Ten.

My son turns ten years old today.  Ten.  A full decade, two whole hands, double digits.

How does this happen?  I think that time speeds up exponentially when you become a parent; that’s the only logical explanation as to why the last ten years have flown by so much more quickly than the ten before them.  Each stage of parenthood has been an adjustment, but a very gradual one, full of such small daily changes that they aren’t even noticed until you look back and realize they’ve occurred.  He still needs me, yes, but he needs me far differently than he did then.

I wrote a post when he turned five, and now five is a distant memory and we are on the road to the tweens.  I read over my original words again yesterday, and I cried at this part:

You are one half of my greatest accomplishment, my biggest treasure, my deepest emotion.  My everyday-moment-joy doubles when you smile and raises tenfold when you laugh.  I hurt when you hurt, and when you cry on the outside I cry on the inside.  Before we had you, I wasn’t even sure I wanted children, or had a maternal instinct inside of me.  You changed that, my love.  You showed me a side of myself that I didn’t know even existed, and a side of myself that now seems so intuitive, so fateful, so clear, so this-is-what-I-was-meant-to-do obvious.  

My biggest treasure, my deepest emotion.  All still true.

Happy birthday my sweet boy.

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Friends of a Lifetime

This is a story about three girls who still think they’re twenty years old.  But in fact, these girls are all turning forty, and these girls are headed to Mexico late next week to celebrate the milestone.

These girls are me and my two oldest friends, Sarah and Shannon, both of whom I’ve written about many times, sans permission.  This is another one of those ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission posts, so I’m going to take some creative liberties to share our history with you, and they’ll likely read this post on their Tuesday morning commutes and shake their heads at my antics.  That’s our usual pattern.  (I’ll load my words up with hyperlinks, so that you can read more about the backstories, if you’re so inclined.)

I’ve known Sarah the longest, since we were twelve years old and became attached at the hip in grade seven.  We met Shannon in our first year at the University of Calgary, and we quickly became an inseparable trio.  Using our first initials in a brash acronym, we established the ASS Tour, and made sure the three of us went on a short annual getaway.  Back then, our getaways meant road trips and small towns and hostel rooms and Missy Elliot mix tapes.  We would take a weekend in Red Deer here or an overnight in Edmonton there, and once drove West for a week in Kelowna and Vancouver, through forest fire smoke and rock slides on the Coquihalla highway.

In 2002, I moved to Toronto, and in early 2003, Sarah moved to Washington, DC.  Shannon stayed in Calgary, and I’m not sure if we ever spoke about it in depth, but in the back of my mind I always thought we’d all move back.  However, life happens, careers grow, marriages take place, babies are had, and somehow we all found ourselves living wonderful lives 3500km apart.  We still make the effort to see each other regularly, usually every second Christmas in Alberta, and the odd time we’ll uncover bonus visits like work trips or concert weekends.  We managed a few days in NYC in 2011, the week after my miscarriage, at a time when I desperately needed them to help me heal, and our last big trip was in 2014, when we went to Vegas to see Britney Spears and relive our Uni days.

My memories of those adventures, and my memories of the three of us in general, are overwhelmed with laughter.  The kind of laughter that makes you gasp for breath and squeeze your sides and wipe your tears.  The kind of laughter that annoys your husbands and wakes your children and makes everyone else roll their eyes.  We’re gone for four days, and with some creative scheduling at Burlington Sports & Spine, that’s only meant one shift off for me during our busy Winter season.  It’s a short trip due to the realities of busy lives, but those four days will give us time to reflect and reminisce, and most importantly, to laugh; and the Mexican sunshine, the sandy beach, the tacos and tequila, well, those won’t hurt either.

This year’s ASS Tour is going to mark our milestone birthdays (although, ahem, I’m the youngest and my birthday is still nine months away), but more importantly, it’s going to mark decades of friendship, support, love, and connection.

They are the friends of a lifetime.

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“Homeless, please help.”

Let me tell you a story that I hope will make you smile and inspire you to do the same.  It’s a random-act-of-kindness story, and I haven’t stopped thinking about how it all played out, more than three weeks ago…..

My family and I had been out running errands on foot, while getting in a nice long dog walk and chilly fresh air on a Saturday afternoon.  We had mailed some Christmas packages, stopped at a bakery for a treat, and zipped into the pet store for some dog supplies.  As we walked past our local grocery store, we noticed a man perched on his knees, bundled in blankets, holding a cardboard sign that read “Homeless, please help.”  A dirty, worn coffee cup sat in front of him, revealing a small amount of change, and a plastic shopping bag sat behind him, well-worn and stuffed with belongings.

When we spotted him, my kids asked for money to give, and walked over to place it into his cup.  We walked on, and talked about his situation further.  The day was cold, but the plaza was busy, and we stood further down the sidewalk and watched as dozens of people walked past without a glance.

It broke our collective hearts.

“I’m going to get him a gift card at Tim Horton’s,” my husband said, and he and my daughter headed down the street.  My son and I went into the dollar store to see what we could find.  We found warm socks and hand warmers, and bought lots of them.  We assembled our care package of sorts, and walked back towards the shivering figure.  My husband knelt down and offered him the bag full of items, “I hope this will help you to keep warm,” he said.  The man smiled, and reached a cold glove out of his blanket pile to shake my husband’s hand.

The four of us walked away in silence, and I began to cry.  I looked to my husband, who also had a tear in his eye, and to my children, who always cry when I cry.  We were quite the sight, the four of us crying and walking, the dog trailing close behind.

I was crying about the handshake.

I was crying about the fact that he just wanted someone to see him for what he was; someone down on their luck who needed a helping hand.  I was crying about the pride he would’ve had to swallow to ask for money in the first place.  I was crying about the people who walked by, not even acknowledging his presence.  I was crying about the generosity of my children.  I was crying about this tough lesson taught.  I was crying for him.

That day opened up the floodgates for our Christmas giving;  it has inspired us to give more than ever before, and we’ve found some wonderful local organizations to put our dollars behind.  We made a difference in that man’s life, if only for that one day, and it proved to us that random-acts-of-kindness help those on both sides of the transaction.

Give.  Spread the word.  Repeat.

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