My Word For 2018


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Have you ever noticed that the circumstances in life that you struggle with the most seem to repeat themselves over and over again, until you finally find a way to handle them differently?

In past years, I have chosen a word for the upcoming new year. Words like tenacity and service, or perhaps the words actually chose me as my friend Louise Gallagher, over at Dare Boldly has often suggested.

I am certain that my word for 2018 chose me.

Let It Go.

Yes, I know those are three words, but no single word I’ve found, such as release, or surrender, or acquiesce, have fully meant to me what those three little words have come to mean.

I realize, as well, that those three little words have not just made their debut in 2017. They have been waiting patiently at the sidelines for three years, maybe more.

You see, in my family, an issue arises and we scramble to “Fix It”. This works well when it’s a manageable situation like, my car won’t start – call AMA, or my computer is acting up – have you tried rebooting it.

Yet there are many situations in life where you can do all you know to do, and it doesn’t get fixed. There are variables that are simply out of your control, and those are the very things, in my case, that can roll around in my head like a PowerPoint presentation or video that has been set to ‘continuous loop.’

That loop can take over, and more often than not, it prevents me from taking action in other situations, over which I actually have some measure of power to make a difference.

And so, those three little words unassumingly step forward for the millionth time to gently nudge me, encourage me to recognize, to really see that it is time to let it go, to trust, and accept, and even embrace the natural unfolding of what is.

And yes, it really is as simple as that.

Wishing you all an amazing 2018 filled with courage, growth, resiliency and love,


I am not alone.

I’m so excited for this event tonight, and that Louise graciously agreed to speak at it!

Dare Boldly

Unexpectedly, I am self-conscious.

Unexpectedly, I wonder if my words have meaning. Depth. Substance.

Most mornings when I write in this space, I am simply present. No artifice. No ‘gotta make people think this, feel that’. No, hmmm, what message shall I give today? It’s just me, the velvet night turning light outside my office window, the desk lamp casting a golden glow upon my keyboard and Beaumont, curled up on the floor behind me, sleeping.

This morning, the critter awoke and ego mind leapt into the fray. “You gotta make sure your words have meaning, Louise. You gotta write important stuff!”

The critter is a devious character. He likes to try to convince me that what I write must come from my mind. “Your heart is too soft,” he says. “Your heart will get you into trouble. Take care. Listen up and listen only to me. I will tell…

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The Sheer Force of Sorrow


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When you use the sheer force of your sorrow to crack open your heart, it promises to drop you down into a deeper capacity for compassion and care for all living beings. You become initiated into your own humanity in a way that connects you to all life. Such is the paradox of grief. It holds the power to either destroy or to save you. Which one is up to you.

Katherine Woodward Thomas


Getting Old Sucks


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You Ain’t Nothing But A Groundhog?

Margot Schwenk, November 2017

“What is the name of that singer I really liked?” mom asked me, sitting across the booth from me at her ‘second home’ at Vieux Chateau in Hawkesbury, ON. “You know, the guy who sang, ‘You ain’t nothing but a groundhog?’

How interesting that mom would ask that question, with the mistaken groundhog instead of the actual hound-dog from the song she so loved by Elvis Presley, since my brother and I had recently discussed how life with mom is sort of like the movie Groundhog Day.

Two years ago, mine and Mike’s dad, and mom’s husband of 56 years passed away. Mom hasn’t been the same since. How can someone go on when their husband, whom they have spent more than half their life with, is suddenly gone.

It hasn’t been easy for mom, or for us kids who are witnesses to the profound sadness that saturates mom’s reality. And just recently mom has also had to give up driving and leave the home that she and dad built together to move into a retirement home.

Getting old sucks!

We try to tell ourselves otherwise to make ourselves feel better, but it’s a shit show of giving up independence and autonomy. Sure, one can still find joy in moments and be grateful for what remains, but as in the case of mom, that takes a great deal of re-focusing and determination.

You see, mom isn’t who she once was. She has become very forgetful and displays signs of dementia, and she knows it. Imagine if half your brain was breaking down, and the other half was fully aware of it. It can’t be easy for her. And she is different. She’s not the mom we knew. But the new Margot is beautiful. She’s compassionate. She is concerned about the future of, and misses, her family immensely.

During my one-week visit, I watched mom reach out to others who are struggling, doling out hugs, taking the arm of a woman who has pain when she walks. Mom is fierce in her efforts to help and protect others, because she knows firsthand what it means to feel helpless. She is beautifully compassionate when she hugs and cries with those who are hurting. And although she doesn’t feel it, she is brave, emotionally connected and a light in the darkness.

It’s not been easy for us, her kids, because we are heartbroken with the cards that life has dealt mom. We feel guilty because we can’t spend as much time as we would like with her. And yet, we are so proud of her and so in awe of her ability to FEEL the moment and experience it in the moment.

I don’t mind so much when she cries, because that is RAW honesty, and it passes. She feels it. Accepts it. And moves on. I guess the hardest part is when she panics, when she feels that she screwed up in someway, when the chaotic thoughts in her head send her into a tailspin. Thankfully, these episodes seem to be less, now that she gets her medication dispensed by a nurse at the correct times.

Don’t misread me. It’s not all gloom and doom. Mom’s only been in her new home for a month. She needs time to mourn what’s she’s lost, and grow accustomed to her new surroundings. We do have high hopes of a meaningful quality of life experience for her moving forward. We look forward to a possible trip with the whole family to Germany, mom’s homeland, and we look forward to a June wedding between my daughter and her fiancé.

But I don’t think we are fully off the hook. Individually, and as a society, we need to take a long, hard look at how we treat the elderly. How do we make sure that there is still “life” in their lives? How do we create an environment where joy can exist? How do we move away from ‘doing everything’ for them to ‘helping them find their new purpose?’ How do we move away from the warehousing of elderly people, to an integrated model of all society that includes children and all ages? And how do we keep the conversation going until we find it?

Getting old sucks, but it doesn’t have to…

Check out the amazing results that happened after this cool 6 week experiment.


Mom lives at Place Mont Roc now; a wonderful place, run by wonderful people, helping wonderful people. Their kindness is amazing and it’s a great foundation on which to build what we can further do to respect and keep the dignity of our seniors; our moms and dads.

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What gives your life meaning? What helps you to remember it?


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Symbols can be so beautiful, sometimes.

Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Yesterday I had the pleasure of Louise Gallagher’s company. It has become a tradition for us to meet each year before Christmas. And I always leave our time together re-energized.

Among the many topics we cover, we talk about Louise’s current move to a new home. I imagine, because of Louise’s creative soul, she must have lots to pack as she’d be inclined to keep things that might be used in a future art project.

“Yes I do,” she affirms, and holds up a print out saying, “I look at this and wonder how I could use it for art.” She goes on to tell me about an empty container she keeps that reminds her to ‘hold space’ for things she cannot change, like the hurts she has caused others, or others’ have caused her.

I pull a black, shiny stone out of my pocket – an Apache Tear – and tell her when I feel it in my pocket I remember those whom I have lost in this life, and those who still struggle.

Do you have a meaningful object? What does it remind you of?




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Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

– Vince Lombardi

Two things that stand out to me, when Dad taught me to drive are, don’t let the guy behind you pressure you. Don’t drive faster for him. Drive the speed you feel comfortable with. And, Look where you want to go. Look as far up the road as is visually possible. Don’t look at the sharp corner you’re on. You saw that a while back, you knew it was coming, you’ll get through it.

Sometimes while in the curves life throws at us, we feel the pressures of life pushing us to do something we’re not comfortable with. We can’t take our eyes off the current situation. We’re looking for a quick fix. It is then when we must fight the urge to focus on the trouble we’re in and keep our eyes on where we’re headed.


Perspective: Maybe God is taking you through troubled waters because your enemy can’t swim.

Circles of Hope — We must share

I had the beautiful privilege of attending this event, and let me tell you the room was connected heart-to-heart. Well done Louise, Alexis and Inn From the cold!

Dare Boldly

Photography by Mary Hone

It is 2am and I can’t sleep.

I don’t know if I’m still buzzed from the amazingness that was Circles of Hope yesterday, or if I’m just so emotionally exhausted even sleep can’t find space to turn up.

It was an amazing day.

Full house.

Incredible speakers and a team that made the entire thing look flawless and effortless.

Beyond the day however, is the emotional space created in sharing this journey with my eldest daughter. Of sitting with her and talking about the story of the past, our fears and sorrows and how to tell the story so that it not only inspires but reminds people that they are not alone.

Last night, I received an email from one of the attendees. They hadn’t planned on coming to the event, but a change in their schedule gave them some free time.

Being a parent myself…

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One Way We Can Tell…


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Love is always the answer.

One way we can tell if something is done in love or not, is to ask ourselves if it is inclusive or exclusive.

This seems an easier question when practiced individually. For instance, I can easily judge my own actions and motives and determine if they are inclusive or not, and match up with my personal values.

But it becomes harder to live this in our global systems, whether that be governments, corporations, religious groups, educational systems or any other groups. These systems often benefit the few and leave everyone else out in the cold. They contradict what we hold dear individually, and most shockingly, we seem ok with it and deem our values irrelevant because that is what needs to be done if we want to ensure the economy thrives, and our belief system stays intact, and (insert any other terrifying disaster) does not come to pass. At least that is what we have come to accept. We think that we must either play along, or fall into chaos. It’s either this or that.

How do we reconcile that? How do we cherish the truth which love; love for humanity, love for all living creatures, love for our planet reveals, and continue to buy into a system that serves the few and excludes the many? Is it really only this or that, or is there another way?

One way we can tell if something is done in love or not, is to ask ourselves if it is inclusive or exclusive.


The Mess


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Every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.

 — George Orwell

Hear about that car accident? Yeah, probably a teenager on drugs. They’re all on drugs you know? They have no idea of the worth of a dollar. They’re lazy. They don’t care what they look like – no respect for anybody. LOVE LOVE LOVE – yeah right, loose morals if you ask me!

Sound familiar? Not so different from words I hear today about the next generation.

But we were the generation that wanted to see the end of war, that wanted to feed the world, that wanted to give peace a chance, that felt we were handed a mess. We were idealists.

And then something happened. We grew up. We had families. We got tired. We looked out for #1. We wanted to make sure our children would be looked after in our little corner of the world. We put blinders on. We forgot about the grander picture. And the next generation says we left them a mess. They are idealists.

Well maybe they won’t forget. Maybe they won’t grow tired.


Fall Again


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There is treasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.

Lord Byron

There is nothing quite as centering for me as nature, and one doesn’t have to travel to the middle of nowhere to see it. Nature, it seems, regardless of how we dispose of it, comes back again and again.

Below, photos I took last Sunday during my urban walk…

It’s fall again…