Three Good Things: A 10-Minute Gratitude Practice


Note: This practice was described in the Common Good website which can be found at:

This gratitude practice takes 10 minutes every day for 7 days.

Every day, write three things that went well for you that day. The authors emphasize the written aspect. To get the full benefit from it, you need to write down your thoughts, not do it in your head. The three things don’t have to be earth-shattering in order to be recorded. Here’s an example from my journal:

‘Today I went down to Source in search of a pair of headphones for my laptop.  I happened to have a 25-dollar gift card saved from last Christmas.  When I got to the store, I saw headphones behind glass for upwards of 450$.  I sighed. Then I spotted a good-looking black pair, the price was quite reasonable, about 33$. I bought them. Therefore, I got a new pair of headphones for only 8$. What a lucky day!

You need to write down what happened in detail (as above). How did this event make you feel? For example, in response to the above event, I could have written the following:

‘You know how I’m always complaining I’m not lucky, that nothing good ever happens to me? Well, how about a new pair of headphones for 8 dollars. That’s luck.’

You need to write also how the event made you feel the next day. Something like:

‘I told my friend I bought a new pair of headphones with his gift to me last Christmas. I said thanks. I’ve enjoyed listening to audio with my headphones.’

Next, explain how you think this event came about:

‘I hadn’t planned to go to Source this Sunday. As it happens, I was cleaning out my purse, and this card from last Christmas fell out. It was a piece of serendipity. I guess it pays to clean out your purse. Now maybe I’ll do it more often!’

Please note: Don’t worry about proper spelling and grammar when you write. These thoughts are for you, and you alone.

It’s possible that as you record one event some negative feelings could come up. If this is so, just reinforce your focus on the positive. This exercise can really improve your mood if you let it. For example, I noted in my gratitude diary that my sister and I took Dad to the geriatric doctor. On the one hand, I was glad Dad was getting checked out.  On the other hand, I worried about what he might find and I felt sad about not being allowed to go in the office with Dad and my sister, though I was later told it was a COVID-19 prevention regulation. Afterwards, I focused on the positive feeling of my Dad getting care (and doing well on the MOCA test), and less on being left out.  Dad could only take one other person into the doctor’s office with him, and it is natural that it be my sister as she is older and has greater facility with doctors, knowing so much about health as it is part of her job. I told myself to just let go.

My best wishes for your own gratitude practice. If you like this exercise, let us know in the comments area or on the Caregiver Facebook page.


It’s a Small World After All: The Art of Mindful Downsizing


I chose the expression ‘Mindful’ downsizing because I like to keep some of my memorabilia and not recycle all of it. But I’m choosy about what I keep, and what I decide to give away, and that’s why I call it mindful downsizing.

Downsizing can involve weeks and weeks of physical and emotional toil, yes, it can be exhausting, says Lola Augustine Brown, author of ‘The Joy of Downsizing’ (April 30, 2018). But, adds Brown, ‘It must be done, and when it is, you’re going to feel amazing.’

Here are two books on the subject to get you started on your downsizing journey:

‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’ (Marie Kondon, Ten Speed Press, 2014)

‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter’, (Margereta Magnusson, Scribner, 2018).

Brown asserts that decluttering is a process. She recommends we start at age 65 (I started at 48) no matter what our health and keep cleaning up as we age.

Colette Robicheau, Halifax professional organizer, writes that: ‘ there are more of us living alone, but we have all this stuff and all this room to put it in for most of our lives. I believe we are burdened by our abundance and it causes us so many problems.’

The following are some tips and tricks to practice along the way:

Tackle the easy stuff first. For your enjoyment I have provided (above), a Month-long Decluttering Calendar. You do one thing each day, in bite-size ‘chunks’

If need be, hire a professional organizer. A standard 3 bedroom house would cost $5,000-$8,000 for an organizer. The process can take 2 weeks to a month

Give yourself permission to let go of things

Come to terms with the fact that nobody wants your stuff. Many people are decluttering and there’s a glut of china, figurines and crystal. The younger generation aren’t going to want your Royal Doulton figurines, for example, besides, most of the younger generation are space-poor, these days

Often times, people fail to get rid of enough stuff. When you move into your new condo, you might have to do another round of downsizing. You don’t know it but you probably won’t miss all the stuff you give away.

You can find different places for your stuff. I found Diabetes Canada for some of my books, the Salvation Army, Lookout Shelter… there are places to turn to if you look into it.

My best wishes to you brave souls who have embarked on the downsizing journey. It really isn’t that hard, you just have to start. Once you get started the momentum will come into play and see you through.


PS. I came across a series of free caregiving webinars hosted by Home Instead on the US Society for Aging (a great website, by the way). They offer different webinars each week. I’ll keep you posted.

Journaling Part II: The Practice


It has been proven that people who have creativity in their lives have more positive moods. To that end…

This is the first of a series of posts on creativity.  Other posts will cover such topics as scrapbooking, poetry therapy, and more…

The Benefits of Journaling

Personally, I can attest to the power of the journal as a conduit for healing and self-realization. I have been writing in a journal since age 9. (Sadly, those early journals have been lost.) Here are just a few of the many benefits of a journaling practice:Journaling is a great safe place to vent. You can blow off steam just as you would if you ran around the block 5 times

If you do something like write ‘The 50 Most Positive Events of My Life’ (which I did), you can go back to them when you are feeling down or sad about your life and feel re-invigorated. A list like that can be a lifesaver (no exaggeration) amidst life’s many difficulties.

A journal is a life record. Thirty years from now, you’ll have no doubt forgotten a good deal of what you went through. But with a journal, it’s timeless. You can instantly be transported to an earlier time. This is helpful for the Life Review process.

Further to the ‘life record’ idea, the journals of our ancestors can be very, very interesting to read, like my grandmother’s.  She kept a journal when she volunteered as a nurse during The Blitz in London during the Second World War. Consider your future descendants and how much richer their lives would be if you left a record of life in the ‘old days’.

The Process: Journal Types

A journal can take many different forms; after all, it’s yours, and yours alone. You decide whatever form it takes. For example, you could keep a visual journal. Or, you could record your travels in a travel journal, and maybe incorporate some scrapbooking along with that. (For portability, keep a small spiral-bound notebook in your purse or bag.) You could also record prayers in a journal, to whatever understanding you have of a higher power. Also,un-sent letters can be very healing.

Perhaps you are busy and you have only a little time for your journal. If this is true for you, at the end of every day, sum up your experience of that day in a single word, and write it on your calendar. Then, set your intention for the following day using a single word or phrase of how you’d like to live your next day.

Still another helpful type of journal is a list.  

Such as:50 Things I’m Stressed About (a good one to try)

100 Things I’m Grateful For

100 Things I feel Angry About

100 Things I’m Sad About

100 Places I’d Like to Visit

Or try this one: 100 Reasons Why I Can’t Sleep (!!)

Two other possibilities are poems written in the journal (less intimidating than facing a blank page or a computer screen), or, a grief journal.  The grief journal focuses on you moving through the 5 stages of the grieving process (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.)

The Process of Journaling

There are just a few basic tips about journaling that might help you get started, which I will share:

Date every entry. Why do I say this? Once, when my Dad asked when our furnace was last checked, I said I had put it in my journal that day.  I actually found the bit in my journal about it and I was able to give Dad exactly when our furnace was checked!

Trust your process. There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to journaling. Write in code, write with crayons…anything goes.

Suggested time commitment for journal: say three times per week with 30 minutes per entry, you could even get by on 15 minutes per entry. (Note: writing too much is not recommended, however.)

On the inside flap of your journal, write the date you started your journal, then when you’ve come to the end of that journal, write the date of your final entry underneath the start date. If there are important issues discussed within, note them also (in short form).

If you really don’t have time to keep a journal, consider buying one of those ‘page a day’ journals. Write only one smallish page per day.

And finally: Keep it Private!!

I hope this post has you all fired up to journal. At the very least, it’s something entertaining to read on the bus. (Didn’t Oscar Wilde say something like that?)

For further reading try Kathleen Adams’ book ‘Journal to the Self’ (1990)

You can also visit her website at:

(A note on the image at the top of this post. The ‘George VI’ is the King of England in the 1940s who wrote my grandfather recognizing his courage while serving in the Canadian army in Europe.)

‘The Art of Caring for the Carer’

by CAB

Recent events in my life have caused me to think more about how I am caring for myself. It has been an education.  A few days ago I landed on the blog post: ‘The Secret of Well-Being: Radical Self-Care’ by Carrie Doubts.

A search on ‘radical self-care’ on Google lands thousands of hits. Clearly this is part of our culture today.   Doubts, writes:

‘Radical self-care is the assertion that you have the responsibility to take care of yourself first before attempting to take care of others. It is necessary to fill your own cup first, then to give to others from the overflow. This is what gives you the capacity to heal and to move forward into your next chapter of life.’

But why this focus on self-care at this juncture in our history?

Is it because as Doubts, shares, ‘we have heard that women are hardwired to nurture. And, did you know that these instincts could be affecting your health, as well as your mental and emotional well-being? All day long women make sure everyone is fed, taken care of, and paid attention to, and then fall into bed utterly exhausted with nothing left over to give to themselves.’

I watch numerous podcasts on the art (& science) of caregiving. But what about the art (& science) of self-care?  Let us delve now into one person’s perspective on the subject of self-care.

This is from Jordan Gray’s ’60-Day Radical Self-Care Challenge’:

‘No hanging out 1-on-1 with anyone who drains my energy-this point comes down to boundary setting.  Sometimes you realize, after months of intermittently spending time with someone, that you just don’t vibe with them.  One of the most self-care driven things we can do for ourselves is to regularly say ‘No’ to things/people/opportunities that don’t serve us or make us feel good.  So I make it a rule to only spend time with people who I enjoyed being around.’

On the whole I agree with Gray, though I think there are times when just for basic kindness you spend time with people who don’t necessarily make you ‘feel good’ (as Gray puts it). The self-care concept is good, except that we live in a world of continual balancing of giving and receiving. It’s no more one than the other, but a mixture of both (hence the image of yin/yang above.)

Note on the Yin/Yang symbol: This symbol comes from ancient Chinese philosophy. The symbol represents the worldview of how seemingly opposite forces may actually be complementary or interdependent. For example, all of us have yin/yang traits to a varying degree—ultimately it’s a question of balance.

Summer Hygge: (Yes it’s not only Christmas)


Yes, summer can be hygge-like as well as during the holidays. This is what I learned on my second, close reading of ‘The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well’ by Meik Wiking (Penguin, 2016).

But let me explain, first of all, what is this thing called ‘hygge’. Hygge (some say, pronounced ‘hooge’) is a kind of social phenomena primarily (though you can be very hygge-like just sitting on cushions slowly sipping a cup of tea as snow falls softly in the night sky). Social up to a point, though. Large groups of people are not hygge. Hygge is, above all, comfort. Like a hug from your best friend. A tight-knit group of friends, for example sitting around the fireplace on a cold night chatting and roasting chestnuts in the embers ~ that’s hygge.

Even an introvert (like me) can enjoy hygge. There are only a few people, after all, most of whom you’ve known for years, so it feels ‘safe’.  Of course, this assumes you have time for hygge in your life. About this issue, Wiking writes: ‘Danes have a relatively short working week, get free health care and a university education on top of five weeks of paid holiday a year…’ (p.116)

Hygge is also all about ‘old school’, nostalgia for playing vinyl records (the cracklier the better), spending the afternoon canning peaches, or writing hand-written letters with a fountain pen you inherited from your grandfather. Picture an old vase, with a slight crack in it, or the sound emanating from a 1950’s radio.

Says Wiking: ‘…summer doesn’t mean you have to turn down the hygge-it’s just a different kind of hygge from that of autumn and winter.’ (p.242)

So how can you ‘hygge’ this summer?

Well, for starters you could:

  • Hold an al fresco (outdoor) picnic or BBQ with a few close friends of family. Even more hygge-like if you can set off some cool fireworks in a star-strewn night sky, as you sit on a blanket on the grass. I remember doing this as a child, with my parents, down on the banks of the river Loire (I think it was the Loire), in a French town in Bordeaux called Bergerac
  • Go to a fruit farm, spend the afternoon picking your own strawberries for example, then going home and making homemade pies, the mouth-watering aroma filling your kitchen and wafting out to the rest of the house
  • You could invite a few friends over and play Battleship or Trivial Pursuit
  • You could bike to work or just for fun (Wiking points out that people who commute by bike are not only healthier but happier.)
  • You could hold a ‘swap’ party: everyone comes over bringing one object they’d like to give away and puts it on a table. Then everyone chooses whichever one they would like for themselves (great way to recycle)

But I suppose honestly, summer just speaks for itself.  Perhaps no one evokes the feeling of summer like poet Mary Oliver in her poem: ‘Summer’s Day’ which I will leave with you to enjoy and ponder.

‘The Summer Day’ by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—

The one who has flung herself out of the grass,

The one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

Who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down

Who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes,

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

Into the grass, how to kneel down into the grass,

How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

Which is what I’ve been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is your plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?

(from: p.195 ‘The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself From Depression and Emotional Distress’ by John Teasdale, Mark Williams, and Zindel Segal. (Guilford Press 2014)

Summer is also about ice cream. Here’s something to try: Blend together a glass of lemonade and one scoop of vanilla ice cream (or your favourite frozen dessert). Pour into chilled glass, sit back, kick back, and enjoy that silly novel you’ve been dying to read all year.

Thanks for reading my words, I hope you have enjoyed them.

Feel Better Now! Resilience Strategies for Tough Times

By Cheryl Brewster

We can’t always change circumstances, but we CAN interrupt overwhelm with better-feeling thoughts. We can regain confidence, hope and the energy to create a more peaceful present that builds a better future.
Yes, we can.
And yes, we must.

It’s what ensures the love we extend to our loved ones comes from a healthy, centred place. It’s the awareness that course-corrects us when that love runs the risk of becoming skewed with doing too much. It’s what keeps us sane, healthy, fueled up to not only stay the course, but to flourish in ways we never could have imagined.

These better-feeling thoughts are like a pressurized stream, feeding a fountain. As the fountain shares its vitality for the loved one or the community, it never runs out of energy. It has a constant source of supply. Granted, the fountain’s height may be affected with predictable dips in pressure, but when that happens, the need for adjustments becomes very visible so action can be taken. That’s why it’s so important to adopt an attitude of “deliberate well-being.” Deliberately choosing an empowered response ensures an “energy gain and not an energy drain.” It’s life-changing to use “what we can’t control outside of us,” to nurture what we CAN control inside of us. It can feel like an impossible feat, but it’s not! Grit is required in the beginning for sure, but as “deliberate well-being” becomes a habit, the effort is so worth the reward.

Author Michael Singer describes this process beautifully in The Untethered Soul:

“You will come to realize that the center from which you watch disturbance cannot get disturbed… you will understand what it means to be transcendent. This transcendence can only come from embracing the shadow which eventually drops the insistence that things be different than they are. When we are willing to let that go, the inner force that sustains, feeds and guides us from deep within returns us to the ocean of energy that we came from. We will still have thoughts, emotions and a self-concept, but they will just be a small part of our experience. We begin to stop identifying with anything outside the sense of Self and over time, we never have to worry about things ever again!”

This becomes so very exciting and so life affirming… but it does take practice. This habit of “Deliberate Well-Being” takes what we don’t want as fuel for what we do want.

Take a mindful minute to breathe and absorb the implications:
• Every problem contains a solution…. I’m going to take some time to breathe into the comfort of this solution, even if I don’t know what it is yet… It does exist. I choose to put my focus on being in the mode of receiving that solution.
• I now breathe out the relief of this better feeling thought… it’s okay, I choose to keep my focus on my well-being, on my decision to stay strong inside.
The breath is an immediate pattern interrupter. Journalling with pen and paper when there’s more time is so very helpful too; writing slows us down so we use the part of the brain that is creative with providing insight. Some helpful journal prompts:
• What if every challenge is here to help me, to strengthen me?
• What if thinking this way became my new habit?
• How would that change my perspective, my experience, my mood?
• What is the most predominant thought/feeling that I want to have in this situation?
• What happens when I let go of insisting that things be different than they are?
• What better-feeling thought helps me handle what’s going on?

From my experience as a caregiver, the “shadow” that’s always lurking, is the impediment that ushers us into something greater than we thought possible. Our ability to “drop the insistence that things be different than they are,” is the ultimate power. In acceptance, we begin to see the incredible number of internal choices that we have in the face of things outside of our control. And we can choose to feel better about that NOW, without things needing to change first.

We can get back to sanity. And dignity. We begin to see that the problems in our external world are best handled from an internal world that feels capable, that trusts itself in the decisions it needs to make. Feeling capable and empowered is the result of right thinking. The beauty of choosing better feeling thoughts is that it’s one of the most practical things we can do; the logical brain can integrate with the call of the passionate heart – the two work in harmony with each other. We don’t need to lose our wits… we can trust the process, trust life, trust ourselves.

Amor Fati – the Latin phrase for embrace your fate… use obstacles to your advantage is best expressed in the words of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus (Epic-teet-us): sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy. Wow, now that’s what I call Deliberate Well-Being and choosing better feeling thoughts, no matter what. It’s made a world of difference in my life and I hope it does in yours too.

Cheryl Brewster, B.Msc., founder of the Intuitive Life, empowers individuals and organizations to create and maintain productive, inspired home and work environments. She is an intuitive mindset coach, speaker, and joy strategist. In addition, she is an ordained minister of metaphysics and provides spiritual counsel and officiates weddings and celebrations of life. She is a guest facilitator for the North Shore Care Givers Group and loves supporting care-givers having done so herself.

The Rising of the Phoenix: Overcoming Burnout


When I think of burnout—I think of a bright star in the sky slowly losing its light, or else, when a lightbulb suddenly gives up the ghost and you have to replace it with a new one.  Burnout is a kind of internal ‘energy crisis’—nothing to do with the price of gas and everything to do with a diminishing sense of meaning in your life.

Sherrie Bourg Carter in her article on burnout entitled: ‘Overcoming Burnout’ (April 17, 2011) puts it this way:

‘Burnout is a cunning thief that robs the world of its best and brightest by feeding on their energy, enthusiasm, and passion, transforming these positive qualities into exhaustion, frustration, and disillusionment.’ Carter writes that burnout, once recognized can be a catalyst for a change in lifestyle, encouraging us to stay connected to our passions (or find new ones).

This is what she recommends:

  1. Take inventory of situations that cause you stress, your ‘triggers’.
  2. Write down one way you can modify each stressful situation, thereby reducing its stress, then implement. It is through this consistent modification of lifestyle that you will see results.
  3. Learn to say ‘no’ to any new commitments.
  4. Delegate—even if you know you’d just as soon do it yourself.
  5. Take breaks between projects, avoid jumping into a new venture until you’re rested. (This one I find is very helpful.)
  6. Control your devices. Switch them off whenever possible. Consider a ‘digital sabbath’ (even a partial digital sabbath helps.)
  7. Socialize outside your professional group.
  8. Resist the urge to take work home.
  9. Slow down, the author advises.
  10. Reinforce effort, not outcome. Recognize yourself for trying.
  11. Consider a support group. It doesn’t have to be a ‘therapy’ group. It can be a professional group. Your group serves two purposes: a) to share feelings, and b) reduce isolation.
  12. Rediscover your passion. You may have become so exhausted that your passion has lost its meaning. Either rediscover it or find a new passion. It doesn’t have to be all-consuming.
  13. You may need to redefine your roles at work and at home—or find a different way to redistribute the load that your carrying. Or it may mean that you need to find a whole new passion, one that will offer you balance.

A word on the image: the phoenix image has personal meaning to me as I try to better understand my own struggles with this issue of burnout.  I like the idea of this colourful bird rising out of the ashes, that it offers a sense of hope, a sense of re-birth.

In many ways (at least for me), the process of overcoming burnout has meant, in a sense, redefining who I am and what I do. Reinventing myself, perhaps, in the same way that a snake sheds its skin and dons a whole new one.

If this article should have personal meaning to you I direct you to the full-text of Carter’s article online:

Carter writes about women and stress and children and stress. Her book is entitled: ‘High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can avoid Burnout’.  Her website can be found at:

When contemplating burnout, I also think of it like the myth of Icarus and the sun. Icarus heedless of his father’s warnings and flying closer and closer into the sun, and then, finally, losing his wings.  Even if in the process you find you lose your wings, it’s ok, you can grow new ones. It just takes time.

My next post is more along the lines of relaxation with a focus on the coming summer and summer ‘hygiene’.

Thanks for reading my words.

Pyjama University: Introduction to UBCH CARD


UBCH-CARD stands for University of British Columbia Hospital Clinic for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders

2215 Westbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia

Ph: 604-822-7031

Last month I had the pleasure of listening to a 3-hour session on Alzheimer Disease all the while still in my pj’s, which is why I entitled this post: ‘pyjama university’. I was told close to 400 people virtually ‘attended’ the event, which had been planned to occur at UBC but was transformed into a virtual event due to COVID-19.  The beauty of this event is that as a result I felt more fully informed about Alzheimer Disease (AD) and as a result felt more efficacious as a caregiver (as Francis Bacon said: ‘knowledge is power’.)

In the beginning of the session, several scientists went through the process of neural degeneration that occurs in AD and showed slides of what a person’s brain looks like in the early and later stages of Alzheimer’s. They spoke of amyloid ‘plaques’ and tao ‘tangles’ and the two treatments for AD: 1) inhibitors, 2) antibodies.

The scientists went on to talk about a test to measure AD called a ‘biomarker’ test.  In order to do the test they measure cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that surrounds the brain and goes down the spine.  The genetic test 23 and Me was discussed also. When a close relative has AD, this increases the likelihood of you getting AD. With first-degree relatives, there is a 50% chance. Clinical testing can be expensive and isn’t always covered by MSP. If the test comes out negative, there is no gene evidence of AD, and if it’s positive, then a gene has been identified. Genetic counselling, available at UBCH-CARD, is covered by MSP and is recommended, however, you need to be referred by your family doctor.

The description of AD would not be complete without a discussion of the programs and services available to those who need them. Among these are:

*First Link (information and support on AD) sponsors support groups and telephone assistance (virtual support groups are in the planning stage for the future) call: 1-800-936-6033

*Paul’s Club (founded in 2012 by Nita Levy) is a social/recreation day program for those affected by early onset AD. (The program is held in Vancouver but due to COVID-19 all activities now take place virtually on Zoom). When the in-person program resumes participants are treated to lunch at an Italian restaurant followed by ice cream.

All in all, a very informative session. No one will ever know I was wearing pyjamas throughout, that’s the beauty of pyjama university.  In future posts on AD, I plan to explore the art of Reminiscence Therapy (discussed in the book ‘Cracking the Dementia Code’), including other approaches, such as music therapy. As someone once said: ‘music soothes the savage breast’.  In addition, I will explore ways for caregivers to de-stress through such therapies as journalling. In particular, I will explore how creative activity can be a means of attaining positive moods.

Note: I was inspired last week by the Walk for Memories Alzheimer fundraising event. As always, I contribute in memory of my paternal grandmother.  I find participating in the event very healing, for that reason.

Stay tuned…and be safe.



Please note: I will soon be starting my own little philanthropic venture called ‘Pyjama University’, making available to interested readers some of my many educational books free of charge. The first of this is material on Cursive Writing. If you would like to receive this material (in a safe way), please use the email address on the poster. This is a unique opportunity for me to further my work as a tutor and as an homage to my mother, an educator all her life, who just recently passed.

This is my email:

Thank You.

‘Bake ‘Til You Drop’


‘In times of crisis, the likes of which France and Europe have not seen for generations, consumers are turning back to bread—a commodity the French depend on less these days than they once did but serves as a source of immediate comfort in the midst of uncertainty.’

(Vancouver Sun, Saturday April 25, 2020)

Further, closer to home:

‘In times of crisis, people covet creature comforts, and few things are as simple, yet satisfying, as freshly baked bread.’ (Vancouver Sun, April 20, 2020)

In Paris, sales of baguettes are going up. ‘Boulangeries’ (French for ‘bakeries’) are declared an essential service.  You know the saying: ‘man cannot live by bread alone’. True enough. However, in Summer 2019, I found myself short of cash, so decided to save money by baking my own bread. I had also been advised by a naturopathic doctor to go gluten-free.

Many an hour that summer was spent happily measuring, mixing, kneading and shaping dough. To my great surprise I also learned that my great-grandfather had his own bakery, Bryson Bakery, back in Ontario in the 1930s, so it must be in my blood.

I’ve listed the products I’ve tried below, but by far the best two were:

  1. Second Spring Organic Wheat Banana Bread Mix (ok, not gluten-free, but delicious, and so moist!) Unlike the other mixes I mention, this one calls for butter and 4 mashed bananas. (Usually banana bread mixes only call for one or two.) I’d make a whole loaf and take half to my elderly neighbour, who loves banana bread.
  2. This is an obscure product—difficult to find. Actually it’s not a baking mix, it’s a finished product, but I’ll list it here because it’s just so darn tasty (and I hate to say it, addictive!) It’s called: Kinnikinnick ‘S’moreables’ Graham Crackers, gluten-free.
  3. I have to say I like the ease of the Quaker Bran Muffin Mix (add ½ a cup dried cranberries), makes 24 medium or 12 large, muffins. For best results, use Paper Chef Parchment Lotus Cups.
  4. Bob’s Red Mill (Gluten-free) Biscuit making mix. (Summer 2019) Disaster! My biscuits were like hockey pucks! Though tasty, if on the dry side.
  5. Duinkerken Biscuit Mix (Gluten-free) Summer 2019. Quite good.
  6. By the same company: Bread (Gluten-free) Summer 2019. Very nice, tasty.
  7. XO Baking Co. (Gluten-free) Cornbread mix. (Summer 2019) Delicious! I’ve always loved cornbread. My grandmother used to make it. I have fond memories of her cornbread.
  8. Betty Crocker Banana Bread (with walnuts). This was very nice. Good review from Dad. And Dad is a pretty tough critic.
  9. I’ll add this one just for fun: Goldenfry Yorkshire Pudding Mix, really nice. Light.  Of course Yorkshire pudding brings back memories of the roast dinners of my childhood (December 2019)

Turns out during COVID-19 everyone’s turning to bread-making. Store baking aisles are cleaned out! It’s definitely a comfort thing.  Should you wish to try any of the above products, I bid you ‘Bon Appetit!’

The Art of Language

By Elizabeth Bishop

How often do you really pay attention to your choice of words as you express yourself?

Do you believe in the power of language to create experience?

Constructive Use of Language

I have long believed in the power of language and the energy we create when we choose our words carefully and what happens when we don’t.

In the world of Caregiving in health care and human services, for example, we are bombarded with labels, diagnoses, syndromes, and a plethora of academic and organizational language. Within the system we currently live in where funding for services is of great focus, this kind of terminology works in our favor when we are seeking access to services and supports.

We use this language to prove that the service is needed.

Destructive Use of Language

On the other hand, much of this language serves to perpetuate stigma, prejudice, discrimination, marginalization, and ultimately separation. We tend to become reliant on certain words and jargon in order to get our point across quickly. But is this really what it’s all about?

When I began my academic preparation for human services work, I was accepted into a program that was called Mental Retardation Counselor. Shortly, after the first semester began, the program was renamed and became Developmental Services Worker. We were encouraged right from the start to always think in terms of “person first.” So, instead of saying the “autistic child,” it was preferable to say the “child with autism.”

Feels like a step in the right direction, however, if we look closely, there is still an emphasis on “autism.” And while it is so important to be aware of and honor the unique characteristics and needs of each person we are serving, it is equally crucial that we do not use these terms and diagnoses to create a limited identity for people.

For example, if you are familiar at all with the word, “autism,” there are likely a whole slew of images, ideas, and interpretations that you make almost automatically about the person I am describing. And whether you would describe these images as positive or negative, affirming or destructive, the jump to the conclusion is the real problem here. In that moment, intentional or not, we have put this person inside a particular “box.” We also do this when we refer to dementia, mental health, substance abuse, survivors of childhood trauma and on and on.

Conscious Use of Language

The challenge is to continue to open our minds so that we learn from each person we serve and those we are blessed with in our personal lives what it means to be them. How does this person live their identity? What ELSE makes them who they are?

How can I use language to demonstrate my openness and willingness to learn about the people who come into my life? How can I speak in ways that show my deep respect for humanity and my commitment to acceptance?

This is an ongoing challenge for those of us involved in Caregiving and other Vocations of Service. It is a continual process of integration of new knowledge, self-reflective practice, and engagement with others.

It is about being conscious as we choose the words that will best express our clearest and deepest intentions and beliefs.

And if we get tongue-tied, we can always come back with something new to say.

What do you wish to see in your service to others? How can you communicate with others so they know what you are all about?

What do you intend to create and contribute in this world? How would you explain this to a child?

If you could imagine the best possible scenario in your communities, what language would best describe it?

Language has the power to lift up or cut down. Choose your words wisely.