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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happiness

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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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

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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happiness

Artichokes and mayo

Years ago when I was a teenager and we were all choking on our Aqua Net hairspray in the 80s, my aunt made artichokes at a family supper. I obviously didn’t get out much, because I had never heard of these weird looking things that I was told I would like, but I had my doubts.

Doubts and all I decided to trust her. I decided that in the worst case scenario I could drown it in mayo the same way that I’d had to drown the nasty liver my mom used to make me eat in ketchup.

I fell in love with a food that day. Artichokes are amazing, and I ate them non stop for years. Apparently it’s been at least 16 years since I cooked them though, because the girl had no idea what weird object I put on her plate last night.

But she decided to trust me the same way that I trusted my aunt, and like I did, she fell in love with a new food.

So now artichokes will become part of our meal rotation again and I’m pretty happy about that.

This year my goal is to try 50 new dishes in honour of my turning 50. This one doesn’t count since it wasn’t for me, but I do love that we are open to new experiences.

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