Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Never Give Up.

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Girl Warrior. Never give up. No matter what. Go get all the wonderful and truly wicked things you want out of this life. Chase unapologetically after your dreams. Pursue them persistently. Passionately. Purposefully.

Follow your bliss. Wherever it takes you. This is your quest. All yours Girl Warrior. Imagine that beautiful butterfly.

There will be obstacles in your path. Guaranteed. Road blocks. Landslides. Washouts. Detours, diversions and distractions. All kinds of barriers, hurdles and little sneaky snags. It’s okay if you trip and fall when you hit one of these. Your job is to get back in the saddle, on the bike, behind the wheel, on your feet. Don’t hesitate when this happens. Steady yourself. Stay on course. Reset your sights if need be. Do whatever it takes. The idea is to keep heading in the direction of your brass ring.

Keep your wits about you. Not everyone will get what you’re doing. Along the way you’ll encounter dream crushers and naysayers. These are easy to spot because they are the ones who are quick to squash, smash and suppress the desires of your brave lion-heart. Shut their voices down quickly and carry on. The tougher ones are the well-meaning folks, who for whatever reason, don’t get behind your calling. Wish these people well, bless them, love them, and move on.

Know that you are tougher than any storm. There isn’t anything you can’t weather. Go out there and be someone’s pain in the ass. Be the squeaky wheel that insists on being oiled. Be tenacious. Courageous. Audacious. Strong-willed and stubborn as a mule if need be.

But always be patiently persistent. Remember this on the dark days. It will pay off big-time in the end Girl Warrior.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Find Your Tribe.

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Girl Warrior. Find your tribe. Your pack. Your posse. Your band of sisters and brothers. Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy. You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.

But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true. The ones who will be there for you. With you. By your side. The ones who have your back.

And will hold your hair back while you barf.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Take Risks.

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Girl Warrior. Take risks. Big ones. Small ones. The kind only you know you’re taking. This is your deal. Go out on a limb. Get rid of the safety net. Free fall. Hang ten. Step out. And step off. Close your eyes and let go. Fall in love with uncertainty. Welcome unpredictability. Embrace the random unexpected things with open arms and wide-eyed wonder.

Don’t play it safe. Just play it with everything you’ve got. Let the cards land where they will. And then play those too. Put yourself out there even when you’d rather hide under a rug. Don’t have second thoughts. Or third. Don’t let anything or anyone sabotage your efforts. Squash your dreams. Take away your power. Don’t doubt yourself. Not even for one second.

Take a chance. Venture forth. Give it your best shot. Something mind-blowing will happen when you do.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Reflections in Mud Puddles.

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I love sunny days and large blue skies. The brightness and optimism of the unblemished firmament that stretches from horizon to horizon, and takes me back to my Northwestern Ontario wonder years. No matter how bad things were on the ground I could always look up and see that immense sky, and get a glimpse of God’s miraculous hand at work. I remember it then, and still experience it now, the feeling of peace and comfort knowing that I am connected to something so big and so powerful and so utterly wonderful. What an awe-inspiring and breath-taking view.

But lately I’ve found a reason to like rain. Or more precisely, what remains after it rains. I’ve acquired an entirely new attitude towards the potholes that pepper the country road where I walk. For they are the conduit to the glorious mud puddle, my new favorite thing.

When I was a kid I liked to stomp through them in my black rubber boots. Or after a warm summer shower I loved to go barefoot and sink my toes into the soft buttery ooze. I used to ride recklessly through them on my bike. But as I grew older they became wretched annoyances to avoid. Little nuisances and painful reminders of the relentless rainfall on the West Coast from the beginning of November till the end of April. I’ve done my share of cursing after being splashed and sprayed by passing vehicles. And I am not amused by those who quip, “well at least we don’t have to shovel it.”

But about a month ago, as I was walking along the country road at lunch, I saw things quite differently. It was as though I was seeing a mud puddle for the very first time. Like I was wearing magic glasses. And instead of avoiding, I sought them out. What caused this sudden transformation of vision? Why did my perspective change? What captured my imagination?

It was one of those serendipitous happy accidents. It had been pouring miserably earlier in the day. By the time I headed out for my walk, the sun was grandstanding and showing off its brilliance. It aced the surface of the mud puddle at just the perfect angle for me to see. I mean really see something so ordinary but suddenly so utterly extraordinary. Something I’d seen a million times before. Yet at that precise moment it was as if for the very first time.

I saw a reflection. And it was a beautiful sight.

Tall and stately evergreens. Gnarled and naked Garry Oaks. Blades of grass blowing in the breeze. Cloud formations. The sun, a blinding orb overhead. Telephone poles with wires stretching like tightropes. Street signs and other directions from above.

In the past month, I have sought out muddle puddles. They have brought new meaning, joy and wonder to my lunchtime walk. I’m the crazy lady crouched on the ground snapping photos on my iPhone of these fascinating little pools of dirty water. The smallest one I’ve photographed was about six inches, the largest about six feet long. I feel like Alice in Through the Looking Glass peering into another world filled with magic and all things curious. Everything is distorted. Depth perception is challenged. Shallow one second. And bottomless the next: like I could easily fall in and be lost forever in the shimmering darkness. Seeing such gigantic things like trees and telephone poles reflected and held so spellbindingly inside something so small. The juxtaposition takes my breath away.

The most magical thing about the muddle puddles is this. Like snowflakes, no two are the same. And even the same puddle is different depending on the preciseness of my presence, the direction of the sun, how it skims the surface of the murky water, and of course the angle with which I peer into it. Standing. Crouching. On my knees. These all affect what I see.

As a writer I can usually find words to describe most things. But in this case, words are inadequate. In fact, they fail me. Hopefully the photographs don’t. I hope they have captured some of the miraculous that I have witnessed, the dirty beauty of the earth, the sky, the sun and the wind, and the surprising unpredictable moment of confluence of all perfect things.

Technical note from a completely non-technical person: all photos were taken with my iPhone 6 using the Instagram App, with the Nashville filter.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Hang Out in Nature.

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Girl Warrior. Hang out in nature. Get to know the wonder and magic of the great outdoors. It’s a vast and infinite playground. And it’s all yours to explore.

No matter where you are. No matter who you’re with. Regardless of how busy you think you are. Stop and make time. Leave. Get outside. Every day. You don’t have to go far. Nor does it have to be an all-consuming affair. Take a ten-minute walk around the block or down a dirt road. Sit on a park bench and feed the pigeons. Go to your thinking place by the sea, lake, ocean or stream. Dig your toes in the desert sand. Run barefoot or strap on snowshoes. Soar with the eagles or swim with the turtles. Go into the woods or climb that mountain.

Commune with Mother Earth. She lives everywhere. Even in the most crowded cities. A tree grows in Brooklyn. A bird sings in Singapore. Flowers bloom in Boston. The point is the world is a beautiful, majestic, awe-inspiring place.

And it beckons. Heed the call Girl Warrior.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Fountain of Youth.

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Dear Beautiful Sarah Jane,

You saw my photograph and asked me, “If I found the fountain of youth?” On the one hand I took this to be a wonderful compliment, but I also saw this as an earnest question worthy of thoughtful reflection and consideration. It is however, a bit like asking, “what’s the secret or meaning of life?” The short answer is, “I don’t know.”

The Fountain of Youth is something I’m not in search of. Perhaps that’s the secret to finding it. Stop looking. What a gorgeous paradox this is.

I am now safely on the other side of young. But it wasn’t necessarily an easy journey getting here. Learning to accept that I am aging. Growing older in this Earth Suit that will one day expire. Accepting the changes to the way I look has at times been difficult. I’m still startled and spooked by the old woman who stares hauntingly at me in the mirror. But thankfully I’m less preoccupied these days with hanging onto the young “me” I once was. I am now more interested in being well, in particular, well in my soul. Could be another secret Sarah Jane.

This is who I am now.

Today, in this photograph, I look like this. Some days I look worse. Tragic even. Rod Stewart put it best in his song Maggie May, “the morning sun when it’s in your face really shows your age.” It’s true. Morning light can be a real buzz kill to an old broad like me. Ah, but afternoon light, after a good night’s sleep and a cup of chai tea with someone you love, works miracles. One more secret maybe Sarah Jane.

I have always looked younger than my age. Possibly because I’m physically small and spiritually large. I look inwards more than outwards. I explore fearlessly my interior world and let the exterior grow out of that. I meditate and do yoga every day. Is there some clue in this practice Sarah Jane?

I eat well and wisely most of the time. But then I also devoured a big bag of Lays potato chips last night. I never go to bed with makeup on. I brush my teeth three times a day. Take vitamins. Drink gallons of water daily. Laugh out loud a lot. I burp like a pig. I play music. Sing in the shower. Sit in the shade on sunny days. Go for long walks up country roads. I take tons of pictures on my cell phone. Read books and write something every day. I keep my mind open to the possibilities. Pursue wisdom and knowledge. I never stop learning. And most importantly, I hang out with dogs and good people of all ages. A secret there perchance Sarah Jane?

I love fashion. But ironically hate to shop, unless I’m with “my girls.” Then it’s fun. Especially if we stop for lunch and gossip. I do love clothes though. I’ve learned that if worn well, they cover up a whole host of not-so-pretty issues that develop as you age. Some people probably think I dress inappropriately for my age. I say fuck them. Or that I’m too old to wear my hair so long and dye it red. I say fuck those people too. I swear. And I’m unapologetic. I don’t know if there’s a secret in that Sarah Jane.

Then there’s just plain old luck and good genes. My mother was Italian. She was small physically, spiritually large and had beautiful flawless skin all the days of her life. She also dyed her hair jet black right up until the very end when she was too ill to do so. She taught me all the things I have just shared with you. Except she didn’t swear.

One last thing Sarah Jane, my sweet butterfly. Stay fierce about life in all its colors and complexities. Never let go of your curiosity and always stay close to the ones you love.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Listening to Books.

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I love to read. I end each day snuggled under my shabby chic bedding, with my head propped on a stack of soft marshmallowy pillows, reading glasses perched on the end of my plastered-in-night-cream nose, tea, warm milk or water on the bedside table and a good book in my hungry hands. I can’t think of a better way to end the day.

But I also enjoy listening to books.

This simple pleasure dates back to the last year I lived in Toronto, the one and only year that I drove in that fabulous and fatiguing city. Back then I particularly enjoyed listening to Wayne Dyer during my drive time to and from work. His soothing and reassuring voice comforted me during many difficult days, and gave me the courage I needed to move 4,000 miles across the country with two kids and 3 cats, and with absolutely no prospect for work. Nada. There was only this inexplicable and powerful yearning to go west, the kind that I imagine the early pioneers must have possessed. And there was also the unwavering belief that a better life waited for us on the other side of the mountains, next to the big blue sea.

Plus, I just had faith. Faith that if I did this very big and scary thing, it would all turn out okay. That God and the Universe and my Fairy Godmother would provide. We 3 Kings would be taken care of. And we were.

Some of my favorite audio books have been Christmas gifts from my son. There have been a few where I’ve thought, “this can’t possibly be something I’d enjoy. What was he thinking?” But those were often the very ones that I’ve enjoyed the most. Like Beyond the White House by Jimmy Carter or The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine or the one he gave me this year Brief Encounters by Dick Cavett. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved Billy Crystal’s Still Foolin’ Em. I laughed and cried in equal doses listening to this one and was reminded once again why I’m such a huge fan of this man.

All really wonderful books that I probably never would have even given a second glance had he not been given them to me.

I just finished listening to Bossypants by Tina Fey. I read the book when it first came out in paperback and it was an enormously entertaining read. But listening to Tina read her own words, was nothing short of brilliant. I realized that the voice inside my head reading Bossypants was all wrong. It was me doing Tina. So to hear the real McCoy was heavenly and a much richer experience.

The thing I like the most about listening to audio books is the intimacy of being alone in my truck while someone’s reading to me. There’s just something precious, no matter how old you are, about having someone read to you. For that brief encounter, I am able to suspend all disbelief, and imagine that I’m sitting with Barack Obama or Steve Martin or Bill Bryson or The Beatles while they tell me – just me – a very personal story about their life. It’s beautiful and lovely. I highly recommend it. Not as a replacement for reading books. I would never in a million years suggest such bibliophilic blasphemy. But in addition to reading, and especially if you’re crunched for time.

You can listen and learn something new. Listen and laugh out loud. Listen and cry your eyes out. Listen and ponder the wonders of the universe.

Or you can just listen. And enjoy.

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