Fable, myth or rich family history?

Getting the extended family together is becoming more cumbersome with each passing holiday or event.  With children and grandchildren being chauffeured around and dropped off at different sporting or social events, it is difficult to find time to all meet up.  That coupled with the fact that our family is scattered around the province.  Our time together is very valuable.

Having the family sit around one large table has always been part of our family festive dinner traditions.  While celebrating Easter this year, the grandkids piled up rows of card tables and attached them to the end of the dining room table stretching the tables across Grandma’s living room.  Mismatched chairs were scattered around the tables and family members pounced toward their usual spots.

Making the most of our time together, we shared memories, stories and relished on our history.  Some how we ended up on the topic of my favourite family story.

Hidden in a drawer upstairs was a copy of A Horse Called Farmer by Peter Cunnings.  While Grandma was dismissive and uninterested, my Dad was eager to read.  His eagerness deriving from his need to maintain a connection to his father (who passed away nearly 10 years ago).  The story which immortalized our Great, Great, Great Grandpa McLean.

Magdalen Islands


Welcome to the Magdalen Islands (Îles de la Madeleine) where the scenery is breathtaking, the camaraderie is abundant and the history is rich.  Within the archipelago sits an island known as Entry Island (Île d’Entrée).  This will become important later on!

On a farm in Entry Island lived a family and their horse.  They named the Horse Farmer.  In 1923, Richard McLean (Great, Great, Great Grandpa) sold this horse to Curtis Quinn after a night of cards.  Curtis Quinn resided on Grosse Île.  Grosse Île happened to be on the other end of the archipelago.

horse called farmer richard mclean

Every winter an ice bridge formed between Entry Island and Grosse Île.  After Farmer was sold, he was taken across this bridge and rode to his new home.

Farmer was extremely unhappy about his new master and living conditions.  So one day, he kicked and kicked at his gate until he broke it down, freeing himself.  Sprinting through the fields, he fled, never looking back.  Travelling along the Magdalen can be extremely dangerous and complicated, as travel typically includes a mix of land and water.

Farmer, determined to return home, began wandering in the direction of the McLean farm.  As the seasons changed, he made it to the location where the ice bridge once was, however it was gone.  Farmer swam nearly three kilometers from the end of Sandy Hook beach to the southern part of Entry Island (the low place). Persevering through the tumultuous conditions, he made it ashore and followed the scent and sounds of the McLean farm.

Farmer lived the remainder of his life on the McLean farm.

horse called farmer barn entry island

Farmer’s journey was nearly 70 km in length and included 3 km of ocean.  This story shows the importance of preserving, family and the strength of love.




Here’s what I would say to my teenage self…

I’m seventeen years old, riding the peaks and valleys of my hormonal roller coaster while juggling the weight of the world on my shoulders.  My self involved world includes my best friends, dud of a boyfriend and my crappy part-time job.  Thinking about my future means deciding which party to attend over the weekend.  I have enough on my mind so how could I possibly understand the importance of love, happiness and career goals?

Morning routines revolve around pinching the minefield of zits that have sprouted up all over my adolescent face followed by over powdering them to try and blend them.  Here I stand, in front of the mirror, trying to devise a believable story for staying home from school.  I’ve caught the flu.  I’m getting a cold.  I have a migraine.  How can I possibly go to school when I need to be at home slathering toothpaste, rubbing alcohol or any other home remedy on to my face.

Breakfast? Who has time for breakfast.  Coffee is the only thing I need.  My nine hours of sleep last night clearly wasn’t enough for me to feel refreshed.  And, don’t even get me started on my parents.  They don’t understand anything going on in my world or how difficult my life is.  Their divorce impacts me more than they’ll ever realize.  They clearly should have stayed together for my sake.  If I could roll my eyes harder, trust me, I would.

Sound familiar?  It’s hard to look back and consider myself as the same person.  It feels like I’m reminiscing on a strangers’ upbringing.

If I had to do it all over again, I would!  I would explore a variety of career options to develop an understanding of my passions.  I would research schools, programs and potential jobs to gain perspective and understand where my degree or diploma could lead me.  I would have conversations with as many people at school as I could.  I would learn from them.  I would listen to the advice that my parents give me, because let’s face it, they have been through it once before.  Even more importantly, I would respect them and show my appreciation instead of rebelling and arguing.  Angst isn’t a good look on anyone.  I would understand that their divorce really has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.  I would understand that people change, relationships change, and most of the time change is for the better.

Moreover, I would follow my dreams.  We don’t have to work in jobs that we aren’t passionate about just to make ends meet.  I would put energy, time and focus into what really makes me happy and then I would pursue it.  I would remind myself to keep searching for my bliss and to never let the pursuit of money overshadow the pursuit of achieving my goals.

So, what would I say to myself?

Wear your zits proudly.  Form friendships and get to know those around you.   Expand your social circle. You’d be surprised what you can learn from meeting a variety of different people.  Later in life, you will refer to this practice as networking.  Enjoy family time and the lessons your parents want to teach you, because one day they won’t be there to share their wisdom.

 Yes, life is difficult, messy and at times frustrating, but it is also a gift and we should all cherish every minute of it.

First Comes Love…

Our wedding day was one of the most amazing days of my life.  Don’t get me wrong, we had some bumps along the way, but for the most part it was smooth sailing.

I attribute all of our wedding success to being extremely laid back throughout the months leading up to it.  I understand the importance of being very organized and prepared for the big day, however, maintaining a carefree attitude will ensure your day goes off without a hitch!  (Even if it doesn’t – you’ll find ways to laugh along the way).


It’s safe to say that something will go wrong at one point or another on your wedding day.  Maybe it’s not the weather you were hoping for or the decorator miscounted and didn’t provide enough decorations/table settings/ chairs and so on.  All in all, all of the above are so inconsequential, they shouldn’t even fluster you for a second!

When you look back on your day, all of those minor things will NOT be important and they will remain as the stories you tell for years to come after your wedding.  So, remember… take a step back and try to laugh or shrug it off.

Here are some tips to help you avoid unnecessary stress and worry before your big day!

Dress shopping

Go with a small group of people so you’re not bombarded with many different opinions.  Bring the people you can trust to give you honest advice but also those who will be happy with whatever you choose.  After all, it is your day!


Selecting your Venue

Pick a venue that suits your needs, your guests’ needs and really highlights you as a couple.  We selected a venue that was at a public park we use to visit growing up.  It was close for all of our guests, reasonably priced and would hold the amount of guests we were inviting.


Selecting your Guest List

Be very selective about who you are inviting to your special day.  Don’t invite someone just because you think “you have to”.  Same goes for friends of your parents.  When it comes down to the big day, you want the group to be your core friends and family.  It becomes especially awkward when your parents are introducing you to their friends on your wedding day.  Make sure you are selective about the guest list.  Try and picture these people and see if you can envision them in your life a few years from now.  If you don’t think they will be, exclude them from your list.


Hair & Makeup

Go in with a vision but remain open minded.  I wanted something that would be off of my face (in case it was windy out during photos).  I knew I wanted some type of low bun, but I wasn’t concerned with anything beyond that.  I’m not a professional hair stylist and I won’t pretend to be one…so I was happy to allow the professional to do what she does best! Same went for makeup.  I typically don’t wear a lot of makeup beyond some mascara every now and again, so I wanted to stay true to that on our wedding day.



This is a great place to spend the extra money.  An awesome photographer will ensure you get the best pictures and will capture all of the fabulous memories.  These are memories you will want to cherish and look back on for many years to come.  It’s also a lot of fun to get creative with your photos.  Our wedding happened to coincide with Kitchener’s Oktoberfest so we wandered down after our makeup was done to capture a few shots of the group before finishing getting ready.  This type of spontaneity makes for some great shots!


Formal vs Informal

My husband and I were very excited about having an informal relaxed wedding.  We found a fabulous officiant and served our food at different stations throughout our venue.  We wanted something a little bit different.  Sometimes a seated meal can feel long, awkward and tiring.  Instead, we mixed it up by serving a pasta bar, slider bar and spring rolls throughout the hall.  This kept people up and mingling and enjoying the atmosphere instead of being forced into awkward table conversations.


These are a few things that worked really well for us.  I’ve seen weddings where the bride was a complete micromanager and couldn’t sit back to enjoy the day because she was so stressed about everything going perfectly.  Sometimes the imperfect parts are the best memories.

All in all, have fun and cherish every second!