Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Happy Canada Day!

This is a repost of last year’s poem I wrote for Canada Day.

 

Happy Canada Day to all of us who have the privilege of calling Canada our home.


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The magic of living life fearlessly.

photo by @brit_gill

photo by @brit_gill

From her first cry to her first smile to her first song, life with Alexis is always an adventure. Over the past 32 years, I have borne witness to the magic and miracle of her voice growing stronger. I have watched her move through toddler stage to little girl, to adolescent, teenager, young woman and now, a mother.

And always, she has enchanted and enthralled. She has been real and fierce and loving and brave.

Today is my eldest daughter’s birthday.

I remember this day 32 years ago. It was much like today promises to be. Bright and sunny. Blue sky soaring into infinity.

Life looked predictable. Like it would always be blue sky and sunny days.

And then Alexis came into this world. She arrived on her terms, on her schedule. We had been anticipating her arrival at the end of May. That day had passed. Alexis wasn’t ready to meet the world yet. Or perhaps, the world wasn’t ready to meet her?

In the end, Alexis Marie erupted onto life’s stage 23 days past her original due date. As I lay on an operating table and the doctor cut into my abdomen, I heard her cries from within my womb and my heart melted. I could feel it. That instantaneous giving way of the boundaries that held all known feeling in place. A letting go of all restraint, an abandoning of life as I knew it as this tiny, precious, perfect being was lifted from the safety of my womb and exposed to the world.

I wanted to keep her close. To keep her tied to the umbilical safety of my being the vessel that embraced her every breath.

And I had to let her go. I had to allow the cord to be cut to give her wings room to grow.

They have been growing ever since.

There is so much in this world I do not know. So much about life and living and loving fearlessly I have yet to explore.

Before I became a mother, I thought I knew it all. I thought I had life figured out and that once I did become a mother, it would be a pretty clearcut, straight forward journey of raising them and setting them on their path with the prerequisite education, tools and hope chest filled with all they needed to live adult lives in an adult world.

Being a mother has taught me how little I knew then about Love, and how much I don’t need to know now about anything else because, in Love’s light, everything else pales.

Alexis is a woman and a mother now. Beautiful. Talented. Creative. Kind. Caring. Loving. I watch her with her infant son and my heart melts all over again.

She sings to him, and I hear angels’ voices.

She dances with him and I see a fairy queen, ethereal, regal, magical.

She paints and writes and creates beauty and wonder in the world all around and I know her son’s life will be filled with magic and beauty, wonder and awe.

She is sensitive and gentle. Fiercely loyal. Fiercely proud. Sometimes, she doubts her own strength, questions her capacity to be courageous. No matter her self-doubts, always she finds her way through because of her heart’s capacity to beat to its own drum, march to its own beat, love in its own rhythm.

Always, she watches out for others. Sees the beauty in every soul, the wonder in every breath. She hears the words that are left unspoken, and feels the pain that is left unhealed and knows exactly how to reach out and soothe another’s fears, another’s tears, another’s sadness.

photo by @brit_gill

She is intuitive. She is whimsical. She is miraculous, just as she always has been. Just as she always will be.

She is a woman, a mother, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a step-daughter, a sister, a step-sister, a niece, a cousin, a friend. She is so many things and has so many ways of being amazing because she is Alexis.

Happy Birthday my darling daughter. Though the miles may lay between us, you are my heart. Forever and always.


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About My Friend Jane

Let me tell you about my friend Jane.

She is one of those people you simply cannot help but like. No matter your age. From infant to octogenarian, everyone falls in love with Jane.

It’s understandable.

She is ‘the real thing.’

Genuine, loving, uber-caring, Jane always has a laugh and a warm hug ready. She listens to whatever is on your heart and then,  envelops you in the most crazy-azzed hug you ever experienced. She won’t tell you what to do, she’ll simply give you the feeling whatever you decide, she’ll be standing right there beside you. And she will.

Jane is loyal.

If someone says something negative about someone Jane cares about she will tell them, in no uncertain terms, that their words are not welcome in her world. That while she values their friendship, they will need to re-think their position in her life if they want to talk about one of her friends that way.

I know. She did it for me when someone was beating up on my character. Just as she does it for everyone she cares about.

And Jane cares about a lot of people as was evidenced yesterday afternoon when over 90 people gathered at The Ironwood to wish the amazing Jane a Happy Birthday.

We were all ages. All colours. All faiths.  All sizes.

To Jane. We are her friends. The people whom she has touched with her warm and loving heart, her kindness, her caring ways and her generosity of spirit.

Oh, and let me tell you this about  my friend Jane. She’s the only other woman I know who can milk her birthday for longer than the month in which it appears.

Yup. Jane’s Birthday was actually at the beginning of January. Yet, there we were family and friends gathered together almost 2 months later to ensure that she knows how much she is loved and how honoured we all are to call her our friend.

Because that’s the other thing about Jane. While I may think of her as my best friend, there’s room for many best friends in Jane’s world — and she treats each of us with the same grace and love, always giving her most to make each of us feel special.

Yesterday we celebrated Jane’s birthday. It wasn’t a decade thing. It was more a demographic kind of watershed age where she was moving from one ‘population marker’ to a new space where discounts are offered and even the government gets into the act by providing a stipend to honour your age.

Oh right. I forgot to mention, Jane is MUCH older than me. Uh huh. Yup. She’s also much taller but hey! Who cares about inches when it’s the years that count! And while I might just happen to be experiencing this same birthday marker later this year, it is MUCH MUCH later — which is why for 11 months and a few days I get to say, I Love you my friend!

Thank you Jane (my MUCH older friend) for all the love and beauty you bring into the world. Your smile, laughter, sense of humour and pure essence of joy always makes the world a lot brighter, and a whole lot more loving.

And BTW, remember how you taught me everything about being a mother by having CJ 9 months before me? Well I’m watching you. If you don’t like this particular watershed age, I may decide to skip it by taking a page out of your book on How to Defy Time! – I know! I won’t file my documents with the government so they won’t send me the stipend that says I’ve reached a certain age which means… I won’t have reached that certain age!

See, there you are once again teaching me how to navigate uncertain waters of life! Because quite frankly dear Jane, there’s no way on this earth you’re 65! I mean… You look AMAZING — because you are.

Love you my friend.

Keep celebrating life. Keep sharing your joy and laughter. The world is a better place because of you.

 


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Conquering The Great Divide

I had steeled myself for the shock of arrival. I had mentally prepared myself for the cold.

And it still hit me!

After three days in the moist, relatively warm air of the coast, coming home felt like a rude awakening — even though it was after midnight.

My plane was a couple of hours late. C.C., who was originally going to pick me up at 10, had long gone to bed. I walked out of the terminal, grabbed a cab and then proceeded to say a whole bunch of prayers as we slipped and slid our way down the Deerfoot, navigating icy patches and drifted snow until climbing up Bow Trail towards the condo in which we’re temporarily living while the renovations on our new home are underway.

The cab driver’s car had really bad tires.

Note to self, before climbing into a cab, check to ensure its tires have appropriate tread to navigate snowy roads!

And now I’m home.

Back from a delightful weekend with my sisters and daughters.

On Saturday night, my youngest daughter who had flown out Thursday to spend a week with her sister, organized a ‘baby soiree’ at the home of Alexis’ husband’s mother and stepdad. With the help of Alexis’ dear friend VW and her mother and father-in-law, they created a sense of ‘one big family’ coming together to celebrate the imminent arrival of baby bean, or as he’s affectionately known in utero, Garfield.

There was laughter and teasing, friendly games of pool in the basement and lots of good food and wine upstairs.

One of the hardest things about Garfield’s pending arrival is the distance between us. Alexis and her husband live in Vancouver, on the other side of The Great Divide, almost a thousand kilometers away.

And while between our hearts there is no distance too far to travel, in physical space we are an 11 hour drive (not always advisable in the winter) or a 1 and a half hour flight.

Knowing she is surrounded by a family who loves her, knowing her friends are supportive and caring and kind, and that many of them are just a short drive away and some are also in the ‘family way’, helps ease my heart’s yearning to be closer.

As we stood and chatted at the party on Saturday night, someone suggested guessing the actual date of baby Garfield’s arrival. I laughingly told the story of Alexis’ 19 days of holding out on coming into this world beyond her due date. “I used to think it was because she knew it was the last and only time she would be 100% in control,” I said.

Truth is, I actually think it was because I didn’t want to share her with the world yet. I knew it was the last time it would be 100% just her and me.

I’ve grown since June 19th, 1986 when she came into this world.

I’ve learned to share her. To be supportive and happy in knowing she has created a world around her filled with people who love her and want the best for her in her life. People who care deeply about her well-being. Who want to share their stories with her, and share in her stories too.

As I watched both my daughters at the party on Saturday night I was reminded once again, of how incredibly loving and kind they both are. I was struck by not just their physical beauty, but the beauty of their hearts. The aura of kindness that surrounds them both.

I am so incredibly blessed. And grateful.

I may have been the carrier of the miracle that became their lives, but it is the incredible support of family and friends that have helped shape and guide and form them into the truly magnificent young women they are today.

Baby Garfield is set to arrive within the next two weeks.

In the world around us there is much happening that does not make sense, that causes me distress and unease.

But here, no matter which side of the Great Divide I stand, no matter how icy the roads or far the distance, there is only one truth to hold onto, one prayer to repeat, “May Love surround us always.”

In Love’s embrace, I know Baby Garfield will be safe, no matter how fiercely the winds may blow around him.

In Love, he and his parents are immersed in beauty, kindness, joy, harmony. And though there may be moments of tears, of strife, of discomfort, Love will carry them through.

For this grandmother’s heart to conquer The Great Divide, the only place I need to stand is In Love.


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30 Years of The Miracle of Liseanne

I was asleep when she came into this world.

It is not how I intended it.

Eighteen months before, when her sister came into the world via C-section, I had an epidural. I got to hear her first cries from inside my womb, even before they cut her out.

Liseanne arrived two weeks early. On that Saturday, thirty years ago today, her father and I were putting the finishing touches on the bedroom where her sister would move into so she could have the nursery. I felt my water break and stayed silent. There was a nurse’s strike on. I did not want to go to the hospital during the strike.

When I eventually called my doctor to tell him what had happened, he told me he’d meet us at the hospital in an hour.

“Can’t I wait until after the strike?” I asked.

He hung up on me after an emphatic, “No.”

Liseanne did not want to wait. The world was an adventure worth exploring and it didn’t matter that with the strike I would not be allowed an epidural and hear her first cries from within the womb. She wanted to get on with this thing called living life!

I probably wouldn’t have heard her cry anyway. She doesn’t spend time crying. She spends all her time living. In fact, after she was born, I don’t think I heard her first cry until many weeks later. It wasn’t her way.

She is thoughtful. Smart. Witty. Kind. She will always fight for the underdog. And she will always stand up for what is right. She speaks up in the face of injustice. Stands up to bullies. But she doesn’t cry over spilt milk, lost dreams or broken hearts. She accepts what is, wipes up the spilt milk and does what is necessary to make dreams come true or help a friend heal a broken heart. And then, she gets back to the business of living fully immersed in the joy and mystery of being alive.

Her way.

When she was in middle school, a teacher suggested that Liseanne needed to pay more attention to doing her own work, not helping out the special needs students in her class.

“It is her way,” I told the teacher.  “And once Liseanne has figured out her own way, there’s very little chance of getting her to take a different path.”

Liseanne has always known what works for her. What is right for her. What is best.

It is her way.

And in knowing of her own path, she accepts that others may not see it her way or want to be on the same path. And that’s okay. There is always room in Liseanne’s life for others to have their own unique paths, their own unique expression of themselves. There is always room in her heart to accept you just the way you are.

It’s just who she is. Accepting. Forgiving. Understanding. Loving.

My youngest daughter turns 30 today.

I was asleep when she came into this world, but this journey with her has kept me wide-awake to the wonder and awe of life (not to mention the humour and the unexpected.)

Through her quirky humour, her willingness to explore the world, her fearlessness and curiosity, her ability to accept everyone without judgement and make room for many points of view, and her capacity to forgive and Love deeply, my life has been made richer, my journey that much brighter.

I was asleep when she came into this world. I am so grateful and blessed I got to wake up to the miracle of Liseanne.


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Strong woman. Brave heart.

Twelve and a half years ago, she had open heart surgery to replace a leaky valve in her heart. The diagnosis had come as a surprise a couple of years before.

It was a congenital defect that was only then, in her early fifties, starting to take its toll.

They performed the surgery. She recovered well.

Until the valve started to deteriorate — as they’d told her it would when it was inserted.

More tests. More waiting. More anxiety until her heart doctor told her that she was a good candidate for a TAVI replacement — a valve which could be inserted via arthroscopic surgery. Much less invasive. Much quicker recovery period.

Except…

On Friday morning last week, my eldest daughter and I accompanied my sister, Anne, to her appointment with her heart surgeon. It was an unexpected appointment — she was on the waiting list and because he’d hurt his finger, the doctor wasn’t doing surgery, so she got in sooner than expected. I happened to be in Vancouver for the weekend, perfect timing to be there.

I didn’t know much about her heart condition and the consequences of open heart surgery until we sat in that doctor’s office and the doctor shared the pros and cons of both options.

It wasn’t an easy decision.

But my sister sat there, took in all the information he provided and made what had to be one of the most challenging decisions of her life.

To not opt for the less invasive surgery at this time and go with the full open heart valve replacement.

I’m not sure I could have done what my sister did. But there she sat, her written out sheet of questions in front of her, her hands quivering slightly as she pressed the doctor for more clarification, more information.

And then, as I remembered her doing when we were children together and she would set her mind to something — she sat up straight, nodded her head slightly up and down, looked him straight in the eye and said, “That’s it then. My decision is made.”

Believe me, once my sister says those two phrases, there’s no changing her mind. She is all in.

I was/am in awe of her courage, her strength and her capacity to stand in her fear and still make a tough decision, regardless of an easier route, though not as straightforward in the long term, laying right next to the path.

I think I might have caved. I think I might have put off to tomorrow what I didn’t want to face today.

Not my sister.

Yes, she’s scared — she knows what open heart surgery entails.

Yes, she’s disappointed — it would have been nice to chose the easier option.

But it doesn’t matter.

She knows what is best for her body today, and is willing to do the ‘hard’ to have her heart beat strongly for longer than the TAVI would have allowed.

As my daughter and I sat on either side of her we both were gifted the opportunity to see one woman’s strength shining in the face of adversity.

She may not be able to see the future, but my sister sure can see clearly today.

 


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Thirty-one years of love.

She is kind.

She is thoughtful.

She is sensitive.

She is heartfelt.

She is creative.

She gives. She shares. She teaches. She learns. She grows.

In everything she does, she creates space. For creative expression. To be heard. To be seen. To be felt. To be known. For herself and for others.

She writes. She sings. She dances. She paints.

With every ounce of her being, she is Love. Loving. Loveable and loved.

She is my eldest daughter and from the moment I first felt her being stirring within my body, I have loved her with all my heart.

Today, she turns 31.

photo by @brit_gill

It is hard to imagine that 31 years have passed since she took her first breath outside the protective womb of my body and began the journey into growing into the amazing woman she is today. That it’s been 31 years since she first cast her web of loving delight upon the world, a web that she continuously spins full of heartfelt living, love and thoughtful wonder.

Thirty-one years ago today, I fell in love so completely, I have never come out from under the spell. I don’t want to. Loving Alexis has been a journey through time and space and understanding and growing and learning more and more every day about what it means to love unconditionally.

Being her mother has taught me how to let go of my fear I will never do it right, or be enough. To apologize and forgive and make amends and keep loving through it all. She has shown me how to fearlessly give into the one thing that connects us; through stormy nights and sun-filled days and all the weather in-between. Because, loving Alexis has taught me there is no end to love between a mother and her daughter.

Thank you my darling daughter for being your amazing self.  Happy Birthday!