Bold Kids

Who said BOLD was bad?  I have noticed that the reason why many adults want quiet, obedient kids is because they do not want their view of the world challenged.  Bold kids do that and not because they are rude or bad, but because they are being true to   themselves.  They are the ones who follow their impulses and search curiously about the world.  The truth is, I admire these kids and I have spent a lot of time wondering about how much social convention to support and teach kids in my care.  I  want to encourage that Spirit of authenticity while also teaching kids sensitivity and respectfulness. The most effective thing I have found is to be really clear in my relationship with them about my own boundaries while honouring theirs and in so doing, show them how to respect the boundaries of others. Other folks have their own boundaries and values and that is OK.  Kids learn that quick- especially bold kids.  They WANT to know where the lines are.  And maybe those bold kids get themselves into some pickles sometimes because they do not understand that something might ruffle someone’s feathers and that is a valid way of learning.  That is OK too.  I worked with a kid once who would often blaze ahead when he had a goal in mind without taking other folks into consideration.  He was continuously perplexed by the responses he got.  He was the ring leader in my next story…

One day, we shot off a rocket in the field in front of the learning center as part of a science experiment we were doing.  It didn’t quite go where we thought it would and ended up in a lady’s back yard.  The kids were distressed and were willing to do anything to get it back. After listening to their plan, I warned them that they could not just go rummaging through people’s fenced backyards without their permission and that it was illegal.  They ignored me. Most adults would have stopped kids by force but I wanted him and the other kids to learn from natural consequences so I went with them while they did this.  At a certain point, they figured out where the rocket was and started going through a lady’s well-manicured garden bed without regard for her flowers to get to their rocket.  Well, the lady was home (I had seen her in the window) and she came out and tore a strip out of them.  Not only that, she refused to give them their rocket.  She told them they were on private property and did they know she could call the police and sent them away while giving me a sideways glance as if to say: “Why aren’t you DOING something about this?!”

I ignored the “look”; I had purposely decided NOT to rescue them and I held to that.  The kids came back to me and were totally scared and defeated.  “How are we going to get it back now??”

I said, “Yup.  She was pretty mad.  I would be too if someone came into my yard and trampled on all the flowers and plants I had spent so long planting without talking to me first.”

The look on their faces was priceless.  They had never considered it from her point of view.  After brainstorming solutions, the kids decided to write her a letter of apology and went down to deliver it in person.  She agreed to give them back their rocket and seemed impressed at their response. She smiled at me as if I had something to do with it.  It was all good and I was glad I didn’t intervene because it was an experience they needed to have to find out how the world worked.  And these kids were not “bad” kids.  I actually have yet to meet a “bad” person.  I’ve learned that all behaviour makes sense to the person doing it otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it at all.  In the end, we’re all trying to get our needs met- we just don’t always go about it in an effective way.

Lucky Horseshoes

We are coming up on Stampede season here in Calgary and all over downtown, stores are painting their windows with caricatures of cowboys herding cattle or riding their steeds.  People are starting to wear their cowboy hats and don their boots.  And although I will be partaking in this craziness myself on the 13th of July, this article is not about Stampede at all.  It’s about the magic way Spirit has of tipping his/her hat my way when things are topsy-turvy in my inner world.


You see I’ve been in a funk the last few days and it’s taken me a while to figure out what that is all about.   Don’t get me wrong; I am happy I moved to Alberta- it’s just that sometimes I wonder where my life is all going.  I get caught up in all the mainstream ways of logic and reason and forget what my heart is telling me.  So I’ve been in a spin about that.  I hear other peoples’ voices from my past in my head.  I am turning 36 in two weeks.  My life is not what I imagined it would be way back in high school when I was picturing myself at this age.  I am not married.  I don’t have children.  I don’t even have pets (the massive mosquitoes in Alberta don’t count). I can’t even say that I don’t want those things.  Maybe it’s got me upside down because I actually do.   The bio clock is ticking and such.


And I hear a mentor’s voice in my head too: “Jen: What was your intent in moving to Calgary?”  I moved here to continue my personal healing journey and to take on leadership opportunities that would stretch my skills.  I wanted to use my talents to serve the community in a new way.  I have accomplished a lot since I moved here.  I learned that I am not an island and yet I have the inner resources to make it on my own in a totally foreign place.  I am learning when to ask for help and when to do it myself.  I am learning the balance of being a part of a community while maintaining my individuality.  I am learning how to allow others to support me on my journey without giving over my power to them.  I am learning how to be a good leader.   I am learning that it is OK to be alone and that I can be happy regardless of the situation I am presented with; the choice is always mine.


And as some of you know, when I can’t figure something out, I take to nature pretty quick to get some perspective.  I was sitting by the Bow River watching some tiny fish swim around when I felt something dig into my side.  I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out a little figure of a horse that a friend had given me two weeks ago that I thought I’d lost.  I stared in wonder at it for the longest time and thanked Spirit for the omen.  The horse is a special animal to me.  It reminds me what true personal power is.  Just as I started coming out of my pity party, I got a hit to start walking through the overgrown trails along the river.  A few feet in to parting silver and green bushes I stopped dead in my tracks.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  There were horseshoe prints in the mud in the middle of downtown Calgary.  I didn’t even know people rode horses along there and I wondered where on earth they came from: the skyscrapers to the west or the ones to the east?  So I followed the tracks as far as they went until they disappeared as mysteriously as they appeared.  I couldn’t figure it out.  And then I laughed because I realized that here I was trying to figure out the mysteries of the universe and why things happen the way they do.  Thing is, I believe each of us creates our own reality.  We make decisions every day that lead us down a specific track way.  If we make a different decision in one second, our whole life can change forever.  I’ve consciously made lots of decisions that have taken my life in this direction of adventure, learning, healing, and heartfulness.  I know what I want and each day, all I can do is make decisions that bring me closer to my heart’s desire.  There is no WAY I can ever see the whole plan or how my dreams will all play out.  And although it is not easy to admit, I ultimately came to the conclusion that I was having a tantrum because the universe was not delivering my order on demand or in my preferred timing.  Ouch.  But there it is.  The thing is, when I think about it, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  How boring would life be if I already knew where it was going or what I would experience?


So I don’t have a life partner or a child yet and that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy what I DO have right now.  I’ve built a pretty amazing life and I’ve been on adventures that I never would have gone on had I gotten married when I was 21 as planned.  Although I was heartbroken when my first boyfriend left me after 6 years together and struggled to find the meaning in that at the time, I now see the wisdom in that fork in the road.  And I thank him for having the courage to leave.  Now, 15 years later, I know myself and I’ve healed enough on the inside to be a good partner and mother to someone.  So who knows what other things the universe will send my way or what decisions I will make.  Those horse tracks certainly helped me to remember that I actually LIKE surprises and that all there is to do when I fall off my horse is to dust myself off and get back on.


A New Love Affair…


It’s not what you think…


Hugging a Tree by Elbow Falls

I want to introduce you to my new and old loves:





It feels good to be diggin’ physical activity.  I can actually go to a circuit-training kickboxing gym now and enjoy it!  I listen to women in the changing room groaning and complaining about “having to” work out and I remember how I used to be one of them.  So what changed?



This past year, I lost 30 lbs.  Not by killing myself through strenuous exercise and putting myself through crazy diets, but by listening to my body.  I know this might be a strange concept in a world where women, especially, are constantly told what to do with their bodies,

When to do it,

How to do it,

With whom,

How hard,

How much,

What not to do,

What not to eat,

What to eat,

When to rest,

When to work,

And the list goes on ad infinitum…


It is dizzying in its insanity.  I, like lots of other folks, forgot that my body is a biological system that is constantly changing from moment to moment.  I am an animal just like other animals in the natural world going through different cycles of growth, energy, release, relaxation, and nurturing.  It is easy to do in a culture that treats humans like they are machines.  When we are working 9-5, there is no room to rest if we are tired or even call in sick sometimes.  So we pump our bodies with pills, sugar, and caffeine and bulldoze through.



Through the process of learning to listen, I discovered I had a lot of beliefs about health, my body, food, and myself that were skewed and, in some cases, inaccurate.  I’d believed a lot of the myths conditioned by mainstream culture.  I worked to shift those belief systems inside myself and to break the unhealthy behaviour patterns into more life giving ones- ones that kept me in integrity with my body and myself.  I now have boundaries around what I will and will not do with my body.  This is revelatory in my life, having spent my entire existence thinking my body was not “mine” to direct.


When I started at the kickboxing gym, the trainer told me she was there to help me achieve my goals but she never asked me what they were.  I don’t blame her; we are taught to dictate to people about what their goals “should” be and how they “should” go about achieving them.  So I told her:

“I have my own goals that are not fitness-related.  I can achieve them on my own.  I don’t want to be pushed or told what other exercises to do or when to move onto something else because ‘my body’s ready for it.’  If I’m doing the exercise wrong, please do correct me, as I want my body safe from harm.  If I want extra exercises, I will let you know.”


I’ve since given this speech of my boundaries to all the trainers at the gym and each of them looks at me like I am from another planet.  One new guy looked at me perplexed and said, “So you don’t want me to push you?”  But interestingly, none of them have inquired as to what my goals actually are.  I smiled and went about my workout enjoying the feeling of the power in my body coming out with every kick and punch.  I love feeling the growing strength in my body and I am confident in its intelligence.


So why all this fuss over a body?

Well, it’s the only container I’ve got to carry my spirit through this lifetime so I want to take care of it and listen to what it needs and wants, moment to moment.  I want to honour it so I can keep doing the things I am meant to do and complete on my short time here on Earth.  And so that I can increase the amount of pleasure I feel in my body.  Why not?  I am here.  Might as well enjoy it.


Maybe I AM an alien.

But I am a happier one.  I finally know with every molecule of my being that my body is a part of my whole intelligence.  I am not just a head walking through life.  Listening to my body gave me back a piece of my brilliance I was simply not accessing.  Before, I was living.  Now, I am alive.

Cavalia: A Review

A week and a bit ago, I went to see the opening night show of “Cavalia” here in Calgary.  I’ve seen lots of Cirque du Soleil shows live and been awed by all of them and yet none have come close to the brilliance of this one by the original creator of Cirque shows.  There’s a magic that humans and horses make together.  Save for the last one hundred years or so, the lives of humans and horses have been intertwined.  The horse could probably have done without us and thrived, but how could we humans have survived without them?  We owe horses a huge debt for their species’ part in helping us humans build our world.  And this show was a tribute to the past as well as to a new potential for the human-horse relationship.

The performance made clear that it was a relationship between sentient beings in such a palpable way.  During one part of the show, the side doors open and about fifteen young horses full of piss and vinegar run on stage, play, and kick.  This part did not seem to be choreographed.  The horses are in free play with each other for a few minutes until the trainer comes out to join them.  I watched in awe as she lovingly called them with her voice and signaled with her body to start the “dance.”  It was like watching a bunch of young children at their first performance- child-like energy abounding.  At one point, one of the horses misses his cue and when he realizes it, comes straight back to the trainer to “apologize.”  He nuzzles her face and she strokes his neck assuring him it is OK, gives him treats and sends him on his way.  The horses LOVE her and she loves them; the respect is mutual.  The extraordinary care, benevolence, and beauty moved me and I couldn’t help but think that this is what is possible in human relationships too.

Celtic Horse

The reception the show got in Calgary was nothing short of deep reverence mixed with excitement.  People came wearing cowboy boots and hats.  I could hear experienced horse people whispering words of awe and wonder to each other during the dressage portion of the show.  For those of you that don’t know a lot about horses here’s a definition:

dressage |drəˈsä zh |


the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance.

It looks like a dance and is intended to mimic the mating ritual movements horses do naturally.  I came away with an increased respect for the human body and its potential as I always do after a Cirque show.  We can fly, flip, and move with the grace of any other animal.  In the show, the human and horse run side by side and that’s when the perfection of both designs was most apparent for me.  I could see by looking at the faces of the two-leggeds that they were elated at being able to play with these horses on stage.  It was a performance but it didn’t feel like a performance- if that makes sense.  The humans were not focused on the audience or trying to impress us.  The attention was on the horses and because of that, there was an authenticity in it that was an absolute pleasure to witness.  I felt honoured to be present.  There were several times my eyes welled up with tears from the onrush of emotion stirred up by the beauty of human and horse dancing together.  Like a good Contact Improv Dance (for those of you who know this form), you know it is working when the distinction between leader and follower is not longer apparent to viewer or dancer.  The two become one entity.

Two young horses that were rescued from the slaughterhouse here in Calgary begin and end the show to wild applause by the audience.  This has been all over the papers.  The horses are “famous” here.  The two take it all in stride and, just to bring us humans back down to earth, one of them takes a big dump in the middle of the stage before the curtain comes down!  Back to grazing….

I came away with a deepened connection to the horse’s energy than I had before and with a real sense of its quiet power.  I want to cultivate that more in my own life.  That and simplicity, which the horse models so well for us humans who like to make things more complicated.