There are times I don’t get my way. I know, right?

There are times it just doesn’t work out the way I’d like it to, and I have to deal. I can pout (I do, sometimes) or I can rise. Pouting comes easily, but rising is better.

Big girl panties.


It is dark when the big truck drives into our yard. The boys, headlamps strapped over their toques, look like fireflies in the back pasture. I pull on ski pants and heavy mitts and dig out an old scarf and I head out to the barn to meet them.

It’s a beautiful night.

The goats scatter and mill about, but when one finally jumps up into the back of the truck, the rest follow. And then the donkey. And then the llama. The door slams closed and I offer coffee and a late supper, and I can tell the woman thinks it will be too much trouble but her husband says, sure.

We sit with warm cups and bowls of stir fried rice, and pass conversation and cream and a cheque across the table, and then they leave and the yard is silent.

Silent night.

I text my husband, away in the city for all these weeks of school. They’re gone, I say, and he replies, great, and I can read the relief in that word.

You can love a burden. You can love things that keep you tied down and you can miss them when they are gone. You can fret over a decision to let something go and wonder at the rightness or wrongness of it, but really, life is not meant for fretting.

So we’ve let them go, and we are living in the space of the emptiness created by their leaving. This empty cup is a gift, and we’re deliberately going slow in the refilling.

This is the way we are doing it right now. We are loosening the bonds, the ties, because it seems good and we’ll see what the filling looks like when the time is right.

It’s a beautiful silent night.


Can I just say, right off the start, I love my book club. I really, really love my book club, in fact, and I honour each woman who makes that circle so incredibly beautiful. I wish I was more like each of you in so many ways.

So when I say I was shocked (I might be exaggerating my emotional response a tiny bit, but not much) to find out my book club sisters disliked my book recommendation, well, I had to rethink my place in the universe, or something. <smileyface>

And because I wasn’t able to attend the book club meeting where said book was being discussed, I have unresolved and lingering feelings which must be expressed or I will die, or something. <smileyface>

I adored the book Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home, by Rhoda Janzen. I laughed out loud, in a public place, while reading it. A woman stopped and asked me what I was reading and wrote down the title so she could read it, too. Another stranger sat right down for a little chat when she saw the book that was making me smile.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is a memoir, the story of a forty-ish woman who, after the breakup of her marriage and a disabling accident, returns home to recover. It’s a story of healing, in every sense of the word, as she spends time with family and memories and the conservative religious community of her childhood.

Some have said Janzen’s story is disrespectful and crude. I didn’t find it so. Besides being hilarious, I found Janzen’s memoir touching and beautiful. Honestly, it was the honesty that made this book shine. I appreciated her truthful retelling of remembered childhood, while taking responsibility for all her adult decisions, and I thought her literary treatment of the characters in her story was generally hilariously respectful.

The thing is, truthful truth is always a little dirty.

Thankfully, my place in the universe was restored when my sister Kathy, also reading the book on my recommendation, texted me.


Ah. Sisters. We get each other.

If you don’t mind a little swearing and some truthful talk, I think you’ll love this book. On my Annie scale, it’s much more Anne Lamott than Ann Voskamp, but I’m good with that. Sometimes, I need to laugh instead of cry.


Twirl, girl.

It’s my version of you go, girl. I like it better.

Go is, like, about success or achievement or something. It’s what you’d say to her before a big race or a big speech or a big test. You go, girl. Get out there and do it!

Twirling, though, is for anyone, anytime. It’s not the thing of coming out on top or using great gifts or taking hold of opportunity. Twirling is… fun. It’s creating your own crazy, beautiful kaleidoscope of love and joy and adventure.

You can be a twirling anyone, you can. You can be a twirling teacher or a twirling accountant or a twirling mom or a twirling blogger or a twirling lawyer. You just need to let go of the walls and step out into the open and take a deep breath and let yourself go a little. A little liberty inside your responsibility is okay.

So grab a hand or not, and clear some space, and spin. Put your head back and let your hair fly and laugh out loud.

Once upon another time, I used to twirl this gorgeous little blonde-haired blue-eyed girl. I used to spin her in my arms, laughing and dizzy, in other kitchens, and then if she didn’t up and grow into a woman when I wasn’t looking. And now she comes and goes: in and out of airports and up and down mountains and back and forth across oceans. Spinning and twirling into her life, into her future, and it’s a glorious thing.

So twirl, girl. Twirl away, and when you get a chance spin back into my kitchen for a cup of tea and some stories.

(My niece, Brea, shares adventure and inspiration on her blog! You can also find her on instagram at @traveltheditch.)

Part of the reason I have started this blog is to, in my own minuscule way, bring some warmth and joy back into this world so often plagued with fear and hopelessness. So each place I visit, each country, each culture, I am setting a goal for myself – to meet honest, hardworking people who have, no matter how big or small their gesture, changed someone’s life for the better. And if by sharing these uplifting stories with you, your life, if even for a second, is filled with joy and hope, then maybe we can believe that despite all the bad, there still is the wonderful. – Brea Elford


I won’t even begin to claim an understanding of racism or cop culture or what happened in Ferguson. It all hurts my heart. It hurts me as a human living among humans to know we still hate and hurt each other, all the time. I’m ignorant of many things about the why’s and the how’s of that hurt, and I won’t offer any soft, soppy answers like people just need Jesus. After all, when Jesus was here, we rioted and hated and hurt and, ultimately, we killed him.

We’ve been doing this hateful, hurtful thing for a long, long time.

After the Ferguson riots, I saw Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted all over the place. One little line, a riot is the language of the unheard, on memes like the one above. I was curious, so I went looking for it, and found it in a speech titled The Other America, which he gave at Grosse Pointe High School on March 14, 1968.

In this speech, King does address racism and riots, and he does make that heavily-memed and much-quoted statement. But it’s made in the context of explaining riots, not condoning them. And he says a lot of other things, too.

Things like:

I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view.

I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt.

I’ve been searching for a long time for an alternative to riots on the one hand and timid supplication for justice on the other and I think that alternative is found in militant massive non-violence.

It’s important to me, I’m not sure why, that the truth is as truthful as it can be, and truth is not a soundbite. If anything, truth is a story, and as much as possible, I want to know it.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the day one woman stayed sitting. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks defied a bus driver’s order that she give up her seat for a white man.


This woman inspires me. This woman’s tired courage sparked a movement and a leader. Martin Luther King, Jr. was chosen to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott that followed Parks’ quiet defiance, and the story continues… all the way to Ferguson.

I don’t know where we will go from here. I do know the story that will be written in the days to come deserves truthful telling, beyond the ground up, soundbite, meme-based fare we are being offered. For better or worse, the story is rich and full and complicated, and it deserves better.


Faith is living without all the answers to the why questions.

That’s what the preacher said, the other Sunday, and I wrote it down so I could remember to think on it a bit.

I do have questions. I want to know why Jian Ghomeshi?, and why Ferguson?, and why slavery?, and why ebola? It’s hard to put those things together on the same shelf as God loves and Jesus saves, you know?

I wish the world was better. I wish we lived better in the world. I wish the horror and sadness and evil would stop. Just stop.

If I’m honest, my faith is pretty wobbly, most of the time. It’s there, and I’m thankful for it. But it’s tinier than the tiniest mustard seed most days, and I haven’t moved many mountains.

But when the why’s begin to overwhelm and the questions shout, I try to remember these things:

Why such aching beauty?

Why so many selfless people?

Why children’s smiles and goodnight hugs and clean kitchens?

Why Christmas and music and art and homemade cookies?

Why parents and heritage and the seasons’ changing glories?

Why grace?

These why’s haunt me, almost more than the tragedies out there in the world. I have been gifted with all of these good things, but I forget so often the wonderfulness of them. I let them slip through my hands like they are sand instead of diamonds, and I miss the treasure.

Why have I been so adorned?

This is my faith as much as anything. To accept the good gifts and to be thankful, even as the world groans around me.


I’ve done this a thousand or more times, I’m sure. Dressed them up for snow play, undressed them for the potty, tugged mitts back up and under parka sleeves, tied scarves, tucked bangs under toques. It’s the repetition, putting on and taking off, the doing and undoing of caring for children that exhausts me.

I get darn tired of it, if I’m honest. I want competency and a quick exit.

With children, though, quick rarely happens. Instead I kneel, and maybe it’s a kind of prayer in its own way. To kneel on the puddle-y floor and tie another shoe or find another sock or kiss another little nose.

I have to slow myself to kneel, I’ve learned. Or rather, I’m still learning. I have to slow and bend, and I can do it sweet or I can do it swift, and the way I choose makes a difference.

They grow and learn and get faster, it’s true. But the kneeling, the practice of going slow and meeting needs and looking into eyes? That’s the kind of thing that changes me without me knowing it. I think (in the moment) that it’s about getting them out the door, but really it’s a lesson for me. To learn to do the thing that needs doing, or doing again, with love.

They teach me patience, if I’m willing to learn. They give me such gifts, if I’m willing to accept them.


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