Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Yule, Happy Winter Solstice!

Mountains make pretty magical snowflakes.
Today is the Winter Solstice. It’s the longest night of the year, the shortest day, and I looove it. Last night we picked Grandma up from the airport and were treated to the soft shimmering of green Aurora Borealis. They really do dance across the sky. Gosh, it's such a treat to see them! The pretty display didn’t last long, but it brought such a sense of magic and wonder to this already wonderful time of year. It was quite a stellar welcome for both grandma and the Solstice.

Some holidays are boisterous, full of revelry and merry-making. For me that will start in a few days when we celebrate Christmas. Yay! Spending holidays with family and friends totally fills my bucket. I’ll be honest, the Holidays used to bring me so much stress and unresolved emotions, but now I allow myself to soak up all the joy and happiness of the season and just have fun. Stress and baggage can wait for another day, because now is the time to be merry. 

And for me, today is the quiet reflection of Yule before the upcoming boisterous, happy storm. When I celebrate the birth of the sun, the wheel turning again, the tipping point where the days start to get longer again, I like to keep it soft and quiet and just silently beam all day. It is a very good day.

It really is a wonderful time of the year. However you celebrate, have a wonderful Holiday Season full of Peace, Joy, Love and Fun! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Playing Outside in Winter

On the drive in today I heard Norquay is opening on Tomorrow, Lake Louise on Friday and Sunshine on November 11th. To anyone not familiar, that’s code for it’s ski season in the Canadian Rockies! This news brings joy to so many people and for me it brings the solid knowledge . . . that I am so not a downhill skier. *drops head in shame*

Snowshoeing the Canadian Rockies
I tried. Well, most recently my efforts have been taking a lesson/going once a season, blasting my quads for the morning and then grabbing a beer and writing while I wait in the non-terrifying warmth of one of the hill’s bars with absolutely zero elevation changes while waiting for my husband and kidlette to finish their afternoon, if that is trying, then yes, I rocked that!

I love the Rockies and have SO much fun on the bunny hills out here (don’t let the name fool you, they’re frickin’ huge). But I’ve realized what I like most about skiing is hanging out on mountains in winter. As much fun as I had on those bunny hills, as soon as I go on a regular run somewhere on the way down somewhere is a shockingly steep part. It’s all fun and games until the crazy steep parts. I know that’s the point of skiing, its called downhill for a reason, but being terrified isn’t fun. I mean there’s beer and coffee at the bottom, why scare myself when I could be having a pint and writing?

But if I’m in the bar writing, I’m not gawking at the Rocky Mountain winter splendour, really immersing myself in the outdoor awesomeness, which fills my bucket right full. Being on top of a mountain, snow all around and all over the trees, each peak and range full of majesty - it is an incredible sight to behold. When more snow is falling it feels like you’re in the middle of magic, when the sun is shining and making the snow twinkle it feels like anything is possible, when the sun is shining and the snow is blowing it feels like you’re in a snow globe and you can’t imagine anything more beautiful.
Winter Mountain Wonderland, Canadian Rockies

A conundrum to be sure. Unless I admit my downhill days are either behind me or somewhere in the future and I should focus on the winter sports that don’t terrify me, like cross country skiing, snow shoeing, winter hiking, sledding, pond ice skating, having a soak in a hot springs while it’s snowing . . . a wait, that last one isn’t a sport, but it feels so good and is so pretty, especially after an active day outside in the cold.

There are so many ways to play outside in winter. What are your favourites?!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pumpkins and Reindeer

I’ve always enjoyed celebrating the seasons and the holidays I grew up with. And this time of year, it seems each holiday just flows into the next: the Autumn Equinox in late September, then Canadian Thanksgiving in early October, then Halloween, then U.S. Thanksgiving in late November, then Christmas, then New Year’s. See what I mean? And yes, it is super fun (i.e. delicious) celebrating Thanksgiving twice.
I couldn't resist the plush pumpkin!

As a kid, fall, Halloween and Thanksgiving were my favourites. Where I grew up in Wisconsin, trees turned a fabulous host of vibrant colours, like one last glorious hurrah before they crinkled and blew away. Walking to and from school, I remember the thick rows of leaves that always seemed to accumulate at the side of the sidewalk. Shuffling my feet, I’d kick through those leaves and just smile. In yards or outside of stores, I loved seeing dried, full corn stalks bunched together, their tassels bobbing in the breeze, a pumpkin or two at their base.

In the U.S., our Thanksgiving is in late November, so Halloween came first. Halloween as a kid was filled with happy ghosts and witches, innocent bats and spiders, and pumpkins, lots of pumpkins. I decorated my room with any extra holiday paraphernalia and the pictures I drew with harvest and Halloween themes.

My Thanksgiving memories are many, but perhaps my favorite is of getting up early and coming downstairs to see my mom putting a gigantic turkey in the oven. With five kids, my mom was busy, but she always made each holiday special.

Now I’m in western Canada. Our fall comes earlier and our gorgeous autumn leaf colours are dominated by the blazing yellow of aspen. There are not many corn stalks kicking around for decorations, but there are pumpkins! Our Thanksgiving is in early October, which means that in stores, Halloween and Christmas decorations are out at the same time. I try to keep my fall decorations and vibe going from the Autumn Equinox to U.S. Thanksgiving, and try to coral Christmas kick-off to Black Friday.

I try, I try so hard, but do you know what comes out now? Christmas novels. I know, right?! The new ones are out in the stores and available online. I love reading Christmas stories and . . . I’m actually going to say it . . . I love Christmas movies. I have never met anyone else who loves them as much as I do until the other day. I was having coffee with CJ Carmichael and I asked her if she had seen the new series The Good Witch. It is a Hallmark series and spun off seven Hallmark movies. I’ll admit, there are moments of cheesy, but as the title suggests, it is a show about a Good Witch. I’ll watch year-round, but just like the kind of Halloween I liked to celebrate as a kid, it has happy witches who help people. When I bashfully ducked my head and said, “I love Hallmark movies.” CJ Carmichael answer, “Me too!” Then of course we started talking about our shared delight of Christmas movies. I’m not alone! There is another person who loves holiday shows as much as I do. This season just got better . . .and possibly filled with more wine.

You know what else? CJ Carmichael just released not one, but TWO Christmas stories! A Bramble House Christmas and she’s in the anthology A Montana Born Christmas.

My Christmas season is indeed starting in October this year. The pumpkins will just have to play with the reindeer.

Oh shoot, I forgot to ask CJ if she likes doing Christmas puzzles, too . . .

Friday, September 25, 2015

Of Orion, Pumpkins and Fall Leaves: Autumn Equinox 2015

Tuesday, so early in the morning there was no hint of dawn in the night sky, I was walking to the garage to drive myself to the airport. A brief, two-day trip up to Fort McMurray for my day job was my itinerary. With carry-on in hand, I made my way across the backyard, past the squash and pumpkin vines that in successive bursts of unhindered growth had wondered far from their garden confines to criss-cross across our lawn. I didn’t have the heart to beat them back. When allowed to grow with wild abandon, how far would those vines creep? Turns out several meters. And although their spread made mowing the grass around them difficult, my husband humoured me and worked around them. My goal was to wait until equinox to finish harvesting and cut back the jungle of leaves and vines. There might even be fruit in all that. Guess what I’m doing this weekend?

That Tuesday morning the clear night sky afforded a view of the city stars. These stars are the brightest in the sky, managing to holding their own against the always-on lights of the city. For the last several weeks, I had looked up in that night sky to catch the first glimpse of the season of my favourite constellation, Orion. The celestial Hunter comes back every fall and stays throughout the winter. Tuesday morning he was there. And the Wheel of the Year turns.

The view from the air of the boreal forest in fall colours.
I got to watch the sun rise from 24,000 feet that morning. As we started our descent, the clear skies and sweet light provided ideal conditions to view the expanse of boreal forest in her fall glory. Yellows, oranges, reds, browns and greens blanketed the ground below. It was one of those views you wished you could capture with paint and brush, to mimic the beauty and elegance of nature on a canvas to revisit again and again. But some things can only be experienced in person. No photo, no painting could recreate the powerful feeling of beholding such an innately beautiful, natural sight. It’s not just the view, it’s the experience. Still, on the flight back on Wednesday late afternoon, I snapped a photo from the air. It doesn’t hold a candle to the live experience, but it is what I have to share with you.

How do you welcome fall? Do you look for Orion in the night sky? Do you consciously harvest the fruits and vegetables of summer? Do you bask in the beauty of fall colours splashed across the outside world?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Taking Writing to the Mountains: Rocky Mountain Writing Retreat 2015

View from my balcony writing space at Baker Creek Lodge
 at the 2015 Rocky Mountain Writing Retreat
This morning while making tea in the kitchen (sometimes I drink tea instead of coffee ;)) I had a vision flash through my mind of standing in the kitchen, warm, with tea steeping, while snow was gently falling outside, adding to the thick blanket already on the yard and trees. Incongruent, I know, we just welcomed September and it is a perfect late-summer day out there.

So on this day of the first flash of winter to come, let me share how I kicked off summer. In early June I attended the Rocky Mountain Writers' Retreat. I had three days of writing in a beautiful lodge, in the Canadian Rockies, in Banff National Park, minutes away from Lake Louise with thirty other writers and one of my critique partners as my roommate. I had attended one other writing retreat a few years ago and knew the potential for serious headway on my manuscript. I also knew the power and magic that happens when you gather with one of your tribes. It feels good. There is the sense of friendship and belonging and hanging out with other people on their own version of this same crazy writing experience/journey that I am on.

The view a few steps from my
writing retreat door was this view.
Feeling the flow of Baker Creek
in between writing sessions.
I stayed holed-up in my room (or the balcony) writing, coming out only at meal time and at the evening social events. Well, that and gabbing with my roommate when we need a writing break. :) Okay, and when I needed to go for a quick explore. I was in the Rockies along the gorgeous Baker Creek, after all.

I had hours of uninterrupted writing time in a natural setting. I loved it! Happy kick-off to summer!

Do you attend writing retreats? Where do you like to go? What are your favourite ones? Do you set aside a weekend with a couple of writer friends or do you go on more formally organized ones?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Community: Sharing Knowledge, Sharing Common Experiences

I've had a creeping awareness the last few weeks that has grown steadily more pronounced. When this happens, I pay attention. My mind has a delightful way of laying seeds, or foreshadowing if you will, for me. This time Community keeps coming up.

Tony King and Randy McCharles
stop for a photo op during tour of
new When Words Collide venue.
My writing communities bring this out often for me, but lately it has been more expansive. I was standing listening to the tour of our new venue for When Words Collide and thinking how lucky I am to live in a city with a vibrant, active writing community. Then while sitting in the last Alberta Romance Writers' Association workshop I had the same thought. There are writers who have no local organization to be part of, no larger writing family to learn from, support and feel supported, have dinner with, and even "argue" over the best course of action. There are online communities, and I am grateful for them, but sometimes I just need to call my critique group and enjoy their wisdom and conversation over beers and dinner.

Calgary Horticultural Society's
Garden Show had multiple buildings
filled with information...and plants
Last weekend, for the first time, I went to the Calgary Horticultural Society's Garden Show. I had seen one of the bridge banners and thought I'd check it out. I love gardens, I am a total putterer, but having a thriving indoor edible plant community is a geeky goal of mine. So far no dice on the thriving part yet, but it is fun and I keep trying. And I learned there are way more local garden communities and initiatives that I had suspected. How cool is that?!

On Friday I was writing in one of our local libraries and saw I poster up on the Community Board for the Relocalize Fair that would be on Saturday at one of our local community halls. Again this synchronicity of the theme community, and it looked interesting, so I decided to go. Again, a whole new world was opened to me and the power and spirit of a vibrant community was illustrated again and again. I went to three workshops/presentations (I learned from missing out on the garden ones last weekend!) and am so grateful I did!

Local economy expert and author
Michael Shuman presenting at the
Relocalize Fair in Calgary, Canada.

There is something primal about sharing and learning knowledge from each other. Our local communities can help provide an opportunity for that. Sometimes I allow myself to get caught up in the tasks of life and not the living of life. Participating in community activities, sharing knowledge, sharing common experiences, inspires me. The synchronicity of noticing the opportunities to reach out and engage in more of my local communities was a gentle reminder to get involved, play, learn, be part of my wider community.

What are your favourite ways to engage and participate in your local communities?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Random Picture Day: Jasper National Park

Today is random picture day. I know, that in itself is random, but whatevs...


Jasper National Park, Canada
One of my favourite places is Jasper National Park. This picture always makes me smile; mountains, river, trees oh my. So on this March day, take a smile break and enjoy! Happy *almost* spring!!

Where are your favourite places?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I Always Knew I Liked Rocks

I've collected rocks and crystals since I was a kid. I have bowls of the happy chunks throughout our house. What can I say, they make me happy. One of my oldies is a gigantic hunk of obsidian I picked up at a lapidary in Colorado. I was 18 and went on a road trip with three buddies from Wisconsin. The only space available in the wee car was on the floor in front of me. It was so big I had to rest my feet on top of it through several states. It was so worth it. That happy piece of obsidian has moved with me since. It has seen many states and provinces, it has graced our house and garden and inspired many a more large rocks to join our home. I love that thing. 
One of my favorites: Quartz Crystal
Several years ago I met Susanne McElroy, she digs rocks and crystals even more than I do and has taken her love to a whole new level; she is certified in Crystal Resonance Therapy (CRT)TM.
I had never heard of it before I met Susanne, but when she started explaining it, I was intrigued. So much so, that I tried it and really resonated with it. (Pun absolutely intended! ;)) I have a had several sessions since and each one has inspired rather stunning, powerful but gentle, healings.
So as folks think about the new year, goals and resolutions, I thought I'd share this gem!
Susanne has written a wee explanation for those of you out there that this resonates with, too.
What is Crystal Resonance Therapy (CRT)TM?
CRT is a vibrational healing technique that uses crystals and elemental allies in stones layouts, arrays and grids to facilitate healing for the client. The healing technique is guided by a Certified Crystal Resonance Therapist (Cert. CRTh) certified by Crystalis Institute ( A CRTh is trained in mineralogy, geology, crystallography, experiential anatomy and physiology, vibrational channelling, ethics and clinical practise.  This training allows the practitioner to work with their own human crystal as a vibrational oscillator; directing crystal vibration to the client's energy field and body. The CRTh analyses the healing session to identify key elemental and chakra imbalances, polarities, patterns and blockages and possible chemical, emotional and physical influences. The practitioner works to provide a healing plan supported by meditation, daily spiritual practice, and crystal elixir preparations.  Crystal Resonance Therapy provides guidance and awareness for the client to embark on, continue or reach new heights in their own healing journey.
Susanne McElroy lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She is a Cert.CRTh and is certified in Primus Activation Healing TechniqueTM (PAHT Pract.). If you require more information she can be contacted by email at