Joy Journal

Joy Journal #9: May 30, 2022

This past spring, my daughter attended school in Aix-en-Provence, France for two months. Although she was in French immersion before we left Canada, joining a French classroom was a very different experience, and she faced a steep learning curve. Thankfully, she met an amazing group of friends, which made a huge difference.

The administration and teaching staff were kind and supportive but they expected a lot from her. Middle school students in France are held to high standards and taught challenging topics such as classical music, literature (poetry and fiction), art history and theory, world history and politics, advanced math and science.

At one point, my daughter was asked to memorize and recite a 16th century sonnet, Heureux Qui Comme Ulysse by Joachim Du Bellay. Du Bellay wrote the poem in 1558 when he was exiled in Rome, Italy, longing for his homeland. In the lead up to the assignment, my daughter practiced with my sister, Cara, who is a successful theatre actress. I was amazed at my daughter’s ability to retain it all. She practiced so much, I even caught her reciting it out loud in her sleep.

On the day of the assignment, she did really well, and received a high mark for her efforts. Her teacher was very complimentary of both her pronunciation and delivery. It meant a lot to her, as French teachers do not generally hand out praise lightly. For me, this little moment sums up our experience in France. I was so proud of my child for being brave and facing something that was really scary. It was heartening to watch her rise to the challenge, and keep showing up, even though it was hard. It reflects some of the gifts that we hope to give our children for life: confidence, courage and determination. #JoyBlogging

Photo by Baraa Jalahej on Pexels.com

Watch List: The OA

Prairie Johnson is an adopted young woman who inexplicably returns after having been missing for seven years. Upon her return, Prairie refers to herself as “the OA” (for “original angel”). Despite having been blind when she disappeared, she can now see. The OA will not tell the FBI and her adoptive parents where she has been, or how her eyesight was restored. Instead, she assembles a team of five locals (four high school students and a teacher) to whom she reveals her secrets in an effort to save her fellow captives. The OA is an intricately crafted, riveting thriller. It is definitely worth watching!

Heart Centered Learning: Intermittent Fasting

Cynthia Thurlow is a Western medicine trained nurse practitioner and functional nutritionist who is passionate about female hormonal health. She believes that the inherent power of food and nutrition can be your greatest asset to your health and wellness journey. In this talk, she discusses how intermittent fasting can have profound impact on bio-physical profiles. It is easy to implement, inexpensive and flexible.

NOTE FROM TED: Please do not look to this talk for medical advice and consult a medical professional before adopting an intermittent fasting regiment. This talk only represents the speaker’s views on fasting, diet, and health. TEDx events are independently organized by volunteers. The guidelines that they give organizers are described in more detail here: http://storage.ted.com/tedx/manuals/t…

Facing Fear

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.” ~ George Addair

Travelling in Europe with my daughter for three and a half months was a big learning curve for me. It was my first time taking an extended trip as solo parent, which was both exciting and intimidating. I was responsible for making all of the decisions, arranging our travel plans, and ensuring that we got everywhere safely and on time. It was a lot to take on, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and it resulted in an amazing adventure for us both.

Throughout our time abroad, when facing something unfamiliar and new, it tended to generate anxiety; but as I was the adult ‘in charge’, I had to push through my fear, and focus my attention on getting us to where we needed to go, or doing what we needed to do. After repeating this action numerous times, over a relatively short period, I was pleasantly surprised at how things unfolded. I discovered that I am pretty good at figuring things out and finding a pathway forward; and when challenges arise, there are often kind people (both strangers and friends) to turn to, and ask for help.

For example, it has been many years since I last spoke French, and I was really rusty when we returned to France. As I am now in my late forties, and less self-conscious, I barrelled ahead, despite making lots of mistakes. Seizing the opportunity to speak French on a daily basis was more important to me than being too intimidated to try. For the first few weeks, it was hard to be so terrible at it, but I kept pushing forward with my efforts. Eventually, I started to make incremental improvements, and before I knew it, I was receiving regular compliments from native speakers. I even established friendships with a group of locals. These affirmations meant the world to me and encouraged me to keep going.

In the second month we were in Aix, we did not host any visitors, and my daughter was in school full-time. I intentionally planned this time to slow down, as I wanted time to focus on my writing and photography, but once it arrived, I felt unsure about being alone for such a long period. I am used to being surrounded by a supportive community of friends and family. Once I moved through the initial fear, however, I decided to just take it one day at a time. Before I knew it, I had established a lovely daily routine, which I came to cherish, and I learned that I really enjoy my own company. This quiet, creative time became a highlight of my trip.

This experience was a valuable opportunity for me to learn about leaning into discomfort and facing fear. It has given me the confidence to incorporate this approach into my regular life and make more brave choices on a daily basis. I am excited see where it leads me next.

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #8: September 6, 2022

Today was my daughter’s the first day of school. It unofficially marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new year. This is her final year of middle school and the first one where she is not under restrictions from the pandemic. Community is so important to me and I have felt its absence over the past two and a half years. This morning, the Parents Advisory Council (PAC) hosted an in-person coffee morning. It was really nice to have the opportunity to gather together again.

I felt particularly proud of my child today. She experienced a really difficult year in grade seven, which made it hard for her to come back to school; but after studying in France, and attending a week-long hiking/canoeing camp this summer, she returned with a new-found confidence and sense of grounded self. She is transformed inside and out; and she made the brave decision to transfer classes and start over fresh. This evening, we celebrated her success by going out for dinner at Bao. They serve delicious Asian inspired bowls and buns; and we enjoyed a cosy meal together. It was a good day, all around. #JoyBlogging

Things I Love: Yoga with Adriene

Since the start of the pandemic, I have been exercising at home, and I am always on the lookout for good resources. As of late, I have been enjoying the yoga classes offered by Adriene Mishler on her YouTube channel. She teaches a range of styles, from Vinyasa (active) to Yin (rest and recovery), and she also offers different length classes. It is a good quality, free resource and I hope that you enjoy it!

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #7: August 28, 2022

In these last few days of August, I watch the salmon battle at the mouth of the creek that runs behind the house. Little boys nudge at the slippery masses of red and black with wooden sticks. The fish struggle to crawl upstream over pebbles and rocks, aggressively pushing past each other to deposit their eggs: an irresistible yearning calling them home. Glassy-eyed carcasses line the shoreline and cormorants feast. The leftovers decompose into nitrate, providing essential nourishment to this delicate ecosystem. Fall impatiently taps her fingers, waiting to settle in. #JoyBlogging

Watch List: Amélie

Amélie (originally known as Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) is a 2001 French-language romantic comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Written by Jeunet with Guillaume Laurant, the film is a whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in Montmartre. It tells the story of a shy waitress, played by Audrey Tautou, who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better, while facing her own loneliness and isolation.

I love this film as it is quirky and creative, as well as beautifully shot and acted. Its underscores the importance of small acts of kindness and it highlights how we all belong to one another.

Heart Centered Learning: Microagressions

Microaggressions are defined as the everyday, subtle, intentional — and often unintentional — interactions or behaviours that communicate bias toward historically marginalized groups.

The difference between microaggressions and overt discrimination, or macroaggressions, is that people who commit microaggressions are often not aware of them; but this does not mean that their impact is not incredibly harmful. You can learn more about this important issue through this short video. It is really well done and worth watching.

Sabbatical 2022: Homeward Bound

On the final leg of our sabbatical trip, we stopped in New York to visit friends and family. One of my best friends, Elise, lives in the city, and my sister lives upstate, so we were able to enjoy a mixture of urban and rural experiences for the final ten days of our adventure.

We started off by meeting my sister in NYC. It was my daughter’s first time in the city, so it was fun to be tourists together, and explore some of its many attractions. Some of the highlights included: taking a boat ride along the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; seeing Hamilton on Broadway; visiting the MoMA; catching an impromptu jazz show of François Houle and friends; and eating our way around town!

During the pandemic, my sister and her husband moved out of the city, and they bought a house in the countryside between Hudson and Catskill. This charming community is only a two-hour direct train out of NYC. It offers many of the amenities of the city (arts events, good restaurants, shopping and cafés), as well as proximity to the mountains for activities such as hiking, skiing, and fresh water swimming. We really enjoyed our time exploring the local area. We spent a few lazy days soaking in the sun down at the local creek. We hiked at Hunter Mountain and visited the public art park at Art Omi. We also ate at Feast & Floret in Hudson. It was a delicious, seasonally inspired, and farm to table experience!

After heading back to the city, we were able to enjoy one final special day with my dear friend Elise. It was such a treat to have more time with her, if only briefly, after our recent visit in France. We packed as much as we could into our visit. She is a talented artist and we were lucky enough to visit her studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn. We ate some great Mexican food at Los Tacos Al Pastor and tasted the wild ice cream flavours at Ample Hills, followed with a lovely meal at home with her family. Her son, Linus, runs an innovative company called Komorebi, and he topped a wonderful evening off by showcasing some of his cardistry tricks.

As we prepared to fly home, after three and a half months on the road, my daughter and I were tired, happy and full of gratitude. This incredibly special trip was life changing for both of us; and we returned to Canada different people than we first left. Our sabbatical adventure provided us with the precious gift of time. It removed us from the hectic pace of our normally busy lives and overpacked schedules: reminding us of what is truly important. Each other. This experience brought us closer to one another in a whole new way; and it is a memory that I will always cherish and never, ever forget.

Home again! The circle is complete.