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Happy Birthday Little Brother

Dear Littlest Brother Jared,

I don’t know why, but somehow in the recesses of my mind, certain days stand out to me, and I wake up just a little bit off kilter. Today is one of those days. This morning I rolled over, turned off my alarm and it hit is your birthday. You would have been 38 yrs. old today. For most people 38 would be nothing to them. It’s not even middle age. But for you and those who have loved you, it would have been 4 more years of laughter and bear hugs and silly stories to recount. For me, it would be the usual call I would make to you, wishing you a happy birthday. At which point you would say something like “Oh yeah, and happy birthday to you too. I was going to call you. I swear!” I would of course laugh, knowing perfectly well that you always forget my birthday, but that I love you just the same.

I thought today instead of writing about anything specific, I would write a letter to you, telling you all about the past year. Much to my surprise there have been a few adventures worth noting.

Well, 2022 started off for me on a bit of a low note. For the first time in many years, I found myself job hunting, which is always stressful! It didn’t take me long to find a new role, which as it turns out is far better than my last one. Through this experience I did learn that no matter how kind or how hard you work, you still must guard yourself. One of my greatest faults is that of someone who trusts far too easily and in turn others think it is an invitation to walk all over me. Not so! I allowed myself to become friends with colleagues and that trust was misplaced. I can’t say that I am surprised, but more disappointed than anything. People that I had allowed into my life and who had seen me go through the loss of you and Dad in the past few years, suddenly were like strangers to me. They became so self-involved and cared only about status, money, and the things they could buy, while the people who helped them get to where they are were walked all over. It was a hard lesson to learn, but in the end has opened doors for me that I wouldn’t have even explored before. (Plus, I have always believed in Karma and take comfort in the knowledge that life tends to balance it all out in the end.)

As I previously said, I started a new role at a new company for which I am better suited. All those little tidbits of info and the years of training have finally allowed me to be able to share that knowledge with others. I am working as a resource to others by training and advocating on their behalf, alongside a great management team. You would be proud of your big sis, I think.

One of the parts of my role is to visit various branches of our company around Alberta and I had the chance to go down to Southern Alberta where I was able to take some time out to see Grandpa W. Is he not the sweetest man you ever known?! I know it comes as no surprise to you because you adored Grandpa as well, but man is he interesting. When I was there visiting him, I realized how very much I do not know about him and the life he has led. For example, for some reason I thought he spent his career as an Accountant. Don’t ask me why, I totally got that one wrong! As we sat and discussed his life and his career as a Social Worker and such, I began to see another side of this great man. The stories he was telling were sometimes funny, but many were also sad. Stories of broken families and a lack of resources at times to effectively advocate and help them. Grandpa has always been a somewhat reserved man in my eyes. Kind and gentle. The type of man who you can tell him anything and he doesn’t seem shocked or fazed by it. He just gently listens and offers what he can in the way of a kind word, or even a stern reprimand, but never cruel. After visiting with him for a couple of hours I must admit that I didn’t want to leave. I could have sat there talking with him for days and not have grown tired of his anecdotes and the profound sense of peace that being in his presence does. If I had to describe it in words, being around Grandpa always feels like home. Warmth and safety. How did we get so lucky?! I know you get what I am talking about. We have been so lucky in our family. So many others have never known what it is like to be loved as we have been.

The past year I have been trying to focus on my mental health and keeping sane in a somewhat chaotic world presently. With COVID-19 and all the illness and times we have had to lockdown at home, I have been feeling a bit couped up and anxious. It has been that way for a lot of people, and I am not sure how everyone is coping, but I have felt an increase in the days I am low. So, I have been trying to get out, breathe some fresh air, read an enjoyable book, do a bit of travelling if possible. I have been lucky enough to get to head out to BC quite often and to soak up some sunshine and views of the water. What is it about sitting beside any body of water and the feeling of calmness and rejuvenation to my soul? Did you feel like that when you sat beside a body of water? I dream of a day when I can afford a lovely place that looks out onto a lake or a river and being able to wander down to its shores every day. Wouldn’t that be restorative?!

I finally allowed myself to fall into the Instagram trap and as such, I have been following several interesting people. I have made sure to only follow people who are friends/family and those who provide uplifting and fun content. There is enough negative shit out there. It’s of no interest to me to see all these different people who must spend hours every day touching up photos or trying to get the perfect shot. God, forbid we don’t look perfect all the time. LOL. The story of my life. 😊 You know me, and pictures have a somewhat love/hate relationship. Like I said, there are some really cool people worth following. I’ll list a few of my faves:

  • jameelajamil – Her podcast iweigh and the issues she tackles are so interesting and varied.

  • somefrenchienamedapollo – The videos are hilarious, and I am obsessed with the cute dogs.

  • chasing.sage - You would love these videos. This family is so down to earth and the way they engage their children in sports and the time they spend together is so amazing. I would hope I would be this cool if I were lucky enough to have kids. #parentinggoals

  • stayunbounded – This is a community of people that offer lifestyle experiences and sharing of knowledge for a lot of great natural therapies such as Cold Therapy, breathwork and more.

  • elyse_meyers – This woman is brilliant. I have lost track of the number of times that people have told me I am “too much.” She has the perfect solution for that - “Go Find Less” Need I say more?! Her humor and genuine kindness shine through on all her posts, and she is so fun to watch and listen to. You’d love her.

I was able to attend Allie’s wedding at the beginning of June and it was a mishmash of emotions for me. When I found out that Allie was getting married, I was so happy for her, as I know you would be too. She is so lovely in every way, and I know you must have had a hand in her finding love again. She asked me to be a part of her wedding party, which was so sweet, and I could never say to no to family. I flew out to Toronto a couple of days before the ceremony to visit and tie up any loose ends before the wedding day. You know the drill... pedis, manis, make the bridesmaid dress fits me and I am not traumatizing small children if my boobs pop out of my dress. (They stayed in place, thank God) I got to see Allies family and hang out with so many of her friends as well. Everywhere I went there was someone there ready to relate a story to me about you and how much they cared for you. I know exactly how they felt. So much so, that I was in a constant state of laughter and tears those first couple of days. The day of the wedding was beautiful (I know you know, because I felt you there) and by the end of the day I was ready to take off my heels and crash, which is exactly what I did. I would go further into detail, but some things that are felt and said are too important to share. Nonetheless, I know you were close by and that I was where I was supposed to be.

The day after the wedding was the anniversary of your burial. 4 years have passed in the blink of an eye. A few close family and friends went and visited your gravesite, and I was able to have a few moments alone to reflect on you and remember. You are missed baby brother. You know that, but it doesn’t ever hurt to say it aloud. Grief is truly not a finite state, it ebbs and flows and never fully goes away, but I am glad it does not. How would I know how good I have it if I didn’t experience loss? (Although, I could handle a bit more spacing out of the loss, as a car accident, losing you and losing Dad, all in a matter of 4 years seems unfair.)

I also was able to see a Blue Jays games with your nephew Xander and my new friend Taylor, which was awesome!! Great seats and great company made for an amazing night. The Jays lost (of course), but we had a fun time, and it was not a bad way to end my brief trip out East.

Not too long after I got back from the wedding, I had the opportunity to go to Austin, Texas for work. I had never been to Texas, and I have to say, I did not know a whole lot about Austin or the surrounding area. In-between meetings and sightseeing I was able to relax a bit and enjoy the awesome atmosphere. There is a sort of energy that Austin has and every single person I met was kind. From the hotel staff to the waitstaff to the people I meet at the local bookstore, they were all friendly! My first night in Austin I was able to attend a book signing that was taking place across the street from my hotel for “Radical Love” authored by Zachary Levi. A strange, but welcome coincidence as I am a fan of Zachary’s work in film and as an advocate for mental health awareness. This proved to be one of a couple of happy coincidence to happen while there. The book signing started with a brief introduction provided by Jared Padalecki and a bit of a question period between Zachary and Jared. It proved very interesting, and I met some great people there who gave me a million ideas of what I HAD to do while visiting the area. (I only had a couple of days 😊) There were a lot of people at the signing and as such, there was truly little conversation had between Zachary and the people looking to get their books signed. By the time I made it to the front of the line, I am sure Zachary was running out of steam and truly little other than “Hi, how are you? Thanks.” was expressed in the brief encounter. It was nice to meet him very briefly and to get to read his book. (Which I would recommend)

You would have loved the record store I found the next day while wandering around. I was told I had to check out this bookstore called “BookPeople” and in my wanderings I found this place called “Waterloo Records.” I could have spent days in there checking out the different vinyl records and merchandise they had. I limited myself to a few t-shirts that would easily fit in my luggage and then moved on to the bookstore. Once again, I found myself having to limit myself to a couple of items that may (barely) fit in my suitcase to take home. I have to say, I did not realize that walking everywhere was a big no-no. It is so friggin hot and what I consider a short walk, when done in that heat became a marathon. Sweat, drink water, sweat and a lot more water... They should issue a “Do not go outside without a gallon of water” warning when you get off the plane in Texas.

I had one day in Texas where I had little to do, so I took the advice of a nice woman whom I met at the book signing and I visited a local community Bastrop, TX. Seeing as it was almost the 4th of July in the USA, I was able to catch a couple of the festivities that were going on, including a small Canada Day celebration. I walked the main street in Bastrop and went in to some awesome shoppes and stores. My favourites were this interior decorating shoppe called “B&W Interiors” and a clothing boutique called “Daniela Vlad Design Studio & Boutique.” There we so many beautiful pieces in both places that I wish I could take home. I walked along the Colorado River for a bit, and it was lovely. I also was screamed at by a tiny person for almost stepping on a tiny turtle I did not see. She was not impressed with me, and I do not blame her! I had no clue I almost squashed a turtle. (Man, would that suck!) I apologized to her, and the tiny turtle before sitting down at “Neighbor’s Kitchen & Yard” for a drink (or 4) as well as a small pizza. I sat on the patio at the restaurant and admired the sunset over the Colorado River. You know me, water + me = contentment. I ended my night at a local pub “Old Town Restaurant & Bar” with a couple of drinks and karaoke. Yup, you would have been proud baby bro, your big sis sang in front of a whole bunch of people she did not know, which probably made it a bit easier, I think. Plus, it helped that most were drunk. LOL

The next day I headed to the Austin Airport for my flight home to the land of much less heat and loads more mosquitoes. I don’t usually fly Business or First Class, but I had received an email from the airline the night before asking if I would like to upgrade to Frist class for $30, so I took it. When I boarded the plane in Austin there was a nice-looking guy in my row and an older lady sitting in my seat. I checked my ticket again and then went ahead to ask the lady if perhaps she had the wrong seat?! She seemed to be more annoyed than flustered but admitted she must have sat in the wrong seat. I didn’t really think much of it, other than noticing her correct seat wasn’t even in first class. The good-looking guy let me pass to get seated by the window and we chatted a bit making small talk. Nothing major. Just chatting about Austin and what I did there, where I am from, etc. When I said I was Canadian he and I started talking about BC as he said he had worked there a lot and thought it was beautiful. I had to agree, it certainly is. When I asked what he did for work he said, “Oh, I work in the film industry.” I said “Cool, would I have seen anything you’ve done?” He kind of laughed and said “maybe.” Of course, now I looked at him a little bit harder and just as it dawned on me, he told me his name was Jensen Ackles. Yeah, that guy. I had absolutely no clue I was talking to him for like 10 minutes. LOL. You would have appreciated that coincidence, which also explains why the older lady tried to sit in my seat and was annoyed when asked to move. She obviously noticed, what I had not. I apologized for not realizing who he was and regaled him with my adventures in Austin and Bastrop. He was kind and when I talked about going to the book signing for Zachary Levi, he told me he was supposed to be there, but something had come up. Cool huh?! Yeah, I left him alone after that as I could see he was trying to remain low key and I did not think drawing attention to him would be helpful. It was a cool coincidence though and I did get the low down on if I could refer to Zachary Levi as Zach. He said “yes.” **I make note of this because I previously met a young woman named Clara this year who implied that I should not call him Zach. (She was a bit loopy, but harmless.) **

The rest of my summer has flown by with not too much to tell. I made it out to Penticton, BC a couple of times and on my last trip there in August I was able to see Allie a couple of times. Her hubby was working on a film out there and she was there doing a bit of work as well, plus having a mini vacation. We had a great dinner at a local winery on the holiday Monday and then Allie and I spent the day together in Kelowna later on that week. It was so nice to see her twice in such a brief period of time and we had a good visit. We even visited her hubby Stephen on set for a bit and it was cool to see behind the scenes and how that works. I even caught a glimpse of another actor on set and most importantly I met the star (in my eyes) of the show Fancy Pants – the dog. And the coolest dog at that!

Well little brother, that’s about it for updates on my oh so exciting life this year. Tons of joy and the tiniest bit of sorrow. How life should be. Although I am happy to do without the sorrow if you have any influence up there!

I love you always Jared and think of you every day. Do me a favour, give Dad a huge bear hug for me and have a wonderful birthday.

Much Love, Big Sis

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