The Importance of a Friend

My Brother’s Keeper, an Obama Foundation led initiative to provide mentorship to young men of color, found a special home in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It was an honor to tell its impact story in this video. The partners from the community, the school and school district as well as the men who commit to years of mentorship, are making a difference one young man at a time.

 

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Being the Author-ity of Your Life

When Nora Ephron, the famed director/writer of notable works such as ‘When Harry met Sally’ and one of my favorite of her books ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck; and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman’, died from complications from cancer in 2012, it was a complete shock to most of her friends and colleagues that she had even been sick! Ephron had decided to die the way she lived – on her own terms. She controlled the narrative. By doing so, she wrote her own story, maintaining the authority of her life.

In being the author of our own lives, we choose to pen our narrative. Our ‘story’ is the life we live. The plot is our day to day actions and interactions, the setting is where we are rooted and where we journey, the cast of characters are those we choose to have around us. Our narrative told in our own unique voice!

Being our own authority takes on richer meaning. Now that we recognize we are the authors of our own lives, are we holding tight to its authority? We should be! For me, being the authority of my life means that I am the best one to tell my story. I try not to give this power away. In defining my voice I have realized that when I give someone else authority over my story, it is seldom to my advantage. There is no benefit to giving energy or time, to those who belittle, insult or undermine. Instead, I put my energy to action – taking on projects that ring true to me and my story; having people in my life who honor; and building strong intentions to continue to create a narrative of which I can be proud. This is when I am in full authority of my story.

As the author and the author-ity, we are fully accountable. This place of ownership is where fruitful partnerships can blossom. It is learning to keep your own power by creating respectful boundaries for yourself. From here, you can be mindful of others boundaries too.

Nora Ephron created some of the most seminal works for women at a time when we were just finding our collective voice. It’s good to be reminded that when we take author-ity of our lives, we define how the world perceives us and also, a clearer picture of our story is created. Nora’s personal mantra remains true for me – ‘above all, be the heroine of your own life.’

A Final WOW! Until Next Year with Oprah & Anne Lamott

These last few weeks Super Soul Sunday has been repeating the best  previous episodes. It is a gift to revisit these insightful and inspiring conversations that remind us of ways to be our better brighter selves!

Today, author & activist  Anne Lamott in conversation with Oprah gifts us with some of the most original, meaningful quotes. My favourites include:

“Gratitude, not understanding, is the secret to joy”

“I do not understand all the mystery of Grace. Only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

“Joy is the best make-up. But a little lipstick is a close runner-up”.

And the simplest, most perfect quote:

“Wow”.

To notice, acknowledge and accept the wonder in a ‘moment’, often the only word to say is ‘Wow.‘ In this word we give thanks for the beauty and ‘awe-someness’ with an utterance that is reflexive.

For our final Soup for Super Soul Sunday until Oprah returns in the New Year, we are also going to revisit our favourite soup recipe that makes us say ‘Wow’. Our Meatball Tortellini Chowder. Trust me – everyone loves this soup. With meatballs, tortellini, vegetables, parmesan, bacon – there is no reason not to love it! YUM and WOW!

Meatball Tortellini Chowder

Ingredients

-All vegetable amounts are just suggestions, as are the vegetables themselves. Use whatever vegetables your family prefers!

This recipe can be easily converted to vegetarian – just use vegetable broth, veggie meatballs, cheese tortellini and omit the bacon.

Onion – 1 med

Celery – 2 stalks

Carrots – 3 large

Broccoli – 1/2 bunch fresh or frozen

Corn – 1 cup fresh/frozen or small can

Green Beans – 1 cup fresh/frozen or small can

Tomatoes – 2 med or 1 can chopped (use the juice too!)

Italian meatballs – 1 package of frozen or homemade

Tortellini – meat or cheese, frozen or from the pasta section of the grocer

Bacon – 6 slices – actually use as much as you would like – you can never have too much bacon! Also, Bacon is optional in this recipe!

Beef Broth – 1 or 2 cartons

1 can tomato paste or 1 can tomato soup

Water

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Parmesan – I like alot!

Italian Seasoning

Salt & Pepper

How to Make it – EASY PEASY!

1. Cook bacon in the soup pot. When cooked to desired crispness, remove bacon but keep juices in the pan.

2. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil to cover pan bottom, with the bacon juices.

3. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Approx 4 minutes.

4. Add all chopped vegetables, broth, paste/soup and if needed, water to cover the vegetables. Also add any Italian seasonings – oregano, thyme, parsley – plus salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add meatballs and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add more broth or water if needed, plus seasonings if you think it needs more.

6. Add the tortellini and give a really good stir. Simmer until the tortellini is cooked.

7. Once all ingredients have reached their desired tenderness, add grated or fresh Parmesan to cover the top of the chowder. Stir it in and it will melt.

8. Ladle the chowder into bowls, sprinkle with more Parmesan and then top with the bacon.

This chowder just gets thicker and thicker as the tortellini soaks up the liquid so you may need to add more water/broth the next day.

ENJOY!

Oprah & Anne can be seen here:

http://www.oprah.com/app/super-soul-sunday.html

Oprah and Anne

2014 Summer Reading List!

Ah summer reading… childhood memories blur into a hazy nostalgia of endless days curled under the backyard willow tree with a book. And then another. And yet another. Adventures transported me to a big wide world beyond the Dairy Queen at the edge of our small town. The characters lingering long after the book was finished. One summer, I am not ashamed to admit, my best confidant was Laura Ingalls! 

So it is no surprise then, that when the hot June, July and August months are on the horizon I look for my ‘summer companions‘. Which stories, characters and lives will become intertwined with my own, whose demise will break my heart and will there be one story that triumphs – each book filling me with deep joy and gratitude for the writers that braved to share.

This year my list is one of discovery and re-discovery. Some I will read for the first time and others I will re-visit out of a need for the wisdom they offer. It is a small representation of the reading list worthy titles and I am curious to learn about others. If you have a book or two for the list, please add it through the comment page. I will re-visit the 2014 Summer Reading List again and add the suggestions. Louise Fagan

2014 – Here we go!

If I had to look for a common thread amongst these books, it would have to be, generally, the rebirth or affirmation of spirit. Each author explores deeply personal stories – some fully integrated into the narrative, others from a more measured distance. All titles are available through Amazon and most are available on the shelf or by order through your local bookstore (which is always the best way to buy a book!).  

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter – Growing up with A Gay Dad by Alison Wearing published by Knopf

A moving memoir about growing up with a gay father in the 1980s, and a tribute to the power of truth, humour, acceptance and familial love.   Alison Wearing led a largely carefree childhood until she learned, at the age of 12, that her family was a little more complex than she had realized. Sure her father had always been unusual compared to the other dads in the neighbourhood: he loved to bake croissants, wear silk pyjamas around the house, and skip down the street singing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But when he came out of the closet in the 1970s, when homosexuality was still a cardinal taboo, it was a shock to everyone in the quiet community of Peterborough, Ontario—especially to his wife and three children.

The Western Light – Susan Swan published by Cormorant Books (available in paperback July 1 2014)

Finalist for the 2013 OLA Evergreen Award Mouse’s world is constrained by a number of factors: her mother is dead, her father – the admired country doctor – is emotionally distant, her housekeeper Sal is prejudiced and narrow, and her grandmother and aunt, Big Louie and Little Louie, the only lifeaffirming presences in her life, live in another city. Enter Gentleman John Pilkie, the former NHL star who’s transferred to the mental hospital in Madoc’s Landing, where he is to serve out his life-sentence for the murder of his wife and daughter. John becomes a point of fascination for young Mary, who looks to him for the attention she does not receive from her father. He, in turn, is kind to her – but the kindness is misunderstood. When Mary figures out that the attention she receives from the Hockey Killer is different in kind and intent from the attention her Aunt Little Louie receives, her world collapses. Set against the beautiful and dramatic shore of Georgian Bay, the climax will have readers turning pages with concern for characters they can’t help but love.

The Paper Garden – Molly Peacock published by McClelland & Stewart

Mary Delany was seventy-two years old when she noticed a petal drop from a geranium. In a flash of inspiration, she picked up her scissors and cut out a paper replica of the petal, inventing the art of collage. It was the summer of 1772, in England. During the next ten years she completed nearly a thousand cut-paper botanicals (which she called mosaicks) so accurate that botanists still refer to them. Poet-biographer Molly Peacock uses close-ups of these brilliant collages in The Paper Garden to track the extraordinary life of Delany, friend of Swift, Handel, Hogarth, and even Queen Charlotte and King George III. How did this remarkable role model for late blooming manage it? After a disastrous teenage marriage to a drunken sixty-one-year-old squire, she took control of her own life, pursuing creative projects, spurning suitors, and gaining friends. At forty-three, she married Jonathan Swift’s friend Dr. Patrick Delany, and lived in Ireland in a true expression of midlife love. But after twenty-five years and a terrible lawsuit, her husband died. Sent into a netherland of mourning, Mrs. Delany was rescued by her friend, the fabulously wealthy Duchess of Portland. The Duchess introduced Delany to the botanical adventurers of the day and a bonanza of exotic plants from Captain Cook’s voyage, which became the inspiration for her art. Peacock herself first saw Mrs. Delany’s work more than twenty years before she wrote The Paper Garden, but “like a book you know is too old for you,” she put the thought of the old woman away. She went on to marry and cherish the happiness of her own midlife, in a parallel to Mrs. Delany, and by chance rediscovered the mosaicks decades later. This encounter confronted the poet with her own aging and gave her-and her readers-a blueprint for late-life flexibility, creativity, and change.

The Heart of a Woman – Maya Angelou published by Random House

In The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou leaves California with her son, Guy, to move to New York. There she enters the society and world of black artists and writers, reads her work at the Harlem Writers Guild, and begins to take part in the struggle of black Americans for their rightful place in the world. In the meantime, her personal life takes an unexpected turn. She leaves the bail bondsman she was intending to marry after falling in love with a South African freedom fighter, travels with him to London and Cairo, where she discovers new opportunities. The Heart of a Woman is filled with unforgettable vignettes of such renowned people as Billie Holiday and Malcom X, but perhaps most importantly chronicles the joys and the burdens of a black mother in America and how the son she has cherished so intensely and worked for so devotedly finally grows to be a man.

Stripped Down Running by Andrea Nair published by Friesen Press

Outwardly, Hannah  appears to have a wonderful life. She is intelligent, funny, adventurous, attractive, has money and a great husband. One would expect her to be happy—but she is far from that. What shows outwardly masks an inner personal turmoil. Hannah puts herself on a path to discover what is driving her increasingly destructive behaviour and finds out that what she thought she knew and who she thought she was, couldn’t be farther from the truth. What happens instead is a series of events that rip her life and her heart apart. When the chaos becomes too great, Hannah is forced to address the inner darkness that is blindly propelling her, or face losing everything.

There are other authors who I am patiently waiting for their next offering. This is just a small selection – again in no order :

Cathie Borrie Waiting with great anticipation for this title due January 2015  The Long Hello – published by Simon and Schuster

Joseph Boyden     Giles Blunt       Louise Penny       Rohinton Mistry

Post your summer reads in the comment section below and I will compile a list of suggested summer readings in the coming weeks!

stripped down running

I am delighted and excited to share the news that Canadian author Andrea Nair has just this week, released the revised edition of her hit novel stripped down running. Andrea and I worked on this latest edition last year, and now after the tweaks, final proofs, re-vamping, this newest version is available on-line as an E-Book.  Visit Andrea’s site for a peak and an inexpensive preview download price of only $5! www.andreanair.com (The paperback version will be available in late Spring).

While doing research for her Master’s degree, Andrea felt compelled to write a real-life story of resiliency where the reader could both relate to and be inspired by the main character’s journey. The result is this story of Hannah, a woman who seemingly has everything yet finds herself on a path of self-destruction that reveals an inner turmoil that threatens to destroy all she has and is. You will be drawn into Hannah’s story as stripped down running takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and ultimately personal acceptance.

The official Canadian Launch of the paperback and E-Book will be in April 2012; the New York Launch will be in the later spring. Check back here for more details – and I will be sure to announce on all the social media options at my disposal!