Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Days

Yesterday was Thanksgiving where we were but not where we're from. Our Canadian Thanksgiving was in October but yesterday we were in Atlanta and it was American Thanksgiving.

I usually like to spend American Thanksgiving huddled up under a cozy blanket with a steaming cup of coffeejuice (yeah, I know ... sounds like how I like to spend most days!) while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love the floats, Broadway numbers and gigantic balloons. I love listening to Al Roker smile-talk his way through 8 hours of parade commentary. I love watching singers lip sync the same song over and over as they hold on to their lurching float for dear life. I love watching the high school band geeks get their moment to shine. I love the whole thing and look forward to it each year.

That's what I usually do but this year I did the unusual. This year we went to the Georgia Aquarium, hung out at Olympic Park and then went out for dinner at a classic Atlanta restaurant. We mixed with the thankful throngs this year and it was unusual.

It felt odd at first being wished all kinds of happiness on day that was just an ordinary day for us. During our four block walk from our hotel to the aquarium random people on the street wished us Happy Thanksgiving. The homeless woman, wrapped in her sleeping bag on a bench, wished us Happy Thanksgiving. The Arab family who let us go in front of them in line wished us a Happy Thanksgiving. The mom who we gave our table to at the cafe wished us a Happy Thanksgiving as she balanced a tray stacked with juice and cupcakes while managing her three little girls. The older gentleman, with the killer smile, who served us at the restaurant wished us a Happy Thanksgiving.

Like I said, at first these greetings seemed odd to us. It wasn't our Thanksgiving, after all, we were outsiders, foreigners, separate from all this thankfulness. But with each wish of merriment in that sweet southern drawl the distance between us and them decreased. Each time a stranger smiled at us and bade us happiness we felt a little less like strangers and a little more like neighbours.

When we returned to our hotel, the valet driver said to Mischief, "I hope you had a great Thanksgiving little man." Mischief just smiled and nodded but when we were in the elevator he said to me, "Mom, this was great! It was just an ordinary day for us but everyone was so nice to us!"

"This day made my heart happy. Everyone was so friendly. I felt like I was really a part of this city!" Dude added.

They were right. I can't remember the last time I felt so connected to so many random strangers and all it took were smiles and wishes of joy. Both free and painless to give. Both priceless and precious to receive.

What if we made every day Thanksgiving day? What if we started each day being thankful for the blessings in our lives and wishes others we encounter happiness? What if we treated random people on the street more like neighbours? What if opened our hearts to the goodness in others and shared our own goodness freely?

If we lived every day like it was Thanksgiving Day there would be so much more to be thankful for!

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Mom in a Van

So ... we're road tripping and sometimes just tripping out.

Yesterday during our drive through five states, I took a bunch of random pictures, mostly to keep myself amused but I'm going to share them with you. Enter this portal into the Random Boredom Verging on Craziness that is our Family Vacation Day Three.

Starting the day with Legos, American Girls and Flashlights, oh my!

Flowers??? In late November??? What???
Decisions, Decisions!

Apparently Maroon 5 has mastered the science of time travel,
the last time I saw a pay phone anywhere it was 1992!

And somehow they took me with them!!! Suddenly, I'm back in 1992!

Oh Tennessee ... please show me a Starbucks!
I've been looking for hours!

You looking for a Starbucks, too Jason?

Nashville delivers and so does Mr. Awesome ...
this is the best thing I've seen all day!
Terror on the airwaves ...
I don't even want to know what it'll do when it gets me!

Atlanta ... finally!

And that's the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.  ~Dave Barry

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Anti Anti

On our drive through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia today I  had a lot of spare time to read billboards and bumper stickers. And I gotta tell ya’ I’m annoyed.

The first one to cause my eyebrows to twitch was a bumper sticker with the American flag with the words ‘No aid or comfort to the enemy. Not ever!’ Then there was the one with a hand gun and the words, ‘America the brave’ plastered underneath and the one with a rifle and the words, ‘In guns we trust’ and then there were the seven ‘Nobama’ bumper stickers we passed in a one hour stretch.

All of these messages fed into my irritation about people who are anti all kinds of things but pro very little. People get all fired up over how much they are against war, religious persecution, discrimination, disease and bullying but if you were to ask the same people what they are for I’m afraid very few of them would know how to respond.

 All of those things are good things to be against. All socially conscious, moral people should be against anything that causes pain and division but what are you putting in their place? Are you just trading hates? Have you traded the hate of people who are not like you with the hate of the hate? Pals, that’s like pushing a cloud.

Being anti something is taking a stand, being pro something is moving forward. Being anti is putting up boundaries, being pro is building a monument for change. Being anti is feeding hate, being pro is fostering life.

Be anti-bullying but also be pro kindness, acceptance and encouragement. Be anti war but also be pro peace, tolerance and understanding. Be anti religious persecution but be pro love, unity and respect.  Be anti AIDs and malaria but be pro research, debt forgiveness and clean water initiatives. Be anti hate but be sure to be pro each other.

Being against is not enough. In order to really change things, in order to end violence, hate and strife we MUST be for things, for good things.

Be for Hope.
Be for Peace.
Be for Encouragement.
Be for Kindness.

Be for Change.

My fondest wish ... is that you will find something in your life worth fighting for. Because when you do you will have discovered a way to unite the will of the spirit to the work of the flesh and all of humanity will have discovered fire for the second time.
~Martin Sheen

Passing through the fire

It's ten til midnight. I'm 1500 kilometres from home, in a city I've never seen in daylight. The hotel room is quiet except the the odd sniffle of one of my sleeping children. We're on vacation.

This vacation is a long time coming. We started planning this one about five years ago, before falls and near death experiences. Before miscarriages, house woes, Autism, small town moves. Before cancer. Before.

Now we are after. We are after all of that. It came to pass and we have come through.


Stuff is still going on. We are still dealing with the emotional fallout from a year of fighting cancer. We are still dealing with sketchy people trying to mess with our family. We are still dealing with stresses, hurts and missteps. We are still dealing. But this too has come to pass.

I love those four words. Has come to pass. There is so much hope in those words. We know that whatever comes after those four words is not permanent. We know that whatever follows is temporary, and knowing that, we can endure.

This phrase is used about 180 times in the Bible. Floods, famines, wars, slavery, shipwrecks and strife came to pass. And when those things passed times of healing, thanksgiving, prosperity and freedom came to be. Coincidence? Probably not.

There is something about walking through a tough time, surviving more than you thought you could, that makes you hungry for good things, that emboldens you, gives you the courage to chase down the goodness you desire. There is something about walking through the fire and coming out the other side a little singed but not burned. There is something about standing fast and having victory.

These last couple of weeks have been doozies in This Random House, and that's saying something for a family that lives on the edge of Crazytown most of the time. One evening, when I had had just about all that I could handle, I went out for coffee with some of my pals. We were supposed to be celebrating a birthday but it turned into a Random Therapy session.

I unloaded all of the stress, heartache and ugliness we were walking through to My Girls. And they loved me. Encouraged me. Supported me. Just as they always do. One of my very favourite gal pals also challenged me to see this time, these challenges, as an opportunity. She related this time to a story in the Bible about three dudes who believed in God, were faithful to Him and were thrown into a raging fire for their troubles.

But they were not burned. In fact, the only thing that was burned were the ropes that bound them. The fire actually freed them.


That night, when I got home, Mr. Awesome and I talked about this 'firestorm' we were in the midst of. This pressure cooker of stress and emotion. This time that has come to pass. We decided then and there to just keep walking and to allow this fire to consume nothing more than the things that were holding us back.

Its not been easy. We've had to remind ourselves often that all of this has come to pass but I know that we're going to come out the other side of this stronger, healthier and freer.

What are you in the middle of right now? And do you know that it, too, has come to pass?

The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.  ~Teresa of Avila

Friday, November 2, 2012

WE are the Adults

This week I had the privilege of attending We Day in our province.

For those of you who may not be familiar with We Day here's some background. It was born out of the charity Free the Children, and according to their website We Day is the movement of our time, bringing together a generation to change the world through an inspirational event and yearlong educational initiative but this is one occasion where words are not enough. Watch this video, then we'll talk.

Inspired? Me too!

A screen image from We Day
As I sat in that arena, surrounded by 17, 000 excited, inspired young people, I felt humbled and challenged. Mikhail Gorbachev, Spencer WestHannah TaylorMolly Burke and a dozen other passionate speakers took the stage and testified to the difference one person can make and the kids ate it up! Their enthusiasm and overwhelming confidence in their ability to be world changers reignited a fire in me to be a world changer also.  

It also had me asking, "How are a bunch of kids going to change the world?"

Justice Murray Sinclair addressed the kids in the morning. He opened their eyes to the dark history of residential schools and the scars this generation of aboriginal youth still carry with them because of this destruction of family in their community.  He spoke of equality, value and citizenship. He spoke of hope, reconciliation and respect.  At the end of his short message he had the crowd repeat after him, "We are the best. We are the brightest. We are the future. We are the change."

While I was listening to him, it struck me, the answer is simple. Its us. The adults. It falls to us to believe in them, support them and guide them. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of the gift that these passionate, inspired kids are to our world. We need to step up and tell them, "Yes you can!" And then we need to help them.

We need to educate them. We need to direct them. We need to empower them. We need to channel their passion, their righteous indignation into a productive stream of action. We need to tell them that they are worthy, that they are powerful, that they are precious. And then we need to tell them again. And again and again.

A screen image from We Day
I believe the only and best way to protect our kids from bullying, depression, self harm and suicide is to educate them on their own value. Now, that's different from empty praise of their beauty or skills. Their value lies in who they were created to be, their chance to have this one life to make a difference, to really live. They need to know that its no accident that they are here, on this planet, at this time. They need to understand that there are things that only they can do, people only they can reach. Once they grasp on to this truth, once they understand they have a purpose in life, they truly will be unstoppable.

So, like I said, it falls to us. The parents, the teachers, the coaches, the neighbours, the youth leaders, the pastors, the volunteers. The adults. It is time to empower who they are, not only what they can do. It is time to grow character, not only skill. It is time to recognize passion, not only popularity. It is time to seek change, not fame. It is time to Be the Adults. It is time to lead.

WE are the best.
We are the brightest.
WE are the future.
WE are the change.


It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.  ~Frederick Douglass

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Day ... and The Next Day

2:21pm, November 1, 2011.

That's the moment.

That's the moment I answered the phone and my doctor said the three words that changed the me forever, "It is cancer."

I have spent the last year, the last 366 days looking forward to today. I have thought of this day as I met with my surgical team, as I was wheeled into the operating room, as Mr. Awesome cleaned and dressed my wounds after surgery. I have thought of this day as I had my port installed, as I saw the red medicine course through my IV for the first time and as I watched my hair blow away in the wind.

 I have thought of this day as I lay in my bed, too sick and tired to move. I have thought of this day as I prayed for the strength to make it through one more treatment. I have thought of this day as I thanked God for all the people who loved me and were praying for me. I thought of this day as I stretched out on the radiation table, exposing my already scarred, damaged and raw breast to yet another blast of the beams.

I thought of this day.

The day that I am whole, healed and strong again. The day that the fear is gone and nothing but joy remains. The day that I can look into my future and know that it is mine, know that I made it, know that I survived. This is the day I have been waiting for! This day ... and the next day and all of the next days to come.

Recently someone made the comment to me that they wished that they could take back this past year for me, they wished that they could erase this whole horrible year. And while I appreciated the sentiment I told them that I wouldn't trade this past year for anything. They were shocked but I was serious. Am serious.

Although I could have done without the life threatening scare, I wouldn't trade the lessons, the personal growth and the relationships I have gained for anything. I wouldn't wish away one single encounter with other patients, one single note of encouragement, one single firm, strengthening hug. I wouldn't.

This year and all 31,622,400 seconds between this moment and that moment on November 1, 2011 has been a gift. I have grown as a wife, mother and friend this year. I have learned the power of letting people in and the strength of friendship. I have discovered that people are good and kind and compassionate and they want to help. I have realized that this is the one and only life I get and I better live it well.

I am a very different person than I was a year ago. My body is different; it is scarred, altered and frankensteined together but it is strong, it is powerful, it is beautiful. My heart also is different; it is whole, huge and full and it's capacity is endless.

This week a friend said the nicest thing to me. He said, "There is fire in your eyes." And he is right. There is. I have a passion for this one life, this one chance I get to make a difference, to leave a legacy ... so watch out, 'cause here I come!

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.  ~Barbara Bloom