I have not been a “joiner” for several years. I don’t feel comfortable or safe in too many places outside the realm of those designed for trauma recovery. “Normal folks” (normies!) scare me!!

As you improve yourself, SERVICE becomes essential to staying well.
Whenever we are in recovery from anything, we need someone to show us it can be done, someone we know has our back and just believes in us.

This person can be referred to as a sponsor, mentor, or trusted advisor and their role is essential to growth. You look at them and think, “I want to be like you.”

Throughout the United Way’s Period Promise and our Soroptimist International of Central Alberta this person (not just for myself, but for many people) has been Sherri Barkhouse Smith

Venturing slowly into worlds like yoga, publishing writing and now Soroptimist International of Central Alberta has reignited my love of service, and shown me how to use my special gifts (we all have them) to benefit others.

Sherri has taught me in such a gentle way:

* it’s ok (and important) to talk about your accomplishments

* women together are a strong force for good

* everyone has incredible traits to focus on

* give credit where credit is due

* there’s a special spot in hell for people who can’t build up others

* don’t quit before the miracle

* there’s so much joy in service

Thank you Sherri for making me feel safe, encouraging my art, my passion for women’s equality and showing us all what amazing feminine leadership looks like.


Rooting out feelings of worthlessness takes a lifetime’s work for drug addicts, alcoholics, mental health and trauma survivors. When we talk about being “in recovery” or “doing the work”, this is the basic essence of it. Daily we are attempting to live in the world as equals. We are not less than, even if we have been treated as such throughout our lives. We are not more than. Often this facade is designed to ward off the hurt associated with feelings of inferiority. 

With our physical health and other areas of living we work to improve, it’s a series of small commitments. We often use words like “just” or “only” to minimize what we accomplish. Others make their accomplishments out to be bigger than what they are, or give no context to the assistance of others helping get them to where they go. Genuine humility puts us where we have never been as people who have thought so little of ourselves: on equal footing with those around us, regardless of what we do or fail to do.

Small daily strides to think better, with better actions keeps us well. We acknowledge our deficiencies and try to find new aspects of self definition. Some of us need to be built up. Often we think of our ego as being more than we are, but thinking less of ourselves is also ego at work. We lack the ability to see our inherent worth. We are valuable not in what we do or fail to do. Our value comes with being a person. Even if a twenty dollar bill is dirty or crumpled, it can never lose it’s value. So it is with us. Remembering that is priceless. 


This weekend, a friend and her two boys came to stay overnight with me. We had this great evening of fireworks, until one of the boys spotted a terrified dog running away with it’s owner nowhere in sight. For some kids, this would be a five minute worry, but for sensitive kiddos, this is an emergency. This would be the type of stuff that kept me up at night when I was small.

Their mom carefully and sweetly calmed them down and offered possible outcomes for the dog, “If he goes to the pound, that will be good because they can read his microchip and get him back to his owner.”

They came up with many worst case scenarios and feared for the fate of the runaway. So I chimed in with my Aunty two cents and added, “You have great minds coming up with all these possible scenarios for the pup. So can you come up with a few positive ones?”

They thought for a while and then said the dog might just run home, or someone might be able to post a picture of the dog online and get it back to it’s owner. It was a choose-your-own-adventure and soon we were feeling better. Later in the visit, Jill and I were visiting and she used my own brain game on me: can you think of better possible outcomes for that scenario you’re worried about? It really helps.

Sure enough, the dog found it’s way home. Jill found the whole thread online somewhere and messaged it to me. Most of the things we worry about, never really happen anyway.

Lloyd and Vermillion For Equity Book Club meets Sun. 2pm ALL WELCOME – drop in

I wanted this to be a self improvement, inspirational, hope-invoking romp through my adventurous, colourful past. Then I got to thinking: Some of my best friends used to regularly piss their pants and live outside. Now they have families, companies, and big lives. They are back from a hopeless despair nothing could really get at. Rehabilitation is sometimes not always so dynamic. Sometimes it’s just improving the quality of thought and self belief so slightly, that one day you notice you are doing things better, and it all pays off.  

I smoke weed again after 10 years clean from it, live alone, and am often underemployed. The “victory lap” of a memoir had to be scrapped. I did a few things right however, when it came to eradicating excessive drinking, hard drug use and self hatred from my life. Even though the past few years have been mired in major losses like death, job loss, loss of mental health, family relationships, racial discrimination and sexual assault, I didn’t relapse. 

I’m so proud of that, because that means spirituality works. And I have so much music left inside me.

Inside that narrative is also the friendships I’ve built, the activism I stepped into, the massive support from so many people, education in yoga and business, and a deeper connection to the spirit that keeps grass growing and me going. That means even in the absolute shit of human suffering grows the bountiful nourishment my soul needs to keep going for maybe just another day.

I felt less than, worthless and suicidal all the time. It changed gradually. I learned to show gratitude and find others with similar problems and to serve and show up for others. And I learned to let go and to make boundaries. I am still learning.  

The reality of bipolar disorder, grief and loss, and going it alone through a global pandemic presents different problems than my overly scheduled friends giving their every last effort to keep their families and jobs and households afloat.  Sometimes just giving life to the story takes the pain from it. And at this stage, maybe that’s all I could really offer – the story of this life as it continues writing itself. 

This is not the year I became a writer. It’s the year I let the world see. This is not the year I became a lover of justice and equality. It’s the year I let the world see. This is not the year I could help heal families. It’s the year I trusted myself enough to let others in and trusted my ability to be seen, heard, and felt. The alchemy of self examination and meditative calm met to produce SHE WAS. A work to change my life and the lives of other women. I let the world see.


She Was – Write a Tribute Poem Workshop

Thursday, May 20, 7-8:30pm on zoom.

$35 includes your mailed copy of SHE WAS and 1.5 hr. together and guided instruction. A thoughtful heart is needed more than writing expertise. (surrenderliving@gmail.com to etransfer – please include your mailing addy. Additional books are $20 each)

Surrender Living Women’s Circle

Friday, May 21, 7:00pm on zoom. FREE (or by donation: surrenderliving@gmail.com to e-transfer)

She Was $20/book and $5 delivery outside of Red Deer to etransfer: surrenderliving@gmail.com


My mom was fighting cancer and one of the biggest ways I got through that as a primary caregiver was yoga. I started in the beginner tradition of Bikram Yoga in a 40 degree room
with 40 percent humidity.

Through my own development work, I was encouraged to write down 100 accomplishments from my lifetime. This is an exercise that helps boost self esteem, gratitude, and positivity. I highly encourage you to try it! One of the things on my list was the 5- 30 day challenges where I committed 1.5 hours a day to the heat and yoga for 30 days straight. That means I spent 5 months with that daily discipline on those challenges when I was not practising three times a week.

Now you may be thinking: I can’t do yoga! I can’t bend and stretch! Believe me, I am built like a shot put champion and bend like a tree trunk. There are many forms of yoga, which literally translated means “union”. And that’s what I like to provide space for: union of your mind/body/spirit.

If you’re looking for tight abs and Madonna-like arms, this won’t be for you, but it will bring you peace and calm. Yoga is a dialogue between you and the divine. Meditation is where the answers come. As we move from activity to stillness, we begin to understand our true selves better.