Black History Month

Every February, people across Canada participate in Black History Month events and festivities that honour the legacy of Black people in Canada and their communities.

Historically, Black people have largely been ignored in the telling of mainstream Canadian history. Black History Month is a time to learn about these important stories and significant contributions.

The 2023 theme for Black History Month is: Ours to Tell. This theme represents both an opportunity to engage in open dialogue, and a commitment to learn about Black histories, successes, sacrifices and triumphs. I encourage you to start by checking out this great series 28 Moments of Black Canadian History by Unilearnal.

Belly Laughs

I was driving my daughter home from dance the other day, and she casually commented, “I never see you laugh. You smile all of the time but you never laugh.” This took me aback. Of course I laugh, I thought to myself; but the more I reflected on her words, the more I realized she is right. I do not laugh. Not very often anyway. When did that happen?

I sometimes think of this period of my life as a marathon. My head is down, and I am striding along, mile after mile, with my teeth grit: determined to reach a finish line that is nowhere in site. I am taking care of a teenager. I am taking care of aging parents. I do my best at work. I keep our household running. I cook. I clean. I drive. I do laundry. I sometimes find a moment to write and be creative. I repeat.

When I think about my best belly laughs, it is always with the friends I grew up with. The ones who knew me when I was in my teens and twenties. It is the last time in my life that I remember being really really silly. We would find something dumb to riff off of, and laugh about it so hard, it would make us hyperventilate and cry.

I realize that in my quest to be the a ‘good’ mom, daughter, friend and colleague, over the last thirteen years, I have lost connection to the free spirited, immature part of myself, that just wants to play. As much as any other priority in my life, is important to make time to laugh and let go.

In addition to being fun, laughing has many health benefits. It relieves tension, it boosts the production of immune cells and antibodies, and it releases endorphins to improve your mood. All in all, it is just a good thing to do. In the spirit of good belly laughs, I have been on the lookout for videos I can watch when I need a boost. Here are a few that made me laugh until I cried. Please share any videos that you love with me. It would be great to have your recommendations.

Parenting is Hard

I have a smart and strong-willed thirteen year old daughter. These are traits that will serve her well as an adult; but it is often difficult and exhausting to navigate our relationship on a daily basis. Nothing seems to be straight forward and everything is up for debate and discussion. I sometimes feel isolated and lonely as I try to figure out this challenging phase of adolescence on my own.

Throughout the process so far, I have identified a few supportive tactics that I am finding to be helpful. I thought I would share them with you.

Hold Your Boundaries

Guilt. The common theme of parenting. Am I doing enough? Am I turning into my mother? How can I do/be better? These questions, although valid, lead to doubting your own decisions and inconsistency in approach. Do not do this to yourself. Make a decision and stick with it. As your child pushes against your boundaries, trust your inner knowing. Hold fast. Know that your child will ultimately respect you and feel more secure if you are consistent, gentle and firm. The boundary that you set is real for you in that moment. Honour it. You can always reflect and regroup at a later time.

Create Space for Discussion

Although it is important to hold firm in the heat of the moment, the reality is my child and I are in relationship with one another, and it requires work and an openness to improvement. Sometimes I make mistakes and I need to correct them later on with acknowledgement, apology and discussion. When we are in a calmer space, my daughter is better able to explain her perspective to me; and sometimes it changes the way that I see it. This impacts how I respond at a later date. Flexibility and adaptability are key. There is no right way. Just what is right based upon what you know right now.

Be Loving and Kind

I always tell my daughter that no one can hear her when she is yelling, and yet, I find myself doing the same thing. It is amazing how triggering being a parent can be, and how quickly I fall back into the patterns of my own childhood, where yelling was the common response. I am actively working to be mindful about not raising my voice, or I ask for a specific amount of time (e.g. 20 minutes), if I need a time out to regroup. I hold onto my wise, adult centre in these difficult times, and provide myself with love and support, as well as my child.

Testing is Normal

I need to remind myself that my daughter is not purposefully being difficult, she is testing the waters of independence, which is normal and to be expected. As Lisa Damour writes: “Your daughter needs a wall to swim to, and she needs you to be a wall that can withstand her comings and goings. Some parents feel too hurt by their swimmers, take too personally their daughter’s rejections, and choose to make themselves unavailable to avoid going through it again…But being unavailable comes at a cost…Their daughters are left without a wall to swim to and must navigate choppy—and sometimes dangerous—waters all on their own.

Take Care of You

I never planned on being a single parent. I did not sign up to do this on my own and it is hard. It brings up a lot of sadness, grief, anger and disappointment for a dream that is lost. This is the moment when I have to turn to myself for comfort and advice. I put my arm around my small, scared self and I say…Let it out. Cry if you need to. Feel all of your feelings. Try to relax. Breathe. Trust it will soon pass. Move your body. Go for a walk. Take a bath. Go to bed early. Breathe deeply. Ask for help. Talk to a friend. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You got this. I believe in you.

Will You Be Mine?

The experience of being single often reminds me of a book that I used to like reading when I was a child called “Are You My Mother”? I relate to the newborn chick in the story, wandering alone and exposed throughout the world, asking each strange creature he encounters if its his mother: desperately seeking his match. In my case, whenever I encounter a potential mate, my inner voice quietly asks itself “Are You My Partner”?

I dip in and out of the online dating world. I am assured by others that it is the place to meet new people these days but it is a hard environment to navigate. There is such a wide range of people. It is a crowded space and everyone has very different needs and intentions. I am also told that in the particular city I live in, there are five single women available for every single male. These are not great odds.

I have now started to reorient the way that I think about this process: turning it from outward to inward facing. I consider each dating experience as an opportunity to learn more about myself. To develop and hone my skills of self-reflection and care. What are my boundaries? Can I be brave and ask for what I need? What is my inner knowing telling me? Can I hold onto myself when things get difficult? Can I initiate a difficult conversation? What are the red flags? Are they deal breakers? Do I truly choose this person or am I simply settling for companionship?

When I get disheartened, I often think back to this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

I want to live my life in the arena, daring greatly. This is a life worth living. It is messy and scary and unknown but it is where I need to be. I don’t ever know if I will ever find my perfect partner, but in the meantime, I will be my own perfect partner and keep loving myself fiercely, loyally and unconditionally. I will remain committed to becoming a better human, and version of myself, and I will keep getting up, no matter how many times I am knocked down, and continue trying.

Things I Love

I recently came across a great YouTube resource called “Dad, How do I?” On this channel, Rob Kenney posts new videos every week in which he demystifies many basic skills that everyone should know how to do, but many do not (including me)! From jump starting a car, to unclogging a sink, or finding a wall stud, he provides information that is both practical and applicable.

Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice. In the northern hemisphere, this date marks the turning point of the season, the shortest day and the longest night. The word solstice itself means ‘standing still sun.’ From this point onwards, the days continue to grow longer until midsummer on June 21. In Celtic tradition, the winter solstice is a time of rebirth and renewal, as signified by the return of the light. It was the turning point in the year where the darkest hours began to brighten and the nights would grow shorter.

Solstices and equinoxes were very important to the pre- and early-Celtic people, as seen through the construction of monumental tombs whose passages align with the solstice sun, such as Newgrange. Rituals for welcoming back the sun date from the dawn of civilization, as communities came together to celebrate life with feasting, music, dance, drama and above all, light and fire.  Although today we consider Christmas to be a single day, or a weekend event, many cultures traditionally celebrate for at least twelve days.

A key ingredient of celebrations is mistletoe, a revered healing and fertility plant found mainly on oak, ash and apple trees. Long before the Germanic-influenced Christmas tree made its way indoors, a bough of mistletoe would be placed inside the front entrance of a dwelling, there to garb the inhabitants with its protective magic. Oak and ash were particularly sacred to the Druids, as was the holly tree.

Whatever your belief system, consider spending some time to honour the longest and darkest night of the year. Sit down in a quiet place to journal about your hopes and aspirations for the year ahead: plant your seeds of intention. From this day forward, the light begins its slow return, and they will start to grow.

Something to Inspire

Photo by Element5 Digital on

Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have. Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.

Excerpted from:

The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving-Kindness, by Pema Chödrön.

Heart Centered Learning

Photo by Fahd Dajani on

“Whenever despair gets the better of you—or anger, or anxiety, or reactivity, or any undesired emotional/mental state—take your hand (either hand, or both hands) and place it over that soft spot in the center of the chest, what some traditions call your heart center, or your sacred heart. Feel the warmth of your hand on your chest. Direct your breath to that spot. Breathe in, pause, let your breath pool in the heart, feel whatever you are feeling, then slowly breath out. Do that several times. Hand on heart center, breathe in, hold, feel, release.

You may want to make an audible sigh when you exhale. Breathe in, hold, feel, release with a sigh. Ahhhhhh. Don’t attach any thoughts or judgements to the practice. There’s nothing to get, nothing to understand, just allow yourself to be a human with a heart that feels. You can pat your heart with your hand if your mind starts getting involved. Breathe in, pat your chest the way you would pat a baby or your pet, and then exhale with a sigh.

Sometimes I spend a good ten minutes calming and opening my heart. Sometimes I cry and am surprised by that. Sometimes I take in and release just one breath with my hand on my heart, and that’s all I need to ground my body, clear my head, and open my heart. I connect to something bigger than “little me”—anxious, fearful, little me. Hand on heart, and I rest for a moment in the big beating heart of what some people call universe or god or great spirit, or you fill in the blank. An open heart is my gate. It restores my hope, my energy, and my willingness to “be the change.”

~ Elizabeth Lesser