A Middle East Memoir

Today’s contributor is Nancy T. Wall, a mother, entrepreneur and author of Pulled by the Heart, which tells the true story of her experiences during ten years living in the Middle East, and then escaping with her two children.  Before you say “Yeah, I saw that movie”, take note: Nancy’s story is not the one Sally Field portrayed on the big screen.  Nancy’s is a love affair – with her Syrian-born husband, with the Arabic language and Muslim culture, and with the Middle East itself.  Read on, as Nancy tells it in her own words.


My story is a wonderful adventure and a magnificent love story of a young woman from Neenah, Wisconsin who gets to live a very big life.  I took a leap of faith to travel to a third world country for someone I loved.  Some would say I was so adventurous!  But when we are young, it doesn’t always seem that way.  The world is open to us… and fear is masked by our eagerness to learn and our capacity for adventure.  That’s how it was for me.

Feeding Your Passions

Today’s story will whet your appetite for some tasty home-cooking!  It comes from Shelley Adams, author of the highly popular, award-nominated Whitewater Cooks cookbook series, and former co-owner of the Whitewater Ski Resort in Nelson, British Columbia.  You’ve already seen her recipe for Hungarian Mushroom Barley Soup featured in my Soup Column.  Now you can read how the cookbooks happened, and how she ended up carving out a unique and personalized life for herself, simply by doing things she loved.  Here is her story, as she was good enough to relate it to me.

Cooking as a Career Path

I was always interested in food because my mom was a really good cook and we ate really well.  She always laid a beautiful setting and used good, local food.

But I was actually unsure what I was going to do with myself.  I was working at a restaurant, a summer ski camp restaurant, and a woman who was working with me said, “The movie business is starting to build in Vancouver and they really need catering.  I’m wondering if you would come and be my assistant because I’m going to start a company.”  And I said, “Sure, I could do that – you know, until I decide what I want to do at university.”

What If Doing Our Best Were Enough?

I am pleased to offer a post today from Pascale Pageau, founder of Delegatus Legal Services Inc., chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Women Lawyers Forum, and mother of four young children.  Pascale became something of a pioneer in the Quebec legal community in 2005 when she launched a law firm that offered out-sourced, consulting-based, made-to-order legal services  – a true novelty, as you will know, if you know anything about how law has traditionally been practiced.  Today, her firm is thriving, and she herself enjoys a full and satisfying life.  In this post (a repeat of a text she published recently in the newsletter of the Women Lawyers Forum), she explains a part of the philosophy that has guided her through her many accomplishments.


The quest for perfection, a characteristic often found in women, and even more so in female legal professionals, is useful to us in many ways. Excellence in the quality of work, methodology, concern for detail, meeting of deadlines and budgets, and the list goes on. When it comes to the practice of law, the quest for perfection is essential.

Get Out of Your House

Ever notice how the days when the kids spend all their time in the house, staring at screens or kicking around with no fixed agenda, are also the days when they bicker the most about the pettiest things?  Like whether X is allowed to go into Y’s room without asking; or whether Y should have to clean up the toys, since X made “most” of the mess and Y cleaned up “everything” the last time; or why X “always” gets to choose which Wii game to play, and “never” cares what anyone else wants; or why Y is allowed to get away with stuff that X was never allowed to; or whether X or Y started the fight; or whether Y or X is being more annoying; or which one said what offensive thing to whom first….

Yikes.  It takes all my best refereeing skills to get through days like that.  Although you and I both know that if I’m smart or have the available time, I can cut all the squabbling short by doing one simple thing: getting them out of the house.

Knowing Your Value

When we moved from Montreal to Canmore, we transitioned from a neighbourhood that was predominated by double-income, professional households, to a community where many mothers have left paid employment to dedicate their time and energy to running their family. Different lifestyles and life choices. And to be sure, these different choices produce different outcomes in things like the income level of the family and the pace of life in the home.

But do they produce a “better” family, or happier people within the family, one way or the other? When we were in Montreal, we knew families that were functioning pretty well, despite fairly hectic lifestyles involving full-time work hours by both parents. We also knew families that were divorcing, or had discipline problems with their kids, or were struggling with simmering issues of one kind or another. It was all over the map.

Rehab Diva

I am pleased to post today’s story from Joan Rose, my son’s grade three teacher, a dynamic, motivating, and decidedly un-diva like woman.  When I invited her to contribute a story to the blog, I didn’t actually know much about her personally.  But I knew that she was one of the most infectiously positive people I have met in a while.  And I knew that with her as his teacher, my son was having the kind of school year every parent dreams of – where he forgets past frustrations and comes to believe in his own brilliance. I felt sure she would have a great story to tell.  And I was right.  Here it is.


The foot, encased in my ski boot, flopped over sideways at a 90 degree angle from my leg.  Boot buckles flat on the snow, the rest of the leg facing forward.  It was this incongruity that captured my attention, not the pain.  That was yet to come.

Miracles and Resolutions

Although we are not normally big movie watchers at our house, Christmas holidays are a bit of a change-up for us, a time when we do end up more often than usual flaked out in front of the TV watching whatever we find on.  Have you noticed that during the holidays, there are certain movies that seem to be always showing on at least one channel at any given time of day?  It’s a Wonderful Life, for example, is one of those movies.  Or Sound of Music.  Personally, I could have lived without ever sitting through the smarmy earnestness of that movie again.  Yet there it was, all over the TV for several days in a row, and of course we eventually succumbed.

But tell me – when did The Green Mile become a Christmas classic?  Granted, it’s a pretty original script and a good movie, with many touching and even humorous moments (think, for example, of Wild Bill spitting the Mud Pie).  On the other hand, it is also a movie about death row executions, rape and murder of children, and squished mice.  These things, you might think, should make this the last kind of movie you would want to watch – or program directors would want to show – at Christmastime.  And you would be right.  Except, of course, for the miracles.

My Journey through Celiac Disease

Today’s story comes from Lisa, a friend of mine in Montreal, who is a successful entrepreneur, mother of two beautiful boys, wife to our lovely friend Peter, and a happily gluten-free celiac.  Over the years that I have known her, I’ve witnessed pieces of her struggle to come to grips with what exactly was going wrong in her digestive system.  Here, in her own words, is her journey toward better health and an understanding of how to care for herself.


I was around 25 years old, just landing in South Korea to teach English for a few months, before my last semester of university.  I noticed, not for the first time, that my stomach was bothering me.  I didn’t give it much thought, since this always seemed to happen when I flew.  I assumed it was a normal part of a long flight with lousy food, lack of oxygen and hours of sitting in one place.  I also assumed that most people must bloat up and have pain the way I did.  The fact that it would take me days to get back to normal also never seemed odd to me, but just part of the stresses of travel.  I carried on.

Being the Driver in Your Own Life

Today’s contributor: my aunt, Else Pedersen, owner/operator of Perceptive Edge, a thriving human resource consulting company. When I was a kid, I saw her as the free-wheeling, be-your-own-person aunt (as I recall, her motto at that time was “Live-Love-Laugh”). Today she is still all those things in spades, and as her story shows, those qualities have been important drivers in bringing her to a successful and satisfying place in her life, both personally and professionally, despite a few detours and bumps in the road.

Here is her story, in her own words.

My mantra:

Everything happens for a reason…so pay close attention.

My beginning:

I immigrated to Canada from Denmark when I was two years old, with my parents and three older sisters. Within a few short years, the number of my siblings grew to seven, making me a true middle child. We lived in small rural towns for my entire childhood and adolescence. The largest one, Zephyr,  had a population of about 500 people.

The Importance of Sisters

Almost five months post move and I can begin to discern the contours of what life will look like going forward.  There is the familiar stuff, like the busy-ness of work and school and all the kids’ activities – because, after all, we didn’t die, we just moved out of the big city.  These things, as always, provide the core of our day-to-day lives, and they have fallen into place quickly (and eaten up a lot of my blogging time!).

Other things are new – like being able to throw our canoe on the roof of the car and be lakeside in 15 minutes.  Or running into pretty much the same people with every new activity we get involved in, and realizing it’s because the town is just that small.  Or snow before Hallowe’en.  Or finding elk tracks in the snow right around the corner from our house, and then later meeting the elk who made the tracks, and a few of his buddies, standing in the road while I’m on my way to get groceries.

Elk tracks

This sort of thing definitely did not happen back in Montreal.