A Fireside Chat on a Cold Winter Night


Tonight feels like winter in Ottawa. After above-normal temperatures since the beginning of December, I can feel and hear the wind. And I  see the snow covering up my car. But I’m not complaining since it is already the 25th of January. Each day it stays lighter for a little longer and two good winter months have ended. On top of that, the really good news is that exam week is drawing to an end for my grandkids and the rest of us. haha

Ageing Exhuberantly

I actually enjoy studying with Rowan. It is all in French so not only do I get a refresher in his subjects but my poor french is actually serving a purpose and improving as the year goes on. Coincidentally, I read a new article on Ageing Exhuberantly by the author of The Gentle  Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson, who began writing books in her 80’s.

One of the three suggestions by the Swedish author is to spend lots of time with young people.  Learning, asking questions, providing food, and laughter, and essentially not complaining.  So, I am one of the lucky ones who gets to do that and I love it. Nevertheless, as much as I enjoy helping and Rowan enjoys learning we both are done. Happy that this is the last study night. Whew!

I want to tell you something else that really struck me in the review.

One of the misconceptions about older people, according to Regina Koepp, clinical psychologist and founder of the Center for Mental Health and Aging in Burlington, Vt., is that “they’re rigid and they’ll never change,” she said. “That’s not true. Older people are not more rigid than younger people. Those are personality traits, not age traits.” Yet even older adults have internalized this narrative, Dr. Koepp said, “because they’ve heard it their whole life.”

To age exuberantly, you must actively recognize your “internalized ageism” and fight against it, Dr. Koepp said. Saying “yes” as often as you can, she added, “is in effect saying ‘yes’ to life — being curious and exploratory, being part of the community.”

I was struck by that term: internalized ageism.

Because I believe it is true for many people and we are simply unaware. And further fascinated by Regina Koepp’s suggestion that we fight against it. I wonder how many other internalized isms we have and how they are impacting our lives. I recall my Mother saying throughout her long life that we should not use age as an excuse. “Don’t say “I am too old for that.”

I have heard internalized isms for so many things: I can’t draw; sing; or go up in a hot-air balloon at 92. I can’t go to a movie by myself. It is a compelling question to consider: who is being an ageist, me and/or the rest of the world? Of course, it’s never that simple. I haven’t suffered from ageism, but I am still considering the isms I do suffer from and what I might do about those. At any rate, I was intrigued and wanted to pass it on.

Ikigai Ryoho

It brought to mind Dr. Jinroh Itam’s mantra for his cancer patients: “Even though I am ill I will not live like a sick person.” It’s an excellent reminder,  to still live. To not put our lives on hold. It isn’t about denying cancer, illness, aging or any number of things. It is about not allowing any one of those particular things to dominate and take over our lives.

Some of you may remember a book from the 80’s on ageism written by a popular writer of those times. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the title or the author. But I do remember a great story. The author was giving a presentation on Ageism and noticed a lovely woman in her 90’s wearing braces. He was so intrigued as to why, at her age, she would wear braces. He subsequently invited her to join him for lunch in order to learn the answer to his question.

It went something like this: Mrs Brown, I noticed you are wearing braces. I am wondering why you are doing so.

She reached over, patted him on his arm, and said, “Sonny, for the same reason you would wear braces.”

He commented that in his stunned silence, he realized that he had internalized a form of ageism that says, “it’s a waste of money for a 90-year-old to wear braces.” The fact that she was alive, wearing braces, and 90, and he found that peculiar, was a shock to him. And in a flash, he was enlightened, so to speak.

I loved that story when I read it in my 40’s, and as I think of it now, I realize how susceptible we all are by the culture and the conditioning we live in. Furthurmore, I am grateful for the reminder to be aware of my internalized isms and not let them control my actions. Sing while there’s voice left.


1:) A link to the final words of a wonderful man, Jim Button,  who died last week. I was a big admirer,  like many,  of Jim and his family. His blog was also an inspiration.

2:) One of my most favourite photos is this one of my Japanese friends in training to hike the Canadian Rockies.  They personify exuberant aging. And the banner photo is from Yellowknife, NWT thanks to Gottfried, who was there with Dr. Itami and old and new friends from Japan in the early 2000’s.

3:) “May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” – Mary Oliver  I love this quote and thanks to James Clear for posting it.

4:) Thank you for reading my blog; I am honoured that you do so. And thanks for the many ways you reach out. I love all of your notes. May you have a good last week of January. Hope you get outdoors to play in the snow, should you live in that kind of climate. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Changing our Minds

A Winter Lesson

I was reminded of an important lesson this past weekend –  changing our minds. I mostly grumble about winter although I continue to live in this climate. And, honestly, there is much to grumble about. However, Saturday morning I didn’t want to shovel out my car and instead walked to Bank Street to a favourite cafe. I noticed something odd the minute I opened the door and stepped outside.


It was beautiful everywhere I looked: the brilliant blue sky; the sun lighting up snow-covered trees; the quality of the air; the mild temperature and not a wisp of wind. When I began walking, the thick carpet of snow was not slippery- no ice.  As I rounded a corner a flock of adorable birds flew onto a bush an arm’s length from where I was standing. It was wondrous. And I was brought up short because in those moments I loved winter. This was a feeling and it will pass soon enough. But it was also a visceral childhood memory of how I had loved winter and how this morning I loved it again. And I was flooded with thoughts about winter like how it can build resilience and many other desirable traits.

A reminder of looking with fresh eyes rather than assuming how awful x is.

When I chose to accept chemo after my diagnosis I recognized that this was a change of mind. I had previously and confidently proclaimed: “if I ever get cancer I won’t do chemo.”

I thought you said…

my daughter chimed in, when I told her about my treatment.

“I didn’t think I would ever get cancer,” was my answer. And I went on to talk about the research, the interviews, the questions, and the reading, all to discover why I needed chemo. It was my best chance. I henceforth saw chemo with new eyes; I was one of the lucky ones, where treatment was available. Don’t get me wrong, chemo was harsh and if you don’t need it you don’t want it. Yet, here I was, with this thing I was against, and it turned out to save my life. I see that differently still, and I am grateful that I got to have it.

Wishy Washy

When I was a girl, changing my mind wasn’t considered a quality. Rather, it was a black mark against anyone’s character and described as wishy washy. It often lead to getting up on a moralistic high horse and not getting down. It could lead to any number of life-changing actions that you felt obliged to follow through on.  All kinds of implications, when you think about it. Furthurmore, it was and is,  a rather perfect recipe to fracture relationships.

I change my mind with additional information

We can change our minds about people and situations: tell me more; maybe I was wrong; maybe you are right; let me think about this; I made a mistake. We don’t have to hold our ground on everything.  We have all been exposed to petty and tiresome arguments. I’m not sure why we think they are important but I assume conditioning. “Once they make up their mind, they don’t change it.” Often at great expense to those around them.

Great news

We can change our minds at any age. Age is not an excuse. Every now and then it can be interesting to question our own beliefs about everything, especially about what we think we can or cannot do. It can be fun to change our minds: learn to swim at 75, like my Mother; travel alone; start a new hobby; write a book; paint a picture. You might want to change your mind about yourself and what you think you are capable of.

Stay curious, try new things and live your life, while you can. Change your mind if you want to and surprise the family.


1:) First a big thank you to a reader who has become a friend. The surprise gift of a book of poetry, written by her, called Bits and Pieces by Pat Scanlan.

2:) A nature video (thanks to Emma Rooney for introducing this to me) some of you may like The Healing Forest

3:) I was invited to teach a Living Well with Illness program for two organizations in BC: Naramata and Sorrento.  They asked me to post their link to the program and I am happy to do so.

4:) May you find ways to have a good week. And may you find the strength and courage to face difficulties. All my thanks and best wishes, Trudy

Uncertainty Can Offer Hope


The elegant poise of a martial artist embodies a state of readiness. At any moment an attack may come, a block may be needed, a swift move required. Who will strike? Where and when? Not knowing brings your attention fully into the present. Being anywhere else means you end up on the floor. Times of crisis have a similar effect: they wake us up and engage our full attention.

Bringing ourselves into the present moment doesn’t mean we lose connection with the past or future. We are shaped by our history; it is part of who we are. What we add is intentionality. This choice-making is our bridge to the future, as each intention represents a preference for the kind of world we want. Our intentionality endows the present moment with direction.

When Joanna was in Tibet, she received an important teaching about the power of intention from watching the monks rebuild the monastery of Khampagar. Once a major center of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, it had been destroyed by the Red Guards during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. A shift to a more relaxed occupation policy had allowed reconstruction to begin. This policy, however, could be reversed at any moment; there was no guarantee that the monastery, once rebuilt, would not be destroyed again. That didn’t stop the monks. They faced the uncertainty by bringing to it their intention. They assumed that since you cannot know, you simply proceed. You do what you have to do. You put one stone on top of another and another on top of that. If the stones are knocked down, you begin again, because if you don’t, nothing will be built. You persist. In the long run, it is persistence that shapes the future.”

“Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy” by Joanna Macy, Chris Johnstone

No Guarantees

I was stuck by this except because it is so applicable to Living Well with Illness. We have no guarantees, so if we choose to adjust the angle of our view, it offers hope and freedom. Freedom to dream; hope for good health, a new drug,  a remission…because we do not know the future. So why not?

And it is why Dr Itami encouraged his patients to live in the present and put one foot in front of the other. It isn’t a waste of effort. You are doing what you can do and what you love to do, as a way to live with those outstretched arms, today, with the hope of many more days.

My surgical oncologist stated clearly, on my first visit, when he said, “Trudy, we do not know what turns cancer cells on. We do not know anyone’s expiry date. I have been surprised dozens of times in my practice, by my patients who live longer than I could ever have imagined. So, when you leave here today, of course you will worry, but attend to the medical help that’s available and do what is most important to you, while you are still breathing. Make sure you enjoy your life.”

I know an amazing human being who is in hospice, right now, and as he wakes up in the morning, he rises to the particularities of what that day offers. He has no idea if he will see another day, but that doesn’t stop him from fully embracing this day and what he can do to cheer others on. It’s as though he has embodied the idea of surprise. What delightful surprises are in store for me today, and what can I do to surprise someone else. He graciously accepts help, because he knows he needs it and because he knows how he liked to offer it. He makes it easy for his caregivers and always with that smile.

Right Now

The fear of death diminishes a little, (or not, we are all different) next to the desire to be fully alive, while we are still breathing. If we can free ourselves from letting uncertainty and the unknown hold us back, we can use our vital energy for what is in front of us right now.

And taking those steps, doesn’t mean it frees us of angst. No, you just bring the angst and uncertainty right along with you. Most importantly, you no longer let them boss you around.

Please be respectful of your dear selves. We are all different. There is no set of rules that will make it all easy and have everything turn out as planned. Not sure where that notion came from. We really can learn to co-exist with uncertainty.

Still, I am gently nudging you to move a little, say yes more often to what you like and no more often to what you don’t like. Smile more often. Extend a hand to lift up someone else on your worst days. Play music, sing along. What on earth do we have to lose.

Once we get that pink slip of illness it is a reminder of our mortality and our uncertain future. Guess what? All of us have an uncertain future, even those with perfect health. But those of us who got that slip received the gift of a reminder. We have a chance to “sing while there is voice left,” to say I love you every chance we get, and thanks to everyone we meet. We discover that we don’t need perfect health to live a meaningful life.

Okay, since you insist, here is a poem.

Right Here – Dane Anthony

In gratitude to K & G


Stop moving. Stand in
one place – this place.
Breathe slowly; in, then out. Repeat.

Repeat again. Let your
shoulders sink and relax. Unclench
your jaw; slowly close your eyes.

Listen for your heartbeat; really
listen. Feel it pulse in
your fingertips.

Lessen expectations. Under-do all your
efforts. Requisition the time
for your soul

to catch up. Lean
into the wind; feel it
like a tree and test the ground.

Learn to trust the resilience.
It would be treason
to move quickly – left or right –

from this place. It is alright to be exactly
what you are, who you are, where you are.
Right here, right now.


1:) Thanks, Gottfried, for the photos this week on Gabriola Island.

2:) I am dedicating my post tonight with love, to CR; JB; JC, and DS. May everything be the very best it can be. Thank you for who you are.

3:) “The natural world around us is a source of friendships – realize you are never alone.” David Whyte

4:) Thank you to my kind readers last week who left thoughtful comments on my blog. I apologize for not getting my replies back to you.

5:)Finally, good night dear people. It is Jan 11th and may you savour these days. Find something beautiful every day to look at, read, and breathe fresh air, even from your doorstep, if it’s too cold to go furthur. I hope you know how much I appreciate you taking the time to read these musings. Best regards and wishes, Trudy

…Bury All Old Quarrels…

Always this beginning:

Thirteen years ago my friend sent me the following stanza by poet Marge Piercy from her poem, The Spring Offensive of the Snail. She also added this note, which continues to inspire me. “This is a great poem to start off the New Year. There is a ceremony among some Indigenous people, which involves throwing water over their backs seven times. In doing so, they wash away any habits or thoughts no longer beneficial for growth.  People forgive those who have harmed them and ask forgiveness of those they have harmed.  Now they are ready to start the year anew.

“…But remember to bury
all old quarrels
behind the garage for compost.
Forgive those who insulted you.
Forgive yourself for being wrong.
You will do it again
for nothing living
resembles a straight line,
certainly not this journey
to and fro, zigzagging
you there and me here
making our own road onward
as the snail does…”   excerpt from Marge Piercy’s poem


I am interested in restfulness as we enter this year. It’s a bit of a quandary that at a time when we are predisposed to hibernate with a need to curl up in front of the fire there are many demands to exercise our will. All manner of goals and resolutions for the New Year are calling our name. Oftentimes they are wagging their finger to eat less and exercise more, get started on the unfinished projects from last year and create BIG new goals for 2022. I reconsidered all of this and look at the first three months differently. Possibly as a time to cultivate creativity and restfulness.

Restfulness doesn’t mean putting our feet up and doing nothing. It certainly doesn’t mean laziness. Rather I see it as wisely using our energy, along with being mindful of our time. Taking time to do the things we need to do while leaving enough space in between each activity so we are not agitated.  Rather than booking our calendar back to back and relying on our will to see us through why not try something different. How about adding rest notes throughout our day, not just at the end.  Maybe we take 5-15 minute intervals, (without turning this also into a task-oriented life) in order to actually enjoy this wonderful gift of waking up. In order to enjoy our contributions.

I’m thinking of the pauses we could interject to breathe, gaze out the window, read a poem, scribble in our journal, strum a tune, close our eyes. A mindful walk in the middle of the day where we aren’t running to catch up but rather walking and noticing the beauty of the sights and sounds. Being present to what unfolds.

Your important work will still get done.

The longer we are bound to our desk chair the harder it is to pause. To take three breaths. To stand and stretch our legs. Little breaks can help us to accomplish our important tasks without breaking our backs or our psyche. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has a good definition of overwhelm: he defines overwhelm as “life is unfolding at a pace that I find unmanageable in my psyche and in my nervous system.” If that is the case we can do something about it.

Life is a banquet with so much to choose from. We can’t have it all without serious indigestion.  I want to savour a few things this year that I love by saying no to other things that I would also like. It’s all about limited time. I’m not good at any of this but I want to experiment.

To Be Present

I know my heart is wanting simplicity and meaning, and restfulness is part of this. Poet and philosopher David Whyte claims that we aren’t meant to work 8 or 9 hours a day through will. For instance, it takes no will at all for me to prepare and present my Friday webinars at Wellspring Alberta because I love doing them. I am preparing a conversation and finding a poem and music to complement the topic. All things I love. Friday is my Wellspring day and it is topped off by spending an hour with wonderful people.  I don’t take on competing purposes that day and I am rested and rejuvenated and filled with delight when the day is done. It allows me to be present.

Wednesday is blog day. No matter what else is going on I have that to look forward to. I often do it late in the day but I kind of like that too. It gives me an excuse to indulge my inner night owl.

When we can do something like this that we love, we can give the best of ourselves, and refresh our spirit at the same time.

In the spring when the sun is coming up early and the evenings are getting longer and the earth is coming back to life is time enough for considering some of my more audacious goals. I might take advantage of spring fever instead of demanding constant service from my willpower. Will power is important but we demand a lot from it and I want to modify my thinking a bit – give it a break.

So, my wonderful readers, each day is a new day.

We don’t need a new year to make changes we are curious about. We can start anytime, ready or not. Furthurmore, I have no idea what is best for anyone else. We each need to pay attention to our own inner voice.

As for me, this new year, I am aiming for a few more contemplative and meaningful moments without rushing. Still,  I have a big audacious project in mind that I will work on in small blocks of time. You can be assured this work will involve effort, enjoyment, dedication and a certain playfulness.

I am curious about the many surprises and possibilities of 2023. Are you?


1:) “We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ― Ellen Goodman

2:) I am honoured and delighted to start off 2023, here with you. And I am reposting the poem and thoughts I wrote about in previous years, in the first week of January.  Please accept my best wishes and my thanks for your wonderful selves. May you have a New Year filled with purpose, courage, laughter, people who love you and things to do that lift your spirits, no matter what else is going on. Warmly, Trudy

PS The photos are all recent and taken here in Ottawa and in Vancouver. Note the last two cookies receiving an honourable send-off at the seaside near Vancouver.A deep bow, Rob.