Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010

Here are some pretty cool things that happened in 2010.  

After a few months hiatus, begin working again for the newspaper in North Bay, doing research for their "Decade in Review" section. Am humbled when the Managing Editor tells me he's recommended me for a job at the daily newspaper in Timmins. Start to panic when I realize I have a tough decision to make.  

Turn 27 years old. This one hits me hard. Although my good friend and sis make me a beautiful meal, complete with pink cupcakes, I act like a childish, selfish hosebag. Many apologies are made the next day after locking myself if my room because "no one even flirted with me on my birthday," which "MUST mean I'm OLD." Slowly come to the realization that even though I'm getting older every year, I'm also getting wiser. Vow to never cry on my birthday again.  

Drive to Toronto with three girlfriends to see John Mayer perform on Valentines Day. Am convinced that even though there are 20,000 other screaming girls there, this is our (John and my) special date. Fall even deeper in love as he plays the guitar like nobody's business. Am convinced he's made eye contact with me. Three times. As we drive away from the city music blaring and laughter bouncing off the car walls, I look around at my friends and realize this is what life's all about.  

After much deliberation and a pro/con list, I decide to accept the job back home at The Daily Press. Am now a reporter/photographer at a daily newspaper. One week in, I'm positive I've made the right decision. The job seems to fit like a glove. Although I miss my North Bay friends and work family, there are definite perks to this new position. Like the time I hand-feed an elephant jelly beans backstage at the circus. Or feel Margaret Trudeau's warm embrace as we pose for a photo after a speaking engagement. Or the day I FLY A PLANE. Career-wise, 2010's been the best year yet. Not just because of all the totally super fun things I get to do, but because of the feeling I get almost every day that THIS, RIGHT HERE, is what I'm supposed to be doing. Talking to people, hearing amazing stories, taking photographs, then going back to the office and writing about it. Releasing it into the world for everyone to discover. Amazing. 

The summer of 2010 turns out to be the Summer of Weddings. Attend three, in which I am directly involved, either as a musician, emcee, or guest book photographer. All three differ in style, from traditional church wedding, to beautiful park wedding, to glamorous wedding in the woods. All are equally beautiful. All make me weep uncontrollably. Am still convinced the saddest part of any wedding is when the father of the bride hands his daughter off to her new husband. Every single wedding is also filled with love. Tina and Louis, who now have a baby on the way, glow as they float around the dance floor. Melissa and Gilles, who can laugh their way through anything, kiss as though they're the only two people in the park. Alan and Kristie write the exact same thing in their speeches to each other, pledging to love each other with absolute conviction. Watching two people say their vows in the most gorgeous attire, then eating, drinking, celebrating into the wee hours of the morning? Yes, please! 

By this I mean move back home to my Dad's place on a lake and occasionally go for a walk in the bush. I first moved into Pop's basement as a temporary situation while I looked for an apartment in Timmins. Ten months later, I'm still there, even though I know in the back of my mind one resolution should be "MOVE OUT." Dad's been amazing though, and I think that's partly why it's been hard to move. (That, and the FREE RENT.) He brushes my car off when it's snowy, has my dinner ready when I come home, flicks me with the tea towel when he feels I'm getting a little "uppity" (his word, not mine.) Although I know this year will likely hold a move for me, the wood stove heat still beats cranky landlords and overpriced electricity bills. And the view out my window in the morning, looking out over the lake while ducks swim leisurely by and birds chirp happily? That's not so bad either.  

As 2010 progressed, my friends started to announce their various engagements, babies on the way, and new jobs. None affected me as much as Steph and Jamie's summer announcement though. I'd met the amazing couple when I first moved to North Bay, and liked them both instantly. Then, early last year, they decided they wanted to have a baby. Easier said than done. My heart broke a little every time someone would say "So...are you pregnant yet?" and I'd watch her paste a smile on and say sweetly "Nope. Not yet." In June, we were decorating the hall for a friend's wedding reception when she pulled me aside and said "'re going to be an Auntie." All of my excitement and happiness came pouring out of my freshly made-up eyes. I don't know if it's because I like them so darn much, or because I knew how much they wanted a baby, or both, but I was absolutely floored. To some people, this may not seem like such a biggie, but it was definitely one of my favourite 2010 moments. 

This year, there was a lot of quality family time. An Easter trip west to see my dad's brother. A Fall trip to Toronto to visit with cousins. Getting to know the new additions to our family, like curly-haired Leo and Zion, who've brought new energy and life to our clan. I've had heart-to-hearts with my Auntie, belted out karaoke with my cousins, watched another cousin fly a plane, hugged my granny, danced to Fleetwood Mac with my Aunt and cousins after several glasses of wine. All in all, a good year for the McLaren bunch.  
Just yesterday, when my four year-old goddaughter thought she hurt my feelings, she took my face in her hands and said "I still love you, Auntie Kate." When, I thought, did this tiny little baby grow enough to feel empathy, pick out her own clothes and recite her picture books by memory? And she wasn't the only one. We all celebrated recently when my niece Reesah blew her nose on command. Many first steps were taken this year. Although I know the basics of biology, it still shocks me how babies grow. Even though it's an inevitable part of life, to me, it's still a little magical.  

I won't find out the results until February or March. So don't ask to read it. But, this was a big step for me in 2010. Even though I'm not sure if I'll win (there are over 4000 entries,) the biggest reward has already happened when my Dad read it, cried, and said "this deserves to be published."  
So there you have it. My year in a (very wordy) nutshell.  

In case you have trouble picture any of it, here's an accompanying video.  

Happy New Year. 

Best of 2010 from Kate McLaren on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


This post is about the Royal family.

I understand that the Royals, or maybe just some people's (*jabbing top of own head with index finger*) fascination with the haughty family often incites indifference, even anger. If you're one of those people, I suggest you leave now. Go Google something. Or see if there have been any Facebook updates in the last 3.5 minutes. Any of your buddies kids sick? Anyone tired because the wind howled all night and kept them awake? Someone find a lost kitty in I-need-a-life-ville? How many are complaining about the already-crowded malls and shoppers lack of Christmas spirit?


Where were we? Oh right. ROYALS. So the news of the engagement between William and Kate hit the world a couple of weeks ago, and most people here in Canada responded with a collective "who CARES."

When my co-worker read me her People magazine, I tried my best to feign disinterest, said something like "oh, yeah? Cool," and kept typing. As soon as she headed for (the last brownie in) the vending machine, I ran (ok, walked quickly) to her desk and read the entire story.

What I'm about to say may disgust some of you. I like to think I'm a level headed, smart person. I know the Royal family are basically figure heads, and most Canadians don't give a rat's ass about the Charles/Camilla debacle or who Willy's marrying.

But I'm not most Canadians.

I have Royal Fever.

This fascination isn't entirely my fault. My Royal Fever was passed on by a mother who herself was struck by this condition. My mom, specifically, had Diana Fever.

This is going to sound super silly, but to me, there always seemed to be a little magic around both of those ladies (my mom and Diana.)

My mom always joked that the Princess' life mirrored hers. Although we all made fun, you can't really deny the similarities.

Diana grew up in a wealthy family in England, later moving to London to marry her prince. My mummy grew up in rural Southern Ontario, later moving North to marry her prince. (Sound like a stretch? That's cause it is.)

My parents were married in August, 1980. Diana and Charles were married in July 1981. As my mom watched the lavish ceremony on TV, my Grandma dismissively remarked "it's no nicer than yours was." She was 100 percent serious.

In June, 1982, Diana had her first baby, William. Eight months later, my mama was graced with my presence.
In September 1984, Diana had Harry. Almost a year later, my mom had Gilly.

Through Diana's life, my mom remained a devoted watcher. She cheered when the Princess danced with John Travolta. Called Charles and Camilla names when their affair hit the media (I remember "Horseface" in particular.)

In August, 1997, we were at the cottage when a news bulletin broke through Saturday Night Live, saying Diana had died in a car crash. I remember my mom being shocked, then sad.

"We have to watch the funeral," she said, eyes glued to the television.

"But it's on at 4 a.m. here," I whined.

"So we'll sleep on the pull out couch and set the alarm."

And we did. I remember the princes walking behind the casket, looking heartbroken. Diana's brother giving the eulogy about the "Queen of People's Hearts." Elton John's tribute. A Royal funeral with a twist.

Six months later, the pattern followed in an unexpected and tragic way. When my mom died, I remember thinking of Prince William. How I could now relate to him. Understood how he felt. This may sound beyond crazy to you non-Royal-lovers, but I thought "I wonder if they have met yet."

On a class trip to Paris a couple of years later, we drove through the tunnel where Diana was killed. As most students glanced out the window briefly, I was transfixed. I felt a connection, brought on by years of Royal Fever.

The recent announcement brought back these memories. Making fun of my mom for her Diana obsession. Laughing at her crazy parallel life theory (I do realize it's really not that parallel.) Lying on the pull-out couch at 4 a.m., secretly happy for the alone time with my mummy.

I heard on the radio that William gave Kate his mom's engagement ring so she could "be part of the excitement." Although our lives are worlds apart, I get it. And although, for the most part, I don't identify with any part of Royal life, my heart warmed when I heard that newscast.

See, the Royal Fever's hard to shake. Along with the memories of my mama. So go ahead and make fun of me for my silly Royal interest.

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Holiday in the Fall

This fall, I took almost two weeks of vacation.

A few people asked me if I was going somewhere hot. No, I'd reply, just planning on sticking around here. 

I stayed in Ontario, and although the air was crisp and chilly, my holiday was warm and cozy. Many hundreds of miles were covered as I traveled South, then North, then South again to make sure I got the most amount of lovin' I possibly could. 

Between family and friends, I had the absolute best time. Here's a recap. 

NOTE: I know my nephew Leo's basically the star of this video but just look at those cheeks! Look at those curls! And that smile! How could I resist? 

Soundtrack is Lovers in Japan by Coldplay

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Last Thursday, 7 p.m. I'm driving home after a long day in the newsroom. I'm exhausted, frustrated. My eyes are fighting to stay open and I'm kind of dreading the hour-long drive ahead of me.

I drive along the highway, thinking about what I'm doing. What direction I'm headed in. What the next week, month, year holds for me.

The sky glows mellow orange in my rearview mirror. As always, the Fall season has made me nostalgic and pensive. Thinking of the past, I take a deep breath.

Up ahead, I notice two cars stopped on the side of the road. As I get closer, I see a man taking photos of something I can't see yet.

I slow down, brake, and turn to look at the roadside attraction.

Standing in a clearing among the cattails is the most regal looking bull moose I've ever seen. Just as I pull off to the side of the highway, he looks up, his massive rack throwing his head slightly off balance.

This moose is healthy, strong. His coat is black, shiny, beautiful. He doesn't run or even turn away when more cars begin to stop. He seems to enjoy this paparazzi-like attention.

My Dad always said moose were good luck. A sign that everything's going to be ok. I remember him telling the story about the night I was born.

It was a cold night in February, and I was refusing to make my grand entrance into the world. Which, looking back now shouldn't have surprised anyone because hello? Have you TRIED getting me out of bed in the morning before I'm ready? I like warm and dark and cozy places.

Anyway, being the drama queen I am, my mom was rushed to the hospital an hour away to have me. My dad flew along the highway to Timmins (to this day he swears he beat the ambulance), nervous and anxious about the arrival of his first daughter. When he tells the story of my birthday, he never leaves out the part about the moose. Racing down the highway in the dark on that winter night 27 years ago, Dad saw, like I did last week, a big, beautiful bull.

"I knew then that everything was going to be ok," he says, a faraway look in his eyes.

First Nations people believe moose are a sign of hope.

I remember my cousin telling me about her granny's last moments. After her husband died a few years earlier, her family said goodbye as she slipped away. Leaving the hospital, my family saw a bull and cow moose standing together in the early morning light. This confirmed for them that their Granny and Grandpa were together once again.

Seeing that moose on the side of the road the other night served as a confirmation for me too. A reminder that life, despite all it's complications, darkness, and truly beautiful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Something old

Why is old stuff always so pretty?

Ok, I guess there are exceptions to this rule, like old man asses, and whatever it is I found while cleaning out the fridge the other day. That was not so much pretty as it was disgusting.

Last weekend for work, I covered an event that took people through the city's local history. One of the stations was a 1930's replica of a miner's house, set up to look like there was a family living there. If I wasn't such a moral, law-abiding citizen I would have been tempted to swipe some of the beautiful, timeless, classic pieces in the house.  

 Instead, I borrowed them in photographs. 

If this is what they call timeless beauty, I don't mind getting old.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


After dinner, I'm doing the dishes and Pop's in his room. I can hear him fidgeting with something and swearing under his breath.

I glance into his room out of the corner of my eye and realize he's trying to re-set his alarm clock. The electric one always gives him trouble.

He keeps fumbling for a few minutes, then drops the plastic alarm clock on his foot. He swears.

A few more seconds of trying on his own, and he yells "KATE! What the hell am I doing wrong here!?"

I dry my hands and walk over, pick up the alarm, set the time. Dad walks into the kitchen and yells "IT'S 9:18!"

"Done!" I say, returning to the kitchen. Dad seems baffled.

"You're done? Already? Whoa! You're good! Wow! Good job!"

You should see how crazy he gets when I change the message on the answering machine.

Do you see why I still live here? Great to feel appreciated.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


My dad's a putterer.  

It's not often you'll catch him watching t.v. or sitting around. Even more so now with his new digs - he's always doing something around the house.  
Along with his new place on the lake, he also owns land about five minutes away, which he calls 'The Farm.' The Farm's the place he goes when he needs peace and quiet, and he spends days there gardening and building things. 
I'm not home a lot, but often I'll come home from work and find a few flower bed or piece of deck has been added to the yard. At The Farm, Dad built bridges, dug ponds, constructed cabins from the ground up. 

One night last week, I found myself home from work earlier than usual. After dinner, Pop said he was going to The Farm to cover his onions. 
"I'm gonna come too," I said, pulling on my rubber boots. Was it just my imagination, or did he wince slightly when I suggested I tag along?  
I brought my camera in case we saw a bear. Dad's seen tons this year on his property, and a couple of summers ago even had to chase one out of the back of his truck. 

Instead of taking pictures of bears, I ended up taking video of us chatting. Well, me chatting. It was only when I played it back afterward that I realized how irritating I was. 

How he didn't backhand me, toss my camera out the window, and tape my mouth shut is beyond me. I guess it's this thing called 'patience' that has developed after listening to me talk non-stop for 27 years. 

Here's a little excerpt from our evening trip to cover the onions. I had to add subtitles, because Pop mumbles. Also, don't be alarmed by the gagging noises - just a bad case of the hiccups. 

Try to resist the urge to reach into your computer and strangle me. 
I, for one, had a ball. 

Evening bear watch from Kate McLaren on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PS: Black hair dye is a BAD idea

In the past couple of months, I've had two younger cousins ask me for advice. They're both in their teens and are having relationship issues. Both in love with people who don't appear to love them back. Both wondering what to do.  

Why they came to me for advice, I'm not too sure. The older, single cousin living in her dad's basement isn't exactly the first person I'd go to for advice on men, but what the hell. 

Looking back to high school, I know exactly how they feel. I tried to tell them, gently, that what they're going through right now is only a small, small speck on the immense canvas that will be their entire lives. I know they don't believe me, but in a few years, the person occupying their thoughts constantly now won't cross their minds at all. Except maybe in a fit of giggles with girlfriends over a glass of wine on a Friday night. 

Instead of giving them advice (I'm really no good at that,) I thought back to myself at 15. What I thought I knew back then. Twelve years has passed since then, and I feel like I've learned so much from all of my experiences, both from other people and myself.  

If I could go back and hang out with 15-year-old me, there's a few things I'd like to tell myself. Things like:

1. Oh my god, woman! Enough with the vests. They are not cool. I don't care if they're suede, or have tassels, they are SO not cool. People are probably making fun of you behind your back. Lose the vests, cowgirl. 

2. That guy. Those guys. The ones who come in and out of your social circle, who seem like the most important thing, I don't know, EVER. They're not. Here's a tip: 15-year-old boys are stupid. Most of them only care about looking cool in front of their friends and bragging about getting to third base. This won't change for another few (maybe 10-15) years. Don't put so much pressure on yourself. Being single and having fun with your girlfriends is even cooler than being alone and crying over a boy into your pillow on a Saturday night. Believe it or not.  

3. Go hug your mama. Hug her as tight as you can, for as long as she can stand it. When she laughs and says "Jeez, what's up with you?" ignore her and hug her some more. You don't realize it now, much she'll turn out to be one of the most influential people in your life. Ask her all of the questions you'll need to know later. Did she get morning sickness when she was pregnant? When did she know she was in love with Dad? How did he propose, exactly? Find out minute details. Believe me, it's important, and Dad's good with details like "the first time I saw her she was wearing short-shorts and a white tank top and I thought she was the most beautiful blonde I'd ever seen," but not so much the "I asked her to marry me looking out over a mountain-scape at dusk exactly a year after we met" kind of stories. There's going to be so much you wished you knew. Go hug her again. Tell her you love her. She'll be kind of surprised, but it will fill her heart.

4. Be nice to your family. Not that you're particularity mean to them, but later on in life, they're all you've got. They're the only link to your past, and the people you'll miss most when they're gone.

5. Just be nice. Try to be nice to everyone, even especially the people who everyone else makes fun of. I know you're concerned about fitting in, walking that fine line between being cool and being liked by everyone. You don't realize it now, but that person people are teasing, is dying on the inside. Just like you, he just wants to fit in. Don't join in the teasing, don't follow the crowd. Smile and say hi when you pass the "unpopular" kids in the halls. Your smiles are making their day. 

6. Study hard. As hard as you can. Do your homework. You will open yourself up to a world of possibilities if you keep your grades high. Don't drop that math class. Math is important. In about 10 years, you're going to look really silly pulling out a calculator at work to do simple division. 

7. Take care of your teeth! Wear your retainer! Wait, check your tray before you throw it in the garbage at the mall food court. That one move is going to cost your parents a LOT of money in dental bills.  

8. Don't be shy. Say what you want. Be straightforward and honest. You will learn this later in life, but not before being caused a lot of pain by holding back your feelings. If you're mad, get mad. If you're sad, cry. Tell people if they are pissing you off. If you like a boy, tell him. You'll feel SO much better.  

9. Listen to Dad's crazy expressions more. Later on, you'll realize they are the pillars of your values. "It's life it's own self," is a good example. "All is well," and  "You'll only be cool if you don't try to be cool," are others. Now, you roll your eyes when he starts telling you his three rules in life: Don't lie, don't feel sorry for yourself, always pull your own weight. Later, you'll realize this is some of the most important advice you've ever received.  

10. Know that you can't control the outcome of any relationship, romantic or otherwise. During one of your more dramatic episodes with a boy, a smart (and SINGLE!) older cousin will send you a piece of writing that will change the way you think about love. Forever. You'll continue to send it to girlfriends going through breakups for the next 15 years. Just so you don't have to wait, here's a little preview: 

From the book Letters to my Son by Kent Nerburn: 
"It is a mystery why we fall in love. It is a mystery how it happens, when it comes, and why some love grows and other love fails. 
Sometimes, hopefully at least once in your life, the gift of love will come to you in full flower, and you will take hold of it and celebrate it in all its inexpressible beauty. This is the dream we all share.  
More often, it will come and take hold of you, celebrate you for a brief moment, then move on. 
When people fall out of love, they want answers where there are no answers. They want to know what is wrong with them that makes the other person no longer love them, or they try to get their lover to change, thinking that if some small things were different love would bloom again.  
There is no meaning beyond the love itself, and until you accept its own mysterious ways, you will live in a sea of misery. 
If you fall in love with another, and they fall in love with you, and then love chooses to leave, do not try to reclaim it or to assess blame. Let it go. There is a reason and there is a meaning. You will know in time. 
Remember that you don't choose love. It chooses you. All you can really do is accept it for all its mystery when it comes into your life. Feel the way it fills you to overflowing, then reach out and give it away. 
Give it back to the person who brought it alive in you. Give it to the world around you in any way you can. 
Remember this, and keep it to your heart. Love has its own time, its own seasons, and its own reasons for coming and going. You cannot bribe it or coerce it into staying. 
Love always has been and always will be a mystery. Be glad that it came to live for a moment in your life.  
If you keep your heart open, it will come again.  

I know you'll be fine. You'll love. You'll live, and you'll learn.
Just wanted to give you a little help along the way. 

Go get 'em, tiger!


Ray of sunshine

Today is a dreary, rainy, feels-like-Fall kind of day, so I thought we could all use a little sunshine.  

This photo was taken on a warm summer day. I was off work, and went for lunch with my niece Kenah and my girlfriend Ang. After lunch, we ate ice cream and chatted on her patio.  

A perfect summer day, stashed away for the coldest January nights.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

To Gillian on her 25th birthday

Dear Gilly (or Gigi, Donkey, Shorty, G-Mac, McLayclay, Gilly-Bean. Whoever you are,)

Yesterday you turned 25 years old. A quarter century. I've been meaning to write this for a long time, but I've been struggling to find words. I don't know how I'm supposed to sum up what you mean to me in a couple hundred words. I don't even think a book would do it justice (even though it would be beautifully written with a killer jacket design.) 

I've said many times how you've always seemed like the older sister to me. You are still the first one I call for advice on outfits, men, life in general. Your advice is always spot on, and I cherish it more than you'll ever know.  

I know right now you're probably giggling at the idea of you being the older sister. My nickname is Memere for a reason. There are certain ways, though, that you seem so wise, so worldly, so independent and strong.

Remember the time I got my period for the first time on the train to Toronto, stuffed in that tiny, swaying bathroom? How I started to cry and you smoothed my hair and told me everything was OK, that I was a woman now? Yeah, me neither. But I do remember you screaming "WHAT IS THAT?!" and leaving me stranded in the restroom, hovered over the aluminum toilet while you quite nonchalantly sat back down with Nana like nothing had happened, too embarrassed (or scarred?) to tell her what had just happened in the bathroom. I don't remember how long I waited for you to come back with supplies, but I do remember the smirk on your face when I finally came out and sat down again. Ok, maybe that's not the best example. 
Along the same lines, though (I know this is a lot of woman talk, and I apologize to any bashful males who happen upon this post, but I probably lost you at "advice on outfits and men" anyway) the day I "became a woman" was full of fanfare for me. We went out for dinner. I passed out in the mall. I was the center of attention. It was a celebration, because my dramatic ass was now fertile and able to bear children. I couldn't wait to tell the world, on rose scented floral paper sealed with dried daisies and fairy dust. 

I'm sure we would have celebrated when you "became a woman," except nobody knew. Not a soul. Not for three whole months. When you finally did come out and tell me you were officially a woman, you were PISSED. Pissed at mother nature, pissed at life, pissed at me, pissed at the mailman. Turns out, you weren't going to magically turn into a boy one day like Dad always said after all! I was ecstatic.

I used to feel guilty that I was the showy, flashy, in-your-face sibling. But you never seemed to want the limelight. Now, this is a trait I admire. Your modesty, charm, and calm personality makes you so well-liked among everyone you meet.  

Having the chance to live with you, Gigi, was one of my favorite experiences. You're the only person I know who can make a trip to the grocery store, a walk in the bush, the task of cleaning out the playroom a laugh riot.  

I once overheard someone at a party talking about how weird it was that we only laugh at each others jokes. A couple of seconds later, I said something totally strange to anyone but you, and you killed yourself. I laughed too, because that's what we do. We have each others backs, sis.  

Only recently, when the real world with all its shades of gray started to set in, did I begin to realize not all sisters are close. I used to think it was a requirement. Sisters = Best Friends Forever. What a sweet deal! All you had to do was be born, and like me. Forever! I really could not imagine my life without ya, ya big dumb nut!

The bond we've shared our whole lives is almost indescribable for me (can you believe it? Me? Speechless?), but look, a dozen paragraphs and I still don't feel like I've done you justice. You've been there for every event that has shaped my life and made me who I am today. You've given me so much, without asking for anything in return. You're one of the most selfless, creative, beautiful souls I know (are you barfing in your mouth yet?) You've held my hand in the darkest times, celebrated with me in the bright shiny moments, and made me laugh until I peed. On multiple occasions.

I guess all of this is to say, Gig, you the shit. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible. 

Happy Birthday to my sissy, my kindred spirit, my soul mate. Keep smiling that shit-eatin' grin of yours and your world will continue to be filled with wonderful things.

Yo' Sis

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My first birthday (a photo blog)

By Reesah Martens

Transcribed by my Auntie Kate (the best Auntie ever!)

Today, I turned one year old. Everyone seemed to be really excited, especially my Auntie Kate. I had heard the word "Birthday" thrown around a few times when mama was changing my diaper this morning, but when Auntie showed up with pink frills, gifts, and chocolate treats, I have to admit, I was a little scared.

Things got a little better after lunch, when Auntie came toward me with a piece of chocolate tart. She was really happy, and she was singing something. It was on fire, but she put it right in front of me. So I grabbed it. Sorry, lady, what did you want me to do? I'm one. The chocolate treat was delicious, by the way.

Downside to chocolate treats? Chocolate, everywhere. The more I got on me, the more they loved it. As I tried to get the sweet goodness into my mouth, it kinda got smeared. But come on, people. Throw me a freakin' bone here! Need I remind you? I'm one. Fine motor skills aren't perfect, so don't stand there and laugh. Wipe this shit off my face.

The presents were pretty cool, even though I got clothes. I guess that's not the lamest gift ever. It could have been books. But one question? Why did my sister get a gift? I'm confused. Is she one year old today? Didn't think so. This photo was taken before she realized she got a book. Check out the excitement on her face.

We went outside to play, which was cool, I guess. Minus the wind practically blowing me away, while mama and Auntie stood there taking pictures of me. Ladies? Little help here?

My sister Mikenah started to get rowdy, which usually means she needs her nap. Here she is, attacking Auntie, at which point I saw Auntie's underwear multiple times. Seriously Auntie, next time you decide to roll around in the grass, invest in longer dresses.

The best part of my birthday was getting to hang out with mama, daddy and my sis. Kenah and Daddy made me a cake in the easy bake oven, and we spent lots of time cuddling.

Auntie says I'm too young to let birthdays stress me out. She says I should wait until I turn 27 and my friends plan a beautiful party for me and I lock myself in my room and cry because I'm going to be 30 in three years and no one even flirted with me on my birthday. Whatever that means. Sometimes that woman's so hard to figure out. But she gives me lots of kisses, so we're all good.

All in all, it was a fabulous day. And I NEVER say fabulous. I'm one, after all.

Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sweet Willow Gilly

This is me, being proud.

Let me introduce my sister, Gillian (also known as Gilly-Bean, Donkey, Shorty and Gigi.) 

She recently started her own graphic design business and created this beautiful website. 

Pretty, well-written, and very inspirational.

Not surprising though. She's been inspiring me for 25 years. 

Please check her out (not in a pervy way. She's my little sis).

Made in Canada

I've mentioned a few times throughout this blog that I love my job. That it has perks. Sometimes really cool perks, like cuddling with an Asian elephant, judging a rib-eating contest, and meeting extra amazing people every day. I know I talk about these perks from time to time, but to restore balance to my life, keep in mind I get paid in bon-bons and honey-dipped doughnuts. Not that I'm complaining.  

I usually LOVE going in to work, walking over to my cubby, and pulling out my assignment sheet to find out what I'm going to be doing that day. It could be anything from talking to a Member of Parliament about a local issue, taking photos of kids playing at a water park, or walking around a farm in inches of cow manure while learning the ins and outs of the dairy industry. Glamour, I tell ya. Every. Day.  

The only thing that I find not so glamorous about my job is the days I have to cover court. These days are usually long and drawn out, and the benches in the courtroom are REALLY hard. I mean, come on. Think of the reporter. I haven't done anything wrong! Why am I being tortured in this inhumane way?  

Usually, the day ends with me slightly frustrated at the state of our legal system and the human race in general. I normally trudge back to the office, defeated, and pound out a couple of stories about assault or theft under $5000. 

Tuesday, though, as I sat, listening to the string of accusations against one "gentleman," a sentence peaked my interest.  

"You are charged with dumping a poutine on (victim's) head and stealing her purse," read the court clerk.  

I stifled a giggle, and thought, this has to be a story. My second thought was "I can't wait to get back to the office and tell my editor this!" My third, sadly, was "I can't believe he wasted a poutine! Shame!"

I knew it would be a story. It was too Northern. Heck, it was too Canadian.

Apparently, more than I even imagined. The next day, the article went national. Meaning it was published in SEVERAL. NATIONAL. NEWSPAPERS! Ok, it was in the "weird" section of The Sun, but still. National!

Like I said, court reporting usually frustrates me. But today? Today I owe my national byline to my day in court.

And, of course, a poutine. In all it's cheesy, steamy, salty, heavenly glory.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


For some reason, I've always been fascinated with airplanes. Maybe it's because I've only been on one a handful of times - the novelty hasn't really worn off yet. I know the scientific reasoning behind an airplane, but even still, the artsy-fartsy, whimsical side of my brain often takes over, and flying takes on a magical vibe. 

On sunny days, looking up into the bright blue sky and seeing a jet plane streaking across the sky a thousand miles away always made me happy and hopeful. For me, planes mean going on a trip to somewhere too far away to get to in a car. If you're going all that way, it's gotta be fun, no? 

I often look into the sky to see a plane and think about all of the people on it. I make up stories (in my head of course) about who they are and where they might be going. A tropical vacation, a European getaway, a business trip to Philadelphia. With airplanes, the possibilities seem endless, and nothing seems beyond reach. 

My flying experience is pretty limited. I went to Europe on a class trip, and I've flown to Toronto and New York. I've even flown in a bush plane in Northwestern Ontario on a tour, taking off and landing on a lake. But, being about 13 and fearless at the time, the only thing I remember is the 10-year-old boy beside me retching in his tiny, personal barf bag. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story for the paper about a program that allows young kids to explore the world of aviation for free. One of the pilots I interviewed took me up on a tour of the area to "let me get a real feel for flying."

It was exhilarating, breathtaking, and terrifying, all at the same time. 

The pilot, Yvon, was wonderful, and took the local TV reporter up as well. He explained every step in takeoff and landing to ease our nerves. As we flew, he asked Lauren if she wanted to take the wheel. As she tried to steady the plane, I felt like I was on a roller coaster. 

"Whoa, we just gained about 300 feet," he said, laughing. HA freaking HA! Yvon's son, a seasoned flier, was sitting beside me, and I'm sure he had fingernail marks on his arm after the flight from me squeezing the hell out of it. I kept asking him if what we were feeling, the turbulence, was ok, to the point where he'd look at me after every bump and dip and say, quite casually, "NORMAL!" Really, kid? Because it feels like we're about to plummet to our fiery (albeit totally cool) deaths.
As I gazed out the window, everything looked so beautiful. Trees and lakes as far as the eye could see. The only colours visible for miles were deep, rich greens and sparkly blues. The sunshine glinted on the lakes like diamonds. 

While I was up there, soaring above the world, I had a thought. What if all of the people who complain about logging companies cutting down trees in Northern Ontario went flying over our forests and got a glimpse of our lush, green, never-ending wilderness. Would they still say there are no trees left? 

Just as we flew over Pop's house, (we flew over Pop's house! How cool is that?) the nausea started to set in. Whaaaat is this? I thought. I'm a cultured, experienced flyer! This is NOT happening! Turned out it was. Turned out that also? Yvon didn't have barf bags. We were flying in his private, family plane, and his family NEVER gets sick. 

The remainder of the flight was spent biting the inside of my cheeks and concentrating mega hard on not vomiting all over the poor pilot and his very patient son.

I tried to listen as Yvon pointed out all of the open-pit mines we flew over, and explained the landing protocol. The word landing never sounded so sweet. 

To some people, this flight might seem like a minor perk, but to date, this is one of the best days at work. Even though my stomach jumped, moaned, and rumbled, I managed to keep it together and stay calm, cool and collected. Minus the squeals of excitement and random screams of terror.  

Even with the nausea and feeling of impending death, it was so, totally, uber worth it.  

I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

After reading this post, WHO WANTS TO GO FLYING? 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

After the rain

You know when it rains all night, but clears up by dawn and everything just seems so alive, colourful, sparkly and new? When the lakes are calm, the loons are singing, and the flowers and trees seem so thankful for a new day? When life just seems so simple, uncomplicated, and pristine? And the sun glows low in the sky, promising the beauty of another perfect day? 

Yeah, me neither. 

But these flowers sure are purty.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


We're all guilty of ridiculous-first-world-dilemmas once in a while. Even Pop.
Tonight, trying to decide if he should shower before bed: "It's a real struggle...when you shower twice in one day, do you wash your hair again, or just wet it? I never know."

Oh! Also! I should mention - if any of you ever meet my dad, do NOT, under any circumstances mention that you read about him on the Internet. Even if there's a lull in the conversation, and you feel things getting a little awkward, and he's staring at you with that look that says "what are YOU looking at?"
Dad does not understand the Internet. He thinks that me writing the word P-O-P online will set off an alarm to Russian spies who will come and "get my bank account number and steal all my money." Cause the Internet is "freaky," and he doesn't want to be "out there." These are direct quotes you guys!

Last night a friend who was over for a beer mentioned that he saw something about me and Pop splitting wood on Facebook. Before I could give him the "OH DEAR GOD NO!" sign, he said it, and the look on Dad's face was pure fear, followed by one very loud "BULLSHIT!"
I kid you not, people. It took me about a month to teach him how to check messages (one tiny, little button.) We had a rotary phone until I was about 18.

Almost every night, if he sees me on my cell phone, he threatens to "throw your stupid little machine off the end of the dock."
I have a feeling he's not bluffing.

So yeah, let's just keep his little musings between you and me, Internet.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to reduce me to an emotional, sobbing, mess of a woman

Get married. 
It's that easy. 
Usually, I'm a pretty level-headed, realistic person (contrary to my most recent post. There were bears involved, ok, people?). But in the two weeks before and after a wedding, I've been known to walk around singing "All you need is love" and dot my Is with tiny little hearts.
Last weekend, I was so happy to be involved in one of the most beautiful weddings I've ever seen. 
The sunshine, the light breeze coming off the sparkling lake as my two friends promised to love each other - all made the ceremony beyond romantic. 
Although I've known Melissa and Gilles for a relatively short time, they've been like family. 
I practically moved in when I moved to North Bay, and they welcomed me with open arms. Many a Saturday morning was spent sitting on the living room floor and drinking coffee with the weekend's flyers. And laughs. There were always lots of laughs. 
I always wondered what it would be like to have an older brother. When I met Gilles, I realized he was the brother I never had.
He used to grill me about my car maintenance, making sure I got my scheduled oil changes on time. I remember once, when I was a few hundred (ok, maybe a little more) kilometers overdue, Gilles got on the phone, booked an appointment at the lube shop for me, and made dang sure I went. I think he may have followed me and watched from the parking lot. 
Just two weeks before the wedding, my sister and I both received an email from "Papa Gilles" (as he is lovingly referred to) asking if we were keeping up with our oil changes and maintenance. My response was "don't you have better things to worry about?" 
I guess that's what big brothers are for.
Getting to know Missy and Gilles has been a blast. From dress-up parties, to movie nights, road trips, and cottage weekends, I can't imagine having more fun than I do with them. 
This is why, standing by the lake last Saturday, watching them hold hands and say their vows to each other, with all of my dear memories floating around in my head, I fell apart. In the best way possible.  
To help you understand how amazingly beautiful the dress, bride, ceremony and day was, here's a tiny peek. 

Photos by Dan. (Thanks, Dan!) 
Soundtrack is "I will follow you into the dark" by Deathcab for Cutie

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Smartie pants

Dad just showed me a bunch of bear tracks leading up our driveway to the overturned garbage can beside the deck. 
According to our calculations, the bear wandered into the yard around 10:30 p.m. yesterday, while I was inside, alone, watching Criminal Minds. Already scared shitless. 
My thoughts, which I expressed out loud (probably much to my Pop's dismay): "My god! I feel so violated!" 
Followed by: "Well, we definitely have to remember to lock the doors now!" 
This last phrase I really wish I had kept to myself. To my credit, I was talking about the sliding doors in the basement. Those things don't seem too sturdy. And bears have nimble fingers. Or is that raccoons? 
I looked up after my very worried statements, to see my Dad looking at me. 
The look on his face said "How did I raise such an irrational, flighty, dimwitted daughter?" 
Gene pool, Papa. It's all in the gene pool.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A beautiful thing

Oh....hi. Yeah, we've met. I may or may not have forgotten your name. Don't take it personally though - it's been a while. 

This month has been kicking my ass with work, bachelorette parties, weddings, and all of that wonderful stuff that comes along with weddings. You think I'm being sarcastic here, with the use of the word 'wonderful' and all, but I'm really not. 
At the risk of outing myself as a hopeless, head-over-heels, romantic - I'll just come out and say it. 


May not be that shocking to people who know me. Remember Titanic (the movie, not the actual ship)? I watched that movie about 40 times, and cried for days afterward. Every. Time. 

For me, the most heartbreaking part of a wedding is when the daughter gets to the end of the aisle with her Dad and he has to hug her and hand her off to her new husband. This part gets me every time. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm still single, and currently living with my Dad, and haven't even begun to think about the day when he will hand me over to a new life, a new last name. He probably thinks about it now and then though, come to think of it. Especially on nights like tonight, when he has people over unexpectedly to look at his new house, and my purses, slippers, lunch bag, etc. are strewn all over, like a 20-something exploded. Oh, and also? My bed's not made. Oops. Sorry Pop. I was gonna get to it! But then I didn't! 

All of this to say, last weekend I watched as two people I have known (it seems like) forever say some words that basically mean: this is it. It's you. I will love you forever. And, this isn't the leftover wedding cake talking, but I truly, deep down in my gut, believe they will. Here are a few shots of Tina and Louis' first night as Mr. and Mrs.

Isn't she beautiful?

The maid of honour, my lovely sister Gilly-Bean

Jo, happy as a pig in shit after catching the bouquet

Congratulations, Tina and Louis. May you fall in love more and more each day, today more than yesterday, tomorrow more than today.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Extra wordy answer to the question "how's work?" (Bet you're sorry you asked now, aren't you?)

Many people have been asking me how my new job is going, since I moved back up North and started working as a journalist at The Daily Press.

One word describes my experience so far - amazing. In the short few months since I started at the Press, I think I've learned more than I have my entire life. 

The pace of a daily newspaper is so much quicker than in my freelancing days, and often I'll look up after being at the office for what seems like minutes to find it's 4:00 in the afternoon. 

The people I've met, both in the newsroom and on the street have been so warm and welcoming and lovely. Everyone is so willing to teach, to help. Most people can't wait to tell their stories. And what amazing stories I've heard. 

What's great about my job is that if I ever wonder about something (How does fish stocking work? How is gold made? Are comedians funny in "real life?") I can just set up an interview, ask my questions, take a couple of photos, and write about it. My job is basically talking to people, writing down what they say, going back to the office, and trying to find a creative way to get their tale out to the world (ok, out to Timmins and surrounding area.)

This Earth Day, my first assignment involved taking some photos of some students picking up garbage at a local conservation area. I later visited a dairy farm for an article I wrote about agriculture in Northern Ontario, and spent the afternoon walking around the farm, chatting with a farmer and taking pictures of cows. Realizing suddenly what time it was, I quickly stripped off my coveralls and drove into town to meet the Minister of Community and Social Services at the opening of a new women's shelter. It was only after I shook her hand and chatted with her for a while that I noticed the slight stench of cow manure and litter.

It was only recently that the freedom, flexibility, and just total awesome-ness of my job hit me. 

Assigned a story on a circus coming through town, I made arrangements to interview the elephant trainer backstage. Standing behind an arena, on a beautiful sunny day, an Asian elephant named Limba sauntered over and sniffed me gently with her massive trunk. Later, as she plucked jelly beans from my hand (as I screamed a little inside) I realized my job totally freaking rocks.

All in a day's work. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For the mamas of the world

Tonight I watched a show about mothers in the wild, and cried. 

Lionesses tried to protect their babies as a new leader took over the pride and killed all of the cubs so he could start the pack fresh. In the end, the big, strong male won out and the pain was visible on the mama lion's face as her babies were killed. 

After a baby elephant was born, it was immediately surrounded by aunts, cousins, and fellow family members. They encircled the little one for two days while it struggled to gain it's new legs. Not even a bull trying to mount one of the aunties could tear the group of ladies away from this cute, new little one. Eventually, the male pulled a temper tantrum and kicked the baby, to be met with angry grunts and shoves by the gals. He finally gave up (and probably went to watch the hockey game.) Odds are, he didn't get any that night. 

A female lemur gave birth just as her pack was moving on. With her baby too weak to hang onto her underbelly, she was forced to choose between the pack and her new little one. It was clear that choosing the pack meant survival, but as her little one lay there whimpering, she urged him over and over to latch onto her fur. After what seemed like forever, she hesitantly left her baby. Her survival instinct was stronger than her maternal one, but not by much. It was obvious that it took everything that animal had to leave her dying baby behind. 

Finally, I watched in wonder as a mommy orangutan taught her baby how to find termites using a long stick. As the little one watched intently, its mama demonstrated her technique, then handed the stick to her baby to try. With great patience, she did this over and over again, until finally, her baby was successful. They celebrated with squeals and hugs. 

As the program ended, there was a shot of a baby orangutan clinging onto its mother comfortably as she paddled along in a boat in a sanctuary. The final shot was the baby's tiny hand, wrapped around it's mama's finger. 

As my eyes welled up with tears, I realized the message of the show I had initially complained about watching. 

It turns out mamas aren't so different after all.

To all of the mamas in this world and the next, near and far away, in all of your sparkly, shiny, beautiful glory, who would do anything in the world for your babies, who have experienced a love and a bond so deep I can't even begin to imagine - this one's for you. 

Happy Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dinner conversation

Me: Pop, this chili tastes different...good, but different.
Him: Yeah, I didn't have a spice pack...
Me: So you just played it by ear?
Him: Ya, I went totally balls-to-the-wall. It was crazy.
(Keeps eating nonchalently as I try to stop the spicy hot meal from coming out of my nose.)
Him (looking up and realizing I am in hysterics): What, you never heard that before? You need to get out more.

I beg to differ, Popsie. The entertainment here suits me just fine.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Family vacation

A couple of weeks ago, my Pop, Gilly and I all piled into the car early (and I mean EARLY. 5:30 am early.) and headed west to a little piece of heaven called Sioux Lookout. 

I knew it would be an amazing trip, because we were going to a beautiful place to visit wonderful people. Uncle John and Auntie Teddy's place has become known as Paradise, because that's exactly what it is. There are gift baskets laid out in our individual accommodations, which makes it feel like a resort. A laid back resort where time doesn't exist, and days are measured by mealtimes, cocktail hours, and the sun coming up over the horizon. 
You think I'm exaggerating. But I'm not.

Here's a little snippet of our family road trip, the first in almost 10 years. 

An Easter road trip from Kate McLaren on Vimeo.

Congratulations to Biller, who survived 14 hours in a vehicle with two daughters craving chocolate and prone to the occasional irrational outburst (I'm so BORRREDDDD!!!) in a high pitched, whiny voice. 
Pop, I think it's safe to say that you deserve a medal, but deep down, I think you enjoyed the trip just as much as we did.