Engagements and the lasting properties of tin foil

Engagements and the lasting properties of tin foil

Sixteen years ago this week, my husband got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I answered yes (obviously). But the bigger question here is, who remembers an engagement anniversary?

(Except for my niece, whose engagement video (yes, video) went viral on Youtube and ended up on syndicated television in the US. I can see how maybe she might remember that 16 years on.)

But the rest of us. Really?

Or maybe it’s just me?

I’m not really great with dates in general. But for some reason this one has made its way into my love’s Blackberry calendar. (He’s evidently not that great with dates either.) So, we celebrate the engagement. I won’t ever complain about dinner out.

While I don’t have any recall on the date, I do remember the occasion perfectly. He hatched the plan one evening, getting my two daughters—who were eight and 10 at the time—to scheme along with him.

I was taking evening classes, finishing up the last few requirements of my degree program while working full-time, so every Tuesday evening, he would come over to my place and watch the girls while I was at school.

In my absence, they concocted a plan that involved a tin foil ring (and a couple of prototypes).

When I got home from school, they ambushed me, so I didn’t have time to be annoyed that they weren’t in bed yet. (Well played, kids!)

Giggling, the girls greeted me at the door and led me to where Chris was waiting with a ring box in his pocket. When I was positioned in just the right spot (masking tape x on the carpet?) he dropped to one knee and took my hand.

He pulled the box out of his pocket and proceeded to open it, revealing the most beautiful tin foil engagement ring I had ever seen. (In fact, it was likely the only tinfoil engagement ring I had ever seen… for reasons which will quickly become apparent.)

This ring is way nicer than the one I was presented with, but you get the idea.
This ring is way nicer than the one I was presented with. Apparently, there are others out there who took advantage of tin foil too! Who knew?

As he attempted to slip it onto my ring finger, it fell apart—which is where the prototypes came in handy. Quickly, the kids whipped out another one, hopefully sturdier than the last. Note to self: back-up engagement rings should be a thing!

They instructed me to close my eyes and swapped out the tinfoil beauty for an actual real engagement ring. And I knew when I opened my eyes that we weren’t playing anymore. Suddenly, this was real.

We had talked about marriage, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. We hadn’t talked timing, so a Tuesday evening in October was a surprise. But it was a welcome surprise.

It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. My yes didn’t just impact him and me and the fluttery butterflies of new love. My yes was a commitment on behalf of my daughters too. I had to decide that I was willing to take a chance on love again and this time had to consider there were three hearts involved. No longer just one.

There were some people in my life who, for one reason or another, thought I was making a mistake. Another mistake, perhaps. After all, look how well the first marriage worked out for me. By that token, maybe I should have been more skeptical of the symbolic properties of a ring that promptly fell apart?

But 16 years on, this man has cherished and loved not only me, but my daughters too, more than I ever could have hoped for or imagined.

It had nothing at all to do with the ring and—tinfoil or gold—the promise it held is what counts.

During our wedding ceremony four months later, he included vows to both my daughters also, presenting them each with a keepsake box marking a day that was significant for all of us. (Tucked inside each box resides one of the tin foil prototypes.)

Two more daughters now round out our estrogen-heavy family. And I could not ask for a more kind, gentle, loving guy to wrap his arms around us all.

These days, his knees aren’t quite what they used to be. A lifetime of soccer is taking a toll on his body, piece by piece. But if he happened to bend awkwardly down in front of me with a twisted up piece of tinfoil in hand, I’d say yes all over again. (And then help him up.)

Happy Anniversary.

just-because-the-past

 

 

 

Be Still and Know: a reminder for everyday

Be Still and Know: a reminder for everyday

I’m not much of a jewelry wearer. Though I love the sparkle of diamonds and can seldom walk purposefully past a shop window glittering with gemstones, I’m not dripping in diamonds and most days can be found with the same pair of little studs in my ears. My wedding rings usually stay on. Occasionally I’ll wear a necklace. Almost never a watch.

But I have this bracelet. I wear it most days. It’s not gold or silver. It’s not expensive nor does it glitter. But it is precious to me. Because it carries a simple message that whispers to my heart.

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Life is crazy, isn’t it? Do you feel like that sometimes?

You’re in a season of life and it’s full and busy. And we think there’s salvation in the next stage. But each stage has its own crazy and busy. Each is different and yet so much the same.

Don’t misunderstand me. There is so much good in each season too. The crazy and the busy aren’t necessarily bad. Our lives are full of activity and relationship and work and things that challenge us, mold us and shape us.

It’s just that it all happens so fast.

We always seem to find what it takes to get through each stage, even though when we’re in the trenches it’s hard to see the big picture.

And then, just when the big picture comes into view, sometimes life throws you a curveball.

  • You lose your job.
  • Money is tight.
  • You have kids.
  • Someone gets sick.
  • A diagnosis of some kind.
  • Marriage ends.
  • A loved one dies.
  • Parents age.
  • Something happens with the kids.

The curveball looks different to everyone. It rolls in like a tidal wave, sheer size and force and power. And it’s hard not to get swept up in the emotion of it all. It moves quickly. It’s overwhelming.

Be Still.

And Know.

Four little words that carry with them the reminder that I’m not alone in the midst of the crazy.

The ability to sit in stillness—to find rest and peace and contentment there—is a lost art for most and I am no exception.

In the grocery store line, I whip out my phone to check my Facebook feed or the latest Instagram photos. In the doctor’s office waiting room, I check my email. If I’m waiting in the car for my daughter to come out after school, I can be found scrolling local news sites or reading my ibook. A steady stream of stimulation keeps my mind tossing and turning.

I may tune out the tsunami of my life for a moment or two, but I fill the deafening silence with other clutter.

And so I wear this little reminder.

Be Still.

And Know.

The words are rooted in scripture.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
~Psalm 46:1-3

Sounds like a curveball doesn’t it? And yet, in the midst of it all—earth moving, mountains trembling, waters roaring—there is the invitation to simply be still.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”
~Ps. 46:10

Four little words that remind me to just chill.

Stop worrying.

Relax.

Trust.

Trust that no matter what I’m going through, and no matter which season I’m in, I can know without a doubt that I am loved.

And I will find what I need to get through it.

And I will come out the other side a different person—better, stronger, perhaps more humble, but certainly changed.

Be Still.

And Know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are all changemakers: a follow-up to starting over

We are all changemakers: a follow-up to starting over

Four kilometers in four months. That’s how far I’ve managed to get to since I “started over” back in April. It seems like a lifetime ago that I resolved to become a beginner again when I wrote this post.

I was no longer starting a fitness regime from a place of being relatively fit. Instead, I swallowed a heaping dose of humility and mentally and physically put myself back on square one.

I laced up my sneakers and started running from lamppost to lamppost, literally. At the start, I could maybe run a stretch of about 25 metres at a time. Walking the 25 metres in between. My total distance was a humbling 2 km. All the while, the voices in my head—like a tiny angel perched on one shoulder and a devil on the other—competed for my attention.

“This is embarrassing! You are so out of shape! Go home, sit down.” My inner naysayer reminded me over and over again all the reasons I couldn’t and shouldn’t be out pounding the pavement in lycra leggings; all of my love handles on display for passing motorists.

Straining to be heard above the din, my inner encourager (who, sadly, lacks volume and presence) whispered, “Look at you go! You’re out here moving your body! Good for you!” But she’s oh so quiet and hard to hear most days.

Thankfully, she’s persistent.

It wasn’t long before I was able to run the distance between two lamp posts. And then three. And then a whole block between cross streets. Each run, pushing myself to go a little farther than I had the time before.

Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. By “pushing myself” I actually mean, praying desperately to reach the arbitrary landmark I had set as a goal.

“Please get me to the stop sign.”

“Please get me to the next corner.”

Breathing heavily. Panting. Gasping for air with lungs that refuse to expand. Legs aching: lactic acid flooding the muscle cells, also gasping for oxygen that isn’t coming. There’s simply not enough to go around.

It’s still not pretty. But, here I am almost five months in and I am able to run about 4 km at a stretch. Depending on the elevation gain or loss of my route, sometimes a bit more, occasionally a bit less.

But the most important point that I don’t want to get lost in the story is that I’m still doing it! (Insert sounds of celebration here!)

I’ll be honest though, some days it’s a tough slog just to get out the door. Besides understanding the biology and physiology of pain and lactic acid build-up, learning to run again has also been a physics lesson. Specifically one addressing inertia: “a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.”

In other words, an object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Can inertia be considered a medical condition? Because, if so, I definitely suffer from it. Apparently, I LOVE rest. Thankfully that external force required to change my behaviour lives inside my head and mind over matter occasionally wins the day.

With that in mind, I’m looking ahead to a loose goal I set for myself back in April. Built-in accountability—a 5 km run. On Sunday, October 2nd, I’m going to be participating in the CIBC Run for the Cure. And, I’ve officially registered, so there’s no turning back!

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It will be an anniversary of sorts for me. My very first formal run was also a Run for the Cure—21 years ago—in 1995. It was another “starting over” for me, only four months after my husband at the time had walked out on our marriage.

It was a tough slog then too. I was younger, undoubtedly in better shape than I am now, but I was still gasping for oxygen – struggling through circumstances that took my breath away. Gut-punched regularly by the rejection that characterized my days.

And yet, I did it. Set a goal. Worked diligently toward it—faith carrying me when I didn’t have the strength to carry myself—and proved to myself that there was good in me. Not only that, but God brought alongside good friends who ran with me, encouraged me, cheered me on.

And now, 21 years and another four months later, I’m doing it again.

I’m still terribly hard on myself. I still have another kilometer I need to get under my belt. I’m glacially slow when I run. (You may think I’m exaggerating, but trust me, I’m NOT!)

But I can see that finish line on October 2 and I’m going to cross it.

The tag line on the registration package for the run this year is “We are all changemakers!” That phrase resonates with me deeply. I know that in this case, it refers to the powerful impact that fundraising and awareness can have on a disease.

But, I take it more personally than that. I am not the same person I was 21 years ago. Or 10 years ago. Or two years ago. Or even four months ago. I believe that change is implicit in growth. And change and growth for the good needs to be celebrated.

This year, I’ll celebrate with a run. Who’s with me?

Yes, I kept my very first official run number. From 1995 to now. Some things change. Apparently, run numbers don.t
Yes, I kept my very first official run number. From 1995 to now. Some things change. Apparently, run numbers don’t.
The remedy for a terminal diagnosis (a.k.a. life)

The remedy for a terminal diagnosis (a.k.a. life)

I was at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre a few weeks ago for my regular six-month check-in with my CLL specialist. My wait was a little longer than usual, which I don’t mind because I know when the time comes that I need a little extra, it will be there for me. Cancer is hard.

When she finally entered my little examining room, she apologized profusely. Her eyes sad and heavy, “Sometimes I just get a patient that I don’t know what to do with. Even with some time after diagnosis, all they can wrap their heads around is ‘Oh my god, I’m going to die.’”

I get that. I really do. I know that not everyone’s story is the same as mine. Each cancer has its own personality, each patient his or her own reality. It’s a hard pill to swallow.

Ultimately though, the diagnosis is always terminal. That’s the nature of life; it ends in death. (Such a cheery thought, am I right?)

In that light, the “OMG, I’m going to die!” becomes a moot point, doesn’t it? Really, the question should be, how do we respond to the diagnosis while we’re here?

My remedy is simply this: Live.

I don’t mean just live, as in continue breathing, eating, sleeping, working, lather, rinse, repeat daily. I mean REALLY LIVE. Live like you just sat down with your doctor and she told you you’ve got six months to a year.

What would you do differently? What is it that you’re putting off right now that tugs at your heart?

Relationships? Job? Tasks? Travel? Creativity? Hopes and dreams deferred?

  • I’ll do this when the kids are grown
  • I’ll do that after I retire
  • When I have more time
  • When I’ve got more money
  • When I get my act together

Do these resonate with you?

I confess I am guilty of using each and every one of these reasonsexcuses at various times over the course of my life. (Probably a little too frequently.) And, to be clear, they still make their way out of my mouth from time to time. This post does not come from a place of having figured it out or having my act together. Far from it. Rather, it comes from a place of looking long and hard in the mirror and asking myself if I’m truly living the intentional life I long for.

In the forefront of my brain is the knowledge that my time is running out. And when that astonishingly persuasive little voice of practicality or fear whispers all the reasons I shouldn’t/can’t do whatever it is I’m moved to do, I want to scream. If I could grab myself by the shoulders and give me a good shake, I would!

The days will never get longer; 24 hours is 24 hours. And maybe money will never be more abundant than it is right now. And really, do any of us truly have our act together? Some put on a better facade than others, but I think every person has their own battlefront.

Quite frankly, NOW is when you’re here!

Unless you’ve been living off the grid, under a rock in Canada this summer, you’ve likely heard of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip.

Upon receiving his diagnosis of an inoperable, incurable brain tumour, Gord Downie did not curl up in a corner, and wallow in self-pity. Instead, he proceeded to launch one last Canadian tour of epic proportions.

In one fell swoop, Gord became Canada’s sweetheart and the very picture of bravery and courage in the face of death. Take that Cancer!

Gord Downie represents HOPE. He has single-handedly inspired a generation of people with his resilience and strength and message of hope in response to unimaginable hardship. He gave as much as he had to give and more. He’s choosing to LIVE.


12 year-old Natasha Gould, who passed away on August 4th this year, after receiving the crushing diagnosis of DIPG (an aggressive, incurable form of brain cancer) spent the last year of her life sowing seeds of hope everywhere she went. She saw an opportunity and seized it.

Upon diagnosis in May 2015, the doctor advised her family to have the summer of a lifetime. And, according to her father, that’s exactly what they did. “It turned into having a year of a lifetime. We packed in a lot of things. There were no regrets,” he said in an interview with CBC news.

“She saw that she had a purpose in her life to advocate and spread the message and draw attention to the fact that we need more energy to try to find a cure to childhood cancers,” he added.

And in the midst of it all, she lived! She fulfilled a dream of being a cheerleader, performing onstage with her troupe with OMI, mastermind behind the hit song of the same name. She spoke publicly about her battle with cancer, advocating for research and funding, she even participated in a TEDtalk.

She was 12. While cancer slowly stole her vibrancy and, ultimately, her life, she chose to live every single minute of her last year boldly.


So, I’m writing again.

Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of writing this summer. But now I’m publishing again. For every internal whisper that reinforces all the reasons I shouldn’t/can’t, I’ve got a faith that says:

You should.

You can.

Why are you waiting?

What have you got to lose?

Your time here will not last forever.

We have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Sure, plan for the future, but not at the expense of living today. Today, choose to view your limitations as opportunities instead of endings.

Today, Live.

go do them

 

Monday morning musings: Starting over…

Monday morning musings: Starting over…

It occurred to me not too long ago that I’ve been living in the past.

Reflecting on the past has its uses for sure: developing character, instigating change. But, in general, it’s not a good idea to dwell there as a substitute for actually living in the present.

So, on that note, there’s this little niggly thing that’s been bothering me that I need to deal with once and for all.

Confession: I am no longer fit.

(Crickets)

It’s not even the outward appearance that I struggle with the most; a good outfit can hide a multitude of sins. It’s the fact that, despite my quite obviously unfit body, in my head I still think I’m in the same place I was 15 years ago, fitness-wise.

In my head I’m still a lean, mean running machine. I could sit on my rear end all winter and get up in spring and knock off 5 km like nothing. Heck, I ran a marathon!

But really, how long can you NOT run, and NOT be fit, and cling to these things as though they might still actually be within the realm of possibility?

I think it’s time to let go and face facts. I am no longer a runner.

Several humbling moments over the course of the past few years have hintedsuggested loudly—that this is my new reality. But, as with most things, I’m slow to catch on. Or stubborn in my refusal to accept it.

But I’ve been thinking lately—in part because I’m not liking what I see in the mirror, and in part because it’s spring and the weather in Calgary is gorgeous—there is just so much I miss about running.

So, I’m letting go of my past.

Starting over.

However, I realize that if I’m going to be successful at this, I’m going to need a radical change of both my attitude and my mind. I need to alter the way I think about both me and about running.

I am a beginner.

And running isn’t solely about races and speed and distance.

I need to be gentle on myself, and forgiving of my own shortcomings. And I need to be willing to celebrate even the smallest victories—like successfully running from lamppost to lamppost. And then perhaps, my first full kilometer.

For me, it’s going to be a marathon accomplished only by baby steps full of grace.

Coincidentally—or not, I’m also starting a new session of bible study THIS week, and I’m going to be going through a book called The Rest of God: restoring your soul by restoring the Sabbath.

Because whose soul couldn’t use a bit of restoration these days?

Coincidentally—or not, this book reinforces the same concepts I’m trying to wrap my head around with regards to my running. The author wants to radically change the way we think about Sabbath and Rest and he does it by first helping readers to change their attitudes and then encouraging them to change our actions.

So, I’m “starting over” in a few areas of my life, and I’m hoping that the things I’m learning in both areas will collide and result in great change over the long haul.

It will be a marathon, accomplished by baby steps full of grace.

next chapter

Always moving. Going nowhere.

Always moving. Going nowhere.

I feel like a caged animal.

Always moving.

My calendar is full. My schedule is busy. I have lots of important things to do and places to go and people to see.

You know those animals in the zoo? Not the little guys, or the reptiles. The big ones. Lions. Bears. You know the type.

Their environment dictated by walls and fences.

In the wild, they’d be roaming. Covering hundreds of kilometres in search of food. A mate. Family. Migrant. Moving. Going somewhere with some purpose.

But in the zoo, they are confined. And so they go. But it’s around and around. Wearing a path on the perimeter of the enclosure. Always moving. Going nowhere.

In a rut.

That’s how I feel.

I’ve erected walls and isolated myself in an enclosure. It keeps me safe and spectators firmly at a distance. I don’t let many people in. And I rarely venture out.

It’s generous in size, and yet, it’s more confining than what I was made for. I was made to be in the wild. Created for more than what I am doing. Going around and around. In my self-imposed rut.

Even the fact that I am writing this affirms my cyclical nature. Every September I make New Year’s resolutions. Every January, I refuse to make New Year’s resolutions. Every Spring I lament that my pants don’t fit. Every week, I commit to eating better and exercising more consistently. Regularly I resolve that I will begin writing again.

It’s like an album with a scratch in the vinyl; the same phrase or chord over and over again. I’m so very tired of it.

I half-heartedly try to break patterns. I step to one side of the rut or the other. It’s not that I’m doing nothing. I try. I have good intentions.

But some days, every little obstacle sends me right back onto the familiar and safe path.

I withdraw a little more, determined to shield myself from whatever conflict or upheaval threatens.

Threatens what though? Threatens to make me uncomfortable? What is it exactly that I keep protecting myself from? Since when did discomfort become the enemy?

Carefully, I place my feet, one in front of the other, in the path that is so comfortably worn. It’s easy there. And, it’s evident to me that my rut is so deeply carved that I need a ladder to climb out of it.

I can no longer look out and see the walls of my enclosure. I can only look up and see the sky.

Today though, the sky is blue.

It looks like hope.

Today looks like a good day to walk a different path. To take a flying leap off a cliff even.

set free

Peace… relatively speaking

Peace… relatively speaking

These two.

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They are two years and six months apart. You would think that would be enough distance to allow each her own space to be the individual she was created to be.

They are as different as night and day both in physical characteristics and in personality and character.

And they bicker.

Oh.my.goodness. There are days when I want to pull my hair out.

Some days, the pettiness and the vitriol that comes spewing out of their mouths causes my blood pressure to spike. I can feel it.

And then, there are days like this one. Where they are best friends. Each other’s number one fan.

I never know which one it’s going to be when the sun rises. And from how it begins to how it ends can be two entirely different things also. Who knows what triggers the swirling, pre-pubescent emotions of a young lady?

But for this day, I’ll take the peace that accompanies the excitement of a new instrument arriving home.

It’s a relative peace, of course, because the sounds of brass and scales have replaced the venom for the time being. There is nothing peaceful about a trumpet and a French horn playing in tandem.

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But it’s music to my ears. And today it fills my heart.

Stupid things you do when you’re diagnosed with cancer. (Episode One: Family photos)

Stupid things you do when you’re diagnosed with cancer. (Episode One: Family photos)

Someday, I desire for this little corner of the Internet to be more than what it is. I have big dreams for this baby.

At the moment, it’s a catch-all for my seemingly random firings. Little stories, anecdotes, things that get me thinking. There’s mostly no rhyme or reason to my entries, except that in my daily battle to write and my own pressure to post, every now and then, it’s crap here. Plain and simple.

I admit it.

But, as with my office—which is perennially disorganized with piles of things that forever need “filing” or “sorting”—or my computer photo storage program, which, quite frankly, is a mess, my blog remains at the bottom of a pile of wishful thinking. For now.

However, when my wishful thinking becomes reality, this entry will be filed under the heading: Stupid things you do when you’re diagnosed with cancer.

November 2014. Three weeks post-diagnosis. Email a photographer, because your out-of-town daughter is coming into town for Christmas and you MUST.HAVE.FAMILY.PHOTOS!

Because why?

Because who knows if this is the last time you’ll have hair?

Or see your whole family together?

Or any other number of equally profound thoughts that race through ones’ brain when you hear the C word.

Never mind that my condition is chronic. I’m on the watch and wait program. The prognosis for the type of Leukemia I have is up to 20 years, give or take.

MUST.HAVE.FAMILY.PHOTOS.NOW!

My poor kids. I guess you can lump patient husband into that lot too.
kirsten

 

awesome rachel

I tell the older ones that they need to bring a black top or sweater along.

hannah2

 

Leah copy

I go out and purchase black tops for my two youngers (because, apparently, we don’t own black).

I purchase colourful scarves for each member of the family.

I have booked and made arrangements with the photographer, asking him to scout locations – including an indoor alternate, if the weather is miserable.

December 29 dawns bright and clear.

And indeed, it is officially the coldest day of the entire year. A bone-chilling -29 degrees Celsius. What is that in Fahrenheit some of you may be scratching your heads wondering? It’s precariously close to the point where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet – something like -21 degrees. Really, it’s too cold.

Yes, I know. You're cold. Too bad. Suck it up. Love, Mom
Yes, I know. You’re cold. Too bad. Suck it up. Love, Mom

The photographer messages and says “Are you sure you want to do this?” and I’m thinking “YES! I HAVE CANCER. MUST HAVE FAMILY PHOTOS!” (Plus, daughter number one hops on a plane and heads back to where she came from sooner rather than later.)

And, in a smaller, slightly less irrational inside voice, I’m also thinking. “We’ll just use the alternate indoor location that the photographer scouted.”

But, he actually didn’t do that.

So I drag my family out into the bitter cold, dressed only in black tops and colourful scarves to endure the most brutally cold photo session of all time.

To be fair, the photographer and his assistant had to be out there as well. And I’m sure it was no picnic for them either (except they were wearing coats and functional scarves.) And, we did jump into our respective cars to thaw from time to time. So there was that.

So, basically, the moral of this story is that my family obviously love me because they went along with this bout of craziness and limited their grumbling to behind my back.

The other moral of the story is that a cancer diagnosis will indeed make you do stupid things.

To be clear, not all of the things I have done in the months since then have left my family to question my sanity. I’m pleased to say that I’ve leveled out and my sense of panic has abated somewhat.

There are definitely more stupid things to share, but these humbling moments need to be doled out sparingly. For my own sake, more than anything.

Thank you so much to Erik McRitchie for enduring my temporary loss of sanity with grace (and gloves).

family
Our very cold family

 

My four. I sure love these girls.
My four. I sure love these girls.

 

In an effort to warm up, Erik suggested the ever popular "coordinated jump."
In an effort to warm up, Erik suggested the ever popular “coordinated jump.”

 

Leah, however, was having a few problems with the whole concept.  The scarves also did not cooperate.
Leah, however, was having a few problems with the whole concept.
The scarves also did not cooperate.

 

ridiculous

 

Page 1 of 365 – Faith. Hope. Love.

Page 1 of 365 – Faith. Hope. Love.

So. Happy New Year.

You’ll have to excuse my lack of enthusiasm and exclamation points. I’m having a hard time these days.

I struggle with the whole Christmas season, so by the time all the festivities have wrapped up, I’m ready to just run for the hills and not come back.

I survived Christmas this year, but I’m not gonna lie, December was hard. The days are short and dark and in Calgary—where I live—it’s cold.

So, now it’s January, typically a time of fresh starts and resolutions.

But, quite honestly, even though I’m generally an optimistic person by nature, I’m not feeling the excitement of the New Year.

Reflecting on 2015, I realize that it was perhaps a more difficult year than I thought as I was battling my way through parts of it.

It began with a brutal head cold. “What started as a tickle in my throat on December 29, has become a nagging sore throat, irritated, coughing and feeling crappy,” I wrote in my journal on January 2.  Happy New Year to me!

My CLL diagnosis was fresh and, despite enjoying relatively good health, the litany of potential symptoms was fresh on my mind.

Night sweats
Compromised immune system
Dramatic weight loss (*hoping for this one!)
Swollen lymph nodes
Fevers
Fatigue
Risk of infection/excessive bleeding
Abdominal discomfort

Every little ache and pain was cause for panic, including fretting over whether my body would manage to fight the cold that reared its ugly head for the new year.

It was all so new. I was stumbling my way through un-navigated territory.

April brought new challenges as Leah came down with a cold following a swim competition that, after a few weeks, had developed into Pneumonia. Hannah caught the same cold, as did I on the heels of a Mother’s Day weekend trip to Saskatoon for a swim competition.

By mid-May the entire household was a cesspool of germs except for Leah, who upon her diagnosis received some awesome anti-biotics. Lucky her.

Hannah and I continued to suffer; being repeatedly assured that our condition was viral and there was nothing medical professionals (yes, plural!) could do for us.

Meanwhile, we were both slated to hop on an airplane on May 30 for her to compete at Nationals in Saint John, New Brunswick. After being sick for almost three full weeks, I didn’t have a lot of hope for either of us to be able to function in Saint John.

In an act of desperation, five days before our trip, I took us to a walk-in clinic and begged for drugs. I stopped short of getting down on my knees, but I confess I may have shed a tear or two. I was that worn down.

The doctor—thankfully recognizing an exhausted mother at her wit’s end—prescribed the same anti-biotic that Leah had taken and within two days we were both back on our feet. Hallelujah! (And, as a bonus, Hannah’s team came FIRST in the routine portion of the competition!) Nationals people!

August brought with it a bout of appendicitis that landed me in a hospital in Cranbrook, BC. Thankfully, the ruptured appendix was removed in a timely manner and the surgeon was skillful and adept and my recovery has been seamless.

December, with its band concerts, special events, Christmas parties and the general stress that accompanies all the holiday preparations, gave me the gift that keeps on giving: Shingles.

That, and an unexpected and very sad funeral just days before Christmas rounded out 2015. In hindsight, it was quite a year.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. Amid my recollections of these events are a host of really great moments and memories.

My wanderlust kept me a little closer to home this year: camping in Yellowstone Park, Waterton and Jasper National Parks, a soccer tournament in Victoria and a lovely long weekend with my cousin in Parksville, BC. Of course, there was Saint John and many wonderful days spent lazing at Lake Windermere.

I even went to my first concert in more years than I care to remember – taking in an evening with my girls and the indomitable Taylor Swift.

It was an eventful year. Full of ups and downs.

I was reading a devotional the other day that talked about the lenses through which we filter the circumstances of our lives–our ups and downs, as it were. The author put forward that we basically have two options.

The first is that we can view our circumstances through disillusionment and disappointment. She writes, “when something happens in my life that catches me off guard with pain and hurt, it’s hard to see that it could be part of a bigger plan to bring about something good down the road. I want comfort. I want relief. I want the hardship to go away. We have a tendency to walk away when we don’t understand.”

Um. Yes.

The second option is Love. “If we predetermine that no matter what happens, we are going to stand on the truth that God loves us, then we can filter everything through that reality. His love is a fact that doesn’t change, not a feeling that sways with situations. His love is a certainty above every circumstance.”

So, it’s got me thinking about which filter I’m going to use on the past year. And, even more than that, how am I going to approach the new year, given that I’m feeling so flat only a week in.

The author of that same devotional concluded with these words, “Deserting God will not give you any of the comfort or relief you are looking for. Hope is only found in Him. Stay with Jesus. Filter your situation through the reality of His love and whatever you don’t understand, can’t process or feel like you can’t bear one more day, give it to Him.”

Speak His HOPE over your hardships.

He is faithful.

Well, I’m not making any grandiose resolutions. I’m not declaring that this year is going to be different from all the rest. I’m putting my HOPE in the ability to view my life through the filter of Love in all my circumstances. And I’m going to see where that gets me in the short term of this journey.

Gratitude.

Trust.

Faith.

Hope.

And Love. One foot in front of the other…

Happy New Year! (exclamation point!)

bd6732a71f524bc34ead86acc5837dd8

Hold the bacon…

Hold the bacon…

I felt my world shift a little bit the other day.

Of course, it wasn’t a literal earthquake, but no less unsettling. Well, maybe slightly less unsettling.

A friend casually interjected this piece of information into a conversation. “Oh, haven’t you heard? Some new research out of the WHO (World Health Organization) has basically concluded that bacon causes cancer. “

There.

Did you feel that?

I’m sure the earth just moved.

And sure enough, within days of that earth-shifting revelation, this was the cover of Time Magazine.

timemag

Unfortunately for this meat-loving gal, the war on delicious doesn’t actually begin and end with bacon. It encompasses an entire food group!

MEAT! (With the exception of chicken, which somehow has remained unscathed in all of this.)

“The categories of meat in the new study are broad and inclusive. Red meat is defined as “all types of mammalian muscle meat, such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.” At least I can safely say I’ve never eaten horse or mutton (to my knowledge.)

“In a sweeping review released on Oct. 26, the WHO officially identified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning the quality of the evidence firmly links it to cancer.”

Wait, it gets worse.

“Red meats fare little better, falling into Group 2A—foods or substances that probably cause cancer—a category that includes the toxic pesticide DDT, the chemical weapon mustard gas and the insecticide malathion.”

So, in a nutshell, DDT, mustard gas, commercial insecticides and steak all have this in common.

Just pause here for a moment if you just need to spend a bit of time grieving.
I understand.

So, what does all this mean for a girl with a penchant for fatty Italian salami, who, by the way, already HAS cancer? The article’s author poses the tongue-in-cheek question, “So, are we really talking about life without hot dogs and T-bones?”

I don’t know. I have no answers. The reality is that lots of things are bad for us. There is no way I can trace my cancer back to the one thing that may have been the cause of the first genetic cell mutation.

I live beside a park, where dandelion spraying occurred for many years before our city council banned it.

I grew up in the 70s, which meant that my diet was made up all the helpful food creations of that generation designed to make the lives of mothers everywhere easier. Kraft dinner, Hamburger Helper, boil-in-bag vegetables, processed cheese slices and canned pasta. Yum.

I am of European heritage, which means that meat and potatoes, gravy and butter were my staples. These are the very comfort foods that I still crave today.

And bacon.

And, although I have altered my diet significantly as an adult, and more so since being diagnosed with Leukemia—choosing organic products, all fresh fruits and vegetables, grain fed, hormone free meats, preservative-free breads, and homemade baking over store-bought varieties—I still love the mouth-watering, salty, smoky taste of bacon. I am a carnivore through and through.

The author writes, “There’s a cruel irony to the fact that meat should be as dangerous as health experts warn, because we are hard-wired to love every little thing about it. Predation is not just a nasty indulgence we picked up on our way through the state of nature; it’s a nutritional must-do, or at least it was in our ancestors’ times. Animal muscle is dense with proteins and other nutrients and the fat from a cow or pig will serve the same purpose in our body as it did in its original owner’s: as a repository for calories in the event of food shortage or famine. To make sure we come when the dinner bell clangs, our brains recognize the smell of sizzling meat as singularly irresistible. “

So, basically, this article drags me firmly out of the “ignorance is bliss” category to “can’t hide my head in the sand any longer” category.

I hate that.

But in the spirit of pulling my head out of the sand, I have made some positive changes toward a healthier, non-carcinogenic diet.

A few months ago, a friend gifted me with a new cookbook called Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer. Written by a pair of doctors (Ph.Ds, not MDs), the first half is chock full of interesting information about cancer cells and how they form and lifestyle factors that have also been linked to cancer. It also breaks down several superfood categories and explains how each does its part to battle the development and maturation of cancer cells. It’s an excellent read!

And because a diet rich in foods with these antioxidant qualities is beneficial to everyone, the second half is full of recipes that use the superfoods listed in the first part of the book. Here’s where I run into problems. Seaweed. Mushrooms. Flaxseed. Cabbage. Garlic. Soy. Probiotics. Nary a slice of bacon to be found anywhere within its pages.

Actually, despite my lament, the complete selection isn’t all bad: tomatoes, berries, citrus fruits, green tea, red wine and dark chocolate round out the list. These I can handle, embrace even.

I use the cookbook and love it. Unfortunately, my children don’t feel the same way and my first effort at hiding lentils in Shepherd’s pie was unsuccessful.

They also refuse to try my smoothies, which are chock full of berries, greek yogurt, kale and ground flax and hemp seed, for no other reason than they know what’s in it.

In light off all this newly acquired knowledge, I confess I have wondered what seaweed would taste like fried in bacon fat? Would that be a good compromise to ease the transition?

Oh, there is just so much here that I don’t know what to do with yet. I’m really not a fan of seaweed.

I’m moving slowly, but not backwards. Just putting one foot in front of the other…