Tag Archives: Blessings

Bicycles

Today, my 15 year old son grabbed two of his friends, hopped on his bicycle and they all rode 20 km into Wolfville together. They went to their old middle school and visited all their old teachers (one of whom he was sad to have missed). Later they met up with two other friends and played basketball, ate at his favourite pizza place, and tried out the hot new ice cream spot.

That is what they did. That was his day.

And in case you missed the important part of this very boring story let me say it again. Today. June 20th. My 15 year old son, who is now taller than I am, got on his bicycle – with a beating heart, lungs full of air, and healthy blood pumping it’s way through his healthy body to drive to Wolfville. Today. June 20th. He came back exhausted and sweaty and beaming from ear to ear having hung out with his friends. Having driven 20 km together. On a bicycle. On June 20th.

And let me say … bicycle ….well …. bicycle quite simply trumps ambulance.

Celebrities on Planes

When your husband texts you from the plane saying YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHO I GOT TO SIT NEXT TO ON THE PLANE!!!!

But you haven’t received the photo yet.

So you sit and wait and think. OH MY GOD – WHO IS IT GOING TO BE? What famous person is travelling from Halifax to Toronto on January 26th that Craig knows I would be incredibly excited about?? Jim Cuddy? Drake? Meghan Markle? Prince HARRY!! (Because of course he flies commercial coach) OMG OMG could it be Bon Jovi??? It HAS to be someone INCREDIBLE AND IMPORTANT AND AMAZING for my easy going husband to be so excited and text me about it.

And finally the picture comes in.

And sitting there – with two huge goofy selfie grins on their faces – is my husband and my sons Oncologist.

And I start to laugh and cry at the same time … and I can’t stop doing either.

Because I couldn’t have been more right – about the incredible, important and amazing person part.

Period.

The White Spaces

Merry Christmas 2017

“Open Your Heart and Look Around

Listen. Listen.

Hear the Song within the Silence

See the Beauty When There’s Nothing There”

~Idina Menzel~

This quote is of course from the incomparable Idina Menzel and her song December Prayer.  It has been the song that I find myself looking most forward to this Christmas – the one I relate to this year – the one that gives me pause and reflection.

As I was driving the other day I kept repeating the above verse in my head. I thought about how busy Christmas can be and I thought of our old fashioned calendar that hangs on fridge at home.

It probably surprises none of you that our entire lives are on that calendar.  The kids have been well trained (haha) over the years to put all their happenings there (Craig is less trained, but we laugh and forgive him as we sigh and go mark in his appointments and activities for him).  We have different color sharpies for each of us and we have become a well-oiled family machine of organization. (Albeit a machine that is maybe a little ancient because it still uses paper and pen – but alas it works for us).

At this time of year I often use that calendar to help me write our Christmas newsletter.  I pour over it and it helps me remember all the things that the past year held for us.  Looking at it I’m reminded of amazing trips and camping adventures, new jobs and new schools, sad endings and exciting beginnings.  This little calendar holds so much of our wonderful history over the past year.

But also, especially in months like December, the calendar can seem overwhelming. At first glance it is a sea of green, red, blue and black.  A constant reminder of all the things that need to be done, that we need to drive to, that we need to make time for.   There are times it’s easy to get anxious about the December page and how many boxes are filled in – not only with one color but with all four.  And yes – they are full of fun things we all look forward to – but still they are commitments that come with preparation and that often take us in four separate directions.

But then I take a deep breath and I look again.  And it is there I see my favorite thing and I smile.  All throughout this colorful, marked-over, tattered piece of paper there actually are some blank spots.  Beautiful blocks of emptiness. White space I have become fierce about protecting.

It is this white space that I have learned is sacred. These are not boxes ‘to be filled up’. It is here – in the space where “there is nothing there” – it is here where there is everything. Because it’s here where we are all together and unscheduled.  Sure there are lots of times we are together with green pen – times when we have family events & dinners at friends.  But these white spaces – this unplanned openness – those become the most beautiful days and evenings at Christmas. Times for us as a family.  Days and nights filled with ease – when we don’t have to get out of our pajamas, where we sit around the tree, watch movies, read, eat chicken bbq nachos and play games. Together. Those times are the most precious to me.  Those times don’t get penned into a calendar. Those times are found in the white spaces.

So when someone calls and asks if I am free on a certain date this holiday season, and my answer is no, it may not be because the box is filled with pen – but instead because its empty and I’ve learned to “Hear the Song within the Silence. See the Beauty When There’s Nothing There.”

So here’s to 2018 ~ I wish you all a year filled with health, happiness … and many white spaces on your calendars!

Merry Christmas,

Karrie-Ann

Our Passion and Priority

I’m writing this on the Marine Atlantic Ferry from Newfoundland to Cape Breton, having just spent an eighteen day vacation with my family.

Soon I will return home and I will post an album (or two or three) on Facebook sharing our adventures. These photographs will be incredible memories of our time together – they will be filled with breathtaking scenery, smiling faces and new adventures. They will be many and they will be irreplaceable. Our family’s history, I often say, will not be written – it will be viewed.

But these photographs will not depict any of the “reasons” I purposefully choose to travel with my family as much as I do.  

In fact I can’t think of one of these photographs, from any of our 17 trips (wow!) that will show you why Craig and I work so hard to put travel near the top of our family’s priority list.

The following is a list of 15 reasons we are so dedicated to travelling both near and far with these human beings we happen to share some chromosomes with:

(1) So they can feel what it’s like to be a minority – even if it’s just for the shortest of moments.

Whether it’s a visible minority, a language minority, a cultural minority, or other examples, they each have had opportunities to experience both – if not for long periods of time, at least in situations in which they would not have had the chance to experience at home.

(2) For them to learn and practice compassion and confidence.

I remember being in Montreal when a gentleman with a probable mental health illness approached Mark and started talking to him. Often when we travel they are also learning how to confidently and compassionately interact with everyone in life.

(3) To understand how blessed they are.

Whether it’s travelling the villages in Cuba or the outskirts of Los Angeles, they have seen, walked through, and learned how lucky they are. No lectures or words needed.

(4) To learn new skills and foster strategic thinking.

While in New York City, after a few days, we made them each find our way back to our hotel by themselves – once with a map and once without, just learning how the city is laid out, learning to navigate, learning to think in a spatial manner. Learning to not rely on lazy digital fixes.

(5) To sit in the uncomfortable for awhile … and finally, maybe, become a little more comfortable there.

Period.

(6) To see, touch, and stand in history. 

They will learn so much from books as they go through school. But nothing can replace being there – digging for dinosaur fossils in Drumheller, standing where the Beothuk stood in Newfoundland, touring the many museums of the Smithsonian, sitting in the House of Commons while in session and watching the Prime Minister and opposition leaders debate. These experiences trump the written word for them.

(7) To make the world seem both small, and big, at the same time.

I want both for them. Equally. For the world to be grandiose but at the same time for them to feel its accessibility. 

(8) To experience wonder.  

“Wonder” is a funny thing. It’s not joy or happiness. It’s different for everyone, but you know it when you feel it. For me it’s that feeling when I stand at the peak of a mountain top and see the clouds below me. For my kids it will be something different. But chances are they have/or will come across it in their journeys.

(9) To build their relationship as siblings.

It’s difficult to describe the way in which they bond when they travel. The way they interact and count on each other when they’re together 24 hours a day, 18 days in a row, with no one else their age around. You would think they would fight. A lot. They don’t. It’s so much the opposite.  

(10) To spend true uninhibited time as a family.

There is nothing, NOTHING, for me, that compares to the conversations, experiences and laughter we share while on the road for an extended period of time. It is magical. It was part of the reason we upped the ante on the number of trips we make a priority to take.

(11) To laugh. 

The laughter that comes from their cottage bedroom. Because they always have to share a bedroom. The things they find hilarious. The things we all experience and then laugh for days about until they become “part of the trip”. That is the soundtrack to my life I love most.

(12) To create memories. New unforgettable memories.

Life is short. You are always guaranteed one thing when you choose to make travel a priority for your family – the memories will last forever.

(13) Trial runs for life.

Someday they will spread their wings and be off on their own. Hopefully these adventures will take them far and wide. Learning to read a subway map, or getting yourself from the airport doors through the logistical hoops until you board a plane, or managing the security at a sporting event in the largest arena in North America … all of these are trial runs for when they are doing these things on their own in the world.

(14) Nurturing passion.

There is a theory that ‘desire’ is goal orientated and controlled, while passion is wild at heart and free. Travel as a passion is a gift – one I want to nurture as their mother.

(15) To open their minds, and their hearts, just a little bit more.

Their lives can be so narrow as teenagers – the next soccer practice, the next performance, the next party, the next test. Travel shows them there is more in this life than the over scheduled days in a week. There is much more. And it can be never-ending. Near or far. As long as its a priority.

Sometimes I look at the money we spend on these adventures (as hard as we work to keep them reasonable) and I think – wow – we could have had the house paid off by now. Or that brand name wardrobe. Or that cottage. But no. Instead this is our family’s priority. And I’ve never regretted one moment of it. Nor do I think do they.

Where My Gratitude and Optimism Fail Me

My daughter Megan started her first real job this past Spring. You know – the kind where she has paperwork to fill out and the Canadian Government is aware of her pennies earned.

She was hired as a Swimming Teacher and Lifeguard for a local University, and as I dropped her off for this new stage in her life, like so many moments lately it seems, I thought to myself “How did we get here?”

But I didn’t lament this to her, instead I smiled, waved goodbye and headed back home.

She taught for five and a half hours and every minute that went by I thought about how she was doing. I couldn’t wait to hear all about it (note the artful use of “I” in that sentence. “I, I, I, me, me, me. Sigh …..)

The hours crept by and soon it was time to pick her up. There I sat in the Acadia parking lot waiting with eager anticipation.

Now keep in mind this isn’t my first time to the rodeo. Meg is 16 years old, quiet in many ways, and like many teenagers is used to being somewhat guarded with her feelings around her Mother (who only in the last year or so has started to gain some credibility as a real human being in her mind!)

And hey – I’m a 44 year old educated professional – I know all the ins and outs of effective communication – ask open ended questions – don’t assume – probe -but only gently.

Yup. I had it going on. One skilled communicator. Check.

Until I opened my mouth.

And the following sentence came out:

“So how was it?”

Now I know. I know what you are thinking. 

It’s a pretty damn good sentence. 

Honestly. It is.

Short, unassuming, conscience and open ended.

Sure it is.

On paper.

But it’s me. Have you MET me?

Those four words in print are an entirely different beast when spoken out loud by Mamma Wilkie. Because they are, in my world, spoken with a vocal enthusiasm, optimism, assumption and gratitude that is unparalleled.

Always.

And let me tell you – it’s not always helpful.

So there I am with my high-pitched sing-song eager voice spouting those four words. 

So how was it?

Cue the completely unintended (but none the less present) expectation that the correct answer is “incredible!”

If dancing unicorns wearing rose coloured glasses could have flown out of my mouth they would have.

Oh my. OH MY!!!

I truly don’t mean to do this. And I so much don’t want it to be how I come across. But I have realized I often do. I have also realized that somewhere, somehow, the following happens:

Instantly the air is filled with an unspoken expectation. The bar is set. And we as a family are going to clear it. We are going to be the most thankful, optimistic, positive family this world has ever seen. Because we have been given everything. Everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

We get to be the lucky ones. And so we give back 100 fold. We are grateful 1000 fold. We have perspective. We know what the most important things are in life. Period.

Wow. 

Hold on there Miss Karrie-Ann. 

That’s a bit of an unreasonable bar there isn’t it? Let’s take a minute.

It IS a pretty tall bar – and written all over that bar says: We are over privelaged people who are so lucky to live, work and play in this incredible life. It says positive energy attracts positive energy. If you smile the world smiles with you. The more thankful you are the more you have to be thankful for.

Yup.

That’s me.

Blah. Blah blah blah blah

As we would have said in the late 1980’s “gag me with a spoon”.

But you see … the truth is … my unbridled raw truth is this … i believe in it whole heartedly … almost as a religion. That positive thought, gratitude and energy. It’s real for me – not trite or disingenuous. It’s not trendy or “just a quote”. 

It’s me.

But the other truth is this:

It’s not fair. 

It’s not fair to my family – especially those teenage ones filled with a myriad of emotions so close to the surface.

We all need to be allowed to feel what we feel when we feel it. We are all allowed really bad days. We are all allowed to not be brimming with gratitude every moment of the day.

So I’m learning. I’m learning and I’m admitting to my biases.

I’m learning that even if I’m thoughtful about what words I say or what questions I ask – I also need to be thoughtful about my tone, my eagerness, my anticipation and my unconscious expectations.

Because while gratitude, positive energy and optimism are among my closest companions, they can’t possibly serve me or my family in every situation all the time.  

Otherwise I’m little more than a cartoon character named Joy in a certain Disney movie. (A movie which by the way, gets 5 stars in my books … she says with no irony what so ever.)

Sinking Deeper

It’s our last morning here on the Island. The time always goes by too fast. Another summer gone. We have been coming here, to this very same cottage, for 13 years now. This place has been a constant in our lives since Megan was a baby.  

And here we are, on our last day, again. So we make our way down to the beach for one last walk. 

I don’t know if I’m ever more consistently grateful than I am when I come here. Long ago we traded the kitschy tourist part of the Island for the easy, relaxing, unhurried and unplanned part of the PEI. We spend our days bicycling the trails that run seemingly non stop beside the ocean, walking the beaches looking for sea glass, making hodgepodge with Island New potatoes and treating ourselves to our favourite flavour of COWS ice cream.

I whisper thank you here so often. This place where we were always allowed to come. 

As the kids walk steps ahead of me I stop. And the ocean, whose tide is still high, sends its waves over my bare feet. I look down and take in the moment. I am, at the same time ready in my ‘mind’ to leave the Island, but I am still never quite ready to go in my ‘heart’.

I close my eyes and whisper, out loud, as I always do, these words that have become second nature to me. “Thank you”. And as I whisper them I feel my feet sinking deep into the sand. I’m standing on that soft sand that is at the edge of the ocean as the tide begins to turn from high to low. And I realize at that very moment, with that very metaphor, that is what this summer has been all about for me. Sinking deeper into myself.  

I love that feeling. A place and a season with fewer screens and sometimes fewer people. A place where I’m not defined by the outside world quite as much, but instead by the quiet moments both with myself and my family, that are sometimes never shared with the world at all. A place where I allow myself to completely unplug, both literally and figuratively, for an entire week. A place where we come … ‘always’ the four of us … but at the same time ‘only’ the four of us.

I’m so thankful for this place, for this season, and for this feeling of sinking more into myself. Of not allowing the outside world to be quite the priority I allow it to be during the other seasons or the other places. It grounds me and allows me the time, and almost the permission, to ask myself the bigger questions. The harder questions. The questions I never take the time for because I am too busy or too focused on other things. And in turn a time where I am more apt to listen to myself answer those questions.

This is so important to me. In a world where there is nothing but white noise – a place and a season where I can clearly hear myself. My own voice. My own heart. Without outside influence. Without en masse opinion or approval.

I look again at my feet in the sand. Completely buried now as the tide has ebbed and flowed again and again. Literally sinking deeper. Into the sand. Into myself. It’s the best feeling in the world. 

I breathe in. I breathe out. 

Soon summer will be over. 

Soon I will have to lift my feet out of this comforting sand, and get back to a larger reality.

Soon. 

Soon.

But, thankfully I whisper, not … quite … yet.

What Matters

This weekend is Mother’s Day.  Some people say it’s just another holiday made up by the greeting card companies to commercialize our feelings and to sell multitudes of flowers.

Now I happen to be a mother, so I tend to be very un-cynical about Mother’s Day with its homemade cards and focus on yours truly.  I actually adore this holiday.  I adore almost every holiday really.  I find they help me to mark moments within the year – a year that is usually moving much too fast for my liking – and make me pause and reflect on the important things.  And Mother’s Day is no different for me.

Every Mother’s Day for as long as I can remember we gather with my parents, with Craig’s parents, and sometimes my brothers family.  We travel into the city to spend the day all together with my paternal grandmother.  The only grandmother still living among us.  We gather in her common room and order Chinese food and exchange flowers and cards and gifts.  We take lots of pictures and tell lots of stories.

And it never fails.  Every year.  Every single year for as long as I can remember we make the time to do this.  Somewhere along the way we have said “this”.  This.  This is important to us, and no matter where we are or what we are doing, we always make time for “this”.  We tend to be a family of traditions in this way.  I love that about us.

But this year it’s not going to get to happen.  At least not on this weekend.  My son and I, along with my Dad I find out, have all been hit with a doozy of a bug.  The kind that lays you out for days and the type we would never want to risk taking into my 103 year old grandmother. (And no, that’s not a typo.  She’s 103.)

So I’m sitting here on the coach feeling a little sorry for myself that we don’t get to make that happen this year.  And I worry a little bit that by the time we get nine to thirteen people’s schedules back into play again, that it may not happen at all.  I’ve been sitting thinking about that a lot.  Worrying it may not happen.

But guess what?  That’s our choice.  It’s always our choice what we do with our time.  And I am bound and determined to make it happen.  I’m already counting out the days when we wont be infectious carriers of mean nasty viruses.

I guess that’s why holidays … all holidays … have never been just a commercialized event for me, and why they have always meant so much.  They mark a time when I purposefully set aside a day where nothing else gets to matter more.  Nothing else gets to matter more than this.  Than these people.  It’s a way to make sure the real moments happen with the real people who matter most.  Because sometimes in life we spend way too much time making the superficial things happen with the people who really don’t.

So although I won’t be spending this weekend surrounded by four generations of Robinson/Wilkie/Rhyno women, men, boys and girls, that’s alright.  We will make it happen.  I know we will.  Because we very purposefully set the precedent long long ago, that this is what we do.  This is what we care about.  This is what matters.

And for that, every Mothers Day, I whisper thank you.

15 Myths About Our Journey with Childhood Cancer

When my son was diagnosed with a high risk cancer, I learned so much about life and the twists and turns it can take.  I also learned that many of the things I thought were true, or would be true, were very simply not.  The following are fifteen assumptions I found to be false on our incredible journey.

Myth #1.  Life With Cancer Sucks.

Sometimes it did.  Of course it did.  But the majority of time it did not.  You have to remember, our cancer journey was over the course of five plus years.  And three and half of those were active chemotherapy.  There was no way I was accepting “a life that sucked” for three and half years let alone five to seven.  With or without cancer.  So no.  Life didn’t suck.  Life was full of wonderfully rich adjectives, and with a gratitude that was palpable.  And remember, everything is relative.  You better believe life is sucking more for the family who was diagnosed (or unable to be diagnosed) in a third world country; or a country without health coverage; or circumstances where the child has no support.  Life was still life.  It was ours.  And no one was going to tell us it sucked.

Myth #2.  Knowledge is Always Power.

When your child is first diagnosed with a life threatening disease you become like a blank slate thirsting for every piece of information you can garner about their diagnosis.  But then after a little while you step back and you start sifting through all of that. You ask yourself, what really matters?  Do I need to know everything about everything?  Do I need to know every possible thing that “could” happen, or is it better for me to have a strong foundation about what “is” happening?  And what sources do I trust?  Where am I getting my information from?  Sometimes knowledge isn’t always more power … it’s just more knowledge … and not always reliable knowledge at that.

Myth #3.  Tomorrow Will be Better.

Nope.  Tomorrow might be worse.  Tomorrow might be the day that never gets better.  I’m very much an optimist, but I was always planted firmly in reality as well.  There are no guarantees.  Tomorrow ‘may’ be better or it ‘may’ be the worst day of my life.  I guess it’s that little “will” I couldn’t get over.  There are no absolutes.  But there is today.

Myth #4.  You Have to Have Hope.

Again.  Nope.  I would rather have no hope than the illusion of hope.  I would rather have an educated true understanding of what we are facing than have a false hope.  Again, it’s that “have” to have.

Myth #5.  Blood is Thicker than Water.

I am so lucky to have some mighty thick blood in my family.  My Mom and Dad proved how to walk the talk during so much of this experience.  Which trust me is a difficult thing to do over the marathon that is childhood cancer.  Their support was immeasurable.  Aunts and relatives who came to the hospital and sent cards and gifts lifted my spirits so much, even though outwardly I may have looked exhausted. We were so blessed.   But make no mistake, I also learned the viscosity of water can, in a few particular amazing people, be just as thick or thicker than blood.  And I discovered that the whole ‘blood versus water’ thing mattered not.  Blood or water has little to do with the people who decide to step up, and in turn for the people who just don’t. It has little to do with blood.  And everything to do with the people who choose consciously to walk beside you in the world no matter what.

Myth #6.  Sharing in Others’ Experiences will Lighten Your Load.

This one reminds me a little bit of the child birthing experience where sometimes, in some cases, some mothers feel the need to share every horror story there is … in a very unsolicited way.   And boy, in the cancer world it really depends where your mind and heart are in your journey with whether you can take in all those stories of other children’s side effects and experiences.   Many times these side effects were rare, but significantly life changing.  I found it often burdened me down with worries that may never occur, rather than lighten anything for me.  So I became selective in what conversations I engaged in and with whom.  That sounds awful doesn’t it?  But I needed to take care of me, and my load was heavy enough.

Myth #7.  Numbers are Everything … when it Comes to Survival Rates and Prognosis.

False.  False.  False!  FALSE!  This a myth I debunked early on.  I had to, as Mark was diagnosed in the high risk category of cancers.  I found I had to, in order to live the life I needed to for the kids, for our family, and for myself.  The reality is … our experience is … you can beat the odds.  And getting weighed down in survival rats and prognosis when the numbers are firmly against you achieves nothing, and can significantly harm the time you have – which we all know is only ever “now”.

Myth #8.  Numbers Mean Nothing … when it Comes to Blood Work.

I know I just said numbers being everything is false.  But when framing it in the context of bloodwork, they ARE in fact everything.  I lived and died by those CBCs.  They told me so much.  How he was doing, what tomorrow may look like, whether we could hope for a jaunt to the playroom, a walk in the park, or the brass ring of going home.  And when we did get home those numbers mattered because they affected our daily life, and therefore what memories and moments we were able to experience.  Would the day entail an afternoon transfusion of platelets, or instead a trip to Hennigars?  We made our fun no matter which it was … but those Hennigar days were precious, and the numbers helped us get there.

Myth #9.  Crisis Brings Out the Best in People.

It doesn’t always.  And you have to learn what to do with that at every turn and at every experience. There will be the people who don’t come to the hospital because it’s too difficult for them.  For them. For THEM.  Sigh. There were others who just seemingly dropped off the face of the earth because they didn’t know what to say.  I had to learn to forgive all these people, to see things from their point of view, or to let them go from my life. I have chosen all three at times.

Myth #10.  Facts are Clear Absolutes.

There are very few absolutes in the childhood cancer world.  Facts must be communicated and they must then be received.  This must happen in an environment that is both unequal and unfathomable, to both the oncologist and the family.  The frame with which this is done, which health professional is telling you, and where you are as the parent emotionally, all significantly affects how you interpret a so called fact.  Trust me.

Myth #11.  It’s All Part of a Larger Plan.

Ummm … Hi.  There is no plan.  There is a big difference between believing in a larger plan and a higher power.  And if by some small measure of truth there is a larger plan, trust me, you don’t want to hear about it.  The ending isn’t always good. Even for children.   So no.   My plan didn’t focus on anything larger. It focused on getting through the day, whispering thank you for the day, being present in the day, making the day incredible.  For Mark.  For Megan.  For me.  For us.  It was about the day.  It was about the here and now.  It was no larger than that.  And it didn’t need to be.  At least not for us.

Myth #12.  The World Stops.

Guess what.  It doesn’t.  I remember my first time leaving the hospital after diagnosis.  I had no understanding how everyone could just be living their life.  It was then I learned you think it stops; but it doesn’t.  And sure, it may stop for you.  For a few moments.  But even then it keeps on turning pretty damn soon after those words are uttered.  Because those bills keep coming, the animals still need to be fed, and work eventually needs someone back all too soon.

Myth #13.  It Takes a Village.

Sure a village is nice, but I found not required.  I didn’t really have a village.  I had just moved, and at that was in between homes.  As in physical houses.  The village I had nurtured was hundreds of miles away in a different Province.  The majority of this journey we did on our own.  There were no freezers full of casseroles or no neighbours popping by.  There were no friends offering to help with Megan.  We knew no neighbours and we had no friends here yet.  And that’s not a ‘woe is me’ thing. That was just the way it was.  We literally were in the middle of a move to a brand new place.   So yes.  A village would have been nice.  I know it would be different now having established relationships here.  But we still managed pretty ok without it.

Myth #14.  Home is Where the Heart Is.

I’m afraid sometimes home is home, and it has nothing to do with the heart.  Sometimes it’s brick and mortar and your very own bed.  I know there were many nights in the hospital I felt this way as I lay on a cot next to his bed.  And I know I felt this the night that Mark lost his first tufts of hair as we were  lying on a mattress on the dining room floor of my parents house.  We were waiting for our new home to be built and while we were in the hospital had to move out of our rental that was our temporary home.  On that night when I saw his hair on the pillow as he lay beside me, home wasn’t where the heart was.  That night I wanted nothing more than to be in my own bed in my own home …not some transient, homeless gypsy, sleeping on the floor waiting for drywall to be erected in Avonport.

Myth #15.  The Oncology Floor at a Children’s Hospital is a Horrible Place To Be.

People have this pre conceived notion of what an oncology wing at a children’s hospital is.  I know I did.  They have visions of bald little children with tubes coming out of them, being poked and prodded, waiting to die. I guess parts of that sentence are true.  But the reality of the floor is so very far from that notion.   We laughed and played and lived a lot of life there.  We met our strongest allies and our fiercest champions.   We built relationships second to none.  We saw the definition of resilience.  You see, it couldn’t possibly be a horrible place to be, because lives are being lived so fully there each and every day.  They are being valued and treasured.  And they are being appreciated … at least I know they were by one family … because after all, it was there where I first started whispering thank you.

Delaying Reality

My family and I just returned from a two and a half week vacation.  Everything about me whispers thank you for the ability to have done this.  To have experienced this.

I’m thankful for a job in my field that happens to compensate me well. Maybe I’m not supposed to say that, but I worked hard to get there. I’m thankful for the support of teachers who don’t bat an eyelash when I tell them we are scooping up the kids.

I’m thankful for neighbours and friends who looked in on our home and plow snow … a lot of snow … while we were gone. I’m thankful for family who take and care for our most important furry loved one.

I’m so grateful to return to a home that’s safe and sound.

I’m thankful for friends who leave amazing messages for me to return home to and I’m thankful for our safe journey after 2000 miles of driving and five plane rides.

And after all of that. After recognizing all it takes to make something like this come together, I find myself always wanting to delay reality when I return.

I don’t want to return to the real world. At least not just yet. I know what’s waiting there. The responsibility and the to do lists.

Just a little while longer of just the four of us in paradise please.

So I come home and I try and stay in “this place” for 48 hours. Just 48 hours more. Let me ease back into this thing called life.  I don’t want to have to be “on” quite yet.

And life seems to be cooperating with me this time.  Because on our first day back wouldn’t you believe school is cancelled. That means no stack of papers coming home to go through, no homework to be on top of and even basketball practice is cancelled. The universe is being kind to me.

I do go to work, some things can’t be delayed, but I close my door.  I never close my door.  But I need just a little while longer.  Just a little more time.

I stay off all social media.  Turning it on after 2 1/2 weeks will feel like a rushing wave of reality.  Just a little while longer let it be “just us”.  Let me be selfish.

I don’t open any of the big stack of mail sitting on my table.  With the exception of some birthday cards the rest of it can wait.  Just a little while longer.

I don’t call or text anyone except those who have reached out to me, because I know they will be there tomorrow … and they know me well enough by now that I need a little more hibernation.

But now it’s Wednesday.  We have been home our 48 hours and there is a slew of extra curricular kid activities on tonight.  So I guess it’s time to put on my big girl panties and wade into that reality.

It won’t be so bad really.  Truth be told right now I can’t wait to find out what my friends and family have been up to.  I can’t wait to see those basketball Moms and make a lunch date with a few particular girlfriends.  And I’m just about aching to hug the stuffing out of a few people when I see them.  I desperately need that long chat with my BFF and need to find out how her son did in the hockey tourney.

Yes.  It’s Wednesday and I guess it’s time to get back in the game.  And honestly there is no better reality to return to than the one I get to live right here.  I’m pretty damn lucky.  There is a lot to whisper thank you for … both on the road and at home.

So 1, 2, 3 … here we go.

Anticipation, Preparation and the Journey

I love to travel. This is by no means a staggering admission to anyone who has ever met me, nor is it surprising as we slowly accumulate a small library of places we have been as a family over the years. And while nothing can compare to the new moments and experiences that immersing ourselves in a new place can bring, I almost equally enjoy all of the preparation that goes into the planning of these excursions.

We are sometimes different in the fact that we never choose an all inclusive option for travel and never go through a travel agent, so planning our vacations can be a full time job, which I know can seem daunting and overwhelming to some. But I must say, it’s this part of journey that I really do relish. I think the real joy in life is appreciating every moment of it, even the commonplace ordinary things like preparation. So while I hope an upcoming 19 days on the road will be amazing, the 60 days prior to that have been pretty damn amazing themselves as we dream of what is to come. It’s like that saying “Life isn’t about the destination but the journey that gets us there”.

And when I say I love everything about preparing to travel, I do mean everything. The anticipation is always palpable in my house as we talk about the places we will see and the things we will do. We make our endless lists. They begin with the big picture things. Where will we go this year, how will we narrow it down, how long will we plan to be gone, what are the new experiences we can have there (because if we can’t come home with new life experiences, it’s not a place worth going for us). Then we wittle our way down to the specifics and the logistics. What needs to be packed, hotels we have booked, tickets we have purchased, and all the freebies we have found to do there (this is one of my favourite parts). Lists after lists accumulate. And they are no longer made just by me, my children are very well showing up their mother now with their organizational travel and planning skills. Lists on electronic devices, on loose leaf , on post its. They are everywhere.

And I love the really small things too. The seemingly mundane things about getting ready to go on a trip. I love picking out the right books and magazines to read. I do. I love this. Not too thick. There won’t be time to read all of that. Certainly not hardcover. Too heavy. Sigh …. I guess that Jim Henson biography I’m in the middle of will have to stay home. So it’s down to the basement I go. I take a look at bookshelves to see what’s there. It never disappoints. I pick up an Anne Tyler called “Back When We Were Grown Ups” that I bought at Value Village, many a moon ago. Who can resist that title? It’s perfect. Into my carry on it goes.

It’s become ritualistic really … this packing and preparing and anticipating travel. Pouring liquids into tiny bottles, gathering all the chargers, creating folders full of our tickets and plans, the kids getting their backpacks ready, filling them with all the important things they have come to rely on when on the road. I see their passion for it, I see them owning it, these little pieces that are all a part of the experience.

There’s even anticipation as we go to the grocery store and pick out the snacks we will take on the plane. It sounds so silly doesn’t it? But it’s these things that are all part of it for us. Which flavour sucker do they want so their ears will pop easier on the plane? What snacks won’t melt in their bags and have some good protein? Heaven knows we aren’t buying a meal on the plane. We may travel a lot, but we do it cheaply and on our terms, saving our money for experiences and not things.

My kids have come to count on these traditions. They have come to appreciate them. These small rituals. And so have I. I love that. It extends the joy. It makes us appreciate the small things. And all this work we put into it makes it so much sweeter on the other end.

Our dining room table is full of these lists and items to pack at the last minute. The two weeks before a trip we can never eat in there and are always relegated to the kitchen for suppers. The dining room has always been trip central, and stays that way until the day we leave.

And boy do I love the feel as the day of departure gets closer. It does have a feel. It’s indescribable but it’s there. And the morning we leave … because we always seem to leave in the dark of the morning (can’t be burning daylight, right Dad?) … the morning we leave almost feels sacred. As the four of us embark on new adventure. The excitement in my kids eyes is irreplaceable.

We have been fortunate enough to have taken 13 family trips together. Each one has a different feel … but they all have one thing in common … joy and anticipation.

Some would add up the money we have spent over the years and think what a waste that was … how we have nothing to “show” for it. But I would argue that the most important things in life can never be seen … you can never “show” the most important things. And when I die, I will never look back saying boy I wish I had bought that “xyz” instead of the truly countless adventures we have had as a family together on our travels.

Soon we will be on the road again. And I can’t wait. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I also wouldn’t trade the months leading up to it and all the work that has gone into it. Some may see a dining room full of suitcases and a table full of papers and research. I don’t. It’s all part of the journey … all part of the joy … all part of who we are as a family and one of many common bonds that holds us together.

It’s something I whisper thank you for all the time.