happiness

Power of Friendships

I have to pick up my mail at a drug store in the city. At first this seemed like kind of a pain, but Mercatos West is right beside it, and now when I need to pick up a parcel I usually walk through their deli and grab some fresh pasta (or a slice of chocolate cake that is to die for, let’s be real, we all know I get the cake every time).

The other day I was standing in line at the drug store waiting my turn while two older ladies were paying for their items. One went without any issues. When it was the second lady’s turn she couldn’t remember which card she used, or where to find it in her wallet. She was laughing, her friend was laughing and grabbed her wallet, but leaned over and helped her friend find her cards. Then the lady couldn’t figure out how to tap her card and burst into laughter again and announced this is what happens when you don’t leave the house for a year.

They grabbed their bags and continued to giggle while they left the store.

There is something about the older woman friendships that has always intrigued me. I want a circle of women with whom I can laugh and grow old – or perhaps laugh at how we are growing old – as we become adults there’s so much emphasis placed on “adulting” but not on how vitally important it is that we have fun and maintain happy and healthy friendships.

Maybe it’s because I was a teenager watching Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia eat cheesecake while supporting each other through life, but I always had a huge expectation that we would always have time to make for our friendships.

So, here’s to our old friends, our new friends, the dear ones, and the ones who drive us nuts. The older I get, the more I cherish the bonds I have with the amazing women in my life!

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happiness

Facing a bully

It should come to no surprise to those who know me that angry men intimidate me. I think as a single woman this would probably be true anyway, but I lived in a war zone with a man who raged at and threatened me on a regular basis, so there’s a lot of trauma that I’ve been working through since I left (thank goodness for therapy).

Yesterday when we were driving home we saw that there were tons of swans on the slough, and that there were tons of people stopped to watch them. It’s a happy sight for the most part, the swans have been missing the last few years, and since we have all been home more I know they bring joy to so many people.

As we drove by, there were a few people climbing the fence to go in the field to get closer to the swans. Trespassing isn’t really a great thing at the best of times, but there were two newborn calves right beside where everyone was climbing and it’s not a good idea to get between a mom and her baby.

So we stopped and asked the people to please stand on the outside of the field. They were super polite and apologetic – and like I said, I get it- seeing the swans is so exciting and we need a pick me up now more than ever.

But, as I was chatting with them, a man who was probably 10 years older than I am walked by us and started climbing the fence. I asked him politely to please not go into the field. He looked at me and kept climbing. I asked him again, and he said well, he was just going to walk along the road (in the field) then. I said no, the road was IN the field which made it trespassing, and pointed to the calves right beside him and explained that it wasn’t safe to be in the field with the calves.

He then asked me if I owned the land. I said yes (I don’t but it’s family land and I live right beside it). He said he didn’t believe me, and started yelling that he could do what he wanted because I was lying. I pointed to my house and said I lived right there and that he was welcome to follow me home if he didn’t believe me (while crapping my pants because who wants a crazy person following them home?). He said the only way he would stay out of the field is if he had proof it was my land. I responded by saying if it wasn’t my land why would I be standing here being an asshole? He stood there glaring at me for several more minutes before taking a quick photo and leaving.

As this was going down I heard the other people standing there laughing, and heard them comment what a rude person he was and how there was clearly a gender issue going on. I have to say, as things got deeper I was pretty glad I wasn’t there alone because that man was going out of his way to intimidate me.

So, here’s the happiness moment in this. First of all, I stood my ground to the man who was trying to intimidate and bully me. Secondly, I had some great conversations with the other people looking at the swans. Thirdly, the people besides “angry man” who were there were really kind and nice people who genuinely seemed to enjoy being out watching the swans. Finally, I got to see swans and calves which really along with crocuses (still haven’t seen this year) is my sure signs of spring.

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happiness

Born on the Fourth of July

Despite being a huge Tom Cruise fan in my younger days, I never watched Born on the Fourth of July. I think at that stage of my life I was much more interested in Cocktails and Risky Business than I was learning the story of a Vietnam Vet.

I chose to write about Ron Kovic for a paper I’m doing on trauma. I figured that since I’ve been fortunate enough to never experience war and the story was one that happened to a man in the 1960s that it would be less traumatic for me to watch.

Well, I was wrong.

After Ron Kovic is shot he gets sent to hospital in New York to recover. There were men lying in rows of beds completely at the mercy of the medical staff, many unable to move or advocate for themselves. It was easy to see that the staff was totally overwhelmed and were being asked to preform way beyond their abilities.

And I thought of my mom at 11 getting polio and being in a ward similar to that. She used to describe hearing the iron lungs and how terrifying that sound was, and how it was even more terrifying when the noise stopped because you soon learned what that meant.

The doctors came and told Ron that he would never be able to walk again, and they then showed him with absolute determination dragging himself on his crutches. They told my mom that she’d never sit up again until she sat up. They told her she’d never walk again and so she learned to walk with her crutches.

Although mom didn’t talk much (like never) about what things were like when she was sick, I grew up with what I thought was an understanding of the basics of what it was like.

After watching Born on the Fourth of July I now see that what I thought I understood wasn’t even the surface of what actually was. It’s given me a whole new appreciation of who mom was and how hard she worked to create a new life after losing so much.

Because at one point while she was in the hospital she had to make choices. She had to decide how she was going to be, what limits she was going to push, and who she was going to become. And she fought every single day of her life to push through and past the limits that were put on her.

Watching the movie was traumatizing for me, I cried the entire time I watched it and then had to just lie on the couch quietly for a few hours longer. I’ve never been that affected by a movie before, and I feel extreme gratitude for the lessons that it gave to me.

Fortunately I didn’t follow up that movie with Inside Out to fully examine my feelings.

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happiness

ICarly

When my kids were little they loved Drake and Josh, and then iCarly later on. I remember it was a huge event in our house when they showed the last episode of iCarly . We even entered into a draw to win some of the set furniture (didn’t win any though).

As the years have gone by, we’ve tried to find either DVDs or ways to stream these shows and have always come up empty.

Until now. Prime has iCarly on it and we started watching from the beginning last night.

I know the general theme of the show, I remember certain episodes. What I didn’t know was that my girl knows every single moment of every single episode. It was amazing and heart warming to watch her turn into this happy little kid watching one of her favourite shows.

I understand the feelings though. Through COVID, and before actually – when we had limited internet data, we’ve watched Family Ties, Facts of Life, Golden Girls, and (God help me) I sometimes secretly watch old episodes of the Love Boat when I’m all alone and there’s no one to witness my shame.

There’s something calming about watching shows you’ve known forever and you know how they’re going to turn out. I remember one time reading that a good way to calm your anxiety is to watch a happy type show that you’re familiar with because you know there won’t be any suspense or surprises as you go through.

But mostly we watch because we love them. Even I love iCarly, Sam, Freddy, Spencer, Gibby, and the rest of them. I loved that in their teen years they still want to spend time with me watching tv (granted being home 24/7 for a year probably helps that lol).

I’m so excited that we’ve started our iCarly binge. I still haven’t found Drake and Josh, but I’m hopeful that one will be next!!!

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happiness

Crocuses and memories

Yesterday my aunt headed home to be with Jesus. Although I will miss her here, she was a woman who held true to her faith and I know she was welcomed with open arms.

When we were kids, my cousin and I would go spend a week or so in the summer at my aunt and uncle’s farm, splitting our time between VBS and scaring the crap out of ourselves with whatever fun things we could find to get into. Sometimes our cousins would take us to the nearby “haunted house”, once we found a two headed grasshopper, but a lot of our time was spent playing in the yard and generally enjoying ourselves.

When I went away to school, my aunt sent me cards regularly so that I wouldn’t feel too lonely. She even came once and took me out for lunch which meant so much to me (I really was lonely).

After Grandma died, we were all sitting in the kitchen when my aunt returned from a walk in the field. It was early April, but she had found some crocuses growing in the field and brought them into the house. It seemed very fitting to have there for Grandma, but it also seemed fitting that my aunt would have gone out and found something that provided us all with a bit of comfort when we were all sad.

For some reason, after everyone left, I grabbed those crocuses and dried them in one of my books. The crocuses came with me as we moved around, and every once in a while I would open the book and look at that memory of love from home.

I opened the book at Christmas time and again looked at the crocuses with so much gratitude that we were back in the same home where they had sat in their vase (actually, in our home crocuses always go in a small juice glass), steps away from the field that had grown them. Grandma will be gone 17 years this spring, and it’s always amazed me that these crocuses held their shape. This time, though, the crocuses were disintegrating and as soon as I touched them they crumbled into little pieces.

It was like they knew they’d done their job well and were ready to go. Hopefully they’re a centrepiece at a beautiful tea table in heaven.

Love lasts for eternity. Everything else is noise.

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happiness

Love that lasts through time and space

Poor Ella has been quite depressed since Aladdin died. She’s the most cat-like of our cats (don’t touch me, don’t look at me, and whatever you do… don’t touch my fancy tail) and has a harder time getting along with the other animals (and sometimes humans). But she loved Aladdin, and he loved her.

They would lie on my bed for most of the day all cuddled up together, and they slept there at night too with me interrupting their space. He just got her, he loved her no matter how cranky she was and in turn that made her less cranky.

Since he’s been gone, she’s lying on my bed alone a lot of the time. She’s just kind of down and depressed even though we try and shower her with love.

Today the girl suggested we take Aladdin’s ashes and put them on the bed with her to see if they comforted her at all. It’s funny, if it wasn’t for the kids I never would have got ashes back, but it seems they were much needed. I could not believe her reaction.

She lay on the bed for ages loving on that box

I was not prepared for how beautiful or emotional this would be. But she just could not stop hugging on the box that contained the memories and essence of her best friend.

It was a truly beautiful moment.

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happiness

Little Abu

We had a health emergency with little Abu yesterday that put us all in a small state of panic (she’s going to be ok). Abu is Aladdin’s sister and littermate, they lived together with their mom in the abandoned house before they were rescued, to say she was bonded to him is an understatement.

Man, it was hard taking her to the same clinic where we let Aladdin go to his happy hunting grounds, I cried during her intake.

But you know, little Abu is a trooper. Besides the emergency, it turns out she’s in great health, and she won over the hearts of the kind people looking after her.

Abu may not have bonded with the other cats quite the way I’d have thought, she didn’t really need to since she had Aladdin. But, she has developed a strong bond with her two giant canine friends. I think they knew something was up because they both spent some extra time with her yesterday. It’s quite cute to see this little round ball of cat fur all curled up beside one of her dog friends.

The power of love is quite incredible. Us humans love Abu to bits, but our animals have these profound relationships with each other that I learn so much from.

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happiness

Opportunities for mindfulness

This week I am co-leading a group on mindfulness for my master’s program. Although the intention of mindfulness is to bring peace to your soul, I have been so stressed about leading this group!!!

My partner lives in China which is a challenge because of the 13 hour time difference, and so far I’ve been pretty much flying solo (although we did most of the prep work together).

Here’s what I’m discovering. The last 10 years of working on myself, including developing a (fairly inconsistent lately) meditation practice are really helping me. I know a lot more about mindfulness than I give myself credit for.

Also, I’m much more comfortable in the role of leader than I thought I would be. My years as a substitute teacher help me to be able to change lesson plans on the fly to meet the needs of the participants.

While preparing for these sessions, I’ve recommitted to my meditation practice and I’m noticing a huge decrease in stress over the last couple of weeks.

I feel that meditation and mindfulness helps me kind of reset my soul, which is a game changer when the anxiety or whirling thoughts kicks in.

I do a good job of talking to God, but not so much of listening. Meditation is my time to listen.

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happiness

Step into mindfulness

I’m co-facilitating a mindfulness group this week for one of my classes. I’m feeling thankful it’s on mindfulness as the closer we get to the start date the more anxious I get.

This preparation work has helped me appreciate how far I’ve come since the first time I attempted meditation about 9 years ago. I was so anxious, so stressed, and trying to calm my nervous system actually made more anxious. It was something I really struggled with for a long time, and still do in many ways. It’s so easy to fall out of the habit of practicing, when it really is essential for me to meditate every single day.

I can feel the benefits, it starts to create more space in my head, and in that space, there’s less room for anxious thoughts to roam. Learning to train my brain has been probably the most challenging task I’ve ever attempted, but the rewards in even doing it imperfectly are worth it.

For me, the number one tool in my mindfulness kit is my meditation practice. I know there are countless other methods to mindfulness, and I fully embrace many of them. But I need the moments of meditation to bring me to a quiet place so I can hear God talk. I do a really good job of telling God how I want things to be, but not such a great one of listening (mostly because I have an idea of how I want the answer to come and it very rarely shows up exactly how I want).

I’m both excited and nervous for this upcoming week. I’ve learned so much in the last year and a half and come so far – I had no idea how much this process would change me and I am incredibly grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to get to understand how my brain works a bit better.

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happiness

Precious friend, precious memory

Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a true friend arrive in our lives. I’ve had a “bonus cousin” for about 25 years who is this wonderful soul who not only married my cousin, but became like family and a true soul friend to me almost the moment we met.

Yesterday I finally managed to drag myself to the vet clinic to pick up Aladdin’s ashes. I had a long talk with myself and “self” agreed that I could handle the emotions of it and everything would be fine.

Self lied

I was doing really well as I was standing in line at reception, I even let a lady go ahead of me who was carrying a large feed bag. I visited with the doggies who were coming in, I felt ok.

Then it was my turn and I blubbered out that I needed to pick up my ashes and then awkwardly stood there and cried while she went to the back to get them. Interesting note, crying with a mask on is just a disgusting mess of boogers and tears that run rampant all over my face.

I got home, cried again a little bit, and then started making supper. As I was cooking the doorbell rang and it was this soul friend standing at my door.

She’d had a portrait of Aladdin made for me because she knew how much I loved him and how I missed him. I burst into tears, she got a bit watery around the eyes, and I blubbered away about how much I appreciated the painting and the love behind it.

The kids have suggested the portrait go in our “hall of fame” which consists of photos of all of my grandparents, and somehow a portrait of little Melissa (not sure how I made the hall of fame, but I’ve always secretly loved it).

I will never forget Aladdin, but I also will never forget the love that went behind this gift. I will treasure it forever.

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