Gretzky – very cool.

Nice thing for a great athlete… *** From Globe and Mail Walter Gretzky named to Order of Canada Canadian Press December 28, 2007 at 1:48 PM EST OTTAWA ? As he was awarded his country’s highest civilian honour, Canada’s most celebrated hockey dad shared some memories of his famous son they call the Great One. But Walter Gretzky’s first thoughts were of his own parents ? who like millions of other immigrants arrived in Canada with no fanfare or stardom, but with brilliant dreams for their offspring. His Order of Canada award is a tale of three generations of Gretzkys. He was cited for his charity work on a star-studded list of winners that included basketball star Steve Nash, UN human rights commissioner and former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour, oilman Jack Irving and Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge. Gretzky had known about the prize for two months but the retired Bell Canada lineman was still shaking his head when Governor General Michaelle Jean released the winners’ names Friday. He wondered how his parents would have reacted to a telephone-cable repairman getting an award from the Queen’s representative. His own father Anthony immigrated from Belarus to join the Canadian army in the First World War and his mother Mary came from Poland at age 18 in 1921. “My dad always said, ‘We’re the luckiest people in the world to live in a country like Canada.’ He was so proud,” Walter Gretzky said in an interview. “If he were alive, if my mom were alive today, they wouldn’t be able to comprehend what is happening. “Because over there a commoner wouldn’t receive such an award like we do over here. Over here, everybody’s special. We’re all equal.” Walter Gretzky is best known for fathering the NHL’s all-time leading scorer and producing the famous backyard rink upon which his son Wayne learned to skate. But the press release from Rideau Hall says he was named for his work with various charities. That famous son spoke with pride Friday upon learning of his father’s good fortune. “I am tremendously proud and happy for my father to be included in the Order of Canada,” said the coach and part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes. “My parents instilled in our entire family a sense that it was our duty to help other people whenever we could, and obviously my dad always led by example when it came to helping others. “I know that he takes a great deal of pride in his charitable endeavours, and for him to be honoured with Canada’s highest civilian award is truly a memorable achievement.” Walter Gretzky recalls the night he sat around the kitchen table with his then-teenage son for a conversation that triggered their three-decade relationship with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Earlier that evening, Wayne had arrived at the Toronto airport and was waiting for a lift home. In front of the airport he saw two blind children who were also waiting for a lift to his hometown, Brantford. “Wayne went over and started talking to them,” Walter recalled. “And while he’s talking to them one of them interrupted him ? and you’ve got to understand they’re both visually impaired, totally ? and one of them said, ‘I know who you are. You’re Wayne Gretzky, aren’t you?’ ” At the time Wayne Gretzky was a rising superstar with the Edmonton Oilers. The boys had recognized the sound of his voice. Hours later, the young hockey star was telling his dad they needed to organize a celebrity tennis tournament for the blind. They have since helped raise over $3 million, also hosting golf tournaments and summer camps, and also done work for cancer and heart-and-stroke charities. “We’re sitting at the kitchen table ? 12:30 at night. I’ve gotta go to bed,” Walter says. “I’ve gotta go to work the next morning, and Wayne’s talking about meeting these two visually impaired students. He said he was so impressed.” Walter Gretzky doesn’t quite recall what year they had that conversation. It was a long time ago. Besides, his memory isn’t what it used to be. The 69-year-old lost some of that in an aneurysm that almost took his life in 1991. He also had a serious scare back in 1964 when a work accident left him in a coma and claimed the hearing in his right ear. He recalls that after his stroke, his family had been warned he might not survive the night. Nearly 20 years later, Walter Gretzky was taking home a prize from the governor general and on the same day participated in the opening ceremonies of Brantford’s Gretzky international hockey tournament. “I’m thankful for every day,” he said. “I just try to help as many people as I can.” Wayne won his own Order of Canada prize in 1984, while he was still in the early stages of his stellar NHL career. Friday’s list included Amnesty International’s Alex Neve and Reform party stalwart Deborah Grey. In 1989, Grey became the first MP elected under a fledgling party that four years later brought a young man named Stephen Harper to Parliament. Dodge, who is stepping down at the end of January after seven years as Canada’s central banker, was made an officer of the Order. He was the finance department’s top bureaucrat when the Liberal government successfully reversed years of budget deficits and set Ottawa on course to a string of fiscal surpluses. Olympic speedskater and cyclist Clara Hughes was also named an officer of the Order ? but it wasn’t just for her five Olympic medals. She also received the award for her work with Right to Play, the international charity that helps disadvantaged children play sports. Hughes also learned of her nomination back in October. She was about to leave the house in the morning when she got a call from Rideau Hall. “(I was told) ‘Clara, you’d better sit down for this news,’ ” she recalled. “You’ve been accepted as an officer of the Order of Canada. Would you accept this appointment?” And with a laugh she recalled her reply: “I said, ‘Has anybody ever declined it?’ ” When the call came in, she was getting ready to go to the skating rink for her morning training. She’s also getting ready to go to Ghana early next year for Right to Play. Hughes says athletes must use their celebrity as a means to an end ? as a chance to do something good for others. She says that even though she’s being rewarded for past accomplishments, she hopes her best work is ahead of her. “This award is telling me, ‘You’re on the right track.’ “

Leg Warmers

I went shopping yesterday afternoon to get some groceries and saw at least three women wearing leg warmers at the grocery store. I was a little surprised by this – not because the weather wasn’t cold enough to warrant wearing leg warmers – but just the fact that women have decided that this terrible fashion trend of the 80s is worthy of reviving. One woman was in her late 50′s/early 60′s so this wasn’t exactly big for her as a teen or anything. Another woman was in her 20s – so she was a little young to have dragged them out of her closet. I never was a big fan of leg warmers during their first go around so I won’t be partaking in them if they come back again. If you like them – hey, whatever floats your boat.

A little saddened

I drove my Mom to the airport early this morning so she could catch her flight home. I was saddened by this as we’ve had a wonderful week with her here. Its gone by SO quickly. The kids loved having her here, I loved having her here and G also enjoyed her visit. We really love living here, but its hard to be away from family. My family, being spread out across Canada, is pretty much away from one another anyway – but G’s family is together and we aren’t with them. That’s been the biggest challenge being here. We love where we live, we love our friends here, our parish, the schools, the lifestyle – and even the climate. Being without family has been tough sometimes. We’ll be back in NOLA visiting in February, then my Dad and his wife will be visiting us sometime in March so we have that to look forward to. Before we know it, it will be the summer and it will be time to head north to Canada again. I suppose that the upside is that when you are with your family and they are visiting or you are visiting them, it makes that time more special.

'Express Yourself'

This is the slogan for one of the botox manufacturers. I find this extremely amusing since I have heard (nope – not a Botox user as the large crevasses in my forehead can attest) that Botox makes your face loose its ability to move and show expression. In fact, their website even has a link on their home page with the question ‘Will I still be able to make facial expressions?’. This made me laugh.

The best Christmas ever.

It really has been. My Mom arrived a few days ago and has been here with us and its been a wonderful time together, but that’s only part of it. The other day I wrote about Mobile Loaves and Fishes and the awesome work that they do. I saw a little bit on Friday night, but I really got to see it firsthand this morning. We got up about 6 this morning and got the kids up and dressed. At 7 we – including my Mom – were at the MLF commissary helping to load the trucks getting ready to go out on a Christmas morning run. We were fortunate enough – in spite of having NEVER done this before – to get a truck to take out on our own (well, sort of – Alan Graham drove ahead of us in his truck donning his Santa suit and kind of showed us the ropes). We packed ourselves in and G took the wheel and we headed downtown. Our first stop was beside a park that was absolutely filled with homeless people. It was a little off where we usually drive, so I’d never seen the park before and had no idea that it was a haven for those who had nowhere to live. We parked the truck – but the people were already there before we could even get out of ‘drive’. They saw us coming. We opened up the back and sides and began handing out hot biscuits, fruit, candy, cookies and cakes, juice and milk as well as hot coffee and hot chocolate and warm clothing to wear. I couldn’t understand why we were told to load the socks on the food side of the truck earlier in the morning, but now I understood. Every person who walked up to the truck wanted a pair of socks. It was an absolute pleasure to serve these people. They were warm, kind and loving. I, for one, have been guilty of bowing my head to avoid eye contact on the street in the past, but there was none of this this morning. I met some of the most appreciative people I have ever met. ‘I’ helped me make coffee and became the official ‘coffee creamer’ girl and gave Merry Christmas wishes to all the men and women who came to the truck. ‘E’ had a bag of candy one of the other volunteers had brought and was handing it out. After it appeared everyone had a cup of coffee and had been fed, we moved on to Congress Avenue. At first there was no one around, but it was clear that word travelled quickly and many soon came for a word of kindness, a cup of coffee and a little bit of something to brighten their day. The sincerity in the smiles was unquestionable. The truck was almost empty, but we moved to the ‘Austin Resource Centre for the City’s Homeless’ or ‘ARCH’ – also known as ‘Frontsteps’. The parking lot was full of people when we arrived and we could see some activity going on across the lot. I suggested that the kids stay in the cab of the truck for a few minutes as the crowd was quickly descending upon us. We got out and opened the sides of the truck and the crowds swarmed. It got a little crazy and Alan had to do a little crowd control to get folks in line. Once he did everything was fine – but we were very thankful for him doing so!!! We quickly emptied the truck and had to shut down the food side, but kept the coffee and hot chocolate and clothing sides open. Before we closed the food side, my Mom and I had been making up bags of whatever we had left for folks. A very large (taller than G) black man came around the side and asked if we had any socks. By this point we only had children’s socks left. I turned around to tell him this and he looked at me and said, ‘Wow, you are fiiiinnnnneeeeeee.’. I laughed (not sure what to say!) and kept about what I was doing. We headed back to the commissary about 11:15 or so and came home to open presents and have a hot meal. It was a beautiful way to spend Christmas morning and I intend to get more involved as the year progresses. The simple beauty of putting a smile on someone’s face who has very little to celebrate is worth every second spent out there. Merry Christmas! PS – We even made it to the news.

Toronto makes #18

The Independent put out a list of the top cities in the world and Toronto weighed in at #18 – not bad for the Canucks. Vancouver and Montreal also made the list at 28 and 39 respectively. From what I can tell, Canada is the only city with a population that small to have multiple cities listed. Not bad! The Independent Top Cities in the World

Day 6 of 'E's GI Virus

Yep – the trips to the toilet are still frequent and uncomfortable for the poor little guy. Its so hard to see your children not feel well and this is ONLY a silly little GI virus. But its hard to hear him crying out in the night because his tummy hurts. It pains your heart. I spoke with a Dr. today who said that 7-10 days of this is normal. Eeks – poor little guy – he could go through 5 more days! Ouch! Fortunately he is hungry and eating, and he is drinking lots of fluids but its still not fun.

John the Baptist

This is my new Christian name as I was confirmed into the Catholic Church this morning. I had originally wanted to be Joan of Arc, but our Pastor gave a beautiful homily a few weeks back on John the Baptist and I decided that it was probably more fitting. John the Baptist was an ‘in your face’ kind of guy who called it like he saw it. He wasn’t terribly shy about his beliefs and while some loved him, he pissed others off with his faith and determination to live by it. I feel very much like this lately. I feel distanced from some that I love because I have become more vocal in my faith and beliefs. That makes me sad – especially since nothing that I believe is any different from what it has been my whole life and I want nothing more than to continue to be close with those who I love and care about. The difference is that I am a little more vocal about it and do not want to feel that I need to be ashamed of what I believe. Its been a beautiful and also painful experience. As I read more about John the Baptist, I really have grown to love and appreciate him more and more. This morning was very lovely. There were about a dozen or so of our friends present in the Worship Space and it made me feel very loved and cared for that they would take the time out of their busy schedules (especially at this time of year!) and be there to witness this important time for me. Fr. Kirby was as warm and welcoming as ever and G was my sponsor. It was kind of interesting to stand next to him in front of a Priest but not be getting married :-) The ceremony was short, but meaningful and thoughtful. I was kind of nervous, so I don’t really remember the details of the readings. So… now its done. I’m no longer a ‘CIT’ but am a full-on Catholic. Well, only sort of I suppose. I have yet to take my first communion in the Catholic Church, but that will hopefully happen today or tomorrow.