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.