I Left my Baggage in Chicago

Dropping my baggage

The original meaning of dropping or leaving your baggage had to do with travel. Later on, it became a psychological tool of leaving behind what no longer serves you well. This past Monday, I had the unwanted opportunity to leave my favourite suitcase in Chicago.

After a fantastic weekend event that exceeded all my expectations, four of us stayed over for one additional night. We had grand plans for Monday, and my flight didn’t leave until after five, so there was time to do things like the famed Architectural Boat Ride in Chicago.

Sadly that was not to be. The handle on my favourite, go everywhere with me,  suitcase would not go down. Pushing in the little catches, wiggling and jiggling, and carefully applying pressure – well, nothing helped. Finally, my friend Gregg took a mallet and seriously banged on it but not a budge. This suitcase was built to withstand abuse and has a lifetime guarantee and replacement with no exceptions, and most of all, I treasured this suitcase. Everywhere I went this past 12 years, this suitcase came with me.

Now what?

The airlines won’t take it because the extended handle can get caught and create havoc. I had to face the unwanted fact that I would need to leave this suitcase behind.

And I had to buy a new suitcase quickly on Memorial Day in the USA. My friend drove me to a Target, where I had five suitcases to choose from, each one less appealing than the last. I did select a duffle bag type in an unopened box. When I opened it up, it wasn’t what I thought, but I had something to put my belongings into to take on the plane.

As I said goodbye to my Briggs and Riley perfect carry-on that had expansion room for checking, if need be, I was discombobulated. Any other suitcase I owned, I could have easily parted ways with, but this was tough. I couldn’t even bring it back to get a replacement. We had reached the end of our partnership.

As I packed up my new suitcase, I was relieved to have one, but my mind was still trying to figure out a way to bring my old one back.

And then I remembered the cake.

Many years ago, I baked a birthday cake for my Mother. There were about 13 people coming to dinner and it was a beautiful sunny April day. When I went to check the cake, I saw that it wasn’t rising. It seemed odd, but I waited for five more minutes and no change. And then I saw the problem. The bowl with the dry ingredients was sitting in a corner of my counter, waiting to be added to the batter. I knew immediately that this cake would never rise. Still, I checked a couple of more times.

And then my son said. “Mom, it looks like what needs doing is to bake another cake – right now.” And I did.

The suitcase felt the same. I didn’t want it to be true. But eventually, I had to face the fact that this suitcase was not getting on the plane with me and I had best go and buy a new one.

And I did.

I am generally not attached to things, but I discovered I was attached to that suitcase. Before I left, I thanked my suitcase and decided then and there to leave all my old psychological baggage behind, as well. What no longer is necessary can remain in Chicago tucked away in that suitcase.  Somehow it seemed ok after that. New beginnings and making meaning is what I do.

I wonder what things you are attached to that one day you will need to let go of. As we live longer and simplify our surroundings, we all come up against this dilemma. I have taken false pride in my ability to do so but I came up short with my suitcase, of all things. And not a glamourous one, but rather a practical, reliable, efficient workhorse kind of suitcase. And I counted on it.

Good effort to all of you when this happens to you. I say “when” rather than “if” because it seems to be universal.




1:) Information and Registration Link for the online program that begins June 6th, hosted by the Sorrento nd Naramata Centres in British Columbia.

2:)The first suitcase is what I said goodbye to. You see the extension that wouldn’t go down. The second suitcase is holding a carry-on, my purse and a bike helmet. This was my first trip, and the photo was taken in a small hotel room in Rome en route to a bike trip in Croatia in 2012.

3:) A small joy this past weekend was meeting a stranger, a Syrian woman with her grandchild, who was walking in the opposite direction I was walking with a friend in Darien Illinois. We said hello, spoke briefly, and continued on our way.  On the return, we met again—this time, she handed each of us two beautiful daisies. We stopped and talked a longer time and I was profoundly grateful for her gift of two daisies. I also felt overwhelmingly lucky that I never had to go through what she and others go through to leave their home and come to another country. This gentle encounter was a highlight. I took a picture as the daisies dried so I could remember her and our meeting.


5:) Finally,  I will say good night. When we meet next week, it will be June. May you take good care of your precious days – by that, I mean spend time outdoors, do things that you love and hang out with people who mean the world to you. Let go of what you no longer need. Many thanks and warmest wishes, Trudy


Celebrating Showing up Wholeheartedly for Five Years and other things

Five years ago in May – I began this weekly blog.

And I have a lot of joy around this.  For myself for showing up each week and even more,  for you, dear reader, for joining me here. Thank you so very much for your interest and the encouraging words you have so generously offered over these years.  Please celebrate your own markers. It is really important to acknowledge significant moments.  I looked back, to see what I wrote about in those early days and saw that my second post was about my dear, sweet Mother showing up wholeheartedly. When I read it, I realized that I could use this advice myself tonight.

Take a look here:

“Woody Allan, along with others, has been quoted as saying that 80% of success is just showing up. There is a kernel of truth there but I suggest that showing up wholeheartedly may be the defining factor.

Last weekend my 98-year-old Mother, along with 39 family members, participated in the Ottawa Race Weekend. Several ran or walked the ½ marathon but it was the 5K on Saturday that was the highlight. This event was where my Mother, along with our motley crew, walked the 5k in 1 hr and 34 minutes. This is no mean feat at 98 years old and having flown 4500 KM to do so.

I was thinking about what my Mother brought to the occasion besides her walking poles. First of all, was her commitment and effort that she put into preparing for the walk. More importantly, was her heart and grit as she placed one foot in front of the other. She gave it her all, with a smile on her face, determination and a desire to complete the course along with the rest of us.

When we crossed the finish line together, she received her medal along with the cheers of the crowd. Yet, what delighted her was to have earned that medal and done her part to contribute to our team. She went to bed that night,simply happy and satisfied.

I have pondered on what it means to show up wholeheartedly. Dr. Itami, my mentor, encouraged his patients to take on all tasks with that spirit. He would remind them that not much changes if you are simply warming the seat. With a willingness to fully participate, stretch ourselves appropriately (in this case, the 5K, not the 10k) and generously contribute to whatever it is you are doing, a subtle change of spirit takes place. We rejuvenate and become more creative and alive as it influences everything we do. Best of all, we have more fun.

Living Well with Illness and ageing, for that matter, isn’t about running races; rather, it is about finding fulfillment in the present by living to the best of our ability and our interests. It is about carving out meaning, each in our own way, through active engagement in both purposeful activities and fun hobbies. It is making time for people we love and like. It is singing while there is voice left.”

David SteindlRast, of renown, wrote about wholeheartedness as the antidote to exhaustion and stress. At that time, he was talking to the poet-to-be David Whyte and encouraging him to do what he could do wholeheartedly, which was to be a full-time poet. However, I too benefit from this advice, for different reasons.

As for me, I am doing what I wholeheartedly love, but…but…tomorrow I am going to Chicago, where I am co-hosting an event to honour the 30 years of the ToDo Institute. And I can’t help but slip into a bit of anxiousness as to how it will turn out. Still, Japanese Psychology is all about showing up wholeheartedly, making the best effort, adapting to the unexpected and finding moments of joy. So, this five-year-old post was a good reminder to do just that.

Still, we are humans. I am so excited about this weekend and I can count on myself and others to do everything that needs to be done to create a good experience for participants, and I can still feel anxious—a distinguishing feature of being human. Maybe that is one way to distinguish AI from humans. :-))


1:) Information and Registration Link for the online program that begins June 6th, hosted by the Sorrento and Naramata Centres in British Columbia.

2:) Five years of thank-yous to all of you. A deep bow to each reader of this blog.

3:) Ah, another anxious moment as a second change from AWeber for my blog distribution starts this week. Fingers crossed that it went as well as last time. What I love about Japanese psychology is we don’t need to fix ourselves. We can be anxious or shy, or afraid and still do what we need to do. And of course there are many learnable skills that can help us do that.

4:) I wish you all a good week. This weekend in Ottawa is race weekend and one that I have participated in for many years by walking—a great place to walk or runa  5k to a half or a full marathon. That is a photo of my 98-year-old Mother with the founder of The Running Room back in 2018

5:) Do you notice the seal in the photo taken by Gottfried on Gabriola? And the banner photo was taken by Rob in Vancouver. See you all next week. Warmly, Trudy


Is It a Weed Or a Flower plus

Dandelions are on my mind once more. During a recent conversation with my son he was telling me about the hours of work pulling up dandelions in his yard. And worse, he didn’t get them all. He was not impressed when I explained that I love a field of dandelions—all that brilliant yellow. I climbed up on my soapbox and told him about a blog post I wrote three years ago on the dandelion. I clipped part of that post and pasted it below.

Is it a weed or a flower?

When I was a girl of 10, I came upon a field of beauty. I was on my way home from school and took a slightly different route. To my surprise, I saw a giant field of yellow flowers. As I came closer, I stopped in my tracks to admire all that beautiful yellow stretching out in front of me. The owner caught my eye, and I called out to ask if  I could pick five flowers for my Mother. To my happiness, he told me to go ahead and pick all the yellow flowers I wanted. Although I didn’t want to take advantage of his generosity, I gathered up a good bouquet and hurried home.

My Mother kindly placed the dandelions in a beautiful blue vase, and as happy as I was, my heart sank when I later overheard her friend use the word, weeds. “Dandelions are weeds.”

So the question is, when is a weed, not a weed?

There are two points of view:

Wikipedia describes a weed as a plant that is considered undesirable in a particular place.

Ralph Waldo Emerson described a weed as a plant whose virtue has not yet been discovered.

In other words, it can be either depending on your point of view. I am with Walt on this matter.

Consider the lowly dandelion. Imagine my surprise, 35 years later, when first visiting Austria in the spring, and seeing untouched fields of dandelions, in the orchards, especially the wine fields. It appears that the dandelion has a more favourable image in Europe, and in folklore, medicine was considered a reliable tonic, amongst many other things.

I recall a long walk with my granddaughter in the experimental farm gardens. We rounded a corner, and there it was, a field of gold. She kindly joined me in my enthusiastic praise for the humble dandelion. Ultimately it may be where the dandelion lives. Dandelions look great in abundance, whether in a field or a hillside. Maybe less so in a yard where a few scraggly dandelions pop up. (I give dandelion detractors that)

In truth, I love flowers and the dandelion is one more flower in my books.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Sometimes Things Work Out (the plus)

“It’s funny how things work out sometimes.”- Author: Anthony Horowitz

Today a number of wonderful things worked out. My cousin’s pathology report was better than expected and that is great news. Another wonderful person about to start aggressive and life-saving treatments is feeling fully supported in the penthouse at Tom Baker Cancer Centre. And I was on a visual high because everywhere I drove, walked and looked, there was a splurge of colour. Furthermore, I had one of those days where joy kept bubbling up unbidden. It’s nothing you can force and there was no particular reason that it arrived today, but there it was. Bubbling away like a clear, cool spring of water just below the surface and refreshing my entire body-mind.

Remember this poem?

Sometimes – by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
the sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

Isn’t it a gift when the pathology report has good news – what a surprise; cancer hasn’t spread, even locally. The treatment worked this time. No one was hurt. I got the job. We saved our marriage. We kept our home. The kids are ok. The book got written. The crops got harvested. We became friends. The event succeeded. Everyone came. The plane was on time.

We don’t ignore problems since they need our attention. But we can easily ignore what works. We can take the good for granted. Every time we notice the good and spend a little time with it, according to neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson, we strengthen our neural pathways to gravitate more often toward what is working.

“By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience – even the comfort in a single breath – you’ll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure.” Dr. Rick Hanson


1:) The photos are local today; imagine the enjoyment I have taking them.

2:) “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.” Rachel Carson

3:) An old Blessing from John O’Donohue with a new backdrop. Because it was recently Mother’s Day, I invite you to listen to this poem/blessing that he wrote for his Mother. His Irish lilt is soothing and beautiful. Click here

4:) Many thanks for your notes and comments and for simply showing up here to read this blog post. I am excited to receive notes requesting a letter in your postal box, per last week’s blog. I have started, and since my announcement last week, two are in the mail. (It’s a start) May you all have many joyful moments and lots of beauty to sink into during this gorgeous month. With appreciation, Trudy


Letter Writing Is on My Mind

An Old-Fashioned Practice

Letter writing is such an old-fashioned practice – the pen and paper kind. I have always loved stationery – fine paper; elegant pens, especially fountain pens; beautiful and/or significant postage stamps; small presses; cards, particularly the ones from the UK. And, of course, all things related to writing from Japan. I can picture myself having a quaint, tucked-away little shop that contains all these lovely things. Imagine the people who would come in for a visit and leave, knowing they found just the right thing. Or if not, it was a beautiful interlude in their day.

The reality is that I have a desk that contains many of these things already but I rarely use them now. And this is about to change – with great difficulty, I can assure you, because I no longer have the habit. Way too easy to use email, text and Jacquie Lawson cards.

Taking Inventory

However, as I am going through my desk and looking at this wealth of all things required to write a letter or send a note by mail, I find it sad that I’m not doing so. So I have a new challenge: use up what I have, including my stamps, while I can. So, for those of you who know me, if you start getting notes for no particular reason whatsoever, you know I’m on track.

It bothers me to think this wealth is sitting here going to waste when I can pop into your mailbox with a friendly hello, quote, poem or stick drawing. I also have lots of card stock and I just ordered 200 of my favourite photos to make cards to give away. Furthermore,  if anyone wants a note from me in your postal mailbox, you can send me your address to  One day, when you least expect it, you will get a surprise card or note. Until the stamps run out, and that will take quite some time.

We all need connection, beauty, joy, laughter, and a few good words, according to the Surgeon General of the US and all kinds of recent studies. More than ever now. Truth be told, we don’t need science to convince us. We already know from our own experiences.


Letter writing is demanding my attention in several different ways right now, including both emails and text by the way. The latter is a brilliantly efficient way to stay in touch with people who are isolated in the hospital, for example, as well as at home. It is timely in a way that postal mail is not. But why not both? I hope you read this short and wonderful article just published TODAY in The Guardian on letter-writing and how it can transform lives.  You will see how the universe nudges me along. :-))

I may live to regret my public proclamation on letter writing from time to time. But I know from past experience that it is the best way for me to do these kinds of essential things that aren’t urgent. At this moment, I am full of hope and enthusiasm to see this through. The reality may be more like the Japanese proverb – “seven times down, eight times up.”


1:) Registration Link for anyone interested in the four-week online program in June hosted by Naramata and Sorrento Centre in BC. Please note the time advertised is PT and the fee is in Canadian dollars.

2:) Banner photo from Gottfried on Gabriola, once again;  “Start Anywhere” is by Patricia Ryan Madson and tulips from Ottawa, by me.

3) I found this short article on manga being preserved on washi paper for future generations thought-provoking, even though I have no interest in manga. However, lots of interest in washi paper.

4:) May is a magnificent month in my books. Full of colour, bird song, and a hundred shades of green. And every day, we are gifted with more.

5:) Thank you, as always, for joining me here. I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart. Warmest wishes, Trudy


The Certainty of Uncertainty


We live with uncertainty in our daily lives. What often captures our attention is a diagnosis, an inconvenience, and things we can’t control. The latter being most things and especially other people.

For instance, I have trepidation tonight, on the eve of my weekly blog, because tomorrow, the system that sends my blog to you will change. I like the way it works now, and  I don’t want it to change. However, a few days ago, I received an email that said it would change, and the change begins this Wednesday. It sounded complicated, and I could immediately imagine a technological horror story. Everything went wrong, and I was a helpless bystander with no agency to fix the problem.

Of course, I do have the agency to accept the excellent and thoughtful offer of help from AWeber. Furthermore, my appointment is at 9:30 Wed morning with an expert who will explain, train, and walk me through my particular requirements. I can also write my blog post the evening before, so I have something particular to work with during our meeting in the morning. And that’s what I am doing now. Still, after five years with only one or two glitches, quickly solved, I confess I am anxious over this unwanted change. As I sheepishly write this, I smile at the paradox of one who likes change and is often an early and enthusiastic adapter and adopter.


Still…I hope you do receive this and that it will continue in the new format as seamlessly as it has up until now.

I would now love to say something critical about myself and my mundane ho-hum tale of woe over my email service change. But I have stopped myself from doing that because I chastise others for making unnecessary comparisons and for belittling their own personal worries. We will leave it like that.

Still…I do want to speak about the uncertainty of waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for a surgical date; waiting for the pathology report; waiting for the pain to stop, or, God forbid, getting worse. Waiting for our plane to take off because someone we love needs us. So many, many everyday things that happen to others that we can’t totally grasp until they happen to us. And then we learn.

And the bottom line is we can and do co-exist with uncertainty. Furthermore, it doesn’t have to ruin our lives, even though we don’t like it or want it.  We can make it better or worse by where we focus our attention. And even more, where we focus our efforts and actions – a little more on this next week.

Strength to Your Sword Arm

For now, we are doing what we can do, me with my neck pain which is now superseded by my concern over this tech change, and you with whatever is going on in your life. We are human beings, not robots, and feel things. Naturally, we are prone to respond to our conditioning. I think we are mostly doing the best we can with what we know under the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. So a little tenderness and kindness, along with our resourcefulness, is called for.

Strength to your sword arm!

This is a favourite saying from Brenda Ueland (see note 1) – a metaphor she applies to (writing) and all the hard things we need to do.


1:) I came across this quote today from a favourite writer who was way ahead of her time. She wrote a book I love called If You Want to Write : A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit.      “Who are the people, for example, to whom you go for advice? Not to the hard, practical ones who can tell you exactly what to do, but to the listeners, that is, the kindest, least censorious, least bossy people you know. It is because by pouring out your problem to them, you then know what to do about it yourself.” Brenda Ueland

2:) Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian musical icon, died this week at 84. Here is a gentle little song he wrote and sang – one of my favourites. Pussy Willows Cat-tails

3) Banner photo from Gottfried on Gabriola and flowers from a neighbour’s garden by yours truly.

4:) A heads up: I may be offering a program online in June that will be open to the public. The Naramata and Sorrento Centres in British Columbia have invited me: June 6, 13, 20, and 27 Tuesdays at 1:30 -3:00 PT. The website page is missing the waitlist button, so I won’t add the link until next week – only if you are interested.

5:) Thank you for reading this blog. See you next week, and all my best wishes are coming your way. Warmly, Trudy