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Owner, "MAP Wellness" - a culinary nutrition and wellness company. Writer. Passionate cook, raw food chef, reiki practitioner, yoga teacher, and LIVE WELL educator. ​do yoga. enjoy good food. run. plant food. cook. savour wine. read books. buy good food. love. grow your energy. find peace. enjoy food. have passion. skip. eat food. do yoga. listen to jazz. have presence. be present. bike. read. see. hear. be. live. love.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Grace. The word. Not the name.

The last time I saw my dad alive and alert was on April 23, 2011.  My family had gathered at my sister's place in Milton for Easter brunch, and I arrived with Cava in hand, and fear in my heart.  At that point, I can admit that I was not visiting mom and dad as often as I should have been.  Dad's ALS was progressing quite rapidly, and I was in a massive state of my mind we would still have him for another year at least!  My work schedule was going to allow me to spend the 2 months leading up to Christmas (this Christmas) living at home, getting in some real quality time.  As much as I had convinced myself that dad was not going to leave us anytime soon, I was also completely terrified.  Each time I visited, it was such a shock to see how much dad's appearance and demeanor would have changed since the last time, how much weight he had lost, how much more distant and worried that look in his eyes was becoming.  

That's Daddy & I enjoying Easter bubbly.
Yes indeed, that Easter was a reality check.  I was totally floored while watching my pops, his usually strong and athletic legs, now so skinny, pushing his walker around the house, a goofy smile on his unknowing face.  It was after only about 3 hours, that I decided I needed to get out of there.  I was wigging out.  So I left. 

I left, and felt terrible.  My family was upset.  They knew I should have been spending as much time as possible with dad, as that time was so, so precious.  But he was just so weak...and it was once I left that I finally began to really know.  And knowing was the scariest step in the process.  It was one of the hardest days I ever had in dealing with dad's diagnosis...

The definition of the word "grace" is as follows:
1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
2. a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
3. favor or good will.
4. mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace
6. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or
strengthen them.

I like the last two.  However, if we were to refer to definition number one, on that day in Milton, I did not act with much grace at all.  No, I acted in quite the opposite way, stumbling away from the challenge that was my family's reality, running from my fear, and then allowing the guilt to torment me wholly.  And I couldn't go on like that anymore, I needed change. 

It was on the Go bus ride back into the city that I officially decided on what my newest tattoo was to be.  I want to live a deeper, more intensely graceful life, one filled with love, personal growth, and honest forgiveness.  I have also experienced some real mercy from the universe, and it was the strength of spirit that allowed me to survive my darkest of days.   So to sum up my new motto for living, the very next day I made it permanent with that one simple word.  Close to my mind, close to my heart, and close to my soul.  No more excuses, right?

2 weeks later, I left the province on a cross-Canada tour with the TV show that I was working with at the time.  I was gone for almost four weeks, arriving back in Ontario that same week dad was admitted to hospital with the bought of pneumonia that would eventually take his life. As circumstances mercifully allowed, I was able to make the trip to Exeter to be by dad's bedside until the end.  I was blessed to be able to say my goodbyes in person, even if he wasn't awake to hear me.  He did manage to open his eyes and see all of his girls surrounding him with love just as he took his last few breaths, and then he was gone.  Mom says she is pretty sure he waiting for me to arrive before he let go. 

Thank God I made it to the hospital.  And thank God I was there for Easter brunch.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We made it. Christmas 2011.

I was feeling weak last night - Wednesday December 28th. 

Don't get me wrong; the holidays have been wonderful, a complete delight.  This being, after all, the first Christmas we had to celebrate without Dad.  It was hard, strange, new...but still quite magical.  A while back it was decided that mom would not host the family this year, as we wanted to "mix things up" this go round, so my sis Bronwyn took on the task, and did so with ease.  Squeezing five adults and three kids under seven years into their house built for five was a challenge at best (sleeping arrangements were reminiscent of childhood camp!).  But waking up to a house full of joy, love, and pure unadulterated excitement made it all so worthwhile.  The pile of gifts that arrived under the tree come Christmas morning was enough to spin the kiddies' heads off their tiny little flannel PJ'ed bodies.  Santa had been quite generous.  No bother that the "wake-up call" us adult folks had to endure was for 6am; with coffee and tea, and smiles galore, there was no thought of oversleeping thus missing the fun!  After a leisurely round robin of gift opening ceremonies (a family tradition - everyone takes their turn!) we sat down to a yummy breakfast, followed by plenty of play time and then a huge turkey (tempeh for me!) dinner.

Christmas Eve storytime!
On our Christmas eve outing to a local holiday"lights legend" - tacky fun!

Not exactly a Christmas like any other before, but it was precisely what we all needed.  Different, new, normal.  The new normal.

Of course we thought often of Dad, or at least I know I did.  We missed him, remembered him.  Cried for him, longed for his laughter at the dinner table.  We quoted him, retold his jokes, and recalled moments from holidays past.  But mostly, we just loved him.  And felt his presence, raising a glass in his name, for he was there, as far as I could tell, that little Pearson spark in all of us.

So, it turned out to be a magical Christmas afterall, as we got to spend it with those we love; all healthy, happy and bright.  


Now back to Wednesday.  By this point I was at mom's house, having departed from my sisters early on boxing day to head to my hometown for some quality time at the old homestead.  

 Mom's tree

Yes, on Wednesday I got hit.  Knocked down a little.  I got sad.  After a long haul of fight, my mind, heart, and body gave out.  Over the course of twenty minutes, two events, and a momentary lapse of sanity, I fell from grace, branches and twigs smacking me in the face all the way to the ground.  I was on the floor, or more literally, the bed, feeling hopeless.  And really crying.  

It only lasted a few minutes, however.  Somehow, miraculously, I came out of it fast, and OKAY.  I had quickly cycled through the standard icky ego feelings of guilt, fear, embarrassment, resentment, grief, and pain; felt sick to my stomach and heaved in sorrow...but I KNEW I was going to be fine, that I would get by, no matter what.  I was okay, right now, right here, and nothing could change that.  Even while dealing with the usual shame I feel about certain interactions with my family, having just had one of those minutes before...even with having just heard some heartbreaking news...even with my sudden spiraling into a dark place of grief over my father's absence...I stopped the tears, and managed to pick myself up.  Of course, a perfectly timed appearance and hug from my mommy certainly helped (how do they DO that?  Show up at JUST the right moment???).  And I think Dad gave me a pretty special gift of strength that day to boot.

Yes, on Wednesday, I learned that I really did have some control.  I just let my heart and spirit steer me on.  Pretty neat-o.

Us Pearsons are a strong breed when we need to be.  Just look at my mom, sisters, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandma.  If I even began to tell you their stories, you would hands down agree.  We DO deal with whatever the universe shuffles for us from the deck of cards called life.  And everyday, we do it with a little bit more grace than the day before.  Yes, we got through this Christmas, the one "they said" would be the worst.  And we did it mindfully, beautifully, and blissfully. 

After all, my Daddy didn't raise no fools. And he didn't raise no wussies neither.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pins & Points

Ever try acupuncture?  I started doing it in late August of 2011.  Wow, is it fabulous!

I had only a handful of friends who had ever done it, and I used to be quite skeptical when people told me that it had helped them lose weight, quit smoking, feel happier...But, in the last couple of years, I think it is quite obvious that I have really opened myself up to a whole new realm of opportunities, and with that, an arsenal of weapons within my stadium of self healing.  People go to acupuncture for their own very personal reasons; I was to the "point" that I was willing to go to any length to receive some reprieve from my insomniac tendencies. My inability to sleep through the night really began in early 2010, and slowly became more and more of a health concern and plain old bother as time crept on.  By the time dad passed away, I was waking 3 to 4 times each night, and then my body would jerk into consciousness no later than 5am most mornings, no matter how late I hit the hay the evening before.  

I began searching for a reputable studio to try out this ancient Chinese medicinal cure, and found out that it was not cheap!  To hit any one of the new "holistic" treatment centres in the downtown core, I was looking at upwards of $80 per visit.  Yowzers.  And then one day, while out riding my bike through Roncesvalles Village, I came across a sign for "community" acupuncture treatments.  Said sign was out front of "The Herbal Clinic & Dispensary", and the gorgeous scents of all things natural and pure lured me inside.  As I soon found out, there were a couple of certified acupuncturists from the neighbourhood offering "sliding scale/pay what you can" treatments in the back room of the store, and so instantly I was sold.

My first treatment was divine.  I biked on over one sunny afternoon, and upon arrival, slipped my $20 cash in to the envelope with my name on it, and took a seat on one of the 6 or 7 crisp-white-sheet draped cots.  Naomi was the wonderful woman who then greeted me, asked many questions about my health history, current state of affairs, and emotional wellbeing.  She took my pulse, looked at my tongue.  Then she went to work.  I think I probably had about 12 pins in me that first time, 3 of them stuck right in my forehead and scalp.  Talk about a WEIRD sensation, that initial decent into "acu-nap" bliss.  I konked out completely for over an hour, while yogic chanting and meditative music lulled me in and out of what I think must have been the deepest sleep I had had in months!  I left that day feeling overwhelmingly serene and at peace.  I was officially addicted.

Currently, I try and go for my acu-naps at least twice a week.  I used to go because of my inability to sleep and to treat the associated headaches and fatigue that came along with that.  However, since mid-October when I began getting up at 3:30am to head to work for my new gig, those issues have really taken care of themselves.  Now, I go in an effort to get by every day with a level head.  Lord knows, it has been a long road; a rough 16 months, and heaven forbid I erupt into chaos once again.  I have had needles in all my limbs, had my ears "bled" to release tension, and have found a new avenue to explore in my trip to personal euphoria.  Now, my new acupuncturists Daryl and Ash treat me to release anxiety, ease my underlying grief about Dad that is a constant low hum in my mind, and offer to work on anything and everything I ask.  Just yesterday I was feeling bloated in my belly, and anxious about the impending holiday ahead, so I got pinned specifically for that, and I also received "ear seeds".  This was something I had never really heard much about until a dear friend mentioned them a few months back, and so I jumped a the suggestion.  "Ear seeds" are just as they sound - little seeds from the Vaccaria plant, that are adhered to the inside the upper ear, and then act as a pressure point for self treatment.  Daryl referred to them as my "reset" buttons, so I left the studio armed with a seed in each ear, and the ability to squeeze them as needed to ease my antsy ways.  Delightful!  
See that little black dot? That's my RESET button!  

So, if you have ever thought about acupuncture, even if just for a second, I encourage you to give it a go.  It really has changed my life in ways I never imagined.  If you are interested in checking out one of the Community Studios I visit, let me know!  Just leave me a comment and I will put you in touch!

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!

Friday, December 9, 2011

"When I have..."

Wandering home from my local LCBO (that just so happens to be the huge & beautiful Summerhill location), I got to thinking, and thus, decided what my newest blog post should be about.

As I walked up the long sloping hill of Yonge street, between Alcorn Avenue and Balmoral, I reflected on what an amazing stroll it was, through such a pleasant and welcoming neighbourhood.  Not only is the Summerhill LCBO only an eight minute walk from my new apartment, but there is also an abundance of fancy foodie shops, grand restaurants, superb home decor stores, and plenty of coffee houses nearby to cozy up in for tea.  My hot yoga studio is around the corner, there are two grocery stores within a stone's throw, I can see the subway station from my balcony, and I can walk to my workplace in under 25 minutes!  For the first  time in all my years living in Toronto, I am one hundred and fifty percent completely and utterly happy with where I live.  Not only do I adore the 'hood, but I just plain love my new flat and all that I have furnished and designed within it.  Sure, there is a lot I could still do to make it "homier", but it is perfect as is, and I love it right now.  I have moved a total of 13 times in my 11 years in Toronto.  Consistently, I would move and then soon begin to long for something a wee bit better, bigger, cooler....I figured that "only when I have" a better flat, my life will be perfect.  I had developed a bad case of the habitat "when I have's".
I have also come to realize that I am really into my job.  Like, really.  I have been plugging away at my career in TV for years, and almost from day one I was already striving to do the next thing.  Once I got comfy in one role, I became unhappy, needed change, got miserable, and looked for new work.  Once I nailed that perfect gig somewhere else, the cycle would begin again...get good, get sad, get resentful, leave.  Eventually I worked my way to the "top" as far as I was concerned, as a director in live TV news at the ripe old age of 27.  Pretty great, right?  Well it didn't take long for my high about that position to wear off either, and I quit that too.  Once again, it was my "phoenix years" rolling around and kicking my butt that finally snapped me out of it.  After dabbling in various fields outside of TV in 2010, and taking on only freelance and contract work for most of this year, I finally landed the role that saved me.  In September I started a full time job on a new show that launched in October.  The team is outstanding, the hours are great (if you like getting up at 4am), and I get the pleasure of working alongside a few colleagues that I met way back at the start of my career; back before my yuck cycles had even began.  I now go into work with a huge smile on my face everyday.  The role itself is a bit of a step back from what I am truly capable of, but it is FUN.  Stressfree.  With people I love, on a show that makes me laugh out loud.  Every. Single. Day.  It's pretty great.  I love it just fine, right now, because I have it right now. And I don't need anything but this moment.

I have lived for my "when I have's" for thirty years.  I have been in a perpetual state of anxiety about the future.  When I get those jeans, nab that boyfriend, lose those ten pounds, learn that dance move...I will be happy...
I have always had this sinking feeling that I was waiting for something.  Something to happen, something to change, something to make my life perfect.  But my life IS perfect.  I have a life after all,  and every single second is beautiful and precious and needs to be acknowledged and given great attention.  

Wow, I wish I had known this when I moved to this city at the age of 20.  I'd have had a lot more compelling stories to tell I am sure.  Living with tunnel vision really wasn't much fun.

Just another perk that comes with my new job; cute celebrity chef encounters!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Gift

If you have been reading my blog for a time, you would have read about my routine experience with colposcopy (a procedure used to screen status of cervical dysplasia), and also my recent concern surrounding my doctor's recommendation for me to undergo LEEP treatment to rid my body of the pre-cancerous cells.

Well, today was the day for my scheduled LEEP and I am happy to report that after all of my grief, anxiety, worry, and planning, I no longer require it.  I have just returned home from my "procedure" appointment at Sunnybrook Hospital, a visit that has had my tummy in knots, and mind racing for days, and I am still trying to fully absorb what went down.  

Earlier, I was just settling into my clinic room, when the nurse arrived and began looking over my chart.  She flipped the pages back and forth with a funny look on her face, scanning the notes over...and over... and over.  I began to panic...was she reading some bad news?  Was there full blown cancer in my body?  What was up with my biopsy taken last visit?  Was this LEEP still a viable option??  

Well....what came out of her mouth next was the real surprise; both my biopsy and pap taken had come back negative.  Whaaa?  Both?  So, like, zero bad-DNA?  

Yup.  After what seemed to be a million minutes, my doctor finally entered the room, glanced at my chart, and with a shocked look on her face, told me that I was free to go.  No bad cells, no procedure.  Doc said she was genuinely happy to be able to give me the great news, as she rarely gets to do so; and merry early Christmas to me!  I like to think that maybe I had a real part in my healing; through some proactive life changes and positive spirit. 

And there we have it.  I am free and clear.  Literally!  At least for now.  I head back again in 6 months for yet another followup, but that is just fine by me.  So friends, here's to living a balanced life, a diet full of super-foods, a splash of red wine, lots of hot yoga, & a bucket full of love.  Here's to health.  Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I love the holiday season.  I really do.  I become a wee bit of an over-the-top joyous-jolly-jolly-merry-merry-type as the days leading up to the BIG DAY get "X'ed" off the advent calendar.  I can't help it.  Growing up, my family's farmhouse was always a festive place; a gift in itself to anyone that had the pleasure of stopping by anytime after November 28th.  You see, our family always had a rule that we would not put up Christmas decorations until after Dad's birthday passed.  We celebrated that event, and once Dad was another year older, it was time to really kick off the season.  Sort of like how Thanksgiving is the festive jumpstart for most people; ours was Pops' natal day. 

The house would be lit up form the outside in; huge floodlights splaying glorious rays of red, green, and beige light onto the cream brick, a beautiful silhouette of the pine tree on the lawn cast onto the exterior of our home, and warm shadows onto the floor in the "special" front living room.  There was always an artificial tree, adorned with one of many "themes"; be it "retro" (many Papier-mâché ornaments, classic reds & greens), blue & while bulbs with beads and bows, or red birds & holly....with the one constant of my mother's sugar-starched crocheted angel, always perched atop the plastic pine.

There was the Crèche; the homemade wooden nativity stable and delicate figurines.  The felt stockings carefully labelled using glittery paint in mom's cursive.  There was also a plethora of vignettes all over the house; collections of nutcrackers & angels, greenery and poinsettias on the shelves, scenes of merriment on the walls, tables, & every nook and cranny imaginable.  And, the house always smelled of Yuletide joy...whether from a gingerbread scented candle burning in the bathroom, or mom's Christmas cookie baking extravaganza going on in the kitchen.  It was the most welcoming home in all of Christmasland.  I swear.  You could not help but be completely and utterly engulfed by the love.  

Oh, and the traditions.  We had so many of them.  I could write forever......

I love the holidays.  I really do.  But this year is going pretty darn different. I suppose it is time to embrace some new holiday normals.  So here we go; Pearson Christmas 2011.  Let's see how this rolls out.

Niece Afton & I last year at mom & dad's in-town home

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Mind- A wonderful thing.

I made a promise to my father on his birthday.  My gift to him.  It has been only four days, and already I have faltered on my pledge.   Today I will recommit to Dad. 

Funny thing is, I dreamt of him last night; several different dreams, and woke up crying once.   I think that partially, it was my mind recalling my promise, pushing me to re-evaluate my situation, and reassuring me that I can, and will, overcome this mountain that I swore I would summit.  I also like to think that my father had a little something to do with his visit to my unconscious mind as well. 

So thanks dad, for giving me that extra kick in the butt I obviously needed.  XO