Erin's Journals

Monday, May 27, 2024

Just a thought… If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. [Maya Angelou]

As we approach these final days of May and head into the sweet month of June and my favourite season, there are changes in the wind, of which you know if you follow here. (Twitter length: after four years here, our grandkids and their parents are moving back to Ontario in the week ahead.)

To mitigate the sadness, as is our way (what we did after losing Lauren – leaving the area), Rob and I decided to start a fresh chapter: last Thursday we took possession of a condo on the oceanfront in Sidney-by-the-Sea, about a ten-minute drive from our current home, which went up for sale the same day.

But there’s an emotional speed bump that we didn’t foresee: the effect that selling this house would have on the kids, especially Colin, who’s older and more in touch with his developing emotions. He told us he was bummed that we’re leaving this place. And after thinking about it, it became crystal clear to me as to why.

When I was a kid in a Canadian Armed Forces family, we moved around a lot. In Grade Five I was in three different schools in separate locales: England, Alberta and Ontario. (I’ve always used that year as an excuse for my sub-par math skills.)

The constant in my childhood was my grandparents’ home in Turner Valley, Alberta. Thanks to a free seat on a military 7o7 or Hercules transport plane (loud and uncomfortable but the price was right), I’d get to visit them many summers and stay for weeks on end.

It was in their tiny turquoise house below a golf course, at the end of a rough, pitted road that flooded over seemingly every spring thanks to the nearby Sheep Creek, that some of my best adolescent memories were made. Whether they were learning to golf, getting my feet wet (figuratively) playing bridge with my grandmother and her friends on ladies’ day at the club, or getting wet (literally) at the town pool – arrived at by crossing a decrepit and scary swinging foot bridge – days were filled with a hammock full of moments that stayed with me for life.

When I was an adult, Rob and I made one of our pilgrimages back to Alberta and drove the hour or so from Calgary to the tiny oil town of my and my parents’ childhoods. We had arranged with the new owner of that old turquoise house for us to pay a visit; I wanted to go inside and experience the place again.

When we pulled off the still-awful road and into the driveway, I saw that the house exterior had changed. Of course it had! They’d put on beige siding and modernized the place that my grandfather had built himself back in the 1930s.

That’s when my heart dropped into my stomach. If the outside had been altered, what had they done inside the house?

Were the checkerboard tiles, on which I could still hear my grandmother’s Tender Tootsies clacking as she made popcorn on her gas stove, still in the kitchen? Was the old piano, around which we had gathered for music nights with a guitar (or two), sax and microphones, still there? Were the bathroom sink and tub still that pastel green? And the big fridge with the sideways lever handle – had it gone, too?

Of course they probably had, but I didn’t want to see for myself. I wanted to protect my memories, just as Colin wanted always to picture us living in the house where Jane first crawled, and where he and his sister played hockey, baseball, soccer, UNO and Bingo with us for hours on end. He wants to remember the dogs excitedly running up and down the halls when their own dog, Sammy, arrived. He wanted to remember the birthdays and Christmases, the shared meals and the raucous laughter.

These are all things we want to remember, too. And we will try hard to make sure that the new place is fun for them if and when they come to visit.

We’ve tried to explain to him that we couldn’t stay here for the exact reasons he wants us to: the memories. Even the sweetest stories have to come to an end, but we can have a hand in making sure the ending is a happier one.

And the best news? On the weekend we took the kids to the condo and they absolutely LOVED it. Playing hide and seek in its bathrooms, closets and storage spaces, running around and exploring and discovering, a big game of softball out on the lawn between our building and the ocean with our friend Nancy’s two grandsons? New memories are already being made!

Enjoy new weekly episodes of Gracefully & Frankly at – free, as always, thanks to SierraSil and enVypillow. Your stories, our voices. And do write to us there anytime at We love when you’re a part of the show.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, May 27, 2024
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Monday, May 13, 2024

Just a thought… What’s meant to be will always find a way. [Trisha Yearwood]

Well, my friend, that was a weekend! Starting with my very first sighting of the northern lights (albeit muted) and ending with exhaustion last night after cleaning our downstairs apartment, stem to stern, as we prepare for video and photos by the realtor later this week. In between all of the awe and ouches, though, were some moments of pure magic. And those are what I choose to share with you today.

With the weeks slipping by as our grandkids and their parents prepare to leave the province in early June, Rob and I have made an even more concerted effort to make memories with Colin and Jane. Above and beyond the movie and game nights and outdoor sports play that accompany all of their weekly sleep-overs, we have embraced spoiling them with dinners out and special activities that they’ll (hopefully) remember.

On Saturday the sun was shining and it was gorgeous. We had requested that the kids wake up here that morning to make sure we were too busy to be sad on the ninth anniversary of our daughter’s passing. My little plan worked: first, it was a visit to Lauren’s bench, where Colin left a rose he had chosen.

But then we shared some much more light-hearted activities: a playground visit and picnic, followed by volleyball, plus time spent making sand sculptures and tossing around a ball on the beach as herons waded and the sun shone on our perfect day.

After the younger of my two favourite boys had finished collecting shells, Rob and Colin tossed a ball around.

That same ball was later put to use for some sandy volleyball, and yes I did join in later, but that sand was hot!

Later, after Rob accidentally slipped on the ball he was trying to kick at Colin in a makeshift soccer game, they both went down – Colin in sympathy with his Grandude.

Over the years, you’ve read about our grandson plenty, both here and in my 2019 bestselling book Mourning Has Broken: Love, Loss and Reclaiming Joy (which I was thrilled to learn this week is still being read in book clubs). But our granddaughter Jane is growing into such a lovely girl: as beautiful inside as she is on the outside, who gives the best hugs, holds my hand tightly and becomes sweeter every hour we spend with her. Even after this…

…turns into this.

We count ourselves so fortunate to have had these four years as both children have grown into the young people they are, and we can only hope that even though the distance between us will increase unbearably, our closeness will also continue to develop, in different ways. Love always finds a way, and we’ll do all we can to make sure ours makes its way to them, no matter where they are.

After all, there are beaches in Ottawa, too, I know, and plenty more memories to be made down the road, no matter how long that road becomes.

Have a gentle week as we ease towards a long weekend ahead. I’ll take next Monday off from journaling and give your eyes a break, always posting on Facebook at and Instagram and Threads @erindawndavis.

Meantime, don’t miss this Thursday’s Episode 73 of Gracefully & Frankly (free as always), when Lisa and I discuss something that traumatized us both last week. Seriously. I almost posted to get your opinion on it here, but I think we’ll wait until you’ve heard both sides of our story. It’s a doozy. Talk soon!

Rob WhiteheadMonday, May 13, 2024
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Monday, May 6, 2024

Just a thought… The biggest mistake is you think you have time. Time is free, but it’s priceless. [Buddha]

The days ahead are full – so busy with pre-listing home pandemonium and getting the place ready for photos and video tomorrow that we called the realtor and asked for another week. Panic averted.

Of course, the week is heavy on the heart, too, with May 11, our daughter’s day of leaving this life, and then Mother’s Day the following day looming. But we’re keeping busy, busy, busy. It helps, somewhat. That is, when we’re not melting down. SERENITY NOW!!!

As I’ve packed and sorted, I’ve had a lot of time to think. Not all of the thoughts are cheery today, but if I can’t be real here, on my own blog, I don’t know where I can.

With that in mind, some observations:

In addition to gift bags I mentioned last week, it seems I am unable to throw away something that has been framed. It must be precious, right? Whether it’s a certificate for “best this-or-that” or a photo of which I’m not overly fond, I’ve carted those things across the country (and from home to home when we were in the GTA) for, oh, two decades. So on the weekend, I painstakingly emptied the frames and loaded them into boxes for donation.

I’ve even started to give away or toss things from Lauren’s childhood: stuffed toys, a plate with her time and date of birth on it, a Precious Moments birthday train we added to year after year, a little snow globe with a girl on a fence and the caption “What will I grow up to be?” on it. We got our answer, and that is enough.

All of these mementoes, trinkets and items that were special once deserve to be loved by someone else, where appropriate. By holding on to them by the boxful, we’re only leaving someone else to toss them when we move on.

Another thought: do people who are younger than we are have any idea how much care homes cost? We’re looking at a private place for my dad that promises to cost at least $11,000 a month, all in. Even with a lifetime of frugality, good earning and shrewd investing, Dad could live there for only three years before his money is gone.

There’s public care, but it is harder to get into than Harvard, and there are many folks further along in their health deterioration than Dad. As he’s a veteran, we could apply to a place for them near us here on the island, but the waiting list is probably longer than his life span (and maybe ours), and he has to be hospitalized before they’ll consider admitting him.

What a situation we’re all in now! It’s like no one we elected 20 or even 30 years ago listened to the studies saying that there was going to be this massive silver tsunami in demographics as Boomers aged. Honestly, I’m starting to think I’ll check out before I let myself run out of funds late in my life. Dark? You bet. But realistic, too.

When you’re 20, you think 40 is old. When you’re 40 you think your whole life is mostly still ahead (and, usually, it is). But time goes faster than any of us can imagine, and soon you’re moving for the umpteenth time and packing up your memories for the dump or for charity. Who ever saves for a decade (or longer) of senior care at the end of the road? My dad did: he paid into a type of insurance for years. And what’s his dividend? $2000 a month. That won’t even get you in the door.

What on earth are the people who can’t afford a place to live now going to do in forty or fifty years?

And why are we trying to extend our lives, if they won’t be worth living?

All questions to which I have no answer. I count our blessings that Rob and I have security now and hopefully well into the future. We’re the lucky ones. We keep telling ourselves that.

Except,” as we always add, “for that one thing.

May this week treat you well. I’ll have a new much happier version of our podcast Gracefully & Frankly with Lisa Brandt this Thursday (Episode 72). We always laugh together; our half hour is a bright spot amidst the packing paper and memories, the decisions and the fatigue. May our time together each week be something you look forward to as much as we do. And Happy Mother’s Day – in whatever form it takes in your heart.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, May 6, 2024
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Monday, April 29, 2024

Just a thought… Optimism isn’t a belief that things will automatically get better; it’s a conviction that we can make things better. [Melinda Gates]

If I titled these journals, which I don’t, I think I’d call it “My Life in a Gift Bag.”

As we continue to sort and donate (including to – details in a video tomorrow on their weekend pickups all summer), I found myself on Saturday in the laundry room, knee-deep in piles of gift bags.

About three-quarters of them were Christmas bags: some had been labelled and relabelled, some used only once. A few had the store-attached labels on them filled out, but most were in good or fair condition.

I piled them according to their destination: new condo (see last week’s journal here if you missed the story of why and where), donation pile, and garbage or recycling. Here are a few favourites that made the “condo” pile. Bought these ones full price – and you know how rare that can be in these dollar store days!

As I posted on FB Saturday, someone needs to stage an intervention the next time I find myself carefully peeling off a label and tucking that bag away. And then I wondered what it is about gift bags that tells me something about myself, and I figured it out: it plays perfectly into the whole idea of who I am.

I am, as I’ve often said here, the kid digging in the pile of manure who’s sure there’s a pony in there somewhere. I have this uncanny (and often unfounded) sense of optimism that is enough to drive Rob crazy: when the Amazon truck comes, I think it might be a gift. When someone arrives at the door, I wonder if perhaps it’s flowers.

I think that the reason I hold on to the bags is because I am always expecting happy events: ones where you would give a gift to someone you love. Maybe there’d be one in return – it doesn’t matter. My outlook is often disgustingly, impossibly cheery.

Then there’s the other part of saving bags. When I took the time to read some of the labels, to make sure that I wasn’t donating ones that had someone’s writing on them, I was taken back to family events of 10, 15 years ago: there was the name of nieces with whom we haven’t shared a Christmas in that long a time, a bag for my aunt (how I ended up with the bag, I’m not sure, but I’m pretty good at squirrelling them away before the recipient knows they’re missing) and, of course, the labels on which we’d written our late daughter’s name.

One very small one had a sticker on it upon which I’d written “Open Me Last.” Was it her “big” gift that year? A cellphone, perhaps? A message that told her where to go look for a surprise gift that wasn’t under the tree? I couldn’t recall and wish that I could. Or maybe not.

As our family Christmases likely come to an end this year (we’ll probably go east in the fall for birthdays and Thanksgiving) I wonder about whether we’ll be somewhere warm for the holidays, if Rob takes hockey retirement or a hiatus. I can’t picture anything beyond trying to get the house ready for listing right now, but time will march on, as it tends to do.

As with all things in life, we don’t know what lies ahead: what challenges, what changes – and always – what gifts.

So I’ll pack away a few and hope to fill them with the ideas of happy moments that still lie ahead. Memories yet to be made, for many years to come. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a pony to find.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, April 29, 2024
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Monday, April 22, 2024

Just a thought… Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change. [Jim Rohn]

Wow! Who knew at this age I could find a NEW addiction? Turns out it’s selling on FaceBook Marketplace. Now, I have my challenges: for one thing, I have several FB accounts (public, family only, the old one that anchors them all – don’t ask) so I have trouble getting in and out of the selling spot, but I have mostly figured it out and it’s working! We’ve been selling pieces of furniture of all sizes, most of which we moved from Ontario and have rarely used as they lived in the basement.

You know, stuff like that. And then there was this glistening antique table with flaps that fold down to make it super narrow; the perfect piece of furniture in a not-overly-roomy house years ago. It, too, sat unused downstairs here in BC and then made its way into the apartment down there as a desk. It sold too (a real bargain at $200).

But here’s the “eek” story we were told when we bought this from an antique dealer on Bayview or Mount Pleasant in Toronto: in its previous life, it was a coroner’s table. Thus the flaps that dropped at the sides. So I told the lady who bought it, “If you cook as badly as I do, it won’t be the worst thing that table has seen!” She laughed…and believe me, I sussed her out before telling her that story. Didn’t want to sink the sale!

Speaking of sunken sales, after a really good yard sale day on Saturday (the neighbourhood is allowed one per year) I had a really bad experience with a Facebook Marketplace customer. I’ll fill you in on Thursday’s Episode 70 of Gracefully & Frankly. I have to get to another topic here now.

All of this sales talk is to tell you that we are leaving this glorious quiet neighbourhood with its views of mountains, oceans, deer, flowering trees and, yes, Victoria International airport’s comings and goings for a place with ocean and a marina and restaurants out our windows.

As we did when we left Ontario in 2016, we weren’t just going to let unfortunate life changes come without taking control and writing a new chapter. So Rob and I have purchased a condo overlooking the ocean in nearby idyllic Sidney-by-the-Sea. It’s walkable, so much more cycle-able than up here on the mountain, and closer to our friends, now that family is moving away.

Did we consider moving to Ontario? That would seem a no-brainer, but not even for a moment. We both want to live out our days in British Columbia, surrounded by natural beauty (and yes, we know our home province has plenty of that, too) and serenity. What we couldn’t do is stay in a home where three bedrooms had been designated for children to sleep and play in; the sadness of our situation was not going to singe us, so we moved through the flames and found a new place to grow old(er). Top floor, great views, next door neighbours we already know (!) and just a super friendly, liveable location. Although, I will have to stop walking the dogs in the dark in my pyjamas, lest people recognize me for the crazy lady I actually am.

We take possession in a month and haven’t even listed our house yet. I don’t know how we’re going to get through the next month-and-a-half, but when we left Toronto, we had two places to sort, clear out and move (condo and cottage) so we’ve done this before. We have a storage unit and stuff is going in there before the house pictures are taken. I’d like to say it’s our last move, but we said that about the house we so love that we’re in right now. So we’ll see.

Yes, we’re busy. Thankfully, for what we don’t sell or choose to donate, is starting regular weekend drop-offs as of May 4. I’ll tell you more about that soon – and again, wish us luck!

Rob WhiteheadMonday, April 22, 2024
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