Friday, June 26, 2020

Karen: The Family We Choose (2008-2015)

This is the 2nd post (the first post is here, if you missed it) taking a look back through my personal photo archives for pictures of our dear Karen, who we lost last week to cancer. As before, dates are approximate based on my shaky memory. 

I chose a grouping from 2008 to 2015 for a couple of reasons. It's when informal Winesdays became the Winesday/MANday (Musical Appreciation Night) scheduled events. It's when I started blogging (2008) and when I really began to record events for posterity. If my memory is shaky now, I can't imagine how it will be in 10-20 years! It all kind of blurs together after a while (I see some of you nodding), and I wanted to be able to look back and really remember things. 

Some of these events were blogged more fully in posts; I'll link where appropriate. 

December 2009 - It's Festivus! We had a shiny pole, and had a "Feats of Strength" competition (arm-wrestling). Everyone got sick after this party - who knew all that hand-touching would...oh, yes, we all know this now. Original post here, although I barely posted any pictures of the actual party.
Some of the party attendees, including from left: my former boss, Joanne, Karen, Allison, former coworker Natasha (sitting), Chris, Sherylyn (just behind Chris), Caro and Yvonne. 

Here's Karen about to wrestle Allison. 
Look at those pythons on Karen! However, she did lose to Allison, who went on to win the Women's prize.

L and Nick facing off.
Randall providing the "ready, steady, go", with various onlookers. I spy Ross, someone??, Justin and Joel.

My photo labels tell me this is from June 2009, and it certainly looks like a party at our place. It's likely L's birthday.
Caro and Karen, rather a-glow (our condo gets very hot in the summer with a houseful of people). In decor notes, I see we have finally redone our kitchen cupboards. Phew!

I included this picture from January 2010 because it was one that both Karen and I found hilarious.
It's probably a post-MANday picture, both of our men completely crashed out and asleep on the couch.

This is one of our Book Club meetings, in January 2010.
That's me on the left, next to Karen, then Mindy, Sherylyn, Cat, Caro (this is at her house), and Daisy.

For L's 40th birthday in 2010, we threw a Miami Dolphins-themed party (link to my original post here). We decorated with aqua, orange and white streamers and balloons, and requested that all guests wear those colours.
From left, Spence, Nick and Casey. L is in his Dan Marino jersey and a hat he's still wearing 10 years later.

Karen wore a gorgeous turquoise lace dress with pearl accents and an orange bracelet.
Helene looks resplendent in her orange dress.

Karen's friend Yim and her husband Steve must have been in town.
It's a June party - everyone's glowy!
Aw, I miss Yim. She is a sweetheart, but they don't live in Victoria anymore.

A couple of shots of our dear couple.
You can see we had some of L's Dolphins jerseys hanging at the entrance to our library.
Nick can never resist a smooch, even when he has a glass of beer in his hand. He's a smoochy guy.

My birthday party, in October 2010. I nabbed pictures of all my lovely female friends, but only joined in one.

Karen was queen of the fascinators, in addition to always having the perfect dress for any occasion!

December 2010 - must be one of our Christmas parties.
Karen and Helene.
Karen's accessories often featured steampunk elements - it was a style that really appealed to her.

June 2011, likely another one of L's birthday parties.
Karen was often part of the Gauntlet in our galley kitchen. I see Nick in the background (that's the dancing area - Nick likes to cut a rug).

This is from early August 2011, so this is probably a drink meet-up for Nick's birthday.
Yim and Steve are there! From left: Nick, Yim, Steve, Karen, L, Casey, me.

Who's taking the picture?
Andrew! There he is, with Karen snuggled up to him. We were at Vista 18, overlooking the city.

Spence, Kim and their daughter (they only had one then!) came over for a visit in August 2011, so of course we met up for brunch. This is at Milestone's, overlooking the harbour.
From left: Nick, me, Kim, Eloise, Spence, L and Karen.

Looking across the table.
Spence, L and Karen.

And back at my side of the table.
Nick, me, Kim and El. Recognize my "lettuce" dress? I still have it! (See? Last May here).

In April 2012, we wrangled a group of us to attend the Victoria Steam Expo, for all things steampunk (bigass post here). There are tons of pictures at that link, as we did an Absinthe Tasting on the Friday night, followed by Saturday daytime and evening events.
Karen was very creative in costuming - she made nearly everything in both her and Nick's outfits.
The absinthe tasting was at the Union Club.
I love a woman who likes to dress up!
The two of us chilling out at the end of the evening.

Karen and I went to the Saturday daytime expo together at the Empress Hotel. Don't we look smashing?
This is the first time I remember just the two of us doing something together, and it was actually on Karen's birthday. We celebrated just by being together. Aw!

We met up with some of our friends at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress Hotel later on.
Elaine! She's on theme, but didn't attend any of events.

This is one of my favourite pictures of Nick and Karen.
You can see some of the great attention to detail that they put into their outfits.
We're all so danged fabulous!

One of Book Club meet-ups! We tend not to take pictures at Book Club - this is one that Kathryn hosted.
From left: Elaine, Kathryn, Mindy, Yvonne, Cat, me and Karen (so Caro took the picture).

New Year's Eve, January 2013.
A great black and white shot of Karen and Nick. This must be one of Randall's (thank you!), as he sent us a huge whack of pictures from his cell phone a while back, and they've been all mixed up with my picture archive.

March 2013 - brunch at Swan's.
The cutest couple ever!

This in April 2013, on the steps of Victoria High School.
We're all geared up for our Saturday morning Ultimate Frisbee. Karen, Chris' eldest son Kevin played with us sometimes, and I loved it when Ali played.

This is around the time that we started to officially plan all of our long weekends to include a hang-out with our Winesday/MANday crew, solidifying the "family we choose" ethic.
The whole gang: going clockwise, starting with Randall in the white shirt: Randall, Ross, Nick, L, Cat, Yvonne, me, Karen, Justin and Vero. 

The gals hung out together first. Caro brought her "butt ruffle" (it's a purse!), which of course, we all had to try on. 

Now that I see all these pictures together, it's the first time I've seen Karen repeat a dress! 
"Does this make my butt look big?"
Hilarity ensued.
I'm not sure what Vero is doing, but we are all rather wacky folks, ha ha!

The menfolk joined us later. This is at Canoe Club on the water. 

We always have such good times. 

All of us again.

Somewhere in these years, our Winesday "Core Four" expanded from me, Cat, Caro and Vero to include Karen and Yvonne (the "Thick Six"). Winesdays are planned around us.

This is in October 2013, from Chris' surprise birthday party at the Bard & Banker Pub.

  • In front: Chris, Ali, Caro.
  • Middle: Karen, Nick, Casey, Yvonne, Vero, me, Cat
  • Back: Randall, L, Ronnie, Justin, Ross and Andrew

My birthday party in October 2013 was legendary (original post link here). It was a 70s-themed party.
Yeah, that's me, going full-on disco baby!

But wouldn't you know, someone let the punk rockers in!
So much attitude.

Karen never went for half-measures, from her punked-out eye make-up to her safety pin "piercings".
So badass.

Nick is English (sexy accent and all).
He really got into being a punk!

Me and Karen - I know this is one of Randall's shots, because I was definitely too tipsy to take any!
I simply can't be friends with people who won't dress up.

Another shot by Randall.
Ali and Karen, drinking scotch and wine, respectively.

All the women at the 70s party.
From left: former coworkers Liz and Alex, Vero, Caro (on the back of the couch), me, Karen, Ali, Dawn and...I'm not even sure who those last 3 people are. Heh, must have been a good party.

My wonderful girlfriends nominated me for the Annual (which turned out to be a one-off) Unlimited Woman Awards as an Unlimited Woman of Style. We all went to the awards at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, in November 2013 (original post here). I didn't win, but we had a blast.
Karen, Tracy and Elaine. I styled Tracy (and Cat, and Yvonne) for the event.

After the awards, we made nuisances of ourselves in the lobby of the hotel.
Karen and Caro, with Cat leaning over and Elaine on her way.

And there's Yvonne (that's her wedding dress!) and Tracy.
We were so loud and filled with rambunctious spirit.

Many thanks to the OBBH employee who volunteered to take pictures of us.
From left: Yvonne, Karen, Cat, Elaine, Caro, Vero, Tracy, me.

Wait, let me get comfortable.
That's better.

From the event photo-booth.
I so love this wonderful group of women, with all my heart. 

Our New Year's Eve seeing in 2013 was spent at Cafe Brio.
I had many issues with their service, but any event where we are all together can't be all bad.

We went to our first Victoria Film Festival Gala - at Elaine's instigation - in February 2014 (massive post here, so many pictures!).
Karen and Elaine in the Andy Warhol section - the theme was the 60s.

Nick and Karen - another pic from Randall.
Nick, don't blink!

A Winesday picture from May 2014.
We're at Yvonne and Randall's place.

This is probably a Book Club, from August 2014.
Karen and Elaine, separated by a large pillow.

In October 2014, L and I threw a big Hallowe'en party (link here).
We're doing Beetlejuice! We both wore our costumes to work that day, I recall.

Karen did steampunk.
As did Nick.
Since they had all that gear from the 2012 Steam Expo, that totally makes sense.

One of my coworkers gave me a gift certificate for a 6-person limo ride - Jordan, I remain eternally grateful to you and Katrina for gifting that to me. I booked in in March 2015, and it is one of our most memorable Winesday Women events, ever. Original post here, loads more pictures.
We met up with our guys (and Linda!) at the Garrick's Head Pub afterward.

It was a rainy day, but we started our morning with "special" coffees in the limo.
Karen and Yvonne.

Me, attempting to do a selfie (poorly).
Oh, man, that was just the giggliest of giggle-fests.

We stopped at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel to use the washrooms.
Karen, Yvonne, Vero, Cat, me, Caro.
Aw, my dear, dear friends.

And we drove to the top of Mt. Tolmie.
Karen hiding under her brolly.
Cat looking on. We had the whole place to ourselves, shockingly.
I love this picture of us!

Outside the Garrick's Head, at the end of our 2-hour tour around the city (of which we saw very little, due to the rain).
Posing with our limo driver, who we tipped generously.

An annual event we do is L's birthday week Day of Indolence. This is from June 2015 (link here, oodles of pictures of our adventures).
We're at Spinnakers Pub.

Action shot!
From left: Caro, Cat, Ross, L, Nick, Randall, me, Yvonne and Karen.

Moving on to the Delta's patio.
Such a lovely day. Karen, Randall, Yvonne, L and Ross.

Nick moved in for a hug.
Aw, such sweethearts.
I love this picture.

We do love to take silly pictures.
And we do like our pubs.
Here we are near the end of a long day, at the Drake.
L and Karen.

Do we have enough mojo for one more action shot?
You know we do! Yeah, baby!

I made a fan for Karen, completed in 2015 (here, progress and completed pictures).
I know it meant a lot to her - she displayed it.

I don't know what month is was, but it's summer 2015 and we're in Marian's hot tub!
That was a hilarious night. From left: Karen, Caro, Vero, Marian, me.

August 2015 - definitely a Winesday, and it's at my house.
My dearest friends, my sisters: Caro, Karen, Cat, Vero, and Yvonne.

So much love. Please raise a glass: To the Family We Choose!

My next and final post for Karen will go up on Sunday, and will cover from 2016 to the present.


  1. Just beautiful. You chose your family well. There is so much love, happiness, energy and fun in these photos. I am sure she will be terribly missed, but what memories you have to help with your grief. Thank you for sharing this. Lynette x

    1. Thank you, Lynette. Writing these and sharing my pictures is helping me process my grief and reminds me how lucky I've been.

  2. Oh my! The smiles, the joy, and the energy are wonderful and feel very special. A life well lived; she is always with you just in a different way. As Lynette said thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Laurel. Yes, we have so many good memories of our time. So many great times!

  3. What totally fabulous photos! And what a beautifully stylish woman Karen was. At least as well as your memories you have these wonderful photos to look back on.

    1. She was amazing, Vronni, and we miss her so. I'm glad I have done these posts, to remember her by.

  4. I've really enjoyed seeing these photos, Sheila. It must have taken you ages (and many tears) to decide which ones to share. What a lovely (and happy) way to remember Karen. xxx

    1. Ha, this is almost all of them, Vix. I don't take pictures at every event, so the few I have are precious. Thank you, my dear.

  5. What a lovely way to remember and appreciate the time you spent together. I can imagine it would have been bittersweet for you to go through your photo archives and select these photos, but I'm sure this is helping you in your grief! Sending lots of hugs xxx

    1. It was hard to go through them, Ann. It has really helped me, though. Thank you, my dear friend.

  6. It's so good you have all these pics to look back on and while you have shared your adventures on your blog over time as they happened it's so nice seeing all the pics together. What a great group of friends, I know Karen will be missed very much.

    1. Thanks, Mica, I agree. I love seeing all my wonderful friends, and remembering all the good times. We miss her so much.

  7. What a wonderful tribute. I'm sure you both laughed and cried putting this together. Hugs.

  8. When we lose someone close, pictures like this become incredibly important. They're a way to hang on to past experiences. Thanks for sharing these; your friends sure know how to have fun.

    1. We really do, Ally! It's been so therapeutic to go through these and remember everything.

  9. The family we choose- these people are so special to us!
    Shiela, I loved seeing your lovely photos and all the party fun you and your friends had! X

  10. what a beautiful family you choose! You have had some fantastic moments together your family of friends.... I'm sure you'll have many more and Karen will be there with you in spirit. When we love someone, they are always there with us in a way. This is a wonderful tribute to Karen. I loved seeing you and your friends in all of them. Karen looked incredible in her punk rock and steam punk outfits, she dressed up so well.

    1. I so agree, Ivana. We've been so lucky and this only increases my gratitude and appreciation for the times we still have. She will always be with us.

      I know, I love those two dress-up events. What a badass!

  11. Gosh it must be hard for you to write these post. It s hard for me and I didn t even knew her. But I cant deal with dead anyway. I hate it when people who are so lovely pass away to early. But the parties you have with your friends are amazing! I would love to go to parties like that!

    1. It's hard, but it's also good, Nancy. It's helping me work through this, and it's good for those who knew her (and those who didn't) to remind us to never take our time for granted. Our parties are legendary.

  12. More lovely pictures - thank you for sharing them, Sheila. What a wonderful "family"!

  13. What a wonderful family of friends, I adore this. And Karen's smile just shines through.

    1. She was such a beautiful light, Krysten. Thank you.

  14. Oh what a wonderful group of friends. I got all choked up. And how you must miss Karen. Such a wonderful unique person who really got into the dressing up thing, you are so fond of.
    Lovely tribute Sheila.

    1. They really are amazing, Greetje, I love them all so much. Thank you.

  15. what a wonderful post!, love the idea of our friends as 'the family we choose' as it's so damn true, and it's so moving too!
    besos & abrazos

    1. Thank you, Monica - these people are my family, truly.

  16. thank god for your blog dear friend<3 xoxocaro

  17. Karen and Nik were stellar at putting together outfits for themed events! I would imagine her absence will leave a sizeable hole in the lives of those who loved her. Thank goodness you captured so many of the times you were together on film. I remember when a very dear friend of mine passed away in his 30's I searched everywhere for any photo I had of the two of us together and unfortunately, there weren't very many.

    1. Yes, they were such a good pair for any dress-up event! She does leave a huge hole, Shelley, and I'm so happy I took a lot of pictures. Oh no, that would be the worst! I'm so sorry.


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