happiness

It’s an every day thing now

I came home this evening after dropping the girl off at a friend’s place to find a text from the boy asking for a ride back from my mom’s house. Then he decided he needed to stay longer and I would have to come later. It seems that they were watching a show and visiting and he wasn’t quite ready to come home.

That is one of the huge perks of living where we do. I have so many memories of going over to my grandma’s to have tea, a visit, or just be spoiled like only a grandparent can. Now my kids are able to do that as well. It’s not once or twice a year like it was for so long, it’s an every day thing now. And that is happiness.

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happiness

Who’s who? My dad

I spent a lot of time today with the memory of my dad. I feel like the past few weeks have been so filled fending off the poisoned barbs of hatred that I kind of lost focus on letting in the things that are really important to me.

My dad was one of the things that was really important to me. He wasn’t perfect, but he was such an influential person in my life. He was exceptionally unreasonable during my teenage years (I have no idea why…) and we could really get into it sometimes, but through it all I knew that he loved me unconditionally and always had my back.

Actually, my parents were/are such great examples of what unconditional love is. Even when I’ve been at my most lost and scattered, they have always provided me with a safe place to land. That security of having people who are there for me no matter what is so important, it gives me the freedom to take chances and explore who I am and what my purpose is.

After Dad died I had a lot of friends and family come up to me and express their gratitude for things that Dad had done for them. He had often stepped in and given support, and frequently free legal advice as well, to the people in our lives. He not only provided me with that sense of security and trust, but he gave it freely to so many others as well. He lived with a sense of abundance, not holding onto his knowledge or love, but spreading it around because there was enough for everyone.

He showed me what to expect from a man. Someone who not only worked hard and was successful at his career (and he was very successful), but who lived with integrity, spent time with his family, laughed, loved, and jumped full on into life. I think I took it for granted that because this was my experience all dads are like this. I will never take that for granted again. They’re not.

He not only took great interest in the things that we were doing – I can think of him sitting for hours listening as I babbled on about whatever was my current obsession, probably wanting to stab his eyeballs out, but smiling and encouraging – but he shone that same love and support on his grandchildren. My kids still talk daily about things they did with grandpa and how much they miss his presence. The way he lived his life has made a huge impression on Jacob, and he talks often about becoming the kind of man grandpa was. Jacob is already a good, honest young man. I have no doubt he will make his grandpa proud.

I realize the older I get how exceptional my dad was. I’m realizing in fact how exceptional my entire family is. I don’t know how it happened, but I won the awesome family lottery in that I have this ready made tribe of people who are so strong, loving and kind.

My mom sent me an email this afternoon letting me know that my dad was listed in this year’s Canadian Who’s Who. It’s so wonderful to read about his accomplishments, but to me his real achievement was the kind of person he was. The way he lived his life is something I can hold onto and aspire to. I will always have his tendency to have temper meltdowns (blow it out and move on), but that’s part of being human. To live with an open heart so that people can trust and depend on you as my dad did – that’s a real life achievement.

 

 I miss you Dad xox

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happiness

Kid-knees and whoopee cushions 

Tonight we celebrated the February birthdays in the family – my nephew (today) and my sister (tomorrow). After having missed years of these family celebrations I am continuously thankful that we are here now to participate. Having this extended family around us is so incredibly important in helping guide us and give us that sense of grounding and support 

  
While the entire evening of the family gathering together was my happiness moment, I had a couple of events stick out as especially funny ones. 

The first happened as I was reading a book with my niece about the different parts of your body. We were on the heart page which she was convinced was the kidney. Once she realized it was not (after her mommy confirmed that for her, because she’s still at the age where mommy knows best) we continued searching until we found it. Once we were on the correct kidney page, my niece put her bent  leg up towards me, pointed and said see auntie Melissa? Here’s my kid-knee. Priceless

Next, I walked in the room to find my nephew (who turned two today) jumping up and down on the whoopie cushion yelling fart fart fart over and over. 

There’s nothing like kids to being unexpected and delightful laughter. What a blessing that we have all these cousins around to enjoy. 

In a sentimental moment, I heard my uncle playing with my nephew, and the noises my uncle was making were exactly the sounds my dad made. For a minute I stopped and my heart thought dad was here. But my uncle is like another dad to me – in fact we call uncle dad – and it was so fitting that the laughter and joy were coming from those two. 

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happiness

It’s all part of the same family

Tonight we had a wonderful happiness moment in the form of a family supper. Jacob and I came late to the party as we wee back in urgent care getting his ribs checked (again). Arriving tired, emotional, and hungry, it was so heart warming to come into the house and see it full of family. 

That house has always been a multi generational home in my heart. As far as my memory goes back there have been grandparents, parents, kids, siblings, and cousins running around the place. The people may have aged and the generations shifted, but there we are all the same. 

Tonight once again there was laughter filled in the dining room by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and everything in between. Keeping these roots that help me grow strong is so important. 

As we were leaving, Jacob looked down the driveway and said there’s three different families all sitting here waiting for us to pull out (we had parked everyone in). And I replied and yet we are all the same family. 

Having those bonds with the ones I love is priceless. This is what being home is all about and I’m so thankful I can provide this kind of grounding and security for the kids. 

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Girls in the barn 

  
This old barn holds so many magical memories. Generations of my family have worked and played inside it. My grandfather handpicked all the logs and then built it about a hundred years ago. It is one of those special places that holds my heart. 

This afternoon Jenna had a friend over to play and the first thing they did was run up to the barn to play. They ran around looking for cats, and then just enjoyed playing outside in the corral. 

I love that I can look out my kitchen window and see this building that holds such fond memories of my youth. I spent countless hours either playing in the loft or grooming my pony inside while looking out towards the mountains. 

It was a great happiness moment to see my child enjoying an earthy, blissful moment in beautifully grounding and stable (haha get it) place. 

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happiness

To Grandmother’s house we go

We don’t have water at our house right now, which is one of the side effects of living in an old house in the country (still wouldn’t trade it for anything, I love our home). Fortunately, what we do have is a hero in cowboy boots in the form of my cousin’s husband who has been working hard the last 2 days (in -15 to -20C temperatures) to rectify the situation. It all falls under that Life is an adventure thing. 

Because I don’t do well without showering (and OMG the smell of teens and tweens), we headed into Grandmas for a visit and a shower. She has an endless hot water tank so it was pretty sweet. 

Speaking of sweet, when I got out of the shower I walked into a baking extravaganza in the kitchen. Jenna was rolling and shaping shortbread 

   
On the side of the baking sheet is Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. 

  Jacob walked right over to the fresh bread and made a grilled cheese. As he does whenever he’s in to see grandma.   
Not to be left out, he then jumped in and made gingerbread cookies. 

 
There’s something so special about the relationship kids have with grandparents. I have such fond memories of fun times with my Grandma, I am so happy they get to build memories of their own with their grandmas. I’m extra grateful they were able to make memories with my dad, they’ll cherish those forever as well. 

My happiness moment; hearing my son say life is good as he rolls out gingerbread while his sister hovers behind waiting her turn.  

Grandparents rock!

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O Christmas Tree

Yesterday we went out for our annual Family Christmas Tree Hunt  so today was tree decorating time. I realized when we pulled out what boxes I could find crammed in the back of the mud room (where I had stuffed them when we moved here last spring), that the last time we had used our decorations was likely in 2011. If we put up a tree in Virginia in the years since then I don’t remember it. We were always packing and coming home for the holidays and getting a tree for a couple of days enjoyment didn’t make sense, not when we were going out to get one here.

Because of that, it was kind of fun to find some of the old treasures we had forgotten about. Lots of ornaments that Grandma had given to the kids (she was smart enough to write on the back of each one who it belonged to… smart lady she is). There also were ornaments the kids made when they were little (a little wreath made by Jacob with a story written inside it about how Jenna ate an ornament when she was little).  Both kids really enjoyed the little trip down memory lane.

We cranked on the Christmas Carols and dressed up our tree. My favourite Carol may be Mary’s Boy Child (Jann Arden, why didn’t you put that on your Christmas album, I can only imagine how wonderful you must sound singing that one), but I had to fight for it to play over Jacob’s favourite O Christmas Tree and Jenna’s Feliz Navidad.

When we had put up all the decorations we could find we headed over to my Mom’s to decorate her tree. She had offered to get her assistant to put up the lights so we wouldn’t have to deal with them, but Jacob very strongly responded no, putting lights on the tree is part of the ritual. We are going to do it ALL. And do it all we did.

It was a different decorating experience without Dad there guiding us, and without my sister and her family helping. But, it’s a different Christmas and we are going to enjoy all the beautiful parts of it. I think we got the best tree we have had in years and it was really fun decorating it with Mom and the kids.

While my happiness moment today was decorating the trees with the family, we had a little side happiness moment while walking back and forth to Mom’s. It’s a beautiful, clear, bright night tonight. The moon is small, but shining strongly, there’s enough snow to really reflect those moonbeams, and my cousin has lit up the yard with their Christmas decorations (which I love) so the walk was amazing. We stopped part way and looked up at the constellations. Both kids can find the big and little dipper, we all need to work on a lot of the other ones. It was a beautiful time in nature, so healing for the soul.

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happiness

Happiness mishmash 

I had several small happiness moments mixed all through the day today. I went into our Save On this morning to get something for supper and got bumped ahead in line because I only had a couple of items. When I thanked both the man who let me go and the clerk who suggested it, they said it was one of the perks of living in Cochrane – small town kindness.

Jenna went in to see the head seamstress in the family today to get some help (but also to eat cookies … mmmmm shortbread…. and visit). It warmed me to hear them, heads together, busily planning out her sewing project. There’s a special relationship between grandparents and grandkids and I’m so grateful that she is getting to strengthen that bond.

 

I have put a hard limit on internet at home and the kids have responded by actually playing together and having family time. We watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and then Jacob found his track set his aunt gave him a couple of years ago. They spent an hour racing their cars around the track.

About 30 seconds after I took this picture a huge tickle fight broke out with the dog jumping on top of both kid licking faces furiously. That was funny because it wasn’t happening to me…..

I love big happiness moments, but life really happens in these little moments. The ones that don’t cost anything, that aren’t planned out, that just happen because we are alive and we are living in the moment.

 

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Happy birthday Dad 

Today would have been Dad’s 75th birthday. I haven’t been home to celebrate a birthday with him since he turned 64, and now that I’m here, he’s not. Sigh. Because we celebrated the last 10 birthdays with him over the phone or on Facetime, I wasn’t sure how acutely I would feel him missing here today – that is anymore than any other day. Sometimes my brain convinces my heart that he’s just gone on a trip for a while and I’ll be seeing him soon. Denial, it’s a difficult cloak of protection.

Turns out I miss him quite a lot.

Dad loved going for walks. He was always trying to get someone to go outside and do something with him – walking, skiing, swimming – he just wanted to be outside. Today I wanted to honour his memory by walking along the ridge by our house – one of his favourite places to be. It’s actually one of the spots where we scattered his ashes, and a place where I haven’t been strong enough to walk along since.

Today I knew I needed to walk there. To go to the place that Dad loved so much and where he found so much peace.

I stood at the spot where we had scattered his ashes. I cried for a long time. Thank goodness it’s a beautiful, warm November day or my tears would have frozen on my face and that would have made a sad situation an awkward one as well. I stood and cried and looked out at the view and just let all my emotions flow. It was both really hard and really easy. I had a lot of clarity come to me in those minutes I stood there thanking Dad for all that he had given to me.

Dad was always so good about making sure that I knew that he loved me no matter what. I never had to worry that I would ever do something that would make his love for me falter in any way. As I go through life and realize that so much of what is called love is conditional it gives me an even greater appreciation for this pure and true emotion of love. What a gift to have, what a gift to give.

I stood there and thanked God for the beautiful place we live in. Dad wanted to spend eternity in the spots he loved so deeply and being there brought me such peace and comfort.

the view along the ridge where we scattered the ashes

I walked for a while with my Dotted Dog and her Naughty Puppy Friend before getting a text from Jacob that he was on his way. He walked up and joined us and we walked the rest of the ridge together.

It was so calm and warm. It felt beautiful to have the sun shine its healing rays on us while we walked and laughed over memories of Dad. The kids miss him so deeply, he was such an important force in their lives. 

Last year at Christmas Dad and I walked the ridge and for some reason decided to stop and take our first ever (and what ended up being our only) selfie. It was the last walk I took with Dad, even though I didn’t know that at the time. We had such a deep, spiritual conversation – I’m so thankful we had the time for those kinds of moments.

omg it was so cold that day

Jacob and I stopped at the same place today and took our own selfie in memory of Dad. I think he would have really liked that we were out there together remembering him. 

After I was back home, I was sitting at the table with Jenna talking about Dad. She leaned over and petted my arm and said “I bet you really miss him today”. Then she said “If it makes you feel any better, while you were out on your walk I went up to my bedroom and sang him happy birthday” and then she burst into tears. So, we sat at the table and cried for a little while. Then we found a video that she and I had made last year on his birthday wishing him a happy day. We cried some more. We did manage to keep talking through our memories until we found some that made us feel better. There are lots of good memories.

I’m pretty lucky because I had a Dad who loved life and loved to pull us into it at full force. Even when I’m sure he wasn’t interested in what I was doing he was always there to listen to me and to talk about things or to watch me do things (the hours that man spent at the side of a riding ring watching me go round and round on my horse. Both my parents spent ages in the heat or (usually) the cold watching me ride).

I work hard at continuing to walk through my grief. I miss him like crazy, but I know he would want us to jump into life with everything we have, without fear. I don’t want to deaden my emotions, I want to feel them deeply and breathe through the tough ones. If I don’t feel the sad emotions, I also won’t feel the joyful emotions. I am on this happiness journey and Dad has been a big part of that. I find happiness in new experiences and I find happiness in memories. As proof of that, my happiness moment today included remembering all the love and fun times shared with Dad, and also experiencing fun times with Jacob (and those crazy dogs) on our walk. There is more tearful happiness to come tonight as my sister and her family join us for a family supper at home.

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Sunday supper

It’s been years since Sunday supper was a thing in our household. A lot of the time it felt like we spent the evening preparing for the stress of the week instead of celebrating the end of the weekend. 

Since coming home again, we have had a lot more occasions to celebrate weekends, or Holidays, or sometimes just Tuesdays. 

Tonight we had an impromptu family supper up at my cousin’s place. It was more like a feast actually – roast beef (beef from the cattle they raise with tender loving care) and all the fixin’s. Easy and fun conversation around the dinner table with grandparents and aunts and uncles and parents cousins and kids. We had the  whole multi generational thing going on. 

We are so incredibly blessed to live where we do with the family and love and support wrapped securely around us. Being safe and happy in the arms of our home. My happiness moment today. 

Home is where my heart is.   

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