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For years now, I have been making my decisions using a formula designed to help me reach the very best conclusion.  For most, even after we’ve committed to a decision, we continue to spend time, wondering, questioning whether we were right or wrong, worrying about having made a mistake, and guessing what might have happened if we had chosen differently. For me, once I have made a decision, there is no going back, no second guessing, no room for doubt.  The reason for this is simple…. LOVE can never be wrong.

Now, I am not trying to minimize how difficult decision making can be, I too have made the tough ones, the heavy heart and gut-wrenching ones. What I do know, however, is that this works for me, and it works every time.  I think the reason is because it is based in truth seeking, in heart searching, in love honouring.

I ask myself these three questions; three because it represents heaven, earth, and water, as well as body, mind, and spirit.  I came up with these questions when I first realized that what we resist, we most often need. And as a wise, dying man once told me “resistance is what makes things harder, and acceptance is what paves a path of grace.

  1. WHAT AM I AFRAID OF? In truth, we often make decisions from a fearful place, filled with what ifs and shoulds.  So, while I could ask myself what am I resisting, what I recognize is the fear, so I ask myself what am I afraid of?  And the answer comes fast and furious because it’s impossible to deny what sits on your heart, hard and heavy.  We know what we are afraid of and it takes no time at all to write the list.  We are afraid of what we don’t understand, of uncertainty, of not knowing, of making a mistake.  We don’t usually choose change, we prefer what we know and understand, what we are comfortable with, and often that’s what we know to be true, right here, right now.
  2. WHAT WOULD LOVE DO HERE? I could ask myself instead, what acceptance might look like, but since we can all relate to love, this works for me.  This is often the simple answer, because it comes from our heart and not our head.  And I am not suggesting that we all abandon what is practical or necessary, and quit our jobs, buy a used van and go find our bliss.  What I am suggesting is that you dig a little deeper, lean into the idea of love and acceptance and what that might look like around this decision.  Asking yourself this question helps to soften the hard edges and allows you the time to sink into the question and to open yourself up to possibility. It invites you to question your soul and not your ego, your heart and not your mind.  You have not yet committed to a decision, so you have nothing to lose by reaching in a little further.
  3. WHAT’S THE BEST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN? Now there’s a switch, usually we are listing off the worst-case scenario, all the ways that this could go sideways, why this is not a good idea.  We lead so often with what we think are our own ideas, when in fact, much of what you think is not your own anyway.  Years of messages are engrained in us; we think about what others think – our parents, our kids, our friends, our neighbours, our clients, our Instagram followers…… So, since much of what is in your head was donated by others, why not give your heart a try, only you reside there.  Imagine what good could come from this, what amazing and wonderful and beautiful things might happen as a result.  Dream about what might be better, different, good, and authentic about your decision.

In the end, there are no wrong decisions. You won’t know what could have happened if you had taken the other route, so why give energy to wondering?  You won’t know if the opposite would have been better, so why include it in your next thought?  And not making a decision, is still a decision, don’t kid yourself, waiting and worrying leads to its own conclusions.  So, the next time you are faced with making a thoughtful decision, ask yourself my three questions. And, even if you don’t decide based on the answers, perhaps you will understand yourself a little better, for having asked them.

ONE Mixing Bowl

I own ONE mixing bowl. We go way back, more than 35 years. I think I have used it almost every day of my life since it first arrived. It’s simple, a medium size according to the cookbooks, and it is glass (my mother used to say, “good food cannot be made in a plastic bowl”). It has lived a simple life, always on the same shelf, and it has served me well.

Some might think that the reason I have only one mixing bowl is because it isn’t used often, maybe I don’t cook or bake much, not true.  I cook every day, some days for up to 3 hours.  I cook from scratch, and I make two new recipes every week. Some of my meals are simple, some are complex, filled with many ingredients, several steps and processes, and many call for a great deal of mixing. So, I mix and wash the bowl, mix and wash the bowl, mix and then mix something else that’s similar without washing the bowl, and if I have to leave something in the bowl for awhile, I make something else while I wait. I never think about buying another bowl; I simply don’t need to.  There is something beautiful about slowing down, about washing the bowl in between the times I need it, about taking time to pause, to remember what I am doing right now, right here, and to remember the why, the reason I am cooking, the people that will be nurtured with love and fresh food, and the time that will be spent together at the table.

Friends and strangers alike have shared my food, and our table, and we have enjoyed more amazing meals and food experiences than I can recall.  I have cooked for one and for many, and always with my one mixing bowl.  I cook slowly, with intention, and I concentrate on the goodness that is going into what I am making, on the gratitude that comes from being able to afford the ingredients, from being well and strong enough to cook, and from having someone to cook for.

If that bowl could talk… it would tell you stories of purposeful mixing, of cooking with care, and it would tell you that you can really do only ONE thing at a time and do it well, that we already have all that we need, and that more or many is not always better, sometimes it’s just more.


LWG mixing bowl 1

The SACRED in Simple

Not everyone lives loud, not everyone lives large, not everyone lives long.  

For some, it’s not about how bright the light shines on them, it’s about casting their own light on others.  It’s about simplicity, about living an authentic life, where all those you encounter are left with an indelible mark; the mark of friendship, of love, of community.  

It’s about owning less, surrounded by only what’s needed and meaningful. It’s about knowing that you already have right here and right now, everything you need. It’s about believing so strongly in the inherent goodness of the earth and its people, and knowing that LOVE is always the answer.   It’s about honouring your connection to the planet, to all that it offers.  

It’s about being in service to others, in doing meaningful, healing work, and about giving from an open heart. It’s about using your own strength to hold up those who have fallen, raise up those who are weary, and to clear a path of calm with your kindness. It’s about living your life and facing your death with light, with courage, and with grace.   

Mary McCartney was that person.  She possessed a clarity that is rarely seen, a vision of the world that was true and hopeful and beautiful.  She lived with integrity, quietly but boldly; a simple and peace filled life. Even as she experienced world travels, including amazing hiking and kayaking adventures and deep sea dives, she remained humble, grateful for the opportunity to see and do more, to connect with mother nature and share in her gifts.  

She took the road less travelled, walked an unassuming path, and opted for a modest home and minimalist lifestyle; having less and doing more.  She recognised that we are all spiritual beings on a human journey and blessed to have whatever time we are afforded, knowing that the end is actually a transition, to the next beautiful place.

Described as a “unique, vibrant, and loving soul’ by her family, Mary was an inspiration to many, singing and dancing through life and leaving those of us who were lucky enough to love her, with the warmest of memories and the most important of lessons.     

Mary McCartney

OPEN all hours

Do you have an open mind?  Are you open to the ideas being presented, to the opinions being offered, to something new?  Is your mind willing to stretch a little, to take in something very different and perhaps a little frightening, something other that what you’re used to thinking?  Can you dig a little deeper, to a place where you try to wrap your head around something other than your own thoughts, the thoughts you own?  Can you reach a deeper place of understanding?  Can you let go of your own ego, and welcome expansion?  Can you become less attached to what you think is right? It takes courage to open your mind, to lean into the idea that there might be more than what ‘you’ think.  After all, thoughts are just that, only thoughts, and you are in charge of the ones you choose to think.

Are your eyes open? Do you see what is actually in front of you, the homeless person, the hungry person, the angry or sad person?  Do you see yourself in what you don’t like in others?  Open eyes are wide open, not short sighted, they see further than your own immediate depth of field. They see a reality that may be uncomfortable, a truth you do not want to visualize. They see the whole, the planet, the injustice, the hate and the hurt, that which is hard on our sight.  Open eyes have unlimited vision, they see more than what’s beautiful or right or good. They see through clear unfiltered lenses, they see what they wish was not there.  Open eyes believe what they cannot see.  They see the beauty in every thing and every one.  They see what is really there even when they cannot admit it is real.  Open eyes focus on what matters, on what’s important, on what is.

Do you have an open heart?  Are you open to more than the family you love, more than the friends you enjoy, more than the neighbours you like?  Having an open heart means being open to those you have never met, to those you don’t understand, and to those who may be different than you.  It means opening up to those who are wealthy, who are hurting, who are powerful, who are addicted, who are suffering, who are less than, who are more than, who worship another. Can you soften your hard heart, open up to those who have a different opinion, who live differently than you, who love differently than you? Expand your heart, fill it with less judgement and more compassion.  We are all one.  If you are human, you are connected to each and every other human. There is no difference, only sameness; we are in fact each other, living in the same love and in the same space.

Are you open to possibility?  Are you open to what may come, to what we don’t know, to what we are frightened by, to what is available, to what is offered? Are you open to the diagnosis, to the plan being presented, to the opportunity that is before you, to the leap of faith required?



BACKward is the new FORWARD

Earlier this year, I spent a few months in southern Portugal, learning about a different way of life, and taking in some new experiences. While there, I met a few Canadians and Brits now calling Portugal home and I asked them how they might describe their new country. Among the praise for sand and surf, their comments included “it’s a bit backward at times” or “in some ways, they are years behind everyone else”.  After three months away, while I might add similar commentary to my own description, mine would carry with it, a much more positive slant.

What I noted during our time away, was the way in which many Portuguese people are doing things, living their lives, connecting with others, that is similar to that of days gone by.  And while it did take longer and in some cases more effort to achieve what we have come to do at an almost sonic pace here at home, it did achieve the same results and I think in a much richer and more meaningful way.

Older women in our town (yes, not men) still hang their laundry out to dry, and sometimes it takes a little longer, a couple of days, for clothes to be ready to wear.  So while you cannot wash the outfit this morning, for the party tonight, you can expect to have clean, fresh smelling, and beautifully kissed by the sun clothes.  All this while enjoying the outdoors, banter with neighbours and time with their pets; a connection to the outside world.

They shop for food they need, food that is in season, and only enough for a few days at a time.  They buy truly ‘local’ food, that is grown by their neighbours, that has traveled shorter distances, that is meant to be eaten at this time of year.  They prepare their food with timeless recipes, and with each other, and they share their food, their wine, and their table with those around them, both family, and those whom they consider family.  They eat outdoors, in the warmth of the sun and the warmth of each other.  Generations eat together, the old, the new, the in-between.   They share what they have, throw out very little, and waste not much.  Dinnertime is as much about breaking bread as it is about belonging, with loud and joyous conversations, where children are included and encouraged. It is a celebration in the moment, not meant to be hurried or processed or passed by. Many still wash their dishes by hand and with each other, making connections over the counter.

They make space for love and friendship. Retired men can be seen playing games on the boardwalk, loudly telling stories, laughing and noting who is cheating at the game. Children are often with grandparents after school and many of the women in my neighbourhood spent time outside laughing with those passing by and sharing stories with those on either side of their steps.  They make time for time out, with many of the shops in our town still closing for a few hours each afternoon, providing rest for the weary, a chance to relax and reenergize before evening, and heading home or out for dinner.

I recognize that much of what I love about this place and its people has been driven by the past, its politics, religion and reality, and I know that much is changing here too. Portugal, while showing reverence for the past, is more advanced in many ways, in its environmental solutions, in some of their systems and in much of the form and function I encountered.  Still, I remain convinced that not all progress is defined by looking forward and I believe that the previous has much to teach us, that speed can serve to distract us from what is meaningful and that sometimes we are better served by that which is slow.

My brother once told me “there is something magical about this place” and I would now agree with him.  Of course Portugal is changing too, younger generations are walking less and driving more, at supermarkets more than markets, and hurrying to the next happening.  Getting back to basics might not be best for everyone, but for me, I am choosing to learn from those who are standing still; to let go of the list, to slow down so I can savour, to leave the rushing to the rest, and to the knowledge that this moment is the only time we have on earth. I intend to make my moments last.

Portugal blog, Backwad is the new Forward

Working is NOT WORKING

I am approaching an age where many of the conversations surrounding me are about growing older, about retirement and about dying.   Most seem to be centred around working; how busy people are and how much more work is yet to be done, how they still have years to work, how much they look forward to not working, how wonderful it already is to no longer work, how they can cannot see a day in the future that doesn’t include work.

What is this obsession we have with working for decades and then finally not working?  We are consumed by the idea that we have to work every hour that’s available to us, for as many years as possible so that we feel comfortable enough to diminish or end that work.  All this so we can finally live the life we want, and make time for the things that matter; travel, reading, gardening, sailing, volunteering, learning a language, writing a novel, and spending time with people we love….at last.

I don’t believe that this is what we were put on the planet for, this is a result of an industrial revolution, that while revolutionized much, also took away a great deal more.  We have been brainwashed to believe that work is what brings us purpose, gives us our sense of worth, is the measure of our success, and provides the best life.  And, that we must do it for years before we are rewarded, if we are lucky, with enough time and money to spend the last and least amount of our time, enjoying the life we built on a lifetime of work.  All this assuming we live to a ripe old age.

I know we need money, but we need much less than we think.  We need the basics: shelter, food, warmth, medicine, fresh water, clothing, education.  We want so much more, and we are chained to working in order to provide it. What’s interesting is that I don’t see the satisfaction level or the happiness quotient increasing with the amount of work being done or the amount of money being had.  What I see more often, are weary, harried, stressed, anxious, depressed, lonely, unfulfilled people, living lives of quiet desperation – trying to find more time, right now, to feel and do better.

We cannot all be entrepreneurs, or work for amazing people, or choose the hours we are on the job, or decide to take time because the sun is shining.  What we can decide is what matters most.  We all have the same 24 hours each day, and we are not going to find more time.  What we can find, is the will to carve out what is meaningful to us, what we cherish most, what will fulfill our waking moments, until we no longer have them. You may not live long, you may not live healthy, you may not live with fame or fortune.  But while you are living, you owe it to yourself to carve out a small piece of heaven on earth, whatever that is for you.  You can decide to do with less, to listen to your own voice, and not the ones that scream on the screens. You can decide to walk at a pace that is comfortable for you, while the world spins around you.  You can get your work done, whatever your work is, with a sense of purpose and gratitude, while providing what you need for you and those who depend on you.

Beyond that, you need to be able to embrace the gift of this moment, and the next, and the next, in whatever way that speaks to you.  Stop thinking about how to fit in the things that matter around the hours you work and start thinking about how to fit in your work, around the things that matter.  It is possible, to find time, we do it whenever we need to: when someone has an accident, when our friend is grieving, when our mother needs care, when we lose our job, when we need to plan a funeral, when our operation is scheduled, when an earthquake hits, when we are told that we are dying.

Let’s change our approach and teach our children; that money is required not revered, that work is something that serves us not something that we serve, and let’s change the lens to view a beautiful life through one of love rather than labour.


blog post, zero degrees

The COMFORT in Discomfort

There is something to be said for comfort, for knowing what to expect, for things going as planned, and walking a well travelled road. It’s attached to a sense that all is right with the world. There’s an ease and a trust that comes with ‘knowing’ what’s ahead, in front of us, around the next corner.

But there’s a problem with this comfortable feeling and that is that it is, well, comfortable.  Life is easy, predictable, almost like sleepwalking. We become complacent, we walk our path without consideration, we unconsciously make our decisions. We simply go through the motions: we know the grocery aisles, what things cost, what time the movie starts, where to catch the bus, who we are going to meet, what to wear, what to expect along the way.  We feel safe with what we know and understand, we fear what we do not.

Ask yourself how you would feel if you were not so sure footed, certain of your immediate future, able to anticipate the next move.   What if you shook things up a bit, lived on the edge of uncertainty for just a while? Maybe what we all need is to feel slightly on edge, not quite knowing it all.  Maybe we need a little of the unexpected, unpredictable, perhaps a challenge or two.  We could move out of our comfort zone, be inquisitive again, attempt to adapt, perhaps change things up, maybe see things for the first time.  Would we find it refreshing or frightening if life were somewhat difficult, to have to figure something out, to challenge ourselves, to think beyond the box, to colour outside the lines – to walk a road less traveled. When was the last time you did something for the first time, nervous, not scared, but concerned and curious about what was ahead?

For me it was the first three months of 2016 when I went to spend a few months in southern Portugal.  I rented an apartment in a small town where the language was different, where I didn’t know my way around, where the food was not the same, where the signs were harder to read. It wasn’t completely foreign though, just enough to add a little more excitement to my day.  I have some family in the area, so I had help if needed.  I had been to this town before so I had a sense of where I was coming to.  I had time on my side, so I wasn’t rushed, and I didn’t have to know it all right away.  I took my time, asked questions, got curious and tried new experiences and some different foods, met some new people, and walked streets I hadn’t walked before.

It was wonderful.  I used my brain to figure out the currency and learned new words so I could get on the right bus, follow the rules at the swimming pool, take the correct route to the store.   I went to places I wasn’t familiar with and figured out how to do things that were not necessarily easy for me.  I cooked with new and sometimes unusual ingredients.  I made do without some of the known things from home.  I found ways to be creative, to fix things, to simplify, to make do with what I had.  And in the process I discovered some things about myself. I am able, and resourceful.  I am smart and open and adaptable.  I am interested and intent.

What new situations do for us is heighten our senses, expand our frame of reference, and enlarge our scope.  You become more conscious, you have to, in order to survive or at least to get on with things. You listen more intently, because you need to hear what’s being said.  You need the directions in order to find your way, you need to know what is allowed and not permitted.  You need to hear what’s going on, so you can be part of it, perhaps even make a contribution. Your sense of smell heightens, there are unknown scents, some that draw you in, some you know you won’t miss, but your nose knows, this is something new.  You see with eyes wide open, you need to watch your step, find your way. What you are passing by is new to you, so in order to see it, you have to look up and look ahead. You are no longer just going through the motions, because there is no motion yet, you are not yet used to anything, nothing is the same old thing, it’s the new thing, and it deserves and demands your attention.  Your mind works harder, trying to process it all, to make sense of it all, and to see what fits, and how.

While there is something to be said for the comfort of the status quo, perhaps many of us would benefit from an opportunity to turn down a different path, take in a new experience, alter our patterns and spend some time in the unknown. The result could be exhilarating, and it might just lead to a more conscious place: more awake, more aware, more alive.best vacation ever

NOTHING need change

The last day. A time for many to reflect and to measure; our progress, our accomplishments, our disappointments. We add up the successes and failures, review how many goals were met, determine if it was indeed a good year.

We look ahead, thoughts turn to a fresh page, the creation of a new ‘to do’ list where only forward movement counts; to strive, to complete more, to become more complete. Time is fleeting and we feel the pressure to use what we have been gifted; to make the most of our moments, to be more than we were, and better than we are.

What if this time around, instead of looking forward, we looked down, at where we are planted? What if it was enough that we are still here, awake and aware on this beautiful blue planet. What if we simply carried on, grateful for the time we have, for the moment we are in. What if we lived consciously, aware of those around us. What if we simply did more of the same, and focused on goodness, not greatness. What if it was enough to just live our lives and travel our own path. What if we spent our time grounded, standing firmly in a place of gratitude, for this moment and the next, not harming others, helping where we can, choosing compassion and peace, standing in our truth. What if we simply brought our best self to bear?

What if our first new day was spent the same as our last old day – in integrity, with compassion, held in love.

Would it be enough?

UNTIL then - blog post, June 2015

That which LASTS

In August, my mother died.  Just uttering those words can cause me to catch my breath.

I can hardly believe that I won’t see her sweet face again, won’t hear that wonderful laugh, won’t share another cup of tea or enjoy another conversation.   But believe it I do and while my grief has at times been more than I can bear, I have chosen to focus less on what has left me and more on what has been left; on the memories that are keeping her close.

My mother was real – truly brave, intelligent, beautiful, funny, and authentic.   She was complex but not complicated, and she lived long, 86 years long – long enough to gather up some experience, some real life, some wisdom, some grace.  Much of this she shared with me during the time we spent living together during the past 20 years.  What’s wonderful about sharing someone’s later years is that they have time to sit and chat, to impart their insights and to share their stories.  And while my mother didn’t spend much time sitting, she did spend her time telling- stories that have helped me shape my own thoughts about the world we live in and the one we leave behind.

When someone dies, the details of death take over your time and space; they cloud your vision.  You fill your days with plans, finding a way to honour their life, embracing friends and family, comforted by the company, and knowing this too shall pass.  At some point though, you are alone again, with your grief, and for me, with my gratitude.

I am so grateful she chose ‘family’ and that she had sons so I could have brothers.  She told me once that all she ever wanted was ‘to have children’ and I am so glad she did. I could not love those boys more, they have made my life rich and so much better for having had them in it.

I learned a great deal from my mother; there were many lessons.  She taught me at an early age, that we are all ‘people’, and equal and that “there is no difference between men and women, other than the obvious” so I could do or be anything that I put my mind and heart to.  I grew up knowing that I could make my own path, and that she would not get in my way, that nothing was beyond reach unless I chose to lower my own sights.

She taught me not to waste time or talent.  She understood that life is finite, and that time starts running out from the moment it starts running.  She was a life long learner.  She encouraged me to find out what words meant, study maps, listen to the news, read books, join groups, learn new skills and new languages.  She was forever ‘learning’ something new – driving in her 20’s, skiing in her 30’s, tap dancing at 75, Bridge at 79, Gmail at 85.  She played games and played sports – and practiced them all until she got it right.

She was constantly ‘moving’.  She loved music and dance.  She sang in choirs, and played her accordion in an orchestra. She danced on kitchen floors and dance floors, by herself and with her husband, in classes and with groups of friends.  She stretched every day of her life, did yoga on the living room floor, wore copper and magnets and became a reflexologist later in life.  She never missed her massage, and was open to the ‘alternative’.  She promoted natural health long before it was natural to do so and questioned everything.  If she was given a new supplement, the bottle wasn’t opened until she had done her research.  She lived through a World War, lived through a long marriage, lived through 86 years of living.  She told me you cannot do that without learning a thing or two.

She had a terrific sense of humour. I loved the way she laughed and the way she made us laugh.  She was so very funny, she saw the lighter side, the brighter side, and while she couldn’t tell jokes, she sure could take them.  There were moments when we laughed so hard we cried; moments I will cherish.

She was brave and strong and tenacious and endorsed a ‘no whining policy’.  She taught us all that there is always someone who is struggling more than us, having a more difficult life than us.  She worried about the human condition, about those with little or less, and those who would never have a lighter load.  We were not afforded much time for self pity, and while I thought at times, she was hard when she could be soft, she was quick to point out that she had endured enough to know that we would always be better off than those before us and we had a duty to make the most of our lot in life.

She was a ‘maker’ and felt the world was losing its ability to ‘create things’.  She could cook.  She taught me how to follow a recipe and how to create my own.  She made the most of the season, didn’t waste food and knew how to create more with less. She cooked from scratch, because ‘food shouldn’t be fast’, used real ingredients, even made her own yogurt long before it became mainstream; her pastry and scones were the best I’ve tasted.  She sewed her own clothes and many of ours, knitted sweaters, made her own Christmas ornaments, fixed things when they broke. She made things last, respected what she owned, took ‘care’ of her things.

She believed in vacations and travel, in seeing the world both near and far. She saved long and hard for family trips, spent many summers on campsites, and encouraged us to spread our wings early on.  I will be forever grateful for the trip I took to Scotland with my best friend Kim when I was only 15, no parents in tow.  As a mother I recognize how difficult it must have been to put away her fears and to focus on my adventure instead.  When my younger brother left home at 17 to see the world, she could not have known he would never return to live in Canada, and still she never complained.  She simply said “we have to live our own lives, not the ones our parents wish for, no one would wish for their child to live so far away.”

My mother was not afraid of death, she considered it ‘part of living’. She was prepared; had the tough conversations, signed the necessary papers and even planned her ‘celebration of life’.  We were blessed in the final few hours – she didn’t suffer from disease, her mind was intact, her body without pain. She chatted with children and grandchildren, knew what was happening, and spent her last few hours in peace and in a place of grace.  She spent only one night in hospital, no machines, no tubes or wires, just a lovely room in a warm bed surrounded by love.  I stayed with her that night, not knowing it would be her last, and just before we turned the lights out, she spoke her final words “You’ve been an awesome daughter and I’ve had a wonderful ride”.

For me, as a writer, that’s a great ending to a beautiful story. While she may be gone, she will never truly leave me and I am so very grateful to have been part of her journey and for the legacy she left behind; lessons and love, the only things that last.


Mum Blog pic                                                     Photo courtesy of Nancy Davis


It takes a CHILD….to raise a village

Many of us are familiar with the traditional African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”.  We acknowledge that it cannot be done alone or in isolation, it takes many to provide an open and inclusive, well rounded and well grounded, balanced approach to raising them UP.

Well, for the past five months, that expression has been turned on its head and I have experienced a beautiful and soul solidifying growth spurt of my own, brought on by three thoughtful, spirit filled, heart centered and love focused young women.

For five months, two families have each hosted a wonderful young German student, both of whom arrived as friends, fresh faced and full of possibility, ready to take on everything that their Canadian experience had to offer. And, waiting for them here, a young Canadian host sister who received them with open arms and an open heart.

International students come to Canada for many reasons, not the least of which is to ‘learn’; from their new school, their host parents, their house siblings, a different culture, another way of doing and living.  I know that both of these young women have carried home memories and learning experiences they could not even imagine when they arrived. What they may not know is that they left behind, so many more lessons, and I am forever grateful for what they taught me during their stay; I learned to ‘expand’.

I expanded my thinking. These girls introduced a fresh youthful perspective to everything – to my firmly established opinions, to my ‘set in my way’ way of doing things, to my approach to situations, to my feelings of ‘knowing’ and to my understanding of the world.  I watched different movies, heard new music and met new artists.  They shone a light on what matters to youth, on their current reality, one much different than my own, and they asked important and thoughtful questions, without judgement and unjaded, while remaining open to different or altered answers.  They appreciated my wisdom and they offered theirs in return.

I expanded my home, which has never been big but has never felt small.  Sharing your space invites compromise and cooperation, giving more than you take, figuring out what works for others.  Our home was bursting with news, with excitement, with energy and with teenagers again, all from different families, and some from different countries.

I expanded my celebrations.  With someone new and limited time, ordinary becomes extraordinary. We celebrated every occasion, no matter how small.  We shared more tables, gave more parties, ate more cake, invited more friends, and ‘showed up’ whenever we could. We didn’t wait for the right time, because we knew we had limited time, so we seized every opportunity to go to the game, to dance to the music, to be at the beach, to ride in the boat, to travel the Island, to visit new places, to enjoy the sunshine, to do new things, to write new stories.

I expanded my understanding of my own language. Our students arrived speaking English but there were many new expressions, weird spellings, words that meant more than one thing, words that didn’t make sense to them, and much used phrases whose origin I had long forgotten.  I learned to appreciate what it is to try to think and laugh in a new language, and to have to learn and study in that same language.

I expanded my heart, which I thought was already on the large side – we have helped raise a house full of young people, opened our doors and shared our table for many years, so we know what it is to widen the circle.  What I was not prepared for was the way they moved in and settled into my heart, taking up such a large part of it and bringing back those feelings of pride, love, concern, and sheer joy that come when your heart expands to include another.

So to Lina, and Anna, and Maddy, THANK YOU, for spending some time with us, for viewing the world through a less filtered lens, for remaining unstuck and open to new possibility, and for expanding our horizons.  Your light will continue to shine on in the imprint you make on others and I for one will be forever grateful, for reminding me that while we think our children come here to learn, they actually come here to teach.

Lina in wetsuit