting on the bed, lifted his glasses, and, wiping the tears from his eyes, nodded in agreement.

Yet we had a long, fraught night ahead, wondering how we would possibly cope. I called my mother in tears and told her the news.

There was a long pause. “Oh, honey.”

I sobbed.

She waited until I’d caught my breath. “It would be O.K. if you came home without her.”

“Why are you saying that?”

“I just wanted to absolve you. What do you want to do?”

“I want to take my baby and get out of here,” I said.

“Good,” my mother said. “Then that’s what you should do.”

In the morning, bleary-eyed and aching, we decided we would be happy with our decision. And we did feel happy. We told ourselves that excellent medical care might mitigate some of her worst afflictions. It was the best we could hope for.

But within two days of returning to San Diego — before we had even been able to take her to the pediatrician — things took yet another alarming turn.

While eating dinner in her highchair, Natalie had a seizure — her head fell forward then snapped back, her eyes rolled and her legs and arms shot out ramrod straight. I pulled her from the highchair, handed her to Matt and called 911.

When the paramedics arrived, Natalie was alert and stable, but then she suffered a second seizure in the emergency room. We told the doctors what we had learned in China, and they ordered a CT scan of her brain.

Hours later, one of the emergency room doctors pulled up a chair and said gravely, “You must know something is wrong with her brain, right?”

We stared at her. Something was wrong with her brain, too, in addition to everything else?

“Well,” she told us, “Natalie’s brain is atrophic.”

I fished into my purse for a pen as she compared Natalie’s condition to Down syndrome, saying that a loving home can make all the difference. It was clear, she added, that we had that kind of home.

She left us, and I cradled Natalie, who was knocked out from seizure medicine. Her mouth was open, and I leaned down, breathing in her sweet breath that smelled like soy formula.

Would we ever be able to speak to each other? Would she tell me her secrets? Laugh with me?

Whatever the case, I would love her and she would know it. And that would have to be enough. I thanked God we hadn’t left her.

She was admitted to the hospital, where we spent a fitful night at her bedside. In the morning, the chief of neurosurgery came in. When we asked him for news, he said, “It’s easier if I show you.”

In the radiology department screening room, pointing at the CT scan, he told us the emergency room doctor had erred; Natalie’s brain wasn’t atrophic. She was weak and had fallen behind developmentally, but she had hand-eye coordination and had watched him intently as he examined her. He’d need an M.R.I. for a better diagnosis. We asked him to take images of Natalie’s spine, too.

He returned with more remarkable news. The M.R.I. ruled out the brain syndromes he was worried about. And nothing was wrong with Natalie’s spine. She did not have spina bifida. She would not become paralyzed. He couldn’t believe anyone could make such a diagnosis from the poor quality of the Chinese CT film. He conceded there probably had been a tumor, and that would need to be monitored, but she might be fine. The next year would tell.

There would be other scares, more seizures and much physical therapy to teach her to sit, crawl and walk. She took her first steps one day on the beach at 21 months, her belly full of fish tacos.

NOW she is nearly 3, with thick brown hair, gleaming teeth and twinkling eyes. She takes swimming lessons, goes to day care and insists on wearing flowered sandals to dance. I say to her, “Ohhhh, Natalie,” and she answers, “Ohhhh, Mama.” And I blink back happy tears.

Sometimes when I’m rocking her to sleep, I lean down and breathe in her breath, which now smells of bubble-gum toothpaste and the dinner I cooked for her while she sat in her highchair singing to the dog. And I am amazed that this little girl is mine.

It’s tempting to think that our decision was validated by the fact that everything turned out O.K. But for me that’s not the point. Our decision was right because she was our daughter and we loved her. We would not have chosen the burdens we anticipated, and in fact we declared upfront our inability to handle such burdens. But we are stronger than we thought.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Many Thanks

A *huge* thank you to all of you who showed up for my fundraiser on Saturday. It didn't end up being a particularly profitable day as far as dollars go, but we had a great time, enjoyed the sunshine, ran for about a thousand million years on that stupid treadmill, and talked to a lot of people. We even managed to convince some funny random strangers to jump on the treadmill, which was pretty funny.

In all, we walked more than 20 km, and raised a couple of hundred dollars - and had some fun doing it. I'd call that a success. (Of course, stay tuned for details of upcoming fundraisers, because we've still got a heck of a long way to go!)

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Book: Nineteen Minutes

If you're not incredibly squeamish about the whole topic of school shootings, think about picking up a copy of 'Nineteen Minutes' (Jodi Picoult). I flew through it in a matter of two or three days - and given my recent schedule, that's pretty amazing. It was such an interesting way of investigating this whole phenomenon, asking really tough questions about the path that leads to such a violent and horrible event. And it's still strangely hopeful.

Here's the review:

Best known for tackling controversial issues through richly told fictional accounts, Jodi Picoult's 14th novel, Nineteen Minutes, deals with the truth and consequences of a smalltown high-school shooting. Set in Sterling, New Hampshire, Picoult offers reads a glimpse of what would cause a 17-year-old to wake up one day, load his backpack with four guns, and kill nine students and one teacher in the span of nineteen minutes. As with any Picoult novel, the answers are never black and white, and it is her exceptional ability to blur the lines between right and wrong that make this author such a captivating storyteller.

On Peter Houghton's first day of kindergarten, he watched helplessly as an older boy ripped his lunch box out of his hands and threw it out the window. From that day on, his life was a series of humiliations, from having his pants pulled down in the cafeteria, to being called a freak at every turn. But can endless bullying justify murder? As Picoult attempts to answer this question, she shows us all sides of the equation, from the ruthless jock who loses his ability to speak after being shot in the head, to the mother who both blames and pities herself for producing what most would call a monster. Surrounding Peter's story is that of Josie Cornier, a former friend whose acceptance into the popular crowd hangs on a string that makes it impossible for her to reconcile her beliefs with her actions.

At times, Nineteen Minutes can seem tediously stereotypical-- jocks versus nerds, parent versus child, teacher versus student. Part of Picoult's gift is showing us the subtleties of these common dynamics, and the startling effects they often have on the moral landscape. As Peter's mother says at the end of this spellbinding novel, "Everyone would remember Peter for nineteen minutes of his life, but what about the other nine million?"
-Gisele Toueg


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

So I think my mom is pretty cool.

I love that I can be honest with her. We share some pretty intense heart-to-heart talks, some full-on fits of hilarity, great new books and CDs, and an often psychic connection. It's kind of ridiculously common for us to be praying for each other at *exactly* the right time or to make simultaneous phone calls to each other (getting busy signals on both ends) or to have our emails cross each other in cyberspace. For all the things we have in common, the differences keep us balanced. She does an admirable job of pretending to understand why I NEED to get my nails done or why I HAVE to make all plans a week ahead of time.

I like to think that I inherited the best parts of her. I think she's pretty special... And we had a great day with her today.

Mothers Day also made me think about the other kind of mothers - the ones we adopt and invite into our lives. I have more than a few of those, not because I really *need* another mom, but because they add something to my life and my perspective of the world and of myself. One 'adopted grandma' who's particularly special to me is a woman named Susan. Susan attends the same church as me, and she's... old. If you know me, you know that I'm a little bit uncomfortable with seniors who I don't know. Not really sure what it is - I think I just don't really know how to start a conversation with them. Anyway. I was in high school when Susan decided to 'adopt' me (kind of against my will). She took an active interest in me and starting seeking me out at church to give me a hug, sending birthday cards and Christmas cards, and inviting me over to her place for lunch. What has evolved in the decade since then is a really special friendship. I love her hugs, and I love knowing that she prays for me daily. I love her Christmas cards in her shaky handwriting, and I love the way she always holds your hand when she's talking to you. She's a sweet woman, and I've learned a lot from her about slowing down, (re)focusing my priorities, and appreciating what's around me.

This morning, I put a Mothers Day card in her mailbox at church - which is nothing unusual for us, but she made a point of coming to find me after the service to say thank you, with tears of appreciation in her eyes. She also wanted to introduce me to her daughter (who is also old - LOL), and her daughter smiled at me immediately. 'Oh, YOU'RE Lindsay! It's so wonderful to meet you.'

And she took my hand as we continued our conversation.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Facebookers Anonymous

Okay, fine. My name is Lindsay Hildebrandt, and I am addicted to Facebook.

I just wanted to try it once, to see what it felt like. I'd heard it was pretty fun. And I thought I could stop whenever I wanted to. And now - in just a few short weeks - I'm logging on daily... And thinking back wistfully to my days of innocence.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday Afternoon Smile

Compliments of a designer here who understands how much I detest exclamation points (unless used to enunciate a Threatdown item, of course).


Three Things

I'm tagging Kari-Ann, Brandy, and Gloria.

Three Names you go by:
1. Lindsay
2. Linds
3. Princess (usually said sarcastically or in frustration)
Oh, and creepy old man clients *always* call me Sweetie. Ugh.

Three Things That Scare You:
1. Birds
2. Heights
3. Change

Three of Your Everyday Essentials:
1. Email
2. Anti-Frizz Serum
3. A Hug

Three Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
1. Denim capris
2. Black cashmere tee
3. Black flip-flops
Gotta love a casual office!

Three of Your Favorite Songs Right Now:
1. Give It To Me - Timbaland
2. Music - Joss Stone w Lauryn Hill
3. The entire new Feist CD
Subject to change at any moment :)

Three Things You Want in a Relationship (other than Real Love):
1. Honesty
2. Trust
3. Laughter

Two Truths and a Lie (in any order):
1. I didn't go to Law School because I was scared I wasn't smart enough.
2. I hated playing Hide & Seek as a child because I couldn't stand the element of surprise.
3. I can play by ear so well that I never actually learned to read notes.

Three PHYSICAL Things about the Opposite Sex that Appeal to You:
1. When someone smiles with their eyes
2. A really great smirk
3. Broad shoulders

Three of Your Favorite Hobbies:
1. Reading stuff on Post Secret, to make myself feel more normal
2. People watching, and making up the conversations I imagine they're having
3. A rousing game of Flonkerton

Three Things You want to do really badly right now:
1. Go eat the veggie lasagna I brought for lunch
2. Send out the news release I wrote this morning
3. Wash my kitchen floor. Seriously. It's haunting me, and it's going to feel SO GOOD when it's done :)

Three Places You Want to go:
1. Greece (five and a half months!)
2. New York City
3. The Maritimes

Three Things You Want to Do Before You Die:
1. Publish a book
2. Get my fibromyalgia into remission
3. Finish everything on my list of things to do before I die :)

Three Ways that you are stereotypically a Girl/Guy:
1. I am literally incapable of throwing a football
2. Two words: shoes and manicures
3. Oh, and EVERYTHING ELSE ABOUT ME (see Question 1, 'names you go by')


Working Girl

It's been a big week at Cocoon World Headquarters! And it's only Tuesday morning...

We landed a bunch of new clients this week, and they are all really amazing projects. I can't wait to talk about what's been keeping us busy this year :)

And on Friday night, our agency picked up eleven Signature Awards for excellence in advertising. That's significant because this makes it the third consecutive year that Cocoon has won more awards than any other agency in the province. Which is not too shabby, considering Cocoon has only been around for three years.

I am so lucky to get to do work that I love, with a group of really fun people, in an environment where I regularly laugh until my stomach hurts. I wake up every morning and actually *want* to go to work. I know that puts me in a minority of the population. And I appreciate it so much, because I know what it's like to experience the opposite of that - where you're sitting in your car in the parking lot, psyching yourself up to go inside and endure another day.

So without further ado... It's time to start my day :)

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Weekend Update: Ukrainian Dance Edition

Thursday - Helped Geoff move. My parents and Jessica came and helped assemble furniture and check out the house. The girls walked to go get ice cream while the boys worked on hooking up the washer and dryer. And then everyone spent some time in the kitchen, trying to figure out how the heck to fit a fridge and stove in there without ripping out counters and losing significant cupboard space.

Friday - Made dinner with Aaron and Cait (first BBQ of the season!). Cleaned up the house a little bit and watched 'What Not to Wear' in between spurts of laziness.

Saturday - Got up WAY too early to meet Geoff and his co-workers for breakfast. Ran a bunch of errands. Planted my herb garden, some onions, and some peppers (we'll see how that goes...). Visited Geoff with full intentions of helping him assemble some dining room furniture, and instead managed to sit in the chair by the window and finish the book I was reading. Dropped him off at work, then went to see Spiderman 3 (so bad it was awesome).

Sunday - Went to church. Lunch with my family. Watched 'Happy Feet' with Jessica and Kevin, Aaron and Cait, and mom. Dinner at Emily's, then went with her to see her student's Ukrainian dance recital (no words to describe that). Young Adults bible study in Niverville. And finally booked my flight to Vancouver for later this month...

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Letting Go

Okay, I know I've been a little bit MIA here... It was a weird, emotional week and I just needed some time to come to terms with it all before I could attempt to put it into words. I'm going to do a little brain-dump here and try my best to explain what's in my head right now.

I had some really good talks with God this week. I know that he wants me to trust him more, and I've been fighting it. It's not that I don't trust that he's capable of big, miraculous things. It's that I don't trust that he cares about all the little details of my life.

I realized this week that I don't believe that God wants good things for me. Somewhere along the way, I got this flawed idea that my life was going to be about doing my best and working to create little pockets of happiness in the midst of hard things. I don't trust that God wants me to experience joy. Which has been contributing to all kinds of stress for me lately, because my life is pretty amazing right now - and I haven't been able to truly enjoy it. Instead, I'm sitting here skeptically, waiting for the catch. I'm scared that every good thing is eventually going to be balanced with something equally bad. And God told me this weekend that I need to stop limiting him. I need to stop believing that he wants to do awesome things in the lives of everyone else, and not in mine.

Something amazing happened this weekend. I let go. It felt like I was a little girl again, ready to believe that the world is full of good things - and that those good things are meant for me. I'm ready to embrace all the good things in my life, without fear.

I woke up this morning and looked outside my window, and I swear the world looked more beautiful than I've ever seen it before.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Poster Girl

Lots of good stuff happening with The Arthritis Society lately... And I'm so proud to be a part of it!

I've agreed to speak at two more Arthritis events coming up soon: Celebrity Roast Night on May 30 at the Fort Garry Hotel, and the Seniors' Active Living Awards on June 3 at The Waverley (yep, you read that right!).

At the first event, some rather prominent business folks will be 'roasting' their friend Charlie Spiring, CEO of Wellington West, over dinner. At the second, we'll be honouring Winnipeg seniors who have demonstrated commitments to healthy, active living. I'm not sure which one I'm more excited about... They'll both be fun to be a part of :)

I'll be sharing about my experiences with arthritis - an up close and personal look at what it means to live well with chronic illness. I speak very candidly about the challenges, but I focus on the triumphs and the people who have helped get me to where I am today.

Those people I talk about are YOU! And there's a very tangible way that you can be a part of everything that's happening. Tag Day is coming up on Saturday, May 12 - which also happens to be Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. I'll be needing people to volunteer for a number of roles, for all day or part of the day:
- BBQing hot dogs
- Taking donations
- Face painting
- Walking or running on the treadmill

Talk to me if you - or anyone you know - would like to volunteer. Thanks so much! :)

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It Ain't Easy Being Green

So this past weekend, I finally got around to reading this month's Vanity Fair (my absolute favourite magazine, always a treat when I get thirty minutes in a row to flip through it). May just so happens to be their Green Issue. I learned a lot - and not just about cover boy Leonardo diCaprio. I learned so much, in fact, that I was absolutely wracked with guilt about my contribution to the destruction of life, the universe, and everything. I've been having visions of baby seals choking to death on my discarded grocery bags, of gorillas dying for the sake of my cell phone, of women and children in horrific, third world working conditions who are stripping my old printer for parts. All very stressful.

I will never be one of those people who turns off the shower while I lather. But I made a pact with myself that I will begin to attempt some small changes that will make a small but important difference. This month's project was to switch to reusable grocery bags.

I went to Sobey's last night in search of the cute green kiwi bags (well, cute in comparison to other options). Never mind the fact that I had to drive past a Safeway to get to the Sobey's - thus burning up extra gasoline. I grabbed a few groceries, plus a couple of bags. The boys at the till began to ring up my purchases... And they proceeded to bag my groceries - AND my new bags - in plastic bags. HELLO. I had to say something. I asked what they were doing, and they were like, 'Oh, did you want to use these right away?' Um, yes. That's kind of the point. I started laughing at them and, despite the fact I knew how rude I was being, I couldn't stop laughing. They deserved my ridicule.

Kermit was right.

Though I must say... These new bags are AWESOME. So much easier to handle than the old disposable kind - easier to carry, easier to load into my car, and flat-bottomed so they don't tip over. Recyclable. And they cost me a measly 99 cents a piece. I am officially converted.

Don't you love good deeds that have selfish value? :)

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Changes on the Homefront

Today is May 1, which means two kind of noteworthy things:
(1) Lindsay has new roommates! Cait and Allyson are both moving in this week.
(2) Geoff has a new house! Today is the possession date, which is bound to mean a BIG week of packing, moving, unpacking... Lots of work. Probably exhausting work. But fun work.

Both pieces of news are very exciting. Especially to Lindsay, who is not-so-secretly plotting to plant an assortment of green living things at her boyfriend's house this summer, in addition to her own flowers at home. She is also planning to make very good use of his backyard while the weather is nice, and enjoy access to TWO rather lovely decks: one in the front of her house, and one in the back of Geoff's house. And she is very much looking forward to walks along both Provencher Boulevard and Wellington Crescent - in my opinion, the two prettiest places in the Peg.

Flowers! Vegetables! Ice Cream! Hammocks! Barbecues! Grass! Trees!

Lindsay is so excited, she is referring to herself in the third person. Happy sigh (and maybe just a touch of concern).