Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Saying goodbye...

“To shine your brightest light is to be who you truly are.” ― Roy T. Bennett

I have always felt different and out of sorts in my life. As a child I swore for the longest time that I was adopted. I just felt out of place...I struggled and frankly still struggle to feel understood and accepted. I have also lived a lot of my life with regret and following someone else's rules. 

My mom's extended family lives overseas in Netherlands and Belgium. I had a strained relationship with my maternal grandmother, Oma, to say the least. So when I was 12 and we visited Belgium and Netherlands to meet my mom's extended family and visit with them it was an amazing time. Some of the family would come to visit Canada and it was always special when they came and I was excited to grow up so I could visit overseas again. But that didn't happen for nearly 14 years because I followed someone else's rules. 

In 2013 I had been planning and contemplating a trip around the world by myself. However, fate intervened and I met my husband. as luck would have it he was planning a trip home to England to see his parents and daughters. We decided to change our plans slightly and spend a month in Europe visiting his family and mine. My family in Belgium and Netherlands made arrangements for us to come and stay with them and look after us while we were there. In Netherlands it was Annie and Frank who jumped at the opportunity for us to stay with them for most of the trip. My mom said we were one of the first ones from the family who were going to stay with Annie and Frank so I was excited and nervous. I remember the day we arrived at their house after the drive from Belgium. Annie had cooked an amazing supper for us and the family that drove us from Belgium. After supper and the other family left we sat in their living room just talking - I don't even remember entirely what we were talking about but I do remember the feeling that for the first time in a very long time I felt understood and accepted. I felt loved. Annie was like a second mom from that moment on. 

When we made the decision to go back to England in 2017 we also took my daughter, the monkey. While planning the trip we had a large discussion about the plan and itinerary for the trip because there were so many things we wanted to do in such a short period of time. We ultimately made the decision that Monkey and I would travel to Netherlands and Belgium and the husband would stay at home to visit with his family. Again we were fortunate enough to be able to stay with Annie and Frank and it was like being home again. Louise and Richard feel like a brother and sister to me. Our time with them was some of the best parts of our trip as we just were at home with them. We visited the market, Annie would cook of course and we would eat and play games. If you have ever been on a long trip away from your home - especially one with lots of unexpected adventures - you know how wonderful it came be to come home to your own home and bed. That's what it was like arriving at Annie and Franks I was home again.

 Unfortunately, we got news last year that Annie was sick - she had cancer - pancreatic cancer. Annie fought long and hard over the last 18 months and at the start of the summer we were told it could be any day but she fought and enjoyed the summer with her family, children and grandchildren. Unfortunately we got a call last night from the family to let us know that she wasn't doing well and they were expecting her to pass at any time. We were able to video chat with Frank and say our goodbyes to Annie and as Frank said she was stubborn until the end. 
Annie - I love you more than words can say and I will carry the memories of our time together, that was too short, for the rest of my life. You will always be an inspiration in my life.

Frank, Louise, Jowie, Richard, Chloe and Sam - I love you all more than words could say and I would give anything to be there with you right now. My heart breaks for you. The sky is a little brighter now that she is among the stars.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Getting to the Lake - one sunflower seed at a time

East Blue Lake
So as I said the monkey and I headed out to Child's Lake in the Duck Mountain Provincial Park - and let me say if you are in Canada (or anywhere else for that matter) and are looking for some paradise you must Duck Mountain Provincial Park it is truly magical!

The drive out to the lake was interesting to say the least. I have been dreading the drive and almost cancelled the trip because of the seemingly daunting task of driving out to the Park (it's about a 5 to 6 hour drive depending on the number of stops you make along the way and the route you take). Normally I would say it would have taken closer to 8 hours to drive there because we would normally stop at some of the abandoned houses and farms and take pictures but with the husband missing out on the trip and my anxiety I just wanted to get the trip over with.

Now - I should clarify that the thought of long drives normally wouldn't bother me - I have been going on road trips since I was a little kid; however, I am normally a passenger and I'm either able to listen to music, watch a movie or... let's be real sleep during the drive. On longer drives (12+ hours I have done the driving) and I have driven to Victoria, BC just myself and monkey at 18 months old but this was different and I couldn't explain why. The people I travel for work with even make fun of the fact that I will sleep on the road even though it is only a 2 hour highway drive....

Anyways - in preparation for the drive I spent nearly three hours just looking at google maps and investigating all of the different routes and options for getting to Child's Lake considering which was the best entrance to the park, how much gravel road I had to travel on etc. so when we started the drive I didn't have a set plan in mind and figured I would see how it went. I got to Neepawa which is about a 2 hour drive and I was a complete bundle of nerves. I finally had to stop at a gas station, get out and try to calm myself a little. Monkey obviously knew that something was up so I told her that I was having anxiety on the drive - I didn't really talk to her about why I was anxious but being the wonderful kid she was she asked what I needed and suggested we "watch" a movie - meaning we play a movie on my phone she could watch and I could listen to. I thought it was a great idea. We stopped into the Co-op grabbed a drink and some sunflower seeds (and when someone suggests you should get the extra bag because it's only $0.75 more for two bags you really should listen). We spent the rest of the drive listening to Harry Potter Movies and talking about our previous trips, different Harry Potter movies and eating sunflower seeds. It was exactly the distraction from the thoughts in my head that I needed. 

A real turning point came when we got to Russell, Manitoba. I love this little town and we drove into it almost every day last year during our camping trip up to Assessippi. It was a calming type experience because I knew once we made it here we were almost up to Child's Lake and that I had come very close to ... not over coming my fear and anxiety but not letting it stop me in this instance. Monkey and I saw a sign at the gas station about Arthur, the local bull statue and the stuff version of him. We stopped in and got one because ... well we hate having our picture taken especially on a camping trip, especially where the plan likely does not involve washing our hair for a period of time - the perfect solution? Stuff animal stand ins! So Arthur joined the family and was included in some of our pictures.  We got to the lake about an hour later and once we had unloaded and I took a minute to look at the view - I knew that all of the anxiety and freaking out in the weeks leading up to the trip and during the drive were worth it. Little did I know how transformative of a week the trip would be for me starting just the next day on the Copernicus Hill Hiking Trail and Look Out.

For now - here was the view from the deck, and the Hammock set up along the tree line: 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Simplicity - maybe?

So I have been struggling for a long time with Anxiety and depression. I am also fairly sure it is safe to say PTSD but I haven’t been “officially” diagnosed (meaning that everyone who is working with me believes that is what we are dealing with but … I digress). I don’t know how long I have been struggling with my mental health but I have been doing a lot more reading lately and I am fairly certain that it is has been a lot longer than I actually realize. Best analogy I have is to relate this to our puppy. I am with our puppy, Halley, every single day and time goes by and you look back on a picture and you go “Wow she’s grown” where someone like my parents don’t see her every day will suddenly say “Wow she’s twice her size, she’s grown so much” and I’m sitting there going “Nah she’s the same size as when we got her…” (actual conversation happened). 

As we (me and my developing mental health team) start to wade through the very top layers of what is going on – it is almost like we are just skimming the top of the soup right now… it is interesting as we talk to look back and realize the symptoms or holds that anxiety had on me that I never grasped. There was this meme I saw the other day someone posted from Twitter

“Anxiety: I don’t want to eat anything
Me: let’s at least eat a bit of dinner.
Stomach: Ok, folks. Good Job! I’m getting pretty full now, though.
PMS: Hello Friends I’m here whats up
Anxiety: *sigh* I’ll go get the ice cream
PMS: Guys smash a chocolate bar over that shit”

I don’t know why by that meme spoke so much to me. When it comes to food sometimes in my head the conversation will be overwhelming. I have such a complicated history with food yet it has been such a passion for me. In the last year I have been working on my food journey in search of answers to the following basic questions:
-      Who am I?
-      Where do I come from?
-      What did I eat growing up?

These are such simple questions but the answer are so incredibly complicated and intertwined with my issues that we are working through. So what does this have to do with simplicity? I am not known for doing simple things – I actual find simple very hard to do especially when it comes to food lately. My thoughts will race through a million possibilities of like: things I can make; things I have read up on by haven’t made yet; things I want to learn to make but haven’t studied yet; and things that I have somewhat heard one time but I have no idea what it really is and I could learn more about. Like if we are going to have chicken and potatoes it won’t just been chicken and potatoes – it will be a three-hour journey to learn about the history and different methods for making potato pancakes because my husband once said he would like to have some. For the chicken, it won’t just be a simple chicken breast – I will research different breading, seasoning and cooking techniques to find something that is interesting and write down various versions of recipes in my book until I have some smattering of an idea of how I want to combine the different techniques. Then because you have to have some sort of sauce I will research different ways to make aioli’s until I find a lemon garlic aioli recipe I like before I start cooking. I often fail at simplicity but yet at the same time I can master simplicity in certain situations. 

My daughter and I headed up camping to Child’s Lake Yurts in the Duck Mountain Provincial Park for a week – just the two of us as husband couldn’t get time off work and bringing the puppy gave me too much anxiety. My parents were also up here staying at Wellman Lake so they are close by to lend a hand if (more when) I need it. But camping definitely forces you to go simple and back to basics. We have to boil water to wash dishes which means the less dishes the better. We have to keep the food in coolers with ice which is a 30-minute drive away to get 1 bag for… way too much money for frozen water. Lastly, I love camp fires so cooking over a camp fire is such an amazing experience. Planning the cooking for the week was an exercise in planning and preparing for simplicity. The menu:
-      Roasted cheddar sausages with beans;
-      Chili;
-      Chicken, potatoes, veggies with gravy;
-      Hot dogs; and,
-       Left over chili and cheddar sausages.

All cooked over the campfire (or in the coals for the potatoes) using cast iron pans. We also pack some mushrooms, onions and ramen in case we get a rainy day. So here is to keeping it simple.