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she sees whales

Quite some time ago, I vowed to write about play. Play as antidote to fear. Play as means of coping, even thriving in a quickly changing world.

 

After I wrote this an event happened that stalled my writing, halted my sure and steady movement through my well planned days,

and once again brought uncertainty into the picture.

My step-mother died very suddenly of a brain aneurysm.

 

In a moment everything changed.

I remember a teacher colleague once saying, many years ago, that it is not usually the anticipated events that rock our worlds, rather it is that unexpected phone call on a Monday afternoon.

 

The day it happened ~

I had just had coffee and a slice of chocolate cake with a dear friend, a great inspiring visit actually full of good laughs and exciting future plans, and then as I  left the cafe and  walked towards my vehicle I checked my phone.

 

Three calls from Dan.

 

When I called him back he said right away,

‘Where are you? I don’t want to tell you over the phone what I need to tell you. I want to come and talk to you in person’.

My heart pounding,  ‘No, tell me now. Please just say it.’

In our most secret unspeakable depths, we all prepare for those calls, don’t we?

 

That Monday afternoon call that will force us to put everything we thought was important on hold for weeks perhaps, and then re-calibrate our entire perceptions of the world, our very place in it.

 

Once again.

 

After we hung up I cried out openly, there on the street, in agony for my dad and for this new loss that he was forced to bear. I stood there tears streaming, waiting for Dan, and looking everywhere for my friend who had already gotten in his truck, already gone.

 

Feeling so alone.

 

Wanting to call my friend back so that he could reassure me that things would be ok.

Wanting somebody, anybody, to tell me that we would get through this one.

On that street corner all by myself waiting for Dan who was coming because he was worried for me, I realized that every maternal figure I have ever had is gone ~my mentor, my grandmothers, my step-mother now,

and my mother.

 

It is just me.

 

Even my friend had gotten in his truck and driven away.

 

Then.

Over Easter,

after the hospital and the funeral and the tears and the big conversations and the grief and the family everywhere and all the missed school and work and the beginning of finding a way forward for my dad,

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we went whale watching in Victoria.

 

We had gathered there as a family over the break and we spontaneously booked a tour on our first morning. We had always promised George we would go on a whale adventure, but then had always found reasons not to.  That day,  however,  the weather seemed particularly good, we had nothing else planned, and I can tell you honestly that I knew, absolutely knew, that we would see whales that day if we went.

 

We had to go out fairly far, but it ended up being what they call a T-party of whales. Whales in every direction. Not even knowing which way to look because as one would surface, there would suddenly be another sighting on the other side of the boat.

Families of whales. Young whales pressed against their mother as they swam. An independent male on his own  surfacing then going under as we all watched with anticipation, wondering where he would pop up next.

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All around us, a whole pod, a matrilineal community of interrelated magnificent communicating, beautiful orcas.

Orcas that have visited me in my dreams since I was a child. Magical dreams where I watch them, down from a cliff at night or my face pressed up against the glass of a huge aquarium,

half of me afraid of their power and strength while the other half is delighted, transfixed, comforted and healed.

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Orcas drawing by George

A show that day that just went on and on. Our kind tour guides were willing to stay on past the allotted time because the day was perfect and the whales just weren’t leaving.

And then finally not being able to linger any longer, we reluctantly turned back towards the mainland.

The orcas swam back with us in the same direction, stealth-like and fast, underwater, towards a cropping of rocks covered in lounging elephant seals.

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Such dramatic suspense.

 

Our captain stopped the boat for us to watch the hunt unfold; the orcas surfaced at the rocks and surprised their prey who were by no means helpless, fighting back with vigor. It was over quickly, and the whales were again moving on, having been rewarded with one unlucky seal.

 

A nature documentary in real time.

 

Continuing on, bathed in glowing late afternoon sunshine, the whales headed towards the shore and swam right up against a cliff nestled on top of which was a park where families often recreate. From the boat we watched as children ran along the cliff following the orcas, screeching with delight.

 

I truly don’t know if I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing such a perfect moment of spontaneous play, natural and true, uncomplicated and wild.

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It is never just me. It is Dan and I, the kids and I, us. It is this beautiful extended family that I love so much that were gathered for Easter fun. It is my dad and I. My friends.       My wonderful neighbours. It is new acquaintances and the grocery store cashier that I exchange friendly words with ~

It is all those I have lost, living in me with every heartbeat.

 

It is all of us…

 

navigating the heartache and the uncertainty yet still forging creative ways to joyfully be in this brave and beautiful new world.

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And it is whales, meeting me at sunset after a lifetime of knowing each other in dreams. The promise is the same. It’s going to be ok.

 

 

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Rise UP.

Several years ago Olivia told me that she wanted an ‘office-themed’ birthday party. Though this sounded unusual, I was up for it –

I loved planning parties for my kids when they were little, loved it. I actually enjoyed the boundless planning and creativity that such opportunities offered,

and I found it wonderful and infinitely delightful that kids will

without question,

 

just enter and participate without hesitation in an entirely new world of your making.

They really will.

 

I also adore office supplies. Pens and paper make my heart beat faster.

Best of all, we had access to an office!

 

So a few Saturdays later,  Dan and I found ourselves in the board room of the architectural firm where he works, while eight or so 9-year old girls (and George) sat very seriously around that big table, both an agenda and a cup of Starbucks steamed vanilla milk in front them,

dressed in suit jackets, hair neatly tied back, reading glasses on, ready to take on the world and make important decisions.

 

For the next hour or two, we discussed –

personnel issues (what we should do about an employee with an excessive burping problem which involved  actually bringing her in to brainstorm solutions)

which candy our company should choose to market,

and from which seller should we buy (we were fortunately able to skype our Ryland in who had a thorough presentation prepared).

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Here’s the particular brilliance of that afternoon that I can only see now all these years later…

 

 

(And) never mind that these girls were not for even a moment  questioning their right to be in that board room which is gorgeous and  perfect in itself,

 

(And)…never mind that there they sat, collaborating respectfully, taking their roles very seriously,

genuinely discussing, listening, offering opinions and solutions.

 

 

But.

 

We were,       all of us,              adults and kids alike, engaged in an afternoon of simply indulging our imaginations which felt deeply empowering, beautifully cooperative, joyful and so crazy hilarious that I actually remember laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks.

 

 

And why not?

 

 

 

Let’s not ever forget to play my friends,          ever.

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Listen, now, because this is really important. …

There’s a powerful magic in play that goes far beyond what we see on the surface.

 

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce

 

I have been quiet so far this year, words have honestly escaped me as I look to work out a new position that feels both authentic and positive given the shifting of our times. I have, finally, decided to talk about LOVE-based play and creativity, and make that my focus for this new year.

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That is my resistance, my persistence, my rising up (I believe it looks a little different for each of us). It’s what I can contribute, and I promise you it’s going to be

 

lovely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Find the Cake, Part. 2

Our Christmas tree this year is full and tall and drinks gallons of water.  I can barely keep up. We check the water level every few hours, and are continually surprised that it wants still more to drink. The first few nights I even wondered if I should wake up in the middle of the night, set a timer. I have never seen a tree drink so much water. The kids and I joke about needing to hire a babysitter for our tree when we go out. It is as if it is constantly reminding us that she is a living, pulsing thing requiring our attention too. And so I give it, feeling almost as it I have another mouth to feed, someone else needing me. But she responds by hardly shedding a needle. We have had the tree for over a month now and I have hardly swept. She is radiant, and very much alive. People comment as they stand in our entry way on the health and beauty of  this tree.

In my quietest, most clear and sacred moments, I wonder even,

Is it possible that this tree loves us, so generous she is with the fullness of her being?

 

Regardless, it is for certain that her beauty and scent permeate our home and I love her. We turn on her coloured lights first thing in the morning, and turning them off is the last thing we do at night.

 

 

I have not written since the election. There isn’t anything to say, and there is everything to say. How do I write the way I used to, when there is so much change, so much being challenged, such unrest? So many things now feel uncertain, no matter your views or beliefs, things that once felt unshakable .

 

Yet, here is this tree. Steady she stands reminding me that it is still Christmas and there will be delicious food on our table that we have all worked together to make, and the kids will wake up early on Christmas morning ~

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we will all feel excited and wrapped up in the coziness of the dark and silent early hours, and our hot chocolate (topped off with Bailey’s for the grown-ups) will warm us as will the impressive fire that Dan will build us as he always does, and the filled stockings will bring fun and delight. I will sit with my back right up against that roaring fire because that is where I love to sit, and I  will watch our kids bask in the magical joy of their favourite day of the year and my heart will be full because theirs are~

 

This is the beautiful dichotomy that I coming to honour, that sadness and joy can be felt at once. Even hope and fear. For holding one does not mean disallowing or even devaluing the other. So it is that our beautiful open hearts are made to ache and fill, fill and ache.

 

How could I forget the days before my mom died, so intensely written they are in my mind and heart? Though, to be honest, I don’t remember those days as being awful. Family and friends filled our house, there was lots of comfort food and hugs, shared cups of tea and glasses of wine, and tears freely fell but so did laughter easily ring out. Two days before she died my uncle cooked cabbage rolls all day, and then after sharing a meal together a spontaneous family sing-song  broke out that lasted a few hours while mom watched on, so peaceful. Not wanting the evening to ever end, we searched our collective memories for songs of her childhood, hymns of her upbringing, lyrics to bring us comfort. It was one of the most significant and beautiful nights of my life,

heralding both an end and a beginning.

 

In those unimaginably difficult moments  grace, peace, and even joy found us.

 

 

Times have been turbulent before and people have found their way.

This time, we are being pushed to be brave, true to our own hearts, and fiercely kind beyond measure. This is how we will heal and thrive. I know this with every fiber of my being, as do so many others.

 

Take heart dear friends,

for we have evergreen trees and wide frosty sky, glittering snow, and magical Christmas morning wanting to love us and

 

there are infinite cakes to be found.

 

Sometimes, though, it is up to us to bake them.

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Winter Wonderland cake for Alex’s birthday

 

Merry Christmas to all, dear family, friends, and acquaintances~ So many beautiful hearts finding their way. I love you all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Election Day….Find the Cake!

I may be unusual in that as a child I would sometimes lay awake stressing about the cold war, acid rain, and other issues potentially threatening the future of mankind. Being sensitive, also, to my parents peace of mind I didn’t want to bother them or anybody else with my spiraling thoughts-

So, mostly,  I carried my fears alone.

 

Now, I have no trouble speaking out and I understand that keeping it all in is not particularly healthy, but I still hold a fierce desire to protect those I love from heart-ache.

 

My 11 year-old son is my kindred global worrier and will sometimes come home concerned about some teacher’s dire warnings about the hopeless state of our environment or current affairs, and I have to talk him through it,

reminding him that there are very clever people working very hard on our biggest problems and that he may even have his own contribution to make someday –

 

though silently wishing in those moments that the message, still acknowledging that relaying evidence and information is crucial,  had been more around inspiration and positive call to actions.

For how can we ever deny our impressionable and listening children the idea that there will always be hope and that there is good and important work waiting to be done in our world?

 

At least six times I have sat down to blog about the political climate here and in the United States as it has very much been on my mind, and at least six times I have scrapped much of what I wrote,

realizing I was criticizing, complaining, judging and obsessing.

 

Somehow, I needed to separate myself from all of the endless chatter and find some light, some reason,  some quiet,          before I could say anything at all.

 

What I have come to realize, too, was that every single time I have expressed fear and disgust around the state of our politics and future,

I have sent the message to my kids that their future is something to be feared rather than anticipated.

 

Shortly after my mom died, I had a vivid dream, one which I will never forget.

I was standing in the kitchen in the house where I grew up, though mom was clearly already gone. Suddenly, I discovered that there were cakes hidden in every cupboard, on every shelf, in every single available space…

beautiful, home-made, joyful and gorgeous, always more and more cakes, and they were mine, ours, to just keep finding and pulling out –

 

Birthday cakes, Wedding cakes, Holiday cakes, My-Goodness-Look-at-What-You-Just-Achieved cake, Life-is-Good-cake, Happy-Tuesday cake, We-Are-So-Grateful-Cake,

 

and then even still more cakes.

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our most recent celebration cake

 

Though it feels as if I have read hundreds of political articles in the last few months coming from every angle, here is one I loved –

the Dalai Lama giving his bit on what is happening in the Western World right now:

Selflessness and joy are intertwined. The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel. This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies. ..This pattern is occurring throughout the developed world — and the consequences are not merely economic. Feeling superfluous is a blow to the human spirit. It leads to social isolation and emotional pain, and creates the conditions for negative emotions to take root.

 

What if I put my energies towards the things I know make me brighter, stronger, and less fearful  –

stretching, reading, walking, eating together, putting down my phone, talking to kids, playing, laughing, drinking tea, writing, making wonderful plans…..   ?

 

Then, spreading  kindness, and contributing where and when I can.

 

And yes, using my  voice for positive change,

but how much stronger and more effective my voice is  when it comes from a place of compassion and self-awareness.

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And remembering to keep on finding the light, the cakes, the reasons to celebrate,          the joy.

 

This is the seventh version of this post. Finally, I think I have it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pure Imagination

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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Nobody fell.

 

And my heart kept up beautifully.   Yay, heart!

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

the possibilities before us are as wide as the sky.

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Happy Fall!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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my spring JOY list….

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

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

Yoga Glo:

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

Cookbooks: Breakfast Love & Salad Love both by David Bez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Joyful Adventures:

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

A GREAT BIG magical ADVENTURE!

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

It is the very pilgrimage of my heart.

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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let’s all be curious….

In our house we like to make things.

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

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

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

However.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

                                                                                          then gently dissipated.

 

The very dreaming of it, though,

expanded his reality and sense of possibility.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

just gently following a pull in a new direction.

 

This is pure play and  joyful curiosity.

 

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oh, those lilacs….

Feasting on one’s own life.

 

just because.

 

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