My Happiest Dysfunctional Christmas

Merry Christmas(As published in Huffington Post)

It was 1991 and my first Christmas in my new home after my emotionally draining divorce. We lived in a depressed area. My family was 400 km / 250 miles away. I was struggling financially with a small business, helping in the community where I could, while nurturing my four-year-old who had some health challenges. There wasn’t a lot of money but honestly, nobody had a lot of money there.

Little did I know that I would get to play Santa for so many people that year. It still remains one of my best Christmases ever. Continue reading

How To Handle Political Differences At The Dinner Table

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Growing up in Montreal, Quebec during the rise of a separatist political party in the 1970’s, this gave me a front row seat to how families can be divided because of political differences. Every Sunday, after church, this division played out in my living room.
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What I Learned From An Overwhelmed Client

Have you ever said, “I can’t fit another thing on my plate. My plate is too full, there’s no room.”? Do you think you’ve reached capacity?

I wanted to share a bit the story of a client I was counseling. She worked part-time and could barely manage it.

She had health problems and an abusive ex-husband who bothered her regularly.  The biggest challenge was her intellectually disabled, behaviorally challenged 22 year daughter with Schizophrenia who was living with her. Continue reading

Changing your Happiness Quotient

happiness is availableYears ago, when I saw a beloved aunt on her walker for the first time, I said “I’m sorry to hear about your legs”. She replied, “I just focus on the body parts that work.” What follows is my recent experiment on consciously putting my aunt’s words into practice.

June 20th, I embarked on an exercise called “100 days of happiness” based on a book by the same name. I never read the book; I had seen postings on social media. Yesterday was my 100th day. Continue reading

Lessons of Gratitude from a Hot Water Tank.

My neighbour is feeling his Acadian pride.

My neighbour is feeling his Acadian pride.

My heart tugged at me to come and visit relatives in New Brunswick.  I’m staying at the little house my dad built on a country highway, right up from the village where my folks are from. This house doesn’t get used very often and I haven’t stayed in it in 10 years. Needless to say, not everything works the way it did the last time I was here.

The biggest challenge that I’ve had to face is that the hot water tank has been persnickety. When I arrived Monday night, I thought it wasn’t going to work at all. Halfway through the day on Tuesday, I actually had hot water and managed to do dishes and have a bath Wednesday morning. Yay! Continue reading

Shhhh, Let’s Pretend Homelessness Doesn’t Exist

cold homeless manMy colleague and I got out of the car in front of the Tim Horton’s. Standing away from the store was David, doing his best to blend into the background, shivering in the cold. We almost didn’t see him. I called his name and his beautiful smile lit up his weary face. I introduced myself as the person who had spoken to him on the phone at the Crisis Center and invited him inside for a hot cup of coffee. Again, that smile, I will never forget.

Nobody makes it a goal to become homeless. They are trying to survive from one minute to another, they are targets of crime more often and they are stuck in a cycle of health problems, circumstances and bad decisions. They can’t get off that merry go round. That day, David had eaten something out of the garbage and later in the evening, the food didn’t agree with him. He quietly explained, “I suspected I would get sick but I took a chance. I was so, so hungry.” Continue reading

3 Strategies to Promote Harmony with Difficult Loved Ones

Promoting Harmony with Difficult Loved OnesYay! My first video blog!

So things can sometimes get a little tense, eh? I know what you’re talking about. I mean, where’s the love? Where’s the harmony?

You know you love them, you are committed to them but it’s hard to remember the last time you felt relaxed and safe enough to show them your love. How do we turn this trajectory around? Continue reading

Caregivers at Christmas: Four Survival Tips

Me and Mom Christmas LunchAs a caregiver to my ageing mother, I am spending a lot of time accompanying her to the hospital, negotiating for her care and calming her fears. This didn’t stop on Black Friday. Whether they live in our home, around the corner or an hour away, worrying and caring for our parents can drain our personal resources. Here are 4 small things to remember during Christmas and New Year’s that can make a big difference to your well-being. Continue reading

How to be unhappy in 5 easy lessons.

Pessimism or optimism.So much is being written on how to be happy. Well, my unscientific observations have led me to conclude that some people prefer not to be happy. I’m not talking about people who are in a temporary funk or suffering from a depression. The folks I’m thinking about set out to be in a bad mood and resent others who try to help them. It’s like asking them to give up their favourite hobby.

So in the spirit of treating everyone equally this week (and maybe enlighten those of you who wonder how they’re thinking), I’d like to give a few pointers to those who are committed to being unhappy. Continue reading