…and Other Things Turning 50 Taught Me.

(link to original article: Mind Body Green )

On the cusp of my 50th birthday, I found myself especially sensitive to offhanded, brusque comments from acquaintances, feeling unusually hurt by close friends, and generally dissatisfied with life. The milestone had made me more introspective, and I began to realize that I’d allowed an unhealthy pattern to emerge in my relationships. I took the opportunity of turning fifty to reassess the way I interact and start fresh.

Like charms on a bracelet, eight jewels of clarity came to me. Here are the things that will help me cultivate better, healthier relationships for the next 50 years.

1. Words DO hurt.

I have felt the affects of harsh words and I have witnessed the pain caused by my own thoughtless comments. Tom Hanks’s character in You’ve Got Mail describes this moment beautifully: “when you finally have the pleasure of saying the thing you mean to say at the moment you mean to say it, remorse inevitably follows.” Whether you’ve wounded another or been wounded yourself, the scratches on our hearts take much longer to heal than any physical scar. For some, they never do.

2. Kindness trumps niceness.

When I was younger, I thought being nice was a badge of honor. But I realized it came from trying too hard to please people. Now, I choose to be kind. Kindness takes real effort. You have to channel reserves of grace, self-control, and maturity. It garners respect, rather than disregard.

3. Intentionality and determination are superpowers.

If I ever questioned that I had superpowers, a thorough review of my past would allay those doubts. Stating a desire or goal is the first step to realizing it. My best moments were born from the powerful declaration of my goals. Intentions, though they aren’t strict paths, are an offering to the universe. Saying, “I am ready for a new career,” or “I am ready for love,” we open up the possibility for success and fulfillment. Those things may not arrive by the means or in the package we expected, but that makes them infinitely more exciting.

4. I am 50 percent responsible for 100 percent of my relationships.

If I want successful, healthy relationships, I have to take full responsibility for my actions and reactions. I’m talking all kinds of relationships here — family, friends, colleagues. Further, I must be intentional about not taking responsibility for anyone else’s part of our relationship. Relinquishing control of other people’s behavior allows them to live up to their part of the bargain. We meet each other half way. Exactly half way. Which brings me to my next realization.

5. Drama doesn’t deserve attention.

It’s easy to find yourself in the middle of a crisis that is not of your own making. Most people who try to involve others in their drama are addicted to the surge of adrenaline provided by a perceived crisis. Having an audience (that would be you) is how they validate their behavior. People confuse drama with having an interesting life. But I have learned (and I hope you will, too) that ditching drama makes space for so many more compelling pursuits.

6. Shame is not productive, but accountability is.

I’ve made huge, cringe-inducing mistakes in my life. But never once has theself-loathing or self-flagellation I responded with actually helped me move on, or make better choices. Now, I’m choosing to acknowledge my mistakes, take responsibility for them, and then let go.

7. All the world’s ills can be solved with homemade soup.

Maybe it’s the meditative element of chopping, mixing, stirring. The rhythm and repetition are calming. When I make soup, I slow down. In that quiet space, I have room to be creative, and my mind fills with possibilities. The rest of the world disappears. And the result of my meditation is a tangible, delicious dish that’s nourishing to my body and my soul.

8. To place proper value on myself, I must make boundaries.

Too many times I’ve compromised myself by giving time or trust to someone who didn’t deserve it. I’ve given the best of my ideas and talents to groups that did not respect my contributions. I’ve given my affection to people who undervalued me. Eventually, I realized that this was my fault. I was letting people take advantage of me because I did not sufficiently value myself.

These things feed on each other. Creating boundaries is a way of telling yourself that you have value, and your needs and desires deserve to be honored. Valuing yourself makes it easier to prioritize yourself, and not let other people’s needs trump your own.

Self acceptance is at the core of all of these realizations. If I value myself, then I am accountable to myself. I am responsible for my words. I am kind. I can focus my power for good, live intentionally, and when necessary, create boundaries with grace. I hope the lessons I’ve learned help you inform and improve your life — whether you’re 28 or 82.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

“I was working on one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” Oscar Wilde

If you have a story, love to write, love the idea of writing, or wish you knew where to start, how to keep moving or when to stop, then you should join our Writing Workshop. Spend an evening or a day with kindred creative people who scribble, jot, type, eat, mull, procrastinate and then eat again, all for the sake of the story. Whether you are just beginning or you are well into your work, a few hours in an artistically nurturing and stimulating environment can do wonders for your personal creativity!

This is about writing your heart out, in your own unique voice, telling the story you’ve held, writing the poem, novel or memoir that has patiently percolated waiting for your attention. Structure, voice, dramatic arc, strategic advice, small hurdles or the big picture, we will cover what you need.

If you are beginning a musical work, in the middle of a story, not sure how to end a script, or are looking for some guidance with your artistic work in progress, there is nothing like a ‘comrade in arms’ to champion your work while providing meaningful support.

Private tutorials are held on Skype or Google Chat. These one hour sessions focus on your specific work and strategize moving your projects forward.  It can be detailed editing or general discussion – often it is both. Writers, musicians, creative explorers are welcome!

Message me for details and we can discuss your work further.

Creativity Lives Here!


Promises are sweet. As I have grown I have learned to be more judicious with the promises I dole out. Living has shown that promises aren’t to be given out on whims and fancies. A true promise is heartfully rendered. A thoughtful quiet proclamation that connects us deeply with each other. And because I now understand this, I don’t have that many to share. They require attention, a gentle upkeep – they are responsibilities and so take time. I also now truly and better value the promises that are given in return, holding very close the gesture and the promise giver. I believe and trust better, in myself first and then in those whose promises I choose to accept.

Quiet promises given and received.

The Promise, by Aaron Copland, is a composition that captures the true nature of a promise offered, the gentlest ripple resting on an epic undercurrent of repercussions. A statement of a people and country but also a personal gesture.  Given from one to another. Simple and sweet. Lyrics by Horace Everett.

The Promise of Living,

the promise of giving,

the promise of ending

 is labor

and sharing

and loving!

Welcome to Life-ology! Predicting the future, daily horoscopes, astrology sites, promise sneak peeks into how our day will turn out. Have you found after reading as one horoscope told me ‘today would be a very good day to avoid contact with most people, as a matter of fact, just stay in bed’ that you careen towards that outcome? A bad day ahead and you feel a tad gloomy, or if you are told it is coming up roses, you feel lighter? Suggestion is powerful. I think most of us read  horoscopes  for assurance, an indication that everything is going to be alright.

I have decided to take some of that powerful suggestive energy and put it to this site. Life-ology, the alternative astrology site! When the spirit moves me a new Life-ology prediction, based on the careful interpretation of the signs around me, will be posted. Here we go!

Life-ology for April 2016

The signs have been read and the meaning is clear: Today is the perfect to sit where ever you are and enjoy the view. Step out into the world, take a deep breath, look up…way up… and welcome the glorious beauty in.

Life-ology for March 2016

Sometimes it is all said in a picture. This could be a film set, a lush painting, gorgeous digital ‘other world’…it is my favourite park in the downtown area of a small town in North America. Really it could be ‘anywhere USA or anywhere Canada’. Cool shade, paths steeped in history, gates leading to storied caves, sigh. It has been a very trying week for our continent. The images could also be ‘anywhere USA or anywhere Canada’. It’s hard not stay in front of the TV. Experiencing the horror in real time.  Life-ology today is the suggestion that for a moment at least, go to that personal place that gives you pause, where you can find some quiet, peace, reflection. img_20120502_120428.jpg

Life-ology for February 2016

After last week’s Life-ology weather report I think we were all assuming things would settle but the fronts continue to push extreme cold or extreme heat – dependent upon where you live on this planet. This is serious stuff. The weather patterns are indicative of some crazy climate re-wiring taking place – which just adds to the anxiety or pressures we are already feeling the weight of. So what’s a girl to do?

Sometimes there isn’t anything to be done, but just chill. Maybe you can’t do anything to fix this problem today, or maybe your efforts are taking longer than you had hoped. Perhaps you aren’t sure what the heck to do to, after all one soul facing a raging storm can be overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. I’ve been listening to this song alot lately. It is one of my FAVES!! The blues with smokey male vocals, sparse electric guitar, fantastic female vocal line, and strings –  yes strings! Listen to how they start the piece and the resurface again midsong. Love it!

But the best part of this song is its message – when you become so focussed with your own ideology a self-righteous alienation occurs. Just chill baby, chill.  Here is my Life-ology fortune cookie* for you this week, in the form of a song by the Mighty Sam McClain ‘Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey)‘. I wish I’d thought of it!


* Yes, I realize this isn’t a fortune cookie, but honestly, when was the last time your fortune cookie actually told your fortune!

Life-ology for January 2016

Rain, thunder, lightening, wind and fog sum up the weather of the past few days, unsettling in January. Typically this time of year is one of change, when we have strong urges to renew,  edit and alter. Lots of work to be done in the hibernating months, which makes sense as it is in the dark and quiet that rebirth happens – like in the earth as seeds prepare for spring, in the womb during gestation and even in our times of grief as we move through to happier days. It can feel as if emotionally we are in the midst of a weird unseasonal fogstorm.

To get this weeks Life-ology forecast, I drove through that foggy rain, home just in time for the thunder/lightening show resulting in a torrential downpour. So what does all this mean? Are these eerie weather patterns actually signs that I should be paying attention to? Is fog a metaphor for my need for clarity? Does the sudden appearance of thunder and lightening mean that turmoil is afoot? After much deliberation, mulling over of recent life events, an honest assessment of where I am in my own personal re-edit, I’ve realized that, nope, it doesn’t mean anything. Except it’s a great day to sit in front of the fire. Stuff’s gonna happen and while I really don’t like fog, I actually do quite like thunder/lightening.   Which is good to remember. Perhaps we don’t need to take ourselves quite so seriously. Maybe this week rain is just rain, even if it is in January.

Life-ology for January 2, 2016

Congratulations on your arrival in mid-January! This week will be one of discovery as you find yourself moving forward with your goals with a renewed determination. Where is it that you want you to be? What do you want to be doing with your life? Now is the time to go for it!

This week shows the steps taken last year, whether they were leaps or baby steps, have moved you closer to your goals than you could have imagined. Where were you 6 months ago? 3 months? 3 weeks?  The options for this week will be to continue to steadfastly walk your path while living fully in THIS moment. How do we reconcile moving forward and standing still at the same time? This uses both the heart and the mind.  It is about being mindful of the life you are living, making the choices in this moment that will create the life you want to live.

The path may not be straight and you may stumble but don’t be hard on yourself. If you are making the best choices you can with what you know, then that is all you can expect of yourself. Whether it is sunny or grey where you are, this week looks bright so shine on!

Willow & Poppy
Willow & Poppy

What do books, art, theatre, music, history, science and and nature have in common? Willow and Poppy are mixing it up to find the connecting thread.

Alice Book Pendants

We are very excited to announce the opening of our new venture, Willow and Poppy Studios!

Handcrafted works of art as accessories, jewelry, signature pieces and one of a kind creations – we are exploring the inspiring aspects of artistic work around us.
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset
Creative thinking is not limited to the arts! History shows that creativity abounds in maths and sciences too. Every field it would seem, has its dreamers!
Willow and Poppy Studios feature the work of Louise and Gillian, mother and daughter, who work, live and play creatively!  Both share a passion for creating art in the studio and on the stage.
Gillian Etching on Pointe 2 of 5 2010

Every item is ‘made with love’ – the only way we know how.

Visit our ETSY shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WillowAndPoppy
Visit our WEBSITE: http://willowandpoppy.wordpress.com/
Like us on FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/WillowandPoppy

To work with creative people is a tremendous gift.  Days filled with questions, searching for explanation and understanding. Social commentary, expressing the human condition, taking what’s inside and churning it out, exploring, defining, soothing, infuriating… nothing is off limits for the artist’s probing perspective. To be a creative thinker is to be at once an artist, sociologist, listener, observer, explorer, imaginative and brave.  Oh yes, brave.  Whether you are the most celebrated recognized artist or create without audience or support, the personal dilemma can be the same; ‘who am I to write, or compose, or draw, sculpt, paint… why is my story unique or worth telling’.

The colleagues I have been working with have faced this inner struggle and  have found their voices. It’s a challenge to believe in your unique perspective. Being a red tulip in a garden of yellow can be, well, uncomfortable. Or absolutely stunning. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. My inspiration for the next phase of work will be from the creative minds that challenge me to look beyond the obvious, think of possibilities and believe in the sound of my own voice.

Inside all of us is a wild child. A rumpus-roaring, belly-laughing, jolly-jumping girl or boy thrashing about. What would happen if we dared to let that untamed hot mess of joy escape?

A tree  left to grow freely, bursts into the most glorious sizes, with branches sprouting in surprising patterns shooting towards the light, rooted deep in the earth. Pruning hands contain a tree’s natural inclinations,  uniform shapes  sculpted in attempts  to give order.  Our tree, then, is the same as our neighbour’s tree, which is the same as the next, and so on. When we come across that rare tree that has grown on its own accord we look at it in awe and admiration!

We can strive to embrace our own unique pattern of living, our voice and expression that is uniquely ours or we can  diminish to a palatable sameness that dulls the senses.

Dare to be Wild! Dare to sing in a voice born of your own truth rather than one that mimics or exploits from the truths of others. Out of tune? A tad raspy? Who cares! It’s your voice and it is glorious.

Dare to Create! Be proud of something you made that tells your core story. That is meaningful to you. Colouring outside the lines? Dripping watercolours? Me too!

Dare to make a mistake in the process of making your statement. And if you’re going to make a mistake, make it a big one. You might as well let it rip and rip good!

Dare to embrace the love of those around you. And be wild enough to trust you will know when the love is false. Fill your world with the raw life full energy of good solid people who hold you in their hearts with the same care, love and respect you hold theirs.

For when we are full in our own souls and have fullness around us, we can be the wild and delicious creative beings the world needs us to be!

of-forest-men-yann-arthus-bertrand-3.jpg.492x0_q85_crop-smart(Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

January’s ‘Soup for Super Soul Sunday follows OWN Network’s lead, with an encore soup recipe. I am tempted to share one of the soup concoctions we enjoyed at home this week – ‘spicy chorizo, potato & peppers’, ‘cabbage tomato vegetable’ or ‘thai chicken with egg noodle’. My soup cravings are very much weather sensitive. These substantial soups reflect the past few days the frigid winter weather! The recipes will be happily written here in the coming weeks to coincide with new Super Soul Sunday programming.

Watch Diana Nyad’s repeat conversation with Oprah, as she discusses her complex life with a full, resonate voice. Her strength is riveting and I am so inspired by her story. This woman is FIERCE!

If it is cold where you are this week, then this week’s Potato Leek Soup will hit the spot! Tasty, easy and delicious. Enjoy!

 Diana Nyad and Oprah Potato & Leek Soup


6 – 8 medium size Potatoes (your choice of kind)

4 -6 stalks of Leeks, chopped  (soaked to be sure the dirt is out of the leaves; use the white part and lighter green part of the stalk)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Butter (butter with leeks is delicious!)

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

Vegetable Broth or Water (enough to cover the vegetables once in the pot)

Milk or Cream (one third to one half of a cup)

How To Make It:

1. Cover bottom of pot with the olive oil and heat.

2. Add the leeks and saute for 5 – 10 minutes.

3. Add the cut up potatoes and stir.

4. Cover the vegetables with either broth or water and heat to boil.

5. Simmer the vegetables in the pot until they are cooked through (this could take 20 – 30 minutes but I find the longer it cooks, the yummier!)

6. Cool then using a blender or hand emulsifier, puree until smooth.

7. Add the milk or cream then salt & pepper to taste.

8. Warm through until heated and ENJOY!

The first post of 2015 is a re-visit of Curried Squash Soup with Coconut Milk – the fitting accompaniment for the repeat OWN Super Soul Sunday program featuring the wonderful author Sue Monk Kidd. While OWN Network prepares for its next season of inspirational programming through Super Soul Sunday, we will be busy collecting, testing and then prepping to share, our next batch of Soup! In the meantime, we are enjoying the wonderful wisdom and insight of Oprah in conversation with Sue!

Originally Published in April 2014

The program I’m looking forward to today on OWN’s SuperSoulSunday features Oprah in conversation with Book Club Author Sue Monk Kidd, whose work ‘The Secret Life of Bees‘ is one of the most loved books of this generation. The story takes place in fictional Tiburon South Carolina, an ‘every town’ of South Carolina in the 1960’s, which carries a deeper resonance  as much of my life is in South Carolina.

Sue Monk Kidd will be discussing ‘The Soul of A Writer‘ – ooooh, now this will be good! What compels, propels, impels a writer is a conversation I am always willing to jump into. It is the conversation that all creative types know. Artists recognize there is something deep inside that goes beyond yearning to be heard. It demands it. Could this be our Soul? Perhaps it is no coincidence that as today is Easter Sunday which is of spiritual significance for some, we talk about the Soul as that place that holds our voice.  I’m not exactly sure about this, but I do know that a thought-full conversation between Oprah and Sue Monk Kidd will be the warm and wonderful counterpoint to the creation of today’s soup.

 This first Soup for SuperSoulSunday offering is all about the mingling of voices: a small town in South Carolina, a small city called London Ontario; the 1960s and the 2010s; Oprah’s, Sue Monk Kidd’s and mine (in the solitude of my kitchen, again peeking from the other side of the fence!); plus some squash, curry, ginger, coconut and the ever present secret ingredient, LOVE. It is found in each of these distinct flavourful voices. I’m planning on lapping up a big bowl! Bring your own voice to the conversation.

Watch SuperSoulSunday on the OWN Network or catch up on episodes through Oprah’s website: http://www.oprah.com/app/super-soul-sunday.html

Curried Squash with Coconut Milk Soup 

(this recipe is a guide really, feel the love, sigh….)


1 acorn squash (or your favourite type of squash)

curry powder (to taste)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (as much as you think you will need but likely no more than 1/4 cup)

Butter (optional)

powdered ginger

salt & pepper

vegetable broth

coconut milk ( light or regular flavoured or sweetened – I have never used sweetened but that is just my taste)

sour cream or chives or sprinkle of ginger as a garnish if you are a fancy-pants!

For this recipe I prefer the powdered curry and ginger as the roasting and low heating bring a smoother, more mellow taste as opposed to hot or sharp. You can use fresh if you prefer.

1. Pre-heat oven to 325.

2. Cut the acorn squash into 4 pieces and scrape out the seeds, leaving the smooth orange pulp.

3. Pierce holes in the raw pulp with a fork or knife, splash some olive oil (or you can use butter here) on each piece, then sprinkle generously with the curry powder – typically for my taste about 2 tablespoons.

4. Put into the oven for 45 minutes. Then, pour yourself a mug of coffee, chai tea, lemon water or wine and turn on ‘The Soul of a Writer‘.

5. When the squash is soft, the curry smell has settled over the kitchen (love this!), remove from the oven and let cool.

6. Heat a pot on the stove on medium.

7. Add a splash of olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot, sprinkle a bit more curry and add ginger, to taste. Typically I add a 1 – 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger and just 1 more teaspoon of curry. Let it heat for no more than 5 minutes.

8. Scrape the roasted squash flesh off of the skin and into the pot. Stir it up with the mellowed spices and olive oil.

9. Add vegetable broth to cover the squash and stir. Let it come to a boil, and stir on occasion.

10. Stir again, and taste. If you need salt or pepper, now is the time to add it. If the curry seems strong don’t fret, because the coconut milk will soften the taste.

11. Once it has boiled, turn it to low and while stirring add the coconut milk. Sometimes the coconut milk separates. so I like to give the can a good shake before I open it.

12. Let it heat through and then EAT!

Dependent upon how long you have roasted the squash and the type of squash you have chosen, it will further break apart in the boiling making a smooth texture. I like the occasional lump of squash! If you prefer a silky smooth restaurant worthy soup, then you can pour it in the blender (cool it first!) or use a hand emulsifier right into the pot.

Enjoy your Soup for this SuperSoulSunday!

On one of May’s enviously sunny day’s shortly after following her heart to South Carolina, a certain Willow  – or was it Poppy – strolled into a warm, funky, artist inspired shoe salon. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Talloni, a Shoe Salon, is a cornerstone of Greer South Carolina’s downtown – and now it carries our line of jewelry! new collection version 2The first shop to do so. Owned by the ‘beautiful inside and out’ Kristi, this is more than just a place to find fabulous footwear. She has created a welcoming atmosphere that encourages lingering, chatting, trying on shoes after boots after shoes, and then trying on some more. No rush, no pressure, just the promise of a friendly smile with the highest quality footwear ‘to boot!’ (as they say in Canada!).


And speaking of Canada, the other half of the Willow and PoppyClutch Grouping duo who is responsible for the gorgeous one of a kind clutches that appeared in our ETSY shop this fall, has been invited to show and sell these hand crafted pieces at ‘Crafted’. This unique artisan Christmas show will be held in London Ontario the first two weeks of December. If you live in Southwestern Ontario, there is your chance to pick one up! These are limited one of a kind…



Back to South Carolina. Our jewelry has found another supporter in downtown Spartanburg at the delightful clothing and accessories shop ‘Two Doors Down‘! The lovely owner Kelly has created a bright, cheerful space full of gorgeous clothing and funky accessories. Truly something for everyone.

 New Collection

It is amazing how a simple nod of acknowledgement can give you just the nudge of encouragement needed. For our Southern States followers, dropby Talloni’s and Two Doors Down to ‘feel the love’! And if you are in the London Ontario area definitely check out The Arts Project.