Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Naples with Nicole

You might want to pour yourself a coffee or glass of fine red wine. This is going to take quite a while. :)

I became thoroughly enamoured (uhm, addicted?) with the art of blogging while chronicling a dream vacation in England two summers ago. The trip was a gift from my hubby - who sent me along with our daughter Catherine to partake in the amazing C.S. Lewis conference Imago Dei.
Off to England became a way for my family back home to make a 'virtual journey' along with us in real time and stay connected in a manner not otherwise afforded. Reading, writing, journaling & photography all rolled into one wonderful new world of blogging?
I was hooked immediately and that is when the idea spawned itself to use such a means to find our long lost grand-daughter, niece & cousin.
This Pilgrim's Progress was launched a year ago today with that express purpose in mind so it is very fitting and far more than mere coincidence that I find myself putting up this particular blog post on the anniversary of that date. Don't ever tell me that our God isn't Awesome or that His timing isn't perfect.
Below is a portrait of our Nicole with her very fine and constant friend Jared. We are so thankful that you have each other Nicole - as if you don't already realize what a gift that is.
The thought of all that goodness was overwhelming me when I strolled down the Naples beach one afternoon to scribble your name at long last in the place of our meeting after a dozen years of forced estrangement. I still can't recall it all without moist eyes.
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? ...If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
excerpts from the amazing Psalm 139
The 'Ford Pacifica' SUV crossover reserved for us at the car rental joint looked more like a retired man's dream chariot, but oh well, it got us from point A to B in safety and comfort and I'll have to let it go and leave it at that. Grrr...

My precious sister Pauline sat across the aisle from me. She took the camera...
Alas.....photographer she is not!
Momsie and baby sister Catherine sat to my left. It was remarkable to share this adventure together; that Yvonne's mother and her three sisters should have the incredible honour of being the first to meet her little girl Nicole.
Waiting anxiously in the hotel lobby restaurant - looking for someone like Yvonne to grace us. Seeing you Nicole for the first time was surreal to say the least!
There's a classy strip on 5th Avenue down the road where we indulged in some ice-cream dessert amongst the glittering lights to finish our first evening together. It would be the first of many fellowship meals together that week. Nicole is very much her mom. I think my mom mistakenly called her Yvonne on the second day already! It felt shockingly natural to do so.
Round table from L-R: Pauline, Jared (what a sweetie!), Nicole, Catherine, Joanne, Mom.
After a few days, sister Cathy had the brilliant idea of soliciting the forces back home to broach the idea of surprising Nicole with a new laptop to replace her virus infected home computer and ensure that we would be able to enjoy continuing communication with her after we returned home. Using a nifty new tool of cyberspace called Skype - we'll be able to converse in video in real time! You can appreciate that our clan is completely committed to never losing touch with our little lost sheep ever again. Jared proved himself an invaluable accomplice to our scheme, meeting me at Best Buy on the sly to help pick out the perfect product while the others kept her busy at Knitting Nancy's. Yes.
Knitting Nancy.
Another interesting twist....
Not only did Nicole look and sound like her mom - she loves card games and games of every sort to boot! This was getting uncanny ... fitting like a glove here. Whew!
My mom gave Nicole her mommy's ring but we had to go to the local jeweller to get it sized for her daughter. I can't imagine that Yvonne wore this teeny thing on a ring finger but apparently she did. Mom also gave her the delicate gold necklace Yvonne had given to her on her last Christmas with us.
Before we left for Naples I bumped into Mom in town and she was telling me about this necklace (which I was unaware of) when mid-sentence she had to stop and dab her streaming eyes. It was a tender moment and made me keenly aware of the emotional toll even extreme happiness and excitement can have on ones heart.
"...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Psalm 139:16 The Word we shared at Yvonne's funeral.
Feasting, family, fellowship. We did a whole lot of that at a wonderful restaurant chain known as The Cheesecake Factory. What a place. What a remarkable menu (and service!)
Apparently this food chain ships anywhere in the world -- too easy.
We definitely took some back home with us
but I fear it was on our hips by that time.
Well maybe not. We made a valiant effort to walk off some of Chris' Outrageous Chocolate Cake (or was that Craig's Crazy Carrot Cheesecake?) by pledging to rise early every morning and do our paces along the beach. But how serious can one be with these two constantly goofing off at every opportunity. *sigh* It's tuff being the older mature one, but someone's got to do it!
Looking out on our breakfast nook to the private beach area beyond, I won't say it was worth a twelve year wait but it sure was a nice spot to be finishing!
At Nicole's suggestion, we went to the local zoo. It was a beautiful day once again and the zoo was surprisingly well-stocked with a great variety of animals to marvel. Nicole loves animals (always did to our recollection) and hopes one day to secure a job working
with animals in some capacity. We'd recommend this outing to anyone venturing into Florida.
Yay! I am an incurable reader of signs when I go into museums and such. It means I am always lagging behind the others and usually getting lost in the moment. But I've always figured that doing so means I'm getting the most 'bang for my buck' and this sign neatly proves my point. I feel vindicated.
I've also lost the others again and must now eat crow to catch up! :)
Please observe below, the perfectly pink Puff flowers. A classic line from the Anne of Green Gables film comes to mind ... when she goos over a dress with enormous sleeves that the ever indulgent Matthew has blown the family budget on: 'The puffiest ever!"
Ever since meeting Aslan in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia - I have been smitten with the King of the jungle... my favourite line? "He's not safe but He is Good!"
Have I mentioned that we're all tree lovers? Even the lone dead one spiking high above the others in this marshland can be picturesque, don't you agree?
What can I say? This particular tree had us all agog. We're tree people remember? and have been in the nursery business for six decades.
This mammoth specimen is a fig tree aka a banyan tree whose branches produce aerial roots which in turn become accessory trunks. A mature tree may cover several acres in this manner.
Several acres? Can you imagine it?
We had to stand altogether in one of course, to demonstrate it's size.
It could hold one heck of a tree-fort, that's for sure.
I can't help it Nicole. It's like looking at the four sisters together again....

Took a river cruise to circle round the isle of monkeys.

Magnificent creature, this one.

Slightly less intimidating creature, this one.

I like black bears, especially from the safer side of the chain link fence. But there is something sad about a perpetually caged bear.

Here's looking at you kid!

Remember our pledge to get up early for power walks on the beach? - an attempt to put some distance between us and Craig's Crazy Carrot Cake?
The sand wall caved and yeah - it confirmed a thing or two.

The place we called home for five days - (six actually :)
Boxed lunches from you know what place down the road.... Yum. Again.
Nicole is looking at my zoo pictures on my laptop under her towel tent. LOL
Mom treated us to Pina Coladas on the beach. Spiked no less!
Was this woman in the mood to celebrate or what??
Chicken salad sandwiches ... *sigh* ... hey! do we have any Cheesecake Factory's in Canada?
Mom, Nicole, Cathy and Pauline made up the crazy knitting bee contingent. Me? I watched warily from afar.
I texted my hubby - yawned copiously and went into the waves, except...
I packed everything.
Everything but the bathing suit.
Down the road at the now famous restaurant of choice....Nicole introduced us to Thai Wraps. I know this is getting to be a ridiculously nauseous theme but, YUM. Again.

We said our goodbyes and took the shuttle to the airport. Seems our plane was overbooked by twenty seats unbeknownst to us and an interesting little twist of circumstances ensued....
We wound up at a hotel again. Yep. And here we are - Four small minds riding the elevators and taking pic's of ourselves doing so. I think that ceiling mirror needs a Norwex cloth Sarah. (sorry, that's an inside scoop)
Yes indeed. We actually 'missed' our flight home. And we didn't even try! (seriously, we didn't).
The Holiday Inn down the road from the airport was spanking brand new and boasted a beautiful outdoor sitting area complete with a fire-pit. But, an extra day in the sun wasn't too hard a sacrifice to make and the bonus? Nicole and Jared came out to meet us at the Miromar Outlet Shopping Centre. :)
No. We did not do it on purpose.
But do we appear upset by this?
The 'knitting on the beach' story will unfold yet when I return to this post but for now, I have to get some sleep! I vaguely recall, knit one, purl one and something about uh? circular needles?
I dunno. Maybe I'll have to get one of my sisters to recall the facts. :)
So I was the lone outsider in the knitting thing. I took the pictures. That has to count for something.

Nicole's project. A vintage Class A Felted purse.
Pauline's project. A funky Class A felted purse WITH felted flowers no less. Oh, and a lime green zipper that she hand sewed into the top.
I think you've outdone yourself girl.
Hey Cath? Where's your project anyway?
Aren't you the one who started this whole knitting frenzy?
As someone here has already suggested, this blog post isn't about a happy ending.
It's about a new beginning. There is much yet to discover about each other. Being able to journey forward TOGETHER however, is now a reality - a very precious gift that we will not take for granted. We have enormous gratitude for:
  • your dad Brian (& Hildy!) for the courage and grace he showed in facilitating our reunion
  • cousin Bryan for sending you the blog link on a 'whim'
  • you and Jared for your enthusiasm to host four perfect strangers from Canada with equal amounts of pizzaz and grace
  • God Almighty Who ultimately has the whole fabric of our lives already worked out and yet allows each of us to play a role as He knits and weaves us together.
Remember this always Nicole:
He knit you together in your mother's womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139: 13,14

And we love you very much.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Jo.
    God truly works in mysterious and miraculous ways!!! What a blessing to see these pictures and hear these stories of our cousin Nicole!!! May God continue to bless this reunion!!!
    ~ Rachel

  2. OK, now I'm bawling. And you know that doesn't happen often at all. We love you, Nicole! Can't wait to see you in person:)

  3. Ditto, Ames! And I'll have to get in touch with that hotel Mom. OBVIOUSLY they need a little help... :)
    And Nicole? We think of you every day! We are so thankful for this new beginning!!!

  4. Hey Nicole..another link to your ever-growing family connection in Ontario...I am Laurie...your mom's aunt. I've only been following Joanne's blog for a very short time (actually, when I found out that she had one:-)
    Just want you to know that the unfolding of this whole story is so amazing...I am so excited that you have re-connected with your Canadian family. I have just looked at all of the photos that Joanne posted on Dec. 8...I am right now having a tough time seeing through my tears of joy.
    You must know by now how much you have been thought about, prayed for. Uncle Sam & I can't wait to see you again...it has been so very long ago!
    We praise God for His leading in all of this!
    And thank you, my dear Joanne for working so hard at all of this...for never giving up...we love you!

  5. My heart is full of thanksgiving for this happy reunion! God is good :) Nicole, I am a cousin to your mom....and lived down the road from her & the whole clan....and Also from you for a short time :) What a precious gift this reunion is. I hope & pray that you may give yourself lots of time to unravel all this newness!
    Joanne, thanks for blogging :) I have been able to "catch up" with cousins that I don't see enough of. And you'd laugh to know that I've been on a "Carolyn kick" as of late.
    Much love to you both,


Thanks for visiting today. Carpe Diem!