Tag Archives: cancer

Be Leaving a Legacy (5th Anniversary)

December 26th, 2013 7:00am

The lady that will leave the largest legacy in my life left the earth.

Five years ago.

She breathed her last breath.

My dad at her side.

My boys and I sleeping at her house.

December 26th, 2018 7:00am

I set an alarm.

I woke and took a deep breath.

I began to ponder this adventure we have created these last five years and I must admit that I am shocked it has been five years living on this earth without my mama.

Some days, my breath gets taken away with grief and it seems like just moments ago that I was told that my mom had died. Other days, it feels like she has been gone for a hundred years. It truly is like the disciple Peter says: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. “

On days like today, I am able to look back and see five distinct legacies that my mom created for me and my boys:

  1. My Mama was thoughtful! She was incredibly present with her people and truly saw how she could add value to their everyday life. She used her “spidey sense” to buy the best gifts. She really saw people and what they needed. Most days, she was the gift people needed.
  2. My Mama was a “mover”! She was cycling in Mallorca, Spain eight months before she died, cycling up to 90km per day. If she said that she was going to do something, she did it. Plain and simple. Joanna, “I was to learn Spanish!” Boom, at 65 years old she signed herself up for a Spanish class. My Mama was an athlete her whole entire life from living on the farm, to playing basketball, to being one of the first moms to join a gym and finally her passion for cycling, hiking and cross country skiing. My mama was woman of her word and a mover to boot.
  3. My Mama was creative! Whether it was when she was quilting, creating in the kitchen or working in her garden, my mom always added her own flare to what she was doing. She was never afraid to try new recipes or create something with our boys, even if it involved sparkles. My Mama was a creator.
  4. My Mama was not perfect! She was the person who gave me permission to be perfectly imperfect. I saw her shed tears over the things that her relatives chose to do to her and I saw her unsure at how to respond. I saw her get angry and apologize. I heard her speak about other people and also then apologize. I watched her when I was younger as she moved jobs and share what it was really like to work as a teacher in an antiquated system. My Mama was a human “being”.
  5. My Mama was LOVE! At 7:00am in the morning when the boys wanted to watch cartoons, she would let them crawl into bed with her. Whenever we showed up at her front door, my Mama always gave the very best hugs and made space for us in her life. Every time, I needed to talk with her, she listened. She listened really, really well. Time. Hugs. Listening. And so much more than my simple words can convey. Who could ask for anything more? Pure love!

Today on December 26th, we put on our skinny skis and went down the nordic trails to remember my Mama and my boys’ super Nana. We talked about the legacy that she has left for each of us. We cried. We laughed. We sent a balloon up to heaven. In rememberance. As a symbol of our connectness and the legacy that will never leave each of us.

With gratitude for every moment that I could spend with my Mama here on earth.

For the legacy she left.

With gratitude for the Mama that I now get to be for my boys.

For the legacy I will leave.

Thoughtful.

Mover.

Creative.

Imperfect.

LOVE.

And the greatest of these is love.

Unconditional.

Unwavering.

Unforgettable.

LOVE.

Remembered on the trails today.

And every day as we live out our legacy now!

Leave a beautiful, imperfectly perfect legacy my friends.

Love, Joanna

Be Living A Brut-iful Life!

img_8886 As I sit, ponder and let my mind wander, I think of all of you reading this 2017 message. Each of my Facebook friends and all 996 of you that follow my blog. I want to pour out extra love to everyone going through their sprinkling of brutal and beautiful as I did three years ago.  Couldn’t that be all of us?  Isn’t life imperfectly perfect?  What a brut-iful life we are living here in the stunning Okanagan Valley!  A sprinkle of brutal, but ALWAYS beautiful!

Three years ago, I walked with my mom as she was being released into heaven.  I walked as a daughter, an advocate, a pain reliever, a massager, a water getter, a midwife and had to make phone calls that I never thought I would have to, I think back at how brut-iful these moments were.  Brutal moments where I just have to lie down and cry and beautiful moments where I lie down and rejoice!  All magically weaved together into living each day with the gift of grief.

My boys were playing in their “Astronomer’s Lair” a few days ago, and I was very surprised to walk in and see them playing with old Tupperware bins.   I experienced one of my brut-iful moments when they proceeded to inform me that the extra bed was a place for their beloved Nana.  It was a lying down rejoicing and crying kind of moment!  The boys were 2, 4 and 6 when my marvelous Mama went to heaven, but she is still very much present in our lives!   It is slowly moving from brutal memories into beautiful moments.  Don’t underestimate your power to leave an impact on peoples lives!

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As I send  you wishes for an healthy, energetic, adventurous 2017 filled with dreams, may you savour all your brut-iful moments knowing that they are neither good nor bad, they just are.

Day by day.

Beautiful.

Brutal.

Memory-Making.

Healthy.

Living EVERY day.

Brut-iful living.

Brut-iful life!

Smooch, Joanna

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Be Walking out your Grief 

It is such a privilege to walk with someone and hear their story about living through the death of their precious mama.  

This is a treasure. 

It is an incredible gift to hear how someone is truly feeling about their life on any given day because of packed scheduled, presentations, or sleepless nights. 

This is rich.  

It is profound to get to know so many people negotiating grief while experiencing divorce, death, dog bites, loss of jobs, moving… The list is endless.  

This grief journey is priceless. 

I am blessed to be having these deep conversations on a daily basis now that I have been sitting in my own gift of grief. 


I am now learning to walk it out.  

Honesty, most days I still want to hide.  

I am broken inside. 

I am softer and more affected by life.  

My heart leaks out of my eyes at unexpected moments, like today when beautiful Crystal told me she was proud of me.  

I want to lie on my laundry room floor and pray and wonder and ponder and rest.  

But, I know I need to walk it out. 

My lying down days are gone.  

I have lying down moments, like today in Superstore, which I still really enjoy. They no longer need to humble me for the whole day. 

I get out and walk. 

I talk. 

I swim. 

I write and play with words.  

I run. 

And I talk to people, lots of them because I love people.  

I bike.  

I workout.  

I do this to keep working things out. 

My body moves. 

My relationships grow. 

My minds ponders.  

My gift of grief keeps unpacking itself.  

Into this deep place where I am now able to have the privilege to walk with others.  

In their grief.  

On their own personal journey.  

Walking it out.  

What a blessing. 

I am blessed.  

I am enough. 

Each breathe. 

Each day.  

I am enough.  

Be Working Out to Work Things Out 

It was snowing this morning when I woke up. 🌨

Large. 

Fluffy. 

Snowflakes.  ❄️

It was cold. 

I lifted my head off the warm pillow, put on my work out clothes and headed out the door. 

Gloves and toques on. 

(Sidenote: sending love to Joan and Christina this morning💜) 

And then I ran.  

On the road, around the trails, under the ski lift.  

I ran to work things out this Thanksgiving weekend. 🍗

I work out as much for my body as for my mind. 

I have encountered grief many times in my life through friendships lost, moving, injuries, and the loss of my beautiful mama. 

I have watched people journey through grief during the process of divorce, their children aging, losing a job, gaining weight, not getting a contract and even not meeting a business goal.  

Grief is a daily journey.  It is a daily gift to take us to a deeper place as human beings. 

Awake.  

Feeling. 

Beings. 

In this grief that I have felt and witnessed through others, I see that we have FOUR choices, daily, sometimes moment by moment choices: 

1. First, we can numb ourselves with an outside substances or activity.  I tried nightly alcoholic drinks for awhile after my mom died, my greatest grief journey, but this just numbed me even more, so now I rarely drink.  If what you are doing is not allowing you to feel, then consider taking a break from the substance or activity.  I take rest days now in my workout weeks, thank you Coach Garry.  This has helped me tremendously as I choose not to numb. The greatest gift we have is to feel.  

2. Create a life of busyness and be a human doing is a second choice that I had to ponder and overcome.   This perpetual busyness allows us to keep going, feeling productive, going through the motions, but not living as a human being.  This “get ‘r done” girl knows this one well. I now purposely take time throughout my day to pray, meditate and be. It is important to feel as we live with grief. 


3. A third choice would be putting our ‘stuff’ onto other people.   We need to be 100% owners of our grief journey.  No two peoples will look the same.  We can walk side-by-side momentarily with people, but we won’t always walk together for long.  The feelings and thoughts that grief unfolds is as unique as each individual person.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be gentle with others.   Anger showered towards other people is an energy suck.  Bless and release.  Thoughts about others journeys is pointless.  Bless and release.  Telling others how it will be is a lie.  No one knows what grief will unfold for people. Who knew I would become a triathlete author who loves loves loves helping people be their healthiest selves through a nutritional system I discovered one November day at boot camp? We can only share where we are coming from and then allow other grief journeyers choose what will fit for them.  

4. We have one more choice, that I see on this journey. Sit, lie, walk, workout and stand in our grief.  Feeling it deeply with gentleness. Allowing ourselves to go to a deeper emotional place in whatever ‘position’ helps you grieve.  

My laundry room is my sanctuary.  This is where I lie. A place where I can be alone and lie on the floor, feeling my emotions. I lay there yesterday, crying, feeling, thinking and shifting.  I reached out to a divine-inspired friend, shared my heart, felt, prayed and then shifted my state.  

This morning, I ran. I worked out to give my mind time to churn. Space to think about my mom who always created magical holiday memories.   Time to be in nature and allow myself to feel.  

And now I stand.  I am ready to celebrate this magical thanksgiving weekend with my boys.  I have proactively processed and know I can react to anything that comes my way. 


Numbing. 

Busyness. 

Owning. 

Feeling. 

Our grief. 

Our feelings. 

Our journeys. 

Walking alongside those fellow awake, heartfelt people.  

Keep going my beautiful friends. 

Working out to work things out.  

You are not alone.  

Be Celebrating Another Nana

This post has been percolating in my mind for many months.  Stewing, forming, mashing all up together in my head and within the deepest part of my heart.

How could I best pour out my words for another beautiful, vibrant, gardening Nana?

Tonight, I just decided to sit down and write.

Tonight, I am celebrating another Nana.

I remember one day after dropping JC off at school in Vtown, a very good friend of mine K walked up to me in the parking lot.  I am not sure where the little boys were, but K and I ended up standing in the parking lot and she shared her news.

Her beautiful mom, Wendy, was diagnosed with cancer and they didn’t think it could be cured.
WUMP!

If you know my friend K, you know both her mom and her dad.  Like my parents used to be, their lives were woven throughout the fabric of their grandchildren and children’s lives.  Nana Wendy was a Super Nana, just like my mom.

I didn’t know at the time, but K and I would walk similar journeys as grieving daughters and mom’s of young children as we watched our Super Nana’s and mom’s live and die with cancer.  My mom wouldn’t be diagnosed until many months later and would pass away two years before Nana Wendy.

On December, 29th, 2015, just two short months ago, I was able to be present and sit as K and her family celebrated Wendy’s life.  Ironically, it was two years to the day that we had celebrated my mom’s own life.

Wendy’s celebration of life was truly remarkable and not something that I soon will forget. Candles were lit.  K read a beautiful poem.  Her brother shared his mom’s life story and some humour to go along with it.  K’s daughter shared her heart.  Family and friends shared stories.  It was the most lighthearted, beautiful, inspiring, celebration of life I had seen.  I felt like I had the opportunity to sit with Wendy, getting to know her more through her family, while in her garden.

This moment reminded me about the depth of character, which we all have, that allows us to grieve deeply, yet celebrate a life.   This same depth allows us to smile at little children and be grateful for an unborn baby that K’s brother’s family was expecting, while feeling sadness about the loss.

Life is created in these beautiful seeming “opposing” moments, created by amazing families, like K’s!

It is about embracing all of lifes beauty at all times.

I am extremely humbled to call K my friend and to have journeyed this passage of time with her through cancer treatments, hospital stays, time in hospice and celebrating our moms lives and deaths.

With gratitude, I pour out these words.

With humbleness of heart for being able to watch this journey unfold.

With a great lump in my throat for the loss we both endure.

With sadness for our children that have lost their Super Nanas.

With love pouring out because of how our mom’s lived their lives.

To the max!

With laughter.

With a good book at their side.

A beautiful garden to tend to.

And a family that deeply misses their presence.

Hugs to our Nanas in heaven.

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Be Celebrating

Cancer teaches you how to celebrate.

Each drink of water.

Every step from the bed to the couch.

Celebrating a rub on my hand.

A nuzzle.

A twinkle in her eye.

A smile and a kiss from her lips.

Yes, cancer is the great teacher of celebration!

I have learned the lesson well.

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Now I celebrate each conversation.

Send a card to celebrate a landmark in people’s lives.

Every night when my boys lie down to bed, I celebrate their days with them, nuzzle their necks, show them my twinkle for them and leave them with a smile and a kiss.

This last Saturday, we celebrated.

As a couple, as a family and as a business team!

Reaching a “Crystal” position.

We have put ourselves out there to share solutions we love.

Solutions around energy, performance, weight loss, healthy aging and wealth creation.

Solutions we believe can change lives.

Starting with us!

My boys told me that I am skinnier, kinder and that I have less vibration in my tummy!

My Sexy Neck told me that he can see my determination to reach my goals of helping people and that this is happening!

My CC told me that my pouchee tummy is gone!

I celebrate that I have something to give to the world!

I am no longer striving, I am just being.

Being me.

Doing what I love every day.

Connecting.

Coaching.

Conversing.

Being authentic.

Allowing people to be.

Celebrating!

Life!

Being!

Me!

Being who I have always dreamed that I could be!

 

 

 

 

Be Sh*tty

Tonight, I sit and I ponder.

I stir things around.

In my mind.

In my spirit.

I allow the hamster wheel of thoughts go round and round.

I allow the thoughts to stop the wheel on “I feel sh*tty!”.

I am not one to swear, nor one to go towards the side of feeling sh*tty.

Tonight I do.

Feel.

Sh*tty.

I have a dear friend walking the same journey that I did two years ago.  After a hospital stay and doctors doing what they can to prolong life, my friend’s beautiful mama is going home to die.

I have one of my best peeps in KCity awaiting to see if she has cancer in her body.  She had a biopsy to have melanoma removed from her back last week.

I have a fellow volleyballers who’s servant-hearted Dad is living with Alzheimer’s.

There is a girl in the boys elementary school that starts life-saving, on your knees “hoping for a miracle” treatment for a brain tumour.  This sweet soul was also in Owen’s preschool last year.

My cousin is back in town from up north to have surgery, the second surgery in a few weeks.

And my three wee boys are under the weather.

So, what do I do?

I lean into the people who love me.

I spend time carving pumpkins.

I look at the beautiful autumn leaves.

I take a week off from my teaching job, to sit, to serve and to be.

An opportunity to be where I am.

Sitting with my feelings.

Feeling sh*tty.

With gratitude.

For all I can do.

All of my feelings.

Being a human being.

Be on the Water

Two years ago, almost to the day.  I started on a journey where I needed to learn to ride in the waves.

No choice.

Just had to do it.

The waves were metaphors, but overpowering.

My breathe was taken out of me many times, but I choose to not allow it to not overcome me.

The diagnosis of my best friend and mom having cancer.

The death of my beloved mom on Christmas 2013.

My grief was like living in a boat.

Some days the journey would be surreal, warm and comforting.

But without a moment’s notice the waves would start to pummel me, push me under and make me gasp for air.

I didn’t know what to do.

I couldn’t “do” anything.

I need to just “be” in the waves.

Feeling what I was feeling.

Allowing the grief, sorrow, pain to come.

Allowing myself to learn and let go.

Two years later, I am starting to learn to ride on the water with my four boys surrounding me.

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The waves are infrequent. The water is calmer. I can truly say that I have learned to ride in the waves and am now enjoying a time of being on the water, in the water of life.

Yes, the waves still do come.

Yes, I honour those waves for what they have taught me and how they have helped me become who I am.

And I am full of overflowing gratitude.

For all that I can do.

For who I am.

I am grateful for my boys.

I am grateful for the people that God has surrounded me with.

I am full of gratitude for my mom, her life and her death.

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Be the Gift of a Vomit Bowl

After my mom died, there were few things that I asked for nor wanted.

Stuff just doesn’t hold much “significance” for me.

One thing that we did take was the two blue bowls that my mom had during her cancer journey.

It wasn’t until this morning that I understood the significance of these bowls and the gift that I had been given.

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Last night, my oldest threw up, eleven times… yup, we counted.

We slept for about two hours and now we are into our day, living our life.

I have learned that we don’t live in a world where everything is perfect or where everything will go as we planned.  BUT we can find comfort in chaos and beautiful moments while cleaning a vomit bowl.

My Sexy Neck sent me this text after JC and I’s long night:

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The gift of watching my mom vomit over and over and over again as she journeyed through cancer.  My mom and I would laugh as we were the two most squeamish members of our family when it came to vomit.

The gift of a bowl to help my children and to be able to walk with them through their sickness.

New beginnings.

New Learnings.

A blue bowl.

The gift of a messy, marvelous life that my mom lived fully.

My own messy, marvelous life that I live with in freedom and grace.