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.


Nobody fell.


And my heart kept up beautifully.   Yay, heart!


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.


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!
















My Heart Surgery & Recovery & 10 beautiful things that got me through ~

It has now been a while since my open heart surgery, and it feels as if the time has  come to talk about it. Olivia said to me the other day, ‘Mom, do you get tired of answering people when they ask you how you are doing?’ My answer was ‘no’~

It was a significant thing to go through and it touches me that so many people were and are still so genuinely concerned.

Heart surgery is not uncommon. Most of us can name people we know who have gone through some sort of procedure to address a heart condition.

I am now connected to these people.

No one, however, can really prepare you for the invasiveness of heart surgery, nor for the accompanying feelings of overwhelming vulnerability that accompany allowing your heart to be stopped, worked on,
and no one really likes to talks about that crippling underlying fear

that things could go wrong.

For the first several weeks after surgery it was all I could do just to find ways to process all of my feelings and accept the complex experience I had been through and begin to heal.

How grateful am I now though?

My heart is fixed thanks to the truly spectacular wonders that modern medicine and technology have gifted us. I feel energy and vitality building in me that I have not felt for years, perhaps even never felt.

Nor is it possible for me to feel and see the world in the same way after having had major surgery. Everything looks just a little different,

a little brighter, a little simpler, even lovelier than before.

There were, of course, magical moments that will never leave me – shining moments that really got me through and helped me feel and know for sure that everything would be ok –

Here are my top 10…

1) All the big love that came to me before surgery. Flowers, messages, prayers, cards, hugs….Friends and acquaintances offering up love and support and letting me know that they were thinking of me. Right up until I went to sleep the night before surgery, I was still receiving new messages and feeling virtually held up by everyone.

2) Great parking spots the day before surgery and the morning of, as trivial as that may sound. Others had complained to us about the mess of trying to find parking at the Foothills, but for us it was literally a snap. It seemed as though just as we would pull up right in front of the hospital, someone else would pull out with smiles and waves. It was absolutely seamless and helped me trust that in even in the most mundane of ways we were being looked after.


3) Having my kids with me – It felt really important  that all three of my kids were nearby. I needed to feel them close, I needed them to be a part of all of it and understand what was happening rather than imagine the worst. I wanted them to see the preciousness of life that is more deeply understood when we come into close contact with trauma, sickness, recovery, and healing. My mother taught me to not shy away from these facts of life and I felt a responsibility to extend that important teaching to my own children. And so the kids were there at the hospital before, during, and after surgery…in the waiting room for hours and hours with their cousins while I was in surgery, on the hospital grounds running and playing under their Auntie’s supervision, on hunts for ice cream or treats with Glenna, and holding my hands during the days after as I started taking my little laps around the halls. Alex carefully watched over my vitals and supervised visits and messages from friends. George played numerous games of Battleship with Glenna between hesitant visits to my room when he would offer me quick kisses, and Olivia stayed close until everyone else except Dan had gone back home to Lethbridge. She helped me dress, checked my incisions, waited on me, meticulously mothered me.

4) An unexpected angel of reassurance -It’s difficult to describe the fear that I felt as my body was being prepared for surgery at 6am on the morning of April 8. Even the two Ativan that they gave me weren’t quite enough to completely calm me. However, after I was wheeled into the surgical suite on the stretcher, something happened that I will never forget….A doctor came up to me, whom I had never met, and told me he would be assisting in my operation.

He then told me that it was going to be great, and that if he was having open-heart surgery, this is precisely the team he would choose. We chatted for a bit longer, and then he left to carry on with his preparations. It is difficult to describe the power of that interaction, but the comfort that he gave to me extends even into this day.

5) Nurses – My grandmother had a distinguished and respected career as head nurse of surgery. Her and I were very close, and it was her that I thought of most often as I prepared for surgery. I imagined her watching over all of the medical details, and sending energies of competency, perfectionism, and love. Little did I think, though, about this deep professional care extending into the days afterwards, but it did,

as it manifested in the nurses who looked after me.

These women and men talked to me about what I was experiencing, watched my recovery with genuine concern, answered my questions, helped me move, sit, walk, bathe, covered me in warm blanket after warm blanket,

and showed me how to receive and be completely taken care of when I had no other choice.


Margaret Filchak

6) Other patients – Cardiac patients are encouraged to get moving as soon as possible. It is very important to start working the heart again. So the halls circling around the cardiac rooms are continuously peppered by people in their hospital gowns shuffling slowly along, often with family members walking along beside them. There are chairs dispersed for rests and visits, and it can feel a little like a turtle marathon with much encouragement and smiles coming from other patients and their families.

‘Oh you are moving well, good for you!’

‘And what did you have done – bypass or valve work?’

‘How many days are you at now?’ (everyone remembers their surgery date like it’s their birthday)

It is a such beautiful and inspiring thing to witness,

how quickly and naturally communities form wherever we are. It seems to me that, generally, we are all out  to support one another even when we are struggling and in pain ourselves. It is by far one of the most beautiful thing about human nature, this urge to form connections whatever our circumstances.

7) My beautiful chair– A few days before surgery Alex and Ry decided that my favorite chair should be moved from the living room to our back window. This is the great big, pillowy, floral print chair that Dan bought me for our first Christmas together. As soon as I saw my beloved chair tucked into the corner of our sunroom. I actually felt a little excited about my recovery as I imagined myself tucked deep inside of its cozy warmth, cup of tea and a pile of books by my side. Dan put a little antique wood table that had belonged to my grandmother at the chair’s side, and Olivia decorated the table with a little cup of flowers.

This was where I sat for a month,

receiving visitors, coordinating, watching Netflix, reading, drinking copious cups of tea, and watching Spring unfold.

7) Food – Before surgery, when people would ask me if there was anything they could do  I would say, ‘Well, yes, you could bring us food.’ I knew for sure this was the one area where we would struggle. As you all know, it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to shop for and feed a family and I am all about nourishing and healthy food, especially during times of stress and healing.  Let me just say that we were very well fed, and I am convinced that food is always one of the very best ways to help. Thank you, thank you, and thank you to everyone who helped in this way.

9) Walks in the sunshine– As soon as I got home from Calgary my little walks around the cardiac unit transformed into walks up and down our street, on the arms of my husband. We walked and walked and walked, many times a day, willing my heart to gradually strengthen and heal. The weather during those first few days and weeks was absolutely perfect, warm, and regenerative. Often, we were stopped by neighbours offering up hugs and words of encouragement and I felt as deeply loved and cheered on by our friends as I did by my surroundings; by our street, by the houses, the trees, the sunshine, by all of it.

10) A shift from fear and waiting towards trusting and being. Even though I had great faith in my brilliant and well-respected surgeon, and deep hope for my future, open-heart surgery was  an event I had been fearing for a long time.

We all have major, transformative events in our lives that shake us up; deaths of loved ones, health issues that catch us by surprise, ends of relationships, and so on. These sorts of events always have the power to drive us deeper into fear and or resentment, hold us hostage, make us distrustful of life, paralyze us –


They can make us more determined to find the light, the adventure, the play, the stillness, the ways to love, the reasons to celebrate, and the courage to take those brave leaps towards our dreams.


Grandma Carol’s Garden 2015; Garden theme ‘Full Hearts’

Once again I am restored and choose happiness.

Thank you, dear heart.


On Mother Goose, Bridges, and ‘Thrive’

Mother Goose

Last week I was in Calgary for a couple of cardiac tests that my surgeon had ordered to be completed before our next meeting with him in a few weeks –

These tests were within a few days of each other,

and when I received short notice of the second test, we decided to go up a couple of nights early and enjoy some time as a family. Dan and I have been busy and preoccupied lately and have decided to make a concerted effort to play more.

So on Saturday afternoon we headed up to Calgary with the kids.

For the next day and a half we toured the mall, swam, read, had a few delicious meals, and spent an afternoon walking outside on that first glorious day that truly feels like Spring. It was a little retreat that felt healing and devoid of expectations,

a spontaneous escape.

On the morning of my test, though, we were packing up our hotel room, suddenly overwhelmed again by weekday realities.

We needed to figure out the easiest way to get to the hospital and where to park, Olivia was worried about the homework she needed to finish, and Dan was making calls for work. I was feeling tense and nervous and was barking at the kids about picking up their stuff, hurrying,

and on it went…

Suddenly, though, George started laughing,  pointing, and calling us over to the window.

Olivia looked first, then Dan, and all three were laughing like crazy.

I could not imagine what could be outside of an 11th story window that could be so funny but Dan said, ‘Karen you have to see this’.

This is what they were all looking at,


This gal.

She was just sitting on the ledge honking madly at us,

and    she    would     not     leave.

The kids were absolutely beside themselves. We all were. This goose was positively insistent that we notice her.


Here’s the thing.

There are moments in life,

wherein it feels pretty clear that we are being looked out for…. there is that sudden sense that we are definitely not alone, and that maybe the veil between worlds is a little thinner than we realize and there are infinite creative possibilities for communication and expressions of love.

I have had many such moments, and this was one of those times.

This message felt pretty clear

Lighten up,


Everything is going to be ok.


This silly and deeply comforting bird, or our Mother Goose as George affectionately called her, didn’t fly off until we all had walked away first, back to our business….

We calmly carried on with our day and all, of course, was well.


During our lovely aforementioned Spring walk, we came upon the much discussed new Peace Bridge.


The Peace Bridge (great name!)  is a pedestrian bridge, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, that accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists crossing the Bow River in Calgary.

Of course, whenever we are with Dan we can’t miss the opportunity to check out new pieces of architecture,

but while he’s analyzing the form and details of the structure, the English major in me is often busy creating metaphors in my head.


Like my recurring geese,

bridges have been a frequent symbol in our lives as of late.

Olivia is in the midst of a big project whereby she has to carefully construct a bridge out of toothpicks for science, and she was also just telling us that in class the other day her teacher had created a whole playlist of songs that included the word bridge.

Of course Dan and I both raced to say,

Like ‘Bridge over Troubled Water?’,


This period of my life does feel like a period of bridging and as I think about those around me I see many friends and family members in similar positions,


walking and working towards new situations, uncomfortably wedged in the in-between part.


Perhaps, though, much of life simply is a bridge,

as change is ever-constant and life is always surely moving us to what’s next.

Maybe the point is to just stop every so often rather than fixate on what’s at the other side, because beauty is not just there, it’s here too,

over and beyond the rail and down in the waves of the Little Bow,

in the inspired and joyful architecture,

in the vibrant and playful red,

in the curves and the rounding structure, and the gorgeous blue sky framed through the arches,

and in the people moving by us on their Sunday strolls.


It’s all beautiful,

and we are supported.


I have just begun reading Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington.


So far, I am quite enjoying it. Much of it does not feel like new information, but the contexts and examples that Huffington offers are current, interesting, and important. The book is persuasive and highly readable,

and shows us how the business world in particular must move towards integrating wellness for all.

Also, just when I think I have read every great quote, Huffington found some new ones to thrill me,


And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.”                                                    Iain Thomas















On decluttering, walking, and my little girl….


It is an interesting period for me,  right now ~

The time has come, my heart surgeon has informed Dan and I,

to move ahead with my heart surgery.

I am now waiting to go through for a few more tests

and then we will be given a date.

I have felt all sorts of emotions around the processing of this big news:

relief, conviction, fear, anger,  excitement, anticipation, confusion, frustration, deep gratitude….


One of my biggest challenges, though, has simply been around what to do with myself during this time.

I am the sort of person that thrives on expansion in every direction and operating from her extensive lists,

constantly setting new goals and getting things done,

drawing lines through my items accomplished  as quickly as I add more new things to do.

This all, I admit, makes me feel productive and useful and alive and a part of things.


Yet, here I am,

suddenly being asked to      slow        right        down,

and take loving care of myself in all ways to prepare for what my body is about to go through ~

My priorities have suddenly become

not adding too many new things to my lists,

long walks and stretching,

eating wholesome foods,

staying calm and grounded by being mindful and meditating,

attending to myself and my family, and letting my family and friends attend to me.


I am also slowly but surely tidying things up at home,


paying attention to many of the little chores and projects that will allow me to feel organized and happier during my recuperation time.

One of those projects involves decluttering my working space, the room that stores all of my many books, paper and art supplies. This is a job that I have been trying to get to for at least two years, as the room has become a chaotic disaster, nothing more than a place to put everything.

I am finding myself moving through this particular task gently and lovingly, working on it a bit each day, combing though books and old pictures, cards, old journals,

making recurring trips to Michael’s for more wicker baskets,

and feeling so re-inspired by all of the wonderful things that I forgot I owned.


As the space begins to transform and stuff gets cleared out I feel noticeably lighter.


And so it strikes me that perhaps, in life,

there may be times of transition,

wherein we feel seriously called to declutter not just our rooms but our life in its entirety.

We must stop, blink as if we are just waking up,

assess our surroundings, reflect on where we are putting our time and energies and ask ourselves,

‘Is this necessary?’

‘Do I even want this anymore?’

‘Is this a good use of my time?’

‘Does this serve me? Does this serve my family?’

‘Is this still a good fit?’

‘Does this still interest me?’

Magically, I am finding that in the distilling, the decluttering, the clearing away,

and the slowing down,

a gentle and bright clarity is undeniably coming.

Surprisingly, underneath all of the stuff and the people and the events and the clutter and the aspirations,





I was driving by our urban lake one afternoon this week, and heard a tiny voice inside my head say,

Walk around the lake.’


I thought,

committed to my new plan of slowing down and listening.


After dropping off several bags of used books at George’s school, I returned to the lake and walked its perimeter.

The weather was cold, but the air was still.

It was just me alone with the sounds of my steps,           my breath.

I passed a handful of senior citizen couples, we all smiled at each other and said hello,

and one older gentleman deeply engrossed in preparing his fishing line as he sat on a bench,

and, oh yeah,

these guys.

Why hello, Canada Geese.

I see you.


we all are.


Thich Nhat Hanh writes,

Walk wherever you are. Don’t wait for the perfect forest path. Even when you go to the bus stop, make it into a walking meditation. Even if your surroundings are full of noise and agitation, you can still walk in rhythm with your breathing. Even in the commotion of a big city, you can walk with peace, and happiness, and an inner smile. This is what it means to live fully in every moment of every day of your life.

My Little Girl


Our sweet Olivia perfectly engaged in her own walking meditation -this photo taken many years ago by my dear friend Andrea.









On speaking out, our house of Gryffindor, and looking up

On Speaking Out

Two weeks ago, I wrote about dyslexia, a complex issue which we deal with in our household every day.

After writing about it, I noticed a Facebook friend had written a post about her struggles around educating a new crop of teachers about the accommodations that her son requires to be successful.

I shared my article with her, and she shared this fantastic new find with me…..


The author Ben Foss, is identified as having dyslexia himself, and discusses his personal journey and offers wonderful perspective. He writes,

‘Whereas most other books or ‘experts’  will promise a cure for your child, I’m here to say that there is no disease. In the mainstream dyslexics are the minority (1 in 10), but that doesn’t make us less valuable. We just do things a little differently. To use a commercial metaphor, it’s like we’re Macs, whereas the majority of people are PCs. This book – and your mission as a parent – is about moving the model for your child from dyslexia as disease to dyslexia as identity, an identity we can all be proud of.’

His position is brilliant and so accessible.

Last week I spoke about dyslexia in the context of ‘acceptance’, and Foss clearly promotes this sort of attitude as being both necessary and healthy.

Doesn’t this apply to everything? So often,

once we claim something, own it, and speak to it,

its gripping power over us fades away. Isolated in our houses and runaway minds, everything seems bigger and harder and scarier,

but just maybe outside our doors supportive communities are waiting to be formed,

and partnerships and positive alliances are possible.

Though we may fear we are alone in our struggles,

the reality is that there are people everywhere who are going through the very same things.

If dyslexia affects your life or someone close to you, please pick up this book, and feel free to comment or message me your thoughts.

We live in such exciting and interesting times. Technology, connectedness, and advances in education are granting us infinite possibilities to empower every individual to reach her or his fullest potential,

so that we are now poised to create a better world for all,

where no one feels any shame for simply being who they are.


original artwork by Olivia

Fun fact: 35% of American entrepreneurs are dyslexic.

Our House of Gryffindor

There are two stories that have particularly captivated the hearts and imaginations of our household,

and inspired more Halloween costumes than any other,

Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter.

George has been a cute baby munchkin, Olivia has been Dorothy at least twice (maybe 3 times?) as well as the heart-searching Tinman,

IMG_3689 copy

and after my mom died I splurged on a pink Glinda the Good Witch costume,

suddenly smitten with the concept of traveling around in a protective and magical bubble.

The famous Harry Potter has had at least as much influence in our house. All six books provided the backdrop to Alex’s childhood. She lived and loved Harry Potter and his adventures with all of her being, and still does,

and George appears to be firmly set on a similar track.

Last year he was the spitting image of Harry, Olivia was Hermione, and Alex and Ry were also from the house of Gryffindor and this year,

our independent and deep-thinking boy has decided to shift to the darker side and emulate Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy. How fun is that?!

Being an English major, I could go on and on about the symbolism and importance of these western world myth-stories, but

let’s just simply say that it’s fun to dress up and step outside of ourselves for a day,

and feel different,

more powerful, magical, and courageous,


why not?

Looking Up

Last week I had a fancy echo stress test on my heart which involved me exercising on a treadmill with the goal of getting my heart rate up as fast as I could get it, and then quickly jumping off whilst maneuvering over the mess of wires that I was hooked up to, and then onto the bed perfectly adjusting my body so that the tech could take pictures before my heart rate slowed down.

This was all a bit worrisome and stressful for me, even though it all ended up being fine,

but it still used up a good day and a half or so in worry time.

Right after the test, we made our way out through the convoluted maze of the hospital and out the doors to find our vehicle,

then Dan pulled us in another direction to check out this view….


Later, George told me that he had noticed that very spot before my test and had even pointed it out to us, but we hadn’t heard or paid any attention to what he was saying.

How do we miss this stuff?

And, what a reminder that this is the sort of comforting beauty that we can find everywhere when we remember to just

look up.


It has been a difficult week in Canada, and our hearts collective ache,

but there are beautiful stories of love and connection already surfacing, as they always do, from times of tragedy. These small and simple stories of love and decency and kindness are the only way to ever find any sort of sense in it all, as we are pulled again into remembering

who we are and who we want to be~




















history of our costumes and why? what we need to be -top 10!

God only knows

A song in honor of creating thing stogether – my project launched SOON!!!!!