How does music move you?

Something I really enjoy is discovering local musical talent in Vancouver. Whether it is found in summertime at the folk festival, a cozy café along Commercial Drive in the winter, or in a batch of CD’s at Isabelle Dunlop’s dress shop; music makes me smile.
Music can be a comfort during stressful times, a way to celebrate joyful occasions, or a self-care practice that helps you unwind and let go of busy thoughts. There are multiple ways to enjoy music and put it to good use, and the beauty is that YOU get to decide what you’re needing in the moment!

One recent summer, I had the chance to hear a Jill Barber show. Jill’s songs were soulful, heartfelt, and somehow had a way of seamlessly interweaving story, magic and melody. I especially enjoyed the tunes she sang with her brother Matthew, of family and childhood memories, and her solo music about leaving the East coast to relocate in Vancouver. You can learn more about Jill’s music at, or listen to her new EP  of re-imagined classics:

Heart picture

Music can mean something special to you as a caregiver. It is often a powerful way to connect with loved ones that are not able to converse in the same way anymore. Songs they enjoy can help them feel peaceful, bringing their senses alive while reminding them of who they truly are as a person. I would be glad to hear your stories about moments of enjoying music with a family member or friend. Please share anytime you’d like! My email is:, in case you feel unsure about posting a comment on this blog.

Happy listening!



Mindful Monday no. 15 – Winter Solstice Reflections

Moon enters umbra: 1:55 AM EST - Winter Solstice Total Lunar Eclipse

Since ancient times, the winter solstice has been celebrated around the world in many cultures. Celebrations have changed, but marking the shortest day of the year remains significant to many people.

When I was growing up, the solstice would come and go without much notice. I would be glad to see longer days, but my focus in December would mostly be on presents and holiday festivities. When I was in my early twenties, I was fortunate enough to be invited along to a winter solstice labyrinth ceremony. I walked a candlelit labyrinth in silence and was asked to reflect on my past year on the way to the center. I was told that when I reached the center, it was time to let go of what had happened. When I began to walk out of the labyrinth, it was time to switch my thinking to what I wanted to bring in to my life over the next 365 days.

Although I never made it back to the same celebration, I was hooked on the feeling that I was given that day. Marking the shortest day of the year by reflecting on my past year, letting it go, and then shifting my focus to the next year made my head feel clear. I felt lighter and energized. I decided that no matter where I was in following years, I would take some time on the winter solstice to slow down and think or write about what was asked of me in the labyrinth ceremony.

This year, try to carve out some time to think or write about your past year. When you feel that you’ve thought everything through, take some deep breaths, and picture those memories you do not wish to hold on to floating away. When you feel ready, think or write about what you would like your next year to look like. If you have a fireplace in your life, try burning the paper you’ve written on!

Do you celebrate the winter solstice? We’d love to hear from you!

Words by Cassandra Van Dyck

Foodie Friday : Split Pea Soup


Here’s a hearty Foodie Friday lunch for you on a cold winter’s day:

Split Pea Soup

Soak 1 cup green split peas in 1 quart boiling water for 3 hours or overnight.  Drain.

Cook 1 chopped white onion and 2 cloves garlic in 1 Tablespoon oil until soft. Add soaked, drained split peas and 1 Litre chicken broth.  Add 1-2 cups chopped cooked ham (or ham bones or ham hocks). Add bay leaf (if desired).

Simmer 2 hours or until very soft. Serve with crusty bread and cheese.

(Optional: Substitute bacon for ham. Cook 1/4 pound bacon, drain fat, and 15 minutes before end.)

Bon appetit!

Calm Pond

Interview with my parents

The Interview:

I sat in the kitchen on a December afternoon with my parents, Anne and David, and interviewed about their lives as seniors.

Question 1: Do you feel, as seniors, that you get enough respect?

Both Anne and David answered yes.

Question 2: How happy are you with our health services?

Anne: Happy, except for the long wait times to see specialists.

Question 3: How does having a dog improve your quality of life?

David: It improves my life because our dog has a calming effect on us, improves our level of physical exercise, and most of all, gives us unconditional love.

Question 4: What do you particularly enjoy about your retirement?

Anne: Not having to get up early, and much less stress.

David: I like having more time to pursue my various interests, such as literary, writing…

Anne: (adds) … and cooking and travel.

Thanks Mum and Dad, for your time and thoughtful answers!

Stay tuned for more interviews…

Calm Pond


Mindful Monday no. 14 – Groups


“There is a special magic that reveals itself when we allow ourselves to let it all hang out in front of each other.” – Ashley Neese

For those experiencing emotional pain, the idea of being with a group of people and sharing their story may feel overwhelming. Some may downplay their experience, feeling that it’s not comparable to what others may be going through. Others might feel uncomfortable with the idea of talking to strangers about their personal lives. It takes courage to walk in to a room full of people and share your story, but showing up is the hardest part. The benefits can be powerful.

I’m not sure why I shied away from groups for so many years. Maybe it was because of a childhood sting of rejection I never quite forgot, or perhaps it’s because I tend to be more introverted than extroverted. I often find it easier to go for a solo walk or write in a journal than pick up the phone to call someone. Despite these preferences, because of shared interests and a budding career in outreach and community service, I’ve unwittingly found myself in numerous groups over the years. At first I was quiet and afraid of how others would react to what I had to say. I worried about stumbling over my words or letting my emotions overcome me. It took me awhile to feel safe sharing, and I learned that it was also okay to just listen. When I did open up, I felt supported in a way that I hadn’t before. Not only was I able to work through feelings like I was able to when I wrote or played music, I felt that even if no one said anything in response, I was heard. Sometimes it can be all we need to not feel alone and know that there is hope.

The holidays can bring up so many emotions, especially for caregivers. NSCR’s Caregiver Support program is offering a special group on December 21st, called An Evening of Calm & Connection. The group will introduce attendees to gentle relaxation exercises and provide support. Email to register.

What have your experiences in groups been like? We’d love to hear from you!

Words and photo by Cassandra Van Dyck