Rain, rain, go away…

Image: CBC

Today in Halifax. (Image: CBC)

The rain kept away the crowd… I’ll assume there would have otherwise been a crowd… but my talk today at Saint Mary’s University went very well, nonetheless. It was the opening of their Mental Health Awareness Month and I was giving the keynote address.

Several of the students in attendance were members of the university’s new initiative, the SMU Healthy Minds Team. This is a group of student volunteers who will work throughout the year to raise awareness of mental health issues and help reduce stigma. Because these volunteers made up the majority of my audience, I tailored my talk to them and spoke directly to their task. This actually made my presentation better.

If there is one message I want to get across to this young population, it is that it is okay to need help. This is the message that I needed to hear, but didn’t, when I was at my lowest point.

The same way you would go to the doctor for a persistent cough, you should go to the doctor for a persistently low mood. Depression is a medical condition. It may not always need medication, but it does require medical attention.

Today was a great day, even with the torrential downpour, because I connected with these bright and engaged students. They even asked if I would come back and talk with their group again.

I told them I would, of course, in a heartbeat.

What would you tell your younger self if you could?

A beautiful day


It is a beautiful day in Halifax and I was lucky enough to spend part of it biking around downtown. Usually, on a day like today, I would miss the best part of the day stuck inside the hospital, but today I was booked to give a talk over my lunch hour. And, lucky for me, the conference room I was in had a bit of a view of the harbour.

Today I spoke to a group of people (most from the NS government, some in from Ontario) who are training to become trainers of the Working Mind program. They are taking part in a week-long training program and I was thrilled to be their “lived experience” speaker.

I think the talk went very well and I was delighted to have a chance to chat a little bit with some of the folks afterwards. It is always wonderful to hear that my voice has touched them in someway. I even got a couple of hugs!

It was a great day for me personally… lots of sunshine, good exercise, and speaking up for mental health!

Hope you had a good day too!

11 things I miss about New York

Arthur Ashe stadium

Arthur Ashe stadium

Even though my entire life used to revolve around tennis, I very rarely catch a match on TV anymore. When I first retired, I didn’t watch because I was honestly sick of tennis. Now, I watch it so infrequently because it just doesn’t fit into my life anymore; I work, I have kids, the matches are on at weird times, etc…

This weekend, The Husband is away and I’ve been watching oodles of US Open to while away the evenings. It has brought back some really fond memories of the 3 weeks I would spend there every year.

11 things I miss about New York City

1) The tennis – While the Australian Open will always be my favourite Grand Slam, there was something uniquely electric about the US Open. Maybe because it is the last major of the year, there always seemed to be an all or nothing quality about the play. I never thought I’d say it, but for the first time, I actually miss the tennis.

2) The people – New Yorkers get a bit of a bad rap but they are some of the friendliest people in the world. They may not always hold doors open for you but they will be the first ones to stop and help if you look lost. Also, they are funny, in a really smart way, and are always quick to strike up a conversation.

3) Central Park – Although there is some sad history behind Central Park, such as the razing of Seneca Village, as a visitor, the park was always a highlight. Whether it was taking a walk on my day off looking for dead bodies (sorry, too much Law and  Order and NYPD Blue) or a picnic with friends, the park was always full of interesting activity and a great place to take a load off and just people watch.

4) The subway – Unlike a lot of places, the subway in NYC runs 24 hours a day. It is super easy to navigate and I always felt safe. The number 7 train runs directly from Central Station to Flushing Meadows and was always a lot quicker, and more frequent, than the official tournament bus.

5) The architecture – The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building, the Woolworth Building, Grand Central Terminal… need I say more?

6) The bridges – Maybe it is because I come from a bridge city, but the bridges of NYC always appealed to me. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do in the city, especially at sunset.

7) The shopping – I hate to shop. Everyone who knows me knows this, but there was something about New York that would inspire me. Perhaps it was because I had lots of time in the city, or that I was headed home after the event, but I always enjoyed shopping in New York. Ahhh, I miss Century 21!

8) The culture – I loved being able to go to  a play or a show at the drop of a hat. And oh, the museums! It was a great city to have days off in which to play.

9) The streets – New York is such a great city in which to walk around. I come from a city that was designed by drunk city planners. Take my word for it, although it is beautiful, Halifax is not an easy city to get around. Manhattan, on the other hand is a paradise for the “directionally challenged”. Perpendicular “streets” and “avenues”, all named in numerical order… it is a beautiful thing. And I loved being a part of the bustling sidewalks.

10) The food – What can say about the food except, YUM! Anything and everything you possibly want can be found within a short subway ride or walk.

11) My friends – This isn’t specifically a New York thing except the US Open (like all the majors) employed a lot of officials, so almost all of my close friends would be working the event. Plus, it was the last big tournament of the year so, once it was over, there would be a three month break before we all got together again in Melbourne for the Australian Open. There were always a lot of group dinners and excellent camaraderie. Dear friends, I miss you the most!

What city do you love?

Reaching out and saving lives


Today in Canada …
11 people will end their lives by suicide.
210 others will attempt to end their lives.
77-110 people will become newly bereaved by suicide.

It’s World Suicide Prevention day. For those of you who don’t know why this is an important day for me, you can read this post, My fish are dead.

Since this year’s motto is

Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives

I figured today was the perfect day to give an update on what I’ve been doing with my days off – I’ve been taking meetings and booking speaking engagements!

The next one is in a couple of weeks, I am going to be the “first voice” speaker at a Government of Nova Scotia mental health training program. It will be a session where I discuss my personal mental health and how it affects me in terms of my job and workplace.

Then I have two dates booked with Saint Mary’s University. They are having a mental health awareness month in October and I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker at the official opening and also to appear as a panelist at a session later in the month.

My most recent meeting was with The Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Also in October, I will be giving a presentation to their student body. This talk will focus on mental health self-awareness, awareness of peers, and the importance of seeking help.

These university talks are very exciting for me because this was the age I was at when I tried to kill myself. My goal is to reach one young person with every talk.

While I’ve been preparing for these presentations, I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection and I’ve realized something important… Maybe I’ve lived such a full and successful life, not in spite of my depression, but because of it.

If this is true, and I really believe it is, then I have a responsibility to embody this year’s motto and will continue to seek out, and accept, whatever speaking opportunities I can. So far, so good!

Have any suggestions for me?

A backcountry adventure

Filtering water for breakfast.

Filtering water for breakfast.

My boys are away on their annual camping trip to Kejimkujik (while I’m stuck at work). But this year it is with a twist.

Yesterday, The Husband left the comforts of car camping and took the boys on a backcountry adventure. They are strapping their gear to their backs, portaging with the canoe, and venturing out to camp on a remote island site.

This is very exciting for us as parents because this is the way we always camped before we had the boys. We would hike or canoe for hours to get to a site. There is just something magical about being out in the woods with no one else around; no light to dim the stars and no noise to drown out the loons.

Fingers crossed that the boys love the experience as much as we do so that this can be something we continue to do as a family. Although, as long as they still get to roast marshmallows, I’m sure they’ll be happy.

Do you have a passion that you hope to pass on to your children?

Ode to My Uncle

Me and Uncle G

Me and Uncle G

My mother has three brothers. Only one of them has ever been an uncle to me.

One brother is presumed dead, no one has heard from him in over 40 years. I used to carry an old picture of him in my wallet. I had ever met him but I somehow imagined recognizing him on the street one day. He looked a lot like young Elvis. My youngest son’s middle name is in his honour.

Mom’s eldest brother treated her badly. We don’t talk to him anymore.

Growing up, Mom’s baby brother was a little bit legendary to me. He had a back-story that, as kids, my sister and I were ever quite old enough to know. (I now know it, of course, but it’s not my story to tell.)

He came to live with us when I was about eight and he worked for my parent’s construction company. All of our other relatives lived far away and having an uncle in our basement was something of a novelty. So much so, that The Sister and I used to sneak downstairs in the early mornings to watch him sleep.

Uncle G was extremely fit (and still is). I remember eating hotdogs with him in the backyard, and when I asked him to pass the ketchup, he would reach his arm around over-handed so that his triceps would flex in front of my face. He also used to do bicep curls with me and The Sister each hanging off a forearm. He was our private circus strongman.

I also remember him as being hilarious… except for that time he said my Corn Flakes looked like a bowl of scabs. I haven’t been able to eat them since.

Before this week, my children had only met their great-uncle once when they were too young to remember. He’s here this week, however, staying with my parents, and it has been a pleasure to watch him interact with them the way he used to with us. He and Auntie L brought beautiful totem necklaces as gifts for the boys and their cousins, and they have been wearing them with pride.

As I wrote about in this post, growing up so far away from extended family left me feeling out of touch and strange around them when we did visit. Uncle G was the exception. Because of the time he spent living with us, I have always felt a unique closeness with him. This was cemented when I was working with tennis out in Vancouver and stayed with him for a while.

He is always easy to talk to and is extremely smart. He’s one of those guys who knows something about everything, at least enough to bullshit his way through any debate.

Obviously, like my mother, Uncle G is a Newfoundlander. Unlike Mom, however, he’s proudly retained the majority of his “b’ys” and the lilting accent. Recently I was listening to an audio-book, and whenever the reader spoke as the Irish character, I heard my uncle’s voice. To this day, talking with him takes me back to our summer trips to Newfoundland. He may live and work in Vancouver, but he will always be a fisherman’s son from Brigus.

Love ya Uncle G!

The Food Lady

So we’ve had Dexter for almost five months now and he has truly become part of our family. So much so that he has given us all names… did I mention that Dexter can talk? His voice is a mix of Yogi Bear and Dug from the movie Up. Squirrel!

Anyway, as I was saying, we’ve been named. Allow me to introduce the family.

Snuggles – In the evenings, my eldest son CJ likes to cuddle up with Dexter on his dog bed and they whisper sweet nothings to each other. Inevitably, there are are also some kisses exchanged.

Sorry to interrupt the moment!

Sorry to interrupt the moment!

The Pepperoni Kid – ET’s favourite bedtime snack is a stick of turkey pepperoni, which he eats as he changes into his PJs. Dexter sits patiently outside the bedroom door because he gets to lick ET’s hands once the snack is gone.

This licking session was actually pre-soccer peanut butter.

This licking session was actually pre-soccer peanut butter.

Fun Daddy – The Husband is the guy who is always down on the floor playing tug and giving vigorous belly rubs. There is always a lot of noise and hardly any of it is from the dog.

Poor froggie!

Poor froggie!

Food Lady – Dexter may be a mutt, but he is all Lab when it comes to his stomach. He LOVES food and, as a result, loves me too. I make his food and feed him all of his meals so, if I set foot in the kitchen, he is there by my side. Literally. He could be sound asleep and I just need a glass of water… tip toeing doesn’t work, I’ve tried.

Someone had to take the picture!

Someone had to take the picture!

Because it is apropos, the rest of the family has now taken to calling me Food Lady as well. Nothing like a chorus of “Thanks for dinner, Food Lady” to warm a gal’s heart!

Hey, I’ve been called worse things in my life!

Can your dog talk? What does he call you?

How to Get a Hamster

Taffy 2

Meet Taffy.

Taffy belongs to my niece and nephews. He’s a hamster… nothing extraordinary, just a cute little hamster. So, why am I writing about a hamster? Well, I’m not. I’m actually writing about my 11-year-old niece, P, and how she got this hamster for her and her brothers.

P could write a book entitled, How to Get a Hamster, because the way she wrangled this pet out of The Sister and BIL was nothing short of magical.

Step 1 – She used the library to research hamsters and pet care.

Step 2 – She wrote out several pages that described in detail the needs of a hamster and how to care for them.

Step 3 – She organized her two younger brothers (9 and 7) and and wrote a contract that outlined a care plan for the hamster. All three of them signed it.

Step 4 – They collected money through odd jobs for neighbours and contributed amounts proportional to their age.

Step 5 – They sat their parents down (who, up to this point, had no knowledge of the brewing plan) and P presented them with her research, the contract, and the money they had saved.

Step 6 – The Sister and BIL couldn’t say no and the kids got their hamster.

Genius, no? I like to think she gets some of her smarts from her Auntie Steph!
Taffy 1

I’m so excited!


It sounds like an episode of Star Trek but it is actually the course I recently took at work.

The Working Mind: Workplace Mental Health and Wellness is an education-based program designed to address and promote mental health and reduce the stigma of mental illness in a workplace setting

How great is that!?!

You all know how I feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness, right? If you are shaking your head no, take a moment and read this old post. I am so thankful that I work for an organization that is so directly addressing the issue.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority offers this course free to all of their employees. There is even a more in-depth course specifically for leaders so that they are better trained to manage people who are dealing with mental health issues.

Another reason I’m so pleased with this program is because I’ve been asked to become a course facilitator. Yay!

Additionally, I’ve also been asked to be the “first voice” speaker at a provincial government mental health workshop in September. Double yay!!

Both of these invitations stemmed from someone reading my essays in The Coast and The Globe and Mail. Now, can’t you see why I’m so excited?!?

National exposure


Art: Lindsay Cameron for The Globe and Mail

Art: Lindsay Cameron for The Globe and Mail

As most of you know, speaking out about my own story to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health issues has become my personal mission. Today I am thrilled to be reaching over a million people with my message.

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s largest-circulation national newspaper and today’s edition features an essay I wrote about my depression. Much of it will be familiar to my faithful readers but it is my rawest piece to date.

Please, take a moment to click the link and read… and then pass the story along. The more people we reach, the better.