On 10,000 hours, fishing, and my grade one teacher

10,000 hours

This summer I much considered and bought into  Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of 10,000 hours of practice required to get good at most anything.

It suddenly seems so completely obvious.

It you want to improve at something, than just do it.

In my life,

I have often taken the  approach of dancing and skirting around the things that I really want to do,

but never actually jumping in.

Partly, this is a misguided form of martyrdom.

I wait until everybody else is settled and completely taken care of and only then do I  finally sit down ready to enjoy or pursue my bit,

but by then I am tired and have sometimes even lost my drive,

never mind that as a mother in a busy family that time often just never comes.

It is also a way of avoiding my dreams because it’s simply far less risky to just keep doing what I’m doing.


there are certain things that I have always wanted to do, projects I have been considering, and areas that I have wanted to explore….

This past Spring, I decided that enough was enough. If I wanted to write, for example, then I would write.

It’s high time to take responsibility for my own dreams~


Now that a new year is upon us (to me September always feels like the beginning of a new year), I am changing it up a bit and expanding my focus to another creative writing venture…..

I have a very exciting project in the works that my lovely Alex has been helping me with over the last several months. We are now on a more specific timeline and to keep up my momentum,

I will now be blogging every second Friday,

and will look forward to continuing to connect with all you lovely readers.



This week Dan took Olivia and George fishing.

Surprisingly, everything about this adventure ended up being marvelous and sweet.

It all started with my dad and stepmother coming out to visit us for the day in Waterton on the weekend. Dad, to his core, is an outdoors-man and it filled my heart to watch him sitting at the picnic table with his grand kids, showing them how to tie proper fishing knots and looking at all of the new fishing gear.


The next morning, George jumped out of bed and ran into our bedroom,

all ready to go.


I had been debating whether or not to go with them. Olivia, of course, wanted me to come but George gently broke the news to me that he had really pictured himself and Olivia being in the boat on their own with dad.

That was all I needed to hear ~ my gut was telling me that this was an experience that didn’t need to involve me.

So off they went, up the road to Cameron Lake where they rented a boat and spent four hours rowing to the farthest reaches of the lake,

enjoying the early morning mountain splendor.

Much of the time, Dan reported to me later, was spent untangling fishing line and coaching,

and they were out there for a good four hours.

George apparently started to lose heart and interest when near the end of that time, they still hadn’t caught anything. Olivia, of course, started to lecture him about keeping up a positive attitude and focusing on the fun they had still had despite not being successful.

Still dejected, George threw in one more line right before reaching the dock and in a gift of amazing timing,

felt two big tugs on his line and proceeded to catch his first fish!

Later on, while showing me his prized and beautiful catch, he would describe that moment on the boat as ‘one of the best feelings of his life.’


I can’t tell you exactly why this ended up being such a magical day, or even what it was about fishing in particular that ended up striking such an unexpected cord of nostalgia and joy in all of us,

but it did.

Later on that evening we had an appetizer of grilled lake trout with lemon and butter, and my kids who usually turn their noses up at fish enthusiastically ate their portions.

My grade one teacher

I  heard news this past week of the passing of my first and second grade teacher, Mme. Paquin.

The news actually spurred a thread of messages by classmates expressing sympathies and sharing memories,

one of the lovelier uses of social media. 

It seems timely to offer up my own tribute to this wonderful woman as many of us embark on a new school year, perhaps feeling hesitant about how it will all play out.

My memories of my first few years of school are fuzzy at best, but I do remember feeling nurtured and understood

during a time when I was desperately shy, anxious, and sensitive.

I will also never forget that Mme. Paquin drove an hour to see me during my first marriage, when I was embarking on a career of teaching little ones myself. She and my mother had stayed in touch and she wanted to come and see for herself how I was doing.

We sat at my kitchen table and had tea,

and I remember her dispensing firmly held teaching advice, this time teacher to teacher,

but I felt nurtured still….

cared for by this fascinating woman who never had her own children and had spent twenty-five years in a convent before marrying and entering into the teaching profession. During that visit, I remember Mme. Paquin telling me not to take things too seriously and to always remember that children needed to be allowed to play and be children.

Rest in peace, grand lady.












Summer’s end, our girls, and a haircut

Summer’s End

I have been back in the city this week, preparing my kids for the school year to come,  formulating future projects,

and working through the loads of paperwork piled high on my dining room table.

As I write this, it is also pouring rain outside and inspiration, to be honest, is eluding me.

So I sit here, not quite knowing what to say next,

which can feel harder as the weeks pass and this blog builds and I know that more of you are reading my words. Thank you, by the way, to everyone who has reached out to me with heartfelt expressions of support and encouragement. You do make my days.

Suddenly, though, I feel a self-imposed pressure to inspire and move, even on a day when I am not feeling particularly inspired or moved myself.

And so here I sit today, writing about, writing through, the greyer times,

because they are very real too.

When the rain is falling, when I am not at all sure of my next move, and when I have heard too many personal stories of loss and heartache in a week to maintain a steady grip,

there is still so much to say.


Peace, I know, is not a holiday destination. It does not solely live on a gorgeous white sandy beach as the ocean waves crash and lull,

or in Waterton,

amidst the wildflowers and the mountains or under a spectacular sky –

though it can certainly feel so much more accessible in those kinds of places.

It is here, too, within my steaming cup of black tea as I tap away on my computer, planning and paying bills, and writing emails.


For if it does not live here, it can’t be found there either, no matter how beautiful the surroundings.

Wherever you go, there you are.          (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

The trees are beginning to change in this land where our summers are so short,

and our back lawn is already speckled with fallen leaves.

Friends are asking me what I have registered my kids in this fall and my September calendar is almost filled up.

Fall. Beautiful fall. You are almost here. You are here.

As a wise mentor once reassured me,

‘As long as you are living and experiencing, there will always be new things to say, new material,

and so this ever-changing peace project will continue into another season because, for me, it still feels like the worthiest of journeys,

and so I welcome fall with open and waiting arms,

ready for her gifts.

Our Girls


Here it is ~ My  favourite photo from our block party this past weekend,

from a night when I took very few photos.

It was the loveliest of evenings on our street. The afternoon began with heavy rain and we were late to begin, but then a calm happiness gently descended on us all.

For the past nine years on the night of the block party, I have filled my house and steps and front yard with outside friends and family, food and much hoopla,

but this year I did not.

If you felt left out, please accept my apologies and know that I love you but also understand that I desperately needed to just keep it quieter this year and re-acquaint myself with my neighbours, new and old,  and re-discover, quite simply, why we are here,

why I am here.

This photo is why.

It is the snapshot that I wanted to freeze and store forever because in the very witnessing of it my heart was full…

A line-up of girls from our street, performing ‘the cup song’.

All different ages,

girls that I have known and watched from their childhoods now becoming such strong and interesting young women – peaceful rising forces of good and beauty in our world,

singing and playing with their younger neighbours who so look up to them,

and caring and looking out for them in turn ~

modeling strength of character and individuality

when powerful and inevitable peer pressures impose on them from everywhere else.

On this street they/we are all safe and loved and understood, young and old,

as we take care of one another, affirming our interconnectedness.

This is why we are here,

this is why we are ALL here.


And the other best part….

being able to trick scooter down a closed down street with a friendly and captive audience.



George, too, is transitioning into a new grade with a new teacher and, this week,

he suddenly decided that he wanted his hair cut short.

For almost all of his life, his hair has been longer.


Doctor Westwood

I even used to call him my Little Lord Fauntleroy, because he reminded me of that main character in one of my favourite childhood books,

with his long blonde locks and blue eyes.

My beautiful baby boy ~

I read once, though, that we must be careful to convey to our kids that we enjoy watching them grow up and change,

rather than constantly telling them that we wish that we could keep them little and bottle that cuteness,

and oh my goodness, he was cute.

So when George asked me if I thought it was a good idea if he cut off his hair, I replied, ‘Go for it!’

My smart, kind, wonderful nine year old boy is blossoming into the wondrousness of all that he will decide to become,

and I am a firm supporter of the idea that a little re-invention

is always good for anybody’s soul.


Whac that mole!










On Robin Williams, a goodbye and our block party

Robin Williams

It may seem that some people have such a strong and vibrant life force that the world can only sustain their blinding brightness for so long.

Consequently, when we suddenly find them gone, too young,
their absence is palpable
so deeply felt was their presence.

When Robin Williams died earlier this week, didn’t the world suddenly feel a little emptier, a little more hollow,
as the hole he left
gaped open?

Robin Williams was known for his comic genius, his unparalleled ability to improvise and his endless and unbounded wit and zaniness.

Yet, one of my favorite movies of all time featured him in a more serious role,
‘What Dreams May Come’. I have actually written about this movie in a previous post.

After news of Williams death, it was easy to imagine him,

wish him into a state of frolicking in a heaven of his own making, as that movie depicts –

completely, wildly, ecstatically and finally free.

Certainly, there is so much to be addressed about mental illness and thankfully this important conversation has been re-opened. My friend Lyndon, for example, has written very eloquently on the topic this week as have so many others.

The new revelation of Williams having been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is personally heart-wrenching too, as I watched my maternal grandfather struggle with this disease for all of my childhood.

Every time, though, that my thoughts take me back to Williams’ death, and I have pondered speaking to it,
it’s not so much the subject of mental illness that asks for my pen,

it’s laughter.

Robin Williams lived to make people laugh.

In death, I think, he would like nothing better than to be able to remind us to laugh…
Big, consuming, tears-streaming, right from the belly, pure and good, healing beautiful laughter –

wherever and whenever it can be found.

Many of us have read the quote, by French poet Antoine De Saint-Exupery, tweeted by Williams daughter, Zelda, right after his death.
“You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them … In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night … You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.”

And then later she wrote,

‘To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.’

And so it is then, his death on one hand a booming call to take care of our hurting brothers and sisters, and to carefully tend to our own pain too,

and on another a reminder to play and laugh and abandon inhibitions.

Could we expect anything less from such a man who was able to take on the most serious of roles but then could effortlessly slip into the shoes of a genie or a nanny,

encompassing the wide spectrum of life~

One who seemed to bear the pain of the world,

but then could just as easily make the very stars laugh.

This beautiful humanity and heart-breaking vulnerability…

It’s in every single one of us.


A Goodbye

Last night we said goodbye to a family that, for the past 5 weeks, has melded into ours.

For a little while, my kids were her kids and hers were mine.

Both our families have been in Waterton together for the last three summers and with each year the kids’ connection deepens as does our adult friendships.

For our combined brood, It has been the sort of play that can only happen within the freedom of summer.

Suppers of noodles or cereal at 10pm after one last bike ride. Hours of Rainbow Looming. Countless trips to the yogurt place and the gas station for penny candy. Racing to the frigid lake for a quick dunk.

This, to me, has always been why we chose Waterton.

After our friends drove away back to their ‘real’ lives and home, my two burst into tears,

feeling the immediate grief of their departure,

as well as the anxiety regarding the looming school year and the tightly packed schedule to come.

Next year we will meet again, of course, but we all will be one year older,

the same, but different too, as much will have changed.

It always does.

I suggested a walk to cheer my kids up and promised George frozen yogurt smothered with his choice of candy. On our way back to the cabin, they wanted to jump off the dock. They did this wildly and enthusiastically, recovering quickly from their sadness as kids tend to do. It is still summer and they are still free.



We will miss you, beautiful Howeth family.

Our Block Party

This year marks ten years of block parties on our street. This party has strengthened community bonds in our pretty little neighbourhood like nothing else could have.

Let this be my expression of deep gratitude for this collaborative venture that has proven to all of us here that there is such beauty in this world to be created and found.

This year we have decided to celebrate in a more quiet and intimate way,

and take a year to get to know new neighbours and quietly but surely rejuvenate.




On Mrs. Hitchcock, discovering a place, and the writing process

Mrs. Hitchock

Motivated by a looser summer schedule ,

these last few weeks I have been determined to finally watch a few movies that have been released in the last ten years

as they would still be quite new to me.

Thank goodness for Netflix. I can curl up in bed with my iPad and feel like as if I am an in-touch adult again.

Given my remembered teenage obsession with ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ and ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes,

I decided to watch the 2009 movie ‘Hitchcock’ last week as I had heard an interesting snippet from an interview about it a few months ago.

This movie captures the part of Alfred Hitchcock’s life when he made ‘Psycho’, but largely deals with his fascinating and complex relationship with Alma, his wife.

Hitchcock was certainly not an easy man to be married to and their difficulties are well highlighted in the movie. Alma and Alfred were, however, fantastic collaborators and in the end their love was affirmed. Alma was a brilliant support to her husband, understood his projects, and was even able to masterfully step onto her husband’s  movie set and take over,

or spend hours with him in the cutting room, adding her own bits of genius.

It occurred to me that this, too, is what marriage can be about ~

Creative support and relentless cheer-leading when it seems that every other fan has left the building.

Undying belief in one another when faith in self falters and wanes,

as it will.

Enthusiastic collaboration on one another’s dreams….

Last week I was reading my newest blog post out loud to Dan, as I always do before publishing, and he told me he loved it,

after offering a few truly constructive comments.

He then said to me, ‘I am your Mrs. Hitchcock’.

I looked at him, surprised, while selfishly thinking to myself that it has actually been me who has done all of the

cheering on and supporting and standing beside.

But then I just as quickly realized that, in actuality, our support and belief in one another has always been completely and unarguably



Teamwork builds peace at home, after all.


‘Dan, you are my Mrs. Hitchcock and I am yours, and so……

Good Evening.’

Knowing a Place

On my morning walk this morning, in Waterton,

I reflected on how places can offer innumerable and never-ending precious gifts to be discovered. It doesn’t always need to be about the big, glamorous sights that everybody clamors around.

When we  traveled to Holland seven years ago with the kids,

rather than rushing all over the country and the next one over, and seeing every possible sight with little kids in tow,

we decided to just choose one location to settle into and get to know.

We chose Delft,

and spent long afternoons browsing its markets, shops, museums and cafes,




Bike rides along the city’s canals and into the flower-filled countryside, day trips on crowded trains into the next town, lingering dinners with delightful menus (yes for me, it’s so often about the food)… These are the sweetest parcels of memories that I still hold onto from that trip.


There were so many tourist attractions that we missed, and some that we were able to make time to see,

but so often the greatest delights in life and travel are small,

the ones to which no expectations are attached.


Sometimes I will berate myself for having spent another whole summer in Waterton  yet still not having checked all the ‘must-do’s off the list.

I haven’t, for example, done the most spectacular hikes that everyone asks and talks about,

and I am not out on wonderful adventures with the kids every time the weather is lovely (and it has been an achingly lovely summer).


This morning I drank my tea at the picnic table with George while we watched two squirrels chasing each other,

and we laughed our heads off at their zaniness.

Yesterday, I went on a long walk by myself and found my first perfect thimbleberry (don’t you love that word) of the season.


This past long weekend, on a long family walk after supper I turned around suddenly and saw this,


and my heart swelled to about ten times its size.


This is enough.

Perhaps, even,

this is all there really is.

The Writing Process

Earlier on this week, I inadvertently posted a first draft of this blog.

Correction. It wasn’t even a first draft,

it was my very rough and preliminary thoughts about this piece.

I only worked on it for a few minutes and then, to my horror, pushed the post button instead of the save draft button. Of course, I could quickly delete the post from most social media, but those who have signed up to receive my blog via email received my

emerging ramblings.

I decided that I could stress about it, or I could just breathe and let it go.

No point in obsessing over something that can’t be undone.

Perhaps, I even thought, there might be at least one lone soul out there who might be mildly interested in my writing process,

as how others bring their pieces to final form intrigues me to no end.

Writing is such a highly personal and creative act.

For me, writing is largely about distilling a piece, as much as possible,

to its essence.

Therein resides the impact and beauty.

My dear friend and glorious flower arranger, Jen, taught me that the real trick with flowers is to quickly get rid of all the extra unnecessary leaves and foliage fillers,

so that you are left with the perfect simplicity of the flowers.

Re-writing and editing, for me, is like that ~

a repetitive process of filtering and stripping away of words and extraneous thoughts,

until I finally reach a point where I feel that I have found something worth sharing.


Then, and only then, do I press publish. 🙂


















On bears, silence, and unhealthier eating


Last week I wrote about our beloved Waterton,


and then, a few days later,  it seems she gave us an unexpected gift.

It was Monday morning, and I woke early. This was very unusual for me, because this summer I have slept and slept.

Likely a combination of much later nights, fresh mountain air, more physical activity, and heavy dark curtains in our bedroom that block out all light,
my sleeps here are often heavy and long.
Yet, when I go back to the city I am up by 7.

However, this particular Monday morning in Waterton, I was wide awake at 5:30am. It seems safe to say that this is the first time this summer that I have been wide awake at 5:30… So awake in fact, that I got up and went into our living room to curl up in my chair by the window and read. Dan would not need to get up for another hour to get to work in time.

I was only there a few minutes,

when I looked out and saw a bear lumbering across the street near our neighbour’s cottage. I have seen a bear hanging out there once before, a few months ago, but it’s always a thrill to see a big animal up close (especially when you are safely tucked inside a house).

As I watched, the bear walked toward our cabin, came around my vehicle and then headed right for our back deck.


Quickly, I ran into our bedroom, woke Dan and told him that there was a bear outside our bedroom window.

The timing was perfect!

Dan threw open the curtains and the bear was right there, 2 feet away.

It looked right at us,

and then went on its early morning way.

It was our own dreamy, before-the-world-is-awake, magical moment of connection with this powerful creature.

I crawled back into our bed and slowly went back to sleep,


and delightfully bewildered.


July, for me, has not only been a month of deep sleeps,

but also of silence.

Certainly, we are a family that loves music.

Ryland, of course, is a talented musician.

Alex, too, has a lovely voice and often vocally accompanies her fiancée.

Both of them, as well as Glenna, are active contributors in helping organize  South Country Fair every year.

And Olivia, I think, was born expressing her feelings and thoughts through self-created musical theater renditions of everything (I will never forget over-hearing her in her bedroom when she about 4-years-old singing and dancing quite theatrically at the top of her lungs,

about how hard done by she was about something or other)

and Dan often relaxes and gets his mind off of work,

by strumming away on his guitar.

George and I, though, often just prefer


I have an extensive playlist that I like to add to,

and I love going to productions and concerts,

but I can go through long phases where peace, to me, is


Quiet mornings and evenings. Conversation with no soundtrack

and the sounds of simply going about my day.

The wind. Birds in the morning. Just my book and the turning pages. A walk. My footsteps. Running water.


Driving with the radio off.

This is exactly what I needed for a while, I think.

My July.

A deeper processing of another full year and preparing to begin again,

a taking of stock and recalibrating.


I think I am ready, now, for some music.

Unhealthier Eating

Some of you may be happy to hear that our pendulum which had swung to the extreme of very healthy eating (remember the celebrated black bean chia brownies), has made its way back in the other direction this week.

My kids feasted on fried perogies and bacon for supper,

Olivia and her friend Piper made a deliciously sweet and cinnamon-y puffed pancake one morning which we doused with icing sugar (I plan to repeat this one this weekend for our visiting family),


I made margarita pizza with 3 kinds of cheese (every time I make pizza dough from scratch, I think, why don’t I do this all the time, it’s so easy- and then, of course,  I forget and don’t).


and I made chocolate zucchini muffins with regular white flour and positively loaded the batter with cocoa and chocolate chips (George was still turned off by the zucchini of course).


All of it was lovely and yummy and delicious,
and I don’t feel a shred of guilt.
Balance always finds us again and real food, prepared with love and pleasure, is just so beautiful, regardless.

This is a bit of a celebration weekend for us and I shall perhaps have more food stories to share next week. I am terribly excited, for example, about the suggestion of roasting cherries with honey and balsamic, (thank you Julie Van RosenDaal for this recipe)

How perfectly amazing and impressive does that sound?

Happy happy August long weekend everyone! EnJOY!