New Look

creative spacesHello readers and Happy New Year. I hope 2015 has already started well for you. So far, it’s been pretty good to me. Nothing amazing has happened but nothing bad has happened either…so I count that as good. I haven’t been writing much in the past month but, between festivities, I’ve been working hard on the look of my blog. Over the years it has gone through many changes (as long time readers would know only too well). I have a wide variety of things that I like and enjoy and I don’t like to stick to only one look for a long time. It’s not that I’m not happy with each look, I just get inspired by new things often. I’ve also never really had the time or the software to create a look that really encompasses who I am. Many people use blogs to display their art. In many ways my blog IS my art and I want it to reflect that.

Since I was a kid, I’ve tried many forms of creative activities and I could say, until recently, I’ve been a Jack of all trades, master of none. I can look at many of the people I know and tell them exactly where their strengths lie but I’ve always had difficulty seeing my own strengths and where I should focus them. I always knew they lay in creativity but how I could specifically put my combined abilities into practice, I had no idea. Clearly, writing was one form and I’ve been working diligently and relatively routinely on honing that skill over the past seven years. I don’t have a novel to show for it yet, but it’s halfway there! The other skills I have include artistic, photography, and computer.  One day, as I was fiddling around with making a blog banner for a friend of mine, a light suddenly came on. Desktop publishing! That, right there, was where my strengths merged and I decided that this, along with writing, was where I was going to focus my efforts. Since then (then being this fall), I have designed a website for another friend, a Facebook banner for the same friend, business cards for another friend, and a blog, Facebook, and Twitter banner for myself. This was all between job searching, completing NaNoWriMo, Christmas/New Year’s and my day-to-day parenting activities.

I’ve always admired people who figured out early in life what they wanted to “be”. I am discovering, though, that there are a lot of people my age who, like me, are just discovering themselves or, at least, finally taking the steps to do what they really want to do in life. It’s not a midlife crisis but rather an awakening caused by the convergence of experience, wisdom, and confidence. It’s an exciting time when the big light finally goes on and you can move forward toward your goals. Sometimes you have to work a day job and do the studying on your own time, but it feels so good just to be doing it at all. I’m looking into programs and courses that will help me progress even faster but I find that just by practicing and researching on my own, I’m learning so much and it’s FUN!

SO…all that to say…welcome to my latest new look. I hope to provide you with some reasons this year to come back often. :)

Until next time…

Bringing about Peace by Really Listening: Nonviolent Communications

understandingAt first glance, the idea of nonviolent communication to solve huge conflicts may seem naive especially when you consider all the violence in the world. But Marshall Rosenberg is not naive. Not even close. He has developed a mode of communication that everyone can learn from. It is not a communication that is reserved for high level negotiators, it is something that we all can use in our every day lives to deal more effectively with each other.

For some people, and governments, peace is not an objective. Gaining and maintaining power and dominance over others is their only concern. For some people, mental illness prevents them from the ability to be reasoned with. So, you wonder, how can nonviolent communications be effective since, in many instances, these are the perpetrators? As, Rosenberg says, sometimes force is necessary but he’s not talking about violent force or punishment, he’s only talking about force that stops the momentum of the aggressor.

Can you imagine, though, if each of us started to employ Rosenberg’s technique to disarm anger that we encounter in our every day lives? Don’t you think that the world around us would change for the better? One of the places I encounter anger a lot is in online comments. They aren’t usually directed at me, but it does give me concern when I read comment after comment where civil communication breaks down so quickly. Could we make our collective experience online better if we disarm these angry people with compassion rather than to respond with anger? I would like to think so.

What if, slowly, we subdue the anger that has built up so much in our society by simply starting to listen to each other? What if judgement, condescension, and ignorance is scrapped by finding out what is really going on behind another person’s hateful words? Unrealistic, you say? Why? Try it first before you knock it. I’m not naive either. In fact, I know how difficult this initiative could be. A man like Rosenberg has a lot of patience if you ask me. My first reaction to being shouted at is to shout back even louder and meaner. But where has that got us? Exactly where we are now.

Please have a listen to this video. It is 10 minutes well spent.

Wishing you all a good Sunday.

October Perspectives


Fall is my favourite season for the simple reason shown plainly in the photo above. The colours are magnificent. The sun is lower in the sky which creates even more drama as the light and the shadow enhance the beauty of the colours. It’s cooler which encourages a whole host of activities from harvest meals with scents of cinnamon, apple, and pumpkin, to pulling out your sweaters, to fires in the woodstove or fireplace, to walks through the fallen leaves. As much as I love the freedom that summer brings, I love feeling cozy and warm by the fire with a book and a cup of hot cider. It’s just a glorious time of year, if you ask me.

This fall has been moving along pretty much as normal. I’ve been looking for a job since the beginning of September; a long and somewhat frustrating endeavour. However, I have not lost hope and I use my extra time to work on my novels (that’s right…more than one). I’ve entered the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) event in which the participants have exactly one month to write 50,000 words. Gulp. I really don’t expect to write that many words. Realistically, I don’t have that much time to devote to writing. I do hope, however, that it will encourage me to form a habit of writing every day even if it is only about 100 words a day.

Although I don’t have much to complain about in my life, sometimes I do tend to feel like a hamster on a wheel. I’m sure we all do at times. It’s easy to lose perspective. It’s easy to forget, when we start to focus on our “troubles”, that in comparison to much of the world, we have it pretty good here. That doesn’t mean we should not stop trying to improve ourselves and our community, of course, but it just means that we need to pull ourselves out of our self-imagined mire and look around. Complacency is probably the worst of the problems that affects the Western world. There are so many things we take for granted and so many things we don’t bother to do because we don’t feel like it or we think we can always do it another time.

Yesterday was a horrible day in my hometown. A young man, a reservist named Cpl. Nathan Cirillo (RIP), was shot down as he stood guard at the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. The Parliament Buildings were also stormed by the gunman and the video of the echoing gunfire in the Hall of Honour as the gunman was shot down was an unforgettable image and sound. Many of my friends were held in lock-downs at work and children were confined to their classrooms at school as the police and RCMP searched for a possible second suspect. I spent the majority of the day between news sites, Facebook, and Twitter trying to figure out what had happened and what was happening. Of course, I think it will be a while before we are told anything and who knows for sure if what we’re told is actually what happened.

This is shocking for Canadians. It’s not something unprecedented, mind you, but it doesn’t happen often; about every 20 years or so. There are bad things and good things about an event like this. The bad things are obvious. The good – for lack of a better word – things are a little less easy to absorb. Although the events of yesterday won’t significantly change my life or activities, it definitely gets into one’s headspace. It completely busts up complacency. Canadians can no longer ignore the fact that Canada is not immune to this kind of violence. Many places in the world deal with extreme acts of aggression daily. At the same time, however, we have to keep the events in perspective – a very difficult task for many when fear and emotions get involved.

It is not uncommon for a shooting to happen, usually in the larger centres in Canada. The thing that makes this one different is it’s symbolism. We are disgusted and saddened by a death in the streets of Toronto, for example, but we don’t feel it personally. Although this attack in Ottawa and the attack on the two soldiers in St. Jean Sur Richelieu were localized, it became clear yesterday that the Canadian military was being targeted, and yesterday’s event brought it home with a wallop when the Parliament buildings were invaded. So the question is, what do we do next? My hope is that, whatever the plan is, it is brought about with calm heads and that we don’t forget who we are as a nation, and how we stand in the world. Intolerance and hatred are insidious and it would be a shame to fall to that level – the level of the perpetrators.

So I’ll go back to my job search, my novels, and whatever else life throws at me. But I won’t forget yesterday, I will attempt to always keep things in perspective and I will give it my all not to be complacent. As I watch the fall colours and feel thankful that I’m alive and living here, I’ll remember Cpl. Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent as well as all the unnamed people from all over the world who have died from such violence. I’ll do my part to bring about positive change and work toward peace. It’s important to remember we’re all connected.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon, Imagine

Wishing you all peace now and every day.

Summer Vacation 2014 – Fourth Leg – Riviere-du-Loup

Okay. So I lied. I am not going to stick to chronological posts. I just can’t. As beautiful as PEI is – which I will fully cover in my next post – nothing can top my experience from yesterday and I just can’t wait to write about it. The quick version of the story is that I went whale watching. Need I say more? Well, I will anyway because a few details would be helpful. A few months ago, when our summer vacation was in its early planning stages, I thought that while we were in PEI we could go whale watching. What I didn’t realize, until I did some research, is that whales don’t really come by PEI. It’s either Newfoundland or on the St. Lawrence River. After some searching I discovered that from the South shore of the St. Lawrence, there are many whale watching cruises leaving out of Riviere-du-Loup. As luck would have it, we had to drive right by there on the Trans-Canada highway between Quebec City and PEI. I found a company called AML Cruises and (somewhat blindly) booked tickets. I thought well, at worst it will be a nice 3 hour cruise of the St. Lawrence. After all, there’s no guarantee you’ll see any whales, right?

Wrong. I went out on that cruise thinking, if I’m lucky we’ll see some Belugas but not much else. Belugas were actually the only whale that I knew for sure traveled in pods down the St. Lawrence and could be seen very far West. I really, really hoped – especially for my kids’ sakes – that we’d see at least one Beluga. Well…the irony was that we didn’t see any Belugas…but we did see whales. Oh yes we did. The most numerous whale types that we saw were the Minke whales. According to the cruise director, who was quite knowledgeable about whales, Minkes tend to usually stay below the surface for up to 20 minutes between breaths. He was surprised to see them spending more time at the surface. It was fine with all of us on the cruise, that’s for sure. Minkes are smaller whales and reach up to about 24 feet (on average). We actually mistook them as Orcas at first but were quickly corrected. We watched them as they came up for breath and then dove again in an arch. They don’t, however, bring their tails out of the water. Here is the best shot I got of a Minke. It was swimming not far from our boat.

Minke Whale

On the cruise we went East on the St. Lawrence and reached the Saguenay River where the fresh waters of the St. Lawrence mix with the salt waters of the Atlantic. There was actually a visible line as we moved from one water type to the other. The salt water was a deep, dark indigo whereas the fresh water was more of a green/blue. The Minke whales were in the fresh waters closer to the marina but we were in for a surprise once we reached the salt water. There were several smaller cruise boats (Zodiacs) already there and they were watching something. Suddenly we spotted and heard a huge spout as a very large whale surfaced to breathe. I was actually surprised as to how loud the sound was as it blew the water out of its blow hole.

Blue Spray

The cruise director excitedly announced that what we were watching was a BLUE WHALE! Apparently it was an adolescent, so smaller than a full-grown Blue…but who cares? At the very same time, the director also spotted a Humpback further out. Where the heck was I supposed to point my camera? I decided upon following the closer whale, the Blue, and hoped for it to dive and raise its tail out of the water. Dive it did and it brought that glorious tail high into the air as if it were performing for us. My kids were screaming and jumping up and down with delight. You could hear the entire cruise “Ohhhhhhhh!” at the exact same time. It was an absolutely amazing experience! What a majestic creature!

Blue Whale

As if seeing one Blue whale wasn’t exciting enough. We couldn’t believe it when the cruise director announced that there was another, larger Blue in the same waters that was full-grown. He estimated it would be about 30 metres (98 feet) in length given the size of its tail. It gave us the same show as the smaller Blue. I could have died right then and there. My life was complete. :)

Blue Whale Tail

If you are ever in a place where you can take a whale watching cruise, DO IT!! Do not miss this experience.

Mystery Fluff

Every June in Ottawa (and probably most of Ontario) you will see areas of sidewalks and lawns covered in white, fluffy puffballs. I’ve always wondered where they came from but wasn’t curious enough or in too much of a hurry to find out. Today, while spending time at the park with one of the little people, we came across a huge patch of fluff. Kids are wonderfully curious and when you spend time with them, quality time, you tend to slow down too. You take time to rediscover a curiosity you forgot about since childhood. We picked up the fluff and felt it’s softness in our hands. We noted the little seeds they carried inside. We searched the nearby treetops for the origins and found one tree, in particular had quite a bit of fluff in it’s branches. I was having difficulty telling whether the fluff had been caught in the tree while blowing through the air or whether it originated there. This is where technology comes in handy. We Googled “trees with white fluff” on my phone and found that Poplar trees are the creators of such curious seed pods. Indeed, the tree we were eyeing was a Poplar. Fascinating things you discover when you stop to look.

Poplar seeds

Surprise Encounter

I was at the park this morning with one of the boys in my daycare. As I walked through the grass, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. And there he was! Mr. Ribbit. The little boy and I were both thrilled to see him. I really wanted to take his photo but worried I’d frighten him if I got too close. Surprisingly…he let me get close enough to get a really good shot on my phone. These three shots are not cropped photos…they’re just the progression as I got closer and closer. Thanks, Mr. Ribbit. Stay safe buddy!