In Memoriam // Bonny Fandrich // 1950 - 2013 by Leslie Fandrich


Mrs. Bonny Fandrich (nee Bouchard), beloved wife of Bryan Fandrich, passed away peacefully at the Carmel Hospice in Medicine Hat on Thursday, April 11, 2013, at the age of 62 years from a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor.

Bonny leaves to cherish her memory; two daughters, Leslie Fandrich (Chris Janata) of Warwick, New York and Jill (Mark) Braithwaite of Calgary, Alberta; one step daughter, Tracy (Allen) Woloshyniuk of Coalhurst, Alberta; and four grandchildren, Milo and Quinn Janata and William and Nicole Woloshyniuk. Bonny is also survived by three dear sisters, Shirley, Alita and Vicki, three sisters-in-law, six brothers-in-law and 31 nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents Roland and Mary Bouchard of Red Deer, and her parents-in-law Edward and Iris Fandrich of Medicine Hat.

Bonny was born June 10, 1950 in Red Deer, Alberta. She moved to Medicine Hat with her family when she was 16, excelled at Track and Field in school and loved playing the accordion. Her love affair with Bryan began in 1968. After she built a house with him, they got married in 1972 and their two daughters were born soon after. In 1981, when “the girls” were six and four they moved up to a grand old house on “the Hill” with a view of the cliffs, where they raised their family and lived until just last year. Bonny worked hard in every aspect of her life. Her home and garden were her pride and joy, there was a home cooked meal on the table almost every night and she assisted Bryan in the refrigeration business as well as helping maintain and manage several rental properties. She was devoted to her family and her relationship with her two daughters was always very close. She loved riding horses as a young girl, aerobics and bike riding were her passions in the 80’s and 90’s and she always took pride in looking her best. She was still wearing sexy heels at age 60. The family grew up camping in “the van” and travelling all over Southern Alberta and into the United States. Memorable trips included Yellowstone, the Lewis & Clark Caverns and into British Columbia. Bonny laughed easily, loved deeply and enjoyed her life immensely. In her later life she loved travelling to New York to visit her daughter’s family and with Bryan she completed a life long dream when they travelled to Hawaii in 2010 to attend a dear friend’s wedding. That trip happened right before she was diagnosed with cancer and it would sadly be her last. She bravely faced her cancer diagnosis and fought as hard as she could, living with the challenges it brought her with strength and determination.

Bonny’s family would like to thank all the doctors, nurses and staff at Tom Baker Cancer Center in Calgary and the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital and give a special heartfelt thanks to everyone at the Carmel Hospice in Medicine Hat for the tireless and devoted care they provided to all of us during this most vulnerable time. Cremation has taken place and a Memorial Celebration of Bonny’s life will be held in Calgary at McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Fish Creek Chapel 14441 Bannister Road Southeast, Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 2:00pm with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Bonny’s name can be made directly to the Carmel Hospice, St. Joseph’s Home, 156 - 3rd Street NE, Medicine Hat, Alberta, T1A 5M1.

Still in Hospice & My Favorite Pictures by Leslie Fandrich


My Mom is still hanging in there at the Hospice facility and making the nurses laugh with dry mouth jokes and funny faces. She has done better than expected over the last month, and that often happens when someone goes off chemotherapy and gets into Hospice. The break from the side effects of the chemo and the care that patients start to receive from nurses often gives them extra strength and extends their life by making them more comfortable.

I'm enjoying the fact that I can call her everyday and hear her voice, that I can still connect with her in a real way, but this place of waiting for the inevitable is so hard. Especially when I am so far away. There is no denying that this week her days seem to be getting harder, her pain is growing and she is starting to show symptoms of being closer to the end. There is nothing I can do but check in with her and the nurses and hope that she is as peaceful and comfortable as she can be.

With this time at home over the last two weeks I've been going through all the pictures that I have of my Mom and putting together a memorial video. My Aunt and Uncle scanned a bunch of images from the dozens of photo albums my parents have, I have taken hundreds of photos over the years, I scanned a few from an old album I had from when she was a teenager and my sister sent me a bunch of pictures too. I think I've made the best memorial video in the history of memorial videos (the Bon Jovi song "It's My Life" is in it at my Mom's request.) I'm exaggerating a little, but at the very least, it's a fitting tribute to her beautiful life. I will share it here on my site after we have shown it at the memorial service, but for now, I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite images of my Mom over the years.

1956 - Six years old. She looks so much like my son Milo!

1956 - Six years old. She looks so much like my son Milo!

1964 - Fourteen years old. With one of her many track and field trophies.

1964 - Fourteen years old. With one of her many track and field trophies.

1968 - A fantastic blonde beehive hairstyle at 18 years old.

1968 - A fantastic blonde beehive hairstyle at 18 years old.

1974 - 24 years old and newly married.

1974 - 24 years old and newly married.

1975 - My Mom as a new mother with me as a baby.

1975 - My Mom as a new mother with me as a baby.

1982 - My all time favorite picture of us.

1982 - My all time favorite picture of us.

1984 - Trip to Yellowstone.

1984 - Trip to Yellowstone.

2001 - My parents visited me in New York for the first time. Mom and I shared my bed. Sleep over!

2001 - My parents visited me in New York for the first time. Mom and I shared my bed. Sleep over!

2008 - Mom blowing bubbles for Milo.

2008 - Mom blowing bubbles for Milo.

2008 - Watching fighter jets fly by at a Jones Beach Airshow. So thrilling.

2008 - Watching fighter jets fly by at a Jones Beach Airshow. So thrilling.

2009 - Mom in her new kitchen surrounded by family.

2009 - Mom in her new kitchen surrounded by family.

2009 - Visiting us in New York. 

2009 - Visiting us in New York. 

2010 - Blowing a dandelion for Quinn.

2010 - Blowing a dandelion for Quinn.

2010 - Being cute with my Dad.

2010 - Being cute with my Dad.

2010 - One of my favorite recent pictures of Mom and I together because I am wearing her favorite color.

2010 - One of my favorite recent pictures of Mom and I together because I am wearing her favorite color.

These few pictures capture so many great moments. The picture of her with the bunny is how I love to think of her; in a denim skirt with tanned legs, no shoes and painted toenails, a white crocheted tank top and shawl, and purple feathers clipped in her hair. So stylish.

My Dad showed her the video yesterday and she cried the whole way through and said she loved it. I hoped by showing it to her we would make her more happy than sad and I think it did that. There are no secrets here and we aren't pretending that she isn't dying, so finishing this video and showing it to her is perhaps the best gift I could give her. There is no denying that my Mom is beautiful and had an amazing life filled with love.

Lost Days Video Short by Leslie Fandrich


Sun soaked and wistful, this beautiful video short by my dear friend Regina Garcia totally made my day yesterday. It makes me yearn for summer (and youth if we are being totally honest here.)


Regina told me about filming this last summer in Canada with Goh Iromoto and I couldn't wait to see it. They didn't disappoint. I want to be that girl in the film. I love every single scene but especially the night scene by the bonfire. It's just gorgeous.


Regina and I went to college together and I have always loved her approach to photography and styling. She has always photographed beautiful strong women and her portraits of children (including my own Milo and Quinn) are fun and playful.

Keep an eye on her, I think she has even more beautiful, creative work to come.

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes by Leslie Fandrich

Martin Luther King Jr. was a profound man and his words still ring true today and inspire us all to stand up for what we believe in, do the right thing and dream of a greater future.

People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.
Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I still love these pictures of MLK Jr. taken by Flip Schulke. Have a beautiful day friends.


Dearest Iris: August 25, 1942 by Leslie

The letters between my Grandma and Grandpa are fascinating me. I'm pretty sure I have to transcribe them all and put them in order because I want to read them from beginning to end. They show my grandparents falling in love and anxious to marry, while living apart. It's so sweet. There are also letters from after thier marriage, when my Grandma was home with small babies and my Grandpa was away working, but these early letters when they were falling in love are amazing.

Here is the transcription of a letter dated August 25th, 1942. It is to my Grandma Iris, from my Grandpa Eddie, nine months after they met. Iris is almost 19, living in Calgary and attending secretarial school and Eddie is 24 and living in Hilda working with his Dad on the Farm.

Box 358
Hilda, Alberta
August 25, 1942

Dearest Iris,

should have written to you long before this, not alone by virtue of my promise to write soon, but because just now I'm keenly anxious to hear from you. It may be that I'm somewhat spoilt in this business of expecting letters. Some of the letters I received from you while at Innisfail, though, did things to me I should never ordinarily attribute to letters.

Got home okay, and since then have done a little of everything to pass my holidays. Took in a branding session and played cowboy for a day. Killed several rattlers a few days ago, kept the rattles and have tacked them up in the car as trophies. The country down here seemed especially barren for a few days after I was backsecretly I'm a bit homesick for Innisfail, and all the little wonders that make it such a place.

Had an offer to go down to Estevan to work as assistant manager for the YMCA, but with a salary cut of ten dollars per month—so didn't accept. This was to have been only a temporary placing until another position comes along as before. Didn't feel like going to work anyway. But just now I've agreed to run one of Dad's combines at $7.50 a day, which isn't going to be too bad until something better comes along with the Y.

I may get the urge to come to Calgary sometime soon. One of Dad's trucks is in Calgary every other daya likely route if I wished to take it, without being ------?------. Had another tire blowoutdidn't walk this timeand got the tire vulcanized. This was strictly on business though.

I miss you terribly Iris—please write soon. With this letter I am blowing a kiss and may reminiscence grant the enchantment I felt when I gave them otherwise.

With Love, Eddie.


It's that lovely and sweet?! And I love how my Grandpa is showing my Grandma that he is a bad ass with the rattler tails hanging in his car. Awesome.

If I do transcribe them all, it will be quite a task. There are about 70 letters from my Grandpa, including telegrams and all in their original envelopes. There are at least twice as many from my Grandma, and hers are much longer, though not as many in envelopes. I guess my Grandpa kept only the letters.

Oh, this is exciting! I stopped writing this post to see if I could quickly find my Grandma's reply to the letter above. I was lucky and I found it right away! I can't believe it. It's a long one! Eight pages, so I'll just transcribe a few parts here.

1206 - 4th street NW
Calgary, Alberta

Dearest Eddie,

I've wanted to write to you so much—but not knowing your whereabouts I just had to be satisfied and wait for some word from you. I felt like a dish rag when I came into the house tonight about 7, saw your handwriting staring me in the face and it changed my feeling in a jiffy. Mrs. B had it set up in plain sight in front of the clock and as I soon as I came in she said 'the letter you've been waiting for'. She knew it was from you. I don't feel the least bit peeved, though somewhat neglected. I felt low coming home every evening and finding no letter. But I knew you would write, of course. I've been teased about your having another one down there, but I can laugh up my sleeve, because I know something they don't know.

<six paragraphs follow about what she has been up to in Calgary, including detailed descriptions of games played at a school picnic.>

It may do you good to get back to nature again. I wish I could—I'd love to be back on the farm for a while. The life you've been living may tend to make you an old softie. But with all this harvest labor shortage you've probably happy you can pass the time away doing that. As for the rattler business—I don't mind your having the rattlers for trophies but please remove them if I get the chance to ride in the car while you still have a fancy for them. As I've said before, I hate reptiles—even the tail ends of them bother me. I did spend the day among all the handsome prehistoric animals but they were quite unlifelike.

Wish you were still here so you could be in Innisfail next weekend. It will hardly seem the same happy holiday without you there. I miss you too, Ed, and would be so happy if you should come up this way soon. It's probably too much to expect you to be posted close to Calgary but I'm still hoping. You seemed closer at Bowden because I knew I'd see you before long even when you never wrote. But up until now I hadn't any idea, whatever, where you were and you did seem so far away.

I could scarcely control myself the first Sunday after you left. I was down at Vie's. Auntie Hazel was telling me she and Vie had had their teacups read. The reader said Vie was going to be very unsettled for a time. That's true, since they are giving up their place and Bert's going in the army. She told Auntie Hazel she was going on an unexpected trip and also that she was going to hear of an engagement and it was to be a long one. Auntie Hazel teased me and looked at my 'third finger, left hand.' I laughed about it, but secretly 'bubbled.' It won't be so hard to tell her as I thought it might be. She likes you a lot and that helps considerably. Today down at Vie's Grandma said it's funny Eddie hasn't written to you, then remarked to Vie that you were one of the nicest lads she'd ever met. That's the second time she's said that in my presence. I wish I could have had you at the house more often. The family have all given me their opinion of you—good from all stations. I don't suppose it's good taste to tell you all this but I just want you to know that I'm proud of you and love you with all my heart. I've always wanted to please the family, but certainly wouldn't do it at the cost of my own happiness.

<More about her family, and her Dad being sent away again and worry about him going into real battle.>

If you should come up to Calgary soon and it's during the week and during school hours, leave a message at the school by phone or come to the school and don't feel shy about it. Otherwise of course phone the usual number. I'd certainly love to be able to take you home next weekend. I'm repeating myself, I know, but that's how much I'd like to have you with me.

I must get ready for bed so I'll be ready to hop in when they come. Tomorrow is a busy day. Bet my feet will be cold tonight. One night I had to wrap my housecoat around them they were so cold. Wouldn't you like to keep them warm for me?

Don't wait too long before you write again, will you? I feel so happy tonight every time I read your letter. Now I'll go to sleep with a nice taste in my mouth.

Lovingly, Iris. xxx

Wow, right? Iris was a firecracker, setting Ed straight about the rattler tails in his car and being all flirty with her cold feet. And apparently they were secretly engaged! Right? That's what it seems like to me at least with her hinting at something she knows that her friends don't and her feelings about it being easier to tell her Auntie Hazel than she thought. They wouldn't be married for another year and two months, so it would certainly be a long engagement for that era.

Now I really have to get these letters in order and read from the beginning. And I really hope Eddie writes to her more, don't you?

Treasures from Another Era by Leslie

I posted this picture on Instagram yesterday and more than one person called it treasure. That is totally how I feel about it too. I love nothing more than vintage papers: cards, postcards, letters, certificates, diaries, etc... These are the things that tell our personal stories and document our lives in real ways. They contain the details. If I am ever in a second hand store or yard sale, that's where I go, to the paper. And anything I've ever found has been beautiful, but it has not told a story that I was a part of.

Until now. 

When my Grandma died, I didn't expect much, there was a stainless steel cream and sugar set that I loved and reminded me of her and a glass dish that my Grandma's dill pickles would be served in at Christmas time that I really wanted, but that was it. I spent some time at my Grandma's house with my Aunt, helping to sort through a lifetime of belongings and support my Aunt with the massive task of dealing with it all. There was a good amount of stuff, two small rooms full I suppose. I'm sure some people leave more things behind, but what really interested me was not the stuff. It was the paper.

I wondered if there were love letters between my Grandma and Grandpa and if she had kept a diary. What stories were hidden in the boxes and among the newspaper clippings? My Aunt and I found so many amazing things that day; cards, letters, baby books, cook books, calendars and more, but it wasn't until my Aunt emailed me a few weeks later that I got really excited.

She was going to give most of it to me.

I cried a little, at the responsibility of owning my Grandma's personal papers, but also at the amazing opportunity and privilege of being able to spend quality time with these things. You know that I will be photographing them, and sharing them with you. I'd love to make a book, to share with her family at the very least, but it might be an interesting enough portrait of a life lived in the 40's to share with a wider audience too. 

There is a sublime level of detail with all these things together. Along with my Grandma's marriage certificate from 1943 was a receipt for her wedding bouquet. It was $5.00. Her diary from 1942 details her courtship with my Grandpa. The first entry on January 1st tells about her family's New Year's turkey dinner and a dance she attended, in a black taffeta formal dress. She danced with ten men and the last one was my Grandpa. A defining moment that set in motion all the things that would lead to my own life. 

It's a strange feeling, looking at a single sentence in a seventy year old diary and wondering, without that sentence would I even exist? I felt like I was in the movie Back to the Future and without that sentence, my image would just slowly fade away from the picture. It's so weird.

That moment did happen though, and now here I am reading about it. Three weeks later there is an entry, "Saw Eddie downtown. Don't know whether he knew me or not" and then another week after that, "Eddie at the dance. He walked me home. Crazy!!" I can just feel her excitement and I wonder if he kissed her. My Grandpa starts showing up regularly after that. In September and October there isn't a lot written, but I did find this on Sept 23, "Letter from Ed today. No hope of seeing him for a time yet."

It's just awesome. Sweet, wistful and exciting.

Obviously more to come. Stay tuned!

Vintage Photographs of my Grandma by Leslie

I love this photograph of my Grandma on the left, holding my Aunt Denyse and standing next to a train with her good friend Gwen. It's such a classic shot from another era.

Today is my Grandma's funeral, and while it's a very sombre day and saying good bye is hard, it's also been wonderful to be with the family, tell stories and look back at vintage family photographs. My Grandma told me that whenever I mentioned her here on my blog, she felt famous.

So today, she is the star.

Grandma is in the bathing suit in the photo on the left and on the right she is holding her first baby, my Dad. In the photograph above of the amazing ladies playing hockey, my Grandma is on the right.

On the left is my Great Great Grandma Ethel (my Grandma's Grandma) and on the right is my Great Grandpa Denys, my Grandma's Dad, who was in the Calgary Highlanders.


Above on the left is my Grandma and Grandpa shortly after they were married, and the formal portrait on the right is from the same year. I simply love her hairstyle.

Today, as we honor my Grandma, pay tribute to her wonderful life, and say goodbye, please think of your own family and hug those that you love a little closer. Our time is so short.

The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine by Leslie

I signed up to support Uppercase Magazine's upcoming book The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine. This book will be filled with the history, advertising and ephemera surrounding the typewriter.

"From their invention in the 1860s through much of the 20th century, typewriters were indispensable tools for recording the written word." - Wikipedia

I love the book already and I haven't even seen it yet! I went for "The Deluxe" package and I'm looking forward to seeing the art print that will come with the book. If you are into design and typography at all, this is the book for you!

"UPPERCASE books are known for their attention to detail, beautiful design and high production standards. The Typewriter: a Graphic History of the Beloved Machine will be a large format (9" x 11"), full colour hardcover book with at least 224 pages. The large page size will allow for many actual-size reproductions of artifacts and graphics, presenting this rich visual history is the best way possible."

Saying Good-bye to the "Dear Old House That I Grew Up In" by Leslie

My parent's moved out of the house that I spent most of my childhood in and my sister and I went back for one last visit before they sold it. I photographed the details that I didn't want to forget, the empty rooms and the doorknobs that I've spent 30 years looking at. I pulled up the carpet in my old room and added one last note, "You were a character in my life." It was a spot I had written on before, when I was younger. I wonder who will find it. There were quite a few places that had evidence of our family. The basement wall that we drew on before it was covered in panelling, the footprints in the cement, the wear and tear of a well lived life and a few hidden time capsules that we will never see again. We impressed ourselves on that house as much as it impressed on us. I'll miss it, but I hope the new owners will love it as much as I did. (Scroll down for a video and song lyrics for Dear Old House That I Grew Up In by Amanda Palmer.)

Have your parents also moved out of the home that you grew up in? How did you feel when they left? Do you go back to visit?

And now, a new and timely song from Amanda Palmer about how SHE felt when her parents sold the house she grew up in. Skip ahead to 2:30 if you want to get right to the song and skip the explanation.

Lyrics to Dear Old House That I Grew Up In by Amanda Palmer

dear old house that i grew up in
i know they're gonna leave you any day
dear old house that i grew up in
can't you find a way to make them stay

and while the girls i went to school with
went downtown with all the cool kids
i was staked out in your cellar
making friends with dead umbrellas

and the creeks of every floorboard
tell the story of the girl i stuck inside
and if they move away
i'll have no place to hide

dear old house that i grew up in
i have never really been in love
you took my heart when i was a child
and your noises wrapped around my little body
like a winterglove

you're just a random set of objects
in a town that's full of sadness
in the armpit of the world
your cut downtrees and lousy soil

and if i wanted to i'd keep you
and i'd fill you up and heat you
with the market how it is, amanda
well you know the price of oil

goodnight stairs and goodnight stars
on painted bedroom walls
attic door and banister
i'll miss you most of all

i was s'posed to keep you safe
this wasn't supposed to end
does it sound ridiculous
to call you my best friend

dear old house that i grew up in
i know i haven't visited that much
but every lifeless hotel and appartment i walk into
just reminds me of the doorknobs that i want to touch

and i won't miss you when they sell you
to some evil yuppie couple
with a child who'll put miley cyrus
posters in my bedroom

i am a native of the globe
i am a rockstar on the road
i am now centrally located
anywhere that i am known

but it doesn't feel like anywhere
when you can't go back home

dear old house i grew up in
i know it's not your fault that this went down
please don't take it personally
love, amanda

ps tell the evil yuppie couple
when i'm rich, i'll buy them out

Early Influence: Sassy Magazine by Leslie

When I moved to the United States from Canada after college I left a bunch of stuff at my parent's house. Over the years I have brought things home slowly, the most important bits first, but I still had a bunch of stuff there like my college portfolio case filled with my own artwork and a bunch of work from my classmates, a box of books and 2 trunks filled with who knows what. Now that they have moved it was time for me to claim my remaining stuff and either throw it out or ship it to myself. In the box of books I found my old Sassy magazines from 1988 and 1989. These were the early issues, before the publisher changed hands for the first time and when it was still run out of New York, instead of LA. The magazine went through a number of redesigns but I love this first version the best.

I started reading these when I was in grade eight and they carried me through my defining grade nine years and might have influenced me landing squarely in the alternative/goth camp, at which time I stopped buying them. They straddled the line between pretty, mall going, model type girls and the rebellious, alt-rock, gay-friendly girls like me. Eventually the magazine leaned too far towards the pretty and away from the grit and grunge that I loved, but I devoured these early issues and this magazine made it ok for me to be me.

Having a look on eBay and chatting with a few people online who were also fans of the magazine when it was on the stands convinced me that I was smart to save them. Issues from later years are fetching fifteen to twenty dollars a piece online and there seems to be a special place in many hearts for the magazine. There was even a book written about it! Here's an interesting review of the book that also explains how the magazine had so much potential but couldn't sustain it's edge. An excerpt from that article perfectly sums me up, I think:

"If you subscribed to or even occasionally read Sassy, the teen-girl magazine that existed from 1989 to 1996, then that makes you, approximately, a pro-choice registered Democrat who came of age listening to alternative rock. You grew up on R.E.M., the Smiths, the Cure, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, Liz Phair, Hole, Bikini Kill, PJ Harvey, My So-Called Life, and John Hughes. Your romantic ideals were forged by repeated viewings of Dead Poets Society, Say Anything, and Morrissey riding around on a tractor in the middle of winter for the “Suedehead” video. You published a zine or bought zines, issued seven-inch singles or bought seven-inch singles. You were probably a high-achieving malcontent, a wearer of black in high school who became a thrift-store-haunting feminist theorist in college. If you were going to get married at all, you were going to marry an enlightened, sensitive man who washed dishes, and you’d do it for enlightened, egalitarian love—not money! Or else you were going to, or did, come out proudly as a lesbian, or you took up with members of both sexes and didn’t feel guilty. You were under the impression that the girls who came after you would never have to shave their legs."

So all of that is relatively accurate. Except for the shaving my legs part. I've been shaving my legs since I was 10 and I can't really see myself stopping. Anyway, it seems Sassy was made for girls just like me. If you read it too, I image we have a lot in common. We'd be BFFs for sure. The amazing thing is that for all us grown up Sassy readers, there is little out there like this for the teens of today. So, what shall we do about this, fellow Sassy-inspired 30 year olds? Is it time to resurrect a new magazine for teens in the same spirit, as 13 year old blogger Tavi has requested? Is it even possible in this day and age to have the same kind of angst ridden, rebellious environment that made Sassy possible? Is the world of blogs just one big Sassy magazine? Oh, so many questions. I'll be thinking about this over the summer, and reading all these old issues. Sometimes early influences can become current inspiration.

Helping My Parents Move by Leslie

My parents built a house in the valley (the Flats) of Medicine Hat roughly 40 years ago and lived there until I was 5. When we moved out, it was to a bigger house on the hill, in a better school district. They kept the small house as a rental property. They lived in the big house on the hill for 30 years and the majority of my childhood memories are there. Now, they are facing retirement, and have decided to move back to the small house in the valley that they built.

I came alone to Canada, without my husband and kids, to help them settle in after the heavy lifting part of the move was done. At the end of the first night that we were there I picked up my Dad's to do list and we all laughed about one item, "Move Shit Around". It kind of sums up my Dad perfectly, as well as what we were going to be busy doing all weekend.

My sister and I focused on unpacking boxes, gathering up our own stuff to take with us, moving furniture around, shopping for and hanging curtains on 8 windows and 2 closets, creating a family photo wall and just generally trying to make the house feel more lived in. We were glad for all the things that we have learned watching home make over shows and I really felt like I was living an episode of one of them. I would have loved to do a big reveal for my parents, but they were there the whole time, doing almost as much as we were. For all the work that we did though, I have a feeling the thing that Jill and I added the most to the house was us. Our laughter and energy hopefully brings a happy mood to the stress of moving and fills up the house with love. By the time we left, the house felt more like a home and my Mom was smiling and laughing again.

It feels good to be able to help my parents in this way, to help them start a new chapter in their lives, the way they have helped me do in the past. Families grow and change, as do the relationships within them, and every time I visit I am reassured that despite the distance of me living in another country, the threads that bond us together are long and run deep.

I asked my Dad for one thing before I arrived, all their negatives. My parents, and most people, tend to value the prints and the photo albums they create. Those are the things that are kept and treasured and the negatives are usually a remnant, never to be looked at or used again. For me though, the negatives are the originals and the raw materials that will let me tell my own story, from my point of view, my way. I started looking through the box that they packed for me and I found entire sets of double prints, in the order that they were taken and including every image that was shot. I love this. My parent's photo albums are edited versions of whatever adventure we were on and these complete sets of double prints, untouched for 25 years, tell a richer story. I had to leave them in Canada, not wanting to pack them in a checked airline bag, but I will bring a carry on suitcase on my next trip in the summer so that I can bring them safely home with me. Expect to see a whole new round of reminiscing and nostalgic pictures from my past around here soon.

The most poignant moment of the trip for me was visiting the big house. I will have an entire separate post about this later with pictures, but I'll say now that I thought the visit would be sadder than it was. I'm sure I will miss the house more in the years to come, but honestly, it was so empty and kind of worn out. The life that it held was gone, with my parents and their things. And while there was still evidence of us having been there, foot prints in the cement, drawings on the walls underneath the paneling and messages written by a 12 year old me on the floor underneath the carpet, it did not really feel like our house anymore. I took pictures of all the details to remember things that were part of my life for so long, but the house felt tired and stained and I think it needs a fresh start too. I would love to see it restored, old carpets torn out and peeling paint sanded away, to reveal the original wood and architectural details. If I had the money, I would do it myself. Oh what a grand house it could be. I have my own life far away though, and that chapter is now closed. It will be up to the next owners to decide what to do with that old place. I hope it is well loved once again.

Visiting my past is always something I enjoy doing. I love change and I love to connect and deepen my relationships. It was a great trip filled with love and I am leaving with a better sense of where I have come from and where I am going.

The Dresden Dolls performing "Pierre" by Maurice Sendak by Leslie

One of my favorite creative cross-pollination efforts is The Dresden Dolls performing Maurice Sendak's Pierre. It's so good:

I've loved Maurice Sendak's stories since I was a six year old girl sitting in the dark public library theater watching the animated Alphabet Soup with Rice on the big screen. It's one of my early memories and I'm so sad that Sendak is not with us anymore. I love everything that he has done, and now my kids do too. The Night Kitchen is one of our favorite books, despite it being one of the most controversial children's books, and not only do the kids love to hear it, but I love to read it. Of course, we also love Where the Wild Things Are, which is a classic and now also a movie.

These stories and drawing have been a part of my imagination for years and while Maurice Sendak will be missed, his work will remain to inspire us forever. What I love the very most about him though, was that he was a misfit. Watch this piece on him where he says they asked him to do Wild Things 2 and he simply said "Go to Hell." He is also an inspiration for those of who like to take great leaps. He says "You have to take the dive." You may crack your head open on the rocks, or end up the most inspired you have ever been, but you have to take the dive. Well said!

Rest in peace, Maurice Sendak. xo

The Shutter Sisters and a Sun Medal by Leslie

Today I am guest posting over at Shutter Sisters! I'm so excited about this as I've been reading the posts and comments over there from Tracey and her "sisters" for more than a year and I have always enjoyed the powerful combination of story telling and photography. This will be my first guest post ever and I hope there are more of these in my future, at Shutter Sisters and elsewhere. I'm excited to start branching out and working with more people.

If you are here visiting from Shutter Sisters, welcome to my site! I hope you enjoyed the story of my Magic Sand Dollar. I posted about it here last year and in the spirit of the post and sharing our magical objects, I'd like to share another item from my treasure box that comes from about the same time in my life as the sand dollar, my sun medal.

This sun medal is a symbol that radiates energy and light and I wore it around my neck all spring during my second year in college and into the summer. Art college was, in itself, a really magical experience for me and many of the things I have from then are becoming more precious to me as I get older.

I have no idea where I got this sun from. It seems to me that I bought it for myself, but I may have also gotten it as a gift and I don't recall from who. At any rate, where it came from doesn't really matter. What matters is what it meant to me. Necklaces have often been representations of what is most important to me. Currently, I have a charm necklace with the names of my husband and children that I wear almost every day, but back then I wore the sun around my neck.

I loved suns and I also have a tattoo prominently featuring a sun symbol. The sun is just a basic, happy, life-giving object. My teen years had been filled with skulls, so this was a nice change. I was very happy, I loved art school and I finally felt like I was in a place full of people who were like me; artists and photographers. I had finished my foundation year and almost finished my first year in the photography program and I loved where I was at. I had a fun social life and my sister was about to move in with me. Life was good.

What makes this charm even more special though, is this photograph of me wearing it. 

That's me with short blond hair! The photograph was taken by my fellow photography student, Kirstie Tweed. She was, and still is, best known as "Orange Girl" for all these fantastic self portraits featuring the color orange. She now lives in Banff, Alberta and has a successful wedding and portrait photography practice with a perfectly fun, Canadian, vintage style. (I haven't spoken to her in a long time, but I was happy to find her website when I looked her up for this post. Hi Kirstie!)

It was April or May of 1995 and I was so thrilled when Kirstie asked to take my picture. (Hmmm, this is reminding me of my recent moment with Karen!) She was about to graduate and I had idolized her all year. I had seen her first orange portrait getting printed, the sunkissed one where she has an orange in her mouth, and I thought it was such an awesome picture. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and she asked me to stand directly in the sunlight. I remember that I could barely open my eyes, the sun was so bright. I would close them, while she set things up and then she would count and on "3" I would open my eyes and she would take the picture. I think she shot it on a 4x5 camera and the print I have is a Polaroid. I love that she was able to capture me radiating as much light and energy as that sun medal did. It's one of my favorite pictures of me from college. We were all staring into the bright suns of our future and trying so hard to capture some magic. 

The sun medal is special to me, but I think the photograph of me wearing it takes it to another level. I think it's awesome to pair new photographs with old photographs of the same object. I was also able to do this for the post I did about my Dad's Instamatic Camera. Having an old photo, of an object that you still treasure, puts that object into context and it gives it a deeper meaning. It tells a richer story than just that object alone.

If you have some special items, take some time this week to take them out and look at them, photograph them, write about them and see where your mind goes. Look through old photographs and see if you can find images of objects that you may still have. Keep these things together, they make such nice sets.

Please visit my Shutter Sisters post and share links to images of your own magical items in the comments!

Camera Settings for the picture at the top of the post:

Equipment: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm Compact Macro, Manfrotto Tripod

Exposure: 1/40 sec at f/2.5, ISO 200

Lighting: Direct sun from my skylights, diffused with a 5-in-1 reflector disk

Artifacts from the Farm: The Barn by Leslie

Last week I shared artifacts that I had gathered from the house at my family's abandoned farm. This week I would like to share the items that would have been in the barn or the shed. These things are less recognizable than the household items and the function of some of them are a mystery to me, but they were all used in farming. My Dad said that the washers hanging from the leather string would have probably been used as a counter weight. I find such beauty in these items. I appreciate them for their colors and shapes and I find the rust patterns beautiful. I love what happens to metal when it is exposed to the elements.

How do you feel about old rusty objects? Do you see the beauty in them, as I do? 

Artifacts from the Farm: The House by Leslie

I have visited our family's 100 year old farm twice now and I love to spend time there. My great grandfather, on my father's side, obtained the land in 1912 when land was free in Canada for farming. My family farmed it for 60 years and now it is leased out to other farmers. The buildings are still there, unused and falling down. There is a house, a barn and three or more outbuildings. My great grandparents lived there for about 30 years until their family grew up. They moved to Medicine Hat about 1950. Then the farm was run by their son Otto and his family lived there for about 20 years. After that the house was only used in the summers when the men would stay there alone.

When they finally stopped farming and began to lease the land, the stuff that had been left there by the men farming in the summer just stayed there. Most of the valuable materials have been collected over the years, like the leather and the stained glass windows, but so many small items still remain. It's a little strange to see a toothbrush sitting on a shelf, as if the place was left in a hurry and everyone forgot to take their things. What makes it even more strange for me is that these things belonged to my relatives. It's my family history out there, blowing in the wind and succumbing to the weather and the animals.

I collected a bunch of recognisable objects, as if I were on an archeological treasure hunt, and photographed them on a white backdrop. When the items were at the farm, laying in the dirt, they were garbage. I cleaned them up and now they are artifacts from the past that tell stories about who my relative were, what they liked and how they lived. This is part one, everyday items from the house. Stay tuned for part two next week, hardware and items from the barn.

Let me know what you think of these items. Do any of these old products look familar? I love the Dippity-do jar.

Photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Flip Schulke by Leslie

King and his wife march together along a rural Mississippi road with the March Against Fear in 1966. (© Flip Schulke/CORBIS)

I love these images by photographer Flip Schulke of Martin Luther King, Jr. (found on They seem to show the real person behind the icon that we are so familiar with. Flip Schulke has many other incredible images of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his archives, but these two color shots are my favorites.

Martin Luther King, Jr. serves pieces of chicken to his young sons Marty and Dexter at this 1964 Sunday dinner. (© Flip Schulke/CORBIS)

Flip also photographed this image of Coretta Scott King at the MLK, Jr. funeral that became a Life Magazine cover. It's an incredible shot. She looks so stoic and proud and yet, she must have been unimaginably sad.

Coretta Scott King at MLK Jr Funeral (Life Magazine Cover), 1968 (© Flip Schulke)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Old Children's Book Illustrations by Leslie

One of my five goals for this year is to volunteer at my son's elementary school for 20 hours. I've logged 12 hours so far, in various places like the Halloween Party, the book fair, my son's classroom and the library. I always knew I loved libraries, but spending time in one actually working has completely sealed the deal. My goodness does it ever feel good to be sorting, tagging and fixing books.

It's a small school library, so there are lots and lots of OLD children's books and I adore those the most. I LOVE the cover illustrations and the tape and the yellow pages and even the way they smell. Just look at these few examples.

The cover of this edition of the Wizard of Oz uses an illustration from the first edition that was printed in 1900, and look at that fantastic drawing of Puss in Boots (originally a 1697 French Fairytale). The adorable kids and vibrant green cover for Water are lovely and the typography at the bottom of the cover of Are you My Friend? is awesome and it's a bit of an inside joke because my husband's third album has the exact same name. The author George Mendoza is a bit of a mystery though, and might have written a book I had as a child and still own, called Need a House, Call Ms Mouse. Of course Maurice Sendak rarely needs an introduction and this early edition of Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months just makes me smile.

I think I will be spending the rest of my volunteer time, and probably more, in the library. I'll see if I can find some more treasures and share them with you. Any old children's books you are looking for? 

Return to My Great Grandparent's Farm by Leslie

This summer, during our trip to Canada, we returned to my Great Grandparent's Farm so that I could take some more pictures and explore a little further. Our previous visit was in November and it was too cold to spend very much time there. This time it was a beautiful summer day, however the mosquitoes were the size of helicopters. You could literally hear them coming, they were so big. Milo got two bites, despite the bug spray, one on his jaw and one on his hand and they swelled so badly he didn't look like himself.

Besides that irritation though, I was able to spend a little more time looking at all the details on the farm and exploring the outer buildings and the machinery. I still didn't get to do everything I wanted, next time I'd like to take my tripod and some of the old pictures that we have and try to recreate some of them.

It's very interesting to me how things weather and age, what time does to things. I love chipping paint. The layers of colors and the textures are so beautiful to me. There is chipping and peeling paint everywhere here. Watching something decay and fall apart is so beautiful and sad at the same time.

I also love the haphazard way that things seemed to be patched and fixed at the farm. In the barn there are walls of different sized plywood and old wooden shipping boxes nailed together, and in the house there are patches of flooring nailed down in random patterns. Some of these things are revealed by things falling apart, but it is also how things were repaired back then. It didn't matter how it looked, as long as it did it's job.

Finding the details that remained at the farm was thrilling for me, I loved to slow down and look carefully. There are bits and pieces of beauty amid the mess. I was also able to collect a few items, which I cleaned and photographed on a white background. Taking some of these objects out of the context of the farm really elevated their status from garbage to artifact. Stay tuned for those soon.

I wish I had a better picture in my head about what life was like when the Farm was at it's peak. I wish I was able to watch a movie, where I'm looking at the decayed and crumbling kitchen and then it fades back in time to 1925 when the windows were whole and there was a pie baking in the oven. I try to imagine my great-grandmother in the kitchen of the main house cooking, sitting around the table and laughing. It's certainly the place that I am most drawn to. I'd even love to see that kitchen in later years, after the family had moved out and it was inhabited by just the grown sons and grandsons (my Dad). They were there for just the summer to farm the land, they slept on mattresses on the floor and cooked up a quick meal with garlic powder and salt. I think a lot of the things that were left behind were from the summers that the men were there farming.

I wonder if that is what it's like for my Dad to be there. Does he see a fade out of what the farm looks like now, to what he remembers from then? I'm so interested in the nature of passing time and nostalgia. I love to see what things were like then compared to now. There are great books that take pictures of New York City streets then and now, to compare how they have changed, or this fantastic series by David Dunlap in the NY Times that uses a slider function to swipe back and forth between perfectly lined up pictures of then and now. You can even buy vintage maps and take a tour of a European city noting what is the same and what is different. 

I especially love ruins and abandoned buildings, it's as if you are closer to the past than you would be if it were a fully restored and functional space. What I wouldn't give for a time travel machine to go back and spend just a few days with my great-grandparents, to sit at their table and tell them what the family becomes and grows up to be. I'd love to tell them about the new children in the family, about our successes and how their legacy has been passed down. Wouldn't that be the coolest? I wonder what they would think of me? 

Related Posts:

Canadian Homesteading: My Great Grandparent's Farm