The Joy of Playing Outside

Sunlight, forests and oceans are gifts for living life, making human connection and exploring the vibrance of Earth’s beauty. I play and exercise outside whenever I can. It lifts my spirit and makes me feel connected to nature, family, friends. It boosts creativity, sparks joy and heals.

If I’m feeling down or tired, a hike in the woods, listening to the ocean or feeling the sun warm my skin does wonders. Playing in nature revives mind, energy, calms my being and brightens the day. Six words tell my truth.

Running through forest oxygen for soul.

Version 2
“Forest run”  Photo by Natalie J. McMillan.

Splash of puddles walking in rain.

Version 2
“Rain walk”  Photo by MC.

Sunlight on skin in dancer’s pose.

“Sunlight on skin”  Photo by Natalie McMillan.

Swimming cold seas makes skin tingle.

Ocean Sechelt 2018
“Ocean friends” Photo by MC.

Sound of snow crunching beneath feet.

“Snow steps”  Photo by MC.

Climbing up mountains toughens me up.

“Hiking Stawamus Chief”

Wind kisses cheeks as I pedal.

MC Bike 2005
“Cycling the river, 2005” Photo by Jason Skelton.
DB Bike Art
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Going with my Gut in Six

Sometimes an urge overcomes me and I want to play the way children do instinctively; without holding myself back. I’m tempted to act, but don’t because of fear, nerves or risk of embarrassment. Sometimes, I free my spirit and go with my gut. Six words tell my truth.

Bif Naked 2005
“Bif Naked, live 2005” Photo by MC.

Sing out loud like a rockstar.

Cry out loud until body trembles.

Laugh until I pee my pants.


Forest White Light
“Sunshine through forest…scream, run, dance”  Photo by MC.

Scream out loud to the forest.

Run free, fast until I’m breathless.

Dance the way my soul dares.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
– Albert Schweitzer

(Featured photo: “Balancing on Rock”, Photo by Natalie McMillan)

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“Something about Mary: Guts, Glory & the Grouse Grind”

A true story of perseverance, change, and empowerment: How I confronted procrastination and middle age with an authentic “F*CK THAT” attitude by fighting for who I am.

My conscience warned me not to surrender to negative self-image perceptions; I needed to embrace my love handles, welcome wrinkles, sprouts of random white hair and accept that I won’t fit into my favourite jeans.

My belly bump was self-earned from the countless joys of gobbling addictive chewy candies, the satisfaction of gorging on anything deep-fried and the comforts of raiding my hidden junk food cupboard.

Now, it’s time to dress and act my age; toss out those high heels in exchange for Velcro, learn to knit – not hip hop, golf instead of backpack and settle into middle age — and the fatigue and reduced energy that comes rolling with it.

This is what I told myself when I stared at my reflection a few months before my 49th birthday last year.

FUCK – THAT – ATTITUDE. What I needed more was to fight for who I am, challenge myself to become a stronger, fiercer, healthier version of me and reclaim my feisty spirit.

For the past decade I was exhausted from parenting my 9-year old son along with managing the balancing act of work, relationships, and household responsibilities.

I was struggling to find energy to mother, discipline and substitute as the play mate of my only child after a long workday and commute, in the midst of making supper, checking his math homework and sorting laundry before taking him to his next extra-curricular activity, then repeating the process the next day.

I wondered how parents with multiple children managed the chaos, whether I’d get “caught-up” with anything that required attention and if I’d ever reclaim — myself.

My daily exhaustion fuelled my passion for junk food over exercise and tendency to either binge or procrastinate, playing a part in the result of my fatigue, anxiety and lack of self-confidence.

“Hanging On” Photo by Natalie J. McMillan.

How I feel innately reflects on how I portray myself. I lost my inner shine. I wanted to revive my energy, increase my strength and restore the power behind my confidence —through exercise.

I contemplated how I could change my habits, improve my health and embark on a fitness journey.

My ultra-marathon trail racer husband assured me I could change.

Human beings are capable of more than we think,” he told me. “It’s a test of will and perseverance when I run. My body wants to give up after the first two kilometres but I keep running. These (50K to 100k) races aren’t just for me. I do them for you and to show our son that if he pushes himself, he can do anything.”

“Oh,” I replied. I paused my Netflix episode, dropped my potato chip – sighed. Could I get out the house, stretch out my comfort zone and test the endurance of my own human spirit? 

Positive self-change is admirable, empowering; tough work requiring motivation, effort and perseverance.

My husband’s fierce determination to run his first 110K mountain-trail race, my desire to become a positive role model for our son, and my guilt (my truth in knowing I wasn’t trying my personal best) launched my butt off the couch.

sport computer runners athlete
Photo by Pixabay on

I needed to prove to myself that I could do better and find ways to incorporate exercise into my daily routine.

After my last bag of potato chips, a week of shattering my self-doubt and delaying the beginning, I told myself “YES, today is the day.” I promised to make change by pushing myself to try harder.

Hell, I was aiming to blow out those FIFTY damn candles in one breath next year!

I set a date, created an exercise/food plan, recorded my body measurements and started with a 9-day challenge of eating no junk food, drinking two litres of water daily, not eating past dinner and walking 10,000+ daily steps.

I used stairs – not elevators, stood instead of sitting for desk job tasks and walked during breaks. I lost six pounds in nine days.

Posting my progress on Facebook becoming accountable on social media enabled me to push harder and I continued to set up monthly fitness challenges.

I cycled to work, ran during my son’s soccer games, swam during his swim lessons and knocked out Burpees during his judo practice.

I learned hip hop and contemporary dance, powered through infrared infused yoga, Pilates and fitness classes and pushed through intense 30-minute personal training sessions before or after my workday, On weekends, I hiked the notorious vertical 2,830 mountain stairs of the Grouse Grind.

“Water revives.”  Photo by Natalie J. McMillan.

However, sticking to a nutritional diet was an uphill battle.

I thought about junk food every five minutes because it was ubiquitous; placed in convenient spots such as the communal office snack table, nearby cafes, fast-food joints or my kitchen cupboard.

If I craved candy, cake or Poutine, I sometimes indulged, relishing every bite but used self-talk: “Eat cake, but not every day.”

To compensate for my junk food obsession, I challenged myself to overcome my anxiety and fear of racing which led me to compete in three of “my first-ever” mountain races – the winter Grouse Grind Snowshoe Race (5km), spring Grouse Seek the Peak Race (13km) and autumn Grouse Grind Race (2.9km).

“Seek the Peak Race: Took me 6 months to earn the guts to step to this start line”

The races were tough, painful and killer uphill. I asked myself why the hell I signed up during every race, cursed every mountain climb and was tempted to quit. 

When I met a 73-year old female racer who passed me on the Grind leg of the Seek the Peak race, I knew I needed to keep climbing – my age was not an excuse to stop trying.

I crossed the finish line, overcome with relief exclaiming, “I can’t believe I did it – me!”

After the race my son said, “Mommy, why do you keep talking about the race – uphill, uphill, uphill…blah blah blah. It’s only 13K! Daddy ran a 50K race last week.” 

I laughed, floating on my racer’s high, proud of the glory for finishing the race. I placed 34th out of 56 female racers in my age category.

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“Proud to finish: My glory in placing 34th of 56 racers in race category” (Seek the Peak Grind Race)

Exercising enhances my well-being. It reduces my anxiety, easing me into a calm state of mind; reducing my complaints about stuff I don’t have and prevents me from comparing myself in a negative light to others. 

It shifts my focus onto what I’m grateful for, enabling me to help others. With a clear perspective things are easier to manage.

By posting my truthful progress on Facebook, I made people laugh and inspired them to become active.

I was approached by the PAC leader of my son’s school while grocery shopping who told me, “I took my first 10,000 steps because of you.”

Facebook friends supported my efforts through uplifting comments, an ex-boyfriend said I resembled my twenty-year old self (really?), a friend volunteered her expertise to shoot my fitness photos and others signed up for training I believed in.

My ultra-marathoner, proud of my achievements complimented me multiple times in the bedroom, lights on.

"Jump!" Photo by Natalie McMillan.
“Jump!” Photo by Natalie J. McMillan.

Then in March this year, “spring break” brought indefinite closures of schools along with our community centres, playgrounds, libraries, fitness facilities and non-essential services. Families were advised by our government to stay home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

My work, parenting and fitness routine collapsed and I slipped into a state of anxiety, grief and “what the f*ck is happening to our world?”

Some point between endless Covid-19 news updates, social distancing and mild depression, I forced myself to wake up earlier, dress before noon and try not to eat too many cookies, chips or jujubes.

Each time I washed my hands I reminded myself that I’m blessed, grateful for my life in Canada and I clapped or banged my pots and pans every night at 7pm to show support to our team of local health professionals.

In April this year, instead of my usual complaining about boredom, lack of structure, menial tasks and missing in-studio workouts, I said “FUCK – THAT – ATTITUDE” and I remembered Billy Blanks! During the 90’s Tae Bo craze, I owned the entire VHS set but hadn’t done a pre-recorded workout since.

My VCR is gone but I turned toward online fitness training and challenged myself to exercise every single day to various free YouTube fitness videos for 30, 60 then 90 consecutive days (or donned a face mask like a Ninja for outdoor workouts.)

athletic sportswoman performing front double biceps pose in park
Photo by Gustavo Fring on

I formed and led a Facebook fitness group of a dozen members by inviting friends to join me for these online monthly challenges where we checked in daily with our progress and cheered each other on.

 It wasn’t just guts and willpower that got me through my fitness journey; this collage of people formed “my social fitness village”, kept me accountable and inspired me to persevere.

Days I push myself through a vigorous work out, I can open space within myself to engage with my son, focus on tasks or creative writing.

Days I don’t exercise and choose to binge on junk food coupled with Netflix results in lost sleep, leaving me with an aftermath of low energy, anxiety and a melancholy mood. The sugar addict in me can’t wait for those vulnerable moments and I admit I take delight in this guilty pleasure.

Most days I incorporate exercise and a nutritional diet into my lifestyle but allow space for “cheat-treats” and forgiveness for unwise decision-making between my accomplishments because sometimes I need a f*cking break — and that’s okay. I’m human, life happens and I know that tomorrow I’ll get back on track.

food plate chocolate dessert
Photo by Alexander Dummer on

Life is better with chocolate cake – I’m not counting calories when I think in chocolate.

By working hard, enduring the sweat, swearing and tears throughout training, I became muscled, healthier, happier and lost 19 pounds. I’m physically stronger now at age 49 than at 39 (before my geriatric pregnancy).

I’m proud to bare my belly in a bikini after the hard-earned toning of my body parts that resulted from exercise, but there is more pride behind my emergency C-section scar hidden beneath my bikini line. 

“Staying true to my philosophy and self-mantra – “Try, Mary, Try Photo by Natalie J. McMillan.

Now I can take a breath, quiet my mind and capture a moment to hold my son’s hand and listen to his words, while I press pause on the cranial “to do list.” I connect with him —now— before he grows up and doesn’t want to hang out with Mommy.

I appreciate the simple joy of finding renewed strength to cross the monkey bars to endure chicken fight challenges against my son, until my palms are blistering.

Screen Shot Monkey Bars 2020-04-04 at 12.07.58 AM

I feel like a strong mother, leading by example because my son bet that he could do the gruelling, uphill 13k Seek the Peak June 2020 race (now pushed to 2021 due to C-19).

Maybe we’ll hold hands once we reach the Peak of Vancouver summit, before he asks me one last time “are we there yet?”

I’m not someone extraordinary or an ultra-marathon runner and may never be the fastest racer in my age group, but I can climb mountains.

I’m me – striving to meet my ongoing personal fitness challenges and goals. In the realm of exercise, I pushed myself harder the past 18 months than any other period of my life, reviving my energy, confidence and inner strength.

Exercise ignited my fire by empowering me to stay true to my self-mantra I set over one year ago: “Try, Mary, Try” no matter how tough it can be, it’s worth the sweat. I may not be exceptional but I re-discovered through my self-journey that there is — “Something about Mary.”

Light up those candles — this is 50.  I found my shine!

“Something about Mary…finding my shine.”  Photo by Natalie J. McMillan.

Screen Shot 2019-10-19 at 10.55.15 PM

“Guts, Glory & the Grouse Grind”

Note: Feature photo (“high heels out the window”) courtesy of Liza Lova on


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“The B.C. Covid-19 Collection: 2020 Six Word Art Stories created by voices of British Columbia, Canada”

We asked British Columbians how the C-word affects their lives – the beauty, truth, humour and ugliness. Here’s what they said in six words and more.

A visual story album of how the “C word” has affected our lives in British Columbia. From photographs, artwork, graffiti, personal 6-word stories written from adult perspectives, 6-word news glimpses and community snapshots to document uncertain times.

It takes thoughtful effort, collaboration and imagination to create a project like this. We may have different lifestyles, beliefs and perspectives but we all have stories to tell.

Just like the feature photo story, “Finally time to take our time”, I ask that you please take a reflective moment to read each and every six word story of this project and discover the meaning behind each one.

This is what we saw through our Corona-coloured eyeglasses in our beautiful province of British Columbia, Canada.

Our album opens with Part 1: Six Word Stories with Photographs or Artwork written, created and submitted by adult volunteers of this project.



The feature photograph of this project (black & white photo of girl blowing dandelion puff ball) : “Finally time to take our time.” and the above six 6-word stories were written and photographed by Claudia Ho Lem.

LW In the Azalea Garden (1)

“Peace in the garden; waiting, remembering.” Story & painting created by L.W.

Kashi IMG_7312

“My eternal love for our elderly.” Story & photo by k.m.

Carol I just want ot hug her IMG_5603“I just want to hug her.”  Story & photo (of Carol’s mother) by Carol Carter.

Version 2

“Celebrating from afar on joyous occasions.” (on missing the ability to celebrate in person with the whole family) Story & photo by Bruna Lazzano.

Mia Logie 3a8b3809-b3bc-4657-b53d-3d56e10c71b0

“Inner lives blossom. Lives are close.”  Story & photo by Mia Logie.

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“Good snatched away, hope will triumph.”  Story & photo by Gerry O’day.

Jeff Winskell

“Newfound respect for full time parents.”  Story & photo by Jeff Winskell.

Natalie Realizing you're out of toilet paper IMG_20200521_162457

“Realizing you’re out of toilet paper.”  Story & photo by Natalie McMillan.

Jenny 2 IMG_4842

“Sometimes cheerfulness shows in unexpected places.”  Story & photo by Jenny Morgan.

David Geary IMG_20200523_201555663

“Retreat, Rethink, Resign, Reset, Rejuvenate, Reverie.”  Story & photo by David Geary.

Steve Bush Just happy to be getting out

“Just happy to be getting out.”  Story & photo by Steve Bush.

       “Let the outdoor games begin!”  “Done!”  Story & photos by Victoria.

Jim Derricot image0 (3)

“No panic. We are here. Now.”  Story & photo by Jim Derricott.

John B IMG_7262

“Peace and freedom without Covid 19.”  Story & photo by JB.

Dolores 3IMG_2766“Wife’s first haircut?  Husband: guinea pig.”  Story & photo by Dolores.

PETER b8ea6cc7-8035-48a9-a861-8312aa456ffa

“This s**t has driven me to…”  Story & artwork by P.B.”

Joann Anna IMG_7352 2

Covid pictures instead of rainbow pictures!” A mother’s perspective on the subject of her daughter’s recent drawings (depicting the corona virus). Story & artwork, Anonymous.

Erina 2 IMG_7263

“Feel great when the body moves.”  By Erina.

Erina 1 IMG_7264

Wishing to the star…seeing friends.Ryo found the first star of the evening and immediately wished upon it to see his friends. Story & photo by Erina.

Shaya #1 new 2020-05-29 at 11.43.41 AM

Above four 6-word stories written by Shaya Sy-Rantfors.

Shay #2 new Screen Shot 2020-05-29 at 11.43.07 AM

Above story & photo by Shaya Sy-Rantfors.

Nancy IMG_7305

“No work – more time to garden.” Story and photo by Nancy.

Jenny IMG_5897

“Utter satisfaction – growing my  own food.”  Story & photo by Jenny Morgan.


“Patience, Family, Challenging, Isolated, Strength, Community.” Story & photo by Michelle Kaltenegger.

Phil Evans 84101213_495097501207160_8211579781750194176_n“They painted the hearts upside down.” Story & photo by @captphilevans.

Kristen Buckley image0 (3)“Vision becomes reality – functional, natural art.” Story and table created by Kristen Buckley. Photo by A.B.  (Yes, she made this table. It’s an old growth fir sourced from a timber furniture design business in Squamish, designed from a raw slab that started with bark and all! Legs sourced from Ontario and then the slab was sanded and finished with love.) 


Cea Sunrise Persons IMG_7309“A minefield of gratitude and resentment.” Story & photo by CSP.

Susan blue

“Mama. Yes. Mama. Yes. Mama. Yeeeeeeesssss.”  Story & photo by Susan Little.

Judith IMG_7304

“Hugs overpowering uncertainty, fear and sadness. “ Story & photo by Judith Reyes Metcalfe.

Anna IMG_7307

“My loves, delicate balance, life continues.”  Story & photo by Anna Parkes.

Susan Evvie image0 (3)

“Time erases memories. Memories erase time.”  Story & photo by Susan Little.

Susan Smith 99436892_3152704771439318_5484399832258838528_n

“From chaos, freedom emerges, commute-free.” Story & photo by Susan Smith Alexander.

Agnes Dailisay IMG_7351

“Faith in God is believer’s shield.” Story by Agnes Dalisay. Photo by Sophia Stewart featuring her sister, Raquel Stewart.

Christine IMG_0152

“Quarantine yoga. It keeps me grounded.” Story by Christine B. Photo by C.B.


“Finding my sunshine inside and out.”  Story by Mary Chang.

Next is Part 2 of our album (during PHASE 1): Photographs documenting what we’ve noticed around our community.


“Playground.” Photo by Shaya Sy-Rantfors.


“Sidewalk.” Photo by P.B.


“Handmade.” Photos by C.B. & J.M.





Next is Part 2 (continued) of our album (during PHASE 2): Photographs documenting what we’ve noticed in our community.
toilet paper full IMG_7311



PT Theatre IMG_7358




Mattress 6 feet IMG_7438Bike 6 ft IMG_7439

Yoga Mat 6 feet IMG_7441

Yoga Sign IMG_7538

Shell Gas June 17 IMG_7531

PENTHOUSE HAVING FUN SO LAST YEAR 101344958_10158050007326091_886999397013772373_n

Photo by Cecilia Graber Larrea.

Penthouse by Mary IMG_7694

Photo by KS. Inspired by W.C.

Save the World IMG_7474

Together Natalie McMillan IMG_7405

Photo by Natalie McMillan.

Hug Tshirt IMG_7675

IMG_7192“Beauty, truth, humour, ugliness, nature, art.” Story & photo by M.C. (graffiti artist unknown)

Next is Part 2 (continued) of our album (during PHASE 3): Photographs documenting what we’ve noticed in our community.

Lastly, Part 3 of our Album: List of British Columbia and Lower Mainland Highlights During Pandemic, in 6 Word Points:

  • Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau
  • 36th Premier of BC, John Horgan
  • Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia PHO
  • Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada Chief PHO
  • Adrian Dix, BC Minister of Health
  • Nigel Howard, sign language hero
  • First death Lynn Valley Care Home (March 9, first death in Canada)
  • All British Columbia Public Schools Close (March 17)
  • Community centres, libraries, non-essential services close (March/April)
  • Spring camps, extra-curricular activities cancelled (March)
  • Playgrounds, skateboard parks, ski mountains close (March)
  • Some parks, trails, parking lots close (March)
  • Beaches, most parks, trails remain open (March)
  • Restaurants offer take away service only (March/April)
  • Dental practices offer emergency dental only (March)
  • Long hair due to salon closures
  • Social distancing, hand washing, face masks (March)
  • How Coronavirus took Lynn Valley article (Globe & Mail, March 21)
  • Local distilleries make free hand sanitizer (March)
  • Pots, pans, applause at 7pm nightly (for health care workers, March)
  • “Growing up in Quarantineland” by Margaret Atwood (Globe & Mail, March 28)
  • Bonnie Henry & Theresa Tam Art Mural (March)
  • Free online education, fitness, mental health etc (March)
  • Trudeau sends a message through Lego (April)
  • Homeschooling begins online with public schools (mid-April)
  • Parents f*cking hate trying to homeschool (ongoing)
  • Parents appreciate teachers more than ever (ongoing)
  • Dr. Bonnie Henry’s John Fluevog shoes (April)
  • White Caps face-masks to save Aquarium (April)
  • Government Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
  • Income Tax filing deadline extended June 1
  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) support
  • Rent, mortgage, student loan financial support
  • Restrictions ease Victoria Day May weekend
  • We enter Phase 2 for Covid
  • Cruise ships not welcome for summer (May)
  • 6 people gatherings, still no travel
  • North Shore Bowling closes for good (after 59 years! due to C-19, June)
  • Several businesses re-open, others close permanently.
  • Campgrounds set to reopen June 1
  • Voluntary return to school June 1
  • Parents fear making “voluntary” schooling decisions
  • Part-time school, staggering start hours
  • Elementary 50%, Secondary 20% – in class
  • Playgrounds being to re-open June 1
  • When will this f*cking pandemic end?
  • Waiting on vaccine to be created.
  • “Be kind, be calm, be safe.” (Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice)
  • Phase 3 last week of June
  • Non-essential travel and film production resume
  • Careful travel allowed within the province
  • US Border non-essential travel remains closed
  • Many hotels, accommodations, resorts resume operations
  • Gatherings larger than 50 still banned
  • Limit the people within your bubble
  • Continue hand washing, social distancing, cleaning

Featured in Elephant Journal: “How Magic, Meditation & a 9-Year Old Child Awakened Me during the Pandemic” By Mary Chang

Originally published on World Meditation Day, May 21, 2020 in Elephant Journal: “it’s about the mindful life, an online mindful life magazine”.

My writer’s heart will dance if you click on the “heart” on the bottom of the Elephant Journal article page, leave a comment or follow me on EJ, my own blog here or share my story to show that you believe in me, writers, community and the beauty of true encouragement.

Read my debut article on EJ posted here: Elephant Journal: How Magic, Meditation and a 9 Year Old Child Awakened Me During the Pandemic

We’re all human beings supporting each other in some way — in our village, earth, universe. Gratitude for reading. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Mary Chang Meditation taken by my son IMG_6953
Read here: Elephant Journal: How Magic, Meditation and a 9 Year Old Child Awakened Me During the Pandemic

The “C Word”: *Six Word Story Time Capsules* by Our Children

The “C” Word: Six word stories written by children, ages 6-14 to document these uncertain times (a 2020 time capsule snapshot) and the importance of friendship.

Nine years ago, I became a new mother shortly after I moved to the North Shore. The early days of breastfeeding, endless diapers and sleepless nights left me confined to the house, exhausted and — lonely. I was in love with my newborn son, but a piece of me missed part of my previous world, adult companionship.

A few months later, I discovered a local StrongStartBC centre, a free early learning drop-in program in my neighbourhood. (“It takes a village to raise a child”) It was in that bright, welcoming activity-filled room that I formed lifetime friendships with a group of strong, independent, super women and mothers (and a few super dads) over daily cups of hot tea, coffee and freshly baked cheese biscuits. When StrongStart closed each summer, we invited new and familiar families who lived both on and off the Shore to join us for play activities we organized throughout summertime and expanded our village over the years.

We shared tales of wisdom, headache and heartache about the chaos and the joys of raising little ones while our children formed their own playful friendships. Together we hosted play dates, exchanged free babysitting, confided, cried, offered advice, spoke of dreams and fears about parenting. We shared pieces of our inner selves (the humans we were before parenthood) which revolved around fragments of time sketched in between crying babies, toddler tantrums and defiant five-year olds.

It is because we became parents that we became friends the day we all met in that bright sunlit room in Norgate, or were introduced on that first day of kindergarten, or when old friendships revived upon parenthood. That community connection transformed into a foundational piece of our friendship and parenting history.

Over the past five years, a handful of the families moved away from our community to distances as short as a two-hour ferry sailing to as far away as a plane trip to see kangaroos. It’s not often I visit the friends who still live nearby because of our busy lives. Now, it will be much longer before we see each other again or be granted permission to hop on a ferry or book a plane trip to see the others.

We’ve all been faced with the rules of isolation and the notorious “C word.” We can’t visit in person – even if we stand two metres away and may only interact through phone calls and social media. We inevitably pass through time lapses where we don’t attempt to reach out to anyone at all – because we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, fatigue, homeschooling or struggling to remember what day of the week it is.

Here I am nine years later feeling – lonely again, for adult friendship. But today, we hold hands together in spirit because I know we’re all thinking of each other and all of our children.

Some of our kids still play together and I see them grow, while others are “mind’s eye Polaroids” captured at the ages, stages and varying degrees of cuteness of when they last played together or before they moved away – as if they haven’t grown over the years although I’ve seen countless new images of them on FaceBook.

The “C word” affects lives worldwide and it’s clear that during these unsettling times we’re in the midst of making history. Today we’re reclaiming our village that we built nine years ago and reconnecting ourselves through the words of our children across the globe. When our children grow up, it is my hope that they develop similar meaningful friendships that will provide them with the support they’ll need when they become parents, or maybe their playful friendships of today will blossom into adulthood.

I asked the children to write six word stories about how the “C word” has impacted their lives in order to document their emotions, expressions, thoughts, feelings, discoveries and observations during the pandemic and to enable them to share these “six word story time capsules” with their own children someday.

This is what the children of our village wrote:

Caden Age 9
“The roads are much more quieter.” By Caden, Age 9.

Sampson, Age ??
“Do I have allergies or Coronavirus?” By Sampson, Age 11.

Magnus Age 7
“Dino wants to make a friend.” (on missing friendship) By M.R, Age 7.

Magnus Age 7 photo 2
“Carl found a friend named Dino.”  By M.R., Age 7

Griffin Age 6
Two 6-word stories: “We are making a tree house.”  And “Corona virus is stupid and sucks.”  By Griffin, actually age 7, because he forgot he just had a birthday!

Griffin Treehouse Age 6
“Griffin’s Tree House” By Griffin, Age 7.

Ashton Age 9 2
Three 6-word stories: “I rode my bike alot today.”  “I made a bow and arrow.”  I like to play Pokemon cards.” By Ashton, Age 9

Sophie Age 9 2 6 word comics
Two 6-word comic strips: Comic #1: “I’m out of t.p.” “It’s working!”  Comic #2: “I only got one.” “Oh yes!”  By S.R., Age 9.

Sophie Age 9 More than six
Some needed more than six words: “I wish I could play with my friends. I’m sad.” By S.R., Age 9.

Isla, Age 9
“Covid is boring and not fun.”  By Isla, Age 9.

Rowan, Age 11
“Don’t get to see my friends.”  By Rowan, Age 11

Koltyn & Cyanna
By siblings K.S, Age 10 and C.S., Age 12

Dylan 6 words
“Family is every thing you need.”  By Dylan, Age 9.

Rose, Age 10
Rose needed more than six words. “I feel awesome to be able to spend more time with family.” By Rose, Age 10 (and a half)

Avery Age 7jpg
Avery told these seven 6-word stories to his mama and she wrote them down for him. “Seven 6-word Stories” By Avery, Age 7.

Artwork by mother & son. “What we’ve been doing during Corona” By Anna & her son Avery, Age 7.

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Eli told these four 6-word stories to his mama and she wrote them down for him. “Four 6-word stories” By Eli, Age 6.

Ema Age 11
“Stay strong and it’ll be okay.”  By Ema, Age 11

Ryo Age 7
“I miss my friends and school.”  By Ryo, Age 7

Kai Age 14

Phoenix Age 7
“I want to go to school.”  By Phoenix, Age 7.

ty age 12
“I’m locked out of the world” By Ty, Age 12.

Kathrine age 9
Home, in Pandemic of 2020: “Since Covid19, home became my life.”  By Kathrine, Age 9.

Lucas Age 9
“Find the good in every situation.”  By Lucas, Age 9

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“Love can cure people from Corona19” (written in Korean and English) By Siyoon, Age 9

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
– Winnie the Pooh

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”
– Woodrow T. Wilson

“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.”
– Unknown

Featured photograph: “Ready to fight Corona!” (girl in orange jumpsuit) Isla, Age 9. Photo by Jennifer Morgan.

If you'd like to make a comment about this posting "The C-Word: Six Word Story Time Capsules by Our Children or any previous postings, please visit the About the Writer page.


“A Cookie, Cry and Conversation”

This afternoon while I was composing an email, my anxiety overwhelmed me and my eyes watered. I walked into my 9 year old son’s empty bedroom and shut the door. I stepped up the ladder to his loft bed, knelt face down onto his Minecraft blanket and cradled my forehead in my palms. I cried non-stop for five minutes, body shuddering, yelping breathing, snotty nose, wet cheeks. 

My son Dylan walked in.

“Mom, can I have a cookie?”
“Yes, go get it yourself, ok?”
“Mommy, are you crying?”
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
“Are you fake crying?”
“No, Dylan.”
“Mom, why are you crying?”
“I’ll tell you later, ok? Go get your cookie. I just need to cry right now, okay? Remember how we talked about alone time?”
“But this is my room.”
“Well, Daddy is using our room all day because he’s working from home now.”

Dylan left the room and returned in a few minutes.
“Mommy, are you done crying? Now can you tell me why you’re crying? 
I cried some more. Dylan climbed up to the bed.
“You know how sometimes when you fall and hurt yourself or when someone hurts your feelings? Then you cry it out because it hurt?”
Dylan nodded.

“Then after you cry, you feel so much better because you let out your tears? Well, sometimes mommies need to cry too.  During spring break, when all this Covid stuff started happening, everything’s changed. It’s been hard on me, you and Daddy. Mommy yells more, Daddy yells more. I’m not working, you’re not going to school or seeing your friends, there’s no routine and people are getting sick. It makes me sad and stressed out.

I’ve been holding in all that sadness and stress and haven’t cried yet. So that means I’ve been holding back all those tears for five weeks and today I was finally ready to let them go! Don’t worry, Mommy will be okay. I just needed to cry it out and now that I’ve cried, I feel much better.”

“Okay. Now can I have a cookie?”
“You didn’t help yourself?”
“Okay, lets get a cookie. I need one too.”

Damn, it felt good to cry today.

(Featured cookie photograph: Courtesy of Pexels)

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If you'd like to make a comment about this posting "A COOKIE, CRY AND CONVERSATION" or any previous postings, please visit the About the Writer page. Or join the FaceBook group: "Get Down with the Lockdown, Arts & Entertainment Creative Sharing Space" "Get Down with the Lockdown"

“The Learning Village: Six Word Stories by Our Children”

My brother-in-law, “Mr. B” volunteered to teach the children of our families educational lessons during the pandemic. “The Learning Village” (our online school, named by his 9 year old daughter) is comprised of Mr. B’s mindful curriculum and nine students (cousins and friends) ranging in age from 6 to 12 years.

For one of the lessons, after discussing the Corona virus, students were asked to draw a character or comic of  a “virus” and talk about what people need to do to stay safe. Other lessons focused on music, emotions, mindfulness and meditation. The students look forward to their lessons with Mr. B, get a chance to see the faces of their friends online and parents get a 60-90 minute break from their kids, three afternoons a week. It serves as an meaningful practice and an introduction to what future organized online learning with our teachers and school districts might look like during this time.

Mr. B asked me to teach a lesson on “Six Word Stories”. Our class had a thoughtful discussion about the legendary “first six word story” written by Ernest Hemingway, “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn” and then I asked the kids to create their own six word stories inspired by the above photograph featured on this post.

Here’s what the children of “The Learning Village” wrote.

“I could hear the calm water.” By Dylan, Age 9.

“Sits on a rock with peace.”  By JB, Age 10

“Dylan sat on a wet rock.”  By MB, Age 10.

“Baseball is enjoyable in the sun.”  (a player who misses the pitch) By CB, Age 12

“Many years passed, so did he.” (The photo triggered a memory about the writer’s family cat who passed away. The cat loved playing in the forest.)  By EM, Age 12.

“Many tears, many people, many flowers.” (a funeral memory) By NM, Age 9.

“I will never let you go.”  By AJ, Age 9

“A frog that looks like Dylan.”  By TJ, Age 6.

“Discovered some thing on a rock.”  By NMB, Age 9


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Family, Friendships and Love Relationships in Six Words

Family, friendships and love relationships deliver love, heartbreak, happiness, sorrow, conflict and understanding. If I reflect on the past, sometimes I understand the meaning behind my struggles and challenges I face today, knowing those relationships form a part of who I am, but do not define me.

If I embrace the present, I possess the choice to make a positive change or slip back and trigger the anxiety of yesterday by reliving it along with any guilt, shame or anger I experienced during those moments or relationships. Most days I make the brighter choice; the anxiety doesn’t disappear but my perspective shifts and gives me hope. Six words tell my truth.

Opening space within myself for love.

Change initiates from self, not others.

Peace finds way through common ground.

Love Branch
“Olive branch of love” (artist unknown)  Photo by MC.

Reconnecting without judgment of past wrongdoings.

Forgiving self and others for failing.

Light at end of the tunnel.


“Finding light.”  Photo by MC.

Reuniting families brings hope to soul.

Relationships blossom when our hearts connect.

Holding hands together as a unity.

“United” Photo by MC.

Feature photo: “LOVE. It’s all you need.” 2007, sand artist unknown. Photo by MC.

“My Bubble World and COVID-19”

“Sky thoughts” Photo by MC.

When I saw a photo of my friend dressed head to toe in black with her face mask, plastic gloves, baseball cap and sunglasses, I laughed. Her text read “I’m ready to go shopping.” The only items missing from her attire were shoe covers and a portable bleach spray bottle. Her fridge, shelves, closets are stocked, she has a financial and home schooling plan in order and updates me with the latest COVID-19 news. She cannot sleep nights, but she is prepared for the pandemic.

I’m not laughing anymore.

Schools, community centres, libraries, fitness centres, sporting and entertainment events, tourist attractions, movie theatres, restaurants and many non-essential businesses and services are closing daily. Gatherings of 50 people or more have been suspended.

This is REAL.

Yet, I’m hopeful because I love nature and can still play with my son outside. I don’t listen or read the news incessantly. I don’t have cable and typically listen to the radio only when I’m driving. But the news is everywhere and someone will update me regardless; a friend, relative or co-worker.

The pandemic is ALIVE. I admit I live in somewhat of a “bubble world” because this is surreal to me.

The grocery stores are still open and most people aren’t wearing faces masks. There is still toilet paper, if you arrive at the right time. The cereal, pasta, rice and canned good shelves were empty last night but there are other food options available. My husband, me and my son are healthy and strong; we’ll survive should we get the virus.

Up until yesterday, I spent most afternoons at local playgrounds watching my son and his friends riding the Zipline, climbing monkey bars and riding swings. The sun was shining and children were excited for their “first week of spring break.”

Today it was announced that all playgrounds are officially closed on the North Shore.

No more play dates. This is how I realized I need to step outside of my bubble and like my friend, prepare myself and family for the long run, however long this run of “new reality” will last. I’ll still step outside for daily doses of Vitamin D during forest hikes or seawall bike rides, while social distancing myself from others in between home isolation and frequent hand-washing.

Like everyone is saying, this is a highly unusual time with global uncertainty. Friends and families are reaching out and checking in on each other on What’s App, group texts and social media. Sometimes we pick up the phone and have a live conversation or Facetime chat, usually about our Corona enemy.

When I’m outside, I see the beauty of my community with spring flowers, chirping birds in trees, the ocean, sunshine. I breathe in the fresh air, look at the sky, smile and feel grateful for my life, well-being and family. This feels real to me.

Then I pause, think of the COVID-19 madness and all the implications it has on our families, healthcare system, education, economy and stability of our future until I’m on the verge of tears and slip into a silent melancholy because this has become the new normal.

Sometimes I need my bubble world. Tomorrow is the first day of spring.

PS. Thank you every day to doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals and essential service providers who take daily risks to protect, treat, educate, feed, transport and save us.