I have wonderful images and memories of Austria running around my mind today. My first must be Gustav Klimt. I went through a HUGE Klimt phase. I loved how his paintings sparkled and reflected light; I loved their size and presence. I bought dozens of hand painted replicas and stretched them over frames and added bits of gold leaf to create the right effect. I grouped them in one huge ensemble in the stairwell of our old house. These paintings are now spread through almost every room in our current house. The famous mother and child was featured in my son's nursery. I have visited almost every major gallery in the world where Klimts are hung.
My second would need to be Marion. She was an AuPair of my dear friend and she delighted all those around her. She understood my love for Klimt which was in full bloom when she was living in Canada. A couple of years later, I had an invite to present a paper in Athens and I arranged for us to stop in Vienna on our way there. Marion was a gracious hostess and took us all around to the sights we would likely not have seen on our own. My favourite was the Belvedere (of course), followed by the Natural History Museum, followed by the flee market, and then--ah...the palace of the Empress Sissi.
My imagination was sparked by Sissi, which led to a full blown Sissi craze. I bought dolls and stars. I bought them for myself and gave them as gifts to others. I even had my very own set of stars made by a jeweller in India--they convert to pendant, necklace and brooch.
And now, another connection with the wonderful culture of Austria is coming my way. Our next student arrives from Austria in about one month's time. We are so excited. I want for her to love Canada as much as I love her country!
The Dream--Journal Entry from the Summer of 2008
For years I have dreamed of buying “a place.” A cottage. A farmhouse in the South of France. A casa in Northern Italy. I have read all those books—“A Year in Provence,” “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and “A House in Normandy.” I grew up with notions of a cottage, and have been secretly envious of those families who had been able to enjoy this kind of summer leisure. I had long dreamed of finding a way to enjoy it myself.
I write these words as I sit in an Adirondack char, in a white cotton nightdress, on a half finished deck, watching my husband (very happily) reconstruct our small barn.
Yes, I finally did it.
I talked my husband into buying “Evergreen.” An almost splendid 9 acre potato farm, with a soon to be charming two-storey farmhouse on the Baltic Inlet, near Malpeque, PEI. It really does have potential, if enough man-hours are poured into it. How did this journey begin?
Well, for years, I have poured over MLS listings in Europe and Canada. I have even glanced at Costa Rico and the South Sea, looking for “The Place.” The challenge has been the price, the logistics, the will and the courage to actually do it. This year, these elements came together.
The biggest challenge by far has been wrapping our mind around actually doing it. Making the commitment as a family to live in this way, making this a priority we invest our time and money in. The nudge to actually do it came this year. Long hours at work, little family time, and the death of my father crashed together and at the climax of this cacophony I realized that I needed something. Something to shake us up and off the treadmill, and to redirect the trajectory of our lives.
I was reviewing MLS listings—once again—and noticed the listing in PEI. The realtor, Ricky Desrochers described the place as “Piece of Mind.”
The truth is, the farmhouse was left unoccupied for nearly 6 years while the American owner, Myrtle, suffered ill health.
The property included a two-storey old farmhouse, on a crumbling foundation. A tiny barn and 9 acres of forest, meadow, fields, and river frontage complete the property. The fields had been mysteriously farmed by some local farmer who never paid old Myrna any rent. The river frontage had no access, having been overgrown by bush and brambles. The forest was think and dense, with no way to wander through it.
But, the house came furnished. Including a library with cookbooks, old china, crystal and linens (even old patchwork quilts). The barn had really neat stuff in it—a barbecue, a bike, tools, Adirondack chairs and lobster traps!
The tree lined drive up to the house was breathtaking—truly—with purple lupines and other wild flowers guiding the way to Evergreen. Rolling fields surrounds the property. The sun sets over these fields and turns the sky intense shades of orange and pink. Trees spot the property and give home to all sorts of rare birds that sing as I write these words. I savour the sight of herons, piping plover and cormorants flying overhead. My reluctant husband even said, “This place has potential.”
Evergreen sits 5 miles from Cabot Provincial Park, which hosts one of the most beautiful red sand beaches on PEI. To get to Cabot Beach, you must drive through Malpeque, where famous oysters, lobsters, and mussels can be bought incredibly cheaply from local fishermen who spent the morning in their boats. They always add in a few extra and unexpected seafood treats into the bag, and they tell you the best way to cook it all up.
The surrounding area is beyond charming. It feels like the 1950s. People are friendly and a sense of community is alive. Last night, we stopped in at the local church for their annual “Ice cream and Strawberry Social.” We ate heaping bowls of fresh field strawberries and vanilla ice cream on the lawn of the church. The local church ladies sold home made biscuits and strawberry jam, and we bought some for this morning’s breakfast. We learned of this strawberry social by reading handmade signs that line the roads. The same roads where little “on your honour” stands let you buy firewood, jam, and bags of potatoes. Other signs can be seen too, for concerts at St. Mary’s Church on Friday nights, and Ceilidh’s at the community centre on Wednesday nights, and town picnics on the grounds of the local parks.
The pace is slow and life seems real. I love it.
I remember that several years ago I received a tiny little Christmas card from a small boy I was seeing. This little card was about the size of a card that would accompany floral displays. On this card, was a hand painted portrait of the Virgin Mary, and inside in gold calligraphy was the word, "Joy." Underneath, the small boy carefully printed his name. I remember feeling joy as I opened this small treasure. I imagined this single mother, spending hours making cards instead of buying them, instructing her child to print neatly, passing these cards to the people in their lives. It was such a small little card but an immense gesture. I was touched. I am still touched by the memory. The memory for me captures everything that Christmas is about--reaching out to connect with others and celebrating the season of joy. I have received many lavish gifts in my life, and I am grateful for each and everyone of them. But, the one I remember most is the tiny card by a tiny boy and with just one tiny word written--"Joy!"
No matter what religion you follow, I hope you feel joy this season!
Dr Jillian Roberts
When I was a teen, I was able to participate in three exchanges/excursions. The first was to Quebec. The second was to France. And, the third was back to Quebec to see the family from the first trip!
My time in France was the first time I had ever left North America. It was a mind blowing and life opening experience for me. The first part of my stay was not very good. I was placed with a difficult family and I asked to be re-placed. The second part of my stay was outstanding. I was placed with an amazing family in the city of Nancy, in the province of Lorraine (pronounced "Loren" like in "Sophia Loren"). This was such a happy time in my life that I vowed if I ever had a daughter I would name her after this time in my life. (And, I did! She is named "Lauren" as in "Sophie Loren" :)
Three years ago, we decided to open up our home to exchange students. We have now welcomed students from Mexico, Brazil, China, Spain and soon Austria). Each and every one of these students has become a part of our family, and each holds a very special place in our hearts. This morning, the second student we have welcomed from Spain left for home. I overslept, but was able to run out to stop the car in my stocking feet to give her a hug good-bye--with tears streaming down my face. So very hard.
A friend recently asked--"Is it hard to have those students? Do they require a lot of extra work? Do you miss your privacy?" My reply was, "Not at all! It is just hard to say good-bye."
The world is a better place when we reach out in friendship to every part of the world we can.
Dr. Jillian Roberts
. Freelance journalist, Vivien Fellegi, recently asked me what I thought about teens getting tattoos. It is a difficult decision for parents now a days, as tattoos seem to be a growing way for young people to express themselves. Vivien and I had a good, balanced conversation, and the result was this excellent article in Canadian Family. What do you think? Do you agree with this advice??
Today, I felt moved to write about "light". I have always found light to be the most hopeful of concepts.
A flashlight helps you find your way in darkness. People navigate by the light of stars. Stars themselves are just reflections of light. People sing about "sunshine" and about the warmth of light. Wisdom can "shed light on a situation."
Light is powerful.
I see light as reflecting love. I see light as the essence of what is right in the world.
When I sometimes feel myself feeling discouraged about the world, and terrorism, and all that is wrong in the world, I remember something that a wise woman once said to me:
'"Just think, darkness can never swallow up light. In a dark room, the light will always shine."
And so, to me, light must always win.
What a hopeful thought!
Dr Jillian Roberts
Tonight, I have felt moved by "grace." I love the word, the concept, the meaning, the implication. So much so, I gave my daughter this name, "Alexandra Grace." I think of being in a state of grace, saying grace, being touched by God's grace. Graciousness.
Grace implies having a kind of "other" rather than a purely "self" orientation. It means living life in a way that strives for goodness and not settling for basic good manners. Grace means action, actively sharing grace with others. It is impossible to be small and petty and to have grace all in the same moment.
Mother Teresa lived a life of grace. Angela Merkel shines with grace. Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou taught us how to find grace after living through extreme hardship. These examples are inspiring to me. They glow like beacons and help me see through times of darkness.
The world needs grace now more than ever before.
I encourage you to reflect on what "grace" means to you. I'd' love to hear from you. And, if you have a really good "grace" quote, please send it my way!
Striving for grace,
Dr. Jillian Roberts
In 2012, my husband made an important decision--to leave his lucrative career as a mining engineering consultant (which came after completing a PhD from the University of British Columbia)--and to stay home to take care of our newborn son Jack and me.
Six months after adopting our son, I learned I had a high grade urothelial carcinoma growing in my bladder, cover the right ureter from the kidney. This diagnosis made a lot of sense and explained years of symptoms I had been experiencing.
The tumour was removed, I went through rounds and rounds of painful interstitial BCG chemotherapy and over a dozen cystoscopies and related surgical scopes. The scopes continue regularly to this day.
I also needed to stop dying my hair brown, which resulted in the blonde hair you see today. I am calling these days my "Marilyn Munroe Days" or the "Silver Lining of Bladder Cancer."
So, back to my husband. With a newborn baby and a sick wife, he simply could not keep flying around the world to mine sites. In the prior three to four years, he had made over a dozen business trips all over the world--Nigeria, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the very North of Canada, etc. He loved this trips, really loved this travel. But our life was taking on a new dimension.
However, instead of just retiring (he was 51), he decided to go back to school (again--like for this fourth university degree!) He earned a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Liberty University in Virginia. Concurrently and afterwards, he completed a lengthy clinical internship at Arbour Counselling Services (under the expert supervision of Joel Durkovic). He saw many, many patients for free or nominal fees in my practice. He committed to a pro-bono clinical partnership with the ALS Society to see members and their families for the long term, including end of life counselling and support.
Earlier this week, my husband learned that he had obtained his clinical licensure as a Registered Clinical Counsellor from the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. This will also allow any new patients with extended medical insurance to be reimbursed for counselling fees. Gladly, I was able to update my clinical website--see photo below.
I am so very proud of my husband. I am grateful for his support and help, and for making a difficult decision to be there for his family. I am also proud of him for deciding to dedicate his remaining professional years to counselling service.
(This blog post is dedicated to you, Stephen!)
Dr. Jillian Roberts
In 2011, after many years of conversations, we sent up a prayer to be allowed the joy of adoption. My husband was 51, I was 39, our daughters were 11 and 8 years old. We were out of the diaper phase and almost out of the babysitter phase. But our hearts yearned for another child--and in particular, not one from my womb. (Note, I could have still had more children.)
Almost exactly a year later, our son Jack was placed in our arms.
The love that filled my heart was nearly overwhelming. Heady. Destabilizing. But, of course and on every single level of the most beautiful moments of my life. I could not imagine that life could hold such treasure for me.
We had some fun the next Halloween. Would we dress up as people who won the "Jack-pot?" Would we put Jack in a pot? Could we dress him in a gold jumper and say he was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
How do you put into worlds the incredible luck? The incredible gift? The incredible sacrifice a young woman made? A sacrifice that fills me with earth shattering gratitude and love.
This year, our Jack turned 3 years old. He started preschool at a wonderful Montessori academy. He is cared for by amazing educators (like I mean amazing !) He is learning and growing and making friends. And, today he got to be a farm animal near the manger in the Christmas play . He sparkled on stage. Filled to the brim with excitement and pride of his accomplishment. I think I was a little more excited and a little more proud, perhaps :)
We are only three years into our adoption journey. I cannot even imagine what life would have been like if we did not make this choice. I am so grateful to all the people, and the universe itself, for the cosmic magic of allowing me to raise this child.
Dr Jillian Roberts
Young people become radicalized for a wide array of complex reasons, but at the heart lies two main reasons: 1) Disillusionment of life and society, and 2) religious polarization.
Young people who become radicalized feel disillusionment because they lack hope for the future on society’s current trajectory. They look around and feel disempowered and helpless. They misguidedly come to the belief that the only way to make a difference is through violent opposition.
In the specific situation of ISIL radicalization, young people also perceive a deep polarization between religious views. This polarized perception often has its roots early on in their educational experiences at schools--schools designed to imprint this perception upon young people rather than to truly educate them.
How can we combat radicalization in our society?
First, we can prioritize the needs of young people. We can work to ensure that young people all over the world feel an abundance of hope and optimism because everywhere they look they see opportunities for a meaningful and rewarding life. As a society, we can work together to ensure that our young people have the kinds of opportunities they need (education, healthcare, employment, healthy social relationships, extracurricular activities, mentorships, etc.).
We can combat religious polarization through excellent educational opportunities. These educational opportunities need to be made available to the very young. Can we offer young mothers low cost (or free) early childhood experiences that foster a healthy and inclusive worldview? If so, we can teach our young children what the world religions have in common. We can underscore the dignity of all human life.
Fighting terrorism must include a comprehensive plan to supporting the world’s young people.