Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vacation, The 16th and a New Website

We've just come home from vacation. We were in Canada with my brother, sister-in-law, my nephew and his girlfriend. It was heavenly (apart from the weather - and I'm not complaining).

I look forward to this trip all year long, because I LOVE British Columbia - and Canadians. Whenever we go across the border, I think, "I could live here." It just feels like home. We spent one night in Victoria, four nights up-island in Tofino and our last night back in Victoria. Tofino is a five-hour drive from Victoria, which is about 3 hours from our home, and we've found that it's a good idea to break up the trip. In addition, we never get tired of exploring Victoria, so any time we spend there is a pleasure. The flowers in town were gorgeous.
We took a hike in East Sooke Regional Park on the first day. We like to hike the coastal trail from Aylard Farm up to Beechey Head, and back through the woods. After the hike, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and change for dinner.
Looking toward the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca
I love this image of the two iPhone photographers, back-to-back, taking panoramas
My parents are so thoughtful; every time we make this trip, they give us the gift of a dinner out. We took their gift to Cafe Brio, and decided to have the Family Meal - six dishes chosen by the chef, served family style. What a delicious feast - everyone was thrilled with every dish!
David, me, Gregg, Caroline, Jim, Phil & Rachel
The next day, we took a walk and then headed north through beautiful countryside to the wild west coast of Vancouver Island and Pacific Rim National Park. We saw two bears by the side of the road as we drove along the coast.
Gathering before dinner on our first night up north
David, Phil & Rachel
A long beach hike on the day it didn't rain INCHES. Some of those tiny figures on top of the rock are Jim, Phil & David.
Hungry? It's time for a "little darlin' " (a snack, packed from the lodge)
A game of frisbee is always welcome
A little rest after lunch
Dinner at the Wild Side
More of the group at the Wild Side - the best fish and chips ANYwhere!
We planned the dates of this trip so that we would be in Canada on August 16th. We have always been at home on the anniversary of Katie's passing, but this year, I thought it would be a good idea to be away. Tofino is the place to which we retreated after Katie's memorial service six years ago, and it was a place we had enjoyed as a family, before she got sick. It is a place where I feel at peace and at home. It was the right place to be.

Before we left home, my friend Robin gave each of us in the Sh*tty First Draft Writing Group the gift of a yarzheit candle. August and September hold the dates when three of our children passed away (the other two are in January and June), as well as some of our group's birthdays, so we are entering a tender time. The Jewish tradition is to light this candle at sundown on the night before the anniversary of a loved one's death. I packed the candle in my bag and lit it on the evening of the 15th. There are prayers and Bible verses which you can say when you light it, but it is not required.
It burned for nearly 24 hours, and brought warmth and light into the darkest day of the year. Thank you, Robin! I want to do this every year from now on. It was a real comfort.

We drank a toast to Katie before dinner on the 16th, ate my favorite food (fresh Dungeness crab) and talked a bit about her.
I'm not a food blogger, but please! This meal was incredible. Roasted asparagus, tomato and avocado salad, Caesar salad, homemade focaccia, risotto with peas, all the crab you could eat (with drawn butter and a finger bowl) AND dessert.
It was a gentle day - thoughtful, but not mournful. I did not spend it reviewing and re-living the day of Katie's death, hour by hour, as I have tended to do in the past. Being with family who knew and loved Katie provided solace and community. Hearing from friends and family online provided comfort and a warmth that I had not expected. Thanks to each one who wrote to us; I never expect people to remember the date, but when they do, it is very sweet.

When we went to our cabin to get ready for bed that night, the candle had burned all the way down. It was somehow just the right timing.

We explored many of our favorite beaches and trails, did a lot of walking in the rain, read, played games, talked, read more, sat by the fire, slept and ate well. One day it rained three inches - IN ONE DAY, in August. I'm not griping- we knew that were next to a rain forest - but this has never happened to us before, in any of the seven years we have made this trip. It did not in any way ruin the vacation, but it was a surprise.
Back in Victoria, in a Scottish pub which had live music and a couple of dozen beers on tap
A toast to a wonderful vacation
Lastly, I have an announcement: I have created a new website. The address is:
It is still "under construction," and was launched today. Please stop by, take a look around, and leave any constructive comments you have about it here. I'm just learning how to build it, and want it to be the best it can be.


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,
On an iPad your name is on top of the words inspirational speaker, but looks fine on a computer. Other than that it looks really, really nice.

Elizabeth said...

Wonderful post -- I will go over to your new site and take a look!

Busy Bee Suz said...

YOU make ME want to VISIT Canada!!!
I love your trip...thank you so much for sharing so much of it with me.
I'm going to check out your new site. So are you going to ditch your blogger site? You know, you'll have to remind some of us again when it is all done. XXOXOXO

Busy Bee Suz said...

YOU make ME want to VISIT Canada!!!
I love your trip...thank you so much for sharing so much of it with me.
I'm going to check out your new site. So are you going to ditch your blogger site? You know, you'll have to remind some of us again when it is all done. XXOXOXO

Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh, your site looks so nice. Inviting and warm; I like it.
I do see a few flubs of writing on top of each other under the services portion, but other than that it's awesome!!!!

Karen Gerstenberger said...

Thanks for the input - I think I've repaired the overlaps!

Karen said...

Another anniversary goes by, and by your description, it was lovely, kind, gentle and meaningful. I love the candle idea, and may have to incorporate that into my own day. Anniversary and birthday are still such wild grief days for me...I wonder when it will be different. It always helps to see how others manage those days, so thank you for sharing. I love your new website and am so excited for all you are doing to help others. God bless it all and you.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the new site!! This is so great!!

And thank you for sharing about Katie's anniversary. I love how you all spent it.

Much love,