Joy Journal

Joy Journal #18: October 14, 2022

I just spent ten days in Mexico visiting my step-dad, Bob. He lives in a small community in the countryside located outside of San Miguel de Allende: a city in Mexico’s central highlands, known for its baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts scene and cultural festivals. In the city’s historic, cobblestoned centre lies a famous neo-Gothic church, Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, whose dramatic pink towers rise above the main plaza, El Jardín.

We enjoyed a lovely, quiet visit together, with a daily routine consisting of morning walks in the countryside with the dogs, afternoons of reading and writing, and evenings filled with good meals and movies. October is a particularly beautiful time to visit Mexico, as the rainy season is coming to an end, and the vegetation is lush and bright.

A highlight of our the experience was learning about the local cuisine together. During my visit, Bob and I enjoyed a number of cooking lessons, and I learned how to make authentic guacamole, quesadilla, enchiladas verdes and chile relleno. It was such a privilege to be taught many of these family recipes from Alicia, who grew up in the local area. Food is a beautiful way to meaningfully connect and experience a culture. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #17: June 30, 2022

One evening while living in Aix, I was walking in my neighbourhood, and I happened across a little gallery opening taking place on a tiny side street. It was hosted by two Aixois artists at their studio, Espace Mer. The opening was mostly attended by friends and family, but they welcomed me in, and eagerly showed me their work. I ended up purchasing some beautiful jewellery pieces from one of the artists, Raphaëlle D’Auxerre.

During our conversation, I learned that Raphaëlle taught yoga classes at a local studio, Atelier 8, and she invited me to join her later that week. It was the start of a lovely friendship. Throughout the month of June, I attended Raphaëlle’s evening classes in a cosy pottery studio, located in an eighteenth century building, with two other students. We practised a mixture of hatha, vinyassa and chanting. Through the intimacy of the space, and the intention of the practice, Raphaëlle created a powerful energetic experience for us all to share.

As the weather grew warmer, Raphaëlle moved our class out to a local park, Promenade de la Torse; and during our first evening together, she invited us gather for a small picnic in celebration of the start of summer. As I sat there on my mat, on that warm provençal evening, sharing conversation, laughter, and a meal with these lovely French women, I was reminded that no matter where I travel in the world, I can locate community and friendship through pursuing my passion for the arts and yoga. What an incredible gift. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #16: October 8, 2022

Today is my birthday and I am turning forty-seven years old. It is hard to believe that I am already closing in on the end of another decade. It seems like yesterday that I was turning forty. It reminds me of how important it is to appreciate every moment of life, as it really does go by quickly.

I am currently in Mexico visiting my step-dad for ten days. It is the final stretch of my sabbatical, as I start back at work in November. Returning to the ranch, I can feel my mother’s presence everywhere, despite her physical absence. It brings up a sadness and nostalgia for something that is gone, as well as gratitude for the beauty and love that we shared in our brief time together.

Bob has given me a special birthday to remember. We cooked a meal, featuring homemade guacamole and quesadillas, and he picked up a delicious chocolate cake from a bakery in San Miguel de Allende. We watched a really good movie, Dark Waters. It was a lovely day all around. His thoughtfulness and care is something that I deeply appreciate. It is the best gift of all. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #15: October 2, 2022

This morning I participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure with my lovely friend, Carla. It is an annual fundraising event organized in support of breast cancer research. I ran in honour of my Aunt Charlis, who passed away at age fifty-four from the disease, as well as my Grammie, and my friend, Heidi, who continues to fight the good fight. Carla ran in memory of her father, who passed away from cancer. Through our collective efforts, we raised over $1000 between us.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning up at the University of Victoria. As we ran around the ring road, passing through groups of laughing friends, and children pushed in strollers tied with pink and white balloons, it was apparent how this disease impacts so many lives, both young and old: and yet, despite its destruction, people continue to show up, to love one another, and believe in a better future. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal 

Joy Journal #14: October 4, 2022

Today I watched as my dog, Lucky, discovered a sunny spot on the dining room rug. He settled in for a nap. He often does this in the afternoon. It reminds me of when I was a little girl, aged three or four; I would find a pool of sun, shining in through our sliding glass doors, and I would lie down, close my eyes, and enjoy the feeling of warmth on my body. It is these little things that fill us up.  #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #13: June 29, 2022

During my time in Aix, a family friend introduced me to a wonderful French woman named Frédérique. Frédérique previously lived in Victoria and she maintains close ties with the west coast of Canada. She kindly offered to host me for lunch with her family and they warmly welcomed me into their home. We enjoyed a lovely meal together on the patio, over several hours, while she shared stories about her time living in Canada, and I shared about my experience living in France. Frédérique spoke French with me the whole time and she was incredibly encouraging of my efforts with the language.

The following week, Frédérique and her sister, Olivia, invited my daughter and I to join them on a day trip to swim in the Mediterranean at Istres. They took us to a quiet and private spot that used to be part of a quarry. The stone had been cut along a long flat shelf and it provided a perfect jumping platform. The ocean was warm and inviting; and we floated happily together in the highly salinated waters. It was a beautiful and unique experience: one that we enjoyed thanks to their generosity and knowledge of the local area.

One of the many gifts of travel is the opportunity to meet kind strangers who welcome you into their lives and community. Although our time was short together, I have formed a deep heart connection with Frédérique. She is a real kindred spirit and I know that she will be someone I stay in touch with for many years to come. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #12: September 21, 2022

It was a beautiful, warm September evening for our community picnic and Meet the Teacher night at the school. Our Parents Advisory Council (PAC) executive came together and organized for pizza, drinks and The Ice Cream Truck to be on site. Families brought their chairs and blankets to put on the field to gather. It was the first time in over two years that we were able to come together, freely access the school, and meet the teachers and administrators in person. There was a lot of laughter and smiling faces. It felt wonderful to be a small part of making this special event take place. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #11: April 23, 2022

I spent a beautiful morning walking along the stunning Antrim coastline: beginning at the Giant’s Causeway and ending at Dunseverick Castle. The castle is an ancient royal site of the Dál Riada, a Gaelic kingdom from at least the 5th century AD. Saint Patrick is recorded as having visited the site, where he baptized Olcán, a local man who later became a Bishop of Ireland. The castle was captured and destroyed by General Robert Munro in 1642, and his Cromwellian troops in the 1650s, with only the ruins of the gate lodge remaining. The northern area contains an oval depression of wet ground which is thought to be a holy well, known as Saint Patrick’s Well.

As I explored this desolate and ancient site, I discovered a lone Hawthorne tree. In Ireland, the Hawthorn is synonymous with the ‘Sidhe’ or Fairies. From the times of the druids the tree was highly valued as a source of medicinal remedies. The flowers, leaves, and berries were used to treat conditions of the heart, and lower blood pressure.

Certain hawthorn trees, especially those associated with Holy Wells, are known as “Rag Trees” or “Wishing Trees”. Historically, cloth strips taken from the clothing of an ill person were tied to the branches of the tree as a petition to a local saint or deity. Local people also tie strips of colourful cloth to the wishing tree as a symbol of their prayers or wishes. These items are known as clotties. It was an honour to come upon this beautiful and sacred offering. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #10: March 11, 2022

Before I left for my trip to Europe, I planned a dinner out with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Kathy. She picked me up from my place and asked if we could quickly stop by her house before we headed downtown to the restaurant. As we walked in her front door, I was surprised to see the smiling faces of some of my best friends in the world. They had all gathered together to wish me well and send me off on my trip in style. It is such a gift to have people in your life who celebrate your successes and cheer you on. We enjoyed an incredibly special dinner, with a cheese platter from Charellis, a taco bar from Little Piggy Catering, and a pavlova from Crust Bakery. The best part of gathering with these beautiful humans is how much we laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. It was an experience that I will always cherish. #JoyBlogging

Joy Journal

Joy Journal #9: September 13, 2022

I was recently in Sacramento visiting friends and family. I was born in California and I moved to British Columbia when I was seven years old. Until my late teens, my family drove down every summer to visit, so I remain close to those who live there. Since becoming an adult, my visits have become less frequent. Due to the pandemic, and being the parent of a young child, it has been seven years since my last visit.

What struck me most on my trip is the impact of time, aging and loss. Many people that I love have passed away and my remaining relatives are in older and in declining health. I am getting close to stepping into the role of an ‘older’ members of the family, along with my cousins, and our children will become the younger generation. There are aspects of my old life that continue to exist, such as the deep love for and connection to those who remain, but I feel an aching sadness for what is gone. It is bittersweet, and beautiful, at the same time. #JoyBlogging

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

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