left coast.

When you have a life in two different, far away places in the world, you are constantly missing things. Since I moved to Toronto two-plus-a-bit years ago, I've missed weddings in Toronto when I was home in BC for Christmas, I've missed weddings in BC when I've been home in Toronto, I've missed birthdays and anniversaries and football games; I spent Thanksgiving this year on an uncharacteristically warm, though completely empty, patio, hoping to serve some beers to lonely travellers or estranged family members. When I heard that my family was planning a big surprise party for my larger - than - life grandpa, I had that same sinking feeling when holidays roll around, "here's something else I have to miss." But with a little maneuvering and a good find on a cheap flight and some penny pinching, I packed a bag and drove to Buffalo/ lay over'd in Chicago/ flew to Seattle to surprise the whole gang! I spent the night in Seattle with my dear aunt Mimi (my mom's sister); we drove straight to John Howie Steak House to have martinis and appies and sit and her friend Gary's piano bar. I've known Gary since Mimi's known him - for twenty years - and always look forward to the few and far between visits I get with him. He's probably the best pianist in the world (in our biased opinion anyways) but he's played with everybody and played anywhere, and when I was young, would take the time to listen to what I was learning (or making up!) on the keys.

[Mimi and I on a ferry in Seattle when I was only a few months old! This picture was submitted and used as an advertisement for a maternity clothing store in Bellevue in the newspaper!]

In the morning Mimi and I went to University Village for breakfast and coffees and to peruse the first Christmas displays of the season (a long-standing favourite pass-time of ours). We couldn't have asked for better weather for a November day in Seattle.

Mimi drove me up to my parents' lake house - my parents recently sold our childhood home and have created a pretty sweet set-up for themselves, renting my aunt and uncle's summer lake house in Alger, Washington, where they spend their weekends (and by weekend I mean thursday to Monday) and spend Monday  through thursday afternoon in Canada, a few blocks from our old house, in a tiny one-bedroom with a little spa that mom works out of. We did the hand-off (hand-off being ME), and drove up to Canada to surprise my sister. Turns out she wasn't really surprised to see me, and didn't let us have any fun surprising her, but to each their own.

On Monday was the big 70th Bday bash. We showed up after a day of getting pampered in mom's spa getting a body wrap and face mask, and thennn getting my hair dyed a shocking blonde (shocking when you're me and don't do anything shocking to your appearance). The party was a blast. A lot of speeches and reminiscing, and an awesome slideshow highlighting great family trips and milestones in my papa's life. THIS for example:

I love this; this is my dad's brother Mike, his wife Lisa and their little Annika. They flew from Nova Scotia to be with papa for just over 24 hours, and this is Lisa's face when she first saw that I was there!

This is my papa Jim (birthday boy) and HIS dad, Edwin. Great-Grandpa is 94 and sharp as a tack. If you need to know how any mennonite is related, or what car came out in which year, or which family member married who in which year, ask him. He's got it all stored up there. Not to mention he's the cutest guy ever!

This is most of the family, missing my dad's sister Mona's family unfortunately; they live in Singapore and that's quite a trek for one day! They were very missed though sent a really moving speech that was played during all of the sharing.

And a few from my phone:

My aunt Deb and aunt Lisa with Annika during cake time.

Papa and Grandma in the middle of a spontaneous hymn (typical occurrence for Janz family functions).

Little ACE eating raspberries; she's hard not to photograph all the time.

And, since it was Annika's birthday yesterday (the tenth), there was a princess cake, complete with crown, ring and... septor?... ACE got a cake too.

My papa is an incredible man that can make anyone smile, he is an encourager, all of our own personal "eternal optimist" as grandma calls him, he is innovative and always a dreamer, and the first to tell you he believes in you. I feel so rich and blessed to have him as the head of our family.

Tuesday was filled with rushed coffee dates, about two hours with my cousin Annie, who graciously took a break in the middle of crazy reno's for their new GORGEOUS coffee shop/ roaster to chit chat in Vancouver, then I met Amanda for a hop over the border to go to Trader Joe's and Target (naturally) for a much needed catch-up, and of course my dear Daph for coffee. Wednesday was set aside to see Danielle, one of my dearest friends, who I haven't seen since Thanksgiving of 2009. We scurried off to Wendel's (yum) to fill each other in and just be together! It was great. It's been highlighted to me in this time how far I live; with talks of marriage and babies and new adventures and summers spent in the ocean and on different coasts, it's really hard for me not to be living life with these people over on this sweet side of the world.

And, stopped at a light just off of the freeway, my only peak of the mountains on this trip, pathetic view though still incredible:

And now I'm back down at the lake house for a weekend with my immediate family and of course the Atkins', slowing down, drinking coffee, finally finishing that book and hopefully writing that song, and, as the sun is peaking out, I think I'm going to take the kayak out for a nice, long cruise on this:

Posted on November 10, 2011 and filed under from jess-.