happiness

Climbing trees and ladders (FGK-3)

I’m back to the interview Dad did with Grandma. Many of you who knew mom likely know the story of the time she climbed the ladder to the roof of the big garage. I’d heard the story told many times by mom, and later my uncle told it at her funeral. Some of the details differed, but both ended the story with the fact that mom climbed the ladder and my uncle got in trouble for that (mom’s version was a bit more gleeful about him getting in trouble than was his).

Here’s grandma’s version of the story, which I assume must have been told to her by my grandpa:

When she started to walk, she never stopped, she ran. And I had quite a time getting her taught not to go down to the creek. She was about two years old going down to the creek, and about then Percy thought he’d build a big two story garage we have out here. Great big thing, the upstairs was for storing lots of things, and they held a lot of tractors and cars and stuff.

He’d come to the time to shingle it, and of course the kids wanted to climb the ladder. Marshall, gosh he was big compared to Margie, he thought he was a big guy, and Margie was about 3 years old then I’d think. So finally Percy had to move in and let him help with the shingling, I forget what job we gave him but he was on the roof, that’s all that mattered to him.

He was up there on the roof, up near his dad, and really up on the peak of the roof. He looked around, and he was a little kid looking over the roof, “dad” he said “look” and Percy did and had 40 fits, it was Margie getting off the top of the ladder and was going to go up on the roof. Percy said “Marshall, don’t say a word you’ll get caught” because every time they got together they fought. Margie would try to do something wrong and Marshall would try to stop her because it was dangerous, and there was a big drop. He <Percy> said, “if you can sneak over close, hang onto some part of her till I get there”, and he had 40 fits getting slowly down casually without a fight without anything happening. But he finally got her It was a long ladder to the top of that roof, to go down the ladder (laughter). She didn’t climb a roof again. That was very dangerous.

When Grandma ways that Marshall was big compared to Margie, let’s remember that if Mom was 3 my uncle was only 6, so “big” is relative.

Remember where Grandma says “She didn’t climb a roof again”? Well, right away we move into more stories of her climbing like she’s Spider-Man.

She was always climbing things. Another time I’d call and she’d answer, and I’d call and she’d answer and I’d call I’d walk towards the sound, and she’d answer right close and I couldn’t’ find her. I was in the trees by the house here and I couldn’t find her – those are really tall trees. How tall would you say John?

Dad: oh 20-30 feet

Grandma: at least that I would say. And she’d answer so close I just automatically looked up, and she was having a great time. She was at the top of the tree hugging it looking down, laughing and talking to me. I couldn’t think of how I was going to get her down the tree. I can’t remember now, it was so long ago, how I gradually got her down, it was awful.

Dad: she was quite content up there

Grandma: Yes

And she was always climbing. The house that Percy’s dad and sister lived in was a two story house and high, that big White House there, and at the bottom of the roof, down under the roof, there was a horse trough that used to collect the rain water and it was usually pretty full. And I couldnt find her another day, she was always running around. She would be three or so then. 3 of 4. And finally I found her on the top on the peak of that roof, not the lean to, but the high house, and the highest part of the house. And at the bottom, she got down to the other roof, the lean to, and that was steep too very steep. If she had slipped she’d have gone into the horse trough full of water

Dad: laughs

Grandma: I’m surprised I didn’t go grey right then you know, it was terrible

Dad: better to fall in a horse tough of water than on the ground

Grandma: well… yes but…

Dad: when we got married, one of the ___ gave a toast to the bride, he had a lot of stories, like you told now, about Margie climbing. I’d never heard those stories before and I havent’ heard then since <and I never heard these stories until I found this precious tape>.

Grandma: well

Dad: I made the comment at the wedding following that that she’s always been climbing through her life (gma laughs). Not physically climbing any longer but she was always climbing.

Grandma: Mentally then that’s right I guess. That’s a nice thing to say.

It seemed as though her life has always been eventful you know. I was lying awake thinking about her the other night. I sure wish I’d have written down a diary, but when would you have had time to? With the gang, the men to cook for and keeping house and raising kid. I had two others besides. Oh well.

And these are just the times she got caught, I’m sure Mom climbed everything in sight out here when she was a kid. Which kind of explains my “Monkey Club” years where my cousin and I spent our days climbing and swinging around trees.

Tomorrow I’ll write about mom and her horse Buck and how she and her brother and sister rode to school. The segue between her climbing and her going to school involved a comical spat between dad and grandma:

Dad: Tell me about her going to school

Grandma: I was starting on that (dad: sorry) you’ll have to be quiet (both laugh). If you think of anything speak up though (dad laughs).

Dad and grandma had such a close relationship. From what I saw he treated her like a mom and she treated him like a son. They respected and loved each other, and each had the other’s back, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t sass each other once in a while.

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happiness

By hook or by crook (FGK-10)

I found mom’s old autograph book. I’d forgotten about these, even when I was a kid I had a little book like this that I’d get friends to sign funny things in. Included are the messages from my Grandma, uncle, and aunt.

Dear Margie, The world is like an onion. Reflecting all you do. And if you face it smiling, it will smile right back at you. Love Sheila. Happy Birthday October 6

My aunt wrote this 2 days before my mom turned 6. my aunt would have been 11.

Jumping Pound, Alberta. November 3rd 1947 . Dearest Margie: If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character. If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world. Love Mother

I love this. I googled it and it gives a few sources, but “Ancient Chinese Proverb” and “Confucius” seem to be the most common. While I was reading this I realized that these words have been woven into the tapestry of our family.

My uncle would have been 10 when he wrote this, mom was 7.

Alberta. November 4, 1947. Dear Margie. By hook or by crook I’m the last in this book. Your brother Marshall. Yours till the cows go home

When I was a kid and was given an autograph book to sign I always went to the back to try and write “by hook or by crook…” and I’m glad to see I come by that honestly. Although my uncle really stepped up this game as this is not only the last page, but it’s glued to the end of the book ensuring that no one else can be “more last”.

Back to the letter tomorrow. Today we head out with the 4H club for highway cleanup.

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happiness

Magic Carpet Ride (FGK-2)

I kind of thought maybe carpet bags were something that only Mary Poppins carried around. But I discovered this bag hidden in a closet, and it’s full of odd assortments of mom’s throughout the 1950s. There were lots of old newspapers, both clippings and full papers stuck in here (as an aside, no wonder Mary Poppins used one of these bags, I was beginning to think it was bottomless – it’s amazing how much stuff fit in there).

A lot of it was about the royal family, and it seems mom had the same kind of obsession with Princess Elizabeth that I had with Lady Diana (who am I kidding, I’m still kind of obsessed with her, she was an amazing woman, but I digress).

The Magic Carpet Bag
I had to add this one in because I thought it was funny they had to mention Queen Mary was still alive.

As I said, it’s the most random bag of goodies. Here’s a photo of my aunt – I believe when she graduated from nursing school. There was also a letter from my uncle to my grandparents who were away on vacation somewhere. The letter was full of how much he’d fed the cows (down to the weight of both the feed and the cows), and how day to day things were going on the ranch.

You know, sometimes I wonder why we keep so much old junk around. But I think maybe it’s for moments like this. So we can go back through our past to figure out who we are.

Mom would have been 16 when this caricature was drawn. The same age my girl is now. It took me a long time to figure out how I felt about this picture. Part of me thinks mom would have hated it, but then she kept it for all of this time, and the tape on the sides tell me she probably even hung it up. I think it represents how she took on life after polio took her body. That brain of hers was amazing, she was a lifetime learner, and who she was… what was inside her… it was so impressive and took up so much space that it was usually what people noticed first before the chair.

Mom took her exercise routine seriously. She knew that the only way to have her body work for her was to work with her body.

I had to add these slippers in, it’s unfortunate that you can’t tell from the photo, but they are the MOST uncomfortable slippers that have ever been invented in the history of forever (maybe not, but they’re super uncomfortable). While the blue fuzz isn’t that bad, the outside is some sort of bristly, cable-like, woven threads of yuck. It makes me appreciate my comfy, warm, UGG slippers.

Mom did high school at a boarding school in Florida, and this menu must have come from there. I had to do a closeup of one of the dish write ups because it’s a story telling menu and I thought it was kind of fun.

But, my friends, I saved the best for last. My parents loved it out on Vancouver Island, they even had a home that was to be their retirement home (best laid plans and all) and we spent a great deal of time enjoying what Vancouver Island has to offer. After they sold the house in the 80s, they continued to vacation there regularly, and before Covid I was taking the kids out every year for Easter- it’s a place that holds a lot of love for me and my family.

Anyway, one year when I was about 10, my cousin came with us. Either Victoria was safe enough, or my parents were naive enough that we were allowed to run the streets by ourselves. We found a joke shop and thought it was the best thing we had ever discovered. Along with a whoopee cushion (that did not go over well at all with my parents but we found it hilarious), we bought several licenses that gave us permission to do things. Among them was a license to burp, which like the whoopee cushion we found hysterical but mom did not.

It is nice to see though, that at some point in her life she also decided she needed a sarcastic and sassy license.

Now, if you’ve ever driven with certain members of my family (I’m not naming names, but you know who you are), you’d understand the necessity of a license like this. So, perhaps it was less of a joke and more of a not so subtle hint 😉.

Along with the magic carpet bag, I found all of the letters and cards that were sent to Mom while she was in the hospital. I spent most of yesterday crying and reading them. There was so much love sent to mom, mixed in with details of ranch life in the 1950s which I’ll talk about later on.

But tomorrow I go back to the tape. I’ve got a few stories about Mom’s love of climbing things to share.

Thanks to everyone for the love and support, I hope you continue to enjoy these stories.

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happiness

From Grandma’s Kitchen (FGK-1)

The kids and I moved into Grandma’s house three years ago, a few months after mom died. This house is full of family treasures of the sentimental kind. There are letters and cards, knickknacks, old kitchen items, even empty boxes of items purchased over 50 years ago (because you just never know).

In fact, years ago when I was a teenager (so late 80s) Grandma found an old tin of butter from the war in the basement. Seriously, you never know what you’re going to find.

Then there are all of mom and dad’s things. 70+ years of all of their treasures. And, because it’s “grandma’s house” and “mom and dad’s house” there are all of our childhood things and those of our children as well.

I guess what I’m saying is I had a full house of things to move into a house that was already full. And to go through things requires time, emotional energy, and my sister. The last 3 years have been busy, forget the past year of not being able to gather together. So my stuff is still in boxes sitting in with all of the treasures from other generations. It can get a bit overwhelming to say the least.

So this summer I have set aside time to deal with the treasures and the trash. I have felt for a while this is a crucial part of what I am supposed to do. Like this is an important part of the puzzle that is MElissa. I need to go back and find where I came from, to learn as an adult about the adults who raised and loved me.

And so, I’ve decided to blog this summer “From Grandma’s Kitchen” as I share some insights about the journey of clearing space in this home that I love so much.

It started yesterday. I walked past the “junk room” and I saw the ribbon of a cassette tape lying across the floor. Damn cats. I went in to grab the tape and throw it out, hoping it wasn’t anything important. I’ve looked through the old tapes many times because I’ve been looking for tapes made by my Grandpa Ramsay to no avail.

I followed the broken ribbon to the tape and grabbed it. It was an old theology tape made by one of our family friends (and probably would have been interesting). But then my eyes went to a tape randomly sitting beside it. As I’ve said, I’ve looked on this dresser many times before and I’m sure I never saw this tape lying there.

It was written in Dad’s handwriting and it said “Edna C….. Margie Bio”

And what it is is Dad interviewing Grandma about Mom’s childhood and her time in the hospital with Polio.

The Forgotten Years.

Or more aptly put: The Never Spoken Of Years.

There was always so much pain and trauma surrounding the time when mom got sick that it was a taboo subject in our home.

And yet, as I get older I find myself wanting to know more about mom and the rest of the family in those years. Because something big happened. Not only did mom almost die, but at some point she and everyone around her decided she was going to live and that she was going to live an important life. And everyone supported her until the day she died.

And that takes a special kind of love, character, strength, and most importantly faith.

I’ve just started listening to the tape, and I’ll share some of what I hear as I go along. But this part has stuck with me since yesterday.

While mom was in isolation, Grandma was told by the specialist who had been flown in from Australia that she needed to say goodbye to mom. Here’s Grandma’s recollection and response to the doctor:

And then the epidemic in Australia subsided and the doctor who was a specialist in Australia on polio was sent for to come to Canada. And she was quite a nice lady. The isolation hospital phoned me and asked if I’d meet her one day. She met me on the doorstep and she said that this is something that isn’t supposed to be done but they are obliging me to come to see my daughter because she is not going to live. And she knows that would comfort you a little to see her. So I walked with her through the rows of sick people and the girl in a bed beside her was in an iron lung. And she was too sick to talk or anything. And she (the doctor) said now I”m going to talk to you and you are not to even expect her to live nor to wish her to live. Believe me I’ve seen enough cases to know what I’m talking about

I said well I’m going to do just the opposite of what you’re telling me, I’m sorry. I’m going to expect her to live I’ll pray that she will and I’m going to get a lot of others to do that. And we have been, my friends and my church. She said well that’s very foolish because you’ll be disappointed and I was trying to ease your pain, so it wouldn’t be such a shock to you.

So I thanked her I just walked on then from one church to another where I could walk to move in Calgary and just spoke to the minister in each one of them. It didn’t matter what the church or the religion was and asked them to pray for her. And of course our church said they would, all of them did in Cochrane.

The power of prayer. And the strength and courage of Grandma to go ask strangers to pray for her daughter. It humbles me. And of course we know that while mom was left with some major physical impairments, never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something. And it’s easy to see the apple didn’t fall far from the tree – no one was going to tell Grandma no either.

And aside from the power of this amazing story, the gift from God that I am able to hear these stories that I’ve longed to know for so long, I got to hear Dad and Grandma’s voice. From what I’ve gathered from the tape, they did this interview here in Grandma’s kitchen, in the same place where I am sharing it with you.

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happiness

Line of integrity

I spent the day listening to Tony Robbins, Rachael Hollis, and many other motivational speakers. All of it was amazing, much of it transformational. I’ll be absorbing it for a while.

Before today I’d never heard of Erin Skye Kelly, but she altered my thinking about decisions I make, and made me question my own integrity. Not my integrity towards others so much as my integrity towards myself. Do I honour my promises to myself the way that I should be?

She showed us this chart and said that we are all behaving in one of these four ways

The first one is where we are all aiming to be. I nudged my friend and said I feel like I’m stuck too often in the third box – where we do things that feel good but aren’t good for us. Because box two is hard, and box one feels unobtainable so often.

Then Erin said that the red line we see dividing the boxes is the line of integrity. And I quietly muttered shit.

It’s the little things like having that extra piece of chocolate, not doing my morning readings, not meditating, not working out, not forcing our asses around the dinner table. They seem small, but out together they place me on the wrong side of the line of integrity. It makes it so my words (or intentions) and actions don’t line up.

Today was absolutely amazing. I am filled with gratitude that I was able to be there and experience the energy, the love, the knowledge, the struggles, the wisdom, the peace.

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happiness

Base race

The girl and her team played an awesome game of ball. At the end (they lost by one run) the other coach asked if they wanted to do a base race.

All the girls groaned and complained except for one. And that one got everyone else excited enough they all ran out to the field

It was awesome. The girls, the parents, the coaches, everyone, was cheering and jumping and yelling. Base race takes cool teen girls and makes them kids again. I love that

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happiness

Mini donuts and comic con

I took the boy to comic con today. He loved it, it brings out his inner nerd. I enjoyed it because he was happy and I love him.

But then I discovered the mini donuts and had my own kind of happy.

Mini donuts remind me of the best parts of childhood. Stampede, sugar, laughter, safety, love- they’re all wrapped up in those little bags of grease.

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happiness

Feed your relationship

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about relationships – the ones I have, the ones I want, the ones I dream about. A few years ago I did a kind of friend cleansing and with the exception of one (there’s always one) I got rid of my toxic or dysfunctional friendships. I work with intent now to build my tribe with people who will hold me up instead of bringing me down.

If you think of a relationship like a plant, then in order for it to grow the roots need to be well tended. Think of roots as things like: reliability, compassion, respect, trust, dependability, kindness, love, honour. If too many of those are neglected or disrespected the relationship plant dies. And because the plant is alive, there is pain that is felt as the roots are being damaged.

However if you look after the plant, nourish, and cherish it – it can grow and thrive. Every positive vibration that is sent out into the world has the ability to create more joy and love – and that is what it’s all about.

Love the people in your world, but make sure you’re really caring for them, for your relationships with them. They take work and time – but they are why we are here.

Mom used to tell me how when she was in the hospital with polio, my grandma worked hard to get to know the nurses and doctors who looked after her. Mom said that it was a win for everyone. The created genuine relationships, and because of that mom was well looked after – the staff cared about her. This was a lesson my parents taught me – they always built relationships with everyone, the plumber, the water guy, the dentist, my teachers (I hated that), the list goes on.

Today I had to go get my taxes done. This is always a source of stress for me. Math makes my head want to blow up, and the support non-payment issue is confusing to me. My tax man is awesome!! I found him at H&R Block two years ago and he’s done m taxes ever since. He could see pretty clearly what my situation was as soon as he opened my file – and he has always been so helpful about explaining how things work and what I need to do.

Today when I sat down he remembered me from last year and we caught up a little bit. That man made my life so much easier and I’m glad I also started building a relationship with him when we started working together.

We can get so impersonal sometimes, and I’m as bad as anyone for avoiding too much peopling – but we really need each other.

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