Yesterday I marked a half century on this planet. Incredible to me since I’m still trying to figure out how to be an adult, but there you have it.
Seriously though, I am so grateful to be here, to be healthy, and to be finally figuring myself out and learning to let crap go and enjoy life. I’m actually very happy to be 50.
I was reminded of how loved I am yesterday. Birthdays are the best day to be on Facebook for all the wonderful messages. My sister levelled it up one and had friends and family send her letters for me to read which melted my heart (and made me cry a little bit). She and her family also gave me a little robot, and once I figure out how to get it running (old age problems haha), I will be terrorizing my pets with it.
The girl made me a beautiful pendant out of rose quartz. The boy made me his (getting) famous Beef Wellington. A cousin stopped by with “holy crap you’re 50” signs and a present and some flowers. I had a lovely text chat with an aunt, and one today with a “lifer” friend (as she puts it).
I am so grateful for this life. I’ve promised myself that in this next chapter I will be the author of my own story. And I’m excited to write it.
This afternoon I had a lovely chat with an old family friend. For as long as I can remember our families spent Christmas together, and the season doesn’t feel right unless we touch base even though we’ve not been able to spend the day together for a couple of years.
At the end of our talk I told her how glad I was that she’d called and how it didn’t feel like Christmas unless we’d made contact. She agreed with me and said that was one of the beautiful things about this time of the year – we spend time with the people who we truly know and love and it grounds us and reminds us of who we really are and of what‘s important. I couldn’t agree more.
The monsters and I enjoyed our Christmas Eve tradition (without the church part) by having a fondue pig out and watching their favourite Christmas Movie – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
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.
We have a tradition of having fondue on Christmas Eve, so a few weeks ago I picked up some ready to go packages for our supper. However….. we discovered a new bakery in town (omg the doughnuts are to die for) and had some good bread that needed to be eaten. So we broke down and had fondue.
I love meals where you can play with your food. It’s part of why I love meals like fondue, sushi, and charcuterie boards (I’m not sure if you’re supposed to play with your sushi, but I do). We’ve all been stressed out, feeling COVID fatigue, and ready for all of our classes to take a break for Christmas. So a pause in the regular routine for some fun was necessary.
While we were getting ready, we stopped for a quick round of UNO which is our official family game (even though the girl kicks our ass all the time).
One thing this year has reminded me is how grateful I am that I deeply love the people I live with, and I’m so thankful we all get along. Honestly as a teenager I can’t think of anything much worse than having to spend 10 months locked in a house with my mom (sorry mom) and I’m feeling pretty lucky that these two are doing it with grace.
Yesterday I wrote about Sky Food, and how much fun we have with Bear. It’s had me thinking about just how precious that dog is to our family.
Bear arrived in our hearts a little more than 2.5 years ago. My little Dotted Dog was getting older and having some problems (although she lived more than 2 years longer – she really loved her life with us) and I decided to take a casual walk through the SPCA in town. I’d decided to look at smaller dogs even though I’m not a small dog person. The Dotted Doggie was 45 lbs and I was thinking that one more in the 20 lb range would maybe be easier.
I know there were other dogs there, but all I remember is this big black dog named Shine (it’s still weird to see his “old” name, he’s so clearly supposed to be called Bear) lying sadly at the back of his cage. When I asked about him, I was told that he had been rescued from a reserve in Saskatchewan, had been adopted out of their SPCA three times and had been returned each time, and now was becoming a long time resident. They also said he was wouldn’t be good for long walks because he was quite lazy and needed to live in the country.
2 hours later the kids were back at the SPCA with me walking this 100lb black ball of hair down the road. Sure enough, after a few steps he just lay down and refused to move. After some gentle prodding we convinced him to get back up, walked a while longer, decided we were in love and returned to the centre to adopt him.
I think they thought we were crazy.
He’d torn up the last house he lived in, before coming to the SPCA he’d spent his whole life as an outside dog (and he was 5 at that time). But his eyes. There was something about his eyes.
Somehow in the adoption process, he became the girl’s dog. It’s almost like God knew she would need him and directed us to where we could find him. I didn’t know it at the time, but my girl was in crisis and over the next year or so that dog loved her, grounded her, and helped heal her. I have gratitude for this old man that I will never be able to adequately express.
So there’s the thing about Bear, he’s not the lazy dog I was lead to believe he was. He’s an “independent dog” due in large part to the fact I’m fairly sure there’s Pyrenees in his blood lines. This means that he knows what we ask of him, but he chooses whether or not he will respond. Independent thinking is what makes guardian dogs so good at their job, but when you want him to come inside it is hard to remember that. Just like Bear can go from 50 to 0 in a second, he goes from lying completely still to 100 in the blink of an eye.
Not only has Bear’s loving soul touched the hearts of the humans in our home, but he is loved by all the other animals too. He’s the one who found Jasmine the kitten who had been abandoned by her mom at 3 weeks old. She was screaming in the compost bin in the old garden which was a ways from the house, and in a place where we never would have found her. To this day, if Bear is in the house there’s a good chance Jasmine is attached to him. Abu the anxious has recently started rubbing up against his legs. In fact, it’s not uncommon to walk into the kitchen and find Bear lying on the floor with at least one cat curled up with him.
He is so patient and kind with the crazy bundle of energy puppy I got this summer after my beloved Dotted Dog died. She sits on him and jumps on him, and when he’s tired of it he flattens her with no effort, but has all the patience in the world for her.
When I think of the kind of person I’d like to be, I am inspired by this dog. He is huge, he’s got vicious and powerful teeth, he could rip anyone apart in a second. But instead, he lays down with the cats, he plays with the puppies, he lets the humans hang all over him. And he does it with love and kindness.
He carries with him years of abuse. I can see it if I grab a stick, or move too quickly. Instead of becoming aggressive, he cowers. When he came to live with us, Bear was severely depressed. His entire world had been turned upside down, he didn’t have love or people, he was so, so sad. So he knows there’s bad stuff out there that could happen. But that’s not how he lives. He is basically just a happy dude living his best life with his family – life goals.
Dad would have turned 80 yesterday. I looked for a photo yesterday to post on Facebook with a memory, and was surprised when I typed “dad” into my photo search at what I found. I was expecting lots of photos of him being the “creek monster” in the water throwing grandkids around, or playing in the snow with delighted children. Instead, this search was full of photos of Dad sitting quietly and reading to “his kids”.
What it really drove home for me was how willing he was to give us what is so precious – the gift of time. Both our parents really valued giving us and their grandkids their time. And at the end of the day, while things can bring a certain level of happiness, the memories of spending time with someone is where it’s really at.
So, with that in mind, my sister and our crews went for a social distance walk along the ridge where dad used to take us. It was a beautiful way to honour him.
I had a moment yesterday morning where I had to reflect on integrity, and deciding between keeping myself safe, or doing the right thing. These were things dad and I used to talk about a lot on our walks, and it seemed so appropriate that it was a choice I was given on his birthday. I decided to do the right thing (although I did sit on it for a while because that temptation to stay safe is a strong one.)
There is a certain comfort that comes over my soul when I choose the right thing. in this instance it helped someone out who I didn’t know, but who really needed it. This was a low danger example of choosing between safety and doing what’s right, but it really highlighted for me that I can’t actually feel safe if I’m not honouring what my soul tells me is best.
The girl and I were driving home from Costco yesterday (which was exciting enough itself, I love that store) when I looked to the north and saw a giant rainbow.
Now, it’s October in Calgary, and there’s a ton of snow on the ground and the weather was sunny and about +5C which is not your typical rainbow weather. We checked where the sun was (waaaay south in the sky), and there’s no way it was a sun dog. It really was a rainbow.
We waved at it, and briefly pondered the meaning of this sign. Who couldn’t use a little reassurance from beyond that everything will be ok?
This morning I looked it up, and it seems that snowbows are a real thing, but I’m not sure they aren’t meaning sundogs. This was not a sun dog (I see them often). This was a real rainbow and was in the opposite “end” of the sky.
Whatever the reason that it was there, it was really cool to enjoy and beautiful to look at. I feel honoured we were able to see it.
Years ago, when I was a little girl (and the dinosaurs were still around), my Grandma took me to a special event at her church. At that time she attended the United Church in Cochrane, and I loved going because of their music. Likely there also were good “after church snacks” which also was a measure I used to evaluate how good a church was.
The details of this particular Sunday are a bit vague (I wish I’d talked to Grandma again about this) but someone was there playing the Lord of the Dance music. It was a big deal, and people were excited about whomever it was that was presenting it (again, I wish I could remember). What I do remember is totally and completely falling in love with that song. Grandma bought the album (yeah it was that long ago) and I listened to it over and over.
40+ years later it still sings through my head on a regular basis. It makes me happy, it makes me want to dance, it makes me want to put down my burdens and follow Jesus.
Ok, that last one is a bit harder. It does make me happy, it does make me want to dance, it makes me look at my burdens and assess whether or not I’d rather carry them or lay them down. It’s hard when those burdens feel like they are part of who I am. But they’re not. So why am I carrying them? They’re heavy after all.
I had a very interesting memory show up on Facebook today. Apparently 9 years ago, the girl (who then was 6) made a picture of me in the belly of a whale.
Not too long ago I listened to someone say that often when God calls us, the first thing we do is hightail it out of town as fast as we can, and they gave Jonah as an example of what happens after that. No matter how we try to run from God, he finds us and brings us back, even if it means we have to chill inside a whale for a while to figure things out.
Now, I’m no Jonah, but I do believe that God has a plan for all of us, and if we don’t listen to Him, he will pester us until we finally listen and are ready.
God was calling me at this time, I was too afraid to hear it. This was only a couple of weeks after I was physically assaulted by my ex husband in front of my kids, and for the first time really acknowledged that my life was in danger. The problem with feeling in danger, or being in survival mode is it can be difficult to see clearly.
I wanted God to help me, I was angry with God, and I also was a little afraid of a relationship with God because I felt he’d really let me down. Not too long after this, my ex called our pastor and told her what a terrible person he felt I was. After he told me that he’d decided to call her because he knew that I liked her and enjoyed church, and that he wanted to make sure she knew exactly the type of person she was dealing with.
And so God became active in my life. The pastor called me and said she’d heard I was having a hard time. She asked me to meet her at the church office where she met me with open arms and love. That woman and her church picked up me and the kids and gave us a safe place to land and I will never, ever forget her kindness.
I’ve never met someone who loves God quite as much as my old pastor does. And I come from a family who is very connected to God, so that’s saying a lot. She had an active relationship with Him in a way I’ve never witnessed before. Although I was still kinda mad at God, I leaned into her love and belief and eventually I began to see God reflected the way she saw Him.
I still do a good job of running from God. Some moments are easier than others, but I’m learning to face the sun and enjoy the warmth of His love.
And now if I forget, I’ve got this drawing by my child of me trying to run away.