Recap: Sydney

The only good reason I had to do this was that I had always wanted to.

And I think that’s a good enough reason to do just about anything.

Stopping and staring every twenty feet, knowing my camera will never do it justice but trying anyways, the coastal walk from Bronte to Bondi continues to make me stand still in awe. Usually when you see something this beautiful you’re a tourist with a camera who snaps a photo and then leaves. But this gets to be my backyard for months on end. If all I ever saw of Australia was this, I’d be happy.

It makes me feel small, alive, and free.

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Watching the surfers catch and crash into waves reminds me of an important lesson, one I hear often but rarely see in action.

Surfers can’t be afraid to fall. And they also can’t be worried about “looking good,” or being perfect every time. They paddle out there for what I imagine is just the joy of it. They fall over and over and over, or miss wave after wave. Then once and awhile they catch one and ride it out, making it look easy. I often find myself holding my breath for them as if I’m the one on the board. I could watch them all day long, thinking about how okay it is to crash and then try again.

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This wasn’t a well thought out plan. I didn’t have a big why behind moving away for a year. The only good reason I had to do this was that I had always wanted to.

And I think that’s a good enough reason to do just about anything.

“I live somewhere I can wear shorts all year round.” I had written that down a few times over the years while making a list of life goals, not knowing how or when or why. I just knew I’d love to live by the sea.

Well they lied – you cannot wear shorts all year round in Sydney. But I love it anyways. Having traveled a handful of times in my twenties, I knew that I still wanted to experience actually living somewhere new, starting from scratch, having no idea where I was headed. The how and the when seemed to figure themselves out. Being here now feels serendipitous, like I’ve landed somewhere I belong.

Australia and I just jive.

 

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Me crushing hard on the Central Coast, my first day in Australia. 

 

Not that moving to a new city doesn’t have its growing pains. I’ve also had to be quite a bitch a couple of times, and though I don’t like being that person and it definitely doesn’t come naturally, they were also proud moments of adulthood. It’s kind of comforting knowing that I can stand on my own two feet, even if most of the time I don’t have to.

Thank you to Australia’s terrible customer service and shitty work ethic for teaching me this valuable lesson!

Which is also probably why I like the place so much. The word “hustle” isn’t glorified here whatsoever. I can say with certainty that there is a better work-life balance here, with “life” being of higher priority.

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I haven’t done very much besides walk a lot of kilometers and watch the surfers, but if this trip ended tomorrow I would be filled up completely. I think all I really wanted was space and ocean breezes and to be reminded of how beautiful the world is, and also that I don’t have to take adulthood so seriously.

Crash, coast, paddle back out; you don’t have to get it right every time.

Spirit Animals & Eskimo Sisters

“It looks like an expired Cheeto.”

We were admiring my friend’s new gemstone collection at a booth in Earls earlier this summer. 

I gravitated towards a green one that apparently brings prosperity. Stampede was fast approaching and my plan to save some extra funds had failed, as per usual. The one that my friend decided resembled an expired Cheeto supposedly aides in manifesting love, something that caused the three single friends I was with to go “Ooooo lemme see that one.”

As a joke, I carried the green money manifesting stone in my pocket the first weekend of Stampede. Do I believe a gemstone is the key to my financial freedom? No. Do I occasionally pick up that little stone still sitting on my dresser beside my jewelry and pretend that it’s working? Yes.

I just paid off my credit card and I’ve barely worked since mid-June. Coincidence or crystal powers? 

The collecting of gemstones, the reading of horoscopes, and the finding out of spirit animals, all falls in the realm of things my brother would call, “fucking weird.”

I on the other hand eat that shit up. When I’ve found myself in situations that many people might find “woo-woo”, I’ve always tried to keep an open mind. The shaman who led me through the sweat lodge ceremony that I attended in Mexico last year seemed like a very happy and content guy, making me curious about how he came to be so. Why wouldn’t I be open to what he had to say?

Similarly, when I found out what my spirit animal was, I wasn’t sitting on my couch filling out a quiz that I had just googled. I found out what mine was last summer from a reliable source, someone much more practiced in the spiritual realm than the Google search bar.   

This doesn’t mean I think my spirit animal is better than your spirit animal. I am mostly ignorant when it comes to these practices, I can only speak of my experiences in being open to them. In fact, I threw a temper tantrum when my boyfriend did the googled spirit animal quiz and got “hummingbird”.

“YOU’RE a fucking hummingbird!? I’M supposed to be a hummingbird!”

I really like hummingbirds and always thought that that should have been my designated animal. I’m not taking liberties and adding the F-word for emphasis here; that is in fact how I responded.

I’m actually a hawk, incase you were wondering. 

This means that I have a keen eye and am good at seeing the overall perspective of things while also narrowing in on what’s important – clearly not demonstrated in that conversation with my boyfriend post quiz. 

A lot of people, myself included, also like to believe that things happen for a reason. That there are no coincidences.

When I think about coincidences and chance, I always think about the time I was picked as one of Calgary’s most eligible singles by Branded Magazine, only to find out that the other two girls chosen were the exes of the last two guys I had dated.

[I can’t even say exes. I just mean we had slept with the same guys-is there a female equivalent to eskimo brothers?]

Sure you could call it coincidence and say, “it’s a small world” but really – when something that unlikely happens my mind goes straight to “Why is this happening???

The conclusion I came to was that Calgary’s dating pool was much too small and I should probably consider moving cities if not provinces.

What I did instead was find a different age bracket 😉 Worked like a charm.

But in all seriousness, what actually occurred because of that huge coincidence was that I met someone who is now one of my closest friends and her “I don’t give a shit about what the world thinks of me” attitude was exactly what I needed at the time, and still do. She was a breath of fresh air and whether by coincidence or divine intervention, I like to believe we met for a reason and that the timing was perfect.

No matter how seriously we believe in gemstones, spirit animals, horoscopes and the like, I think there’s something to be said about believing in something. 

I think of it like I do my favourite photograph filter. Stuff happens, and then I decide how to make it appear better, or at least have it make sense in the grand scheme of things. I am a very optimistic hawk.

How you choose to see the world, which filter you choose, is up to you. I like bright sunny ones. And I can’t help but feel enchanted by and curious about all of this, to quote my brother, “fucking weird” stuff. Even if at the end of the day all it does is give me a false sense of clarity on how the universe works.

– I have no financial worries right now. Must be the green gemstone.

– Why am I being such a bitch?  Let’s see what my horoscope says.

– I keep running into adorable baby french bull dogs. The universe is clearly telling me I need a puppy.

As for the love-bringing stone that resembled a Cheeto, it seems to be as effective as Tinder.

In other words, it’s usually not.

Dating is kind of like eating a Cheeto. It looks good from far away – you definitely want a bite. Up close, you’re not so sure; it looks messy. After awhile it gets stale and you crave something with more substance. Except does that even exist anymore? What you actually want seems hard to find, so after awhile you start going for the expired Cheeto(s) and some nights you think to yourself, what the hell am I doing with this orange dirt bag? Yet, there’s something larger at play. All of those stale processed bad-for-you snacks are leading you to something greater. You’re learning about yourself, what you want, and what you’re worth. And then one day you realize you’re better than an expired Cheeto. You want a Ritz Cracker.

I’ll stop now.

All I’m saying is that sometimes the universe works in magical ways and gives you exactly what you need: a new friend, a green gemstone, a surprise tax refund. And whether it’s true or not, every time I see a hawk – which isn’t very often – I feel like everything is going to be alright.

But The Astrologer Said

But The Astrologer Said

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once upon a time, not very long ago in the grand scheme of things, I was curious about how the next decade was going to unfold. So I had my astrology chart read. I had always been a little freaked out at the thought of going to a psychic or tarot card reader; astrology always seemed a little more up in the air, and therefore, up for debate. If an astrologist told me I was destined for three marriages, I would think, “Highly unlikely”. But if a psychic predicted a similar fate, it would completely mind-fuck me to the point that I would probably say yes to the first loser who proposed just to get the ball rolling.

My astrology forecast predicted that at twenty-eight, everything was going to fall into place and life was going to be freakin fantastic. For the rest of my twenties, I anticipated the awesome life that awaited me. And, in astrology’s defense, I can confidently say that in my 28th year of living on earth, everything did in fact fall into place. From a dream job to a dream man, this girl had it made. Goals achieved, single status eliminated, words published, and new friends made, I really did have an epic year.

If you’re a yogi or self-helpery junkie, you’ll likely have learned (theoretically anyways) that clinging to things causes suffering. If you’re a big dater, you’ve also likely learned that any form of ‘clinging’ will cause the person you’re obsessed with to promptly run the other way. Usually in the form of “ghosting” because most of us are cowards. In short, becoming too attached to any particular job, person, thing or fantasy is usually a quick road to disappointment.

You’ve got to muster up some flexibility if you’re looking for lasting happiness.

Almost one year later, I could be choosing to curse the cosmos, wondering why they didn’t specify that “everything falling into place” actually meant “everything will fall into place for about ten months and then good luck”.

It’s not as if everything in my life has blown up, it’s just going in a completely different direction than I could have expected, and I’m the one making the decisions here.

If you suffer from a feeling of panic whenever everything is amazing because you think, “OMG I’m happy; it’s going to go away,” I can relate. There seems to be a delicate balance of reveling in your happiness, and not clinging to the circumstances of such happiness for fear that it will disappear.

When everything that was “in place” started to feel off, it was tempting for me to want to freeze and think that no, this is it, this is how my life has to stay. Job, man, condo, life. STAY PUT.

But that’s not how she goes. They say that the only thing constant in life is change, and as much as I’ve loved my astrologically predicted happiness of 28, I know better than to think that happiness and fulfillment lie in only one set of circumstances.

I’ll save the reminiscing for another time, maybe when this decade actually does come to a close. Surely I’ll feel like a big wrap-up will be in order. In the meantime, I have a whole other year to do the reckless and immature things that one day I will justify by saying, “I was in my twenties, I didn’t know any better …” #lies

If it is all up to us, then I’ve managed to ensure that this year will be pretty rad too, even though everything that made 28 so great is looking pretty wobbly at the moment. When I scribbled down in my daytimer under my birthday, “Do something spontaneous to end your twenties,” I didn’t quite have moving continents in mind – I was thinking more like get drunk and sing karaoke or fly to Vegas on a whim.

If all of this is preordained by the cosmos, and if tarot card readers and psychics really do know what’s up, I guess I can say that I’ve been impressed with their work so far and I might pay one a visit to see what’s next.

Or I’ll just decide for myself.

In summary: Let it in, be happy, let it go, be happy again.

Astrologically Speaking

Published on It’s Date Night August 2015

It’s not you, it’s the planets.

If you’ve been reading me for awhile, you know that I have a growing curiosity about how the planets influence things (fuck with us). The other night I was starting to wonder if I was suddenly turning into one of those girls who goes insane right before her period. I felt completely unstable (I love you. Get away from me.), incredibly defensive (I am NOT being too sensitive Mom!), and ready to burst into tears if someone teased me even in the slightest. 

Also, my Catch Phrase game was completely off at the cabin this year. Something wasn’t right.  

Then I remembered that earlier in the summer while looking up my horoscope I had read about another retrograde approaching on July 25th, lasting until approximately September 6th.

I decided to see what this one was all about. Here are my findings:

It’s Venus’ turn to retrograde. She’s the planet of L.O.V.E. and this time, it’s all about “reassessment.” Reading this statement alone gives me anxiety. As much as I love spontaneity and surprises, change (and the reassessment that causes it) sometimes turns me into an over-thinking anxious binge drinking bitch. You know those times in life when you can feel change in the air but you’re not exactly sure what’s about to happen?

I’m not very good at being in that place. So this retrograde should be as fun as the last one.

Apparently Venus calls us to take a look at what truly matters to us. We might find ourselves reassessing our health, appearances, relationships and financial situations.

I ran through this list in my head.

Health: It’s the end of July which means my fitness level is at an all time low. Stampede followed by 10 days at the lake means my diet has included beer, coolers, wine, hot dogs (with chips on them), pretzel buns, cheese, and burgers. Every intention I had to start training for my half marathon at the lake failed.

I went on two runs. They were pitiful.

So ya, now seems like a pretty good time to reassess my health.

Appearance: Yes, it’s time for another spray tan. Also, I bought a feather clip-in for my hair. According to the seventeen thousand fashion blogs I find on Instagram, it’s festival season. Feathers are cool right?

Finances: Always in need of reassessment.

Relationships: The above link talks about how “heartstrings have the tendency to be pulled” in the form of old flames, new connections, temptations to cheat on your partner, or at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, you may realize the value of what you already have.

Sooooooo really, anything could happen.

On another website I came across (mysticmamma.com), astrologer Andrew Smith explains, “You are being asked to consider whether you are serving your own better interests or whether you are enslaved by that Dark Voice; you are being called to actively cultivate the skill of reflection, listening and discernment.”

By Dark Voice, I know Andrew must be talking about that petty critical judgemental voice that tells you “You Suck.”

I am familiar with that voice. I named mine Jessica, and she’s a bitch.

Reflecting, listening, and discerning is hard work. How do I tell the difference between my hormones, my “Dark Voice” (anyone else picturing Voldemort?) and my own trusty intuition? 

Also, according to darkastrology.com, if you’re single you should avoid one night stands at all costs. 

This retrograde is no fun at all!

You will surely develop an “obsessive attachment to the so called ‘friend with benefits’” and “you will most definitely be thinking with your reproductive organs and not your brain.” I don’t know about you but I feel like that’s how I operated 24/7 when I was single, not just during a retrograde. 

In summary:

1. Reassess your entire life including your hair but try not to listen to Voldemort, I mean your Dark Voice, while doing the reassessing. 

2. You might be tempted to cheat but that’s not very nice so don’t do it.

3. And if you’re single, don’t have sex. 

Worst retrograde everrrr.

Blind Faith

“I really admire your blind trust in the universe,” said a friend I was with Saturday night.

She meant it, though the words themselves don’t pack much punch, the look in her eyes and how she said it definitely did. I laughed and took a sip of the bourbon that I couldn’t afford.

Indeed, many of the decisions I’ve made recently, and in the far away past, probably look quite blind from the outsiders looking in.

I don’t know that we ever get to an age where we have to make less choices, but right now there seems to be a lot. And they all feel BIG. And detrimental. And…important.

The older I get, the more I can start to weave together the impact even the tiniest of choices can have. To say yes to that date and no to another, to break up or stay together, to say yes to that job and no to that one. 

To walk away from something or someone with no certainty that something greater is around the corner.

It’s hella scary.

Choices, of any kind, used to paralyze me. I’m that person who has to order last at brunch. First I can’t decide if I want sweet or savory, the classic breakfast dilemma. Then, just when I think the painful decision process is over:

“How would you like your eggs done?”

UGH.

A trivial decision yes, but how you behave at OJs on Sunday afternoon is likely very similar to how you behave elsewhere. Consider that how you do anything is how you do everything.

I read this “motivational” quote by some guy named Michael Josephson: “The choices you make in your life will make your life. Choose wisely.”

That didn’t motivate me Michael; it stressed me the fuck out.

I feel very lucky to have grown up in this generation where our choices seem endless. We’ve thrown the straight and narrow out the door. We are no longer looked at funny if we’re 25 and without child. Reinventing ourselves five times before our 30th birthday and having numerous careers is totally cool.

But is anyone else feeling overwhelmed?

I used to have this deep rooted fear of aging. And not the getting wrinkles kind of fear. It was more of a, “I’m running out of time” kind of fear. That, coupled with the fact that there are lot of things on my bucket list, was causing a lot of stress. As if I had to get it all crossed off, like, now.

To know which impulses to follow, and to know when it’s time to pull the trigger. To know which ideas still need time to blossom, and which you should just go for. To know when changing your mind is just that, or when it’s actually just giving up when you might be three feet from gold.

The tug at your heart, the impulsive decisions, the well thought out plans. When to choose and when to sit on it.

I may have written about this before, or I may have just uttered this lesson to friends and colleagues, but here’s a teaching from a friend and mentor that changed everything for me, and is likely the reason why it looks like I have blind trust.

I assure you, it’s not blind.

We always think that it’s about whether we choose A or B, but the most important thing, and the thing that actually propels our lives forward, is making a decision.

Mind not blown? Consider this: That place of indecision sucks. Wavering back and forth between moving, quitting a job, or leaving a relationship, is so much worse than just making the decision and pulling the trigger.

In Edwene Gaines’ Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, Maxwell Maltz says, “A step in the wrong direction is better than staying on the spot all our life. Once you’re moving forward you can correct your course as you go. Your automatic guidance system cannot guide you when you’re standing still.” (p.38)

So, just go out there and choose, and trust that you’ll be able to course correct.

And trust that you’ll get what you need one way or another.

Last Friday night I was having coffee with an old friend at a quiet cafe. One way to look at it is we were discussing our latest choices. Choices like: sleeping with guys you know deep down are fuck boi’s, moving cities, and quitting jobs. Giving things up for new experiences, or giving things up for one night of fun.

Mid conversation an older man came up to our table with two plates, a dessert for each of us.

He said, “These are for you. I have 5 daughters and you two sitting here chatting reminded me of them and how much I miss them.”

Hopefully he didn’t hear the details of our conversation, for his sake.

His sincerity took away any initial reaction I had that screamed, “Don’t take treats from strangers!”

Then he said, “The world is good to us, it’s not always as bad as they make it seem.” 

I think the difference between reckless blind trust and the kind of faith my girlfriend and I were talking about this weekend, lies in the difference between being impulsive (which has its place) and having your eyes wide open. When you know yourself well enough and have your eyes (and heart) open, making those choices gets a little easier. You don’t get attached to one outcome over another. You trust that the world will be good to you, because your eyes are open to all the ways that it already is.

Oil & Grain Collab

Read this post on Oil & Grain

[“the first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are” – John Pierpont Morgan]

July 18, 2013. I’m not good with years or dates. I only know this was the day because I found the piece of paper I had scribbled on during an afternoon with three coworkers. Mid summer. Mid twenties. A couple hours before I had to go to work.

I was kind of lost. I was standing still.

The big question was posed – What one great thing would you dare to dream if you knew you could not fail?

I had heard that question many times before. But for some reason that afternoon the real honest answer came up – or maybe it had been there all along and I was finally ready to listen to it.

lululemon will call this kind of work goal setting. Danielle Laporte might call itDesire Mapping. [Read that book!] My writing mentor would call it intention setting. This particular question is Brian Tracy’s; he calls this work thePsychology of Achievement. My dad has a bucket list. My mom has a vacation planner. I dabble in all of the above.

The truth about me is that I’m as into personal development and making my life as rad as possible as I am going out on friday nights. I guess you could say I found a way to blend the two.

I say yes to out-of-body spiritual woo-woo stuff on yoga retreats. I say yes to doubles on Thursdays. Yes to personal development seminars and the self-help section at Chapters. Yes to making terrible decisions and laughing about them later.

So July 18th. Two summers ago. I got really honest with the question I mentioned above. “I would be our generations Candace Bushnell. I want to be recognized in a magazine as our generations Carrie Bradshaw.”

I had also heard the follow up question many times before. “What’s one thing you could do that would be a step in the right direction?”

Here’s my two cents on that question: I don’t think it so much matters what small step you take – it’s just the act of taking a step.

My favorite university professor who I met in 2006, and now my writing mentor and as I like to call her, my life coach, taught me a really important lesson: So often we get stuck in a spot where all we’re doing is debating to take path A or path B. We weigh the pros and cons, second guess ourselves, and let fear [of a million things] stop us from making a choice. We think that the big decision is whether we choose A or B. But the truth is, the real decision is just making Adecision. Any decision. What matters is pulling the trigger.

Because nothing is going to happen if you stand still. At least if you choose B, and it turns out to be shit, you can course-correct. You learn something. You’re going somewhere. My small step was sending my university professor an email to see if she was still teaching writing workshops. [She is – http://www.languageofyoga.com/%5D

There were thousands of other tiny choices and steps along the way. But what amazes me is how much ease there was in all of this. As soon as I took that first step, things started rolling.  I was just published for the first time, I write for Swagger Communications, I’m a regular contributor to Branded Magazine, and someone from the Sun just contacted me about freelancing. Last night I started to put together a portfolio. Things are rolling, one step at a time. Branded Magazine called me “Calgary’s Carrie Bradshaw.” That’s pretty close to what I scribbled down two summers ago.

And all I’m doing is being me, writing about what I want to write about, and saying yes to people, opportunities and connections. It can be that simple.

Someone else who is chasing dreams and taking tiny steps is my friend & photographer Nina. @ninavis www.ninavisphoto.com

We got together this winter because a) I was freaking out and feeling really self conscious about a magazine photo shoot I had just done and b) I wanted to capture this time of my life with more than just selfies. I wanted photos that felt like me, in my condo, in my belongs-on-a-beach wardrobe.

I have a mini freakout every time I hit “publish” on my blog [including right now] and Nina has a mini freakout every time she puts her images out into the world. Of course we do. We’re human. We’re girls taking paths a little less traveled and a little more risky.

Judgemental voice inside my head every day that I’m getting better at ignoring:Your dream is to be a writer? Good luck with that one.

But being able to express who we are creatively, and that feeling I have right now which I’m pretty sure is my heart going YES YES YES … these things make it all worth it.

An Old Love Story

Originally published October 2013

My summer ended in southern Germany around the Lake of Constance, driving through tiny old German villages separated by only a few kilometers of apple trees and vineyards. It sounds peaceful, but add in a little 84 year old German lady with a big to-do list and what it actually was was busy, exhausting, and incredibly special.

“But Oma, what did he first say to you?”

She’s sitting at the kitchen table in our little apartment; one of many in what used to be an old farm house. I’m sitting up in bed typing a note on my iPhone and wishing I had brought my laptop. I know I should let the old lady go to sleep, but after another long day I have so many questions. The busy days that my Oma planned gave me a tiny snapshot of the life they had before they were the grandparents that I knew.

We arrived in Germany Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday afternoon it felt like I had already seen a weeks worth of history, met a handful of old ladies whose relation to me was too hard to keep track of, and eaten more bread than I normally eat in a week. On Wednesday afternoon Uncle Pete, Oma, her old friend Marelene & I went to Meersburg. This is what I had been waiting for. A few Christmas Eve’s ago Oma had told me how she met my Opa. Now I was getting to set foot on the very same pier, sit on the same bench, and stand outside the restaurant of their first date. And Marelene happens to be the friend who sneakily set up their meeting. Meersburg is beautiful enough on its own. You can see Switzerland on the horizon. There are ships and ferries taking people back and forth across the lake that shimmers the way Shuswap does in the sun. There’s an old castle on the hill above us, and palm trees scattered along the cobblestone sidewalks. I can only imagine how nervous and cute my Oma would have been 60 years ago, standing there waiting for him.

The Christmas she told me the story was quiet and small; we all fit around one table. I was in my early twenties and it was the first time I didn’t have to sit at the kids table. What I’ll remember most about that year is driving my grandma home. It was around 8:30pm; she goes to bed early, even on Christmas Eve. The roads were wet but clear, the sky was a blueish black and the city lights were sparkling. I had never asked her how she met my Opa. The story she told me in her little German accent made me think that not so much has changed.

The war was over and she was a little older than I am now. One of her best friends, unbeknownst to her, put a picture of my Oma in the paper responding to a personal ad. Shortly after she was surprised to be contacted by Mr. Hans Sauter. My Oma was painfully shy, but it must have been written in the stars because she reluctantly agreed to go meet this guy. He set up a date and a time, and off she went. She said she can remember it so clearly, him walking down the pier towards her with a sparkle in his eye. My Opa still had a mischievous sparkle in his eye until the day he left us. They went and sat on a little wooden bench to talk. My Oma tells me they always had so much to talk about, even on that first day. It was like they were long lost friends. He visited every Sunday and in the summer they took a motorcycle to Switzerland. It was the first time he ever yelled at her, probably to calm down. My Opa was a yeller and my Oma is a worrier. They married one year later. Oma tells me that communication was their strength, and lectures me about how important it is in a relationship. I think their ability to stay married for 56 years had a lot to do with the sparkle in his eye too. They went back to Germany in the 80s and took a picture on the same bench.

She says, “So that’s our story”…and I’m holding back the tears. A few years ago when we had to put my Opa in a home she was upset and cried to my mom, “This is the end of our life together.” In their old age they both often went on about how fast time goes. She could tell me the story about how they met like it was just yesterday, and all of a sudden it’s six decades later, and the first Christmas they weren’t spending together.

On boxing day after work that year I went to my Oma’s and she showed me the picture that her friend had sent into the paper. Then she showed me a whole photo album of pictures taken before she had met my Opa and it made me think that we’re not so different from our grandparents. She laughed with her friends, went skiing, traveled, and had a big grin on her face standing beside her best friend. The world is different in countless ways compared to the world in which my Oma met my Opa, but the feelings are the same and the stories we share all have similar beginnings, dramas, and endings.

In Germany this summer, I want to know exactly what he said to her. But she sleepily says she doesn’t remember his exact words. Only that they talked like long lost friends. It was easy, she says. “There’s this feeling you get when it’s right”

On the way home my Oma and her friend were giggling in the back seat while I was trying not to let my eyes shut. Uncle Pete picked up on something they were saying and chuckled so I asked Oma to translate. When they were growing up they had a very strict curfew. When my Oma would get home too late, she would wait at the bottom of the stairs until the train sped by. When it was noisy enough to muffle the sound of her footsteps she would sneak into bed. It’s not very often Oma will tell a story that paints her in this light, but they are my favorite ones.

And that was the coolest part. Walking or driving through another tiny village and my Oma pointing out a set of stairs where she got in a fight at school because she was bragging about already knowing how to cross-stitch. (She would.) Or showing us where her and her family had to run to when their village was about to be bombed. Or the hill she sled down in the winter. Or the bench she first sat in to talk with my Opa.

Oma then tells me she can’t help but wonder what her life would have been like if they had decided to stay in Germany. “I could have grown old with my friends”. But she didn’t say it in a regretful way, because she tells me that the best thing they ever did was purchase a lot on Shuswap, which is the source of so much of my friends & families happiness. They could have never had that if they had stayed in Germany. But she ponders how her life could have been different had they made a different choice. And don’t we all do that from time to time? Our actions and choices have huge ripple effects.   A tiny decision, like the one that got my Opa out of the war safely, creates a life that otherwise would not have existed. And at 84 I can only imagine what retracing your life must feel like. I wanted to know her happiest memories and her saddest. There was something about being in those places where her moments became memories that made the history of my family and where it all started gigantically more interesting.