Call Me, Maybe?

Or maybe not.  As that would require a phone.  It has been about 36 hours since my Samsung S6 had a menopausal meltdown and overheated until it met its maker.  After several hours of Googling how to fix it myself (fail), calling a friend who doubles IT support (fail), taking it to the phone fix-it store (fail), I had to accept the fact that my phone was beyond repair.  ACK!

Of course, these things always happen at the most ridiculous times.  Like the fact that my phone is 13 months old and the warranty expires after 12.  Or that it was purchased using a corporate discount and as of July, I was no longer an employee.  Or the worst – when you can see that you have 12 unread whatsapp messages from a friend who just landed back in Calgary after two years abroad and a text from your dad that you can’t read.  Le sigh.

It also made me realize why people have these antique devices in their homes called “house phones”.  You know the one – a line connected to a wall that goes into a large contraption with numbers on it?  You push a button like “talk” and you get a dial tone?  Ya, that.  My mom was coming to watch the Elephant while I went to an appointment and I had  no way of getting in touch with her.  Or her with me. Do pay phones still even exist? *GASP*.

In spite of all of this, there is one shining star that I must acknowledge.  Having an Elephant who just turned one, you can imagine the number of memories and milestones that were captured on my phone.  So I tip my hat to Google Photos.  I semi-regularly back my phone up to my computer for fear of the phone apocalypse, but I certainly didn’t back it up daily.  They do.  At this point, I don’t care if the entire world wide web can hack into my photos and videos – I have those memories saved.  And to me, that is worth more than the wondering of who sent me a text, the inability to call my mom, or even the ridiculous price of a new phone.

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The Happiest Birthday

On July 3 the Elephant turned one. It was a big fete with lots of family, friends and fun. It also made me realize that many of my mom friends were transitioning back to work and I was questioning if I had made the right choice to stay home.  But just as I was having a big crisis of conscience, the Elephant and I did our first delivery for the Happy Birthday Project.

Imagine being four years old. And it’s your birthday.  And your family can’t afford to give you a birthday present, never mind a party.  And you live in a shelter.  A pretty sad thought, isn’t it?

It could go on record as being the worst birthday ever. OR, it could be amazing. Amazing because an organization like the Happy Birthday Project exists to throw kids a birthday that they will remember. Remember in a happy way.  A birthday that let’s you forget all of the chaos going on outside and makes you feel like a special kid for just one day.

WOW! What a feeling!

To know that the Elephant and I helped to give a child living in a shelter a birthday was not only extremely fulfilling, it also reminded me why I left the corporate world.  The excitement that I feel picking up a cake or delivering a birthday present greatly surpasses any achievement or contribution that I ever made at the office.  It’s often simple work and maybe doesn’t fully utilize my MBA skills or my business acumen.  But right now, the joy that I feel reminds me why I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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Cake donated by Cakes by Heather
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Photo courtesy of the Happy Birthday Project

*****If you are interested in getting involved with either Made by Momma or the Happy Birthday Project, please let me know **********

Vegas…Baby?

What a crazy few weeks it has been.  My husband and and I took our first solo trip without the Elephant, the Elephant turned the big O-N-E, and we took a family trip across the pond to meet up with friends.  Not to tackle everything at once, I will start at the beginning – going away without the Elephant.

Parents leave children behind all the time.  Yup.  This is true.  However, it was a first for us to get on a plane without her.  My husband had surprised me with a bucket list item for my birthday that I couldn’t refuse – tickets to see Garth Brooks in Las Vegas.  But it meant that I had to get on a plane and fly to an entirely different country WITHOUT my Elephant.  EEK!  So I solicited advice from friends and read the internet.  The combination of the two left me relatively well equipped to deal with leaving the Elephant behind.  Here is a list of the top five things that helped me to leave our Elephant behind:

Important Information:  this may seem like a no brainer, but something that I’ve realized in the technology world we now live in is that I often forget to leave paper copies of things or write things down.  A few important pieces of information that we left behind were the Elephant’s health care card, details of our insurance, our family doctor, and a signed medical consent form should anything happen while we were away.  We are fortunate that in Canada our insurance isn’t as big of an issue, but we still wanted to be prepared.  The medical information we left is similar to what is found here:   http://www.childrenshospitalofillinois.org/pdfs/patients-and-family/medical-concent-form-eng.pdf

We also left her passport as we were travelling to the USA and wanted to be careful in the event that something happened and she needed to get to us.

Trial Run – it goes without saying to get someone you trust to watch your child.  We are fortunate to have grandparents who watch the Elephant regularly and know her schedule.  They are also more than happy to stay at our house so the Elephant has her regular bed.  We did a trial run a few weeks prior when our good friends got married at a hotel nearby.  We stayed at the hotel and the grandparents watched the Elephant overnight.  We were only about 15 minutes away so it gave us peace of mind.  It also helped us for when went further and for longer.

Talk About It: even though the Elephant likely had no clue what I was saying, I talked to her regularly about how mommy and daddy were going away and that Grandma and Grandpa would be watching her.  She likely didn’t give two hoots, but I think it helped me to feel better.

No Face Time: this is something that I learned when my husband and I watched a friend’s son prior to having the Elephant.  The second mama sees baby and baby sees mama on Face Time (or Skype or your technology of choice), it’s game over.  It rarely ends well and everyone just ends up in tears.  I preferred to look at pictures and receive updates that everyone was having fun.

Just Go: timing will never be perfect.  You will never eliminate the guilt.  But go.  You deserve it.  I tried to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t constantly be thinking about the Elephant.  Fortunately it was Vegas so keeping busy wasn’t that difficult!

I’m sure there are hundreds of other things to consider…this is just my experience.  One of the best parts of the trip was coming home to see the biggest Elephant grin when we got to hug each other again.

Guess Who’s Back…Back Again

No…not Slim Shady (for those of you that understand the reference above).  It’s me! After taking a few weeks away from writing to think about the direction I wanted to take with both my life and this blog, I think that I finally have a clear(er) direction.

Without getting into too much detail (I will save it for later posts), I have joined a non-profit board of an amazing organization called Made by Momma.  I have also done more travelling with the baby Elephant, had my first night away from her and am gearing up for her first birthday.

In thinking about the things that I both love to do and love to talk about, three themes emerged which will be the foundation for my future posts:

Littles: these are the little people in my life and everything I learn from them and the joy (and sometimes the opposite of joy) that they bring on a daily basis.

Travel: I love to travel.  Whether it’s across the country to visit our awesome family or across the pond to do some exploring with friends, I love to get away.  Combining that with the Littles is where things have started to get even more interesting (and complicated).

Life: General musings and appreciation from every day things.  This includes a lot of the volunteer work that will be keeping me busy in the months to come.

I hope that you will continue to read and follow along.  A huge thank you to all of you who have supported me so far!!  Your kind words and encouragement are what brought me back to the blog!

Parking Stalls

I’ve tried to keep the writing in this blog positive and happy.  And I’m going to really try to frame my post today in that fashion instead of the rant that I would prefer to go on.

Parking stalls for those with less mobility. They exist for a reason. I know several people who have handicapped stickers for their car. All of these people require these tags for various reasons. And some of them are quite embarrassed when they actually use them because they think they’re not deserving. They are at one end of the spectrum. The other end consists of people who have the tags in their car, perhaps for a family member or companion, but choose to use them liberally whenever it suits their able bodied self.

I remember when I was pregnant and noticed that Toys R Us had expectant mothers parking. I felt like I had hit the jackpot.  But at the same time, I felt guilty because I could walk just fine and maybe there was another pregnant woman who couldn’t.  Or maybe she was further along or had swollen ankles and her feet hurt.

Now that I have the Elephant, I feel the same way about the “parent with small children” parking spots.  Admittedly,  I’ll use them occasionally  (especially when it’s really busy), but again,  I feel guilty. I mean there has to be a mom with two, three or even four kids that could use the spot more than I could.  Then there was that day when I didn’t park in that stall and observed a person drop someone off and wait for them while parked in that spot. No child anywhere to be seen. I waited a long time as the Elephant was sleeping. I looked for a car seat, a booster, or even a pregnant woman. None of the above.

I know parking lots can be a stressful, road rage inducing place. Go to Costco on a Saturday. Yikes. It sure would be nice to take a handicapped spot instead of parking three blocks away, especially if I wouldn’t get caught.  But what if my parking meant someone’s Granny with a walker had to go three blocks?  What if it was MY Granny?

Of all the people I have observed inappropriately parking, there is one thing that they all have in common – I didn’t ask them why they chose to park there. I chickened out. I was mad. Angry. But never said anything. Maybe they had a good reason. Maybe they didn’t. But I will never know. What would you do in those situations?

The Kindness of Strangers

It has been a week since my last post. I wanted to take a little time to gather my thoughts, evaluate my work, and truly figure out the purpose of my writing. In that week, hell has almost literally broken loose in my dear province. Wild fires have ravaged homes, separated families, and left people with essentially nothing in the city of Fort McMurray.  And while the residents of Fort Mac may feel as they as though they have lost everything, they still have is their people. Their community. Their province. 

It’s hard to fully comprehend the magnitude of the situation from watching the news from my comfy living room. To fully grasp the level of devastation only a few hundred kilometers away. I also find it too easy to get swept up in the finger pointing and negativity in social media, when I would rather be doing what I can to help in a meaningful and useful way. 

Yesterday I had the privilege of stopping by one of the emergency shelters in Calgary to donate a few things and was able to see first hand the work that they were doing. A family member had volunteered the night before and was there when the first flight arrived. They quickly realized that they had not prepared for one small, but very important (and needy) group. Babies. They had pizza donated for everyone,  but as people know,  babies don’t much care for pizza. They had no formula. No food pouches.  No bottles or sippy cups.  And a minimal amount of diapers. So off to the store we went. Knowing what the baby Elephant likes, we shopped. In bulk. Several shopping carts later, the babies were taken care of.

Now back to what I saw at SAIT. People. People from all walks of life. People walking with was left of their life in a small suitcase. People volunteering.  People helping. People looking for help. People wanting to help. Big people. Little people (so many little people).  White people. Black people. Brown people. Purple people. Okay, maybe not purple,  but you get the idea.

What really struck me was that the people at the emergency shelter had no where else to go. No family to put them up. No friends to couch surf with.  Nadda. Nothing. No one. Many appeared to be immigrants who likely didn’t know many people in Canada (this is purely my observation and may not necessarily be true) and this was their last resort.

Those that had evacuated Fort McMurray were calmly and politely going through free clothes and toiletries, only taking what they needed and leaving the rest for others. Grateful for the kindness of strangers.

Stories were shared. Hugs exchanged. There was a man who had to flee his work site and only had his camp badge for ID as he had left his wallet in his room, which was a very normal thing to do. He had no money. No debit card. No ID. He had been wearing the same pair of heavy, hot, steel toed work boots for three days and was beyond thrilled to receive a pair of cheap flip flops.

There have been so many stories this week of people coming together to help.  Whether it’s locals delivering fuel and water, Syrian refugees donating what little they have, or people donating new flip flops, the outpouring of support helps not only me, but others to remain positive in the wake of this awful disaster. It also makes me proud to be from a province that will continue to fight the good fight. That will help thy neighbour. That will rebuild.

Day 30: Time

Time.  Where did it come from?  Who invented it?  Why does it seem to go by so fast and other times it just drags along?  When I look back on the last 30 days, what surprises me is time.  It seems like just yesterday that I started my first first blog post, but when I look at all of the posts, some of the events feel like a lifetime ago.

I remember when I was pregnant with the baby Elephant, someone said that once you have a baby, the nights are long but the years are short.  In that moment, I didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of that statement.  The Elephant is going to be 10 months old next week. 10 months!  Time is moving way too quickly.  But it feels like just yesterday that her daddy and I bundled her up and brought her home for the first time.

With the baby Elephant came a maternity leave from a company that I had worked with for over a decade.  It’s been almost a year since I went on leave, yet it feels like just yesterday that I was punching the proverbial time clock.

And now here I sit – a few short minutes away from midnight on day 30 of my 30 day challenge wondering where has the time gone?  I am hoping that in the days (maybe weeks) to come, I will reflect thoughtfully on the month that passed and have a clear direction on where my writing will take me.  Until then, enjoy the minutes, hours, days and years with your loved ones because time is the one thing that will always move forward.

Day 29: The Finish Line

I remember when I first started running and I participated in my first 5 km race. It was the Santa Shuffle and it was early December.  It was also in the neighbourhood of -30 degrees. I was with a few close friends and we started off great. By kilometer three I was fading quickly. By the fourth kilometer the thought of curling up in a snow bank sounded more fun than running. But what kept me going was the image of the finish line and that feeling of accomplishment that you get when you achieve a goal. I knew I was close. I just had to keep moving my frozen body forward.  As the finish line came into sight, I picked up speed. Ran faster. Finished proud. I’ve since ran a handful of other races, including two half marathons (in warm climates) and always felt that final burst of energy kick in when the end was in sight.

Now here I sit – Day 29 of 30. The metaphorical finish line is around the next corner. I’m running faster, the pain of the previous kilometers behind me. All of the training and preparation has brought me to this point.  But then it hits me – once I cross the finish line,  then what?

In the hours and maybe days after finishing a race, I hold my head up high and am proud of my accomplishment (while icing my knees and getting numerous massages).  But will I keep running?  Will I keep training?  Will I work towards something bigger – perhaps a full marathon?  As I sit here today, I’m not sure what the next step will be. Soon it will be time to reflect and evaluate the past 30 days and decide on where the next portion of the journey will take me.  But for now, I will kick up my heels and make a dash to the finish.

Day 28: The Written Word

One of my earliest memories my Grandma reading my sister and I one of our two favourite books – The Dried out Frog, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears (which was actually a play, so we each had a part – I was always Baby Bear).  This helped to teach me how to read and began my appreciation for books.

I remember the days when I would be lucky enough to go to our closest town (Eckville) and the library would be open.  We often didn’t go to town on the weekends and I was at school during the week, so I looked forward to the summer reading program every year. I could spend hours in that tiny basement looking at all the books.

As I grew older, I began to receive an allowance for doing my chores.  More often than not, my allowance was spent on the newest Baby Sitter’s Club book – either purchased at Coles Bookstore in Red Deer or through the Scholastic book orders.  Oh, how I loved going through the book order catalogs.    Or when their was the book fair at school – it was like a second coming of Christmas!

Now that I have a baby Elephant, we try to read to her every night before her bath.  She has her current favourites – Bathtime Peek-a-boo and That’s Not My Monster, and then we have her special books that her daddy reads to her we we put her to bed – Guess How Much I Love You, I Love You Through and Through and The Magic Bunny.  I hope that I can instill in her the same love of reading that many generations of her family before her have enjoyed.

Day 27: The Great Debate

There are nine adults (parents + siblings) and one baby Elephant when you count mine and my husbands immediate family.  We have three engineers, two educational professionals, two MBA’s, two writers, two stay at home mom’s, one accountant, one counselor, one drilling and facilities specialist, one ER doctor, one farmer and a partridge in a pear tree. I know this doesn’t add up to nine, but that’s what happens when you have a family members who do crazy things like becoming an engineer AND a doctor.  As one can imagine, it means that controversial topics make family dinners fiery with debate.

The news has been filled with controversial topics in the last few weeks.  Doctor assisted suicide – when can a person make the choice to die?  What about children? What diseases make the cut?  Or how about the Islamaphobia that is happening far too often in our city to the point that Muslim women are afraid to take transit?  That yelling hate-speak and racial slurs at innocent people is legal because of free speech?  Or what about today’s latest court judgement where parents were found guilty of not providing their toddler with adequate medical care?  Is it up to the government to decide?  What if it was for religious reasons, would that make a difference?

None of these topics are a simple yes or no, do or don’t.  This is where I find the dinner conversation with family and other knowledgeable individuals so fascinating.  Often, I will have a strong view on something but after listening and being open to another side, especially someone who is well researched on a topic, my eyes often become opened.  I see things from a new perspective or angle.  And I’m not afraid to say “huh…that’s a good point…I never thought of it that way”.  I’m often driven after these conversations to do my own research and educate myself further on a topic.

It’s been said that if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.  I think it’s great to be passionate about a cause and be driven to make change, but I also think it’s prudent to exercise caution when jumping on a bandwagon or pointing fingers based on a few media clippings, celebrity tweets or Facebook shares.  It’s important to research. To educate.  And most importantly, to be open.  What you find might surprise you.