40 in 36

"You know what my greatest personal stumbling block is? My shyness." - Susan Lucci


40 in 37

My mom was the homemade-cookies kinda mom. No store-bought cookies were sent in our lunch pails - not until we were older and the time came when buying pre-packaged baked goods became cheaper than actually making them yourself. I was always envious of those kids who pulled out the crisp, black and white Oreo cookie from their Star Wars lunch pails. The dull, brown homemade peanut butter cookie that came out of my Holly Hobbie lunch pail certainly paled in comparison. Oh, what I wouldn't give to trade for one of those store-bought beauties? How far would I go to get me some mass-produced baking? I'd ditch my little brother in the streets of Hensall, that's how far!

It was a beautiful sunny day, and all the kids in the neighbourhood were outside playing in the cul-de-sac. It was the perfect spot to play - quiet, no traffic, all the parents could keep an eye out for our shenanigans. We must have grown bored with the game we were playing at the time - probably Dukes of Hazzard on our bikes - because one of the kids asked if I wanted to go back to his house for a snack, a snack I knew would have come from the store. Well, my little brother caught wind of this plan and wanted to come along. I had no interest in sharing this moment with him, so off we ran, leaving him in the dust. He tried to keep up, but we were older and faster. We left him in the dust. He finally caught up to us as we sat in the neighbour's kitchen eating Fudgee-os. Fudgee-os! Oh the rich, chocolately deliciousness. I had never had them before in my life and I enjoyed every bite as my brother kicked and cried at the front screen door. Completely ignoring him, I ate the last of the cookies before we waltzed out of the house, ready to play again. I can't stand the taste of Fudgee-os anymore - guilty?


40 in 38

"Friends will come and go, but you will always have your brothers and sisters." If I had a dollar for every time that phrase was repeated by either of my parents, I'd be a wealthy woman. This was one of their more subtle ways of guilting us into liking one another. To stop beating each other up, to stop being mean to one another, to stop fighting! With kids all growing and changing and being and trying to figure out how to just live together and not get lost in the shuffle, there were bound to be scuffles...lots of them! But of course, we didn't really get what they were trying to say to us - no matter how many times they said it, friends were way cooler than stinky, annoying brothers, and sometimes it was just plain entertaining to come up with new ways to push my sisters' buttons!

I'm the oldest of this family of five children. No, there was rarely a quiet moment in this house of three girls and two boys - but don't we look perfectly angelic in our Sunday best circa 1985? Don't be fooled. I'm sure the car ride home from this church family photo shoot left one of us in tears and another being ordered to his or her bedroom as soon as we got home. But we did love each other. I'm sure of that now. And while I spent many a brooding moment holed up in my room fantasizing what it would be like to be an only child, I now appreciate what my parents warned, you will always have your brothers and sisters and I'm pretty darn thankful to have mine. 

Now that I have two kids of my own who have known their fair share of battles, I honestly don't know how my parents survived us. And sometimes when I'm at my wits end, guess what I tell them?


40 in 39

My parents moved into a brand-spanking new home on a quiet cul-de-sac in the village of Hensall when I was about two. It's a beautiful, open-concept home that they still live in, although they are currently in the process of down-sizing. This space is central to most of my earlier memories, and despite the fact I almost died at the hands of this house, it will always be home.

Part of the open-concept design is a large, open stairwell that runs between the main floor and the basement. It's funny how memories blur together, isn't it? I remember a time when a family friend taught me how to slide down the banister of this great staircase. And I have in my mind that's what I was trying to do when I fell, but a two-year-old couldn't remember that, could they? Or am I remembering another moment? However it happened, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to climb the banister that separated the living room from the 9-foot drop into the basement. That's right, there was a time in my life when I actually had no fear! Down I went, landing on the basement floor. From the marks across my forehead, I apparently bounced off the edges of the wooden stairs before hitting the concrete floor at the bottom. Obviously I survived. And miraculously, I walked away with nothing but a mild concussion. My parents talk of having to keep me awake through the night and all the work that comes from caring for a concussed person. The rest of my family teases that knowing this happened to me explains so much! They're funny, aren't they?


40 in 40

I love hearing other people's stories. There's something about hearing snippets of a person's life that deepens that connection for me. I know as a child, I could not get enough of listening to family members tell their stories and memories of growing up. Some of them I had heard many times before, but that didn't matter to me. There was always a new detail added that I had never heard before or something that I had forgotten. I gobbled it all up! And I still do! 

In 40 days, I turn 40. I'm not sad or down about rolling into a new decade. I mean, the 30s were great and all, but oh so flipping exhausting with having babies and raising kids and losing jobs and just trying to keep my head above water. But as I look forward to this new decade that awaits me, I can't help but look back. I've spent some time over the last several months reflecting on my life. Not in a way that's filled with regrets and should-haves and wishes that I had made different choices. But simply reflecting on and remembering my stories. The events in my life that shaped me into the person that is ready to grab 40 by the horns. And with that, I'm embarking on a bit of a project. 40 stories in 40 days. Here it goes!

I was born Amy Rebecca Neilands on June 26, 1973. There was nothing hugely eventful about my birth, other than I came earlier than expected interrupting my mom's last day of work at Hensall Public School (impatient right from the get-go), and my dad missed the momentous occasion. This being my parents' first, I guess he was told there would be lots of time before I would arrive, so he figured he could finish up his golf game before heading to the hospital. Or so I've been told. I'm guessing it was a beautiful day if golf was on the agenda.(I stand corrected, he wasn't golfing but trying to get errands finished before their lives changed forever!)  And doesn't that look like a beautiful day when the above pic was taken of a first-time mom gazing lovingly at her first born? Of course, now that I'm all grown up and have been that first-time mom, I can almost read my mom's thoughts on that beautiful day. "Holy crap, now what?" Actually, she wouldn't have used such profanity...I'm the potty mouth. But that's a story for another time. 


the calm after the storm

The fighting is exhausting. Going out to cut the first of rhubarb lifted my spirits and I'm eagerly awaiting the quiet so I can put my feet up with red wine and fresh-baked muffin.


in bloom

Pausing to capture spring blooming all over made all the difference to my day.