This (American) Thanksgiving: Recent Awesome Things

Does anyone else remember the hype surrounding Neil Pasricha’s string of bestsellers that started with The Book of Awesome?

If you’re not familiar, Pasricha writes about everyday things that, when you stop to think, are really awesome, like: finding cash in an old coat pocket, when cashiers open up new checkout lanes at the grocery store, popping bubble wrap, managing to move clothes from the washer to the dryer without dropping anything (harder than you think!), and when you get the milk-to-cereal ratio just right. Not only are these all awesome experiences he wrote about in his first book – each and every one of them has happened to me in the last month. To be fair, I specifically planted a $20 bill in my winter coat last spring…but when I went to put it on for the first time this fall, I couldn’t remember if I had left money hidden in one of the lesser-used pockets. I had – and pulling out a crisp $20 (along with a few BandAids and an unused Kleenex stash) felt awesome!

In honour of American Thanksgiving, I thought I’d list some things that have happened to me in the last few months that I would categorize as That Was Awesome moments. Because labeling something as a That Was Awesome moment requires us to pay attention, change our perspective, and choose to appreciate the little things in life. Basically, it’s gratitude gussied up in party clothes.

recent awesome moments

  • Having a table open up at my favourite cafe the moment I walked in the door. This was awesome. Waiting sucks – and, at the cafe I frequent, people tend to stay for the long haul, so a full house can stay full for a loooonnnnggg time. It felt doubly satisfying because my heart sank when I walked into the cafe with not a single open seat and then – suddenly and fortuitously – I had a space to call my own.
  • Being able to pull through a parking space. Any day is instantly better if I don’t have to back up in a crowded parking lot. This happened the same day a free table opened up in that crowded cafe. It was basically just one big Awesome Fest.
  • Getting the very last one of an item I need at the store. We managed to nab the last two PAX wardrobe kits in stock at our local IKEA. We needed two, they had exactly two left. Awesome. I also remember a Christmas several years ago when another few minutes and our cheesecake would likely have been missing the cream cheese (so it would have just been a cake, I suppose?), but I managed to nab the last few packages on the shelf. What a thrill! There was a rush of adrenaline from how close I came to catastrophe (because no Unbaked Cherry Cheesecake at Christmas would be catastrophic for my taste buds) + a rush of gratitude for sourcing the required item.
  • Going to bed tired – content, not utterly exhausted – and falling asleep immediately. This feels awesome every single time it happens. No tossing and turning. Just blissful, immediate sleep.
  • When something I didn’t want to do (but felt obliged to say yes to) gets canceled. I recently had a meeting scheduled for first thing in the morning and I was dreading the prep and pressure – then, the other person canceled. How awesome!
  • When a package arrives early. I ordered photocards and custom calendars and they were set to arrive today; instead, they arrived over a week ago! Awesome.
  • Measuring correctly. Too often I get something home and it doesn’t fit. When we built and installed those IKEA PAX wardrobes in our new entryway, we had taken all sorts of measurements and, on paper at least, it was “supposed” to fit. But when we were in the middle of building it, I wasn’t feeling very confident. It was a tight squeeze, but it fits perfectly. Awesome.
  • When I’m hungry and open the fridge and there is something I want to eat ready and available – no prep required. Leftover casserole. Mini Naan bread dippers and hummus. COLD sparkling water. All awesome.
  • Discovering an item is cheaper than advertised. This happened to me earlier in the week. I needed to replace/update a lightbulb in our 1970’s kitchen – a small, old-school fluorescent tube. On the shelf, the bulb was listed as $16.99. A steep price tag for a single bulb, but it said it would last for 5,000 hours and we haven’t been able to use this particular under-cabinet lighting for over a year (#DemeritAlert). At the cash register, it rang in as $8.99. Awesome.
Practically levitating out of the store after discovering my lightbulb was much cheaper than I expected (also known as: You Know You’re An Adult When…some aspect of buying a new lightbulb is a highlight in your day).
  • Finding a BandAid at the moment one is needed. Last week when we were away from home, a child needed a BandAid for a bad hangnail. VoilĂ  – I found one (the very last one, mind you) in a side pocket of my purse. A week or two earlier someone needed a BandAid for some other finger malady and I found one in my coat (again, it was the last one; so double Awesome points for that).

Note to self: it’s time to restock my on-the-go supply of BandAids everywhere – purse, car, coats!

Your turn. Have you had any That Was Awesome moments lately? If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today, what are three things you’re most thankful for in 2022? Of the awesome moments I describe above, which is your favourite and/or which one has happened to you recently? Did it feel awesome at the time, or only in retrospect?

Header photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

On Remembrance Day: They Are Now A Part Of Us

My grandfather, Ellis, served in the Canadian Navy. At some point in the 1940s, his ship was torpedoed – sank – and he floundered in the chilly Atlantic. The war he survived; the cancer diagnosis that came 18 years later, he did not.

I know very little about my grandfather. When my brother was little he saw a picture of Grampie up on a dresser and pointed, saying: Daddy?

My father – in looks, at least – was a carbon copy of his father, most notably for their distinctive ears. In various text chains over the years, when I’ve sent pictures of Levi, my mother has replied: My, you sure can see traces of his grandfather. Especially those ears!

Which means, of course, he bears traces of his great-grandfather as well.

So who was Ellis?

After the war, he settled in Saint John, Canada. He married Evelyn. By the time he died in the 1960’s, he left behind four children (and had buried another – her name was Elizabeth).

My father, the eldest, was only 15.

I know my grandfather’s row of medals were passed on to my uncle when my grandmother died. From what I gather, he rarely talked about the war, but surely it haunted him.

How couldn’t it?

It seems incomprehensible, in a way, how deeply an entire generation was touched by war. Those on the front lines of course but those at home, too, huddled around their radios, listening to the crackling voice announcing daily updates. It touched them all. My grandfather-in-law was a cook; my grandmother-in-law, a war bride from England.

Those “lucky” ones – the ones that survived – came home. My grandfather and grandfather-in-law were the lucky ones.

War was over.

What would they make of the newsfeed on my phone this morning?

My brother-in-law has served in the Air Force for several decades now. This summer I sat around the dinner table with my nephew (wasn’t I just cradling him as a newborn?), his fatigues resting on the table beside my grilled sandwich.

When he puts his helmet on you can see genetics at work: he too bears his great-grandfather’s ears.

I can’t – and hopefully never will – fully understand what my grandfather experienced. I don’t know if he had nightmares and flashbacks. I don’t know how many friends he lost. Was it dozens? Did his heart default to gratitude for survival, or did that very survival haunt him?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. And that, especially on Remembrance Day, haunts me.

I may not know how long he was adrift in the ocean, or what horrors he experienced (or had to inflict) but this I know: if arms hadn’t reached out to grab him from the Atlantic, I wouldn’t be here today.

Without that rescue, there is no me, no us, no Abby or Levi.

And so, in memory of Grampie Ellis:

In the rising of the sun and in its going down,
we remember them.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
we remember them.
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
we remember them.
In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer,
we remember them.
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
we remember them.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
we remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
we remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
we remember them.
So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us,
as we remember them. [Emphasis mine.]

A Litany of Remembrance by Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer

Header photo by Lorenzo Hamers on Unsplash

Turning My Frown Upside Down…

Often, it’s the littlest of things that help lift me out of a sour mood. Sometimes I don’t even realize I have a furrowed brow and tense shoulders. But then I’ll do one of the items from the list below and – Wow! I feel so much better!

I’m not above wallowingat all! – and I try to give myself lots of space to feel whatever emotions are relevant and necessary in the moment. But, it can also feel empowering to take tiny steps toward boosting my mood. Especially as I’m coming off a week where everything felt slightly off-kilter and I was a bit… irritable.

When I was drafting this post, I jotted everything down in a stream of consciousness; while there are many more that would likely be relevant, in reviewing the list it does seem highly reflective of what (currently) works for me.

mood boosters

  • A trip to my favourite cafe. This never fails. It feels like a luxury. And I love people-watching in this space. It’s predominantly a senior-citizen clientele and I can’t get enough of watching the ladies come in with their fresh perms and canes, sipping lattes and having a “chin-wag with the girls”. #LifeGoals
  • Filling my water bottle. I don’t even have to take a drink; just the act of self-love of having a full water bottle gives me a jolt of pleasure and energy.
  • LOUD music. It needs to have a great beat and it really does need to be loud.
  • Freshly mopped floors.
  • Tidying a space.
  • Preparing and consuming a cup of tea. The whole process acts as a reset. Putting on the water to boil, picking out my tea, waiting for it to brew and bustling around the kitchen while I wait. And then – drinking it of course! My favourite for this time of year is Stash brand Decaf Chai.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Writing.
  • Laughing.
  • Driving. Traffic issues aside, I find there to be something inherently relaxing about sitting in the car and driving. The kids are contained and (mostly) don’t fight. I can listen to loud music on the radio (see above).
  • An empty laundry basket.
  • Opening curtains in the morning; closing curtains at night and turning on our outside house lights + lamps in the bedrooms/living room.
  • Brushing my teeth. This doesn’t necessarily spark “joy” in a conventional sense, but it really does boost my confidence and, maybe it’s the mint, but I swear it also gives me a little energy boost as well.
  • When the kids are both asleep early enough that I can sneak in and watch them.
  • Taking a hot shower.
  • Putting on basic makeup/getting dressed in “normal” clothes. Sometimes it’s nice to lounge around in exercise gear all day, but if I’m feeling a bit low, taking 10 minutes to put on some mascara, brush my teeth, and put on slightly less stretchy pants can really reframe my outlook.

Also, a huge thanks to Katie over at Law and Creative (Hi, Katie!) who inspired me to write this post.

Your turn. What things are guaranteed mood boosters for you? Maybe lighting a candle, snuggling a pet, 30 minutes with a good book, or going for a long run?

Header photo by Kyle Hinkson on Unsplash

Temporary Hearing Loss, Hospital Stories + Gratitude

Let’s chat about my hearing loss for a bit, shall we?

The last two weeks have been quite a roller coaster. I woke with excruciating ear pain late Thursday night (13 October). I took an extra-strength anti-inflammatory, wrapped a warm Magic bag around my ears and, thankfully, the pain dissipated by morning.

If you’ve been reading along, you know the punchline to this story. I tested positive for COVID at the hospital and headed home for a long cry and 24 hours of wallowing. At some point – and I was a bit distracted by the chaos of the whole situation – the hearing in my left ear dropped precipitously, though I didn’t think much of it at the time. I no longer had pain and I was basically isolated at home for a week because of my positive COVID test.

Eventually (thanks in part to comments from insightful readers), I started paying closer attention to this lingering issue.

Saturday morning, I booked an appointment to see my family doctor on Monday afternoon. John was gone on a hike until 3:30 pm, and I spent hours dithering about whether I should go to outpatient emergency care at the hospital. I knew the wait time could be long and it felt silly to go when I had an appointment Monday, but I also knew that time could be of the essence and I hadn’t seen any improvement over the 7-8 days with regard to my hearing loss.

I ended up leaving the moment John walked in the door!

hospital stories

*I promise I wasn’t sitting there gawking at people in their distress, these were just the things that happened directly in front of me.

  • When I came out of the triage room with an intake nurse, there were two police officers towering outside in the waiting room keeping close watch over a patient. This was both slightly jarring, and also – since I was reading a murder mystery – a major spark for my imagination. Is this absolutely horrible of me?
  • There was a woman who had gotten a major scrape on her left eye. No fun! Her husband brought her ice chips in a Tim Horton’s coffee cup to help with swelling. How Canadian! She was seen very quickly and emerged with a giant eye patch, gushing about some magic eye drops that had immediately alleviated her pain.
  • There was a Dad who came in with an elementary-school-aged daughter who presented with a huge gash on her forehead. It looked like some very impressive Halloween face painting. She was calm about it all (I suspect there were lots of tears earlier?) and contentedly munched on her Teddy Grahams.
  • There was a heavily pregnant woman with her husband who didn’t even get triaged but was sent straight through to Labour and Delivery; she had clearly been crying and I prayed everything was okay for her and for her unborn baby; how my heart ached for that couple.
  • There was an adorable little toddler with what I can only assume was a horrible case of croup (#BeenThereDoneThat). He had a distinctive barking cough and, like our child who suffered from this, he was coughing so much he would vomit up phlegm. It was heartbreaking BUT his mother – from my subjective vantage point – was an absolute rockstar. She was calm and collected even though he was coughing loudly and nonstop. When he threw up, she cleaned him without any sign of distress, talking him through the process and never hesitated to pull him up into her lap. She never reacted with disgust or fear when something went awry. Eventually, between a cough sucker and some chewable meds, his coughing got better. Thankfully they were also triaged ahead of me and I didn’t hear any more coughing! I wanted to walk over and hug them both (that would have been weird and I would never do such a thing, but I really was in awe of her response).
  • There was another family with an infant (6 months?) and toddler (2.5?). And BOTH kids needed to be seen about different things. We’ve done that! The pictures below were RIGHT before Christmas in 2014 and both kids were sick. Thankfully hospital visits have been almost non-existent as they’ve gotten older. Also: what happened to my babies? Abby no longer decorates herself with stickers. And Levi can’t nap on our shoulders quite so easily. In that picture, he’s less than a month old. Look at those wrinkled little hands and teeny ears. Bless.

The wait time was relatively long – over 4 hours – and I would have preferred to be home doing date-night with my hubby, but I couldn’t help but appreciate:

  • I had a partner at home taking care of the kids. No babysitter required, no bringing kids along.
  • I had a book to read.
  • I live in a country where (many) medical services are free of charge.
  • I have an emergency room 15 minutes from my house; there are many chinks in the free medicare system armour and while I still think it is the optimal situation, unfortunately many ERs in the country are shutting their doors due to nursing and doctor shortages. I am so, so thankful our local ER has stayed open.
  • Other people with more serious ailments were triaged ahead of me which means I wasn’t in acute medical distress. I hope each and every person I saw got the care and treatment they needed, but it did make me very thankful I wasn’t there with gaping wounds or a sick child.

When I got seen by the doctor on call, he told me there was no infection and because it wasn’t a complete hearing loss, steroids wouldn’t make sense (and I was out of the optimal 72-hour window for treatment). He told me to take an antihistamine and go home.

I canceled my appointment with my family doctor and decided to worry less.

Sunday morning at church I bumped into a friend who had a family member permanently lose their hearing because of an auditory nerve infection that wasn’t properly treated. Her husband, a GP, overheard our conversation and agreed that I should get a second opinion.

I dithered more, but Monday morning decided I should see my doctor and – thankfully – the same appointment I had canceled was still available!

And here’s where the gratitude started to run deeper:

  • I have a family doctor. There is a shortage of GPs in Nova Scotia and we are so fortunate to have a (young, only slightly older than me) family doctor.
  • She is very thorough, cares deeply about her patients, and really listens to what we all have to say. She gave me her cell phone number and told me to call with any questions.
  • Her office is a 2-minute drive from our house. I got in the car at 1:10, was parked by 1:13, was in her exam room by 1:14 and we were deep in conversation by 1:15 (my appointment time).

She was far more worried than the ER doc. She did a basic hearing test, said she would recommend a 7-day course of steroids (told me the side effects, but when she said if she was in the same position she’d take the medication, I believed her wholeheartedly), told me I needed an emergency audiogram, and made a referral for an emergency consult with an ENT.

More gratitude:

  • We have a hearing clinic in our town. Like 2 minutes from my doctor’s office, and a 30-second walk from a pharmacy. For a town of 4,000 people, I think this is pretty incredible.
  • At the hearing clinic they offered me an appointment on Tuesday; when I said my doctor wanted me seen right away, they had me in a soundproof box for the hearing test within 2 minutes.
  • The results of the audiogram were good. Some hearing loss, but relatively minor (it was starting to improve at this point). Ironically, my RIGHT ear was actually worse than my LEFT ear in terms of scoring. Apparently, we all have a dominant ear and generally, it is the right ear so hearing loss can be more pronounced/obvious in our dominant ear. I found this fascinating. The audiologist also told me that while my scores were pretty good (just below the normal range), I likely had above-average hearing prior to the viral impact, so could have lost 20-30 db.
  • I had called in my steroid prescription, but the audiologist questioned if that was necessary; I called back to the pharmacy and despite having already filled it but they were happy to cancel the order. I wanted to double-check with my doctor…
  • I went back to my doctor’s office (2 minutes away!), explained the situation to the secretary, and within 30 minutes I had an ENT appointment booked for the next morning and had fit in a follow-up phone call with my own doctor.
  • All this was happening so quickly and unexpectedly and I thought I was going to miss the afternoon bus pickup. Just that morning (John’s away for work this week) a friend in our neighbourhood had texted John to say: If Elisabeth needs anything while you’re away, please tell us. In the end, I made it on time, but it made me so, so thankful that I had the backup in place as needed.
  • I wasn’t expecting to pay for an emergency audiogram (private, so not covered by our universal health care) – but I could afford it. I am so grateful for this privilege. It breaks my heart to think of someone forgoing this sort of test, or having to make a hard choice about not being able to afford as many groceries because of an unexpected medical expenditure.
  • When I picked up my prescription the next day (spoiler alert: the ENT agreed with my family doctor that I should take a short course of steroids; this appointment was a breeze which also made me so thankful) a sweet friend happened to be the pharmacist who filled my prescription! It was a boost of sunshine in my day, especially when she also told me that if I need anything at all, please let her know. For the most part, I don’t need to rely too heavily on others, but it is a blessing to know this option exists.

So there you have it. A long post about my hearing loss which has consumed a big portion of my week, but brought many, many prompts for gratitude.

One last point. Part of me feels…guilty in my gratitude. For starters, I have what should be completely reversible hearing loss while others are suffering through an irreversible cancer diagnosis or other horrible realities. My life reeks of privilege – I’m white, have access to a family doctor, live in a county with a public healthcare system, etc. But sometimes the best thing I can do is focus on my reality – as privileged as it is – and be grateful for what I have.

Your turn. Do you people-watch while waiting for appointments? Is getting efficient medical care a gratitude prompt in your life?

Header photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash