Sunday, June 28, 2020

Karen: Grace, Giddiness and Gratitude (2016-2020)

This is the 3rd and final post looking back and remembering our dear friend Karen, who left us last week following a short battle with cancer (1st post here, and 2nd post here). Any errors on dates are my own shaky memory. 

I've titled this entry "Grace, Giddiness and Gratitude" as that was how Karen lived her life. As I've gone through my pictures and written these posts, it's helped me come to terms with losing this vibrant life, and it's also helping our friends process their grief. I laugh and cry when I see these, and it reminds me to find grace, reach for giddiness (embracing the silly!), and to ever be grateful for the wonderful people in my life. 


L and I hosted New Year's Eve! 
Give her a smooch, Nick!

As always, our parties are a blur. As a group, we have been celebrating New Year's Eve together for close to 15 years.
Ali, Cat, Karen, me.

These people - all of them - are my favourite humans.
Ross, Cat, Karen and Nick.

Damn, my friends are good-lookin'!
Karen (fab Fluevogos!), Yvonne and Ali, being sexy!

Ross, L and Karen.
You can see some of L's vast CD collection. He has close to 2,000. I get clothes, he gets CDs.

Nick, Karen and Ross.
Right back atcha, Nickers.

Ah, a good picture - this must be from Randall's collection (thank you!).
Me, Ali and Karen.

In February, the world-famous Empress Hotel's Bengal Lounge shut down (article here), so we all decided to go send her off in fashion. Original post here, lots of pictures.

Randall, how much do you love Karen?
"This much!"

Look at that fabulous outfit.
I love the faux fur and the clip!

Karen loved fascinators and hats.
She had an amazing jewelry collection as well.

I always spent a few minutes when I saw her inventorying all the interesting aspects of her outfits.
She kept Nick in sartorial splendor too.

Cat and Karen.
That was such a fun afternoon, catching up with everyone.

In April, Yvonne's husband accidentally included her on her surprise 50th  birthday party invitation (ha!), so we invited her along on our planned paper-flower-making afternoon. It actually was even better to have us all together. Original "Crafternoon" post here.
Yvonne, Cat, me, Vero, Karen, Caro.

Look at all the flowers! It was so much fun making these.
That just fills my heart with happiness.

We had an assembly-line system, but also drank wine and ate appies.
Karen, me, Caro, Cat.

An April Winesday at Caro's place. We always congregate in the kitchen!
I spy Ali and Karen in front, then clockwise: Nancy, Marian, Cat, Yvonne, me, Vero, Linda and Elaine - and of course, Caro, taking it. 

Caro, Cat and Karen. 
That green/white sweater is from my giveaway pile - I recognize it.

We celebrated L's birthday with our annual Day of Indolence (original post here, oodles of pictures).
Karen and Cat at the Garrick's Head Pub. \

Wait, let me in there!
Aw, my gals.

Caro met up with at the Drake.
She's wearing one of my old coats, ha ha! I love it when my friends wear my clothes.

We met up for Canada Day at the Garrick's Head again.
Nick, Karen, Yvonne and Linda.

We always wear red and white for the Canadian flag.
I see you, Ross, plus Cat, Yvonne and Karen - love her polka dots!

We have the most fun at Winesday - this one is at Linda's in July.
Everyone needs to twirls in giant skirts! Yvonne, Karen and Caro...this makes me grin.


For a January Winesday, I did everyone's nails.
I'm not even sure who's hand is whose, but I know Karen's is in there!

One of our favourite annual events for the past several years has been the Victoria Film Festival Opening Night Gala. It's so much fun to dress up, see a movie and then party with friends and other fabulous folks - and it's a good cause. We go every year!

The original post is here (scads of pictures). When the host spotted us in the audience at the theatre, he noted, "Oh, good, the colourful people are here!" and waved at us.
We are always standouts in a crowd. Vero (love that jacket), Karen and Cat (wearing one of my old dresses).

That was such a fun night.
Karen, me and Linda (plus Cat's leg).

Karen and Ross.
Love Karen's blue and green palette - and that hat! 

These pictures are among my very favourites of me and Karen. 
They show our deep love...

...and our silly sides.
I'm looking at you, you fabulous woman.

Karen, me and Linda.
The theme was Floral - did you figure it out?

We do love a photobooth!
Nick and Karen.

And one more for good luck.
Aw, my beautiful friend.

Another tradition we have developed is the Long Weekend Gathering. Yvonne and Randall pick the venue, send out the email and we all meet up for food and drinks. This is from the May Victoria Day long weekend (original post here, more pictures).
I love this picture of Yvonne and Karen - so much laughter and love.

Karen and Casey.
Yeah, baby!

Walking back to town.
L, Cat, Ross and Karen.

This picture is an iconic one of the Winesday Women. Marian hosted at her new property - they were breaking ground for their pool here, and we decided it would be an excellent idea to clamber on the machinery and rocks with glasses of wine (!) and also, why not take a picture?
From left: Sara, Cat, Linda, Yvonne, Alison, me, Vero, Karen, Nancy, Marian, Caro

This is actually a picture by Karen (who was a prolific and very talented photographer), although Sarah and I figured out the timer for this! I love this picture so much.

A random shot from a Winesday that I hosted in July. I often do a clothing giveaway, and tried to talk Karen into taking this dress.
She ultimately passed, but at least I have the picture.

For me and Karen, one of the things that really brought us together is that we both played Ultimate Frisbee (a quick link here if you don't know what this sport is). A group of us have been playing together for a spring/summer/fall season since 1999!

We play at Victoria High School. It's a friends-only group - you have to be invited to play - that has evolved over 20 years, but has always included Nick and Karen and me and L.
There's Karen in the middle on the stairs, as we all arrive and get our cleats on. Behind her is Greg, Mac is in blue, Lisa, Chris and Cory.

We divide up our teams so that they are relatively equal in skill levels and strengths. Karen and I rarely got to be on the same team, but when we did, we loved it. I was her quarterback, sending arcing long discs for her to pluck out of the air, scoring a point in the end zone. She was my Jerry Rice (football reference, Wiki link here - he was an amazing Wide Receiver), and I often called her "Jerry!" She rarely dropped the disc - she had magic hands. When we scored a point together, we'd run at each other and bump chests - it was our thing.
Karen, with Lisa and Andrew (all in white). That's my team walking away in shame, as team white has scored.

She ran me ragged when I had to cover her - she could dance away from any coverage with nimble feet and an effortless burst of speed.
Out of breath at the end of a two-hour game, Mac, Nick and Karen.

Who's in for lunch after?
Nick is usually in, and we'd walk Karen partway home on our way to the diner.

Here's all of us after the game.
From left: Zeb, Mac, Stephen, Cory, guy-in-green-who-didn't-come-out-much, Karen, Nick, Greg and Lisa. L was off looking at a car he didn't buy, but he usually played.

With me in it, holding the disc.
Lisa and I probably tag-teamed Karen, as neither of us could cover her for long.

The above pics and the below ones are from the same long weekend in August (original post here, loads of pictures).

This was at the deck at the Delta for Ross' birthday, as well as the long weekend.
Karen and Ross, who is in his "rocker" wig.

Look at these awesome people.
Yvonne's wearing an old dress of mine.

This was a hiliarious Winesday at Linda's.
Karen, Linda, me and Yvonne.

These women are so amazing.
From bottom left: Ali, Karen, Grace, Yvonne, Vero, me, Cat and...Caro's arm, I think? I think she took this.


We started 2018 with one of the most legendary adventures of the Thick 6 Winesday Women: we went on vacation together. Everyone convinced me (I was the holdout) to go to Mt. Washington, an alpine resort up-Island. I was promised I could hide indoors and read and not have to go out in the snow. It didn't turn out that way at all - we were hit by a huge snowstorm and the mountain was closed for the first time ever! It was an amazing adventure to look back on, but very stressful in the moment.

The original bigass post is here (so fun to look back on - tons of pictures).
Cat, Vero, Caro, Yvonne, Karen

We have arrived! Look at all that gear! I ended up borrowing a pair of snowpants from Karen, as I don't own any cold-weather gear.

No, I do not have goggles.
Karen, Yvonne and Vero (?)

I didn't plan on going outdoors at all.

I enjoyed our first night - here we are having dinner in our lovely chalet.
Caro, Vero, Yvonne, Cat, Karen, me

But we woke up to this.
Karen, ever-adventurous, had already been out to take pictures.

She also braved the deck and fixed our satellite dish, so that we could see the news - we were on it!
Not us, specifically, but the whole "Mt. Washington is closed - snow storm!" was the main story.

Digging out the rental (the Tiguan!) and Caro's truck.
I did very little of this digging (no gear), but I made dinner, gave neck and hand massages, and untangled all the snarls out of Yvonne's hair.

Our group photo in front of the very-disgusting gnome on our way back.
Cat, Vero, Yvonne, Karen, Caro, me

It was a bonding experience for all of us. We realized how close we were and how grateful we were for our friendship. We could handle anything together.

The annual Victoria Film Festival is upon us! It's February and the theme is Scottish. We're all mad for plaid. Original post here, with (shocking!) a ton of pictures.
Cat, Yvonne and Karen.

Plus me.
How fabulous we all look.

Where's the photobooth?
Karen and Cat.

Wait, get me and Yvonne in there with Karen.
Yvonne's wearing my old skirt (and her first pair of Fluevogs!).

Our men also look wonderful.
Ross, Nick, Karen and L.

We were all so fabulous that one of the local papers put this picture of us on their front page.
Cat, me, Karen, Yvonne and Elaine.

Urbanite events at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria are also some of our favourite gatherings. This one was 80s themes, and oh yes, we brought it. Original post here (more pics!).

Me, Karen and Cat, looking fab, chicks!
I've crimped my hair, Karen's gone punk, and Cat's just too cool for school (she's wearing my old leather/crochet top), rocking her side-pony.

Nick and Karen.
In which we discover that Nick looks very good in Karen's leather pants!
"Dammit, he looks better in them than I do!" I remember her joking.

No idea who took this one.
Me, L, Nick and Karen.

I am pretty sure these were the only punks there.
Such badasses!

Karen, Cat and I posing.!
What are you doing, strange person?

In April, we met up at the Delta again for a hangout.
Yvonne and Karen.

Cat, Karen and Yvonne.
We had so many of these weekend meet-ups. They are always such a good chance to catch up and touch base.

In May we did our first Winesday Wee Tea with the Thick 6 plus Alison, to celebrate Yvonne's, Caro's, Ali's and Karen's birthdays, which all within a month of each other. Original post here (so many pictures!).
We all dressed up (of course). Caro (in one of my old dresses!), and Karen. Birthday gals!

All of us at the White Heather Tea Room.
From left: Yvonne, Ali, Karen, Caro, Cat, me, Vero.

Cat and Ross had just gotten their new car.
I love that Karen climbed inside the car to see if you could sleep in it...and she did it in her tea outfit. Oh my gosh, we laughed so much. 

A random shot of Chris and Karen, at L's birthday party. 
Karen looks so fabulous.

This is our Canada Day meet-up.
Karen loved her fries, ha ha!

The whole gang on the patio at the Fernwood Inn.
From Karen, clockwise: Cat, Ross, Justin, me, Caro, Vero, Randall, Nick, L.

A summer Winesday at Cat's place, eating Ali's Midnight Nachos (famous!).
From left: Linda, Elaine, Yvonne, Karen, Caro, me, and hello, Baxter!

This was at Bart's Pub on the August long weekend.
Yvonne, Rosanna and Karen. 

We all went to see Frank Turner in September.
From left: Caro, Cat, Karen, Nick, Randall, Yvonne, Ross

We all gathered at Yates St. Taphouse beforehand for a bevvy and food.

And nabbed sweet seats at the Alix Goolden Hall.
Clockwise from left: Randall, Cat, me, Nick, Karen, Yvonne, L, Casey, Ross

We all have a deep and abiding love for music. Going to concerts, hanging out and listening to music, and dancing at parties - music is always part of our lives when we are together.
One of my favourite songs by Frank Turner is "Polaroid Picture" (YouTube link here), which has the following lyrics:

Let go of the little distractions 
Hold close to the ones that you love 
Cause we won't all be here this time next year 
So while you can, take a picture of us


So in the stillness of the moment 
Make sure you take a Polaroid picture 
And keep it with you forever 
To remind yourself that everything changes 
But there was this one time 
There was this one time 
When things were okay...

I think of us when I hear that song. You never know when things are going to change.

This is one of Randall's pictures, I think, from the November long weekend.
Nick and Karen practically running to join us at the Commons, with the Empress Hotel in the background.

And back to New Year's Eve, at Yvonne and Randall's.
Karen and Justin. 


The Victoria Film Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary with a Disco theme, and we had an absolute blast - the original post here, has so many pictures.
Me and Karen, looking fabulous in the theatre.

We did another Spring Birthday Tea in April, at the Abkhazi Gardens. Original post here, lots of pictures.
Ali was on vacation, so it was just the Thick 6, from left: Karen, Yvonne, Caro, Vero, me, Cat.

Our birthday gals.
Karen, Yvonne (in on of my old dresses), and Caro.

Happy Birthday, my dear, dear friends.
Now eat some scones! 

While Karen was taking some Serious Pictures, Cat was up to saucy shenanigans.
I remember this day so vividly.

Posing in the gardens.
Yvonne, Caro, Cat, Karen, me.

What a gorgeous day. 
We'd asked some other visitors to take pictures of us - this must be from Karen, as my camera doesn't take crisp pictures like this.

We walked to the Fairfield Pub and met up with our men after. 
Yvonne, Cat, Karen, me and Caro, who took this.

Karen, with Ross and L, at the September long weekend hang-out.
This is at Splash Lounge (L and Linda did go in the pool!).
I think these are Randall's pictures. There he is with Ross and Karen.

The Silver Style Party at the local Fluevog store was another chance for us to dress up and hang out. It was so much fun - original post here.
You know we can't resist a photo booth!

We each got a strip of photos - mine are on my fridge where I can see them every day.
Me, Cat, Karen and Yvonne.
We even match - all our outfits are semi-coordinated. 

With Randall looking spiffy in his rocker shirt.
Souls Rejoice!

Randall took loads of pics of us too.
Eee! We're going to meet John Fluevog! He's in the grey jacket.

I love the behind-the-scenes picture.
Ross is looking on.

Karen and Nick.
So freakin' fabulous. 

Our last Urbanite in September (there would have been one in March if not for the pandemic).
Me, Karen and Yvonne. 
And Karen and Yvonne. Photos by Randall.


And here we go. These are the last pictures from when we were all together, at the Victoria Film Festival Gala (where we all met Bill Nighy!). Original post here.
The really clear pictures are from a roving professional photographer. Karen and Cat, looking resplendent.

We made YAM Magazine's spread.
Me, Yvonne, Randall and L (dang, that is one creepy mask).

Karen's dress was amazing.
Those cream elements were swooshy panels! 

And then COVID hit. Except for a couple of precious times, our interactions were now through weekly Zoom calls. 
Clockwise from top left: Nick and Karen, Justin and Vero, Randall and Yvonne, Caro and Ronnie, Cat and Ross (L and I didn't have a camera on our computer for a while).

When we first heard that Karen's cancer had come back, L and I did a walk-by to see her.
This was in April.
We had no idea things would move so quickly for her.

Flowers from Yvonne and Randall in April.
L and I, and Ali and Chris, are there now too.

So good to see you guys.
We enjoyed a beverage and just basically hung out. We all look forward to Ross' wig choices!

A Winesday Women touch-base Zoom call. 
From upper left: Vero, me, Karen, Yvonne, Caro, Cat. Aw, my dear friends.

In April, for Karen's birthday, we had a not-yet-approved very cautious distanced gathering, so that we could see Karen in person. Original post here, lots of pictures.
Randall very far apart from L, and Karen talking to Vero, wrapped in a blanket.

Andrew talking to Cat.
Nick on the ground, among the daisies, and Karen in a chair.

It's good to feel the sunshine on your face.
And be with your friends, who love you.

This is the last picture I have of Karen, taken less than two weeks ago.
We will never forget you, my darling dearest. You will always be with us, in our hearts.

My friends, thank you so much for reading, for crying along with me, and for letting me pay tribute to this wonderful woman who left us too soon. Live your life to the fullest, live in the moment, and hold close to the ones that you love, with grace, giddiness and gratitude. 


  1. Your post did make me cry. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  2. Thank you for sharing your precious memories, take care and keep safe, may Karen rest in peace. All my love alison from japan

  3. I am crying, Sheila - I thank you again for allowing me to share your memories of your beautiful and amazing friend. You remind me that I have so much to be grateful for. Love Alli from Canberra, Australia

    1. Aw, I'm sorry, Alli, but thank you so much for caring about my dear friend. Treasure the time you have with your friends and family - and be grateful.

  4. Oh Sheila I know how hard it must be ending this series = I have enjoyed this look back at your stylish self, your stylish friends but most of all, the fun times you've had! It's so good you have these memories, Karen was a wonderful person and I am so very sorry for your loss.

    1. Hugs, and thank you, Mica! It's been hard writing this, but has really helped me see what a loving family we have, and it's reminded me of so many good times. Thanks, my dear friend.

  5. It's heartbreaking, Sheila. I look at these beautiful pictures and I ask how can this wonderful friend of yours be not in the world. We can't fathom the mystery of it. You've done a great job making a gorgeous pictorial tribute to Karen. It makes me feel vulnerable in the world but also incredibly grateful and connected. Blessings to you and your friends in your loss. Hugs x

    1. That's how I feel too, Juliana. How can someone so alive just be gone? Thank you so much for your kind words.

  6. I'm so very sorry for your and your friends' loss. What a wonderful tribute to Karen. She couldn't have had a truer friend. Wishing you peace.

    1. Thank you, Susan. I'm grateful that I have this way to pay her tribute.

  7. Great times together, wonderful photos to remember them. Hang in there, buddy. You have my sympathies.

    1. Thank you, Ally. I'm so grateful to have such amazing friends. *hug*

  8. I wish I had been able to meet her, she sounds like such a wonderful person. And it looks like you have such a wonderful group of framily (friends/family).

    1. She was a hoot, Krysten, so much fun to be with. I miss her so much. We have an amazing group here.

  9. woww, so moving to read your posts, dear Sheila!.
    Totally agree that your friends are Awesome and that we have not to take anything for granted and enjoy every moment!

    1. obviously, I was trying to write that we Have to enjoy every moment!

    2. Thank you for reading them, Monica. Living in the moment, living life to its fullest - losing Karen reminds me to LIVE.

  10. What an amazing tribute to Karen. How wonderful that you have all these wonderful memories and photos that you've shared with friends. Sending hugs, dear Sheila.

  11. Your tributes to Karen have been truly lovely, Sheila. Sending you and your gang lots of love and hugs. xxx

    1. Thanks, Vix. I'll be back to commenting soon. Thank you so much for the good vibes.

  12. How totally sad this was but also such a splendid tribute to a lovely woman. I was in tears by the end and in the very last picture how radiant Karen looked; even though she was so seriously ill. Thank God for cameras and phones with cameras' all those wonderful memories captured forever.

    Take care

    1. It was sad to write and it makes me cry to read it, but thank you so much, Vronni. I'm so glad we have the ability to share all these photos.

  13. Your gang certainly knows how to have fun! Karen looks radiant in each and every one of these pictures. I'm glad she was able to live life to the full almost until the very end, and that here suffering was relatively brief. She'll live on in your hearts forever! xxx

    1. Don't we, though, Ann? It makes me so happy to look back and see all the good times we've had. Karen is going to be missed so much, but being able to share these...she will always be here. I'm very grateful that it all happened so quickly, although of course, it's been really hard on those of us left behind. Thank you.

  14. I am so very sorry for your loss Sheila, for your all friends within your chosen family group, and to Nick. What a beauty tribute you have paid to your dearest Karen and her life. Sending you love.

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel. I miss her so much.

    2. Your tribute to Karen is so beautifully put together. All of the pictures are such wonderful treasures. The world needs more cool and awesome people like Karen. I'm so sorry for your loss. Sending much love and light to you. Take care.

  15. Oh dear Sheila, you gave Karen such a beautiful tribute. I cried with you. You and Logan have a amazing group of friends.

    1. Thanks so much, Nancy. I'm so glad I'm able to do this for my friend.

  16. You have SOOOOO many amazing pictures of you and Karen together with friends. I'm not sure I could say the same about me and my friends. She really was stylish- you too have so many amazing outfits between you! I love the 50th birthday flowers- they are absolutely stunning! Such a beautiful thing to do for a celebration!
    Thanks for sharing your memories of Karen- it really is wonderful that you had such a great friendship and so many happy times.xx

    1. Thanks, Kezzie, I'm glad you enjoyed this. I'm so grateful for all these pictures to remember all the good times by. We are a very stylish group, for sure! Those flowers were so much fun to make, what a great day that was.

  17. A life well lived!!
    What beautiful pictures you have of your dear friend.
    A wonderful way to remember and honor her.
    Love and peace to you!

  18. Shiela, this is so beautiful! I'm teary again! The love and silly fun is so evident between you and your friends. X

  19. You've written a very touching and beautiful trio of posts Sheila. I am so sorry for your loss of such a vibrant, dear friend.

    1. Thank you for reading them, Sue. She was one in a million.

  20. It is obvious that Karen's life was full of love, friendship and laughter, even if it was much too short. She also had a wonderful sense of style and wasn't afraid to stand out. The outfit she wore to the Bengal Lounge shutdown is just gorgeous - you two shared a love of dressing up that is to be treasured.

    1. We really did share that, Shelley. She was probably the most dressy with me out of our crew. I'm so glad to have known her.

  21. Thank you for sharing all the joy and laughter and love with us. I think it touches a chord with all of us about how precious is the love that we share with others. The moments don't last forever, but the love does!

    1. Thanks so much for your very sweet comment. The love always lasts.


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