Friday, February 27, 2009


I have recently returned from Costa Rica.

It is sunny and cold out today but the warmth of the weather, the place and the people of Costa Rica has penetrated into my very core, it radiates out of my cells and warms my skin; my spirit soars as I amble along the sidewalk, my unzipped jacket flapping in the wind while those around me withdraw into their parkas clutching their scarves tight against their throats to fend off the bitter cold.

Only a few days ago I was walking the beaches – playa Grande, playa Flamingo, playa Conchal, and playa Tamarindo; after a long, steep, picturesque descent to the waters edge playing in river chilled natural Jacuzzis, formed by collections of rocks at the base of a majestic waterfall and later that same day therapeutically soaking in volcano sourced heated hot springs.

I “swam with the fishes” (just as my husband predicted I would) or, to be more precise -snorkeled with them; re-enacting scenes from FINDING NEMO, engulfed by one multicoloured glistening school as I watched another group cruising beneath us on a path to some other destination, the Geiger counter-like tick, tick, tick of the coral rocks playing in my head all the while. A brilliant yellow, black stripped, slightly larger than a minnow, lone fish dances in front of my mask returning time and time again to peek at his playful reflection or swim alongside me. Even the sting of invisible jelly fish (literally – they are totally clear globs) though a really, really creepy experience during the minute or so that it takes for me to pass through them (my mind races - could some huge prehistoric eel be taunting me before I am fatally zapped) has a mystical quality here and my sense of awe numbs their sting.

I realize my life long dream of surfing and have caught the bug. Yes, really surfing, not standing on a board just to fall off, but riding a wave, feeling its swell beneath me propel me forward and carry me into shore as Glyn, Pam and Flo cheer me on and my instructor shouts incessantly, encouragingly “again Nan-sea, come, come my friend, again. Paddle slow, paddle quickly. O.K. Nan-sea, up NOW. Good, good. Again, come, come my friend.” - surfing boot camp at its best. And, to imagine I had to come all the way to Costa Rica to enter a surf shop festooned with a stuffed toy beaver, a Canadian flag and a Calgarian owner come this way via Australia.

And there’s Herson*, whom we have declared the mejor guia (the best guide) of all Guanacaste barreling along serpentine dirt roads in the dark of night maneuvering traffic as only a Tico can after a day full of venturing with us off the beaten path. Sometimes he speaks with us in Spanish to help us learn the language, other times the soundtrack of our youth streams out of his radio and we excitedly chatter about our lives, times, people and places we have known and later that night when we were all but asleep his soft voice blends with Costa Rican songs on late night radio.

What a joy it is to converse in my broken Spanish on a local bus on its way to Liberia with an indigenous Nicaraguan equally adept at English. Together we are teaching each other. He is a construction worker employed here legally for the last 7 years; the working papers he shows me testify to that fact. We have common ground – my husband works in construction too I exclaim. We talk of family, work and life. He seems as excited as I to be here and he points out places of interest to us.

I feel privileged to be one of a few gringas mingling amongst the local ticos - adults, families and school uniform clad children all gathering in town to celebrate what it is to be a Costa Rican in the Guanacaste region.

My friends and I dance with a local patron in a Zapateria (shoe shop). Doesn’t everyone dance in a shoe store? What great advertising we provide - “these shoes are so damn good they make your feet dance!”! Although I myself don’t buy any, I am too tired from all the exertion, the store takes on the festive atmosphere and as we leave the young man is still dancing in the isles inviting all who enter to come join him in this joyful expression of the vitality of life.

From a second story restaurant balcony, cervesa (beer) in hand we watch a parade of sabanerrelos (cowboys and cowgirls) riding proudly “dancing” horses as trucks of little brass and drum bands play in raucous, joyful celebration. The ease with which they ride is a tribute to the art of the equestrian and their way of life. Later this day there will be bull riding, bull fighting and more displays of horsemanship. Thought no physical harm will come to the small herd of bulls that are paraded down the street as they are taunted by the melee of boys and young men seemingly eager to display their bravery, my eyes - windows to the soul, have locked onto those of one of bulls. Suddenly I am transported. The music becomes a cacophony of sound; the crowds energy is taunting, threatening and challenging; momentarily a wave of confusion, claustrophobia and irritation washes over me and I must turn away from the scene to disengage. After a while the sensation passes, my festive mood returns and when join my friends on the terrace the bulls are out of sight.

How wonderful it is to witness Pam’s pure, child-like delight as she sees close up her much sought after perisoso (sloth) carrying her babe on her back at a wildlife reserve. To our delight blue Mono Butterflies flutter around us in one enclosure. And I am in awe of the healing power of nature as this once barren grazing land, reclaimed a mere 9 years ago is now thriving, filled with towering trees (the size of which would indicate close to a hundred years of life in Canadian forests) and lush undergrowth.

On a sunset boat tour El Capitan takes us to secluded beaches and a trip around 2 small outlaying islands. I will forever have the image of our “Bow rider” Glennie silhouetted in the setting sun, sitting astride the bow, hair blowing in the wind, snapping pics of flocks of pelicans perched in stands of trees high above us. Her initial concern for the lack of life jackets aboard the boat totally erased as she engages in this NOW moment.

And on a windswept morning I stand on the terrace overlooking the bay and the sea beyond at 5 a.m. to welcome the dawning day as I listen for the haunting sound of bands of howler monkeys declaring their presence and territory for all to hear. Is it a howling wind or this mono congos’ call? The dull lionesque growl at its end identifies the latter. Green full bodied parrots swoop and dip in clusters of threes past my head and the air is filled with bird songs beyond my description as flashes of colour – reds, oranges, and yellows flicker here and there only to disappear into the foliage and flowers surrounding me.

Life has called to me “Come, sing, dance, explore, play, swim; take it all in and become drunk with the beauty that abounds.” My wild, free soul resonates with its vibration. Ahh, PURA VIDA – PURE LIFE resonates in my heart!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

20 Chews - Conscious eating

Here I am leading my 6 week weight management pilot project at Windsor Medical Aesthetics. My class consists of a small group of committed, intrepid, explorers navigating this new pathway in the world of healthy eating called conscious eating. One of the first tools to steer us in the direction of conscious eating and stay the course is to chew our food 20 times. Since I make it a point to have first hand experience of anything I teach I took it upon myself to revisit this territory.

20 chews, doesn’t sound like much. Many a parent has said to their little ones, “chew, chew, chew your food well”. Now, I know they encourage this so they won’t have to Heimlich their kid, but it also serves other purposes. As we chew much of our digestion, especially of carbohydrates, is initiated in the mouth, the saliva breaks down the food into smaller bits making it easier on our stomach and digestive tract, not to mention our elimination system, to do their job.

Did you know that “fish can taste with their fins and tails as well as their mouth” but we only have our tongue and mouth to do the job? Since our tongue is crammed with taste buds for sweet, sour, bitter, salty the ability resides in our mouth for us to really savour the flavours released as we chew our food. For sweetaholic like me – root veggies, bread, rice all taste sweeter the more they are chewed thus helping to satisfy a sweet tooth.

One almond actually takes more than 20 chews, rice was even possible and crackers a breeze; apples and veggies no problems. Bananas were a little bit of a stretch, I found myself taking bigger bites in order to reach the required number.

But it was 20 chews that just about did me in when 20 odd years ago, after 15 years of vegetarianism I decided to re-introduce chicken and fish into my diet having fallen in love with a carnivore. I remember it like it was yesterday. As I chewed the flavour of the chicken quickly subsided and my brain wouldn’t shut up. “You realize don’t you that you’re chewing FLESH”! The gag reflex kicked in big time. As discretely as I could I brought my napkin to my mouth to cover my embarrassment, stifle the retching sound and pocket the wad. I was a charming date that night let me tell you.

And just 2 weeks ago that same lucky guy (my husband) and I went out for a meal we treat ourselves to on occasion– fish and chips. There I was wolfing down my food; washing it down with the obligatory can of coke, to dissolve the grease, when I remembered my commitment to consciously eat 20 chews.

I cut off a piece from my halibut fried in batter and put it in my mouth. Put down the knife and fork as I proceeded to chew. The first few chews released the grease from the batter – it squished into my mouth leaving it with that familiar fuzzy coating. As the batter disintegrated the smooth texture of the fish was replaced by dried out flakes of flesh. And, I swallowed. And the chips were no better grease, vinegar, and salt were added to the mix. I did this about a dozen times before I’d had enough. It wasn’t so much that I was full just that I couldn’t stomach it any more.

One thing that night did for me though was to initiate 3 days of craving for veggies, rice and fruit, as if I was compelled to eat lighter fare to clear the pipes.

Not everyone in our group found the 20 chews to be satisfactory. Sometimes the change in texture had a negative impact on food they normally enjoyed. Often this food fell into the category of “junk” food. The group and I agreed that it is probably easier to 20 chew “real” food.

And, I guess that’s the point. If we really allowed ourselves to take the time to taste our food we would make better choices about what we consume

This experience also taught me that, on the rare occasion when I have a hankering for fish and chips, the only way to really enjoy it is to snarffle it down. And that I can live with.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I am a yo-gi.
I walk in slow motion,
Don't cause no commotion
In body or mind,
Of whatever I find,
Except for the occasion
When I might be raisin'
A little hell.
Oh well.
Even too much
As such
Is no moderation
At all. And it seems
I'm a woman of extremes.
But that's me
A paradoxical yo-gi.

I'm a yo-gi.
Asleep by eight.
Oh, isn't it great
To be up at four
For the pranayama I adore,
Or, at least up at six
To get my fix
And stand on my head
Instead of laying in bed
But, I can't you see
Cus I'm still awake at three
I am.
Oh, why isn't the sun
Rising at one
Just like me
The late-night yo-gi.

I am a yo- gi.
And celibacy
is the key,
To keep my mind free
Of base thoughts of the flesh,
Or of lust, or passion, or sex,
All of the above.
But keep only thoughts of love
Of the noblest kind,
Of limbs entwined...
Sigh... AAUUGH be gone from my mind!
And leave in my head
Sounds of chants instead.
But, is that really for me
This lusty yo-gi?

I'm a yo-gi.
The serious type.
Don't get off on the hype
Of fun and laughter.
It's the "other realm" that I'm after.
Don't want the distraction
Of comic interaction.
But... would it be heresy
For me to say
That the spirit within
Might observe with a grin
How I fumble and stumble so seriously
With this life so laden with glee?
Must admit to be
A cosmic/comic yo-gi.

I'm a yo-gi.
And poverty
'S not new to me.
But lately I've a yen
For a Mercedes Ben
'Z, a vacation in the sun,
Seems I'm just about done
With just getting by.
I'd rather have a high
A home
Of my own,
A bed, a T.V., a hot tub, a sauna.
I guess I don't wanna
Be poor
No more.
Just call me
An aspiring yuppie yo-gi.

(copyright Nance Thacker 1985.)
This poem was first published as Retreat Reflections of a Meandering Mind (For the unenlightened only) in the summer 1985 edition of the YOGA CENTRE OF VICTORIA NEWSLETTER.

I couldn't get this piece of "bad" poetry out of my mind today. It just demanded to be posted. Maybe it's because this time next week this yo-gi will be havin' her "vacation in the sun" with some of THE COUNCIL her non-yo-gi friends, sittin' on the beach, havin' a drink, sleepin' in - livin' the dream. So here it is with appologies to Ogden Nash (humourous poet extraordinaire) and Janis Joplin who's Mercedes Benz song (except, unlike Janis, I did and continue to, have a lot of help from my friends!!!) were sources of inspiration.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Meaning of Life? - you don't wanna know


I had just discovered the meaning of life!

So, I needed to keep myself straddled between wakefulness and dreaming long enough to allow the frantic stream of awareness to flood from the tip of my pen and spill onto the page enveloped in darkness before me. Furiously I scratched timeless, ancient wisdom on paper. Imagining the contribution that this would make to all of humanity I drifted off: no more need for strife; war – gone; poverty – poof. My duty done, I allowed myself to fall back into a euphoric sleep with a Cheshire cat grin affixed to my face.

The warmth of daylight’s rays coaxed me awake and, as I had learned from so many years of dream work, I lay in stillness to invite the recall of dreams. Suddenly, the realization of the previous night’s capture dawned on me. The meaning of all life awaited me recorded on the lined pages of my dream journal. I could barely contain myself. I scrambled through clothes, books, pens and sundry items strewn on the floor beside my futon (this was in my bohemian days).

There it was!

I clutched it to my chest, gave a brief moment of thanks and with a deep self-satisfied exhalation lovingly titled the pages back to reveal…lines and lines of words written on top of each other in one single, ugly, black, illegible scrawl.

Lesson number one in dream recall, though it is possible to record in the dark, even the most experienced dream workers are fallible. Use a flashlight when recording in the middle of the night, the light is dim enough to record yet not bright enough to fully awaken you. (See DREAMS AS ALLIES – the basics of recall)

And, I could not dig up even an inkling as to the message I’d received. True to dream theory obviously more than 10 minutes had elapsed between my dreaming and my awakening; enough time for the potential paradigm shifting wisdom to be lost.


2. Leave some space at the top of the page to record steps 7 – 11.

3. Lay still to allow dreams to rise in the form of images, words, feelings. Remain in this position as you write your findings. If nothing arises, change position and …wait…; nothing there, change to another position…wait, and so on covering all positions. Re-establishing the position you were in during the dream connects you kinesthetically to cellular memory and the result can be the recall of the dream.

4. Don’t use short forms. The way we use words is important. The work is for your eyes only – censorship is the antithesis of dream work. Keep your journal in a private place.

5. Don’t erase or scratch out mistakes, simply draw a light line through them. These slips of the tongue and “unintended” wordings are further ways the subconscious communicates through you to yourself.

6. Keep recording til the recall is done and only then review the dream. This type of automatic writing allows the subconscious to flow.
- Explanations and realizations that come as you record the dream but are not part of the actual dream itself can be written in brackets within the dream.

7. When finished review what you have written.
- If further insights come record them at the end of the page.
- Put an * in the dream record to indicate that there are notes to follow if it relates specifically to something recorded within the dream.

8. Record the date the dream occurred and the date of the recording (they may be different). If you are recording a dream days, months even years after its occurrence note the incident that prompted the spontaneous recall. Dating gives context especially if you are keeping a journal.

9. Give the dream a title.

10. Summarize the dream in one sentence – commonly someone is doing something.

11. What type of dream is it? Develop your own categories.

12. Is it complete or a fragment? Even a fragment can reveal volumes.

I still don’t remember the dream itself and despite my initial disappointment I was, and continue to be, consoled by the fact that I could recall how amazing the realization contained in the dream felt. It felt like hope. And in a seemingly hopeless time that was good enough.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Council of the Sleepover

E-mails like this one fly via the net from the hearts of grateful women to their “sister girlfriends” everywhere.

Hi all,

Just wanted to add my thanks to you Jan as well.

Talking with you all helps me to put my life and its particular challenges into a better perspective. Women are repositories of real life wisdom. We poke, prod, debate, cheer on, kid, console or just listen and are present for each other - how lucky we are!

I too am glad that we could be with you on the anniversary of your Mom's passing - to remember such a special lady and raise a toast to your Mom made the occasion even more special.

And, to Glyn, Flo and Irene we missed you.

Love and Light to all of you who light my way

How lucky am I! I am one of 8 members of the COUNCIL of the SLEEPOVER. Earlier today I launched this e-mail in appreciation for Jan’s hosting of the long anticipated sleepover this past Sat night - the latest in a lifetime of such gatherings.

I don’t remember meeting Janet. We must have been introduced to each other by our mothers. It seems we have always known each other and we are as she says, “longest time friends”. No one has a greater sense of humour about herself. I see her 11yr old self folded up origami style, laughing hysterically - her long legs and arms splayed in all directions when the child’s stroller she was crammed into folded itself up around her as it rolled down the steep driveway into our garage finally crashing to a stop at its brick end wall. Jan emerged unscathed and still laughing.

The 2 of us met my future sister-in-law 51 years ago when she moved into the new house next door. Di and I always knew we would be sisters-in-law. The childhood crush I had on one of her older brothers made it seem likely to us that he would be my future spouse, but this wasn’t to be. 22 yrs ago Di invited me to a dinner to welcome me back to Oakville. She had also invited her unattached brother-in-law Rod. “Not a set up” she swore when she discovered the double booking and gave me the option to opt out. I was not looking for a partner so I went and the moment she witnessed her guests’ eyes meet Di uttered to herself, “Uh, oh!” Within a few months our childhood premonition came true.

Jan had known Pam before she moved into our neighbourhood with her Mom and James Dean cool, 10 years older brother. He was so cool that he had a Porsche with a racing stripe across its hood. So cool he shared his coolness with us, enlisting Pam, Glyn and I to be part of his pit crew. Think of it, 3 crazed teenaged girls in levis and tank tops running on to the side of the track flashing the chalk board with lap time and numbers as he whizzed by in his formula V car on tracks like Mosport and Harewood – we were sooo cool and had sooo much fun. A horror movie to Pam is any movie in which a really nice car gets totaled.

Within a year of our meeting Pam (whom I met when I was in about grade 5 or so), Pam introduced us to Glyn who she insisted was “really nice and not snobby at all”. This was important as she was in the enrichment class having skipped grades along the way. Glyn was, even in those days, politically aware, a supporter of noble social causes, and an unsurpassed debater with flawless grammar. If you wanted to know anything about anything Glyn was your girl. What movie trivia is to my brain; valuable info is to hers. While I still had pictures of horses on my bedroom wall Glyn had the likes of Einstein, Gandhi and Bertrand Russell.

Flo, our Joanie Mitchell look-alike, came my way via the others who were a year behind me in school. Shortly after graduation she became a court reporter - talking into a steno mask to repeat all that was said in the courtroom. We all agreed that this was a most perfect career for her as she loved to share “information” about others. With a genuinely funny delivery her light manner and gossipy style belie depth of thought and shrewdness. With great tenacity she remained in the industry adapting to technological advances along the way for the reward of the retirement pension at the end. Now retired she lives, “the life I was born to live”, that of a retiree living out her dreams.

I was aware of Marisa in high school but it wasn’t til my return to Oakville that she became part of the Council through Di. Marisa has more relatives than all of us combined. She can cook a dinner for a bazillion people, entertain visitors, take care of ailing family members, design and sew tap dance costumes for 6 kids of varying sizes in an hour, help her husband run a business, travel all over the world and maintain 2 households. I can cope with myself, a husband and 2 cats on a good day. Family is her life. 2 new grandsons have been added to the mix in the last 6 mos. – she just wants to “eat them up”.

Irene came in a few years after Marisa. She is an honourary member; an intensely private person who comes and goes. Her quiet gentle presence is a contrast to the groups’ no holds barred, outrageous, loud and rambunctious collective nature.

Nothing is sacred and everything is up for discussion: personal life, politics (the source of greatest debate), sex, money, health; you name it. We have supported each other through all of the rights of passage: births, marriages, deaths, divorce, illness, health, good fortune, retirement. And we will support each other in whatever else life sends our way because as Di said in her e-mail of appreciation, “As long as we have each other we’ll be fine.”