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On ‘Peace at Home’, summer play, and writing.

Peace at Home

Recently, I read an article that spoke to the power of passwords.

Over the following months, Estrella used this technique successfully in other realms of his life,

such as: Quit@smoking4ever, Save4trip@thailand, and Sleep@before12.

Believe what you want about the correlation of the changes in this man’s life and the passwords he chose, but this article resonated for me as

I will sometimes labour over passwords as if I am creating a spell to invoke luck or love or health,

as I have always secretly believed in the magical powers of language.

A few days ago I came across this quote,

‘It is not enough to just think on things. It is important to write it all down, or at least say it out loud. Writing and speaking are actions – they bring ideas into the physical world and open us to change…’  Gill Edwards

When we renovated our home 11 years ago we had these words imprinted into the cement of our planters, ‘Peace at Home.’ We also had these letter forms fixed to the archway in our dining room.

I had been inspired by a trip to Guanajuato Mexico where we visited a beautiful old villa with those same words written on a wall in the gardens, Casa de Paz.

This was all during a time where I didn’t feel particularly peaceful, nor could I have known of heartaches that were to come,

but I did know that I wanted peace. I had always known that.

Nor did I completely understand that although peace at home is an admirable and important goal, it would only remain a far off dream until I did the real work of nurturing peace in my own heart.

And that is an intimate journey that never ends,

As for our casa, there are no masters of peace or enlightenment here,

we are simply on a journey together,

hoping to continue to choose love at the end of the day,

Peace at Home is the password.

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Summer Play

Though getting kids off their screens can sometimes feel difficult and frustrating I am still convinced that kids for the most part are masters at play.

Sometimes, though, they need a little nudge to do what comes naturally.

The other day I said to my kids and their friends,

‘Let’s make an art show at the end of the summer. We’ll take all of the pieces you create all summer long and host a show. We will pin up your art, have snacks and drinks and invite people’

Whether or not our idea actually makes it that far, the next hour was taken up by George and his friend Kelly very avidly sketching their favorite stuffies for the exhibition.

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And when we came up with the idea of adding works to our painted rock garden when our friends came to stay with us this week, I set out my  Zen Doodling book by Carolyn Scrace out along with all of the felts,

It didn’t take long for Olivia to produce this beauty.

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With much tighter limits set on allowed gaming time,

today George and Kelly decided to list the criteria required to become a ‘Crazy Club Member.’ (inspired by their own ‘Concussion Club’ that they had  formed earlier on in the week as a result of last week’s events)

Items on the their extensive list included:

‘Go on all biking hills that do not have a chance of death.’

‘See 5 or more foxes.’

‘Build a fort in the mini-forest.’

‘Dunk in the lake in your clothes.’

and,

‘Dye your hair with Kool-aid.’

Yes! This is what I’m talking about!

Isn’t life grand when these are the kinds of things that summer asks of you?

Writing

In her wonderful book, A Year of Writing Dangerously, Barbara Abercombie writes about the ways that we sabotage ourselves as writers.

Never mind the things we commonly tell ourselves such as, ‘I have nothing original to say,’ or ‘I haven’t got the time as this stage of my life,’

writing can sometimes just feel like as if it takes way too much energy and effort in a world that already requires so much of us.

Our world, as well, is a highly addictive place and checking Facebook and emails is an easy place to default to ~

Even laundry or unloading the dishwasher can suddenly seem more appealing than finally sitting down to write.

Yet, it’s always so worth it.

Once I am engaged in my writing,

it’s cathartic, invigorating,

and deeply rewarding.

So, may writers write and may kids spend their summer days at play. May we all create time and space for the things that fill our hearts and bring joy and meaning to our days.

What could be more peaceful than that?
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On dangers, our Canada, and bear grass….

Dangers

The other night I had a dream that hundreds of little black birds were swarming around me, pecking at me, pursuing me. I felt the relentlessness of their pursuit but I wasn’t completely terrified, rather I felt a sense of just giving in and giving up.

When I woke, the dream felt heavy and ominous. I am, after all, a woman who looks for signs in everything.

Hundreds of little blackbirds trying to attack me… How can that be good?

This dream came after several days of holidays with Dan’s family. We all reunited in Waterton over the Canada Day long weekend and then drove together to Montana, where Dan’s brother and his wife have a holiday house.

Life has been simpler and more relaxed this week…..big dinners, sleep-ins, family walks and games, swims,

all surrounded by the gorgeous bounties of summer,

seasonal fruits and berries, wildflowers in full bloom, and warm days and evenings.

Last night, however, my summer reverie was violently disturbed when George crashed his head into a signpost while playing tag with his cousins after dinner.

It was, ironically, the loveliest of evenings. We had just finished a wonderful meal celebrating Dan’s parents’ anniversary and were all meandering through the park.

Suddenly, though, I found myself cradling my sweet crying boy in my arms, panicking inwardly about how severely he had been hurt. He seemed to recover but at 2am Dan and I made the decision to go into emergency as George had started vomiting.

12 hours later we still had not slept and had made yet another trip to emergency to have it finally determined that George had in fact suffered a mild concussion but would be okay.

These are the very worst kinds of hours as a mother.

They are the long hours when I try to hard to appear brave and calm, but am terrified.

These are the long hours when I talk to my mom in my mind non-stop, asking for support and strength.

These are the long hours when I know for sure that nothing matters more to me in the world than the health and well-being of these precious beings, our children.

Hundreds of blackbirds swarming…..perils dive-bombing me from every direction and I am so so desperately and completely powerless and vulnerable.

On a family hike earlier this week a few of us were talking about how it’s not usually the dangers that we work to protect ourselves from that end up being the problem. At the outset of the hike we were alerted by a warning that bears had been hanging out in the area,

but our most dangerous moment was when we all sat down to rest for a few minutes beside a hill and inadvertently triggered a mini avalanche of rocks.

And on the day of George’s head injury we had taken the kids to the skateboard park in the morning and watched them repeatedly zoom down ramps of steep cement,

unharmed.

It was a sign on the sidewalk that evening that ended up changing our course.

Driving to the hospital this afternoon, however, I made my peace with it all…the kind of peace that I have to make over and over and over,

because my gentle covenant with this life is constantly forgotten,

I am not in control. I surrender. It is too hard to hold so tightly onto my fears and anxiety and panic. I just can’t do it.

I cannot stop this swarm, nor can I predict which one will end up scarring me and unfolding more pain or more of life’s dark bits.

However, beyond and higher is the vast blue sky, billowing clouds, the sun,

a safety and trust and a broader perspective that I have to believe is sustainable and true and real,

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All is well. All will be well.

Our Canada

What a joy it was again to celebrate Canada Day in Waterton. The bike parade in the morning was an absolute delight,

a spectacle of kindness, laughter, joy, innocence and fun,

with the Rockies sparkling in the background.

Our Canada. My goodness we are blessed.

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Canada Day Bike Parade at Waterton Lakes National Park

 Bear grass

Oh yes, and speaking of wildflowers…. the stunning beautiful bear grass is in bloom, a flower I get so excited about.

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‘you belong among the wildflowers, you belong somewhere you feel free’  Tom Petty

 

 

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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!

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Solstice

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….

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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….

Fiction

My Best Stories by Alice Munro

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Poetry

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

Memoir

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!

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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.

Secondly,

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’.

Instead,

I choose ‘what is’.

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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.

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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,

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

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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.

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 Flow Magazine

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

and….

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.

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On birthdays, Maya Angelou, and lilacs

Every week I am going to speak to three topics: anecdotes, books, ideas, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes…Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am thinking about / loving this week….

Birthdays

Last week was the engagement,

then this week brought us yet another reason to celebrate…

Olivia turned twelve.

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

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

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

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

So again, why not celebrate?

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

Happy Birthday my twelve year old girl.

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Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

she lived a life of relentless creativity’,

‘she was a sculptor of words’,

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

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

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

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

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

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

owning herself with no apologies,

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

What a woman,

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

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

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

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

everywhere.

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Lilacs

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

and noted their heady gorgeous Spring fragrance?

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

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

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

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On the Engagement, Sticks and Soccer

Every week I am going to speak to three topics: anecdotes, books, ideas, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes…Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am thinking about / loving this week….

The Engagement

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

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

and so he is a fixed part of our family.

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

Our hearts cheer to see him,

he brings fun and love, creativity and sensitivity,

to our lives all the time.

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

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

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

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

was a peaceful calm.

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

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

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

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

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

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Sticks

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

and I question our relationship with technology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But here’s what transpired:

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

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

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

Here’s what was created at the lake.

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So, here’s what I am thinking,

real life leads to more real life,

and play and creativity inspires more of the same.

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

Soccer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though sports have never really been my thing,

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

Special thanks to coaches David and Willy.

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On Superpowers, Spring, and my Chocolate Fix

Every week I am going to speak to three topics: anecdotes, books, ideas, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes…Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am thinking about / loving this week….

Superpowers

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

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

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

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

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

What is my –

superpower?

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

Spiderman, after all, just is Spiderman.

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

He is a brilliant songwriter..

Brilliant.

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

every time.

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

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

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

self-expression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olivia needs to move creatively.

George is deeply curious and concerned about the natural world.

Alex is incredibly perceptive and brings clarity.

Dan is sensitive to his environment.

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

that ultimately can’t be denied,

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

oh, how I love this stuff.

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Spring on our street

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

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

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

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

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

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

delight.

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

We are often walking now in the evenings too.

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

and back.

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

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

the leaves that are finally greening this very week,

and feel the warmth of the sun.

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

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

Spring.

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My Chocolate Fix

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

and posting recipes and pictures of what they just ate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Though I was low on energy,

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

TaDa!

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

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

Totally satisfying.

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

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

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Every week I am going to speak to three topics: anecdotes, books, ideas, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes…Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am thinking about / loving this week….

1) Kid Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all so good.

Art promotes peace, of that I am absolutely certain,

and kid art holds its own special brand of magic.

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

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

2) Sick Days

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

My poor girl.

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

while sipping warm gingerale and herbal tea,

and munching on saltines.

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

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

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

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

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

Stop. Rest. Retreat.

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

and watch countless home and garden network episodes.

She will catch up, and I will help her.

I get it.

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

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

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3) Mother’s Day

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

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

Mother/child relationships can be complex,

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

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

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

Yet.

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

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

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

Alex, Olivia, George.

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

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

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

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

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

I am grateful beyond words.

This Sunday,

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

In all ways, you hold up the earth.

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

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On Mentors, Trading Eggs for Pants, and Doodling

Every week I am going to speak to three subjects: books, ideas, people, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes….Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am LOVING this week…

1) Mentors

This week my step-daughter Alex is finishing her second education practicum. Of all her teacher-training experiences thus far, this particular semester has shone the brightest largely thanks to the beautiful mentoring that she has received from the teacher to which she was assigned.

These last several weeks, when Alex has come over, her eyes are bright and alive as she tells story after story about her days in this classroom. She expresses boundless gratitude for the experience, and exudes excitement and passion for what is presently happening in her life. Even the difficult moments are recounted with cheerful perspective.

We couldn’t be happier for our girl. What more could any parent want for their child than to see them happy and energized?

Last year at this time Alex was struggling with not only a walloping bout of vertigo, but also with establishing a sense of direction that felt right.

The fabulous mentoring that Alex has received this spring has certainly played a part in her renewed sense of optimism. It’s not even that anything is ideal or perfect about this teaching assignment,

rather something about it, or perhaps everything about it, has managed to reach her heart in a very real and significant way.

And so the power of mentoring has been on my mind as of late.

Personally, I have had the opportunity to be mentored by some incredible women   who have virtually changed my course,

changed who I am

changed what I am about.

I will write about those women on another day.

Today I am focusing on the indescribable gratitude I feel towards the people who have, are, and will mentor my kids. Today, the peace prize is being handed over into your deserving arms.

From my very first days of mothering, I was acutely aware of my responsibility to nurture independence and resilience in my kids.

This means letting them out into the world and trusting (this part has been SO hard for me) that they need to find their own footing, learn from their mistakes, and explore,

so that slowly but surely a strong sense of self can begin to emerge.

Amazingly, though, wonderful role models (extended family members, teachers, coaches, assistants, friends’ parents)  have appeared in their lives,

modeling qualities that I don’t have, lighting fires that I can’t light, sharing perspectives that I don’t have, teaching skills that I don’t own, and relaying lessons that my kids are tired of hearing from my voice.

Thank you, ALL of you,

and this week, thank you in particular to one specific master middle school teacher who was able to show our daughter what teaching can be,

and that it is a wondrous profession, worthy of commitment and passion.

2) Trading Eggs for Pants

Given that it’s Easter, I thought I would most cleverly inject an egg related topic.

I have a very dear friend, you see, who actually delivers farm fresh eggs to my house every week! This brings me no end of delight.

I love it when Andrea stops by with my goods and we get to have a brief chat,

I love when I am baking or cooking and I pull out the eggs from the fridge

and my heart sings, My friend gave me these beautiful eggs  –

I love that these eggs are so big and plump that the top lid of the carton often won’t even close.

Also, I love how wonderful everything tastes when I use these wholesome eggs, and I am not just imagining this.

Andrea and I have a long and magical history of reciprocity.

We met waitressing together as teenagers and became fast friends. When I divorced in my late twenties and returned to Lethbridge, she guided me to an apartment to rent right away. My new apartment ended up belonging to Dan’s father, and so I consequently met and married Dan. After Dan and I married, I was teaching grade one full time and I arranged to have Andrea do her final teaching internship with me. When I left teaching once Olivia was born, Andrea took over my position. And so it has gone with us two.

Now it’s eggs.

In turn, I give Andrea books and clothes that my kids have outgrown.

She shows up with the eggs, and I hand over a bulging bag of old egg cartons and other assortments:  pajamas, used books, shoes still in relatively good condition, and sometimes, pants.

The other day when we met for coffee we argued over who should pay.

She said, ‘You clothe my kids.’

I said, ‘You feed my family’.

This is how I think the world should work. It really is a beautiful arrangement.

3) Doodling

I am on a quest to learn how to play. This is a very serious and real quest.

I have imagined and prepared for this quest my entire life (long before the wonderful Brene Brown appeared on the wellness scene).

Dan and I pretty much decided that we were getting married on our second date after a lengthy theoretical and wine-induced discussion we had at the Saigonese restaurant about the importance of play. He had actually based his architectural thesis on this idea.

Now this was a man I knew I would love for a lifetime.

Here’s the thing, though. I can write and talk about play forever. I am sure that I could even muster up a fairly successful thesis myself on the topic if required .

However, I am not so good at applying it in my own life.

I am very good at setting up play experiences for others. I will set out the paints and clean them up. I can plan a Harry Potter Party, Hobbit party, fairy party, day at the office party, you name it  -and it will knock your socks off. I can imagine it and execute it for others without fail.

When it comes to planning play for just me, though, I often can’t be bothered.

What I have come to realize, though, is that all this new talk about play being essential is not just fluff.

Play fuels and renews joy. Play is an antidote to lethargy, hopelessness, anxiety. Play creates and triggers meaning. Playing grounds us in the moment. Play builds peace and connections.

So this week, I am working on my doodling because that’s a safe and gentle place to start.

Yes, I did say doodling. Shhhhh…..don’t tell. It’s a bit embarrassing and not at all ‘productive’.

Not to worry, though, my small segments of doodling are still limited to my black pen, and are interspersed between very official and important tasks such as making grocery lists, checking banking info, returning emails, and filling out forms.

Watch out world, though, because when I really get into it

I might actually break out the colored pack of fine-tip markers and

I may even lose a little track of time without even a fleeting thought as to whether or not I am being ‘productive’.

Who knows what that might eventually lead to.

Bring it on.

For anyone else brave and silly enough to enter the realms of absolutely purposeless doodling (it’s actually quite a trend) check out this absolutely marvelous book, ‘Creative Doodling & Beyond‘ by Stephanie Corfee.

What are your thoughts on mentors? reciprocity in friendships? How do you play?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Orcas, Naps and ‘The Ghost Bride’

Every week I am going to speak to three subjects: books, ideas, people, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes….Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am LOVING this week…

1) Orcas

I have a thing for whales, orcas especially.

It’s not an exaggeration to state that I have loved whales for all of my thinking life.

When I was in grade 3 my friend Cara and I had stuffed orcas that we slept with, ate with, played with, and loved to tatters.

One of my most common recurring dreams is one where I am in close proximity to a pod of orcas. Sometimes, I am looking at them through giant panes of glass, other times I am at the edge of a beautiful bay where they are swimming and playing. It is usually dusk or dark, and the waters are calm.  Always, I am completely drawn to be with the whales.  I am afraid too, though, because they are so massive and powerful

and I am not.

Sometimes I just watch them, but in other dreamtimes I actually have the courage to dive in and be with them. Either way, I am ecstatic to be in their presence and am utterly spell-bound by their magic and beauty.

I am sure you could analyze the heck out of this dream (and I have), but perhaps orca-love is simply in my gene pool.

My dad spent many summers  around the BC gulf islands and still talks of being surrounded by orcas while out on a little motor boat, and how awesome and frightening an experience that was for him.

And now our son George, 9, speaks constantly of whales.

A few years ago, we watched a movie called ‘Big Miracle, based on a true story chronicling the 1988 international effort in Alaska to rescue gray whales trapped in the ice. George cried for hours after one of the whales died. He has seen ‘Free Willy‘ of course, and most recently ‘BlackFish‘. He now speaks passionately of whales needing to be free to roam.

George also researches whales on the internet, asks me to print whale word puzzles, and draws orcas with increasing detail. He sculpts whales with plasticine and builds them with lego.

Always planning, I imagine him and I launching our own thematic art show.

Again, another obsession, a shared one, given free rein. I love that he devotes the time to study something that my heart yearns to know too.

To me, it’s all so good. In a time period when we are so disconnected from nature, from animals, from all that’s real-life, what could be more crucial than exploring a single creature from every angle.

To want to save something, we must first love it and understand it, and I often fear that we are losing this level of connection with our natural wonders.

And so it is that in our dusty and dry prairie home that we are currently celebrating whales.

2) Naps

There have been several nights this week where I have not slept well. This is uncommon for me as I am typically a good sleeper. Sleep often eludes Dan, but not me.

However, these last few nights for me have been restless.

Yesterday afternoon, feeling particularly tired and cranky after picking up the kids from school I went straight up to my bedroom, shut the door and lay down after giving out strict instructions that I be left alone.

I never do this. After school is usually one of the busiest parts of our day.

The kids and I unpack and pack new lunches, I help get them organized for any activities that evening, I help Olivia with her homework, I start supper, I check my e-mails and do all the paperwork that I have resisted doing throughout the day,

and so it usually goes.

But yesterday I didn’t feel like doing any of it, and so I lay down

by myself.

It was a very warm afternoon, the warmest day we have had yet, after a cold and relentless winter.

I lay on our bed, my face toward the window and felt the sun’s warm rays on me. I looked at the birch tree in our neighbour’s front yard and thought of….. nothing in particular ….as I luxuriously drifted in and out of sleep for a half hour.

How positively delicious it feels, sometimes, to just be.

Just be. It’s such a cliché. We hear it all the time, but do we actually heed its invitation?

I am the queen of ‘doing’ as much as I am the queen of wanting to ‘just be’ and so often my efforts

to meditate or visualize or say my mantra or be mindful or sign up for this online course or read that book,

can end up looking like another whole mountain of ‘doing’.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all of that stuff, and it helps….

But what can be really succulent and authentically peaceful is just taking a spontaneous afternoon springtime nap.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown’s Little Book of Wisdom

3) The ‘Ghost Bride’ by Yangsze Choo

One of my favourite movies of all time is the 1998 film ‘What Dreams May Come‘.

In this movie the character played by Robin William searches the afterlife for his wife.

What I loved about this movie even more than the concept of love transcending death, was the captivating and gorgeous afterlife setting it offers,

wherein the experience and environment that each soul has are the immediate products of both their imagination and expectations/beliefs about life after death.

Fast forward to 2013 and the publication of Yangsze Choo’s book ‘The Ghost Bride’, set in colonial Malaya, in which Choo creates for us a memorable ‘living’ example of the Chinese afterlife.

Choo deftly weaves in specific cultural beliefs as she creates her otherworldy setting, such as the Chinese ritual of families burning paper offerings to their deceased .

Paper offerings represent objects, animals or people that the deceased liked, and burning them ensures they will reach the deceased in the after-world and assure the dead a  comfortable existence.

It is so entertaining to see how these paper offerings bring to form a real city of ghosts which sets the stage for drama and adventures, as Li Lan navigates this strange place while her spirit hovers between life and death.

There is a lot going on in this book, and it was at times confusing to follow,

but deeply compelling for me was this concept of an imagined afterlife, based on the beliefs and perceptions that were held during life, brought to fruition. Choo masterfully depicts this very specific spirit world.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts….

What animals are currently being adored in your home?

What simple moments bring you peace?

What are you currently reading?