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

ICarly

When my kids were little they loved Drake and Josh, and then iCarly later on. I remember it was a huge event in our house when they showed the last episode of iCarly . We even entered into a draw to win some of the set furniture (didn’t win any though).

As the years have gone by, we’ve tried to find either DVDs or ways to stream these shows and have always come up empty.

Until now. Prime has iCarly on it and we started watching from the beginning last night.

I know the general theme of the show, I remember certain episodes. What I didn’t know was that my girl knows every single moment of every single episode. It was amazing and heart warming to watch her turn into this happy little kid watching one of her favourite shows.

I understand the feelings though. Through COVID, and before actually – when we had limited internet data, we’ve watched Family Ties, Facts of Life, Golden Girls, and (God help me) I sometimes secretly watch old episodes of the Love Boat when I’m all alone and there’s no one to witness my shame.

There’s something calming about watching shows you’ve known forever and you know how they’re going to turn out. I remember one time reading that a good way to calm your anxiety is to watch a happy type show that you’re familiar with because you know there won’t be any suspense or surprises as you go through.

But mostly we watch because we love them. Even I love iCarly, Sam, Freddy, Spencer, Gibby, and the rest of them. I loved that in their teen years they still want to spend time with me watching tv (granted being home 24/7 for a year probably helps that lol).

I’m so excited that we’ve started our iCarly binge. I still haven’t found Drake and Josh, but I’m hopeful that one will be next!!!

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happiness

Step into mindfulness

I’m co-facilitating a mindfulness group this week for one of my classes. I’m feeling thankful it’s on mindfulness as the closer we get to the start date the more anxious I get.

This preparation work has helped me appreciate how far I’ve come since the first time I attempted meditation about 9 years ago. I was so anxious, so stressed, and trying to calm my nervous system actually made more anxious. It was something I really struggled with for a long time, and still do in many ways. It’s so easy to fall out of the habit of practicing, when it really is essential for me to meditate every single day.

I can feel the benefits, it starts to create more space in my head, and in that space, there’s less room for anxious thoughts to roam. Learning to train my brain has been probably the most challenging task I’ve ever attempted, but the rewards in even doing it imperfectly are worth it.

For me, the number one tool in my mindfulness kit is my meditation practice. I know there are countless other methods to mindfulness, and I fully embrace many of them. But I need the moments of meditation to bring me to a quiet place so I can hear God talk. I do a really good job of telling God how I want things to be, but not such a great one of listening (mostly because I have an idea of how I want the answer to come and it very rarely shows up exactly how I want).

I’m both excited and nervous for this upcoming week. I’ve learned so much in the last year and a half and come so far – I had no idea how much this process would change me and I am incredibly grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to get to understand how my brain works a bit better.

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happiness

Precious friend, precious memory

Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a true friend arrive in our lives. I’ve had a “bonus cousin” for about 25 years who is this wonderful soul who not only married my cousin, but became like family and a true soul friend to me almost the moment we met.

Yesterday I finally managed to drag myself to the vet clinic to pick up Aladdin’s ashes. I had a long talk with myself and “self” agreed that I could handle the emotions of it and everything would be fine.

Self lied

I was doing really well as I was standing in line at reception, I even let a lady go ahead of me who was carrying a large feed bag. I visited with the doggies who were coming in, I felt ok.

Then it was my turn and I blubbered out that I needed to pick up my ashes and then awkwardly stood there and cried while she went to the back to get them. Interesting note, crying with a mask on is just a disgusting mess of boogers and tears that run rampant all over my face.

I got home, cried again a little bit, and then started making supper. As I was cooking the doorbell rang and it was this soul friend standing at my door.

She’d had a portrait of Aladdin made for me because she knew how much I loved him and how I missed him. I burst into tears, she got a bit watery around the eyes, and I blubbered away about how much I appreciated the painting and the love behind it.

The kids have suggested the portrait go in our “hall of fame” which consists of photos of all of my grandparents, and somehow a portrait of little Melissa (not sure how I made the hall of fame, but I’ve always secretly loved it).

I will never forget Aladdin, but I also will never forget the love that went behind this gift. I will treasure it forever.

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happiness

Mini spa day

The mountains called us yesterday and we answered. I can’t remember the last time we actually went out and did something, the weather was nice, and the highway was empty. It was the perfect day to head to Banff.

I love Banff, but it does have a tendency to get a bit busy – the price of a resort town – and the busy is sometimes what makes it fun for people. I, however, love the days when I manage to get there and it’s quiet like it was yesterday. The sun was out, people were smiling, it was just what we needed.

I’d run out of hand sanitizer, so we went into the Rocky Mountain Soap Company because it’s one of my favourite stores, but also because it’s their hand sanitizer that many of the shops use in Banff and I already knew my hands liked their product.

Because of COVID rules, only a few people are allowed in the store at a time, and we were there when we were the only ones (lucky us). The lady working brought us over to the sinks, showed us their hand cleaning products, and allowed us to spend some time giving ourselves a little hand scrub that ended up feeling like a mini spa day.

There was something about the wonderful smells in the store, and the quiet moment we had of washing our hands that was so soothing and relaxing. The lady working there provided us with such a calm environment it made me remember why it’s one of my favourite stores.

Then we wandered the streets of Banff, just enjoying being out of the house, seeing people smiling, the blue sky, and the mountains – I love our mountains.

It really was a perfect day. I’m so grateful for this life.

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happiness

Value of a good doctor

I had to take my girl to the doctor yesterday (regular check up appointment thank goodness we are all healthy). When we moved back here, people were saying how challenging it was to find a good doctor, forget a good one, and I because I had no idea what I was doing, I signed us up for a waitlist to be assigned a doctor who was relatively close to us.

When I was notified that we’d been given a doctor, I was amazed that relatively close meant a 45 minute drive (although since we live in the country driving is expected), mostly because it was in an area where I don’t normally go. Somehow places that I regularly drive to that take 45 minutes – like Costco- seem reasonable, but other places where I don’t go often that are the same drive seem so far.

But her clinic is beside one of my favourite bakeries, and since my stomach makes most of my life decisions we started seeing this doctor.

I feel sometimes like God just directs me to the people who I need most in my life. This woman, and her clinic, have been such a godsend as she’s guided us through so many bumps we’ve encountered in our road these last few years.

I was thinking yesterday as she was talking to us about her kids, and how much she likes my kids, how incredibly fortunate I am that this is my doctor. While we aren’t actually family friends like my parents were with our family doctors when I was a child, I have that same sense when I go see her. That I am visiting a friend, someone who will do her absolute best to give advice and assistance that will keep us healthy and safe, and that I am seeing someone who is competent and caring in her profession.

We are so fortunate to have so many good people in our lives and I’m grateful she’s one of them

Oh, and we came home with Florentines and a Saskatoon berry turnover. Happy bellies all around.

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happiness

Back to back pizza nights

We decided to have make your own pizza night on Saturday, then because of a surplus of supplies did the same thing again on Sunday.

Make your own pizza, or at least homemade pizza has been a thing in our house since the kids were little. I’d make the dough, we’d decide what toppings went on (usually just cheese, sometimes pepperoni and cheese, but once in a while we’d clear out the fridge and put whatever we found on).

Lately I haven’t been as into making dough as I used to (I need to find some better yeast) and out pizza nights have been lacking.

However, I made an awesome discovery last year. Some of our Italian shops sell ready to go pizza dough, and it’s ridiculously cheap. Top that with the fact that Costco now carries Rao’s sauce – and quite good fresh mozzarella – and we’ve got the easiest homemade pizza going.

Pizza nights are fun. Watching movies while devouring the pizza is even more fun. They’re a really easy way to bond and spend some time together and I love that (and it’s fun). I’m so grateful that we have the kind of family where even though we’ve been trapped together at home for most of the last year, we still enjoy each other’s company.

I consider my relationship with my kids my greatest blessing, and moments like family pizza night help celebrate that!

I was going to take a photo, but both nights the pizza got devoured before I thought of it. Really, they don’t look that special, but although they may not be works of art, they are works of love and that is just fine by me.

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happiness

Signs from above

I woke up this morning to find my facebook feed was filled with photos from last night’s Northern Lights. I love watching the lights dance across the sky, and usually get myself out of bed to see them when I know they’re out. Somehow, last night I missed the memo and was soundly asleep while the lights danced.

One lady took some absolutely amazing photos and I’d like to share them.

I see an angel, what do you see?
Here’s the rest of her pics along with her name for credit

The universe does some pretty cool stuff. How blessed are we that we are here to experience it!!!

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happiness

The ability to adjust

It’s been 11 days since we lost our beautiful soul that is Aladdin. After our Dotted Dog died last summer, the girl and I had a conversation about how each animal was connected to the others. We realized that the only one who had a relationship with all of us in the house was Aladdin. So when we lost him, all of us lost a companion and I can see all of the animals grieving in their own way.

Grief is interesting, and we all do it differently, no grieving process is the same in my experience.

I miss the honest and easy love that I shared with him. You know how usually when you have a relationship with a person or animal they have some weird trait that drives you insane, but you deal with it anyway because you love them? Aladdin didn’t have anything weird or annoying. In fact, when one of us was being weird or annoying, he would come to us and share our space until we felt better.

Abu misses her brother, they were together from birth and shared some pretty traumatic times before coming here. Poor Ella, our highly neurotic Southern Belle misses the only animal that she ever let into her world, her constant companion, and napping buddy. Jasmine misses the cat who taught her to be a cat, and Killer misses the weird bromance they had going on. Even the dogs seem sad.

When Aladdin would walk through the house, he’d stop at each of us as he passed and say hi, share some love, and carry on.

The interesting thing is now, we are all doing that. Not just the humans, but I see the cats pausing and greeting each other the way he used to when they never did before.

Abu, who I thought would be completely devastated has shown some mad survival skills. In the last couple of months our little ‘fraidy cat has decided to become best friends with both 100lb dogs. Last night I found her in the kitchen all cuddled up beside Bear having a nap.

I think the best way to honour the life of someone you miss is to tune into their best traits and share them with the world in whatever way is appropriate.

It’s easy to identify the less desirable traits of someone we know and decide “I’m never going to be like that” (sometimes less easy to actually not be like that). It’s a real challenge to see the light in someone else and decide that because their light shines so brightly that it’s safe to shine our own light too.

But we all need to shine our lights and share them with the world. The only way to get rid of the darkness is to turn on the light.

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happiness

Instant Pot

After years of humming and hawing about an instant pot, they came on sale at Costco a few weeks ago and I finally brought one home.

I’m still figuring it out (a process made more difficult by my apparent inability and refusal to read instructions), but it’s been used almost every day since I got it.

So far the family favourite is instant pot mashed potatoes. We’ve burned through all our garden potatoes, and now I’m buying massive bags at Costco almost weekly. We’ve got our Irish genetics to help, but I’m sure at some point we will need a break from the potato feast – but it’s not coming any time soon.

Cooking has always been a group activity with me and the kids, and it’s really cool to see how it’s evolved now that they are big kids. Part of the reason why I love Grandma’s kitchen so much is it’s kind of the heart of the house. This is where we gather to visit and share stories, it’s where we cook food for our loved ones to eat, it’s where we look outside at the mountains even on freezing cold days. It’s an oasis of love, and enjoying good food is one byproduct of that.

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