1997

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. We are in awe of her strength in surviving her abusive marriage and we are inspired by her bravery in sharing her story out loud. 

Story will inspire

This is a story that has lived within me for several years, actually for almost two decades. This is a story that few have ever told, but if you know it, the story must be told. It’s a true story, one meant to inspire others, not one meant to elicit pity. Pity is not what I needed; strength and inspiration – that’s what I was looking for.

It started a long time ago, when I was a young girl. I met my sweetheart. We were very young, 14 or 15. Circumstances would lead us to marry others, but circumstances would also bring us back together. It’s at that point that the real tale begins.

I believed, like so many young women, that the man I would marry would hold me dear in his heart. He would cherish me, guard me, and protect me. Never would he harm me. I believed that whatever faults I saw, things would be okay because of the underlying truth: he loved me. This was at a time when I believed that people would change for the better, or I could help them change.

My childhood sweetheart was raised in a Christian home, believing in God. His parents were blue-collar hard-workers. I remember his dad in particular. He worked shift work at the tire factory in Kitchener. He landed his job during a time when an education was not necessary to maintain a steady paycheque. At the end of a long day, he would come home to deal with a busy household comprising of five children and a sickly wife. His reward was a cigarette and a beer.

My husband grew up and followed in his dad’s footsteps. He was uneducated. Times had changed and as a result, my husband had difficulty holding down a job. As it turned out, the love of my life was plagued by demons. He believed that he was not worthy of any of life’s treasurers, certainly not love. Because of this, one beer became two, became six. Soon the motto was: “24 beers, 24 hours in a day, not a coincidence.”

I was a master at justifying anything. “He drinks because he worked hard, he drinks because life is so busy, he drinks because…” There were a thousand good reasons to drink, and there were no good reasons to drink. He drank copious amounts, but beer was his drink of choice. I discovered that if he drank spirits, he was more difficult to handle once he was drunk.

Now when I say, “more difficult to handle,” what I really mean is he became violent, physically abusive. As it turned out, he was more violent with spirits, but that didn’t stop his temper when he was drinking just beer. Remember, I was good at justifying anything. I would say things like, “He only drinks on the weekend “(lie), or, “If he drinks beer, he doesn’t get too violent” (another lie). I would console myself by saying, “He doesn’t hit the children,” something that eventually became another lie. I even tried telling myself that others didn’t know. Others knew. They knew and didn’t know what to do.

Friends and family would watch in horror as I sported new bruises. There were so many battles fought over the course of 12 years. So many times I wondered what I had gotten into, how could I change things, could I ever learn the rules of living with him? I knew this was a dangerous situation, ready to go off at any minute. If I said the wrong thing, said something with the wrong tone, served something for supper that wasn’t up to his liking, there would be hell to pay.

After one particularity disastrous birthday and Father’s Day, I went to church with bruises on my face, neck, arms and upper torso. Not cleverly-disguised bruises – these were big, purple, angry bruises. The next day at work, someone asked me what happened. I told them I ran into a door. Looking at me, you knew I would have to run into the door repeatedly to get these bruises. Bravely, I told the lie.

I remember this weekend clearly – it’s the weekend my babies watched as I was choked and beaten. All I could think of was getting away with my babies. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have money; I just needed to get away. It was also the weekend I made up my mind that things would change.

I started dreaming of schemes, trying to figure out how we could leave the home without bringing on another beating. I didn’t care about the things in the house, they were just things and I could earn money to get more things. I envisioned so many scenarios. Maybe he would go away for the weekend and come home to an empty house. Maybe he would be involved in an accident and I could become a grieving widow…problem solved.

One thing I wanted to keep sacred was my relationships – they were few and far between. I didn’t want other people burdened with the mess I had gotten myself into. I wouldn’t ask for help. I had been virtually cut off from family, so I couldn’t ask them. This is very typical of an abusive relationship, isolate the victim.

It was almost two years to the day before I finally had enough. With no plan in mind, with little cash resources, we left. We left and made a stand…NO MORE! I didn’t care if he kept everything in the house, he would never touch any of us again. Never again would we live in fear. There would be no more angry voices in my home.

It was the scariest day of my life…EVER. But, it was like being born, a new day with new hope. It was refreshing to get up in the morning and know that I was in control of all that was before me. If something went wrong, I would be responsible for making it right. I also knew that I wouldn’t depend on someone else; there would be no more disappointments.

If you are a victim, you will know when you’ve had enough. It takes a lot of courage to leave; it takes a lot of courage to stay. Make plans, but be prepared to move at a moment’s notice.

Your friends are watching you, they want to help but don’t know how. They can’t believe that you would stay where you are, but don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

If you know a victim, be their support. Don’t judge someone for remaining, you never know what you would do yourself. Be an ear. Protect the children; give them a reprieve in the chaos. Have a moving truck and plenty of strong, young men on standby.

Remember to protect yourself. Once you are free, never look back. You will second-guess yourself for a long time. Your memory will play tricks on you. You will think, “Was it really all that bad?” I have a crack in my jaw that hurts sometimes; this reminds me that yes, it was that bad.

The bible doesn’t say “reconcile and forget,” it simply says “forgive and forget.” Forgiveness does not mean the renewal of the relationship; it is the power to let go. Reconciliation is forgiveness with the expectation of a continued relationship. Don’t kid yourself – there is no expectation of a continued relationship.

Your ex-partner will be angry. They will plead. They will promise to never hurt you again. They will try to convince you that it never happened. Stay strong. Find your friends again. Cry, laugh and cry again. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Be reborn. Rejoice in the day.

I’ve survived. My children have survived. It was 1997, so long ago, but only yesterday. Scars will heal. We will be okay.

~ Dianne

If you are someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is hope and there is help. You are stronger than your story, braver than you know, and a survivor through and through.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

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The final lap

I realized yesterday that in a few short weeks, I will be entering into the very last year of my 20s.

I was sitting on Julia’s couch, gabbing about the accomplishment of partially teaching Isaac to say my name, my goal before my birthday, when it dawned on me that my deadline was now in terms of weeks, and much sooner than I thought. Julia was quick to point out that it was the last of the 20s, with a big grin.

The end of an era.

A milestone I have long looked forward to, truthfully.

People say that your thirties are totally different. But good different.

I’m pretty pumped about the whole thing. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I kinda do feel a bit like a fine wine, slowly getting better over time.

I feel like this back half of my 20s have felt very…vivid, is the only word I can come up with in attempt to describe it.

The highs and the lows have all felt very vivid.

The balance of life, if you will, but with the good majorly out weighing the bad, thank God.

Michael proposed and we faced some of the tougher challenges of life together in these years – I’m so grateful for our friendship, love and passion for one another because it meant we faced them together and grew even stronger as a team. Go us! Some of those challenges would have been so much harder to face alone, almost unbearable for me.

I’ve been able to take some very negative more recent experiences in my career life, and cling desperately to the feeling I have in my soul that it’s all for a very specific reason. When you’re not listening to the tiny whisper in your soul, life has this funny way of redirecting until we ‘get it’.

I got it.

Well, I haven’t yet. But I know I’m well on my way, and leaps and bounds closer than I was a month ago.

I’m getting it.

I said to a long lost friend the other day that I am not who I was a few years ago because something amazing has a chance of happening when you hit rock bottom and are severely wounded in the process by some of the people that you cared for the most.

I was lucky enough to look around when I hit that proverbial bottom and in doing so realized that I came out clean with the people who truly matter sticking by me through it all.

Now that is a blessing of a bounce if you ask me. To know who is on your team no matter what kind of shitty day you’ll have to face is pretty fabulous.

The part about getting older that I love the most though, is the odd realization of how precious time is.

This will help you make time for the people that are important, that you care about, and give you the reasoning for saying “no” to the ones who just aren’t. The double edge sword of this is coming to the slow realization of who made exactly that decision about us, and determined we just weren’t worth the spending of precious time.

But it’s part of life, of growth, of growing up.

Letting people go is something most people, myself included, have had to face by this stage of life – whether by choice, or even harder, death. It’s the ache of what’s left behind, what almost happened, the words you wish you’d said sooner, the forgiveness you wish you’d given faster, the moments you wished you would have paid more attention to. Some, you never quite get over.

As I stride towards 30, I’m fighting for that balance between a heart that loves as wildly as my beautiful nieces and nephews, as cautiously as my jaded nature needs me to and a soul that always stays a little bit tender with some hope, no matter what.

I’m hoping that my ever increasing love of yoga will help to keep me more mindful, present and most importantly help me to remember to keep breathing – something I’ve been known to have trouble with. I feel like part of my rebuilding process from this latest bump in the road has to largely be attributed to my involvement with my practice.

My favourite breakthrough I’ve had with yoga so far is that my intense desire to be still should be fed.

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Psalm 46:10

Being still allows you to see and hear things that God wants you to know, but are too busy rushing around with daily responsibilities to hear.

It connects you back to your heart, forces you to take a listen. Can often help you to see.

Recently it helped me confront a situation that has been giving me all sorts of heartache without the fear of not being in control of the outcome – my usually crippling downfall.

How completely liberating.

To be totally honest, brazen if you will, with someone and then let go enough to accept whatever may come, doesn’t come naturally to me by any means. But over the past 5 years, I have realized this practice is so important for survival.

Couple that with the understanding that everyone in your life has only a certain amount of love to give you – for some people that means heaps and heaps of love, and for some that means it may leave you struggling to understand why they treat you the way they do. The kicker here is figuring out that you have the opportunity to either accept that love, or walk away from it. You get to truly choose if the way someone shows you love, and how much they are capable of giving, is acceptable to you. I find peace in the knowing it doesn’t reflect on your heart by any means and that often times it has nothing to do with you at all.

Hardest. Lesson. Ever.

I’m feeling better and better about this old soul of mine as I prepare to take this next lap around the sun, the final of my 20s. I feel like I am so much closer to where I want to be spiritually, physically and mentally, as a person – the truly important milestones.

I really can’t wait to learn what’s next.

~ Toni

Leaving

We made a huge decision last year. A decision that rocked our home and our family. A decision that had been a long time coming, yet still was impossible to predict.

We decided to stop going to church.

Ben and I both come from a long tradition of attending church services on a regular basis. His grandparents went to the church that his mom and dad both attended, and he attended the same church his entire life. My parents found the church we were attending when I was less than a year old and had been members for my entire life.

Last year, we changed that.

Leaving a church is not something we had ever thought we would do. Ben and I met through the church’s youth group. Ben was a minister and head choir leader. I was crazy involved as an organist, a Sunday School teacher and leader, and a choir member. We decided to live in the city we do because of church, even though when we got married we were looking for work in other cities. We didn’t want to commute to the place where we spent a third of our time. At the height of our involvement, if we weren’t at home or work, we were at church. We LIVED church. And loved it.

We had a community of believers that were living the same life we were, that had the families and the marriages that we wanted, that were the volunteers we strove to be, and were our friends.

And then we had Sophie.

I’m not blaming Sophie, but as you know (or maybe you don’t…) after you have a kid EVERYTHING changes. EVERYTHING. Think of something, anything, in your life. Now, have a kid and it’s CHANGED. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done (as any new parent will confirm). And because I had an undiagnosed round of PPD, it was worse. And my interaction with the church, because it was SOMETHING, changed. But we still held on.

Then we had Lillian. And I broke even more because PPD with a newborn and a toddler looks vastly different than PPD with just a newborn. And in therapy I was told if I wanted to survive, to live, to keep my family together, to keep me together, I would have to take a hard look at our extracurricular activities, or things that we were doing or were involved in that weren’t an absolute necessity, like eating, or bathing, or sleeping. Getting dressed didn’t even make the list, so volunteering in the church, attending church services regularly, being involved were no longer options. So, we stepped back and attended when we could, and weren’t involved anymore.

And then we had Isaac. And all hell broke loose. People say that having three kids is harder than having two, which is harder than having just one, and that going from none to one is by far the biggest change. In our experience, this has all held true. Having three is switching the defense from man-to-man to zone, and being outnumbered all the time, not just when one parent is out of the room. It’s hard and crazy and, now that everyone is sleeping again, awesome. But, there was no way we could pick up where we were in the church, where we were in the community, where we were when we were a family of two, or three, or even four. We were five and church was a really hard thing to maintain.

This was half of our trouble with our church. The other half is a long, complicated story of intimate details I won’t go into. I love lots of people who still go to the church. I respect so many people who go to the church. And I’m not going to use this platform or any other public forum to tear apart such a personal piece of people’s lives. If you have a true relationship with God, and you have found the best place for you to worship, you know what a deep commitment and what an intricate piece of your life it is. This post is not to rip apart what other people have with our old church. It’s to talk about what it was for us.

Our biggest trouble was feeling like there was a lack of support for young families and specifically young mothers. So when the bottom dropped out on our lives, we lost all the connections we had with our faith and with our worship.

I think it’s important here to describe the difference between faith and worship. It’s as different as belief in God and organized religion. There’s God, the perfect being, the One who loves you through everything and anything, and the religions that are man-made, imperfect bodies set upon this earth to help us get closer to Him. The trouble? All of those man-made rules, judgments and complications. For us, our relationship with God was there, through ups and downs, but our ability to worship and to receive support in our relationship with God was destroyed and non-existent. We loved God. He loved us (because that will always be). But we had lost our place in a community of believers. We had lost our connection through worship, which is singing, praising, working and sitting in that community of believers and hearing God’s word.

It hurt. A lot. And it just kept hurting. Until I decided that I needed more.

So I told Ben that. I explained to him that I couldn’t go on not worshiping, but that I couldn’t go back to how we had always worshiped. I told him that I wanted to go church shopping. I told him that I needed to go church shopping. And then I asked him what he thought. And then I started apologizing.

Asking someone to change pieces of their faith or all of their faith, or having someone jump ship on the faith when you have spent your entire lives and relationship believing and worshiping together, in my opinion, can be such a blow. It’s like you had a deal and the other person reneges in the worst, biggest, most awful way ever.

I needed to find a way to worship but I hated that I was asking Ben to give up everything for it.

So we talked and talked and I cried, and we talked and talked, and I apologized and cried some more, and we decided – we’d go shopping. We’d keep an open mind. We’d look for the support that we so desperately needed. And we’d attempt to find a church that would work for our little family, not necessarily one that worked for the generations of church-goers before us.

We have found a church and a community that gives us the opportunity to worship in a completely different, yet sacred way. We have found a church that is giving us support that our former church just couldn’t muster. We have found a place to sing and praise and stand in a community of believers again where it doesn’t hurt quite so much.

It still hurts. It hurt over Thanksgiving when we weren’t in our old congregation with the altar laden with harvest and the singing being incredible and feeling of gratitude overwhelming us. It hurt over Christmas when we didn’t go to church on Christmas morning because there are no services in our new church. It hurts every time I see a minister get up to serve and I know that for Ben, if we stay in this new place, that it will never happen for him again, whereas he had that opportunity in our former church. It hurts when I think about all of the people that we have left behind, people who loved us and helped us get started as a couple and as a family, people who baptized our babies and loved them like their own. It hurts.

But.

It doesn’t hurt as much as nothing or as returning to old habits that don’t work for our family anymore.

And it feels lovely to be sitting at the feet of God again, praying in a community again, loving other believers again. It feels good. And it feels like there’s hope. It’s hope-full. It’s promise-filled. And for now, for today, it’s working for us.

I never in a million years thought that we would leave our church. I watched other people leave and I didn’t understand it, I worried for them and their souls, I shook my head in disbelief.

And now we are in a place of such flux, of leaving and of looking, of trying to find a way to stay and being resigned to look elsewhere, and all I know now is that God loves us. He’s there, like always, like forever. And we have found a way for today to worship with others like us.

~ Julia

Welcome, 2015

Ah, 2015.

Welcome. I’ve been waiting for you.

First and foremost, waiting for you to watch my baby sister plan her wedding and become a wife.

Waiting on you to help determine my next steps in my career path and even make some surprising changes.

Waiting for you to give me opportunity to reflect on the mixed bag that was 2014, with some very intense highs and very dark, lingering lows.

But mostly, waiting for you to see what adventures you have prepared for us, unbeknownst to our planning and projecting human natures.

In the name of honesty, the end of 2014 wasn’t exactly my favourite. In fact, if I am being completely open with our readers, the last quarter of 2014 can SUCK IT.

Man. That felt good.

For 2015, I personally have begun to mull over some goals – resolutions, if you must.

Not so much things that I will resolve to change about myself such as kicking a bad habit, but a little more of an ideal of what I would like to focus on to get the most out of this beautiful New Year we have been gifted:

1. Setting clearer, more specific intentions. At the beginning of every yoga practice, we are asked to set an intention for that session. As opposed to setting long-term goals, these are supposed to be your short-term focus of what you most want from that session, the benefit you are personally seeking when you step onto your mat. They can be as simple as wanting to be quiet for an hour, more physically specific such focusing on mastering my breathing, or even seeking a deeper spiritual need to be met like letting go of something heavy on your heart. Sometimes I am very successful in setting and meeting my intentions at the mat. But sometimes, and lately more often than I would like to admit, I’ve been struggling with setting clear intentions while settling into savasana.

As my practice is still in its infancy, I’ve granted myself a lot of patience with my growth; however, I’ve come to the conclusion that adopting the same practice of setting my intentions at the beginning of class to the beginning of my day might be the key to me being more successful when I do reach the mat. And in turn, I’m sure it won’t harm me to have a clear intent for the day for which to boomerang myself back to when the world gets to be too much.

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2. Practice self-forgiveness…sooner. I have a hard time letting go of my own mistakes. I’m quick to accept an apology and hope for the best the next time around from those that I love when a wrongdoing is experienced, and even those that I don’t necessarily love receive it sooner than I tend to allow myself. I’m a bit of a martyr in this way and will torture myself relentlessly when I screw up with someone I care for. But it’s come to my attention that I have to cut myself a break too and realize that I am just as, if not more, human than anyone and the furthest from perfect you can imagine. Self-forgiveness is required for survival, but more importantly it’s required for growth and true fulfillment in life.

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3. Focus in faith. My relationship with God has, for the most part, been a good one. Even when man-made religious parameters and beliefs failed me, I have yet to lose complete faith in the love God has for me. As with any good human-tainted relationship, there of course have been times of doubt, times I’ve struggled with understanding and times I’ve wondered if he’s still with me at all. Human thoughts from my very human mind. This year, I hope to explore and experience more in my faith and my relationship with the Father. I hope to build in my trust and commitment to Him and grow more in the image He desires of me.

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4. Become and stay flexible. While both a lofty physical goal as well as an internal one, I desire to work on and improve upon my flexibility. Flexibility with my need to control what I can. Flexibility in my hand-stands, back bends and splits. Flexibility when things don’t go as planned. Flexibility all around. For my sanity, my self-improvement and for my body, heart and soul as they age. Flexibility in my ways, my opinions, and my beliefs. Flexibility in my needs, wants and desires. Flexibility in the way I stay active and fit. Flexibility.

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I hope whatever goals, dreams, desires or resolutions you have for this calendar year of 2015, you above all are kept safe, find joy, feel love and grow more than ever.

~ Toni

What I know

Close on the heels of my post about weaning depression, something I had no idea about, I thought I’d follow up with a post of things I do know for sure. And since it’s my 32nd birthday on Friday, I thought I’d give you 32 things I know for sure. Because I’m crazy that way.

1. Embrace coffee. Or green tea. Or something hot that kick starts you. I spent decades avoiding coffee and now, it’s one of my favourite things ever. Also, it makes me go.

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2. Move. Go for a run. A swim. A dance. A walk. A yoga sequence. A gymnastics routine. Some parkour. Anything. Just get up and move. I didn’t understand as an indoor youngster, reading the books and eschewing gym class, but damn, it’s my new drug and I’m all for it.

3. Take care of you. No, seriously. Take a break. A rest. A timeout. A reading session. A napping session. A running session. A session that rejuvenates you. And when you need it, ask for help.

4. Say no. I’m working on this one, I really am. But say no to things. Your time is precious and sometimes no is the right answer and yes will just hurt.

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5. Say yes. To new things. To happy things. To positivity. To light. To spirituality. To the future. To looking up and standing in the sun.

6. Family is everything. Blood family or life family, family is everything. It is what props you up, reminds you who you are, and helps you grow into who you will be. It’s everything. Don’t poo on it.

7. Make friends. Friends that get you. Friends that are fighting similar battles to you. Friends that will love you and your mess.

8. Be a truth-teller. Your truth. All of it. Every single messy piece of it. Even the parts that scare you. Tell the truth to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to strangers who will benefit from hearing it. Never stop telling it.

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9. Eat your vegetables. And fruit. And whole foods. And things not purchased in a box or a package or are ready-made. I didn’t understand why our parents made us eat ‘real’ food when we were growing up, but I’m so glad they did.

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10. Eat a cookie. Or a brownie. Or some chips. Or that cheeseburger. Just don’t do it every day, all day. Your body deserves better. It does. But you also deserve a treat. Or two.

11. Have fun. No, seriously. Life is hard. Really hard. And it just keeps going and going, filling up your time and energy with hard things. So, cut loose a little. Giggle. Stay up too late. Play that game. Read that saucy book. Dance your own jig to your own tune. Enjoy your time here.

Daily Odd Compliment - sweat pants

12. Help. Your family. Your friends. Your neighbours. Strangers. People who are hurting in your town. People who are hurting across the ocean. People you walk in life with. People you will never meet. Where you can, when you can, help.

13. Be kind. In word and deed, be a nice person. You never know when you’ll meet someone again, or when you’ll need something from someone, or what they are battling. Be as kind as you need them to be to you. And then add some more. Because there just isn’t enough kindness in the world.

14. Learn to park. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to deal with a bad parking job. So, figure out your vehicle’s edges and length and depth and learn how to park. Countless people will be grateful.

15. Be polite. Please. Thank you. You’re welcome. I’m sorry. Excuse me. Pardon? Small words, big impact.

16. Babies are hard. Really hard. Like life. They suck everything out of you all the time. They ask for things all the time. They are a 24/7 commitment that you’ll never be ready for. They are really, really hard.

17. Babies are worth it. Every second. Every minute. Every hour. Every hug, squeeze, kiss, ‘I love you.’ All of it. Worth it.

18. Mental illness is as serious as a heart attack. It kills. It hurts. It destroys. It can be beaten. It can be stopped. It must be.

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19. Stop judging covers. That chubby girl? She can run. That run-over-looking person? Doing their best. That human race, full of people? All them, showing up, doing their best. Even you.

20. Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps. We were broke growing up. And now, I’m living a one-income life with three kids. Money isn’t everything…but damn, it helps.

21. Love is everything. For each other. For yourself. For God. It’s everything. If you walk in love, if you work in love, if you act in love, you’ll never go wrong. Period.

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22. Put your damn cart away. No, really. I watched a woman who had to be in her 80s reorganize an entire cart caddy in a grocery store parking lot. She said, “If everyone would just put their cart away, we wouldn’t have this problem.” Never forgot it. Always put my cart away properly.

23. Listen. Not to respond, but to listen. To let someone else be heard. We all need to be heard. Make sure you’re doing your part.

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24. Believe in the good. The bad will always be there, weighing you down, pulling you under. Believe in the light, in the good, in the hope. And look for it. Actively. Always.

25. Sit in silence. Turn off the news. Turn off the music. Turn off the internet. Turn off the chatter. Sit still. Breathe. Disconnect. Note that you didn’t die. Remember what it was like to be quiet? To not be plugged in? Take time to reacquaint yourself with it.

Silence

26. Sometimes it sucks. You’re asked/required/obligated to do something you don’t want to do. Sometimes you have to suck it up, grow up and do it. I feel like this one gets confused with number 3, Take care of you. Yes, you should take care of you, but you’re still a grown-up and you still have to do stuff you don’t wanna. Too bad. Get cracking.

27. Be creative. I had a boss that told me I wasn’t creative. He was an asshole and wrong. So wrong. I am creative, in the cards I make, the words I write, the mittens I crochet, and the songs I make up on the spot about going pee in the potty and wiping our bums and pulling up our pants because we’re soooo prettttyyyyyy. I’m creative, dammit. And it’s good for the body, mind and soul.

28. Don’t listen to assholes. You’ll notice them, quietly or loudly, obviously or passive aggressively shoving other people down so they feel bigger, better, smarter, faster, more successful. I’m not sure if they’ll ever ‘get theirs’, but I do know their opinion of you and your talent and your brain and your body doesn’t matter. Not one little bit. Don’t give them power. You have the power and you are awesome.

29. Make it better. Pick up litter. Rearrange some carts. Hold the door. Fix the mat so no one else trips. Pay for the person behind you. Don’t wait for a thank you. Don’t demand a thank you. Just leave this world better than when you got it.

30. Love with everything you’ve got. It’s going to hurt sometimes. And it’s going to be hard sometimes. And sometimes you’ll question your sanity. But, loving with everything I have has been one of the most rewarding things ever. I love Ben with everything, even though I want to kill him sometimes. I love my babies with everything I have, even though one of them lives in heaven and the others I want to run away from sometimes (at least once a day). And I get hurt. And bruised. And sometimes I don’t know if I’ll recover. But, I’m all in, baby. All. In.

Broken heart

31. Have dirty little secrets. Like the dirt you swept under the couch with your foot before your guests arrived. Like the smutty book you like to read. Like the so-bad-it’s-awesome television you can’t miss. Like the Oreos you can shove into your mouth without any children noticing. Any little thing that makes your life a little brighter, yet is probably not meant for public consumption? Keep on keepin’ on.

32. Celebrate your birthdays. I don’t get this “I don’t like my birthday” crap. I just don’t. And the whole, “I’m 29 again! Twelfth year in a row! WOO!”? No clue. You made it around the sun again. You are given a day that’s yours. There are people who want to celebrate you. You should celebrate you. Grab your cake and your glass and let’s toast the incredible things you did last year, like write potty songs and survive five-year-old fashion crises, and outlast the weaning engorgement, and all of the time spent loving and helping and creating and resting and just being.

Birthday hat

~ Julia

Thankful is as thankful does

I’m definitely a Christmas person – the lights, the sounds, the smells, the music, the family, the gifts, the love, the snow – LOVE it all – but Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart.

There are very few moments in our regular day-to-day where we get to stop and really think about all that we have and then express explicit gratitude for it. Really, our days are (at least for me) tackled at a get-up-don’t-stop-keep-going-’til-you-drop pace, where there’s little time for rest, let alone reflection and then the expression of thankfulness.

But this season, this time when the trees turn and the air cools and the layers of clothing start piling up, is anointed with this beautiful gift of making time to be thankful. 

In our home, the home that Ben and I have been building together for over 8 years, thankfulness has sometimes been really hard to grasp. There was our first year of marriage, where Ben was unemployed and I had the worst job ever (went home in tears every night) and we lived in our crappy first apartment and had no money. Instead of wallowing, we forced ourselves to come up with one thing each to be thankful for every day the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Those fourteen things lit up our tiny one-bedroom like nobody’s business.

There was the year that we lost our baby, our Charlie. The year where nothing seemed to lift us. The year that sucked huge hairy balls of crap. The one where counting the blessings we had here, and not in heaven, was damn near impossible.

And then there have been years where blessings have overflowed, where the number of things to be thankful for was sky-high and singing in church choirs about praising God and going to the apple orchard and making pie and getting together as a family seemed like things we could do forever. Those are the times where Thanksgiving feels like it shouldn’t be just a season, but a year-round, daily activity.

This year, like every other, has its own marks of sorrow, its own trials, its own triumphs, its own heaps of blessings. It’s a year where we’re finally settling into our family of five. It’s a year where we are working hard on our marriage, harder than we’ve ever had to work before. It’s a year where we’re making big changes (another blog post for another time!) and hoping like hell (praying like maniacs!) that we’re making the right changes. It’s a year where my list of what to be thankful for feels more thoughtful than it ever has.

So, in my pause of reflection, here’s what I’m thankful for most this year:

1. Ben – Father of our children, lover of my heart, fighter for our family, breadwinner monetarily, strongman in all things, I’m thankful that he’s the one I’m walking this path with.

He's a handsome devil...and sometimes just a devil...

He’s a handsome devil…and sometimes just a devil…

2. The babies – No one makes me crazier, loves me more, lets me love them more, teaches me more, forces me to grow more, and makes me sit in awe more than the three nutters I call mine.

Crazy in love

Crazy in love

3. My sisters – No, this isn’t a plug for the blog, but seriously? My sisters? Without them, I don’t know what I’d do. And this year, I feel like I’m calling on all of the favours for all of the things. I’m asking for nannying help, I’m leaning for babysitting, I’m demanding workout buddies, I’m talking their ears off, I’m handing over babies for them to hold while I let my arms rest – all of the things.

Maybe we should take another one...where we're not wet...

Maybe we should take another one…where we’re not wet…

 

Who else would push your kids and their kid and all of your kids' baggage up the biggest hill and STILL love you?

Who else would push your kids and their kid and all of your kids’ baggage up the biggest hill and STILL love you?

4. My moms – Who else can say, “Not only do I talk to my mom every day, but I love my mother-in-law like a second mother”? Not many people that I know. Lucky doesn’t even begin to cover the love I get from my mothers.

My mom loving my babies...and ME

My mom loving my babies…and ME

She lets me wake her up at stupid o'clock and STILL loves me!

She lets me wake her up at stupid o’clock and STILL loves me!

5. Soul-friends – The moms at school pick-up/drop-off, the moms at bible study, the women who listen to me rant and rave and brag and are nothing but supportive, even though I probably come off as a complete nut.

Any time women come together with a collective intention, it's a powerful thing. Whether it's sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. - Phylicia Rashad

“Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.” – Phylicia Rashad

6. Time – For finding myself, for running, for learning, for thinking, for everything – I feel like I’ve stolen more time for myself than I ever have and the proof is in the distance I can run (12.84 KM!), the fitness I have, the peace that I feel, and the depression I’m actively keeping at bay.

Me, the road, my breath, my thoughts, my meditation, my time

Me, the road, my breath, my thoughts, my meditation, my time

7. God’s love – I know that everything that I’ve listed here, everything that I’m thankful for every day, everything that I am, and where I am and where I’m going is all because of Him. THANK YOU.

DSCF2145

This year has not been our easiest, our most blessed, or our hardest, most awful. But this year, like all the rest, the thankfulness is found in what we have and where we are right now, not in what we don’t have or where we didn’t make it.

To you and yours, a happiest and most grateful of Thanksgiving seasons. I hope it’s filled with love, light, and turkey. (Mmmm, turkey).

~ Julia

Guest post – Blessed

To celebrate our 50th post, we asked our mom to write a guest blog. Thank you so much for reading with us this far! We can’t wait for the next 50. And to our Mommita – we LOVE you!

As I anxiously await each new submission to the blog, I realized something: I crave connection with my babies every day. Even as they live their lives, I still want and need to be a part of their lives. After all, I am a mom and will always be. Oh, I have added a few titles to my repertoire, Grammie being my most favorite of new additions next to girlfriend. Before this blog there were days when I had no connection with them either by phone, chat, email, text or Facebook updates. Those days I felt almost empty; something was missing. You see, my greatest accomplishment and joy are my four babies. Just thinking about them makes me cry with joy and pride. When my girls asked me to write for the blog, I responded, “You know I am going to cry,” to which Julia and Toni immediately responded, “I know,” and, true to form, I did.

I love being their mom and always have. I never doubted that I would be proud of each of them, that I would be there for them, that I would do whatever was needed to help them, guide them or rescue them. As I see what lives in their hearts, I see the girls I know, love and adore. I am blessed!

The ladies, back in the day

The ladies, back in the day (L to R: Toni, Mom, Andreah, Jacqui, Julia)

My girls, each in their own way, were my strength as I ventured to take the most challenging of steps in my life to be me again, a woman, a single woman. They were my cheering section, along with their men and the many friends, Dianne and Paula to just name a few, and family. With each step I took, from renovating the house in preparation to sell, to moving to a new town, they were there. It was hard for me to find the courage I needed. I was scared – let’s face it, I had been a part of a couple for 28 years. I had never done this before, be just me. But I am absolutely sure that it was even harder for my girls to see me venture out, dating (we call it shopping for shoes), harder for them to start a new life without the two parents they loved not be in one place.

Oh, what had I done? How have I failed them? What kind of example am I to end my marriage? This was all I could think as I watched each of them struggle to find the balance in all this. It broke my heart to see the impact on each. When I expressed this to Julia so many moons ago, she said something to me that has stuck: you have shown us that it is okay to say enough, it is okay to say this is not good for me and move on. I hear my OH so wise daughter each time I make a change in my life.

Don’t get me wrong – if I had to do it all over again I would not change a thing about our life as a family. I loved my life, loved being his wife, rallied in the title that will be mine forever- Mommy, Mom, Mommita – joyful in what was “our family” no matter how flawed it was, it was ours. Through all the trials and joys, that is where we grew, where the bond as women began. Without all those experiences we would not be who we are today – strong, independent and dependent, loving, giving and, yes, emotional women.

A wise man once said to me that if you put God in your life and seek His favour first, all things are possible. He was right. Through many prayers, I found an amazing man who I loved and lost. I was lead to an amazing job that I did not apply for but got that I love and still have today. The many of the lessons in my life have shown me that it is okay to be just me, that no matter what society says I should have done, I did my very best. I am not perfect, but that is okay too. Over time and putting God first in my morning prayers and pleadings through the tough moments, I have found a new love that makes me joyful and filled with laughter. With that love comes new joy and even more family to love. I wake up every morning in love with my man, in love with our families, so happy to be me. I am blessed as only God can bless me, with a life that is worth living with no regrets!

~ Christine (a.k.a. Mom)

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!