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.


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.


Faith, loss, the tribe 

This has been a year of learning to let go, leaning into our faith,  embracing our tribe. 

Today one of our family cats, one that my parents got when my kids were just little, was suddenly called back to heaven. It was heart wrenching. 

Jacob and Tawny have been buddies since he was a little kid. When we would come home to visit, his constant companion was his pal Tawny. When we moved back their friendship only deepened. He was just telling me yesterday how Tawny has always been there for him as a  best friend.  

After he cried in his room for a while he came out and said you know, something I’ve learned after all these losses is that you cry, you feel like the world is over, you remember they are with God, and you learn to move on. 

My cousin (the one we all always turn to in a crisis) and her family came over to help us bury her. Something my tribe knows how to do well is come together and support each other in times of grief. 

We stood at the computer and looked at family photos of our group trip to Italy, oohed and ahhhed at how the kids had grown, how youthful and thin we were all back then, how much fun we had. We measured the kids on the family wall to see how they had grown since  spring. 

And then we went out near where we had scattered my dad’s ashes and buried Tawny. My cousin said a prayer, we shared memories of her, we held each other up, then we came home. 

I talk about my tribe a lot, but I can’t express enough how fortunate I feel to be part of this group of amazing people. So strong in faith, so much love and compassion. I feel so blessed. It’s a weird happiness moment, but I am so happy that we have this strong, loving support system around us. I’m thankful that we had Tawny in our lives. She was a truly loving, wonderful spirit. She will be missed. But, we know she’s sitting happily on Dad’s lap in heaven 

Tawny hanging out with my Dad a few years ago. 


A Dad day

For some reason today has been a day surrounded by memories of my Dad. I was driving this afternoon and was all of a sudden hit with this huge wave of regret. That specific regret is a feeling I try really hard to stuff as far down as I can and pretend it’s not there. I feel so badly that the kids and I weren’t able to come back home much sooner. He was so sick and both of my parents could have used my help. And yet I was stuck in my own horrible situation waiting for my own miracle to arrive (and it did). 

The kids and I spent some time this evening at the creek – which was a place my Dad loved to be at. That spot is filled with so many good memories of swimming in the summer and skating in the winter. I miss him so much but being at the creek was a good reminder that there is so much simple joy that can be easily found. I feel so blessed that it is right here at my back door.

Sitting at the creek, sitting in my emotions, opening my heart – my happiness moment 


Quiet road 

Today’s happiness moment is pretty short and sweet. We did a family walk this morning – my sister and her kids, mom, me and my kids. It was heart happy  to have our family together and enjoying each other’s company. 

I realized part way though the walk that it was starting to feel a bit more normal that Dad wasn’t with us while we did these things and that made me a little sad. That letting go business is so difficult. But I know he would be so happy to see his family out enjoying the day together. 


In Dad’s words

I spent some time this morning looking through the books that Dad put together for us over the past few years. They include some of his photography, but also he did a lot of writing as he shared his spiritual beliefs and told stories of the flowers we used to look at together.

I came across something he wrote for Advent in 2007 that gave me huge comfort today. I miss our talks and I miss his guidance. We didn’t always agree on everything, but I know he always supported and wanted the best for all of his loved ones. I think I took for granted for a lot of years what it was like to go through life knowing that I had these two powerful forces in my parents who would always have my back no matter what showed up ahead of me. I didn’t realize what a unique and special gift that was until I had hit a few bumps in the road and really discovered who really had my back in the dark times.

Dad’s words:

There are times when it is exciting to go fast.  At these times it is very easy to forget to thank Jesus for all that we are given.

But sometimes we get going too fast. Sometimes we try to do too much. As a child at school and a grownup working inside or outside a home. At these times we often forget to ask Jesus to guide us and take  time to pray for his assistance. He is waiting for our call.

Sometimes we get so overwhelmed that we want to go and hide. At these times we are so concerned about our problems that we do not feel Jesus walking through it with us. But he is there with us.

With all this activity, it can be difficult to remember why we’re so busy.

But if we can find just one quiet moment in our day to pause and centre ourselves and think about the awesome, beautiful sacrifice Christ came to make;

If we can spend even a second thanking Him for His ministry, His teachings, and His example, and His life, death and resurrection, we will surely be able to find within ourselves that intangible “Spirit of Christmas” that enables us to give of ourselves until we think we’ve giving it all – and then give just that one bit more – to find that we are able to give whatever is needed at all times of the year.

I have wondered over the past few months what advice Dad would give me as my life has turned inside out and taken a completely different direction. I think of our walks along the ridge while we explored and discussed our Faith, and I think this is pretty much exactly what he would say to me right now.

I am so thankful he took the hours of love labour to put together these books for us to have to remember him by. I am thankful for the guidance he showed me and the unconditional love that was showered on me.

Aside from the deep soul bittersweet happiness of these memories, I have a happiness moment to look forward to later on today. We are gathering with some of the extended tribe to celebrate the other fathers in the family. I feel incredibly blessed that we have so many strong, loving men in our family.

this is one of Dad’s photos of the sunflowers. In the months after he died sunflowers kept showing up in my life all over the place. They remind me that he is still close by.