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 

 

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

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

French Your Way.

I love listening to the charming and pretty voice of this passionate French language teacher!

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“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
Charlemagne

I don’t know if I can go quite that far, but I do agree with the basic sentiment; language expresses so much culture! And I do find the French language beautiful and fascinating.

I’m studying with the University of Calgary to become a professional English language teacher, for people who have a different first language. So I think it’s key for me to come back to studying my second language. Being on the learner end adds essential perspective. Empathy.

If you, like me, took French classes in school, and have some extra time on your hands, maybe you’d like to take a listen. If so, here’s a link to Jessica’s podcast webpage:

French Your Way podcast

I initially found French Your Way on the apple podcast app in my phone, but to start at the beginning, and get the very earliest episodes I went to her website. This was serendipitous; online I found Jessica’s free articles and worksheets full of helpful tips and opportunities to practice. She’s  a very experienced professional, so anything I can learn from her is a gift!

I’m sure there are countless online resources for learning other languages, but this one is a favourite of mine. This lovely lady is a native French speaker who studied for 7 years in University before embarking on a language teaching career that allowed her to travel and work in various places.

She eventually settled in Australia, where she now lives with her husband and baby daughter. Once or twice while listening to a podcast I’ve caught a tiny baby voice in the background, which is very sweet to me. Because- babies are adorable. I hope that as her little girl grows up speaking her mother’s beautiful language, I might hear her again.

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Orlova Maria (unsplash)

High-quality, free French language-learning resources.

So blessed,

Leah 

city parks.

“In merging nature and culture the most successful cities combine such universal needs as maintaining or restoring contact with the cycles of nature, with specific, local characteristics.”
― Sally A. Kitt Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature: A Guide to the City’s Architecture + Landscape

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This afternoon my love and I took our bikes out for a beautiful ride along the river… It wasn’t as warm outside on the cycling path as I’d optimistically hoped, so I stopped after a few minutes to put on my light sweater jacket. And zip it up. A bit breezy. But that’s ok; I’m still feeling celebratory about venturing outdoors without mittens, or even gloves.

We pedalled east, along with the flow of the beautiful blue-green Bow River… and it didn’t take us too long (maybe half an hour?) to arrive at our destination; Prince’s Island Park. It’s actually right downtown, and all the people were out enjoying the spring weather along with the two of us today. Well-spaced out. (Thanks, COVID-19.)

We saw Canada geese (some of our nation’s most unfriendly inhabitants), other cyclists, dogs (making us wish harder for one), and people in bikinis (seriously) and hammocks, walking, sitting, and lying on the grass. I had a sudden urge to feel my bare feet in the warm grass, which is starting to show signs of turning green. It felt SO good!

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Country living is a dreamy ideal, a memory from my childhood, but not realistic for me now. Clearly, I’m not alone; most people live in cities. I really appreciate city parks that give us beautiful and free access to nature, even in the middle of urban places.

So blessed,

Leah 

happier.

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” ~Gretchen Rubin~

This is one great podcast. It’s the first one I ever started listening to, and still a favourite.

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This woman is brilliant. Actually a genius. She left a promising career as a Yale-trained lawyer to become a writer who researches happiness. Also, her smart and funny younger sister, Liz, joins her; the podcast episodes are a dialogue between the two of them, with occasional guests interviewed from time to time.

Most episode include these cute little sections: “Try This At Home”, Happiness Hack”, and “Demerits and Gold Stars” (pretty funny, t.b.h.). These two. Anyway, there’s a huge community of listeners, many of whom write and call in with questions, answers, and sometimes rather amusing arguments.

I’d read some of Gretchen Rubin’s books, beginning with The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home). Eventually I read her newer offerings, and wrote little blog posts about these two: Better Than Before and The Four Tendencies. When I learned she had a podcast, I was excited to hear her talking about all these ideas. But when I heard their voices I was surprised; they sounded so down-to-earth. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe more cerebral-sounding voices?  Anyway, I find their unabashed openness and vulnerability super relatable.

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Liz (l) and Gretchen (r)

When I first started with the Happier podcast, I was binge-listening for a while as I started at the beginning and gradually ‘caught up’. Now, of course I just listen to them as they’re released. They often make me laugh, and I always learn something or at least get a little vitamin-shot of motivation to look at things a bit differently, and I think it does make me happier, in real life.

So if you’re interested in listening in on this fun little world, here’s where you can find it:

Happier Podcast

Or you may just want to check out this little list:

Best Of Happier Podcast

Enjoy, my friends!

So blessed,

Leah 

p.s. I always do something else while I listen; often ironing or putting away laundry.

water.

“Water is life, and clean water means health.” ~Audrey Hepburn~

We are so rich; we have pure, fresh water. As much as we want, a few steps away. Flowing from the taps in the kitchen and bathroom. Pouring freely into our drinking glasses and bathtubs. We don’t have to choose between laundry and a shower; between cooking and gardening.

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In so many parts of the world, people have to trek long distances, collect dirty surface water, suffer illness and even death because they lack this one simple thing. Any day in which we wake up and drink as much clean water as we want, is a good day.

I found this recent, distressing article published by the World Health Organization:

1/3 of world’s people without safe drinking water…

As a world, we’re facing the COVID-19 pandemic. We know it’s highly infectious, but we can so easily protect ourselves, in large part by simply washing our hands. Ok, no problem. Suddenly we’re all lathering up more times in a day than ever before. So we use a little- or a lot- more soap and hand lotion than we’re used to going through. All righty.

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Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash

Do we appreciate what a privilege this is? All we have to do is be more mindful of handwashing. The clean water is there, waiting for us to turn the taps. It’s pure and we can run it warm. Meanwhile, billions of people- people just like us- have to face the threat of COVID-19 with little or no access to safe water.

Here’s an even more recent, and equally distressing news article:

Vulnerable countries could see 1 billion COVID cases…

It’s not just ventilators and face masks. It also comes down to water, or a lack thereof. While we do what we can every day to avoid wasting water, and donate a little of our income to help provide water to those most in need of it, let’s make sure we take a moment to really appreciate our next refreshing drink of water.

So blessed,

Leah 

p.s. I use extra water from the kitchen and dining room to water my houseplants. Every little bit helps a little, right?

security.

We’ve got it so good. Do we really know how good we’ve got it?

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

When I say security, I’m not talking about a security system or security guards. I’m more talking about the comfort we have knowing we’ll be ok for home and food, etc.

Those of us who are so blessed as to be sure of our homes and not worry about feeding ourselves and our families for the coming days are part of a very small minority of people in the world. In the oft-repeated words of Precious Ramotswe, one of my favourite characters in modern literary fiction, written by the brilliant Alexander McCall Smith, (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency):

“This is a well-known fact.”

Like many other Canadians, and people in most parts of the world, I’ve been unable to go to my work since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Like so many others, I’m healthy, and would be glad to work if only I could. But since my employment is on hold, so (of course) is my income. This is a first for me, and let me tell you; I’m so grateful to live in a place where there is financial assistance available through the government to help us ride this crazy wave.

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Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

Because of benefits like this, millions of people who would otherwise suffer loss of homes and food insecurity are able to pull themselves and their families through times of economic instability. We can concentrate our pent-up energies on doing our part to keep ourselves and our communities healthy.

So blessed,

Leah