Giving thanks


It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada.

I don’t care much about the turkey or the mashed potatoes (although I did just finish making a pretty kickass pumpkin cheesecake) but I’m a real sucker for holidays – Hallmark or otherwise.

The big ones like Valentine’s Day or Christmas get the most hatred – but all of them, from Thanksgiving to Halloween, to birthdays and anniversaries big and small – they are so, so important to me. They are signifiers. They signify the importance of love or giving thanks or the simple joy of dressing up like a slutty hot dog and ringing in Nov 1 by puking up tiny mars bars.

Regardless of what they mean, I like to mark these days any way I can.

Life gets busy, and sometimes holidays just seem like another thing on the list. But when you take the time to recognize them and dig through all the consumer bullshit to find what they were truly meant to mean, they become signposts and milestones. Where your life has taken you, where your decisions have led.

So, it’s Thanksgiving. And I don’t eat turkey, but I certainly do have a hell of a lot to be grateful for.


As always, it begins and ends with this girl. I watched her ride a pony yesterday. Or as she calls it, “A very little donkey-horse thing”. She told me she didn’t need me to walk beside her and then she gripped that saddle so hard I thought her fingers would break. I watched that fat little pony plod around in a circle and the look on Olive’s face as it did was one of the best things ever. She has been terrible lately, but it seems to have faded in the past 3-4 days and I’m hoping it was a phase or a growth spurt or maybe she was just temporarily possessed? Whatever it was, either patience or my liberal sprinklings of holy water worked, and the sweetness and light are back. I am so, so glad. I love this kid more than anything. I love her even when she slaps me in the face, as she did several times last week, but I love her more when she slips those chubby little hands into mine and sings to me as we walk, instead. I’m so lucky to be her mother.

When I moved from Edmonton after my separation, Olive and I moved into a house with two suites. We rent one, my sister and her fiance rent the other. I don’t have enough space on this blog or words in my vocabulary to say how endlessly grateful I am for the love, support, and help that Lizzie and Eric give me. Every day. Even if I don’t see them at all, I know that they are there if I need them, and that’s worth more than I can say.  I think about doing this, this last seven months, by ourselves in a lonely apartment and it seems utterly impossible.

This house of ours is warm and cozy, and it’s me. Top to bottom. We are lucky to have it, the old wood floors, the big backyard, the strange tiny shower. It’s ours and it’s safe and we’re slowly making a home of it.

I started a book club, and I’m thankful that my friends aren’t mutinying after I accidentally chose a 600 page book for our first read (the Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell, in case anyone wants to join in virtually). I’m grateful that Olive’s two weeks of terror seem to have ended and I have time to actually read it. I’m grateful that I can read, I’m grateful that I have access to such a simple pleasure that has brought me so much joy.

I’m grateful for my family, especially when they all come together en masse, and especially when they help me sift through and make sense of life, love, work, or the finer points of a three-year-old’s birthday party.  I’m thankful for my extended family, too, my in-laws (who aren’t really in-laws anymore, but, although I don’t know what the correct terminology is, calling them my family will always feel right). Negotiating this split hasn’t been easy for anyone, let alone the people who find themselves unwittingly and unwillingly caught somewhere in the middle. Everyone is doing their best, and as hard as it can be at times, we’ll all come out of it in one piece.

I’m strangely grateful for this little site, which is currently predicting my migraines with almost 100% accuracy. It doesn’t do anything to prevent them, but now I can at least prepare myself, adjust my workload and deadlines accordingly, and brace for the storm instead of just being blindsided by it. Guys, there’s a website that tells me what will happen in my brain in three days… What a time to be alive!

I’m grateful for the people in my life who make me a better person. The people who push me to try new things, challenge me to keep improving, and see the value in what I’ve accomplished thus far. I’m grateful for the people who make me laugh, even when I’m bone-tired and sleepy, and encourage me to go easy on myself when I get too caught up in the shadows.

There’s so much, when I just stop for a second to think about it.

The fact that I am slowly working toward being able to write full-time, and even if it never happens I’ve still gotten further than I ever thought I would with these words of mine. The gorgeous weather that looks like fall but feels like summer. The sight of the wood hangers and baskets in my hall closet which always make me smile, for some weird reason.  When Olive comes out of her room to tell me, “I love you, mummy” and even though I know she’s just trying to stall bedtime I take the I love you, and I gladly take the long hug that comes with it, too.

Handwritten letters in the mail, texts that make me smile. The nights where I get to dress up and go for dinner at divey Thai restaurants or mouth-watering Ethiopian joints or to sit in cafes watching performance-art plays with headphones on.

There’s so, so much. I’m grateful every day for this life, even on the tough ones, but an entire holiday around doing it, really focusing and counting your blessings and not gagging at the word blessings because sometimes it really does seem like you are #blessed? I’ll take it.

I’ll take it.  I’ll pass on the turkey, but I will take absolutely any chance I can get to be reminded of just how lucky I am, and I’ll take those mashed potatoes and a double serving of pumpkin cheesecake, too, goddamn it.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians. And a big Thank You to all of you guys, wherever you live.  I’m so thankful that you come here to read these words.


Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Maria October 12, 2015 at 12:14 AM

    So beautiful as always. Giving thanks…assigning your purpose and people and personal stories – it’s a perfect way of giving back to those who’ve been there for you. I so look forward to reading your blog whenever it comes across my inbox. I read with focused enthusiasm and somehow, even though i don’t know you, feel utter empathy for you and Olive as if you’re my own peeps. Keep writing and sharing. I am a grateful audience.

  • Reply Kate October 12, 2015 at 5:54 AM

    Thank you for writing these words. I enjoy reading them and relate to them so much.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine October 12, 2015 at 8:46 AM

      Thank YOU for reading them, Kate! Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  • Reply Brian Hanley November 4, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    I have rarely read anything that made as much sense as your recent column in The Guardian Weekly (and never anthing that made more sense). I wish I’d read it when I was much younger although I probably wasn’t smart enough then to appreciate the wisdom in it.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.