Dad.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved my dad and been so proud to be his daughter.

The longer I live, the more I feel this way.

And the more I learn from this kind, intelligent man I’m blessed to call Dad.  He’s shown me unconditional live, had faith in me when I was a difficult teenager and sometimes lost faith in myself, and he’s a great example of optimism and hard work.

When I was young, I remember he had this quotation on a small card:

“To live greatly, face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility.”

~Thomas S. Monson~

This is actually how he lives his life; that’s what makes it so inspiring to me. You won’t be surprised to learn that those words have spent plenty of time posted on a small recipe card in my home since I’ve been a grown woman with walls of my own to fill.

From my dad I’ve learned to ride a horse, treat everyone I meet with humanity, build a fence, read and enjoy good literature, value loyalty, understand history, and to study and share my faith. No matter what life throws at him, he keeps calm and carries on.

He’s the one I call when I need to comprehend the backstory to what I read in the news; he’s very well-informed. He’s the one I called on the phone one night many years ago from my bedroom in England when I was frozen with fear over a scuffling sound I heard in the old chimney. (To his credit, he helped me feel a bit better before pointing out patiently that there wasn’t much he could actually do for me from Canada. That was ok; by then I felt better. Also, it wasn’t a mouse after all.)

Best of all, because of him, it’s never been hard for me to believe and trust in a kind and loving Heavenly Father who cares about me and always wants to help, forgive, and bless me.

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~my son with me and my dad last summer~

So blessed,

Leah 

healthcare.

I’m guessing most everyone reading this post has access to healthcare for yourselves and your families, as I do. I know that for myself, having lived with this amazing benefit all my life, it can be easy to take it for granted at times.

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I was rudely awoken from my pleasant complacency a few years ago when we took a family road trip down to Arizona to spend a Christmas with extended family. I’m embarrassed to admit that it didn’t even cross my mind to purchase travel health insurance before we left.

On Christmas Day I had to leave a house full of loving relatives and go find the nearest emergency room due to very scary uterine bleeding. The hospital was beautiful; new and gleaming, and the care was unbelievably good. Within a couple hours I was tested, temporarily ‘fixed up’, and walking out the doors with printed pages in hand, detailing my diagnosis of submucosal uterine fibroids. (Evidently, this is the wrong kind to have; I don’t recommend it.) All the testing had been done right there, without any delays.

Then we came home to Alberta, Canada; where we have a universal, publicly funded healthcare system. Not so gleaming, and not so fast. But I was referred (relatively quickly) to a specialist, who performed an open-abdominal hysterectomy on me within a few months. She told me afterward that it was a good thing I’d had the surgery, as it had really needed to be done. Phew!

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That spring, while waiting for my surgery date, I received a terrifying piece of mail. It was an envelope full of bills amounting to about $12000 for my two hours of treatment in the American hospital. Our extended health insurance (through my husband’s work as a public school teacher) thankfully paid it, so my dreadful feelings of impending doom didn’t last for long.

But my heart goes out to the billions of people in our big old world who don’t have healthcare insurance. Those for whom medical bills spell financial ruin. And those who can’t even access needed medical care in the first place because it simply isn’t available.

Here are some sobering articles that make me appreciate just how good we have it:

Half of the world’s population lack access to essential health services…

and…

World Bank and WHO: Half the world lacks access to essential health services, 100 million still pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses.

 

Thinking of this doesn’t  just make me grateful I can go to the doctor, get medical testing done, and receive necessary medications (as much as I don’t like taking them)…

I makes me want to help. To support humanitarian organizations who will put people in touch with healthcare.

Here’s a link, in case I’m not the only one who wants to do something about this:

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.ca/

We are so blessed,

Leah 

 

wildflowers.

“Flowers are the music of the ground…”

~Edwin Curran~

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Here are some buttercups I took a photo of when I was hiking in Kananaskis early this summer. The trouble is that I’m frequently distracted by precious and rare little beauties like these along the trail… I don’t mind, but it’s potentially a bit dangerous, as hiking trails are notoriously uneven, root-riven, and frequently meander along steep mountainsides.

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I’m afraid there’s nothing for it; I must stop and look. And touch. Not every exquisite little splash of colour smells as sweet as the wild roses, but there is enjoyment to be found in a moment passed with every single one. I feel like saying to them, in a voice I’d use with a child, “What a pretty girl!”

One thing that so appeals to me about wildflowers is the way they grow and bring bright and lovely colours out of uncultivated, sometimes seemingly barren patches of ground. When I think of all the effort we put into getting just the right soil mix in our gardens, it amazes me what the earth can bring forth all on her own. Spotting these little gems feels to me like finding hidden treasures in treacherous, out-of-the-way places.

This reminds me of these wise words I read several years ago:

They buried usbut they didn’t know we were seeds.”

~Dinos Christianapoulos~

 

It’s funny, isn’t it? Serendipitous. I’m inspired to push up toward the sunlight, through the rocky challenges I face, and bring out the best beauty and sweetness I can, in spite of tough conditions.

Here are some gorgeous ones my son sent me the other day:

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How nice it is for us to be able to ‘send flowers’ to someone we love from far away, with no costs or delivery delays…

So blessed,

Leah 

potted garden.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Cicero~

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Well, the public libraries have been closed for COVID, and I live in an apartment condo, but I am turning to the bookshelves in our living room and my library book reading app to meet my book needs.

As for gardens, my husband and I are doing some backyard gardening with friends of ours who live nearby. And… we are growing a lovely little potted garden on our balcony!

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I planted some strawberries and tomatoes, lavender and rosemary, also a geranium, some thyme, basil, and cilantro from local greenhouses. Plus, I planted seeds to grow poppies, peas, spinach, arugula, baby carrots, and maybe some other things. (maybe I should have used some markers…?) We’ll see what comes up!

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As you can see, neither our balcony nor our potted plants can boast over-the-top aesthetic value. Still, I have to admit that growing these containers of food and flowers seems to be making me disproportionately happy. Looking out and seeing green life somehow cheers my soul more than it should. And our little garden has invited birds and bees to visit us on the balcony!

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I’m not the only one who finds joy in messing around with seeds, leaves, and dirt. It’s proven to lift our spirits in so many ways. Here are a couple articles that explain in some weirdly fascinating scientific detail (seratonin-producing soil bacteria, anyone?) just how growing any kind of garden can make us a little- or a lot- happier people.

Gardening: The Key To Health And Happiness

How Does Gardening Make You Happier?

We did prioritize south exposure when we bought this home. I can really relate to plants; I need sunshine to feel ok. But even if we were in an apartment across the hall, with a north-facing balcony, we could grow a garden of shade-loving plants. This simple pleasure is available to so many of us, and I’m grateful for the magic of growing gardens.

So blessed,

Leah 

 

we’re all God’s children.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Racism is sickening. It breaks my heart, and it always has. I’m a white woman who’s grown up and lived most of my life in western Canada, and I’ve never experienced it myself. I believe this makes me very accountable to speak up with and for those who live with it every day.

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”  ~Luke 12:48~ (Bible)

People who are entrusted with upholding peace and justice need to be held accountable for violence and crime as much as anyone else does. This seems so obvious that it feels almost ironic to even have to state it, but clearly, it needs to be said. Loud and clear, by all of us who have a voice. Over and over again, until real, lasting change is seen and felt.

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‘Children of the World’ by Greg Olsen

I know God our Heavenly Father loves all of His children; all of us. Every race, age, and sex, without regard for wealth or status. We are His children. So He loves us.

“…he inviteth all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white… male and female… and all are alike unto God.” ~2 Nephi 26:33 (Book of Mormon)

And He asks us all to love each other. I’m a mother, so I know that nothing could be more painful than to see my children who may be in a stronger position hurting -or not helping- my children who may be in a weaker position. It literally turns my stomach and breaks my heart. He must feel the same; sickened and saddened.

Just in case there’s anyone out there who’s missed the memo, being a true Christian and being a racist are mutually exclusive.

We are so blessed,

Leah

p.s. Here’s a link to an important article:https://medium.com/@Ch_JesusChrist/locking-arms-for-racial-harmony-in-america-2f62180abf37

mountains.

“The mountains are calling, and I must go…”

~John Muir~

What a way to spend a day! I love the mountains

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~me with my baby sis on Yamnuska~

What is it about hiking in the mountains…? It just feels so good, even when it’s hard trekking uphill. I’m breathing hard, sweating hard, and have to take lots of little breaks along the way. In all honesty, the little moments when I pause to just breathe (read: catch my breath) and look around me might just be the best part.

I’ve never been athletic, and I’m not super fit, so I like going pretty slow and soaking in all the sights and sounds and smells of the mountains. Sometimes a brisk breeze refreshes me and keeps me cool, and then minutes later I’m between a rock face and some fir trees, feeling waves of heat wafting through the scented air.

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“Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.”

~John Muir~

One thing I notice when I’m hiking, especially on a mountain trail, is that I’m mindful of every step. I have to be; there are roots and stones and twists and turns all along the path. It’s the only way to stay vertical. And that’s a gift. Everyone’s heard of the health benefits of mindfulness, and taking a hike in the mountains is one of my favourite ways to enjoy a mindful walk.

I’m fairly sure that at least a part of my sense of euphoria while hiking comes from just being in the woods. Trees have been shown to emit a healing energy, as evidenced by the increasingly popular practice of forest-bathing. I realize the science is pretty compelling here, but with or without the proven metrics, I’m a believer.

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So blessed,

Leah

food.

We have enough to eat. Every single day.

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Whether it’s a simple loaf of homemade sourdough bread or a delicious family dinner, we don’t face hunger we can’t solve. Not only do we have enough food to eat; we have variety, we have options. Our fridges, freezers, and pantries are so full that we have to be careful to use fresh spinach, frozen meat, and jars of olives before they sit too long and ‘go off’ or get freezer-burned (while we’re busy eating other food from our well-stocked kitchens).

It’s pretty easy for us to get ingredients or meals delivered, pick up our grocery orders at the store, or shop around supermarkets and farmers’ markets for everything we want and need- and then some. How many times have I gotten to the till with a full basket and had the cashier politely ask me if I found everything I was looking for today, only to respond sheepishly that I found plenty more than what I came in for. And I know I’m not alone.

On top of what we buy to eat, most of us can grow even more food. I grew up in the country with parents and grandparents who were avid gardeners. We all helped out with planting, weeding, harvesting, and preserving vast quantities of vegetables and fruits- whether we felt so inclined- or not. It was ‘all-hands-on-deck’. And we raised our children the same way. We had some great times and some hefty harvests over the years. (Enormous zuchini, anyone?)

This spring we’re growing all the veggies we can, plus some herbs and strawberries, in garden boxes at our friends’ places and in containers on our apartment balcony. And thanks to COVID-19, lots more people in lots more places are growing their own food in 2020! Here’s a great news article I found about this ‘silver lining’ on the pandemic cloud.

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~buckwheat & berry muffins adapted from a favourite cookbook~

Not only do we have the means to buy and grow as much food as we can eat, but so many of us in our prosperous society find we can spend a small fortune on cookbooks, diet books (to advise us on various ways of not eating too much food), and dozens of helpful kitchen gadgets to make it more quick, easy, and fun to prepare our food!

We’re inundated with advice on how and why we should build healthy eating habits, as well as warnings about the negative functional impacts (on our energy, mood, and ability to learn, concentrate, and problem-solve creatively) of poor nutrition. All we have to do is follow through with our good intentions to eat well.

We don’t have to live with chronic hunger-induced brain fog, empty shelves and plates, or crying children whose hunger we can’t resolve. (click this link to see a compelling article from the World Food Program…)

“Every day too many men and women across the globe struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal. In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, 821 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night.”

There’s something most of us can do about this. We can find ways to share. And it starts with recognizing what we have and feeling gratitude for it…

So blessed,

Leah

apartment living.

I live in a high-rise apartment condo. There are 7 levels of parking under the building and 20 floors of homes. Between our tower and its twin is a great fitness club with a lovely salt-water pool, a hot tub, steam rooms, and a variety of workout spaces. We’re right down the hill from the city’s biggest university, and only a few minutes’ drive from downtown. There is lots of traffic on the road out front; part of the Trans-Canada Highway almost passes by our front door. And yet…

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me in my ‘backyard’ last summer

Out the back is a beautiful park with miles of lovely paths for walking, cycling, and even some hiking trails through a pretty Douglas Fir forest across the footbridge over the river.

Although we live almost in the centre of Calgary, we are so blessed because nature is readily accessible just outside our door. Last year on Canada Day (1 July) I was cycling just across the river from our home with my daughter; we were amazed to see a full-grown mama moose walk out a little way ahead of us! For real. She dawdled on the path for a moment before disappearing into the woods on the other side.

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me a bit downriver last summer

I’m sure there are hidden treasures of nature, small or large, to be discovered in most cities. It feeds my soul to be out there.

So blessed,

Leah 

mamma mia.

Being a good mom is no cake walk. Ask ours.

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Here’s my lovely momma getting some kisses from me and one of my three younger sisters, when we were together at the Calgary Temple one day a few years ago. Isn’t she adorable?

She has more energy than most people I know. She works harder than most of us. And she has a great sense of humour. She cooks, gardens, and organizes like a queen. She’s super smart, endlessly generous, and amazingly fun with little children. She’s educated, and smart; and she loves animals.

Her faith has informed and inspired my own, and if that’s all she ever did for me or gave to me, it would be enough.

But that’s not all. She cares so much for me, and for my family. She’s forgiving and nothing can take her down for long. Her life hasn’t been an easy one; I wouldn’t want to trade. But mine has been sweeter and more gentle and beautiful because of her, turning herself inside out time after time after time to create for us something better than what she started with. I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of giants in my own life, and she’s definitely one of them.

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On a walk near her home today…

Do you know how encouraging her example it to me? I believe I can do hard things.

And this is what she tells me:

Loved you yesterday.

Love you still. 

Always have.

Always will.

I believe her.

So blessed,

Leah

rainy days.

It’s a rainy day. I’m not mourning the sunshine. I know it’s still up there, bright as anything- above the clouds. Besides, rainy days make everything outside a bit greener, and I feel like the cool wet weather rejuvenates more than just the local plant life…

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I remember in my last year of high school, at the end of hot, muggy days the rain would come pouring down in the dark summer evenings. I’d call up my friend, Rosalind, and we’d meet for long soaking wet walks in the rain. We loved the feeling of getting drenched, but not feeling too cold. It was just such a relief after the heat of the day.

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But today I’m accepting this cool, wet weather as little gift from the sky in a different way; time to stay inside and catch up on some things at home. I love being outside, but I also love being at home. I did some yoga (of course) and some extra housework and even sorted out my emails, which I’ve been meaning to do for years. Literally, years.

I have the windows open, so I can hear the rain, and sense the moist fresh air from outside; I think it’s perking up my personal energy levels just by osmosis. Also, there really is something to be said for being cozy on the couch under a blanket while sitting by the windows and watching the raindrops fall outside.

So blessed,

Leah