Monday, August 31, 2015

Ageless Wisdom from the Birthday Girl

 Just about 6 years ago, my friend Helen Vanderkooi mischievously invited me to come and "just have a look" at the puppies she had on her farm. So, we took a little ride out to the farm just to have a look and then shockingly, we were hooked. I mean, it's lucky we didn't end up with four. Thankfully, they weren't ready to come home so we left the farm without one. But, as the boys' birthdays approached in October and the time for these little ones to find homes was falling in line with that, Helen offered us a free female because she was able to sell the males easily. So, we drove out to the farm, just Jason and I and picked up our little fur ball, who promptly nosed her way into my elbow and fell asleep on the way home.

How can you choose just one?

She's grown into the loveliest, goofiest, laziest, most loyal friend (unless offered a snack or a car ride by a perfect stranger...) that we could have imagined for our household. She's taught us a lot about family and love and life...and in honour of her birthday today, we give you the best lessons of a 6 year old (or a 42 year old...) starting with the fact that age really is only a number.  She has taught me a lot about living with depression and been the best medicine for the worst days. 

There's no reason to feel shame in caring for yourself. 

Good health requires sacrifice. Good self care is essential but sometimes you have to let those around you who you love and trust, make good decisions on your behalf. 

Some days are just hard.

There are days when you can only get out of bed to make it to the couch. This too shall pass.

Some days are much better and you feel nearly normal again.

There will be those days that you feel like yourself again...nearly. You wake up early, you go outside, you find joy in the beauty around you. Take advantage of those days. Store them up in your memory for the days that don't feel so good.
Sunlight, pillows and a long morning stretching out is sometimes the best medicine.
Get rest when you need it. Healing takes time. 

Sometimes there are things that make you feel alive, that maybe aren't SO good for catching those in moderation. 
Don't put off the things you really enjoy doing. 
And there are things that bring consistent comfort, like the company of a quiet companion and a good book. Do those things in abundance. 

Take time for quiet reflection, whether in the beauty of the outdoors...

...or in the comfort of your favourite spot at home. 

Allow those who love you to show you...even if sometimes it feels a little smothering. You need this. 

Good nutrition plays an important role in staying healthy and energized. Sometimes you have to rely on those around you to care for you in this way. Sometimes they need reminding that this is a great way to show that they care.

Sometimes, even when you don't feel like it, it's good to get outside and engage in exercise. 
Find people you love that make you feel good about yourself and spend time with them. 

Find activities in every season that you enjoy so that you have a something to look forward to as the seasons change.

And remember, there will be days where just getting your feet wet is all you can muster. 
Do it anyways. 

It doesn't have to be an organized sports team...just choose your teammates well and show up, they're counting on you!
Sometimes you just have to show up for the sake of others. Being selfless can combat the feelings of depression and sadness. 

Even if you have to make an extra effort that feels enormous, sometimes it's worth going the extra mile so that others know you love them. 

Even from the sidelines, you can show your love. You may not be on the sled but they'll remember that you cheered them on every step of the way. 

Cousin Eito from Japan is great at taking me on walks

Remember that new friendships can bring new enthusiasm and discovery - differences in language and culture can enhance your desire for learning new things! 

And when there are days where you just can't seem to pull it together, 

...remember that your very presence is often enough to warm someone's heart. (or feet.)

Take time to yourself when you need it...but don't withdraw from life. 

A dear friend now gone on to doggy're not forgotten.

Share your best with others, for you never know how long you'll have them in your life. 
Zany and I resting up from a long day at the lake.

Play hard together and get plenty of rest in between.
This old man, Remington,  and I shared a great friendship. RIP buddy.

Celebrate friendships with those younger and older than you, for they bring wisdom and energy you 
can learn from. Even a short time with a wise friend is better than having lived without him. 

Play hard and rest well. Life is about balance. 
This bull seemed very happy to meet me. If I'd listened to all the BS,
I'd have never met him. 
Take chances and veer off the path once in a while. You never know who you might meet.

And remember you have an extended family who loves you nearly as much as your own family does. 

In position for apple season. 

Wait for the next good thing to fall into place. Patience is a discipline.

Remember the dreams of your youth. 

Stay true to who you are and never forget how far you've come. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


 Our beautiful friend, Emma Love, offered a while ago to take our family's photos...she waited patiently for all of us to be in the country at the same time, available with work and school and travel schedules...and spent an afternoon along one of my favourite stretches of the South Saskatchewan. Enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Days are Flying By

Mitch, Aidan and Mac ~1998

I found this gem of a photo a few days ago and I posted it to my Facebook page. It's Mitch, Aidan and Mac in 1998 when they were just the tiniest versions of themselves. I'm not even sure how it ended up in a work file of photos but it surprised me and took me right back to when the days of. I love this pic, they are just miniature versions of the men they are growing up to be. A few years between them made a huge difference in their size and appearances in those days. The photo below is them now. So close to grown. Mitch heading off to play hockey in the US today, I can hardly imagine. He's been the most determined kid I know since the beginning, and hockey has been his focus. He's never deviated from his dream. He has worked hard and it's paying off in the opportunity he is getting now to play and go to school in Pennsylvania. Mac just graduated high school and looking at his photos and seeing him with his cap and gown just gets me, knowing what he's been through in the last few years fighting a brain tumour. He's taught our whole family the meaning of playing it cool, taking things in stride and exuding quiet strength. Best of all, he has kept this sly humour that cracks me up.  Aidan, just returned from Cambodia and loving his time serving there, exhibiting this incredible passion for others, particularly kids, in different cultures. He's driving, which kills me.  Every time he pulls out of the driveway, I fight the urge to panic and lock him up in his room, bubble wrapped and under my watchful eye.  The truth is...boys grow up. And these guys are doing it right before our eyes, a little faster than we'd anticipated but with such incredible characteristics, it's hard not to feel more than a little proud. 
Aidan, Mitch and Mac ~ Summer 2015
Looking at the two photos, I see the years of Matchbox cars that have turned into Mustangs and Firebirds in our driveways. I see the shinny games and mini sticks in our basements that have developed into a pathway to education for Mitch. I see the roaming around the acreage at the grandparents and the Christmases crammed into shared floor spaces and waiting for showers, hoping for hot water. I see games of dice and cards that have evolved into poker. The nights around the television cheering on the World Juniors and the summers dragging these bodies behind the boat on tubes until the light faded on the lake. I see the days of begging them to eat something when they were little and the nights of begging them to stop eating when they were teens. The teasing. The inside jokes. The camaraderie of cousins. Most of all, I see three guys whose brotherhood and cousinhood have made my definition of family feel incredibly special. And I can't imagine having better nephews and nieces than those that I have...

We spent 20+ years in youth ministry and having teenagers in our home, and we would often tell parents how interesting and amazing their kids were. I'm not sure if that experience has made me more of an expert or given me some insight into the characteristics of great kids...but I am sure of this...looking around the room at my nieces and nephews in the past weeks, and then having time with my own guys in the midst of it, I'll say this: there is a lot of incredible character that is coming out of this motley group of cousins. Bias aside, I believe that there are world changers in their midst and it's our job as parents to continue to tell them when we see it. 

Last night, Aidan drove me to work and dropped me off. On the quick trip into town, he mentioned that he wasn't looking forward to going back to school, which isn't really his style. I asked him why and he said that he wished he could spend his time doing missions and coming home, because he enjoyed his time away so much but it also made him enjoy his time at home even more. 

Don't underestimate your kids, my friends. It's okay to be proud of them and celebrate their unique and amazing contributions to your family and the community around them. I don't often recognize publicly that they are growing into great people, and it doesn't mean they aren't incredibly irritating or irrational at times, but I do want to say that when you see your kids doing something you've had expectations for and dreamt of? Tell them. Tell the world. And tell them again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


There are times in your life where you need people to just have your back. Over the past few weeks, I've been nursing some old hurts and been carrying the weight of some really heavy things going on in the lives of people I love. The combination is tiring and honestly, I don't wear it so well. It tends to manifest itself in insomnia and dark circles, bad skin and sore throats and that is putting it mildly. I feel like the pain often paints itself on my body before I even realize it. So, added to the cesspool of crumminess, I start to lose sight of who I am. I used to go to the Bible to find descriptions of who God tells us we are. Beloved. Precious. Called. Worthy. I don't know why but I've stopped going to that source these days. It's too hard to believe when you're looking in the mirror and wondering how soon you can crawl back into the bed you've left unmade behind you. Plus, I kinda feel like God has to love me, right?

I have some pretty amazing friends, I'm not going to lie. And when I need a pep talk or some encouragement in the form of sitting on a porch with a drink and the space to rant, I have some seriously good go-to people both near and far to jump into it with me. Everyone needs people in their corner to boost your spirits and your faith in yourself.  I find it hard to be in my own corner some days. Lately though, I have been wondering why is it so hard to believe the things about myself that my friends believe about me? Have you ever thought about this for more than a few moments? I mean, I trust my friends when they give a bad restaurant review or come up with a great recipe. I trust them when they tell me who is a great hairdresser or who is the mom to avoid at the rink because she's running an agenda. Why don't I trust them when they affirm who they know me to be? I'm not sure why that's where I draw the line. I'm not talking about those surface friends who you are on your best behaviour around...they see what you want them to see. I'm talking about the friend who has seen you do the snot cry with the dark circles under your eyes from lack of sleep. The friend who comes in when you're scraping the bottom of the Smarties ice cream container that you bought that morning and knows that it means trouble. The friend that has paid the long distance phone bill for a half hour of unintelligible sobbing and ranting. Those are the people to trust when it comes to who you really are.

This morning, I chatted online with a couple of my most trusted friends. These two have saved my butt more times than I can count, seen me at my grossest and worst, my shallowest and my most beaten down and still see the good in me. They are the face of Jesus in my life and I am not exaggerating. If they can love me when I use the foulest language and can not scrape together two kind or grateful words, I imagine He can too. The reason they can is because they love me. For whatever reason, I have people, mere mortals, who have figured out how to love me in spite of, or maybe because of, the crazy in my life. They see the good. They know the drive behind the anger or the disappointments or the frustrations...even when it's not logical or reasonable. They love me unconditionally...even when they have to live with me in all my flawed thinking. How lucky am I?

I reminded them today that when it becomes apparent that it's me that is behaving badly or that is the root of the issue, that I am relying on them to tell me. You know what? They will. In a heartbeat. Or as one of them reminded me, they will get in a vehicle, grab a bat and make the road trip to beat sense into me. Those are people who can be trusted. So, when they tell me to continue to follow this passion I have for Africa and the community that I love there, I believe them. When they tell me that I am gifted, I am choosing to believe them. I'm not being arrogant or cocky when I say that I am a good investment as a friend, as an employee, as a wife and a mother. I am believing people who are trustworthy and have read the fine print and seen the disparity between who I am in public and who I am in private and they still believe in me. Today, I'm choosing not only to believe in myself...which is never easy. I'm choosing to believe them.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Return from Hogwarts

So, last week, Easton and I found ourselves in Diagon Alley, watching our favourite books come to life. We loved every square inch of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley. It was an incredible experience and though I've never been a big fan of theme parks, I have to say, this was right up my alley. (Sorry, a week with Easton...puns come naturally now.)

I faced my fears and rode every roller coaster at least once with Easton....most of them numerous times, even going so far as to ride the front car of the Hulk coaster, which is not for the faint of heart. I loved it! It was even more fun hearing Easton giggle and scream the whole time. We walked a million miles and our poor feet were screaming each night as we crawled into bed, but it was worth every stinging step. Now that my fear of flying, crowds, roller coasters and visa bills have been fully conquered...ok, well - not the visa bills...but the others...I can honestly say it was a great week and I am so glad I was able to do this with Easton. I learn more and more about this kid when I just get to spend time with him. Once he gets past talking about super heroes and conspiracy theories, YouTube recaps and John Oliver's philosophies, he really does have an incredible sensibility about him. Even in the middle of a trip to Harry Potter World, we talked at length about Zimbabwe and what he's looking forward to. We talked about high school and classes he wants to take and he told me, inadvertently I'm sure, that there were at least three girls that would marry him if I offered them $50 like I have offered his now-future-wife, Gabi.  It's amazing what you can learn about your kid when he's relaxed and not complaining about his older brother. 

Easton using his wand to start the fountain in Diagon Alley

The incredible Knight Bus with talking Shrinking Head

My travelling buddy

The fire breathing dragon above Gringott's Bank in Diagon Alley

Speaking of the older brother, he and Jason return home from Cambodia tomorrow. Jason has been so good about updating that I feel in many ways we were along for the trip but I can't wait to hear first hand how it went. Aidan conquered some serious fears on this trip too! For a kid who HATES spiders, to the point where he will beg for it to be removed from his presence, I challenged him before he left to at least LOOK at the fried tarantulas in the roadside stands. He didn't think he could do it. Turns out...he TASTED one. I'm assured it was the teeniest, tiniest piece imaginable...picture the pinky toenail of a tarantula, but this is nearly unbelievable. But, if there's one thing I've learned about my kids when they're out serving, is to never, ever underestimate them. I have watched them do incredible things, taking much more courage than I have, and done it well. Probably the most rewarding thing as a parent is to watch your children grow into independent people...even if it means that they may one day leave you to pursue their own paths. 

Aidan's got his dancing face on...the Cambodian conga

Aidan leading his students through an English lesson using a seek and find game

Bicycling with the students

I've been listening to a good many friends this last season of life as they've watched their children graduate and move on to college and work. It's heart wrenching to hear them talk of empty rooms and long distance phone plans, Skype dates and the countdown to school breaks. I am dreading those days with the knowledge that I am going to squeeze every opportunity to hang out with these guys that I get in the next few years. And yes, maybe I do secretly hope that one or both will be the guys that live in their parents' basements for their college years...or their comic book store years, whichever makes them happiest.
Returning home has made me feel a certain contentment with whatever the future holds for our family of four and one fur ball. We've been here 9 years with no idea what is next, it may be 9 more. Our house is furry and full of laundry and stacks of books and bills and projects to be tackled but it is full of life. The kids are home and we're going to enjoy it while we have it. For all too soon, we'll be in a house that stays clean and a fridge that stays full for more than a few hours at a time, and we'll be thankful for the mess and the memories made in the meantime.