On report cards, solstice, and my summer reading list…..

Report Cards

This week I actually had a dream that I was impatiently and anxiously waiting for my report card. However, there was a constant and annoying stream of obstacles and delays resulting in me not getting to know how I did.

This drove me crazy. I was actually livid in my dream.

I so desperately wanted my success to be measured in a report.

I wanted it all neatly summed up, whatever it all is.

When I woke up I was still frustrated but also a little mortified by the immaturity of my unconscious mind. Am I really still that consumed with outer perceptions of success? At the age of 41, do I really need to take so seriously someone else’s version of how I am doing?

And what exactly am I being marked on…..

my value as a mother, a wife, a friend, a family or community member, a woman?……The dream didn’t specify.

When I taught grades one and two, I really struggled with making up report cards for my young students.

I found is so impossibly difficult to just sum up a kid.

To make up for the marks that I felt were a woefully inadequate measure of a beautiful little being, I would write reams of anecdotal comments describing what I saw in each kid,

describing their strengths and struggles, their shiniest bits, their quirks and gifts.

I went on and on and on and was completely exhausted by the end of it,

because I felt like I was pulling out this information from the tips of my toes and the depths of my soul, so true to these kids did I want to be.

(Thank you, teachers, for ALL of your hard work).

This week my kids are getting their final report cards of the year and I am noticing something rather ironic….

I am not particularly invested in their marks one way or another nor do I expect lengthy and rambling comments, though I do look forward to going through their report cards.

But as their mother, I already know who they are.

I know how hard they have worked,

I know what they are capable of,

I know where they shine and where they struggle.

I have had conversations with their teachers and I know where everybody is coming from,

I also know that we live in a society that values and requires marks,

and that structured assessment practices are still necessary so that instruction can be planned and coordinated.

Our education system is far from ideal and we all know that, teachers and administrators included.

Report cards can’t even begin to sum up a person nor should we ever presume that they do.

A few pages of letters and numbers can’t possibly document all of the lovely little triumphs, friendships that faltered and grew, areas of subtle but certain growth, issues that were worked through, non-academic skills that blossomed, passions that were discovered, and insights that were ultimately found.

These things need no officious report. They are simply known,

but are so very worthy of a celebration as this end of the year milestone is reached.

And, perhaps, rather than waiting for my dream report card to come (I may be waiting for a very long time), I shall be my own teacher and simply and peacefully congratulate myself on another year’s full and beautiful journey as well. It has been said, after all, that every character in a dream is some version of yourself.

Students, teachers, parents….We all made it!



There is something so magical and enchanting about Summer Solstice and all of those extended hours of light~

and the promise of an abundant summer before us.

My heart and deep inner Celt wants to create playful and symbolic rituals incorporating flowers, herbs and delicious seasonal foods.

My first day of summer reality was a kids’ soccer game and a retirement due indoors.

No matter. It was a lovely day and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Still, in honour of ancient rituals, magic, flowers, wondrous nature, and the multiple blessings of summer, I offer you the image of this tiny fairy garden that Olivia created last summer in Waterton under the shade of a big evergreen,

perfect midsummer fairy habitat….


My Summer Reading List

Here are just some of the books that have made it onto my dance card this summer and that I will be carting around. I crave a wide range – fiction, non-fiction, memoir, etc….depending on my mood, the time of day…. They are my companions, my sources of inspiration and recreation. My sweet beloved books.

I would dearly love to know what everybody else is reading too….


My Best Stories by Alice Munro

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson


Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

The Gift by Hafiz

Graphic Novels (a seriously blossoming and highly acclaimed genre for adults too)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki


Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith

The Memory Palace: A Memoir by Mira Bartok

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Non Fiction

Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s  Search for the Truth about Everything

A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer

Non-Fiction (photography, art journaling, paper art etc)

A Beautiful Mess: Photo Idea Book

Inner Excavation: Explore your Self Through Photography, Poetry and Mixed Media

Happy summer reading!





On tribes, The Red Dust Road, and a family tree….


Lately, the idea of tribes has been on my mind.

We all yearn for ‘our people’,

all of us looking to feel cherished, supported, understood, accepted,

and loved.

When I was young, my family tribe felt eternally fixed. There was my brother and I, mom and dad, our grandparents, and our aunts and uncles. We had a relatively small extended family and generally there was no need for extensions at our Christmas dinner table. We all safely fit, and it felt as if we always would. My grandfathers died, one while I was in Junior High, the other while I was in University, but other than that there were few changes.

At 22 I married and found myself living in a very small rural town away from home and attempting to understand my place in a new and different setting. These were people who had all known each other for a lifetime. Their ways were deeply entrenched in the land, their shared past, their common ways of recreating, and their intricate webs of personal histories and stories. I was an outsider,

but I still awkwardly found kinship,

co-workers and acquaintances took me under their wing…

I also found my first mentor there too, and made other solid friendships that I still treasure.

I came to love my husband’s family and grieved them when my husband and I divorced,

especially my mother and sister-in-law.

That tribe, for me, dispersed and changed abruptly when I left that small town.

I created a new life back in my hometown,

made new connections, re-connected with others, and let go of relationships that had run their course.

Now, so many years later, my family looks very different again, and the word tribe suddenly seems even more appropriate given our unconventional construct.  What was once simple and quiet is now often raucous, busy, and complex.

Our dinner table is often overflowing, and the extensions are pulled out of the garage.

This new version of my tribe includes my dad and my stepmother Elsie, my aunts and uncles and cousins,

Dan’s family -his parents, his siblings and their spouses and kids, his uncle Roy, his beloved cousins,

and Dan’s first wife Glenna as well as Glenna’s dad Bill.

More recently, it has also come to include Alex’s boyfriend Ry and his family

and Steve (Glenna’s boyfriend).

Also, I cannot forget my brother Jonathan and his partner Dannielle…

All of us intertwined now,

like our very own little small town of stories and unfolding dramas.

My beautiful tribe.

It has always, though, come down to peace and inclusion. That has been the

unanimous choice.

Circumstances in life are constantly changing for everyone and as a result our tribal memberships expand, contract, and are in an eternal state of flux. People die, marry, move away, form new relationships, come home.

This is what happens with tribes.

What really matters, though, is that there is an epicenter of love that remains, even after so many of the players have changed.

The heart of the storm needs to be that unconditional place of acceptance,

wherein all are welcomed through the front door and into the kitchen for dinner, a glass of wine, hugs, laughter and conversation,

while the kids play and squabble in the background ~

and there is that unspoken but palpable undercurrent of ‘we are so happy to all be together once more’.

So it has been throughout all of my tribal editions,

We may not always agree, our political persuasions may sometimes differ, our choices may not always align, feelings may sometimes get hurt,

but at the end of the day support is certain, and love trumps it all.

because together is always better.

So I am forever grateful that there is always more room at our table.


The Red Dust Road

I am currently reading a wonderful book, The Red Dust Road by Scottish writer Jackie Kay,


This is Kay’s own story of tracing and finding her birth parents, her Nigerian father and Scottish Highland mother. Kay’s sense of identity and family expands as she must weave in new histories, new places, and new extended family.

Her very real and accessible ways of describing this complex re-calibrating of family and identity positively brims over with depth and beauty.

Though I bought this book because I am drawn to all things ‘Scottish’ these days,

and though I have always known that there is an ancestral tribe and a profound connection to place that awaits me in the land of the Scots,

it was Kay’s emotional description of finally reaching her biological father’s Nigerian village that moved me beyond anything else ~

”The earth is so copper warm and beautiful and the green of the long elephant grasses so lushly green they make me want to weep. I feel such a strong sense of affinity with the colours and the landscape, a strong sense of recognition. There’s a feeling of liberation, and exhilaration, that at last, at last, at last I’m here. It feels a million miles away from Glasgow, from my lovely Fintry Hills, but, surprisingly, it also feels like home.”

Sometimes familiarity and finding a sense of home defy the laws of time and space.

Our Family Tree

Sometimes kids can describe it best, and distill the truths~


‘Family Tree’ by George, aged 7, from our kidart archives

Perhaps we are ALL a part of that tree.






on the fourth decade, Deathdays, and Carol’s RADIANT Garden….

The Forties

Though I have always enjoyed friendships with women of all ages, most of my contemporaries have now turned 40.

This is a milestone no matter what we tell ourselves, and is invariably a time to reflect and take stock.

Though aging, per say, has never really bothered me that much, I did find my world a little bit rocked a few years ago on my 40th,

by my own relentless and critical self-assessments of

where I thought I should be at, and what I hadn’t yet accomplished.

As with everything, once I managed to put a halt to the tricky mind games and flip everything in the direction of gratitude and love, it all looked pretty rosy again.

And so it is with my friends too,

once the birthday celebrations are complete,

here is what I am so often noticing about the women that I see and know that are now moving through their fourth decade….

They are far more likely to articulate how they really feel and what they intend and believe, without worrying about how it will be received.

They stand taller, smile more, and open up their hearts and hands more freely.

They have experienced loss, conflict, heart-ache, disappointment and they are thus stronger, wiser and far more beautiful than ever before.

They are less judgmental and less apt to dismiss, disengage, or allow themselves to be disempowered.

They have learned when to say ‘no’ and when to say ‘yes’.

They love their families, their friends, and the world with a passion and intensity that only grows with the passing years.

They are hopeful and are ready for change and adventure.

Many years ago, I heard the Dalai Lama’s surprising and famous quote, ‘The world will be saved by the western woman.’ I remember repeating this idea to Dan, and he whole-heartedly agreed.

So, my radiant girlfriends,  let’s get to it….

We have so many incredible and unprecedented resources at our disposal, and the confidence, understanding and love to move mountains.

It’s time.


This week was the eighth anniversary of my mom’s death. I know that the word ‘deathday’ seems morbid and abrupt, but still I decided to use it,

because we need a word for that day that speaks to the absolute truth of what it is.

In Mexico, of course, they have the  ‘Day of the Dead’ which is a holiday that has spread around the world to many cultures, and continues to gain worldwide popularity.

What a beautiful and healing and necessary concept,

time set aside to stop and remember,


and celebrate our dead and our ancestors.

I know and have met so many people who have lost someone very close, and then  struggle to create meaning on the anniversaries of the deaths of their beloveds,

often attempting to create their own little rituals or ways of remembering.

On facebook, we see posts all the time on anniversaries of loss –

tributes and photos,

because our hearts desperately yearn to remember and we have no day set aside for our dead.

It can be so easy to sit in a sense of aimlessness on that anniversary, not quite knowing what to do,

or where to focus the emptiness and that need to

cry out,

You are gone, but you will always exist.

It doesn’t matter if it has been a year since the loss, or fifty years,

that yearning to simply acknowledge doesn’t just go away with time.

So, my beautiful mother that I adored heart and soul,


and all of my grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles and friends and my dearest mentor,

and my unborn baby too,

you are not here anymore for me to talk to and hug and live out all of  life’s moments with, but

I still see you and hear you and feel you,

and know you.

You are my dead and on this day I am proclaiming

that I love you still.


 Carol’s Radiant Garden

The ‘ritual’ that has evolved over the last eight years for us to honour and remember mom on the anniversary of her death, June 11,

is the planting of her garden in the planters beside our front steps.

Every year the kids and I choose a ‘theme’ and then let loose in the greenhouse, concerning ourselves less with flower names and care requirements,

and more with colour, feel and thematic appropriateness.

Some of our themes over the years have been

fairy garden, prairie grasses, enchanted forest, and the tropics.

The year Olivia came up with…..sunshine garden!

So, here it is, mom, your newest radiant and love-filled realm….

We all planted it last night after eating pizza and drinking our very best bottle of wine.


We all most definitely love you still.




On medical tests, peace in perfectionism, and ‘Flow’ magazine

Every week I speak to three topics: anecdotes, books, ideas, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles.

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….

Medical Tests

This week I had another echo cardiogram,

and a couple weeks previous to that I had my first mammogram.

Neither of these ended up being at all difficult or lengthy tests, just a little awkward and uncomfortable.

What ends up being much harder is the anxiety and mind games that can set in before, during, or after these kinds of procedures.

Will they find something? Has my heart condition significantly worsened? When will I hear back? Why haven’t I heard back? Should I prepare myself for hard news? What if? What if? What if?

and around and around and around it goes…

as I am suddenly caught up in a silly whirlwind of habitually preparing for the worst and losing the joy of the present.

This is no way to move through a test or a day or a life,

and so I am now employing a couple of new strategies that are helping,

a little bit.

First of all,

I breathe.

I can’t even adequately describe the difference this simple strategy makes. Of course, the mindfulness trend is talked about at every turn these days,

but, for me,

the real triumph comes when I can successfully make the choice to just focus on gently breathing rather than panicking or jumping on a crazy runaway thought train,

whilst in the middle of what would typically be an anxiety inducing event.


I focus on the idea/truth that for the most part, my body truly is a miraculous mechanism that is actually functioning quite perfectly and beautifully for the most part,

and so it makes so much more sense to focus on gratitude for all that is working,

which is pretty much everything.

The crux of it all is that

I can no longer live in fear of ‘what if’.


I choose ‘what is’.


Peace in Perfectionism

In our house it may often seem as if we can never do anything in a small way. We love to create, all of us, and it’s not uncommon to suddenly find ourselves deeply immersed in a ginormous idea of which the scope, or dedication and time required,

we had not considered carefully enough.

For example, several years ago, Dan decided to build for George’s dinosaur-themed birthday party,

a life-sized 3-d T-Rex, inspired by the little wooden models you find at your local dollar store.


Another event that jumps to mind is the ‘day at the office’ themed birthday party that we threw for Olivia at Dan’s place of work,

complete with Starbucks for everyone, a full meeting with a real agenda, office-wear, and even a presentation from a potential make-believe company that wanted us to market and test their candy.

Below, see Ry brought in as the candy representative live via video tele-conference,


and Glenna waiting outside to present a ‘personal relations’ issue for the birthday party girls to discuss and resolve.


I look at these pictures, now, and laugh again,

remembering the fun far more than the expended energy. At the office party, I actually can remember laughing so hard that the tears were rolling down my cheeks.

This week a wise friend was offering me advice about ‘perfectionism’. She was commenting on the idea that we often (I often) perceive perfectionism as a negative trait.

I criticize myself for being a perfectionist, but this is just who I am in part.

We are told constantly that we all need to

let go of perfectionism,

and find more balance.

We also may avoid trying too hard, going to extremes, or appearing as ‘too much’ or ‘over the top’

because maybe that’s just not cool –

and all of this, ironically, whilst navigating a society that ultimately rewards  performance.

The thing is though, that for our family, this is just sometimes how we play and create and collaborate. Not all the time, but sometimes.

It’s not right or wrong. It’s just us,

and every family has their particular ways of being in this world and finding their own sense of meaning and fun.

So today, I am coming out with our wacky and wild side that can be over-the-top,

admittedly exhausting,

but always fun.

And it’s all good.

This week’s production  involved a homemade gopher head bopping game created by George and Dan for the school carnival.


 Flow Magazine

Do you LOVE paper, stationery, cards, stickers, tags, labels, wrapping paper, mail and such!?


Do you ever comb the magazine racks for a beautiful, relevant, playful, meaningful magazine to no avail…?

I have discovered the most gorgeous magazine, created in the Netherlands,

which offers intelligent articles on themes that are close to my heart, such as  connectedness, play, and peace. Flow  is aesthetically gorgeous and even includes the most delightful paper treasures. The current issue even has 26 detachable letter cards, each one designed by a different illustrator from around the globe.

I discovered Flow when I fell in love with and bought the special edition Flow Book for Paper Lovers at Chapters. The current magazine I ordered from the Netherlands. It came quickly and I am quite definitely smitten.