happiness

The photo album

I have this stack of old photos that have moved thousands of miles and sat in piles for years waiting for me to organize them and put them in albums. Today I realized I’ll probably never properly organize them, but some of them at least should get put into albums.  

They’re photos of fun years. The kids were little, tiny things and we were living in Quebec. I loved our years spent in our cul de sac in St. Lazare. We had great neighbours, most of whom became close friends. The moms and kids spent hours visiting in the woods in the middle of our houses. I somehow managed to attract this awesome bunch of amazingly strong, smart girlfriends and we used to do things together all the time. It was mostly kid focused fun, but sometimes the ladies would get together for book club (the best invention ever) or a meal out no men or kids allowed. 

It was a more innocent time before most of the shit hit the fan in our family, actually in hindsight it was hitting the fan then – I just didn’t acknowledge it. Had I paid more attention to the incident and really listened to my gut I could have saved myself years of heartache. But some lessons needed to be learned the long, hard way I suppose. My girlfriends kept telling me to pay better attention and do something – but I hadn’t yet found my strength. 

It was fun to sit with some of those old memories. Fun things I used to do with the kids when they were in a completely different stage of life than they are now. They were so innocent and fun and cute. I consider it such a blessing I was able to be at home with them and watch them grow and begin to discover who they are. Happiness. 

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happiness

The pirate and the ladybug 

After sharing a bit of my marriage story in yesterday’s blog, it got me thinking about some of the good memories I have of our time spent as travelling gypsies. And there were some good times. A lot of my time was spent alone with the kids in Virginia, but in Rhode Island and Quebec we made friends pretty quickly and had some great times and good laughs. I still hold many of those friendships made as some of my dearest. 

When we were living in Quebec and Jacob was about 4, we were at church one morning during ladybug season. This meant the inside of the church was alive with ladybugs. The kids were called to the front for the children’s sermon and during that time Jacob made a ladybug friend. He put her on his finger and proudly walked all the way to the back of the church where we were sitting, waving his finger with the ladybug on it as he went. The only problem was the ladybug was on his middle finger. So he essentially walked all the way through church flipping the bird to the entire congregation. Thank goodness they were a pretty easy going crowd and the saw the humour in it. 

I told the kids this story once again his afternoon and we all had a great laugh thinking of little Jacob flipping everyone off. 

Of course then Jenna wanted a story about her. So keeping in the ladybug theme I told them of our first Halloween in Rhode Island. 

Jacob dressed as a pirate and Jenna, who was only 2 at the time, went as a ladybug. I got her all dressed up and was putting the finishing touches on her while she stood on the bathroom counter. Suddenly she leapt off the counter projecting herself as far out in the air as she could. Fortunately I was standing right there and I reached out to grab her. Once I had her safely in my arms I asked her what she was doing. She responded with I’m a ladybug now, so I can fly

Stories like these are the reason I will be forever thankful that I was home with the kids for all these years. They have made some of the happiest moments of my life and they’re the moments that have bonded us together as a family. It’s not the big things, but these little,  everyday ones that make the memories you hold onto through life. My happiness moment, sharing fun stories with my monsters. 

  

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happiness

Being Canadian

I have always loved being a Canadian, specifically an Albertan, but I love my entire country. I mean, it’s awesome. I may not always be able to describe exactly why it is the best place in the world to live, but I believe it to the bottom of my soul.

When I was trying to figure out what to become when I grow up in my 20s (not knowing that I would be in my 40s and still not know the answer to that question), I fell in love with Canadian History. I took every class I could until I ended up with my B.A. in the subject. It may not be extremely useful in my every day life (especially those 8 years I lived in the States), but I really enjoyed it. One of the best parts was that it gave me a much better understanding of what Canada is (or is not).

I spent some time today watching the documentary Being Canadian, where Robert Cohen took a trip across Canada to answer the question what does it mean to be Canadian? It seems that what he discovered is that  it is almost impossible to explain exactly what it means to be Canadian. This identity of having a non-identity is something that is really difficult to explain to people who aren’t from Canada – something I learned during my time in the States. 

I too bonded with other Canadians while living in the States for the sole reason that we were both Canadian. It was something that had to be mentioned, the same as there is always some kind of acknowledgement when I come across a fellow Lefty. A kind of relief in knowing that you’re not the only one floating around out there.

Also, the fact they had an entire segment about the Beachcombers was incredibly awesome. 

I proudly kept my Canadian sorry in my vocabulary until after living in Southern Virginia, I finally gave it up. I was shocked to live in a place where when someone bumped into me and I said oh, sorry they would grunt at me that yes I should be, now get the *** out of my way. I’m happy to say that I have my sorry back now that I’m home again.

 

 

I watched the documentary (thrilled that since he’s also from Calgary he spent a little longer there, no offense Toronto, but I was glad that you weren’t the centre of the universe…. sorry) and it got me thinking about what it means for me to be Canadian.

I have strong Canadian roots on both sides of my family. Of course since we are all immigrants, that only goes so far… But, my Dad’s side has old standing in Ontario – I came home from my Canadian history class one day and told my Dad we were learning about the Northway store and he was like oh yeah, that was your great grandfather’s store. And my mom’s family was one of the first to settle out here in Alberta.

I have always identified very strongly and proudly as a Canadian and it thrills me to be back in my country and raising my kids in our Canadian culture (whatever that is).

So what does it mean to me to be Canadian? Well it means my prairie/foothills/mountain roots in Calgary. It means time on the ranch that was started by my great-grandparents and continues on now with my uncle, aunt, and cousins. It means horseback riding and freedom.

It means summers with family at the creek

It means going to the Canada Day Parade in Canmore and celebrating how awesome it is to be Canadian.

It means going to the Stampede (the kids here with my uncle when we were at the rodeo last year). 
It means going branding and being a part (a limited part since a lot of this cow stuff is totally out of my wheelhouse, but I love it) of learning what makes the ranch work. It’s important we know our heritage. 

It means tobogganing down the hill by the barn while the horses watch


It means having your kid throw snowballs at you while you’re unloading groceries from the car (not off the dogsled)

It means beautiful skies and unexpected snowstorms.

It means Santa Claus Parades in our hometown. It also means being closer to the North Pole and all of Santa’s goodies.  

Pure and simple, it means home. It is security, love, peacefulness, kindness, humour, and a place where I am truly blessed to live.

Ok, maybe that is just what it means to me to be Albertan. However,  I think one of the best things I did was live in Quebec for 2 years. I actually think there should be an exchange program between our two provinces where everyone has to spend some time in each other’s provinces. I loved living in Quebec and some of my greatest friendships were made there.

My happiness moment today: watching something that made me sit down and think about how much I truly appreciate this wonderful place that I call home.

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The middle of nowhere

If you had asked me 10.5 years ago if there was any one thing it was certain of it was that I absolutely would live my entire life in Calgary. I have always loved the city and the area (not a huge fan of the cold, but you can learn to make do). Perhaps in my future I could have imagined having a winter house on Vancouver Island, but for me Calgary was always the place to be. With the mountains, the prairies, the foothills, my family, my friends and my horses it really always met my every need (except for the fact that it gets so cold… have I mentioned the cold?)

In Junior High my parents *forced* me to go into the French Immersion program. I was so mad. There was no point in this you see, because even at the age of 11 and entering into grade 7 I was absolutely sure of two things: I would never, ever live in Quebec (therefore I would never need French) and I would never, ever live in the United States.

I suffered through the French and became bilingual almost in spite of myself. Still though, the only real use I had for it was getting easy A’s in my French classes in High School and in University. That is until 10.5 years ago when my husband came to me and said he’d been given an exciting job opportunity in Montreal and did I want to move? I was 7 months pregnant with my second child, our then 3 year old son was at a fabulous dayhome, and I was working a full time job. I was already exhausted and overwhelmed and unable to put together a coherent sentence. Although I knew I would have my year of maternity leave home with baby Jenna, I desperately wanted to stay home with the kids on a permanent basis. This move would allow this to happen.

So, off to Quebec we went. Their dad went first – leaving when Jenna was less than two months old – and the rest of us followed a few months later. I went completely insecure about my ability to speak French, but was relieved that the area we lived in was pretty bilingual. I quickly had my abilities tested when we had some French only speaking workers in the house putting in our air conditioning. The man came to me and said “On droit couper un trou dans le mur”. I stood there in mild panic thinking ‘he’s telling me something important, but it’s in French, what is he saying – holy crap – it’s “We need to cut a hole in the wall” I better smarten up and pay attention.’ Amazingly after that my French improved exponentially.

I actually loved living in Saint-Lazare. For an Albertain to say they love living in Quebec is a pretty big deal – but it is true – I loved it. We had an awesome neighbourhood where we had lots of friends, I was in an amazing book club, we had fantastic restaurants (my favourite being Anis et Marjolaine). It was a happy place to live.

Not even two years into living there, my husband came to me again and said that we were going to have to move to Rhode Island. Ugh. Where was Rhode Island anyway? We sold our house, packed up and moved to the United States’ smallest state -Little Rhody. After a rather chaotic move we actually ended up in a lovely neighbourhood. I made friends, had people I did my morning walks with, was invited to join a book club, had play-mates for the kids near-by – we started to settle. Remember how I said the other place I was certain I would never live was the United States? Well, there I was. And actually, there were some really nice things about Rhode Island. We made friends, we were less than a half hour drive to some pretty awesome beaches, we were an hour from Boston (and some really good food). Because we rented in RI we had to move two years into staying there – and moved to a “nicer” neighbourhood, but one that I liked way, way less. No social scene for me and the kids anymore, no walking companions, no kids playing out in yards. Lonely. I started to lose myself.

Two years after that we ended up moving to Roanoke which quite literally for me was the middle of nowhere. Small city in south west Virginia – what?

In Roanoke I literally found myself in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of nowhere I found myself. This place was by far the most difficult place we have moved to. Most certainly the hardest and most lonely years of my life have been spent here. But, in that space and time of quiet I gained the ability to find myself. These quiet walks along the river, the evenings at home with the kids playing cards, laughing times driving them to and from their activities, time spent learning Ayurveda, learning to finally breathe into yoga poses, learning to sit quietly in meditation – all of this I have been able to do because in the middle of nowhere I found myself. Something that I would never have foreseen. Something I’m so incredibly thankful for.

Learning that I could be both the damsel in distress and the charming princess who rescues her has been a game changer. It has not been easy, but it has forever changed how I look at life. Learning I have the strength I have found in myself these past couple of years has opened me up to allowing wonderful things to enter into my life. It has allowed me to find the joy and happiness in small moments. It has given me the deep understanding that as long as I’m ok with myself and the choices I’m making that everything else will work out, as long as I can look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and know that I’m ok with myself, it really does not matter what other people tell me about myself, nor does it matter what choices other people make. Learning that we all have our paths to be on and that all I can do is walk my own path is freeing me up to actually walk (sometimes skip) on my path.

I spent years feeling like I was in quicksand with a hand stuck out hoping someone would grab it and help pull me out. What a huge relief to learn that I was capable of pulling my own self out of that quicksand. I am learning to be my own hero.

As we prepare to move onto the next phase of life, as I’m learning to embrace the uncertainty that all that brings, I am eternally grateful that I found myself in the middle of nowhere – because in the middle of nowhere I found myself.

Happiness moment of the day (day 18 of 44) came this evening with Jacob. He had his banquet for wrestling at his school. It was so heart warming to see him sitting at the table laughing with all his friends. It makes me so happy to see both kids hanging out with their friends. Good friends have tremendous value. Side happy-giggle was that they served fried chicken from the local Piggly Wiggly. As with getting a drink from the “bubbler” in Rhode Island, I can’t say Piggly Wiggly without bursting into giggles. *snicker*

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