Gingerbread Houses 2020

Gingerbread houses have always been a big deal in our house, which is not to be confused with us being good at decorating them. When the kids were little I found a great kit at the Whole Foods in RI that we’d bake and decorate, then later they made ready baked ones which made things easier. Those kits would get packed in our suitcase and travel home to Alberta with us so we could build with cousins and grandparents.

This year the boy had the Millennium Falcon, the girl had an Oreo cookie house, and I had a Troll Doll village. Just in case anyone is wondering, the Troll Doll village is the lowest quality crap house I’ve ever bought.

So, as I was struggling with my house, discovering none of the walls and roofs lined up, that some of them were missing from the box, and that the whole thing was made of such poor quality cookie it kept crumbling, the kids started laughing at my village. At one point I got so frustrated with a house that I may have punched it out (which felt great), and it ended up in the trash. When I was done, the kids announced that it looked like Santa’s crack village.

And that’s when things became fun. The girl made Christmas Trees that looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy had diarrhea, the boy laid out Santas along the path, unable to get themselves home. Then the girl decided she didn’t want her Oreo house next to Santa’s crack house, so she started building a wall… out of Santas… to protect her home.

By the time we were done, the houses still looked like crap, but we were laughing, covered in icing, and quite pleased with ourselves. For me, this is the magic of the gingerbread house. We have very little skill, and rely on having good quality houses (not this year), and a ton of extra candy to create yards for our houses. But no matter how bad we are, or how bad the houses are, we laugh and truly enjoy the moment.

While the Falcon was easy, it was pretty plain
The crack village and the wall
Apparently this Santa is breaking in looking for candy


I’ll be home for Christmas

The announcement of our lockdown has confirmed what I was trying to deny, which is that we will be having a quiet Christmas at home this year.

For years, I would look forward for months (sometimes the whole year) until I could come home for Christmas and see my family, spend time at the ranch, and chill in Grandma’s kitchen. A few years we had our trip extended by bad weather, and the kids and I would spend anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks without leaving the property. Never once did that feel like we were trapped at home, instead we had the luxury of spending quality time at the place we loved (and where we were loved) most.

So, as I sit and look out the window at the snow, thinking about how we need to get a tree and decorate soon, I’m reminded of how much I love this place, how being home for Christmas was often the only Christmas wish I had, and how grateful that now this is home all of the days of the year.

And, having a quieter Christmas has blessings too. Although we love the sledding and visits with family, and we will miss that part, there is a certain kind of peace one can find in the quiet moments. One of the best (and most emotionally difficult) Christmases was the one the three of us had with mom right before she died. We all stopped and really lived in that moment because we knew there weren’t going to be a lot more of them. Like we learned in Inside Out, joy and sadness need each other, they compliment each other, and we can tolerate them when we are open and present in the moment.

I’ll be home for Christmas

Sit on Santa’s knee

It was Christmas Party time at the Hall tonight for the first time in years. Some of my best memories are of singing for Santa with my family at the hall. It’s a tradition that has gone on for generations and came back after a 10 year hiatus.

We need our family, our community. It’s essential that we remember that this is what it’s all about – sharing love and laughter


A success 

My Christmas goal for my little family his year was simple (and yet not simple at all) – we were going to have a fun Christmas. The kids were finally going to be able to look back on a year and say that was a good Christmas. 

The last few years have been filled with so much trauma and stress, both inside our small family and in our larger family. All I wanted was for them to say this was a good Christmas. It’s important they have really good childhood memories to look back on. 

Jacob walked up to me today and said you know mom, this was a real fun Christmas. I had a good time

Success. Happiness. Gratitude. Love. 

And what they will remember isn’t the things they got but the things we did. Those are the memories. 


A few of my favourite things 

We had another quiet day at home – it’s good for the girl’s concussion and good for the rest of us who are exhausted. 

I celebrated the end of a quiet day with a bit of The Sound of Music with my sister – one of the best Christmas traditions. 

Slowing down and enjoying family time is one of my favourite things about this time of the year. 

The boy and I are just sitting down to watch Austin Powers. Another favorite thing. 



The balance of life

Yesterday in the early hours of Christmas morning my godmother passed away. A blessing for her, but painful for those who remain here still holding love for her. Her husband passed away Christmas day almost 40 years ago, and while I’m sure God has some kind of reason for that, it’s difficult and painful for those left behind.

When I was a kid and watched Cinderella I was fascinated by the fairy godmother. To me, she was a totally believable character because aside from her lack of bippty boppity boo, my godmother was magical as well. To have this person in my life who thought I was amazing just because I was me was a pretty fantastic blessing. She was the kind of lady who would show up unexpectedly with pie at our house for tea, she had a grace and elegance that few can equal, and love and kindness in her heart that was a rare gift.

There’s something to losing a loved one on the day spent celebrating the birth of our Saviour that makes me really think about the balance of life and how things are constantly changing. Balance does not mean things stay the same in a comfortable state of consistency. Balance means that things are able to stay together even as life is shifting around us.

When I started seeking happiness almost 2 years ago I thought that I would reach a point where I would just be happy and that would naturally and easily be my default state. I for sure am a much happier person now, but it’s a matter of constantly shifting to balance the changes happening around and inside of me. In the 2 years since I started I have moved 2 thousand miles from Virginia to Alberta, I have lost my dad, I have discovered painful betrayals and begun a divorce, I have had heartbreaking struggles with my kids, I have lost three other (extended) family members. And yet, life is much happier. I know myself better, I am more at peace with who I am, I am more grateful and grounded. A lot of that is because I have fallen back in with my tribe, I have deepened my faith, and I am learning to believe in myself.

People talk about what a bad year 2016 was. For sure for me there was a massive shitstorm of emotion going on, but inside of that I have learned how to dig into the deepest parts of myself and really honour and appreciate who I am, regardless of how others see me. There have been massive losses both personally and globally, but I am so much stronger and more aware of how valuable my life is, how important my time is, and how amazing my tribe is.

My happiness moment… today that is easy. Boxing Day is my favourite day of the year. It was spent in PJs watching movies and then having a second Christmas feast. It was spent with my loved ones being quiet, reflecting, laughing, enjoying, loving.


Christmas 2016

We had our happy Christmas. Finally. There were ups and downs, and the girl did too much and her headache came back, but even so it was a happy Christmas. 

Our family was together. That’s huge. We had a massive gathering of the tribe at the hall for supper – it has been years since we have all sat together and the family has grown in that time. 

We had a Star Wars morning which was hilarious and fun 

But mostly we celebrated the birth of Christ. Together. As a tribe. With love and laughter and joy. 

We are so incredibly blessed to have the family we have, to live where we do, and to walk safely in the arms of our God. Happiness. 

Merry Christmas everyone. 


Balance between bliss and pain

I feel like I’m being split between two completely different worlds right now. In one world we are beginning joyous Christmas celebrations. After a few years of crappy Christmases, we have been so looking forward to this year. There’s fresh snow, our family is around, we are having a huge gathering tomorrow to celebrate the birth of Christ. We are home, we are safe, we are loved. In this world there’s joy, happiness, bliss and gratitude.

In my other world, my beloved godmother is dying. Her husband died on Christmas when I was a child,  and now her daughter is loving and caring for her with strength I can’t even begin to fathom. How she gathers the courage to keep loving even knowing what is coming, and that it could happen again to her on Christmas Day, is inspiring and overwhelming. This world is filled with pain, sorrow, grief, and loss. Yet, also strangely in this world is this amazing feeling of gratitude that I have been invited to share so intimately in such a spiritual and personal process.

This is how real life is though isn’t it? Maybe not as big and as polar opposite as what I’m experiencing right now, but life isn’t all happy or all sad. It’s always a combination of both – and often lots of other emotions too.

The price you pay for loving someone is always pain. It takes courage to love because one way or another there is always a goodbye. But the price you pay for not loving at all is so much greater, I will always choose to love my people.

We celebrated Christmas Eve at the candlelight ceremony at church with my (ex? how does that work? They’re still family) mother in law and sister in law. That was a happiness moment, it’s one of my favourite parts of Christmas. The extremely hot firemen that came in after the alarm was pulled, well that was just a Christmas Happiness Bonus.

Merry Christmas Eve.


Dig deep… then dig deeper

I’ve had some pretty challenging days in 2016, some pretty crappy ones, and some ones that have just about kicked my butt. Today was the first day in the 5 years that I’ve been crawling my way towards a better life that I felt like just giving up and going to bed…. for days.

I lost the big present I bought for the boy, I’ve searched the whole house tying to find it – it’s gone. My girl had a catastrophic meltdown about some of the memories she stores about Mr. X yelling at and scaring her, I had to hold her while she cried out her pain. The dog got sick and vomited all over the house.

This was the point where I just wanted to give up. I have been so determined to make sure this is a good Christmas for the kids, a fun season for us. All that along with my frustration with recent divorce issues, the concussion, the broken arm, and other crap was just enough. I was totally overwhelmed and had nothing left to give. In fact, I said that. I’m done, I have nothing left, I just want to go to bed.

And because God is hilarious, about 5 minutes later I get a message that my beloved godmother is getting ready to transition to the next life.

So, a choice had to be made. Go to bed and cry (really wanted to), or go to the hospital and see her, see her daughter – who have been family to me my whole life.

I decided to go.

As soon as I got in the shower all the lights went out – power gone. We were having a massive snow storm and the highway was a mess, maybe it was a blessing I was slowed down.

I stopped and got in my pjs and cried again, really angry with God this time.

Power comes back on, back in the shower, and I soon head out on the road.

There’s something about a crisis that brings one to the most raw, authentic part of one’s being. We were like that. My godmother slept and her daughter and I sat and talked. We shared really deep things, and we talked about the most superficial of things. We really got to know each other in a way that we never have before. There is a blessing in that.

I left this evening and headed to a cousin’s place for the end of a family Christmas party. I still got a few good visits in, ate some good food, and had a few laughs. On the way home we chased some cows in a line down the road. Jacob said Santa may have reindeer in front of him, but I’d rather have these cows, On Hamburger, On Steak, On Roast!!!! Man I love that kid.

We need a tribe. I know I say it all the time, but we do. We can’t do any of this alone. We aren’t made to. My happiness moment is knowing that with the good times and the sad ones we have this amazing group of people in our lives.


She’s smiling

Today brings a day when my girl seems so much more like herself. It’s been a long 10ish days as she’s been dealing with this concussion. It’s fantastic to see smiles and sparkle come back to that face.

I wrapped Christmas presents finally, and she sat under the tree and shook and inspected them. She’s in that tween phase where sometimes she’s super cool and other times she’s still a little kid. I love that Christmas brings out more of the little kid.

We’ve had a rough couple of Christmases (rough couple of years to be honest), but this year I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve got a big gathering of the tribe, we’ve got so much to be thankful for, we are safe, we are home, we can celebrate the birth of Christ with our loved ones. That is happiness.