BCWineChat Turns Four Months Old

Some of you may know that I began BCWineChat on Twitter at the end of December 2011.  My hope was to find an open forum for BC wine consumers, BC wineries, retailers and restauranteurs to meet, once a week to give thoughts on one issue for one hour.  My report card on our first four months:

The Participants: The chat started out driven by myself, some retailers and a handful of consumers.  It has grown to include many more participants and specifically, more consumers–but there is many more opportunities to grow.  I would love to see a forum where consumers can talk with winery owners, winemakers, wine retailers and sommeliers about all things surrounding BC wine.  In addition, it would be great to have politicians (thank you @Dan Albas for starting that ball rolling!), government agencies and regulators not only “lurking” but participating–ENGAGE the consumers–don’t be afraid of them and their questions.  It is a great dream…  Grade: B (quality of participants is great…now for more of them)

Twitter as its Home: I have had requests to put it on Facebook, a regular running discussion board and various other social media platforms.  All great ideas, but since I have only a small slice of my week to organize this it will stay on twitter  if it continues to be organized by me.  With Twitter as the chosen format, the biggest complaint has spoken to the limitations of being able to get your point across in 140 characters in a one hour time limit.  The tweets definitely do fly fast.  In response to this, I have always been willing to add subsequent chats on the same topic if it seems like there is still a lot to talk about once the hour has come to a close (that was the case with Ways to Boost Winery Tourism Part Une and Deux).  I also encourage people to take the conversation to the website and make comments on the posts. On the plus side, we are not solving world problems here.  We are getting the creative juices flowing once a week for an hour.  Not a bad thing. Grade B-

The Topics: I get many requests to host more and more “controversial” issues from the trade (retailers, restaurants and especially BC wineries).  BCWineChat is a great place for it–but not every week.  If the hope is to engage consumers to a greater extent, then BCWineChat cannot become synonymous with controversy.  Who wants to tune into a bunch of whiners, and not a bunch of wine-ers, each week?  Wine isn’t negativity and controversy.  It is a celebration.  Some of the most lively discussions have been about wine pairing everyday meals, wine epiphany moments and getting questions about wine answered.  That being said, wine lovers want more access to BC wine, liquor laws reformed, and barriers to enjoyment broken down.  This is why BCWineChat will always sprinkle in the important issues periodically to highlight these issues.  Ultimately, it would be great if solutions pop up on the chat, but really, if we’re all talking openly, that is a great first step for change. Grade B+

Archiving the Chats:  Many participants are not aware that the chat is archived using CoverItLive (thank you @raincoaster) .  As long as each tweet has the hashtag #BCWineChat attached to it, the entire conversation is saved for later review.  To date, these chats have gone to the halls of Ottawa a for Members of Parliament to review for a certain topic (Interprovincial Wine Shipments in Canada) and no doubt to various wineries who want to see what the consumers feel about a certain issue (Cellared in Canada).  I have had many wine lovers thank me for the archive service because BCWineChat conflicted with their life during the Wednesday 8-9 time slot…like Canucks playoff games–understandable!  If people are reading the chat after it ends it means that they are interested and engaged even after it has ended.  Grade A-

Again, we aren’t solving any world problems on BCWineChat.  We are trying to open up a conversation around a local product.  A conversation that can include all the public and private organizations, groups and people that contribute to that product in BC.  Retailers talking to retailers.  Winemakers from one winery talking to vineyard managers from another.  And most importantly, consumers telling everyone what’s on their mind.

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Get Yer Grabber Thingy

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Agriculture Water not an Essential Service?

>>UPDATE: April 9, 2012 the water flowed!! <<

Let’s start with some facts:

  1. We grow grapes
  2. We live in a desert–less than 10 inches average of precipitation per year
  3. Grapes need a minimum of 20 inches of precipitation minimum to survive each year.
  4. The difference between what falls from the sky and what the plants need, is called irrigation (say it with me…ir-ri-ga-tion)
  5. Other farmers farm other things where I live.
  6. Those farmers need ir-ri-ga-tion too.
  7. We farm to make money.
  8. We need money to live.

What part of agricultural water is NOT an essential service?

The local municipal workers’ union (CUPE) of the Town of Oliver have voted to go on strike.  No problem with that.  It is their right and I don’t want to get embroiled in the negotiation of wages between their union and the Town.  Here’s the problem, they have called domestic water an essential service but agricultural water not an essential service. Therefore, the water flowing outside the town to maintain our million dollar investments, our livelihoods, the livelihood of the 24+ families we support at Tinhorn Creek, is not essential.

Since when is one man’s access to water a right but for another man it is only an option?

Farmers don’t complain in traditional media sources too much. They talk it in local coffee shops.  They pull over on the side of the road.  They lean over fences.  Really.  They do.  I have done all  three of these things.  But farmers can roar when something like WATER is taken away from them.

If water is not flowing in our irrigation canal (fondly called “the ditch”) in mid April, believe me…the whole province of British Columbia will hear about it.

Not just readers of this blog.

Media Release from Town of Oliver

Letter from Area C Director

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Social Media for Businesses

I’m sure in the late 1800’s when the telephone was invented and was finding its way into homes and businesses, there were some people who did not see a need for it.  No doubt there were those who said “Why do I need a telephone? It’s going to take away time from customers at my counter” or “I won’t do business with a telephone–I like to  speak face to face with MY customers.”

Insert the words Social Media in for the telephone above and  you have the same conversation going on over a century later.

I hear business owners all the time saying “I don’t do the Twitter Thing” like resisting it is somehow a badge of honour.  Not having a presence on Facebook and Twitter for your business is like not answering the phone–it may feel nice and quiet for a while but sooner or later it will catch up to you.  Customers will call somewhere else.

Also, customers want to speak with humans when they call your business.  We all know what voice mail hell feels like, “Press one for…” and we all desperately try to get a living, breathing person on the line if we have any kind of question.  Social media is the same.  Even if your business has a Facebook page and/or a Twitter account your customer still wants to know that there’s a real person behind those accounts.  I am sure that most people who follow @sandraoldfield on twitter  know that I am a real person–especially if they have taken the time to converse with me (too much information sometimes!)

All businesses will need to embrace social media soon so that they can join the conversation that’s already happening.  Successful businesses will find a way to bring a human personality to these various platforms.

The ones that don’t do this will be sitting by their telephone…waiting for it to ring.

Posted in Social Media, TInhorn Creek | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Moon Musings

I just pulled into the hotel in Leavenworth, Washington after a long drive down to California to attend Ralph Kunkee’s memorial service at UC Davis.  It was a 16-hour straight shot drive down, 33 hours in Davis, then 13 hours back up to Leavenworth for the night.

Ralph’s celebration of life was packed with so many wonderful moments.  Hilarious stories by everyone and a few tears.  One of the more poignant stories heard yesterday came from his doctor who was with him at the end of his life in hospice.  On one of Ralph’s last nights alive, when he knew there was not much time left, there was a full moon outside his window.  The doctor explained how he had moved Ralph’s bed close to the window so that he could better see the full moon.

It struck me how beautiful Ralph must have looked in the light of the full moon that night, alone in his room.  I tried to imagine what would have gone through his mind that night, seeing that moon.  How special it must have been.

When I left the Sacramento Valley at 4AM this morning it was dark and flat and as I drove north on Highway 5, one of the fullest, brightest-orange moons I had ever seen in my lifetime was setting in the west.

…and all I could think about was Ralph looking at that same moon two months ago, through his bedroom  window.

Thirteen hours later I dropped down from the Cascade mountains into Leavenworth Washington and there again was the same huge, orange, full moon, except this time it was rising in my eastern view.

…and I thought: how is it that I am lucky enough to have two moons today when Ralph will have none?

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,700 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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BCWineChat is Born

A spirited conversation on twitter last week about sub appellations in the British Columbia wine industry was the kick off for a new one hour weekly chat on twitter called BCWineChat.  The chat, hosted under the twitter hashtag #BCWineChat, is held every Wednesday from 8-9pm PST and will engage people on various aspects of BC wine.

Some weeks it will tackle the tough issues such as our archaic interprovincial wine shipping laws, or liquor board policies or wine labelling laws. It will also be a forum for discussing topics like what is going on in BC wineries that week, what wines go well with certain occasions or even your personal BC wine resolutions for 2012.  The nice thing about #BCWineChat on twitter is that the topics come from you.  The consumers.  The producers.  The growers.  The retailers and the restaurants.

The chat is meant to be engaging.  People from outside the province can join the discussion as it is only with knowledge of what others are doing that we can gain a better understanding of our BC wines.  Wineries will love getting the consumer’s thoughts on various timely topics, and consumers should look to glean as much information out of wineries and retailers as they can too.

If you’re familiar with twitter the chat is easy.  You can find the schedule for the topics on BCWineChat and follow the hashtag #BCWineChat on Wednesdays from 8-9 pm PST.  If you are unfamiliar with twitter but still wish to take part, you will be able to do so on the BCWineChat website during the one hour under a hosted event page.

Here’s to a successful, fun, engaging, BC Wine-filled New Year!

Posted in Canada, Grapes and Wine, TInhorn Creek | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2012 Concert Series Finalized

The bands for the   2012 Canadian Concert Series have been finalized this week and it should be quite a rip-roaring time to be had by all.  The bands are all from right here in  British Columbia.

Here’s a taste of each one:

The Boom Booms May 26, 2012


Acres of Lions June 23, 2012


Redeye Empire July 28, 2012


Said the Whale August 25, 2011

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The Case for Canada’s Sustainable Wine Industry

For years I have been hearing wine writers and others say that unless Canadian wines are sold in the UK or the US we will never become a well-known industry.  Unless our wines are reviewed by the heavy hitters of the wine world (no need to name them here, just google World Wine Writers) then we will never amount to much of an industry.   I think this is true.  I also find myself saying…does it matter?

I will be the first to say that I am tired of opening up world wine atlases and finding the Lithuanian wine industry getting 3 times more column inches than Canada’s (nothing against Lithuania).  Our section tends to be a paragraph, not a section, and it quite often discusses the hybrids we grow, the icewines we make and one or two founding producers. Antiquated information at best.  Utterly false at worse.

I’d like to make the case that Canada should hang a much more important moniker on its wine industry than just “world-renowned”.

How about World’s Most Sustainable Wine Industry?

There are many definitions of “Sustainable” but one simple way of thinking of it is living within one’s means.  On an individual basis, not such an easy thing to do.  But Canada’s industry sits in a unique position on the worldwide wine scene.

We consume much more than we produce.

We have the ability to “absorb” (literally or figuratively) all of what we make and still must bring in a huge amount of exports to keep our wine drinking public happy.  We can choose to ship overseas but we don’t need to.  Take a look at this graph: (data courtesy the Wine Institute)


The first thing you should notice is that in order to see Canada (the far right bars) the scale should be changed (ie: we are a tiny blip).  The next thing  you should notice is that Canada is the only country on this graph that shows an industry that produces far less than it consumes– 50,000,000 liters production  versus 334,000,000 liters consumption.  The United States is flat with respect to production and consumption although it exports and imports a great deal.

You can be the greenest, most highly organic, environmentally sensitive wine industry in the world but in the end, if you have to export your product half way across the world to sell it all, are you really sustainable?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not advocating for protectionism, isolationism, or drinking only local.   I enjoy wines from around the world and  am very happy that these other countries make more than they consume.  What I am proposing is that Canadian producers see that they are in a unique situation.  Instead of seeing ourselves as so small that we cannot sustain international markets, we should embrace the small.  Embrace a small industry that is wrapped by a larger wine buying nation.   Instead of lamenting the fact that we are not at  least a page in the next world wine atlas…celebrate.  Celebrate that we are an industry that lives within its means.

Celebrate that Canada is a sustainable wine industry.

Posted in Canada, Eco Sustainability, Grapes and Wine | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Close to Home

I returned home from the grocery store and decided to head right back out with my camera.  The snow had fallen two nights ago and I knew I did not have to venture too far off our hill to take some great photos.  With the exception of the haystacks, all photos in this post are from the Tinhorn Creek property.

The normally green or vibrant red Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra) is now gnarly brown and white.  They are the best bushes in the winter for angular, contrasting lines.  The snow makes the branches look like drop shadows to me.

If the South Okanagan Valley has a signature plant, the Antelope Bush (Pershia tridentata) is it.  These pictures were taken on the hill in front of our winery.  We have entered into a conservation covenant with The Land Conservancy of BC to protect this front area of our property, and I highly encourage that all BC land owners with natural areas on their property do the same.

The large Ponderosa Pines (Pinus ponderosa) that grow on the slopes of the Tinhorn Creek gully were almost lost a couple years ago to the Mountain Pine Beetle but they seem to have held on.  Every year this tree exists I am happy we have not lost it yet.

The non native poplar trees that line our driveway look like they would make a nice screen saver.

Haystacks at the Oliver airport

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Stillness Between the Seasons

There is a time in the Okanagan Valley where the calendar says it is Fall but we’ve had our first taste of winter.  Some leaves remain on the trees but many more join new skiffs of snow on the ground. We are in some kind of stillness between the seasons.

This is that time.

Osprey nest on the eastern Black Sage bench…like an up side down exclamation point on the landscape.

Green replaced by browns and whites on the western Golden Mile Bench.

Snow only on the north side of peach trees. Is there any wonder why I love tree pictures so much?

Seems like every year I take a picture down the rows of this orchard near the Black Sage Bench.  Contrasting  colours and dancing light.

Grays, whites and tans accented by a roaming horse on the upper plateau above Oliver.

I almost felt the need to apologize for the intrusion.  Quiet, crisp and the sweet smell of sage in the air.

Tuc el Nuit Lake with McIntyre Bluff in the distance.  Reflection has the colours of Fall but the stillness says Winter.

Landscape or portrait–it’s still beautiful.

All harvest this driveway had a “No Help” sign on its bins.  At some point it was changed to “Help”.  Now, does that mean they needed pickers or that they were having a challenging harvest?

I love the lines that farmers make.  And with the light fading when I took this it made the picture seem even more cold–but it was quite warm.

Like soldiers.  Accented by the dozen or so leaves that remain.

Kerner grapes from Block 1 waiting for the time to be winter, not just nearly winter.  Icewine is their destiny.


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A Great Man Died Today

Ralph Kunkee

Typing through tears is not one of my strongest suits, but I’ll give it a shot.  Ralph Kunkee died today.  I’m fairly sure that not many of you met him.  He was a Professor Emeritus of Enology (winemaking) at the University of California at Davis where I learned how to be a winemaker. He taught aver 1,000 students who are now making wine all over the globe.

Ralph had retired one year before I got to the Master’s program but he stayed on to teach wine microbiology for another year or two and asked me to be his Teaching Assistant.  I remember a yeast trial I had to monitor for him with 27 different yeast strains all in triplicate.  It was a very complicated experiment and there was Ralph trying to clarify it for me in his scattered way–which would usually end with “Just do it.  You know what I mean.”

It was an honour trying to figure out what he meant.

As the School’s website says, Ralph worked on isolation of wine yeast, malolactic fermentations and what causes wine to spoil.  He has a strain of Malo Lactic bacteria named after him Lactobacillus Kunkeei.  In his life he published nearly 150 scientific articles and two texts (one of which he was writing when I was at the University).  He helped in California’s transition from high alcohol fortified wines to the lower alcohol table wines we now enjoy.  He urged clean conditions in wineries and showed many wineries and winemakers that bad wines are indeed sometimes made in the cellar.

Lactobacillus Kunkeei

But a person’s accomplishments do not define who they are.

Ralph must have invented the saying “suck the marrow out of life”.  At every conference he was first to stand and ask the speaker a question (or many). He was always, always asking, probing, exploring.  He’d ask his students questions about all sorts of things–not because he was trying to get us to think, but because he was truly interested in learning more all the time.

For him there was a purity in learning and teaching.

Students in enology and brewing prided themselves on knowing how to party–but we were just amateurs compared to Ralph.  He had thrown a lifetime of bashes and had perfected the Art of Party.  Every year he threw a party for his students.  Imagine that.  He threw a rip-roaring bash yearly for his students.  Past alumni were always welcome as well as his co-workers, the other professors, and pretty well any passer-by on the street.

The culmination of the party every year came at the strike of midnight.  Ralph forced all of us to drink a shot of Jagermeister.  I told him I hated the stuff but he made me drink it anyway–you could never say no to Ralph.  I mean really, look at his face!  Then he’d cue up the Village People’s YMCA and we’d all dance and sing it.  Seriously.  That’s what we all did.  100 plus people with arms outstretched making the letters and belting out the words.  Years later we met up at a wine conference where the Village People were playing a huge supplier party.  When they began to play YMCA we dragged Ralph onto the dance floor and we all danced around King Ralph–like he was holding court.

Y-M-C-A…it’s fun to stay at the…

He came to mine and Kenn’s wedding in 1995 as did most of my professors.  That was the kind of program Viticulture and Enology was–they were not teachers as much as they were friends–and Ralph was the Dean of the Department of Smiles and Laughter.

Ralph, Back Row Left, at our Wedding

When I moved to BC and we built our winery I named one of our tanks after him.  Tank 20 is “Tank Ralph”.  I choose our biggest blending tank for him–it seemed appropriate.

It’s empty today.   Somehow that also seems appropriate.

In 2002 he came up to the Okanagan Valley for a lecture to the BC wine industry on cleaning and sanitation and we got to visit.  I was so proud of taking him around our winery and being able to tell him that he was instrumental in our success.

I handed him a sharpee pen and had him autograph the wall of the new barrel cellar.  He wrote: “Vigilance and Discipline!  Great wines begin in the classroom!  Align that microscope! –Ralph Kunkee”  (never could get our microscope in alignment).  Ironic thing about that autograph…a few years back one of my cellar workers was asked to clean the cellar really well and he decided to scrub off Ralph’s writing.  Ralph probably would have been proud of the level cleanliness, but I was not so happy.  I reconstructed it when I heard Ralph was in hospice this week.  No doubt it was my misspelling of “vigilance” when I retraced his writing and not his.

Ralph wouldn’t have cared so much about my spelling error.  He knew we all are human and make mistakes.  He celebrated “human”.  And tonight I will toast you, Ralph with some Jager and a dance with my six-year-old daughter to YMCA.

I only bought a tiny bottle, though, Ralph.  I told you I can’t stand the stuff.

Posted in Grapes and Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Rhythm of Vintage 2011

The grape harvest just wrapped up for us in the southern Okanagan Valley, and it was unlike any I have seen in 18 years making wine here. I visualize vintages as a year of weather reflected in the finished glass of wine, and with each vintage there is, for me, a corresponding rhythm or cadence that is unique to that year.

Some vintages have a steady back beat with bud break, flowering, colour change (veraison), ripening and harvest coming in a relatively even, expected pace. We have seen many harvests like this between 2000-2006. The 2011 vintage was quite different from those years.

It began in the Spring with a delayed introduction when we experienced cooler than usual weather. Bud break was at least a week behind and as June came and went the rhythm still had not picked up much. In July, when our hours of sunlight are longest and when I expect to feel the tempo build quickly, it was still cool–adagio.
We had a warmer August and September, but the days were getting shorter so, although they certainly helped us not lose any more ground, they did not help us make up for lost development we had already experienced.

Once we started picking the grapes in later September we were ready for a very fast-paced, steady, condensed harvest period. Instead, we would quickly bring in the Gewürztraminer then have to wait for another 4-5 days until the Pinot Gris was ripe. We would rush to get the Gris in only to have to stop again for a few days before the next grape was ready. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Like an alternative rock song.

Bang. Chardonnay. Pause.

Bang. Sauvignon Blanc. Pause.

Bang. Pinot Noir. Pause.

Bang. Syrah. Pause

The silence between beats became longer and longer as the weather got colder in mid October. Almost deafeningly quiet some days on our crush pad. With frost in late October and the heat being abruptly turned off for the season, the push in the end for the red grapes came furiously. Almost 40% of our entire crop was picked in 5 days. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon. Wonderful flavours, great acidity balance, no rot, a healthy crop. A crazed fury of activity in one crescendo.

Then Bang. Done. Fade.

Posted in Grapes and Wine | 5 Comments

Wine Marketing for Dummies

In the past few years it seems that some winery’s marketing plans read like this:

  1. Make everything in tiny lots that are hard to find (or at least tell the public you only made a small amount)
  2. Charge a healthy (or obscene) amount for it
  3. When sold, make the customer feel like they are lucky to have found the hidden gem

I won’t comment too much on the first two because, really, everyone has their own ways of marketing.  Some wines are small lots and certainly pricing is something every winery has to determine, but I have never understood the third part of the plan.

For years when I have heard customers say “We were so lucky to have gotten that bottle of X from Winery Y” or “I was allowed to buy two rather than just one bottle” or “I didn’t have an appointment but they let me buy it anyway.” All I can think of is “Wow.  Isn’t Winery Y lucky to have gotten the $40+ out of YOU?”

The customer, in case we are forgetting something, is the one on the side of the counter holding the cash or credit card.  The seller is the one on the side of the counter handing over the wine.

Wine can be a luxury item and yes there is scarcity built into it because, let’s face it, you can only squeeze a finite amount of juice from a grape, but remembering who is on which side of the counter is always the best marketing plan.

Posted in Grapes and Wine | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Dance this Mess Around

Blue Rodeo At Tinhorn Creek

I am looking for your ideas for a band for our end of season concert next year (September 2012).  If you have been to our concerts before then I do not need to explain to you how seriously fun they can be.

Requirements for the band:

On Twitter I asked for some suggestions and received these:

Broken Social Scene
City and Colour
The Tragically Hip
Great Big Sea
The Northern Pikes
Barenaked Ladies
Kathleen Edwards
Jann Arden
Dust Rhinos

Ideas for others? Votes? Or maybe you have an inside track to a band that seems unattainable? Drop me a comment!

Posted in Canada, TInhorn Creek | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

I Miss You Already SOSS

Our high school burned down this morning.  My husband woke me a bit before 5AM and told me it was ablaze.  I jumped out of bed, went to the window and 4 kms away seemed like next door.  The flames were so high and the fire so large.  At that instant your mind races through the scenarios…Is my 6 year old’s elementary school on fire too? (it was right next door)  How much of the high school is gone?  Has it spread to the historical Venables Auditorium? Where will the students go today to learn? Where will they go tomorrow?

Of course it goes without saying that we are blessed in Oliver in that no one was hurt in the fire.  We were blessed that no one was hurt when the historic Oliver Hotel burned down last year and when the Testalinda mudslide came roaring down our Western ridge in June 2010.  Yes we are blessed and I understand that.

But I have come to understand today that although we are blessed and lucky, we are also grieving–and we should be allowed to grieve for the loss of SOSS (South Okanagan Secondary School) without being made to feel like it is a silly thing to do just because it was a building.

Our high school was a building that gave many in our community a sense of pride every time they saw it.  Yes we are a small town but we had a great, well-equipped high school that taught people from throughout Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos–the entire south end of the Okanagan Valley.  People in larger cities can never understand how buildings like this become our focal point and help to define us.  The big rounded art deco Venables Auditorium was a meeting place for the entire community.  Aside from how it was used for the high school it hosted theater plays, traveling musicians, Christmas concerts for the elementary school (two for my child), community meetings and even citizenship ceremonies (including mine on October 17, 2002).

I remember vying for a seat last December in the Auditorium for our daughter’s Christmas concert and I was thinking–wow, is everyone going to fit in here?  And they all did.  The balcony even filled up with anxious parents.  I remember thinking “What a great building this is.  I will love to watch my daughter grow up in this space”.  I felt a connection with the generations of other parents who had watched their children belt out songs in the place.  I was becoming a part of Oliver’s history.

I am sad tonight and damn it I am proud to be sad.  I am proud to live in a community that mourns its loss of community and doesn’t just let it fade away due to budget cuts or upgrades or putting in larger parking lots.  I am proud to live in a place that mourns a school that did not have graffiti covering its walls before it fell to the ground.  I am proud to live in a place that feels a real sense of loss, bewilderment and genuine confusion over how 350 young adults will carve out a sense of empowerment this year–how those students will stay together to build their own sense of community in a fractured learning environment.  I am proud that people in our tiny corner of the world are grieving the loss of a building that meant so much more to all of us.

I drove downtown today and could no longer see the crown jewel of Oliver sitting on the hill rising above our main street.  And I am not ashamed to say, I had to pull over and cry before continuing back to the winery.

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Up a Tree

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree… Yes, I have a thing for looking up a tree.  All around the world.  Whenever I think of it.

Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Agnone, Italy

Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada

Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada

Eastern Washington State

Keremeos, BC, Canada

Keremeos, BC, Canada

Paris, France

Penticton, BC, Canada

Penticton, BC, Canada

Penticton, BC, Canada

Rome, Italy

San Francisco, CA

Santa Rosa, CA

Ste. Michelle, France

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Vaseaux Lake, BC, Canada

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hanoi, VietNam

Washington DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

Washington DC

White House, Washington DC

Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada

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Bucket List of Future Wanderings

How can you have a bucket list of places  to travel to if you haven’t been to them before? Over the years, little seeds have been planted in my head of the places I’d like to visit before I die.   Who knows how they got there?  Maybe it’s a place where history balanced on an edge, or a place of head-shaking beauty, or of great culture, or spectacular art collections (my weakness).  I can not imagine how many places I would love to see that I will never think of, but these are the ones I have thought of:

1. Turkey   Turkey has it all.  History, art, culture, food, beauty and I get to go to a part of the world  I’ve never been to before.  I WILL make it to Turkey…of this I am certain.

2. St. Petersburg   As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by Russian history–or maybe it was that movie Reds with Warren Beatty.  Then when I got older and discovered the Hermitage Collection, that sealed the deal for me.

3. Prague  In younger days when I stayed in European youth hostels not a day would go by without at least one traveler saying “Have you been to Prague?  No?  You’re missing out. Best place I’ve been to on my trip.”  I still hear their voices in my head.

4. New York City  I’m embarrassed to say I have not yet been to NYC.  Art, art, art and shows, shows, shows.  Of course, I’ve heard the food ain’t so bad either.

5. Laos I spent a month in VietNam, but did not have time to go to Laos.  I don’t know much about it, but friends have said it is a must do.  I believe them.

6. Iceland Maybe it was the pity I took on them during the financial collapse or that a world of airline passengers blamed them for an erupting volcano (like it was THEIR fault!) but Iceland seems to be such a fascinating place to visit.  It’s taken a lot of heat and just keeps oozing coolness.

7. Maldives This is my token tropical-blue-sea-white-sand-paradise.  There’s no way this place can live up to its pictures so I’m going to have to check it out in person.  Unfortunately I’m not the kind of person that can just lie around all day so hopefully they unearth some really old ruin before I get there.

8. Peru  Not only am I sucker for old ruins, but I like the little hats they all wear.

9. Yukon/ Northwest Territories I have no idea what I will find when I go North, but I know I will love it.  Any suggestions for places to see here are enthusiastically welcomed.  Order me up some Northern Lights, guys.

10. Chicago Dang those artists!  I could have almost avoided Chicago if it did not woo me with its art.  Again, I’ve heard I can get a mean meal there as well. (photo courtesy Charles N Abbott at http://99cnaclasses.com  http://99cnaclasses.com/chicago/ )

I rarely desire to go back to a location I’ve been to already, mainly because there are so many places to see, but for these places I am willing to make an exception (all photos by me).

Ireland When someone asks me if I liked Ireland the answer is always the same, “I’d be there yesterday if I could.”  I feel like I have left a piece of my heart there.

Great Skellig, Ireland

VietNam For sheer scenery VietNam is tops and then you add in the fact that you are meeting the nicest people on the face of the earth and who wouldn’t want to return?

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Normandy The history is overwhelming in Normandy. It is horrific, sobering, calming and unparalleled beauty all rolled into one…and, oh, the  mussels!

Beaches of Normandy

A girl can dream, can’t she?

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A Canadian is Born on Robson Street

I am American.  Born in California, just like my parents and grandparents, but I married a Canadian and moved to British Columbia in 1995.  I thought maybe someday I would “go for a dual citizenship thing” but nothing much came of it.  Why would I want to pursue that?  I had permanent residency and other than voting and passports there was not much of a reason to “become Canadian”.

In February 2002 Canada and the United States squared off in the Olympic Men’s Gold Medal hockey game in Salt Lake City.  Remember?  Gretzky and the Lucky Loonie?  First time Canada brought the Olympic Gold home in Men’s hockey in 50 years?  The Canadian Women had just won their gold medal against the US and I had loved watching that game–really gotten into it.  I was in Vancouver for the Men’s Final and decided to watch it at GM Place on the  big screen TVs (Sorry Roger’s, it will always be GM to me!).  It was just me and about 5,000 others.

Team Canada was winning and at the end, this happened:

I was crying and yelling out “O Canada” all alone…with 5,000 other Canadians.

The mob spilled into downtown Vancouver, Granville, Georgia and Robson Streets.  I spent the next 2-3 hours honking the horn of the Tinhorn Creek van up and down Robson Street–well maybe only twice as it was gridlock–while waving a Canadian flag and high-fiving endless drunk, ecstatic revelers.

The horn on the van died before my voice did (true story) and I made my way back to the Listel Hotel to crash.

I don’t know if it was when I got back to the room that night or the next morning when I woke up,  but my brain was spinning.  Why had I cheered so strongly for the Canadian team at the expense of my homeland, the United States?  Was I anti-American?  I didn’t feel so.  I would always be American.  But there it was.  I didn’t even have the slightest remorse that the Americans had lost–but I still loved the United States.

I felt Canadian.  I had become Canadian.  Probably not overnight but the game had crystalized my love of this country.  This was my country now.  I was Canadian.

The day after the game was a Sunday.  I looked up the number for Immigration Canada and called them from my hotel room.  An answering machine came on (!) for me to leave my contact information for a Canadian Citizenship application.  I realized I had not yet spoken out loud yet that morning.  I was so hoarse I could only bark out what was required.

…*Cough. I. Would. Like. An. Application. *Cough*. For. Canadian. Citizenship. *Cough…

I took my oath of Canadian Citizenship less than 8 months later on October 17, 2002.

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About Adoption

What can be written about adoption that hasn’t already been written?  They are always such personal narratives and each unique.  My story is not unlike many others but it is mine and has helped to make me who I am today.

Having a child was always in my genes.  I was raised in a family of five.   All of my siblings have families of three to four children each.  Growing up I was known as the “babysitter on my block” and when I got older I was Auntie to 13 nieces and nephews.  I love children.

But sometimes destiny isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

After many years of “trying” (translate: Sex) and having “procedures” (translate: Surgeries. Hormones.  Injections. Trips to Vancouver. Calendars. Money. Stress. Pain. Hell.) I had nothing to show for it.  It did not matter what was going on in my professional life.  I was a failure.  A hollow shell of a woman.  I felt there was nothing inside of me.

I left for two months to travel Europe.  Alone. I have referred to this time as “my little mental breakdown” but in actuality I was in a cocoon.  When I emerged, I had opened myself up for the process of adoption.  I would be a Mother but I would never get pregnant.  If you have not been through this transition–where you begin to abandon the idea of ever getting pregnant and move toward the idea of becoming a Mother I can say it is not an easy one.  You question your very Self.

Once we decided to adopt we stopped speaking in medical terms and start talking about things like Countries.  Gender.  Race.  Age.  Length of Time. Open.  Closed.  Birth Mother.  Integration. Bonding. A whole new vocabulary.  And then came the waiting game.  Not much of a game in retrospect.

Nine months after we began the process (really, nine months) my husband and I found ourselves in a stark, budget hotel room holding our two-day-old daughter Melody.

If you are going through any of what I have written about I can only say “You are awesome.  No one will ever understand what your are going through.”  I also say to you that you have to find your own path.  Let no one tell you what is right or wrong, easy or hard, worth doing or not.  There is only what is right for you.  For me the right answer turned out to be adoption.  I had to go through those years of toxicity to be able to finally come to the conclusion that adoption was the best route.  I wish I had not.  I wish a wand could have been waved over me 10 years before and showed me the road to adoption.  It would have saved me so much loss and pain and time.  But then again, I would never have found my daughter.

When we brought Melody home for the first time someone said to me “It is so great what you have done–giving her the chance for a great life.”

But they didn’t understand.  It was Melody that rescued me.

Day One

Click HERE to find out more about adoption in British Columbia.

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