happiness

Teenage Weirdness (FGK-28)

When I first read this letter I debated whether or not to share it just because it’s so weird. But then I thought, mom was 14 at the time this letter was mailed and teenagers are weird. Probably much as she loved getting letters from family and neighbours about the goings on at home and in the community, she would have appreciated the normal day-to-day weirdness that only teens bring. In fact, I could see my daughter and her teen cousin writing each other a letter like this. While the name may make you think otherwise, this wasn’t mom’s sister (handwriting is totally different, aside from the fact I can’t see my aunt having sent this letter – it must be a friend of mom’s).

Because this seems to be a silly kind of day, I am including a silly kind of photo that I found. It has nothing to do with this letter, but was mixed in with the box of cards and letters.

Calgary, Alberta

Can’t Remember the Date

(envelope says Jan 31 1954 – and is sent to mom at the Jr. Red Cross Hospital)

Dear Moron,

I sat down before the typewriter to write you this letter. Pardon the ball point pen.

I don’t live where I used to live because I moved to where I am now. When you come to see us ask anybody where I live because nobody knows.

I am sorry we are so far together. I wish were closer apart.

My aunt Hazel died and is doing nicely. I hope you are the same.

Shirley has the mumps and is having a swell time. She is at death’s door and the doctor is trying to pull her through.

We are having more weather this year than we had last.

I have sent your coat by express. I cut the buttons off to make it lighter. If you want them they are in the pockets.

I started to Neverville to see Lloyd’s and I saw a sign that said “This will take you to Neverville” I got on as it said and I sat there for two hours. It never moved an inch.

If you don’t get this letter let me know and I’ll send it to you.

_____’s baby swallowed some pins but they fed it a pincushion so it’s ok now.

In this letter is a picture but for fear of losing it I’ll take it out. I sure hope you like it.

I forgot to send you the money I owed you but I sealed the envelope before I remembered.

When you answer this letter please write slow as I can’t read fast. Also don’t send a night letter for I go to a day school.

Yours sincerely

Another Moron

(Sheila)

I didn’t know competitive flagpole sitting was a thing. But here you have it!!
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Dances, Gum Chewing, and School Stress (FGK-24)

I love this letter. I had so many questions I wanted to ask my aunt and I never did. I always felt a certain kind of kinship with her that I hope she felt too. Her daughter (my cousin) said that my aunt didn’t just know God, she had a relationship with God – and that has stuck with me ever since. I always admired the faith that she lived her life by.

But on top of that, she was quite funny. She would come out with some one liners that made me laugh so hard I’d almost snort (the sign of a really good laugh). And when she writes here about the gum chewing incident and the hair incident, I was like “me too Auntie Sheila, me too”.

Her letter reminds me of the time when everyone living in Jumping Pound knew everyone else’s business. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it meant that there was an entire community of folk looking out for each other, even if sometimes it could be a bit stifling. I didn’t fully appreciate what it meant to have a tribe of people close by who love and care for you until I moved away. It really is a unique kind of community we have here.

This letter was mailed by my aunt from Mount Royal College (now University) to mom at the Junior Red Cross Hospital, but then the hospital address was crossed out and the ranch one written in its place. This letter was written 2 weeks (and on my future birthday) after the letter Grandma received from Iowa regarding mom’s loneliness in the hospital (You can read that here). I wonder if she was able to come home for a visit or something.

Auntie Sheila would have been almost 17 when she wrote this. She, my uncle, and many of the other kids in the community attended (and lived at) Mount Royal College for their high school years. What a change from riding horses to school every day in their younger years.

M.R.C.

Mon. Morn. Jan 26, ‘52

It was postmarked 1953, so I’m assuming perhaps she did the typical January mistake and missed a year.

Dear Marg,

I put in a perfectly useless weekend. I just got up at 12 o’clock Saturday morning! Wasn’t that awful?

The dance was really crowded. They made $175 ____ cleared. They just “sit” lights over the doors Friday afternoon so we’re really high-toned now.

We got there about 10:30. Mom and Dad came too. It’s the first time they’ve been to a dance for a dogs age. the dance was well under way when we got there. A square dance was in the making with Laurie Johnson calling. Peggy R tells me that Donna Butters (Johnson) had a son last November, news to me! She also told me that S__ R___ is engaged to D___ _____ but she was at the dance with H__ P___. God what a mishap!!! I had supper with Harvey B we sat with Bruce B and his girl, Aubrey Moore. She’s awfully nice. I don’t know what happened to Sonny (?) but none of that crowd were there except Anita ____. Shirley Wearmouth was there too.

I deleted some names here, I’m sure it was all in good fun, but I don’t want to be the one bringing up ghosts from 70 years ago lol. The other blanks I just couldn’t make out.

I had a dance with one of the oil drillers. I was sure a fool to get up with him. he had a great big wad of gum and was putting his whole heart into the noisy recreation of chewing it in my ear. He offered me a chew but I declined quite graciously. Between Scotch and Spearmint we made out alright. Jackie Arnell was there with earrings that must have weighed a ton. I had a dance with Bill Scott, Jan McPherson, Laurie Johnson, Bernie Barkley, Wayne Sibbald, Uncle Clarance’s friend mom didn’t know his name, Frank Edge, Marilyn MacMillan, and Don Edge made me so proud. I had quite a few dances with Jim but anyway they would dance beside us and keep telling us it was chilly and that we should dance closer to keep warm and kept going on like this!I was simply furious and I think Jim was getting hot under the collar. He was really embarrassed but it didn’t bother me. If they wouldn’t have kept it up it wouldn’t have been so bad.

I have a social studies exam tomorrow, an English one Wednesday, and Chemistry on Monday. Work! Work! I had to turn in a book review today. I read “A man Called Peter” in the book section of the Reader’s Digest. I don’t care. It might have been cheating but I just didn’t have time to read the kind of books they expect you to.

Good to see that the education system has become so much more sensitive to how overwhelmed students are now (insert sarcastic smirk here). I remember pulling “Cole’s Notes” off the bookshelf in a panic to hand in a book report, and I’ve now I’ve helped my kids google information they’ve needed for the same. The method may have changed, but the feeling of being overwhelmed and the impending doom of consequences of missing an assignment is exactly the same all these years later.

Well, I guess I’d better get ready for school,

Love

Sheila

PS Peggy and I might go across to bridge to get me a pair of stockings after school. All together I have 8 pairs of stockings. Such is life

PS I danced with Hank too

PS Had hair in my soup for dinner so I couldn’t eat it.

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happiness

Home for Christmas and School (FGK-6)

Grandma talks of how she went to the hospital asking if mom could come home for Christmas.

The physiotherapist who was there, worked on her, lifted her arms and worked on her, exercised her and everything. But for 2 Christmases I would go to the doctor who was in the hospital and ask him if I could have Margie come home for Christmas dinner, I’d get a nurse to come with me look after her, and bring her in an ambulance, do everything that he would recommend if she’d be allowed to come home for Christmas dinner. He said, well she might as well she’s not going to live anyway don’t you know. That’s two years we did that.

This is the second time Grandma mentions that she was told by a doctor that mom was going to die, and the second time Grandma says that she just went ahead and did what she believed was best for mom and for her health. I should add here that mom said to me several times when I was a kid how hard grandma and grandpa worked to establish a good relationship with the hospital staff. Aside from it being what they believed was the right thing to do, they believed that if everyone who worked there knew that mom was a loved somebody, that she had people who cared for her dearly and who were really invested in her getting better, that she’d get better care. Particularly since they were only able to go in and see her twice a week for an hour. Mom was still a kid, to leave her in the constant care of strangers took an immense amount of trust and faith. This is a lesson that was well taught in my family and that I’ve passed onto my kids with this same story. Be kind to those who are looking after somebody who you love because not only is it the right thing to do, but it helps your loved one be better cared for. It is a rule that has seldom failed me.

Years went on, what a long time she was in there. The teachers that taught the children in that hospital were really something. She was smart and got a good education. After many years in the hospital she came out of there.

Then we got correspondence from the government and we did 2 years here at home and it was so lonely. She was young too then, and sit and study here at home in a busy household here it was. It was pretty lonely for her to be studying off in her room, not seeing other people her age.

Percy had, before we brought her home, he built a lovely physiotherapy table in her bedroom and I found out she was taking oh I hope I can remember the times correctly, the number, it was so long ago, I wish I had done this then, written it down or something. but the arms, and the legs, I think each one 30 times or 15 minutes a time. I exercised them. And we had weights on pulleys and for weights we had old fashioned irons that i used before we got electricity things like that I used for weights on pulleys and she could do that with my help. She gradually kept up her strength in her arms and her legs and several different methods they taught me. I took a light physiotherapy course before we brought her home so that I could exercise her. And it was quite a complicated physiotherapy table Percy built, quite well done and I think it’s still upstairs in that garage and all the pulleys and weights I used were old pieces of hand irons, or horseshoes or anything for different weights. And she just worked so hard, twice a day each one was done 15 times. And quite a few exercises, I can’t remember them now I suppose Margie could.

Anyway, then she had to study her school work herself from the correspondence teacher and it was a lonely life because I was busy in the kitchen we had quite a crew of men to cook for. So she did alright though, she worked steady and hard at her schoolwork.

After a couple of years of keeping close touch with the doctors and Physio and that, Margie began to use crutches and get around a little bit in the house. We had, my kitchen was three steps below the rest of the dining room so that was a dangerous thing so we built a new kitchen that was level with the rest of the house then too so that was nice. So it was just getting a very lonely life for her I thought for her, and she did too but she never complained. And when winter came it was too dangerous for her getting around with her crutches and so I wondered (oh here she comes, she won’t approve of this… is she coming????) i wondered if I could find a school in a warmer climate not too far away from home, and I found a little school in Florida. Daytona Beach /Florida with no steps because she couldn’t go up steps with, she wasn’t far enough advanced with her crutches and exercises. And we found a little school with no steps and I found a place where she could board and she went 2 years then. In her high school. She graduated from grade 12 with honours from that little school. In fact they put a plaque up outside the school honouring her for the gallant attempts she made and how well she did. I was very proud of her. That was 2 years I think, might have been 3, but I think it was 2. And she got through grade 12.

A few things happened here. We get the story of how Grandma’s kitchen came to be. I have tried to imagine how the lean to kitchen looked for years, but I’ve never seen a photo of it, and I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I was told that one time mom was walking on her crutches into the old kitchen and fell going down the stairs. Grandma said that was it and the new kitchen was built. She really maximized on that, as this kitchen is a beautiful big space, and the room in the house where family always seems to gather.

Secondly, grandma talks of finding a school in Florida for mom. When I heard this, I thought of how challenging that would be in modern times with the internet – ensuring that the school had all of the physical accommodations that mom needed, and that she was in a place where she would be well cared for. And then, in the 1950s, to send your kid away to school in Florida was like sending your kid to the moon now (well, not quite but almost).

Finally, there was a moment where Grandma thought she heard mom coming. This is when I realized that I’d been in the room while they interviewed, because I remembered being sent off to divert mom from coming over. Grandma was right, she would have been upset. The years were so full of pain and trauma for mom there was an unspoken agreement between us all that we would never speak of them. Honestly, I’ve struggled with how mom would feel about me speaking about it now, but a few things have happened recently that makes me think she’d be ok with it. Mom didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her, and she didn’t want to have to go back and sit in that pain (I wouldn’t either). But, mom, and her whole family, has this incredible story of courage and love and faith. and I consider it to be an incredible honour that I am telling that story for her.

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happiness

Climbing trees and ladders (FGK-3)

I’m back to the interview Dad did with Grandma. Many of you who knew mom likely know the story of the time she climbed the ladder to the roof of the big garage. I’d heard the story told many times by mom, and later my uncle told it at her funeral. Some of the details differed, but both ended the story with the fact that mom climbed the ladder and my uncle got in trouble for that (mom’s version was a bit more gleeful about him getting in trouble than was his).

Here’s grandma’s version of the story, which I assume must have been told to her by my grandpa:

When she started to walk, she never stopped, she ran. And I had quite a time getting her taught not to go down to the creek. She was about two years old going down to the creek, and about then Percy thought he’d build a big two story garage we have out here. Great big thing, the upstairs was for storing lots of things, and they held a lot of tractors and cars and stuff.

He’d come to the time to shingle it, and of course the kids wanted to climb the ladder. Marshall, gosh he was big compared to Margie, he thought he was a big guy, and Margie was about 3 years old then I’d think. So finally Percy had to move in and let him help with the shingling, I forget what job we gave him but he was on the roof, that’s all that mattered to him.

He was up there on the roof, up near his dad, and really up on the peak of the roof. He looked around, and he was a little kid looking over the roof, “dad” he said “look” and Percy did and had 40 fits, it was Margie getting off the top of the ladder and was going to go up on the roof. Percy said “Marshall, don’t say a word you’ll get caught” because every time they got together they fought. Margie would try to do something wrong and Marshall would try to stop her because it was dangerous, and there was a big drop. He <Percy> said, “if you can sneak over close, hang onto some part of her till I get there”, and he had 40 fits getting slowly down casually without a fight without anything happening. But he finally got her It was a long ladder to the top of that roof, to go down the ladder (laughter). She didn’t climb a roof again. That was very dangerous.

When Grandma ways that Marshall was big compared to Margie, let’s remember that if Mom was 3 my uncle was only 6, so “big” is relative.

Remember where Grandma says “She didn’t climb a roof again”? Well, right away we move into more stories of her climbing like she’s Spider-Man.

She was always climbing things. Another time I’d call and she’d answer, and I’d call and she’d answer and I’d call I’d walk towards the sound, and she’d answer right close and I couldn’t’ find her. I was in the trees by the house here and I couldn’t find her – those are really tall trees. How tall would you say John?

Dad: oh 20-30 feet

Grandma: at least that I would say. And she’d answer so close I just automatically looked up, and she was having a great time. She was at the top of the tree hugging it looking down, laughing and talking to me. I couldn’t think of how I was going to get her down the tree. I can’t remember now, it was so long ago, how I gradually got her down, it was awful.

Dad: she was quite content up there

Grandma: Yes

And she was always climbing. The house that Percy’s dad and sister lived in was a two story house and high, that big White House there, and at the bottom of the roof, down under the roof, there was a horse trough that used to collect the rain water and it was usually pretty full. And I couldnt find her another day, she was always running around. She would be three or so then. 3 of 4. And finally I found her on the top on the peak of that roof, not the lean to, but the high house, and the highest part of the house. And at the bottom, she got down to the other roof, the lean to, and that was steep too very steep. If she had slipped she’d have gone into the horse trough full of water

Dad: laughs

Grandma: I’m surprised I didn’t go grey right then you know, it was terrible

Dad: better to fall in a horse tough of water than on the ground

Grandma: well… yes but…

Dad: when we got married, one of the ___ gave a toast to the bride, he had a lot of stories, like you told now, about Margie climbing. I’d never heard those stories before and I havent’ heard then since <and I never heard these stories until I found this precious tape>.

Grandma: well

Dad: I made the comment at the wedding following that that she’s always been climbing through her life (gma laughs). Not physically climbing any longer but she was always climbing.

Grandma: Mentally then that’s right I guess. That’s a nice thing to say.

It seemed as though her life has always been eventful you know. I was lying awake thinking about her the other night. I sure wish I’d have written down a diary, but when would you have had time to? With the gang, the men to cook for and keeping house and raising kid. I had two others besides. Oh well.

And these are just the times she got caught, I’m sure Mom climbed everything in sight out here when she was a kid. Which kind of explains my “Monkey Club” years where my cousin and I spent our days climbing and swinging around trees.

Tomorrow I’ll write about mom and her horse Buck and how she and her brother and sister rode to school. The segue between her climbing and her going to school involved a comical spat between dad and grandma:

Dad: Tell me about her going to school

Grandma: I was starting on that (dad: sorry) you’ll have to be quiet (both laugh). If you think of anything speak up though (dad laughs).

Dad and grandma had such a close relationship. From what I saw he treated her like a mom and she treated him like a son. They respected and loved each other, and each had the other’s back, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t sass each other once in a while.

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Born on the Fourth of July

Despite being a huge Tom Cruise fan in my younger days, I never watched Born on the Fourth of July. I think at that stage of my life I was much more interested in Cocktails and Risky Business than I was learning the story of a Vietnam Vet.

I chose to write about Ron Kovic for a paper I’m doing on trauma. I figured that since I’ve been fortunate enough to never experience war and the story was one that happened to a man in the 1960s that it would be less traumatic for me to watch.

Well, I was wrong.

After Ron Kovic is shot he gets sent to hospital in New York to recover. There were men lying in rows of beds completely at the mercy of the medical staff, many unable to move or advocate for themselves. It was easy to see that the staff was totally overwhelmed and were being asked to preform way beyond their abilities.

And I thought of my mom at 11 getting polio and being in a ward similar to that. She used to describe hearing the iron lungs and how terrifying that sound was, and how it was even more terrifying when the noise stopped because you soon learned what that meant.

The doctors came and told Ron that he would never be able to walk again, and they then showed him with absolute determination dragging himself on his crutches. They told my mom that she’d never sit up again until she sat up. They told her she’d never walk again and so she learned to walk with her crutches.

Although mom didn’t talk much (like never) about what things were like when she was sick, I grew up with what I thought was an understanding of the basics of what it was like.

After watching Born on the Fourth of July I now see that what I thought I understood wasn’t even the surface of what actually was. It’s given me a whole new appreciation of who mom was and how hard she worked to create a new life after losing so much.

Because at one point while she was in the hospital she had to make choices. She had to decide how she was going to be, what limits she was going to push, and who she was going to become. And she fought every single day of her life to push through and past the limits that were put on her.

Watching the movie was traumatizing for me, I cried the entire time I watched it and then had to just lie on the couch quietly for a few hours longer. I’ve never been that affected by a movie before, and I feel extreme gratitude for the lessons that it gave to me.

Fortunately I didn’t follow up that movie with Inside Out to fully examine my feelings.

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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

Crocuses and memories

Yesterday my aunt headed home to be with Jesus. Although I will miss her here, she was a woman who held true to her faith and I know she was welcomed with open arms.

When we were kids, my cousin and I would go spend a week or so in the summer at my aunt and uncle’s farm, splitting our time between VBS and scaring the crap out of ourselves with whatever fun things we could find to get into. Sometimes our cousins would take us to the nearby “haunted house”, once we found a two headed grasshopper, but a lot of our time was spent playing in the yard and generally enjoying ourselves.

When I went away to school, my aunt sent me cards regularly so that I wouldn’t feel too lonely. She even came once and took me out for lunch which meant so much to me (I really was lonely).

After Grandma died, we were all sitting in the kitchen when my aunt returned from a walk in the field. It was early April, but she had found some crocuses growing in the field and brought them into the house. It seemed very fitting to have there for Grandma, but it also seemed fitting that my aunt would have gone out and found something that provided us all with a bit of comfort when we were all sad.

For some reason, after everyone left, I grabbed those crocuses and dried them in one of my books. The crocuses came with me as we moved around, and every once in a while I would open the book and look at that memory of love from home.

I opened the book at Christmas time and again looked at the crocuses with so much gratitude that we were back in the same home where they had sat in their vase (actually, in our home crocuses always go in a small juice glass), steps away from the field that had grown them. Grandma will be gone 17 years this spring, and it’s always amazed me that these crocuses held their shape. This time, though, the crocuses were disintegrating and as soon as I touched them they crumbled into little pieces.

It was like they knew they’d done their job well and were ready to go. Hopefully they’re a centrepiece at a beautiful tea table in heaven.

Love lasts for eternity. Everything else is noise.

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Love that lasts through time and space

Poor Ella has been quite depressed since Aladdin died. She’s the most cat-like of our cats (don’t touch me, don’t look at me, and whatever you do… don’t touch my fancy tail) and has a harder time getting along with the other animals (and sometimes humans). But she loved Aladdin, and he loved her.

They would lie on my bed for most of the day all cuddled up together, and they slept there at night too with me interrupting their space. He just got her, he loved her no matter how cranky she was and in turn that made her less cranky.

Since he’s been gone, she’s lying on my bed alone a lot of the time. She’s just kind of down and depressed even though we try and shower her with love.

Today the girl suggested we take Aladdin’s ashes and put them on the bed with her to see if they comforted her at all. It’s funny, if it wasn’t for the kids I never would have got ashes back, but it seems they were much needed. I could not believe her reaction.

She lay on the bed for ages loving on that box

I was not prepared for how beautiful or emotional this would be. But she just could not stop hugging on the box that contained the memories and essence of her best friend.

It was a truly beautiful moment.

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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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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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