Canada Day – Celebration and Memories

Canada Day 2020 is not a typical Canada Day for sure. There are no big musical celebrations or firework spectacles. Social distancing guidelines still limit gatherings in most places and many are unable to travel to be with family.

We are still planning some Canada Day traditions – a paddle on the lake, a BBQ for supper, a rootbeer float, and smores (in tin foil on the grill instead of marshmallows roasted over the fire – Nova Scotia is still under a COVID no burn order).

We also have a special tradition that is not so happy and not related to Canada Day – a toast to my Dad who died on July 1, 2007.

Dad loved Canada Day and always decked out in red and white to make a big show of national pride. July 1st was always a busy one with visits to friends and family, bridge walks, flag waving and BBQs on the deck or in the yard. He especially loved getting as many family members as possible together to celebrate with burgers, beer, watermelon and lots of laughter. He enjoyed the fireworks displays and especially liked coming to visit us to join neighbours and catch the display over the harbour.

In fact, in his last days in the hospital, he mentioned more than once that we would have a prime view from ‘the other side’ (the Halifax side) of the Harbour for Canada day. Unfortunately, he died early that morning with family around him.

Whenever I was in the area for Canada Day, I always spent at least part of the day with Mom and Dad.

Now, Canada Day is always a day of mixed feelings for me. We wear our red and white, and hang our flag in the window. We show our pride for ourselves, and because we know Dad would be disappointed in us if we didn’t. We check in with family friends who also remember Canada Day with Pauline and John O’Toole. We celebrate the special day in our country with pride and enthusiasm and we remember past Canada Day – and Dominion Day – events. And today we will raise a glass in honour of Johnny O’Toole, who we lost 13 years ago today. I miss you every day, Dad, but July 1 is one of the days when I feel your absence most strongly.

6 Ways to restore creative energy

During COVID-19 physical isolation, many people are feeling pressure to organize, learn, create- generally be more productive. The reality is that many of us find ourselves with more time on our hands while others are doing much more and facing more time pressures. Some are home with young children demanding attention or rebellious adolescents looking for a distraction.

Those of us working from home might have additional demands or be juggling different schedules. Those deemed ‘essential’ have had additional stress about exposure to the virus. Others have lost work or jobs and worry about money.

Through all this, there are pressures from ourselves and others to make something of the time. Our social media feeds are flooded with people baking, learning and instrument, taking up a new hobby. We are told that Shakespeare wrote King Lear or some other great work while quarantined during the plaque. If you are tired of that pressure, you might enjoy this New Yorker Article What Shakespeare Actually Did During the Plague for a different perspective on how Shakespeare might REALLY have spent his time.

Restoring creative energy

As cities and businesses move towards reopening and returning to ‘new normal’ we are also recognizing that it will be sometime before things return to old ways of doing things. Indeed, there are things we might want to learn and take forward into a changing world.

If you are looking to revitalize your creativity, these tips might help.

Start Small

Set a timer for 15-30 minutes. Commit to creating for just that much time. Write, dance, sing, stitch, design, draw, carve – or whatever your preferred outlet. Don’t stop before your timer. If you are energized and want to keep going, that is great but there is no pressure to continue, which can be freeing. Start small – but start.

Establish routine

Create at the same time every day. You don’t have to do the same thing every time if you balk at routine – mix up what you do but determine to be consistent about when. This can be especially empowering at a time when so much is out of our control.

Find inspiration from nature

Get out in the fresh air. Visit parks, trails or beaches if it is an option for you. Step out in your yard or balcony. Sit by an open window if you have to stay at home. Appreciate the sounds and colours of the outdoors, the comfort of seeing sunsets and sunrises, the entertainment of wildlife or domestic animals. Browse nature illustrations in books or magazines. And if you absolutely can’t get outdoors, take a virtual tour through a wildlife cam like those at LiveCams including the AfricanWatering Hole Animal Camera. Nature has restorative powers for mind, spirit AND creative inspiration.

Join a challenge

If you are struggling about where to start, take away the pressure to come up with an idea. Join a group or challenge and get daily or weekly prompts as a jumping point. Whatever your interests or ambitions, there is probably something that is just what you want. Writers might like the Isolation Journal Project by Suleika Jaouad; Visual artists can find inspiration with daily prompts at Doodlewash. Readers can find recommended books at Booklist Queen’s 2020 Reading Challenge. Whatever your interests, you can find someone other creatives, consumers, collectors with similar pursuits.

Be accountable

Get and offer support.
You can share in online groups or your social media, or with a local group of friends. Set goals and exchange ideas. Set what you what to achieve for each day or week or month or … whatever time you want to set. Then check-in, compare notes, reassess, and plan for the next time.

Create without pressure

Make something creative that doesn’t require focused creativity. Don’t worry about advancing a major project but sit down and play. Doodle. Paint colour palettes. Write simple descriptions of your environment – what do you hear, see, smell, taste. Write a poem or a song about something on your desk or outside your window. Be silly. Stitch a row of flowers.

Not feeling creative? Do something that lets you create without thought. I like to use fabric scraps to make scrappy blocks that will eventually go together in a charity quilt. No planning or big time commitment required.

What steps help you restore creative energy?

What do you create when you are not feeling creative?

Change is long overdue.

I don’t know where to start or what to write. This has been a disturbing and frightening few days. On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man was killed by police in Minneapolis. The arresting police used force well beyond anything even remotely indicated by the situation, including pinning down Mr. Floyd with a knee to the neck for almost 9 minutes leaving him unable to breathe. There were many witnesses and the events were captured on multiple devices. Mr. Floyd and bystanders can be heard calling for help and he clearly states that he can’t breathe.

Since then, there has been so much to follow. The 4 police offers were fired. One has been charged with 3rd-degree murder. As yet, no charges against the other three, although there are calls for more to be done

Peaceful protests have been taking place around the US and in other countries. Some have turned to violence but in many areas, people of all races and backgrounds are joining forces and peacefully but forcefully saying that change is overdue. In many areas, police officers are putting down their riot gear and walking with protesters, supporting their call for justice.

In Some Cities, Police Officers Joined Protesters Marching Against Brutality

At a time when the US needs a leader attempting to bring people together, Trump is threatening to escalate violence and urging governors to show force and shut down demonstrations.

LIke many, I feel helpless and unsure of how to act. I am a white woman living in relative comfort in a safe community. I can not claim to understand what it is like to fear being stopped or arrested or threatened – or even being killed – because of the colour of your skin. I have always tried to speak out against individual instances of racism or discrimination but that is not enough. People being discriminated against by the system are not the ones with the power to change.

Clearly it is time to recognize that white privilege is a thing, even if you don’t feel you have privilege. One thing that I have heard in discussions this week is that white privilege means simply that you might be white and still have lots of problems and not feel privileged but you are because of basic opportunities. Fundamentally, it means that you still have problems but the colour of your skin is not something that makes your life more difficult.

Black and Brown people have been telling us for years that this is their experience. Is it any wonder that people angry? The protests and escalations of this week are not sudden or happening out of nowhere. They are part of a progression.

Too many of these police incidents have happened because of unfair and unbased biasis and assumptions. We know the names. Most recently, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Always there is immediate outrage and action but then the news cycle changes and the ingrained problems remain and build up under the surface, unseen until the next tragic and unnecessary death.

We can not continue to accept this being dismissed as ‘a few bad apples’; it is systemic and the systems need to change. We can not let it stay hidden and convince ourselves that it doesn’t exist.

Be Part of the Change

Get informed. Ask questions. Have difficult conversations. Most importantly, LISTEN. Then act. Some places to start.

Learn how we got Here

Trevor Noah used his platform of the Social Distancing Daily Show to try and process recent events with a thoughtful talk on George Floyd and the Dominos of Racial Injustice, a piece that has been widely shared and assigned in many virtual classrooms.

Read powerful opinion pieces like this one by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the LA Times: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge

Understand more about white privilege

My White Friend Asked Me on Facebook to Explain White Privilege.

Learn how to be an ally in the fight against systemic racism

For our White Friends Desiring to be Allies

Be aware. Examine your behaviour. Do not practice or accept ANY of these thoughts or actions.

Understand why All Lives Matter is Damaging

Read an interview with Professor Olivette Otele , an expert in the History Of Slavery that Explains The Mistake In Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

Be Better

It is up to everyone to learn more and contribute to solutions. Each one of us needs to stand up and take responsibility. We need to do better. We need to BE better.

What’s in a name

Today’s post is inspired by the daily prompt from The Isolation Journals, a creative writing project with daily prompts from Suleika Jaouad.

(description from the website)
A Daily Creativity Project to help make sense of challenging times.
This spring, Suleika will be serving up daily journaling prompts from some of the most inspiring writers, artists, musicians and unsung heroes she knows. We hope this creativity project sparks your imagination and helps us all process and stay connected during these difficult times.

This is a 100-day project, but you can jump in at any time. Sign up here, and we’ll email you daily prompts through the first week of July.

I joined the project late after hearing a mention of it on a video. I am loving the prompts and enjoying the writing challenges. If you want to develop your writing skills, this is a great way to do it. Daily e-mails include prompts and examples from Suleia and guests. All prompts are available on social media (@suleikajaouard) but Suleika encourages people to join in real time for the power of shared journalling.

Here is my short response to today’s prompt:
Write an ode to your name. Reflect on how it sounds and makes you feel. What it means, where it came from and if there’s a story behind how you got it. How has it informed who you’ve become?

For most of my life I have found my name to be a burden because of its length. I go by Mary Elizabeth. Both names. No abbreviations.

I am named after both grandmothers but it is definitely a mouthful to use both as a first name. My mother decided that using both would ensure that I would not be mistaken for someone else in her large family. She was the youngest of 16 and most of her siblings had 5+ children by the time that I was born.

From the time I was very young, Mom would forcefully correct anyone who referred to me with If it was on the phone, she would promptly hang up on the caller. She would not tolerate any abbreviations. Although my family called me Mary Liz and I don’t remember when that started. For about 10 years, others used that as well after hearing a family member refer to be that way. I never liked it but of course, if I said that to my brothers, it just ensured that would be my name. When I moved away from home – and across several provinces – I always used the full name.

Until my late 30s, I would usually follow-up an introduction with an apology for the length. But that did not stop me from automatically correcting anyone who called me Mary – and, in fact, I still don’t really hear if someone calls me Mary since I just assume that they are speaking to someone else.

I could have changed my name but didn’t have a burning desire to be something else and remain proud to carry family names. I have always hating introducing myself and still have to grit my teeth but no longer apologize for a long name; I simply explain its origins.

In recent years, it has occurred to me that my name is one of the reasons that I hate meeting new people and prefer anonymity and am much better at spontaneous conversations with strangers than small talk with acquaintances.

It is amazing what an impact a name can have, even at a subconscious level.

How do you feel about your name?

Saying Goodbye to a loved pet

My heart is breaking. This afternoon, we had to say good-bye to our sweet Sasha. It happened so fast. Last week, she was enjoying sitting by the windows that we could finally open to let in the spring air. She was claiming lap times on TV nights and exerting her royal authority over kd and Luigi. But then things changed.

Thursday, she spent most of the day under a bed and was showing some signs of getting upstairs, no interest in getting on the bed. Friday morning, I called the vet. They are under limited hours and closed-door policy because of COVID-19 restrictions but said that they would get her in on Tuesday. Saturday, she seemed a little better and was eating ok; we felt relieved. But Sunday she was really lethargic and by the end of the day was lying on the living room floor, next to her favourite cat bed. In the evening I picked her up and she felt like she had dropped weight overnight. She curled up on my lap for scratches but was having breathing troubles – not constantly but regularly – taking shallow rapid breaths. She soon headed off and didn’t return to reclaim her space as was her habit.

She lay under the bed looking at us listlessly. I sat for an hour giving her scratches until she fell asleep. And both Stephen and I were up through the night checking with her and sitting with her, first by the bed and later when we found her stretched on the floor in the living room. By this morning, she was having more breathing problems and sometimes a gurgle / rattle. I phoned the vet in tears and they got her in this afternoon.

We couldn’t go into the vet’s office; I had to call in when I arrived and someone came and took her from the car. The doctor phoned shortly after and said Sasha’s colour was good but weight was down and felt like there might be liquid in her belly. The doctor wanted to take an XRay. She called me back in minutes and said that the news wasn’t good. There was cancer that probably started in the liver or pancreas but now had metastasized in the lungs. She said that there were things we could try that might buy a little time. We knew that we didn’t want her to suffer anymore than she already had. Assured that we would be able to be with her despite the current closed-door policy, we made the difficult decision to euthanize our special, beautiful girl. We held her and gave her cuddles and let her know she was loved as she drifted peacefully to sleep.

Sasha was my first feline companion. She was a kindred spirit and turned me into a cat person. I will miss her regal, elegant presence in our lives. Rest in Peace, gentle Sasha. You were loved and will be remembered!

The case for imperfection

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.
Henry van Dyke

I have been accused of being a perfectionist.   It always makes me bristle.  “Ridiculous!”  I shout.  And, as proof,  I argue that my work isn’t perfect.  Turns out,  That is a classic symptom.  So is my tendency to take waaaay too long to do just about everything,  typically a result of redoing or overthinking or restarting or, worse yet,  not starting.  All in all, strong evidence of a perfectionist – or at very least, perfectionist tendencies.

It is not like I don’t know I’m doing it.  I am aware that that I am taking too long and tell myself to consider it done and move on to the next thing.  And I do to – you know, right after just one last adjustment.  It is time to get that under control.

I need to let it go so I can accomplish more in less time.   And finish more.  Take for example past efforts to keep a journal – or blog for that matter  – to track progress.  Inevitably I miss a day and then feel compelled to ‘catch up’  before moving forward, which obviously somewhat defeats the purpose.

What was my point – oh yeah, not a perfectionist.

Perhaps I could stretch the truth just a little and claim to be a ‘recovering perfectionist’ (read that somewhere at it appeals to me).  I’ve made some progress but not nearly enough.  It is time to again take up the charge and embrace imperfection.

Perfection stifles creativity AND productivity.

Aim for progress, not perfection and just get started





Aim for progress.
Aim for excellence.
Be realistic- about time, expectations, and resources.
Don’t wait for the perfect time.
Start today.  TAKE ACTION NOW!!

If you have stories to tell, don’t let perfection be an excuse for getting started. Don’t worry that you have all the details exactly right.  Do not stress over finding the perfect font, the ideal picture the best quote.

Even the biggest failure beats the hell out of not tryingGet it started.  You can always refine or revise – to a point of course.

Progress, not perfection!

Where are you on the perfectionist scale?   Are you a perfectionist and proud of it? A sometimes or situational perfectionist? A denying or recovering perfectionist? Or perhaps you are the polar opposite of a perfectionist – would that be an unperfectionist – or maybe anti-perfectionist?

Share strategies you use to make sure that perfectionism doesn’t become procrastination.

It doesn’t happen here

It has been an unprecedented and difficult week in Nova Scotia. Last Sunday, a gunman terrorized a small community in rural Nova Scotia.

Portapique is a picturesque community in Colchester County. It is an idyllic place that was little known, even within the province. But it is the kind of place we all know – scenic, friendly and peaceful. The kind of community where everyone knows each other and you can be yourself but know that your neighbours will be there if you need help or encouragement.

That all changed on April 18-19, 2020 when a gunman went on a rampage overnight and into the morning. Sunday afternoon, we heard that the gunman had been capture; it was not until later that we heard he had been killed. We were told that at least 13 people had been killed and more were suspected as there were multiple scenes, several were fires had been set.

The bad news continued. By mid-week we learned that 22 people had been killed, including an RCMP officer and several who ran towards the trouble to help others. It is the worse mass killing in Canada, made particularly horrific because of the forethought an the fact that the gunman used an RCMP police car and a police uniform.

Nova Scotia Strong. The victims of the events on April 18-19. Farewell to Nova Scotia sung by Lennie Gallant.

This kind of thing is not expected in Canada, let alone in a small mostly rural province in Nova Scotia. It has shattered our peace, our security, and our safety. The situation is compounded by the restrictions of a pandemic that have us social distancing and, therefore, unable to come together to mourn as is our custom.

There are questions about how things were handled, why there wasn’t a wider alert. Answering those questions will take time but we trust that they will come.

For now, the province and the country are in mourning. We will do what we always do and come together. For now, we’re showing our Nova Scotia colours; we’re wearing our tartans, waving our NS flags and reaching out as we can to support our communities in these times of social distancing.

For the first time, the RCMP will not be able to hold a regimental funeral for a fallen officer. Today, we’re wearing red and standing with the National Police Federation and Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia. RIP Const. Stevenson and all innocent victims of the tragic events of last weekend. #WearRedFriday#NovaScotiaStrong

Preparing to ‘let it go’

Let it go

There are some stories that we need to let go.  Or more accurately, some related baggage that should be discarded.  It’s important to keep the lessons but unproductive, even unhealthy, to cling to all thoughts of would’ve, could’ve or should’ve.

You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

This is a tough one for me. I’m always reviewing, reliving and reprimanding myself over things that almost certainly are minimal or forgotten by others involved.  My husband, who is much more able to put things behind him, has come to accept that I do not easily move beyond a perceived error. He once told me that the difference between the two of us on that front is that I always think that I can still fix things. Pretty insightful really (he doesn’t have to know I said that). That idea definitely gave me something to think about as I strive to become [more of] a free spirit unfettered by regrets.

Today’s challenge

Strive to let go of stories that hold you back by prompting feelings of anxiety, anger, jealousy, regret, envy or any of a myriad of other draining emotions.

Take what  learning you can from the experience then let go of the rest.  Admittedly easier said than done but start today to find ways to begin that next chapter.

  • Get a realistic picture of the situation that you are reliving, one that is not focused only on what you did / didn’t do and wish you hadn’t / had done.  Name at least one positive outcome or lesson or identify some progress that was made toward a goal.
  • Name the event so you can catalog and let it go (some strategies on how to do that next time)
  • Describe the event / situation. Try to be objective. Use as much or as little detail as you like.  This can be just for you or something that you choose to share.
  • Identify what you did wrong (by your reckoning) AND what you wish you had done differently.  Sometimes you might want to check your perception with others.
  • Try to objectively consider whether it would truly have resulted in a ‘better’ outcome, with ‘better’ meaning one that would not have caused you to have regrets.
  • Consider how other parties would feel about the situation Try to be realistic. How did they react? Would they even still be thinking about it? It is quite possible that they didn’t notice or place the same value on what you said or did.

With practice, you’ll soon be able to do these steps more quickly, more easily and more decisively.  Although it might be difficult, try to check your perceptions with others at least occasionally to help develop more realistic assessments.

Coming soon – strategies for helping move past any lingering negativity.

Start a photo project

Social Isolation Memories

There are plenty of places to find inspiration for a photo project – 365 days or 100 days – 52 weeks – 12 months – 4 seasons –  a particular person or object through the year – or an unexpected time of social distancing.  A photo project might be a fun diversion during this unusual time and it can offer a way to track some changing activities or looks that might be unique to this current situations.

I completed my first 365 day project in 2009 with a picture a year, a layout a week.   I finished the layouts and published the book in early 2010.  It was rewarding to complete and it is great to look at all the day-to-day moments.  In the years since, I have done weekly collections in a digital format.  

ALbum cover for 2009 365
Album cover for 2009 365

Photos are a great way to capture everyday moments.  The routines of your day can be interesting or entertaining in years ahead and I am always amazed at how often I look at photos and think, “Oh, I’d forgotten that I used to do that all the time.”  If you have children, they will look back at the images and marvel at their daily activities.  OK, it might take them awhile to appreciate it but eventually, they’re sure to get there.  A  photo project can take as little or as much time as you want and can be focused or random.  The details are up to you.

Start your own photo project.  

 What will your project be?  There are many options and these are just a few

  • Set a schedule an keep to it, whether it is every day, every week, or 10 days a month – choose a frequency that is realistic for you
  • Decide if you will shoot at the same time each day/week… 
  • Share on Instagram or twitter with hashtags like #100daysofphotography #project365, post on FaceBook or your blog and/or print albums
  • Develop a theme for the year or change as you go along, perhaps a theme for each month or season – or maybe random images or shots at the same time every day
  • Challenge friends to have their own project on the same or different themes and keep each other accountable

Many photography or creative art sites have challenges or opportunity for sharing.  If you are seeking inspiration for your own photo project, you might like:

Share your projects

Share your stories, tips and ideas in the comments 

Have you completed a photo project in the past?  Are you doing one now?

I would love to hear about your projects – and see your results.


The Plymouth Tapestry: Stitching 400 years

Many people are familiar with the Bayeux Tapestry, which tells the story of the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings through an embroidered cloth almost 230 M  Long.

Learn more in this short film: The Bayeux Tapestry – Seven Ages of Britain from BBC One

This spectacular piece of work inspired a group of embroiderers and historians in Plymouth, Massachusetts who were looking for a project to celebrate the 400th anniversary of their town.

The project was a huge undertaking that involved many stitchers and designers. Elizabeth Creeden designed the drawings and did sample stitches and colour selections for each of the panels.  Early in the process, it was decided that this would be a communal project.  There were workshops that allowed interested community members to learn stitches and take part in the project.  Panels were also taken to other events to provide more opportunities for volunteers to participate.

The Plymouth Tapestry was conceived as a multi-year project, which will be completed in late 2121.  It will include 20 -6 ft panels. The completed tapestry will tell the story of the pilgrims, the Wampanoag people and the general history of the area.  One of the challenges is very different records and stories of history.

We realize we are telling two different stories and two very different kinds of traditions and ways of passing on knowledge. With the English side, it’s all about written records and documentation….. It’s wonderful to have an Aquinnah Wampanoag tribal member sitting at the table with us, and she said, “You know our history isn’t the same. We don’t look at it in the same way. We have an oral history that’s gone on for thousands of years; we share stories of our people.

Quote from The Plymouth Tapestry, by Cheryl Christian in Needle Arts (Dec. 2018, pp 18-24)

This work will tell the long history of Plymouth and leaving a lasting legacy that will be remembered as is its original inspiration,
the Bayeux Tapestry.

Read more about the Plymouth Tapestry and its stories in The Plymouth Tapestry or visit the Pilgram Hall Museum website.