Tag Archives: grief

Be Bawling your Eyes Out (At the Gym)

Who walks into their gym and bawls their eyes out?

Me!

Who sobs crocodile tears all over a dog?

Yup, that would be me again.

This week, I walked into the gym for a usual workout, it was squat day. I walked in carrying my shoes and water bottle and see the service dog that is often sitting on the mat by the bench waiting for his handler/trainer to finish her workout. I have never greeted the dog because I wasn’t sure if the dog was working or not. I saw the handler/trainer working out and asked if I could give her dog a little pet. She said, “Yes!”.

I proceeded to sit down and the dog looked me in the eye, like only dogs can do. Viola, tears start flowing, sobbing ensues and I am soaking the fur on the top of the dog’s head.

I did “get myself together” to do my workout, but I realize in hindsight, with a bit of a chuckle, that I probably needed that cry more than any workout!

The blessings of dogs.

Enjoy their soulful presence.

Their divine eyes.

Their knowing ways.

Their ever present love.

We are blessed to have had both our dogs for so long.

Be Building a Big Heart

Happiest of Valentine’s Day to my beautiful peeps!

I have a gift to give you on this day and it goes waaaaaay back to my university days in the faculty of Physical Education at the University of Alberta.

Do you know how your body builds muscle?

When you workout with any type of weight, your going to create little tears in the muscle fibres. During your rest time, these little tears are going to be repaired. The body repairs them by adding more tissue around them, thus increasing the size of the muscle. Viola! Building muscles. Isn’t the body incredible!

Now walk with me as I take these words from my university days about building muscle and create a Valentine’s Day ❤️ metaphor for the most powerful and life-giving muscle, the heart.

Do you wonder how to have a huge heart besides doing cardiovascular exercise?

Do you ever hear people say “S/he has the biggest heart!”?

I know that these ‘big hearted’ people have something in common to create these huge hearts. I have seen it all around me through death, divorce, and destruction (physical and emotional).

I believe that when we feel things deeply and allow our hearts to be broken, we create little tears in the muscle fibres of our heart. During our feeling and healing time, these little tears will be repaired. I believe that the body repairs the heart by adding even more tissue around them, thus increasing the ability for us to feel things more deeply and have a HUGE heart. Viola!

Take those things in life that break you and allow them to build you.

Feel things deeply.

Allow the breaking to happen.

And know that your heart.

Your humanness.

Your empathy.

Your kindness.

Your ability to break.

Will all grow into the largest heart as you feel and heal.

Happy Valentine’s Day ❤️

😘 Joanna

Be Learning Life Lessons from a Lab

I was a cat girl growing up. Now, I am a lab girl for life!

I loved cats independence. Loved their gentle purrs and how they would sleep with you in the most obscure ways. My cat, Boots, loved sleeping right on top of my neck or chest.

Enter in Sexy Neck into my life in 1992 with a visit to his family home which was definitely a dog family. Their little dog, Mandy, was a sweetie. Someone to walk with, someone to greet you happily every single time you walked in the door and a great companion for everyone.

This cat girl growing up didn’t stand a chance! Nineteen years ago, I became a dog person, more specifically a Labrador retriever girl. My life would never be the same!

Over these years, I have had the privilege to learn from our two labs, KT and Summer. These are the specific lessons from Summer as this was a very Holy day celebrating her life.

💫 LIFE LESSONS FROM A LAB 💫

💫 Enjoy all the seasons, especially winter. Rolling around and sliding down slight inclines on your side is especially fun!

💫 Wag your tail at everyone but bark at the mailman.

💫 Always be on the lookout for food. You never know what you will find. Even things that you need to lick off the pavement are enjoyable.

💫 Be a baby watcher. Stand as close as you can with your wet nose on the baby blanket. Diapers are the best things to smell on babies. (We called Summer our “Nanny dog”.)

💫 Pour out love to the humans CLOSEST to you. Always be happy to see them. Always greet them at the door. Always look up to them with adoring eyes, especially when they have treats for you.

💫 Love children. All children. Always love those children that will rub your ears, your belly and play fetch with you.

💫 Take your master cross country skiing at all hours of the day. Be their companion and confidante listening to all their stories. Don’t get stuck in the powder!

💫 Be content being with, playing with and taking care of your core group of people. It’s the simple things.

💫 You are never too big to cuddle or have your ears and belly rubbed.

💫 Don’t leave the food you like unattended on the table. It might disappear! (This is a lesson from my boys: Nine and eleven year old. This is something Summer just started doing last year, which was ironic because her arthritis was so bad that we had to lift her into the car. That piece of toast on the table, though, no problem!)

💫 Don’t trust strange dogs.

💫 Be present

💫 A little mess doesn’t matter.

💫 The stuff you leave behind is meaningless. It’s the memories, the cuddles, the smells and the moments that create a MAGICAL life!

🙏🏻 LIFE LESSONS FROM A LAB 😘

Magical memories with this puppy: swimming, always being happy to see us, chasing golf balls, cross country skiing, eating every crumb off our floors, shedding a small dog every day, being my comfort and companion, witnessing the birth of all three of our boys…

Thank you faithful friend. Thank you for the life lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I will miss you every day!

February 5th 10:28am 💜 Summer 🙏🏻

Be Talking About Death (Green Burial)

There are people in your life that show you how to live well and die well. People that you have the privilege to watch come full circle in life.

My gift of grief and my true knowledge of the circle of life was given to me by my mama in 2013 and if you have followed my blog the last decade, you know her beautifully, deep story begins here.

This blog isn’t about my mama’s journey, but about another woman, and her thoughtful husband who brought such life and wisdom into Steve and I’s life. These wise and kind people are Colleen and Murray. Sexy Neck’s Grandma and Gramps.

See, when my mom died, it was a shitstorm of 25 days. Truly. My sister was on holidays in Australia. It was Christmas time. As a family, we had never talked about the possibility of my mom dying even though she was living with a very serious cancer diagnosis for over six months. It’s a perfect example of “seeing things how we are, not how they are.” We had no plan. No map. No idea what to do. It was the perfect storm for chaos and overwhelm.

GG and Gramps showed me how different death and celebrating a life can be. Gramps died one and a half years ago from cancer, within two weeks of being diagnosed. GG has been living with Alzheimer’s for over a decade. GG peacefully died a few weeks ago.

It was wonderful. A true celebration of lives well lived. Gramps was cremated. GG wanted a green burial. Therefore, in this picture Gramps lies with GG in the most beautiful wicker basket. The funeral home had never done a green burial before. I think they were as curious as us all. But GG and Gramps had a plan and the family, Linda, Ron and John, just had to follow the plan.

It was beautiful. The pastor shared many special memories. We saw family and friends we hadn’t seen in years. The great-grandchildren (my boys and their two cousins), an uncle and aunt, their great-uncle and his partner even went on a scavenger hunt looking for other relatives in the cemetery. Gramps had brought their spot to be laid to rest many, many years before.

What a privilege to watch Gramps and GG’s lives to be celebrated. What a gift to have them in our lives.

Now, the journey becomes personal. What do I want. How can I make things beautiful and simple for my family. It is with one hundred percent certainty that I know we will all die sometime in the very distant future. I know that I want to live and die well. Really well.

Thank you for the gift Gramps and GG! We love you. We miss your presence in our lives and we will miss our visits at The Quay.

Off to talk to my family about where to spread my ashes and the celebration of life that I want to take place in a gymnasium with bouncy castles and cotton candy.

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 Knowing the Opposite of Love 

I am a feelings girl. 

I no longer apologize for this. 

I feel things deeply. 

I am impacted by the words and even vibe of the people around me. 

I know this. 

Now, I harness this. 

People are powerful. 

We have emotions that fuel behaviour. 

We have passions. 

We have love!  

In my personal journey that I entered into as I walked through the gift of grief, the loss of my mama, I saw love.  

Pure love that no amount of pain could suppress. 

One moment my mama would be writhing and the next moment my boys would walk through the door.  

In that single moment, a smile would come on my mama’s face. Her eyes would open up and she would see them. She would hear them. She would be fully present and LOVING!  


On this journey, I also learned the opposite of love and it wasn’t what I had thought. 

During my four decades of life, I have surmised that the opposite of love was the feelings, thoughts and actions of hate. I realized the untruth of all of this. 

The incongruency. 

The inconsistency. 

I witnessed people, people I dearly love, be silent.  

Be unpresent. 

Eyes closed. 

Ears firmly shut. 

I asked them “why” and implored them to tell me “What could I do differently?”.

I received no responses. 

I had to sit with no answers. 

And then the moment hit me that the opposite of love had never been hate. 

Hate allows for discussion, emotion, action of some sort.  

The opposite of love has never been hate. 

It’s apathy. 

The nothingness. 

The unresponse.  

Love and hate are actions. 

Apathy is lethargy. 

Action and apathy are opposite. 

Apathy is meeting people to go sledding and one person decides to take a nap on the top of the ski hill.  This is not love! 

Apathy is inviting someone over for a two hour birthday party and they fall asleep on the couch in the middle of the party. (Note: The person is in their 30’s!). This is not love! 

Apathy is talking to someone daily and seeing someone weekly and then never being invited over to their house again.  They end up texting to tell you they are selling the house. This is not love! 

Apathy is having your phone in front of your face when someone is trying to have a heartfelt conversation. This is not love! 

Living in my gift of grief and my apathy examples, I implore you to be awake to love and aware of apathy.   


Keep your eyes open.  

Ears ready to hear.  

Be present. 

Be loving. 

I am a feelings girl 

Apathy is brutal! 

I no longer apologize for this. 

Nothingness is worse than hatred. 

I feel things deeply. 

I am impacted by the words and even vibe of the people around me. 

I know this. 

Now I harness this. 
I don’t spend time with apathetic people. 

People are powerful. 

If THEY choose to be! 

Overflowing with love, with action and knowing it’s opposite. 💖

Lessons from a Super Nana who would be celebrating her 75th birthday this week!   I love you Mama. 😘 Joanna 

Be Having Spongy Strategies

A little while ago, I went on my facebook live to talk about “standards” and got all us thinking about whose standards we are living by.  Our parents? Our culture? Our teachers or coaches?  Our pastors?   In the video, I also talked about: “What is the standard of being a good person?”.  Being a good person used to be my standard.  Now, my standard is LOVE, giving love. Freely, without barter.  Like these words that I pour out through my feelings and thoughts into this blog.  Giving freely with no expectations of any behaviour. I encourage you to listen to this facebook live and ponder your own personal standards.

After considering my own standard for living life, I became overwhelmed with depth of feeling about what I was dealing with in my daily life. These past weeks have been a deep, cherished growing time.   I work part time as a Physical Education teacher, I run a full time nutrition business that I am very passionate about.  I am loving on an elderly labrador retriever.  Add on to my plate running a VRBO guest house, creating time to write and workout all while pouring love and being present to three beautiful boys, that will give you a small snapshot of daily life.   As my husband has been travelling in Asia the last few weeks, my sponge has gotten more and more full.  I can tell that the sponge has become too full, as one night I yelled at my boys to put on their pajamas.  Really!  Yup, yelling, crying, feeling disgust and not being open are my ways of knowing my sponge is becoming full! Do you know your feelings that arise as your sponge gets saturated? And what the f does one do with those feelings?

Let me give you the privilege to share what I did this past week to make it to the end of the week still upright, continually smiling and still living within my standard.

Every day I move my body.

In some way.  Anyway.  Kitchen dance party or going to the gym.

I find a way.

Laugh.

Find someone who always makes you laugh or listen to something.

Find a way to laugh.

Bath.

Showering helps too!

There is something that is very refreshing and soothing about water.

Even though your sponge is full, find a way to get water moving around your body.

Limit your input.

For one day this week, I did not check any type of social media.

I purposely stayed in the “real world”, present to what was going on around me.

I found a way to have less input and more me.

Go within.

Pull the curtain back.

Look in the dark corners.

Thank those places that brought out the anger, the tears, the disgust.  Allow them to be.

That’s where I find me.

Hiding in the back, around the corner.  Truly me.

Live through the spongy times.

Fully awake to what you are feeling.

Knowing they will take you to a deep place.

A place to learn, to grow, to create roots to keep you from blowing over in the stormy weather.

A place to create an even larger sponge to deal with what comes your way in life.

A place to feel deeply.  Look deeply.  Be Deep.

Time to rinse out that sponge.

With one deep breath.

With the “spongy strategies” from the gift of grief from my mama.

Move.

Laugh.

Water.

Limit.

Go within.

xoxo Joanna

Be Awake 

Awake.  

The world around me sleeps. 

Calm, rhythmic breathing, like a heartbeat.  

Steady.  

Predictable.  

Breath.  

Awake. 

Pondering the dying.  

Their raspy, grasping breath, like a tight fist holding on.  

Wavelike. 

Unpredictable.  

Breath. 
Awake.  

Allowing my thoughts to tumble.  

My thoughts to jumble. 

My heart to mumble.   

Mumbo jumbo. 

Awake.  

Allowing myself to be, just as I am.  

Awake.  

Open. 

Pondering.  

Unafraid to feel. 

Deeply.  

Awake.  

Alive.  

Outside in. 

Coming out of the fog of oversaturated information from the world around me. 

Going within. 

Fully alive and awake to what is happening around me.  

Living inside out.  

Rightside up.  

Standing strong. 

Weak in the knees.  

Pondering a future on earth without one of my role models, my overcomers, my heros! 

Awake.   

Steady.  

Feeling.  

Inside out. 

Facing forward.   

Looking into the unknown.  

Be Having a New View 

When do you feel your knees shake or your mouth turn to sandpaper?  What makes your mind spin with emotionally charged random thoughts? 

For me, up until today, it was that building with the gigantic H on the top of it. Yessiree Bob, the hospital. 

Knee shaking. 

Sandpaper mouth. 

Mind blowing. 

Emotional muscle building hospital. 

I walked through seven years, um I mean days, of hospital time with my mom exactly three and a half years ago. If you followed my blog back then you know this meant pain, excruciating pain, worried nurses who thought they were going to kill my mom with pain meds, a stolen chair, sleeping on said chair and a final ambulance ride in the snow with my mama to the incredible hospice house. 

Hell 

Healing.  

Stretching. 

Restoring. 


Today, I walked into the hospital to see another dearly beloved family member.  I didn’t want to go, but my peeps are so much more important than any discomfort that I may feel.  I put on my armour, remembered what I learned in my last journey and walked through the doors.  

Walked through the doors with a “New View”, knowing that I had experiences that could help, a story that could support others and the keen sense to find tea, be in the right place at the right time and know the questions to ask when that magic right time happens. 

Shit, I have learned something and grown into it!  

I walked through the valley of he shadow of death, embraced it, rowed the waves of grief through it and now I can see the sun! I can see hope!  I can see a completely New View.  

Standing strong. 

Calm, steady words. 

Mind calming. 

Emotional muscle built hospital. 

The gift of grief keeps on giving and will for the rest of my life. My mom’s life and death had been one of my greatest teachers.  It brought me to my knees and helped me learn to stand.  Let this five all my fellow grief journeyers hope.  

Standing in my truth. 

With my experience. 

Soaring in my gifts. 

With my journey. 

Soaking in my New View. 


With love and gratitude for all that I can do and share. This post is dedicated to a beautiful couple who are our role models and the hospital that is supporting them in their journey. 

Be Leaving a Legacy 

Words often can’t do moments justice, except maybe if you are an Inuit person who has fifty words to describe snow. 

Today, I had an incredible moment where my mom showed her heart and the legacy that she has left myself, my boys, her family and her friends.  I pray that my words will do this moment justice.  

Since my mom died three years ago, there are a few memory making places that I haven’t been back to because of circumstances or choice.  The beautiful Cottage Day Spa with the extraordinary human being, Pam, was one of those places I chose not to go.  The Cottage Day Spa holds a very special place in my heart as it is a place where my mom felt peace and was truly cared for, in body, mind and spirit.   Pam has a gift to share and a beautiful Cottage to share it in.  


For my mom’s last birthday, I planned an elaborate surprise birthday party including a limousine scavenger hunt, poster collage, brunch at her favourite restaurant and an afternoon with Pam at The Cottage for a facial.  

Jump forward three years and I hadn’t made an appointment to see Pam. Before Christmas of this year, was when I ran into Pam for the first time.  I hadn’t seen her in years.  I then ran into Pam a second time in the parking lot of our ski hill about a month ago and I knew it was time to go back for a visit. 

Today, I stepped into The Cottage Day Spa.  The memories of coming with my mom enveloped me. She was always so full of joy coming here.  Truly free and truly happy. Today, I was shocked when I sat down and Pam pulled out this note from my file: 


Before my mom died, she paid for my treatment today! Pam honoured my mom’s legacy gift to me from over three years ago and today I was given the most relaxing, kind, beautiful, mom-inspired facial.  

Legacy. 

Living legacy.  

Loving. 

Learning.  

Giving.  

Thoughtful.  

Kind. 

My mom’s legacy.  

What will you be leaving as a legacy through your thoughts and deeds? 

My hope is to leave a legacy of:

✨ My love of ALL people. 

✨ Being a river of money, constantly supporting and passing on. 

✨ Home being a place of peace and joy. 

✨ My desire to be strong and athletic.  

✨ My moments of creativity and inspiration through solitary actions of writing, painting and photography. 

✨ My gratitude for God’s divine moments in our lives woven through people, greatness, mistakes and living imperfectly perfect.  

My legacy. 

My mom’s legacy.  

My inheritance.  

My heart interwoven through her constant encouragement and presence in our lives. 

Forever and always. 

Amen.