About Me

My name is Christine. I'm a visual artist, musician, traditional storyteller, DV survivor, and have been a fulltime caregiver for an individual living with various diagnoses. After my marriage, I learned how to play various instruments, started exploring various means of creative expression, worked with at-risk teens/families, volunteered with the local crisis lines, participated in starting up a family resource center, completed my BA, furthered my studies towards becoming an art therapist, managed homes for adults living with disabilities, and facilitated therapeutic music/art sessions. I was doing everything I could so my children and I could have a brighter life, present and future. My physical health, however, continued to show evidence of too many chronic stressors over many decades. This blog is about my journey in discovering peace and better health by meeting life in the most basic and, in my opinion, the most rewarding of ways - by focusing on the riches of simplicity. If you're a new visitor to my blog, you might be interested in starting here: Finding the Riches.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Toss Anything In!

Turmeric, dehydrated spinach, dehydrated kale, baking soda, dehydrated pumpkin,
frozen organic strawberries, organic banana, pomegranate juice
Almonds, dates, ground flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, cinnamon, water
I've had my share of discovered lumps over the years and tire of the waiting and the angst and everything involved in the medical procedures just to have lumps assessed. I've also lived with a generous share of stressors over the years. For all those reasons and many more, including my three wonderful children and my four beautiful grandchildren, I am very mindful of what I put into my body. I haven't always been mindful throughout my lifetime, but I sure am these days.
I really enjoy blending together healthy drinks. I get such a kick out of being able to toss in all sorts of good stuff and just drink it all down. For someone who wants to ingest certain foods on a daily basis, blended drinks are definitely a prime consideration. Every day, in addition to other fruits and vegetables, I aim to have quinoa, turmeric, baking soda, greens, a banana, pumpkin, ground flaxseed, maple syrup, a few nuts, chia seed, hemp hearts, and cinnamon - all of which are easily tossed into a blender. Sometimes I use various green/ herbal/organic teas in my drinks instead of nut milk, water, or juice. And to retain nutrients, I've also been eating most fruits and vegetables more frequently in their raw (usually dehydrated) form rather than cooked.
I also try to eat a bit of cacao each day as well as a bit of honey and a bit of coconut oil. I've tried taking apple cider vinegar every day and really, really struggle with the taste - my face contorts to a point where it might never return to its regular appearance. The health benefits will draw me back to trying it again at some point. I often use blackstrap molasses as a food supplement but I don't usually do so on a daily basis.
I consider the above to be the necessities in my daily eating. I usually try to get all that good stuff into me in the mornings and then fill in with other foods throughout the rest of the day. (That's not to say I don't eat other foods. I enjoy an occasional burger or eggs/toast or "Chinese" food when friends come to visit, and an occasional sandwich or "treat" with my son, etc.) I get my protein primarily through hemp, beans (bought dry then soaked and cooked), chia seed, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa. My calcium comes primarily from my chia seed, almonds, molasses, chickpeas, quinoa, and vegetables. And "vitamin" D? When not absorbing it outside during non-winter sunny days, I get a whopping hit of it from the hemp hearts.
Some folks have asked how I can afford to buy hemp hearts, chia seed, almonds, etc. It's all about choices. For example, I use Hemp hearts as one of my primary protein sources. One 454g bag costs me approximately $15. That amount of money doesn't buy very much meat these days. I eat 30g -60g of hemp hearts a day, though usually just 30. Here's a link providing nutritional information about hemp hearts: http://manitobaharvest.com/product/206/Hemp-Hearts-454g.html
When I cut out meat purchases, processed food, etc., I found that a big chunk of my grocery budget had been going into my body without providing much nutrition for my dollar. For awhile, I tried eating only really inexpensive "food" but found it didn't work - I felt hungry and unwell, not a good combination for parenting. Once I figured out how to adjust my budget to ensure I was getting decent nutrition, I found that nutritional eating didn't have to break the bank. I just learned to think about food differently. It's a lot of work through summer and into fall to stock up for winter, but it makes winter nutrition really simple. Now I view eating as sort of a science lab exercise, making sure I'm taking in enough protein, vitamins, calcium, etc., each day. And it's a fun exercise! I will point out, however ,that this has been a process. It's taken years to get to this nutritional place, and there were many periods of deep cravings. I believe, however, that we can train our brains to accept shifts in eating habits. Like so many other things in life, it just takes time.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Pleasures of Pumpkin

Mmmm. Simple, nutritious, chock-full of healthy stuff.

During the summer, I purchased food from local producers. In addition to enjoying fresh, local produce, I also dried/dehydrated enough (mostly at temps low enough to keep nutrients intact) so I could have nutritional local food throughout the winter. I also came across a family selling pumpkins for $2 each. Having read about pumpkin's super-food qualifications, I picked up 10.  I dehydrated bits of pumpkins (and pumpkin seeds!) for hours on end, grinding some down into a powder. Then I learned that pumpkins, like tomatoes, actually have some sort of additional nutritional benefit when cooked so I baked the rest and filled the freezer with orange goodness.

Every few days, I usually do up a batch of quinoa (and was surprised to find that the PC Organics quinoa was less expensive to buy than quinoa in the Superstore bulk section) and store that in the fridge. Then every couple of days I put together various ingredients to mix with my almost-daily serving of quinoa. This provides me with a healthy meal that's always in my fridge. The quinoa rings in at less than $2.50 a box and provides me with numerous meals/snacks over the course of about 3 days (I'm more of a grazer, not so much a sit-down-and-eat-a-big-meal sort of person). I always add in pumpkin for the nutritional benefits. Each pumpkin was $2, half a pumpkin would be $1, which means my daily pumpkin costs less than 25cents. From thereon in, it's just a matter of choosing what else I want to toss in. If I add in beans (lima, garbanzo, black beans, etc.) they're the ones purchased in bulk or in a bag and soaked overnight before cooking (I sometimes grind them down as well into a houmous/hummus sort of blend before adding them to other ingredients for the quinoa OR just have them on their own, blended down with raw garlic and whatever else I feel like adding) - again, a nutritional boost for pennies per serving. I usually add in turmeric and then whatever vegetables I choose from the jars of dehydrated goodness in my cupboard.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw how many seeds small pumpkins could hold. They're packed! And what a great, low-cost food item! They pack a nutritional punch. I dehydrated mine, mostly without salt but some of the last batches were sprinkled with sea salt. You can imagine all the seeds we have from the 10 pumpkins we bought. I'm so thankful we came across the pumpkin folks. 

Monday, November 25, 2013


I choose.

I choose to see beauty. I believe part of that is intrinsic and part of that is conscious choice.

Consistently, frequently making that choice has provided the opportunity for my brain to learn to seek out. The more I've chosen to mindfully seek out beauty, the more my mind has been drawn to it, and seeks it out during times of difficulty. In my way of thinking, training our brain is actually done by everyone. Some train their brain by teaching it to react to whatever's happening, some by teaching it to turn to various means of coping whether healthy or unhealthy. I choose to train my brain towards beauty, nature, creativity.

I choose love.

I believe love is an active verb. If I feel affection towards someone but use terrible communication/behaviour towards them and then tell them that I am sorry and that I love them, I view the latter as an inaccurate statement. To me, it's akin to someone saying that they feed animals and then doesn't feed them but still says they feed animals, or someone who isn't a cyclist saying they bike everywhere. In my view, love is something we do or do not do.

I also believe that sometimes differences in the definition of love create a disconnect. I've seen this come into play in the scenario where one person is showing love and desire for peace by setting boundaries with another person regarding behaviour, whereas others are viewing those boundaries as being an indication of not accepting the other person and therefore not loving them. My view is that when someone has repeatedly shown damaging/disrespectful/inappropriate behaviour, setting boundaries with that person facilities love because it removes the potential for further damage and facilitates peace for all concerned.

I choose sadness.

Some seem to think that feeling "negative" feelings is a terrible thing; that "sad" needs to be "cheered up" and that anger is a scary thing. I believe it's what we do with those feelings that categorizes into what some believe as necessarily "good" and "bad" feelings. If we direct our anger at others in inappropriate/disrespectful ways, we've created problems for ourselves and those around us. If we wallow in sadness and wade into dwelling on the past, we again create problems. If we learn to make appropriate/healthy choices with our feelings (see below), we are capable of embracing our feelings as part of our life experiences. I have felt both sadness and anger. Embracing them has fostered creativity, for example, in the form of writing and painting, and has also ignited awareness and drive for advocacy.

I choose  happiness inner peace.

We all have events in life with which we have varying emotional responses. We feel. We all know it's not healthy to bottle up or ignore feelings. We all know it's not healthy to use feelings as a means to inappropriate behaviours. We also know that we can make choices. Except for those dealing with various medical conditions, we can choose how our feelings effect our lives. We can choose to put on our jacket and go for a walk even if we don't feel like doing so. We can choose to be active, be creative, be mindful - BE! We can choose to carve out all sorts of good stuff in our life whether we're feeling sad, happy, angry, etc. Where is our energy? I find mine in my mindfulness and in what I choose to do. Even during difficult times, we can choose to take steps towards healing. Focussing on a tree outside the window or the clouds in the sky is an active step towards healing through those difficulties. Training the mind to continually clear out other thoughts and focus on what the eyes are seeing can be a new exercise for some, but well worth the effort and a step towards  teaching oneself to tap into good. Training our brain to focus on what we want it to focus on can lead to all sorts of healthy paths in daily living, relationships, our way in the world.

What about happiness?

It seems to me that society teaches us to define happiness in relation to how we are affected by external circumstances. We are happy when someone gives us something or when something happens to us. Something "makes us" happy. I've given this much thought over the years. I feel happy in my core even though there are many circumstances in my life that would be considered "negative". I'm almost always feeling happy inside. I find it easy to smile. I feel very much at peace with myself. Then I began to wonder - is that what happiness is? Is it inner peace? In my experience, happiness and inner peace are different. I have a deep sense of peace about who I am and what I'm doing in this world. But there are times when there is turmoil happening around me. There are time when I cry. So is it possible to have a deep sense of peace about oneself yet have moments of not feeling happy? Yes. Is it possible to easily tap into a sense of happiness even when there's nothing different happening that would "cause" the happiness? Yes.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013


The next 24-48 hours may be the last for the father of one of my daughter's friends.
I dedicate this post to her.

There's an inner shift that happens when you know that someone close to you, someone
you care for, is dying.

It changes the way you think and feel. And there's a completely different depth to the time
you spend with your loved one.

When Grandpa died, I was already feeling anger because I couldn't afford to visit him in hospital as he was dying and I had nowhere for my son to stay even if I could afford the flight. He was the only grandpa I'd known and I'd had him only through my adult years. When he went into hospital, I was still adjusting to living a low-income lifestyle and dealing with my former husband's seeming hatred. Thankfully, my family made many reassuring phone calls during that time and that sense of unity and support helped heal my anger.  I knew that Parkinson's had been a deep thorn in his flesh. I knew Grandpa had lived a full life and that, throughout the end of that life, he was surrounded by loved ones.

Throughout my teen and adult years, I'd known my mother wasn't well. Heart problems and diabetes were having strong influences on her body. And yet, receiving that phone call that she had died just felt so sudden. I was literally speechless on the phone. I felt crushed. I felt as though the world had stopped and that anything happening outside of the news of my mom's death was happening in slow motion. I was heavily saddened by the news that Mom had been home by herself and had phoned for paramedics by herself and had potentially been alone when she died. And even though I learned the next day that she hadn't, in fact, died alone and that the paramedics had been with her when she died, I still felt heavily saddened that I hadn't been there with her to hold her hand, to caress her face, to kiss her forehead.

When my Nan died, I was with her. I was at the hospital as she was brought in. I was there
while they ran tests. I stayed through those dreadfully long couple of days and nights hoping she'd recover from heart surgery. And then they came and told me she was dying. I sat with her. I softly sang to her. I told her how much I appreciated her in my life and how inspiring she had been in so many ways. I recited Psalms to her that she had taught me as a child. I held her hand, surprised by how the swelling had filled in her hand, puffing it a bit to the point where it now resembled the hand that had held my childhood hand. I was distressed by seeing her tongue resting on her bottom lip under a tube rather than being inside her mouth where it could stay moist and presumably more comfortable. And even though the nurse explained to me that Nan could feel no pain, I was distressed by the single tear that escaped Nan's left eye. What did it mean? Was the nurse mistaken? Was Nan in pain? Or was it, as the nurse had said, simply fluid escaping without any other meaning since Nan was no longer cognizant of anything? Was Nan sad?

Nan's unexpected death was a blow, followed by my son's difficulties in coping with what was going on. He'd had to stay with a respite provider while I was at the hospital with Nan, then he had to learn that Nan had died, then he had to deal with knowing that his family was sad, and that his sister and I would be taking Nan's ashes to another province for her funeral there. He had a lot to deal with and used all sorts of ways to try to figure out how to deal with everything. The day of Nan's service at the local funeral home, we ended up having emergency vehicles at our house shortly after the service, after a nail was stuck into an electrical outlet. It was a difficult time for everyone.

When my Gran was dying, I'd had phone calls while she was in hospital to let me know what was happening. Gran had talked for years about wanting to be with Grandpa. She and I had had many in-depth conversations about our relationship, about life, about thoughts and ideas. I know she wanted
to go. Here's the song I wrote for my Gran:

Before Mom died, I thought I was prepared for her eventual death. I'd known for years that she wasn't well. I sense that maybe that lulled me into some level of non-awareness of my feelings about it. When it happened, I wasn't prepared. I was madly in love with her when I was very young, my preschool legs never carrying me fast enough to run to her when visiting her at work or when she'd come home at the end of the day. Over the years, she'd often caused me to re-examine myself and how I learn from and respond to people and situations. She'd been my cheerleader, my confidante. Did she know that I was aware of and appreciated the gifts she'd given me?

My daughter's friend has had time to journey through this process together with her father. She's a wonderful young woman with a loving family who will have all come together to support each other and will be there for each other during this time. She also has a fantastic group of friends who will circle around her and her family. Many things will have been different for my daughter's friend over the last while since her father's diagnosis. The process of death changes everyone involved. Death changes the living. There will have been those moments when everything seems surreal, and there will have been those moments of intense pain, and all those moments all over the spectrum. She's a strong woman. In time she'll remember that there's also been beauty throughout this process, and she'll continue to gain wisdom as she journeys through this time in her life. May she and her family be beautifully comforted.

Saturday, November 02, 2013


Today I came across this draft that I hadn't posted last year. I remember that I'd considered deleting it last year. Today I realized how pertinent it is to my present journey:

"Last week, I was sitting in a closet-sized room at a hospital lab where the only view included the three bathroom-stall walls around me and the empty wall on the other side of the corridor. Against the wall was a metal shelf unit on wheels, housing folded hospital gowns.

As I sat in the tiny space waiting for the lab assistant, I became aware of the sense that there was nothing inspiring that I could see, and I hadn't brought along a notepad for writing/ sketching/scribbling ideas. There was no window offering a glimpse of a tree or birds or sky. There was no music, no artwork on the walls - only my imagination.

So I challenged myself. I looked at that institutional metal rack and considered the possibility of thinking creatively about it. It was shiny. It was silver. Still nothing. It had wheels - that gave my mind a microsecond of a grin imagining the adventure Lucy Ricardo or some other character might have with a wheeled shelf unit in a hospital hallway.

And then my thinking took a sharp turn. I considered the idea that we often don't see because we don't "see" - we don't look, we don't understand, our interpretation is too shallow, too limited. Something inside me wanted to find what I wasn't seeing.

I considered that maybe that's what happens when we're in a desperate environment - we're reminded of the inner life within us rather than being so attached to the environment around us. We're beckoned to reclaim how we view life rather than having our view dictated by our surroundings. We're called to take the time to really see rather than just exist. And then I saw it. I caught my breath and smiled at the timing of the thoughts I was having and what I was seeing - the glint of light on the corner of one of the shelves. Reflection."

Light. It's what draws us to the magic of the stars in the night sky; the glow of the moon in the dark. Our ability to see colour is dependent on it. And it's within us.