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Creating A Life


Arts  quote

I adore Mexico.

Everywhere you look, you see the tell of a hand; the uneven texture of adobe, the hand-painted floral fences, the big barrels, painted and repurposed as geranium gardens. I love that country because the people don’t yet know that they’re not ‘allowed’ to be artists. They haven’t quite caught up to our socialized beliefs that tell us ‘boughten is better’.

Todos Santos - Colleen Friesen
It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. This is true. When you don’t have a lot of money, you make do. As Mexicans get more money, they too, tend to run right out like the rest of us, thrilled to buy instead of make. But there is more than the unsustainability for the planet that is at risk. There is the commensurate dimming and dying of our own creative spirit.

No matter what the advertisements tell us, we are not here to buy our lives.

We are here to create our lives…one brushstroke, one stitch, one word at a time.

We must do this in spite of the admonishments to live otherwise. We are surrounded by subtle, and not-so-subtle images and messages, that instill in us that, like an out-of-control Pacman we are only here to consume.

Shortly after September 11th, the President of the most powerful nation on earth did not quote Kennedy and  say, “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Clearly, that was a message for chumps. Instead, he rallied his nation by telling everyone to shop. “Shop,” he said, “or they will have won.”

Forget being a citizen. Be consumers!

I am not suggesting we all sit in the dark and pound a dress out of cedar bark. I am, after all, a woman who proudly possesses two pairs of Fluevogs.

OPUS Hotel Porter Fluevog Shoes

(Photo credit: OPUS Hotels)


However, I truly believe that without a real connection to the making of our lives, our spirit diminishes.

Lately, I’ve been seeing signs encouraging more take-out. They are sprouting up on the windows of Vancouver restaurants, “Don’t cook. Just eat.” Trust me, I know better than most that insatiable need for instant gratification. There is something lost, and not much gained, from outsourcing the last of our needs of shelter, clothing and food. We no longer build our own homes. We don’t pin and sew our clothes from patterns and now, apparently, we no longer cook.

I know people are pressed for time, but cooking is such a beautiful and essential part of life. There is nothing better than the sweet benediction from the scent of frying onions, the earthy warmth of sauteing garlic, the comforting aroma from the yeasty-warmth of rising bread.

I have observed my own personal contentment grow every time I brush another stroke of paint on canvas or cook a new recipe. I am proud of the turquoise silk lining I recently stitched into a basket from South Africa, creating my very beautiful knitting basket (though the jury is still out on the viability of the knitting endeavour). My lemon-rosemary cleaner is brewing in a mason jar as I write this and when I’ve finished this post, I will be making some ginger syrup to satisfy my endless craving for all things ginger.

Creation is not reserved for professionals. Creating our lives is the gift we are given. We must free ourselves up to fail.

Risk something. Risk it all. After all, imperfection is where beauty lies.

So in the spirit of being free to create anything, including lousy poems, I leave you with this:

Make supper from scratch,

Or sew a patch,

Knit a sweater,

Make your world better.

Bake a cake.

Create & make!

-Written with imperfect words and lots of love.



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Health & Wellness


“The function of prayer is not to influence God,

but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

- Soren Kierkegaard


Ascension - Colleen Friesen


Mom was five-years old when her mother died.

Mom’s older sister Gert postponed her wedding and came back home to help out with caring for the motherless kids (I think there would have been nine of them) including the newborn twin girls.

Year later, when Gert was dying, my mother flew out to Saskatchewan to help.

You may wonder what all this has to do with Health & Wellness.

Let’s start with this photo and I’ll tell you how my wonderful aunt is connected to that still warm bun and hot coffee…

Joy - Colleen Friesen


But first…

I started the day with a fabulous home-made smoothie. Then, because the sun was shining, and I wanted to write this post, I decided to go for a walk to give my brain a boost and see what would come up.

I smiled at people on Vancouver’s sea wall. I swung my arms in circles to get the kinks out, I connected with some friends by text & phone. I made plans for an imminent trip with The Stupids.  I took photos of the amazing view. I inhaled spring-green air laced with hints of the salty sea.

Vancouver - Colleen Friesen

On the way back, I passed Tartine Bread & Pies. I could smell the doughy-goodness spilling from their open door. I kept on walking.

And then I remembered Aunt Gert.

I think I was around 14 or 15 years old when she was dying. I remember Mom coming back from Saskatchewan and telling me some of what she learned as she sat with a woman who had been more like her mother than a sister. I knew Gert had gone through some very tough times, but eventually, thanks in large measure to her Mennonite frugality, they had become financially comfortable.

But she had given up so much to get there…and on her last days on earth, Gert had whispered one of her regrets to her little sister, ”I wish that sometimes I would have spent the 25 cents and bought myself a Coke.”

Gert told of hot prairie summers where she would buy only the necessities, and how sometimes she just wanted a little something for herself but had held on to those coins because of habitual thrift.

I was still walking past Tartine when I remembered Aunt Gert’s story. I turned around, marched in and bought a gooey cinnamon bun along with a cream-laced coffee. I sat outside with the newspaper. I paid attention to every bite, licking my sticky icing fingers after every ripped off chunk. I stuck my legs out into the warm sun. I smiled and tasted every bit of that bun. I ate it all in honour of my aunt.

For me, it hadn’t been thrift that had initially propelled me away from the bakery, but it was the same kind of frugalness that can somehow beset those of us interested in living well. I thought I should go home and eat an apple instead. But what I really wanted was something baked and sweet.

I live a healthy and fit life. I eat well, drink my water, exercise, take my vitamins and wear my hat and sunscreen.  I usually prefer a crispy apple to most processed alternatives. But today a doughy creation was calling my name.

Health & wellness is not about a life of what can’t be had. It is not about denial. Instead, it is about life-giving goodness. Health and wellness is about living with joy, with an expanded celebratory heart and the occasional treat; which, by its very definition, is all the more noticeable and appreciated because of its exception to the norm.

Happy indulgences should be exactly that. Not filled with oh-dear-I-shouldn’t angst, but rather gleefully eaten with oh-my-I-am-loving-this-gooey-treat joy.

I adore eating my vegetables. I am roasting a whack of peppers as I write this and am looking forward to making a fabulous huge salad for my lunch. One that I will truly enjoy eating…not just because it’s good for me, but because it tastes delicious AND is benefiting my body/mind with all that great nutrition.

Peppers - Colleen Friesen

After lunch, I will meditate. I got out of my meditation routine with my recent trip to South Africa and am missing that stillness that helps center me and give me space to observe my thoughts.

But now? Now I will breathe a prayer of thanks to my Aunt and her cautionary tale.

I like to imagine those two sisters hanging out in Heaven.  I don’t ever remember seeing my mother with a soft drink, but perhaps she made an exception for eternity.

I bet they’re clinking those frosty tall glasses of Coke right now. I think I can hear the icy crack of the cubes…




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