happy birthday to my favourite person in the whole entire world! i am so lucky you’re my best friend…for now.

from inside jokes, to the same obsessions, to being spontaneous and adventurous and saying yes to my crazy ideas, i wouldn’t change a moment of it.

wishing you the most incredible day and i can’t wait to see you in two weeks!

it’s no secret that i have a huge crush on the mountains. be it hiking, retreating, or even just taking in all the pretty, the Rockies are my go-to place for any road trip.

but when my car officially bit the bullet in the spring (17 years, RIP Mabel), i was left with only a bus pass to my name.

my summer was spent relying on friends to take me out to the beauty, and i had to stifle my constant urge to just play hooky from work on a gorgeous afternoon to get out and back before the sunset. i’m sure my boss did appreciate that fact, though.

every year when sister comes to visit for my birthday, we’ve explored a different area of the Rockies. i was in a major panic trying to figure out what we could do carless. no one comes to calgary to just stay in calgary. plus, sister has probably explored more of calgary than most locals.

that’s when Lincoln Motor Company Canada came to the rescue to get me back out in nature to explore my happy places.

with the keys to a 2017 Lincoln Continental in our hands, sister and i dove into planning the most perfect birthday mountain getaway. it would include pretty things, and hiking, great hotels, hot tubs, and larches. oh, the larches!

dad had a continental while we were growing up, but back in the 90s it felt more like a boat and less like a luxury. it was a car for older men. from 2003 to 2016, the continental was absent from the Lincoln line. it was reintroduced in 2017 looking fresh af with all the bells and whistles.

not only does it look pretty spiffy, when you crawl inside you are hugged by the softest leather seats. the front seats have three adjustment packages, which Lincoln calls “Perfect Position”; standard 10-way and driver’s side memory feature, mid-level 24-way with thigh extenders, and the top level 30-way adjustable and “Active Motion” front massaging seats. in the “Rear Seat package”, the rear seats are heated, cooled, and “Active Motion” massaging seats, including a reclining feature with a 40/20/40 centre armrest with integrated climate control settings.

it’s really more than you think you need in a vehicle, but when you’re given the options you’ll know you need them all!

so where did our Lincoln Continental – which we affectionately nicknamed Sean Carter – take us?

saturday: we left calgary early saturday morning and headed on a scavenger hunt of beauty. we were resting our legs for the upcoming hikes and decided to cross off all the touristy spots. peyto lake, bow lake, and lake minnewanka.

i somehow convinced sister to take an “easy hike” up to the c-level cirque lookout for one of my favourite views of lake minnewanka. the easy hike is short, but pretty freaking steep. i’m very surprised sister continued to talk to me after that.

from there we headed to the Delta Kananaskis to check in for the night. after a quick walk around the grounds, we went to bed at 9 p.m. because we’re grandmas for life.

sunday: my birthday! because we went to bed so early, sister and i woke up to catch the sunrise. it was off to a beautiful start. we drove up the smith dorrien trail to the chester lake parking lot. after piling on the layers, we headed out on our first larch hike of the weekend. sis found some really great hiking sticks on the way, which because very useful for when the trail got snowy and slippery. slowly but surely we made it up to the lake. sadly, the larches were underwhelming and it got quite cold once we stopped. pretty yes, but not everything we were hoping for.

we finished the hike early in the afternoon and decided to take our time heading into Banff for the evening. we took the long drive down the 40, making sure to turn on the heated seats and massage function. you read that right! the massage feature in the Continental is meant to aid in circulation for long trips. it also does the body good after you’ve been hiking. you know when cats kneed? that’s what it felt like. it was so soothing – and from there on out known as the kitten massage function.

we stopped in canmore to pay a visit to our favourite engine bridge, and then continued on to check-in to the Juniper Hotel. it’s one of my favourites; away from downtown Banff, it’s secluded and quiet and perfect for some rest. not to mention the hot tub!

monday: we rose far too early again on monday, and drove through the dark to experience sunrise at moraine lake. if you’re looking for romance, there is where you’ll find it. just make sure you find a spot where you can’t see the other million tourists with cameras and tripods set up. that part really ruins it. sister and i found a rock and waited for the sun to perform magic.

from there we headed up, up, up, and above the lake to larch valley. the steep climb of switchbacks is all worth it when you finally level out and open into the vast valley full of larches. it is aptly named! the yellow larches danced in the glittery sunshine. we were so amazed by the difference from the display the day before.

we headed back down the trail and into canmore for a burger – our post-hike tradition – and then back to calgary.

it was exhausted and sore and happy. and indulged in more kitten car massages on the drive home.

thank you, Lincoln Canada, for the most incredible birthday present!

i studied my surroundings: beige walls and old, ugly ’90s chairs with green and blue faded floral fabric. i fidgeted in my seat. the drapes were dusty and the tv played sponge bob square pants. i fidgeted with the forms in my hand. no one made eye contact and my coffee was finished. i fidgeted with my coffee cup.

i didn’t want to be here. why was i?

my mind flashed back to that wednesday night.

i lifted my head from the pillow, now soaked from tears. the clock flashed 8:03 p.m.; i had been crying for somewhere close to two hours. as i cleaned my kleenex-covered bed, slowing picking up each damp tissue and inspecting it before piling it in the waste bin, i couldn’t remember what started the sobbing. that wasn’t new. why did i ever cry lately? it was rarely ever an event that set me off, more of a blanket – a large, heavy, suffocating blanket – of emotion.

this evening may have been about loneliness. a type of loneliness that could only be filled by love, but not people. i missed my friends but did not want to see them. more than anything i missed my family back in ontario. sister, dad, and mom. oh, my funny, little mom. i inherited her large forehead, and eyes that change colour like a mood ring. i inherited her crooked nose and affinity for blonde hair dye. it also seems i inherited her depression and anxiety.

and, as odd as you may think this statement to be, i see it as a gift.

yes, a gift that you can’t quite wrap in sparkly little bows, no matter how hard you try to put that spin on it, but a gift nonetheless.

my mother’s gift allowed me to understand her.

the times sister and i jumped on her bed and played in her room because she didn’t get out from under the covers; the times she was quick to temper; the times she isolated herself: i understand them all.

the pyramid of kleenex in my garbage can made me think. my impulses and reactions no longer felt “normal”. maybe it wasn’t just a bad day. maybe it wasn’t PMS, or that thing that person said at work, or the latest guy i was no longer dating. maybe it was me.

i spent so much time hiding my feelings of inadequacy, sadness, anxiety, and self-hate, and the tears came because i had no idea how to deal with this inner voice. i couldn’t fess up to the weakness and fear that had a firm grasp on me. if i said it out loud would i be less of a person?

i often wonder what it would be like if the dark cloud of depression didn’t follow me around; if my brain didn’t always work overtime to flood my mind with anxiety; if picturing harming myself wasn’t a thing. what would it be like to be “normal”?

i couldn’t keep at it alone, i needed help. i feared going to a doctor because i didn’t want to live in a medicated haze, and i didn’t think i belonged at a psychiatrist’s office because i wasn’t “crazy”. crazy. a word i was terrified would haunt me for the rest of my life. my sad, lonely, crazy life. with cats. at least two cats, because they needed a companion, and…

“laura?”

i snapped out of my downward spiral, and straight back into that beige waiting room. i stood and handed her my forms: intake, contact information, mood indicator. she was young with a nose ring and a tattoo on her right foot. she was my counsellor and i already felt like she could help me.

i was lucky enough to find calgary counselling centre, a charitable organization committed to providing compassionate, professional, and affordable counselling services to calgarians. they’ve moved into a much nicer building, with a view of the calgary tower and downtown skyline – no more beige walls or floral chairs. though i am no longer regularly going to sessions, i am thankfully for my on-and-off five years and different counsellors there. 

if you share any of these feelings or thoughts i’ve expressed, i encourage you to be brave, to look past the stigma that still very much exists, and make the hardest decision to help yourself when it feels like nothing can get better. i’m here for you. i relate to you. i cry alongside you.