Don’t Put it Down – Put It Away

Looking for Things

How much time, energy and stress do we lose and exert by looking for things? We often hear ourselves and others say something like, “my memory is failing…what is that word; where did I put my keys; I can’t remember her name…” You rarely hear a teenager question their cognitive health over this type of occurrence. The paradox is that the more stressed out we get for not finding our keys or the word, the longer it takes. “Chronic stress is nothing but bad news for our ability to remember.”

There is no question that as we live longer, our memories diminish, which is how it should be. According to Lisa Genova, a neuroscientist, and author of Remember, “this is not indicative of disease… it is how we are designed.”


From all the reading and listening I have done on memory loss, one of the number one things we can do is “pay attention.” You can’t remember where you parked your car – this is often not a memory issue but a lack of attention issue. You didn’t take note of where you parked. I have an assistant that goes everywhere with me – my phone. I take a photo of where I park, especially in indoor parking lots with lots of elevators and exits, or on the BC Ferries.  (Losing my car on the ferry when I was about 49 years old cured me of daydreaming as I locked my car and went up to the passenger lounge, clueless of where my car was parked.)

That same assistant takes photos of a new favourite bottle of wine, a quote I like, the packaging of a pillow that has cured my neck pain… and so on. The brain is not designed to remember everything, but we up our chances of remembering essential things by strengthening our ability to pay attention at this moment. Consequently, getting better at “attention,” also reduces our stress. We can practice this skill through things like yoga, mindfulness, and meditation; walking in nature – these are just a few things that help improve attention and help reduce chronic stress.

There are also evidence-based reasons to doodle when we are listening to a lecture or making a plan. Sketch a picture. Use colour. These things help us remember later. And yes, make the lists. Those list-makers among us can take a bow. It is a fallacy to think that we should not forget all the little things we need to do.  Apparently, the brain likes lists.

A Favourite Tip

But one of my favourites is don’t put it down, put it away. Or follow through with your action from beginning to end. When I do this, my life is better. Sounds so simple so why don’t I do it all the time? Some of the reasons include rushing, being tired, the table being close by, and cramming too many things together, so I will just put it here for now...but very quickly, there is a pile.

When it is hot and humid in the summer, I can barely manage the essentials. Now, however, the days can be hot, but the nights are cool and the humidity is low. This is my window of opportunity to regroup, plan, file, and donate. A self I am more satisfied with.  I don’t mean better. There are all kinds of super-organized people who aren’t easy to be around, but there is a happy medium. In the spring and fall, I shift more towards the maxim – don’t put it down, put it away. It reduces my internal angst and frees up time because I can easily find things. Everything has a home, and I am more apt to put it there. Frankly, I love that.

Letting Go

Letting go of things is the most challenging. And it doesn’t have to be an ascetic’s life. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning is an inspiring little book to consider how to part with “stuff” that you no longer need, nobody wants and takes energy to care for. It isn’t depressing, either. Instead, it helps free up our space and energy and gives our family the ultimate gift: a relatively orderly departure, when that time comes.

And while we are living, we have the luxury of less is more. An aesthetic of beauty, simplicity and letting go. It is easy for some to do this and make it a lifestyle. It’s easy for me to do it but harder to maintain after the euphoria has died off and I get in my own way with competing purposes.

However, I am inspired by the stories of what it took for friends to clear out the houses of their loved ones. (Especially big houses where they lived for 50 years.) There really is no one size fits all formula despite the Maria Kondo effect or the Swedish method of death cleaning. One good friend tells me she doesn’t worry about these things. All of her children are in the same city and they can hire a firm to come and take care of most things. I think we need to constantly adapt any of these hints and methods to our particular lives. There is no right way. Trust our own take on what needs doing and start anywhere and start as many times as we want.

Little snail

slowly slowly

climbing Mt Fuji.

This Haiku was penned by Issa (1763-1828)


1:) Spring and fall are the seasons that work for me to reevaluate, learn new things and make little changes. They are my favourite seasons. Winter is more hibernation, and summer is doing my best to find the shade and have fun with family and friends.

2:) The twins are thriving, and the parents as expected – exhausted and deliriously happy.

3:) I am attending the 11th International Morita Congress, for the next three days,  held this year in Vancouver. Fortunately, they offer a hybrid conference so that I can participate via Zoom. I am interested in the evolving nature of Morita therapy and the “Morita informed” elements, which is what I work with.

4:) I love the caterpillar banner photo (will most likely become a moth) that son Rob took in Vancouver—I just learned that the Fraser Wild Garden, here in Ottawa, is conducting research on monarchs and climate change.  Determining what plants, when stressed by hotter summers, will best nourish the butterflies. Or if it makes any difference to the nectar. I plan to pay the garden a visit.

5:) In honour and loving memory of those who have died this month with a wish for solace for their loved ones.

6:) Finally, a deep bow to all of my readers. May you have what you need, and may you experience moments of joy and love. Warmly, Trudy

Make Things – it is Good For Our Health

Art and Healing

At Wellspring Alberta (an incredible resource centre for people impacted by cancer) there have been excellent programs in the creative arts since day one. Also, in Japan, Dr. Jinroh Itami’s cancer patients took daily lessons in art, along with chemotherapy: drawing, calligraphy, painting, flower arranging, writing haiku and more. This was back in 1984 when he developed Ikigai Ryoho to help boost his patient’s spirits, immune systems and longevity.

Besides our medical treatment, the doing, the practice of learning how to draw and paint, and so many other creative expressions made a difference. Consequently, today,  art is offered in chemo labs, prescribed by neurologists, and is part of standard care in more and more hospitals. PBS Newshour did a program on Arts in Medicine, and this 8-minute video is worth watching.

One of my favourite articles on art and health comes from NPR. There are so many good ideas that I recommend you read the entire thing: Making art is good for your health.

Two of the suggestions that I have implemented for myself are:

You don’t need to be an artist with a capital “A”

We tend to think that only people who are very skilled at art can call themselves artists, but really, anyone can be an artist, says Professor Girija Kaimal, a professor at Drexel University in the UK and a leading researcher in art therapy.

“Everyone is capable of creative expression,” she says. In fact, her own research has shown that there are no differences in health outcomes between those who identify as experienced artists and those who don’t. So that means that no matter your skill level, you’ll be able to feel all the good things that come with making art.

Think about making art like any healthy habit, such as eating well or exercising

Just as you make time to work, exercise and hang out with family and friends, you should make time for your artistic endeavors, says Strang. ( a professor of neuroscience at the University of Alabama at Birmingham) “Creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy — remaining connected to yourself and remaining connected to the world,” she says.


To help me and later others with the first habit, I studied with Lea Seigen Shinraku, founder of the San Francisco Center for Creative Self-compassion and was delighted with what she knows and how she teaches. I love her whimsical drawing style and her use of poetry, one of many practices. And like my own webinars, you can do no wrong in any of hers. I also like to call what I do a hobby. It removes the pressure to perform and allows me to enjoy.

With the second habit, I had to do some serious planning. I spent most of  two days meticulously planning out my time until the end of the year and into January. This was to ensure that I reserved time to be able to do the other things that I love to do besides my significant responsibilities. By doing the four months all at once,  I could pace my teaching so it was not competing with other essential purposes, nor was I going to be behind the 8-ball, with no time left over for my creative hobbies, moodling, reading, visiting, and studying.

This may sound simple and ordinary, but it wasn’t. It required getting my grandson’s school calendar ahead of time to ensure I was available for major events, and it required me to look at everything that needed doing and see what had to go. As a result, it meant saying no to some things so I could say yes to others. Not easy.

Here are some examples:

  •  I now get to take a four-week program in September at the San Francisco Zen Centre with Lea Shinraku, called Awaken Self-Compassion through Art Journaling. Four Tuesdays in September from 1:00-2:30 ET. The price is on a sliding scale, making it affordable for everyone. (even less than the scale indicates if necessary)  Here is the link in case you are interested.
  • And I have two hours on Saturdays to devote to “the doing” of art.
  • I can also attend my non-book club’s winter retreat in January for the first time in a few years. This is a delightful event to look forward to.
  • I will get to spend time with my new great-granddaughters.
  • And my teaching schedule is now approved for in-person and online, with time to enjoy the process.


Here is what Oliver Burkeman says about hobbies and why my whimsical art journaling is a hobby. “A good hobby probably should feel a little embarrassing; that’s a sign you’re doing it for its own sake rather than for some socially sanctioned outcome.” To pursue an activity in which you have no hope of becoming exceptional is to put aside, for a while, the anxious need to “use time well.” It’s about, he says, the “freedom to pursue the futile.”

Of course, we all know that life will have other plans. But, if we want to do anything, we up our chances by having a time and a place to show up so that most of the time, we get to do it. I learned that I need a paper monthly calendar to see the big picture per semester. It is now my anchor that sits on my desk, and I have the overview and the details. My phone is my assistant to keep me from double booking and remind me of where I need to be at 2:00 this Friday. But  I can’t see the scope of my life on a phone. So, I look at the handwritten paper version before I say yes.

You know that I have been here before, but that’s OK. I start again.


1:) The banner picture is thanks to Allison, my daughter-in-law. My regular readers have seen her cards before, where she cuts out bits of paper in various shapes and puts them together in a design. This was a card she made for my son’s birthday this summer.

2:) The photo of the grapes arrived in my inbox from Gottfried on the west coast. I genuinely love it. It reminds me of being in Austria and Germany in autumn, just before the grapes were harvested. I could sit and look at those wine fields all day.

3:) Padraig O’Tuama has become a poet I love to read. He was writing on artistic insecurities last week and said this: “We are all artists: there are things we are creating (a home, a painting, a song, a friendship) and the creating of this thing is an act of vulnerability. Not far beneath the surface of creativity lurks a swamp: is what I’m doing good enough, will anyone notice, will it sustain, what does it mean? Swamps are places of life and growth, though, provided you don’t drown. Art is as much a relationship with everything that swamp holds as it is its product.” Now, that is something to think about.

4:) Thank you for stopping by. I hope if you don’t already, set aside time to make art (a broad definition). You can have fun and improve your mind body health. Warm end-of-August wishes, and a reminder that there will be a blue moon next week. May you enjoy it.  Warmly, Trudy


Significant Moments

Dragonfly Park Dartmouth Nova Scotia

Dragonfly Park is dedicated to parents who lost a child. It is a place of beauty, serenity and meaning. All the elements are there: trees, flowers, water and design. I felt comforted just standing by the dragonfly sculpture, looking beyond the trees to the pond, and listening to the water. Like many other parents, and some of you, I too lost a child, 30 days after birth. Michael didn’t come home with us.

I appreciated the tenderness that I felt in this special place and great compassion for all those who had a child die. It seems so out of order.

Here is a photo of the Dragonfly story –  a simple little fable attempting to bring comfort, especially to children.

I was also attracted to this park because of the connection in my family to the dragonfly and my Mother’s death. So many of us across the country saw dragonflies or had one land on our arm when she died. I have met many people over my lifetime who had a similar experience – a sense that a particular bird or animal is associated with their loved one. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not. It is what it is, and it brings meaning and comfort. My physician friend simply calls it “significant.”

A Personal Story

The day before we left for our trip to the Maritimes, I picked my grandson up at the rowing club as usual. He hopped in the car and said.

“Nana, I have something to tell you. Great Grandma rode with me in my boat this morning. You know how I love rowing, and I especially like to be in a single.  Even though it is harder, I prefer it and have no problems. But this morning as we were heading into the dock I was overcome with tiredness and I was worried that I would take a long time. At that moment a dragonfly landed on my boat and stayed there with me until I landed and then flew away. And I had no problem at all. It felt like great grandma was with me.”

This is a very personal story told with permission. At dinner tonight, my granddaughter asked what I would write about and I said the Dragonfly Park in Dartmouth. And Rowan looked up and said if you want to tell your readers about my dragonfly story, you can, Nana. And so I did.


Because I think we need little stories, now and then, that offer moments of reassurance, comfort, meaning and significance. “Dragonflies themselves are older than dinosaurs, dating back more than 300 million years. They are found on every continent except Antarctica and …fascinate people for scientific study, as inspiration for art and simply as a wonder of nature. ” Saltscapes article by Melanie Mosher

In my family, dragonflies remind us of our mother/grandmother/and great-grandmother. What a sweet way to be remembered. I find many tiny things in life are part of the great mystery, and I am grateful.

Perhaps some of you have a similar story. I don’t dismiss our small “significant” stories. Instead, I choose to cherish those moments, for the significance they bring to me, and perhaps to you.


1:) The photos are from Dragonfly Park. However, here is a rainbow (shortly turned into a double rainbow) from Hampton, NB. It was an odd occurrence, as it was raining hard but gentle in one half of the yard only.

2:) I love this poem that Janice Falls posted on her site today, At Least by Raymond Carver.

3:) We were often 23 plus people for dinner – imagine all those wonderful cousins; first cousins; first cousins once removed; second cousins, and more. (2-99) Especially my 99-year-old aunt still making mischief.

4:) I think we are wise to take nothing for granted. Treasure our everyday moments and the people in our lives. 

5:) I read this interesting article in the New York Times a few weeks ago about a woman who purchased a tiny cabin on a tiny Island in Maine. It is so unusual and charming, although it isn’t for me, but it may give you a break from all the difficult news. Read here.

6:) Thank you for showing up here. I am honoured and grateful. Kindly, Trudy



I Just Knew YOU Were an Artist


I was caught off guard today when I walked into a stunning room in a beautiful furniture design shop and exchanged a few words with a stranger.  As he left, he turned and said, “I knew you were an artist; I could tell as soon as I saw you.” How? I asked. “It was those stylish blue glasses and linen shirt and then he kind of shrugged and said, “I could just tell.”

So here’s the thing. I didn’t correct him. I allowed him to leave under the delusion that I, the woman who failed art in grade 1, was an artist. The fantasy was beautiful as I pictured myself in an entirely different world from the one I inhabited. It was such fun, and I floated down the stairs and down the street like a different version of Grandma Moses who began her artistic career in earnest at 78.

It helped that I recently started a poetry/sketching program that I love. Mind you, the figures have no detail and would be considered whimsical at best – but still I love it. Maybe this was a sign from the universe that I am about to shift directions. haha


I am having such fun as I scribble away here in New Brunswick on the last week of my family holiday. I have had the luxury of an extra week to moodle around this summer so I have the time to be playful. However, this little encounter made me think of other possible futures I may have had if I took different paths. And it was delightful to daydream a little and still come back to where I am now, and recognize how happy I am to do exactly what I do. Naturally, I have lots of leeway to make little shifts and adjustments, while being overwhelmingly grateful for the life I have.


Speaking of life I have a wonderful announcement. It is my deep joy to introduce you to my new four-day old great granddaughter twins:

Isabelle Adeline and Evelyn Victoria

New life is precious. It sounds trite to say how quickly 30 years flew by since my grandson Jonathan was born but it is true. And now we have Jonathan, his wonderful wife Katie and two new members of our family – Isabelle and Evelyn.

Such a warm welcome has greeted their arrival. If love makes a difference and I believe it does, they have been swaddled in love from before they were born.

So I wish for this new sweet family a million well wishes for good health, happiness, steadfastness  and love. May they have a joyful childhood.


1:) It has been an amazing summer coast to coast. So much goodness and happiness. I am grateful.

2:) Happy Birthday (today) to Gottfried who has contributed many beautiful photos to this site.

3:) A big thank you to my Maritime relatives and friends for their amazing hospitality and warmheartedness.

4:) A sign in front of a bookstore – ” We like people with no Shelf Control.” since I am one of those people I didn’t go in.

5:) A tiny poem by Whitney Hanson that came to mind as we walked in a downpour this morning in St John, New Brunswick:

“you’ve just come in from a rainstorm

you can’t expect to be

immediately dry warm and comfortable

but you can do the little things

take off the heavy clothing

turn on the coffee pot

wrap yourself in a blanket

one small thing at a time”


6:) Thank you for sticking with me through these summer days. I appreciate each one of you. Best wishes, Trudy




Laughter Is Good Medicine

I have been without internet the past two days but I have a brief window this morning to say hello. To take advantage of this situation I am reposting the second blog post I wrote back in 2018.

I continue to be on holidays in the Maritimes until the 13th but next week I will be able to scribble away as usual. Until then I hope this note finds you immersed in summer and loved ones and various adventures.

I also know some of you, like me, will have received sad news about the death of a friend or other challenging situations. And we all do what we can do with things as they are. May you have strength and courage and loved ones to lend a hand and provide warmth and laughter too.

Here is that old post about laughter. See you next week. Warmly, Trudy


There isn’t much to laugh at when it comes to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and so many other painful, life threatening, and on-going difficult illnesses that life throws in our way.  Yet, Dr. Itami, who founded Meaningful Life Therapy in Japan, uses laughter as part of his healing prescription for cancer patients.

Humour therapy is built into his unique approach to treating his patients, along side conventional medicine. Patients are encouraged to go looking for funny stories. In fact he invites them to find something funny about their own personal and difficult situations. You know, things like the crazy assumptions people make or the unhelpful suggestions that are sometimes offered. Or the particular ironies of our situation.

The point is to find a funny story to share with others when they meet in a group setting each week.

Why, you may ask? What on earth is the purpose of this odd assignment?

Well, for one thing, laughter is good medicine. There isn’t necessarily undisputed clinical proof to say that laughter boosts the immune system.  There are, however, thousands of anecdotal testaments that laughter boosts our spirits and improves the quality of our everyday life.

As we start paying attention to moments and events that will yield a funny story, we give ourselves a temporary mental break.  We shine the spotlight of our attention away from the moments of anxiety and worry that often accompany illness. I recall the fear I experienced while waiting and waiting for the confirmation of a test and/or the possibility of a serious diagnosis.

When we surround ourselves with friendly, goodhearted funny people and don’t resist the humour, we lighten up, even when times are tough.  Children and young people are catalysts of joy and laughter. Lucky me – I have had the gift of spending inordinate amounts of time with all of my grandchildren, at various ages, and I find laughter flows naturally when I am with them.

I have a friend that as soon as I hear her voice we both burst out laughing. A stranger may think we are losing it and in a way we are. Losing ourselves in the ironies and cosmic jokes of life itself and our own funny selves in particular. When I hang up the phone I can feel my heart and immune system saying YES. You just gave me exactly the boost I needed.

All of us have daily trials large and small so why not actively seek out gentle joy and humour so that we laugh more often both for the fun of it and the health of it.

Practice wise medicine and try to have a good laugh at least three times a day.  Edward Hays

Note: I love being around people who love to laugh. I am not that funny myself but when I am with them, laughter bubbles up out of nowhere, to my delight.

PS that photo is my son in law greeting his daughter after ten days apart when she was 18 months old. I loved that moment.