Thankful changes

This year has been insane.

It has been full of changes and new beginnings, scary and exciting.

It has also been a year of finding the things to be thankful in times of darkness, and in times of turmoil.

I am thankful for so much, and sad about so much that it leaves me boggled, but this post going to be about the former.

Love and friendships
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I have found so many new people to love.

We found a new family at the shop, I have grown closer to Joe’s aunts and Grandpa, and made new friends. I have solidified old friendships, and all existing relationships are stronger than ever. I am so thankful for every one, and trust me the list is long. I have had so much support and love from so many different people that it’s hard to actually express how thankful I truly am for them and what have done for us.

Sisters

And I get to have my sisters there at my back! So lucky!

And I get to have my sisters there at my back! So lucky!

We haven’t always been close, but because of the distance, and missing them, I have been able to grow up a lot, and to learn who they are and what it really means to have sisters. I have, in the past, kept them at arms length, and I am so thankful and so blessed that they never once gave up on me, and now our relationships are so strong and so wonderful. They are always at my back, always are so supportive, and are always there for me…whether I need them or not. I love you all.

Parents
I have so many parents. SO many I can’t list them all. They all guide me and are there for me, and love me and Joe. We have so many parents spanning from back home, to the one we created 2 and 1/2 hours away that wherever we go, they got our back.

Change
I usually am not the biggest fan of changes, in fact it kinda freaks me out when there is a landslide of new changes in the mix. Moving back home is hard, but it’s a chance for a new adventure, new paths, and new growth. Although I am worried that things may not turn out well, I know that we will be able to make it work, whatever comes our way.

Joe

Joe lets me be weird, and he is just as weird as me!

Joe lets me be weird, and he is just as weird as me!

He is my rock, my love, my best friend, and my light. He makes happy when I am sad, always is there for me, and always loves me, even when I am being ridiculous. He is my partner, and my confidante. He is my smile. I never thought I would find someone, and for them to be just what I need in any given moment and situation? I can say that I am truly blessed.

Elena

Elena's role!

Elena’s role!

She is my kindred spirit and my other-other half. She is best friends with Joe, is always there for me, my road trip buddy, and my awesome more-than-friend friend. I can’t actually explain how much Elena means to me…and Joe. She is always a support, a shoulder to lean on, and a hand to hold – a true soul mate of mine. I couldn’t have done everything that happened in this past year without her.

I am eternally thankful for everything on this list, and more.

~ Andreah

Gratitude

I guess the sisters have all shocked you at one point or another, so I really have nothing to lose…here it goes….

Christmas is NOT my favourite holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore all the family time, delicious food, time off work to unwind, joy in the children’s shrieks and giggles…

But what trumps Christmas for me in terms of ranking holidays, is Thanksgiving – it will always be my very favourite of the days we celebrate.

There is something about the simplicity of this holiday that melts my heart, slows me down, brings me back to my centre.

Thanksgiving day – weekend, in my family, really – filled with family gatherings, where we simply set aside the time spend with the ones we cherish dearly, in gratefulness and reflection for all we are blessed with has always been the one I look most forward to every year.

Last year, for no specific reason I can think of, the day spent at Jacqui’s with most of the family I got to thinking (scary thought, I know) of how full I was that day.

Last year's 30lb bird

Last year’s 30lb bird

And while yes, I have been known to be able to pack back my fair share of food in atrocious amounts, in this instance, I do not mean the physical sense.

I mean spiritually, emotionally, and even mentally. Full.

I was so full. Full of love, full of happy, full of peace, full of hope. Just so full. And I loved just how full and satisfied I felt.

I decided then that the focus for my years ahead on this earth would be to consciously be grateful, thankful, and satisfied with whatever present I was faced with.

SO, so much easier said than done, let me tell you. While I do feel I have been so much fuller throughout this year, I know I have most definitely struggled – some days more than others – to keep a perspective of gratitude for whatever the present moment presented to me.

Yet, I still feel full. Thankfully.

With my most favourite holiday just around the corner, I was happy when our editor-in-chief, Julia, suggested we dedicate this week to mark its approach. In tradition and honor of this wonderful day, I am most grateful for:

Love: the ability to give it, and to recieve it. The people I am proud to say I love and even prouder to say love me. I’m thankful for the handsome man who loves my heart – especially on days when I’m not sure why, even the wild and crazy parts, the babies he’s blessed me with in the non-traditional sense – my beautiful step-children and yes, even my fur-babies, and the home he’s helped me build for us.

So thankful for this love

So thankful for this love

Love in the sisterly sense, my inspiring sisters by blood (I will never tire of saying “I don’t know what I would do without you”), the ones through marriage (Kim), the ones we’ve adopted, and the ones through kindred spirits that I find in my closest girlfriends.

This love <3

This love ❤

I’m thankful for the love in the smile of a stranger on the street on the days I so desperately need it. I’m thankful for the people that will never know just how much I truly love them – my ridiculous nieces and nephew. I’m thankful for the love of my parents, the one I was born into and the one I’ve grown to appreciate. So, so thankful for love.

These faces <3

These faces ❤

Ability: I’m thankful that I can. That I can run, that I can breathe, that I can sing (even if not well), that I can see, that I can work. I’m thankful that I can drive, that I can walk, that I can vote. I’m thankful that I can say I’m healthy, that I can buy and afford healthy food, that I have – for the most part – the freedom to choose my own path. I’m thankful I can love, laugh, feel and express without fear.

Ability to take this in

Ability to take this in

Growth: I’m so very thankful for the lessons I’ve been faced with that have allowed me to grow. I’m most thankful for the hard ones I’ve already been able to get out of the way – the ones I’ve watched many loved ones older than me struggle to grasp and still haven’t arrived at. I’m thankful for these lessons that have resulted in growth because it pushes me to grow more – it keeps me thirsty to uncover the next adventure that will show me another true part about myself, that will bring me closer to understanding my purpose and my place.

Always.

Always.

Grace: so incredibly humbled in thankfulness for the grace of God and his love. Thankful that I know in my heart, even when my brain fights me on it, that I am not alone, never without purpose, never without his love, shelter and protection. I’m thankful for the path he’s chosen for me, the faith he’s instilled in me and the sacrifice he’s made for me.

Gratitude makes the heart full

Gratitude makes the heart full

I’m thankful for grace in the human sense – the forgiveness that has been extended to me, especially when I didn’t exactly deserve any of it. Grace that’s come in the chances people have taken on me, and the grace that has come from them overlooking my shortcomings. I make it a regular occurrence to make an ass of myself, and I’m always so grateful when grace is granted instead of making me live it down.

I hope this year, as you gather with your loved ones and share in a feast, that you take the time to really reflect – not on the material possessions and earthly accomplishments – but on the parts of your life that touch your heart daily, that you take for granted, the ones you sometimes forget to recognize your gratitude for, the moments with people that matter that we are often so busy we forget to take note. Revel in your lives in whatever the present moment offers you. Breathe, focus your mind on the abundance that we all have and see how full you can make yourself feel.

From our family to yours

From our family to yours

I wish you a happy, incredibly filling Thanksgiving.

~ Toni

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.

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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

Society, you’re a crazy breed

I apologize now.

I need to rant.

This past weekend, I helped a few of my fellow human beings, stuck in situations that could easily ruin anyone’s day. While strangers to me, these people were still people and helping them in their situations did not feel like a heroic task by any means. Remember, kindness is free.

A little kindness goes a long way

A little kindness goes a long way

Early Friday morning, I stopped at the gas station in my neighbourhood to fill up my truck and put air in the tires of my bike as I was headed off to ride the trails with my girlfriend, Chantelle.

Roughly taking about 10 minutes to fill my tank, I noticed an older woman standing beside her vehicle at the air pump, next to a few pieces of luggage, her face wrought with worry. Upon further analysis of the situation, I noticed a man with his arms struggling with the spare tire near the undercarriage of the vehicle. After filling my tank and paying for my fuel, I pulled up beside them, jumped out of my truck and did what I thought any of the other 10-15 people that had been in and out of the station would have. I asked them if they needed some help.

I will forever have a hard time forgetting the thankfulness and relief on that woman’s face. Helping her brother release the stuck spare, he looked at me sheepishly and admitted that he had never changed a tire before. Luckily, I had.

I easily showed him how to adjust his jack and remove the lug nuts, but when it came time to remove the tire, it wouldn’t budge and I didn’t want to shake the SUV off the jack. I looked around for some assistance and noticed two men sitting in their work truck, watching me. They had been fueling their truck at the same time as I had and sat their watching me wrestling with this stubborn flat. Annoyed, I smiled shortly and waved them over to help. Quickly realizing how ridiculous they looked, they came over and helped me complete the tire change.

While they finished up I got to talking with Maria – we found some common ground in nationality, she apologized profusely for the chips in my day-old manicure, thanked me repeatedly and chatted about their situation and her brother’s four hour journey ahead. And then she broke my heart as she confessed she had tried to get a few people’s attention before I came over and gripped me in a thankful hug.

What happened to our society? Are we really too busy and too important to notice a fellow human in distress, requiring a simple helping hand? It hurts my heart that my actions were the exception and not the standard.

I carried on with my day’s planned activities – tackling 24kms of trail with Chantelle, running errands in the afternoon, Maria’s thankfulness never far from my thoughts and the worry for our world weighing on my heart.

The following morning, after a pretty ridiculous and amazing morning spent in a sun rise hike of laughter with three of my favourite ladies (which I will share with you next week!) I drove my mister to work as my truck was in service for the day and I needed his wheels. On my trek home I took notice of a 90’s Saturn sedan on the side of the 401, four ways flashing, no driver to be seen. She appeared in the horizon about up 5 km further down the highway and all I could think was, that’s a long way to walk on the side of the highway any day, let alone a busy mid-morning on a Saturday.

I weighed the risks, slowed my speed, put on my four-ways, ensured I was safely pulled over, and waited as the kind-faced woman approached the window. She kept her distance at first, as she explained she had ran out of gas and was unable to use her CAA membership because the card was in her husbands name and he wasn’t with her. I asked her if she wanted a ride. Again, my desire to help taking her by surprise, she introduced herself as Kathy and climbed in the passenger seat.

She thanked me after we reached the gas station, assuming our interaction over and gathered her purse. I quickly corrected her, offering to wait and drive her back to make sure her car started. Her face lit up with a smile as she accepted, located a jerrycan, and returned to the car. Our ride back to her car was filled with conversation about our shared Sarnia connection, her girlfriend from younger years that shared my name and dark features, where she was headed and the cottages she manages in Wasaga. She thanked me a thousand times and each time I reiterated that if it was me, I would have hoped someone would have stopped to offer to help. If it was someone I loved and I couldn’t be there to help, I would hope someone would be kind enough to help them.

The point is that yes, we all have things to do, people to love that we already know, and jobs to fulfill. Yes, it is easier to pass by a situation than help, but our communities could be so much more fulfilling with a little faith in human kind and the return of a little kindness.

~ Toni

ps. Kathy left me this little token of thanks in the door when I dropped her off at her vehicle and I didn’t notice until I pulled in the driveway. Seriously brought the biggest smile to my face. Thank you, Kathy ❤

Winner no matter what!

Winner no matter what!