Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's Talk....Mental Wellness

Bell Let’s Talk Day….

No matter what you think of the corporation personally, no other organization has done more to lift the veil on mental illness and to get people talking than Bell with its Let’s Talk initiative. You have to give them a standing ovation for that.

So Let’s Talk.

What do I want to say this year about mental health? I want to say Let’s Talk about Mental Wellness. Mental health is an invisible equivalent of physical health, in varies in degrees, prognosis and outcome. And just like physical health, benefits from Wellness and prevention.

To keep mental illness simple in my own mind I have it broken down into 3 types, knowing full well that it really over simplifies the issue. Really most people with mental illness are a cocktail. That’s not mean, it’s honest. I’ve earned that liberty through my own struggles with mental illness to state it. I think that most everyone I know with mental illness would say the same thing.

My Type 1

Some people are crippled with the mental equivalent of a physical cancer. Their own mind destroys itself through chemical imbalances or hardwiring. Sometimes there are miracles of modern medicine that can help, medications, treatments, therapies but the truth is mental illness in this category is managed but never eradicated for those who suffer. When you have this type of mental illness people talk about how well you are doing.

My Type 2

Mental Illness that is self-inflicted; triggered and fed by personal choices and behaviour. Alcohol and drug addictions as an example fall under this category. Much the same way a person mistreats their body with poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise and acquires heart disease, diabetes or emphysema; this is mental illness that results from personal choice. And yes, I understand there are guaranteed underlying circumstance; including type 1 suffering, conditioning, environment, upbringing, unexplored personal issues. But….I also believe that like heart decease, a person can, if they are willing to make the sacrifices, put in the work and reinvent the way they approach life, reverse and repair the damage of this type of mental disease. When you have this type of mental illness people talk about how bad you’re doing.

My Type 3

Type 3 is the kind of mental illness you catch. Just like the flu or a cold, if you hang out long enough in the wrong places, breath in enough bad air, ingest enough germs you will come down with it and you will be contagious. Type 3 mental illness is a bad mood that turns into a bad day that, left untreated, turns into a bad life or worse morphs itself into type 2 illness or even a type 3 illness. When you have this type of mental illness, eventually people stop listening.

Nobody wants type 1 or 2 or 3 ……nobody. So we have to be diligent practicing prevention and management. In the same way we eat right, exercise, fill our bodies with probiotics, antioxidants and take vitamins and supplements in the name of preventive physical health and wellness our mental health benefits from the same kind of attention.  There are things we can do every day to boost and maintain our mental wellness.

Here are some of my favourites:

·         Eat for good brain chemistry: limit sugar, artificial ingredients, caffeine and preservatives and yes even alcohol (yes, red wine is alcohol—I’m sorry). Fill up on nutrient rich foods.

·         Get moving: exercise releases stress and tension and produces amazing mood boosting chemicals. You don’t have to train for a marathon if that’s not your thing. Think yoga, go for a walk, join a team, go swimming, ride your bike…Do something you enjoy, it makes it easier to stick with.

·         Unplug: This is maybe one of the most amazing things you can do. We are plugged in and accessible 24/7 and it messes with our mood in ways we can’t even comprehend. Beyond the constant tug of artificial stimulation there is the constant submersion in the emotional world of personal (and not to personal) relationships…good ones and not so good ones. Give yourself a break. Give yourself a curfew; turn off your phone, your computer, your tablet and let go. Spend a weekend out of reach – could you do it?

·         Go out…..side: Something amazing happens when you spend time in nature. That peace and quiet you feel…your whole body feels it. Some people think it is the negative ions given off by nature that sooth the spirit – I think that is very true. Go outside, your body needs fresh air and sunshine and the sound of birds chirping and streams flowing.

·         Sleep: I love sleep. If you aren’t getting any do something about it.

·         Keep good company: the only thing more contagious than a good mood is a bad one. Maintain relationships with people who are positive, who want the best for you and for themselves and who strive to live drama free.

·         Feed your passion: everyone should have a hobby to escape to and recharge their passion batteries—at least weekly if not daily! Especially if your job leaves you unfilled and your family is young and needy (did I just say that?). Read, craft, ride your motorcycle, sing, play music, paint, sew, garden, play cards, write, draw, do marital arts, collect, coach….do something you love.

·         Be quiet: This is one of my favourites… Meditation…so worth learning. Reduces stress, improves sleep, lowers blood pressure, boosts your mood and immunity and provides some great one on one time with yourself to really explore how you feel about life and pull some problems by the roots – (if you want some leads on some great books and how to people and info – just let me know…I’m always happy to share!) Did I mention I LOVE meditation?

·         Have a Bad Day: Everybody has them, if you’re having one embrace, finish it and go to bed.  Wake up to a brand new day in the morning

·         Find somebody to talk to: Talking really is a huge key to mental wellness; we need people to bounce our trouble off of. We need people who will be honest and compassionate and not judgemental. We need people who are willing to listen to our problems not solve them. Find a go to person who always makes you feel better and connect with them often.

·         Find somebody to listen to: When people you love express a concern for you, for your mental health, your stress level your wellbeing------listen! Some things are so much easier to see from the outside in.

·         Get help: If you feel like you should get help—you need to seek help.

Happy Let's Talk Day. Here's to Mental Wellness! 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Shhhhh.....Parenting in Progress

To be a really good parent means to live your life by example. Act, speak, behave, endeavour, persevere, grow, and love like the grown up you hope your child will grow up to become.

It also means that every once in a while you should reward all of your hard work by doing something you would give your kids heck for…..

…Like eating the ice cream right out of the container. 

Just to remind yourself who pays the bills.

Happy Friday, do something that makes you smile!



Thursday, January 23, 2014

How Many Bad Days Do You Get In a Good Life?

If you have a good life .....I really need your help! Will you to join me in an experiment?

All I want is 30 days and total honesty. All you need is a jar and two different colours of 
beans (or buttons or fish gravel or jelly beans or two different types of Cheerios….whatever….......you get it) 30 of each.

The rest is easy:

- Put the jar on your bathroom counter.

- At night after you brush your teeth or take off your make-up or remove your contacts;                whatever it is you do just before you go to bed….put a bean in the jar.
  • If you’ve had a good day put a white bean in the jar.
  • If you’ve had a bad day put a black bean in the jar.
Don’t judge or count or over think and try to turn a black bean into a white bean….just pick 
a bean and put it in the jar.

That’s it…

At the end of 30 days dump the beans on the counter, take a picture and email it to me.

Here's my experiment ready to go.
Notice the white beans? Notice the green lentils (on account of all my black beans are canned) Notice the jar? 

Thanks for your help! 



Monday, January 20, 2014


2/3 of the children in our home have had the cold/flu in the past week. Consequently ½ of adults do now as well. I pulled the short straw; I write this to you from bed today where I am resting and healing. Healing with a box of Kleenex, a packet of rice crackers and my faithful and loving friend…the dog (I wish he could make tea)

I’ve slept most of the morning but a person cannot sleep forever, eventually we have to wake-up. Even if we cannot find the strength to roll out of bed we have to do something beyond nothing. I chose to entertain my thirst; I booted up my computer, logged into our Netflix account and went in search of a great documentary. I love documentaries. What I found was beyond greatness.

I won’t talk long here; all of the words I could string together in a lifetime would fail to deliver a message so sincerely and succinctly as I AM

I AM….it is beautiful, truthful, begging; an emotional call to healing. I AM will expand your view or change it.

I promised when I rejigged the Space to share with you my finds that fire and inspire. This is one truly breathtaking example. I hope you will watch and enjoy and talk about I AM with people you encounter.

Isn't it funny...I set out today with the intention to heal. I hope, I AM



Below is the trailer from the official site for the Movie, the Movement I AM ....The movie is available on Netflix! If you watch I'd love your thoughts :) 

Friday, January 17, 2014

In Total Control of.....Nothing

I am waiting for a bed. In hour 3 now. Not nearly as long as Kate has been waiting for a bed but it feels like eternity. My house arrest  delivery window is 8am to 1pm. That is a placating way of saying “we’ll be there sometime Friday” really it is noncommittal.  I’ve reached the hour of bladder roulette. Basically I have to pee but I know the odds. The exact moment I drop trou’ they will arrive and ring my bell with the speed and accuracy of a professional ding-dong-ditcher. I am now practicing mind over matter to harness the urgency of my bladder. Yes that rhymed. The first signs of mental deterioration are most always Suess.

I can’t wait. I weigh my options……to heck with in—I’m going in!

Just as the phone rings! ……

“Hello, Mame—are you waiting for a bed?”

“Yes, do you have a bed?”

“Yes, a double box-spring and mattress set.”

“Are you bringing it to me?”

“Yes, are you home?”

(Insert screwy ‘you’re kidding right?’ face here)

“Yes, I’m home.”

The kindly delivery guy who unwittingly holds my bed and my bladder in his hands confirms our address and gives me an eta of 5 minutes. I want to blackmail him with something juicy if he doesn’t pull through. I’ve got nothing.

I've got 5 minutes, I could risk it but really, logically this guy doesn't sound like somebody I can put my trust in for accuracy - remember...he's not even sure I'm home...an he called me! He could be waiting at the end of my driveway.

I silently promise my bladder she will be answered if she can just hold out another 15 minutes, 10 if this delivery guy is quick with a joke and to light up your smoke.

I cross my fingers and my legs and I wait. I lock the dog in the bedroom, open the front door and clear a path to expedite the process. 

The delivery guys arrive with the bed and it’s the right one, and they are very quick at putting their little delivery guy booties on. 9 minutes!

I smile, I sign, I rush them back out the door. Fully aware now that the only thing I really have control over is my bladder.


if they had been a minute later that theory would also be out the window!

Happy Friday, find a reason to smile!



Thursday, January 16, 2014

Simmer Down Before You're the Party Drunk...(again)

I broke the rule last night. You know that cardinal rule ‘Never go to bed angry.’ Well I did, and I am completely exhausted this morning! Not because I was up all night stewing but because my mind was active all night being angry. I had dreams about receiving terrible service and dealing with rude people. I dreamt about being in grocery store line-ups and firing the cable company. I was yelling at people in my dreams and giving everyone I encountered a piece of my mind, my very very angry mind. I woke up this morning more angry than I went to bed and very grateful that I don’t break the cardinal rule very often.

It took a little while after wiping the sleep from my eyes and finishing my first cup of coffee to restore my demeanour. It was almost lunch and I was almost okay when I opened my latest library find and the universe hit me with Chapter 3; square in the eyes!  ‘The Other Side of the Fence – a case against aggression’

It’s a bizarre love/hate thing I have with the universe when this sort of thing happens. Kind of like when you know your Mother is right.

The book is Light Comes Through by: Dzigar Kongtrul  - overall impression heading into Chapter 4…. A fantastic must read for anyone looking to improve their world from the inside out.

So….the Universe says this to me via selected passages for Chapter 3….

You are at a party and there are beautiful people, surroundings, and laughter. The music is good too. Suddenly someone gets angry and throws a glass of champagne. It ruins the whole show –even the dog leaves the room. When someone gets angry, it effects the whole environment like an unpleasant odour that everyone has to smell. And, as our mental states are often quite fragile, it disturbs people’s minds. But it disturbs the person who gets angry more than anyone else.

I am the drunken guy at the party. With one exception; I would never toss away perfectly good champagne just to make a point.

When we get angry, we lose the dignity of our intelligence.

I am a sloppy drunk.

…anger gives the illusion of clarity. A certain strength arises when we have an opinion and we know where we stand.

I am a sloppy drunk who is 10 feet tall and bullet-proof!

…we throw in the towel and say, “I can’t take it any more—I’ve had it!” Anger seems reasonable when we feel threatened. As it’s said, “anger comes in the guise of a friend”—righteous and protective airtight logic. Someone or something else is always responsible.

I am the 10 foot tall sloppy bullet proof drunk who is leaving your dumb ass at the party and walking home with my new BFF. “f-you….I know the way”

Fortunately, Chapter 3, beyond doing an exceptional job of illustrating my anger and frustration as a drunken uncle, also provided a practicable solution.


Normally we have so little control over our emotions—and we feel our vulnerability as a tight knot in our chest. People talk about needing armour, particularly around their chests, to protect themselves when they go to war. Even bugs have shells to protect themselves. But no physical armour can protect us from what disturbs us inside.

And we do, have to, ‘go inside’ because the answers to anger, frustration and aggression, just like the answers to purpose, needs and desires are always with us. Not found in our environment or the company we keep. They are found in the quiet space of learning about ourselves, of listening to our own thoughts about ourselves our feelings and our fears. Answers are found in accepting and taking responsibility for our own weaknesses, faults and short comings, in getting real with where we need to grow.

One more question is answered inside this space as well; “how bad do I want it, to move away from this place of non-peace?” THAT is a really good question; a hard question to answer honestly. Drama, for many is the fix that keeps life ticking. And just like an overeater needs cake, a drinker needs a drink and a smoker needs a smoke; angry people need the drama of aggression and conflict, even when it accomplishes nothing—Even when it amplifies pain, hurt and animosity.

Anger and conflict serve no purpose, create no end, and accomplish nothing beyond destroying futures of happiness.

Simmer…. (and I will learn this through practice and patience)

When we decide to practice non-violence, we make a deliberate choice to simmer with our aggression. Simmering doesn’t mean you boil in your aggression like a piece of meat cooking in a soup. It means you refuse to give in to anger because you know the result of aggression and you want to experience the confidence that comes from patience. So you let yourself feel how strong the tendency is, without rejecting it or giving in to it.

So following this advice from Chapter 3 (which, by the way Universe, would have been much better to read last night before the disrupted sleep) I would have done myself a greater service to acknowledge that I was angry and spend time uncovering the reason in me why. What past nerve got touched? Which old wound, fear or anxiety did the light shine on? What part of me do I need to heal so that I am beyond the reach of something outside of me, somebody else’s actions, opinions or behaviour?  

Can this Simmer Practice really preserve my inner peace in times of turmoil? I’m worth finding out.

So I spent some time simmering – even though the intense anger phase was past. I found out a few things about myself. A couple I’m not really proud of and one that frightens me to the core.

Then I made an apology.

I think I might sleep better tonight.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tiny Orange Vacation

Near the beginning of my chapter into mindful living I went to a workshop on meditation. I wanted to make sure I was doing it right, which is funny because one of the very first things you learn is that you can’t do it wrong. None the less I wanted some ‘professional’ insight. I went, I listened, I shared. I ate a raisin; the instructor coaching us through the process in infinitesimal steps of total awareness.  Eating the raisin took 15 minutes. It was the single best raisin I have eaten in my entire life…ever! It was so good - one raisin was enough.

It was an incredible little exercise that left me feeling very sad for all the thousands of raisins I’ve eaten in my life and not tasted. Raisins have never been the same.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that raisin lately, mostly because we’ve reached that glorious time of year when oranges are sunshiny globes of pure perfection. While it’s rare to find an exceptional orange in say… September, it is equally difficult to get a bad one right now. I’m in orange heaven!

A meditation teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me of that raisin each time I reach for an orange. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches a gathering of children with a basket of tangerines that eating is an exceptional opportunity to practice some mindfulness.

If you’re not in a hurry, let’s eat an orange. If you are in a hurry, stop hurrying...let’s eat an orange.

Begin by choosing your perfect orange, from the grocers counter, your counter fruit bowl or your co-worker’s lunch bag.

Why did you select that particular orange?

Feel the weight of your orange, does it feel heavy and promising, filled with juice? Does it sound hollow when you bounce it up in the air and let it thud back into your palm? Run your fingers over the waxy surface and check your hands for the glittery oils that rub off and stick to your skin. Are there any blemishes or scars on your orange? Is it a deep colour or pale?

Turn your orange about in your hand. Can you see where it was once attached to its tree? Can you imagine the rains and sunshine being soaked in though the tree’s delicate green leaves and travelling through its intricate system of roots and branches to reach a single blossom? Can you imagine that the tree turns that rain and sunshine into fruit for you to enjoy. How hard the tree works against weather, pests and disease to do nothing beyond nurturing your orange.

A tree does not think “I must grow an orange.” It just does. An orange tree does not endeavour to be anything other than an orange tree. It does not wake up in the morning and question its purpose and wonder if it should be growing apples. It just puts all of its effort into growing an orange. We can learn a great deal from an orange tree.

Lift your orange to your nose. Breathe in the fresh bright scent. Close your eyes, can you see the sunshine?

Break through the nubby textured skin. Did you see the oils spray into the air around the puncture? Can you smell anything beyond the bold citrus scent released by that single action? You cannot eat an orange in secret like you can a chocolate bar.

Beneath the firm shiny covering lays that creamy yellow layer of pith welded to the fruit. I will pick for a lifetime to remove every veiny strand of its bitterness. At the very best oranges have peels that are thick and spongy and keep every ounce of juice from evaporating through the skin.

Break the peeled orange into segments. Do you do this all at once or peel each one off when it is time to be eaten? The membrane that covers each segment is smooth and dries out quickly. If you break a segment open you may find a seed. You are certain to find the wedge packed with teeny tiny droplets of orange juice. They pop with barely a pressure.

That first bite….

....is always a surprise no matter how many oranges you eat in your lifetime. That first bite sucks all of the saliva out of your cheeks and makes you pucker quickly before replacing it with sweet, tangy rivulets of sunshine and rain sweetened with time and the attention of nature’s simple efforts.

Nothing else on earth tastes like an orange. No other orange on earth taste like this one.

An orange eaten this way becomes more than fuel. An orange eaten this way becomes a tiny orange vacation.  

I'll be enjoying as many 'vacations' as my body can tolerate over the coming weeks. Then it's back to raisins.




Friday, January 10, 2014

Just This One

We’ve been hit! It had to happen eventually, we got winter. Not the sissy ‘Pass me a sweater, it’s a little chilly’ kind of winter we’ve come to love but a full on ‘like when we were kids’ kind of winter. Winter, complete with sub-zero wind-chills and frozen pipes, winter that makes you plug your car in and wear a balaclava. The scenery out my kitchen window is breathtakingly beautiful; tree branches gently laden with mounds of pristine white snow. Out my front window I can almost see my neighbour’s house over the dirty brined snow banks that keep growing and growing each time the plow passes or the walks get cleared.

Technically it has only been winter for 19 days we still have 69 days to go, which could easily turn into 79 or 89 given the rebellious nature of Canadian winters. That’s a lot of ‘suck it up’ we have left to get through.
Ordinarily under the current conditions I would be huddled up on the couch in my comfy pants with a cup of tea, maybe reading or writing, maybe curled up with one of the kids enjoying a movie. Ordinarily; but this year is different.

This year Mike is the community rink committee. Maybe ‘committee’ is an overly generous term, seeing as he is the sole member. I suppose he is more the Community Rink Guy, which makes me the community Rink Guy’s wife. Somewhere in the fine print I feel this obligates me to frock up in snow-pants and boots, toque, mitts and parka to join him on the ice. I’m trying very hard to whine and moan about it but I think the rouse is failing, Mike can see right through me, I’m having a great time! Truth be told I’m probably a little OCD about the whole thing, trying to get the ice just right for the kids in the neighbourhood to enjoy. Mike says I have ‘Perfect Ice Syndrome’ and it drove him crazy the year we did our own rink in the backyard.
Building, maintaining and grooming 3,600 square feet of ice is no small feat I’m learning, and when those 3,600 square get dumped on by an old-fashioned Canadian winter….well a feat has the inevitability of turning into drudgery. Or would have a year ago, before this….

The simple principal of Present Moment Awareness; keeping your thoughts concentrated solely on the moment at hand. Facing 2 hours of shovelling wind-packed snow drifts…you have to have a mindset. If I look back at how much we’ve accomplished or compare it to the future of how much we still have left to do I promise I would be ass down in the snow-bank crying over my life! But if I look just at my shovel, just at the bit of snow I am moving at that moment, if I concentrate just on getting that little bit moved off of the ice…. I am surprised when Mike and I bump our shovels into one another – Job Done!
It’s a sanity saving strategy in the pursuit of happiness that I try diligently to apply to every task at hand; washing dishes, laundry folding, stuffing envelopes, washing the floor. It turns each chore into a meditation. The trick is to not use the time to think about other things, not the bills or the fight you had with your kids or the grocery shopping. Just observe everything about moving that little pile off of the ice.

Enjoy a Wonderful Friday!


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Peace of Practice

Back from the buzz, the constant humming and busyness of family celebrations and holiday cheer. Back from the feasts and throng. It always feels wonderful returning to this…normal, even with the absurdity of how busy normal is; there is comfort in the routines we are able to slip into an ordinary day.

The first few days back are chaotic at best, engorged with a backlog of ignored and neglected duties, lost mittens, backpacks and safety patrol vests. It takes a solid block of time to wrestle the recycling, the un-decorating and the laundry under control. Cobwebs waste no time creeping over both the house and my head after just two weeks off and much ‘out of the ordinary’. I swear the first 12 minutes of Monday morning were spent lying quietly in bed trying to recall the actual time I get up to push the button that makes life go.

However, despite the requisite struggle to right the ship, this year has been better than most; both the being off and the getting back. Thanks largely to Practice.

‘Practice’ is my personal devotion to create and maintain a peaceful happy life through personal awareness, growth, meditation and contemplation. New age Hippy-Dippy fluff lots might call it but without hesitation I will declare that adopting the Hippy-Dippy fluff is one of the very best gifts I have ever given myself. Beyond the mental health and happiness benefits there are the residual benefits of increased physical wellness and strengthened personal relationships. A strange and beautiful transformation in all aspects of life happens as you learn to ‘be’.

Mindfulness and present moment awareness which are tools of practice got me through most of the holiday, and are responsible for 98% of my ‘mostly calm’ demeanour in these first days back. There is much to be celebrated in that accomplishment! Still I have to say that most of what I have been able to sustain over the past few weeks is the equivalent of meditative triage; in the field, fire-out techniques succinct but far from enduring and I can feel my spirit longing for the comfort and sustenance of retreat. I’m sure everyone else in my circle is longing for my retreat too as my patience dwindles, my humour fades and my tolerance for hiccups withers and dies. I can read their faces that silently plead “Go! Go now and be quiet, meditate, get in touch, reconnect with your inner peace. Whatever it is that makes you tick happily along….please…GO, do it now!”  Perhaps my practice is the best gift I’ve ever given them!

Along with getting back to work, school and life routines it’s wonderful to be back to the routine of Practice. Except that I feel like I’d like to share a little more of the journey with others as I begin year two. So I’m re-jigging.

When I created The Space Between Raindrops it was to keep us, as a family, on track and welded to the idea of uncovering and celebrating the many blessings of our lives (and to indulge myself with a place to write). In its’ time it became a treasure of memories for me, and much to my surprise, brought some smiles to others as well.

After Gratitude, Mindfulness seems the best suited title for the next chapter.

I have no way of knowing what kind of stories will land here while I capture the triumphs and struggles of my Hippy-Dippy quest but you are more than welcome to follow along, laugh with me or at me, ask questions, share and maybe dip your toes in the water.

Much Love,