Keep Your Hats On, Alberta!

Even before this global pandemic hit, Alberta was struggling economically. An oil-rich province hit hard by falling oil prices, the ensuing domino effect has thrown our economy into a tail spin. My husband, an oil executive, has faced job upheavals for years. People we know have lost their livelihoods, to be sure, not one Albertan has not felt the impact of this oil downturn in some way or another. The Covid-19 crises just adds to the economic chaos here.

When the Calgary Stampede was cancelled last week due to Covid-19, it was “a punch in the gut…” to all Calgarians. The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth brings in millions of tourism dollars each year. The annual celebration, that includes a million dollar rodeo, chuck wagon races, a midway, a world-class grandstand show and a multitude of other spectator events, has survived two world wars, and a devastating flood in 2013, but Covid has finally forced it all to be reined in.  With its cancellation, other large festivals and events province-wide have also been cancelled.  The domino effect rides again and hurts the entire province and all Albertans!

My parents immigrated to Canada from Denmark in 1952 and settled in Calgary. I was a baby when I went to my first Stampede. Some of my fondest childhood memories is seeing the parades, and being absolutely fascinated by the horses, cowboys and cowgirls, as well as the colourful pageantry of the First Nations peoples in full regalia. I remember my first straw cowboy hat, red in colour, with a little white, plastic whistle tied onto the end of the chin cord. Going to the Calgary Stampede meant we all had to dress western, and I loved my cowboy hat, boots, and the little fringed leather vest I wore on parade days.

When my kids were young, we would try to go to the parade each year, and spend at least one day of the ten day event taking in the Calgary Stampede. Over these past few years, our grandchildren have accompanied us. We are four generations of Stampeders!  Stampede 2020 was on our calendar this year, but Covid-19 robbed us of yet another event we were looking forward to attending this summer.

The other day my husband and I decided to go for a long drive just to get out of the house. We’ve been in isolation mode over eight weeks. We’ve followed all the recommended health protocols. We have stayed home, but stayed connected through online means with family and friends. I haven’t hugged on my kids or grandbabies since March 14th, and my arms ache to hold them. Going for drives, especially when there is little else to break up the long days, is a welcome distraction. On our way home, we drove by Stampede Park and I noticed a neon sign flashing, “Keep Your Hats On, Calgary!” It was supposed to encourage those who are disappointed by this year’s cancellation, and to look towards next year’s Stampede to be even bigger and better.  I turned to my husband and said, “Everyone in Alberta should keep their hats on! The whole province has been through so much!”

I thought about the dear people in Fort McMurray, whose community is being threatened again with another disaster.  Four years ago it was a wild fire, this week a devastating flood.  I thought about falling oil prices, pipelines that still need to be built, the ramifications to family and friends when the oil sector collapsed.  Floods, fires, and a myriad of economic disasters, Alberta has faced its share of challenges.  Finally, this deadly corona virus threatens us all.  I wonder if our world will ever be the same again. 

When we got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of “keeping hats on”.  At a time when there is so much to bring us down, I thought I would go ahead and wear my cowboy hat anyway over those days in July that would have been Stampede “week”.  I was sure I could get my family and even some friends to join in the fun too.  Then it struck me that perhaps many more people might do the same as a way to encourage one another.  The idea blossomed into my imagining every Calgarian might want to wear their cowboy hats on the days that the Calgary Stampede would have been held: July 3rd – July 12th.  Then, I thought about the entire province joining in.  It would be a way to show our Stampede spirit, province-wide.  Yes, I’ve even thought all of Canada could join in the fun!

I went online to see if anyone else had come up with the same idea, but was astonishingly surprised when search results came up empty. So, I prayed, asking God if I should just pose the idea out on social media and see if it catches some interest.

I have had great feedback!  So, I invite all my readers, whether Albertan or not, to join my Facebook and Instagram groups and wear a cowboy hat whenever you’re out and about July 3rd – 12th, 2020. Wearing your hat will greatly encourage all of us here in Alberta and unite us all in the Stampede spirit!

Facebook Group: Keep Your Hats On Alberta!

Instagram: @hatsonalberta

Use the hashtag: #keepyourhatsonalberta

Yahoo!

Posted in Canadiana, Family Life, Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bloom Where You Are Planted

The sidewalks were pink with cherry blossom snow.  I could smell the fragrance of newly mowed grass, mingled with the sweet aroma of springtime blossoms.  The seagulls screeched their welcome to me as I walked towards the shoreline and embraced the full view of the ocean, the waves lapping in rhythmic cadence to the beating of my heart.  I was home.  Well, the home of my childhood at least.

Several weeks before the travel bans and the Covid-19 season of isolation hit us all, I had left my wintry “home” in Alberta, to come to Vancouver Island for a week-long stay.  Had I known what we would be facing when we returned home from the Island, I likely would have fretted and not enjoyed this brief sojourn.  Thankfully, we were blissfully unaware of the growing pandemic looming just over the horizon so we thoroughly enjoyed our trip, drinking in the beauty and familiarity all around us.  Truth be told, I have been a prairie girl far longer than an island girl, having lived in the Calgary area most of my adult life.  Still, whenever I have had opportunity to visit Victoria and travel up and down the Island, I always feel like I am experiencing a homecoming of sorts.  The Island is where I spent my childhood, my teen years, and three years of university before I married the love of my life and returned to Calgary to settle permanently.

I have been a landlubber in Alberta since 1979, raising my family, and enduring the long, harsh winters there.  The getaway to visit parents, friends and family on Vancouver Island has become an almost yearly trek.  It is our annual reprieve from the cold of February and March in Alberta, to embrace Spring in all its glory there on the Island.  I drink in all the green, the budding trees, the crocuses and daffodils that grow like weeds everywhere I look.  I want the sights and smells to imprint themselves on my psyche, so I can recall them vividly when I again return to my Albertan home still in the throes of winter.

Last year, we did not go to the Island.  In April last year I was experiencing a myriad of strange aches and pains that was eventually diagnosed as endometrial cancer.  Spring was all but forgotten as I fought and battled up to Christmas.  During the darkest of those days, when the battle seemed almost overwhelming, I wasn’t sure I would ever experience another spring.  I felt the icy fingers of winter engulf me, even in the heat of summer.  I tried to remain positive, leaning on God for strength through the ordeal of chemo.  Always looking towards the finish line, when I could declare the battle over, I found comfort thinking about how I would embrace life after cancer.  The first item on my “to do” list, was to plan a trip to the Island.

Wonderment.

It’s the best way to describe how I felt throughout that week on Vancouver Island.  Wonderment at experiencing Spring in all its glory there, but also wonderment at being fully alive, fully in the moment, battle-weary, but overwhelmingly thankful to be thriving, not just surviving once again!

That feeling persists.

Coming home to wintry Alberta, I didn’t complain about leaving the green of Spring there on the Island even when I saw the white drifts of snow piled up in our driveway.  I was home.  The break from winter had been refreshing, but the familiarity and peacefulness I feel here, even being in the last grips of winter chill, warms my heart like nothing else.  I remind myself that I must bloom where I am planted.  I must bloom, survive, thrive, and embrace life for as many days, weeks, and years that God gives me.

I can’t forget that.

Even in the midst of this Covid isolation, forced quarantine, and my inability to venture out because of my compromised immunity, I remind myself that this season will pass eventually.  I long to hug on my loved ones, and my arms ache to cuddle my grandbabies once again.  Still, I continue to stay positive.  I must enjoy each day as a gift from God no matter what circumstances lay before me.  I must continue to bloom, to look to the future, and be thankful.

After all, I praise God every day that I can bloom at all!

Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and at lynndove.com   

*This post was originally published on InScribe Writers Online.

Posted in Canadiana, Family Life, Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts | 3 Comments

What Day Is This?

As the snow fell heavily yesterday here in Alberta, blanketing everything in white once again, I couldn’t help but think that this was our 106th day of January! I actually laughed out loud when I heard officials had placed fire bans on 60% of the province, in an effort to circumvent human-caused forest fires during the Covid-19 pandemic. We like to be overly cautious here in Alberta, but with snow starting to drift in our driveway, this latest precaution struck me as a little over-the-top.

It’s been over a month since we all went into lock-down. There seems to be some success in “flattening the curve” as health and political leaders like to say. There are fewer cases of people diagnosed with Covid-19, and thankfully there were no virus-related deaths recorded yesterday in the province. The snow has likely helped with people staying home to stop the spread of this virus, but as officials point out daily, it is imperative we stay the course even when the weather improves. My son-in-law-to-be said in response to those who may be restless to get back to normal activities right away, “The curve is flattening: we can start lifting restrictions now = the parachute has slowed our rate of descent; we can take it off now.” Good analogy! If government officials relax the social/physical distancing rules too soon, we will have a second wave of infection. Best to just tough it out now.

Easier said than done!

I woke up this morning having no idea what day it was. My calendar used to be filled with activities, appointments, coffee chats with friends, family gatherings, date nights with my sweetie, and now it’s completely blank. It’s weird.

I force myself to get up the same time every morning, make my bed, and after my morning devotions, set a goal to do at least one thing productive during the course of the day. My Covid-cleaning spree continues. I pace myself because I want something to do each day. The other day it was cleaning by hand my self-cleaning oven. Seriously, every closet, cupboard, and drawer in my house has been emptied, sorted out, and re-organized so well it would make Marie Kondo proud. My husband hasn’t retired yet, but has almost completed all the projects he had planned to do in his retirement years. I’ve started thinking up make-work projects for him to do just to keep him occupied. The other day he ripped out a closet in our bedroom that has needed remodelling for over twenty years…’nuff said.

We have binge-watched all the Star Trek series, listened to online sermons on YouTube, discovered all the Carol Burnett shows on Amazon Prime, and finished The Crown on Netflix. We have overdosed on what the networks still refer to as “Breaking News”. I come down the stairs each morning to find my husband already parked in front of his computer.

“Good morning,” I say. “ What’s up?”

“It’s all over the news,” he looks bored. “There’s a virus going ‘round.”

“ Anything else going on in the world?” I say in response, replaying our game each day.

“ Nope.” He says.

And it’s true.

Locally, there are no more sports scores to report, no concerts to review. No Olympics, no parades, no special events to cover. Here in Alberta, despite the fresh snow, all ski hills are closed, provincial and national parks too. Campgrounds, playgrounds and fairgrounds are all closed. Schools, libraries, recreation centres, gyms, pools, and museums are empty. Businesses are shuttered, and grocery store shelves are bare. It is our new normal.

If I focus on all the turmoil in the world today because of this pandemic I will spiral into depression. We are told by health experts to guard our mental health during this time of isolation. I understand that. It is important for me to turn off the news sometimes and immerse myself in God’s Word instead. In our ever-changing world, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know God is in control despite what the circumstances may look like in the world today. I have learned that God sometimes places me in out-of-control situations just to teach me that He’s in control.

I am sure there will be many lessons He will teach me as we journey through this time together. I pray for a teachable spirit, and a willingness to follow wherever He leads me. Amen?

Amen!

Posted in Proverbs 16:9 - Journey Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment