The Sacrament of the PRESENT Moment

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? 
It came without ribbons. 
It came without tags. 
It came without packages, boxes or bags. 
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. 
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. 
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. 
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. ~ Dr Seuss
Do you remember what you received for Christmas three years ago? What about last Christmas?

Think about it for just a moment. Do your children remember?

No, neither do I.

But I bet you remember what you did for Christmas.

Yet our focus still seems to be on stuff.

The holidays can retain the sense of magic and wonder by understanding that memories are mostly made by time and experiences, not what is wrapped beneath the tree.
There’s still time to scale back this Christmas and take a big step away from the mall…I mean, unless George Clooney is doing that kissing booth thing.
I remember when Christmas consumerism, I mean decorating, started the day after Hallowe’en, but two weeks before Hallowe’en this year, I was picking around ceramic reindeer, miniature gold Christmas trees, and red bead garlands looking for that ever elusive orange plastic pumpkin with self-timing lights. Don’t ask.

It’s getting earlier every year. Advertisers ramp up their ads, expectations and blood pressures rise simultaneously, copious amounts of alcohol are consumed, the frenzy builds, and before we know it, we’re left with emptier wallets, fuller drawers, and gain a nervous twitch that lasts till May.

We are a nation of consumers. Each year we are spending more and more money, and buying more and more things at Christmas. It is now been rendered so normal by advertising and social media that we hardly have noticed what this collective madness has done to us.
Guess what percentage of total material flowing through the consumer economy is still in product or use 6 months after their sale in North America?Sixty percent?


It’s one. One percent.

According to Paul Hawken, in his book, Natural Capitalism (1999), 99% of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99% of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months.

Much of what we are buying is designed to elicit a mumbled thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away.
A Bill Murray throw pillow, Hillary Clinton nutcracker, elf slippers, novelty wine glass hat, candy cane tea infuser, Scratch Off The World map, Darth Vader talking piggy bank, Mary Mother of Jesus toy, Golden Girls wine charms, a belly button brush…
Any of us concerned with a sustainable, or better yet, reciprocal treatment of our planet, naturally think about reducing our direct consumption of energy.

But however well we insulate our homes, drive our cars less and walk more, take fewer airplane trips, turn down the heat and put on another sweater…and however much the public sector cleans up its act and the efficiency of commercial buildings is improved, we’ll still be only scratching the surface of the problem.

The real issue is not our direct consumption of energy, but the greenhouse gases embodied in the goods we buy.

Governments seek to boost economic growth by raising consumption, but consumption has already pushed greenhouse gas levels way beyond the point that many consider sustainable.

We need to accept that economic growth is the problem and that current levels of consumption is the big issue.

There is a place called Enough.
Few things in this world are necessary.Indeed, there is really only one. The Present.
Take a mistletoe moment.
If you are present, you will be able to know what you need to know.
Presence is always the gift you don’t know you need the most — until you’re in the most need.

Everything then becomes a gift.

If we miss the Present moment, we miss our appointment with life.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.                                       –  Dr. Maya Angelou
Time is the most valuable gift we can give, and that delivered without expectations, makes the biggest impact.We only have one decision to make every day: how will we use our time?

Let’s be honest. Much of our social media and personal conversation is about nothing – nothing that matters, nothing that lasts, nothing that’s real. We tend to talk about the same things over and over, again and again.

One day we may wake up and realize that we have frittered away years of our life. And it’s the only life we have.


Presence is the one thing necessary to attain wisdom, and it’s the hardest thing of all.

If you are not fully Present, you will look around and it will be gone.

We need to remember that we all have an expiration date and we have far less time than we want. We should give ourselves the gift of doing the math of our remaining existence, and be awake to each moment.
Maybe there’s no such thing as a small act of giving.
The most fortunate who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy.                          – Abraham Maslow
If you are going to be buying presents for your nearest and dearest, think about treating them to gifts they can enjoy for months, or even years afterwards. For example:

  • Subscriptions, memberships, or event tickets where they can make memories, or think of activities you can enjoy together. All these have less of an impact on the environment, and create memories which can last a lifetime. 
Or give of your time, talent and energy.There are literally hundreds of organizations that would love your support at Christmas time (and any other time of year, to be honest), so pick one and make a Christmas outing for your family or friends of helping others. The gift you will receive in return will be priceless. 

Donate your time because it shows your family and your children that there are other things out there, that there are people who need help.

  • Collect canned goods or heavy coats, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or sing carols in a nursing home.  
  • Collect loose change for Salvation Army buckets, or shop for an Operation Christmas Child box.
  •  Invite a single person or another family over for a meal.
  • Bake cookies or other Christmas treats and give them away as gifts: all things which show more love and are cheaper than store bought presents. After all, food is an important part of a balanced diet.
  • Attend more seasonal events.
  • Have conversations in front of the fireplace with Christmas music on repeat.
  • Go sledding or skating and make snow angels.
  • Drive around to see displays of Christmas lights.
  • Break out a deck of cards or a board game and have family night of love and laughter. Laughing together echo longer than gifts.
  • Listen to the pouring out of someone’s cracked heart. Take time for long phone calls, and shared pie, and going the extra mile.
  • Fill a mug with hot chocolate, curl up with a special someone on the couch, and watch a Christmas classic. 
Or give yourself and your loved ones a Christmas gift by making a personal commitment to being healthy during this holiday season and beyond. Good health is undoubtedly more valuable than anything you can buy. If you have some unhealthy habits make a commitment to end one this Christmas. Or if there is nothing specific, make a point of doing one thing during this Christmas to make yourself a little healthier, whether it’s going for a walk or skipping that glass of eggnog.As for me, I’ve decided that I’ll never get down to my original weight and I’m okay with that. After all, 8 lbs, 7 oz. is just not realistic.


Decorate your homes with lots of mistletoe. This won’t really help the environment, but more kissing has got to be good for world peace.
                                                                                        – Green Peace
Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, spend a whole afternoon with them, send them a book, but stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.
For everyone, the festive season has a different meaning. However you celebrate it, I hope the you do it for the right reasons, investing your tine with what makes you happy, not in ways your think you should.This Christmas, let’s all agree not to give because we think we have to and not to feel obligated to give something we can’t afford. Don’t be controlled by guilt, but give out of love.

“God Bless Us, Everyone!”

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem

By Dr. Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes

And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Falling into the Present


To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.                                                                           – Ecclesiastes 3 and Pete Seeger

Fall is pressing upon us. it is a season of dropping off and falling away, shedding and letting go.I ponder this strata of desquamation. I look out my kitchen window and watch as golden curled leaves rain down bereft of even a wind puff, surrendering freely. The garden is withering to shades of drabness. Stalks shrivel and droop, giving themselves up to a job well done.

No matter our casualness, we feel the shift. 

A reminder that nothing lasts forever.

Autumn is  a time for moulting, for emptying.

It’s not a giving up, resignation, or lowering your standards, but a surrender to what is.

It’s a time when we look at the garden inside ourselves and tear or thin out everything that is not worthy of taking space in our heart.

It’s a time where we need to shuck off our old skins, drop them and walk away until they are unrecognizable.


There is a story told in Africa and India about how to catch a monkey. First they hollow out one end of a coconut and drop in a banana. Before long a monkey comes by, sees the banana, reaches his hand into the coconut, and grabs it. The monkey then discovers that he can’t get his hand out while holding onto the banana. The natives then pull a string attached to the other end of the coconut and capture the monkey.

Motivational speakers often use this story to inspire people to “let go” of their old perceptions, habits and thoughts, since in truth, the monkey was never trapped.

All the monkey had to do was to let go of the banana.


And the cell phone.

One of the biggest sources of our malcontent is not being able to let go. Instead, we hang onto things, jobs, relationships, and 70’s caftans because things don’t look as we want them to.  


Sometimes we can be like the hermit crab. There comes a day when the crab outgrows its shell. Then comes the risky moment called the moult when the crab is in between shells. Now the crab has two choices. One, to find a new shell or two, slip back into its old one because the new one is uncomfortable.


It really is about letting go of the out-lived – the parts that you loved and the parts that were painful, hopefully turning chaos into cadence.

Trying to keep everything the same is like trying to tell the leaves not to fall from the trees in autumn. 

I’m not necessarily thinking of old shoes, but simple things like bitterness, resentment, and the poison of unforgiveness.

Letting go is essential. But it’s not always easy.

Letting go takes work and requires us to do some serious introspection about what’s “True”, and what we’re actually attached to. There is a difference between the facts of a person and the truth of them. This something that has baffled scientists to no end.

However arduous it might be, it’s often a good idea to be honest with oneself. You do not want to sit by people at dinner that will not admit this.

Life never promised to keep us safe. It wasn’t designed that way and they don’t hand out manuals for the tough stuff.Life, however, does continue to hand us opportunities to become who we really are, to understand ourselves on a deeper level, and to experience the full breadth of human emotion.



Maybe the most important way to get the most out of life is the hard-earned mastery of giving yourself up to it.

Maybe the only way to get the most out of life is to simply feel what it is to be alive.

Maybe when we become more and more aware, and more and more still, is when we really can know what we want.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, adopt a tree.

Watch rigorously for one year. 

And the end of all of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.                                                                                        – T.S. Eliot  

Things come and go, nothing stays the same, and we can’t control most of the things we’d like to. 
Everything we love – places, possessions, and people – can, and very likely will, be eventually taken from us.Possibly the greatest gift we can give someone is that of detachment.

Attachment, even if we think it is selfless, lays some burden on the other person. When we think we are giving, we may actually be at the very least, asking for attention – another paradox of life. When we think we have nothing, there is always something. When something is taken away, there is always some permanence to be grateful for – friends, family, life-teachers, The Maldives, and dust mites.

What they leave in our soul is the only permanence we’ll ever know.

Except for dust mites. They stay under our couch.


Grace comes, but you don’t get to say when or how. Grace can be a wound that opens the beauty in us, a wound that lets light in through the heart-cracks. It’s the beauty of imperfection, of things that show their age and use. 

Scratches. Chips. Wrinkles.

In that sense, it’s just as important to continue defining who you are, as to continue eliminating who you are not.


Our homes have a memorializing function, and what they are helping us to remember is, strangely enough, ourselves.

Our home should be an honest reflection of ourselves that include family photos, items from our travels, and objects that have meaning for us. Because we all want such different things, we will all be pulled towards very different kinds of objects.


The key is to let go of the extraneous, the worn, the out-dated, the redundant, and the meaningless, with rapturous rigour and devotion.

Do you need six throw pillows on your sofa, or do 3 create just as much of an impact?

Do you need your collection of magazines from the past 7 years, or do 4 coffee table books achieve the same goal?

Do you really need 22 black teeshirts, or will 6 do?

Beer glasses? Spatulas? Jars of copper polish?


Today, make a commitment to drop a banana.

There has never been a more selfless selfish act. 



In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver  

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillarsof light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Thanks and Giving


You can’t always get what you want, but you always get what you need.

We are in the season of gratitude, and thank goodness for that. 

I don’t remember exactly how I got the idea. It could have been from Sarah ban Breathnach, Oprah, Jesus, or Jagmeet Singh, but fifteen years ago, all I knew is that I needed to do something. 

My life was in a complete 360 and I had no idea how to continue to live in beauty, life-deep. 

And on top of this, I lost my corkscrew and was compelled to live on food and water for several days.  


So I started a gratitude journal. Every night before bed, I diligently wrote down five things for which I was grateful.At first it wasn’t easy.Sometimes the best thing that happened to me that day was finding the lid to a Tupperware container on the first try. 

Or for the first time my hygienist didn’t tell me I needed to floss more. 

Or when I finished my laundry and all the socks matched up.

Things that might incline people to lose the will to live. Especially in this cold. 


Our lives are strung out between the merely imperfect and the truly awful.
Just because it doesn’t come naturally doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. The thing is, people aren’t hardwired to be grateful. Like any school skill worth having, gratitude requires practice. It’s a skill and habit you can cultivate. Gratitude is like a muscle that you have to keep exercising, taking baby steps to get stronger.
It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well.It’s an entirely different story during the trials and tribulations of life; the losses, disappointments, rejections, failures, hurts and set-backs.

One of the best ways to get through a burden is to bring in gratitude, then surrender to it in faith and trust. 

What you can’t explain in your life — may be explained as being a gift.
It is in falling down that we learn almost everything that matters spiritually. It seems that we have to lose it (or know that we don’t have it) before we will really seek it. Then we find it, and fittingly celebrate.

The message is sort of hard to miss.

                                                Medjugore, Croatia
After a while, finding things to be grateful for became easier and easier. In fact, I would have to stop myself at 10, then 15. Then I realized that I needed to be more specific and focus on exactly why I was grateful. For example: 

Vague: I am grateful that I met Mrs. “X” today.

Specific: I appreciated her manner, but wondered what I had done to deserve her company and how I might avoid her in the future.


In hindsight, it was probably the single most important thing I can attribute to getting me through some difficult, difficult years and trials. Literally.
You say keeping a gratitude journal sounds cheesy, too cliché. In fact, you’d rather stick needles in your eyes.  

You say that this is for the kind of people who daily pin 57 photos on Pinterest, the kind who don’t let their cacti casually die on the windowsill, and the kind that make their own granola with 10 different kinds of organic nuts.

Even if you’re sceptical and think you lack the discipline and time, start small. Instead of every day, commit to every couple of days. 

The trick is what we learned in Finding Nemo – Just keep swimming.

You will thank me, but you don’t have to.

After a few months, I realized I needed to involve subtraction, not just addition.I needed to consider how much better my life with was without something, rather just tallying up the good stuff.

I needed to be grateful for all that didn’t happen or what may have happened, all those close shaves with “disaster” of some kind or another.

The distance between them happening and not happening, is grace. 

“I’ve come to believe that living in a state of gratitude is the gateway to grace.”                                                      – Adriana Huffington
                                               Medjugore, Croatia
It turned out that noting ostensibly small things and moments generated more satisfaction and happiness than large ones. As well, continually thinking of them as gifts guarded against taking them for granted and promoted delayed gratification.
I can live two months on a good complement.     Mark Twain

Gratitude shouldn’t be a once a year kind of thing.

So on this Gratitude Day and everyday, think about: 

  • Thanking the barista that makes your morning coffee instead of staring at your iPhone and ignoring everyone around you. This doesn’t mean shooting off a perfunctory, “Hey, thanks”.  It means a concerted and consistent effort to notice and appreciate what you have been given. 


  • Saying a simple hello to a stranger on the street.


  • Not wasting one drop of water that runs from your faucet. 1.1 billion people have inadequate access to clean water and will never have this experience. 


  • All the good things flowing to you. From the crunch of autumn leaves, to the azure sky to, yes, even October snow. 

The only secret is you must mean it.  

No matter how big or small, be thankful and embrace.

You know you’ve reached the crowning glory of gratitude, when you lay writhing on the floor in pain from food poisoning and say to yourself, “Well, it could be a lot worse. At least it’s not appendicitis.”

Gratitude just may take over your life.

Happy Thanks and Giving!

P.S. I’m grateful that you read to the end of this e-letter.

The Mirror: A Reflection

Good title.

Well I like it.

…In the windows, the mirrors
    Are filling with smiles…
                           – Sylvia Plath
There are two mirrors in life. One mirror can be an opportunity for self-discovery and the other mirror is

used to check to see if our hair is sticking out in an inopportune angle.

And this morning it seemed, to my utter amazement, that when I looked into the clear light of my

bathroom mirror, everything was six inches lower than where it used to be.I thought – that can’t be right.



All of us, seen close up, have an appalling amount wrong with our character. We are all confused, cranky,

clingy and sometimes downright terrified. 

Even the act of asking someone to marry you is, in a sense, a rather cruel thing to do to someone you

deeply care about.

What Do You See?



Our everyday interactions are an opportunity to see more deeply into who we are and how we

operate, and to adopt new methods, conditions, and points of view.

But, you say, what if they’re boorish sorts who collect brown street signs, cut their toenails at the

dinner table, and clean their kitchen as if surgery were to be performed there?

Cause you know, there are few people more deeply insufferable than those who don’t, at regular

intervals, suspect they might be so.

It is a sign of our own inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar.  – Anais Nin

Our thoughts, whether they originated from us or others, contribute to our experiences. Cause

for reflection, this can be a bitter pill to swallow.Not many of us particularly want to accept

responsibility for inviting in or allowing bad treatment. Instead, we go answer the phone, get the

mail, eat a muffin, failing to understand that maybe, just maybe, the people we have problems

with, may actually be mirroring the disowned parts of ourselves.

We inflict in the other or judge, what we refuse to own up to or express, instead of realizing our

opportunity to redirect our view.


Remember, when you no longer play the game of judging, labeling, and punishing others,

you quickly become the outsider at most every cocktail party.

On that basis we can try to do a little better. I think you know what I mean.

Weal and woe

Nothing moves in our outside world until we move in our inside world.  – Caroline Myss

The horrible truth is that almost nothing outside of you can help. It’s an inside job, and I so

resent it.

They don’t hand out manuals for the tough stuff. We need self-reflection to change, and we

can only do that in stillness and silence.

Life inevitably mirrors back our different forms until we choose to integrate the very quality

essential to our personal growth and development. If we are not regularly embarrassed by

who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn’t even begun.You may also feel that you are

deteriorating faster than you can lower your standards, but I declare, Cinderella, you can do it,

and you will be amazed.



How long should we wait until everything is perfectly aligned and success is guaranteed?

The truth is we’ve already waited long enough. An authentic life requires action, courage,

mistakes and risks because “the perfect time” is an illusion, and waiting is a game we play

because we’re scared.

We need to seek help with the dark and the light, increasing and overcoming our space


Mirrors reflect everything in front of it, revealing and expanding. We need to reflect on

things to attend to, things we need to work harder on, and the things that we need to let

go of.By the way, if you still have anything in your closet that is acetate, has elastic, pleats,

or sparkles, it’s now time to let them go.

This message is sort of hard to miss.

But the heart of mirroring is the reflective shimmer that allows one’s depth of character to

surface and glisten; a source of light and brightness, instruments of illumination and visibility.

For example, when we look into the foggy, mottled glass of antique mirrors, old and foxed and

beautiful, it may not be the best choice of a mirror, but it does have the distinct advantage of

making some of us look more enchanting than we have been led to believe.

Sometimes along the way, our self-image is allowed to decay into a shallow habit of pleasing,

growing into a pernicious self-focus. What we often need is to focus on ourselves less –  how

we dress, where we go, what we achieve.This is good. It takes the pressure off, because it is

never ultimately about us.

This is freedom.

So never fear the reflection.Instead, use it to go deeper and deeper into the process of

self-examination and discovery until eventually you discover or uncover the nature of your affliction. 


Don’t just focus on what you’re doing right. Ask yourself, every week and every month,

what you’re still lacking. What is it you’re doing wrong? And what could you do better?

I just wanted you to know that I’m glad we’ve had this talk.

My story

Remember when you used to be curious? Wondered about things, imagined, asked questions? To think that, you know, this could be the best day ever. Or worry that you are wrong about what you are almost positive about.

I think that pretty much sums it up for most of us. We’re all a mixed grill of happy anticipation and dread.

And then one day without warning, the open road beckons.

To just go, not knowing where or for how long.

Sometimes there’s nowhere to go, but on that road.

Sometimes you don’t have anywhere to go, if it’s not on that road.

A few years ago, okay, more than 30 – this happened to me. I left Edmonton for Calgary, lured by the liberal arts education promise of being taught how to live.

My ambition knows no bounds. 

Alas, I also had to leave the Shumka dancers behind.
Wait – that’s not them.


As the reality fell short of the promise and as my intellectual, creative, and spiritual development began to not unfold, I thought that there was a distinct and important lack in my new life, as I was mainly occupied with staying on my side of the road, keeping my coffee cup upright, and wondering why worker bees can’t have sex. 

I realized that was not ever going to be offered the experience of helping people sell their homes for more money faster. 

So at the end of 1999, all the stars were aligned and I conceived the idea of home staging.

The rest, as they say, is history.

You have been part and parcel of it. And I thank you.

I had no idea at the time that this labor of learning would animate me with a new sense of purpose. This would now become both my mission and something to do during the week, Saturdays and Sundays. 

I received a lot of television, radio, newspaper, and journal publicity in those early years because the concept was so newsworthy. As I like to say, I started at the national level and worked my way down.

“I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”

– Mae West, P.T. Barnum, George M. Cohan, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Big Tim Sullivan

Now there are some salient core principles involved when undertaking such a fundamental endeavour as deciding to stage your listing.

Number One: Ours is a culture that measure our worth by our efficiency, our relatives, and our ability to make good decisions.

Anne Dillard said something like, how we spend our weeks is how we spend our lives.

Number Two: You need to allow yourself the luxury of changing your mind. 

We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on the face our seller makes, or the mutterings of your partner siting next to you, without investing the time and thought to come up with your own true feelings.

You may also have to make peace with the fact that some of the best people in your life are fallible, unreasonable, and downright annoying. Befuddlement is one of our greatest asset, one that distinguishes us from squirrels.

So cultivate that capacity for negative capability and take your God-given poetic license to say, “No – we need to stage this home.

I mean, once you start overachieving, people expect things from you.

Number Three: Expect anything tasteful to take a bit of time.

It’s hard to capture something so fundamental, yet so impatiently overlooked as the best presented house, yet, the myth of the overnight staging success is just that – a myth.

I know what’s going to happen here.

This is going to lead to a litany of questions. “Are two loveseats better than a three-seater and a chair?”, “What wall colour is best for selling?”, “Is grey trendy?”, “Should there be art on the walls?”, “Are matching chairs passe?”, “Would you have voted for Trump?” And so on.

Thus our present definition of success needs redefining. For example, you have to ask:

1. Does the house look like it just backed up to an IKEA store. 
P.S. If I never see another LACK wall shelf or an IKEA frame without a wire again, I will consider my life a triumph.

2. Does the furniture in each room act like wallflowers at a party – strained and stationed against involvement, quietly alone, making everyone feel awkward for having a good time?

3. Is the art hung correctly? Is there any art at all?
P.S. This may almost be my final post reminding you of the perils of hanging art badly. (Please hold your applause.)

4. And the last one. Upon entering the home, does it remind you of the aroma of your socks after a three day hike?

Number Four: Presence is far more intimate and rewarding than productivity.

Which is why I usually prefer the comfort of a beach chair and a good book. Preferably by the beach.

By the way, there is also a 97% chance of getting eaten while sitting at the water’s edge in a beach chair munching on Cheetos. That’s just a scientific fact. 

Showing up is good, but so is the hard, but rewarding work of getting the job done right, quickly and efficiently.  

Amen to that.

And now I’ve over-explained this, and none of this is even the point.

The Road More Travelled

Both And
I learned to watch, to put my trust in other hands than mine. And I learned to wander. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know – that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.  –  Beryl Markham
Remember when you used to be curious? Wondered about things, imagined, asked questions? To think that, you know, this could be the best day ever. Or worry that you are wrong about what you are almost positive about.

I think that pretty much sums it up for most of us. We’re all a mixed grill of happy anticipation and dread.

And then comes a day when, without warning, the open road beckons.

To just go, not knowing where or for how long.

Sometimes there’s nowhere to go, but on that road.

Sometimes you don’t have anywhere to go, if it’s not on that road.

Boredom and complacency have this horrible inertia, which means that once they hit, it’s easy to get stuck…for a long time. And you can’t chart a course around anything that you’re afraid of. You can’t run from any part of yourself, and it’s better that you can’t.
(It had occurred to me to go to a psychotherapeutic travel agency that may have been able to align my mental disorder with the parts of the planet that would best alleviate them.) 

Which is why I decided on South Dakota. 

My ambition knows no bounds. 

So I surrendered to getting lost, as a voyage should take you further than your destination. Or as they say in Maine – you can’t get there from here. 

I succumb to the philosophy that adventure is one of the five necessities of the truly civilized, next after truth and beauty, ahead of art and peace.
Reckoning and Repair
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes – including you.                                                                   – Anne Lamont 
Travelling, a real journey – not a typical holiday, cruise, trek or business obligation – is an entirely different way of knowing.  

It can be an intimate relationship. It can be a dark journey.  It can find new paths. But it is almost always, discovery.

While we are journeying, the mind is no longer on guard. We aren’t supposed to be doing much inside our heads. We are mainly occupied with staying on our side of the road, keeping our coffee cup upright, and wondering why worker bees can’t have sex.

Journeying lets us think freely and wildly with themes we’d lost touch with: childhood, a recent dream, a friend we haven’t seen for years, a hobby, why chocolate with 75 percent cacao is not actually a food, and whether we should buy an electronic wine breather.

We often arrive back subtly different: slightly more complete, serene, visionary. Maybe even more of a courageous and imaginative version of the person we knew how to be. 

But what is truly astonishing is that really, no one has missed us. Or even noticed that we had gone.

I know you didn’t.

The demise of one’s tenancies towards self-aggrandizement is a quiet, private, and sober moment of reckoning, for subtle feelings of imperfection. You may have to make peace with the fact that some of the best people in your life are fallible, unreasonable – and downright annoying.
Befuddlement is our greatest asset, the only feature distinguishing us from squirrels. 
We need certain things. Clandestine thoughts. Finding answers without needing to know why. Getting rid of the impression that we are indispensable. Not taking anything for granted. Gratitude.
And now I’ve over-explained it and none of this is even the point.
Now if we add contemplation with our journey, then Yea, this is what can truly change us. 
This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find nothing happens. But if you keep at it, something eventually will. 

Silence and aloneness are not luxuries, they are essential. 

We aren’t put on this earth to rise above life. We are here to walk through the muck, learning our lessons by going through intense life experiences, not skipping over them.

It’s somewhat like constantly clearing out and rearranging your living room. It’s as much about getting rid of all the furniture and trinkets that no longer serve you, as bringing in new pieces. And in that sense, it’s just as important to continue defining who we are, as to continue eliminating who we are not. 
Daniel Gilbert’s famous aphorism cites that “human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”
Which is why I usually prefer the comfort of a beach chair and a good book. Preferably by the beach.

By the way, there is also a 97% chance of getting eaten while sitting at the water’s edge in a beach chair munching on Cheetos. That’s just a scientific fact. 

Rapturous Rigor and Devotion
So I climbed into my car, plugged my iPod in AUX, and pressed “Shuffle” to listen to whatever music came up. (I was going to do the silence thing later.)

After a while I realized that kept having to skip past all the Christmas songs. So many Christmas songs. Which is when I discovered I hadn’t actually put my iPod on Shuffle, but rather at the letter “C”. A lot of Christmas songs start with the letter “C”, in case you didn’t know. 

I don’t think it’s an ideal system.

The bigger question is why I hadn’t taken the Christmas music off my iPod since it was, you know, almost August. 

This alone can give anybody a case of discouraged.
A wise person once said that if you keep going where you’re going, you’re going to end up where you’re headed. And if you keep moving ahead, you’ll find yourself in a different place.

Think that was me.

Yes. yes. He hath done yeoman’s service, and proved himself staunch and faithful.
The Art of Not Being Right
There is an art to getting lost, to being imperfect, to being disorganized and for being just plain wrong.

Although I wouldn’t know much about that. Except for the “lost” part.

Or finding.

Take this morning for instance.

I’ve never driven into Grand Falls before. It’s early enough. I’m starving. I’m un-caffeinated. I’m looking for a coffee shop. 

I head into the historic district, the business distinct, the tree district – nothing. Nada.

So I Google coffee shops. I come up with one called “Electric City”. Google says, “it’s the best coffeeshop in Grand Falls.” I have driven more than 3000 kms. so far and Google has not failed me. But this morning it won’t load.

I don’t know. Tired. Overused. No caffeine?

So not taking Google for an answer, I keep driving – slowly – when out of the corner of my eye, I catch the word “coffee” painted on a window front. I pull up, plug 2 quarters in the meter for an hour (Incidentally, I feel I have traveled back in time. Not only are these 1920 Calgary parking prices (maybe this was to tie up your horse), I have also been asked to sign my Visa slips the whole trip. When was the last time we had to do that? 

However, I do always remember to speak American and say “washroom” instead of “bathroom”

I get out of the car and walk in. I’m at “Electric Coffee”.

How do I do these things? Especially when I can hardly find my way out of an elevator.

While I was waiting for my coffee, I picked up a copy “What’s Up Yukon” and read an article all about the 95th anniversary of Urban Gold Miner that was maybe the most informative piece of journalism I’ve read in a long time.
The Importance of Changing One’s Mind Regularly 
“Most people do not see things as they are because they see things as they are!”                                                                                                  – Fr. Richard Rohr
Every viewpoint is a view from a point, and we need to critique our own perspective if we are to see and follow the truth all the way through.
We conduct our life as everyone does, by guessing at the future. When your time comes you want to be sure that you’re not leaving anything on the table, that there aren’t experiences left un-experienced.
It’s just for me, strains in my development has led me into some pretty strange territory.
As Ram Dass said, “When all is said and done, we’re really just all walking each other home.”
I think that’s it, but if I think of anything else, I’ll let you know. 
Well, night is closing in and I’ve still got all those lima beans to arrange.


P.S. Contemplating life, I just rolled up to a stop sign and sat there for a full two minutes as I waited for it to turn green.

I really believed I was living my best life. 



The reason I’m writing a Stampede newsletter before The Official Beginning of Stampede is because it’s a well known fact that during the Greatest Show on Earth, 50% of Calgarians will be far away from here, and the other 52% will be deeply ensconced in discussing the meaning of life in some loud honky tonk bar in downtown Calgary, as will I.As you are poking your way down this nothing, if not totally engrossing missive, you may be saying to yourself, “Hey, I think I’ve read this before.” That is because if you have been faithfully reading my blog for the past say, one year, you have.

As someone famously said. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing again.”

I think it was me.

So now that I have your attention – maybe again – I would like to discuss the merits of mediocrity. In styling a home.

Lean closer because this is profound.

There are none.

Well, that was easy.

Now that the dust has settled (literally) on a long winter, and spring has bypassed us yet again, it may be time to survey the Ponderosa with more than one eye open. 

Besides, if you never try anything new, you can never fail. 

If y’all are completely flamboozzled on how to style your home – or even what styling is – you need to know that you have to get the best posse in town, because there are a few out there that couldn’t drive a nail into a snow bank.

You know the type…faded blue jeans, pearl button shirts, worn-at-the-heel cowboy boots, wearing hats with sweat lines, and driving rusty pick-me-up trucks with a couple of dented bumpers.


“Just ’cause you’re following a well-marked trail don’t mean that whoever made it knew where they were goin’.”                              – Texas Bix Bender
Don’t gamble on your establishment looking like an envelope without an address on it. 
Given most of you have lived in your home so long, there are probably things you no longer even see…things suggesting an element of brooding malcontent.
Many will say that they have an eye, good taste, definite opinions, and they like things done well, but still wouldn’t have a clue where to begin, second-guessing themselves.You don’t have to spend a fortune for good design. People think they are buying good looks. What they discover is that they get more than that. When a space functions well, it enhances your life. Think value not price.

As Kafka, the patron saint of self-criticism, said, “There’s only one thing certain. That is one’s own inadequacy.”

Not yours, everyone else’s. 


I do have to tell you, though, that my biggest excitement today (and I am using the term loosely, so this should really be an indicator of how little is going on with me), is discovering that the word cenosillicaphobia means the fear of an empty glass.

Oh, the times I could have used it – at bar-b-ques, pancake breakfasts, hanging around the peanut bowl at cocktail parties, and the like.

If only I could pronounce it. 


                              HOME ON THE RANGE


One thing is fo’ sure – updated kitchens bring one of the highest returns on investment, and they may end up being the deal-maker or deal-breaker whenever it comes time to sell. This is one room you want to deck out in its best finery. After all, you spend an inordinate amount of time in it, unless you order in a lot of Mexican.

Kitchens are pricey to redecorate or rebuild, so they rarely receive annual overhauls or frequent up-dates, even when they deserve them. Consequently, these rooms can slip into a time warp that echoes the era when the home was originally built or when you moved in. 
Granite or quartz work surfaces can really eat into the budget, so in order you don’t have to rob a bank, there are tons of attractive laminates as a less expensive alternative. I don’t advise installing granite or quartz countertops if you have dated cabinets.  

Speaking of dating, be careful out there. I once went on a date with a man would describe himself as resembling Kevin Costner. It was true in the sense of both men walk upright and have opposable thumbs.I propose a general rule: any man that claims to be a former Navy seal or cosmonaut should be disqualified immediately

Backsplash tile is the jewelry in a kitchen. Installing new backsplash tile is the best area to give punch to a kitchen. It’s a relatively small area, so this is where you can splurge to make the kitchen look more expensive, as well as updating and pulling the colours together.


Simple and less costly updates are to update the cabinet hardware or
…install a statement faucet.
There’s Gold in Them Thar…
Not since the 1980’s have we seen this degree of popularity for gold-toned bath faucets, lamps, light fixtures, and doorknobs. In the ’80s it leaned toward polished brass, and now the gold tones are ranging beautifully towards a soft bronze-gold. This emerging trend may leave the popular silver and brushed nickel metals in the dust.
“If you’re riding’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.”                                                    – Will Rogers                                                  
Your ace in the pocket in styling your kitchen is to keep small appliances tucked away and a cappuccino machine at the ready.

Just in case I pop by. 



One of life’s little embarrassments is cove lighting or a Sunshine Ceiling. 

For me, that’s right up there with screen doors, deep-fried anchovies, and over-ripe tomatoes, not in that order.

Light the kitchen properly with slim LED pot lights, and if you don’t already have it,under cabinet lighting. Essential.

 Oh. Then there are Popcorn Ceilings.
And I quote: “It’s dingy, if it’s not painted it fades, and it can get stained easily and especially if you have any water damage, it can start flaking off; it attracts cobwebs, dirt, and soot, and it’s just one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen.” – Jim McCue, owner of Professional Drywall Services.
Removing the popcorn ceiling is one of the best improvements you can do to any home. You can quote me. 

After all, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Another bane of my existence are unframed, fraying posters curling at the corners and hanging onto the wall for dear life. If you can’t bear to part with your beloved posters, mount them in a deep frame so the character of those well-worn corners comes through, but the overall look is polished.


So…yo’all want to keep this in the back pocket of your ripped jeans. 

If you can’t remember what I look like, don’t go to my website. You won’t recognize me, it’s my high school picture.No matter how much or how little space you have, there’s always room for style. Make your home the “Greatest Indoor Show on Earth.”  It’s a one shot go for broke performance.
                                                                            – Karyn ‘Dead Eye’ Elliott, 

                                     Notorious Stylist of Fine Mercantile Establishments


‘”There’s two theories to a arguing with a woman. Neither one works.”                                                                                                  – Will Rogers 
It is worth noting that my pithy and often self-depreciating blog has been read by a decreasing audience since it’s inception in 2001.Yee-Haw!


Red, Hot, and Sold!

It’s our birthday, Canada.

A time to celebrate and continue in our quest to respect the reverence of life, all life.

So make a wish. 


I wish that…all your listings sell quickly for the optimum price. And we all know how to do that, don’t we?

Stage it and they will come.

I know I may be preaching to the choir, but just in case, I’m on my soapbox to say that there are two major reasons why professional staging gets more money for a property,  and I think you’d have a hard time arguing against either.


The first one is Lack of Imagination.

Call it what you want.

Saying it in a more winning manner by suggesting to buyers that the house has “maximum potential” or “infinite presentation,” but really,  the bottom line is that most buyers don’t have the imagination to see a house to its full potential unless it’s standing right in front of them – decorated fully and beautifully from the front step…


to the pillows on the sofa…


to everything neatly stored and organized…


to freshly baked cookies…


to fluffy towels in the bathroom…


to a beautifully made bed…


to the art hung superbly on the walls…


to the bear greeting you in the foyer.


Well, maybe we could lose the bear.

With imagination, comes possibilities.If you set everything out perfectly,  buyers will view the property in a whole other light – a better light,  and they’ll have no choice but to see the value in the asking price, or a higher than asking price.

Would any product sell if it weren’t advertised? 

Would not any company selling a product or service benefit from showcasing it in the most positive light?


Forrest Gump infamously said that you can tell a lot about a man (and a woman) by their shoes.

I do  acknowledge that one’s personality cannot be determined entirely from one’s shoes, and I don’t recommend totally writing off anyone who wear unattractive shoes, but hey,  wearing well-polished shoes every day,  is how we should think about preparing a house for sale.

Buyers are there to make a judgment call.

Is the home well-presented or it is not? Do they have to search out it’s “potential”? Do they have to “imagine” space for their furniture, clothes and historic collection of ceramic bears? Does it make them immediately say,  “Buy me.”

The second reason why staging gets more money for a property  is that it will lead buyers to a higher price for the property. When buyers are in a well-staged house,  they see professionalism, feeling that the listing has been done “right”,  and that the price of the house will follow suit.

A professionally staged house demonstrates that the sellers, the listing agent, and the brokerage all know what they’re doing, and that there’s no “deal” to be had here.

Cheers and Happy Birthday!

Why is the world so beautiful?

Come with me into the field…to the bright chrome yellow of goldenrod and the deep purple of the aster – together radiant in alpine meadows. 
Why do asters and goldenrod grow and look so beautiful together?
They have you right at hello.
 It turns out that not only is this pairing a matter of aesthetics, but also because of ecology.Purple and gold are complementary colours and opposites on the colour wheel, and because they are so vivid together, they grow together in order to attract more pollinators.Beauty and Reciprocity.
Beauty has a purpose.Beauty is our opportunity to relish life.  Nothing else in our lives can do that. 

How often do you stop to appreciate beauty?

Attention, says Mary Oliver, is the rarest form of generousity.If we are at all paying attention to the living world, we cannot help falling in love with it over and over again.
(Although I keep thinking about Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias saying,“There is no such thing as natural beauty.”)


There is also beauty in imperfection; of things that show their age and use.

Scratches, chips, cracks.

Bowls. Chairs. Us.


Reciprocity broadens the notion of what it is to be human, not just a consumer.

Now, and more than ever, this is what we need to put our attention on.

The kind of deep attention that we pay as children is something that I cherish, that I think we all can cherish and reclaim — because attention is the doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity. 

It worries me greatly that today’s children can recognize 100 corporate logos and fewer than ten plants.

It means they’re not paying attention.
                                                                                         –  Dr. Robin Walls Kinnerer

Reciprocity is different than sustainability.We can no longer think regarding this planet that we live on only in terms of sustainability. We can no longer think we have ownership over what we call resources, continuing to take and consume without returning anything back.

We need to recognize that we humans have gifts that we can give in return for all that has been given to us. It is a way to exhibit our humanity.

It is such joy, and our ultimate responsibility to have this mutual flourishing, instead of being satisfied with the narrow definition of sustainability. 

Pathological consumption has become so normalized that we scarcely notice it.                                                                        – George Monbiot 
We continue to trash our living world through pointless consumption and commodification. While researching her film, The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% of it remains in use six months after purchasing. Even goods expected to be held onto are condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolescence (becoming unfashionable).

So much now is comparatively inexpensive and easily accessible, that we almost condemn anything that is a bit worn. We see something that we want and instantly put it on our credit card, go in debt for it, dissing the idea of living without it. 

Instead of purchasing a sofa that should last decades, we buy one at a big box store, where not only are the materials substandard, but it is often uncomfortable, poorly designed, soon to be replaced and sent to the landfill.

Instead of purchasing quality bedding and towels, we buy the cheapest of materials, piling the multitudes in our closet.

Instead of buying art from a local artist, we purchase cheaply framed posters.

Instead of growing our own flowers and plants, we buy plastic or silk. 

Instead of using our special things everyday, we save them for special occasions, without realizing that being alive is a special occasion.

So many of us spend the first two-thirds of our lives accumulating stuff, only to spend the last one-third of our life trying to get rid of it.
So just how many towels per bathroom, bedsheets per bedroom, bathrobes, slippers, sets of dishes and placemats…does one need to successfully run a household?For the most part, the answer is two.

And two corkscrews. In case one ever breaks.


In our consumer-driven age, we have lost our sense of value, and I surmise, many more values that in the past, have served us well.

Humility, generosity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, and kindness.

Once appreciating beauty and it’s nurturing abundance, we have a deep responsibility to share this with others and to treat it with reverence and reciprocity.Vanity is the bane of us humans. Humility is the prize.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
We don’t know when and how we are leaving the greatest marks on the world. It all matters.
Everything belongs.
What I guessed when I loafed on the grass,
What I guessed while I lay alone in my bed…
        and again as I walked the beach under the
        paling stars of the morning.

                                                                 (p.59) Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

And we fly out, into the rest of our lives.

Bali-it or Not

Spring is the season for making summer travel plans. 

Except for Calgarians. We make them all year ’round. Basically because Calgary only has two seasons. Winter and Construction.

Travel is one of the few things that break us out of our potentially mundane routines and awaken us to the substance of happiness. Or at the very least force us out of our routine.
The mystic Thomas a Kempis said that when you go out into the world, you return having lost some of yourself.

Me, I just seem to get lost. Period.

For example. While following imprecise and incoherent directions for a post office in Ubud, I got (surprise) lost, and stumbled into a cultural dance performance. Wandering in, I found that the only place to sit was under a ficus religiousa tree. 

But I felt extremely enlightened sitting there, to say the least. (A Bodhi tree, to those of you less enlightened.)

Actually it was a jackfruit tree. But you weren’t there, so I can say anything I want to. 

Then again, Walter Benjamin said that to be lost is to be fully present, calling it, the “art of straying”. 
Although ‘straying’, I have historically discovered, can also lead to physical dysfunctions, impoverishment, a loss of a sense of humour, increasing irritability and facial tics.

At least that what happened to me while tangentially driving a weather-beaten and mis-managed scooter through an obscure Indonesian island with no headlights or helmet, one working brake, and with various mechanical parts periodically dropping off like Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs in the forest. has never really been about where you go. It’s about the person you’ve become when you return.     Brian Chesky – Airbnb CEO
Travel also gives us the opportunity to “see”. Maybe differently. Maybe better.

Hey, we might even act better. 

It may be an obvious point, but the places where most of us live are also someone else’s travel destinations, and there’s a huge difference between the way that we look at where we live and how other people see it.

If we only pay attention.

Travel means nothing unless you’re prepared to open your mind, as well as your eyes, to notice what you have already seen.

And to wonder why you really went in the first place.


Orchids. Heat. Sun. Beach. Ocean. Greenery. Humidity. 

To look at something familiar and see it anew; this is the defining characteristic of a curious mind –  the tricky and desirable feat of finding everything both familiar and surprising.
Along with a lifetime aspiration to cross off all twelve interesting places on the 1000 Places to See before you Die App, which incidentally does not add up to 1000, I also am aspiring to be a chronically afflicted biophiliac. 
This translates as “ the love of life”. (Wait while I luxuriate in the afflictions of my wanton emotions.)

Mary Oliver, the patron saint of hospice, as so many of her poems deal with the beauty of life, called this feeling, “the sudden awareness of the citizenry of all things within one world.” 

Travel is one of the things that seems to bring this on. While travelling, one finds oneself noticing all sorts of things afresh:

people in the street,
on the beach,

…beautiful fabrics, baskets.
…restaurant art.
….and other art.
Slow down. You’ll get there faster.


So walk slow, and listen.The only way to get to the places that matter is to slow down.
But maybe the real art of travel is in the art of letting go.

Letting go of expectations…agendas….maps…heavy clothes…your I-phone…

In your own self-deprecating way, of course.

Which brings us home. 

(Bet you never thought I was going to get there.)

To spaces that are maybe not as large as we would have hoped, or could afford, or have selected.

Like our chosen travel destinations, small-space living asks us to be a bit more demanding about what we need to get out of it.

We need to think beyond the single, conventional purpose and ask ourselves, “Am I using everything to advantage?” 

Just because an item was designed for one purpose, doesn’t mean that’s all it can be used for. If each room or piece of furniture or room only fulfills one purpose, it’s not working hard enough.

Photos courtesy of IKEA
 Now if you have lived on this planet as an adult for more than two decades, then it is highly probable that you have quite the accumulation. Nowadays people are a bit more aware of how much stuff they have because it is beginning to be a bit of a social stigma.

There is a name for these people. Hoarders. Back in the day, they were just called grandmas.

There are probably items that need to go — chairs, sofas, tables, lamps, umbrellas, shoes, your Grade Six photo— heroic for having lived life in happy or unhappy homes.
The best way to get rid of things you don’t need is to get rid of things you don’t need.

I don’t blame you if you need a minute to process this information.

Till next page…