On my Heart, (Not) Feeding the Animals, and Peace Lilies

Every week I am going to speak to three topics: anecdotes, books, ideas, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes…Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am thinking about / loving this week….

1) My heart

This fall I was diagnosed with a heart condition, mitral regurgitation. This is a common heart condition and basically means that blood is leaking backwards through my heart’s mitral valve. Untreated, this could eventually lead to heart failure.

When this situation came to light, I was pretty stunned though my intuition had been telling me that there was something physical that needed to be uncovered. During the last year or two I have suddenly become unable to do hikes that had never before been a problem.

My head immediately wanted to get to down to business and accept this new reality and deal with it, but my heart wanted to grieve something that had been lost.

After all, it meant recalibrating and perceiving myself in a new way….as someone with a heart condition.

This felt a little complicated.

I am a reader, a writer, and a lover of symbols and meanings and now,

here was this life-changing piece of news having to do with the greatest symbol that ever was. The heart.

My heart was struggling.

Just hear that sentence. Every time you insert the word heart, the mind cannot help but jump straight to emotion, life-experiences, triumphs and losses. Try to even enter the feeling realm and not use the word heart. It’s everywhere in our language- heartbreak, heart-ache, whole-hearted, heart-warming, big-hearted, piece of my heart, hard-hearted….

My interpretation of my condition, then, was immediately emotional as well as physical,

just as there are no separate words to distinguish the beating organ from the place where love sits.

This heart of mine has been through a lot. It has weathered divorce, illnesses, miscarriage, the death of my mother, friends, other family members.

It has given so much, too, in its efforts to love and be loved.

An understanding of the magnitude of how hard my heart has worked for me completely overwhelmed me during those first few weeks after my diagnosis. I held this consistent image of my brave little heart continuing to  beat on through all of the loss, grief, uncertainty and fears.

and –  All for me. Now that is love.

An even deeper appreciation crept in for its beating on through all the times when I have given too much, resisted too hard, compromised, put myself last, neglected my needs and dishonored my truest self.

I suddenly felt such tremendous affection for this beautiful and indescribably precious organ that not only literally gives us life but ultimately holds ALL of the cards at the end of the game.

How I suddenly desperately wanted to call in some troops, acknowledge how hard it has worked, and affirm my renewed support.

So it has been a winter of re-assessment, of letting go of many obligations and then slowly and more thoughtfully letting new things in. It has been a winter of asking myself constantly, ‘Does this fill my cup?’ ‘Is this heart-honoring worthy?’

On the practical side, the troops are on their way. Dan and I have been able to meet with the cardiac surgeon and contrary to what we were first lead to believe, the valve can be repaired through a new and minimally invasive procedure. We were completely delighted by this news.

I will be facing heart surgery within the next few years, but

my heart is ready and is willing to be opened.

Go figure.

It turns out that this gal who wants to talk about peace at home is being invited to raise the stakes by looking at her very own heart first.

2) (NOT) feeding the animals:

This past weekend we were in Waterton for Easter. We were all sitting around our table at the cabin one afternoon when we noticed out the window a vehicle stopped on the road. From this van, family members were throwing crackers at the bighorn sheep on the sides of the road. The sheep, of course, were busy being sheep so were mildly interested while also mildly annoyed by the crackers hitting them on the sides of their heads.

This seems like an insignificant event, but it made me sad.

Why is it so difficult for humans to understand that our earth is made up of fragile webs of interconnectedness? Without understanding the exact scientific placement of sheep in the ecosystems of Waterton, I am certain that it is crucial to the delicate balance of these ecosystems that sheep feed on the particular vegetation that they have always fed on, not ritz crackers. Maintaining their natural diet would be crucial for the sheep, crucial for the plants, crucial for all the creatures linked in this particular food chain.

We can enjoy the sheep, take pictures of the sheep but

the sheep are not walking down the road solely for our amusement.

This blog is about peace, and I do mean to make that my focus. Occasionally, though, peace means standing up for someone or something. My heart always knows when it’s time.

So that day in Waterton, I did run out of our cabin and I politely but firmly asked these people to please stop feeding the animals.

Happy Earth Day, Sheep!


3) Peace Lilies:

I cannot even remember when I purchased this peace lily. I think I bought it upon moving back to Lethbridge after my first marriage ended, though I’m actually not sure. No matter. I have always felt love and loyalty towards my lily. It rarely blooms, likely because my attention is fickle and I often forget to pay attention to what it needs. It sits in a nice little spot though by the back door where it gets lots of light, and lately I have been making sure that my plants are better watered. This week, after everybody was in bed I was standing in the kitchen and looked over at it and…behold! photo[1]

Dan said he thinks it’s a good sign, and now I can see yet another bloom.


Have you had an experience where a health crisis has caused you to re-evaluate? How and when do you speak up for the earth? What is your current favourite plant or flower?










On Mentors, Trading Eggs for Pants, and Doodling

Every week I am going to speak to three subjects: books, ideas, people, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes….Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am LOVING this week…

1) Mentors

This week my step-daughter Alex is finishing her second education practicum. Of all her teacher-training experiences thus far, this particular semester has shone the brightest largely thanks to the beautiful mentoring that she has received from the teacher to which she was assigned.

These last several weeks, when Alex has come over, her eyes are bright and alive as she tells story after story about her days in this classroom. She expresses boundless gratitude for the experience, and exudes excitement and passion for what is presently happening in her life. Even the difficult moments are recounted with cheerful perspective.

We couldn’t be happier for our girl. What more could any parent want for their child than to see them happy and energized?

Last year at this time Alex was struggling with not only a walloping bout of vertigo, but also with establishing a sense of direction that felt right.

The fabulous mentoring that Alex has received this spring has certainly played a part in her renewed sense of optimism. It’s not even that anything is ideal or perfect about this teaching assignment,

rather something about it, or perhaps everything about it, has managed to reach her heart in a very real and significant way.

And so the power of mentoring has been on my mind as of late.

Personally, I have had the opportunity to be mentored by some incredible women   who have virtually changed my course,

changed who I am

changed what I am about.

I will write about those women on another day.

Today I am focusing on the indescribable gratitude I feel towards the people who have, are, and will mentor my kids. Today, the peace prize is being handed over into your deserving arms.

From my very first days of mothering, I was acutely aware of my responsibility to nurture independence and resilience in my kids.

This means letting them out into the world and trusting (this part has been SO hard for me) that they need to find their own footing, learn from their mistakes, and explore,

so that slowly but surely a strong sense of self can begin to emerge.

Amazingly, though, wonderful role models (extended family members, teachers, coaches, assistants, friends’ parents)  have appeared in their lives,

modeling qualities that I don’t have, lighting fires that I can’t light, sharing perspectives that I don’t have, teaching skills that I don’t own, and relaying lessons that my kids are tired of hearing from my voice.

Thank you, ALL of you,

and this week, thank you in particular to one specific master middle school teacher who was able to show our daughter what teaching can be,

and that it is a wondrous profession, worthy of commitment and passion.

2) Trading Eggs for Pants

Given that it’s Easter, I thought I would most cleverly inject an egg related topic.

I have a very dear friend, you see, who actually delivers farm fresh eggs to my house every week! This brings me no end of delight.

I love it when Andrea stops by with my goods and we get to have a brief chat,

I love when I am baking or cooking and I pull out the eggs from the fridge

and my heart sings, My friend gave me these beautiful eggs  –

I love that these eggs are so big and plump that the top lid of the carton often won’t even close.

Also, I love how wonderful everything tastes when I use these wholesome eggs, and I am not just imagining this.

Andrea and I have a long and magical history of reciprocity.

We met waitressing together as teenagers and became fast friends. When I divorced in my late twenties and returned to Lethbridge, she guided me to an apartment to rent right away. My new apartment ended up belonging to Dan’s father, and so I consequently met and married Dan. After Dan and I married, I was teaching grade one full time and I arranged to have Andrea do her final teaching internship with me. When I left teaching once Olivia was born, Andrea took over my position. And so it has gone with us two.

Now it’s eggs.

In turn, I give Andrea books and clothes that my kids have outgrown.

She shows up with the eggs, and I hand over a bulging bag of old egg cartons and other assortments:  pajamas, used books, shoes still in relatively good condition, and sometimes, pants.

The other day when we met for coffee we argued over who should pay.

She said, ‘You clothe my kids.’

I said, ‘You feed my family’.

This is how I think the world should work. It really is a beautiful arrangement.

3) Doodling

I am on a quest to learn how to play. This is a very serious and real quest.

I have imagined and prepared for this quest my entire life (long before the wonderful Brene Brown appeared on the wellness scene).

Dan and I pretty much decided that we were getting married on our second date after a lengthy theoretical and wine-induced discussion we had at the Saigonese restaurant about the importance of play. He had actually based his architectural thesis on this idea.

Now this was a man I knew I would love for a lifetime.

Here’s the thing, though. I can write and talk about play forever. I am sure that I could even muster up a fairly successful thesis myself on the topic if required .

However, I am not so good at applying it in my own life.

I am very good at setting up play experiences for others. I will set out the paints and clean them up. I can plan a Harry Potter Party, Hobbit party, fairy party, day at the office party, you name it  -and it will knock your socks off. I can imagine it and execute it for others without fail.

When it comes to planning play for just me, though, I often can’t be bothered.

What I have come to realize, though, is that all this new talk about play being essential is not just fluff.

Play fuels and renews joy. Play is an antidote to lethargy, hopelessness, anxiety. Play creates and triggers meaning. Playing grounds us in the moment. Play builds peace and connections.

So this week, I am working on my doodling because that’s a safe and gentle place to start.

Yes, I did say doodling. Shhhhh…..don’t tell. It’s a bit embarrassing and not at all ‘productive’.

Not to worry, though, my small segments of doodling are still limited to my black pen, and are interspersed between very official and important tasks such as making grocery lists, checking banking info, returning emails, and filling out forms.

Watch out world, though, because when I really get into it

I might actually break out the colored pack of fine-tip markers and

I may even lose a little track of time without even a fleeting thought as to whether or not I am being ‘productive’.

Who knows what that might eventually lead to.

Bring it on.

For anyone else brave and silly enough to enter the realms of absolutely purposeless doodling (it’s actually quite a trend) check out this absolutely marvelous book, ‘Creative Doodling & Beyond‘ by Stephanie Corfee.

What are your thoughts on mentors? reciprocity in friendships? How do you play?











On Orcas, Naps and ‘The Ghost Bride’

Every week I am going to speak to three subjects: books, ideas, people, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes….Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am LOVING this week…

1) Orcas

I have a thing for whales, orcas especially.

It’s not an exaggeration to state that I have loved whales for all of my thinking life.

When I was in grade 3 my friend Cara and I had stuffed orcas that we slept with, ate with, played with, and loved to tatters.

One of my most common recurring dreams is one where I am in close proximity to a pod of orcas. Sometimes, I am looking at them through giant panes of glass, other times I am at the edge of a beautiful bay where they are swimming and playing. It is usually dusk or dark, and the waters are calm.  Always, I am completely drawn to be with the whales.  I am afraid too, though, because they are so massive and powerful

and I am not.

Sometimes I just watch them, but in other dreamtimes I actually have the courage to dive in and be with them. Either way, I am ecstatic to be in their presence and am utterly spell-bound by their magic and beauty.

I am sure you could analyze the heck out of this dream (and I have), but perhaps orca-love is simply in my gene pool.

My dad spent many summers  around the BC gulf islands and still talks of being surrounded by orcas while out on a little motor boat, and how awesome and frightening an experience that was for him.

And now our son George, 9, speaks constantly of whales.

A few years ago, we watched a movie called ‘Big Miracle, based on a true story chronicling the 1988 international effort in Alaska to rescue gray whales trapped in the ice. George cried for hours after one of the whales died. He has seen ‘Free Willy‘ of course, and most recently ‘BlackFish‘. He now speaks passionately of whales needing to be free to roam.

George also researches whales on the internet, asks me to print whale word puzzles, and draws orcas with increasing detail. He sculpts whales with plasticine and builds them with lego.

Always planning, I imagine him and I launching our own thematic art show.

Again, another obsession, a shared one, given free rein. I love that he devotes the time to study something that my heart yearns to know too.

To me, it’s all so good. In a time period when we are so disconnected from nature, from animals, from all that’s real-life, what could be more crucial than exploring a single creature from every angle.

To want to save something, we must first love it and understand it, and I often fear that we are losing this level of connection with our natural wonders.

And so it is that in our dusty and dry prairie home that we are currently celebrating whales.

2) Naps

There have been several nights this week where I have not slept well. This is uncommon for me as I am typically a good sleeper. Sleep often eludes Dan, but not me.

However, these last few nights for me have been restless.

Yesterday afternoon, feeling particularly tired and cranky after picking up the kids from school I went straight up to my bedroom, shut the door and lay down after giving out strict instructions that I be left alone.

I never do this. After school is usually one of the busiest parts of our day.

The kids and I unpack and pack new lunches, I help get them organized for any activities that evening, I help Olivia with her homework, I start supper, I check my e-mails and do all the paperwork that I have resisted doing throughout the day,

and so it usually goes.

But yesterday I didn’t feel like doing any of it, and so I lay down

by myself.

It was a very warm afternoon, the warmest day we have had yet, after a cold and relentless winter.

I lay on our bed, my face toward the window and felt the sun’s warm rays on me. I looked at the birch tree in our neighbour’s front yard and thought of….. nothing in particular ….as I luxuriously drifted in and out of sleep for a half hour.

How positively delicious it feels, sometimes, to just be.

Just be. It’s such a cliché. We hear it all the time, but do we actually heed its invitation?

I am the queen of ‘doing’ as much as I am the queen of wanting to ‘just be’ and so often my efforts

to meditate or visualize or say my mantra or be mindful or sign up for this online course or read that book,

can end up looking like another whole mountain of ‘doing’.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all of that stuff, and it helps….

But what can be really succulent and authentically peaceful is just taking a spontaneous afternoon springtime nap.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown’s Little Book of Wisdom

3) The ‘Ghost Bride’ by Yangsze Choo

One of my favourite movies of all time is the 1998 film ‘What Dreams May Come‘.

In this movie the character played by Robin William searches the afterlife for his wife.

What I loved about this movie even more than the concept of love transcending death, was the captivating and gorgeous afterlife setting it offers,

wherein the experience and environment that each soul has are the immediate products of both their imagination and expectations/beliefs about life after death.

Fast forward to 2013 and the publication of Yangsze Choo’s book ‘The Ghost Bride’, set in colonial Malaya, in which Choo creates for us a memorable ‘living’ example of the Chinese afterlife.

Choo deftly weaves in specific cultural beliefs as she creates her otherworldy setting, such as the Chinese ritual of families burning paper offerings to their deceased .

Paper offerings represent objects, animals or people that the deceased liked, and burning them ensures they will reach the deceased in the after-world and assure the dead a  comfortable existence.

It is so entertaining to see how these paper offerings bring to form a real city of ghosts which sets the stage for drama and adventures, as Li Lan navigates this strange place while her spirit hovers between life and death.

There is a lot going on in this book, and it was at times confusing to follow,

but deeply compelling for me was this concept of an imagined afterlife, based on the beliefs and perceptions that were held during life, brought to fruition. Choo masterfully depicts this very specific spirit world.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts….

What animals are currently being adored in your home?

What simple moments bring you peace?

What are you currently reading?











On Raccoons, Make-up Free Selfies, and ‘Archetypes’

Every week I speak to three subjects: books, ideas, people, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes…Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

1) Raccoon Rescue

A few of our neighbours jokingly call me ‘Snow White’ because I have an uncanny ability to attract wildlife.

We have had our share of mice and a few birds in the house over the years, all the cats from miles around seem to favour our yard, one day I came home and found a bat hanging from the window ledge in our kitchen, and for the past few years a mama raccoon has decided to make her nest in our attic.

So, either I am channeling some sort of friendliness to all creatures or we have a lot of accessible openings in our yard and house. To be fair, it is a very old house.

Either way, I have become (a little) less apt to shriek and panic when surprised by a new ‘visitor’.

After dropping Olivia off at school one day a few weeks ago, I returned home and discovered fragments of pink insulation spread out over our driveway. My lovely neighbour Lorraine saw me standing there assessing this surprising situation and came over. We both quickly concluded that Madame Raccoon, industrious and determined as she is, had returned.

Dan and I (13 years together have made us increasingly adept at problem solving) decided that there had to be a peaceful and easy solution to this problem and we would find it. I know that many folks (esp. our friends and family in Toronto) have consistent raccoon issues and might not have ANY patience for our willingness to work with Mrs. Raccoon, but so be it – raccoons are a little less common here.

We knew we needed help though. She was likely creating tons of damage in our attic and we needed her to move on out before she had her babies because that would be a bit of a game changer.

I googled pest control in our city, and called ‘Killer Pest Control’. The name seemed a little harsh but there weren’t a lot of options.

‘Mike’ agreed to help us.

He set up a trap, routinely checked on it, and debriefed us on raccoon behaviour.

When we came home from a weekend away and found our friend trapped, we called Mike and he came right over even though it was a Sunday afternoon. (Fortunately, her trauma may have been lessened by the full can of sardines in her trap). Along with his young daughter, Mike drove our masked mama down to the river bottom a fair distance away and made sure that was safely on her way to a new life.

Mike also phoned me right after the relocation mission to assure me that she was actually surprisingly non-aggressive and seemed content. He also reassured me that we did not need to worry about having a roof full of babies, rather the babies were still most definitely tucked inside her.

If that wasn’t enough, when Mike stopped by a few days later with our bill, he gave me yet another full report and yet more assurances that Ms.Raccoon was most likely doing just fine down by the river.


Who would have guessed that even people under the guise of startling names like ‘Killer Pest Control’ can be peace-building, collaborative sorts finding creative ways to do their jobs with the very best level of kindness and integrity.

Thanks Mike.

2) Make-up Free Selfies

Many women have had the experience of being nominated to post a make-up free selfie on Facebook recently, myself included. I had immediate qualms, however, and decided against participating.

There are already pictures of me on Facebook sans makeup, I didn’t particularly feel like inviting new comments on my appearance, I didn’t know what this movement was for really, nor did I want to put pressure on anybody else to participate.

Despite my misgivings though,

I felt that the concept did have some merit in a culture obsessed with the perfect image,

but I didn’t think much more about it.

Then, I saw this article in the Globe and Mail and found myself agreeing with every word.

Later on that day, I came across an article from a blog called ‘Your Daisy Dose’, written by Daisy Raphael. Daisy is the daughter of our recently deceased beloved family doctor who died of pancreatic cancer.

Daisy wrote this intelligent piece from the depths of her heart and it is a devastatingly beautiful commentary on why she wouldn’t post a make-up free selfie.

Through her moving description of her father’s experience, she shows us the real face of cancer which has very little to do with make-up free, healthy faces.

Daisy, I truly appreciated hearing about your father’s last year, in all of its wholeness, and not just about the ‘good’ days.

I, too, watched my mom die of cancer and there is nothing glamorous about watching your too-young parent deteriorate before your eyes.

Also, thank you Daisy for having the courage to talk about death and dying. As a culture, we generally seem to be afraid of this subject and so many of us, as a result, are shockingly ill-equipped to deal with it when it happens to us.

Collectively, we are not properly taught how to support those who are grieving either. Telling our stories is an important step in the healing process, though, and I am so grateful for your openness and willingness to be vulnerable.

We desperately need to create more spaces for all of our stories.

Lastly, thank you Daisy for talking about the beautiful moments that invariably accompany watching a beloved one die. When the veil between life and death is thin, it seems that all emotions, and life itself, is amplified.

You described this perfectly.

3) ‘Archetypes’ by Caroline Myss

Long before I understood what the word ‘archetype’ even meant, I loved the idea of there being central themes and recurring common human traits. I was an English major after all. I love symbolism and have been drawn to things like fairy tales and tarot cards since forever.

Don’t we ALL love categorizing ourselves though?

Amost every day on Facebook, it seems, a new quiz can be found that will tell you what rock group, colour, animal, ‘Frozen’ character, or city you are. Today it was ‘Which 80’s cartoon character are you?’ (I got She-Ra, Princess of Power, in case you’re interested).

Generally, we do love this stuff. It is a quick and easy way to gain validation for being the way we are.

It is also affirmation that we are not who we are not.

Often, though, I am mostly annoyed with whatever quiz it is and I often don’t even finish because it never delves deeply  enough and I don’t resonate with most of the choices given. And really,  5 questions to neatly categorize a person!?

These are some of the reasons that I bought Caroline Myss’ book ‘Archetypes’, after hearing her speak in Vancouver last year. In her new book, Myss offers her version of 12 modern day archetypes  as well as a full gallery of further archetypes with which we may identify.  She even has a website whereby you can  –wait for it…..take a quiz and find out which archetype you are. What is refreshing, though, is that the results indicate your top archetypal influences rather than having it all be narrowed down to just one.

To be honest, as I read through Myss’ book, I could relate to elements of most archetypes (except the athlete!) but certainly agreed that certain archetypal influences fuel and motivate me more than others.

To a certain degree, it even gave me more permission to be me.

I yearn to write and create, for example, because I am a ‘creative’ and a ‘seeker’.

Simple as that,

but how often do we stifle our deepest yearnings and talk ourselves out of them? (I have done this for most of my life).

I think that is quite useful and freeing, as well, to be reminded that we are simply all not driven by the same forces.

Furthermore, we need diversity of thought and action.

The world requires  advocates, artists, caregivers, intellectuals, executives, rebels, spiritual seekers, visionaries, and athletes to blossom into fullness. It can even be argued, quite convincingly, that we need ‘fashionistas’.

Collectively and personally, we are melting pots of stories, mythical influences, ancient longings, triumphs and challenges that simply get re-told over and over.

Though there is always the danger of over-labeling which negates the beautiful complexities and limitless potential within us all, we can remember what I deem to be one of the greatest archetypal stories ever re-told,

that of the rising phoenix from the ashes, assuring us that we can and will overcome and transcend (thanks to J.K. Rowling for re-kindling the phoenix image for yet another generation).

Oh yeah, and use our powers for good.