This Night Last Year

I walk out into the cool, clear night. The cold air slaps my flushed face with the distant bitterness of snow and stars. From their dome of blackness, the stars peer down at me as I walk through the mud next to my Dad’s car, and open the squeaky gate to the alley to bring in the recycling bins.

My nearby house is bubbling with chattering children, playing music, building lego, drawing spiders and superheroes. Now, alone, in the cold and empty quiet behind my garage, the reality sideswipes me, the fact I’ve been busily avoiding catches me with a silent pounce—and I let it tear at my chest.

This was your last night on earth, one year ago today.

I try to be brave enough to stand still in this knowledge. To let myself feel it without running away this time. To honour this night, last year.

A bright object pulsing in the distance draws my stinging eyes to the sky above the end of the desolate alley. Is it the Chariot of Death, come to carry you to Heaven like it did last year? It taunts me by coming closer and closer, almost above me, but fails to stop for me. It has no place for me. I have no ticket. No pass. No way to come with you, Dad.

The bright chariot, disguised as a plane, flies on past the stars, and straight on till morning.

And now it is a sailing ship, Peter’s vessel, flying you to Neverland, where you will be ever young, and true to your boyish heart—your delight in life, your enthusiasm for movies, books, toys and trees and children and peanut butter banana sandwiches—will never, ever grow up. And Wendy will sing you lullabies. And I will cry.

Cookies and Milk at 3 am

Of course, after admonishing our kids not to wake up too early for Christmas (they once woke up at midnight to open the stockings on the ends of their beds) it would be me, their mom, who woke up at 2:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So silly, as the kids and I had worked so hard to prepare ahead, had finished wrapping and had even stuffed the stockings and stowed them in a box days ago, so I wouldn’t have to burn the midnight oil playing Mrs Clause. Yet I woke up. Was it pregnancy heartburn, excitement, or insomnia?

Whatever it was, I decided Santa’s tradition of the post-midnight snack was a good idea and got up to have an angel sugar cookie and a glass of milk. I’d say I had a snack with Santa, but you’d know from Google Santa Tracker that he was already safely back home in the North Pole by this hour.

So while I’m up, I thought I’d take this quiet moment chance to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, despite everything, and a lot of hope for better things to come in 2021. Thank you so much to all our family and friends who supported us from afar this year, as we went through the pandemic, and through the illness and loss of my Dad, Bob, to cancer. Your loving words, encouragement, cards, flowers or food dropped at our door have meant a lot.

Shortly after my Dad passed away, in the morning of November 9th, it began snowing, which is rare on the rainy coast. “Mum, Mum,” said the kids with excitement, “Grandpa is sending us snow from Heaven with Josephine!” It’s amazing how positive and resilient kids can be in the face of loss. Here are a few pictures from our house, where we have tried to find all the joy and sparkle we can this Advent.

May God in his humble nearness at Christmas surround you with blessings and give you the eyes to see them, so the little hidden miracles of each day can shine and bring you hope.

Lots of love from all the Eastlands here at Just East of Crazy Land! Thanks for being here, making me feel less alone as I eat cookies and milk at 3 am, and await the sparkly madness of Christmas morning with 7 kids! ✨🌲✨🎁✨🌲✨

Executor

Executor,

someone you love has just died

but there is no time for tears.

You ought to be eating ice cream on the kitchen floor,

surrounded by crunched up Kleenex,

but you’re swimming in a sea of papers instead.

Executor,

someone you love has just died—

now call strangers, the government, charities

and tell them so.

Accept scores of condolences

from people with calm voices.

Thank them politely

and get on with business.

Executor,

someone you love has just died.

Pay the bills,

plan the funeral

plan the burial

plan the epitaph.

Capture in two lines

the life of someone you love

who has just died.

Executor,

where are your tears?

Making Our Own Headlines

My mom sent me this lovely little story from Facebook recently, and then my mother-in-law called to read me the same thing. I thought it captured both the stress and hope of these difficult times beautifully.

I found it really inspiring. As we each write the story of our own lives, it makes sense to write our headlines, too…so we can focus on the things that matter to us and make our days meaningful. So here are a few headlines of my own:

Toddler takes walk and is delighted by flowers, hugs a rose.

Proud kids learn to make sushi at home: take that, take-out!

Neighbours share bread and laughter over their fence, feel less alone.

Baby with dangerous condition born safely and survives operation, parents rejoice.

Woman reconnects with dear friend after 3 months, makes her day.

Family transforms ugly concrete backyard into beautiful courtyard garden using old furniture and garden pots given by their neighbour.

What beautiful story are you writing with your life today?

To think of one thing you are grateful for is enough, but feel most welcome to share one of your life’s headlines in the comments below!

Happy Easter from the Eastlands

This Easter we are grateful for simple beauties, being together when so many are alone, and for having a garden for our children to play in since we can’t go elsewhere! All of these are huge blessings. Wishing you all many caresses of tenderness and hope this spring! Let’s stay in touch; I’m always so happy to hear from family, friends, and even ‘strangers,’ for who can really be a stranger when we are all in this together…

God bless you and keep you safe and grant you peace of heart! Happy Easter! 🙂

Thoughts on Being Home

We all find ourselves at home, due to the need for social isolation right now. For me as a homeschooler, it’s not that different than usual, with the exception of no play dates and extra classes, but it’s still bizarre to not even be able to invite people into my home. Especially since I’m the kind of person who meets someone new almost every time I go out, and who loves to have potlucks. Even my wedding was a potluck, so everyone could come!

So I’ve been thinking about what it really means to be home. Here’s a few things to ponder as we all adjust:

Is our home merely a parking lot–a place we leave our car between activities, or is it a destination in itself?

Is our home merely a hotel, a place we rest before we go off to live during the day, or is it a place we are truly alive, and most able to be ourselves?

Each person is a universe unto themselves. How much we have to explore!

When you can’t go farther, go deeper. During this period of physical limitations, let yourself grow on the inside.

The plants lay hidden under the snow. And the farmer, the owner of the land, observed with satisfaction: ‘Now they are growing on the inside.’

I thought of you: of your forced inactivity…

Tell me: are you too growing ‘on the inside’? St Josemaria, The Way, 294

While it is strange to not be able to go out, do we realize how lucky we are to have homes to be in, unlike so many refugees around the world? Let’s all pray for each other in these difficult times.

If home is where the heart is…how healthy is your heart right now? What can you do to make it better? For a great and timely read, try Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home.

Home is where our children learn to love…can you learn to love being home with them, at least for now?

Children have such a beautiful way of seeing the world. Being home is a chance to re-enter the magic of childhood with them.

“Oh, look, here’s a big bee just tumbled out of an apple blossom. Just think what a lovely place to live–in an apple blossom! Fancy going to sleep in it when the wind was rocking it. If I wasn’t a human girl, I think I’d like to be a bee and live among the flowers.” Anne of Green Gables

How we can extend the warmth of our home to others when we can’t visit with them? A phone call just to check in, a text, meeting on FaceTime or Zoom, a little card or letter, a surprise parcel, a chat over the fence with a neighbour…these little acts of love make everyone happier. My generous eldest nephew really took the cake when he sent my kids a Nintendo Switch to brighten their days at home. Their old Wii had conked out, and this was, in this time of crisis, actually a solvable problem. Hurrah for those kinds!

Are we open to receiving help and love from others, and letting them be the hero for the day? The other day my younger kids made a surprise breakfast with Earl Grey Tea, my favourite.

Love to you all our there, and despite the struggles, may your homes be places of love and laughter.

Some days

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

Spread far and wide

And though I’ve tried

My patience fails

My heart, it quails

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

The toddler roars

And slams the door

He lets me know

Who runs the show

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

The baby cries

The empress queen

Will be obeyed

Or price be paid

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

I’m losing sleep

And with is goes

All the wisdom

That I know

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

Chalk in the sink

Paint on the floor

Stamps on the wall

Pens on the door

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

My mind forgets

My plans do fail

Behind me lies

A messy trail

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

Mistakes rubbed in

Do sink my heart

Under their weight

I fall apart

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

I write this poem

Take refuge in

The secret world

I hide within

Some days

Stretched thin

My heart, my skin

Happy Father’s Day!

I haven’t blogged forever…it’s been a busy month! It was a treat to have a family vacation to Alberta recently, and to spend more time together. The kids love having adventures with their Dad, and he loved getting out of the office to be with them. Thanks to my amazing sister and brother-in-law, who chauffeured us around, we got to see many beautiful places:

Johnston Canyon, a nice, family-friendly hike ending in a waterfall you can was after sneaking through a little rock cave.

The stunning Lake Louise, where my husband had been with his dad when he was little. It was partially frozen still, so we had fun playing with ice crystals, which we pretended were popsicles.

…and the Badlands, which has a rare, rugged beauty all its own. More about our trip, soon I hope, if I can find a moment!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and hope you get the chance to make lots of beautiful memories with your kids!