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10 Nov

Welcome!

You’ll find a wealth of stories here from my Re-Write Your Life series, featuring people who have gone through difficult times and, through their own processes of healing, have come to a place of peace, joy and contribution. You’ll also find writing prompts and tips related to transforming our life stories. And the truth is I would LOVE to know what you are up to as well. I would welcome a note from you telling me how you are. Please email me (junie@junieswadron.com), join our private Facebook group Junie’s Writing Sanctuary, or leave your comments below.

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05 Sep

My little red diary with the lock and key

My little red diary, by Junie SwadronWhen I was thirteen years old, I was given a diary for my birthday. I treasured that little red book with its tiny lock and key. It brought me into a private world that no one else was allowed to enter.

Journalling set me on a path of writing and healing that I would never have known about back then. That writing became my panacea—the healing tool that I would use throughout my life that also become the bedrock of my career.

I learned at a young age how important our stories are, as they not only reflect the life journey we are on, but also the events and circumstances that have shaped us and the decisions we’ve made from the myriad choices available.

Why did we choose this path over that one? And what inspires us to move in the directions we do? It’s complex, and there are so many reasons.

It was my natural curiosity and ability to see and hear what isn’t always obvious to others that brought me to the work I do as both a psychotherapist and writing coach. My greatest joy is to inspire others to live the lives of their dreams.

When you’re afraid and living with anxiety or depression, just walking out the door can be a huge triumph. In my counselling practice, I teach practical tools that foster hope and confidence. As my clients transform the pain of their past, many wish to write about their success.

As a writing mentor, I guide people to find their voice on the page, which eventually becomes their voice in the world—both in their communication with others and through books they write and often publish.

It would be my honour to guide you into having the same kind of confidence while writing your life stories—to find the voice that may have been stolen from you since childhood. To not let nasty voices in your head stop you ever again from following your heart and living your dreams.

I love my work because I get to hear the enthusiasm and joy that comes from people who have worked with me:

“I can do this.”
“I AM a writer.”
“I love what I have written.”
“I can’t believe that just came out of my pen.”
“I feel so much better.”
“I have so much more clarity.”
“I have a direction.”
“My life does matter.”
“I’ve written my story. Yippee!”
Mostly I hear, “Thank you.”

You never know who is going to read your writing and say, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” Your voice is just waiting to move from the page to the world, where the Universe takes care of the rest. Your job is to simply write. Mine is to guide you.

If you’d like to discuss 1:1 book coaching with me, book your 60-minute free consultation here.

I’ll soon be launching Your Life Matters, my new Author Mentorship Program for people who have worked with me in the past. Please let me know if you’re interested at yourlifematters@junieswadron.com. If you haven’t written with me yet, there’s no need to feel left out! Come to Sunday Sacred Writing Circle. It counts! And it’s amazing.

Here’s the link to register for Sunday Sacred Writing Circle.

You’re also invited to join Junie’s Writing Sanctuary on Facebook if you haven’t already, where we will be continuing the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

PS — The story about the little red diary is an excerpt from my book, Your Life Matters! 8 Simple Steps to Writing Your Story

Want more?

Download a free digital copy of Your Life Matters right here: www.junieswadron.com/memoir

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25 Jul

Miracles, Mishaps, and Musings

The Miracle

Nothing short of a miracle happened in our life! Our beautiful one-year-old budgie, Jazz, flew out the door and was lost on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 — and was found five days later, July 13, by children at a water park — about three kilometres away! Jolly, her mate, was feeling bereft, as were David and I. As you can see by their picture, you can’t get even a toothpick between them. They are so in love.

Jazz foundWhen Jazz flew out the door, I immediately enlisted the help of ROAM (Reuniting Owners with Animals Missing). Within minutes of my reporting that she was lost, ROAM had posted it online, informed other agencies, given us the contact info for all of them, AND created a poster for us, ready to print! WOW!

David and I and our friends must have posted 150 of them, and we posted on our Facebook site to engage prayers from all our friends and family . . . and just when my heart was starting to give up hope, ROAM called! Jazz had been found!!!

as the budgie flies
“As the budgie flies”

Jazz was a long way from home. She was found at the waterpark by some great kids who helped her get home to us and her “bird of a feather” Jolly.

HJazz was found by children!ow she flew from James Bay to the Esquimalt Recreation Centre, we’ll never know. Above is a map showing the walking route (blue) and Jazz’s route (yellow) in my imagination. As the budgie flies, it must be about 3 km — and across the ocean!

Jazz endured five days of mostly rainy, cold and windy conditions, and then she was found by children!

Meet Sarah, whose three children found Jazzy wandering around the grass and then flying into the wading pool to drink the water!

JazzSarah and Junie was tired and ready to come home, because she walked right up to Sarah’s shoe!

Sarah was able to easily capture her and keep her safe in a shopping bag till I arrived. We went into the change room and put her into her cage.

I poured the food onto the bottom of the cage and we were off to the vet, where we found that all vital signs were perfect. She was good to go, so I took her home to Jolly. A bit of good loving from her mate is the best medicine ever.

reunitedThe first day, she mostly slept, regaining her strength, while Jolly massaged her head. Her sweet loving mate.

I can’t say enough about ROAM. They were all so kind, genuinely caring, and fully results-oriented.

Bless them for the beautiful work they do.

Another incredible part of the story is that Sarah, whose children found Jazz, went to school with my friend Astri’s daughter Ariel. Sarah called Ariel to tell her about finding a budgie at the waterpark, and they figured out that I was the Junie that Ariel knew!

I came bearing gifts of my books to give to Sarah and her children. The next day, Sarah wrote and told me she was up all night reading Write Where You Are — and it was apparently just what the doctor ordered. We have scheduled a playdate for her and her kids to come over and meet Jolly, now that Jazz has fully recovered. It’s a happy story indeed — the rescuers have become our friends!

"Found" posters!

Junie and DavidDavid and I totally relaxed at lmagine Cafe after “our baby” Jazz came home.

While we were at the cafe, we mapped out our newest project on a napkin — a colouring book for Children of All Ages: Jazz Came Home.

I’ll write it, and David will illustrate it. We’ll keep the joy of this story happening! Let me know if you want to purchase an advance copy. It’s going to be spectacular!

The Mishap

Just days after Jazz was safely home and we were breathing peacefully as a family again, I had a ‘freak’ accident. An overweight can fell from the top shelf onto my foot and fractured a bunch of bones. I am now in a walking cast for six weeks.

But you see, this story could easily be written in the above category under “Miracles” as well. Why? Because I was clearly not listening to The Universe’s messages to SLOW DOWN. So God, in her infinite wisdom, delivered me a message I could NOT ignore: “JUNIE, STOP!” So, stopped I am. Well . . . much more than usual, anyway. Pain will do that. Your body requires sleep. FULL STOP.

I never thought I’d be one who’d be sitting and reading a book while my partner does everything! Everything! Hmm . . . one could get used to this! Well, maybe this one. Possibly not David. However, he’s chosen to be my full-time caregiver in every sense of the word without one indication of resentment.

The Musings

So, one could ask the question, “How DID Jazzy make it home? What caused that miracle?” I honestly don’t know if what I’m going to say next is arrogance or truth . . . but it’s something I’ve thought about.

David and I live our lives in appreciation and gratitude every day. We keep a joint gratitude journal, and every night before going to sleep, we’ve been writing what we are grateful for that day. We have limited it to five things or we may never hit the pillow.

We see the goodness in everything AND we are human and feel the pain of so much as well. Especially in these unprecedented times of Covid.

Generally speaking, we hold the energy of love, compassion, and joy, side by side with grief and sorrow.

We both know in our core that everything that happens, happens FOR us, not “to” us. It happens for our soul’s evolution and growth. And we are also quite aware that the miracle of Jazz’s return has to do with the prayers that came in from far and wide from friends and family. Thank you all!

Without my fractured foot, I would be still be carrying on like the Energizer Bunny — rarely slowing down. Although I meditate every day, my days haven’t been balanced. They will be now.

I’m paying attention! This isn’t a temporary healing job — that in six weeks, I’ll be back on the dance floor of life,  jitterbugging my way into programs and non-stop activity. My intention — that I am stating here, out loud — is to choose to live in inspired action, be in nature EVERY DAY, do my Life’s Mission, of course, because it’s what feeds my soul, and say, Thank you, God — for this lifelong lesson.

Writing Prompt

Where in your life do you need to either slow down, re-evaluate, or change a life-long habit before it becomes a two-by-four (or a heavy can) that forces you to make that choice?

Here’s your writing prompt in two parts. Start your timer and write for at least 20 minutes:

1. What I know in my heart I need to change in order to find true peace and freedom is . . .
2. The steps I shall take are . . . and I am willing to set that intention now.

I’m still going ahead with Sunday Sacred Writing Circle on Zoom. Why not join me? I’ll show you the budgies and my foot! Here’s the link to register.

You’re also invited to join Junie’s Writing Sanctuary on Facebook, where you can continue the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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05 Jul

Tell someone you love them. Today.

a love note from junie swadronThis week I’m sharing something very personal.

We don’t always know who we will touch when we simply show up with our hearts.

The other day I received an email from one of my very first therapy clients ever – 30 years ago!

Without my knowing it, she found me, subscribed to my newsletter, and wrote me the letter below. I had tears streaming down my face as I read it.

The reason I am sharing it is two-fold (probably more but I’ll keep it to two). ????

One: Because during the Covid period, my moods have been fluctuating all over the map. I’ve been here, there, and everywhere. Gratefully, mostly grounded and happy! Still, I want to be transparent and tell you that it’s not 24/7. Even though I am very capable of showing up for others, and do my work successfully, I have had some serious knee-jerk reactions to triggers that have brought up things from my past.

People in my present-day reality have said and done things that unconsciously reminded me of someone in the past — but they are NOT that person. This has brought up things for me to heal. Oh boy! Luckily, I have the tools. If only I had used those tools as trigger action plans before the event, though, I could have prevented the pain I caused.

Still, it’s how we all learn, grow, transform, and ascend the rungs of that spiritual spiral ladder we are on. We can only grow when we become conscious of our pitfalls and take action steps to correct them. One step at a time. Fall. Get up. Forgive ourselves, others . . . whatever it is. We know the drill.

If you see yourself in what I have described, take out your journal and write. Write into the truth of whatever has come up for you because it will free you! Punctuate it with a forgiveness letter to yourself and/or the ‘other,’ and a loving letter from The Universe to You, reminding you that you are perfect and whole, just the way you are!

Two: I’m sharing this because I would like you to think of someone you can write to this week who has changed your life for the better. Tell them. Please let them know. It will make their day, perhaps their life!

I was carrying so much shame for my recent explosion, that it was very hard to find the goodness in myself. When this email from my past client came in, it reminded me that I am so much more than my judgments of myself. We ALL do this to ourselves and it is not necessary!

I have since written back to my former client Diana and thanked her with all my heart for reaching out to me.

With Diana’s permission, here’s the email she sent to me after she watched the interview I shared in last week’s newsletter. If you haven’t watched the interview yet, it’s not too late! You can view it on YouTube here.

Letter from my client from about 30 years ago (circa 1990):

“Loved the interview Junie. (Junie still sounds strange to me as I have thought about you for years as June!) It was superb. There was no place to comment or I would have done.

I think you were new to the business when I saw you. And I was new to psychotherapy. Your apartment was so welcoming, cats and all, and so were you. Of course.

You got out your application form and I sat across from you and at about the third question I broke down. You then abandoned the form and encompassed me. I sat by you and sobbed out my story about my addicted son, a heroin addict, and you heard me out.

My sessions with you saved my life at that awful time. I had not shared my grief with anyone close to me. Always trying to be the go-to person to everyone else. I hardly shared with my husband the horrors of the day when he came back from the office.

You taught me that I needed to share with him as I needed his help. You taught me a lot as probably one of your first clients. And you had me write a diary or journal. So the seeds of your future were always there.

Writing. Enhanced by your work as a psychotherapist. Bravo, Junie. You came across in that interview as a totally amazing person, an angel in fact, a person anyone in distress would want on their side, in their corner.

I am stunned by the number of different jobs you have done all the while fighting your own battle with bi-polar disorder and abuse as a child. I remember you sharing that with me, too, about your being locked up in a psychiatric hospital. That sharing is so helpful, in fact it is beyond words is what it is.

Please use this letter in any way you need in order to further your work.

Your hair was blonde and you wore a motorcycle jacket when I knew you.

I prefer your silvery curly hair now. It suits you to the ground.

I became a writer, a writing instructor for the Toronto Board, a social service worker — but that got cut short when anything I wrote became published. I did every kind of writing imaginable.

In 2003 I wrote a book of short stories for teenagers which were well reviewed and placed in the top ten teenage novels of that year by the Canadian Library Association. Despite this it died on the shelf!

But I had an email from a high school teacher a few years ago and she said two of her students had been able to come out because she used a coming out story in the book in her grade 12 class. Would you like a copy? I have a lot!! And if so please send me your address.

I hope you live forever and continue to help those in need. You are in fact an angel. And still stunningly beautiful, June.

Diana”


Want to find out what writing from the heart can do for you? Join us on Sunday mornings for Sacred Writing Circle. Here’s the link to register.

You’ll find a lot of friendly writers in Junie’s Writing Sanctuary on Facebook as well, where you can continue the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

PS — Here’s the interview that Diana watched ⬇️

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06 Jun

Enough Is Enough

Like most of us with heart, (and I believe that is the large majority of us on Planet Earth), I have been truly affected over the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man on the streets of Minneapolis on May 25th. My emotions have run the gambit from rage to heartbreak, and this post is about feeling what we feel and having space to acknowledge it out loud in whatever ways we can.

If you have ever had, or still have, places within you where you do not speak up when your heart feels called to, then this is an opportunity to read the following and ask yourself some of the questions I pose here. Keeping things bottled within us causes everything from rashes to cancer, aggression to depression.

Let me ask you if you still carry feelings deep within you about people places or situations that are important to you — circumstances that align with your heart and truth but are afraid to say them out loud.

Or maybe you are someone who does share what’s going on for you with the people who matter most in your life, and if so, that’s beautiful because it’s one of the most empowering things any of us can do. This is especially true when most of us have had our voices stolen in childhood. Telling our parents or authority figures how we felt about things wasn’t usually acceptable. “Children should be seen and not heard” was part of the popular vernacular that most parents went by because it was exactly what had been passed down to them.

It’s a big deal to tell the truth out loud. Risky business. What if people don’t want to hear? What if you’re rejected, ridiculed, shunned, laughed at or bullied?

At what point do we say enough is enough and speak up in spite of our fear? When we hear or watch others lashing out against someone, what is our typical response?

There is no right or wrong answer. It’s just putting up a mirror for each of us to look at ourselves, which isn’t always comfortable.

The first time that I spoke out publicly “in spite of myself” I was 50 years old and it was against mental illness — all the names I had been called in my younger years — stupid, crazy, idiot, weirdo, mental, coo coo, nuts. I co-wrote a play with Victoria Maxwell to dispel myths and stigmas about mental illness because we are more than our doctor’s pathology report and the labels put upon us. Thank goodness, in spite of my terror that it would end my career as a psychotherapist and workshop facilitator, it actually advanced it — because people found a safe place to express their own truth. Not easy but necessary.

Last year, I made a business investment with a company called The Author Incubator. One the reasons I did so was because Dr. Angela Lauria, CEO of that company, said that she only works with people with “a servant’s heart.” I felt I knew what she meant — that it was someone who likes or even lives to serve others in the best ways they can. That one tenet alone is was what stood at the top of the others for me. I wanted to be associated with a company ,that at its heart, was about integrity and heart. Once I became involved with them, I learned the larger meaning of what having a servant’s heart meant. It’s about standing up for justice and equality no matter where, when and with whom. I found my tribe!

As a baby boomer, I was part of the hippy generation that espoused love, peace, and brotherhood. I sang out my sentiments with the best of the folk singers of the time and marched for peace and demonstrated in sit-ins to uphold justice.

On Wednesday this week, I went on Facebook Live, in spite of the fact that I’ve been afraid to do that for more that a month with respect to talking about my upcoming workshops . . . shy, I guess, when it comes to marketing in that fashion. It’s very direct and I felt too exposed.

This time, when it was for a greater cause, I couldn’t have stopped myself if I wanted to. I was compelled to speak out at the horrific actions that were caught on camera for the world to see that have sparked demonstrations across the United States and across the planet where people are standing up in solidarity.

We can’t all be on the front lines. But we can all tap into our own divine inner guidance that tells us to write to our member of parliament, or protect our children, or join in a peaceful march, or just talk from our most authentic outraged and broken hearts.

A few nights ago, my fiancé David and I drew and painted hearts and put them up on our windows and the front door of the house. It makes me happy to know that when people walk by they will have a moment of knowing that our hearts are somehow connected with their own and they can smile and take a deep breath.

The days of the lone wolf are over. We are One Human Family that must have a servant’s heart — and be prepared to speak our truth. Sometimes that’s just even your truth to yourself in your journal. That’s where it ALL started for me.

Writing Prompt: Your Turn

Take one of the questions above, sit down with your journal, set a timer for 20 minutes, and write from the heart. If you’d like to share your writing with others, join Junie’s Writing Sanctuary on Facebook and post it there. We will welcome you!

All blessings,
Junie


Interview with Michael Beckwith and Lewis Howes

Watch this inspiring interview with Michael Beckwith, a beautiful spiritual leader of Agape Church in California.

Michael talks about growing up with racial violence and offers solutions on how we might get involved if we are wondering what we can do in ways that can truly make a difference:

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19 Nov

Poetic Reflections on the Dynamics of Change

poetic reflections—Junie SwadronThis is a talk I gave at the Church of Truth in Victoria, BC on November 17, 2019

To begin, I’d like to recite this Ojibway Prayer

Grandfather,
Look at our brokenness.
We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.
We know that we are the ones
Who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred way.
Grandfather,
Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion, and honour
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.

Today’s topic is poetic reflections on the dynamics of change

We’re looking at poems about memories and how writing is instrumental in integrating the process of change.

So, what about memories? William Standford wrote this. It’s called:

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along the shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

what can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Your life circumstances as poetry

We can all read the poetry of Rumi or Hafiz, David Whyte and Mary Oliver, or in this case, William Stanford, and have our hearts lifted to the heavens by the simple weaving of their words.

But what if the harshest circumstances of your life were also considered poetry? Poetry in motion. Events, when funnelled through the Heart of Awareness become the alchemy of Grace leading you to transformation, leaving you triumphant — a Phoenix rising ever upwards from its own ashes. Poetry in motion.

Perhaps by now you have come to expect The Trickster lurking around every corner. God’s secret design to mould us humans into a poetic mosaic featuring all possibilities. Divinity showing off its finest attire. Forcing us to traverse and transcend as we forge through parched deserts and darkened forests, swamps and jungles of heartbreak and grief, loss and fear until we awaken upon sparkling waters and coral colour beaches leading to abundant meadows of dancing wildflowers kissed by sunbeams drizzling through raindrops that transform into rainbows. God’s glorious archway of effervescent colours offering us The Sacred Promise. A Promise Of Hope. A Promise of Coming Home while walking right here upon our Earth.

Yes, Perfect Poetry in Motion.

I had never thought of us that way until I was invited to do this talk, but as I considered it, it makes perfect sense. After all, as God’s Children — and even more — inhabiting the spark of God within us — we are that! The absolute poetry of God. At our core, we are creative, expansive, exquisite beings of Light and when we tap into that aspect of us, the purest poetry is born, birthed in a million forms, just as we are billions of people and among billions of species on this planet, each a different expression of God’s creation, one part of the vast tapestry of the One Mind. The One Heart.

And those of us of the human kind, when we fall away from our connection to our Divinity, well, the Trickster moves in to get our attention. True? So that we can grow from and out of the inevitable painful set of circumstances that are delivered to us, only to lead us back home to the Garden once again, to The One Heart of Creation — The One Heart of God.

As Rumi so stunningly penned, “Come even if you have broken your vow a thousand times, come, yet again, come, come. Come, come again, whoever you are, come.”

Yes, the invitation is to move beyond the sorrow and back to pillars of joy! Our true natural state. Come, come back again. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.

Rumi also wrote:

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

One of the greatest sorrows that entered my door at the tender age of 20 is written up in a short passage from my first book, published 10 years ago, called, Re-Write Your Life — A Transformational Guide to Writing and Healing the Story of Our Lives.

Re-Write Your Life, Chapter 2, p. 9: “One day my mother sat me down . . . ”

I would like you now to listen to a poem that no one can recite better than the author himself — David Whyte. This is Sweet Darkness!

Now, I’d like to read you a poem I wrote which emerged from darkness, giving me a horizon further than I knew I could see. It was in the darkness that became the sweet confinement of my aloneness where I truly learned that anything or anyone that does not bring me alive was too dark for me. It was from that place that this poem emerged on the page.

Breathing Possibilities

You can talk about yesterday or talk about tomorrow
You can talk about the falling dollar, talk about your sorrow
You can talk about chemicals and how they’re poisoning the earth
You can talk about how bad it is and how it’s getting worse.

Or you can take this moment and softly close your eyes
Breathe a breath from deep within and do not compromise
Take another and then another and in the stillness feel
The wonder of this moment — can this too be real?

Stay within the silence and notice what you hear
Listen with your heart and watch your fears all disappear
For in this very moment a miracle is due
If you listen with your heart there will be a message just for you.

A child is being born right now; can you hear the sound of life?
In a little church just down the way, vows are being made as man and wife.
Somewhere on a hilltop a traveler has found her way.
And the dew upon the morning grass has welcomed a brand new day.

Stay within this moment for the miracle is here
There’s nothing that you need to do, nothing but be sincere
Life is bursting forth in every breath; And in the stillness find
A place to love, a place to join with every heart and mind.

Rejoice, for in this moment you can send blessings near and far
Rejoice, for in this moment you are a living star
And every time you feel afraid and wonder what to do
Come back to this one moment and know the miracle is you.

Transforming grief to joy, scarcity to abundance, and fear to love

The beauty of being human is that we are the only ones on the planet that can actually change our states of being through our intentions and our actions. We can transform grief to joy, scarcity to abundance, and fear to love. Other life forms can only respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Knowing that we have been given this gift by The Universe, this absolute privilege — our gift back is to change our state, to move from sadness to joy, and to intend to live a fully, loving, joy-filled, loved-filled magnificent life!

And now for another of the world’s greatest poets and musical geniuses, listen to this song by Leonard Cohen: Anthem.

My way through has always been writing. It brings me out of despair into a place of hope, into the place of all possibilities. It’s bizarre. I know that writing does that for me — yet even today, there are times that it’s not the first thing I go to in order to move through a challenge. Sometimes, it’s the fridge to toast another bagel. Or two!

I know I’m not alone. We all have our drug of choice. Me, I can’t help it. I’m Jewish. So it’s not my fault. When I was born, my mother, being a good Jewish mother, threw a dozen bagels into the blender and fed it to me as pablum. When I was teething she’d shove a whole bagel into my mouth — usually pumpernickel — until they came out with lox and cream cheese, my fave.

So, now you know why bagels are the number one comfort food for Jews across the planet! But me, I like to find ways to improve my bad habits, so I went to a 12 step program for bagel addiction and — I thought I was at synagogue! There wasn’t one Christian or even a Muslim in the room! I have a strong suspicion that the person who set up this particular meeting place, also a bagel addict like me really doesn’t want to quit. And she doesn’t want us to either. All our meetings take place in the room above Mount Royal Bagels with the waft of sesame, pumpernickel, lox and cream cheese and everything bagels — moving through the floorboards and into each of our olfactory senses — throughout the entire meeting. So, you can hardly hold it against us when we relapse after every meeting. What can we do? Nu?

Putting humour and poetry together with music

Anyway, writing . . . poetry . . . poetry in motion. Song lyrics are definitely poetry in motion. And humour and poetry put together into song can be a spectacular way of movin’ and groovin’ out of the blues! We all know the truth of this. Put on a favourite dance tune and within seconds your body can’t sit still. Right?

So, going back to my earlier years, after many trips in and out of mental institutions, I met lots of people as screwed up as me — and didn’t feel quite as alone. We all had fears and phobias of one sort or another so I simply wrote a poem about it which is now going to be part of a musical I’m writing. My friend David just wrote the tune for it. It’s appropriately named, “The Phobia Song.” I’d like to leave you with this song.

Here is THE PHOBIA SONG, inspired by people everywhere — and all our conditions!

THE PHOBIA SONG
Lyrics by Junie Swadron
Music by David Halliwell

Fear of Dying and Afraid of Life
Fear of Flying and Afraid of Strife
Fear of Losing and Afraid to Win
Christ Almighty — Where do we Begin?

Are we crazy? — No We’re Not
We’re Simply Concerned By What We’ve Got
Fear of Anger — Afraid of Fat
Wars, Chores, and Doors — Imagine That

Claustrophobia, Agora Phobia
Phobias we can’t spell
Pathophobia — Xenophobia
We know em So Well
Hydrophobia — Zoo-o-Phobia
What’s Your Favourite? — Do Tell
Every Day is Crazy
And Life’s a Living Hell

Are We Crazy? — Well Maybe Yes
You Decide — It’s anyone’s Guess
Are We Crazy? — Well Maybe Not
Isn’t it Something Everyone’s Got?

Chorus

Fear of Cats — Afraid of Snakes
Fear of Laughter — For Goodness Sakes
Fear of Getting Old
Or Getting Too Tall

Fear of Waking — or Sleeping In
Fear of Pleasure — Afraid of Sin
Fear of Being Seen
In Your Own Skin

Outro
We’re Not Crazy — We’re Not Crazy
We’re Happy to Tell All Our Friends
We’re Not Crazy — We’re Not Crazy . . . exit stage left!

©️ Junie Swadron and David Halliwell, November 2019

My prayer for you: May you be perfect poetry in motion and co-create a magnificent, safe, loving, peaceful beautiful life of Joy, Peace, Grace, and Harmony!

All blessings,
Junie

Writing Prompt: Your Turn

Is there a story in your life that you could transform? Can you re-write it so that you can benefit from its lessons and feel free to move on? Try your hand at transforming grief to joy, scarcity to abundance, or fear to love. Write your story!

If you like, share your writing in  Junie’s Writing Sanctuary (if you’re not a member yet, just ask to join and I’ll get you in as soon as I can).

Your Life Matters, by Junie Swadron

Want to write your own memoir?

Start by downloading a free digital copy of my latest book, Your Life Matters! Learn to Write Your Memoir in 8 Easy Steps.

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10 Nov

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

remembrance day — junie swadron

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

This is one of the most important songs written about the absolute senselessness of war. You can listen to songwriter Peter Seger sing it at the end of this post (along with a version by Peter, Paul and Mary).

Today is November 11th and a time to pay tribute to the men and women who fought for their countries — often giving their lives as well.

I was talking to a friend last night and he was telling me that a favourite uncle of his who fought in World War II was now elderly and dying. Throughout his life, he never talked about his time at war. About three days before he died, while family members sat around his bedside sharing stories, his daughter asked, “Dad, is there anything you want to share about your time at war?”

Suddenly, tears welled up in his eyes and he began to sob. Once he got his composure, he started sharing the stories and the details that he had kept inside all through his life. Everything he had pushed down — deep down but not buried.

Every now and then he had to stop and catch his breath as more tears and sobs were released. His daughter was sorry she had brought it up but later realized that her question had given her dad a chance to finally heal his heart. Three days later he passed away, finally unburdened. At peace at last.

Over the years I have known many people just like my friend’s uncle, including my own dad who fought in the Canadian Army during WWII. He never spoke of it. My dad was a gentle man with very few words, and I was too shy and afraid to ever bring it up.

Do you have a family story of someone close to you who was a soldier in years past? Have they shared their experiences with you? How was that for you? Perhaps they’ve never talked about it but you sense they are still burdened with memories and even nightmares.

If you are a currently serving your country, how do you communicate your own inner feelings and navigate your inner terrain when living in war-torn countries — or knowing that you could be sent to one any day?

I remember a therapy client I had several years ago. He was an American Vietnam veteran. I saw him about two years after a car accident that almost took his life. He was driving along a highway and a car muffler backfired and he swerved his car — at 90 kilometres an hour — to the right, and down an embankment. The sound of the tire backfiring had triggered memories of machine guns going off.

How many people suffer from PTSD and get triggered by unrelated experiences? Not necessarily war, but whatever the trauma, it’s war inside our psyches if we don’t recognize the symptoms and get help.

At the moment I’m housing a friend of mine who was a TV journalist for close to 30 years. I met her at an author mentorship retreat I was hosting. Her book is about toxic stress — the slow drip kind that can lead to PTSD. How? In her case, it’s from decades of delivering the most current news, breaking tragic events while maintaining a near stoic demeanour, which was the expectation of the news station. She didn’t realize the toll that was building in her body and psyche from day-to-day vicarious trauma.

My journalist friend is writing a book to bring awareness to the countless numbers of people in so many different professions — first-responders, caregivers, even lawyers and court clerks — everyone who is required to just show up, do their job, go home, feed the kids, go to sleep and start again the next day, not realizing the stress that is building up in their bodies, psyches, and hearts.

Perhaps that’s you. It sure was me for five years of my life when I worked at Toronto City Hall as a court reporter. Every day I scribed verbatim the goings-on in adversarial situations — from parents fighting over custody over their children to men or women waiting to hear if they were going to be sentenced to prison for anything from drug dealing to murder. Every day I showed up listened and transcribed. I stayed five years even though I knew the first day on the job that it wasn’t for me. That I was too sensitive to be impartial to the goings-on and simply transcribe them.

Yet I stayed for five years because it was paying my way through school as I was studying to become a psychotherapist. After a while, like any other occupation, you simply do your work and “get used to it,” not realizing the invisible accumulation of the slow drip, drip, drip symptoms that may one day break into uncontrollable aggression, cancer, or suicide.

I invite you, this Remembrance Day, to take time to pay tribute to the millions of men and women around the world who, in days gone by, fought for their countries and have suffered post-traumatic stress in the years to follow.   

Honouring the soldiers for who they were — each individual person who had a life, a home, a family, friends, hopes for the future — “now lie dead in Flanders Fields,” and in fields across our earth.

It was the veterans coming home from the Vietnam War that awakened psychologists to the fact that there was a very real condition that was needing to be addressed. Before that, there was not even any awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is now among many recognized conditions in the DSM.

As you know, I’m a strong proponent of the healing power of writing. If today’s Remembrance Day post brings up strong emotions in you, I invite you to take a few moments to give love and compassion to the tender parts of you are calling out to be acknowledged, nurtured, and held. Take out a notebook and write without stopping, allowing whatever wants to come out to emerge on the page. Then share your writing with a trusted friend, partner, or therapist.

Do not let deep feelings of pain sit inside you, silently releasing stress hormones into your bloodstream.

The day we honour our veterans is part of your life story. If this 11/11 story makes you want to write your own memoir and you would like to discuss it, please know that I am available to help you. You can begin by downloading my latest book, Your Life Matters! Learn to Write Your Memoir in 8 Easy Steps.

Here’s Pete Seeger singing his song, Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (he starts the song at the two-minute mark):

Here is a version of Peter, Paul and Mary singing Where Have All The Flowers Gone? This is at their 25th year anniversary concert: When will we ever learn? When will WE ever learn?

Here are some comments I found on the internet following their song:

Mike Greene:

I am 71 years old, I served with 1st Calvary in Viet Nam. I still cry when the flag is raised and I still cry when I hear this song. P, P & M were simply the best.

Dommy M:

I found out I have cancer today and I’m just listening to this and doing art because my soul is wrenching out of my heart, and this is the only song I thought of when I found out.

George Vreeland Hill:

If we listened to music, I mean really listened to the words, then the world would be a better place. This is a song that needs to be listened to. More than ever.

All blessings,
Junie

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31 Oct

Life Stories — Navigating Life When You Feel Troubled

Here’s the first in a series of posts about Life Stories. Yours, Mine, Humanity’s.

Although the circumstances are all different, we share a common thread through it all, and that’s our humanness and our ability to relate. And I wish to make all our stories relatable — through the lens of our hearts even when our minds would have us think differently. In fact, even with those closest to us who are not necessarily on the same page. How often do you watch a movie with your beloved and closest friend and have very different interpretations of what you watched?

I wish to share some snippets of my life and my invitation to you is to see what it evokes in you and tell your story too.

Read what I wrote when I came home from my walk this morning. Listen to the song that it brought to mind. Then write wherever your pen leads you afterwards.

Simply Write Where You Are; I invite you to share your stories at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary (if you’re not a member yet, just ask to join and I’ll get you in as soon as I can).

I was on my morning walk along the breakwater — a beautiful long pier stretching out into the Pacific Ocean — where only sky and sea remain. At the end of the breakwater there is a lighthouse whose job is to bring sailors safely home to the harbour.

I think about that – as a child wanting to bring those I loved safely home to shore and it is my way still today. Yet, this morning I started walking with a heavy heart because of some current circumstances that have me troubled.

So, not wishing to remain heavy-hearted, I put my hand on my heart and said to my inner child, “Junie, sweetheart, I know you are frightened. I just want you to know that we have survived every fear we have faced and we always find our way home even in stormy seas. We will this time too, darling. I am here for you. You can feel sad. I am holding you tight to my heart. Oh, look! There’s a seagull that landed on the rail right beside us. I think he is carrying a message. I wonder what it is. Do you know, sweetie?”

And I heard a voice inside of me say, “Yes, he came to say, All is well.” All IS WELL!

And that was it. The next moment I was humming one of my favourite songs:

Calypso 
by John Denver

To sail on a dream on a crystal clear ocean
To ride on the crest of a wild raging storm
To work in the service of life and living
In search of the answers to the questions unknown
To be part of the movement and part of the growing
Part of beginning to understand

Aye Calypso the places you’ve been to
The things that you’ve shown us
The stories you tell
Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit
The men who have served you so long and so well

Like the dolphin who guides you, you bring us beside you
To light up the darkness and show us the way
For though we are strangers in your silent world
To live on the land we must learn from the sea
To be true as the tide and free as a wind swell
Joyful and loving in letting it be

Aye Calypso the places you’ve been to
The things that you’ve shown us
The stories you tell
Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit
The men who have served you so long and so well

Aye Calypso the places you’ve been to
The things that you’ve shown us
The stories you tell
Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit
The men who have served you so long and so well

Watch a stunning video of television footage from Jacques Cousteau and listen to John Denver sing it to us:

Writing Prompt:

What do you do to help you navigate life when you feel troubled? If you like, share your writing in  Junie’s Writing Sanctuary (if you’re not a member yet, just ask to join and I’ll get you in as soon as I can).

Your Life Matters, by Junie Swadron

If you wish to share more of your stories in a deeper way, start by downloading a free digital copy of my latest book, Your Life Matters! Learn to Write Your Memoir in 8 Easy Steps.

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05 Jun

70 YEARS OLD? ME? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?

Yup, I am kidding. I’m 70 Years YOUNG! And that is the absolute truth. I feel younger today than I did 20 years ago. I think I’ve found the Elixir to the Fountain of Youth. It’s called Self Love! Gratitude, Creativity, and Loving My Life No Matter What! (Or at the very least, appreciating and grateful to be alive … even if things aren’t seemingly going “my way.”)

How did I get this smart? Trust me, a year ago, I couldn’t even say the word “seventy” without coughing, gagging, stuttering and choking it down again. Today I am celebrating 70 and all the ways that I have come to love my Life!

I realized that each decade-birthday has had huge significance for me. This is the best so far — and some of the others have been downright awesome too (not every year in-between, though, that’s for sure) — but if this is what 70 looks like, bring it on!

So! Seven decades on this planet. (If you’re impatient and don’t want to read all the epiphanies of each decade, scroll down to the bottom and see how I’m celebrating this one!)

Or if you like stories, here’s mine:

Age 10 — To be honest I don’t remember what happened at age 10. I have very few memories of my childhood.

However, at 20, I travelled to Europe with my best friend Suki. It was 1969 and we planned on being away for a whole year. We flew out of Toronto and into New York, boarded a student ship sailing 10 days across the Atlantic Ocean and dropping us off on British soil and into a future neither of us had bargained for. We did stay a year … just not together. (We re-united 43 years later. Here’s the story.)

At 30, I returned to Toronto after a decade of travel, having lived for months or years at a time in different cities and countries, including England, Israel, Vancouver, Florida, New York, and Montreal. When I came back to the city of my birth, I put my big girl panties on and started my own freelance business called, “Write For You,”  doing ghostwriting.

There was a huge recession and I couldn’t make a living at it. So I went back to school to learn how to be a court reporter and started working at City Hall in Nathan Phillips Square and hated it! I am too much of an empath to be in an adversarial environment every day. But it paid well so I stayed and used the money to pay my tuition at various institutions that ran night schools until I earned the appropriate accreditation to put up my shingle as a psychotherapist in 1993.

Snuggling up with my tired but happy sister Barbara after the last guests went home

When I turned 40, my beautiful (late) sister, Barbara gave me a spectacular birthday party. When I told her that my guest list was getting too big for my two-bedroom apartment and thought I would take it outside to the park across the street from where I lived on Chaplin Crescent, in Toronto, which to me was an awesome idea, she would have none of it.

Instead, she threw me the most elaborate pool party in her backyard and I have the video to prove it! Oh dear, she rented tables, put centrepieces on them, and prepared the most amazing buffet of food for 100 people!!! (Yup, it was more like a wedding.)

I had friends from my youth, from court reporting, from school, from well, lots of places. And wouldn’t you know it! At some point on that hot muggy night, the clouds started getting darker as they raced across the sky and then BOOM! CRASH! LIGHTNING! SPLASH!

 

Me and my Mom on my 40th birthday

That didn’t stop Barbara. Being her gracious self, she simply moved the party indoors and resumed without batting an eye! Bless your beautiful soul Barbara! Gosh on some days I miss her fiercely! (She was diagnosed with cancer and six weeks later, on March 30th, she was gone. Just three weeks earlier, she had turned 65. That was 11 years ago.)

 

Texada Island days

In my 50th year, I moved to Vancouver after having travelled back and forth many times since my first visit in 1970 when I hitchhiked across the country — as all young hippies did at that time. I was off to see my old high school boyfriend, Bo, who was then living off the land on Texada Island. It was only supposed to be a two-week visit!

Instead, on my way back, I visited Vancouver and I fell in with a bunch of musicians. We were on a boat in English Bay, I was writing a poem, one of the guys started strumming music to it and soon they passed around the pipe, christening me “The Pen” — and I became gainfully employed as the lyricist for their rock band, Lead Feather. After that, I made a couple of phone calls: “Hi Mom, Hi Dad, Hi Work, I’m not coming back!”

It’s been 20 years. At one point, I thought I would move back to Toronto. A few years ago I was there for a whole summer and was a love fest — family and friends were coming out of the woodwork. But I when came back to Victoria, I started grievin’ leavin’.

The land and the sea are so much of my blood that, even though I have no family here and I miss them terribly sometimes, I am grateful to have the friends and the work I do that sustain my mental and emotional well being.

On my 60th birthday, I published my first book, Re-Write Your Life, and received an endorsement from my hero and muse, Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way.

You probably felt the earthquake when her endorsement came in! I jumped up and down so hard, it went right off the Richter Scale and apparently sent ripples across the globe. She had this to say, “June Swadron” (I was June then … as opposed to Junie) …

“June Swadron is both a guide and a muse. Her book is a bright lantern, illuminating the often dark and tricky terrain of the soul. Grounded in personal experience, her techniques catalyze the deep authenticity possible to us all.” —Julia Cameron, Author of The Artist’s Way

So, what do I have up my sleeve at 70? On June 6th, I’m launching my new Re-Write To Re-Ignite Your Life online program. I am very excited and proud of this program. It’s a self-study course so you can go at your own pace. All the details can be found here.

My MOST EXCITING news about turning seventy is this:

It’s called ACHA — The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts. It’s a FUNdRAISER and you can read all about it in a sec. Wait for it! Wait for it! I’m a storyteller. Indulge me please. Or if you can’t … here it is. And here’s the story:

A few months ago when I knew I was going to show the world (or at least show myself) what the new 70 looks like, I rented The Community of Conscious Living hall in Victoria to hold a 70s dance party. There was going to be a 70s theme — wear your favourite bell bottoms and dance the night away to our old 60s and 70s faves. But it didn’t land.

Next it was going to be a lip sync party like my friend Millie had on her 60th which was a hoot. Then it was going to be a Mardi Gras costume party. Next, a black tie event, a formal evening — and then I remembered no man in this town owns a tie — let alone a black one. However, what did land, which propelled me from my bed to the computer at 3 am with fingers speeding across the keyboard was this:

Drum Roll Please! Building a holistic centre to transform mental illness to mental health — Namely: ACHA, The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts.  

It’s a Dream Whose Time Has Come. It’s my dream. I put it out 8 years ago and it’s been incubating on my website ever since. Now it’s only 2 ½ weeks away and I can’t believe the momentum … It’s a Yes from everyone I speak to about it. The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts for People with Mental Health Challenges (and everyone) is being carried on the wings of angels and unicorns, and everything magical. Ease and Grace is the way it’s unfolding.

If you are in the Victoria area, please come. Don’t miss it!  

If you are a relative or a close friend from out of town, surprise me! Be my personal birthday present. Hey … at 70, I can ask for what I want right? And if you can’t come — please, not to worry, I understand. I put ALL my wishes out to The Universe — some privately, some out loud like this one. Then, I simply let go of the outcome knowing that the Universe is unfolding exactly the way it is supposed to. I will be grateful to see you whenever that might be!

More amazing news: More drum rolls please: I am writing a new book. The publisher has a deadline for me for June 30th! It’s about writing memoirs, your memoirs — your most important stories.

AND on June 30th, the very same day, I am moving from the one-bedroom apartment that I have been living in for 12 years to the main floor of an exceptional house with my very own garden — a block and a half from the ocean!

There’s a lot on my plate. Some days I’m totally wiped out! And at the same time, I acknowledge that I am also living in the most inspired way. Synchronicities abound, magic is everywhere — I could use a bit more sleep — but it seems that I am more grounded and happier than ever before. Thank Goodness I meditate and journal every day. Both keep me sane.

Hope to see you at ACHA on June 21st. Summer Solstice. Now SAVE THE DATE!

Love,
Junie

P.S. If you are unable to join me to celebrate my 70th and the launch of ACHA, your donations are greatly appreciated to help ACHA become a dream come true. Here’s the GoFundMe page for your donations.

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29 Mar

Jan Falkowski — writing into forgiveness sets you free

Jan Falkowski speaks about recovery from tragedy through writingA few years ago, Jan Falkowski, a man in his 50s, arrived at my Re-Write Your Life program. He was just starting to come out of a long darkness after the death of his beloved daughter, Jessica.

Jessica was only 19 years old when she died. As a high school graduation gift, Jan’s sister and brother-in-law took Jessica to Australia. After a couple of weeks seeing the sights, Jessica’s aunt and uncle returned to Victoria. Jessica stayed on because her best friend, Erin was flying in to accompany her. They intended to enjoy a summer of adventure before returning to university in the fall.

Erin arrived only to learn that the evening before Jess had been in a serious car accident and was lying in a coma in hospital.

Jess had been at a party. She left with a male friend who, unbeknownst to her, had been drinking excessively. Their car crashed.

Upon hearing the news, Jan caught the next flight to Australia. He arrived at the hospital to find his beloved daughter hooked up to life support machines. He was informed by the doctors that Jess would not likely become conscious again and, even if she did, her brain was damaged beyond repair and it would be a life-less life.

Jan left the hospital and took a long torturous walk. When he returned, he made the unimaginable and unbearable decision to take Jess off life supports and donate her organs to others.

Six years later Jan joined my group . . . six years that he described were filled with rage, hatred, alcoholism and a spirit that had died along with Jess. Guilt pervaded his every day as he had a 13-year-old daughter to take care of.

Sixteen years before this latest tragedy, Jan had lost his wife after a long battle with cancer, leaving him to raise their girls alone.

After attending Re-Write Your Life and applying the principles and receiving the love that is present in a sacred circle from each of the participants, Jan, for the first time in six years, began to feel a sense of hope, of new possibilities.

One day he came to class and read a letter to Nick, the man who was responsible for the death of his daughter. It was a letter of unconditional forgiveness. In this letter he expressed a desire to one day meet, put closure on the pain they were both feeling and move on with their lives.

Within a couple of weeks he put the letter in the post. Nick, still in prison, responded with deep and unabashed gratitude. Since that time there has been a string of letters between them.

How awesome is that?

We can all heal our lives from past wounds. We just need to be willing. And why wouldn’t we be? Our life depends on it.

Tapestry, a CBC Radio program, featured a 20-minute documentary with Theresa O’Leary on Jan’s healing journey back to life.

You can also watch and listen to Jan reading part of this letter on The Daily in an interview with Karen Elgersma.

Read more about Re-Write Your Life.

Check out Re-Write Your Life as a self-paced online course!

 

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08 Feb

Colouring Your Dreams Come True

Life is miraculous right now. I’m pinching myself, saying, “Seriously? Another dream come true? I didn’t even do anything. It just happened.”

Upon reflection, I realized that’s not true. These wonderful manifestations haven’t ‘just happened.’ I intentionally co-created them with The Universe. It was hard to acknowledge that at first because I wasn’t used to seeing almost instantaneous results from the ideas I had in my head to the physical reality where I could touch them.

I was carrying skepticism about what would come of my actions in the so-called “big picture” meaning, beyond my life now.  Those doubts caused a blip on the Big Computer Screen in The Sky, i.e. The Universe . . . because I was sending It mixed messages. I didn’t stay steady in a receptive mode. In short, I didn’t trust. Then I recollected that it is only, in my life NOW, by living the way I want my future to look, can these dreams come to pass. I needed to feel the feelings that these things I wanted would give me. Of course, the first thing would be JOY!

Quickly my living room became my dance floor where my bird Joey and I would sing (chirp), and dance (flutter some wings), up a storm. I can’t think of one thing that can change one’s mood faster than music! Right? Bring on the Rock n Roll!

So folks, whether you feel like it or not — feel into how YOUR DREAMS will may you happy and start being that.

If you’re not up to dancing in your living room with your budgie bird, cat, dog or hamster, set an intention. Intentions are very powerful signals to the Universe. And you deserve to be happy!

Dance is also a metaphor for anything and everything that brings YOU Joy. Don’t get trapped in the, “I’ll be happy when . . . ” syndrome. You can be happy now! Intentionally. Get out and take that walk, that bubble bath, see that play, invite a friend for dinner, say “No” when you need to and “Yes” more than you have been and look for the good everywhere! Then get ready for synchronicities to fly from the sky right into your so-called ordinary day! Then I dare you to stop smiling!

I am no longer skeptical. I am seeing result after result and I want that for you too. And it can. I know this to be true. My life used to be a revolving door in and out of mental health (not so healthy) wards for long periods of time (years!) because of my diagnosis. I lived being terrified of my shadow . . . and I had a very plump shadow. But I learned how to bring light to it and my life has no resemblance to what it used to be. And because of it, I live in humility and gratitude every day. I mean every day. When you know what clinical depression feels like and it’s not haunting you anymore, is there any other way to feel than grateful!

One thing I know for sure, if I can dramatically turn my life around, so can you! No matter what your circumstances! And it doesn’t have to be difficult to do!  If every single person on the planet could know this, I would be ecstatic. And so would they and so would Jolly-Beam.

Who’s Jolly-Beam, you may ask? He’s the main character of the book I just published, called, “Colour Your Dreams Come True, A Bedtime Story and Colouring Book for the Child Inside Every Adult.”

Yup, it’s a storybook AND a colouring book all in one. In it Jolly-Beam brings curious adults to his home in the Higher Realms to experience Pure Bliss. And they do. Once they are satiated and relaxing in the magical flower garden, Jolly-Beam, J-B, for short gathers them close and tells them his story. He shares that he used to be an earthling once before entering into a time of no time. He tells them how his life had been a series of struggles, that he could hardly make ends meet, was lonely, often ill, had hardly any friends until one day . . . That One Precious Day when he was led to Universal Wisdoms, that he practiced which brought him to the very top of the Mountain of Joy. It was then that he was unexpectedly summoned by The Elders and proudly given the name Jolly-Beam along with a mission.

His mission was to impart these truths that he learned to the adult inhabitants of Planet Earth. The children already knew these things. The adults had been children once but had forgotten.  So, he Beamed out his Jolly-ness across the Nation becoming  The Pied Piper of love.

Now let me tell you My Little Secret. Jolly-Beam came to me in a meditation in 1976. Over 40 years ago! I saw and felt it all — but on my own human journey, not knowing how to sustain those teachings, I suppose I needed to fall down and get up many, many times before I could embody his teachings. I guess until I was tired of repeating that pattern.

Fast forward to only a few months ago I was serendipitously introduced to Siri Stiklestad Opli, in Norway, who brought my Jolly-Beam to life. Before her magical illustrations, he was a story lingering in space without a place to land. Thank you, Siri!

What is YOUR JOLLY-BEAM story? Yes, you do have one. If you’re not experiencing joy, it’s because you are not living your highest purpose. We all have one. Inside our doubts and insecurities, afraid what people will think syndrome, we have dreams. Meditate to remember what they are. Get back in touch with the creative you. Write all about it in your journal from 5 years from now when it’s already happened and all the magic that’s come to you as a result of it. Don’t let any usurpers come in and spoil your dreams. Keep it to yourself or only tell those who support you 1000%.

In our imaginations, we birth our dreams into reality by being really clear about what we want. So Dream Big! Believe it! Claim it! Embrace it! Fall in Love with It! It’s all yours for the asking!

Now get ready to Colour Your Dreams Come True!

Find out more and order your copy of Colouring Your Dreams Come True.

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13 Sep

School Dayz Gone By

Junie Swadron School Dayz Gone By
This is the pamphlet from my first ever writing business in 1980!

Do you remember a time when the summer holidays were over and it was the first day of school? And from all your first days of school, can you remember one in particular where you started with curiosity, enthusiasm, and excitement, yet also with trepidation coursing through your veins?

I do. I was an adult. I had quit school after grade 11 and was now 30 years old, and it was the beginning of the 1980s. I spent the entire decade of the 70s travelling and exploring different cities and countries, meeting new people, learning the ways of new cultures, and living a mixture of jubilation and heartbreak, being lost and being found again.

Junie Swadron School Dayz Gone By

I returned to Toronto in 1980 ready to make a brand new start. But at what? I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur, a freelancer, and opened a business called Write For You. I was going to be a ghost writer— anything from writing ad copy to writing people’s books for them. With all good intentions, it didn’t fly, and I was broke.

My oldest and dearest friend, Alan (Bunny to those who knew him as a child), was a young lawyer and suggested I train to become a court reporter. He said, “Junie, it’s steady, the court room is always exciting, and the pay is excellent.” So that’s what I did.

I registered for the course and found myself in the hallowed halls of George Brown College at 30 years of age among 19- and 20-year-olds. I was obviously the oldest person—a whole decade older—and I felt it. But not for long! Once the learning started, I was no longer identifying with my age and separating myself from the others. I was loving what I was learning and was equally enamoured with sharing thoughts and studying with the young vibrant minds of my classmates.

Geography was my favourite subject. Who would have guessed that it was being offered in a curriculum of court procedures? However, it soon made perfect sense. We were about to be working with people from all across the world because Toronto was teaming with new immigrants from seemingly every country, and it was important for us to learn about the people and their cultures.

My favourite part was writing and sharing my essays and listening to the others share theirs. All the while I was discovering a brand new me! I found out that I loved school. I loved being in an environment teeming with possibilities. Simply put, I loved to learn! And best of all, I was good at it. A far cry from the me that floundered in every grade from kindergarten until finally throwing in the towel in grade 11.

But the pièce de résistance, the icing on the cake for me, was that while I was learning the rules and regulations of the court room, I was also spinning discs as a DJ for the school radio. Every single day at noon, I would play my favourite songs and called my program The Tune Down with June Hour.

In an era of heavy metal, I’m not sure the “kids” appreciated my selection of people like Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Ella Fitzgerald, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, and Elton John. And of course, The Beatles! The resurgence of these greats came later. I love watching and being with young people today, grooving on the same tunes that we baby boomers found “groovy” then.

Music was and still is “my thing”. What wasn’t my thing, as it turned out, was court reporting! I learned very quickly I was not cut out to be in an adversarial environment every day. But Alan was right. The pay was excellent and for five years it paid my tuition in the night schools of other hallowed halls.

This led me to putting up a proud shingle on my door as a psychotherapist. This gave me an opportunity to do what really matched my sensitivities and make-up. Then, the same year I started up my practice, I brought in my other love—writing—and facilitated my first writing workshop called Write Where You Are. And here I am, some 30 years later, still doing both! Gee, I guess I must love it. Yup! Sure Do!

Writing Prompt

Find a quiet time to write and . . .

Think about a September in your life when you were starting a new school year. Were you a child, a teenager, or a young adult? Or were you returning later in life? Consider, no matter what age you were, what were the stepping stones along the way? Who were the people you met who made a significant impact in your life?

What were the subjects that jazzed you?

I’ve got a full line-up of the subjects that still jazz me in the form of courses for YOU (see the Workshops & More tab). I’m still teaching Write Where You Are, along with a Write Where You Are afternoon “playshop”, an Author Support & Mentorship program, a book writing retreat, and that’s not all! If any of them ring a school bell (no exams!) in your heart, please join us. It’s back to school—adult style!

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08 Jul

Carlie Kilduff—a woman on a mission

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Carlie Kilduff

It gives me tremendous joy to introduce you to Carlie Kilduff. Some of us have the privilege of meeting someone and immediately knowing that we’ve met a friend for life. That’s how it was for Carlie and me. Carlie is a spoken word artist, and my friends thought she would be a perfect fit for my fundraising event, Eyes On Talent. They couldn’t have been more spot on!

Carlie not only agreed to perform spoken word, but as an event organizer, she offered to help me bring the details of the evening together. It would take me too long to describe the heart and soul of this woman and her brilliance as an organizer (and former high school teacher). I simply know is how blessed I am to have met her and call her my friend. Here now is her story:

The Class

I had no idea what was in store when I first met them. They were a group of rowdy, unruly grade nine students with a reputation for sending teachers on stress leave. Some of their teachers were referring to them as “The Sweat Hounds” but I call them “The Class”.

I was not supposed to join the roster of teachers assigned to them in September 2011, but with a sudden change of fate I found myself welcoming them into my classroom a few days into the new school year. I was supposed to teach Social Studies, but since I had never taught this subject before, I begged to have it changed. I did not want to add the stress of a new subject to an extremely challenging class. I was granted the opportunity to teach English. I had never taught English either, but since I loved to read and write, I was much more keen to accept this mission.

It could not have come at a worse time in my life. Hard stories from some of my family members were spiralling out of control, I had just landed back to work after two years of leave from the birth of my first son, and I was trying to conceive my second child with some difficulty (no wonder why!). The way that I had always prided myself on perfectly planning and staying on top of every little detail was being chipped away day by day. Looking back, it was my “perfect storm” and many great and amazing things have followed.

The bell rang that morning and I braced myself as the class came bursting through my door. There was an energy about them, alerting me that I’d better pay attention. In my years of teaching, I had worked with some very tricky students and classes, but this was a whole new level. They trickled in, a slow parade of teenage hormones and the smell of Axe cologne.

One girl in particular seemed to be in charge so I watched her intently. She pulled a desk out of the lines that I had arranged and placed it beside her friend’s desk, right at the back corner, and threw her legs up on top of the desks with purpose, placing her head down in her arms with a look that said: “Go ahead and try me.” I was familiar with students trying to make hard-core first impressions before but every one of them had previously taken a step back when I approached them with kind firmness and gave them a cue of my expectations. Not this girl.

When I asked her to separate the desks and sit up properly, with full respect and gentle guidance, she said: “No!” The show was on and a few eyes and ears perked up as I had to quickly adjust my strategy, trying to offer her a doorway out of our confrontation, by suggesting that perhaps she was not understanding that I was serious and would have to send her to the office if she did not cooperate with me, making for an unnecessary first experience together. She very slowly and reluctantly did as I had asked, with every ounce of resistance and attitude she could possibly muster while still towing the line. I knew at once that this was going to be a gruelling hour.

The Call

It was a few weeks before I was able to teach a full lesson with the class. Managing their behaviour was a massive job, and keeping them emotionally and physically safe was a priority beyond curriculum. This also fell in the midst of terrible conditions due to teacher job action. Teachers and administrators were not communicating functionally, making everything much more difficult.

This was a class full of high needs. On paper there were far too many with various learning and behaviour challenges, but in reality, there were only three or four out of thirty who would be classified as “typical” and who seemed keen and ready to learn. Poor kids. All of them.

No matter where they sat, it was always at risk of fights breaking out and I would have line-ups of students saying that they must be moved because they could not sit near so-and-so or so-and-so. There was not enough space to hide the dysfunction and damage. When I dug into their family stories I was horrified to learn what had shaped them. Collectively, as a class being together for many years in the school, they had encouraged several teachers to leave them due to stress. Individually, they were a motley crew of horrendous pain stories.

It all made sense even if it was overwhelming. Since my life was a series of pieces falling apart at this time already, I was finding my own health and well-being to be on a slippery downhill slope. I had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder in my early twenties. I had been on medications for many years, weaned off, was back on, and was off again when working with the class. Since I was trying to conceive a baby, I did not want to get back on medications or I would have to postpone the conception, seeing as it would be developmentally damaging for a fetus.

I was riding a tight line. I was keeping careful watch on my own health and professionalism. The stress was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I had always kept up with a busy lifestyle very well, being highly organized and hardworking, but the seams were falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it.

As this was happening, a small voice seemed to assure me that it was alright. I found a calm place in the storm and began to hang out there. It wanted to tell me some very important things. Letting the outside loosen, I was able to dive into this new space and it was here that I began to investigate what these students needed from me and how I could possibly give it to them.

It was a call for self-love, for compassion and nurturing in ways I had never known in my own life. This was the missing piece. There was a form of love that they needed, and school had been far too busy and preoccupied to offer it to them. Life in general does not teach us about this kind of love. Excited to have put my finger on it, I found myself at a loss for how to bring them this love, since I was also without it.

My mission from that point became one of learning how to love myself in this way so that I could love them and teach them to love themselves.

Fast Forward

Things in the classroom radically changed and we made some serious transformations. It was surreal in many ways. Young lives were deeply touched but none more than mine. This was the defining moment of my life.

After some forward movement with the class, I had calmed down enough to conceive my second son, and with a tiny growing life in my womb, I was aware that my health was still at risk, so I had to make a tough decision to reduce my teaching load before taking maternity leave. Sadly, I had to say good-bye to the class. I had avoided it as long as I could because I did not want them to think that they had scared me away, I wanted them to know that everything we had been through together was real and true, and most of all, I loved them.

There were many tears as I wrapped up with the class. I continued teaching part-time until taking my leave to prepare for the birth of my son. My pregnancy had been hard and I needed some rest and self-care.

My beautiful son was born on June 20, 2012, making me a momma for the second time. Rather than experiencing post-partum depression like I did after my first birth, I hit the ground running. Something had touched me to the core. I was a new creation, and I had work to do.

Carlie Now

Many amazing stories have come from and through the class. It has been a mixed bag of emotions and stories. Since working with and learning to love them and myself, I have embarked on a journey of self-discovery and self-healing. I have transformed from the inside out. This is a process still underway . . . it never ends!

I have resigned from teaching and am now offering spoken word poetry shows at local coffee shops in Victoria. I share powerful and passionate messages of love, joy, peace, healing, shifting world, and self-value. My work is deep, moving, and electric. Many people have connected with it and lives are being changed.

I encourage you to find my videos on YouTube (go to YouTube and type in my name). Please take the time to watch. If you like what you see, will you please help me spread them far and wide through your social media networks and word of mouth? This is not a business, but rather it is a ministry of the heart. I am a truth seeker and speaker. Our world is starving for truth but many are reluctant, and so I need all the help I can get in connecting these messages, delivered so beautifully through my spoken word poems, with those who need to hear them. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Carlie to Come

I have sensed a change of direction, or a deepening of mission for a long time. My show series has come to an end for the summer. I plan to do some busking downtown for fun and when September rolls around, I will begin anew. I am not sure exactly what is to come, but I can feel it creating within me. I will continue to share my spoken word poetry, but I see myself doing more speaking and advocating. I will be calling myself a Spiritual Health Educator and Advocate. I feel called to take on some very gritty topics like “The Voice of Depression and Suicide”, “Reconciliation with Religion”, and “This Game’s Not Fun” (about bullying).

We are always becoming. We are grown from the moments that we experience. I am forever grateful for the class and all that has come from them and the messy lessons they have taught me. Now, everybody who is touched by my work has been blessed by the class!

Be sure to watch Carlie’s Spoken Word Performance, Beauty Redefined:

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.

All blessings,

Junie

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17 Jun

She fell again and again. Then she got up. And stayed up!

Pamela SylvanMeet Pamela Sylvan

I met Pam Sylvan approximately two years ago. She had just recently arrived in Victoria and happened to walk into a Sunday morning service where I was the speaker. Afterward she told me how much she appreciated my talk and asked me if I would like to write an article for her new online magazine, Downtown and Around.

That article soon became two, then three, then four, and finally a “Dear Junie” column.

What impressed me was how savvy Pam was. Having JUST stepped into this city, knowing no-one, she was taking Victoria by storm! She was quickly learning who’s who in a host of industries from art and music to the best restaurants to eat, the most popular events taking place and putting them in a magazine she was creating as she went. Pretty impressive for being the new kid on the block. Chutzpah or mojo? Pam is all about mojo and is the self-proclaimed Mojo Maker, teaching others how to get their own mojo working!

Pam Sylvan is someone who is the epitome of what the Re-Write Your Life series is all about. She’s a woman who had a very rocky start to life. She underwent some harrowing experiences and she was living her life according to what she learned from them. It was when she almost lost her life and doctors were scurrying around to save it, that she made a conscious choice to turn things around and made her life about learning how to do that. Now she does what she knows how to do best—help turn life around for others who don’t have the know how, confidence, or courage to know where to begin.

Here’s Pamela in her own words:

Today, I’m known as the Mojo Maker. It’s my way of signalling to the world that I’ve taken on the task to help those who are ready to spiral their inherent power and use that defined energy to tell their stories. As well I offer them the necessary tools that will attract people to their businesses and messages and to build the courage necessary to be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise. Basically, I’m a publicist that knows how to move a person past their blind spots, turn them on to their uniqueness, and point them to where their audience awaits.

I wasn’t always this person. Actually I started out as the most afraid and self-limiting person you would ever care to meet. The belief that drove me went something like this, ‘ . . . everyone else is better and more deserving than I am’. That simple sentence shaped my life experience.

Where did I get that belief, you may wonder? I come from an upbringing of fear and violence. Needless to say, I prepared each day to meet the noise that arose from my parents’ battles. That noise created a belief that life was unhappy and unsafe which fostered an unhealthy dose of shame since I appeared to be the only one among my friends living in such a bubble.

This was the first half of my life. Survival, shame, oppression, and self loathing. Quite the load for one so young, but not uncommon from what I later learned. As I grew into adulthood, those early messages came right along with me. Because there was no counselling opportunity for me to appropriately deal with the interjects of my early training, life was hard and happiness very fleeting.

The majority of my major life decisions were tainted with the belief that I was unredeemable and because these choices were made in my unaware state, they greatly and negatively affected the quality of my life going forward.

Despite all of this, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.

My mother is one of my greatest fans

. . . Not because it’s her duty as my mother, but from her witnessing me fall down time and time again, refusing to be beat and to somehow keep going. She remains a close ally even though at one point during my teenage years, I gave her an ultimatum to leave my father or I would disappear never to be seen again. At that point I had had enough of the violence and even though young, I summoned up the courage to take a stand. Of course this courage unknowingly was beyond my awareness, and I continued to see myself as powerless and unredeemable.

One of my major unconscious choices was my choice of spouse. We did not suit as a couple. Our temperaments differed greatly and my unhappy state continued. My one joy was the creation of my daughter.

falling down is part of life. getting back up is living.At this point in my journey I was still unaware that I was attracting my life experiences based on my beliefs, expectations, and attitudes.

Again, I had to summon up courage to change course in life. I began to dive deeper into meditation and reading. That’s when I found direction that came from within. There was no need for opinions from those outside myself; I had the answers I needed. I listened and made the necessary moves. But first, I was laid on my behind in order to hear the wisdom coming from within.

A Wake-up Call

It seems dreamlike as I share this now. It took a bout of extreme illness for me to listen to my inner voice. Basically I was laid out so I could hear myself. I landed in the hospital nearing a stroke. As the attending medical staff rushed around me, I quieted down internally and had a conversation with myself. I realized that the reason for my illness was my inability to take the necessary actions to change my life. In that moment I made a promise to life and to myself that I would do whatever I had to do to ensure I lived and lived fully.

Today, after leaving my hometown, home, family and friends, I have restarted my life setting a new course with the decision to do so coming from a place of power instead of guilt, shame, and hopelessness.

It hasn’t been easy. At the age of 50, starting over is a bit tricky. Coming to a new town with only two suitcases, no friends, connections, or prospects was daunting, and I am still working out the finer points of new beginnings. Most of all I’m learning about myself and the inherent power I call ‘Mojo’. It’s all about knowing one’s strong sense of self to meet all challenges that show up.

We all have this ability, the difference being whether we are aware of it or not. When we wake up to ourselves there is newness to life and what seemed difficult and stressful is not there anymore. Life is not challenge free, only the knowledge that whatever shows up will be handled in divine timing.

I now lead a growing company that includes a magazine, a radio show, a boutique PR agency, and mentoring practice, all designed to help others find their own sense of power and success in what they do.

My journey has taught me a few things: it takes courage to be happy; happiness is found in the ‘now’  moment; we all have the necessary power to live the life of our dreams, and practicing extreme self love regardless of the thoughts of others is the most important thing an individual can do for themselves.

You can find Pamela on her MojoMaker FaceBook page.

Her motto is, “Your power is a secret hiding in plain sight.”

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As well as at Downtown and Around Victoria:
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And on her very own Mojo Talk Radio show:

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Writing Exercise

All of us are called to wake up from sleep, from living a life where the same old things keep happening. The players may change, but the events, well, they just keep on miserably repeating themselves. Sometimes we become aware through a gentle epiphany, such as in a meditation when we are still enough to hear our inner guidance. Other times the dramas are a lot louder than our heartbeat, so Life offers us a wake-up call in the form of a two-by-four.

Can you think of a time when you were either gently awakened from inner guidance that whispered, “take this road instead of that one” and you listened and found yourself moving with the tides? Or can you recall a time when you woke up from a bad dream only to realize you weren’t dreaming? You, in fact, were hit by a two-by-four and had no choice but to change your thinking and your ways. Which one of those two scenarios speaks to you at this moment? Pick up your pen and write about it, and then consider what you learned from that experience. Reflection is good (and even necessary) for the soul.

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.

All blessings,

Junie

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10 Jun

Releasing the Shame that Binds Me

head in hands

When I was almost 50 years old I finally let go of masses of shame that I was carrying about having bi-polar illness. I stated it in public—on a stage in front of 400 people for God’s sake! It was the premiere presentation of Madness, Masks and Miracles, a play I co-wrote to dispel myths and stigmas about mental illness. I thought I would die doing it. I was terrified I’d lose my credibility as a therapist and as a mental health worker. Having recently moved to Vancouver, I also feared I’d lose my new friends. I kept questioning why I was blowing THAT whistle on myself. But I did. I had to. And it liberated me. Telling the truth does that. Eventually. Besides, if I hadn’t told, I’d have been swallowed up in sea of shame and trust me, that’s no way to live. I had done it for almost half a century.

Yet I have carried another secret which I did not reveal until about three months ago. It was just as frightening as exposing that I had bi-polar illness 15 years ago. I confessed that all my life I had been unable to read properly, and had been hiding it to the best of my ability. For some it might appear that I enjoy airing my “stuff” in public. In fact, I don’t like it! But it’s not for the sake of sensationalism that I do it! God no! It’s because I know the value of helping someone else with similar issues to find their own voice. Am I comfortable doing it? Hell no! At least not yet.

And here I am following it up with a story of what I experienced in school as an 11-year-old child that explains a lot of things. And when I remember that, it makes it easier to share this with you because I have tremendous compassion for that younger me and for all the children that are currently facing similar struggles. I have shared my vision challenges with you when I started to help raise money for the treatment at www.gofundme.com/junieswadron.

Now that I am learning the full extent of what my condition means, and that it is actually known as the “hidden epidemic” of Binocular Vision Dysfunction, I am joining hands with the Visual Process Society to help raise awareness about it at our Eyes on Talent FUN-d-Raising Variety Show. If you will be in Victoria on June 26th, 2016, I hope you will join us.

The story you are about to read is an excerpt from my book, Re-Write Your Life, about my hero, Mr. Logan, my grade six teacher who brought me from a place of suicidal ideation after Miss S. had continually berated me and had failed me the year before. Only now do I know the full significance of that story and the truth of why I wasn’t able to learn: I had Binocular Vision Dysfunction.

 

quillMr. Logan, an Angel of Kindness

by Junie Swadron

The following story is about loving-kindness and a time when a true angel appeared in my life and lifted me from the depths of darkness into the realm of hope and miracles. I dedicate this story to my Grade 6 teacher, Mr. Logan. Mr. Logan was the first person in my young life who consistently reflected back to me that which made me feel good about myself. Before him, was a teacher of a different kind, Miss S., the one who crushed any self-confidence I may have found.

young-junie-web
Here I am looking at my budgie “Elvis”. A few years later, Elvis laid an egg so we changed her name to “Elvira”!

I was 11 years old and the youngest child in a family that was grossly dysfunctional. In between the good days, which I prayed would last, would come the inevitable barrage of fighting, followed by days of angry silent rages. My parents fought over not having enough money, my sisters dating non-Jewish boys, my brother being a rebel, and me and my laziness and depression. I hated life. I hated school. I always wanted to run away. But at eleven, where to?

 

 

The terror of Miss S.

I was a terrible student and Miss S. made sure I knew it. I had already honed the habit of dissociating, fantasizing, daydreaming, going far, far away—certainly never at my desk paying attention. I wished I had been one of those kids that poured all their pain into their schoolwork, burying themselves in books and acing everything because it was the one place in the world they could excel. But that wasn’t me.

Reading wasn’t encouraged at home and I didn’t seek it out. I seemed to be afraid of everything and it showed. And Miss S. used it to humiliate me. When I failed a test, she would announce it to the class. When I didn’t have my hand up, she’d choose me to answer the question. This would cause me to tremble and shake because she’d come over to my desk and put her sharp fingernails into my ear and squeeze. Then she’d pull me up out of my desk that way and demand an answer. Finally when she knew she wasn’t going to get one because I could hardly breathe, she’d release her nails from my ear and shout for me to stay after school.

sitting in the corner with a dunce cap

She’d tell my classmate Mark to stay after school too. He was berated as much as I was. When everyone had rowdily left the classroom, she’d make us both stand up straight in front of her. Then with a look of pure disgust and sarcastic intonation, she’d admonish us with these words: “You two are pathetic and stupid! You’re an embarrassment, a disgrace. I promise you I will fail you both. Now, get out of my sight!”

This happened on a regular basis. That sort of behaviour would not be tolerated today. The teacher would be taken to task and probably fired. But in those years, they allowed “spare the rod and spoil the child” rule.

Failed!

Mark and I would leave the classroom and walk outside with our heads down to avoid the perceived stares from the kids playing in the schoolyard. We’d walk quickly past them, shrouded in shame, wishing we were invisible. Once on the street we’d walk together in silence. When we got to the field, we parted ways. Mark continued down Baycrest Avenue. I needed to cross the field and the creek to get to the street where I lived. I walked slowly, hoping to delay whatever was waiting for me at home.

Anyway, true to her word, at the end of the school year, Miss S. marked
“F A I L E D!” in big red letters across my report card. Mark found the same thing on his. It was one of the worst days of our lives. We both dreaded going home.

I don’t remember what my parents said or did when they read my report card. In my fantasy mom was reassuring and comforting. I often had those fantasies—it was what I yearned for. And sometimes my wishes came true. Sometimes she was remarkable. She could be so nurturing, so kind, so wise. But inevitably, her undiagnosed bi-polar illness would flare up and I never knew what to expect. Dad was rarely home, and when he was he rarely spoke. However, his facial expressions spoke volumes. (Aside: later in life they were my champions, but growing up, they just didn’t have the skills, as they were dealing with their own unhealed wounds.)

A summer of apprehension

Now it was summer. School was out and I knew the other grade sixes in my class were excited about going on to Ledbury Park Junior High School in the fall where they would have their own lockers and get to change classrooms between periods and have different teachers for every subject. I could only imagine how excited they’d be. Not me. Not Mark. We’d have to trudge back, shame-faced, to the same public school, back into grade six again with kids a whole year younger.

And then it came: September—and with it, the first day of school. I hardly slept the night before. I was planning my escape. Had there been street kids in Toronto in those days I’m pretty certain I would have been among them because it was a familiar notion to run away. Even when I was eight or nine I would run away from home—but never too far. I’d hide in the stairwell of our six-story apartment building. It was as far as I could go because it was late and dark and I’d be too frightened to be out alone in the night. And here I was, age twelve with the same sickening feeling to run as I thought about going back into Miss S’s classroom. This time I wanted to run and never come back. But somehow I walked to school the next morning instead.

The miracle of Mr. Logan

Once there I was instructed to go to room 6-B. I did and a miracle awaited me. At the front of the class stood the well-loved Mr. Logan. I knew from the previous year that kids in his class always seemed to be happy. He had the best reputation. He was also young and handsome and wore a warm, genuine smile, laughed easily and exuded an aura of kindness. It seemed too good to be true that he would be my teacher. I was afraid they made a mistake and I would be sent across the hall to Miss S.’s class. Once everyone was seated, Mr. Logan did a roll call. I held my breath. He was going in alphabetical order: Sammy Olstein, Sylvia Peters, David Rosenberg, June Swadron, Deborah Timberley . . . Oh, my God! Was that really my name he called or did I imagine it because I wanted it so badly? It took a moment to sink in but yes, it was true. He did call my name and then he called Mark’s too. We looked at each other and both breathed a deep and grateful sigh of relief.

And so it was. Mr. Logan became my teacher that year and it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Not only was he kind, but he was also joyful, gentle, patient and sincere. On top of that he made learning fun. And best of all he liked me. This I knew because of his constant kindness, praise, and encouragement. He took extra time with me after school on subjects that I found difficult. I became inspired to read and conscientiously do my homework—something I had never done in the past. I wanted to learn and I did. Soon my schoolwork started to improve. I was beginning to find out that I could learn and that I wasn’t stupid after all. And as my marks improved, my confidence grew and I was able to stand a little taller. At the end of the year I held the highest percentage in that grade 6 class—a feat I wouldn’t ever have believed possible.

I will never ever forget you, Mr. Logan. In a sea of pain, you were my refuge. More than anything else, you made me believe in myself. You gave me hope and the courage to go on.

So sir, wherever you are, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. That 12-year-old girl who still lives inside me, the one who was given back her life all those years ago, will never forget you. You were my heaven-sent angel. My gift from God. My mentor, my teacher. My friend.

Today, I try to do my best to live up to your way of being. My intention is to always motivate, encourage, and care for others in my teaching and therapy practice by offering kindness and respect. I know that our souls flourish this way. I also know only too well how we shrivel, back away and die a little more inside every time we are criticized and judged. The young child in me couldn’t have known back then that Miss S. must have been a very unhappy woman to have treated children that way—but as an adult I can recognize it as such and know that every act of cruelty and aggression is a call for love.

A million thank yous, Mr. Logan, for teaching me the value of every-day human kindness.

Writing Prompt

What stories have you been carrying and burying? What secrets and shame that bind you are you now ready to release? Write about it in your journal. Share it with your therapist or a loved one, someone with whom you feel completely safe, someone who loves you unconditionally! And if you wish to go deeper in your healing process, allow me to extend my hand to you.

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.

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03 Jun

From Bored to Awakened

chakras

In today’s Re-Write Your Life installment, I have the privilege of featuring Tom Evans.

tom_nm4neI met Tom via Skype approximately three years ago. I had just returned home refreshed after a wonderful carefree vacation spent with family and friends in Toronto.

Now back in Victoria, I was falling victim to my never-ending to-do list. Grace and serendipity led me to Tom’s online program, “Living Timefully”, and it couldn’t have better timing or better medicine. It wasn’t about traditional time management. I was actually learning how to bend time using mindfulness meditation techniques and slowing down the speed and nature of my thoughts. Not only was I getting more done in less time, I reframed my “to-do list” to a “to-love list” and I was no longer pushing to get things done. I was moving through my day with ease and not falling into bed exhausted every night.

Tom moved from being an engineer to being a modern day mystic and healer. You can read in Tom’s own words below how that happened.

Joey and Madeleine
Here are Joey and Madeleine looking adoringly into each other’s eyes.

Over time we have become friends and I have admired him for his ingenuity and his selfless contribution to humanity . . . and budgie birds. If I had been at all skeptical about long distance healing, I would have put that to rest immediately when he healed my budgie Joey via Skype, all the way from his house in England to mine in Canada.

My sweet bird had lost most of his feathers, was hardly eating anymore, and he sat motionless on his perch. It was getting worse and worse. A bird expert told me to add Omega 3 to his water. My veterinarian, after many examinations and procedures, told me there was nothing else she could do and said it was time to consider euthanasia.

That’s when I approached Tom and asked him if he could heal budgies. “I don’t know, but I’m willing to try, he said confidently.” I asked Joey what he thought of the idea. He said OK but didn’t exactly pose or dress up for the occasion. He was as listless as ever as Tom was offering his love transmissions over Skype.

Madeleine gives Joey a head massage
Here’s Joey receiving a head massage from Madeleine, who nursed him all through his illness and recovery. She has definitely earned her wings. As has Tom.  🙂

But within one month, Joey had gained weight, grown back all his feathers, and started singing up a storm. More than that—he was flying again!

Although I want to attribute the entire miracle to Tom, I have to give credit where credit is due. It’s that “birds of a feather” equation factor. His girlfriend Madeleine never left his side. She comforted him day and night.

Before long, the two budgies were racing to see who could fly faster from the cage to the curtain rod. Madeleine didn’t stand a chance. Joey forgot he was a budgie. He thought he was an eagle! Thank you and God bless you, Tom Evans!

tombulb_444You can listen to Joey and Madeleine share their personal experience in a future talk on Tom’s podcast, The Zone Show. Tom is currently learning to translate Budgie to English. I haven’t mentioned that to him just yet but I wouldn’t put it past his capabilities. In the meantime, you can click on the links below to listen to some enlightened conversations with enlightened thinkers on The Zone Show. So, here in his very own words, is Tom Evans!

From Bored to Awakened:

The (re-) birth of a modern day wizard

Before I awakened in my mid 40s, I was a pretty happy and successful guy. I was talented in what I did, as an engineer and consultant, in the broadcasting industry. I was feted and in demand but essentially bored and a bit frazzled. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to edge and come back from the brink as a part of my mid-life crisis. It was more of a mid-life hiccup in my case.

Someone told me I looked stressed and that I should learn to meditate. At first I resisted and said I didn’t have time and couldn’t make my overactive mind go quiet. I persisted though and as a result then all kinds of weird things started happening to me. I started to channel and discovered I could heal. I learned I could ‘see’ through time and see past and future lives in peoples’ auras. I partially levitated once and fully levitated another time. Since then I’ve spoken to several people on my podcast who have done these things too so I suspect, and hope, I did not go mad.

My first instance of channelling occurred on a 747 somewhere over the mid-Atlantic. The whole of what became my first published book, 100 Years of Ermintrude, came in from nowhere. I was in floods of tears and discovered later this is what happens when we get touched by the angels.

Healing-wise, I discovered that I could ‘see’ a body part back in time when it wasn’t afflicted and get it to replace the affected part of the body. I also found that some ailments, like rashes and allergies, were more like entity attachments that could be persuaded, with love and kindness, to ‘move on’.

Further explorations

As an engineer, I became intrigued about what was going on and set out on a mission to research what was happening to me. Initially, this research was a personal exploration. I had no idea that it would lead me to a new career and down an entirely new path.

So I went on some courses to learn about hypnotherapy, past life regression and channelling and signed up with two esoteric schools to widen my horizons. I still study with them today.

Helping writers

As part of this journey, I became an author’s mentor and writer’s unblocker. I found that all cases of writer’s block were actually life blocks. The writing had just brought them to the surface. I discovered how to clear any blockage and to tune people into their Muse so they too became a channel.

Typically, someone might have got a bad mark for an essay and as a result, later in life, would ‘fear’ publishing their work in case it got a bad review. Personally, I got demoted from playing Joseph in the Nativity Play when I was seven and took a fear of public speaking into my mid-40s. I discovered four types of fear were in operation—the fear of ridicule; the fear of the unknown; the fear of failure, or the fear of success. Once a writer understood the underlying source of their procrastination, and embraced it as a protector, they could move on.

Sometimes the writing itself was cathartic and I would encourage writers to switch from first person to second or third person, so they could use the memory but not get sucked down by it. Other times, we translated the action to a family of animals and used them as metaphor.

At some time, whilst busying myself in what I thought was my new calling as an author’s mentor, I was gifted four DVDs of esoteric information from someone who I can only describe as an Earth Angel. They told me I would know what to do with this information. This set me down a new path. The result was two books that deconstructed the Major and Minor Arcana of the Tarot and explain them in a contemporary framework—Flavours of Thought and Planes of Being. This led to more and more books on philosophy, mindfulness and the nature of time.

Becoming a ‘spiritual engineer’

I became a ‘spiritual engineer’; I started to create courses on how to channel, how to bend and stretch time, how to heal, how to move to heart-based consciousness and how to have ideas ‘off the top of your head’. I also moved to a new place where I had never earned less money but never been happier. Money worries disappeared; I was giving most of my stuff away free or very inexpensively. Yet, if I needed any actual cash, some would pop along, just in time. At first this way of living was scary but, with some trust, I got used to it.

At the same time that this new modus operandi kicked in, I was given access to more esoteric tools and ‘told’ how to decode them for a modern day audience. As a result, I channelled in a method of what can only be described as ‘death-less’ reincarnation that allows someone to evolve to a higher state of being and awareness, without the inconvenience of death and rebirth. This involves energizing and unifying the chakras such that higher chakras open.

As an author’s mentor, I became known as TheBookWright and that’s my main moniker online. For a while I ‘hid’ behind this persona while the real ‘Tom Evans’ lurked in the shadows. I’ve finally come out now as a wizard, mystic, healer, temporal alchemist and a generally good bloke to have a beer with. TheBookWright moniker persists historically though but these days I primarily work on the ‘book of a persons’ life’ by helping them remember why they came and assisting them to fulfill their life’s purpose.

What goes around comes around. So, by way of thanks and recognition for what started this all off in me, I have made many of my own meditations available free of charge on an app called Insight Timer. My mission these days is to help the planet awaken to a new level of consciousness by getting everyone meditating, one person at a time.

Visit www.tomevans.co for my books, courses, and mentoring.

Listen to The Zone Show for enlightened conversations with enlightened thinkers.

Go to www.insighttimer.com and get the free app and search for my meditations and loads more free stuff from some wonderful teachers who I now find myself rubbing shoulders, hearts, and minds with.

Here are some podcasts you might enjoy:

https://audioboom.com/boos/4606591-heart-full-living.mp3

https://audioboom.com/boos/3848662-ending-the-tyranny-of-time.mp3

……………………………….

End Note from Junie

Tom first interviewed me on The Zone Show two years ago. Here I share some of my story and at the end, prompted by a certain question, I talk about my dream-vision, which still rests in the heart of me today. I just need a team to build it! Let me know if you are interested. It is for a centre called ACHA. That stands for The Academy for Creative and Healing Arts for people with mental health challenges.

https://audioboom.com/boos/1950420-junie-swadron-on-re-writing-your-life.mp3

In the video below, Tom and I discuss Re-Writing Your Life in Retirement. We refer to Retire, Re-Wire and Re-fire. I first heard the words “Don’t Retire, Re-Wire” from my friend Dr. Melba Burns, who is writing a book on that subject.

Tom Evans added Re-Wire because in fact, we do need to re-wire our brains from thinking that retiring is the end of life as it often was in our parents’ generation. Now that we are living so much longer, staying healthier and alive so much longer, re-firing our mindset is a fabulous choice to make. That’s what I’m doing and my life has become more exciting than ever!

Here is the video on my Re-Write Your Life in Retirement webpage: https://junieswadron.com/re-write-your-life-in-retirement/

Writing Prompt

Is there someone who has come into your life who has changed your perception of things, like teaching you to ‘bend time’, or heal your pet from across the ocean, or anything at all? Were you convinced that the world was flat and the atlases were all wrong? You know, something along those lines. You can be as silly as you like while writing it as I am being now. Or serious . . . or anything in between. You know the drill, just write. And if you aren’t sure how, make sure you attend our event at 7 pm on June 14th for tons of tips: Everything You Want to Know About Book Publishing.

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.

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20 May

Living Well, Loving Well, and Letting Go

letting go

Re-Writing a Story of Grief in Just One Day

On Wednesday, I put out a Facebook post asking for unconditional love because it was the first day in as long as I could remember where I didn’t want to get out of bed and face the day.

The outpouring of love and kindness I received was beyond what I could have ever imagined. I learned again that the energy of love, prayer, and kindness travels unseen from the hearts of those who send it directly into the hearts of those who are ready to receive these blessings.

My heart was fully open and receptive and I am blessed beyond measure. My well of gratitude knows no bounds. Here are some of the things I was reminded of and I hope they will, in turn, serve you.

First, it was essential to take the day off for my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Mental — I gave my mind a mental break by choosing not to engage in the dozens of projects I have on the go. When thoughts of ‘must do’ came up, I consciously replaced them with ‘not now. I will come back, I promise.’ Acknowledging that I will return to those tasks allowed my critical mind to feel reassured and to soften. I gave that part of me (my ego) an official break as well. It didn’t need to stand on guard endlessly reminding me that this and that are awaiting my attention.

Emotional — My heart was heaving with grief and sorrow. The sudden passing of my dear friend, Joseph Martin, triggered anguish that has been sitting in my cells seemingly forever. I was feeling grief not only about those who have passed, but also about the dangers threatening our world today, from a man like Donald Trump who disrespects everything that upholds truth and justice and equality, to the state of our beloved Mother Earth, the air, waters, the animal kingdom, our plants, our inhumanity towards one another, wars that don’t end. I found myself ruminating on the lyrics to Where Have All the Flowers Gone? My heart felt like it was being split open as I recited the Ho-‘opono’pono prayer, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

I also let the tears fall freely as different people appeared sporadically throughout the day on the screen of my mind. Some have left the earth plane, some have left because of disputes, family members who I thought would be the closest have been the furthest away, and others have left and never told me why. The last two were the catalyst for my deepest sense of heartbreak, triggering memories of abandonment from my earliest days.

As each memory arose, or even when it was simply a felt sense with no memory attached, I offered up what I, myself, was asking for—unconditional love. I also wrote a letter of apology to someone whose heart I hurt last week through hurried, unconscious behaviour. I asked Joseph’s spirit before I went to sleep the night before to write the letter for me. I know he would have done so with a full and open heart. I listened and the words spilled onto the pages of my journal which I transcribed verbatim into an email which evoked a heart-felt response in return.

My day and night ran the gambit of love and fear. Of aloneness and yearning, intermingled with acceptance, gratitude, and long sought out peace.

Physical — I allowed my body to rest. To meditate. To sleep. To eat comfort food. To listen to soothing music. To walk to the beach in the early evening without my phone. I felt blissfully at peace as I sat upon the rocks allowing the ocean winds and waves to cleanse and heal the melancholy that inhabited my body and mind.

I had an instinct to take my gaze away from the mesmerizing sway of the waves and look up. Directly above me was an eagle swooping unusually close. I felt like he was waiting for me to notice him and when I did, he soared and circled above me for a very long time. I was captivated by this gift, this miracle, this totem of freedom that came into my life at this exact moment. I laughed out loud and gleefully shouted out, ‘Thank You. Thank You! Namaste! Thank You’.

Then, I practically skipped home, stopping only once along the way to buy epsom salts to add to my long, luxurious bath of lavender. I settled for popcorn and a movie instead. Go figure! Then, just before turning out the light, I read another chapter, from Wayne Dyer’s book, I Can See Clearly Now. The book I have been savouring since he died.

Spiritual — Every breath, every thought, word, and action is spiritual, is it not? How can it not be since the omnipotent and omniscient presence of Love is always here? God is present in the pain and the glory. I knew I was being held in the arms a divine presence while I cried out my tears, just as I knew God’s hand was at play when the eagle soared above me, inviting me to hop on his wings of freedom. In fact, a part of me has always known I am never alone and never have been.

A perceived sense of separation is part of human existential yearning to go back to the garden. I have felt since I was a young child that the earth was not my real home. But I also know now what a privilege it is to dance on top of the earth and there’s no place I’d rather be.

In Summary

In summary, I can say that I am happy I was able to reach out on Facebook and tell my truth. It took a lot of courage, I must say, to have reached out publicly in that way.

I also believe even if I hadn’t reached out, reaching inside, asking God (or whatever name you wish to give that which gave us Life) for guidance, or calling a friend, or reaching for that one book that is a touchstone to our spirit—that can be the salve we need to heal our melancholy.

There so many ways to look after ourselves. And it’s essential that we do. Please see the writing exercise at the bottom of the page and tell us what yours are.

I am reminded that feelings come and go. That nothing stays the same. And that I need not be alarmed when they come up in wells and swells so deep and I wonder, ‘how can this be? Haven’t I dealt with this many times before? ’ And the answer is, ‘Yes, I have’. And this is simply another layer and it doesn’t take days, weeks, or months to process. It moves through so much faster when I just honour what is and let go.

How well did you love, how well did you live, how well did you learn to let go?

I have a tapestry hanging in my hallway. Embroidered upon it are these words, ‘In the end, what matters most is, how well did you love, how well did you live, how well did you learn to let go?’ On Wednesday, I did it all. I just need to remember to repeat it on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and every day, to the best of my ability. One precious day at a time.

Thank you for sharing in my journey. May you have the most awesome day and for all the days and nights that follow, may you be blessed. Love, Junie.

Re-Write Your Life

Most of the time it’s better to let people say things in their own words rather than trying to paraphrase and explain.

Please watch these videos to learn about the profound transformations that completely liberated these people as a result of participating in my Re-Write Your Life signature program.

You will hear Jan Falkowski share his riveting story of how he went from blind rage to being able to fully forgive the man who caused the car accident where his daughter was killed.

Next watch Annie Lavack as she talks about her fears and insecurities of not knowing what she wanted to do in her life. She states that it was the processes that she learned in Re-Write Your Life that enabled her to reclaim her voice. Today she is the Minister of the Centre for Inspired Living in Victoria.

The next video that Shaw TV filmed some years ago will show you what happens in a real group setting.

The program hasn’t changed, nor have the results. What has changed are the people who have made the commitment to go forward with their life in this way.

After watching the videos, take some time, then ask inside whether you too are ready to re-write the painful storms of the past and make peace with them. Every story, no matter how painful, can become the elixir of healing, transformation, and ultimately joy!

Above: Jan Falkowski’s experience with Re-Write Your Life

Above: Annie Lavack’s experience with Re-Write Your Life

Above: Shaw TV’s The Daily visited a Re-Write Your Life class
and interviewed participants

Junie's book, Re-Write Your LifeRe-Write Your Life

An 8-Week Workshop That Will Transform
Your Life

Early Bird Price extended to Monday, May 23rd!
Wednesday evenings 6:15 – 8:45 pm
NEW: Beginning June 8th
8 Weeks
Investment: $395
Early Bird: $345

Book included!

Find more information and registration here.

Writing Exercise

Write a list, or better still, draw a mind map, about the different ways you do or can take care of yourself when you are feeling sad, lonely, loss, grief, or despair. Then write about a time you did take action using one or more of these tools and what the outcome was. I just wrote about mine. Your turn!

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.

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13 May

One Can Never Consent to Creep When One Feels an Impulse to Soar (Helen Keller)

Teya-Danel-Bastion-Square
Teya Danel at Bastion Square Public Market selling her jewelry.

Teya Danel’s Story

I met Teya in 2005. It was approximately one year after her close to fatal car crash where she’d had to learn to walk all over again, something the doctors weren’t sure she’d be able to do.

What I can tell you for certain about Teya is: don’t ever tell her there is something she can’t do. She’ll say, “Oh yeah, watch me!” And seriously, you should watch her. On a dance floor! It didn’t take long after she started walking again that she was dancing. This woman has an indomitable spirit stemming, no doubt, from her Francophone roots. I’d even go as far as saying she has an obsession to be healthy and happy and her joie de vivre is infectious.

This is what she said about that time.

“Totally committed to regaining full use of my hand and body, I found the creative process of making jewelry to be a very effective tool on my healing journey. My heartfelt desire is to inspire other people to never give up and use their own personal artistic expressions as a medium for their own healing and recovery!”

You can find Teya at Victoria’s Bastion Square Public Market from May to September where she has been a jewelry artisan for the past seven years. Look for the woman with the big infectious smile standing behind her booth called, Dangles—Simply Elegant Jewelry. And tell her Junie sent you!

Here is Teya’s story about how she did whatever it took to walk, be productive, continue being an amazing single mom, and change her career from massage therapist to jewelry maker:

quillAn Almost Fatal Car Crash That Changed My Life Forever

by Teya Danel (excerpted from Junie Swadron’s book, Re-Write Your Life)

I’m floating in space and all of a sudden find myself in a restaurant I worked in. Everything is twilight and surreal. I step into the restaurant and see one of my former coworkers. There is a sudden understanding that I cannot possibly be there physically. I see lots of flashes of bright light and they seem to swirl and twirl around me moving in and out of consciousness. Where am I? What is this place? I drift back into unconsciousness.

My eyes are closed and I start to stir slowly. Again, where am I? Everything is hazy and I can’t move my body. A sudden paralyzing fear hits me: Oh my GOD, I think to myself, where’s Daved? What’s happened to him? Is he alive? My heart is aching and beating hard. I become full of apprehension. I vaguely remember him being with me but cannot place my finger on it.

The realization that something really terrible has happened slowly enters my mind. As I open my eyes the first thing I see is a railing on the side of my bed with a photo of my eight-year-old boy taped onto it. He is sitting in a hospital bed surrounded by my relatives and I see a big smile on his face. Huge relief flows through my body. He’s okay. He made it. I take a deep breath and I start to cry with relief and gratefulness—he’s okay, we’re okay. I’m still here. Where exactly is here? Where am I? I look down my body and I see contraptions on my legs. My whole body feels numb and I recognize that I’m in a hospital and I’m sensing I had a car accident. I wonder how long I’ve been here. I can hardly believe the state I’m in.

It’s August 6, 2004 and I’ trying to make sense of my condition. All I know is that I’m lying in a hospital bed just about broken to pieces and very high on morphine. I’m in very rough shape and my face is all swollen and I look like death warmed over. Thank God for modern technology and pain relieving drugs. I can’t imagine what kind of pain I would be in if I could feel my body.

I learn that I’ve had a very close call and in fact, it is a miracle that I’m still here. I’ve just been through a 14-hour tandem operation with surgeons working on saving both my legs and my left arm. There is so much damage that they can’t deal with it all at once. More surgery is scheduled. I’m in ICU and fade in and out of consciousness. It turns out that there are multiple breakages in both my legs. They went through the floorboards of my car and my right leg is off by 10 degrees. My left elbow has splintered like chicken bones, a number of ribs on my right side have been broken and the right side of my face, which hit the steering wheel, is caved in and black and blue. I’m lucky that I still have my eye.

I find out later that on my way to Nanaimo to pick up my older son, I went through an intersection, up and over an island and straight into a post that scrunched my car on the driver’s side. Much later when I get to see the pictures, I can hardly believe that I’ve come out of there alive. I’ll never really know what happened that afternoon; I have no memory of it whatsoever. In fact all I can remember is leaving the house. The rest is blank.

But there I was sprawled over the steering wheel in deep shock and not even conscious. However, the mothering bond is so incredibly powerful that even in the midst of such incredible trauma, I managed to somehow inform the police that I have a 14-year-old son arriving at the ferry terminal. Don’t ask me how I do that. I ask him a year later about his experience that day and he tells me that when he heard his name on the speaker at the ferry he intuitively knew something was terribly wrong. The policewoman takes him to the hospital in Nanaimo where he sees me and his brother in pretty bad shape. I’m screaming and have not stopped since they pulled me out of the car. I can imagine how horrifying it is for a young 14-year-old to witness his mother and brother in such an unbelievable condition.

He ends up being taken under the wings of a woman who runs a volunteer organization called Victims Services, which I’ve never even heard of. When I hear the story of his journey I say a prayer of thanks to that woman who took my son home with her, gave him a bed that night and money the next morning so he could board the ferry back to his father who is here in Canada to enjoy a holiday on the Sunshine Coast.

Meanwhile, back in the hospital, my sister Mona comes to visit every single day. She takes good care of me. She makes sure I’m comfortable and washes my hair every few days in a special little basin that sits snuggly under my head. Having lived in Vancouver, I still have a good number of friends there and they start to file in and offer support in whatever ways they can. My adopted mom luckily lives only a few blocks from the hospital and she visits me almost daily. Having my friends and family around me offers me much comfort, courage and hope that I’ll make it through all this.

Will I ever lead a normal life again? Will I ever walk? I cannot even bend the middle finger of my left hand and am unable to feed myself easily as my one hand does not reach my face. I was born a left-handed and learned, with my grandmother’s prompting, to write with my right hand in the days when it was not proper to use the left hand. Anyway, I’m grateful for my ambidextrous skills now, because I’m going to need them to feed myself. It’s about the only thing I can do for myself at this time. Being unable to take care of my basic needs is quite humbling, to say the least.

I feel a very strong sense of determination and commitment to do whatever I need to get back my life and heal my body. I believe that I can and I hold on to that thought with all my heart and soul, even though a small part of me has huge doubts given the nature and extent of my injuries. The mere thought of spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair is completely overwhelming. I begin the long journey of rehabilitation and healing and there are no guarantees being offered as to what the outcome will be.

I end up spending a month in Vancouver General, and when I am well enough to make the journey I ask to be transferred back to Victoria where the Royal Jubilee Hospital will be my home for the next two months. The surgeon who is taking over my case, a fine man by the name of Michael O’Neill, informs me upon arrival that I’m a very lucky woman. He says to me “not that long ago, you wouldn’t have made it” and I know in my heart that that is the truth. As I lie in my bed, day in and day out, I am astounded at how strong and grounded I feel. I can barely move and yet I feel totally powerful instead of powerless, which one would kind of expect, given my circumstances. My spirit is strong and my will to live and heal is just as strong. I make peace with my situation, totally surrender to it and accept what is.

Every day I get better and better. Even the pain and the long sleepless nights seem somehow manageable. As I start to get stronger I learn to shuffle my butt slowly as I inch my away across my bed and into my electric wheelchair, which offers much me mobility and a change of scenery.

Every day I am working out in the rehab section of the ward named RP2. I remember being taken into the rehab section one day and with the help of three therapists I was able to grab onto a pole and stand up on my good leg. My right leg was damaged the most and I’ve been told that I cannot put any weight on it for at least three months. So here I am standing on one leg, holding onto the pole and having a realization that there is yet some hope for me to walk. Before too long I graduate to a walker and make great progress, one day at a time. I come to realize how much of my daily life I’d taken for granted and in my present state, I truly begin to appreciate every small thing that I can accomplish on my own. You have no idea how humbling it is to have to have your bum wiped for six weeks—to not even be able to take care of the basics.

I’ve learned that out of so much adversity, so many gifts have come. The biggest one being a deepening of the bond between my sister and I. I learned, big time, not to sweat the small stuff and to be grateful every day for my life and my healing abilities. I know now that I’m going to be okay. I can see that I am an inspiration to many of my friends and acquaintances. They tell me they feel strengthened by my courage. I acknowledge myself for having reclaimed my life and my body.

Now, 3 ½ years later, I’m waiting for my last small surgery, which is an implant in my face and after that, it’s clear sailing. I am astounded by the progress I’ve made and pretty soon you won’t even be able to tell that I had a broken body. I will never look at a disabled person in a wheelchair or scooter ever again in the same way. I’ve been there done that, and my compassion and love for people has taken on a whole new dimension.

I am free and standing tall and so very thankful for who I am. I know in my heart that sharing my experience will help a lot of people. I really believe there are no accidents in life. I was meant to have this experience, to get through it and learn so much from it. It has been a huge gift, the importance of which I am only now able to even fathom. I see life very differently now and have learned to never, ever again take anything in my life for granted. I am excited and await all the new adventures that are coming my way with great anticipation and joy. I have a new appreciation for life and intend on living it to the fullest from now on.

Writing Prompt

One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.
—Helen Keller

What does this quote from Helen Keller conjure up in you?

 

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to contribute to the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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04 May

I Love You. I Love You More.

Mother's Day

Our relationships with our mothers

In last week’s blog post, I wrote about mothers and wanted to give you time to process anything related to your mom that was unresolved before Mother’s Day, which is on Sunday. I hope that you were able to do that.

“Thanks, Junie, I had a healing, loving, virtual chat with my Mom who’s in a care home with advanced Alzheimer’s. I gave her freedom from me to go and be with Dad, her parents, brothers, etc. on the other side. We also shared forgiveness, although I didn’t think of much that I needed to forgive her for.” WG

Another person wrote:

“Thank you Junie. Before last week’s newsletter, I had been thinking – oh, no, another mother’s day is coming up where I have to fake it. I took your writing exercise to heart and I can hardly believe that by the end of it, I was able to see my part in our discord and invited her out to brunch. I feel hopeful that for the first time that there’s a space, an opening and it’s going to be OK. I really want that and I know in her heart, she does too.” LF

In case you missed it, here is the writing prompt I offered:

What words of love would you want to tell your mother today? And if you don’t feel loving toward her, write a pretend dialogue between you and your mom. Tell her everything you have always wanted to say. Imagine her listening to you in a way that she never has before, and that she answers you through the wisdom of her Higher Self, the part of her that loves you unconditionally.

Were you able to do that? What was the outcome? Do you feel more relaxed, healed and at peace around her? Or are you still carrying some hurt and resentment? If so, I highly encourage you to consider re-writing that story so that you are no longer walking around in pain for things that happened in the past. We can’t change what happened, but we can change our attitude toward it.

My sincere wish for you is that you and your mom have a loving, respectful, and honest relationship and that you will celebrate Mother’s Day in a wonderful way!

My story, my truth

My relationship with my mother was as tumultuous as they come. But when it was good, it was the most loving, most engaging, most beautiful love I have ever known. And because I knew how it felt to be loved so deeply, when she withdrew her love, which could happen on a dime, I suffered unbearably. My mom, like me, suffered from bi-polar illness. Unlike me, however, it was never diagnosed, and therefore never treated. So my mom did not have the skills or know-how to make the demons go away. Oh how I wished I could have waved a magic wand and made her demons go away. I wanted that so badly—for her, for me, for my dad, and for Lorraine, Barbara, and Howard, my siblings.

Read on to hear about our mixed up, crazy, profound, and beautiful love. This is an excerpt from my book, Re-Write Your Life. Today, and on this Mother’s Day, I dedicate this story to her, Minnie Swadron.

 

quillI Love You. I Love You More.

by Junie Swadron.

Mom, Mommy, Minnie, Minnie-Mouse, Moth–er! Mimi, Memes, Mindle, Ma, Minerva, Mama.

She was all of the above. Each a different personality. Still, she was my mother. Minnie Swadron. Born in 1919 in the miniscule town of Shaunavan, Saskatchewan; first born child of Romanian immigrants, Joseph and Lily Lazarus.

I remember being at the hospital and holding mom’s hand. She didn’t know I was holding it. Or perhaps she did. Who’s to say what a person in coma knows or feels or perceives? Sometimes I would hold her hand a few inches above the sheets and then let go of it – let it fall. It was an eerie feeling but I did it hoping the sudden drop would wake her up. I wanted so much for her to wake up and smile up at me with her beautiful green eyes.

And yes, there was that day––the day that you did open them mom and you recognized me right away. And you held your hands out to me and I bent down and you kissed my face. You kissed my cheeks, my forehead, my chin, my eyes. There was a desperation to it––an aching, a pleading, a hanging on. A memorizing of every feature: the shape of my eyes, the smell of my hair, the feel of my breath upon your face as you drew me into you. Soul to soul. And I loved you more than ever knowing how much you loved me. No holding back. In those kisses, you gave it all. You kissed me with an aching need to hold on which caused my heart to split open but I understood. I needed to hold on then too. It was a moment of truth. Just us and the love––no-one else in the room. No-one to criticize your love for me. Like T. who was embarrassed by your displays of affection.

I used to be embarrassed too. I hated it when I was in my teens or twenties and even thirties and we would go to the Lawrence Plaza or for walks anywhere and you insisted on holding my hand. I guess it reminded me too much of being a child sitting next to you on the couch watching TV and you would want me to scratch your legs. It used to repulse me. But the queasy feeling left once I moved west and went back for visits. Of course I was middle-aged by then. And last October when I stayed with you after your surgery and you seemed so little and vulnerable, I would have done anything to make you feel better. So I actually heard myself offering to massage your back. I did and as much as you cooed expressions of delight, it was me, I know, who benefited the most.

My mom Minnie
My mom receiving a loving kiss from her grand-daughter Jennifer.

And now you’re gone and I remember those Toronto days traveling the T.T.C. There was snow piled high on the ground when I took the bus from your apartment on Chaplin Crescent to the Scarborough General Hospital. Sometimes there were blizzards as I walked and waited for the bus. I hate being cold but I loved the snow. It held me. It supported me. It reminded me of so many other Toronto winters.

And the times you and I spoke with glee on the phone from our respective homes after the first snowfall, loving the beauty, the stillness, the freshness in the winter sky. We loved so many things like that. Standing on your balcony or mine mid-summer when the thunder storms crashed through the sky and the rain came down in torrents and splashed heavily onto the pavement below. We loved the drama. We even loved the humidity. And I remember when I was a little girl living on Neptune Drive when you took me outside during the rain showers to wash our hair or catch the drops in our mouths. And we’d giggle and dance in the puddles. Those were on the good days. And those are the ones I care to remember for now.

Last night in my writing group I wrote:

I’m here with you again mom. Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten you because my days get full and I don’t remember to miss you and I’ve gotten used to not calling you every day. Used to it? I don’t know. Buried it is more like it. Sometimes lately when I’ve spoken about you, I talk about how crazy you were when I was a child. I don’t talk about the summer sun shower dances or my teenage years when I’d walk in the door after school and Dick Clarke’s American Bandstand would be blaring from the television set. I’d breathe in the comforting smells of dinner cooking on the stove and then be greeted by a happy you in your hot-pink summer short-shorts and freshly ironed white cotton blouse. I’d toss my books on the table and in two seconds we’d be jiving to Elvis Presley or twisting to Chubby Checkers. And I wouldn’t talk about the numerous times my teen-age friends gathered in our living room to be with you even when I wasn’t home. They came because you offered wisdom or encouragement or simply because you were fun to be with.

No I haven’t been mentioning those times at all. And then it struck me the other day why not. It became as plain as day. Simply put, I don’t have to miss you. I don’t have to yearn for you. For your gentle words. For the unconditional love you have had for me whenever my illness struck. Without fail you’d rally round no matter if we were face to face or oceans apart. Your tenderness caressed me through the phone lines, comforting me with loving words, reminding me how courageous I am, how I’ve beat this time and time again, and how I will this time too. And you’d remind me how many other obstacles I’ve faced and how I fought and won. And you’d talk about the beautiful life I made for myself and my successful therapy practice––how I helped others when I couldn’t see that I was or when none of it had any meaning for me. And you’d remind me of the constant flow of friends I’ve always had who love me to pieces. And you’d talk to me and talk to me and even when I couldn’t imagine there could be any more words left you’d find more to convince me not to give up. You were my champion mom and possibly the reason I’m still on the planet. But the irony was you also passed this hideous illness down to me. Even though you were never formally diagnosed, it was blatantly obvious. But you fought too, mom. You fought too. Differently than me. You locked your doors. You judged and blamed and eventually scared everyone away.

But I don’t want to go there now. Because in my heart, I know you were hurting. And perhaps that was the bond between us from the early days on––well that and the laughter too. All of it. Perhaps in some strange way it’s what kept our hearts intact – beyond the madness when you got too crazy to be around. Or I did. Funny, how we held each other on a pedestal which of course, never lasted. Before long, we were side by side on the floor scraping to help each other up again. And we always did. We did it with laughter, we did it with tears. In the end, we always did it with love.

I still carry you in my heart wherever I go and on some days I miss you fiercely. Whenever I see something beautiful or funny, touching or strange, I imagine you beside me, laughing your infectious laugh or smiling your beautiful smile or making a witty comment or a judgmental one. No doubt if it’s judgmental I’ll give you my ridiculous self-righteous lecture. Inevitably, you’d take a deep drag on your cigarette, look me directly in the eyes and say, ‘Junie, don’t use that therapy voice on me’ and we’d both burst out laughing.

I still have messages from you on my answering machine, mom. In one you say: ‘I miss you, Junie. I miss you honey. That’s what I do, I miss you.’ And I feel your lonely, aching heart. And now it’s my turn. Such irony. But as I type this now, a peace has washed over me. Perhaps it’s because you’re here with me. Yes, I feel you here and yet ironically I sense you telling me that it’s time to let go. Like the vivid dream I had only weeks after you died where you came to me and said, ‘It’s time to let go of me now.’ And I fought with you. I said it was too soon. And I didn’t know if you meant it for my sake or yours or for both of us.

And I am ready to do that. It’s been almost a year since Lorraine called me with the news. It was 8:30 in the morning. I was awake waiting for the call. I knew you had died. Still, I got off the phone and started wailing. Wailing! And when I stopped, all I could remember were the parting words we used in our daily telephone conversations.

‘Bye, mom. I love you.’ And you would always answer. ‘I love you more.’

So good bye, mom. I love you. And you know what? It’s my turn to say it now:

I love you even more.

Writing Prompt

Think of your mom as a woman, apart from her role as your mother. What do you think are or were her hopes and dreams? Do you think she fulfilled some of them? Are there are others she never did? What do you think are some of the most significant things she has taught you? Open yourself to the love in your heart for your mom, the woman who gave you life and begin to write the story of your relationship. Consider giving it to her on Mother’s Day as a beautiful gift or reading it to her even if she has passed away. She will hear you still.

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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29 Apr

Mothers, Viewed Through the Eyes of their Children

woman

Mother’s Day is just around the corner

How do you feel when you think about your mom? Is it warm and tender or is it something else?

Every child craves a loving and nurturing relationship with the person who carried them in her womb and gave them life. Yet, as no two mothers are alike, we may fit somewhere in the spectrum from almost never to almost always having our needs to be loved and cherished met and satisfied.

If we were truly blessed, we grew up feeling treasured, respected, and adored. We knew we could come to our parents, and for the purposes of this article, our moms, for anything and she was always there for us. She listened, she dried our tears, offered encouragement, and was our champion along the path.

Yet many people had a mother who was unable to go beyond her own wounds to show affection and may have unwittingly projected her fear and anger onto her children instead. Children do not know that the way they are treated has nothing to do with them. They only know how painful it to be ignored or ridiculed or something else that causes hurt or shame.

Fast forward to adulthood

If you were one of those children who was left to your own devices to figure out how to feel safe in the world, it’s likely, if you have not healed your heartbreak, you could still be harbouring feelings of regret, hurt and confusion. You may feel angry and tired, depressed or empty. And you may be projecting those unhealed wounds onto your own children or in other relationships in your life. I hope not, but you will know if this rings true for you.

There is a strong correlation between the way we feel about ourselves and behave in the world and the way we were raised.

Choose change before the universe chooses it for you!

Sometimes, it’s not until life becomes unbearable that we either open ourselves up to change, or in many cases, life circumstances force us to. I know that was certainly true for me. After being in psychiatric hospitals time and again because of circumstances related to my bi-polar illness, I decided not to let that spoil my life. Specifically, I did not want the labels attached to my name to identify who I am. I knew I would have to re-write that story of mental illness if I were to go on and have a meaningful, productive life.

What it could cost not to change

It was my desperate need to stop the drama, my willingness to reach out, and my earnest wish to heal the pain from the past, no matter what that took, that brought me to the teachers that helped me transform my life in healthy ways. I instinctively knew what it would cost me if I didn’t do whatever it took to turn things around. It was simple, really. I saw myself remaining in unhealthy relationships, making poor choices, being in and out of psychiatric wards, having to start all over again, feeling hopeless and unworthy of love.

Thankfully, I listened to the voice of my inner spirit, even though it was only a whisper, and even though my ego was loud and enticing. I chose a path of inner peace. And when I stumble and fall, I know how to find my way back. I simply brush myself off and keep going, but with more insight in my toolkit.

Living a life you love

Today, and for many years, I have been living a life that I love. I also no longer regret the past. Those stories not only shaped me, but offered gifts of strength, insight and wisdom that I couldn’t have learned any other way. This allows me to confidently and compassionately share what I have learned with others.

I am not stating that it was a picnic climbing the ladder. It was bloody hard at times. I wanted to give up and did many times. The hardest story to find peace with was the one with my mother.

Back to mothers

My mother, Minnie, and me at my sister Barbara's wedding in 1991.
My mother, Minnie, and me at my sister Barbara’s wedding in 1991.

I know my mother loved me. She showed me time and time again with hugs and kisses, with loving talks and was my number one champion when my bi-polar illness took hold. Unfortunately, she also shared my illness but was undiagnosed. So I grew up in a home where we never knew if mom was going to be in one of her loving moods or raging ones.

In my path of healing, I forgave my mother long ago. In fact, I love her to pieces and tell her so often, even though she passed away seven years ago. I was able to remove the label and role of “mother” and see her as a woman on her own path, often a heartbreaking one, and she did not have the know-how to make it better. That still saddens me. It hurts me to the core. She was an amazing woman, but she just didn’t know it. Her insecurities, which she used as ammunition sometimes, simply didn’t allow her to go beyond the camouflage of comfort she hid behind.

I feel like telling again, right now. Mom, if you can hear me from Heaven, I love you to the moon and back and I pray that you are at peace.

Your turn

Folks, soon it will be Mother’s Day. Let your mom know how much you love her. If she wasn’t or isn’t the kind of mom you would have asked for, take the high road anyway. She deserves more love, not less. And so do you. Find it in your heart to forgive her for any transgressions and make this the happiest Mother’s day you have had up until now.

Writing Prompt

What words of love would you want to tell your mother today? And if you don’t feel loving toward her, write a pretend dialogue between you and your mom. Tell her everything you have always wanted to say. Imagine her listening to you in a way that she never has before, and that she answers you through the wisdom of her Higher Self, the part of her that loves you unconditionally.

Feature Stories

Today I am featuring two women whose stories are in my book, Re-Write Your Life. You will be touched as you read the stories of their inner journeys with their mothers in the most poignant, real, and beautiful ways.

quillThe Legacy,
by Judy McIllmoyl

When I heard of our topic for this writing, I knew I had to write of you. I don’t even know your name. My eyes have never been blessed by the sight of your face. I long to know you—a longing deeper perhaps than I have an understanding of. You are my link to the past. To the love that brought me into being. You have a legacy that I will never know. What made you dance with joy? What were you most passionate about? What did you fear most, in the depths of your despair? When you awakened in the morning what were your first thoughts? When you caught your reflection in a shop window, did you ever catch your breath and think of me?

Many years went by when I did not let my thoughts come to rest on you. That wasn’t allowed. Everything was as it should be. I was with parents who loved me. Enough said. But was it enough? While never given permission to mourn the loss of the living you, you were lost to me. Where were you when I was so alone and so afraid? Is my fear your legacy to me? Is it my gifts, my deep love for nature and all things delicate and tender and easily broken?

As time leaves its etchings on me, I look in my eyes and wonder who you are. I do long to know you…as one soul knows another; not by name or even a shared past, but by an honouring of each other’s presence here on earth. You gave me life. I was once a part of you and I still am; as you are still a part of me, even though I don’t even know your name.

quillMasks, by Sharon Pocock

I step out of the shower and do the things that women do. Towel dry, moisturize, put products in my hair that promise the Hollywood look and god knows it could do with a little help. Wash my face, then comes toner and more moisturizer. Do I really believe I need a separate cream or gel for under my eyes? I’ve no idea but the package was cute and the jar looks elegant on the washstand, promising its own patented fountain of youth. I dry my hair and then the real work begins.

Concealer, just a touch under the eyes and hey, if I need it there, it kind of suggests the eye cream is the snake oil I always suspected. A little foundation, not all over, just on the bits that need it. Hmm, maybe it should be all over. A little eyeliner, maybe olive, or grey, or burgundy, or black if I’m in a Dusty Springfield mood. A little blush, just a touch, a suggestion of heat and then the final touch – lipstick. When I was younger it was bold colours, making a statement in a too pale face, but now in my more somber, if not more sober years, I’m safe in natural, and taupe, and suede and all the other names the marketing men created to mean the same shade of dull. It’s taken me years to hone these skills. To know which colour to hide behind, what creates the desired mask of the moment. But it wasn’t always the case.

I think back to a small, shy girl, tongue-tied in the face of boys. More at home on horseback than at a teenage party. I didn’t know the code words. Couldn’t crack the body language and the secret handshakes that make the closed world of a popular teenager go round. I remember standing, self-conscious in a pair of sage green dungarees that I’d coveted for the longest time. I thought I was the bee’s knees. I thought I was the kick. I walked into the party and thought that I would die.

The room was wall to wall with tight jeans and tighter tops. With hair styled within an inch of its life and lipstick in every rainbow colour. I stood there in my token flash of blue eyeshadow, clutching at my coke and wondering if I could pluck up the nerve to speak to the boy I liked. Finally I took my courage in both hands and made the move and he smiled and talked about our homework and then he walked away, leaving me stranded in the middle of the floor. I know that people watched and people whispered and probably laughed, but I didn’t hear them as I stood frozen, locked in my own humiliation. But I didn’t blame him. He was a teenage boy and that’s how they were. I blamed you.

I blamed you for not teaching me the language, not teaching me the code I would need to open this new door. I blamed you for not talking about lipstick and blush, powder and eyeliner. I blamed you for letting me think that my prized dungarees were suitable armour for a teenage party. I blamed you for all these things – for not giving me the weapons I needed to survive in shark infested waters. I was your daughter and you were my mum and I loved you so much, but I blamed you for not helping me become a woman. For not helping me understand.

I made so many mistakes in those black years; fell over my feet in so many ways. I look back and shiver and think of the deep pools I almost drowned in – putting myself in positions where the worst might have happened because I didn’t understand the subtext.

That was then and I grieve for the skinny girl, so unsure in her own skin, desperate to understand and be understood. Desperate for entrée into this adult world of sophistication and sexual knowledge. But this is now and I finally see the girl for what she was. And I see you in the same blinding light.

I was fifteen when he went away and you were drowning, clutching at straws to keep you afloat and I was your anchor in that long turbulent year. Your love had turned his back and found new pastures and my brother didn’t want to know. What nineteen-year-old boy wants to admit that the father he worshipped had feet of clay? So he withdrew into the strange dark world that teenage boys inhabit and left us two to cope.

We floated in our homemade life raft, keeping each other warm. I cooked and cleaned and I shopped and played housekeeper and counsellor and nursemaid. And by default you became the child in that time and I became the adult. I put away childish things and entered the adult world. The year passed and after more false starts than I can count, he came back, cap in hand and you finally smiled again. But I continued to cook and shop and be your sounding board because I was now an equal in your eyes.

Looking back, that was the root of the problem. In that long year I grew up, concentrating on the mundane struggle of getting through the day. At the end I had crossed the Rubicon and couldn’t cross back. My childhood, my teenage years of growth and learning and experimentation had gone—disappeared without ever really being explored, every unanswered question buried in a shallow grave with a sprig of rue on top.

I couldn’t go back, so I walked forward into life, ill-equipped to deal with the nuances of this strange, new world. But it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t realize that I hadn’t asked the questions. You’d been lost and I bridged the gap and when you looked again you saw a woman, an adult and I allowed you the deception.

So I stand here and look in the mirror. Picking up cleanser and tissues I start to wipe away the mask. Stroke by stroke, bit by bit, the walls come down and then tissue is dirty with beige and red and black. I stand and stare into the mirror, my face clean and bare and finally, I see myself with all my flaws and faults and I’m happy with the reflection. And as I look, I see you too. I finally see the person—not the mother or the wife, but I see the woman, with all your fears and insecurities and joys. I see you and know you did the best you could and I don’t blame you anymore.

 

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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22 Apr

From Mental Institutions to Becoming A Remarkable Gift to the Planet

andrea-paquette

Dear friends,

This week it is my joy and privilege to feature Andrea Paquette, most often referred to as Bipolar Babe. If you live in Victoria and you travel in the mental health circles, you will have undoubtedly come upon her name, especially in the fields of youth, mental health, and recovery.

Andrea and I bipolar babesmet about seven years ago when a mutual friend suggested we meet. I invited Andrea to my home and we shared some of our “war stories” from earlier years from the perspective of self-compassion with an exclamation of “Good for us, look how far we’ve come!”

Together we watched the DVD of my play, Madness, Masks and Miracles, a play to dispel myths and stigmas about mental illness, and immediately shared an unspoken agreement to become friends.

Soon thereafter, Andrea joined my 10-week Re-Write Your Life workshop, and currently she is engaging in my one-to-one author mentorship program. She is writing the stories that shaped her, some of which have never been publicly told.

Her soon-to-be-published book demonstrates her profound transformation from harrowing experiences which threatened her life, hospitalizations as a result of psychosis, and depression leading to wanting to die and making a serious suicide attempt, to becoming a genuine heroine and gift to the planet.

In spite of her painful (to say the least) past, Andrea is an award winning mental health activist, educator, facilitator, writer, speaker, and—Executive Director of the charity she founded, the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia.

  • Andrea is the named 2015 Courage To Come Back Award Winner in the category of Mental Health given by Coast Mental Health
  • She won the 2013 Mel Cooper Citizen of the Year in Victoria Award
  • She is also the Winner of the 2013 Award for Mentorship from the National Council for Behavioral Health in Washington, DC.

Andrea was born to a mother with a kind and gentle nature but her bipolar illness caused out of control behaviour which resulted in frequent hospitalizations. Her parents separated when she was only eight, and she was also separated from her best friend (her sister). Andrea went to live with her father and her sister stayed with her mom.

In her teens, she dropped out of school, did drugs, drank alcohol daily, and hung out with a criminal crowd. After just one too many harrowing experiences, she decided to turn her life around.

She moved to BC from Ontario and attended the University of Victoria on a scholarship and immediately fell in love with political science. By age 25, she was approached by a federal party to run for nomination for Member of Parliament. Although she lost, the taste of politics gave her the impetus to sell everything she owned and drive to Ottawa in her 1996 Neon, hoping to become an MP’s assistant.

From Hope to Devastation

It was then that everything came crashing down. Her bipolar illness started to manifest itself. First as hypo-mania, which included a crushing psychosis leading to unrelenting depression.

In her hypo-manic state, Andrea wrote an election strategy: a 33-page document that poised her to be the next Prime Minister of Canada.

Her illness escalated to a higher stage of mania and psychosis and after a series of painful events she was admitted to the psychiatric ward in Ottawa. After her release, she had no money, job, or friends, and her roommates kicked her out. Even her political contacts failed to answer her pleas for help.

“We treat broken minds and broken bones differently in our society.”

She felt stigmatized. She felt that if she had had a physical ailment, she would have been able to get help and compassion from others. Andrea often shares that “We treat broken minds and broken bones differently in our society.”

Although she was finally able to rent a room in a home with kind people who made her dinners and was eventually able to get work, she was paranoid now and stopped taking her meds. She left Ottawa feeling broken.

Back in BC, she suffered the other pole of the disease — severe depression and anxiety. Andrea could not even pick out food in a grocery store, and the smallest chores and tasks such as taking a shower felt like building her own house. During one of her darkest days, she attempted suicide. This hospital admission brought her face to face with a caring psychiatrist who helped her apply a new regime of wellness.

Andrea chose to teach in South Korea for two years and upon her return she secured a job with the BC government and made a decision to better her life in every way possible.

The first time she was invited to speak to a group about having bipolar disorder, she realized that she did not have to be ashamed and it became her mission in life to share her story to help others.

bipolarBipolar Disorder Society
of British Columbia

Andrea launched her blog and the Bipolar Babes website, which gives people a place to connect, find valuable information and support.

She is now the Executive Director of the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia and speaks to students, non-profits, doctors, businesses, and other groups on a regular basis. She shares her personal story of struggle and triumph since her diagnosis in 2005.

Andrea is passionate about educating today’s youth on the stigma surrounding mental health and additional societal stigmas that negatively affect people’s perceptions of themselves and others.

In five short years, this extraordinary woman has presented her story at over 150 schools, workplaces,community organizations and events, reaching more than 12,000 people.

Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes
in Greater Vancouver

stigma-free-zone
In January 2016, Andrea launched a new and exciting Classroom Presentations Program called the “Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes” in Greater Vancouver with the collaboration of co-founder Dave Richardson, President, Octaform Systems Inc.

As mentioned earlier, Andrea hired me as her writing coach, excited to share her personal memoirs, including some of the most intimate details of her life.

No Matter What Our Challenges,
We Can All Live Extraordinary Lives

In her powerful message, she encapsulates that “No matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives.”

If anyone can live up to that truth and be a mentor for all people affected by mental illness, it’s my special friend, Andrea Paquette.

Andrea, bless you for your extraordinary contributions to the world.

Memory Prompt

Write about a time in your life that you knew you had to change the circumstances you were in because it was too painful or too destructive to stay where you were. The idea of making a change scared you but you did it anyway. What did you do to turn the circumstances around? Looking back at it from distance, what did this time in your life teach you about yourself? Describe the details.

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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14 Apr

Frances Litman, The Woman Behind The Scenes

Frances

For some time now, I have been featuring incredible people in my weekly newsletter who I consider to be heroes and heroines of our time. People who have overcome major challenges and in doing so have become teachers and mentors for humanity.

Today is no exception. If you live on Vancouver Island, especially in Victoria, it would be most unusual for you not to have heard about the 5th Annual Creatively United for the Planet festival that everyone is talking about.

It’s an Earth Week Festival in support of more than two dozen NGOs and charities. In fact, it begins today, Friday, April 15th! Click here to find out about all the amazing programs, speakers, musicians, events that are happening!

But first, read the back story about Frances Litman, the visionary and founder who birthed what has become one of North America’s largest events of its kind.

Why have thousands of people been flocking to it every year? Because it showcases and celebrates the important work that people are doing to ensure where we live, work, eat, play and study remains beautiful, vibrant, healthy and resilient. And thankfully, more and more people care about that! And they are showing up learn more and find out how to get involved.

So, Who Is This Extraordinary Woman
Behind The Scenes?

Let me tell you what I know. Frances was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Far from it! But that is not what I will focus on. Instead I would like to honour what this amazing woman has achieved in spite of her painful beginnings. How she held tight to what she believed was possible—how life, and the world at large, could be beautiful even though her outer world, for many years, did not reflect that.

It is her determined nature and the loving fabric of her being that causes her to become unstoppable when it comes to making a positive difference. She doesn’t just hope and pray for a beautiful, sustainable, world, where men, women, children as well as the seas, sky, and land are protected. No, she turns her visions into reality again and again.

She has won over 25 awards in various professional competitions.

Many of you know that last year she passionately ran for the Green Party, joining her mentor, MP Elizabeth May, one of the world’s most influential women, environmentalist, author, and activist whose values align entirely with the heart of Frances.

I could never say all there is to say about my friend, but if you want to be blown away—and I mean it—take a look at her internationally award-winning photographs.

How I Have Come To Know Frances

I couldn’t remember when or where we first met, but she reminded me that it was at a talk I gave about eight years ago. I soon became aware that she was a journalist for the Times Columnist and an award-winning photographer. Although, when you meet her you wouldn’t know any of that, because she is humble and her focus is on the other, not herself.

To me, she is a natural mentor, role model and inspiration to countless people, for no matter what the circumstances, she will find a way of turning lemons into lemonade.

Although Frances and I did not become close friends over the years, our paths often crossed through common social circles and attending many of the same events.

And here is what I experienced each time we met, without exception. I was greeted by a passionate, wise, gentle and kind woman with a genuine smile and heart of gold. You also knew when she spoke with you, even briefly, she was fully present. She is one of those people, who after spending time together, no matter how long the encounter, you always leave feeling better than when you first arrived!  She just oozes good stuff, that’s what can I tell you!

From Good to Better To Best!

I can also tell you that I am thrilled that our ‘informal’ friendship has taken a turn. We have been enjoying an ever deepening encounter of the best kind. It began when she, Maggie Reidy, another magnificent “new” friend, (although it feels we’ve known each other forever), and I, sat down to talk about entering a business relationship together. It is our intention to take our collective gifts and talents into the world to inspire peace, beauty, empowerment and love via workshops, retreats, podcasts, TV . . . and on and on it goes.

bracelets

Maggie brought each us bracelets from her recent trip to Maui, symbolizing our friendship and united vision for humanity and the planet.

No Pipedreams for Us

Not only is Frances not one for pipedreams—neither are Maggie or I. All of us, in our own right, have been climbing the mountains that are worth climbing, for the betterment of ourselves and humanity. And as a team? Wow! It’s currently beyond our imagination where it will lead us. All we know is that we have been divinely guided and feel blessed by this union.

Our business meetings are hardly traditional. We begin with prayer and intention, followed by what’s happening in our lives. Then we laugh A LOT, dance around in my living room, eat healthy, yummy food, and scribe ideas onto the whiteboard as if there’s no tomorrow! And at the end of our meeting, we shake our heads and say, “Seriously? We got all that done in an hour when the rest of the time we were just having fun?” Maggie’s got a play list to die for! Make that “To Live For!” That’s what can happen when you aren’t doing it alone, with conscious collaboration, with respect and kindness, with untied values and vision. And well, when you are all pretty zany to begin with!

It was Frances’s birthday on Tuesday (April 12th). Maggie and I decided to give her a wee surprise party. Just the three of us (oh, and Matt Kahn dropped in a little later). Do we know how to have fun or what?

party

Creatively United for The Planet. Saturday, April 16th. Come and “Claim Your Gift”

Be sure to Claim Your Gift from Maggie and me at our debut workshop this Saturday from 1:30 – 3 pm.

Location: Royal Bay Secondary, Room 8, 3500 Ryder Hesjedal Way, Colwood.

Room 8. Bonus – It has an ocean view!

Here is a link to the festival website for Saturday.

Can’t wait to see you there!

 

All Blessings,

Junie

p.s.

Two ideas and two writing prompts

1. Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due! Who do you know in your life that inspires you? That makes you feel good? That makes you want to do things that are wonderful? Why not tell them so—through a phone call, an email, or a surprise visit? Do it.

Writing prompt: Today, when I think of . . . my heart expands. Today I want to tell her/him that . . .

2. Are you carrying a vision of something that you are passionate about but don’t know where to begin? I bet there are others just like you who share that passion. And guess what? You don’t have to go it alone. In fact, it’s way more fun when you do it with people who share your ideals. Consult good ol’ Mr. Google and see who in your city might be doing similar things. Contact them . . . and let me know how it goes!

Writing prompt: I am passionate about . . . and would love to come together with others to make it happen. When I think about that,I feel…

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

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06 Apr

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change (Wayne Dyer)

Below is an excerpt from my book,
Re-Write Your Life:

Re-Write Your Life bookIt was written over 6 years ago and it’s about what happens when the symptoms of my bi-polar illness kick in. Luckily, since the time of writing, the poem you see at the end has become truer for me.

I see the value in all of it, and these days I can quickly turn things around . . . by simply not sweating the small stuff, loving what arises in me, and using my newest tool—a free app called Mindfulness Bell (Thich Nhat Hanh).

It rings periodically and when it does, I put my hand on my heart and tell that little girl in me, “I love you, Junie”.She’s becoming quite accustomed to hearing it and becomes really insistent when she doesn’t hear it enough! I invite you to download this app and join the “I Love Myself Revolution”. After all, the more we can do this for ourselves, the more it spills over to everyone else!

Here’s my story (and I’m probably not sticking to it)!

I have lost count of the times when I couldn’t feel my heart—neither to love myself, another, or especially to receive love. I also couldn’t understand how someone could love me when I felt like I was giving nothing back—those times when despair and hopelessness crippled my days and nights. Such is the peril of bi-polar affective disorder. And sometimes that’s what frightens me the most.

The fact that even when I’m well and I believe the anxiety and debilitating depressions won’t return, they still do. I used to be smug because years could go by without an episode and I would think I was out of the woods. But then, seemingly without warning, the old foreboding would show up. I’d wake up with it. It’s a frightening and shameful place to be when I come from the philosophical outlook that I create my own reality . . . create it by the thoughts I think.

Talking to myself

So believe me when I say, that in those times, I talk to myself overtime to re-create the positive ones but sometimes in vain. Both my ego and my brain chemistry have their own force and often win out. During those times I even forget that my soul has chosen this experience before I incarnated in order to assist me in my spiritual evolution. Instead, at best I am grasping at the tools I have honed just to get me through another day, minute by minute.

Right now I’m in one of my good places. A place where optimism reigns high. I am loving my work, my friends, my choir, my writing, my pets, my just-about-everything. For the majority of this calendar year I have felt grounded, relaxed, happy, motivated, confident and in good spirits. My groups and therapy clients help to ground me and keep me honest and sane. I love what I do. I believe I am living my life’s purpose. I’m in one of those places where I am filled with gratitude for being so abundantly blessed.

Taking ourselves less seriously

It’s during times like this that I take myself less seriously and can relate to a poem I wrote years ago. I wrote it to help me through one of those dark times and it became a song that was performed in Madness, Masks and Miracles. I thought about all the phobias and fears that we all seem to have—me, my clients—the world! As much as I honour and respect the feelings that come up for me and others when the fear and panic takes over, from this perspective, you just have to laugh!

Phobia Song
Fear of dying and afraid of life
Fear of flying and afraid of strife
Fear of losing and afraid to win
Goodness-gracious where does one begin!

Claustrophobia, agoraphobia and phobias we can’t spell
Pathophobia, xenophobia, hydrophobia, zoophobia
We know ‘em well.
Now what would Freud or Jung say
If they were in this room
Their likely fear would be to get out of here
In case they caught the gloom!

Are we crazy; no we’re not,
We’re simply concerned by what we’ve got
Fear of hunger, afraid of fat
Fear of wars, chores and doors
Can you imagine that!

Fear of Satan and afraid of God
Is there anything here we’re not afraid of?
Between our birth and dying,
We have so much to fear
Was God, do you think, in His right mind
To ever have put us here!

Fear of cats and afraid of snakes
Fear of laughter for goodness sakes
Fear of aging or growing too tall
Face it. If it’s not worth fearing, is it worth it at all?

Afraid of getting out of bed, a fear of eternal sin
Afraid of germs afraid of worms, afraid of your own kin!
Afraid of black, afraid of white, afraid of in-between
Afraid of going out alone, afraid of being seen

Are we crazy, well maybe yes
You decide. It’s anyone’s guess
Are we crazy, well maybe not
Isn’t it something that everyone’s got?

Writing Prompt

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” (Wayne Dyer). Write about a time that this was true for you—or is there something happening in your life today that you can look at differently? (In other words, re-write that life story)

As always, please leave your comments below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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01 Apr

A Story, a Passion, a Choice

child typist

I’m giving up writing. Just kidding!

Okay, it’s no surprise to anyone that I love to write and no, I’m not stopping anytime soon.

And here’s why (they’re Ray Bradbury’s words, but only because he said them first! Or maybe I did, but he took the credit. So I’ll stick with his story so he doesn’t sue me):

“You must stay drunk on writing
so that reality cannot destroy you!”

crazy chicken

I am one of the lucky ones who discovered not the frivolity, but the necessity of writing in a journal right from the get-go, because I truly did think that reality might destroy me. As a child, writing in my diary gave me an outlet. It provided me with a safe place to lay my head down on the page with my words. That’s how it felt as an 11-year-old whose voice was silenced, and I came to learn that my voice on the page eventually became my voice in the world. It led me to be who I am today—because I could be true to myself. I didn’t have to please anyone on the page, just say it the way it feels and let it go . . .

Journalling nurtures me when I am afraid. It lets me say anything I want and as many times as I want and it doesn’t get mad and say things, like, “Stop boring me, do you know how many times you’ve told that story? It’s just a story!”

Seriously? Just a Story?

I was at a restaurant the other day and while waiting to be served, I heard part of a conversation at the next table. It went something like this:
 
Him: “Jodi, get serious; you’re not going to tell them that, are you?”
 
Her:  “Well, why not? It’s the truth.”
 
Him: “Seriously, what’s the truth anyway? It’s only a story!”
 
Her:  “But it’s my story. Don’t you think that’s important?”
 

The waiter came to take my order. I couldn’t continue to eavesdrop, darn!  But it sure got me thinking: Aren’t we all telling stories all the time? I’ll bet that as soon as Jodi said she was going to tell her story, her friend was running a story in his own head that might have gone something like: “Oh, no. I’m trying to warn her. Can’t she see the trouble it’s going to get her into? Even if it is the truth, why be that honest?” At the same time, she could be running a story such as, “Why can’t he ever support me?” And aren’t I making up a story as well? Of course I am!  How could I possibly know what was going through their heads, but there I was creating a story anyhow.

Don’t we all do that? And some of us love to write them down (maybe not the stories of the people at the next table!). But then again, isn’t that what good fiction is all about? Extracting it from real life and then adding our own take?

The Chicken and the Egg

As far back as I can remember, I have been curious about people’s stories, and for over two decades I have been helping people write their own. Maybe this is a story about the chicken and the egg. Is it because I needed to write that I got interested in people’s stories? Or is it because of people’s stories—including the ones in my family that I wasn’t supposed to tell—that got me interested writing? Or is it simply my nature to be curious?

So, yes, it’s true that I started writing as a young girl, but you may not know what inspired me to offer writing classes at the same time I became a psychotherapist. This is a fun story! It started when I read a book that had me captivated because I related to everything the author was saying. So much so that it could have been me saying the very same things. It was one of those aha moments that you can’t ignore.

A Turning Point

Some days later, I went to see my psychiatrist. He was smart, kind, forthright, and a down to earth, cool guy (they should have cloned him). He was also a bit quirky, which I liked. He doodled mandalas while listening to me. Perhaps it helped him listen better. Who knows, but those mandalas were the best I’ve ever seen. I could hardly wait to tell him what I had been thinking about!

Me: “I just read this great book about writing and I believe I can teach writing courses.”

Him:  “Hmm. Which book?”

Me: “It’s by Natalie Goldberg and it’s called Writing Down the Bones.

Him: “So, what makes you think you can suddenly start teaching writing courses?”

Me: “Because she writes the same way I do and teaches a method I have naturally used all my life but couldn’t have named it until now.”

Him: “Have you ever done that before? Do you have credentials?”

Me: (Starting to shrivel) “Um, No.”

Him: “Don’t you think that would take one hell of a lot of chutzpah?”

Me: (Stopped breathing. Code blue alert! Desperate for his approval. Final dying words.) “Yeah, I guess so. It was a stupid idea.”

Him: (With a wink and a big smile) “Why would you say it was stupid? If you feel that strongly about it, then you must do it! When do you plan to start?”

Me: (Catching my breath, jumping up to kiss him. Okay, maybe not, but I could have.) “Thank you!  Thank you!” (In my mind: smooch, smooch. Also in my mind: “Your sense of humour almost killed me, doc!”)

From that day to this one, assisting people to find confidence in their writing voice is one of my greatest passions! Sometimes, we do need someone else to put a positive mirror in front of our face in order for us to say YES! to ourselves!

What’s Your Story?

What are you doing today that you are passionate about? What got you started? There must be a wonderful story to tell about that. Maybe you can share it with your family tonight around the dinner table. Or with a friend over coffee. Or write about it from where you are today. What circumstances did life put in front of you so that it aligned with your values and your truth?

Or, is there something that you used to be passionate about years ago but you left it behind somewhere? Every now and again does the memory of it surface, and if it could talk, might it be saying, “Hey, what about me? Where did you go? Come back!” And your tummy aches a bit and your heart hurts because you let it go.

It’s never too late! Opportunities are vast. Just open yourself up to be living the life you love and start living that right now. Don’t wait for a life purpose to show up. Your path is already here. You are on a path. In other words, do the things you love to do and be the person you want to be now.

Become the innocent child, ready to explore life with brand new eyes. Get up each morning saying “Thank you for a brand new day” and open yourself to the possibility of beautiful things to unfold.

And remember, you are awesome! You are unique. You have so much to offer. So pull out the stops. Be bold and say “Yes” to Life!

And if I were sitting across from you right now, I’d be emulating that shrink from so many years ago. I’d be doodling Mandalas and telling you to GO FOR IT!

Writing Prompt

Today I am saying YES to myself and that means . . .

As always, please leave a comment below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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26 Mar

Prayer, Grace, and Gratitude—A Celebration

heartwave-730x400

[The image of the beautiful heart wave above was sent to me by good friend Linda Rauch just as I was about to post this story on the blog. Linda and Chana (the subject of this story) happen to be the very best of friends. Talk about divine timing!]

Hannah-rainIn recent issues of Musings from Junie, I have been featuring people I have wanted to honour because they have triumphed over some of life’s hardest hurdles. The first was Lawrence Cooper, who literally went from agony to ecstasy in his life as a bi-sexual man. Next I featured Judith Rockert who survived the suicide of her talented son, Mitch, who suffered with schizophrenia for many years before taking his life.

The story I bring to you today affects me personally, and I dedicate this story to the Saffer-Spiro family: Rachel, David, Ariel, Chana, Jacob, and Shawndra—my beautiful family.

On Tuesday of this week, March 22, 2016, we received the best news ever: my 18-year old great-niece Chana (many of my friends know her as Hannah) was found to be cancer free! And it is attributed to the unmistakable power of prayer and the grace of Hashem (G-d). And for this, we are eternally and humbly grateful.

Chana is the kind of person who easily makes friends everywhere she goes—and beyond that, she has a light in her that lights up the world.

Ariel-Chana
Ariel & Chana

 

Jacob
Jacob

It’s not only because she is my great-niece that I say this, it is because it is true and is the opinion, I believe, of everyone she has ever met.

Shawndra
Shawndra

Chanalah, I honour you today, and I congratulate you on your victory! Nothing could make me happier than this news—other than to be there in person to give you the biggest hug in the world. I am so very proud of what you have accomplished throughout your illness. In spite of facing the most difficult time a person could ever endure, not knowing what your future would bring, you have inspired countless people around the world. You gave purpose and meaning to your illness. You chose to make it something that could bring goodness and beauty into the lives of others. Kol ha’kavod! Well done!

Rachel-David
Rachel & David

Today, I am also recognizing the whole family. Especially, my beautiful niece Rachel, Chana’s Mom.

Rachel’s strength, love, wisdom, faith, humour, and the ability to stay strong and positive—as well as real—during this time of fear and uncertainty, is truly remarkable—beyond outstanding! It is what can only be described as a mother’s love in the truest meaning of these words. And it didn’t begin with Chana’s illness. It began with the birth of her first child and continued with ever deepening devotion with the three that came afterward. Ariel, graduating university this year, then Chana, Jacob, 15 and Shawny (Shawndra), who just turned 11 on February 16th.

And together with David, Rachel’s husband, a most dedicated, world class dad, they have created a homestead for their family founded on a bedrock of love. The above pictures of the family were taken at Jacob’s Bar Mitzvah two years ago.

Let me share some of the back story with you!

Hannah-baby

This is me holding Chana 17 years ago. The photo was taken at my beautiful late sister Barbara’s (Rachel’s Mom) home in Toronto in 1998.

Barbara honoured me (which she always did) with a beautiful good-bye pool party the day before my 3,000 mile road trip to my new home, Vancouver!

When I pulled up to her house to say goodbye, a ladybug landed on the windshield. That ladybug became the story of miracles yet to come—especially the night she tragically passed away. I will share the story with you in a future newsletter.

 

Junie+Barbara
Junie & Barbara with ladybug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward to Chana at age 15

Meditation

 

Here we are in front of her house before she went off to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Buddhist meditation and mindfulness retreat. While her friends were shopping at the mall, she was sitting somewhere in a lotus position! That girl has always been on a spiritual path seeking out the goodness in humanity and giving it back 100-fold.

 

 

 

 

Victoria visit May 2015

suitcase

Hannah-Rabbi-Kaplan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chana didn’t just arrive by herself when she came to visit me. She brought with her 30 pounds of cheese! A few days before her flight, she called me to say, “Oh, by the way, Auntie Junie, I’m coming with 30 pounds of kosher chesse. I hope that’s OK.” “Seriously,” I asked? Isn’t that the size of a small child?” She explained that she was delivering it to Rabbi Kaplan in Victoria. (Don’t ask about where I kept it in the meantime!) Anyway, the good news is that it was converted into yummy cheese blintzes and an array of other goodies that we feasted on for the Jewish Holiday, Shavuot.

Chana’s visit began with her koshering my kitchen. She was a great teacher, explaining all the while the reasons things are done. I figured it was a fair exchange since she was doing the majority (okay all) of the cooking.

kosher-potHannah-cooking

Hannah-at-table

Hannah-picnic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above (left) we are about to have a delicious Shabbat dinner with friends.

I loved every precious moment we shared on her visit to Victoria. Above (right) we were picnicking and painting rocks at Beacon Hill Park.

Chana returned to Toronto at the beginning of June to spend the summer with her family, then she was off to Jerusalem—a long awaited dream, to begin her first year of university.

And this is where her life took a turn no one would have ever suspected in a million years! It was also where her true hero’s journey began!

Jerusalem—a dreadful diagnosis

jerusalemOnly two weeks after arriving in the Holy Land, she was diagnosed with cancer and her world as she knew it began falling apart. Rachel flew out immediately to bring her daughter home, a home they had just moved into two weeks earlier, still filled with unpacked boxes while they were getting the other three children settled in school. Suddenly this unexpected dread was brought into their lives.

 

Hannah-Ariel
Chana with her big sister Ariel, who is looking at her adoringly

Doctors, hospitals, treatments, fear, muddled with hope and always uncertainty flooded their home. Yet, this is what I experienced when I went to visit them in November, two months after the diagnosis. I am about to quote myself (ha ha) from a blog post I wrote while I was there. You can read the whole thing here.

“… in spite of the gravity of the situation, this is not a depressing household. Instead, it is light and love, laughter and tears that make up the day-to-day life under this roof. I can’t say it is life as usual, because of course there is an underlying fear of the unknown. People’s  nerves are frayed and it can also be messy at times.

Junie with kids
Me with my darling great-nephew and -nieces. Jacob makes a rare appearance for a photo.

But let me tell you what else exists here: The house is filled with kids and their friends coming to visit or staying for dinner or a sleep-over.

There are relatives and rabbis, neighbours and friends dropping by to share their love and support. I have been delighting in 10-year-old Shawndra’s natural theatrical storytelling talents, and admiring 15-year-old Jacob for his humility, even though he is knowledgeable and wise beyond his years. I love my neighbourhood walks with Sprout, their gentle collie-terrier.

Sometimes after a long day, we’ve all cuddled on the couch to watch a movie and laughed a lot at the funny parts. Ariel, the oldest, has been coming home from Queen’s University on weekends and what a joy it is to see how all the kids gather around her, smothering her with hugs and kisses. That’s my favourite part—witnessing the demonstrative expressions of love and affection that are simply natural to this family.

Sisters, best friends
Sisters, best friends

And Hannah—well, even with an uncertain future, even though her magnificent waist-long, thick black hair has been shaved off, she continues to be a shining light and inspiration for everyone who meets her. Her faith has not wavered; her thirst for knowledge and passion for life are as fierce as ever.”

 

 

 

dog
Shawny & Sprout the dog

 

Shawnny and Sprout! I loved taking Sprout for walks during my visit. It was the walking meditation I needed.

 

 

 

short hair
The day Chana had her hair cut short; still managing to smile.

In December, Chana had her first surgery and they waited for the results, praying to hear that everything was clear. Their life could begin to go back to normal.

They did not get the news they were praying for. The doctors explained that in order to be as certain as they could be that the cancer cells were gone, radiation was recommended.

They were crushed. Not only did they seek a second opinion, they considered alternative treatments as well as flying to New York to a top oncologist. The answer pointed in the same direction: proceed with radiation.

A “god wink”: in the midst of fear an angel of hope and promise appeared

Junie-rainbowRachel was sitting in the living room beside herself with worry when the doorbell rang. It was a friend, a rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife), who was in the neighbourhood and decided, on the spur of the moment, to drop in.

Rachel told her the latest news and could not contain her tears. The rebbetzin comforted her and told her that this was the time to increase their prayers even more. She told Rachel that Chana was to hold a conference call and request prayers from relatives and friends and friends of friends everywhere; and to put it on Facebook. Rachel didn’t even know what a conference call was. But Chana did and in no time at all, it went viral!

dear-friendsHow Chana used these calls is truly remarkable!

Every night from that day until this one, except for Shabbat, Chana has held a conference call where people have been calling in from many parts of the world. Not only was she asking for prayers (which everyone recites together), she has been giving inspiring talks, often reciting passages from the Torah. But beyond that, Chana has used her illness an opportunity for people to do mitzvot (good deeds). And that is exactly what has been happening.

I’ve quoted some of her wisdom throughout this post (she calls herself Chana and her Hebrew name is Chana bas Rachel Leah).

thank-you-amen

no-hair
Chana with her dad

Chana with her dad. He is so happy she is inspiring good deeds at a time like this.

 

 

5

And look at the joy it’s giving her! We’ve been told that the joy is in the giving. Is there any question?

Hannah-Shawndra
Chana & Shawndra

Here is Chana with her little sister, Shawndra, who is auditioning for Canada’s Got Talent (well, maybe one day). She is a natural born actress and keeps us all chuckling with her theatrics and antics! You’d love her!

 

 

kissbubbyHere are Chana and her cousin kissing her bubby, David’s Mom, at her 90th birthday party (the day I arrived). She has been a rock in Chana’s recovery. Having survived the holocaust, she holds an inner conviction of faith and strength which has been helping her beloved family throughout.

 

faith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

capable

love and support

 

 

painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Chana visited me last spring, she painted the picture below and gave it to me as a gift: “Ki l’olam chasado”. It means “His Kindness is Forever”.

Let us learn from Chana’s wisdom

What good deeds and acts of kindness can we offer each day to everyone we know or meet for the first time such as a shop keeper, or even someone we pass by on the street? Hmm, pass by? Don’t pass him or her by without a smile. J And do not forget yourself in the equation!

Continue to pray please!

So…back to today! A call for continued prayer—for Chana to be healthy and vibrant and living her life to the fullest! And that each of her future medical examinations will confirm that she continues to be cancer free. Baruch Hashem. Amen.

Let the fun and games resume!
Let the fun and games resume!

And finally, Chana—here is how Rabbi Kaplan has honoured you—besides constant prayer from the congregation: you have inspired goodness at his school in Victoria:

The children have made a video about their good works on your behalf.

Yes, my darling, Chanalah, you are truly one of G-d’s special angels, and I adore you!

 

Hannah-heron

Writing Prompt

Some of my most favourite memories of acts of kindness I have received are. . .

Some of the most favourite memories of acts of kindness I have given are. . .

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17 Mar

God Winks—When We’re Ready to Receive

serendipity-clouds
Thank you!

“THANK YOU” does not come close to expressing the gratitude I feel for everyone who has shown me so much kindness and generosity in the past week since I wrote about my vision problem, the cost of the treatment, and my GoFundMe campaign. Your financial contributions and/or notes of love have uplifted me in ways I can’t even express. Bless You!

And now it’s YOUR TURN to receive. And it comes from your very own creativity. Your gifts to the world.

Creative expression is what makes our spirits soar. It is innately who we are; we are creative beings. We are born with the gift of imagination.

Doing one’s art often transforms suffering into beauty. It prevents a person from dying with their song still inside them. When we lose our impulse to create, whether it is painting, writing musical scores, designing landscaped gardens, writing our book, photography, whatever our talent is, something inside of us slowly begins to die.

When we get it back, we soar! Life has new meaning and purpose. We are in the flow of Life and Love. And all is as it was meant to be.

“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.”
—Helen Keller

Getting in the flow is as easy as ABC

So how do we get back into the flow of life, and honour our heart’s promise, when we may not know where to begin?

It’s a simple A, B, C formula (simpler than we think):

A. Sit quietly and with deep sincerity, ask the angels, God, Universal Intelligence, Spirit—whatever you wish to call that which grows the flowers and births all life—“Please show me the way. What do I need to know in order to take my next steps?”

Hold the intention to receive clarity about your next steps and expect to get it.

B. Stay awake for signs that will point the way.

Open to receive unexpected messages from books, people, events, signposts. There are no limits to where guidance will come from.

C. Follow the guidance you are given.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” —Goethe

Each step, no matter how small, could lead you to magical opportunities. Serendipity isn’t a miracle. It is within the natural order of Life.

“God Winks”, as I like to call them, are universal gifts to us that are available everywhere and at all times. Say YES to yourself and watch the God Winks show up in places you would never have thought to look!

What if it’s a book?

Do you have a creative impulse to write a book? Is it serendipitous that you’re reading this now? Only you will know the truth of this.

Has anyone ever said to you…

“I think you should write a book.”

And you said, “Me? I don’t think so.”

Yet it sparks something in you that resonates deeply but you brush it aside. Or perhaps it has been a secret desire you have had for years but you don’t know how or where to begin. Maybe you are already in the midst of writing a book, blog, play or short story, but can’t seem to stay focused, so you stop.

Check out these two scenarios:

Scenario #1

You want to write a book

You don’t know how or where to begin

You don’t think you are good enough

There are things you know about and care about

You are hesitant to say them out loud

You are afraid of what people might think or say

There are other reasons too

You begin to shrink

You stop

Your dream ENDS here.

Scenario #2

You want to write a book

You don’t know how or where to begin

There are things you know and care about

You are hesitant to say them out loud

You are afraid of what people might think or say

There are other reasons too

Still, you say to yourself, “I am willing to feel the discomfort,

put my fears aside and GO FOR IT.”

Your dream BEGINS here.

It is here that you will step into the magic of Universal Mind and Flow. You will no longer be burdened by whatever kept you stuck. Instead you will be doing what you have dreamed of, and as you move toward your life’s purpose, you move toward your divinity. And this is the gift you give yourself, by answering the call of your creative impulse, your heart’s promise.

“As we move toward our creativity, we move toward our Divinity.”
—Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

I have successfully coached many individuals to move from writer to author. In the process, they have also found their authentic voices which, in many cases, had been silenced for years.

Author Support Group

Starting April 13th, 2016. Join now!

Wednesday evenings, 6:15 – 8:45 pm

8 Weeks, April 13 – June 1

“I had the opportunity to attend Junie Swadron’s Author Support Group earlier this year. My manuscript, Julia’s Secret, had been stuck in a drawer for a couple of years at that time. I received amazing support and guidance from Junie and from the group. Junie is a wonderful facilitator—honest and heartfelt. The sessions were full of fun and extremely encouraging. Julia’s Secret is now finished and just waiting for the illustrations! My blog is out there too. The Author Support Group was a brilliant kick starter. I recommend it 100%—with all my heart.” —Anne Sture

Please contact me for a free consultation to discuss your writing dreams, and after our call I’ll send you my preliminary Author’s Questionnaire to really get you excited about moving forward with your project!

Limited space; register now. Early bird price ends March 23rd. Read more and register here.

Writing Prompt

Today, I am ready to commit to my heart’s desires. I am choosing…

OR

Today I am not ready to commit to my hearts desires. I am choosing…

Both prompts are valid. Whatever applies to you is rich grist for the mill. Perhaps the second prompt will lead to the first one. I’m dyslexic. I love to reverse orders!

 

As always, please leave a comment below or join us at Junie’s Writing Sanctuary to join the conversation.

All blessings,
Junie

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