Part of my job working for Heirloom Portraits is to scout for new photographers. Working as a photographer for Heirloom is one of the coolest jobs on the planet. Literally. It envelops all meanings for cool.

The ad for the job reads like this…

“Are you looking for adventure? Do you live to photograph? Our Photographers visit towns and experience travel that the average Canadian will never get to enjoy. Every day is a new and interesting experience.”

Job Title: Travelling Mobile Family and School Photographer
Location: Northern Canada including Ontario, Manitoba, Nunavut, North West Territories, Labrador, etc.”

It’s not an easy job. Photography skills are involved (although plenty applied that had none). It involves a lot of travel to remote areas in Canada. You are away from home for long periods of time (no you cannot make it home for visitations on the weekend). Your accommodations will not be 5 star hotels (because they do not exist in these remote areas). It is usually cold. You will probably be snowed in at one point or another. It is the kind of job that you either love and never want to give up or you find out pretty quickly that it’s not for you.

Heirloom is an amazing company to work for and the people who work there are a remarkable team. Our photographers know that although they may be out there on their own, the team is just a phone call/text/message away. It’s really kind of tricky to explain to you what our photographers experience. I listen to the stories and look at the photos and I am alway in awe (and a whole lot jealous). As our 2018-2019 season has just begun, I thought it would be interesting to see Northern Canada through the eyes of one of our photographers.

Say “Hello” To Photographer Kate

Kate is now in her 5th year with Heirloom. In my opinion she was born for this job. So, I asked her a few questions…

Me: When we first hired you, what was it that made you think you would like to do this job?

“I have always loved going to new places or even returning to the same places. Travelling in general is exciting to me. Photography was something I have always loved. So to find a job where I am travelling and doing photography, it’s a dream come true.”

Me: What is it about the job that makes you want to keep doing it?

“I still love travelling and I still love photography. The connections I make with the people in each community keep me wanting to come back. I have seen children grow from babies and are now in Kindergarten. I have become “Aunty” to some of them in a few different communities. Why would I want to give that up?”

My plan is to share Kate’s season with you through her pictures and her thoughts. Her first stop was Baker Lake, Nunavut.


Baker Lake, Nunavut 

This is where Baker Lake, Nunavut is in Canada. GoogleMaps

According to Wikipedia, Baker Lake is a hamlet in the Kivalliq Region, in Nunavut on mainland Canada. Located 320 km inland from Hudson Bay, it is near the nation’s geographical centre, and is notable for being the Canadian Arctic’s sole inland community. The hamlet is located at the mouth of the Thelon River on the shores of Baker Lake.

Here is Kate’s Baker Lake…

Welcome to Baker Lake, NU — in Baker Lake, Nunavut.

The Airport In Baker Lake, Nunavut

The town

Made friends with a Siksik — in Baker Lake, Nunavut.

He liked getting his picture taken… — in Baker Lake, Nunavut.

It’s hard being a model so he needed some food. — in Baker Lake, Nunavut.


In Baker Lake, Nunavut.

This is one way to transport myself and gear to a new school – in a grocery truck! A great way to start a morning, with bananas — in Baker Lake, Nunavut.

Apparently I’m funny. The kids all wanted me to have a picture so this is what we got!  🙂  — in Baker Lake, Nunavut.


Sandhill Cranes

In Baker Lake, Nunavut.

I have been visiting Baker Lake now for four years and this is the first time I made it to the Inukshuk. Every year I’d say I will get there. I finally did it!  — in Baker Lake, Nunavut.

I hope you will enjoy seeing more of Northern Canada through Kate’s eyes in future posts.

I am delighted! Now that’s a word I can honestly say I have never used when describing myself. Check out the very talented Mike Allegra’s doodle of me over at HeyLookAWriterFellow.

How could I not be delighted? Thanks Mike. via Here Ya Go! The Winning Doodle!

Family Secrets

Every family has secrets. They may not admit it but they do.

My family just happens to have more than most. That happens when you have a large family. A family that is “blended” from different parents and adoption can have some stories. Add in-laws and the secrets can get way out of control.

My birth was one of the bigger ones. Yes, I was an illegitimate child. According to “legend” my grandmother tried to pass me off as a neighbour’s kid that my Mom was babysitting. Let me just say my Mother was a great baby sitter. Don’t ask me about my grandmother.

Perhaps the longest kept secret (at least for me) was who my biological father was. I found out when I was in my early 20s and actually met him just before my 27th birthday.

Of course we have had our share of drug users and abusers. I believe every family does.

Unfortunately, we’ve also had family members  behind bars.

Pat in jail

No this one is not real. In this case we were exploring an old jail in Cobourg, ON that has been turned into a restaurant.

Yes, all of these were some of the worse kept secrets in history. There is one secret, though, that has been kept secret until just recently. It’s absolutely, hands down the best kept secret in all of my family.

Ralph’s Plum Jam. As a matter of fact when I started this post in 2014 I turned to He-Who and said, “I need that recipe for your brother’s jam to finish this post.” He looked at me with a blank stare.

He-Who: “What recipe? I don’t have the recipe. He doesn’t give it to anyone.”

Me: “You told me last week he finally gave in and gave it to Keri-Lynn (He-Who’s daughter)”.

He-Who: “That did not happen.”

I will not burden you with the rest of that conversation. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.  Four years later I still do not have the recipe, Ralph has moved away from his plum trees and we are always on the search for plum jam.

We all have one of “those” relatives that are hard to explain. For me, it’s this guy. Captain America.

Even though Bruce is referred to as “My Brother-In-Law From Hell”, full disclosure, I love this man. Frequently, however, our opinions are galaxies apart. Infinite galaxies. But over the years we have found ways to work around our differences without involving any death stars. Sparring, tucking, rolling…you get the idea. That all changed over the past year. You see, my Brother-In-Law…bare with me…this is so hard…*weeping*…supports #45. In a BIG way!

OK. There. I said it. Just yesterday I was talking to Barrie Doyle , a former professor (now friend), at one of his book signings. We were talking about how this particular difference of opinion has divided long-time friends and even family members. It has brought out the worst in everyone. I was determined not to to let this happen between Bruce and I. Soooo…this is how our conversations go whenever politics rears its ugly head:

Him: He’s great!

Me: I love you Bruce.

Him: Did you see whatever very, very amazing thing he did that day?

Me: I love you Bruce.

Him: He’s making everything better!

Me: I love you Bruce.

This will go on until he either gives up and leaves the room, or I leave the room, or my sister comes into the room, gives us both “the eye” and asks what’s going on, at which point we both leave the room. My latest visit  south of the border put me in a very awkward spot. Bruce was doing something to my vehicle (no, he wasn’t cutting the brake lines) as he keeps the thing going for me. Then he took it for a spin, but within the length of two houses, turned around and put it back in the driveway. He immediately told me “there is no way you can drive that car.” It was unsafe. The back wheel was about to fall off. This resulted in me driving with Bruce in his truck to get parts for my car. I was trapped in the front seat for the duration.

Later, when I started to tell He-Who about my being a captive audience, He-Who started to laugh uncontrollably. He didn’t stop all night. Every time he looked at me he started to laugh again. He knew exactly what had happened — Bruce started singing #45’s praises as soon as my seatbelt clicked. I was like a deer caught in headlights. Now, this man was taking me to get parts for my car. Then he would take those parts and fix my car (no matter how long it took) so I could drive back home, safely. There was no way I was going to berate his hero. So I bit my tongue. I bit the inside of my mouth. I recited to myself, “I love you Bruce. I love you Bruce”…the whole way. When we got back he had a big grin on his face and I looked like Munch’s The Scream. My sister took one look at me and did a double facepalm. 

Here’s the thing. This man who makes me crazy with his politics is also kind, big hearted, generous, brave, hard working and… my family. That’s not to say that he’s a saint. He’s made his share of blunders. He’s also the first person to offer a helping hand. He would give you the shirt off his back and offer to have it cleaned first. As I said, over the years, he’s kept more than one of my vehicles on the road. He works hard at whatever he takes on. Some of his construction jobs have had him working in sweltering heat or frigid ice. He’s worked at heights that he admits terrify him. Not too long ago he had to conquer both his fear of heights and “big ass” spiders while working on the Grand Island Bridge.

Off the job he’s the first to volunteer when someone needs a nail hammered, a screw turned, or a shower plumbed. He’s a good husband to my baby sister

and a good father to her children. Raising them as his own and putting up with a lot that only a father could understand. He has kept his family safe and sound. When someone needs him, he’s there, usually before he is asked. And one of the things he does better than anyone, is making this little one feel like a real life Princess.

Not the one on the left. The little one on the right is his Princess.

He is her Prince Charming, her hero, her Papa. He calls her his Best Buddy.

All of his grandchildren know that he will never let them down. He will listen to them and embrace them with a hug that you know is genuine. I can vouch for that hug. He greets me with one of those hugs and says good bye with one of those hugs. Every time!  It makes you feel loved and cared for. One of his favourite things is to be the first person to wish me a Happy Birthday. On that day every year, long before the sun is up, the phone will ring and I am treated to his rendition of “Happy Birthday”. He is a man of many talents and quite the mystery, I might add. Perhaps a little more like James Bond than Captain America.

Although I refuse to agree with his politics, I can’t bring myself to hold them against him. Unless, of course, I get trapped in a car alone with him again.

It’s a sad day in Canada. We are still reeling from the tragedy of April 6th when a bus carrying 29 members of the Humboldt Broncos Junior Hockey Team crashed in Saskatchewan, leaving 16 players and staff dead and 13 injured. The next couple of weeks were filled with sorrow, tears, questions, shows of support from far and wide…and funerals. Many funerals. How does anyone make sense of such a tragic accident?

#PutYourSticksOut:Humboldt Broncos

Yesterday, April 23, 2018, will be another day we’ll all remember. Not because of “a tragic accident”, but because of a senseless, violent, intentional act.  An act that left 10 people dead and 14 injured on the street in the middle of a bright, sun shiny day in North York, a suburban district of Toronto. One 25 year old man deliberately pointed the rented cargo van he was driving into pedestrians as they enjoyed the first spring-like day at the end of a very, bitter, winter. He didn’t stop. For 2.2 km (almost 1.4 miles for our American friends), he continued to smash into poles, benches, walls and people, leaving a trail of bodies along the way.

The times in which we live make it impossible (unless you live in a cave) to not know what happened. In graphic detail. The news outlets were on scene almost immediately as most of them are based in the city. Regular programming was cancelled and countless reports told the story along with endless on-scene videos and photos from every angle imaginable. Cell phones and social media supplied images all day.

I am very close to my younger sister’s children. They are as close as I can get to having children of my own. From the moment they were born I spent as  much time with them as possible. I used to take them everywhere. When Andrew, who is the older of the two kids, was about three, I strapped him into his car seat and drove about 130 km (about 80 miles) into Toronto for the annual Photography convention. It is a huge convention at one of the largest venues in Toronto, with thousands of people in attendance each year. We had a delightful drive into the city. I parked my car, then made my usual clumsy attempt at getting Andrew unharnessed. His eyes were big as saucers. I lifted him out and nonchalantly placed him on the pavement. As I watched his face, his eyes got even bigger. He lifted his head up, taking in his surroundings. He continued to lift his face heavenward as he tried to see the tops of the buildings and the CN Tower. Higher, higher, higher! Until he flipped over backwards. I managed to catch him before he hit the pavement. It hadn’t occurred to me that he had never been out of Niagara Falls. He had never seen the big city of Toronto in all its glory. Looking at our surroundings through his eyes made every thing seem brighter and shinier for me.

That was 30+ years ago.  It’s hard for me to imagine a child feeling that sense of wonder at seeing the tall buildings now. They would have seen it all on their tablet. They would have been exposed to all kinds of experiences on their TVs. Like the horrific scenes from yesterday’s tragedy. How do they “see” those things? How do they process what they see? And how, please tell me how we explain to the children why this would happen?


(This showed up on my facebook page this morning – April 25 – and it seemed appropriate to share it here)

Michael de Adder

From Micael de Adder – Cartoon for April 24. #HumboldtStrong #humboltbroncos #TorontoAttack #TorontoStrong #TorontoMapleLeafs #Toronto


We Did!

Last week He-Who posted something that caused quite a stir amongst hour Facebook “Friends” most of whom are actually friends and family. Well, actually, all he did was change his relationship status.

There were questions. A lot of questions. Most people automatically assumed we had done this in Vegas. People always thought we would get married in Vegas. As a matter of fact, so did we.

That’s not what happened.

My long time friend, Lauren, pretty much summed up the queries for everyone in her response…
“WHAT!?!?!?!?! (making a sound only a dog can hear). That’s fantastic, you two! Congratulations! Why, where, how, ???”

What? Yes, we actually did get married on Wednesday, February 21st. After 22 years of being “engaged” we did it! Here is the proof.

As for that dog noise, you would be surprised how many times I heard that on the phone in the past week. I didn’t realize most of the people we knew could make that high-pitched noise.

Why? Like I said, after 22 years of being engaged we figured we were probably in the Guinness Book of Records (with some padding) for the longest engagement on record. Honestly, it just felt like the time was right.

Where? After some deliberation and He-Who absolutely putting his foot down against going to the Drive-Thru Wedding Chapel in Niagara Falls, we decided to do it closer to home. There were a couple of quaint restaurants near where I work that I thought could double for lunch & vows. The first had stopped doing their restaurant and the other was under construction. I ended up booking the Card Room in our building for an hour. There was a nice fireplace and room for five of us (Bride, Groom, Chaplain and two witnesses) to have a picture taken and sign papers. The night before, He-Who was in the management office for another reason and mentioned what we were planning to do in the card room. The management office flatly refused to let us use the room. We promised we only needed it for about 15 minutes and there would be no food or drink or partying…but they dug in their heels and would not allow us to use the room. According to them you are only allowed to have two outside visitors in the room. We had three. So the morning of, we had to improvise and just did it in our apartment. There isn’t really room for five people in our apartment so we stood around awkwardly until we started. We said our vows. We all signed the papers and then we went to the Pickle Barrel at Sherway Gardens for lunch.

How? We went to City Hall in Niagara Falls and bought ourselves a marriage licence. I immediately began to plot for the Drive-Through elopement thing, but as I said before, He-Who was having none of it. He did contact his long time friend Shawn from Winnipeg who is now the Chaplain at Woodbine Racetrack. Shawn agreed to officiate and volunteered his lovely wife JoAnn (who is also from Winnipeg and also works at the track). All we needed now was one more witness. Another long time friend, Sandy, from Winnipeg, now a trainer based at Woodbine (is anybody sensing a theme here?) agreed to help us out. We had a great lunch and a nice visit.

Did I mention our wedding photographer was our wonderful waitress at the Pickle Barrel? Maybe we should be professional wedding planners.



With Love

All of my kids are rentals. They always have been. Which is just my adorable way of saying I have no children of my own. Not one. It also means that I can always give them back. I can get them all wound up, feed them sugary delights, let them experience their free will and then completely drop them off at home with their not so unsuspecting parents.

I’m in there somewhere!

It’s the price one pays for having an hour or two of freedom from this…

Apparently, it’s well worth the price.

My first couple of rentals came along when I was still really just a kid myself. I loved babysitting my nephews but they were a handful. Now those two boys have sons that tower over me.
Over the years I accumulated more nieces, nephews, God children and some that just called me “Aunt”. I played with them, fed them and put them to bed. I would take them to fairs, plays and shows. We would sing silly songs. I would tell them stories and we would make things. There was a time when I spent endless hours making them gifts. I always wanted them to have something special to keep that I made especially for them. Sadly, only a few of those things have survived. They made me gifts. I still have every one. I have files of pictures drawn and painted. When they come off the fridge they go into a file. Other things, I proudly display in my home.

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I would also buy them books. I love to read and I wanted to share that with them. I’m proud to say that most of my rentals do love to read and are more grateful for those books now than when they received them.
Now that I am a Grand Aunt, things are different. The biggest change, the one that brought on almost every other change, is the computer. Everything we now own  is computerized. I like to think I keep up pretty well, but at Christmas I got a real awakening. One of my grand nephews took the hand-written card I had attached to his Christmas gift over to his father and asked him to read it to him. I know my grand nephew can read, my penmanship isn’t that bad and it wasn’t a longwinded note (I know, hard to believe) so I asked him why he’d asked his dad to read it.

Grand Nephew: I can’t read writing.
Grand Aunt: What?
Nephew: They don’t teach you how to write in school anymore.
GA: Well, I had heard that, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t be able to read it.
N: If they don’t teach him how to write it, how are they supposed to read it.
GA: How does he write his name?
GN: I print it.
GA: No. I mean how do you do your signature.
N: He prints it!
GA: So if he signs a legal document at some point in his life he will just print his name?
N: That’s right.

Then he read the card to his son, “With love, Aunt Michelle and Uncle Paul”.

Over the years I have learned to keep my mouth shut when it comes to rearing children lest I hear those heartbreaking words, “you don’t know, you don’t have kids”, or a reasonable facsimile. How has this happened? I’ve always considered my signature part of my personality. Half the clothes kids wear today have someone’s signature on them.

I guess if I want to communicate with anyone younger than me I am going to have to pick up my printing skills. I have visions of future scientists uncovering some old Christmas cards and trying to decipher them much like we do the hieroglyphics in the caves from prehistoric man.

I feel so old!

Tom Lucas


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