beautiful you….

I need to clarify something…

I often tell people that they are beautiful. And though I always mean it, sometimes I think it may come across as being a superficial  word or a compliment that has become meaningless from overuse,

but to me it is often the very best word that I can find.


And though it’s entirely possible I may be noticing your lovely hair-cut or outfit (or shoes!),


usually what I am really talking about is how beautiful you are,

and that I see you, and that I am happy to see you,

and I often even want to tell you that  I love you and give you a hug,

but some people are not ready for that kind of onslaught of affection, so I don’t –


but do it in my mind instead. (:


Or when I send a message or an email to you, and tell you this in writing, my meaning is the same

I am in awe of the essence of you, and you are beautiful.

I don’t know how to explain it well otherwise, but life can be brutal and when people can,

still,  despite all of the certain heart-ache,

just show up and be joyful and kind and creative and dedicated and invested


(like so many of you are),                 to me that is


extraordinarily beautiful.


I have a dear friend who, when we were in our twenties, would see an elderly wrinkled woman making her way and she would comment to me on how beautiful she was. I was still young and caught up in image and I didn’t quite get what she was seeing,

but I was intrigued and would look harder at people and at things, spurred by the deeper wisdom of my friend.


Now, of course,  it seems so obvious.

That  elderly woman is brave


                        for she has lived.


We don’t know her story but we don’t need to. We can be pretty much guaranteed that she has loved and lost, weathered storms and walked through fire, laughed and cried and raged, been both sick and healthy, depleted and elated.


And yet there she is out and about in the sun, tending to her daily errands,


and my god how is that not earth-shatteringly beautiful.


I just read a wonderful book (Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton) where Melton is describing to her daughters what it really means to be sexy and beautiful. I have been thinking about this a lot, because I am finding myself having lots of conversations lately with my 14 year-old daughter  around this topic – and it’s such an important one.


…If what you want to be is pretty, you’ll have to keep changing yourself constantly – and eventually you won’t know who you are.

What I want to be, girls, is beautiful. Beautiful means ‘full of beauty’. Beautiful is not about how to look on the outside. Beautiful is about what you are made of. Beautiful people spend time discovering what their idea of beauty on this earth is. They know themselves well enough to know what they love, and they love themselves enough to fill up with a little of their particular kind of beauty each day….




You will meet plenty of women who are pretty but haven’t yet learned how to be beautiful. They will have the right look for the times, but they will not glow. Beautiful women glow. When you are with a beautiful woman you might not notice her hair or skin or body or clothes, because you’ll be distracted by the way she makes you feel. She will be so full of beauty that you will feel some of it overflow onto you. You’ll feel warm and safe and curious around her.  Her eyes will twinkle a little and she’ll look at you really closely – because beautiful, wise women know that the quickest way to fill up with beauty is to soak in another human being. Other people are beauty, beauty, beauty. The most beautiful women take their time with other people. They are filling up.


Fall PeaceCard Events:

‘Wonder Women’
Thursday, October 27th, 2016
Herbal teas & fall treats
915 15th St. South, Lethbridge
hosted by Karen Westwood                   email:karenforest@me.com
Cost: $40
Past Participants: $35

In this session, we will explore and celebrate the strength, beauty, and exquisite wonder of our feminine natures, understanding that we have immeasurable inner resources, support & friendship, and ancestry to call upon to light our way.
Through a short but powerful meditation and a few other simple and playful activities you will leave feeling blessed and empowered by the deep wisdom, guidance, and connection that is available to all of us, always.

‘1st Christmas PeaceCard MarketPlace’ Wine & Cheese
Thursday, November 24, 2016
915 15th St. South, Lethbridge
hosted by Karen Westwood                    email:karenforest@me.com
Cost: $20

Let’s ground ourselves again for the busy Christmas season with a meditation for peace. Then, we will gather, play and shop! All supplies provided to make Christmas gift cards/tags together (if desired)
and…..beautiful Christmas cards and other paper treasures and unique gifts to peruse in the first ever PeaceCard marketplace!

Spots are limited due to space. Please register with me soon to ensure that I can make room for you.
karenforest@me.com or 403-308-3048
Pre-register for both events by Oct. 14 for an early bird price $50











Pure Imagination

A few weeks ago, we hiked the spectacular Crypt Lake trail. Even though we have lived part time in Waterton for the last 5 years, we had not yet done this hike. Not only is it well known as being one of the park’s more challenging hikes, but it also has some famous tricky sections such as a ladder climbing up into a natural tunnel, followed by a narrow cliff with cable attached.


I had been quite successful in talking myself out of it for quite some time.


I am afraid of bears.         It seems dangerous.         The kids might hurt themselves.

I am worried about my heart.              What if one of us fell?        The weather could turn.

Also.                   Only really good and experienced hikers do this kind of hike.


I am very good, so good,  at this kind of talk.


However, after visiting my dad, an avid outdoors-man, and talking to him about it  and watching you-tube videos of 7 year olds making the trek with solely their Barbie back-packs on, I decided it was        probably safe.


As it turned out, it was. The day we chose for our hike  was a hot mid-August Saturday that stayed hot and sunny, and there were literally boatloads of people,

which made the chance of being devoured by a bear relatively non-existent, as I am sure they were the nervous ones.

It didn’t feel particularly dangerous either. I am not generally afraid of heights and am pretty limber so the obstacles were fine as long as you didn’t look down.


Nobody fell.


And my heart kept up beautifully.   Yay, heart!


Sitting at the lake having lunch, Dan and I commented to each other about how easy it is to build things up in your head, make them so much bigger than they really are.


In Scotland this Spring, Dan had a marvelous opportunity to do something that many people dream of, but few get the chance to do. It’s his story to tell, not mine, so that’s all I am going to say about it.

Except that…..he almost didn’t do it. Because he didn’t think he was good enough or prepared enough or a bunch of other things that only he knows.

He did it, though, and had one of the most rewarding days of his life.


It seems so silly to talk ourselves out of things when we can do anything really,

the possibilities before us are as wide as the sky.


And, is everyone really more talented and capable than us –

regardless of how prepared they may look with all of their gear and confidence. Or maybe it’s just guts.


I am looking forward to courageously and joyfully moving forward this fall into new territories and adventures, even if all I have on me is my Barbie backpack because really,

as sung by one of my all-time favourites, Gene Wilder (rest in peace beautiful man) who masterfully played Willy Wonka –


Keep watch this week for an announcement regarding my Fall PeaceCard sessions. I have spent the last few months pondering what they should be all about, and I am super excited about how it’s all come together and what’s in store.

Happy Fall!
















travel lessons and coming home

As many of you might be aware, last month we returned from a pretty significant trip (to us). Since coming home from Scotland, I have been mulling over exactly what it is I want to say about our experience. However,  rather than saying anything,

I have been gently lulled away by the events of early summer: a family reunion, some work, obsessively reading the Outlander series, worrying too much about politics etc….and so time has passed and  I have said nothing.

It’s time to write again, though, even though I often resist getting back to my computer. For me, experiences seem to need to simmer and percolate for a while so I can draw out what is actually worth being said.

Perhaps it is the introvert in me that always needs time and space, much of it, to simply make my own sense of things. I have also been thinking lately about the idea,

that sometimes we can honour experiences and events  by not talking about them.


Nevertheless, here are the golden nuggets from Scotland that are asking to be published, lessons learned both across the waters and after coming home….

People are kind everywhere, people are hurting everywhere

It’s so obvious, but there it is. We have been so tempted as of late, to find way too many differences among us.  However, the more we travel the world, the more that we ultimately realize that throughout time and space, we really are in so many important ways, the same.

We love, we despair, we rejoice, we grieve. We laugh, we reach out, we make ourselves vulnerable,

and, in our own ways, we all hope for a better world.


Food is a gift

I am so curious about food, food prepared with delight and love never fails to bring me joy.

Food, to me then, is often what I am most curious about when I travel. How cultures prepare their food, where they find their inspiration, reasons for giving importance to certain foods, particular creative quirks, new ways of combining ingredients, new movements and philosophies  around food –

all of this deeply inspires me.



Breakfast is my favourite meal. How yummy does this look?!?


Seriously delicious seafood pasta dish at Jamie Oliver

At the tiny and quaint Kilted Lobster, for instance,  we were greeted with absolute hospitality, our kids as well. We truly felt welcomed into their space with open arms, as if it was their honour to feed us. The kids bravely tried an appetizer of delicate pigeon and haggis. Dan and I ordered the special, which was a half lobster with perfect green beans and a glass each of champagne. Simple, lovely perfection.

At the Gardener’s Cottage we celebrated Father’s Day with a brunch of the best meatloaf I have ever eaten served on top of heavenly sweet brioche topped with homemade Hollandaise. When I peeked behind the restaurant/cottage afterwards,

I saw a gorgeous rambling garden, a big wooden work table, a bbq, a true farm to table set-up in the very heart of a city.


And then at the Glennfinnan House Hotel we ate in the dining room of our Highland inn, feeling as if we were encased in an old world of giant wood-burning fireplaces, plaids, dark wood and rich colours,protected from the driving rain and a sometimes forbidding landscape. We ate smoked fish, sausages, potatoes, porridge,

heartier foods stemming from a landscape where people need warmth and rich sustenance.


History is so messy, present times are messy

My god, we have not been good to one another.

We forget, sometimes, our brutal and horrific pasts. Gory accounts from medieval times still haunt and shock (just ask my kids). Rivalries and wars, unthinkable crimes, and betrayals among nations are as old as time. Though we cannot use this is an excuse, that events have always been dark and challenging,

we do need to see that we have made some progress and acknowledge how far we have come.


We cannot escape ourselves and it is good to be together

We have a tendency to expect much of ourselves on holidays,

that we will see every sight, try every great restaurant, that every experience will be favorable, that we will all be on our best behavior, that we will come home completely rested and renewed.

These unreasonable expectations can create frustration and resentment as well as prevent us from simply being open to what happens. I have always struggled with expecting too much from vacations, and this trip was certainly no exception. However, this time I was able to reach a point where I felt a great deal more acceptance around the idea of simply letting things unfold


Letting things unfold.

and enjoyed the experience of just being together in a new and beautiful place.


All over the world, we need green spaces/ beauty

Dan and I often measure the worth of a city according to its green spaces and walkability.


                      Beauty and nature heal, restore hope and calm.  

Edinburgh, in particular, is bursting with green spaces and everywhere people are walking and enjoying the precious bits of sunshine that gift this perpetually wet country.



It seemed generally, too, that their gardens, buildings, displays, museums and homes were quite often altars to beauty,

thoughtfully and carefully arranged.


Yet perhaps it is also the case that when we are discovering a new place we look up more, we see the beauty that’s right there for us to see.


Many times in Scotland people said to us ‘we would love to see Canada’ and we would think to ourselves, ‘yes, but do you know how beautiful this place is too?’


And so it always is.


Olivia, inspired, bought tulips for our little kitchen in the apartment we had rented


We can always find ourselves, a little more

All those rituals that I learned and lived in my grandmother’s home;

making tender, buttery shortbreads and big, dense fruitcakes at Christmas

constant summer tours of the garden and her yard: her precious roses, lily of the valley

eating rich stews and dumplings for family dinners, savouring sticky toffee pudding while tucked in beside her on the couch

standing in her bedroom excitedly trying on the red plaid kilt she bought for me

drinking sweet milky tea together in her kitchen in the afternoon,


and of course I would think that teatime is the loveliest and most civilized ritual of all

Parts of me that I thought were me but were grandma, were Scotland, all along.


We think back through our mothers if we are women.     Virginia Woolf


Yes, and our grandmothers too.




and in every church (kirk), I lit two candles

And coming Home is good.

And now, understanding myself more,  I can suddenly see things at home more clearly too.

I look up,

and I see my beautiful kitchen with so much light streaming in and I am inspired  to cook again.

We see our mountains and lakes, too, and are reminded that, my goodness, they are so very magnificent.


I am reminded, too,  that there is such love here to bask in, from family and friends.


And…I have many projects and ideas simmering as I re-work plans and new directions,

but I feel less desperate, less ambitions, less in a hurry, more here, more grateful. Dan tells me he feels the same.


Coming home is good.



my spring JOY list….

For a while now, I have been compiling in my head a bit of a Spring Joy list to share with you all.

These are some of the things that are currently inspiring and delighting me:

Yoga Glo:

I love this app. I was introduced to it by a lovely acquaintance over Christmas and I am still quite committed to it. You pay a monthly subscription fee, and then receive access to an enormous library of classes at all levels taught by fantastic and well-respected teachers. I appreciate being able to do quality yoga classes at home and on my own time (though we have lots of wonderful teachers locally too!), and I enjoy being able to explore a wide diversity of styles and approaches.

Cookbooks: Breakfast Love & Salad Love both by David Bez

I love meals in a bowl. Rice and veggies, nuts and seeds, greens and fruit, dressing, all deliciously layered. I love feeling good about what I am eating, and feeling good after I’ve eaten. George has yet to even entertain the idea of his meal in a bowl unless it’s a giant serving of Gorilla Munch, and like most families we sometimes  eat junk because we’re human and get tired, busy and un-inventive, but our kids generally know what real food is and I am happy that they understand that it’s important to feed themselves well.

These two cookbooks make me happy. They offer easy, healthy, pretty combinations of foods that are manageable to create and make eating interesting! In my compulsive way, I am working through the recipes, one by one as I can get to them. Cuz with me, everything’s a project!


Self-Care: I recently facilitated a two part workshop on self-care, and I ended up learning sooooooo much about this topic. Clearly, we teach what we need to learn and there’s always more to learn and deeper places to delve. I was in awe of the gorgeous wisdom, grace, and love that just oozed out of first our beautiful guest speakers, but then out of the participants. Such beautiful magic can happen when we meaningfully gather to create, talk, and support one another. Stay tuned this summer for news on the fall PeaceCard line-up! Lots of new exciting ideas simmering….

PeaceCards: And so my work is unfolding. Slowly and surely it is beginning to take shape in a way that I always (ok, not always) trusted it would. It is about writing and cards and creativity and workshops and empowering and supporting each other and sending out love and gratitude into the world.
Still not sure this kind of a job has a name, but I am no longer attached to the idea that it needs one!

My kids: Whether it is George’s new habit of very seriously taking a cup of milky tea after school along with his toast that amuses me to not end,

or Olivia’s joyful performance of ‘CandyMan’ in her spring middle school musical,

or Alex managing her first year of teaching grade 1 with such perspective, courage, flexibility and immense dedication,

or our Ryland following his dreams with true heart and soul  – my goodness, these kids fill me up. It just doesn’t get better than watching these beautiful souls blossom and grow.

New Joyful Adventures:

So… nothing quite rejuvenates my spirit,  heart, perspective, and my understanding of where I fit in this world and what it’s all for like….


We are  going on a trip that I have dreamed of and imagined forever and ever and ever. Finally making it happen is the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself long ago.

It is the very pilgrimage of my heart.

To say that I am excited doesn’t even begin to cover it…….


We travel initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves.    Pico Iyer









let’s all be curious….

In our house we like to make things.

It can be a bit frustrating, because scattered all about are bits of paper, pens, half-finished projects, supplies for half-finished projects, balls of yarn and knitting needles, books about making things, little models, lego guys and pieces, more scraps of paper, pieces of paper folded up into accordions (that would be Dan, and these are everywhere), journals, more and more books, and……did I say pens.

It is a love-hate relationship I have with all of this stuff that I shove behind closed doors when people come over,

because on one hand I adore that we can all become lost in our own worlds of what to create and do next, but on the other hand I crave order and I yearn to  pair down and simplify.



In the end, I know that  ‘making stuff’ wins because it brings us joy and feeds our souls.

And getting lost in a idea or  project can often feel invigorating and peaceful all at once.


For many years now, there has been quite a lot of talk about ‘passion’ and finding yours. There is some truth to this pursuit, of course, because who doesn’t want to find, explore and live out their passion for the rest of their days.

But for some, that idea might feel a little unreachable, vague, and confusing.


In her new book, ‘Big Magic’, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this, and I love what she says,

Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. Curiosity is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Furthermore curiosity is accessible to everyone. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times – a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God. But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity. The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion.

So… may lego guys, multitudes of colored pens and bits of yarn and paper be welcomed in this house.



A month or two ago, George and I were walking home from school and he said to me,

‘Mom,  I was kind of tired and cranky this morning and didn’t feel like going to school but I’m really glad I went. Had I not gone today, I would not have discovered my passion for sloths. I am even going to work at a sloth sanctuary when I grow up.’

He then proceeded to spend the entire rest of the afternoon and evening researching and sharing with us facts about sloths,

as well as intricately and repeatedly folding, until he had created an origami sloth.


Now, to be honest, the whole sloth obsession seemed to run its course fairly quickly. George hasn’t mentioned this sloth sanctuary  dream job since that day, and so I feel fairly confident in my statement that I doubt his life will take him in this particular direction of sloth-saving.


But. What a perfectly beautiful dream to have for a day. A dream that completely seized him and carried him away into gentle imaginings of future days spent in peaceful and lush green sanctuaries,

                                                                                          then gently dissipated.


The very dreaming of it, though,

expanded his reality and sense of possibility.


This same kid recently recovered from a two and a half week rather stressful-for-all-of-us bout of painful cornea issues, due to some particularly severe allergies that just exploded due to an early and particularly robust spring. His eyes were unimaginably irritated and sore, and it actually reached the point where I needed to keep him home to stop him from rubbing his eyes to prevent further damage,  and administer eye drops every hour.


He missed a lot of school but during  his time at home he

taught himself how to make stop motion videos and launched his own you-tube channel,

built a homemade loom to increase the efficiency of his latest knitting project,

and memorized how to solve the rubic’s cube as well as a 5 by 5 cube.


I watched all of this with awe, all the time thinking that it was just beautiful,

all of this creativity that was drawn out by these big stretches of time alone.

From one thing on to the next, without feeling any regret at moving on or having done enough,

just gently following a pull in a new direction.


This is pure play and  joyful curiosity.



oh, those lilacs….

Feasting on one’s own life.


just because.


I wrote this post before the tragic events this week up north. Sending big love and strength to all those affected and facing such tremendous loss and adversity. Events such as this truly require us all to come together as one.





























One year ago

I write this on the one year anniversary  of my heart surgery,

filled with gratitude for my healthy, beating heart

and my body,       renewed.


On the treadmill this week I noticed that the stepping is still becoming easier as is  increasing my pace.  I am falling more in love, in awe,

more connected to this body that is still gaining strength and has carried me through much,

and is ready now for new endeavors and adventures.


This week, too, my wonderful hairdresser told me at an appointment that my ‘hair is back‘ and I felt like cheering. The effects of the anaesthetic ravaged it for many months, leaving it dry and frizzy, broken and brittle.

Suddenly, it is soft and shiny again. A small thing but not.


And I am more committed then ever to honouring this body, this life’s vehicle that I have been gifted. Fresh, wholesome, gorgeous real food hold all of the appeal.

And I will watch, too, how my emotions affect how I treat this body, and how they live inside me-


Earlier this week, I had a frenetic and crazed day where I was hardly present for a minute, consumed by all of the things I had to do,

and also feeling fearful and overwhelmed by what actually may be a new and beautiful opportunity in my life.

At the end of that day, after picking up Olivia one more time from a lesson, I jumped out of my SUV and quickly slammed the door shut before my hand was out,

crushing my thumb.


As I yelled in pain and ordered  my kids to go grab a towel to stop the dramatic spurting of blood from underneath my nail,

I  felt the literal power of this wake-up call to

S  L  O  W    D  O  W  N,






and invite into my life a sense of willingness to open myself up to the future rather than grip tightly to a  desperate need to master, control, and know.


I also read this week about the idea of building up core strength,

not in order to have a flat stomach,

but to make yourself stronger from the inside out,

a building up of strength and power  from within –  how I completely love that concept.


It is spring and many of us are feeling the invigorating and beautiful seasonal shift this week towards warmth and sunshine,       possibility.


All feels new.


It is the loveliest of times to not only take stock of our gifts, but commit to honouring them with our continued gentle and fierce care.


This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known. – Marion Woodman






joy and the story of my tattoo

The story of how I came to have a tattoo is also a story about joy.


It all happened about 17 years ago.

I am not even over-dramatizing when I say that when my first marriage ended, I  resolutely hauled all of the clothes out of my closet as I sobbed, threw everything in garbage bags, grabbed my beloved basset hound, and drove away from my life as I knew it in the dead of night.


I ended up back in my parents’ home and very gradually and gently, began to re-build and create a new life,


this life.


My break from my first marriage was abrupt and harsh, and though I knew for sure that leaving was for the best, there was much to grieve and much that I still cared about in that little  town that I had so quickly left behind.

Karen, for instance -not me, of course, but my dear friend Karen, the woman who had been my principal through my first few years of teaching elementary. Karen had become my mentor, not just in teaching, but in life: in leadership, in spirituality, in all things good that I aspired to become.

She worried about me after I left, calling me, sending me uplifting gifts, and even driving us both all the way up to Edmonton and back on the day before school started back in September so that we could attend Lilith Fair together.


What I remember most about that trip, though,  were the deep conversations during the long car ride –


Conversations that still stay with me even though she has been gone 9 years, having died of cancer a little over a year after my mom died.


On another car trip that summer, her and I  went to Calgary and each bravely got a tattoo in honour of her 45th birthday.

I had an orange and blue star inked onto my lower back, inspired by the paper lantern that hung in the bedroom of my new apartment.


The walls of that little bedroom in the top floor suite of the old house that I was renting were painted orange and navy blue and my landlord (who would become my future father-in-law) apologized profusely for this fact. I didn’t care, though,

I loved everything about that apartment, especially the bedroom. 

I would look up from my bed at that beautiful star,

while the bold, strong colours on the walls cocooned me up at night.

Emerging from underneath my feelings of hurt and betrayal was a sense of freedom and renewal that I had never before quite experienced,

an exhilarating sense of possibility that from that day forward I could and would re-write my life. I would choose new words to define my days,

words like integrity, truth, adventure, kindness,




And when I went to bed at night in my little apartment, even though I was alone, I felt




I rarely even remember anymore that I have a tattoo. It is mostly hidden, and I can’t see it. For a while I stated that I would, at some point, go back and have the star filled in with a more intricate and detailed design to make the tattoo more artistic and interesting, as it is really just an outline of a star filled in with solid colors.


However, even as I said it out loud back them, I doubted I ever would.

My minor act of rebellion was complete and I had no desire to subject myself to more needless pain.


The outline is enough.


Thank you, Karen, for your big love that summer and for holding my hand through the pain that I needed to then bear,

for generously taking me into the fold of your true self, uncovering to me truths and desires and ideas that I needed to understand then to be who I am now.


I am ever amazed by the intricate paths that the stories of our lives lead us down, cleverly and magically winding,

seemingly finding the fullness of circles (and stars)  to complete.