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That Purse Project

One of the many things that I have been thinking about as I consider Joy is the idea of  celebrating and really paying attention to the spaces around me. Being married to an architect, I have come to recognize and consider aspects of space all the time, but much of our conversation tends to be focused on bigger spaces – such as the feel of a building or a room.

I am feeling drawn, though, to honour the very little spaces too – the drawers, the closets, the shelves, handbags.

Years ago, I read about the idea of having a ‘sick-day drawer’ which would be dedicated to such days and filled with nurturing items such as puzzle books, a beautiful journal, chocolate, a brain-candy novel,

whatever makes you feel happy and comforted.

Though I haven’t yet created such a drawer and my sick days are few and far between, after my heart surgery I did have a whole 6 weeks in which I was quite forced to nestle in.

I had not personally designated space for myself to convalesce but my family  created for me a whole loving space completely devoted to my recovery. I think that I will always remember how comforting it felt to be in that big chair by the window as Spring awakened,

on one side a basket of magazines, books, and cards and on the other my treasured little antique table that had belonged to my Scottish grandmother.

Fresh flowers and cups of tea,

friends arriving with treats and treasures.

The days passed and for perhaps the first time in my adult life other than right after my babies were born, the world came to me while I just stayed put in my perfect little nest.

 

Recovery has its challenges, as does fully committing to it,

but the idea of creating a nurturing space is an unarguably loving and healing thing to do for yourself, even when you are not sick.

 

For Christmas this year from Dan, I received a beautiful new brown leather handbag.

It’s a big bag, which can be a tricky business because before long it is inevitably filled with old grocery lists, more lists (I might possibly make more lists than anyone I have ever known), 14 pens, my kids’ garbage, and you get the idea.

Well, my kids are old enough now to throw out their own garbage and carry their own stuff,

so I am reclaiming this particular space.

 

Presently in my purse is some wonderful hand lotion that I will often and generously apply on my dry and cracking prairie skin (and share with you if you are sitting next to me), 1-2 good quality pens (have I mentioned my complete adoration for pens), a lovely little journal, ginger candies (my kids hate them which helps), my wallet, and whatever else is presently inspiring me and making me happy.

 

It’s a small thing but it’s me nurturing myself while I am out and about in the world.

I can’t always easily get to transforming the big spaces but I can take tiny steps every day to making my life a little more beautiful.

Happy Valentine’s All – Wishing you all beautiful small and big spaces.

 

Be your own best friend. xo

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carrying around some love and nurturing

what used to be in my purse

what is in my purse now

it’s the big things, and sometimes it’s the little things

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My Purse Project and chronicling a year of finding Joy

 

After having coffee with a dear friend last week, I spent an hour or so perusing Chapters and had a bit of a brainwave.

I first need to say, though, that I almost didn’t peruse Chapters – because it wasn’t a ‘productive’ activity.

 

Seriously.

 

I have spent my entire life being caught up with the idea of spending my time doing  ‘important’ and ‘productive’ tasks. I could spend all sorts of time analyzing where this rigid mindset comes from ~ Generally, though, we are a culture obsessed with results and ‘success’.

Perhaps I partly inherited this strong-hold of an ethic from my accomplished head-nurse grandmother, whom I was very close to. Grandma was passionate, loving and had a great sense of fun, but was also extremely efficient, productive, and task-oriented. She was constantly at battle with herself over the hours that weren’t productive, the tasks that weren’t completed.

It makes sense,

I don’t blame her and in actuality completely adored her. Our society was built upon the tasks of hard-working immigrants such as Grandma who had no choice but to be productive and build new lives against all odds.

 

And they did.

 

However, it’s now a very different world; the rules and needs have changed.

It feels right for me to announce that this focus enslaves me more than it serves me.  It makes me distracted,  cranky with the ones I love the most, and often quite negative. Yet, sadly and truthfully, it’s most often how I measure the worth of my days.

I am going to try serving another master: Joy

and see where that takes me.

 

So that’s it. That’s my New Year’s plan and my new practice.          Joy.

I am going to investigate, explore and give full reign to things that bring me

joy.

If this sounds hoaky, simplistic, or idealistic,      I really don’t care.   I am blessed enough to be surrounded by lots of intelligent, successful, and highly artistic people and for too long  I believed that everything I wrote or did needed to be academic or clever and original. I am done with that line of thinking because not only is it paralyzing, but I am a true believer in the deep and abiding worth of simple concepts.

Also, a very wise friend once said to me,

‘Everything’s been done before. Don’t kid yourself. But it hasn’t been done by you.’

 

Also, because I know that every practice is fortified by writing about it and tracking  developments (my friend and I actually discussed this over said coffee),

I am going to write about Joy this year and the places where I find it.

When I wake up in the morning I am going to consider what will fill me up rather than what needs be to accomplished.

 

Last post I talked about being open to receiving beautiful moments.

Let’s just see if setting forth an intent widens the scope and potential of my receptivity.

So, there will be far less ado about what I have done and far more about surrendering to a new way of looking at things. I have been given so many precious gifts in this life, it seems nothing less than a betrayal to not find ways to celebrate their sweet presence. We all know too well that life is short.

 

Plus there’s nothing like publicly announcing something to make it happen.

See.

I said I was going to re-think my blog a bit this year. Plus as soon as I use the word project or theme I get all tingly and excited and inspired and dare I say…Joyful.

So there it is. I gave myself permission to be unproductive and peruse Chapters for an hour with no agenda and an agenda found me.

At any rate, I am pretty sure that it’s a non-debatable fact that the world could use more       Joy.

And,  I suspect that Joy is a direct highway to      Peace.

 

Here, I got you all interested in my Purse Project and I didn’t even tell you about it. No worries, I will in a few days. It’s idea #1 and I just need to flesh it out a bit.

In the meantime, I hope you all feel a little inspired to figure out what it is your lives need more of.

Joy, however, is anything but saccharine or false. It is delight; a fully embodied form of contentment. It’s the smile that finds its own stretch and doesn’t need to be tugged into place. It’s what the morning glory does when it feels the first rays of sunlight on its petals. It’s the splash that sends a feeding fish slaphappy out of the water, and it’s the flick of its tail on its return. Joy is the impulse in the morning that sends you into the kitchen for tea and toast before the alarm has had a chance to ring.                                       Tzivia Gover, ‘Joy in Every Moment’

 

The beautiful image heading this piece is from from Robin Mead! Check out her other inspiring and joyful designs at https://www.facebook.com/RobinMeadDesigns

 

 

 

 

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A ray of light.

I took this photo on Boxing Day.

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In opposition to a world that seems to revel in an endless stream of photos, George is generally resistant to pictures being taken, especially of himself.

Yet, I still took it. I liked that moment. It was peaceful, simple, tech-free.

 

I can appreciate George’s perspective though. During a time when we attempt to document everything, sometimes the refreshing and rebellious thing is to simply not snap the shot, to courageously experience the moment without any need for a stamp of validation.

 

During the Christmas break, we watched the movie ‘Boyhood‘. Have you seen it? The entire movie is a chronicling of moments, random yet telling, of one boy’s life over the course of 12 years.

Snippets. Some of them even lovely rays of light.

 

Let this photo, this gift of a moment that I was thankfully present enough to notice, be preserved as part of the string of moments that will make up George’s boyhood.

Rays of light that find us. Happiness that we are willing to receive. 

 

2016 has wrapped her arms firmly around us already, hasn’t she?

It is a tentative and uncertain relationship that we have at first with the New Year. We don’t know her yet,

but yet we tend to want to believe that we can mold her and control her.

We forget that her events, her adventures, her surprises, her lessons, her inspirations, her happy and her dark times,

are not yet for us to know.

 

The best we can do is relax into her arms, trusting in her love and wisdom.

 

‘Boyhood’ ends with a poignant line,

A girl that Mason, the main character, has just met says to him,

‘You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kinda thinking it’s the other way around. You know, like the moment seizes us.’

 

May you be seized by innumerable moments and rays of light in 2016. Happy New Year friends!

A reminder that the next PeaceCard workshop will be held on Thursday, Jan. 21 from 7-9pm. It promises to be another lovely evening of connection, play and stillness. Message me for the details if you are interested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On what it is to be brave, how I almost burned the house down, and an invitation

On what it is to be brave,

There have been times in my life when people have told me that I was brave, that I  was strong….when I divorced, when my mom died, when I had my heart surgery.

I didn’t feel particularly strong or brave in any of these instances.

In fact, people’s encouraging words in part frustrated me because it felt like I had no other alternatives. I was simply putting one foot in front of the other and moving through my days, my life, doing my best to work with the hand I had been dealt.

What courage, I thought, is there in that,

not realizing that this ordinary brand of courage, this gentle strength, is momentous in its own quiet but important way.

And ironically, I now hear myself saying and thinking these same words to friends who are struggling with or facing their own life-altering events,

‘You are strong, you are brave.’

And I mean these words. And yet these friends deflect my sentiments in the same way that I once did.

I now realize, though, that it in fact takes tremendous courage to simply move through a life. And when it is done with honesty and open-heartedness, I am in awe.

In such lovely and ordinary ways, we are brave.

For example,

My friend who is terrified of flying still gets on that plane because she cannot deny her yearning to explore and travel the world,

and she who is grieving her spouse or parent does so with authenticity, expressing her tears, her anger, her laughter, despite the fact that our culture does not like to talk about grief.

This woman says what needs to be said in that meeting, what no one else will say, even though her heart feels like it will pound right out of her chest when she begins to speak

or another friend doesn’t speak up, because sometimes it is better to be kind than right.

Another woman says no to joining the committee, despite her overwhelming feelings of guilt and obligation, because she knows it is just too much

and she who is overwhelmed asks for help.

My friend leaves her marriage because it is the best thing, the only thing, for herself and for her kids

while another stays in her marriage for the same reasons.

And this one follows a path that few understand or support, yet with deep determination he keeps doing his art and persists in his vision, his passion,

whilst another takes a job because it will pay the bills and that is the bigger priority.

A  mother I know watches her child walk right into a difficult situation even though it breaks her heart but she knows her child needs to navigate this particular storm on his own,

and this friend uproots and moves away because she knows deep inside that it is the right next step for her, even though it means leaving so much.

Another has the courage and confidence to shine when the moment asks for it, but  also knows when it is time to stand in the background in a supporting role.

This woman shows real and uninhibited exuberance and delight in her daily encounters despite this world that presently seems to favour cynicism and guardedness,

and he who has worked for so long in pursuit of his goal finally reaches the finish line and accepts his rewards with grace, while another friend understands when the time has come to walk away.

My friend who has cancer shares with us all her reasons to smile and describes the cherished places where she finds gratitude and hope, just as she expresses her feelings of helplessness and gripping fear,

and another brave soul silently processes the news of her illness because that is her way.

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We               are            brave.

How I almost burned the house down

My dear life-long friend and I were recently able to get away on a quick and much long-anticipated weekend getaway. I was finally able to see the vacation home that Charlotte and her husband have built along with 3 other couples, a lovely getaway in the mountains.

After arriving Friday evening we awoke Saturday morning eagerly anticipating our day of cafe breaks, walks, and early Christmas shopping. While Charlotte was showering, I went downstairs to put the kettle on for my tea. Mindlessly, as this is one of the most routine behaviours of my daily existence, I filled up the kettle with water and put it on the gas stove. I then grabbed my phone and dialed Dan and the kids to have a quick chat, and see how their night had been.

As I was chatting with Olivia, I began to smell a combination of smoke and burning plastic. I looked over at the stove-top, and noticed that the entire bottom of the ELECTRIC KETTLE, exposed wire and all, was on fire.

Yes, readers , I put an electric kettle on a gas range and almost burned the house down, and not even my house, but my friend’s house that she shares with 3 other families.

As I was throwing bowls of water on top of the stove, I was half-panicking, half-imagining how I would tell everyone what I had done. And as the smoke alarm was going off, I was weakly calling  Charlotte’s name, not really wanting her to come down before I had attempted to peel off the hard pieces of melted kettle off the burners.

The most embarrassing part of this whole story, though, is that neither Charlotte nor Dan were entirely surprised by what I did,

but            they both still love me.

So, if you see me randomly bursting into laughter in the grocery store aisle or while waiting to pick up my kids,

I am probably just remembering what I did.

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Despite the kettle mishap, we did each manage to find beautiful new boots to buy.

An invitation

I have a few projects on the go right now, and often wonder at when and how they should intersect. They inevitably do intertwine, though, and so it feels right to extend an invitation to my readers to my PeaceCard evening slated for an evening in late November.

For at least the last ten years, I have imagined such mini-retreats~ times set aside for honest connection, meaning, and simple and artful play. I know so many of us crave this, and I also know it lacks in many of our lives.

Women have always gathered. My mother and her friends used to gather so often, whether to quilt and craft, or talk and plan. This is women’s play and it is essential to so many of us, to our well-being. To find out what I have dreamed up for this first evening of its kind, please message me for the details.

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On this is all I will say about politics, connection, and last week’s hero

This is all I will say about politics (for now)

I am going to tell you a little secret about me. I am not much of a joiner.

It’s actually hard for me to admit this because it feels somewhat like claiming a lack of commitment which isn’t at all true. I can be fiercely committed and loyal. 

I have always felt, though, that there can sometimes be something slightly dangerous about identifying too much with a particular perspective or stance. If we become too patriotic, too zealous, too enmeshed with a group,

we sometimes end up leaving out other people, other views, other valid ways of being in this world. It can all get       a little too ‘us’ and ‘them’, though often             

that is the place where we feel the safest.

It happens to all of us, and certainly me too. I speak to this but I have been guilty of sitting up on my high horse     a thousand or more times.

Since the beginning of time, though, that is exactly the point where it falls to pieces. We make it all black and white, see things at face value and forget to look harder in the depths for the clarity and understanding beneath. Feelings are hurt, resentments breed,   wars start.

We forget that we ALL have our burdens to bear and for the most part, we all want the same things.

Love.     Connection.     Peace.

I speak to this perhaps because talk of the upcoming election is everywhere. I will not speak up for a specific party here, or speak down to another one. I do, think, however, that the challenge is to really make this about seeking to understand the issues,

identifying the leaders that truly speak to our hearts and minds at this time, and sifting through the rhetoric and the drama and the posturing until we find the place where we are simply most aligned.              Then vote.

Undoubtedly and thankfully, we will forevermore need to gather and form groups and associations and parties and work for positive change and, to be honest,

there is little that moves me more than people working together to create beautiful initiatives in this world, inspired events, important societal or environmental change.

My hope, however,  is that when we form our partnerships and alliances we can always remember that

It’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them’.

It’s always about ALL of us. 

Connection

Recently, I saw a video documenting people who offered up a minute of eye contact to passers by on busy streets. I have seen other versions of this project executed in different ways, but it always ends up being deeply moving to watch people just seeing each other.

It strikes me that if I was, for an entire minute,  to stare into the eyes of someone who I felt I didn’t understand or that I was at odds with,

something  in both of us would inevitably shift.

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Even just imagining it feels a little transformative.

Last week’s hero

Last week, the hero of our story was George.

He had decided that he would agree to have his head shaved for the Terry Fox Run event hosted by his school and he stayed resolute in that decision.

It was a beautiful and ambitious event for a school that is known for celebrating Terry Fox’s legacy. Thousands of kids, teachers and parents came from all over our city to walk together, cheer on the memory of Terry (even his dad was in attendance) and raise money for cancer research.

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When it was time,

George marched up onto the stage with the other brave volunteers and quietly let the stylist shave his hair all the while wearing a sticker announcing that ‘he was running today for Grandma Carol‘.

My beautiful boy who has always had a gorgeous head full of blond hair that I have loved to smell, kiss, ruffle~

afterwards walked back to where we were sitting (a little shakily),

          completely bald.

All at once my heart both broke and grew.

I have long since given up on the idea of finding a one and only hero who always acts in a way that is brave and true and good. Few, if any of us, are capable of that.

But we do get little opportunities, scattered throughout our every days, to have heroic moments.

Yay George, for accepting and rising up to yours.

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On decluttering, walking, and my little girl….

Decluttering

It is an interesting period for me,  right now ~

The time has come, my heart surgeon has informed Dan and I,

to move ahead with my heart surgery.

I am now waiting to go through for a few more tests

and then we will be given a date.

I have felt all sorts of emotions around the processing of this big news:

relief, conviction, fear, anger,  excitement, anticipation, confusion, frustration, deep gratitude….

 

One of my biggest challenges, though, has simply been around what to do with myself during this time.

I am the sort of person that thrives on expansion in every direction and operating from her extensive lists,

constantly setting new goals and getting things done,

drawing lines through my items accomplished  as quickly as I add more new things to do.

This all, I admit, makes me feel productive and useful and alive and a part of things.

 

Yet, here I am,

suddenly being asked to      slow        right        down,

and take loving care of myself in all ways to prepare for what my body is about to go through ~

My priorities have suddenly become

not adding too many new things to my lists,

long walks and stretching,

eating wholesome foods,

staying calm and grounded by being mindful and meditating,

attending to myself and my family, and letting my family and friends attend to me.

 

I am also slowly but surely tidying things up at home,

simplifying,

paying attention to many of the little chores and projects that will allow me to feel organized and happier during my recuperation time.

One of those projects involves decluttering my working space, the room that stores all of my many books, paper and art supplies. This is a job that I have been trying to get to for at least two years, as the room has become a chaotic disaster, nothing more than a place to put everything.

I am finding myself moving through this particular task gently and lovingly, working on it a bit each day, combing though books and old pictures, cards, old journals,

making recurring trips to Michael’s for more wicker baskets,

and feeling so re-inspired by all of the wonderful things that I forgot I owned.

 

As the space begins to transform and stuff gets cleared out I feel noticeably lighter.

 

And so it strikes me that perhaps, in life,

there may be times of transition,

wherein we feel seriously called to declutter not just our rooms but our life in its entirety.

We must stop, blink as if we are just waking up,

assess our surroundings, reflect on where we are putting our time and energies and ask ourselves,

‘Is this necessary?’

‘Do I even want this anymore?’

‘Is this a good use of my time?’

‘Does this serve me? Does this serve my family?’

‘Is this still a good fit?’

‘Does this still interest me?’

Magically, I am finding that in the distilling, the decluttering, the clearing away,

and the slowing down,

a gentle and bright clarity is undeniably coming.

Surprisingly, underneath all of the stuff and the people and the events and the clutter and the aspirations,

sits

me.

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Walking

I was driving by our urban lake one afternoon this week, and heard a tiny voice inside my head say,

Walk around the lake.’

 Ok,

I thought,

committed to my new plan of slowing down and listening.

 

After dropping off several bags of used books at George’s school, I returned to the lake and walked its perimeter.

The weather was cold, but the air was still.

It was just me alone with the sounds of my steps,           my breath.

I passed a handful of senior citizen couples, we all smiled at each other and said hello,

and one older gentleman deeply engrossed in preparing his fishing line as he sat on a bench,

and, oh yeah,

these guys.

Why hello, Canada Geese.

I see you.

Here

we all are.

 

Thich Nhat Hanh writes,

Walk wherever you are. Don’t wait for the perfect forest path. Even when you go to the bus stop, make it into a walking meditation. Even if your surroundings are full of noise and agitation, you can still walk in rhythm with your breathing. Even in the commotion of a big city, you can walk with peace, and happiness, and an inner smile. This is what it means to live fully in every moment of every day of your life.

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Our sweet Olivia perfectly engaged in her own walking meditation -this photo taken many years ago by my dear friend Andrea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On forgiveness, letters new and old, and no more single digits

On Forgiveness

‘The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world’                  Marianne Williamson

 

Of course.

If everyone from ex-spouses to kids on playgrounds to leaders of states and religions found it in themselves to forgive each other,

the world would suddenly look very different.

 

I know,

far easier said than done.

The roots of conflicts are long, twisted and deep,

and it can feel impossibly difficult to get past unimaginable betrayals and hurts of all kinds.

Still,

forgiveness has been on my mind as of late.

 

Richard Holloway, a Scottish writer, wrote

‘When true forgiveness happens it is one of the most astonishing and liberating of the human experiences’.

Yes.

I get it because

I had a moment like that once. A moment of forgiveness that was utterly astonishing and liberating that caught me completely by surprise.

I am not ready to write about it yet, but in due time, I will.

 

One day over the Christmas holidays however, I did experience an afternoon of

mini-forgiving,

I don’t even know what else to call it.

It was a very hushed and thoughtful sort of afternoon in Waterton. The weather was frigid and we were hanging out in our cottage, each of us doing our own thing.

Random long-ago events and people kept popping into my mind,

distasteful little snippets of memories that I didn’t even realize were weighing on me…

 

The teacher that made fun of me in grade school because I wrote too much,

the old boyfriend whose stinging, guilt-inducing words I can still hear,

the friend who lied to me,

the time I lied.

 

So,

as I remembered the old hurts,

based on my distorted and fuzzy memories,

I did what felt right and quietly and gently just let each one go.

 

They didn’t know any better and I didn’t know any better.

 

Binding layers slowly drifting away, fragments of forgiveness released

to dissipate,

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a seemingly insignificant exercise but not,

 

one afternoon’s humble contribution towards the healing of our world.

Letters new and old

Now that I am in the business of card creation and retail,

I have been thinking a lot about the wider context of sending and receiving letters, cards and messages,

especially given that I am also a writer.

 

My dear friend Charlotte and I used to laugh over the memory that when we were kids I could spend hours in office and stationery stores, whilst she was enamored with drugstores.

Hence, she is now a physician and I am…..well, still smitten with words and paper.

Preparing to write this piece, I looked through just one of the boxes I have that is full to the brim with cards, letters, and notes that I have received over the years,

identifiable scripts of family and friends, pictures the kids have drawn,

even doodles, quotes, and bits and scraps of paper that have for one reason or another captured my attention,

my stashes of paper love,

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my inspiration.

 

This is the recent stuff,

I could dig much deeper to the time of

pre-Dan, pre-kids, pre-this-life-now,

but those particular collections I keep hidden farther away but still kept to be found one day,

when my kids are ready to know the fullness of who I was before them.

 

For now, though,  I am far more captivated by the more recent bits,

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Truly,

these are the stories of me and us,

the love-filled evidence that both makes up and fills up my heart.

 

There is, I believe, such tremendous power in telling people how we feel about them,

and an even greater power in actually taking the time and energy to write our feelings down and let people hold onto and savor our messages,

tangible reminders of support and love.

I am so delighting in this path that I am now on, and I look forward to talking  in more expansive ways about the possibilities around sending and receiving all sorts of messages of love and peace,

because I am certain that there’s something in all of that that’s a little more sacred and precious

than we even realize.

No more single digits

This week our George turned 10.

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We are undeniably leaving the world of young children and entering the more complicated realms of tweendom and teenager-hood,

and even wedding planning and such!

I am, however, ready for the wild ride.

Truth be told, even despite the more trying days (and there are trying days),

I have never quite gotten over the feeling that

I am the lucky one that gets to mother these three and witness the unfolding of their beautiful lives.

I suspect that I have just as much to learn from them as they do from me.

maybe more.

 

Mom, today would be your birthday too.

You would be 68.

and I wish, as I have wished a hundred thousand times before, that you were here to guide us and enjoy these kids, as you would have done ever so completely,

but the truth that I have always trusted and known

is that you are.

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