happiness

In Grandma’s Words part 13 (FGK-75)

One of my most valued artifacts in this house is a buckskin jacket with beadwork sewn on it. I was told that years ago (waaaay before my time) one of the ladies on the reserve who Grandma was friends with wanted to go to a fancy function but she didn’t have a gown that was appropriate for it. Grandma gave her one of hers so that the woman would be able to go, and never thought much of it again. A while later the buckskin jacket was gifted to Grandma as a thank you for the gift of the gown, and the beads that were hand sewn onto it were taken off of said gown. I look at it daily and it serves me as a reminder of how important it is to live life with an open heart, to give freely, and to receive with gratitude. Again, I try to be sensitive to the words that are used. Grandma only every spoke respectfully of our Indigenous neighbours to the west of us, and so I stayed true to the words written because it was what was used at the time.

The jacket
The beadwork

Grandma’s Cheese Straw recipe! My kids grew up eating cheese straws, and they are one of my fondest memories of snack munching as a kid. I agree with her sentiment that it’s a very precious recipe.

All through the years we felt a close tie between us and our neighbours the Indians at Morley. We would contract fencing jobs to them all summer. In the fall they would often help us harvest. And later in November would often ride with the men to help round up stray cattle. I loved our Indian friends and felt I could always trust them. We looked forward to the First of July when they held their annual Stampede in the beautiful natural setting where they had built their corrals. What a magnificent picture to view. We would park our car on the hillside looking down into the corrals, and beyond them the big circle of teepees and tents and their children, cats, and dogs. And back of it all those Gissing blue foothills leading up to the Rockies. Where on earth could you find more beauty and activity? I always felt well entertained. My chickens were just nice fryers by July 1st and I always fried about four or five and along with a salad, cake, and sandwiches that would do us for the day.

My Harry Jacques, the jeweller from Calgary used to have a contest with a prize for the best dressed Indian baby. He very often asked me to be a judge and I wanted so badly to give first prize to everyone there, they were so cute and the beadwork on the buckskin was beautiful. Our kids just loved the first of July and the Morley Stampede.

We always tried to get to Banff or Vermillion crossing for a few days holiday and fishing just before haying. Once we went to Everett, Wash, USA and dug clams just as Percy did when he lived at the coast as a boy.

Family fun time
Family picnic at the ranch
As you can see from the caption “slave labour”. The running joke is that the CL on the brand stands for “Continuous Labour”.
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happiness

Facing a bully

It should come to no surprise to those who know me that angry men intimidate me. I think as a single woman this would probably be true anyway, but I lived in a war zone with a man who raged at and threatened me on a regular basis, so there’s a lot of trauma that I’ve been working through since I left (thank goodness for therapy).

Yesterday when we were driving home we saw that there were tons of swans on the slough, and that there were tons of people stopped to watch them. It’s a happy sight for the most part, the swans have been missing the last few years, and since we have all been home more I know they bring joy to so many people.

As we drove by, there were a few people climbing the fence to go in the field to get closer to the swans. Trespassing isn’t really a great thing at the best of times, but there were two newborn calves right beside where everyone was climbing and it’s not a good idea to get between a mom and her baby.

So we stopped and asked the people to please stand on the outside of the field. They were super polite and apologetic – and like I said, I get it- seeing the swans is so exciting and we need a pick me up now more than ever.

But, as I was chatting with them, a man who was probably 10 years older than I am walked by us and started climbing the fence. I asked him politely to please not go into the field. He looked at me and kept climbing. I asked him again, and he said well, he was just going to walk along the road (in the field) then. I said no, the road was IN the field which made it trespassing, and pointed to the calves right beside him and explained that it wasn’t safe to be in the field with the calves.

He then asked me if I owned the land. I said yes (I don’t but it’s family land and I live right beside it). He said he didn’t believe me, and started yelling that he could do what he wanted because I was lying. I pointed to my house and said I lived right there and that he was welcome to follow me home if he didn’t believe me (while crapping my pants because who wants a crazy person following them home?). He said the only way he would stay out of the field is if he had proof it was my land. I responded by saying if it wasn’t my land why would I be standing here being an asshole? He stood there glaring at me for several more minutes before taking a quick photo and leaving.

As this was going down I heard the other people standing there laughing, and heard them comment what a rude person he was and how there was clearly a gender issue going on. I have to say, as things got deeper I was pretty glad I wasn’t there alone because that man was going out of his way to intimidate me.

So, here’s the happiness moment in this. First of all, I stood my ground to the man who was trying to intimidate and bully me. Secondly, I had some great conversations with the other people looking at the swans. Thirdly, the people besides “angry man” who were there were really kind and nice people who genuinely seemed to enjoy being out watching the swans. Finally, I got to see swans and calves which really along with crocuses (still haven’t seen this year) is my sure signs of spring.

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happiness

Speaking up

Our local rants and raves page has been going crazy the last 24 hours after someone spoke up about a restaurant owner who has been verbally abusive. Hundreds of people have chimed in saying they have had similar experiences with this individual, while others are upset because they believe this will ruin his business.

In the 2015/2016 school year, my kids were at different schools with different start and end times. Many times I’d pick up the girl and go to this cafe with her while we waited for the boy to be done school. We would have tea or hot chocolate and share a treat and visit while we waited. The owner would come over and visit and it was quite enjoyable.

However, one time we were there and the owner began berating one of the young female workers. I don’t mean just yelling, or upset but yelling at her (in front of us customers) about what a worthless piece of shit she was, asking her over and over if she was stupid and what was wrong with her, and making other personal attacks.

It was distressing, but because we’d been there several times before I brushed it off as a one time thing (by the way, I’m learning to not do that, when my intuition says something is off, I’m listening from now on). The next two times we went there he did the same thing to her. She would quietly, with her head down, head over to wherever it was that he’d barked for her to be.

We have never returned.

The comments on the FB page have really helped me understand why people who have been the victims of abuse are so often hesitant to come forward. They are being told to think of his business, or that they should brush the experience off, even though their experience is valid and it’s being confirmed by hundreds of others who have similar stories with the same individual.

I feel this to the core of my soul because I know how hard it is to speak up after you’ve been abused. I know how people don’t want to believe you because they’ve never seen it themselves. I know how it feels to be told to stay quiet and endure the abuse so that you don’t interfere with their ability to earn money.

It’s bullshit.

I am SO proud of the people who are speaking up. The only way to change how things are is for us to talk about our experiences.

I have thought about the young woman who I watched being verbally assaulted by this man many times. I feel like I let her down by not saying anything at the time, because that’s when it should have been said. But I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t speak up for her when he was attacking her. I was scared. It’s scary when you have lived similar abuse to speak up because you know how quickly it can escalate. But still, I should have said something. It’s frightening to have a man yell at you and tell you you’re stupid and worthless. She endured that in front of many people who were dining and while we all listened, none of us did a damn thing.

It’s time to start doing something. We need to speak up, we need to talk about this.

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happiness

Ride a pony

The last couple of weeks, I’ve switched it up from riding the gentle giant thoroughbred to a cute little grey pony. His colouring reminds me so much of my old horse Rolex, but his size and the fact that he’s half Welsh reminds me of Pirate the wonder pony. It’s so weird to be on a pony who reminds me so much of two of my great past horse loves.

Being on him I can remember how I felt on Pirate, they were probably some of the most free moments I’ve ever had in my life. We were invincible together and still when I look back at some of the crazy things we did and the jumps we cleared, I am in awe of our bond and our combined courage.

At this stage of my life, it’s really good to be reminded of how I felt when I was brave and courageous. I actually don’t think I ever stopped being brave, it just got clouded by anxiety and insecurity (and abuse). Every time I go for a ride, I feel like a more whole, complete version of myself.

Every girl should know the love of a horse

Current Grey Pony
Rolex
Pirate
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happiness

In the Belly of the Whale

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.

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happiness

Never give up

I started the day out in tears. I saw that there was finally a posting of payment to MEP for our support (that was due by the first). It is $3,000 below his required payment for the month, so as you can imagine is not enough to pay the bills, buy the groceries, and do the other things that the kids need. This is on top of the over $75,000 he is in arrears for.

So I cried. I cried for me, I cried for the kids. What it says to them is how completely unimportant they are to him, how little their safety, security, and futures matter, and how his own enjoyment will always be the top priority. Just like it always has been. I cried because while the courts make orders, they aren’t enforcing them, and are thereby allowing and encouraging his behaviour. I cried because it affects my ability to do my school, to build a new future where I am able to look after us, to regain what I lost. I cried because it feels like God has forgotten about us.

On the way to school this morning we took the backroad like always, and laughed at how drifted over it was. About half way we stopped laughing and started to wonder if we were going to get through. My girl said it didn’t look that bad when we started. And I laughed and said that’s what I say part way through all my bad ideas.

And then we noticed the biggest drift of all, with a car off the road, a school bus stuck in it, a truck behind that (not stuck) and trucks on the other side. And we were stuck figuratively. We couldn’t go back because I wasn’t sure we could turn around, forget make it through the drifts again, we couldn’t go ahead until the road was cleared. So we had to wait.

We sat, watched, laughed, called the school to say she’d be late, and just were. Then finally the bus was pulled out, the truck got through, and it was our turn. There is no way my car should have made it, but we barrelled through and made it to the other side laughing. The tow truck driver waved us over to tell us how amazed he was at our car.

And just like that I thought – never give up– that’s my motto for the year. It needs to be applied to everything I set my intention to. He will not win in destroying my family, my future, my dreams. I will not give up. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I will keep trying until my kids and I are where we need to be.

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happiness

End of a year, end of a decade

Usually I don’t get too excited about New Year’s Eve. My birthday is in January, and instead I celebrate that as my personal new year. But this year, I’m quite mindful of the fact that we are closing the door on the most difficult decade of my life. I had a friend jokingly say that the 40s were supposed to be the “fuck-it” forties, where you do what you want, no matter what people think. For me it was kind of more a “fuck-you” forties – but lots of growth and change happened.

I stopped drinking alcohol and caffeine at the beginning of the decade as I dedicated myself to dealing with the anxiety disorder that reared its ugly head during my marriage. My (now ex) husband lost his job not once but twice, which had us move from Rhode Island to Virginia, and then him to northern Virginia without us. The rage and abuse went from a mild simmer to a full out explosion of hatred and eventually the kids and I were able to get out and return home to Alberta. Then my dad died, I got divorced, my son became very ill, I broke my shoulder, my mom died, and my daughter also became ill.

Through this I learned about Ayurveda, studied it in a course to become a practitioner and became connected with a healer who guided me through my life changes. I started attending church regularly in Virginia, made a connection to my pastor who was integral in helping save me and my kids, and for the first time really learned about having a relationship with God. I took a health coach course that helped my interest in healthy living return. I started riding again, which has always been my soul connection, it helped me learn how to be brave again, how to keep going, and how to enjoy life. And finally, I was accepted into a masters of counselling psychology course, and now I have some direction for my future.

I’m happy to say goodbye to this decade, but I’m grateful for all I’ve learned about myself and about my family – immediate and extended – in this time too. When I say how blessed I am to have the family I do, they’re not just idle words. They literally helped save our lives, and have held us up ever since.

So when I think of where I want to go next, what I want to take with me, it’s what I’ve learned from these last few years.

Love unconditionally and bravely

Keep your circle small

Love yourself

Love others

Love God

Be strong, but allow others to help

Laugh often

Happy New Year, may your life be blessed.

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happiness

Stuck

I’ve been stuck with this blog for a little while now. There are a few reasons, some more petty and some the result of deeper growth and understanding. It frustrates me that Mr. X and his family use my blog to spy on my life. I check myself and say – well the blog is public and lots of people who I don’t know read it, so why does it bother me that they do? And the answer to that is because they’ve been the cause of a lot of pain and destruction for my family. However, if I want to keep blogging and telling my story that is something I will just have to learn to deal with.

The other part is that I’m realizing that my understanding of happiness has changed, deepened, progressed over these last few years. When I started, the only way I could connect to the feeling of happiness was in the smallest of moments – seeing Henry the Heron, a moment of laughter with my kids, a good book. Life was small and scary then.

Ironically life has continued to be scary – just no longer in the immediate will tonight be the night he offs me kind of way. But I had no idea when I started how much would change in my world in 4 years. How much loss, how much grief, how much love, how much deeper my faith would become. I often complain that I wish God would shine a flashlight on my path so I could see where I was going – but if He had 4 years ago I would have run for the hills. I never would have believed all the things that were coming up on my path, and I honestly don’t see how any of them could have been avoided.

And here I am, sitting quietly in Grandma’s kitchen, the sun going down over the mountains, and I think thank God I’m here, this is exactly where I’m meant to be. And that’s just it isn’t it? No matter what happens we are exactly where we are meant to be to keep growing and learning.

I’m now at the place where I understand that the next step is to let go, to make peace, to stop chasing moments of happiness and instead make peace with the shadows.

I’ve been reading a book called The Secret of the Shadow by Debbie Ford that described exactly what I’ve been searching for in my soul. Not just the brief moments of joy (although they’re important too) but the soul comfort of inner peace.

To begin the process of making peace with our stories, we must make a commitment to letting go of all of the behaviours we use to anesthetize our pain. If we look closely at those behaviours and are willing to tell the truth, we will probably see that most of the ways we numb ourselves don’t work very well anyway. In order for us to heal,  we must stop chasing what I call the “feel good moments’…. The process of making peace with our stories requires us to identify, accept, and embrace everything in our past that has caused us pain… As we make the inner journey of embracing our story and all its ingredients, we begin to see that life lies ahead of us, a life that will give us the gift of our eternal selves. Our traumas and failures, once they are understood and processed, will take us deep inside and return us to our Divine essence. 

I feel sometimes like I fight now to try and make up for the pain of the past, to try and make it right for me and the kids. But the pain of the past lies there no matter what I do in the present. Maybe if I can make peace with that pain I will find more peace now. It doesn’t mean remaining a victim – in fact it’s the complete opposite of that – it’s letting go of the victimhood. Instead of trying to cover up the searing wound with candydrop bandaids, it’s time to acknowledge they are there and see how they’ve shaped me into the person I am now.

I’ve struggled with how impossible it is to forgive someone who continues to hurt me, and not just me, but my kids as well. But I have faith that there is a way – because that is my path to peace and freedom.

And maybe this is part of why I’ve been putting off blogging – I knew I needed to say this, and yet I hate to let them see my weaknesses – even though being vulnerable like this is exactly what makes me strong.

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happiness

Put on a happy face

I feel strongly that in order to truly feel happiness one must also feel all the other feelings. Inside Out did a great job of explaining that for us all and the movie was instrumental in learning to grieve properly after dad died.

So in the midst of gratitude, love, and peace, I also have this intense anger. Like I’m mad as f*ck.

And I need to acknowledge that. I refuse to be Facebook happy – you know where everyone pretends their life is perfect. Gratitude is essential to life, and I am happier than I was last year, happier than 4 years ago, and so much happier than 5 years ago when we were still trapped in that life.

But still, shattered pieces remain of that old life.

I’ve spent the last couple of months dealing with my lawyer again. We are having to take Mr. X back to court. Not only is he almost 70k behind in payments, he’s refusing to pay Section 7, and he’s refusing to say how he will he helping pay the boy’s tuition next year. The boy has worked hard to get into his program and it’s devastating for him that instead of an I am proud of you, son; that I have to take Mr. X to court.

Here’s the catch. If he refuses to pay his share of the tuition the boy won’t be able to go to school (he doesn’t qualify for loans since his dad earns so much money – haha what a joke that is) and if he doesn’t go to school, Mr. X doesn’t have to pay child support. You see where this is going right?

I had a conversation a while ago with someone who said to me that solo parenting must be so difficult since I never got a break.

I responded with, no- that’s not the hard part of it. The hard part is that my kids don’t have a dad. That is the hard part. The hard part is that the man who is supposed to love and protect them is hell bent on destroying them.

And my happiness moment is that inside all this anger and hurt and frustration- I know we will be ok. I know love will win, I know they are fantastic human beings who may be struggling with after effects of trauma, but they are absolutely amazing people who shine love into the world every chance they get.

Over and over I feel like The Who’s in Whoville – we will keep singing and we will keep healing.

And I will keep standing up to him.

I have to. My kids deserve better. So do I.

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happiness

See how happy I amazing

We had a family discussion today about the photo incident of a couple of days ago. I wasn’t going to say anything but it came up and it seemed better to talk about it.

The issue with recovering from trauma is there’s so many triggers that can set you off. Instead of asking how the kids are, or offering support (emotional or the court ordered financial), they pick off a picture to look at.

The boy was really upset. I apologized and said it was my fault for putting up a picture and that I wouldn’t do it again. I explained that it was nice to share how he looked with my friends and family but that I should have been more thoughtful.

The girl piped up from the back seat I don’t care. You can post all the pictures of me that you want. Let them see how much happier I am without them in my life.

It was a powerful statement. It took her from fearful victim to empowered survivor. She’s been working so hard at healing and I really saw the result today.

We are moving to a place where we aren’t afraid and won’t be intimidated.

That is happiness.

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