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On September birthdays, the Terry Fox Run and peace-building granola

On September Birthdays

Though it can be a challenge to gather and celebrate birthdays in September, I would still like to acknowledge a couple of Virgos dear to my heart.

It is well-known in my family that I give much importance to celebrating birthdays….

I believe that the very fact that we exist, completely apart from outer success or accomplishments, is the worthiest reason for celebration.

So first of all, BIG love to my husband who worries for us, works SO hard for us, plans adventures and gifts for us, is there for us, talks us through our tears and struggles, and cheers and supports us always~

I have always told Dan that his energy and talents are larger than life, and he should thus use his powers for good. He spends every breath working towards that end, and for that I will love him for all eternity.

Secondly, happy wishes to my step-mother Elsie. As I write and think about the evolution of our relationship over the last 7 years,

I am overwhelmed with gratitude towards this woman,

who in her infinite wisdom never once tried to take my mother’s place and always honored our need to remember Grandma Carol.  In doing so, she firmly won her place in my heart.

From the start, Elsie,  you loved our kids as your own grand-kids, gifted them with countless expertly sewed costumes, baked dozens of homemade buns that went straight from your oven into their mouths, and showered them with words of pride and encouragement.

In your own distinct ways, you both shine.

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The Terry Fox Run

Today was the annual Terry Fox Run at George’s school. It was an especially well- attended and organized event this year for our little neighbourhood school.

Though it has been 33 years since Terry Fox died,

today the story of his life touched my heart in a way that it perhaps never has before,

I fully and finally understood that Terry was truly a young and tenacious pioneer of doing the right thing, and of making up a new right thing.

What a radiant soul that lives on and on and on…

It was a particularly difficult assembly,

as the school community and staff was quietly but surely honoring another radiant young man, a teacher,  in the throes of his own struggle with cancer.

I am always in awe and inevitably moved to tears when massive love and support can organize itself into an event and pull itself into one space. These are the sorts of moments that always end up defining us ALL,

and today it happened again in a little school gym filled to the brim with kids, teachers and parents,

and it was my deep honour to have witnessed it.

I read an article this week that suggested that in every situation we should ask ourselves,

‘What would love do?’

Well….,

Love would do what Terry Fox did, determinedly continuing to run on through wind, rain, pain, and exhaustion~

Love would do what Marcus Karpati is doing, moving through his illness with indescribable courage and grace and even taking the time and energy to visit his school, co-workers, and his beloved students,

and Love would most definitely pour itself into a little school gym, multiplying itself beyond and within,

and circling itself around everyone gathered there.

Oh,

Love.

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Peace Building Granola

I sometimes think that I could subsist entirely on seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and cereals.

My family, of course, is not at all interested in the bird diet,

but they are still always very happy to see a freshly made pan of granola on top of the stove.

Though there are not a lot of things that I make repeatedly,

mostly because I get either get bored with making the same foods or I can’t remember where I discovered a recipe to start with,

this granola is a rare standby in our home.

After I introduced my dear friend Heidi to the recipe, we affectionately started referring to it as our  ‘love, peace, heart healing, friendship-building granola’.

See, there are actually other people who talk like I do!

I do need to credit the wonderful Jamie Oliver– I have tried many other granola recipes over the years but always come back to his –

It is super easy and satisfying, and so heavenly with warm steamed milk. I have been known to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and for my bed-time snack,

all in the same day.

 Jamie Oliver’s Granola

* 2 cups oats

* 1 heaped cup mixed nuts

* 1/4 cup mixed seeds (sunflower, poppy, pumpkin, sesame)

* 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 5 tablespoons maple syrup

* About 3 tablespoons olive oil

* 1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I usually soak the dried fruit in water while the granola is baking, to soften it)

Preheat oven to 350°. Put oats, mixed nuts, mixed seeds, coconut, and cinnamon on a baking sheet. Stir well; smooth out. Drizzle with maple syrup and olive oil; stir. Bake 25-30 minutes. Every 5 minutes or so take out and stir, then smooth down with a wooden spoon and put back in oven. When granola is golden, remove from oven, mix in dried fruit (roughly chop any large pieces); let cool. Serve with milk or yogurt. You can keep leftover granola in an airtight container about 2 weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer’s end, our girls, and a haircut

Summer’s End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

because they are very real too.

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

there is still so much to say.

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

or in Waterton,

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

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

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

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

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

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

and our back lawn is already speckled with fallen leaves.

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

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

As a wise mentor once reassured me,

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

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

and so I welcome fall with open and waiting arms,

ready for her gifts.

Our Girls

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

from a night when I took very few photos.

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

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

but this year I did not.

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

why I am here.

This photo is why.

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

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

All different ages,

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

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

and caring and looking out for them in turn ~

modeling strength of character and individuality

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

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

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

This is why we are here,

this is why we are ALL here.

 

And the other best part….

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

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Haircuts

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

he suddenly decided that he wanted his hair cut short.

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

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Doctor Westwood

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

with his long blonde locks and blue eyes.

My beautiful baby boy ~

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

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

and oh my goodness, he was cute.

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

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

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

is always good for anybody’s soul.

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Whac that mole!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On bears, silence, and unhealthier eating

Bears

Last week I wrote about our beloved Waterton,

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

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

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

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

I was only there a few minutes,

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

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

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

The timing was perfect!

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

It looked right at us,

and then went on its early morning way.

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

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

happy,

and delightfully bewildered.

Silence

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

but also of silence.

Certainly, we are a family that loves music.

Ryland, of course, is a talented musician.

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

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

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

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

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

by strumming away on his guitar.

George and I, though, often just prefer

quiet.

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

and I love going to productions and concerts,

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

stillness.

Quiet mornings and evenings. Conversation with no soundtrack

and the sounds of simply going about my day.

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

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Driving with the radio off.

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

My July.

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

a taking of stock and recalibrating.

 

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

Unhealthier Eating

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

My kids feasted on fried perogies and bacon for supper,

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

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

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

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

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

How perfectly amazing and impressive does that sound?

Happy happy August long weekend everyone! EnJOY!

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On Waterton, a boys’ reconciliation, and mandalalalas

Waterton

We are so blessed to have a little cottage nestled in what is surely one of the wildest and untamed of places,

Waterton Lakes National Park.

Not a day goes by here when I, we, are not bowled over by an immense sense of gratitude for our luck in somehow landing in this part of the world.

As I write this, by the way,

the wind is absolutely howling,
gusts up to 100 km/h,
and there is driving rain. About an hour ago, George and I ran outside because we were both fairly certain that the rain had changed to snow.

Have I mentioned that it is July 24th?

Still.

And when I make  statements such as ‘we are so blessed to have the opportunity to get to know this part of the world’,
I add a caveat.

I don’t actually believe that this place is entirely knowable.

Our wonderful friend Lyndon was visiting us this last weekend and him and I found ourselves having the conversation that we have had before,

whereby we sit and sing the praises of these glorious surroundings.

I reminded him of the time when he likened Waterton to a portal.

There is, after all, such mystery to this place. One might think, if one was the kind of person to think on these sorts of things,

that if there existed a veil between worlds, Waterton would be the seat of that transitional dimension,

There is a feeling though that we are only allowed to touch the surface of understanding it,

yet, at the same time, the answers to life’s biggest questions might just almost be within grasp here.

Almost.

It is, after all, a land of dramatic extremes and contrasts.

Today’s pounding wind and rain may very well give way tomorrow to the ideal and calm heat of a perfect summer’s day,

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and a lake of glass.

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The stretching golden flatness of the prairies suddenly falls into the great depths of Waterton lake and rises up the steep Rocky Mountains.

This town is small, and the number of visitors cannot even begin to compare to the tourists that flood into the villages of other North American national parks, as we are out-of-the-way,

hidden in an unused corner.

And the wildlife here abounds in a way that continues to astound,

even those who have known this place for a lifetime are in careful awe of the raw power and beauty of the magnificent animals that inhabit these forests,

grizzlies, cougars, black bears, wolves,

foxes, lynx, wolverines.

The winters here are long and difficult, and I am not at all convinced that I could stand the loneliness and isolation, never mind the brutal weather, of a sustained stay through that season.

Yet, when Spring finally comes, the wildflowers that suddenly abound are unparalleled in abundance and variety to most places in the world.

It is rare for me to write such homages to landscapes and geography,

but this piece so wanted to be written.

She is my refuge, my inspiration and my creative cozy den, my safe source of comfort,

the place where our family gathers,

she is at once adventure and calm,

and in the midst of a busy life,

a continued and certain source of spirit, peace, renewal.

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A Boy’s Reconciliation

As will happen, George and his friend had a falling-out this week.

It was a passionate and volatile argument that occurred at the end of a two-day playdate.

The boys both, it turned out, wanted fiercely and desperately, to be the banker in their game of monopoly.

So much so,

that the game dramatically dissolved into harsh words from both sides, tears, a throwing down of the money and an abrupt parting of ways.

Though my first inclination is to always mend and encourage reconciliation,

I knew they were tired and needed time apart.

So we all rested, read, watched a movie, slept.

The next morning, there was a soft tap on our screen door.

George ran to open it,

the two boys stood and looked at each other for a moment and so I asked them what needed to happen next.

They both quickly said, ‘I’m sorry’, bumped tummies (their version of a hug)

and then ran to the living room to continue their game, this time sharing the role of banker.

I texted an update to my dear friend, the mom of George’s friend, in awe of the absolute simplicity of it all.

No drawn out conversation, resentments, or rehashments~

Just over,

done with, tummies bumped,

and upward and onward with new play.

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Mandalalalas

For years and years and years,

I have been obsessed with the gorgeousness of mandalas,

and the creative, therapeutic, and meditative potential of exploring these circular patterns.

Finally giving myself permission to delve into the things that make my heart sing, I have begun working with them in true but playful seriousness.

More on this topic to come, but for now,

here are the beginnings of possibilities…. 🙂

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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… hot cross buns, stillness, and the Banff Springs

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)Hot Cross Buns

Tuesday mornings, right after I drop off Olivia at school, I turn up the radio because for the rest of my drive I know that Julie Van Rosendaal will be talking about food on the Calgary Eyeopener and I will be hanging on to her every delicious word.

This is a woman who knows how to talk about food.

Julie honours food and celebrates the idea of preparing and enjoying real food together as families and friends,

she naturally finds evocative language to celebrate whatever succulence she is describing,

and she seems delighted to share her passion with her listeners.

Inspired by Julie, I decided to make the hot cross buns I found on her blog over the Easter weekend. We were at our cottage in Waterton and we had all day to play.

Rarely do I devote this kind of time to cooking or baking because there typically aren’t whole days to devote to a whim,

but on that lazy Saturday I was reminded that there is such pure joy in engaging in a project that is multi-stepped,

and that takes time.

There is such joy to be found in not rushing and in simply giving in to the beauty of  a process.

So, while the sun streamed through the windows in our little cottage kitchen Olivia and I found and mixed ingredients

kneaded and punched new dough,

added brightly colored candied fruit,

watched the soft ball of dough rise,

then pulled and formed it into buns,

added sugar topping,

and watched our magnificent creations bake through the warmth of the oven door.

Happiness.

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(Don’t be turned away from Julie’s wonderful blog by my featured recipe choice. Julie’s fantastic recipes are geared towards busy households and weekday cooking.)

2) Standing Still

I may look like a patient woman from the outside,

but, for me, patience does not always come easily.

I want to find the answers, brainstorm, understand, know, decide, act, and fix.

Lately, though, I have been inundated with messages to be still.

It is a theme that keeps finding me, chasing me down, calling at me,

relentlessly and gently.

Be still. Breathe. Stop.

Mostly, I don’t want to stop. I get bored. I want to burst forth with another idea, buy another book, join another class. Of course I resent everything the minute it feels like too much,

but then,

when I clear up space and time I yearn to quickly fill it up again,

often flitting

from book to idea to banking

new project to text message to forms

emails to lists to writing to errands to registering in a new course

and back round again.

Checking and re-checking too many things too many times to admit.

All of this is ok and part of who I am,

but I know there’s something more. That, I have always known.

So.

Now,

I pause for a minute and listen to the birds sing their spring songs.

I wake up a little earlier than everybody else and sit in quiet for 10 minutes.

I lay in the tub and look up through the skylight at the blue, at the clouds,

and don’t pick up my book at all.

I turn off the radio at the red light and just sit.

And today, at the bank, I noticed myself, stopped myself, from checking my phone

again.

Instead, I stood and waited for the teller while she printed my new cheques.

I looked out the window, took a few deep breaths,

and just waited,

patiently.

The hidden treasures of stillness will find me yet.

Special thanks to Cheryl Dyck and Vickie MacArthur for your beautiful stillness mentoring. When the student is ready, the teachers appear.

3) the Banff Springs

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A perk of being married to an architect is that their conferences are always located in beautiful buildings.

Context and environment, of course, can never be compromised within a profession whose entire reason for being is to create beautiful spaces,

so 13 years of marriage to an architect have taught me.

This is why I am fortunate enough to be presently sitting in the Banff Springs hotel finishing up this week’s blog,

thinking,

now,

this is a place where a person can really feel inspired to not only design but to write,

especially if you are a person like me that is drawn to old world beauty

and loves the magical idea of castles,

and rooms thick with deep reds, purples, and golds in fabrics and paint,

plush furniture, dark woods, dramatic sweeping views,

ghosts dancing in the ballroom at the edge of sight,

and old glamorous adventures and stories retold.

It has been pouring rain today which will likely turn to snow, and peace has found me as I sit and write in these cozy rooms and sip my tea,

taking breaks to walk through the spacious corridors and letting this magnificent castle nestled in the Canadian wilderness be my muse.

Today is a peaceful and treasured break from my daily realities and I am so grateful.

Happy May to you all!

Do you have long and lovely projects that call out to you?

Where and how do you find stillness?

What sorts of environments inspire you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On my Heart, (Not) Feeding the Animals, and Peace Lilies

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) My heart

This fall I was diagnosed with a heart condition, mitral regurgitation. This is a common heart condition and basically means that blood is leaking backwards through my heart’s mitral valve. Untreated, this could eventually lead to heart failure.

When this situation came to light, I was pretty stunned though my intuition had been telling me that there was something physical that needed to be uncovered. During the last year or two I have suddenly become unable to do hikes that had never before been a problem.

My head immediately wanted to get to down to business and accept this new reality and deal with it, but my heart wanted to grieve something that had been lost.

After all, it meant recalibrating and perceiving myself in a new way….as someone with a heart condition.

This felt a little complicated.

I am a reader, a writer, and a lover of symbols and meanings and now,

here was this life-changing piece of news having to do with the greatest symbol that ever was. The heart.

My heart was struggling.

Just hear that sentence. Every time you insert the word heart, the mind cannot help but jump straight to emotion, life-experiences, triumphs and losses. Try to even enter the feeling realm and not use the word heart. It’s everywhere in our language- heartbreak, heart-ache, whole-hearted, heart-warming, big-hearted, piece of my heart, hard-hearted….

My interpretation of my condition, then, was immediately emotional as well as physical,

just as there are no separate words to distinguish the beating organ from the place where love sits.

This heart of mine has been through a lot. It has weathered divorce, illnesses, miscarriage, the death of my mother, friends, other family members.

It has given so much, too, in its efforts to love and be loved.

An understanding of the magnitude of how hard my heart has worked for me completely overwhelmed me during those first few weeks after my diagnosis. I held this consistent image of my brave little heart continuing to  beat on through all of the loss, grief, uncertainty and fears.

and –  All for me. Now that is love.

An even deeper appreciation crept in for its beating on through all the times when I have given too much, resisted too hard, compromised, put myself last, neglected my needs and dishonored my truest self.

I suddenly felt such tremendous affection for this beautiful and indescribably precious organ that not only literally gives us life but ultimately holds ALL of the cards at the end of the game.

How I suddenly desperately wanted to call in some troops, acknowledge how hard it has worked, and affirm my renewed support.

So it has been a winter of re-assessment, of letting go of many obligations and then slowly and more thoughtfully letting new things in. It has been a winter of asking myself constantly, ‘Does this fill my cup?’ ‘Is this heart-honoring worthy?’

On the practical side, the troops are on their way. Dan and I have been able to meet with the cardiac surgeon and contrary to what we were first lead to believe, the valve can be repaired through a new and minimally invasive procedure. We were completely delighted by this news.

I will be facing heart surgery within the next few years, but

my heart is ready and is willing to be opened.

Go figure.

It turns out that this gal who wants to talk about peace at home is being invited to raise the stakes by looking at her very own heart first.

2) (NOT) feeding the animals:

This past weekend we were in Waterton for Easter. We were all sitting around our table at the cabin one afternoon when we noticed out the window a vehicle stopped on the road. From this van, family members were throwing crackers at the bighorn sheep on the sides of the road. The sheep, of course, were busy being sheep so were mildly interested while also mildly annoyed by the crackers hitting them on the sides of their heads.

This seems like an insignificant event, but it made me sad.

Why is it so difficult for humans to understand that our earth is made up of fragile webs of interconnectedness? Without understanding the exact scientific placement of sheep in the ecosystems of Waterton, I am certain that it is crucial to the delicate balance of these ecosystems that sheep feed on the particular vegetation that they have always fed on, not ritz crackers. Maintaining their natural diet would be crucial for the sheep, crucial for the plants, crucial for all the creatures linked in this particular food chain.

We can enjoy the sheep, take pictures of the sheep but

the sheep are not walking down the road solely for our amusement.

This blog is about peace, and I do mean to make that my focus. Occasionally, though, peace means standing up for someone or something. My heart always knows when it’s time.

So that day in Waterton, I did run out of our cabin and I politely but firmly asked these people to please stop feeding the animals.

Happy Earth Day, Sheep!

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3) Peace Lilies:

I cannot even remember when I purchased this peace lily. I think I bought it upon moving back to Lethbridge after my first marriage ended, though I’m actually not sure. No matter. I have always felt love and loyalty towards my lily. It rarely blooms, likely because my attention is fickle and I often forget to pay attention to what it needs. It sits in a nice little spot though by the back door where it gets lots of light, and lately I have been making sure that my plants are better watered. This week, after everybody was in bed I was standing in the kitchen and looked over at it and…behold! photo[1]

Dan said he thinks it’s a good sign, and now I can see yet another bloom.

Peace.

Have you had an experience where a health crisis has caused you to re-evaluate? How and when do you speak up for the earth? What is your current favourite plant or flower?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?