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On birthdays, Maya Angelou, and lilacs

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….

Birthdays

Last week was the engagement,

then this week brought us yet another reason to celebrate…

Olivia turned twelve.

Admittedly, I do have a thing about birthdays. I believe they are truly worth celebrating. Life, after all, is challenging and none of us are immune to pain and difficulties. To some degree, most of us struggle with our sense of worth in this crazy and messy world.

So why not spend one day a year (or 2 or 3) whooping it up, and celebrating the mere fact of our honored presence on this planet? Also, why not wholeheartedly celebrate the birth days of those that we love and hold dear?

My mother was a master of the art of celebration. It wasn’t that she ever tried to be her own version of Martha Stewart. Rather, she simply oozed joy and delight and invited celebration. She was happy to bake a cake and plan a meal, welcomed guests with laughter and hugs, was ready to dance in the kitchen or sit and chat and share a glass of wine, and she loved buying gifts….

Not only did I adore all of that about her, but I feel it and get it and embrace it all in myself too.

So again, why not celebrate?

Surely the marking of another year is worth a gathering, a cake, a feast, and laughter.

Happy Birthday my twelve year old girl.

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Maya Angelou

I cannot now pretend that I closely followed the work and life of Maya Angelou, nor can I pretend that I have read most of her books or her poems.

What I do know of this fascinating woman has come to me in small snippets:

a quote or poem of hers I may have come across in another book, an interview with her and Oprah that I saw, and so many references to her from other writers and teachers.

Still, I find myself quite struck by the news of her death this week,

and riveted by the descriptions of her as they have come in from different news sources –

she lived a life of relentless creativity’,

‘she was a sculptor of words’,

‘she lived a life as a teacher, an activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance, and peace’ (Guy B Johnson)

she moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence, and a fierce grace‘ (Oprah)

and then there’s her last incredible tweet from a few days before her death, that has been spread the world round already,

‘Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God’.

Be still my heart. What honoring words of pure inspiration are these,

describing a woman who fully understood her own power and willingly stepped into it,

owning herself with no apologies,

and understanding always that true power and strength is guided, motivated, and fueled above all by love.

What a woman,

one that I now am even more inspired to get to know deeper.

I will finally be reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as I have been intending to for years, and I along with so many others, will be letting myself be mentored by Maya Angelou‘s essence, her spirit, and her words long after her death.

‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you’ Maya Angelou also once said,

and so may we all be graced by her beautiful example, and all be empowered to find our own voices,

everywhere.

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Lilacs

Have you noticed the lilacs in full radiant bloom (how could one not!?),

and noted their heady gorgeous Spring fragrance?

Is it just me, or do these sorts of recurring wonders of nature become only more miraculous as we age,

and become more aware of the fragility and beauty of it all?

I see you lilacs, and you are a sight to behold.

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On the Engagement, Sticks and Soccer

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….

The Engagement

This week we were celebrating the engagement of our daughter Alex to her long-time boyfriend, Ryland.

This was big beautiful news in our family and we were all pretty excited. Alex and Ry have known each other since childhood and have been together as a couple for a long time, 5 years,

and so he is a fixed part of our family.

Ry has traveled with us, he joins us for dinner at least once or twice a week, and he is a part of our every holiday and celebration.

Our hearts cheer to see him,

he brings fun and love, creativity and sensitivity,

to our lives all the time.

We have watched these two grow as a couple and grow individually.

They are whole-heartedly committed to love and life and each other.

So when I answered Alex’s phone call while buying groceries last Thursday,

the predominant feeling for me as she shared the news of their official engagement

was a peaceful calm.

It was perfect affirmation that our Alex and Ry have a history, a present, and a future,

and that seems so right as Ryland is already wound up tightly and surely in our family matrix.

There are certain to be all sorts of posts down the way about wedding planning, roles, marriage,

and all of the inevitable complexities and stories that are sure to unfold.

But for a little while let’s rest in the beauty and lightness of this joyful engagement.

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Sticks

As many of us do, I often struggle with how much we are all connected to our devices,

and I question our relationship with technology.

Even in Waterton, we have wifi, and our nature breaks often ironically become intersperced with techno time.

I know, though, that my kids are good at play.

In fact, I know that all kids are born masters at play. I have given talks about the importance of play, so strongly do I feel about this topic.

And so when I find ourselves in that moment where we have all been staring down at our i-pods, i-phones, i-pads, i-whatever, a little too long,

I weep a little inside because I know we can do better.

Devices play an important and undeniable place in our lives and they are not evil, but sometimes room and time must be cleared for other things.

Last week, inspired by another blogger, Linda McGurk, and a yard full of sticks as we haven’t yet completed our spring cleaning, I challenged my kids to go and build or make art with sticks.

At first, they rolled their eyes of course. I mean, really mom, ‘sticks’?! How much more boring and ridiculous could I possibly get?

But here’s what transpired:

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I also found them whittling away on the picnic table with steak knives, which brought back fond memories of my childhood camping days and hours spent whittling away then –

This also resulted in the kids biking to the store with Dan to buy proper little pocket knives before someone cut themselves open.

George, inspired, got excited about the idea of making a trip to ‘Driftwood Beach’ as we call it and I promised him we would make a point of doing that the next day.

Here’s what was created at the lake.

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So, here’s what I am thinking,

real life leads to more real life,

and play and creativity inspires more of the same.

The possibilities are endless, and sometimes it need only begin with sticks.

Soccer

I am not a person that is into sports, at all really.

But watching George play soccer on late spring nights feels like such a peaceful and lovely thing.

Tonight Dan and I sat on the grass on a blanket and watched the game, grandparents in their lawn chairs behind us.

When they are all just kids learning how to play the game, it doesn’t really matter who wins thought it is exciting when we do.

George, of course,  puffs right up when he scores a goal,

but I try not to make the  game about the score, because it’s not really.

It’s that it’s fun, and it’s an exercise in good sportsmanship, and it’s learning to work as a team.

Though sports have never really been my thing,

on a warm night late in May, it is pretty easy to see the appeal.

Special thanks to coaches David and Willy.

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On Superpowers, Spring, and my Chocolate Fix

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….

Superpowers

A recent art journaling activity from the online Brene Brown course I am taking asked participants to ‘identify their superpower’. Another article I came across this week also concidentally talked about the value of tapping into and acknowledging the idea of your ‘superpower’,

in other words that one shiniest part of you that comes utterly naturally.

An intriguing question….one that, to be honest,

left me sitting there not sure how to move forward with the assignment,

because this question was actually asking me to delve far deeper than simply identifying what I am good at, or where my talents and strengths lie.

What is my –

superpower?

What is that thing, that most in-the-groove part of me, that comes easily and truly and freely, and always has. To delve deeper, it’s not even really about something that I ‘do’, though it partly is. It’s also about who I am

Spiderman, after all, just is Spiderman.

Take Alex’s boyfriend fiance (more about that next week!), Ryland.

He is a brilliant songwriter..

Brilliant.

The lyrics he writes that pour out of him astonish us,

every time.

The wisdom and beauty and clarity that he is able to convey and encapsulate through his story and song are nothing less than inspired gifts.

But here’s the thing. His superpower isn’t necessarily singing and songwriting, though these are certainly wonderful and natural byproducts of his superpower.

His superpower is his ‘voice’, his need for and his abilities around,

self-expression.

Not being quite sure what my superpower was, I asked my family members what they thought.

What ensued was the greatest discussion about not only my superpowers, but also identifying everybody’s superpowers.

It can be a beautiful and uplifting thing to hone in on someone’s superpower. It’s also surprisingly simple, because it all just seems so obvious when you are looking at another, especially someone you know and love.

It’s not that people can be simply summed up, because of course they can’t, and perhaps who we are even changes over time,

but it is still easier than you might think to speak to the unique essence of a person…

their loveliest, who-they-are and what-they-have-to-offer-the-world part.

Olivia needs to move creatively.

George is deeply curious and concerned about the natural world.

Alex is incredibly perceptive and brings clarity.

Dan is sensitive to his environment.

These individual ways of being are so unique and deeply rooted that they are also our ‘Kryptonite’, as Brene Brown would put it. Our deepest challenges are often part and parcel of our superpower journeys,

that ultimately can’t be denied,

and there is such precious empowerment in owning our fullest best versions of ourselves.

oh, how I love this stuff.

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Spring on our street

Something really special happens every year on our street around May,

in this part of the world where much of our year is so cold and daunting.

Our street is a one-way, and so it is narrow. Also, there are not a lot of garages out front as the houses are older. Our boulevards, then, are close and inviting and traffic is limited.

So when the weather starts to warm up, people slowly and surely start to emerge from their houses.

The kids, of course, are first. They fling out of the houses and knock on each others’ front doors, chasing each other, chatting, skateboarding and scooting down the sidewalk.

The family next door has just set up a trampoline, so the sounds are also of screeching and jumping,

delight.

The adults follow, less uninhibited and busier, but still happier to spend more lingering minutes visiting in the sunshine.

We are often walking now in the evenings too.

Last week we met the toddler grandson of the neighbours down the street, and he and his grandpa followed us all the way to the park

and back.

For days, Olivia and George relayed the hilarious things this little boy had said and remembered him wildly jumping in the puddle.

It also seems inviting, now, to sit on my steps as I talk on the phone and watch the springtime action,

the leaves that are finally greening this very week,

and feel the warmth of the sun.

These are little things, it seems, but really not so little –

they speak to the annual re-building, re-birthing, and re-affirming of this peaceful community of neighbours.

Spring.

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My Chocolate Fix

I never really set out to write about food. After all, does the Internet really need one more person commenting on food,

and posting recipes and pictures of what they just ate?

Probably not, but alas here I sit unable to resist adding my bit to the masses.

To be honest, I have always felt that making and sharing meals is possibly our most meaningful and celebratory social activity.

This week, however, I made something that I didn’t share with anyone.

I was tired this week. Maybe I was fighting off a virus, but I just could not sustain any reasonable level of momentum or energy.

So, I did what any sane woman in my situation would do as she was trying to get through an afternoon or two of writing, book-keeping, and emails before her embarkment on the after-school weekday driving to and from activities shift….

I looked for quick and easy avenues to  good quality chocolate.

Though I was low on energy,

I did have in my kitchen reserves some soft speckled bananas, ripe avocados, and a container of fine dark cocoa that Patricia at Umami introduced me to. I blended all three in my treasured Vitamix and

TaDa!

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This is the rich beautiful chocolatey ‘healthier’ deliciousness that magically resulted.

I have tried several versions of this pudding, but this recipe was the easiest and creamiest. If your bananas are over-ripe you really don’t need any kind of sweetener at all and you will be meeting your craving in less than five minutes.

Totally satisfying.

Here is the link to the recipe I used, from All Recipes.

Eat whilst drinking a cup of of lovely green tea, and you will get through your afternoon. You will.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On kid art, sick time, and mother’s day

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) Kid Art

A few months ago, I picked George up from school and he proudly handed me a note indicating that a piece of his art had been chosen to be displayed in our local gallery’s (the Southern Alberta Art Gallery) annual student art exhibit, which showcases works from local schools. ‘Art’s Alive and Well in the Schools’ is a tremendously well attended event and brings in hordes of new people to the gallery. It also allows kids the chance to experience the  joy of showing their work publicly.

Both of George’s big sisters have managed to create art that was chosen for this show, so it was especially heart-warming that he made the cut too.

What a boost. The gallery was packed to the brim with families and enthusiasm. We drank apple juice, visited, and checked out truly wonderful pieces.

By the end of the show, however, George asked me if ‘we could please go home.’ He quietly confided in me that he wasn’t sure he had the energy to ‘show his work to one more person’.

My son. He is no bubbling, self-promoting extrovert,

but his watercolour of birch trees along a wooded path was beautiful, especially according to his mother.

Actually, everything about this type of endeavour makes me tingle.

Kids making art. Kids sharing art. Kids and parents valuing art. Communities gathering to celebrate art.

It’s all so good.

Art promotes peace, of that I am absolutely certain,

and kid art holds its own special brand of magic.

George at the 'Arts Alive' show at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, posing with Mayor Spearman

George at the ‘Arts Alive and Well in the Schools’ show at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, posing with Mayor Chris Spearman

2) Sick Days

We have all been quite healthy this year, but this week Olivia was absolutely walloped with a bad case of the stomach flu.

My poor girl.

What we assumed would be a productive and full week ended up being 4 days of her lying on the couch watching SpongeBob and renovating and home flipping shows,

while sipping warm gingerale and herbal tea,

and munching on saltines.

Actually, it is not uncommon for her little body to dramatically pull out  of life once or twice a year for several days.

To be honest, it never really surprises me and it always feels/looks like a re-booting of sorts.

Olivia is a perfectionist and is deeply persistent and driven. She has achieved excellent grades this year, but it has taken her a ton of dedicated effort given that she has dyslexia. From the moment she was born, she has been sensitive and kinesthetic,

always moving to a beat, singing a song, or acting out something she just saw.

Every so often, though, her sweet active, constantly wiggling body tires and her soul seems to say…..enough.

Stop. Rest. Retreat.

And so I let her. I have the blessing of working from home and so I also have the luxury of being able to let her sleep and stop,

and watch countless home and garden network episodes.

She will catch up, and I will help her.

I get it.

Sometimes it’s all too much. I feel that way too.

It’s okay to hide inside the house for a while.

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3) Mother’s Day

As we lead up to Mother’s day, I am feeling reflective about the role of mother, and how motherhood has changed me.

I am also deeply aware that, like every other holiday, it can be an emotionally challenging day for some…

Mother/child relationships can be complex,

perhaps the day may bring up pain around not having been able to have children for some,

and in so many cases there has been pain or loss  – loss of a child or parent – that surfaces.

Certainly, I am deeply aware of the absence of my mom at our table each year as we sit down to brunch together. Though it was hardest the first few years after she died, I still ache for her and feel as if I always will.

Yet.

Sunday is a lovely opportunity to honour the energy, the beauty, the essence of ‘mothering’ that is nurturing and in some ways is always accessible to all of us,

whether it be through friendships, mentors, extended family, or even through finally learning to properly nurture ourselves.

For me, though, this Mother’s Day, I will celebrate my relationships with my children.

Alex, Olivia, George.

I am deeply aware that I have been gifted the deepest honour of guiding these beautiful people to adulthood.

Though it has not always been easy and I do not mean to downplay the many challenges of parenting,

and though I have often struggled with my identity that has often felt mired and lost in the haze and blur of these extended mothering years,

I still know for sure that I would not change a thing about the way my life has played out.

To learn to step-parent, then parent, and watch these babies grow and blossom has thrilled me to no end. It has been the greatest wonder of my life, and continues to be.

I am grateful beyond words.

This Sunday,

Happy Mother’s Day and peace to all mothers, of all forms.

In all ways, you hold up the earth.

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Alex and her ‘two moms’, Mother’s Day 2013

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On… hot cross buns, stillness, and the Banff Springs

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)Hot Cross Buns

Tuesday mornings, right after I drop off Olivia at school, I turn up the radio because for the rest of my drive I know that Julie Van Rosendaal will be talking about food on the Calgary Eyeopener and I will be hanging on to her every delicious word.

This is a woman who knows how to talk about food.

Julie honours food and celebrates the idea of preparing and enjoying real food together as families and friends,

she naturally finds evocative language to celebrate whatever succulence she is describing,

and she seems delighted to share her passion with her listeners.

Inspired by Julie, I decided to make the hot cross buns I found on her blog over the Easter weekend. We were at our cottage in Waterton and we had all day to play.

Rarely do I devote this kind of time to cooking or baking because there typically aren’t whole days to devote to a whim,

but on that lazy Saturday I was reminded that there is such pure joy in engaging in a project that is multi-stepped,

and that takes time.

There is such joy to be found in not rushing and in simply giving in to the beauty of  a process.

So, while the sun streamed through the windows in our little cottage kitchen Olivia and I found and mixed ingredients

kneaded and punched new dough,

added brightly colored candied fruit,

watched the soft ball of dough rise,

then pulled and formed it into buns,

added sugar topping,

and watched our magnificent creations bake through the warmth of the oven door.

Happiness.

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(Don’t be turned away from Julie’s wonderful blog by my featured recipe choice. Julie’s fantastic recipes are geared towards busy households and weekday cooking.)

2) Standing Still

I may look like a patient woman from the outside,

but, for me, patience does not always come easily.

I want to find the answers, brainstorm, understand, know, decide, act, and fix.

Lately, though, I have been inundated with messages to be still.

It is a theme that keeps finding me, chasing me down, calling at me,

relentlessly and gently.

Be still. Breathe. Stop.

Mostly, I don’t want to stop. I get bored. I want to burst forth with another idea, buy another book, join another class. Of course I resent everything the minute it feels like too much,

but then,

when I clear up space and time I yearn to quickly fill it up again,

often flitting

from book to idea to banking

new project to text message to forms

emails to lists to writing to errands to registering in a new course

and back round again.

Checking and re-checking too many things too many times to admit.

All of this is ok and part of who I am,

but I know there’s something more. That, I have always known.

So.

Now,

I pause for a minute and listen to the birds sing their spring songs.

I wake up a little earlier than everybody else and sit in quiet for 10 minutes.

I lay in the tub and look up through the skylight at the blue, at the clouds,

and don’t pick up my book at all.

I turn off the radio at the red light and just sit.

And today, at the bank, I noticed myself, stopped myself, from checking my phone

again.

Instead, I stood and waited for the teller while she printed my new cheques.

I looked out the window, took a few deep breaths,

and just waited,

patiently.

The hidden treasures of stillness will find me yet.

Special thanks to Cheryl Dyck and Vickie MacArthur for your beautiful stillness mentoring. When the student is ready, the teachers appear.

3) the Banff Springs

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A perk of being married to an architect is that their conferences are always located in beautiful buildings.

Context and environment, of course, can never be compromised within a profession whose entire reason for being is to create beautiful spaces,

so 13 years of marriage to an architect have taught me.

This is why I am fortunate enough to be presently sitting in the Banff Springs hotel finishing up this week’s blog,

thinking,

now,

this is a place where a person can really feel inspired to not only design but to write,

especially if you are a person like me that is drawn to old world beauty

and loves the magical idea of castles,

and rooms thick with deep reds, purples, and golds in fabrics and paint,

plush furniture, dark woods, dramatic sweeping views,

ghosts dancing in the ballroom at the edge of sight,

and old glamorous adventures and stories retold.

It has been pouring rain today which will likely turn to snow, and peace has found me as I sit and write in these cozy rooms and sip my tea,

taking breaks to walk through the spacious corridors and letting this magnificent castle nestled in the Canadian wilderness be my muse.

Today is a peaceful and treasured break from my daily realities and I am so grateful.

Happy May to you all!

Do you have long and lovely projects that call out to you?

Where and how do you find stillness?

What sorts of environments inspire you?