Sunday, February 02, 2020

When memories write letters

25 years and even months ago, I quietly sat across from John and began our writing journey in the high school library. We would often be head to head reading our handwriting. 

There were times we'd question how long we had known one another. And I would be reminded only these last weeks when we had been little children living on the same street only blocks away. I spent time playing, running after the pine cone slingers, the tree climbers, watching the stick hockey in the street. Waistlength red braids spinning helicopters when I thought I was running so fast. All until my mom called me home. And John would be a friend at 4 & 5 years old to offer to walk me acros the busy street at the bottom of the hill.

So, then years later before my graduation, on a day trip to Vancouver, he was there to help choose my dress.

I called him my Brother John. He would then insist that he needed to grow into this title. That he had time to wait before really earning this name.

I am thankful his mom, my friend Janet invited me on a road trip to stay with her family in Surrey. While I was moving back to Salmon Arm from spending a semester studying at Johnston Heights. I believe it was there that I began to knit again. I remember a conversation encouraging me to grow into what I love. And I did. First with motherhood and now in a pseudo profession - knitting + sales manager with a wool company.

John and I had spent short spurts of time together. Moments that have left a lasting impression. Opening up favourite Bible verses in Isaiah, stating our dreams and fears. A letter shared on a day when I didn't want to see anyone, that grabbed my attention.

It was my intense need to hideaway and his insistence to learn why. Not just with a hello or even - how are you. I remember his voice clearly "let me see your face, or I'll write to you, we have 30 minutes." So, how am I sharing his sincere friendship with you here?

It's a yes to those moments when I felt like hiding that we ended up meeting halfway. Softly. Waiting patiently, listening so hard. Compassionate moments.

That our lives intertwined like that is just the most pristine gift. So many years have passed though I've always remembered his Birthday. And really had wanted to reconnect. Because we were more welcome to be ourselves still in different worlds and that is the very best reflection.

He deserves heaps of heartfelt gratitude. Holding so many memories and letters to choose from. This is how I want to remember him.

Life truly works in mysterious ways. Sometimes it seems impossible to understand. Friends are so lifegiving. A bond that is woven in understanding. Within the introspective heart desire to be guided, seen and heard deeply.

The last words I heard him say was at the top of the little mountain on my wedding day 1997. He walked through the forest to the receiving line gave me a hug and leaned into the groom.

"Take care of her...."

So after many days of wanting direction of travelling to our hometown to be at the memorial, I'm sharing with a friend how I'd just like a sign and I'd be more than willing to drive.

We are packing up to leave the restaurant and the server asks if either of us had dropped a small pile of dimes after she had swept.


Well, you both should know randomly finding dimes usually means someone has passed on and is looking out for you.

The Reassurance.

I went home packed lightly and left late, (all kids were preoccupied with Friday night activity). Driving the night was Quiet. Plowed roads and a smooth drive. Like someone was guiding the entire way. Finally, an honour to be present for a legacy memorial of an incredible man.

Some people leave lasting footprints on your heart. The kind that can take your breath away. I have believed in this heartfelt friendship

Love You, John.

Until we meet again. 💌 Alicia

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Cafe Rhythm

I'm knitting and unravelling the same line of a shawl over and over. It may look painful to someone who is fascinated by the art.

To me, it's methodical.
Eventually just getting it right.

She watches me for a moment. Her hair gleaming steel grey in this mood lit cafe. Her husband attentively by her side. 

Taking turns finishing a crossword they eagerly started before I arrived.

This scene is familiar. Somehow at this one cafe, at this particular time, I always seem to sit down, look over, and quietly notice them.

Are you ever going to finish that?

A smile escapes me.

Flash forward.

I'm leaving with an unwrapped gift in my bag. Passing a couple head to head over a familiar scene. My hair is tied back and I step closest to their table. 

We've experienced seasons since I last spoke with them. Each time our eyes met over the year it was there we rested in sincere understanding.

One time more than 6 months ago. 

I was knitting and she keenly asked why there was a band-aid on my cheek.

I had a routine skin biopsy, today. 


And she slowly eases closer to me.

I've just survived stage 4 brain cancer.


Today they are gently welcoming yet another encounter.

I've finally finished what I've started.

Holding it up, for the full view.

And a smile escapes her.

I knew you would. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

2018: A Year Of Moving Forward.

Sunday December 31, 2017.

I had no intention of celebrating New Years Eve. Because it was still 2017.

Every hour that kept moving forward I'd pause and ask myself why..?

When you know, you don't know, and that is the real reason you don't have any idea what you want.

Sometimes it's in the question of why that the truest intentions are revealed.

This year and I had high hopes in the beginning. January - April were months filled with light and life. Hope and moving forward. 

Life started to fray at the seams, falling apart. I fell forward. I waited for the music to begin..the closing credits.

After that, the timeline was accurately: Halted..

I had waited for 2017 to arrive my whole life. It held a lot of milestones, and a lot of promise.

And there's the utter release of it.  Now a long awaited goodbye.


When the day arrived I was hoping to call on a few friends, fill our home, to mask a void we felt.

Just a few weeks before my heart began simmering change.

"You + I should have never met.
And I hope in a few years I won't even.. need to turn my head in passing, to see if I recognize you."

Phrases this cutting have been going on within my fractured psyche this whole life. Always in private. Never to be repeated. And this quiet moment where we had already called a cease fire months in advance.. just a quiet statement to blanket my request for just one hug. 

This may be why I'm not keeping secrets anymore. This had to be the intention I carried. The beginning of goodbye.

Jesus, I am done. You see my bare heart with a tender understanding. If my life is moving forward my hands are off, my eyes are closed. Because it's a cold and messy time in my life. I know all miracles and anything healing will be in your perfect timing. I'm ready to step away and watch you move through my life. And there are burning bushes everywhere. Hallelujah. Amen.

Then in a moments notice with a
mutual understanding - he warmed up the safer vehicle.
I sent it with good vibes driving in one direction and my heart cheered with the gifts that he returned with.

When it was my turn I hopped in with a destination in mind.
Just a few hours and some fun party foods later we were ready to start. Altogether as a family. 


Movies and shows were had with the littlest determined to stay up til midnight.
Incidentally she was fast asleep 2 minutes past the hour. But more than proud to make it.

I'm not ready.
We never are.
And if I'm being honest - I'm not willing.

Isnt that the real solution when we lay our hearts out threadbare. 
Holding space for quiet relief.

How do we connect when our hearts feel worlds away? Living in the same town, yet on the other side of the tracks of life experience.

I'm broken and messy, but the truth is no one ever begins..ready.

Someone always shows up in His perfect timing.
Sometimes you don't even realize you've gone knocking on their safe door until you're already inside.
Huddled around their table over warm cuppas and conversation.

I'm folding laundry on this first day of a new year in that methodical way of trying to not think too hard. Knowing tears will spill over my cheeks and someone (all of them notice) will ask me why.. and I just don't want to explain that a new year feels like a sentence.

Keep moving forward? Do I really have to be more grateful for what is and was and is to come?

Grace is so much bigger than fear.
Fierce Grace.

Instead I feel Azaelea's arms wrap around me as she states: you know mom it's ____'s Birthday today. A friend she played with once 2 years ago. 

She really has all the traits of being my only daughter.

This will be a year of intention. Where I listen more. Connect to my community and let my heart strings root down deep.
For its with the year long growth that we gather harvest. And that is a true year end celebration. 

I know that hope waits. It always does.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wild Empathy

I'm finding it hard to breathe. 

Almost claustrophobic. 

Standing in line. 

The people are sitting, standing, reading the walls. They are all so calm, and my heart is beating with the anxiety of new.

I feel arms around my shoulders and I melt. She hands me an elixir, and asks me if I'm OK.

Wraps her fingers in a new hairdo, and I quietly let her be close to me.

No. I reply... and the tears brew in the corners of my eyes.

What are you struggling with?

The holidays.
New beginnings.

And whether I will be able to afford just one gift for each of my 4 children. Christmas is the one holiday of the year that brings every one of us altogether.

Then I continue to share what it feels like to stay strong when pieces of broken are being held together. For the love of one day at a time.

She stares with wide eyes at me.
With the fragility of being understood.
And begins her story.

I believe in grieving.
I've been here almost 2 years.
Arrived with nothing and escaped an abusive relationship with lifelong scars.
She inhales sharply and grabs my hands from behind the counter, now.
Can I hold you?

I watch her face. 
Full of hope.
 This wild empathy.
I nod my head.

She runs full tilt around the long counter towards me, and stops right as I'm placing everything from my hands right down on the floor.
I slowly wrap my arms around her as she holds on tight.

Pressing hearts together.
 A long awaited reunion of 2 friends who've never even learned each other's names.

In the bottom of my bag is a mini shawl I have just finished. Remember the boring one? I ask her to wait. And explain that when I need to ache I also want to finish projects. 

So what you struggle with actually becomes a gift?
For who? For me?
Her face lights up, and the tears of joy spill..

 And I understand. 
That after 35 years of knitting that is what my Grandmother was actually trying to teach me.

"You can do anything you set out to do as long as you're grateful to try."

I never understood before. 
What her words meant. 
When ever I tried to give up. 
Or when someone's words hurt..

"Darling you must look up, throw some salt over your shoulder if you have to. There's a whole world out there and they're going to love you. Even when you don't feel loved. Listen to their stories. We are all connected."

This shawl with an equally matched button.
 I haven't thought much of it.
An then it leaves my hands with the fervor of realizing someone is winning the lottery.

We both are.

She wraps it every which way and is dancing right out into the market. Showing everyone in these closed quarters.
This gift.

And I realize some times that I can't even breathe, some times that I can't even handle. Those times seem to have a way of being the best gifts.

I tell her 
We'll meet again. 
And walk away.


Thursday, November 05, 2015

When I realized now was the only time.. to leave.

The yellow in her eye flicked just a minute.
A spark ignited.
I fled.
Under my bed.
Come out now!!
Instantly there it was. The searing pain of fingernails digging into my flesh.
Pulling hard.
A throbbing in my head began.
Knowing this was now my only second.. before the first blow.
They were hard,
& intense.
A grab of hair as she skimmed my head with two full fists.
A shove into the wall.
A yank up.
This nearly unconscious body of mine.
Not willing to fight anybody. 

I knew from years of pain, this was more of a chance for her to vent her own pain.
The incredible pains she had suffered at this age.
my age.
The doors of my closet closed and I took a slight inventory of the little possessions I owned.
The smurf collection, torn jeans, favorite shirts, the cute pair of flip flops that I lived in. 
There were 2 albums strewn carelessly on the floor.
Full of pictures nostalgic
& happy.
All this filled a very small back pack and still I kept it on the floor..

Hours passed before I could sense it was time to open my door.
She was working.
I was hungry..
but were there restraints now on my door?
I gingerly, ever so quietly, inched my way to the door.
It creaked and I stopped in fear.
Hearing no remorse for these actions,
the door opened slightly..
by my own hand.
Dinner had been served, dishes were needing to be washed.
I filled the sink.
Listening to the water gush from the tap, the soap bubbles rose.
This was quiet time for me.
No one ever wanted this job, and I had no desire to wash laundry.
We had no washer and it was a days worth of scrubbing each article one by one.
She left you no food. My sister sneered.
It's ok.
Are you back talking your sister?
He grabbed my throat, and I could feel her leering at me.
The knives were arms reach, each one glistening,
I knew this was my last chance to retreat, to suppress it all.
Slurring in my face with sweat beading on his brow from the hours of lager, smoke & gambling. She is my daughter & you are a whore.
I glance back to my peripheral view and his friend is cowering at the gambling table. Waiting for more tobacco to roll.
Not wanting to interfere, he stares wide eyed as I wait. 
Wait for him to release the grip from my throat. 
No words escape my mouth. 
But you could see the condemnation his friend felt from across the room.
Me who called him out of my bed for groping at the early hours of 3 am.
Me who knew every move, every strike against me and still I stood my ground.
If he was going to knock me down I was going to stand back up.
That tiny small backpack & I jumped out a window and breathed a sigh of freedom. 
The day I realized now was the only time.. 
to leave.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


One, free, seventy..
I open my eyes.
The puppies are no where in sight.
Loud crashes are coming from the cabin and I start running in circles. 
The faster I run, the quieter it feels.
I stop. And wait.

Boots (whisper) Buffy. Come play with me. 

Our yard is wide and green. 
We're nestled in the middle of a forest that reaches just so far, then opens up to a lake.
With water as far as I can see. 

No neighbors. 
No visitors. 
No friends. 

All I know is my Mommy. 
And a man: whom I call daddy.
But he never wants me to play around him. 

He drinks from a big bottle. 
And when it's empty, it smashes on the ground. 
I try my best not to hurt myself. 
But I fall all the time. 

Mommy tells me I am not allowed to play with my cousins because they don't open presents. 
That we talk different them every day of the week.
But thats ok.
I'm only allowed to open presents when Grandma and Grandpa give them to me, anyways. 


Here I am. 

Did you hear me calling you?! 

Why is he so mad?

He grabs me by the jean jacket and carries me all the way to their big bed. 
You come running when I call, you hear me! 

All I remember is: Spank spank spank - until I fall asleep. 
When I wake up Mommy has made some soup.
But it's cold now, because it's been waiting so long for me. 
She's all different colors. 
A pretty rainbow. 
I can't stand, so she carries me. 
I smell her in the place of her neck that I love so much.
The familliar smells of smoke and a strong smell that burns my nose. 
But it doesn't matter. 
haven't had a hug since the last time I remember that 'he' was gone. 

Alicia do you remember your Uncle Bob?
I nod in a haze.
He's going to live with us now. 

Just because. 
No more questions. 

But I want to ask. And I want to eat. 
My tummy is sore and mommy won't look at my eyes. 
I go to sleep and there is so much noise. 
I wake up but I am not allowed out of my room. 

The dolls are my friends. 

It's time to go potty but I have no where to pee. 
There is a pot in the corner that I try to sit on but it tips over and I pee on my leg. 
Trying not to get in trouble I sit so still just to wait...
and hope for food. 

There is nobody coming for me. 

I hear, my name. 
Where is Alicia? 
She's in her bedroom. 
It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon. 

Crash bang, scream. 

The door opens with a bang and my Uncle checks to see if I need food. 
I don't know what to do so I just sit there trying not to make a sound. 

Just a second goes by and I sniff. Huh? Was I sleeping?

Someone is hovering over me and spit is falling on my face. 
We're going for a drive. 
I try to stand but my legs hurt from sitting and they sting. 
They take turns carrying me outside to the car. Just my Mommy & 'him' in the front. 
They stop at a red light and Mommy opens my door, 
her door, and the trunk all at the same time. 

She grabs me with one hand and the two suitcases in the other. 
And she runs. 
Down the hill into a ravine. 
I see uncle waiting for us. He takes the suitcases and runs another way. 
She takes me and we hide under a car. 

We run 
and stop 
and hide behind buildings. 
There is a car revving up and down the streets.  

I remember french fries.
I remember a big bus.
I remember falling into someone's arms as I tripped down the stairs. 
All In a daze.
Into my Uncle Frank's arms.
His blue punch buggy was waiting to drive us to our new home.
My Uncles had saved me.
They saved us.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Shifting Perspective

Sometimes in the quiet abyss of an empty house, while everyone is gone to their weekly responsibilities, I'm left.. Alone. 
All chores accomplished, all errands done or on hold. With more than the click of methodically wrapping yarn back and forth between two or more knitting needles.
It is often then that poignant remnants of past conversations echo in my mind. One memory burns with the dimly lit candle of my thoughts.
Gently she placed her hand on my hand, that laid haphazardly on my lap. She waited a very long 10 seconds and simply stated: Alicia. The acknowledgment of my name will always grab my attention, and I promptly stopped gazing into the abyss of my lap. I looked up, directly in her eyes. She softly phrases "this is going to take a long time. You are a recovering bulimic." The words were bricks on my already teetering tower of insecurities. She had placed this title right back on the starting line, and I felt exposed. Ready to bolt towards the bushes on the side of the race track. But no.. This time it was different. She wasn't a teacher, or a guidance counsellor. Nor was she a social worker, a pastor, a boss or a co-worker. She was known by no relation ties at all, I had just met her. And the respect grew as tears danced around the brim of my eyes. A naturopath first. One who would guide me to seek professional help from a therapist.
So began my start and stop process that lasted (now closer to) 16 years. At my lowest weight I was petrified of gaining just 1lb. At my highest weight (after gaining 110lbs) I kept building walls around my emotions. One that only I could hide behind even when help was readily available. I don't know when I realized that food was comfort. Maybe it was so many years past hiding in my closet when arguments escalated. Or when I would come home to an empty home and find home baked bread waiting to be served. Perhaps food had a special place in my heart after returning from Vancouver Island. I had been living with my Grandparents for the Summer of 1987. Any food I could have ever imagined or longed for was right ready for my devouring. 
The summer I was 10. 
And gained 25lbs.
This story is more of an iceberg melting. I've cried through the reality of keeping my closest friends from knowing my deepest struggles. Nightmares actually. 
Last year I decided it was time. 
One day at a time. 
When I started this newfound journey I was easily discouraged and felt all the familiar struggles of taking this all in day by day. I grew up with food anxieties that got worse as I was older (albeit without the childhood eating disorder) and often would go a whole day without eating because I couldn't have something I liked or the food triggered me being too full the night before. Opposite of a food addiction. I wasn't eating enough so my body was always storing. As of today I have lost 115 inches and officially 40lb. The inches lost this year and the pounds over the course of this decade. 
Honesty, transparency and the the fight on all mental battlefields, is a teetering point. What I had fought for behind ironclad emotional walls was none other than:
In the last 28 years, I’ve failed at weight loss no less than.. Ok. 1 million times. 
Sweets and I — we battle often. It’s only in the past year that I’ve found freedom to not avoid what may seem like a titanic sinking. I find myself finding peace, on this slow sailboat to a better port of landing. Wherever that is all I know is I will keep following that way, forward motion to a better place.
Moving on, moving forward, is the way you get unstuck. It’s also the way you lose weight mindfully without losing your mind completely. 
Do you ever feel a desperate sense that " its just right there, right in front of us, we’ve got to eat it all now? (And then, never again.)
Those secrets where you find yourself wondering why there is a still present want. A still unmet want. If you’ve ever convinced yourself that a whole box of chocolate bars is not enough, or even two cupcakes will be better than one. That is when you might finish, realizing you don't remember even starting. In those moments have you ever found yourself, ((wondering why)) feeling a sense of loss & doom that the 'treat' didn’t do what you thought it would?
Because I have. In unrelenting ways. That is; too many times to count, I am ravenous. 
What does it all mean, and what does this really say?
It says that I’m not hungry. Not for food.
I have this wanting. So many wantings. We all do. And I grew up really believing, and still kind of believing to this day, that food is a way, the way, to satisfy desires and cravings. It has nothing to do with my logical, rational brain; it’s so deep within me that undoing it feels at times impossible. And only slowly, I am changing that. I’ve got to. You’ve got to.
Shifting perspective, is a challenge. There will always be food and choices. Let’s keep our healthy intentions in mind all the while, room for life's unexpected celebrations.
Celebrating daily victories and realizing what's truly important is that I am changing from the inside out.