It’s not joy that makes us grateful it’s gratitude that makes us joyful. by David Steindl-Rast

Some days, a visceral  sense of joy comes unbidden, like today, seemingly out of nowhere. Have you noticed?

In my case, perhaps it is cumulative from my 7:30 AM walks with my almost ten year old Grandson; or my fifth weekly webinar at Wellspring Calgary, which I love delivering. I was thinking about this unexpected gift that has arrived with isolation, which has allowed me to visit Wellspring members once a week. It is as though I really show up in the midst of all these wonderful people. Or maybe it is the kind words that readers send to me or the helpful set of links I received to help me find an earlier meditation group.

And then again it could be the numerous cardinals or the red winged blackbirds that are beautiful to behold. Mind you, it is possible that it’s the chorus of birds outside my window that awaken me in the mornings. On the other hand it might be the sunshine, blue sky and warmth that is making its way north as we nudge up close to May.

Actually, I think it is also the gifts from my 96 year old aunt who generously likes to find clothes she thinks will suit me and goes to the trouble of packing them up and mailing them. Or the notes from my 100 year old Mother (this is how I now identify her) and her enthusiastic calls about the beautiful cards that keep coming in. (the latest from Teresa) Or it may be that I have had company these past ten days – my friend whose house I live in- so there is lots of laughter, even though her life, like many, has sadness.

It can certainly be the beautiful places to walk in my neighbourhood, along the canal, and past Commissioners Park near Dows lake where 250,000 tulip bulbs are planted, are up and will bloom in May. I bet it was lunch outside yesterday, for the first time. Or finally after 100  (slight exaggeration) attempts at producing a video for the ToDo Institute I managed. It is far from perfect but it’s done and off my shoulders. Whew!

It could be the calendar to honour my Mother. I love looking at it and reading the tributes, and then again it is also the wealth of meaning and opportunity that each brand new day brings for us to use and enjoy. Even as we are physically separated we can be connected in so many ways. It counts. For all our criticism of excess device time we rely on those same devices now. And I am grateful for my interest in technology my entire life and for the opportunities to explore and participate.

I think it is important now to turn our attention to beauty, books, art, music, sunrises (ok, maybe sunsets) the moon and stars and all growing things. Anything that captivates us and draws us in. Treasure our family and friends. Find humour and spread light heartedness to cheer one another on. Hold the course.

I think David Steindl Rast is right. When we notice all that we have to be grateful for we open the door to joy. And as  Dr. Bonnie Henry, Chief Medical Officer for the province of British Columbia says everyday, “Be kind; be calm; be safe.”


Thank you. Thank you. To all of you from around the world, thank-you for  showing up here every week. Until next Wednesday, warmest greetings, Trudy



Deliberate Search for Joyful Moments

There was not a lot of good news this week. Some of it unspeakable.

As a consequence I have found it helpful to deliberately search for small moments of joy. This treasure hunt does not diminish the awfulness of situations outside of our control. It does, however, give us momentary reprieve for those of us who are witnesses from afar. When things happen that are beyond our control and where we are not personally impacted we need to be able to reach out to those who are suffering and offer whatever solace we can. And to keep ourselves from sliding off the cliff we can look for ways to restore our hearts so we can be there for those who need us.

One way that I find helpful is to go looking for small moments of joy. By turning the flashlight of my attention outwards, in the place where I find myself, I begin to notice the beauty of nature, my neighbors, and helping hands. For instance, I took a walk two days ago with a member of my household, keeping our distance of course.

I was participating in a course on attention, at that time and this was the assignment.

A Treasure Hunt for Moments of Joy

When you were younger, perhaps you played a game that involved a treasure hunt or a scavenger hunt.  Unlike the scavanger hunt, a treasure hunt may not offer you anything specific to look for.  You are simply looking for “treasure.”  For a child that might be candy, or a small toy, or a dollar coin, or maybe a shiny marble stone.  You’re searching for treasure, but you don’t know exactly what to look for. Gregg Krech

I often do this, but have not called it a treasure hunt before.

Here is what I found:

  • Bluebells in a front yard
  • The parkway along the canal, now closed to traffic, allowing room for walkers and cyclists to spread out.
  • An hour walk in glorious sunshine.
  •  Ted Talk on Joy by Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyfulness: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness and The Aesthetics of Joy – a book on the science of designing joy in our environment.
  • An unexpected surprise in my mailbox, of a beautiful handmade card and note, from a special young woman in my life
  • The weeping willows unfolding along the canal
  • A gorgeous cardinal singing his heart out
  • Two perfect cups of coffee after having run out several days earlier
  • Watching my grandson’s first zoom piano lesson today
  • Taking photos of all the signs of spring I could find

These are only a few moments of my joy spotting report. The lid of my treasure chest won’t close as it is overflowing with bounty.

We all know that there are times in a life when tragedy is so intense we have no way to begin to look for moments of joy. There will, however, come a time when it will be once again be possible.

A Practice

This is a practice that can hold you in good stead through rough waters. I suggest you find a notebook and become a joy spotter. Write down a few things at the end of the day. Work hard at also noticing the unnoticed: the green shoot growing in the crack in the pavement; the young man or woman serving you behind the plexiglass screen at the store; the neighbour who brings in your garbage cans; the walker who moves on to the street for you to walk safely by; the barely visible buds on the tree branches; the first snowdrop; clay roof tiles glowing in the evening light. There is no check list, only your own. Each of us has our own eye and heart for what resonates with us.

Make the best of where you are and with the way things are. Take the flashlight of your attention and go on a treasure hunt.


1:) My heart weeps for the senseless tragedy that occurred in Nova Scotia this week. I think of the many families and friends who lost their loved ones. This is my childhood province and Colchester County was my home. Many of my cousins living nearby. I am so deeply sorry. No words will ever be enough.

2:) I learn about the personal sorrows of many people brought on by Covid-19. In the midst of sadness and disappointment we all need to figure out the parts we can do something about and do the best we can. Ask for help when you need it.

single red tulip

3:) I have my favourite encouraging images from author Barbara Kingsolver and I give them to you once again, from her book, High Tide in Tucson, which shows how transformation can be possible.

“Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job or a limb or a loved one, a graduation, bringing a new baby home: it’s impossible to think at first how this all will be possible. Eventually, what moves it all forward is the subterranean ebb and flow of being alive among the living.

In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing:  a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.”

4:) Thank you one and all for your kind notes, and comments. It is an honour to write this weekly blog for all you wonderful people who take the time to read it. I deeply appreciate you. Take care of yourselves out there and see you next week. Warmest greetings, Trudy

Option B Was a Roaring Success

This blog post is to say thanks.

Thanks to all of you, dear readers, who pulled out all the stops, to not only read my Special Birthday blog, but left so many loving comments,  emails and cards.   Mom and I are both grateful and we extend our sincere thanks for all your good wishes.

Her Continental Zoom Birthday Tour lasted 11 hours. Yikes. I was exhausted but my Mother was going strong. It was an extraordinary birthday and as she commented, “it was worth living 100 years just to celebrate my birthday in such a unique way.” It was warm and beautiful and as her birthday guests logged on, they dressed for the celebration. They brought cakes with candles so she could make a wish.  One of the family members would blow them out, on her behalf.  Everyone had a story. And it was so warm and welcoming on this tour that at one point it seemed real not virtual.

One example was when my Mother took a 20 min catnap in the afternoon and the guests continued to visit. Mom’s phone started ringing and finally she answered. She returned to her I-pad, and laughingly told us how she wondered why none of us got up to answer her phone.  Anticipating a Birthday by herself, and grateful that she would get to talk to her extended family on Zoom she was astonished.  For the entire day she did not feel alone. She connected to each person and it seemed as if they were there. “It was the best Birthday in 100 years.”


I am so grateful to the people who founded and continue to run Zoom. I know the problems they are having with security vulnerabilities and there were several things we did to mitigate the risk. To have this platform for our use at this time is beyond amazing. It allows us to still be connected while being apart. And we all need that. What has come out of this will be standing weekly gatherings, where we can drop in and have a visit with Mom and other family members. We will keep this ball rolling, modestly, to laugh, tell tall tales, and cheer one another on.

A shout out to the fabulous crew of family and friends who wholeheartedly dove in to embrace this challenge and give our Mother the best birthday yet.  Sheila and Jim, you are amazing for taking on the beautiful calendar; I pad set up; and the 100th birthday cake that Jim made with love and delivered to Mom. (Thanks to the concierge at Nanaimo Seniors Village.)

Rob, you have been our tech guru, getting everyone up and running and solving numerous problems. And your virtual walks with Grandma through the beautiful streets and parks of Vancouver, all done thanks to google duo.

To my beautiful sister Gabriole and friends who organized the parade of decorated cars to drive under Mom’s balcony with 100 balloons, signs, noise makers and song. It was truly an extraordinary day. It is amazing what love and effort can do even during a pandemic.

And finally, Diane, the Activity Director who came in to spend a couple of hours with Mom, on her day off, because she didn’t want her to be alone all day on her Birthday. And because “I love your Mother” she said. The kindness and caring that money can’t buy.

So, we have come to the end of this story and I want to encourage anyone suffering from the disappointments that Covid-19 has wrought to consider Option B. Bring your whole heart and creative spirit to what is possible and  be open for surprise.

Option B

My friend Gregg Krech, director of the ToDo Institute in Vermont, wrote a short article about Option B and used this occasion as an example. It is well written and interesting. I think you will enjoy it and you can read it here. Option B 

See you next week dear readers. I am humbled by your kindness. I am now your chief zoom buddy and anyone who wants to learn how to use it please email me and I will happily show you the ropes.  You already know that if a 100-year-old can learn, age is not an excuse. And, to quote my Mother one last time, during her birthday week, “since this is the way it is now, Zoom can change your life at a time like this. I no longer feel alone.”

These photo collages are three pages from the birthday calendar created for Mother and the family by Sheila and Jim.



April 13, 2020 – Celebrating 100 Years of Living and Loving with Our Favourite Centenarian and Everyone’s Mother

Two Years ago when Mom was 98, she did her 2nd annual Marathon walk ( 5 K) with 35 of her family from all over the continent. This was in the month of May in Ottawa . The 1st annual was held in Nova Scotia, the year before, where we did the 10K walk together.  Always followed by an after party with medals, laughter and lots of celebratory toasts, this  was not a race for us. This was walking to the pace of the slowest walker and having a chance to be together and visit, while being active. Several of us would go on to walk and run the 1/2 and the full Marathons the next day. So much fun. And the point here is, if it were not for Mom, this wouldn’t have happened. There was little interest in doing this crazy thing the first year a few of us brought it up.  Until everyone heard that Mom was coming and she would walk. Everyone who was available said YES. And it began like that.




I love these photos below of Mom during the last three years. The  ages are 97; 98; and the two in blue are from three weeks ago and two days ago. Mom surprised herself by enjoying the Birthday greetings from the Queen and the other blue one was a screenshot during a video chat on google duo, two days ago, with her 50 year old Grandson Rob.









A song for Mom: Somewhere Over the Rainbow and It’s a Wonderful World by Israel ‘IZ’ Kamakawiwo’ole.  It’s long, about six minutes, but it sums up her outlook on life.

The Gift of Years

So here is the thing. I know that many people like to show the youthful photos of their Mother and I love that idea too but I really want to celebrate my Mother’s successful ageing. She has lived 100 years and you can see her good spirit, love, and joie de vivre shining through. When I once asked what she thought about her life, she said, “It was so much better than I had expected.” Anytime I tried to pin her down to her best year, she would always say, “this one.”

“I go to bed happy and I get up happy, ” is her common refrain.

So what is it about my Mother that we all adore? There are many things but I think it comes down to these:

“She has the gratitude thing going,”

as my friend Meredith always points out. “Life  doesn’t have to be easy for your Mother to be grateful.”

In fact my Mother believes that things will get better around the corner and she goes looking for exactly that. And guess what? She finds something. Mom continually shines the spotlight of her attention on what is going right and what is good enough about the people in her life, and turns a blind eye to our flaws.

One example was a friend of mine who barely new my Mother but said this. “When I am with your Mother I feel completely accepted. I have never had that experience before and it is the greatest gift.”

Yet, she isn’t a pushover.

She stands up for what is right. When she was 95, a new company bought the seniors building where she lived and she didn’t like the way they treated management. She wrote polite and strong letters; she spoke up at town hall meetings, but nothing changed. So she went looking, for a new place to live, and moved. She wanted to live where all people were treated with respect.

As we all say, her age doesn’t enter into the equation, rather what is controllable and what is not surely does. Bottom line, if she can’t do anything about it she accepts it, without complaint. If there is something she can do or influence she does, without drama or righteousness. She simply takes appropriate action and moves on.

Like the unwanted guest Covid 19, as she said, recently, “imagine a guest like that crashing our big party. But my Birthday will still happen; I still turn 100. And now we get to have a different, once in a lifetime party.”

Life Long Learning

Today we are hosting a Birthday party on zoom by Time Zone. It starts in Atlantic Canada at lunch time (breakfast time on the west coast)  and goes across the continent. By 7:00 PT, we will wind-up on Vancouver Island and eventually close down the day. Many people are baking cakes; others are having celebratory dinners in her name; one grandson is cycling 100 km in her honour; this is my 100th blog, which actually blows my mind; another cousin is biking for 100 minutes instead of 60.

One rather quiet cousin(tongue in cheek) leaped to the challenge and said he will talk for 100 minutes. (I gave him his own private zoom link in order to do so.) There will be plenty of breaks as we make our way across the continent and even a surprise or two that I can’t mention, since my Mother faithfully reads my blog.

And Eileen Grace McNutt Wilson will have her Birthday alone in her suite instead of a four day celebration at the Union Club in Victoria. Disappointed, yes, but no complaints; rather, she invested time and effort into learning and practicing video conferencing and video chat tools so she can be with her family online, if not in person. None of us  have ever once heard our Mother say, “I’m too old for that.” She does every single thing she can do, and with grace and appreciation accepts a hand if she needs it.

Love of Family

Her love of family is without measure. It is the number one most important thing in her life. She beams out love like the brightest star and it comes with no strings attached. No guilt trips; no complaints; just so happy to be with her family and we all count. The 52nd cousin once removed is still important. Well that is a slight, but only a slight exaggeration. And you don’t have to be related by blood. You can be related by heart. The golden thread that runs through all of our lives is not reserved for blood relatives. The connections in our family life run deep and wide. Family has a broad definition.

To have a Mother like ours who is filled with love, generosity, gratitude, curiosity, initiative, creativity, resourcefulness and the wisdom gleaned from her long life, is to be inordinately blessed. How to thank her for being there forever? There are not enough words! My goal is to be more like my Mother as I live longer. Her adopted children- Sheila and Jim, from England have declared her a National Treasure and my sister Gabriole and I are delighted to share her with all of our friends. Mother has enough love to go around. May it continue to be so.

Happy, happy, birthday Mom, from the bottom of my heart. Your 100 year legacy is unbroken and you inspire us all. You make the world a better place.

Mom’s Pearls of Wisdom

The most important thing is the support of family and friends.

Keep some younger people in your life; especially the children.

Don’t hold grudges –  leave past disappointments and hurt feelings behind.

Don’t hurt others by word or deed and apologize immediately if you do.

Don’t be jealous of others.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but don’t expect too much.

Lend a helping hand whenever you can and be kind to others especially those who are having difficulties.

Do your best to stay healthy: eat well but don’t deprive yourself of a treat.

Exercise is important every day – either aerobics or going for a walk.

Never be afraid to try new things and continue to learn new things.

Concentrate on the positive and don’t grieve over things you cannot do anymore.

Be grateful for what you have and enjoy every day you are alive.


Note 1:) Pink and white dogwoods are Mom’s favourite and I thank Shutterstock  for having what I needed.

Note 2:) This is you Mom, one in a million.

Note 3:) Thank you Mom, for being a faithful reader of these now 100 blog posts. And thank you dear readers for being part of my Mother’s special 100th Birthday. She would love you all. My heart is full to over flowing as I reflect on the good fortune of having been loved by, and having the great privilege of getting to love this incredible woman. She is my hero. The one I admire most.


Note 4:) Hey, we need some balloons on this page. Thanks Meghan for carrying on the tradition of balloons, and Shannon,  my exuberant cousin who helped her blow them up.














Make a New Plan Stan…

paper boat with red sail floating on water – thanks to  Zolotarevs Shutterstock

Cultivate a Flexible, Curious and Adaptable Mind

It seems to me that at times like these we need to be able to adjust our plans on a moment’s notice. I find I cannot make a plan for one week and keep it. Too many things pop up, including my own resistance to thinking I need to work as though nothing has changed, when in fact everything has changed.

I hear that “everyone” is now baking bread, although I am not one of those. Toilet paper is not the only empty shelf in grocery stores, so are the flour aisles. Flour Mills have altered their production to try and keep up with demand. It could be comfort; nostalgia; a reluctance to risk going out to purchase fresh bread or a return to pioneering norms as we hole up inside to protect ourselves against the virus, outside.

No matter what the reason, things have changed for all of us. And I think it’s important to deliberately set aside time to do more of the things that lift our spirits. We may enjoy getting that basement cleaned out after five straight days of zoom conferences and meetings. But the novelty of this kind of satisfaction is bound to wear off, especially with spring in the air. To shore up our resolve to self isolate, we might be better off to look for beauty in all of its forms: gardens, books, art, music, sewing, photography, woodworking, writing, poetry, to name but a few of the many ways to find and create beauty. And yes, de-cluttering is part of finding beauty as we intentionally make space to create.


But even more, I suggest we need to do things ourselves that can absorb and transport us into what scholar Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow- a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities we enjoy. He asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about the state of “flow,” such as art, play, music and work. Obviously, while learning a new skill we rarely slip into flow, even though we can be fully absorbed in the activity, but we all have had the experience where we are so absorbed in something we love that we completely lose track of time.

This can happen to me when I work with my photos creating slide shows and finding just the right music. I don’t make the time to do this very often, but when I do, I love it. It also happens when I build a collection of poetry and look for a photo to go with each poem. Hours disappear without a blink. Or when I take the time to sit down at the piano and teach myself how to play again. Stress falls off my shoulders and I can disappear into those moments. And always when I am working with Living Well with Illness, whether it is on or off line.

So, as we go along, I find that I need to keep adapting my plans.  What holds true a week ago doesn’t work now. Although my early morning routine holds steady, I discover I now need three shorter walks a day rather than one long walk. So this week, directly following my 8:00 meditation, I take a 30ish minute brisk walk to get my day off to the best start. Probably has a lot to do with the spring sunshine and the need to break out of confinement, while still following the rules.


I am curious, seeing my own inability to hold steady to any one plan. But as we get new information, including the change of weather, we need to experiment. My heart is giving big hints that it needs time for moodling. My brain wants time to try new things, and so I experiment. What do I/we do that brings more energy, joy and satisfaction? What times of the day do I/we need a boost or do we need a rest? I am not suggesting that we become so self absorbed that all we do is run experiments on ourselves. Yet,  I am suggesting that we pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.

We may find  lots of satisfaction in reaching out to others at this time. Video chats; cards in the mail (while it is still operating;) a few homemade cookies dropped off in a friend’s mailbox.  Maybe we can invite a friend to join us in an online yoga class. I recently heard of a son living in a different city from his Mother, who orders a variety of delivery dinners  for his Mom, who has a compromised immune system. Time to notice friends and family who live alone. Generosity and thoughtfulness are known spirit boosters.

Did you know that local garden shops are all going online with curbside pickup? Business is booming!! It is kind of like the bread baking. We need food and we can grow our own. What a novel idea for many city dwellers. I am hoping that Community Gardens will be considered an essential service, and I hope everyone who can has some kind of garden. Let’s face it growing a few vegetables, herbs and flowers is good for our spirits, bodies, mind and heart.

You know, dear readers, that I am all for learning new things. If you want to learn Greek and can do it, now, is the best time to find others online who will happily join you. Yet, remember to cut yourself some slack. We don’t need to devote ourselves to being constantly productive. People who work from home often have longer hours, and it is equally important to carve out time for  hobbies.  If you don’t have any, well, now is the time. Create, share the beauty, smile as you keep your distance, and have a good laugh everyday. We need medicine for our spirits and it is often found in the arts and humanities, and in our hands. Perhaps we will rediscover what we have lost as we reevaluate our lives in light of covid-19.

It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is  invisible to the eye. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry from The Little Prince


Note 1:) Watch for a very special blog post on Monday the 13th. This is my Mother’s 100th birthday, and as we all know there will be no party. Coincidentally, this day will be my 100th blog post as well, so it seems ordained that these two occasions can come together. It will be all about her. (sorry, Mother, who I know will soon read these words)

Note 2:) Here is a beautiful little lesson in painting watercolour flowers I first found it on my friend Patricia’s FB page many months ago. I am definitely setting time aside for this.

Note 3:) I LOVE this photo of the paper boat on water. I first saw it in Atlantic Monthly illustrating an interesting article on poetry. (OK, since you insist, here is the link to Poetry is Everywhere) I noted  where they purchased it and got my own copy from Shutterstock. I find it the perfect photograph for these times. It’s made of paper and floating in water; how long can it last? It represents my ever changing daily plans and is beautiful, mysterious, adventuress, playful and somehow holds the possibility of surprise. I think we need all of that as we navigate our way through this pandemic.

Note 4:) I keep forgetting to give you  this excellent article: What Cancer Patients Can Teach us About Surviving the Corona Virus Pandemic by Andre Picard

Note 5:) Finally, I will say goodbye until Monday. I will also post a short regular blog next Wednesday. Thank you once again for your kind notes and emails. I am so fortunate to have, YOU, dear reader dropping by each Wednesday. My most heartfelt thanks. Warmest greetings and do your best our there. As always, Trudy


Let’s Learn Something New

This week I am doing something entirely different and offering a simplified drawing lesson and an interesting talk.

Why Drawing?

One of the skills that Dr. Jinroh Itami had his cancer patients learn and practice, was drawing. Why drawing you ask? He had several reasons:

  1. drawing offers a chance to cultivate focused attention
  2. it can be a healthy distraction that provides temporary mental relief from morbid concerns, anxiety and fear
  3. it activates the senses and stimulates the brain
  4. it can be fun
  5. it may provide a little gift for a dear friend (if we leave our vanity behind)
  6. we can wholeheartedly and diligently absorb ourselves into the task of drawing

Drawing Lessons

I came across this unusual little Ted Talk by Ralph Ammer, called Drawing Lessons, and it drew me in as I watched. And since I am convinced that in times of uncertainty it is important to learn new things and do something with our hands I wanted to encourage us all to experiment. (including me)

So here it is. A short talk on drawing, on Ted X. Next I went looking for more and found a short and simplified drawing tutorial by the same artist. I think it will be fun. We could all try it and see what happens. You can even post a picture of your scribbles in the comments, or not,  and we can enjoy the experience together.

You don’t have to like this particular idea but I think it is a good time to be bold and try new things that we can do within the walls of our homes. Let’s experiment. You can always pick something different. No rules here.

Ted X Talk with Ralph Ammer Drawing Lessons

Simplified drawing tutorial to go with the talk Click Here


Note 1:) Keep your distance. Let’s encourage each other to respect the Covid-19 guidelines. We don’t want spring fever to have us throw caution to the winds. Our resolve to stay at home  is desperately needed now.

Note 2:) For anyone who wants to join me for coffee on Monday April 6th, at noon ET,  I will send you a zoom invitation. Please let me know by email that you want to be included and I will send you the link early Monday morning.

Note 3:) Today in Ottawa, on my block, we banged our pots and cheered for Health Care workers. They are our front lines and are working tirelessly through this pandemic. They are our heroes and most Canadian cities are now going to their front porches and balconies every night at 7:00 to say thanks.

Note 4:) So many thanks to all of you who show up here each week. Please accept my deepest appreciation. Let’s all hang in there. A deep bow to you all. Trudy