The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Archive for the category “Gratitude & Thankfulness”

Christmas Wish

Joy to the World!

So, its Christmas Eve Day.  I have shopped, baked, wrapped, and all that to prepare for the big day.  Well, almost prepared.  My house is dirty and we have been counting cookies as a food group for a week or so now.

Our tree is decorated in the usual “eclectic” style.  When I see other people’s’ Christmas trees, or those on television, I marvel at how stylish they are.  How everything seems to match and coordinate and all the decorations are so beautiful and.. what’s the word?  congruent.  Ours is not that way.  That’s the way I like it, actually.  I love that our tree ornaments are fit for the island of misfit toys.  They remind me of where we’ve been, friendships old and new and why this season is so special.  There are ornaments from work gift exchanges, kids’ day care projects and the “baby’s first Christmas” trio.

Mid made this one at school.  Its a Scrooge, I think.

Mid made this one at school. Its a Scrooge, I think.

Jaybird made this ornament at Girl Guides.

Jaybird made this ornament at Girl Guides.

Santa came from a former co-worker.

Santa came from a former co-worker.

One of my favorite Christmas decorations does not match anything.  It was a gift from a friend with the explanation, “May this spider web be a reminder that Jesus was not born in a palace or sterile-clean hospital room.  He was born in a humble dirty stable, with animals, loving parents and the Good Lord surrounding him.  During this season surround yourself with God, people you love and love you, be humble and don’t worry about the imperfections.”

Humble Web

This is my Christmas wish for you.  May your days be merry and bright.  May your ornaments not match your decorations.  May you be surrounded with those that love you and you love right back.



Jaybird’s Birthday

Jaybird today, directing traffic with the School Patrol.

“Am I officially twelve yet?  What time was I born?  What was that day like?”  So many questions from Jaybird this morning.  Its her birthday.  She has never asked these types of questions before today.  We talked in generalities about the day, how it was the election of 2000, the infamous Bush v. Gore, that I had been in the hospital on bedrest for three weeks prior to her birth and that I was able to vote absentee with the help of my friend Sandy and the NAACP.  And, of course, that she was born at 5:53pm.

Three weeks in a hospital bed while lying only on your left side affords you the luxury to reflect on some serious stuff.  It also allowed for me to read a few books, (not on pregnancy, though, I was too nervous).  I also had time to call every organization I could think of for assistance in getting an absentee ballot for the presidential election approaching.  When neither the republican or democratic campaign offices could help, saying a deadline had passed and I was SOL, I called the League of Women Voters.  Again, no luck.  I called local representatives’ offices with no luck.  Then I called the NAACP, (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).  That’s right.  This white girl from a small town in Wisconsin called the NAACP, explained my situation to a very patient person and got answers.  They told me how to get a ballot, how to get it to the correct place, everything.  I am thankful to the NAACP and to Sandy for their assistance in voting that year.

Three weeks and twelve years ago I was admitted into the hospital with severe preeclampsia, a condition that means my blood pressure was similar to that of a shaken soda can.  During those three weeks on bed rest in the hospital, I often asked myself, “why?  Why me”?  I had done everything in the “right order”, attended and graduated from college, fell in love, got married, and then we waited until we were financially stable to start a family.  Okay, “financially stable” may be a stretch, but you get my point.  So, why, then, was I lying here in this hospital bed?  I had many friends and family come to visit me while in the hospital, my brother and I would read the Wall Street Journal sometimes and solve the world’s problems.  My husband or my parents were a constant at my bedside.  As the days went on, though, Jaybird was becoming more stressed in utero.  I remember telling my OB/GYN on a Friday that I didn’t think I would make it much longer, that I had a feeling that I would need to deliver soon.  He was patient and kind, assuring me that I was in good hands and that everything would be fine.  I came to a realization while in the hospital.  If one in eight babies (from March of Dimes website) was to be born premature, perhaps the question is not “why me?” but “why NOT me?”  After all, I had good health insurance and a terrific support system of family and friends.  Just thinking of all those kids out there that have daily challenges of getting clean water or food or are orphaned or abused or whatever made me realize that if the act of being born was her greatest challenge, we were a lucky family indeed.

As the day of November 7 progressed, a few things happened. I was growing more confused as a result of the preeclampsia and my parents had come to my room for a visit.  Thank goodness they did.  My mom, a nurse, had instructed me upon being admitted to the hospital to write a list of everyone that I could think of that could get in touch with my husband if something unthinkable happened.  The afternoon of November 7 my physician had given the orders that I was no longer allowed television, as election coverage made my already-high blood pressure enter the stratosphere.  It was also the afternoon that during my daily ultrasound all pleasant small talk ceased.  A strange seriousness came over the resident doing the ultrasound and she told me that she would be right back.  The Chief Resident entered, who continued the ultrasound.  My mother left the room.  I looked at my dad.  He grabbed my hand, sensing that I was frightened.  The Chief Resident looked at me and asked, “Where is your husband?”

I replied, “I don’t know.”

“Is he here?”


“Okay.  Get him here as soon as possible.  I am calling your OB and we need to deliver her today.”  The rest is a bit of a blur.  As stated above, my mother had instructed me to write a list of how to contact JB in the event of something unthinkable.  Something unthinkable had just happened.  I forgot where JB was and how to get in touch with him.

I was whisked away, prepped for surgery and told to relax.  Relax?  I was freaking out.  Only 29 weeks along (a pregnancy should go 40 weeks) and barely able to put a sentence together, I had no clue what was happening.  Listening to the OB/GYN and the Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist discuss the best way to deliver my baby was surreal.  I kept thinking of a news story that I had read a few weeks earlier about a woman who gave birth alone, on a treetop in Mozambique during a flood (  If she could do that, what was my problem?

JB arrived at the hospital and was brought into the delivery operating room.  I asked him how his day was and what he had for lunch.  He stared at me incredulously.  I begged him to talk about something mundane and normal, as I was about to jump out of my skin in fear.  He had a sandwich, some fruit, water, you know, the usual.  The leaves were falling, Al Gore was predicted to win Florida’s electoral votes (this still makes me giggle a bit), and it was a nice day outside.

Then we heard her.  She was so very tiny and translucent, as many preemies are, yet screaming something fierce.  “Is that her?” I asked. Yes, it was her, and she was screaming.  She was small, 11 weeks premature and a bit translucent, but she was screaming and that was a very good sign.  There were so many people in the room at this point that I have no idea who was doing what.  I just know that they placed this small, crying baby on my chest and I have not been the same since.  She looked into my eyes and I instantly loved her.  Then, they took her away.   She weighed in at 1 pound 10 ounces, and was 13 inches long.  She fit in the palm of JB’s hand. She was very small, on a ventilator, but was otherwise healthy.  The vent lasted three days before it was no longer needed.  She graduated to the little prongs but eventually pulled those out on her own.  Her determination inspired me.  I had many more complications from giving birth so early but Jaybird continued to grow and develop.  The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) became home for a couple of months for us.  We were able to hold her, feed her, change her thumbelina diapers and love her.  JB will tell you that I cried quite a bit during this time.  It is a blur to me.  We brought her home two weeks before her due date, when she was able to hold her body temperature, could eat and breathe on her own.  She was four pounds.

Jaybird is about 3 lbs in this picture. The gold band around her arm is JB’s wedding band.

I am so thankful for the (very) little girl who was given to us on this day twelve years ago, and thankful for the person she is becoming.  Happy Birthday, Jaybird!

Independence Day

It’s Fourth of July weekend. The time of year when we load our kids into the minivan and park on the side of the road on top of a hill and wait for the small towns around us to start their fireworks. By the end of the displays, our necks hurt from straining from side to side to see all the different firework shows. We are up late, running around, celebrating Independence Day.

It’s the time of the year when the backyard neighbors see our fire pit going and come down the hill with a pitcher of margaritas and glasses. Again, our kids play inside and out while we enjoy each other’s company over a fire, drinks and finger foods. Its nice out, cool in the evening and warm and sunny during the day. There are parades through every downtown with people sporting red, white and blue outfits. There are marching bands, (once upon a time I was in a marching band.. loved it), loud bands, signs of patriotism everywhere. Every evening the noise of fireworks interrupts our sleep and the smell of burnt fuses is in the in the smoky air.

It’s the time of year when grandparents, family and friends come over and we grill dinners. We have fruit salads, vegetable salads and pasta salads followed by icey-pops and frozen custard. We are a mess of sunscreen, mosquito repellant and sweat. It is summer in Wisconsin and it is a great time of year. We relax by lakes, relive years gone by and reflect on how lucky we are to live in a free country. Of course, we give thanks for those that fought to make it so.

I still live in a free country, but this year there is only red and white. The stars and stripes have been replaced by a maple leaf. If you are saying to yourself, “Man, she seems homesick,” you are right. I love our home in Canada and feel very thankful to be close to the mountains, living in a great country with terrific people. But it is not home. Not yet, anyway.

We attended the festivities for Canada Day this week, as it is a national holiday here as well. It did not disappoint. The sun was shining, there many areas for people to hang out eat, try on cowboy hats or whatever. I was an arm’s length from Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary. Really, I was. I wish I had the camera ready. He gave a little speech that made my homesickness go away.

He talked of Canadian independence. He talked of being thankful to live in a free country. But what hit home for me was his talk of the Canadian tradition to welcome people from all over the world into this great country. To show that all are welcome here. It made me smile. So, although this started as a self-pitying post about my longing to celebrate the 4th of July with American friends in the great state of Wisconsin, I am finishing by saying that I am a lucky woman. I am a citizen of the United States and while we may not get everything right and our foreign policy may be a little off at times, (our domestic policy can be way off, too, come to think of it), I still believe in us. I believe that we can do great things and that despite the challenges the US faces, we are still one of the best games in town. I am also lucky because I live in a country that welcomes newcomers and is doing and capable of doing great things, albeit more quietly and politely than their southern neighbors.

So this week, no matter if you are celebrating Canadian independence, The United States’ independence, or are lucky enough to celebrate both, I urge you to take a moment.  Breathe it all in, look around you and count blessings.  My guess (and my hope) is that you will have too many to count.

Happy Fathers Day

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. 

~Clarence Budington Kelland

My dad is full of advice but mostly just lives his life honorably and allows us to watch.  He is a lover of sports, tennis especially.  He once met the father of a certain Williams sisters while watch the French Open and commended him on the match Serena had just finished.  “Serena played a hell of a match today” he said, “You must be very proud of your daughters.”  Mr. Williams confirmed that he is, in fact, proud of his daughters and thanked him for the kind words.

My dad is not much of a yeller.  I always knew I was in trouble (which was a lot)  when he would cross his arms, shake his head and mumble, “this shit has to cease, Erika.”

Other “fun” things Dad has said over the years..

“der schtops and der schtops.”

“You own nothing in this house. It is my house and I will look through any pockets and any drawers and any closets whenever I see fit. This is not a democracy.”

On my wedding day we were preparing to enter the church.  I looked inside and saw the church was full.  I got nervous that I would trip or something and said to him, “wow, there are a lot of people here.”  His encouraging words back to me were accompanied by a pat on the arm, “you invited a lot of people, honey, let’s go.”

We had many arguments over the years about this and that, I was a teenager once upon a time, after all.  The constant was always that he was there.  Dad was there when I played tennis matches and skied and had piano recitals..  always quiet.  Not creepy quiet, but encouraging quiet.  He would nod in approval or gesture a hint on how to do something better.

As I said above, he is not much of a yeller, but he was (and continues to be) a huge cheerleader for me.  It is true that a father makes a huge difference in the lives of their daughters.  Mine did so quietly, affirming my good decisions and catching me when I made bad ones.  He does not tell me how to live, he merely provides a good example by living well.

Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there.  Especially mine.

Mid’s Birthday

How did this baby boy get so big?

Its happening.  My children are growing older, smarter, funnier, more independent..  at times it takes my breath away.

Recently Mid celebrated his 9th birthday.  We invited of few of his friends to Calaway Park in Calgary.  It was a really nice day.  I am thankful for the friends Mid has made and the boys that were at his party; such nice kids.  Some of the parents stuck around, which was terrific.  They were an extra set of hands and eyes as our merry little troop navigated the rides.

So, nine years ago today, JB and I got up out of bed, took Girl to day care and informed her that when her dad came to pick her up later that day, she would be a big sister.   Worth noting, due to complications from my pregnancy with her, I had to have a C-section and it was scheduled for Tuesday morning.  It was a bit weird to pick my son’s birthdate, but as a Type A German, it was also nice to be able to plan for his arrival.  So after dropping Girl at day care, we were off to check into the hospital.  At the time, my parents lived about an hour away.  We told them they did not have to come, that we would call them when Mid was born, but they showed up anyway.  Its kind of cute how my parents try to be all cool and together when exciting stuff is happening in our family and they just have to be part of it.  Anyway… my parents were there.

Over the past nine years, Mid has challenged me in ways that his older sister has not.  He climbed through the kitchen cabinets.  He bull-rushed the baby gate to keep him safe from falling down the stairs.  He threw tantrums.  Every now and then, he looks at me, hugs me and tells me, ever so tenderly, “you are the best mom I’ve ever had”, giggles and runs off.  I have not been allowed to hold his hand or kiss him in public for two years.  *sigh*

I am getting all misty again, so back to the party.  Mid decided that he had enough stuff, so we had a food drive.  He asked that his friends bring items for the food pantry in place of bringing presents.  Super proud of him for that.  And a bit relieved, because I really don’t want to figure out how to cram more beeping plastic into our house.  But I digress.


Highlights of the day were the many rides the boys went on throughout the park.   On the first ride someone let it slip that there was a birthday boy present.  The attendant stopped everything and had all those within earshot sing “Happy Birthday” to Mid.  He was embarrassed.  And by that, I mean he loved it.  Apprentice went on his first roller coaster, no doubt influenced by his longing to do anything/everything his brother does.  My daughter brought a friend, so not to be surrounded by boys – ick! – all day.  They had a blast doing their own thing.  At last, the time came for brownies and snacks.   Like starving wolves, the boys descended on the picnic table to pick up snacks and juice.  Silly me, I brought napkins and forks.  When the feeding frenzy was over, so was the party and the brownies I had lovingly prepared, (with the help of a box mix labeled “Ghirardelli”, don’t judge), had disappeared.  A most satisfying day.

Today I am thankful for the second of my children.  Happy Birthday!

mmm… birthday ice cream…

Thankfulness, Taxes and Coaching

I try to post something each week mentioning things, people, places, whatever, for which I am thankful.  Sometimes they are a bit goofy, sometimes more meaningful, but in any case, I am constantly thinking about how to show gratitude and what I will write about on Sunday.  During a run Sunday morning, I “wrote” this post in my head.  I had fully intended to post it Sunday evening.  However, its Tax Day in Canada so we were swept up in the romance of filing our taxes.  You have no idea the party that is our house.  *eyeroll*

In any case, this week I am thankful for 13 people, 12 of whom have recently entered my life along with their families.

It started with the email.  “There has not been a coach placed for your daughter’s soccer team as of yet.  Please consider volunteering for this important role.”  I thought about it.  After all, I have taught Sunday School, led teams (of adults with no other option) to successful projects and I’m reasonably athletic.. why not?  Good question.  Why not?  Well, to start with, I have never played soccer and don’t know the rules, (don’t tell anyone.)  Why should I?  Because its my daughters team, dammit, and I love sports.  I volunteered.  When the email came from the league welcoming me as a coach, I started to panic.  What the hell was I doing?  I had not a clue how to run drills, prepare these kids for games and all that.  And these are kids, for petessake, and I don’t want to mess up anyone else’s child.  What to do?  I went to the all-knowing social media outlet of Facebook.  I put out a plea to three people who have coached my kids at one point or another.  Dan, Kyle and Paul are outstanding coaches, fathers and people in general and I was confident they would point me in a positive direction.  After the smartypants comments to bring flasks, stock my cooler etc, (I don’t.. yet), pointers were shared along with a healthy dose of encouragement.  I started planning the first practice.  Luckily another parent has volunteered to coach with me.  He is a quieter guy and since I am a bit of a yeller we balance each other out pretty well.

So into my life came these 12 girls, (can’t really count my own daughter), their families and expectations for fun on the soccer field.  I was nervous for the first practice.  What would the parents think?  Would the girls respect me?  Would they be experienced on the field?  Will they be nice?  So far I am pleased to report that the parents are highly supportive, the girls seem to be responding to me during practice, some are experienced soccer players, some not (it’s a rec community league), and they are NICE.  Like, really good kids.  They have so much energy!  And, as one would expect, they get giggly.

A few practices later, things are running along rather well, I think. More to come definitely, but I am thankful that I have these 13 girls in my life.  I am thankful that their parents have yet to cry out for a new coach and trust that I will be a good influence on their daughter.

Cheers to good influences! Cheers to Girls in Sports!

Nightmares and Thankfulness

The kids were tucked into bed.  I had completed the evening’s group run, taken a shower and was getting a snack before talking with JB about the day and upcoming weekend.  Then, he appeared.  The Apprentice was standing on the steps, half asleep and visibly shaken.

“What’s up, buddy?” JB asked.

“I can’t sleep.  I want Mom,” he replied.

“I’m right here.  What’s going on?” I entered the conversation.  He lumbered over, rubbing his big brown eyes.  I got on my knees so that I could give him a bear hug.  “Are you Okay?”

“I had a nightmare.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.  I want to snuggle.”

JB and I shared a look.  Of course, this means that our conversation about upcoming plans and the day that was will be put on hold.  I walk upstairs with the Apprentice and we crawl into my bed.  I tell him that when I have a bad dream, I will try to think happy thoughts until I fall back to sleep.  He nodded.

Then I started reciting happy things.  Playing with Sadie and Dakota, my Sister-in-Law’s dogs.  Going to the Houston Space Center.  Waterslides.  Skiing in Banff.  The upcoming visit of Grandma and Opa.

He shushed me.  “Are you OKay?” I asked.

“Yes. I am tired.”

“Can you think of a happy thing?” I ask.

“God is always with us,” he replied.  I smiled and agreed.  Yeah! for Catholic eduction in the absence of a new church community!

“God IS always with you, and He loves you very much.” And with that, Apprentice drifted off to sleep.

So what to be thankful for this Easter?  No list this week, just the knowledge that God is always with you.  And He loves you very much.

God Bless Everyone.  No Exceptions.

March Madness!

This week’s bundle of thankfulness…

It’s that time of year, people.. basketball, basketball and more basketball.. only, I live in Canada.  Coverage of the NCAA tournament needs to compete with hockey, so this week, I am especially grateful for the fact that I get some US stations.  We have been able to watch the “big dance” just like the US, only without the benefit of hearing our neighbors cheering through open windows.

I love a good NCAA bracket pool.  My daughter and I filled out brackets for a little group; no money is involved, just for fun, glory and bragging rights.  It reminds us that there are other colleges out there and its fun to cheer for teams that you have to google to figure out where in the US they are located.

I wrote about how my children are a constant source of entertainment this week..  unfortunately, we did not catch a leprechaun this year, but I am pleased that my boys have decided that they will be working on their plans to be sure that little green man does not get by them next year.  Now, (I think), they know this is all poppycock, but it sure is fun to watch them try to solve a problem they know darn well there is no answer to..

We have new neighbors and the Apprentice has a new friend!  Also thankful for new friends..

The weather is getting warmer and the sun is out later (thank you, daylight savings time), though the mountains are still getting snow dumped upon them.  This, my friends, is a win-win scenario.  I will be hitting the slopes in the very near future.  Can you see me smiling?

Gratitude for..

I have a potpourri of things to be thankful for this weekend.  In no particular order..

Regarding the kids.. I was able to go on Mid’s field trip this week.. very fun.  I blogged about it in Field Trip!  Also, I volunteered in Apprentice’s class and got to know a few of the kids.  Nice children, to be sure.  And let me tell you, Grade 1 Math is WAY easier than Grade 5 Math.

Regarding my own activities.. In talking with some running friends during our 23k this week, I have some new goals to ponder. To which, thankfully, JB responded, “Well, I am not going to stop you.  Go ahead!”  Seriously, what a guy.

Vitamin C.  I was a little under the weather this week and I am thankful for Vitamin C.  I drank it in the form of orange juice, ate it in the form of fruits & veggies and took it in pill form.  Along with rest, I am back to my old snarky self.  woot!

My friend Jim made my day earlier this week as well when he forward a little blogger award to me.  I am thankful for his friendship and support in my new venture in the blogosphere.

Here’s to a great week!



Gratitude in the Cold

Its been a crazy week, with Monday being a holiday and all, but much to report..

I could not believe it myself.  This week I received a call from school to let me know that Mid had won an award for his behavior this past month.  Every month a child (or children) from each class are awarded for Respectful, Responsible, Safe and Praise-ful (is that a word?) behavior.  Mid was one of three in his class to be recognized this month.  I am proud of him for displaying this behavior for many reasons, but mostly because of our three kids, he had the hardest time adjusting to our new home.  He said he was not terribly excited about this award, but through his actions if was plain to see that it meant a lot to him.

Saturday night JB offered to make dinner and I was not about to turn that down.  It was nice to sit, visit with him and enjoy a glass of Pinot Noir while he cooked dinner.

My cousin Seth had a birthday this past week and I am grateful to have him in our family.  Although my mother will tell a story of a time long ago when Seth kicked me in the shins and I vowed to never like him, I am grateful that I was able to get to know him better over the last few years.  I have no recollection of the event, btw.  My kids have benefited from getting to know him as well.  He has taken care of them several times and they enjoy his company as much as I do.

I am grateful for the cold air coming into my lungs when I ran this morning.  It was a chilly morning, but after a few kilometers, it was just like summer.  (I know, its crazy, just go with it.)  As it turns out, I enjoy running in the snow and -15C weather.  Toward the end of the 16k run I thought to myself that I may have even over-dressed.

I found a pair of running shoes that I bought on sale right before moving!  Just when I thought I was going to have to buy another pair, and was searching for a specific water bottle, (this also seems crazy, but I can explain, though won’t here), I found the shoe box in the back of my closet with some random crap.  Woot!  New running shoes!  I am thankful to have 3 pair to rotate during training until the Calgary Marathon.

Have a great week!  And, as Ellen DeGeneres says, “Be kind to each other.”

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