Sabbatical 2022: Paris

I love Paris. I have visited it many times in my life and it holds a lot of special memories. When I lived in the UK for six years, it was easy to access; and as I have friends and family living in the city, I have experienced it through the eyes of a resident. I have attended weddings and family gatherings. I even became engaged in the garden behind Cathèdrale Notre Dame over twenty years ago. It is for all of these reasons that Paris will always live in my heart.

The focus of this sabbatical visit was to visit family and introduce my daughter to Paris for the first time. As I had not been back for fifteen years, it was a treat for me to return. We arrived during a school break, so her cousin, uncle and aunt were able to join us for many of our adventures.

You cannot really go to Paris without experiencing the rich variety of cultural sites. Throughout the week, I took the girls to visit a variety of museums: Musée D’Orsay, Musée du Louvre, Musée de l’Orangerie, and Musée Rodin. A highlight for me was showing my daughter Degas’ statue of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. This was the first piece of artwork that I can remember deeply moving me when I was close to her age; and it was the beginning of my appreciation for art.

My daughter and I took a day-trip out to the Château de Versailles. I booked us a bike trip through Boutique Bike Tours, which included a visit to the royal chambers of the palace, a ride through the expansive grounds, and a picnic in the park. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and at the start of the tourist season so it was not too busy. If you ever visit Paris, I highly recommend it as an experience not to miss.

We had a wonderful time during our week in the city. This included enjoying many good meals. My daughter was adventurous and tried her first escargot! She also took a special trip with her aunt, uncle and cousin to Montmartre, where they visited Sacré Coeur and the Moulin Rouge, and had a caricature sketched by an artist. Before we knew it, our time was up and we needed to catch our train down south to Provence. It is always hard to say goodbye but we knew that we would be back soon.

Something to Inspire

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

“We’re not doomed in any way because whatever happens, we can begin, right now, to do our very best. There’s always something small we can do to alter our habitual response, even a little bit. It could be taking a few conscious breaths, or stepping back for a moment, or walking around the block to change the energy. It could be anything, as long as it interrupts the process of escalating our suffering in the exact same habitual way, over and over and over.”

~ Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World, by Pema Chödrön,

The Great Backslide

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

On June 24, 2022 the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending 50 years of federal abortion rights in the United States. I cannot express the anger that I feel towards this reckless and dangerous decision. I am infuriated that four middle-aged men (three white) and one middle-aged white woman have the authority to overturn a decision that impacts the autonomy and safety of millions of women: a high proportion of which are marginalized.

Dissenting voices were Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. They wrote that the court decision means that “young women today will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothersfrom the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A state can force her to bring a pregnancy to term even at the steepest personal and familial costs.”

Almost half the states are expected to outlaw or severely restrict abortion as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, which is related to a highly restrictive new Mississippi abortion law. The laws will affect women across the United States, many of whom will have to cross state lines to seek reproductive health care, and potentially face criminal charges for their actions. This includes those who have been sexually assaulted, suffered incest, and face grave danger if they carry pregnancy to term.

For me, this is not a political issue, it is a human rights issue. Every woman has the fundamental right to autonomy over her own body. I am incensed that my daughter is growing up in a time where rights for women are sliding backwards rather than moving forwards. I am enraged that other human rights, such as access to contraception, same-sex consensual sexual relations, and same-sex marriage are now at risk.

It is hard to not feel despair and hopelessness right now a lone individual. It is an incredibly difficult and distressing time for so many. I am, however, committed to doing what I can to help. I am donating to groups who provide marginalized women with access to abortion the United States. I am supporting the work of local abortion funds and the Repro Legal Defense Fund, which provides bail support and legal fees for anyone arrested for self-managing their abortion. I am writing to my Member of Parliament about the importance of protecting these rights in Canada. I am signing petitions. Moving forward, I will use my vote to bring about change. I will march and protest. For the sake of our children, and for those women who cannot advocate for themselves, we must show up and fight for a better future together.

Something to Inspire

“Now. That’s the key. Now, now, now. Mindfulness trains you to be awake and alive, fully curious, about what? Well, about now, right? You sit in meditation and the out-breath is now and waking up from your fantasies is now and even the fantasies are now, although they seem to take you into the past and into the future. The more you can be completely now, the more you realize that you’re in the center of the world, standing in the middle of a sacred circle.”

~ Excerpted from: Awakening Loving-Kindness, Pema Chödrön, page 57

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #4: June 19, 2022

Today I watched my daughter swimming in the pool for hours. She did summersaults and flips, handstands and back walk-overs. She disappeared underneath the azure waters in a ripple of movement, and reappeared at the other end, with a slight gasp of air. I reminded myself that this is the same the child that used to require entertainment at all times, as she could not manage self-led activities. I watched her beautiful, graceful movements as she lost herself in the joy of play, and I felt so proud of the independent woman that she is growing up to be. When she was not in the pool, she read her book beside me on her sun chair, or she quietly journaled. The air was hot and dry. The cicadas sang in the olive and pine trees surrounding us. It was a truly beautiful afternoon.

Sabbatical 2022: Ireland

After our time in England and Scotland, it was a natural choice to make Ireland the next stop on our sabbatical trip. My family is Irish on both sides and I am fortunate to have visited Ireland many times over the years. Every time I return to the Emerald Isle, it feels like I am returning home. The people are incredibly kind and generous, the culture is rich, and the landscape is diverse and breathtaking. Ireland also possesses a very special, mystical energy, as evidenced by the many neolithic structures that can be found across the countryside.

We flew into Dublin from Glasgow and I rented us a car at the airport. Be warned. Renting a car in Ireland is very expensive as the cost of insurance is astronomically high. That being said, I do not think that you can fully experience the country without a car; so much of its beauty is found in remote and rural areas, so I took the plunge. In both the Republic of Ireland and in the north, they drive on the left side of the road. In addition to this, the driver’s side of the car is located on the opposite side to Canada…AND they primarily drive standard…so it took me an hour or on the highway before I settled in and my heart stopped pounding with panic. It is not so bad once you get the hang of it.

Our first stop was in in Connemara: the western region of County Galway. Twenty years ago, I stayed at the Delphi Lodge with my mother and I have always wanted to return. Delphi is an 1830s country house surrounded by the tallest mountains in Connemara and it overlooks the lakes and rivers of the Delphi Valley: famous for salmon and seatrout fishing. It is a remarkably beautiful place.

Rather than stay in the lodge, I rented us one of the cottages on their property, so we could cook for ourselves and enjoy privacy. Located right on the river, our place was well appointed and comfortable.

It was quite rainy during our time in Connemara, which is not unusual for Ireland; and this gave us an excuse to stay in with a good book and a cup of tea by the fire. My daughter also discovered some old DVDs of Desperate Housewives, which soon became a favourite. When we did venture out, some highlights of the local area included visiting Kylemore Abbey, horseback-riding in the grounds of Ashford Castle, and discovering places to go wild swimming.

The second part of our time in Ireland was spent in County Antrim. My great-grandfather and his brother lived in a little hamlet just outside of Bushmills, a town located on the northern coast of Ireland, very near to the UNESCO world-heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway. Although they immigrated to California over a hundred years ago, the property remains with our family, and we are lucky enough to have close relationships with the people who still live there.

I have visited the northern Antrim Coast many times but it never fails to take my breath away with its majesty and beauty. We spent much of our time catching up with friends: enjoying some lovely home-made meals, as well as going out to local restaurants, such as Tartine and the Causeway Hotel. One morning, I walked from the Giant’s Causeway to Dunseverick Castle, a two-hour hike that takes you right along the coastline; and I was also introduced to a lovely group of ladies who go wild swimming every morning in Dunseverick Harbour. We swam in large deep pool, called ‘the Slough‘, which is filled with ocean water and protected from the strong ocean currents. This was a particularly memorable experience.

I loved being able to introduce my daughter to Ireland during this trip. We had a great time both exploring on our own and spending time with the people we love. It was a fantastic visit and we will definitely be back!

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #3: June 11, 2022

Today we took an electric bike trip with Aix Bike & Go out into the Réserve naturelle nationale de Sainte-Victorie. It is the national park located just outside of Aix where the artist, Cézanne, spent countless hours painting in nature throughout his career. It was wonderful to get out of the city and explore the local countryside with a knowledgeable guide; and we were able to cover a lot of ground due to the electric bikes. One of my favourite moments is captured in the video below: when we stopped moment to enjoy the view. It was warm and the air was fragrant with wild rosemary, thyme and sage. I could hear the chirping of cicadas and see the majesty of Mont Saint-Victoire in the distance. It was a very peaceful and special experience.

Better Brain Health Challenge

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioural and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.

Two of my close family members suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. It is a terrible, debilitating illness; but research is showing that lifestyle choices make a big difference in prevention. I recently shared the amazing work of two neurologists, Drs Ayesha and Dean Sherazi, who have dedicated their careers to raising awareness on what can be done. They are launching a free 7-day challenge, starting on Monday June 13th. I will be taking part and I encourage you to check in out.

You can sign up for free by clicking on this link:

https://betterbrainhealthchallenge.mn.co/share/IocuZmDrME3G-7FO?utm_source=manual

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #2: June 10, 2022

The weather in Provence is beautiful. Most mornings, when I step outside of my door to walk my daughter to school, I am welcomed by a clear blue sky and a warm breeze that envelops me. As the day moves into the afternoon, it can become quite hot, which is less pleasant. Living in the city, it is a wonderful to discover quiet places to cool off. Aix is a city known as the city of a thousand fountains. Although this is not quite accurate, there are many beautiful fountains to be found here. Today I sat by this contemporary one located next to the Palais de Justice. Children, dogs and pigeons waded in its cool waters. I pulled off my shoes and dipped my feet in. The sound is very relaxing and it is a great place to read a book and watch the world go by. I truly enjoyed this little slice of heaven.

Something to Inspire

“Can you learn to surf the chaos and uncertainty that real life includes without falling into a trance of unworthiness? You can. A surfer is powerless to change the towering wave rushing toward her. But she doesn’t want to change it. She wants to surf it and she learns to feel safe in the immense ocean of being even when she falls. She confidently gets right back up to meet the next wave.”  

Excerpted from: Zen in the Age of Anxiety: Wisdom for Navigating Our Modern Lives, by Tim Burkett, page 31