Banff, baby!

My husband gave me an amazing gift for my birthday this year – a trip to Banff together with three of our nieces, Beth, Sara and Grace.  Oh the memories we made in those 7 days of exploring and adventure!

It all started on Thursday, July 6th with a drive to Dryden to pick up the girls then off to Winnipeg for an overnight before our morning flight.  The car was loaded to the rafters with our suitcases as the speakers blasted some of the girls’ favourite tunes for singing along on the ride.


Friday morning we were up early and off to the airport.  For Sara and Grace this was their first time in an airplane and the nervous excitement was palpable!  With only slight confusion, we navigated our way through baggage drop-off, security and onto the plane and in just a couple of hours we were in Calgary, ready for the real adventure to begin.

First stop for our hungry crew was lunch at Peter’s Drive Thru where delicious burgers, fries, and milkshakes were devoured in the sunshine.  Mmmm – tasty!

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Next, we piled into the car for the drive to Banff.  As we got nearer to our destination, the awesomeness of the Rocky Mountains came into full view – such a beautiful drive!



We arrived at the Fox Hotel & Suites and got everything unpacked, then out for dinner and our first walk down Banff Avenue.  So much to see and so many people from all over the world on the sidewalk around us!

On Friday, the fun began in earnest with a trip to the top of the mountains on the Banff Gondola.  We spent hours exploring the paths, walkways and interpretive centre.


After lunch we headed to our next destination, The Cave & Basin Historic Site to see where Banff’s famous hot springs were first discovered in 1883.  The smell of sulfur filled the air – quite a powerful stench!  Then a quick stop at the Banff Parks Museum to end our fun-filled day.


The girls wouldn’t let the day end without a trip to the Upper Hot Springs before bed, so off we went at 10pm for a soak with 100+ strangers while the sun went down.



Saturday’s itinerary required a bit of travel so we piled in the car and headed down the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon for a hike to the upper and lower falls.  This activity was definitely the highlight for me, despite the aching legs that followed!


After a late lunch, we continued west to Lake Louise.  Sara and Grace decided on a swim in the glacier-fed lake (brr!) while Beth and I lounged in the shade.


Sunday morning we were all feeling the effects of our multi-kilometre hike so decided on an adventure that would allow a little less walking.  Off to Minnewanka Lake for a boat cruise tour!


And then a few more tourist-y spots to see.


On Monday, our journey home began as we loaded the car to drive back to Calgary.  A stop at the Luge Ride and Heritage Park were the perfect way to spend our final day of vacation.


Priceless moments that we will all remember for years to come!  Thanks for the memories, Banff!


2016: Year in Review

Another year is almost ready to be wrapped up in a big red bow as indicated by the arrival of our first Christmas card and the turning of the calendar to the month of December.

Once the snow melted, our yard was a flurry of activity with the building of a new shed and pergola, installation of sod, and preparation of our new garden plot.  It was a beautiful summer and we enjoyed many happy hours outdoors.

We headed West to Dryden at the end of June to celebrate our niece Beth’s high school graduation and kiss her goodbye as she spread her wings by moving to Labrador with her boyfriend, Adam.  Thank goodness for text messaging so that we can stay in touch and share recipes as she learns the joy of cooking!

In July, our nieces Sara & Gracie came to hang out with us in Thunder Bay.  We enjoyed a beautiful day at Dog Lake with our friends Kelli, Brad, Connor and Denver, and the girls got to try their hand at kayaking and some high speed tubing behind the jet ski.  Our evenings were spent in the pergola singing along to their favourite songs and a few spirited games of cribbage.  Time flies when you’re having fun and all too soon they were headed home to Dryden.

July also brought the unexpected end of retirement for Barry as he took on the role of Executive Director & General Manager for the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra.

We decided to forego our annual summer visit to West Hawk & Star Lake so that we could instead experience a “bucket list” vacation to Palm Springs, California in October.  We attended the three day Desert Trip festival featuring Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who, and Roger Waters and had a fantastic time with 80,000 other fans!


Fall has been busy with Symphony concerts and Chamber activities as we juggle our very full schedules.  My job at the Chamber continues to be an enjoyable challenge with new issues and opportunities at every turn.

We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and look forward to receiving your emails, letters, and Facebook updates over the coming weeks.


Lessons my Mom taught me

My Mom is a pretty amazing lady. She trained as a Registered Nurse and continued to work the night shift part-time following the birth of my brothers and I. When I was very young, she gave up her professional career so that she could focus on raising her four children. We had a hot breakfast each morning before jumping in the truck with Dad at 7:40am, lunch boxes in hand for the school day ahead. Each night, she greeted us all with a cheery smile and a listening ear for the happenings of our day as we devoured, in short order, the supper that she had prepared. After the table was cleared and dishes done, she became our tutor, guiding us through homework and enduring tantrums and tears until we understood the lessons we were meant to learn.


She taught me so much more than just schoolwork. Though I didn’t realize it when I was growing up, the things I’ve learned by watching her then now help me each day as I work with my staff and Board of Directors, and manage the business operations of the Chamber of Commerce.

If we use the analogy of a business to represent the operation of a family, Mom served in multiple roles including human resources manager, communications coordinator, procurement director, and office administrator. Simply put, our family could not have operated successfully without the 24/7 efforts of my Mom. Even though we are all adults with our own lives and careers, Mom is still a central figure in keeping us all informed and in touch across the miles that divide us.

Mom is the epitome of patience who always knew the perfect remedy for Dad’s bad days and our heated sibling disputes. Through watching her I learned the power of silence instead of striking back in anger. I still marvel at her ability to bite her tongue and wait for the right moment to discuss a problem calmly instead of jumping in with hurtful words that only cause more damage. That’s a skill that is needed at every level of business from front-line administrators to top CEO’s.

Mom & Dad are entrepreneurs, running a small property rental business out of the family home. Even though Mom has never taken courses in business management, she is integral to the success of their business, handling the administrative duties of bookkeeping, customer service and keeping up with government regulatory filings.

Mom is an amazing multi-tasker and project manager: keeping track of multiple schedules, arranging details for church and family events for up to 150 guests, and maintaining meticulous records on every property purchase or renovation over the past 40 years. From her I’ve learned the importance of detailed lists and how to plan ahead to make sure all the details are thought through and the needed resources are arranged to make things run smoothly.

In these days when mindfulness training is in demand, I look to Mom who has it mastered. I’ve never heard her fret about regrets of the past or worry about the future, instead she takes each day as it comes and simply enjoys the moment.

There is still much that I am learning from my Mom. She knows how to play. Whether down on her knees with the grandkids and their toys, or on the volleyball court at the church picnic, even in her seventies, Mom doesn’t take herself too seriously and can still channel her inner child and have fun.

I’m so thankful for the lifetime of lessons from my Mom. I hope that she will continue to be healthy so that I can keep learning from her for many years to come. I love you Mom!

2015 reading list

Another year is winding down.  My reading choices this year have rotated between fiction and self help/inspirational.

The Ultimate Gift/The Ultimate Life/The Ultimate Journey (trilogy) by Jim Stovall

The Ultimate Gift is my new go-to graduation gift.  Red Stevens leaves twelve life changing gifts for his grandson.  A wonderful reminder of what is really important in life.

Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Redefining success and learning that you can shut off your email. 🙂

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

A short but powerful book.

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

The story of a family dealing with the pain and suffering of Parkinson’s Disease.  Lisa Genova is becoming one of my favourite writers for the way she takes us inside a medical diagnosis.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

The author of Water for Elephants takes us along with some runaways to Scotland.

Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Very good autobiography of her life’s journey to the White House as First Lady.

The Rosie Project/The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Two very funny books about an intellectual man’s search for love.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

A head injury causes Alice to lose her memory of the last 10 years of her life….and she doesn’t like who she’s become.

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Two children – one French, one German – and the war  that changed their lives.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Two french sisters caught up in World War 2.  Excellent storytelling!

No Relation by Terry Fallis

An ok beach book…not as good as his first two in my opinion.


Books still in progress:

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking

Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton

The power of a positive no by William Ury



Reflections on 2015

Time again for my annual Christmas epistle reflecting on the ups and downs of the past year.  Over the coming weeks, I look forward to receiving cards and emails from many friends and family to hear about your adventures as well.

We have so many things to be grateful for…our health is good, our bank accounts are sufficient to pay the bills, and we have many wonderful friends and family that we can call on when we need a helping hand.

The most unexpected adventure of 2015 began on July 3 when, on a whim, we went to view a house that was just listed for sale by a colleague of Barry’s.  We fell in love with the place and within a matter of hours our offer was accepted.  So began our unexpected summer project of getting the Rockwood Avenue house tidied up and on the market followed by packing, packing and more packing.


Out with the old….

We stole away to West Hawk Lake for two weeks in mid July while our amazing realtor, Vince Mirabelli, worked his magic – by July 21 our house was sold!  We moved on August 31 and are ever so pleased with our new home at 597 Grenville Avenue.


…and in with the new!

My work at the Chamber of Commerce continues to be an enjoyable challenge.  This year, meetings took me to Cornwall in May and Ottawa in October.  It was great to be back in the nation’s capital for a few days.  I even snuck away from meetings long enough to visit with my dear friends Staci and Dan and their two adorable children.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to connect with many others so I will have to go back again for a proper visit! 🙂

Barry is keeping busy with his volunteer work with the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital Foundation and as Chair of Common Voice Northwest.  He is about to embark on a new project – but that’s still top secret so we will save the details for our 2016 epistle.

We plan to head to Dryden on December 12th for the Robinson family Christmas dinner and will be enjoying our Christmas and New Years’ in our new home.  We hope this note finds you healthy and happy and surrounded by friends and family this Christmas.

2014 In Review

We awoke this morning to a dusting of snow as a reminder that Christmas is just around the corner….time for an update on our lives in the past twelve months.

We embarked on some pretty big changes last Christmas as it quickly became clear that Barry’s Mom was not getting the level of care and attention that we wanted at the personal care home in Winnipeg. After a few weeks of investigating the local options, we decided that our best choice would be to buy Mom a house here and hire a live-in caregiver. We discussed the idea with Barry’s sons Jon and Ryan and the plan was put into action when Jon was offered a job in Thunder Bay at Intercity Industrial Supply. The year was off to a busy start as Jon and Ryan moved to Thunder Bay, we put Mom’s house up for sale, packed up her belongings, and began the search for a suitable home here.

Barry continued trips back and forth to Winnipeg to visit Mom and deal with all the big and little details as we counted down the days to her re-location. Her house sold in March and we were able to find a dated but comfy home for her with a May 1st ownership date. We set May 13th as Mom’s move date and worked frantically with our contractors to complete the renovations, install the wheelchair lifts, and make it homey for her arrival. Jon and Ryan moved in on May 1st, our incredible caregiver Myrna moved in on May 11th and on May 13th we welcomed Mom with tears in our eyes at the incredible journey that we had all completed.

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Mom immediately fell in love with Myrna who treated her like a queen and did all she could to make her days comfortable. We started to get into a routine but Mom had some tough nights and was in a lot of pain despite the medication. She went to hospital to deal with some small issues and try to get her feeling better but had a major stroke in the early morning of May 26th. When we got to the hospital, it was difficult to understand her when she tried to speak. She continued to deteriorate until her passing on June 2nd. We took her home to Winnipeg and laid her to rest beside her husband on June 7th. The year since then has been spent trying to put our lives back together as we deal with our grief.

We went to Dryden on June 26th for a family dinner and open house celebration of Charla’s parent’s 50th anniversary. It was good to see so many friends and family come together to honour them.


We spent two weeks at West Hawk Lake in July where we were able to talk about our sorrow with Barry’s cousins, Terry, Judy and Maureen. The weather was beautiful and we spent hours on the beach watching the waves roll in.

In September, we attended the Canadian Chamber of Commerce annual conference in Charlottetown, PEI then spent an extra day touring the island. We fell in love with the area and are hoping to return for a vacation some day.


September also brought the 5th annual Miles with the Giant marathon. Both Barry and Charla decided that 5 years of organizing this event is enough and we have handed in our resignation from that Board. We leave the event in very capable hands.

Barry threw his name into the municipal council election and kept himself busy with campaign activities throughout September and October. He fared well but was not successful in gaining a seat.   He is now focusing his energies as Vice Chair of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.  Charla continues her very busy and challenging job as President of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce.

As Christmas approaches we are thankful for the love and support of friends and family throughout this difficult year. We will be celebrating Christmas with Jon, Ryan and Myrna on December 20th before traveling to Dryden to spend Christmas Day with Charla’s family.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy and peaceful New Year.

With love,

Charla & Barry

2014 reading list

Compiling this list reminds me that I need to find the time and energy to read more….the list is far too short!  If you’re a reader, please share some book ideas with me 🙂

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
A good but sometimes difficult read about the reality of life for First Nations people when the white man arrived. Canada reads 2014 winner.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter
She captures so well the guilt and mixed emotions of the parents of a hermaphrodite child. His/Her journey is a hard one and gives much needed perspective on the challenges faced by children/young adults who struggle to find their true self. Canada reads 2014 nominee.

The invention of wings by Sue Monk Kidd
A life of slavery thru the eyes of a young black girl and her child master.

The last summer (of you and me) by Ann Brashares
Wonderful story about life long friendships formed at a summer house.

The vacationers by Emma Straub
One last family vacation….in Spain.

My name is memory by Ann Brashares
Multiple lives, one memory and a search for his soulmate through the centuries.

Welcome to the Broadcast by Don Newman
Autobiography of Don Newman’s amazing life in journalism.  Great read for anyone who finds politics of interest.

Race for Relevance by Harrison Coerver
How to ensure your association remains relevant in these changing times.

When will I stop hurting?  Dealing with a recent death by June Cerza Kolf
(In Progress)