Nature’s Lent


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Winter makes me question all sorts of choices I’ve made. It passes slowly, each day seemingly the same as the one before. The alarm goes off while it’s still dark out. I drink coffee, shower, dress, get in my car and go to work. I come home, eat, watch some TV, go to bed, maybe read a chapter or two. The alarm goes off while it’s still dark out.

It’s a low time for me, a time when nature sleeps beneath the snow. I reflect on the past. I think about the things I could have, should have done differently. I mourn what is lost. I let go of things I can’t change, things that aren’t important. I re-prioritize. It’s a time when I feel as though something is missing. A time when I long for something else, when I long for summer.

But this year before the spring, in January and February when it felt like I could not take the dark, stillness and cold anymore, or the day-in, day-out sameness, it occurred to me that maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be. Maybe it’s what allows me to start again with a fresh perspective.

It’s nature’s lent. A time of rest and reflection and yes, a time of maddening boredom too. A time to long for the sun’s warmth, and yet, somehow, the perfect springboard to an all-the-more enjoyable summer.

And I do love summer. And this past Sunday’s afternoon bike ride was well worth the long wait!

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You Have More In Common With The World Than You Think


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We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.

William James (1842-1910)

The things that make people interesting are their unique talents. Like someone whose guitar playing moves us, or someone whose storytelling captivates us, whose art transports us, whose passion inspires us to change the course we’re on.

Sadly some things that make us different also divide us, like the colour of our skin, our level of education, our societal status, our culture, our belief system. Different takes us out of our comfort zone, makes us feel vulnerable. The unknown is frightening.

So we vilify those who aren’t like us. ‘They’ are less civilized, less intelligent than us. We create rules and laws that hurt them. We find ways to protect ourselves from them while overlooking the injustices we impose upon them.

The above quote is a good metaphor to clearly illustrate how we are all connected. What will it take for us to remember that although we are separate on the surface, we are very connected in the deep?


I am so moved when the woman in the video learns she has a cousin in the room…


Humility, Gratitude and Service


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I had the privilege of interviewing someone yesterday. Someone whose childhood was marked by abandonment, abuse and neglect. Someone who coped by making bad choices as a result.

His story was heartbreaking and made me question…

No, it made me wrestle with the whys. Why do people treat other people so horribly? And not just other adults, but children. Children who need a better foundational start at life.

But to be honest, that’s not the part of his story that stuck with me.

What stood out was his gratefulness. For every time someone showed him kindness. Every time someone reached out to help him. Went out of their way to give him hope. Saw him, loved him for who he was, took action to make a difference in his life — and did it all without judging him.

His story reminded me of all the people in my life who were pivotal, who were catalysts in changing my life for the better. Most did not even know to what extent they impacted me, inspired me, motivated me to find purpose in my life by serving others.

His story reminded me how important it is to reach out and help others just because I’ve been helped. To pay it forward, to never forget where I came from, to stay humble and grateful.

It’s what brings out the best in humanity. Don’t you think?


Love is the Answer


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Love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar.

Theodor Adorno

Once, while watching one of those nature shows, I saw a leopard kill an animal and then discover that animal had a young one. The leopard then proceeded to care for the baby. We’ve all seen photos of animals caring for other animals outside their species. Of animals caring for humans and humans for animals. It’s an amazing thing to witness.

I don’t know what to call this, except to call it love. It is the kind of love that compels us, human or otherwise, to act compassionately and with kindness toward all other living creatures. The kind of love that too often is missing within the human race, within our own species, especially when they look, or believe, or live differently than us.

We haven’t suddenly become this way. It has been like this from the beginning. It’s too bad, really. Especially since the answer is so simple and obvious, so clearly within our grasp. So able to make us see that we are more alike than we are different.


Don’t you want to know love like that? I know I do.

My Genetic Health Overview and Traits


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Last week I shared my ancestry with you here. This week, as promised, I am sharing some of the results of my health.

23 and me stresses “that It’s important to note that these reports show your results for specific genetic variants that are associated with a higher risk for developing certain health conditions. However, these reports cannot tell you whether you definitely will, or will not, develop the condition. Note that there are other genetic variants linked to these conditions that are not covered by these reports. Environmental and lifestyle factors can also contribute to these conditions.”

So without further ado, let’s get to it!

Genetic Risk Factors

Celiac Disease

This report covers a genetic risk factor called HLA-DQ2.5 that is found in over 90% of people with celiac disease. Since only about three percent of people with this risk factor develop celiac disease, having this factor does not necessarily mean you will develop the condition. Similarly, you can still develop celiac disease even if you don’t have this risk factor. Additional genetic risk factors may also influence a person’s risk for celiac disease, but are not reported here.

So it seems I have higher odds of developing Celiac Disease, but so far so good. The good news is that I do not have the mutations that would give me a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s or Breast or Ovarian Cancer. Having said that, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t get those diseases at some point, I just don’t have a higher than typical risk in my genetic makeup.

Inherited Conditions

MCAD Deficiency


MCAD deficiency is inherited recessively, so individuals must receive an ACADM mutation from each parent to be affected with the disease. Many mutations in the ACADM gene have been identified. 23andMe reports on five mutations, one of which accounts for about 70 percent of mutations found in affected individuals. For people with the disease, certain environmental triggers—including common diseases that increase the body’s energy requirements or decrease appetite—can bring on acute episodes. Keep in mind that it is possible to have another mutation that causes this condition that is not included in this report.

This doesn’t seem to be a high risk for me either. However, if Michaela’s dad has an ACADM mutation in a gene, it could be a higher risk for Michaela.


Here is a quick glimpse of some of my traits

I do have blond hair even though it indicates only a 53% chance and I’m thrilled to discover that my earwax type is wet – whatever that means! Some of these reports weren’t exactly right but as with the hair colour, they are stated in percentages and with eye colour, for instance, the report says that if my eyes are not brown, they are more likely to be blue than green and they are indeed blue!

I also learned that I probably drink more coffee than most, which I do and also that I metabolize caffeine quicker than others. I am probably not lactose intolerant as is typical with most Europeans, which is also true of me. And I have no resistance to Malaria – good to know!

What I found really fascinating was this Alcohol Flush Reaction report.

Alcohol Flush Reaction

Sensitivity to alcohol— the alcohol flush reaction—depends almost entirely on a person’s genotype at two genes, ALDH2 and ADH1B. 23andMe currently reports your genotype at a SNP in ALDH2. It is possible that those with the AG or GG genotypes at the SNP are more sensitive to alcohol due to their genotype at ADH1B (which 23andMe does not report).

If I read the entire report correctly, the lower your flush reaction, the higher the chance of alcohol dependency is. Interesting to note is that on both sides of my family, relatives did struggle with alcoholism.

When I got my health results, I had to confirm that I actually wanted to read them by clicking a box giving 23 and me permission to share them with me. And then I had to choose to unlock the results that addressed Alzheimer’s and Breast and Ovarian Cancer. I guess some folks would rather not know.

Although my genetic health overview and traits are somewhat interesting to me, I have to admit that I’m way more interested in my ancestry and potentially learning about relatives I did not know I have.


If you sent away for your DNA results, would you want to read your health and traits results?

Related Articles Ha! I AM a Viking! and A Journey Back In Time

The Strength You Gave Me


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Margot with Diana

The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life […] the stronger the daughter.

Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

On Mother’s Day I think of you. Of all the things you gave me. All the things you taught me. All the ways you sacrificed so I could have a good childhood.

And I did mom. So much better than the life you had as a child. I know you sometimes recount all the mistakes you think you made with us. But don’t you know that you gave so much more than you could ever have dreamt for yourself when you were a child? Don’t you know that you broke the cycle of alcoholism and abuse allowing your children to never have to know that torment?

And your strength, even now. Even in this time when you face the harsh reality you never dreamed would happen alone, instead of the plans you had with dad for your golden years, even now I see that strength. That strength you taught me in deed and in word. The strength that I have inside me because of you.

Thanks for that Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.


Friday Pick 207 – A Mother



A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Susan over at Rhythm of Life began following my blog. Today after work I went over there to check out hers. When I came across the post she wrote today on what it means to be a mother, I knew I’d have to share it with you. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out in the blogosphere and to all the single dads who’ve had to play the role of both mom and dad.

In His Susan’s own words:

I am Susan. Wife to the love of my life Michael and mommy of two beautiful children; Gary 7 and Michele 5. Been married for almost 9 beautiful years! I trust that only through Christ I have life. I believe there’s always rhythm(ups and downs) to all our lives that come in many forms. Mine are around our family. I enjoy documenting our family life as I share it along the way; My writing ranges from marriage as I know it, motherhood as I experience it, poetry, quotes of wisdom because I am a wisdom seeker, food just for the love of it and then health because I have been through a cancer journey that has left me with a story to tell. So hop on for the ride y’all!

This week, I’ve chosen the post below as my Friday Pick.

In this post Susan shares a delightful poem for her children… 

A Mother by Rhythm in Life


*I’ve closed my comments in hopes that you will leave a comment on the writer’s page*

Ha! I AM a Viking!


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I told you!

Well I’m 6.1% Scandinavian and that’s where Vikings come from right? I was somewhat expecting this as my paternal grandmother’s family came from Sweden.

As you’ve probably guessed, my DNA results are in!!

There were a few surprises. For instance, I’m only 14.9% German. Well French and German to be exact. I guess I had assumed I would have a larger percentage of German Ancestry because both my parents were born in Berlin, and as far as I know, their parents were born in Germany. When I think about it though, there had to be a lot of interbreeding in Europe, even in the last 1000 years with constant border changes because of wars and such.

Just a few months ago I had told my daughter that I’d read an article that said all blue-eyed people could be traced back to one individual who lived by the Black Sea between Eastern Europe and Western Asia.  And she told me that because I have freckles, I probably have some Irish ancestry.  I dismissed the Irish thing; I mean why would I have Irish roots?

Well surprise! I’m 8.6% British and Irish!

Most fascinating to me was that I am 1.8% Ashkenazi Jewish. In the preceding link, Wikipedia states that among many other interesting facts: The name Ashkenazi derives from the biblical figure of Ashkenaz, the first son of Gomer, son of Khaphet, son of Noah, and a Japhetic patriarch in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10).

I’m also 3% Neanderthal!

Neanderthals were a group of humans who lived in Europe and Western Asia. They are the closest evolutionary relatives of modern humans, but they went extinct about 40,000 years ago. The first Neanderthals arrived in Europe about 200,000 years ago. Neanderthals – Homo Neanderthalensis and modern humans – Homo sapiens – lived alongside each other for thousands of years. Genetic evidence suggests that they interbred and although Neanderthals disappeared about 40,000 years ago, traces of the DNA – between 1 percent and 4 percent – are found in all modern humans outside of Africa.

I remember watching a documentary once that suggested Neanderthals carried certain immunities to diseases in Europe that modern humans lacked. Interbreeding played a huge role in ensuring the continuation of modern humans in Europe.

DNA Relatives

My top relative Surnames (of people who have also had their DNA tested) are Cohen, Kaplan, Goldberg, Friedman and Katz. I’m just going to go ahead and assume I’m distantly related to Leonard Cohen, because I adore him!

My Maternal Haplogroup

According to 23 and me, I have ancestry in Europe/the Near East in the past few hundred years, that traces back to eastern Africa around 50,000 years ago along my mother’s line.

My daughter, me, my mother, her mother and so on belong to the Haplogroup U5a1B1. The U5 Haplogroup is found in approximately 9% of Europeans.

The U5a1 group originated in Europe during the Ice Age about 20,000 years ago. At the time people were confined to small refuges in the southern part of the continent. When the glaciers began receding about 15,000 years ago people began migrating northward, carrying U5a1 and other haplogroups with them. Today U5a1 is most commonly found in places such as Norway and northern Germany. Other members of the U5a1 haplogroup moved south into the Near East, perhaps in search of a warmer, more hospitable climate than the dry, glaciated tundra of Ice Age Europe. Today their maternal descendants can be found at low levels (less than 2%) in Turkey, Iran and Syria.

This is all very fascinating to me. 23 and Me shares the profiles of people, who have given their permission and are DNA relatives of mine, with me.

I’m still working my way through all the results of my DNA, and perhaps when I understand it a bit better, I may reach out to some of my 3rd to 6th cousins who live in the locations stated to the left!

In my next post I will share a bit about my health overview (traits, genetic risk factors, and inherited conditions).


Have you ever thought about submitting your DNA to find out your ancestry or to look for lost relatives? If not, have I tempted you to do so with this post?

Related article: A Journey Back in Time

The Slippers


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I have an old, ugly pair of slippers from Wal-Mart.  They make a click-clack noise. The same kind of click-clack noise Dad’s favourite slippers used to make when he walked across the kitchen floor.


Winter 2012

Michaela and I went back east to spend Christmas with family. Dad was wearing those slippers and click-clacking across the floor. The noise drove Mom crazy. The next time Dad reached for those slippers after a trip into Hawkesbury, they were gone.

In the garbage.

Mom had had enough.

So me and Michaela went to the Fairview Shopping Centre in Pointe Claire and found a pair of slippers for Dad at Old Navy. We’d intentionally picked silent slippers to avoid that click-clacking sound. We couldn’t wait to give them to Dad for Christmas. On Christmas Eve we handed the wrapped slippers to him. He opened the package and angrily tossed the slippers to the side. 

“I hate them.”

They weren’t his well-worn favourite slippers and they weren’t the kind you could just slip on either. You had to bend down and stick your finger in the back to get them on.


How I wish you were still with us Dad, so we could get you the perfect slippers.

The kind you wouldn’t have to struggle to get on.

The kind you could just slip your feet into.

The kind that would click-clack across the kitchen floor and drive Mom crazy and cause that smile of defiant satisfaction to tug at the corners of your mouth…


The Trump Effect


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You lose your grip and then you slip into the masterpiece.

~ Leonard Cohen

I’d like to tell you that I’m even-tempered. That I keep a cool head when my patience or my sense of right and wrong are being tested. That the minute I feel my jaw clench in anger, I am able to say some kind of catch phrase like Breathe or Let It Go and I’m magically transported to the present where the stuff I’m losing my cool about hasn’t happened yet and may never ever happen at all. But I’d be lying.

Truth is, this is something I’m always trying to grow into and although I’m getting better at it, I may never master it. But that’s ok as long as I’m trying, right?

What seems funny to me is that when I’m in the midst of ‘losing it,’ I feel perfectly justified. Yet when I see someone else behave in a similar manner, My mouth forms the word WOW and I think to myself, ‘What a wacko.’

The Donald and how some of us react to him is a good example of this. “Oh those bad Canadians, they’re really screwing us over in the milk industry and softwood lumber industry by doing this and that and the bad Mexicans, something to do with chickens blah, blah, blah…and so I’m going to renegotiate to get us a better deal or just pull out of NAFTA all together.”

And then chaos ensues and people are running around to research if what he is saying is really true and if he can actually do what he says he going to do and the news is consumed with the silliest debates, things we all thought we were clear on like is the sky really blue and we wonder well is it and then we think, hey wait a minute… Ugh I GOT CAUGHT UP IN THIS AGAIN!

I’m seriously starting to wonder if he is a genius in the sense that he can so easily get us so wound up and I bet he’s having a nap, or reading the paper or doing laps in a pool, or worse working on something he doesn’t want the public to know about, while we are reacting to a non issue!

Well as it turns out, he can’t just pull out of NAFTA. The worst he can do is sign an executive order that indicates he would like to pull out in six months and then it would go through this huge process and many others would have to want to do the same – bottom line – it’s a process that goes way beyond Donald’s mere wishes…

Anyway, my point really has nothing to do with NAFTA or Donald Trump or politics or how we should navigate these issues. It merely serves as a globally recognizable example of something I struggle with daily – to not immediately react to a situation, to not get pulled into someone else’s chaos, to just breathe, stay in the present and respond in a caring and appropriate way.


What’s the thing you struggle with? Can you think of a good Trump illustration for it? 😉