What’s nourishing you now?

If you ask yourself or a friend what’s nourishing you now the response could be a recap of a day’s food consumption. As a foodie and holistic health advocate, I’m all in for paying attention to what we eat.

Yet we crave more than physical food.

What we pay attention to, think about and act upon, turn our hearts towards – feeds all those complex corners of our body, mind, emotions and spirit. Especially now in this confusing, crazy, confining Covid season without an end date.

I need to believe I can survive as a whole person; even hope for some moments of real vibrancy. It’s a slow start but I’m proceeding by filtering life through this question posed by author Christine Valters Paintner:

Does this [what I’m doing right now to satisfy my need] nourish me or deplete me?

I appreciate how Halifax journalist Gail Lethbridge expresses this present world experience isn’t the same for everyone: “we are in the same storm, but not in the same boats”. We have individual personalities and circumstances that are all over the map. We respond in ways that surprise and puzzle us. How often I question myself: ‘where did that come from?!’

I do not have this all figured out. I’m navigating new territory also and as we take this journey I invite you to consider some possibilities. Here they are in random order.

Connect. If we’re online, have a phone, or close enough to wave and smile at a neighbour we can connect. Let’s put some of our angst-energy into making surprise connections; like the card and mandala (symbol for wholeness) I received by post from someone I never expected to contact me. Each dot in this mandala – inspired by the Nova Scotia flag – symbolizes how everyone living in this province is connected to the province, to each other. This small gift nourished my soul on a day I was feeling removed and disconnected from my Alberta family. Thank you Sharon.

Dream. Write down a wish list – this isn’t a futile exercise. Even in the best of times a bucket list (or whatever you call it) gets revised. Feed hope more often than hopelessness.

Fun, letting loose a little. Productivity and ‘getting stuff done’ was the initial theme song for this Covid season. For a while that was kind of fun because friends were doing it and we were inspired by what we were accomplishing. But feeling exhausted, weary with just keeping up, could be a message to change that gear of getting-it-done. If efficiency is your thing, I dare you (me too) to dial down and crank up on the fun. Experiment with a craft you’ve wanted to try. Walk a new route. Make some crazy cards expressing Victory can be Viral (or whatever…) Collect some rocks, paint some rocks. Coffee with a friend instead of mowing the lawn. Some of you are really good at fun; help fill our well with some ideas.

Hospitality. Oh I do love the buzz of conversation and sharing food with others around my table . Whatever we were used to, it’s not like that now. Expanding the hospitality narrative is possible. Share the garden’s bounty with a neighbour. (Anyone want some of my kale?) Deliver a basket of berries, exchange cookies or muffins with a friend. It’s not so much what’s in the package as what’s shared from the heart.

Music – Choosing from the music menu is like making a dinner plan walking through the supermarket. What am I hungry for? Often triggered by emotions: ‘why do I feel like crying right now – again‘ or ‘thank you God for my daughter’s love that’s deeper than XO or a heart emoji‘ – feel the grief or the joy, from country to jazz. On any given day my playlist can include Steve Bell’s heartful lyrics; symphony classics; an oldie but CD favourite, More than Gold by Various Artists.

Social media, news networks, chat forums. A toughie, as this pipeline keeps us in touch with friends, for our work, meetings of all kinds, AND a yawning vault of everything else. If viewing or participating in the ‘media mountain’ overwhelms you with grief and other emotions, makes your heart race, or your blood boil, listen to that wisdom of your body. I am not a therapist, yet the first step to making a change is to start with one thing we are able to do. Unplug, unfriend, un-comment: in a clear and courteous way establish boundaries. You and I are not obliged to be a sounding board or blotter soaking up viewpoints or opinions of others. To help overcome an addiction to stuff that isn’t nourishing, I urge us to ask ourselves “is this (post, comment, article, conversation, etc.) going to make me stronger or weaker?”

What am I thinking? As we do with food labels, pay attention to the ingredients on the input what we read, listen to, and watch: the pool from which our thoughts burble with anxiety or nourish us with comfort. Consider reaching for the Psalms from the Bible, other sacred texts. Meditate on that ‘which is good‘ – journal, craft liturgical prayers.

Completion. I was amazed how satisfied I felt this week after washing my bedroom windows. Such a quick, simple project, stymied by procrastination. I have the same contented feeling wrapping up this blog post. Those many days I let it sit waiting for the muse or avoiding the discipline of sitting down, I felt uneasy. Doing the mundane is sometimes nourishing.

What’s in our hand? We can choose.

Keep learning. It’s the beginning of the school year (as odd as it is) and as it feels for many of us, September is the start of something different or new. Mentally I’m feeling restless – my Enneagram 7-ness manifesting itself – so I’m researching for an online course to feed my need for focus and mental stimulation. Perhaps something new or different is calling your name – have courage to test the water.

In our ‘real food’ consumption we have days we’re distracted or don’t feel as motivated or it’s time to go grocery shopping. But we don’t quit because our life depends on it.

Whatever you do my friend, don’t give up. Nourish all of your beautiful self.

Love and hugs – and a sweeping prayer for all to be well.


Rescripting ‘this’ Story

Covid-19’s upheaval is trying to sabotage my story.

I want a script with intimate gatherings around my table, traveling, hiking with friends  on a trail, elbow-jostling and close-up conversations. This happy-buzz story where people like me thrive, has been traded out for isolation, restriction, loss – and for some, illness and great grief.

Collectively? Living from a position of vibrancy since March has been a tough call. This shifting ground is exhausting and unsettling: resilience is tested, deflated and somehow restored – all to be repeated. Living out a messy story we didn’t choose to write, we feel like calling it a bad story.  

To make sense of it, I am determined to stay involved in the script.  This is still my life, I am owning it.

Again, I appreciate many suffer burdens bigger than mine. Yet bearing witness to my story, I’m sharing four things that are helping me rebound closer to living with vibrancy.

Flowing with the way I’m wired:

  • as a #7 Enneagram personality type, Enthusiast, I naturally lean towards the positive side, fighting back with an innate drive to reframe the painful parts of my story to make it more palatable, i.e. I live in a country with medical, financial, and stable leadership resources. I’m not in a crowded refugee camp – neither are those I love. (I am learning this re-framing can annoy other people so sometimes have to keep it to myself!)
  • investing attention to  the shadows  – those challenging traits I could work on. For me, I chase after new stimulation and activity rather than sit in the moment through something uncomfortable, some kind of pain. My recent 14-day self-isolation period after being out of province was a real test in slowing down, calming down, being present. It does not come natural but I want to work on it.

Activity, moving in nature: my primal need:

  • Being in nature grounds me physically and spiritually; having access to the woods beyond our back door is a sanity-saver; it was especially so when public trails and beaches were off-limits. Developing some understanding in discovering this sacred path are: Gary Thomas’s Sacred Pathways and Reforesting Faith by Matthew Sleeth, MD. 


Inspiration on the page:

  • Have You Seen Luis Velez   I listened to this novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde (this isn’t an affiliate plug but I do love Scribd for audio). I seldom read novels but weeks later I’m still reflecting on this story of kindness, connection and hope. 
  • The Wisdom of the Body: a Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women is a new book waiting on my desk: prompted by  kolbe time’s conversation with author Christine Valters Paintner: a Benedictine oblate, spiritual director, poet and teacher.  Initial chapter titles Veriditas: Claiming New Body Stories and Breath: The Gateway to the Body suggest appear to be pointing me towards my intenion to ‘slow down’ !


Real life inspirational stories:

  • I met Christine in 2001, through kindred passions for running and adventures to push our physical boundaries. We recently re-connected after a gap more than 10 years; I was shocked to hear Christine is now a stroke survivor . Over tea in her back yard, she shared her story: processing through the denial of stroke, the life-changing physical and emotional challenges, finding her present view for moving ahead. “I can’t live in a cage and in a holding pattern, waiting for all the stars to align…my identity is based on the decisions I make each day, my actions, my attitude…” In 2018 Christine published 7 Jars of Hot Pickled Peppers – journaling her unexpected, unwelcome path. In the near future I’m sharing more of Christine’s story for her long-term commitment to living life full. It is sure to motivate us all.  


  • Heidi is a new friend in the neighbourhood. Some of her interesting life story: she and her husband Russ have worked as teachers in different countries; they’re explorers, sailors, fun-loving, AirBnB operators  – where they serve guests (and lucky friends like my husband and I ) the most amazing Pirate Pizzas; offer river sailing tours on Tillicum. Heidi’s ‘normal’ life was broad-sided by a vehicle accident a couple years ago, leaving nerve damage and on-going challenges that cramp her ambitious style and activity. Yet. She’s the one who calls “do you want to meet me in 20 minutes at Beck Lake for a swim?” Heidi inspires me for choosing a story with energy.


  • I have three older brothers. They are in the small select group of men I fiercely love. Wayne is my middle brother. Generous, hard worker, gentle, quiet-spoken like our Dad, devoted to his family, knows what he thinks – and is suffering through the rigorous, painful journey of cancer and its cocktail of treatments.  We live in different provinces; considering a trip to see him this summer in his vulnerable condition was a cautious decision determined after family conversations, prayer and trusting my gut on this one. Thankfully it was right. I felt it was all right: together-time with all my siblings; with Wayne at his home, the farmstead where we grew up; nobody got sick with the virus; so much love for each other and for life.


This is my evolving vibrant living script. Leaning into loving and offering mercy, recognizing and pivoting from judgement. It’s praying, believing in God’s love and goodness in the story. Picking myself up after I fail and keep living –  this is my life.

Vibrant living may feel beyond reach for your present emotional and mental bandwidth. We aren’t all wired the same. My hope is that in what we can’t change, we will find space to rest. Can we try together?


(photo: https://www.chocolateriveryarnsandfibres.com/)

With love for your peace and well-being,

XO, Karen











Less vulnerable with a script

We are being told: regularly wash your hands with soap and water; practice social distancing (two metres apart from people other than those in your own home); do not go anywhere except for essential services.

I’ve followed this script for a month and will do so until advised otherwise.

Complying with our government’s policies helps keep us less vulnerable from contracting or sharing the COVID-19 virus.

To be clear, I live in an environment where I feel safe: shelter, food, professional and accessible medical system, stable government leadership. Yet even in a place of privilege, we can feel mentally and emotionally vulnerable.

Writing a script could help us walk stronger through this foreign landscape.

Children and family sequestered in one place 24/7? Expect some roller-coaster angst. Using the collective we, in one moment we thank God our families are not sick from COVID-19. In the next we’re talking ourselves into getting a grip over our impatience and frustration with the squeeze on our privacy or the noise and messyness of life. We can get triggered by shots of shame or guilt but we don’t have to embrace these emotions – a hug, a smile, a sorry – and move on.

Loneliness and separation from our social community and family is a disorienting loss without real-people touch and support. Margaret Feinberg: podcaster, author, speaker shared during Holy Week the five stages of grief on her (mafeinberg) Instagram stories. I think her suggestions relate to our present journey also.

The ‘news’ and social media can inform and entertain – and can drive us crazy. Hearing the virus case numbers, and not hearing that this will soon be over, can amplify anxiety about our lack of control. Media distancing can help protect the mind and soul. You can Unfriend if you want. Use your power where you can.

Even though there’s nowhere to go and so much extra time on our hands, we don’t all have the personality or mental will to conquer the world doing all the stuff we think we could or should do. If boxes of photos have been untouched for years it’s pretty unrealistic to think now’s the time to get them all get organized. Writer and Publication coach Daphne Gray-Grant shares helpful tips for what she calls PR-LOP — pandemic-related lack of productivity. I think you might find her reassuring.

Trauma psychologist Alaa Hijazi emphatically shares her view on the push for efficiency : “This…obsession with…always spending time in a productive fruitful way is absolutely maddening. What we need is more self compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us now, more focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves and our pain and the pain of loved ones around us…..”

Yes, there is another side of that coin. The Apostle Paul’s letters and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison were written confined in prison; Shakespeare wrote King Lear and Macbeth while under quarantine resulting from the plague. I’m cheering for you if you’re feeling inspired to do your best work.

More relatable stories are the many family and friends who are choosing to nail it and are getting a whack of cleaning, creative work, and cooking accomplished.

Others are exploring ‘for fun’. My daughter Renee Tougas whom I’ve happily shared here before, produced a FB live video with me, No Knead Dutch Oven Bread. If you have a cast iron Dutch Oven with a lid – and flour, yeast, salt, water – you might want to check it out. (Note: recipe in the video didn’t include the flax option but recommend scattering a few seeds on for good measure!)

We decide what we want to do, what we’re capable of doing – while preserving our wellbeing, sanity and relationships with those sharing space in our quarantine. It’s in our court.

Resisting guilt or comparison yet thinking about what we can be comfortable with at the end of this, whenever and however that will look. Undertaking one (small) thing can be the best thing.

To wrap this up…

Author Brian D. McLaren writes in Naked Spirituality – A Life with God in 12 Simple Words (2011) “….’when new troubles come our way, new threats, we can maintain a kind of peace, a peace beyond understanding Philippians 4:7‘ ….we can rest in the eye of the storm, seeing our difficulties neither as punishment for some past offense nor as evidence that God’s protection has gone off-line….just wait…hold on, and keep your eyes open, and you will eventually behold what you do not see now.” Not simple, but easier without guilt.

Things may never be the same, but life won’t be quite like this forever.

A wee closing prayer from Ecumenical teacher Father Richard Rohr: “Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longing for the healing of our world.

We are in this together. We do the best we can.

How have you been managing with COVID-19? If you or those you love have been personally affected, my heart hurts for you.

With love and gratitude,


P.S. If you’d like to share, I would love to hear how you are doing.

a novice observing Lent

I learned about Easter in my Christian upbringing and often participated in programs and musical performances re-enacting the story of this religious holiday. But I was never taught about observing Lent.

As I grew up and met a broader scope of friends of the faith, my perception of Lent was 40 days of fasting or denying oneself certain foods, habits, pleasurable things, or unhealthy vices i.e. smoking or gossiping. My theological opinion about Lent rested on it being a sacrificial practice to mirror Christ’s fast in the wilderness and suffering leading up to Easter Sunday.

I saw my friends and family following intentions for their own Lenten practices. But never thought about it for me.

Until this year.

The Lent discussion came up in the huddle of women I meet with for friendship, growth and accountability in our spiritual and personal lives.

Why would we want to observe Lent? If we did, how would that look? How dedicated could we see ourselves to our intentions? We decided to think, meditate and pray until our next meeting, then report back if and what our individual practice could look like.

I’ve walked through the why, what, and how questions – personally and with others in my rejuvenated health work – to get clear about making changes in food, lifestyle, mindset for healthier living.

Not surprising then that my initial thought for Lent was from a similar perspective. Should I restrict or eliminate wine with dinner, my snacking on fresh-roasted peanuts, or roving around social media for 40 days?

This could be positive and challenging. I love those peanuts.

But this direction didn’t feel right for me. Instead of denial or taking away something, I reflected on the question: what could I add to my life?

I’m a believer that personality types influence most everything. My favourite testing tool is the Enneagram. If you’re familiar with it you may know your type. I won’t carry on about the Enneagram (for me a fascinating topic) other than to say I am a type Seven.

A mini definition for type seven is: The Enthusiast. Busy, fun-loving type: spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered.

I love my strengths as a seven. And the other side? Authors Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson explain so well, “a busy, scattered mind that won’t simmer down …. is a problem because the quiet mind allows us to feel profoundly supported: inner knowing and guidance arise from the quiet mind and give us confidence to act in the world.”

That was it. I’d add a habit with intent to support a quieter mind.

This is my daily practice for Lent: pulling out of my active life a block of ten minutes to be physically and mentally still. Without intentional thinking or meditating or praying or planning. Only ten minutes. Yet not a simple thing when you’re wired with a mind burbling and bubbling with ideas, plans, energy.

With an inclination to talk to my Creator rather than sit and simply be and breathe together.

Lent is now at the halfway point. My mind still runs about. Skipping from one place to the next, including “don’t forget to be in stillness today!” Yet I am experiencing longer moments of mental stillness.

The point is stillness and not “thinking”, but I’ve still been taking away thoughts to journal later.

Structure. Flow. Life happens in the gaps. Courage. Stillness and rest. Breathe. Don’t force it. Endurance for suffering. Limits. Depth.

My stillness has triggered thoughts for other times in my day.

Imagining the unconceivable stillness of the Christ of Easter leading up to Easter weekend. Visualizing how universally people seek and struggle to move into stillness in their lives. Wondering how my friends online and in real life might be walking through their own Lenten practice right now.

I don’t think it serendipitous or by chance I’m doing this particular practice at this particular time.

For me it’s a kairos moment – beyond “conditions are right…..an opportune and decisive moment“.

I’m accepting it as a divine moment when the world; my country and community; my family; me – are all trying to cope with unusual uncertainties. Three weeks ago we knew the coronavirus was active on another continent, today a pandemic afflicts the whole world. Isolation, fear, disease bears down on hearts and minds. Our normal living.

My prayer – especially now – is that you are finding safe support, a place of inner stillness. If you are observing Lent and would like to share I welcome your comment.

Love and peace ….



Knowing Who We Are in our 60’s

The summer and autumn of 2019 were months of visiting and hosting family, hiking, kayaking, camping with my husband and grandkids. My personality type is naturally enthused and ready for the next fun thing so it was a wonderful season for me.

But. Months later- into a brand new year! – it’s a challenge where and how to jump into a writing rhythm.

Take one step. Value the progress. Remember my purpose.

I started a mini series on aging well months ago – discussing positivity and resilience – and am going to finish up with knowing who we are in our 60’s and beyond. A space I am in right now.

I’ll begin by sharing my backstory – for some clarity – and encouragement to stay open to asking who am I, here and now in whatever season you’re in.

I married young and had my children young. Life was a busy mix of stay-at-home Mom and part-time work: sometimes employee, other times entrepreneur. This worked well, life was purposeful, it was my norm. My husband loves to build; thanks to his ambition and diligence in the construction company he started in his 20’s, we’ve had a stable and comfortable living.

In my late 40’s our two children flew the nest for education and their dreams: including marriage and living in other parts of the country. Their leaving seemed to happen quickly – they took our ‘independence training’ seriously! But our empty nest opened up time to pursue a new and shared passion. Running brought us fitness, friends, an excuse to travel.

2005, sharing a race with grandkids Celine and Laurent, Maine, US.

Life changed dramatically in my mid-50’s. We moved cross country from our forever-home, Alberta, to Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast. We didn’t know anyone. We’d never visited the Maritimes other than a few days to buy our home.

Someday I’ll write the longer story of this spontaneous adventure; here’s the condensed version.

We explored our new province by car, kayak – on bikes and hikes. We made new friends. We visited our kids and grandkids – who lived closer than before, yet still a one or two day’s drive to Ontario or the US.

We didn’t move for retirement (we don’t have a definition for that yet); my husband pulled out his tools and expertise to create a modified version of his former life as a builder. One with more flexibility and less stress. Wonderful!

After settling into our new nest, I followed an interest of mine in natural nutrition ; with online studies for a diploma that developed into a consulting and coaching practice.

Supporting women in their desire to live healthier has been rewarding and challenging: changing habits and mindset takes effort on both sides of the desk! This track for me, for helping others will always be part of who I am.

Yet. Looking at the things that have been part of of my core for a long time I sense a shift in what I feel matters most as I move into my 60’s stage of life. In no particular order or category, things like:

  • Feeling okay with a faith that has been changing, as Laura Locke, editor of https://www.kolbetimes.com/ articulates so well has, “…found a deeper, truer place – filled with equal parts trust and mystery ­– where I am content to rest
  • Reviving my love language of preparing food, hospitality. ‘My mother tongue’ has returned, with enthusiasm for new recipes, expanding and sharing my table, this sacred place.
  • Communing more with the Divine in nature
  • Wanting less stuff
  • Submitting to imperfection, as per Jo Saxton’s “breaking up with perfection” in The Dream of You
  • Getting active supporting a cause for justice. Days for Girls has been one for me. Author, activist Lisa Sharon Harper– founder and president for justice movement, Freedom Road inspires me to overcome obstacles. “Be like water and get around the rock.”

How can we move ahead in discovering who we are are and becoming? Observe:

  • what we read, who we watch or listen to, i.e.podcasts, documentaries
  • who do we gravitate towards in a conversation
  • where do we feel engaged
  • a prayer and meditation practice

I find inspiration from other women’s words and actions.

Elrose and Sue, coined the Trekking Twins , at 83 are not only hiking mountains but maintain a section of Snowbird Mountain Trail, North Carolina. Lugging gas-powered trimmers and large loppers.

Captain Gail, here in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, bought her lobster boat and fishing license at age 50 and has the only all-female lobster fishing crew in our area.

Blog writer Emma Scheib writes “….you don’t have to bloom when everyone else does….just like your favourite rose bush, you get to bloom over and over again. You aren’t limited to blooming in one season of your life….”

Author Margaret Feinberg discusses in Taste and See – “Once a fig tree reaches maturity, it can be expected to produce fruit once to twice per year and can continue to fruit for decades. Fruitfulness goes on!” I Love that!

That’s my Aunt Helen, who at 98 follows a daily eating, waking and resting schedule. She lives alone in her own home, knits (a lot!), does a daily Word Find Puzzle. Her life bears witness that she loves God and people, which I believe has a huge part in being grounded and settled.

I hope these thoughts will be helpful in whatever stage you’re in.

I’ve shared some of my story; I’d love to hear your’s.

Love, and all the best for knowing and being YOU in 2020.

xo, Karen

Resilience in Every Age

In my research for Aging as a Positive Project I discovered author Mary Piper: an encourager for navigating life and flourishing as we age. She referenced a short book: a legend of two old women’s resilience after being abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine. Early in Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival by Velma Wallis, one says to the other:

So I say if we are going to die, my friend, let us die trying, not sitting.

You or I may not experience such ‘do or die’ circumstances to test our resilience – but for certain life is unpredictable and doesn’t come with a memo of what we’re going to be dealing with.

I’m suggesting three practices to help us bounce back from what life delivers. Reading inspirational stories like that of the elder women; seeking sound counsel from sacred texts (the Judeo-Christian tradition is my choice); and especially – putting resilience into action in the everyday-ness of living.

Present-day and up close, in the lives of people I love, resilience looks like this:

Bolstering an aging father in his struggle with depression, with forgiveness for oneself when compassion and patience runs low.

Trying a new sport or creative endeavour because of interest and curiosity. Not for expectations to be the best or maybe even very good at it.

Enduring not only the tough week of the cancer diagnosis but surviving in the painful journey that could continue with no end in sight.

Believing in the potential and possibility for personally fulfilling work; viewing course-corrections of the past as circumstantial growth.

Backpacking a long hike knowing allergies or chronic injuries might present themselves en route. ‘I’ll work it out’ over-riding ‘I’ll stay home’.

Back to the legendary story. After several physically gruelling days, Sa’- the younger of the two women – acquiesced, “each step brings us closer to where we are going. Although I do not feel good today, my mind has power over my body, and it wants us to move on instead of staying here to rest – which is what I want to do.”

If there is one thing at the core of whether we’ll resist or respond to life’s situations with resilience, I would say it is CONTROL.

We can not control our world. Circumstances are often not headed in what we believe is the right direction; we’re tempted to assume we know how it’s going to play out. Things are not going to be as expected. We quit, get upset.

We can control our choices. It’s within our power to choose a mindset to think of what’s worked for us before; to determine to stay in the game and refuse to write “The End” across our story.

Resilience helps us dare to risk living large, to navigate the unknown details ‘between here and there’. I’ve just started following Catie’s blog, a 60-ish woman from Scotland to cheer her on in the dream to cycle the world by the time she’s 65.

Resilience is greater than bearing down and forever gritting our teeth. It’s the path to growth, to rewards (think motherhood), to repetition (think motherhood), to overcoming – as in the legend of the two women – to restoration.

What does resilience look like for you? If it’s especially challenging in this stage of life you may find my free downloadable handout helpful in some area.

Love and gratitude,  


P.S. For comments, requests for a complimentary chat to consider working together for accountable vibrant living – at any age – you are welcome to contact me here.

Aging as a Positive Project

Last year when I hit my mid-sixties I realized my children are closer to middle-age than I am! Technically I’m either in the second middle-age yes, there is such a categoryor in the first stage of old-age. Yikes…

My personality type is wired to typically see the cup half full instead of half empty; so I am approaching aging as a project!

First some disclosures how I feel about me getting older:

  • I’m resistant to aging, as determined by the number of years I’ve lived. It’s been said: survival is resistance: I’m choosing to thrive with resistance . Not in denial, but in being brave and fighting back.
  • I haven’t prepared a strategy for aging (beyond financial affairs with my husband), although I did skim through Women Rowing North – Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age . Mary Pipher shares helpful aging guidelines like: everything is workable; when you feel lost or something goes wrong apply the 1st rule of the wilderness, DON’T PANIC.
  • My aging angst is not so much about wrinkles, grey hair and ‘age-related roles’ but with symptoms that interfere with my physical activities, i.e ‘cranky’ joints. It doesn’t come easy to align body, mind and emotions that another pool workout will be okay today instead of a long hike: hoping this is temporary. Regardless: it’s in the project.
  • I live in a 60’s-aged body, but my heart and mind lives in the 50’s.

50’s and plus – we’re in this together

Like everything else in life, aging is different for each of us; factored by our health, history, hopes and more. And even if our personality leans toward a mental and emotional attitude that focuses on the bright side of life as we age, the expected positive results don’t always show up!

Consider this paraphrase from psychologist Kendra Cherry “…having a positive outlook on life’s challenges doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding or ignoring the bad things; it is ……. making the most of the potentially bad situations, and viewing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.”

We can choose to make the best of those situations we can’t control.

If we are ready to approach aging as a project – with positivity, choosing to thrive and live with vibrancy – having a particular focus to aim for can help us move ahead with purpose.

A negative mind will never give you a positive life (unknown)

Looking at questions like these can help with getting started.

  • observing others in our circles – community, online, work or otherwise – has someone impressed us with particular skills or life directions that have ignited the curiosity to ask.. “what if…?” My interest in doing videos and sharing interviews has inspired my checking out a local Toastmasters to hone my skills for fewer “ums, ahs and other fillers”! Maybe I’ll pursue this more or it could be just a stepping stone to something else.
  • feeling betrayed by a body showing its physical restrictions? This one’s a challenge for many of us. A positivity spin like this could be helpful:
    • acknowledging and allowing time to feel the frustration
    • following recommended treatments
    • being open and courageous in accepting potential changes that could unfold a new version of us – that’s exciting and maybe adventuresome too!
  • what needs to be given a proper ending for space and freedom to discover and explore what the next stage of life can look like – regardless of age? Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, Finding the Beginning in the Ending shares thoughts for “letting things go, putting them to rest”- and beginning the next project.

If aging with a positive vibe is a project you want to pursue, dig into what you value and want, write down what direction you want to go. Journal your ideas how you’re going to get there. It’s a start.

I hope you choose to participate in your aging process, to own it and make it your project.

Love and gratitude,  


P.S. If Aging as a Positive Project captures your heart, my free downloadable Rescripting to a sustainable health story for any stage of life could be a positive place to start. For comments, requests for a complimentary chat to consider working together for your vibrant inspired living – at any age – you are welcome to contact me here.

The Rest of My Dominican Republic Story

Part one of my DR mission-cation story tells the story how my husband and I, Team Paying it Forward and Servant’s Heart Ministries (SHM) helped build a house.

I shared photos and thoughts how the physical work progressed- how our goal was accomplished!

In this post my lens is focused on other activities squeezed into our week.

orientation tour with SHM’s local team


I’m sharing here but a thumbnail view. But as our van driver responded to people waving in front of their houses or walking down the streets, the relationship of the mission with the community was obvious and inspiring! As team members in the van – that often bottomed-out!, it felt good to be partnered with SHM.

  • community centre for kids and adultssafe gathering spot for group activities; internet access for homework and communication; kitchen area where they make wonderful Santo Domingo coffee! At the centre I delivered a hockey bag stuffed with used ball equipment, thanks to my Lunenburg community! Kids were at school so didn’t play ball – good thing, it’s been a long time since I put on a mitt and got in the game!
  • Danica’s Dream Pregnancy Resource Centreresource centre helps young women (often alone, scared, perhaps subjected to an unwanted pregnancy) with an instructional program, knowledge and resources they need to succeed. Support stretches beyond the birth of their baby, providing a 2-year practical education, healthy lifestyle program. The centre also offers education and events for teen-age girls: hygiene, self-worth, life skills.

We poked our heads into a room with Moms and babes: “Buenos Dios” and waving hello. Too short a visit for my baby-loving husband!

I returned to the centre a few days later to talk with their leader, Jennie; to learn about the centre’s programs and leave educational tools and feminine hygiene kits designed by Days For Girls organization.

I recently discovered Days4Girls . Inspired by its mission to help women and girls around the globe live with dignity every day of the month – I’ve become an advocate in sharing their work. Check their website – if interested in learning more reach out to them or me! ketoews@gmail.com.

  • Hugs for Kids – School an action-packed stop – children ‘swamped us’ with hugs, laughter, energy to play. I found it refreshing these kids weren’t asking for or expecting treats from the foreigners– they wanted piggy-back rides, to jump a rope or kick a ball.

bonus blessings

  1. I love hospitality; cooking and eating together – in a kitchen, around a table – this time in a backyard next to a house being built, chickens on the run, cauldron-sized pots balanced over open fires, hand-demo instructions. A wonderful cooking camaraderie and shared experience with team members, Minerva, and her sister who’d travelled to come help: together serving those we care for by providing one of their basic needs. For the record this was the most flavourful meal I had the whole week!

2. I love watching baseball. Years ago my husband and I vacationed in the Dominican; a highlight was watching a game where some of the players were DR major league stars.

Crazy-fun, although got a little tense until we figured out the yelling in Español and many fists shaken in our direction was because we were cheering for the ‘wrong’ team in our section of the stadium. All was well after we switched allegiance!

This time a Dominican-Canadian slow pitch ball tournament was happening right across the street from our lodging. Not nearly as serious!

What great fun watching and cheering for whatever team we wanted to. Met Montreal ball-players in the stands waiting to play – whose game ultimately got bumped so many times, that sadly we weren’t able to watch them on the field.

3. I love going to church where worship music and the message exudes life, action and Joy! Exactly what we found at an evening service where our shuttle driver and his wife attend. The language was different, the songs were different, but the Spirit felt the same. Awesome.

After the minister finished speaking we stayed to hear women just back from a spiritual retreat share their testimonies. We understood few of the details, but a message was expressed from their hearts, through tears and hugs with a sense of peace: relationship with God and people had been restored. Is this not a message and need for all people in all cultures.

4. I love nature, palm trees on the Caribbean Ocean. SHM doesn’t have a facility for hosting teams: participants pay for their travel and accommodations. Ours was lovely….pools, buffets, clean rooms with air conditioners and showers to clean off construction dirt….the luxurious daily contrasts between those we went to serve and our privileged world. I found it hard, processing the disparity questions, daily jostling between these two worlds. I still do.


This wraps it up. Would I do another mission-cation? Absolutely, in some form, somewhere. Would I encourage you or others to do one? Only if it is calling your name or heart, in this stage of your life – and if you’re undecided? Just stay open.

I do urge us all to help others feel better in their lives – be that a kind word, sponsoring a child, shuttle service for medical appointments, praying, defending someone’s name, supporting a fund-raiser, writing letters.

I hope you enjoyed these highlights of my trip. Would love to read your comments, hear your travel stories.

Love and Gratitude,


P.S. Want to work together discovering your next step for vibrant living? Contact me here for a free short chat.

Mission-cation* A Dominican Republic Project – Part 1

When I was a kid ‘vacation’ wasn’t a two-week holiday slot on my farmer-Dad’s calendar. Travelling was going to visit family, often an hour and a half drive (one-way) for us to see grandparents: a jaunt squished between Dad’s morning and night cow-milking schedule – what a treat when older brothers could cover the evening shift.

Long after the cows were gone my parents’ travel plans still focused on visiting one of us five kids and Dad was especially happy if that included helping us with a project.

From somewhere in the gene pool, I am wired to go and see and do! Throughout the seasons of life I’ve been blessed with health and sufficient means to travel – most often with my husband of 45+ years – for R&R in the sun; hiking with a backpack and tent; travelling to run races; visiting my Scottish ‘roots’ and of course – also visiting family!

Yet a travel category still gnawed on my wish list:

To take a *mission-cation – a mission combined with a vacation abroad or in one’s home country, achieving/contributing to a humanitarian project in addition to vacation perks and/or in environment different than home.

Karen Toews

The closest connection to fulfilling this desire, in 2005, was running an ultramarathon with my husband, to raise funds for a clinic (built in 2006) for our favourite mission in Mozambique.

An amazing trip and race of a lifetime; yet I still wanted my boots-on-the-ground experience.

In December 2017, a friend affiliated with Servant’s Heart Ministries (SHM), started working with a local team to build a house in Sosua, Dominican Republic. The plan was to go for a week in the spring of 2019.

This was my trip! Even better, my builder-husband decided he was in too!

Fast forward through 2018: fund-raising for the project’s supplies and labour for local tradesmen. Bottle drives and bake sales; spaghetti supper; penny auction; packing groceries, Bingo bowling; catering Christmas parties and donations from many generous souls.

April 3, 2019, on-the-ground in the Dominican, we were excited to get started but the SHM team-on-the-ground had planned an orientation day first. Touring us through a section of the Sosua community helped us acclimate to our surroundings and showed us the big-picture impact of the SHM operation for neighbourhood adults and children. A great day with wonderful people: substance for another blogpost. (Full disclosure, our team had exemplary energy and enthusiasm, but after a few days of moving concrete blocks and pails of mortar we fondly looked back at that ‘easier’ orientation day!)

Next morning we were dressed in work duds, slathered with sunscreen, carrying our water bottles – ready to rock, waiting in the resort lobby alongside tourists prepped for a day by the pool or the ocean or headed out for an excursion. After a few days of this routine some of the guests began to recognize our team in different stages of grubby and fatigue, coming back for the lunch and siesta break or at day’s end. It was fun to answer their questions as to what we were up to!


Finally delivered to ground zero, thanks to driver-Dave navigating up and around hills amongst animals, motorbikes, pedestrians and vehicles.

I know from practice living in the kaffuffle of house building/renovations that a house takes months to complete. This project would not get done in a week! But our team of ten, linked with the local block-layers, had a scope of work.

Get the concrete walls up and the house closed in with a tin roof- okay then!

A delight to meet the recipient family; hard for me to relate how they felt after waiting four years for their new home.

Different languages weren’t a barrier for interpreting Minerva’s emotions as we hugged – kindred women, wives, mothers and grandmothers- but I am still processing the disparity in our lives’ circumstances because of where each of us was born. I hope to articulate this better when my thoughts are more settled.

A lovely family to work and spend some days with; enjoying small mugs of strong, sweet coffee and many hugs, trying to communicate and crazy-laughing when we knew we had totally mis-interpreted things. One day my wish was granted to cook a meal with Minerva for the work gang – a story to share later.

A project using rudimentary equipment and physically demanding labour.

I won first prize for getting the dirtiest!

Team mates Debbie and Tammy learning masonry. How did they stay so clean?! These two never said quit and never stopped smiling!

My husband Derryl loving the chance to be a concrete guy shouting for more mud!

Though our goal was daunting, thank God it was accomplished on schedule.

Time to say good-bye; first a celebration with the family and workers – and a few neighbour girls who shared so many smiles and hugs. Happy tears with a prayer of dedication and thanksgiving – including safety without injury on the job. (No small blessing considering the flip-flops I saw on the job!)

This project expanded my heart and spirit, pushed some physical limits, and I was so proud of my husband, in his zone but respectful of not being in charge. Being there only a few days, it’s already surreal looking back – were we really there with these beautiful people!

Before part two of this story is posted, I urge you to pause and consider:

  • don’t give up on the spark of a dream or mission on your travel wish-list – be patient, ready for action and if it involves a team, expect personal growth and work, i.e. months of fund-raising!
  • if your trip/mission involves physical labour, find out the specifics, i.e. how much weight are you going to be lugging and lifting. Prepare.
  • know your limits, i.e. heat (or cold), stamina, previous injuries. No heroics to go over the edge just to keep up, or save face.
  • there’s more than one way to do things; ours isn’t always the best one.
  • above all – expect (even look for ) the unexpected.

Thank you for reading my thoughts and travelogue. I look forward to writing the rest of this story – and many more.

With love and gratitude,

xo, Karen

PS If you’d like to share your travel dream or experience – or something else related to Vibrant Inspired Living, I’d love to read your comment. I promise to respond.

Adventure is in the Air

Maybe it’s the arrival of spring on the calendar: crocuses aren’t up yet but I can visualize their yearning, stretching to reach through the soil.

It could be visualizing my daughter Renee on her three-day solo hike-ski-backpack in the Laurentians. I’m rejoicing for her happiness (just a wee bit jealous) and anticipating when time and place will be right for my first solo adventure.

What really elevated my high alert for adventure was a weekend of attending two back-to-back presentations.

Jenna (from GetOutside ) – a woman in her 30’s living in Canmore, Alberta – shared her thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail story. Her inspirational presentation was followed by the Women’s Adventure Film Tour the next evening, featuring women adventurers from ages four to ninety!

I will never – that’s right, never! – be heli-snowboarding in Iran, mountain biking on narrow, mountain precipice trails in Nepal or competitive surfing in Hawaii.

But I am pumped for expectation and awareness for my own adventures.

Adventures I already love, i.e. plans are in place with friends for an annual ocean-kayaking trip, and the ones waiting for me to show up.

random thoughts for being open to adventure

Adventure is relative to your individual desires, the stage or season of life you’re in now. Taking a train cross-country as a teen-ager or as a senior; exploring hikes from a list like this of Canada’s best ; cycling from one end of your state or province to another. Pick your pleasure.

Adventure is curiosity and knowing enough to get yourself started; then trusting yourself to figure out the rest.

Adventure is making choices that will cost you something – gear; time in researching and preparation; travel; unfamiliar discomfort i.e. sleeping in a tent or rustic conditions; money.

When you invest in something you want, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.

Adventure is spontaneity: don’t over-think before accepting an invitation or opportunity. Look for inspiring presentations; join a hiking group to build confidence and fitness; sign up with a paddling group to be safe as you stretch into new territory.

Second Kayak on the Left is Mine

Adventure can be following an education and career path you never expected to go – with challenges, even danger – forging a path that will forever change your life. Like this story (referral link) Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum by Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede – your adventure could impact hundreds of others.

Adventure is attitude. When blogger and author Osheta Moore (referral link) – eight months pregnant with a two-year-old – realized that evacuation following Hurricane Katrina would be months-long she chose to accept: “….I could look at this like, God is with us on this adventure and I’m going to be open to anything that happens at this point..”

Adventure is Facing Fear: challenges to make it happen; fear of injuries; fear that others might think you’re crazy, fear of setting adventure goals and not reaching them.

Feel the fear and let it work for you in energy and motivation, and not as an immobilizer.

Hiking Companion, Cape Chignecto, NS

Adventure can bring rewards of accomplishments. You’re sure to grow in learning and adapting ‘for the next time’.

Adventure is for every age. It might have been my cross-country move in my 50’s or because I hang around with women like my friend Nancy – but I truly feel more adventurous now than I ever have. Mindset can carry you long after energy wanes.

I understand the fear factor. Running marathons, paddling, cycling, hiking – daring to encourage others to stretch and face their fears.

I hate to think of what I – we – miss in life when fear immobilizes us.

If you feel your life is too short, too precious and expansive to be limited by fear – I would love to help you move ahead with coaching using mindset strategies and starting with small steps . You can reach me here or at ketoews@gmail.com.

Helping you script your vibrant life with healthy eating, activity, purpose and adventure!

Love and gratitude,  


P.S. If you would you like to catch video interviews, snippets of recipes and random thoughts and tips for all things related to holistic health – and adventure! – visit my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/karentoews/