Monthly Archives: February 2011

GUEST POST by Leonie Allan

Been thinking lately about what kind of grownup I’d like to become… And then I read this piece by Leonie and it did something really good for my heart. I asked her if I could repost it. With her permission, here it is below! Enjoy.


Every tribe has its elders.

You know the ones. They are the ones who have navigated through long, long years of this living business.
I know older ones of course – many of them. Those who have lived, but still haven’t learned.

The elders are different though. They are the ones who have not been skewed, jaded or ruptured by the thousand moments where the heart stands still, when hope is lost, when days are sodden with grief, when things do not go according to the plan.

I am blessed. I have three.

Three women, all in their nineties.


My grandmother Marion. My grandmother is the youngest. She is 93. She still lives by herself, up until last year in the old wooden cottage we now live in and now in a set of sweet flats where elders circle to create ornate gardens and peer their head into each other’s doors. As is the way in this small town, most of them are cousins.

My grandmother has outlived her two lovers, her two sons, and one grandson. She still works two days a week in the “boutique” – an op shop. And she dresses better than I do. She wears pearls and high heels and tight fitting, dipping bright blue dresses. She has a collection of eight retro white-rimmed sunglasses. She is uncannily intuitive – knowing before anyone else in the family (including the subject) who is falling in love, who is falling out and who needs to be told they are beautiful today.

The second (on the left) is my grandmother’s sister Lucy. Lucy has deep red hair and the innocence of a fairy. She fell in love with her soulmate when she was still a teenager. He was fifteen years older, and although I don’t remember him, his kindness is spoken about in glowing whispers. My mother likes to tell a story about someone complimenting Fred on his pink shirt. In return, he took it off and gave it to them. I tell this about Fred, because it tells you about Lucy too. Fred was the gentle man who made his life’s work to take care of and love the red-haired, kind-hearted fairy girl who chose him. Lucy has Alzheimer’s disease, and though she now doesn’t remember anyone’s name, it matters not – she loves them just the same. She knows you are good. She knows you are family – everyone is.


And the little old lady who lived down the road when I grew up. I know her – as does most of our small town – simply as Nan. Nan is 96, the eldest of the elders. Nan’s eyes are the loveliest of blue, and she likes to ask intensive questions about computers and the internet so she can understand this funny online goddess job thing I have. I remember when I was 6, Nan and Pop left on a holiday. She returned without him by her side, a heart attack having taken her love. I remember the neighbourhood’s children being gathered up to meet her on the bus, each of us holding a rose for her. She got off the bus, and cried, and held us all, then introduced us to the Swiss girl she’d made dear friends with on the bus who she’d invited to live with her for a while. And she did. That is how my Nan is – a woman with an open heart who looks to love wherever she can.

Three women.

All in their nineties.

They have lost their parents, siblings, loves, children, grandchildren. They have lived stories untold – of miscarriages, abortions, poverty, pain, infidelity. My grandmother told me she once spent the night in prison with her family – because it was Christmas Eve, they were visiting the city, there were no hotel rooms available and they had no money. So the police took them in and let them stay the night with two young children. There have been breakdowns, suicides, alcoholism, of watching children waste away for years from cancer. They have lived in tents. They have been beaten. They have lived through the bombing of London. There has been two world wars. There has been the deepest of depressions.

And yet – and yet. 

These women – they glow.
They are happy.
They have a deep and ferocious faith that people are good.
They believe anything can be solved with the salve of love.
The years have not torn them asunder.
They have widened them and smoothed them like a river smooths a rock.
They glisten. They are wells of compassion, of wisdom and of laughter.
They have a secret.

I know other stories, other older ones. Those whose tapestries have warped from the threads of living, have torn and frayed and tangled. Those who haven’t become beacons in their tribes. Those who have hurt more than healed. The years don’t always mend and soften and deepen a person.

I wonder what separates the elders from the older.
And then I listen, and I see.
We drive with the elders.

Without fail, on the drive to the farm, my Aunt Lucy the fairy coos: 
Oh! Those mountains! Look at those mountains! I’ve never seen anything like them! The beauty!

My grandmother is more pragmatic: 
Look at this road. It’s so wide and so smooth! Such a good road to travel on!

She turns to me and says:
Leonie, you are a good mum. You look beautiful today. Ostara is the most beautiful baby, isn’t she the most lovely thing you’ve ever seen?

And your Dad, he’s an old bushy, but he’s got a good heart, and gosh he loves you children.

And my Nan, ever the heart, says about each and every day we have together:
Well, that was just the most wonderful day possible. I can’t imagine a better day.

And on, and on, and on, these women speak, singing the praises of every little thing, every little person.

Everywhere, there are blessings, there are miracles, there is a universe tending to our million needs for air, comfort, love, support, good roads, kind hearts, tending gatherings and delicious mountains.

And they are the sentinels watching for them, praising them, delighting in them, alerting us all to them.

This is their secret.

As life’s cyclones and storms and tornados tear trees and branches from limb, as earthquakes shatter and quake, as tsunamis wash and swallow, these women, they turn their faces to their sun and say:
This life is good. Just look at that beautiful sun!

May I listen, may I learn, may I know.
With love, grace and faith,

Goddess Leonie is the creator of the online Goddess Circle &, a popular creativity & spirituality blog for women. Her lifelong dream is to own a stationery shop, discover (& consume) a jumbo gluten-free cupcake & ride a unicorn.

room for all of it*

Nico, Andrea, photo by Vivienne McMaster, Canon PowerShot S95

Nico, Andrea, photo by Vivienne McMaster, Canon PowerShot S95

I had the pleasure of strolling with the talented and wonderful Vivienne McMaster a few days ago while she was visiting from Vancouver. We shared a studio when she was living here and I still miss her magic and sweet smile. As is our tradition, we walked to the Edible Schoolyard and photographed each other. I treasure the shots she got of me and Nico above, and the timing could not have been better. They remind me of how much there is to celebrate amidst all the other stuff that life brings.


Vivienne McMaster, Canon PowerShot S95

Nico, Andrea, photo by Vivienne McMaster, Canon PowerShot S95

I appreciated all of your comments on my news about Ben and all of the love you have been sending our way! I feel even safer knowing my communities (online and real life varieties) are holding this news in the most sacred way. I also loved hearing how practicing gratitude has helped you through uncertain and tender times. Seems my intuition was spot on to start that gratitude journal.

When I pulled these photos up on my computer, Matt exclaimed, “You look so happy!” And the truth is, when I am taking it moment by moment, I really am. There is room for all of it. Fear, worry, grief, and yes, even joy.

growing our capacity*

So guys… After a terrifying day of drop seizures last week, we went in for a new EEG for Ben and got the clarity (for better or worse) we had been hoping for. Ben was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy called MAE or Doose. This type of epilepsy can be difficult to treat, but we are hopeful.

We started him on medication over the weekend, something we had resisted all this time because of the seriousness of the side effects. His seizures are particularly stressful because they are drop seizures and thrust his body to the floor, usually hitting his head. We have been really lucky so far; he has only been outside once when he fell, and gotten one bloody nose. But of course the risk of serious injury is high and we have to watch him closely. (I have been hovering over him for a year now and it’s done a number on my nervous system.)

Our greatest hope is that the medication will stop the seizures, that the side effects will be minimal/manageable and he will be able to resume normal kid-like activities. I know it’s going to break our hearts to tell him he can’t do jungle gym, monkey bars, bicycling, etc. (things he LOVES, ugh) until he is seizure free for a while and his EEG looks different. Our next hope is that he will grow out of it and it won’t be a lifelong illness.

I’m trying really hard to trust this, to trust all of it. You know how years later you can look back and see how all the pieces fit together? even the hard ones? How nothing is wasted, how it all makes sense later and it’s futile to resist it… In fact, when you’ve done everything you possibly can, it’s best to surrender to it, even when it sucks.

There is a way that parenthood grows your capacity to hold so much more than you ever thought you could. My capacity to hold chaos, fear, joy and uncertainty is so much bigger and deeper than ever. And at best, I feel stronger and more hearty somehow, like this new dimension to our life is calling on us to be even better versions of ourselves. Even in the midst of uncertainty I can see one thing clearly: That this is all part of Ben’s story. And it will be a wonderful story because he is a truly magical boy. And I know he is held by something big and divine.

We are digesting this new information slowly and would appreciate any encouraging and loving thoughts you might want to send our way. If you have hopeful stories (only happy ones please!) we welcome those too.

Happy Valentimes!

olive bread heart, Berkeley, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

Not being the hearts and flowers type, I’ve never been very sentimental about Valentine’s Day. That said, I found myself making Valentimes with Ben this morning at the kitchen table. (I love that he calls it Valentimes; makes so much more sense.) We made one for a friend that was a colorful heart-shaped window. When she came to the door this morning, he put his face inside the window and shouted, HAPPY VALENTIMES! and if that didn’t make her day, I don’t know what would. So I’m a convert.

And it proves that giving away our love is as satisfying as receiving it. Or maybe more…

This can be a hard day for some of us, questioning if the kind of love we have in our lives is good enough, or falling short, or if there is something wrong with us that we don’t have some Hollywood kind of love (or romantic love at all). I like the idea of turning it around and asking ourselves instead: who do we love? and are we loving well? and celebrating that.

I have a friend who insists that when she finds a dime on the ground, she is getting a message from the universe: that everything is going to be okay, that she is on the right path, that she is loved and held in something divine. (She finds dimes ALL THE TIME.) I feel the same way when I see the number 2:52 show up on the clock. It’s a signal to me that all is well.

Same goes for finding a heart in an unlikely place. (Like this piece of olive bread the other day.) Look for a heart today and in the coming weeks. Maybe it will be in your cereal, or in a smoosh of gum on the sidewalk. Maybe it will be on the side of a fire hydrant or a heart shaped rock at the water’s edge. Then share it with me here. I want to see it.

Happy Valentimes Day! I hope you know that you are loved.

giving in to gratitude

So I finally broke down and did it. After all these years, I finally bought a gratitude journal! I’ve been resisting it for what seems like forever… Since I’m in the field of personal growth, everywhere I turn, people recommend this practice. It will get you in touch with your joy! You will be a happier person! When you adopt an attitude of gratitude, nothing can stop you!

And I immediately felt allergic to the whole idea. Something about making these lists of what I’m grateful for made me feel, well, somehow not grateful enough. Weird, right? It felt forced… like it wasn’t okay to feel the full range of my emotions. A kind of looking on the bright side and pushing down the dark. My gratitude gremlin would kick in.

But you know what? I didn’t realize it until today but somebody, somebody really cute in my life, taught me about about gratitude in a really different way. Ben initiated a tradition of recalling our favorite parts of each day before bed. In his own way, he created the perfect kind of gratitude ritual for our family. By asking a different question, I got to the heart of my own gratitude.

I was at the Paper Source the other day and passed by this beautiful orange book. Before I knew it I had purchased it and started filling the pages with my favorite parts.

I think I feel better already. ;)

Down by the Bay (aka. Cute Overload)

beach booty

beach booty Ben, Santa Cruz, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

Don’t hate us, but it was 70-ish degrees this weekend and sunny! We hightailed it to the beach in Santa Cruz, our first weekend away in almost a year, and had the sweetest time. If you are visiting that part of the coast, don’t miss Natural Bridges (gorgeous beach with tide pools galore ) and the dreamy drive along Highway One. The fields were drenched in yellow flowers… And we loved staying at Costanoa just about 20 miles north of Santa Cruz.

Ben was totally blissed out.


Ben, Natural Bridges, Santa Cruz, CA, Canon PowerShot S95

And if you can find a couple of mermaid princesses to play with at the beach, then you’re truly gold.


Things to do while on sick kid lockdown

We were quarantined this week and getting some serious cabin fever. Here are some things to do to pass the time a little easier:
1. Have a silly photoshoot! Hot tip for photographing babies… American Apparel has these awesome little underwear, diaper cover things (nico’s are pictured in yellow) which photograph so much better than diapers.
2. Play Go Fish and Candyland until you want to scream. And don’t forget to let Ben win! ;)
3. Ben’s suggestion: Draw on all the walls in the house in blue oil pastel. Yes, HE DID DO THAT. I was horrified, then I wanted to laugh, then I was horrified again. If anyone knows how to get this off the walls, I would appreciate the tips!

Okay, I’m out of ideas. It was hard, especially when I am on febrile seizure watch. No fun at all! But like all hard things, there are bursts of the sacred and joyous tucked away in between. I’ve learned to expect these even when times are hardest…

“There was a single blue line of crayon drawn across every wall in the house. What does it mean? I asked. A pirate needs the sight of the sea, he said and then he pulled his eye patch down and turned and sailed away.”
— Brian Andreas (Story People)