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A Mother’s Plight

A Mother’s Plight

A Mother’s Plight

“In motherhood’s dance, regrets once lingered like shadows. Now, with a son’s success unfolding, those regrets fade away, replaced by the bright sun of deep satisfaction. Each stumble in his journey becomes a step toward his triumph.”

Someone told me the other day that it is possible to feel two or three emotions (if not more) simultaneously. My friend said, “Emotions are complex and often intertwined, and individuals can combine happiness, sadness, excitement, fear, or other emotions concurrently. This phenomenon is known as emotional ambivalence.”

In other words, it’s the experience of feeling positive and negative about the same thing. For example, a person might feel both love and frustration towards a close friend or family member. 

As I age, I gain clarity on some aspects of life while becoming more confused about others. In the depths of my despair, typically between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., my inner dialogue takes on a critical tone, as if the Simon Cowell of my brain is offering harsh critiques even my worst enemies wouldn’t conceive. Even though I do not have any enemies, perhaps I am my own worst enemy. 

On most occasions, I can be annoyingly optimistic.

But sometimes, unfavourable opinions of myself whirl inside my brain like a kaleidoscope. The darkness is replaced by bright shards of light that sparkle and shine, only to retreat into jagged lines that lose their beauty and purpose.


Do you ever observe your own actions as if you were a detached observer, or worse, a harsh, judgmental stranger? 

During sleepless nights when I blame my restlessness on a full moon, excessive caffeine, or hormonal changes, my internal voice leaves me feeling insecure and second-guessing myself. I question the choices I’ve made in life and the things I have said and done. Then, from backstage comes the woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’s to the forefront of my mind, taking centre stage. Before I can get up for steamed milk, a hot bath, or a soothing relaxation podcast, I add all my other standard worries, such as bills, children, grandchildren, husband, friends, and the environment, into the mix. Finally, I growl at myself and say, “Stop it!”

What is wrong with me? Am I grappling with remorse, regret, and anxiety, all intertwined?


Here is my take on a word and emotion we hear more and more: Anxiety is a state of uneasiness, apprehension, or fear often accompanied by heightened, worrisome thoughts about future events or uncertainties. There are varied versions, and everyone’s situation is unique to them.

Even though anxiety can be excruciating for some and debilitating for others, I’ve noticed we sometimes use the word freely in a blanket statement, like saying we have a common cold, I burned the toast, or tripped and broke our toe. More commonly, I could not sleep because of my anxiety.

I do not mean to make light of it because I know firsthand that for some, having anxiety means they become frozen and have difficulty coping. 

Anxiety is not a recent phenomenon, and it does not discriminate based on socioeconomic background. Individuals may choose to keep their struggles private, but some public figures have chosen to discuss their experiences with anxiety openly. In 1967, Barbara Streisand’s stage fright was so intense that, following a concert in Central Park where she forgot lyrics, she avoided public appearances for nearly three decades. Grammy-winning singer Adele has shared her battle with stage fright, while Oprah Winfrey has openly talked about her challenges with anxiety and panic attacks. Singer and actress Demi Lovato has been forthright about her experiences with anxiety and bipolar disorder. Both Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone have revealed their struggles with anxiety since childhood. Author John Green and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps have openly discussed their battles with anxiety and depression, actively promoting mental health awareness.

My attachment to anxiety and emotional ambivalence is this…

In retrospect, my mother always appeared to be in a state of imbalance. Some days, she exuded a fun-loving, warm, and comical demeanour, while other days, she was quiet and reserved and seemingly down in the dumps. Later, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By this point, my siblings had all moved away, so I stood by helplessly as the youngest in my family. At first, I was an annoyed teenager, which evolved into an embarrassed young adult. Through it all, I loved my mom and sometimes hated her. There’s that ‘emotional ambivalence’ again. I somehow coped and, in doing so, became extremely co-dependent. I would whirl and twirl around my mother’s mood swings. On her up days, she was hilarious. But her over-the-top antics would also become too much like a kid on Christmas morning after too many presents and sweet treats. On her down days, I would accommodate her. I’d bring her tea and have no expectations. She would become quiet, introverted, and seemingly regretful of her previous antics. 

And there I would go again, with ‘emotional ambivalence.’

I credit my adeptness at navigating diverse personalities to my mother. Despite her condition, I hold no resentment towards my childhood, and in fact I cherish many fond memories. 

As an adult, I work in a high school, immersing myself in the world of teenagers daily. Additionally, I am a parent to three young adults. In my daily interactions, I often come across comments and discussions concerning the debilitating effects and challenges associated with ‘anxiety.’ We hear more about the emotional state of our young people, and some of us also are struggling with it.

ALERT: THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH MIGHT STIR UP BIG FEELINGS…YIELD, but I’d like it if you could see the humour in it…

So there’s this classic boomer, right? Picture them with their favourite vinyl records, a rotary phone, and a firm belief that avocado toast is a millennial conspiracy. When it comes to anxiety, they’ll likely suggest a time-travelling solution: “Back in my day, we didn’t have anxiety; we had to walk uphill both ways to school, barefoot in the snow. You know how we coped? We drank coffee, lit a cigarette, and called it a day. None of this yoga and meditation mumbo jumbo! Just toughen up, face the world, and if that doesn’t work, take up gardening. There’s nothing like weeding out your problems in the backyard to make you forget your worries!” 

But before you wonder why these anxiety-ridden young people do not go for a walk or have a beer in the back shed, I believe that with the changing times, several factors contribute to the increasing prevalence of anxiety among all of us. First and foremost, societal pressures, such as academic expectations, career uncertainties, and social comparisons, create a stressful environment. Social media exacerbates this. My son had a significant following and presence on Instagram and YouTube from age 13 to 18. He made thousands of dollars monthly for his videos, photos, brand deals, and worldwide travel. Then, after many conversations and sleepless nights, he shut down all his accounts and got a job washing cars.

However, there was an upside before the downside. 

Mackenzie and I travelled to eight countries and dozens of cities within those countries. He met remarkable people. Mac networked and made connections with businesses and lifelong friends. Most importantly, he learned how other cultures lived. As a family, we also got to enjoy his online personality, hip-hop dance shows, television acting gigs, and the many perks being in the public eye can bring.

When things eventually evolved and turned on their axis, Mac said, “Social media fosters unrealistic standards and is a constant comparison to others.”

Picture a social media maven, cashing in thousands for a mere Instagram post, reveling in the love of fans and followers. Just as you start feeling on top of the world, contemplating your future amidst the glitz and glamour, here comes a storm of spiteful comments, identity theft, and impostors. It’s like showcasing a treasured necklace, while at the same time, skillfully navigating through pickpockets and imitators, adding unexpected layers to the dazzling spectacle.

After five years of living an adventurous, exciting lifestyle, Mackenzie took the initiative to leave a significant paycheque, world travel, an acting career, and popularity, to seek the help of a counsellor. He was suffering from extreme bouts of anxiety. With the guidance of a mental health professional, Mac addressed these multifaceted challenges and chose a holistic approach. He joined a Gym, took our dog for more walks, got a job washing cars, and then, after a year of working on himself elbow-deep in soap suds, he decided to attend Vancouver Film School and funded it himself. Mac continues to see a therapist.

Ceedoo-Media filmed the above YouTube in Brugge Belgium. Mac was 13 years old, and this was his first Fan Day event. He later went to nine cities in Belgium and, at 14, travelled to Cologne and Frankfurt, Germany; The Netherlands; Paris, France; and London, England. A documentary about his sudden rise to fame was filmed, beginning with anti-bullying videos and his success as a hip-hop dance artist. At 14, he starred in a short film called “Follow Me.” When he was 16, our entire family of 5 travelled with Mac to Jakarta, Bali and Surabaya, Indonesia. Also at 16, Mac played the character Randy in an original Netflix series, Project MC Squared. We also lived in California for two months, and Mac travelled back to Belgium with his sister Jessica. At 17, we travelled to Singapore and Thailand as a family. As an influencer, he started his clothing line with the MH logo: toques, caps, t-shirts, and hoodies. He posted on social media, created a website, hosted events, and negotiated with brands to make brand deals. 

Now at 24, Mac writes, produces, and directs music videos in Vancouver and Spain. His business is called SOV – Son of Vincent.

Now, let’s shift gears to the broader picture. The online realm bombards us with constant economic uncertainties, global challenges, and a world that seems to change overnight. We are bombarded with an avalanche of information. The breakneck speed of our tech-driven lifestyle leaves little room for relaxation, contributing to the challenges faced by today’s youth. It’s like trying to find peace in a whirlwind of chaos.


You might relate to this…

After assessing my own childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood, I realized I had suffered with anxiety for my whole life, but back in the 1960s, my mother called it a nervous stomach, which our doctor confirmed. 

In the 1960s, my coping mechanism involved pretending to be sick to miss school and praying my tummy ache would go away. Over time, I’ve developed more sophisticated ways to deal with heart palpitations, butterflies, and topsy-turvy feelings. Now, I find relief through exercise, sharing my concerns with a friend, reflecting on my past through writing, and occasionally allowing myself a good cry. These tried and true strategies don’t eliminate the heavy burden, but gradually chip away at it like a sledgehammer on a dense boulder. Small bits of gravel and pebbles remain in the pit of my stomach—never wholly gone and not forgotten either.

In essence, we’re witnessing a rise in anxiety these days, and it’s due to various reasons like societal pressures, constant comparisons on social media, financial concerns, and the fast-paced nature of our technology-driven lives. It’s truly remarkable how our young people are navigating through this. Picture it as sailing on a turbulent sea with enormous, unpredictable waves created by the challenges of today. While people in the past had their own struggles, the issues we face now can feel overwhelming and cast shadows on everyone’s well-being. As sailors rely on sturdy ships to brave significant storms, we can create strong strategies to cope with anxiety. This involves supporting one another, acknowledging the experiences of our young people, and embracing the diversity that makes each of us unique.

Here’s the good news…

Lately, many parents are changing how they take care of their kids. They’re trying something new by letting their children spend less time on screens like phones and tablets. Instead, they focus on talking more with their kids and doing fun things together. This helps make their relationship stronger and healthier. Families find that spending less time on screens allows more time to talk, have good conversations, and share enjoyable moments. Parents are not just talking about school or daily routines but also about feelings, dreams, and challenges. This way of parenting helps kids grow emotionally and improves the bond between parents and children.

Nowadays, parents use different ways to guide their kids instead of using old-fashioned punishments like yelling or spanking. They teach their children about emotions, understanding others, and solving problems. Instead of just punishing, parents are taking time to explain what happens when a rule is broken, listening to what their child thinks, and helping them figure out solutions. This new approach, focused on encouragement and emotional support, aims to make kids responsible and aware of themselves. It creates an environment where talking openly is essential, and parents act as guides, helping their children as they learn to handle their emotions and grow up. 

My philosophy 

I advocate prioritizing the holistic well-being of children by investing in their growth and resilience; letting them cry if they need to, and not by themselves; listening to their thoughts and opinions, and really hearing them; and validating their hopes and dreams while nurturing their creativity.

Sometimes, I wonder if the intricate challenges faced by individuals (more recently called Boomers) who have weathered adversity, setbacks, or emotional wounds stem from a lack of being listened to, validated, heard, and nurtured as children.

Anxiety is real. 

Here is what has helped me…

Writing has proven to be cathartic and rewarding. I have laughed and cried simultaneously and then felt excruciating vulnerability when others read about my life. Since writing books one, two, three, four, and soon-to-be five, my confidence has soared, and I struggle far less with anxiety. My aging, aching body reminds me I need to stretch more, and my new grandson has shown me what a wonderful parent my daughter is. My son teaches me about the pitfalls of social media and how to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That everything will be okay, and rather than dump my problems on my kids, I need to talk to a therapist. 

And then there is my adventurous, free-spirited middle child. 

She teaches me to live life to the fullest and laugh more, and when in an airport waiting for a delayed flight, patience becomes a travel companion, and the bustling atmosphere provides an opportunity to explore, people-watch, and find hidden gems in the airport’s nooks and crannies. Embracing the unexpected delays at the airport allows for a mindset shift—transforming an inconvenience into a chance to discover the charm of the journey itself. So, instead of fretting about the delay, view it as an extended layover in the grand terminal of life, where unexpected moments and unplanned adventures can turn the waiting game into a delightful experience.

Hmmm…this reminds me of life in general…Thank you, Emma.

This brings me back to finding myself annoyingly optimistic about the future. Although I anticipate occasional bouts of anxiety in the wee hours of the night and early morning, I’m working on shifting the narrative. I believe that if we can hang on for one more day, everything tends to look brighter in the morning, and even if it doesn’t, I’ve decided to keep writing and keep confiding in a trustworthy friend or two and remind myself that tomorrow is another day.

“Don’t forget the past; instead, work through the pain it carried, especially the impact of childhood traumas, and embrace each new day, where endless possibilities and brighter moments await.”

– Karen Harmon

“High School in the 1970s: Where Disco Balls Got Down with Bell Bottoms and Rock and Roll Ruled the Halls!”

“High School in the 1970s: Where Disco Balls Got Down with Bell Bottoms and Rock and Roll Ruled the Halls!”

“High School in the 1970s: Where Disco Balls Got Down with Bell Bottoms and Rock and Roll Ruled the Halls!”

By now you must think I am obsessed with turning back the hands of time, looking back and stirring up anything nostalgic. If so, then your assumptions are correct.

Question: When YOU recall YOUR past do you get the warm fuzzies and is your mind filled with heartwarming memories of a fun-loving, careless youth? Alternatively, when entering into thoughts of years gone by, are you engulfed with doom and gloom and quickly shut down your memory bank before it spirals out of control?


This is a light hearted look at the past, with a few serious undertones.

Hey groovy readers! 

Strap on your platform shoes and get ready for a wild ride down memory lane as I step back into the iconic era of high waisted jeans and Puca shell necklaces. We sure had some seriously far-out fashion—the 1970s high school scene!

Picture this: bell-bottom jeans so wide you could practically take flight, hair so big it had its own gravitational pull, and a soundtrack featuring the hottest tunes from the Bee Gees, ABBA, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Yep, welcome to the disco-infused halls of high school, where every day felt like a scene from Saturday Night Fever.

But hang on, high school in the 1970s was not ALL about shaking your booty down, moving and grooving…


Picture this: bell-bottom jeans wide enough to catch a rock and roll breeze, hair so colossal it could host its own Peter Frampton, The Who, or Led Zeppelin concerts. Step into the high school corridors, where disco sucked and the spirit of rebellion collided with anyone of authority, turning every day into a head-banging, frayed jean jacket adventure.

No matter what your choice of music or clothing was, navigating the hallways was like wandering through a maze of lockers housing everything from mood rings, and peace signs to lava lamps and black light posters. And let’s not forget the lunchtime battlefield, where the cafeteria was the frontline for the ongoing war between the jocks and the nerds, with their respective armaments of geometry sets, Adidas running shoes, and unwanted noogies.

Forget about Spotify playlists and Apple Music—we had mixtapes that we’d trade like they were gold bullion. Crafting the perfect mixtape was an art form, a delicate balance of heart-wrenching ballads and funky beats to impress that special someone. Some of us decorated the plastic covers, while others drew elaborate scenes on the inside card covering.

I had a crush on a boy who decorated his tape cases with hand-drawn thorny roses, which was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

In the classroom, we were armed with outdated textbooks and encyclopedias—the Google of our time. We’d swap notes written on paper, not text messages, and passing a note in class was the original covert operation. If you were caught, it was like being busted for contraband.

On a personal note, when I was in Grade 8, attending North Van High, there was a block that consisted of 30 minutes of French and 30 minutes of Math. We were divided into two groups. When the French component was finished, we would traipse down the long dark corridor, trading places with the next class. It was during this change-over when my friend Sandy P. and I would exchange notes. We thought it was a perfect plan. Sometimes, we would draw happy faces with a cute greeting, other times it would be the answers to the test!  Until we got caught.

I’m still unclear why I barely passed with a C- 

There were many types of fashion, but whatever we wore became our own personal uniform. 

When we rocked the fashion scene, the anthem echoed, “the wilder, the groovier.” Bell bottoms were so expansive you could stash backstage passes and guitar picks; tie-dye shirts and bibbed overalls were like a psychedelic guitar solo. The coolest people wore fringed jackets, leather jackets, or short skirts. And let’s not forget the footwear—platform shoes that moonlighted as instruments of foot-tapping rebellion, though they could be a serious challenge for anyone attempting to bust a move on the dance floor.

I dated a boy who once fell off his shoes and broke his ankle.

And don’t get me started about traipsing all over the Lower Mainland in the rain when our wide-leg jeans got wet up to our knees, and our feet almost froze off.

Meanwhile, there were favourite words and catchphrases that captured the spirit of the 1970s and the various cultural movements and trends of that era. Keep in mind that not everyone may have used these phrases equally. So, I am wondering, do any of these ring a bell with you??

“Far out, man!” – Used to express amazement or approval.

“Keep on truckin'” – A phrase associated with perseverance and moving forward.

“Right on!” – Used to show agreement or approval.

“Groovy” – An expression of coolness or excellence.

“Outta sight!” – Similar to “amazing” or “awesome.”

“Can you dig it?” – Asking if someone understands or appreciates something.

“Peace and love” – Reflecting the counterculture movement’s emphasis on peace and harmony.

“Make love, not war” – A slogan associated with anti-war sentiments.

“Dy-no-mite!” – Popularized by the character J.J. Evans on the TV show Good Times, expressing excitement.

“What’s your sign?” – Reflecting the fascination with astrology during the 1970s.

“Have a nice day” – This phrase became popular, often associated with a smiley face icon.

“Disco fever” – Referring to the craze around disco music and dance.

Which brings me to a word that was rarely a part of our vocabulary…


In today’s standards the word stereotype is almost like an obscenity. It is frowned upon for very good reasons. However, thinking about all my 1970s former friends and fellow high school graduates, we were all often labelled. And sometimes they were unkind and horrific titles we reluctantly carried with us.

Here are a few of mine...

Mouse, Squeak, Motor Mouth, Bubble Butt, Edith, and Georgette…

I honestly did not mind being called these things. I loved the attention and found the names to be quite endearing and comical. Well, maybe not a bubble butt…anyway, I digress…

My recent book, Class of 78 is based on ten high school graduates. I specifically wrote about their stereotypes because it was my overall goal to break them. To show the reader we are not those stereotypes, with the question…

Do our stereotypes make us who we are? Or is it who we are that makes up our stereotypes.


A stereotype is a widely held and oversimplified belief or idea about a particular group of people. It involves making assumptions or generalizations about individuals based on their appearance in a certain social, cultural, ethnic, or other identifiable group. Stereotypes are often simplistic and may not accurately reflect the diversity and individuality within the group they target. They can contribute to biased thinking, prejudice, and discrimination by perpetuating fixed, often negative, views about people based on their perceived characteristics or group affiliations. Recognizing and challenging stereotypes is important to promote a more accurate and fair understanding of individuals and groups.

Here is an excerpt from my recent book, Class of ’78, describing one of the characters, Susan Jillian in 1978, and then ten years later in 1988. I wonder if I could be describing you or someone you knew?

Susan 1978:

Everyone in school knew Susan Jillian. She was hard to miss from being a fixture on the sidelines as the head cheerleader for the basketball team. Susan had a girl squad of friends that she paid little attention to, and worked weekends at Barney’s in the Lingerie department.

In keeping with the stereotypical popular girl status, Susan was more interested in the latest fashion trends and boys on the basketball team, than getting good grades and being kind. But what took precedence over everything else was that Susan had one thing on her mind, something she had obsessed over since Grade Ten and was determined to make happen on the night of graduation.

Susan Jillian’s yearbook prediction stated she would ‘most likely marry a wealthy and prosperous businessman, live in a mansion, and have two kids.’  Nicknamed Suzy-Q, she was elusive and fashionably attractive. Magazine pretty, with her blonde hair neatly tied up in a ponytail, Susan was well known for her thick layers of Covergirl mascara and Bonne Bell cherry-flavoured lip gloss. Spotted in the halls, on the bleachers, and when she practiced her cheers, Susan always smelled like Avon’s Sweet Honesty perfume, and yet the rumours indicated she was anything but sweet and honest. 

Susan wore her cheerleading uniform on game days, and only dated jocks from the basketball team. She dressed in the latest trend of high-waisted wide-leg jeans, wedgy platform shoes, fitted turtlenecks, and a thin gold necklace with a heart pendant. Susan proudly draped one of her current boyfriend’s letterman jackets over everything. Some called her a floozy and most assumed she slept around.

Susan’s mother was a nurse in the geriatric ward of the local hospital, and her dad was an accountant. She had three younger sisters, triplets—a phenomenon in the small town. Their names were Sylvia, Sara, and Sasha. Much attention went to them, and their family was called the Four S’s. As in “Here come the four S’s. I would sure hate to be their parents.” Comments such as these were followed with a laugh and a slap on the back.

The entire family were avid churchgoers, and Susan’s father demanded morning and evening scripture readings before school and in the evening at bedtime. Susan dutifully obliged but secretly thought herself to be independent, and therefore did whatever she wanted. If she was ever not allowed to do something, she did it anyways. She got so used to sneaking out of her house that she rarely entered or left by the front door. Susan was desperate to escape from her parent’s judgement, reign, and rules.

In preparation for the graduation ceremony, Susan had travelled to the neighbouring town of Hillsprings by bus and bought a dress from the Suzy Creamcheese store in the Hillsprings Mall. She had decided to wear a long coat over her sequined red grad dress to hide the plunging neckline and micro-mini length, so her family was none the wiser. Susan knew they would never approve of her risqué outfit, especially her grandmother, who was already referring to her as a harlot and a Jezebel.

She was anxious and excited for the grad ceremony, but more so about what was to come afterwards. Susan had planned for the outcome all year. 

But hang on a minute, let’s not forget the 1970s turned into the 1980s like a Breck Shampoo commercial on television, “And so on…and so on…and so on…” We eventually grew up, struggled, excelled, and struggled some more…we were in search of who we wanted to be; it was all about the journey and yet not fully arriving.

Susan 1988:

Over the years, Susan became outspoken and confident and could be heard saying on many occasions, “I do not give a rat’s ass what anybody thinks!” Since the incident at Lover’s Lane and the race to the altar, Susan always made a point to speak her mind. 

Shortly after her first child was born, she got a job writing a column for the local newspaper called, “Sarcastic Susan—What Will She Say Next?” 

Susan’s column was the topic of the day and grist for the gossip mill on print day, along with“Astrid Ann’s Predictions.”

She made it her duty to discuss politics, religion, current events, sexism, and her all-time favourite topics, male chauvinists and religious fanatics. When the royal wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles took place, Susan asked, “Why are YOU Obsessed with the Royal Family?” When the Berlin Wall tumbled, she asked her readers, “Why did it take so long?”  She was quoted as saying, “If more women were in power, there would be fewer wars because what mother wants to see her child brutally murdered?” Some wanted her column banned and others revelled in it. Her most recent column spoke about stereotypes. Titled, “How Dare You,” Susan asked, “Are we our stereotype, or does our stereotype make us who we are?” 

Susan’s personal favourite article was, “Am I a dumb blonde? I dare you to say it!” She gave a basic history lesson and definition: “Okay I am guilty of telling a few dumb blonde jokes myself, so don’t think I am all high and mighty. But that was before, this is now. So, to set the record straight, ‘Blonde jokes’ that employ the stereotype, overlap with other jokes that portray the subject of the joke as promiscuous and stupid. Many of these jokes are variants of ethnic jokes about other identifiable groups dating back to the seventeenth century. The new and not-funny-to-everyone jokes about being blonde are overwhelmingly female-specific and undeniably sexist…”  

Nearly ten years after high school, when thinking back, it still made Susan’s blood boil at just the thought of the labels and treatment she endured throughout her entire education. It was like she had a Rolodex file device in her brain and could summon past hurts, mean words, and derogatory comments accumulated over the years. “If you smiled more you would be much prettier; It’s okay if you are bad at math, you’re a girl so don’t worry about it; She’s only good for one thing; She was asking for it…”  Words and statements were rudely used for a woman’s anatomy, looks, and personality. 

Everybody in MeadowBrook read Susan’s column even though some refutably professed her outspoken views were hogwash and balderdash. The women’s church auxiliary bypassed her outspoken articles and her parents never left the house on a print day out of sheer embarrassment.

Susan was still the talk of the town, but she now felt worthy of the reasons why.

To help deal with her anger, Susan started jogging. It surprised her how good it made her feel. All year round, before the sun rose and her children woke up, Susan would run throughout neighbourhoods and on back country roads. With every stride and foot slamming down on the pavement,she knew she was stamping out the demons from her past. Even though her outdoor private therapy sessions felt healing, Dwayne did not like her out running alone and often pleaded with her not to go. Susan was headstrong and fearlessly responded, “I dare anyone to mess with me!” He loved this side of his wife but hoped it would not one day get her into trouble. 

Eventually, Susan jumped on the fitness bandwagon and became an aerobics instructor. Once again she was in the limelight and somewhat of a celebrity, complete with a thong leotard, leg warmers, headband, scrunchies in her ponytail, high-top running shoes, and cassette tapes for her music. She also sported a trendy gym bag slung over her shoulder, with the word SWEAT decorating the sides. 

The 1980s was a time when hair was big, and so were the ambitions. Neon colours ruled the fashion scene as if a pack of highlighters threw a party in everyone’s closets. Walkmans and boomboxes were the must-have accessories, turning every street into a mobile disco. We learned more dance moves from music videos than from our PE classes. The Cold War had us doing duck-and-cover drills, but we were more concerned about perfecting the art of the moonwalk. “Like, totally” became the verbal glue holding sentences together, and everything seemed to be either “totally tubular” or “gag me with a spoon.” It was the era of mixtapes, Rubik’s Cubes, and convincing ourselves that big shoulder pads were somehow a power move. Ah, the ’80s—the decade that left us with leg warmers, questionable perms, and memories we can’t help but laugh about, like a nostalgic sitcom we all starred in.

Karen’s books can be found on all online platforms in addition to some public libraries and stores.

Please leave a comment, in the comment section at the bottom of this blog, with some of your favourite memories or any questions or comments you might have. 

Alternatively you can email Karen @ 

or message her on Instagram @ 

Forever Unanswered

Forever Unanswered

“Hey, dad, can you tell me how you and mom met again? What made you fall in love with her? If I were to make you dinner, what would you want? Who was your favourite actor? Is there somewhere in the world you would travel to if you could? What did you think the first time you laid eyes on me? Are you proud of me, even though I’ve made mistakes? What’s the meaning of life? Where did you go when you died? Can you please send me a sign you are okay?”

The other day I said to my son, “Sometimes I think of all the questions I would ask my dad if he were still alive.” My son said, “Sounds like a great idea for a blog post, mom.”

He is the same son who suggested I write a book. So I did. Four times.

Meanwhile, as the seasons change, I get pulled into the melancholy that goes with winter’s onset—rain-drenched nights, crisp star-studded blackness, and a silver-clawed moon casting shadows on leafless trees. The obvious reminders indicate summer is over. Yet, I wonder if I am ready.

“Starry, starry night

Paint your palette blue and gray

Look out on a summers day

With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.”

The song “Vincent” by singer-songwriter Don Mclean reminds me of my dad. He was also named Vincent. 

“Starry, starry night

Flaming flowers that brightly blaze

Swirling clouds in violet haze

Reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china-blue

Colors changing hue

Morning fields of amber grain

Weathered faces lined in pain

Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand”

His lyrics simultaneously warm and haunt me and cause my tears to catch and hover, not falling, but tucked away inside like the many unanswered, plaguing questions I have for my father.  

Am I mourning the changing seasons, or the loss of my father? Both seem to intermingle with the other.

With continued thoughts of my dad, my mouth’s downward pout moves ever so slightly into a smile. The ache in my heart is replaced with relief in my soul because I remember my father was my salvation.

That’s what my memories sometimes do, they trigger the sad times from my past or happy thoughts of days gone by. Two emotions in sync with the other, harmonious and side by side. 

I can trust my brain, but my feelings not so much. I have to remind myself that feelings are not always factual. This has helped me to figure out that sometimes my emotions are not telling me the truth; they are lies, I tell myself. For example, I concluded long ago that just because someone looks at me a certain way does not mean they are mad or judging me. A solution for me is to get an outside perspective from someone I trust. This little trick is far less painful than feeling like my world is crashing in on me.

The mind is like a capable, fine-tuned machine. I keep mine in good working order. However, sometimes it needs a tune-up, especially when visuals, smells, songs and memories encourage recollections and bring up intense feelings and emotions.  

Therapists and counsellors have taught me that even though the brain automatically stores experiences into a form of memory, there are times when the brain “walls off” memory as a coping mechanism. For example, amid trauma, the brain may wander off and work to avoid the memory. Sometimes I have a mild dissociation that causes me to daydream or get lost in my thoughts. However, there have been times in my life when I have experienced a severe and more chronic case of trauma that I cannot easily overcome, and therefore dissociation helps me. But only for a time, because if not unravelled and sorted through, it grumbles if poked. It’s hard to move forward when the past is griping, fussing, and tormenting. 

Instead of pushing everything down, my writing has helped bring everything to the surface. 

I always thought the term “getting over it” was a harsh thing to say, as in, stop feeling unhappy about something or stop being controlled or bothered by something. But then I learned the origin of the phrase “get over it” was used as a late 14th century meaning for “recover.” I was fascinated when I researched synonyms for “getting over it,” and words such as conquer, defeat, overthrow, and reduce came up.

So, my investigation made me think again.

Then I looked up the dreaded word “trauma,” which included words such as agony, damage, and ordeal. The worst part is that trauma often threatens what we value most. Still, if we can overcome it, we experience a positive outcome of personal growth, more robust relationships, and a deeper appreciation for life. Trauma can permanently change us. We become different because of it. If we dig deep, face our fears, and overcome them, we find new strength. 

So maybe the phrase “getting over it” is a good thing. Likewise, changing and becoming different is not a bad thing.

As Emily Dickinson once said, “the mind is more open than the sky,” which I have learned to be true regarding the complexity of storing memories. 

And what about this…

Over time, do we forget something deliberately, or does it become more challenging to remember? 

I was twenty-six years old when my dad was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. My sister-in-law and I noticed his dizzy spells and memory lapses. His usual flow in storytelling became interrupted by patches of silence, causing his furrowed brow and the confused look in his eyes to concern us.

The day I was given the announcement for the beginning of his end, was one of those crisp October days with crackling leaves underfoot, brisk air all around, and a warm sun coaxing its vitamin D into my bones. The kind of day with the healing splendour of daylight.

Of course in my mind, my usual, and sometimes annoying positive outlook encouraged me to believe the tarantula-like mass in my father’s brain would and could be removed. But the professionals said no, because the tumour had octopus-like arms reaching their tentacles in and around his brain’s essential parts. Evil. Encircling. Choking.

It was a horrible thought and an even worse reality.

Like a rude, obnoxious, know-it-all, I snubbed it. I looked down my nose at it and refused to accept such a ridiculous prediction. I would not welcome my father’s death sentence in any way, shape, or form. 

“Oh really, hmmm, that’s nothing! My dad has survived extreme poverty, abandonment as a child, and so much heartache, while keeping up a happy disposition and gregarious laugh. He will surely beat this.” I said this out loud to whomever would listen.

Denial can be a wonderful thing, and yet debilitating, all in one fell swoop.

The treatments stole his hair, as the disease took away his voice, and his usually handsome, chiselled good looks became puffy and foreign. Simultaneously, I refused to believe he would soon leave me.

I can still hear myself saying, “My dad has survived far worse…a two-hundred-foot fall down the side of the Capilano Suspension bridge; a near-fatal heart attack while driving on the Upper Levels Highway; being burned in a fire in Mission with skin grafting that would make others cry out in horrific agony. He will beat a measly ole brain tumour, I’m sure of it!” 

After I lamented, my father confidently and knowingly smiled at me as if he knew he would beat it too. Although, in retrospect, maybe he was smiling at my blind love for him.

As the youngest in my family, I did not think or have any clue that I should go to an appointment with my father, or do any research, or even ask any questions. Everyone else had always taken care of me. He was 70, my mom was 65. It was as if, even at 26 years old, I still thought of myself as being under the care of my parents.

During this time of trauma and terror in my personal life, I worked for a company called TLC—Tender Loving Care. They provided services for older adults in need of a friend or a helping hand. My favourite client was a 92-year-old retired teacher living in a mansion by herself in Shaughnessy. Her sister had passed away in one of the upstairs bedrooms. The whole setup had an eerie sensation and mysterious essence of the 1980s show Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansbury. There was a lightness to the woman, but something dark lurking in the atmosphere. I was always a little bit frightened to be there, but my client’s sweetness candy-coated the experience. 

My duties included making her breakfast, doing her laundry, making her dinner for later, and visiting. 

She was in the habit of barricading her door when she was alone, so each time I went, we had to go through the process of her identifying that I was a friend and not a foe, before she would let me in. There she was, no taller than five feet, a sweet waif of a woman, withered and worn and smiling ear to ear, so happy to be having a caller.

Once inside, she began telling me stories of her past. She spoke of her father building their home in the 1920s, and how she had met Ronald Regan when he visited Vancouver. Her recollections described the southwest area of Vancouver as expansive farmland, horses grazing, wheelbarrow rides, and the clanging of the street car on South Granville street. Dances and dance cards, and the man she loved marrying someone else. Broken hearts and a sister she adored. After she told me they were both spinsters, a faraway look glazed her eyes, and she paused. I did not know if she stopped talking because she forgot what she was about to say, or if the memories were too painful to recall.  

I hung on to her words and visualized her fascinating life.

When they placed my dad in the palliative care ward of Lions Gate Hospital, I worried and became thrilled when a nurse told me he had eaten a small portion of jello. I remember being pleased and hopeful that he would still make it—denial, contradiction, and avoidance.

“Starry, starry night

Paint your palette blue and gray

Look out on a summer’s day

With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.

Shadow on the hills

Sketch the trees and daffodils

Catch the breeze and the winter chills

In colours on the snowy linen land.”

While at his bedside on September 25, 1987, when he could no longer see, and was just a shell of the man he once was, I told him it was okay for him to go. I reassured him I would be okay. 

With such strength, he gripped my hand, which felt like a feather soft in his, and he held on tightly. I could have stayed like that for a long time. I did not want to let go or tell him he could let go, but I did. I needed to free him from his pain.

“Now I understand

What you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity

How you tried to set them free

They would not listen, they did not know how

Perhaps they’ll listen now.” 

In retrospect, I now know his vice-like grip when his life was almost finished was his way of saying “I love you, thank you, I am sorry, but I have to go now…” He was comforting me and reassuring me he was going to be okay.

The question was and still is, but will I be okay?

As sad as this may sound, I still think of him thirty-four years later. But my thoughts have shifted, and leaned more towards happy memories. My dad was playful, fun, and funny. We had a game that was symbolic and so telling—wrapping his hands around my little toddler waistline, he would throw me up in the air, at least ten feet, and catch me without fear that I would be dropped. Bystanders watched my dad’s strength in hoisting me up and out of his arms. I loved the gasps and how people covered their mouths in alarm towards my father’s antics. To this day, I can still feel the freeness of looking down at him in the air, my bird’s eye view seeing his arms outstretched, waiting to catch me, and landing in his strong arms, safe and sound on impact, and into his tight embrace.

And then one day, when I asked him, “Please, Daddy, throw me up in the air!” He responded, “Oh, you are a big girl now, and I’m afraid I can no longer manage to get you up that high, let alone catch you safely when you land.”

Instead of feeling sad that our game had ended, I felt terrible, knowing that HE felt bad that he had to say no. Therefore, no whining or pleading came from my big girl self, even though I knew I would always be his little girl. I wanted to yell, “Yes, you can, Daddy, you can do it!” I was sure he could still manage our game of heaving me up and waiting for my return. I had faith in him.


We know everything about our past is not all sunshine and roses—purring kittens, rainbows, and pots of gold.

For example, a short excerpt from my second book, Where is my Happy Ending – A Journey of No Regrets pages 277-278. 

“I did not know what to call it, a funeral, a memorial service, or a celebration of life. We picked a date and a location to wish my dad a fond farewell, to say bon voyage, cheerio, sayonara, and bye-bye. We were sending him to a better place, but it was unclear to me where that better place was. I so wanted it to be heaven.

For a reason unknown to me, someone had ordered a white stretch limousine to pick up my grieving family. Clamouring out the door from our house on Jones Avenue were my two brothers, their partners, my sister, mother, myself, and my husband. Silently, the chauffeur nodded as he opened the gleaming white door, and one by one, like dutiful robots, we climbed in. I could not remember the last time we had all been together like this. Perhaps it had been my wedding, but never in a confined space such as a vehicle, where we all sat silently facing one another.

It felt glamorous, but wrong, to be enjoying the luxury of black leather seats set in a U-shape formation, with a minibar lined up behind the driver. The sunroof was open, allowing a warm September breeze to ruffle my hair. At one point, my brother’s girlfriend suggested we stand up through the sunroof above us. The driver said that was completely out of the question for safety reasons. None of us wanted to do it, anyway, except her.

As we exited Lonsdale Street and turned onto the Upper Levels Highway, the route reminded me of all the times I had ridden with my father as a little girl in his work truck. My treasured childhood memory, combined with the new experience of being in a limo, brought a lightness to the event, and for a brief moment, I was absurdly happy. Catching myself, I struggled to find balance and teetered between pain and euphoria. For once, my mother’s mental health issues seemed to be making sense. 

The Capilano Crematorium had standing room only. Aside from myself, a great number of people loved my dad, and it seemed like all of North Vancouver had come out to pay their respects. Not everyone could fit inside the room, and many had to wait outside until it was over. It was the end of a long warm summer, so thankfully, the doors were kept open.

I sat next to my mother, and she held my hand. I first thought she laced her fingers in mine because she was reaching out to calm me, but when I felt the wadded-up Kleenex balled up in her palm, I realized she was holding my hand for her own sake. I did not mind and welcomed her show of affection, as the last time she held my hand was when I was a little girl at the grocery store.

My oldest brother had prepared music, a mixed tape of my father’s most loved songs – “The Tennessee Waltz,” sung by Patti Page and “Put Your Sweet Lips a Little Closer to the Phone,” by Jim Reeves. We had an open microphone, so people could come up and share their memories, thoughts, or heartfelt feelings. 

I later regretted not getting up to speak. Fear gripped me. But after, I thought what a wonderful speech and tribute I could have given.

Stepping outside into the glaring sunshine, several people stood around laughing at the telling of old stories or perhaps funny memories they had shared with my dad, while others timidly glanced over at me, downcast, not knowing how to act or what to do.

I wanted everyone to be weeping, to holler out how unfair it was, shake their fist at the sky, and demand answers. Instead, their laughter felt wrong and unnerving. I yearned for someone to gallantly take my father’s place, climb into the oven, and become reduced to ashes, professing that they should be taken from this world instead.”

Where is my Happy Ending – A journey of No regrets By Karen Harmon

“And then one day

A magic day he passed my way

Though we talked of many things, fools and kings

This he said to me

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn

Is just to love and be loved in return.”

But I could have told you, Vincent

This world was never meant for

One as beautiful as you”

I have come to terms with the unfairness that death and dying can bring. The bottom line is that life has always been unfair, uneven, and imbalanced. After our loved ones die, we might feel ripped off, like, “Hey, wait a minute, that wasn’t supposed to happen!” And then people will say to us, “They are in a better place; he’s not suffering anymore, his pain is gone, and he will be with you always.”  

Without sounding ungrateful, most people’s intentions are kind and well-meaning. But what if they said, “Oh, don’t be silly, they didn’t die,” “I just saw them in the next room,” or “Get over it!”  “Have you lost your mind?”

As I get older, I am getting used to people dying. Their demise is sad, and the loss of life is still excruciating. But then the importance of living smacks me in the heart, and I want to live more than ever.

Out of confusion and in a searching mode, after my father passed, I went to a fortune teller. I still hold onto her soothsaying wisdom to this day, just in case it’s true.

A week after my dad left me, I spent many evenings looking up to the starry-starry night and wondering where his soul had gone. Based on a friend’s referral, I made an appointment, drove to Kitsilano and quickly found the address.

Upon entering, the room was still, and I noticed my surroundings: a ticking clock, the slight aroma of musk incense, combined with the telltale signs of a cat. That distraction reminded me how much I love cats. And I may be better off getting advice from a feline friend grooming itself and purring out a morse code mantra than a stranger in a trance perseverating over my existence.

While waiting for my anticipated forecast, upon her instructions, I breathed in the positive and breathed out the negative. 

Eventually, snapping out of her trans-like state, the clairvoyant said, “You will live a very long life and become wise beyond your years. People of all ages will come to you seeking wisdom.” After hearing this, a sense of relief washed over me, and I was flattered, paid my fifty dollars, and went on my way. But, hanging onto an airy-fairy prediction that I have never forgotten makes me wonder, am I willing the prophecy to be true? Do I dare question its origin?

If my dad were still alive, I know he would hate the modern-day fashion of ripped jeans. To him, it would be a sign of poverty. He might say, “Why on earth do those people not mend their pants?” Or “Will you look at that poor bugger, too poor to buy new clothing. Maybe we have something laying around the house we can give them?”

He would shake his head at present-day technology and say, “For darned sakes, will you look at that!” When I showed him my cell phone, he’d comment, “Well, I’ll be damned!” A computer would be almost unfathomable. However, I presume he would love looking things up on Google.

Or maybe he would throw his hands up and growl, “Whatever happened to socializing, telling jokes, and a good old-fashioned game of charades.”

I’m glad I had a good dad, even though he had a tough upbringing and was not given any tools for being a husband or a father. He somehow had a love-thy-neighbour attitude and decided at a young age to always be kind, especially to children. Yes, I suppose he made mistakes. I know I certainly have. Regardless, I still miss him. 

What about you?

Do you have questions you would ask your parents or another loved one, if they were still here? As I ask you this, I wonder if it stirs up feelings of joy, annoyance, anger, or pain. Do you laugh out loud or quickly bury the thoughts and feelings in the back corners of your mind?

I would love to hear from you in the comments. It can be cathartic to share, and I am interested.

When my son, Mackenzie Vincent Harmon, suggested I write a blog, he also said this…

“And then your blog can have a positive tie-in at the end, like how you can still have these conversations in your head, and see your dad so vividly, that he clearly did enough to impact your life with the bit of time he had.”


Karen age 22 and Vince age 67

Thank you

Don Mclean

Born October 2, 1945, is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. His most acclaimed songs are American Pie, Vincent, Castles in the Air, and I love You So.

High School Daze

High School Daze

High School Daze

By Karen Harmon

“What I remember most about high school are the memories I created with my friends.”

When I think back to my high school days, instead of remembering that academic aspect of getting an education, my thoughts unravel to such things as…crushes I had on boys, my loathing of P.E. class, and the math homework I never did; the dreaded and worrisome pimples that came out of nowhere, and the removal of my wisdom teeth; the times I forgot my locker combination and my gym strip. Not to mention all the latest fashion trends I did not own, and the whole while, longing to be cooler. 

On the outside, I was carefree and fun. I proudly held the nicknames smiley and motor mouth. However, sometimes I was curled up inside myself, living in my own personal turmoil. I thought everyone was prettier, smarter, thinner, and funnier, and the students who smoked on the street corner outside my school were the coolest. Those who partied and slept around were out of my league. I was far too shy and insecure to join the ranks of those cool people.

If it could be any worse, some of these memories are wrapped up and tightly coiled with feelings of mortification and embarrassment. However, much acceptance and unraveling has taken place. Most of the hard bits have been smoothed out.

Besides, what IS cool anyway?

The proper definition of cool is moderately cold; neither warm nor cold; a relatively cool evening. Of course, the slang meaning is what I am talking about here—Cool: Okay, cool! I’ll be there at 10:00, OR He got the job? So cool! And my favourite, Fonzie from Happy Days, was so cool! 

Meanwhile, we know our perception of what WAS or IS cool changes with age. Especially when we become parents or health nuts and more conscious about our minds, bodies, and the world around us. In other words, our older and wiser self has common sense and acquired life lessons.


 Living with past regrets mixed in with that nostalgia might cause us to wish for a do-over. Or maybe we have closed that door and have no desire to turn back the hands of time whatsoever.


What would you do differently if you could go back to school as the person you are now?

As for me, if I could go back in time to high school as the person I am now, I would join the drama class, debate team, and student council. I’d raise my hand to answer questions instead of averting my eyes from the teacher’s gaze. I would take more interest in learning. And I would speak to the boys I used to be intimidated by. In addition, instead of staying home to watch episodes of The Waltons, I would go to all the dances and parties and be the belle of the ball!

I love those movies where the character travels back in time or has an assignment where they go back to high school…kind of like a do-over. 

Hopefully, we have learned from our mistakes and forgiven those who have wronged us. But, just as importantly, we treasure the good memories, walking the halls with our friends and the shared laughter, hopes, and dreams of the day we would be released from the institution that kept us hostage. 

And yet, something about our teenage years, high school and everything that went with it, had a significant impact on our lives. We still talk about those five years of secondary school, even thirty and forty years later. Like they were the good ole days.

But were they really?

And then, like the flick of a switch, we became who we are now. 

Currently, during the day and early evening, I wear many hats. Aside from being a writer, course facilitator, and fitness instructor, I also work in a high school as an Education Assistant.

I thoroughly enjoy the jobs and skills I have acquired. I like what I do and do what I like.

However, retiring sounds incredibly appealing, and when the time comes, I look forward to a less structured routine day in and day out. 

With that being said, I know I will continue to do things. I would like, God willing, to continue teaching fitness until my last breath. It may look different but still completely doable. In addition, I will want to write more, and I am looking forward to having more time for cooking.

But before my future happens, there is still the present. 

Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., I work with a Grade 9 student at a high school. I can honestly say the best part of my job is helping others and reliving my high school days.

You know that old saying, “Beauty is wasted on the youth.” I would like to add that sometimes high school is wasted on the youth too. 

Let me explain…

When I walk down the hallways at my school, I see so many students that might have been my friends many years ago. Except they are different—they seem more inclusive, friendlier and wiser. I do love my job. I participate in chemistry experiments, English writing assignments, and history lessons I have long since forgotten. Yet, I feel privileged to experience a new curriculum. Now the students study the environment, are taught critical thinking, and there is a big emphasis on human rights, work experience, life skills, and managing a cheque book. In addition to sports in P.E., there are other options, including dance, yoga, aerobics, hiking, and weightlifting. 

Please keep in mind that no matter how insightful or intuitive I think I am, I cannot read people’s minds or know what is going on in their hearts. When working with youth, my goal is to be a beacon of hope, making myself as approachable as possible, regardless of what I hear in the news or see on social media. Or maybe it’s because of?

I promise you there is a lot of positivity too!

Being a part of a high school environment, I have learned much about myself. As an adult, I now know I WAS cool but in a completely different way from the peers I wanted to emulate. I also know I was loved and raised to do the same. Unfortunately, many did not have this element growing up. It’s a known fact that parents struggle too.

My teenage years were spent living on a hobby farm in Stave Falls. I had a horse named Cricket and sold farm fresh eggs to the neighbours. We went to horse auctions on the weekends, participated in mini rodeos, and attended many movies. My friends and I cruised the strip in Maple Ridge, Mission, and Abbotsford. Gas was cheaper back then! I had a best friend whose family owned a trailer at Birch Bay, so she and I cruised the strip there too.

The fifty acres my parents owned were complete with three man-made ponds stocked with rainbow trout, rope swings, a diving board, and rafts. The natural springs filled the watering holes in the fall and winter and warmed them in the spring and summer. Therefore, we swam for a significant portion of the year and ice skated for a smaller portion.

Don’t get me wrong, I was not always a goody two shoes! I was a late bloomer and participated in the drinking scene when I was older. I will save that for another blog! Or please read my book Where is My Happy Ending? – A Journey of No Regrets for heartwarming stories, heart-wrenching moments, and relatable memories of the 1970s and 1980s.

Forgive me. I digress!

Today at the high school where I work, my student and I were in her Grade 9 cooking class. The lab was pizza dough and Naan bread. As you know, both products are made with yeast.

As I scurried about helping the teacher, my student, and various others; with measuring, mixing, kneading, and cleaning up afterwards, I was reminded of this…

In the 1960s, my mother went through a bread-making phase. I call it a phase because she was bipolar, so her plans, schemes, and ideas were sometimes seasonal, if not a little up and down.

Side note: aside from her mental health issues, she was a wonderful mother, and I loved her dearly and still do. Healing from past hurts helped me to figure this out. I have also learned that her mood swings have made me an empathetic, open-minded person who tries to see past people’s struggles and sometimes unhealthy behaviour.


Be that as it may, from when I was in Grade 2 until about Grade 6, my mother went through a bread-making phase.

Today while watching the teacher demonstrate the process of making bread to the Grade 9 students,  I realized I had never made bread before.

I allowed myself a brief time away mentally from the task at hand to remember my mother and her bread-making. I was filled with wonderful memories of coming home after school to the smell of freshly baked bread being pulled from the oven. I swear I could smell it a block away. She was pretty adamant about giving it time to cool or rest or whatever needed to happen…and then, when the time was right, we were allowed to have a warm thick slice with butter and homemade strawberry freezer jam. With it was a cold glass of milk. Its thick creamy goodness went well with the fluffy white dough. 

Sometimes I would sit at the kitchen table, savouring the chewy delicacy. Other times, I would go outside and sit on our rope swing that hung down between two enormous cedar trees. My fingers would be sticky from the jam or dripping butter—usually both.

It was the sixties, and that’s how we rolled!

Remembering this moment lost in time, I am so happy I recalled it today. And then I allowed myself to think further…

Did my mother plan to have the bread come out of the oven precisely when I walked in the door from school? Or was it a haphazard accident? Did she think that morning, Oh, I better make a fresh batch of freezer jam to go with the bread I am making for Karen. Perhaps she made homemade bread to save money. Or maybe she was thinking of HER mother and how things were done in the 1930s. And what did she think when she decided not to make bread anymore?

Summing up

I go to my school job daily as an adult, and I often compare the year 2022 to my teen years in the 1970s. I can honestly say that even though there are still many struggles for teenagers, ALL the young people I meet during my day are so COOL! So many of them have a better awareness of health and fitness, the environment and the world around us. The teachers are inclusive and kind, encouraging and open to how all minds work. There is safety and respect from teachers, counsellors, and education assistants like me.

All in all, my experiences are good. My memories are fun and humorous and sometimes a little sad. I relish them all.

Now, what about you? I would love to hear your thoughts and some of your memories. Maybe they are very different from mine? Perhaps my blog calmed your fears, made you smile, or gave you a moment to go back in time. Please share if you feel inclined to do so.

P.S. As of this date, I am currently working on my fourth book and halfway through a fiction manuscript called CLASS of ’78. I am sure you can imagine what it will be about. I will keep you posted!

November and Hockey Night in Canada

November and Hockey Night in Canada

NOTE: before we get to my blog, I feel the need to comment on the disastrous results of the flooding in the Lower Mainland.

I wrote this blog in early November while thinking about my upcoming birthday on November 17th. I have extraordinarily fond and fuzzy warm feelings for this time of year, and I wanted to share those memories with you. Unfortunately, since first writing my blog, there have been recent catastrophic events in regard to the unprecedented heavy rains we have experienced locally. Therefore, I ask that while reading this blog, you keep in mind that my thoughts expressed here are unrelated to the disastrous flooding. My heart goes out to the many people, farms, businesses, and animals that have been affected.

November is my favourite month of the year. It indicates the end of Autumn and the prelude to winter. The 11th month of every year brings late sunrises to the morning and early gloominess to the evening.

Some people get the blues and find November to be dismal and gloomy. Yet, I feel cocoon-like, hopeful, safe, and content. If a social gathering is cancelled due to inclement weather, I am relieved, as in, ‘Good, I get to stay home!’

Wherever we live, we choose to either struggle or breeze through whatever the seasons have to offer. Sometimes we are reluctant and find ourselves persevering. But eventually, we get a handle on it and hold our own when it comes to external conditions, especially in November. We often reason it out,  thinking ‘Time passes so quickly, and a new calendar year is just around the corner.’ Thus, we can sum up how life will again bring forth environmental awakenings— budding trees, blooming flowers, clearer skies—and if we can just get through the cold, dark months of November, December, January, and February, we will be okay.

My theory is to accept my surroundings, forge through the atmospheric conditions, dress for the weather, and nestle into the inevitable, sometimes clobbering of winter.


In life, many people depend on rain for their livelihood, and much more. Although rain can cause happiness for some, there are also times when this phenomenon can cause distress to others. I want to acknowledge that some people suffer from seasonal depression, also known as (SAD) Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression related to changes in the seasons. For most people with SAD, their symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping their energy and making them feel moody, or unfortunately, even worse, as each situation is unique and different for everyone. More personally, my mother displayed shifts in her moods, and some thought it was due to the weather.


When winter is looming, you may consider yourself a snowbird, jetting off to another country where the harsh snow or rain are not a concern. Or perhaps where you live, the climate is somewhat seasonless, and you perpetually wake up to bright, warm sunshine coming through your window, or an eye-popping sunset that offers not warmth, but glorious eye feasting colours in the night sky.

The weather is different where I live…

Vancouver, British Columbia, especially in November, has the most rainfall of any other province in Canada. Residents here in this coastal city experience rain and dampness that comes in all forms, from a light mist and mild drizzle to gentle sprinkles, or some days a burst of heavy showers that evolve into a downpour of cold, sideways-blowing rain. I recently heard someone describe the highways and byways as atmospheric rivers that pop up throughout the lower mainland and all over British Columbia.

More recently here in the Lower Mainland, we have experienced first-hand how disastrous a menacing tirade of unceasing water can be. My condolences and prayers to those who are struggling with extreme loss and hardship. My praise also for the heroes who are stepping up to the plate, offering their time and effort to ease the severe circumstances of many.

On a lighter note…

On many occasions, the wind turns umbrellas inside out, and blows hoods and hats from our heads. Puddles splash up on our pantlegs when cars drive by, and soggy wet leaves disintegrate into nothing from the smashing down of our footsteps as we rush about looking for coverage.

In Vancouver, Gore-Tex can be worn as business casual. Umbrellas are found propped in hallways, on coat racks, scattered in the backseat of our cars, and jammed into various bags, ready to use at a moment’s notice.

Gumboots sit by the door, and reflective wear, headlamps, and safety vests are nearby and highly recommended.

A popular local joke is that instead of getting sun-tanned, Vancouverites rust!

Here on the coast, we love to say things like…

It is raining cats and dogs out there.

Nobody knows how to drive in the rain.

The roads are the slickest in the first half-hour.

The plants are going to love this.

I sleep better when it’s raining.

This weather makes me want to stay at home and curl up with a good book.

More notably, our four-legged friends often loathe the rain—specifically my Chihuahua, Steven. He digs his heels in and refuses to go outside when the weather is anything but dry. He would much rather stay in bed!

I have always rooted for the underdog. So, could that be why I like the most disliked month of the year? Or perhaps the reason is this…

Hockey Night in Canada

Hockey Night in Canada is primarily associated with its Saturday-night NHL broadcasts that began in 1931, first on the radio, and then on television in 1952. In 1970-71, the Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL, therefore, growing up in North Vancouver, you can only imagine the excitement in our home on Saturday nights, especially when our home team, the Canucks, were playing.

Rainy days and nights always remind me of hockey games on television.

I can still hear the announcer’s voice, although, ironically, I was not wrapped up in the game like my family was. But the sound of the commentator’s voice brings back fond memories of my family oohing and awing, cheering and yelling at the television during every game.

My older sister was missing from the family dynamics around Hockey Night in Canada because she chose to be out riding horses. If the TV was not available for her western shows, then undeniably, hockey was not my sister’s cup of tea.

I was the little sister, so I had no choice.

Announcer comments 101

He shoots. He scores!

Coast to coast, like butter on toast.

He’s threading the needle, or nice thread.

If that post hadn’t been there, that would have been a goal.

We’re going to take them one game at a time.

If you can’t beat them in the alley, you can’t beat them on the ice.

Win the fight and lose the game.

The goalposts are a part of the goalie’s equipment.

When you put the puck on the net, good things happen.

That was a goal-scorer’s goal.

We’ve got to score those dirty goals.

We need to get more traffic in front of the net.

We need to give 110 percent.

They are a lunch pail crew.

We really didn’t give the goaltender any support.

Will you look at that Spinarama!

The fourth win is the hardest to get.

Our goalie bailed us out.

And of course, the excitement mounted when the popular term “the gloves are off!” was stated in the most emphatic way.

The Bottle Rocket was rare, but it was the most fun for me. This is a term that refers to when a goal breaks the goalie’s water bottle. There were many instant replays when this occurred, and my father always called me over to sit on his lap and watch it all in slow motion.

Hockey lingo is a language of its own, with phrases and terminology that only a hockey player or a faithful fan would understand.

Many of us grew up with favoured commentators such as Jim Hughson, Chris Cuthbert, Rick Jeanerette, Ron Maclean, and Mike “Doc” Emrick. Of course, all of them are popular and cherished in their own right, but to some people like me, just the sound of their voices was (and still is) comforting.

For me, the rain, comfort food, and staying indoors were the gateway to Hockey Night in Canada.

My dad and grandpa

Visualize this…

Hard-hitting rain pelting the windowpanes and darkness terminating outside play by 4:30 p.m. Steamed up windows from my mother’s savoury meals.

One can still taste the hearty, delectable meals such as roast beef, root vegetables, and creamy mashed potatoes with gravy; rich, brothy stews, accompanied with fluffy biscuits that were golden brown on the outside, pull-apart goodness on the inside; apple crisp with sweet, crunchy brown sugar crumble on top and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

And don’t forget our beloved Jello.

While she was cooking, my older brothers, father, and grandfather cheered from the living room. Their animated faces, camaraderie, and scoffs could be heard a mile away. My mother often left the kitchen to rush in and join in the festivities because she, too, was a fan.

I was there, but not front and center. Instead, I felt the presence of family and fun from the sidelines (no pun intended).

There I would sit with puzzles permanently set up at the family’s card table. Disney colouring books and Crayola crayons were strewn about. Board games such as Trouble, Sorry, Monopoly, and Snakes and Ladders were stacked nearby, ready to play. Sometimes I would help my mother with the meal by making dessert in my Easy Bake oven. I delighted in churning out sweet sugary masses of chocolate discs for my family. The turning of those small knobby dials on my etch-a-sketch would keep me busy designing modern art. Light Bright, “making things with light,” Battleship, “hey, you sunk my battleship!” and Rock em Sock em Robots, “I can beat any kid on the block, oh no, my block was knocked off!”

Whatever happened to the Etch A Sketch?

And this…

My parents purchased season tickets to attend the Vancouver Canuck hockey games at the Vancouver Coliseum. I will never forget being taken to my first live game at the age of ten. It was a huge deal, just my dad and me, driving over the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge (at the time, it was called the 2nd Narrows Bridge), and pulling into the parking lot as my father steered our car towards a uniformed parking lot attendant who was waving his flashlight at us. Upon entering the stadium, the smell of overly salty, buttery popcorn permeated our nostrils as my little-girl eyes widened in delight! Hotdogs glistened and rolled on the rotisserie, waiting for their place in a soft white, doughy bun. When my father said, “Two please,” my heart skipped a beat. Upon receiving my own pleated white cardboard container, my dad taught me the finesse of filling and smothering my hotdog in ketchup, mustard, relish, and raw onions.

Money was tight, but there was always enough for a hotdog and a coke.

Settling into our seats in the vast arena was mind-boggling to all my senses. Taking small bites from my hotdog to make it last longer, my gaze lingered on the fans. And then my father pulled out the binoculars! So much for the eyes to see! I marvelled at the faces, families, and what others were doing. And then, while encased in my viewing pleasure, I instantly covered my ears at the earth-shattering eruption of screams. I had no idea what was happening…

In a daze of bewilderment, fear gripped me because I thought an atomic bomb had gone off. Then, gazing up into my father’s face and seeing his wide-open grin, I said, “What happened, daddy? Is everything okay?”

The fans had erupted into cheers, shouts, and applause as our team scored a goal! Completely taken aback, my dad laughed out loud at my question and fearful look. He then reassured me that our team had just scored a goal, and that’s what happens when the fans get excited.

I can still hear him repeatedly telling the story of my first live hockey game.

“All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.”

-Gordie Howe, also known as “Mr. Hockey.”

Me and Gordie Howe at his 80th Birthday party, I will save the story of this event for another time.

Gordie Howe

Born March 31, 1928, at Floral Saskatchewan

1071 Career Goals

1518 Career Assists

2589 Career Points

Inducted into the Hall of Fame 1972

In loving memory 1928 – 2016

For me, November is a time of hunkering down, settling in, nesting, taking life a little slower and reminiscing about days gone by.

The weather does that to us. Furthermore, we often use the topic during awkward moments. Talking about the weather is a great way to fill in the space when the conversation is lagging. People tend to light up when the subject of climate comes up. We love to talk about the cherry blossoms in the spring, the overly hot, sticky summers, the crisp fall mornings and how quickly the leaves might be turning. And when the rain is coming down, we like to say, “Wow, it sure is coming down out there.”

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

-Vivian Greene

A November day is like any other, until the rain falls and becomes a bother

We lay low in the hearth of the home, and soon the sun will make us roam…

-Karen Harmon

If my blog brings up some of your fond memories, please share them in the comments below.

Are You in Search of Memory Lane OR Are You Looking for a Detour?

Are You in Search of Memory Lane OR Are You Looking for a Detour?

By Karen Harmon

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But also tear you apart.

– Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

WARNING; this blog contains some hard questions that may be beneficial to your health.

F.A.Q.: “I have read your books, and I marvel at your memory. How on earth can you remember so much from your childhood?”

Answer:I was taught storytelling from my father, but it was not until I started writing down my memories that my past became much clearer.  The more I wrote, the more I remembered.”

When thinking about your childhood, do the memories bring on warm fuzzy feelings and fond thoughts of days gone by? Is walking down memory lane a gentle stroll that invites you to meander peacefully? Do recollections of your mother’s embrace, swimming at the lake, or graduating high school make you smile and fill you with gratitude for a life well-lived?


Do you experience an adrenaline rush of nameless panic, terror, and despair? Are your recollections foggy, few, and far between? Does your past appear like a hard shove into yesteryear, with doors slamming and windows that are dismal and murky? Do recollections of a hurtful word and an embarrassing moment engulf you with debilitating shame? Perhaps flashbacks of an angry parent, a harsh teacher, and toxic relationships cause you to block out parts of your life and establish a habit of avoidance when thinking of the past?

My thoughts and opinions on this subject are just that, my own. But since I have been working on myself (for what seems like forever), my views might interest you.

So, here goes…

The actions that others inflicted upon you were not your fault, and quite frankly, had nothing to do with you. An instruction manual was not attached to your bottom when you were born. Your parents were often flying by the seat of their pants, as their parents had done before them.

More times than not, an eclectic version of days gone by can be readily accessed by all of us, unless those memories are buried and locked away, too painful to access. Sometimes it is out of fear, or maybe you sum up the past as just a form of life lessons?  Perhaps you think I am not that person anymore. So can we please just move on?!

Remembering is not easy.

While perusing social media, it has come to my attention that Facebook pages, Instagram posts, Twitter accounts, and Subreddits showcase looking back as a significant pastime. I am sure you have seen them too, titles such as, Remember the 80s, The Psychedelic 70s, Bring Back the 60s, or Meanwhile, Back in the 50s…

All groups seem to profess the same thing—their era was the best and the most fun, with common phrases such as “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and various memes like “To all of you that still listen to 80s music, cheers”  or “Sometimes I wish I could just rewind to the old days and press pause… just for a little while.”

The whimsical collection of reminiscent anecdotes and humorous illustrations state each era’s childhood or teenage years were the easiest to get through, the grooviest, and simply the best time in their lives. Often these groups feel sorry for people from other eras and other groups. Or they gloat and boast in a comedic teasing and taunting sort of way.

My point remainsmany of us can find joy in reminiscing, whereas many find only pain.


Medical journals that promote health and well-being, acclaimed by physicians, psychologists, therapists, counsellors, analysts, advisers, life coaches, and even some gurus, express that we often suffer extreme consequences by not addressing the root cause of our pain. For example, it has been proven that carrying around past hurts and trauma can lead to addiction, depression, and other health issues.

Consequently, problems at work, at home, and in our relationships will arise if we cannot access those bad feelings and skeletons in our closets.

When a harrowing experience is recorded as a memory, the emotional charge of that memory makes it so potent that our brain sometimes sends false signals, warning us that specific thoughts and reflections are detrimental. We just might perish if we stir things up. The agony may feel unbearable. As a result, we block it out, push it down, reach for a drink or a cookie, take a pill, or smoke something other than a cigarette, or perhaps both. Which in turn numbs the pain while still being socially acceptable. However, these stimulants do not take the pain away.   Rather, each in turn prevents us from remembering and sharing our past.

What if the same amount of acceptance was given to our fears and tears, as to our happiness and joy?

Stop crying, or I will give you something to cry about. Many of us were raised with this demand. Therefore, we learned early on to stifle our tears, to trap and lock down our pain, leaving it to eventually fester and implode.

We try to bury and forget the bad stuff, but for some reason, through the hands of time, the ticking of the clock, the turning page of each calendar year, the icky parts have a way of reappearing and surfacing in one way, shape or form. We become triggered by the world around us and specific acts of others—someone cutting us off while driving; the way a sales clerk looks or doesn’t look at us; a waiter who takes longer to bring our food; a crying child, a barking dog or a person sitting next to us chewing food loudly. And the list goes on. We may snap back at the individuals or share what a jerk they are or how this one incident ruined our entire day.

Perhaps there is a reason why we struggle with topics of current prominence in our society, because they do act as triggers. Why do people not get my point? we might think.

Is it simply the actions of others that set us off and annoy us, bringing our past hurts and early trauma to the surface? Maybe their patterns are clashing with our patterns?

Mental health oppression at its core is the suppression of emotions.

What if the same amount of acceptance was given to our fears and tears as to our joy and happiness? I am repeating this, as it is worth repeating.

The by-product of remembering is the feelings that arise. 

Through conjuring the memories of my past hurts, I have learned a lot about myself.  Unequivocally, my personality can be a tad quirky, sometimes eccentric, and some say, “witty, kind, and empathetic.” Relatable to some and comical to others. The road I have walked, my past experiences, and the path I chose or accidentally fell onto, consequently have (obviously) made me who I am.

I have grown to like myself, and hopefully, it shows. However, the process of remembering and working through the complex parts of my past was not initially all feelings of happiness, contentment, and joy.

The following thoughts are hard to admit…

It’s not over yet, the healing and growing part. But my fear has subsided immensely, and now I look forward to and anticipate the bumps along the way—or the potholes from my past. For those who know me, I have always avoided adversity and confrontation, at all costs. But, for the record, I am starting to welcome it—sort of…

The first time I went for counselling, I thought I would fix a struggling and broken marriage. What I ended up working on was the aftermath of the death of my father and my mother’s mood swings. That old “layers of the onion” routine.

Some of MY tricky bits

Growing up, our home was sparsely decorated. My mother did not sew or profess to be a Suzy-Homemaker type. I was not deliberately taught life lessons, but was rather told what to do, and never why. When I was four, my mom had me practice printing my name on the back of an envelope that contained the heating bill, as we were flying out the door to kindergarten. One time she smashed a whole stack of dirty dishes on the kitchen floor in a state of frustration. She often stated to anyone within earshot that I was horrible at math and not athletic. She wore floral print house dresses with wadded-up Kleenex in her pockets, while all my friend’s moms looked considerably different. Sometimes she even wore a wig that looked like a helmet with curly hair sprouting from it. My mom never hugged me or said I love you. I was the youngest of four.

At first, these memories hurt and made me feel sad, until I investigated further.

I wrote my story and took the plunge by walking down memory lane, no matter how dark it sometimes got. In doing so, my mother’s love became crystal clear.

Sometimes we discover good in the not-so-good.

The bad memories brought good ones. I saw my mother’s eyes shining with admiration every time I spoke. I felt my mom’s intolerance towards my teachers when many of them stated there was no use in Karen going to university. I had visions of a kitchen chair dappled in flour, with me standing on it next to my mother as my tiny arm stirred while she measured ingredients. She always left just enough on the wooden spoon, the beaters, or inside the mixing bowl for me to taste the cookie dough. She was always very frugal. On one occasion, we made baking powder biscuits and cornbread for my Grade four class because the teacher asked for volunteers. I beamed with pride when Mrs. Macleod complimented me on how perfect they were.

When my dad took my brothers fishing, my mother and I went to movie matinees over town. During these flashbacks, I was reminded that our car ride was filled with chatter between my mother and me. Her heartfelt stories entertained me and gave me a window into how it used to be in “the olden days.” Swimming lessons and skating lessons were a constant, and so was the memory of my mother sitting on a hard bench, nose in a book, rarely looking up to cheer me on. But she was there.  Sharing salty crinkle french fries from the concession stand after the lessons made everything worthwhile. I can still see my folks holding hands, going on fancy dates and vacations. They set an example of how a relationship could be. They rarely argued and always laughed at each other’s jokes. I gained a sense of humour from my parents.

My mother’s love was hugely evident once I could get past the ambiguity of sorrow. These fond memories (that accompanied the bad ones) appeared like magic. I discovered my mom was the best mom for me, and I would not trade her for the world. The good feelings are more robust now. I weeded out the bad ones and mowed them down.

Ultimately my recollections and writing about them have brought me tremendous healing, and therefore, peace.

All in all…

The past can feel like a scary, foreign country; they do things differently there, but it is worth the journey back. I know you will not regret it.

What about you?

Can you evaluate yourself and pinpoint a time from your past that was painful, upsetting, and even life-changing? Maybe it hurts way too much to think about. If that is so, may I just say, “Please try. You won’t be sorry. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and if you can bring yourself to venture in, I will encourage you on with a ‘Way to go!’”

Here is your Assignment

Share one hard memory with a close friend or a counsellor. NOTE: Being a good listener is essential when receiving someone else’s truth, blow-by-blow, and version of their story. I highly recommend you choose to share your difficult, scary memories with a person who does not interrupt you but rather JUST LISTENS. Better yet, before sharing, set the stage by asking the person if they have time and space to listen and then you will do the same for them. Explain before you do the exercise that advice and a solution to your past hurts are not required, but just to listen, please.  

Summing up, I say, “dust off the cobwebs, dig deep and expel the whole jarring ordeal to a trusted, tried and true friend or counsellor.”

The by-product of remembering is the feelings that arise.

We remember

We survive

We heal

We are


WE are all unique and wonderfully made and in this together.


Mary Frances Lillian Bonner

1921 – 2007

Judging a Book by its Cover

Judging a Book by its Cover

“People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish…but that’s only if it is done properly.”

-Banksy, Wall and Piece

Street Art, also known as Graffiti, is a controversial topic. Even though Banksy, a pseudonymous street artist based in the UK, is a political activist, film director, and world-renowned, many people frown and negatively think of his graffiti as NOT art. Others look to him as an inspirational trailblazer and mentor.

I am told that wherever you are in your writing journey, you should anticipate and embrace controversy.

The word controversy is from the Latin word controversia, which means “turned in an opposite direction.” In the twentieth century, we are more apt to say that controversy is a prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of conflicting opinion or point of view.

Here’s where I come in

As a person who dislikes controversy and steers clear of disputes, arguments, and rocking the boat, the title for my next book seems out of character and unlike anything I would ever say. It may be controversial to some, upsetting to others, thought-provoking and yet relatable to many.

Even though controversial topics such as global climate change, evolution, capital punishment, and marriage equality are considered some of the most debated issues, I feel like my life has had its fair share of controversy too. Primarily based on bad decisions I have made and regrettable things that I have done.  

People who know me see me as calm and at peace. I laugh easily and smile freely. I am mainly agreeable and try to see all sides to the point of view. However, sometimes my empathy for others is unbearable and causes me great distress.

Yet, as I go about my day-to-day activities, it feels ironic that my past had many ups and downs. My mother struggled with mental health, and my father experienced extreme poverty and despair. He came from a broken home and was abandoned. They both tried to cover up their pasts and did so quite well, but small remnants crept out of hiding when I least expected.

Meanwhile, my struggles brought me where I am today, and strangely enough, even though I used to wish for a different life, now that I am older, I would not change a thing.

I recently learned that unbeknownst to me, my older sister had her fair share of strife too. But I will get back to her in a moment.

Conclusively, we ALL have a story to tell. We have personal experiences and knowledge of places and topics. Moreover, when writing about our harrowing adventures or humorous escapades, we can portray ourselves as wise and seasoned; we can walk the walk and talk the talk because we “have been there, done that.” Or perhaps we are still battling the demons that haunt us, and we are smack dab in the middle of figuring things out, consequently blocking out our past hurts and trauma. Therefore, we are not ready yet to look at what shaped us or share with anyone about our sleepless nights and what it is that plagues us.

What about this…

If you could give your life a title, like a book title, I wonder what it would be? One thing I do know is that it would belong to you and be relative to your story.

Your journey is unique, and your title would be meaningful and reflective of who you were then or who you are now.

If you were to publish a memoir, the telling of your story could bring you and others tremendous healing. But this makes me wonder, would your book be suspenseful and dramatic? Poignant and powerful? Intriguing, informative, and inspirational? Would you share the bold truth, or a peripheral narrative that was eventless and mundane? Only you can answer that question. In one way or another, your options are vast and endless as to what your book would contain and what the title might be.

Controversial or not, telling your story and the version you write about is entirely up to you.

Back to me…

Many of my followers and readers have expressed how my books have brought clarity to their struggles. I have been told that my past recollections remind the reader of their past. Some find my historical moments in time educational and interesting—the references to music, people, places, and things memorable and notable. My black and white photos are said to be haunting or heartwarming.

Opinions of my memoirs vary from reader to reader.

Above all else, in my books and blogs, I bring to the forefront that everyone is unique and diverse, yet we share similarities.

Without sounding boastful, but rather spoken more like a parent, I genuinely love my first and second books, separately, for entirely different reasons.

How my book titles came to be

My first book Looking for Normal, was published in 2018 and was an experimental first attempt to try my luck at being a writer. It was also meant to record my family’s history, warts and all—unvarnished, up-front, and honest.

I chose the title based on an Erma Bombeck quote, “Normal is just a setting on your dryer.” Combined with the title of her book The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, to me, both quotes emphasize that there is no such thing as normal. Not one person is perfect, nor is one single family free of adversity.

Ultimately, family history is just that, a record of yesteryear—a remembrance of days gone by and a road map as to how people coped and found their way in amongst hardship and misfortune, joy and sorrow.

By learning about our ancestors, sometimes we can dissolve the old road map and create a new one. For example, twists and turns our relatives took could be changed into a much smoother path for us, based on learning from the mistakes they made. Thus, we can change the narrative of our life.

My second book, Where is My Happy Ending? A Journey of No Regrets was published in 2020 and holds a title that was much trickier for me to come up with. I needed a title that captured the non-truth of fairy tales, harlequin romance novels, and movies from the Hallmark television channel. I noticed that many women shared the sentiment of my title, —as in, where is my happy ending?

But, honestly, where is it?!!!!

Oprah Winfrey called this way of thinking a Cinderella Complex.

In 1981 Oprah had author Colette Dowling on her show. She wrote a book called, The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence. Dowling theorized that women are traditionally conditioned from birth to depend on others, particularly men, for their emotional, financial, and physical safety. Dowling used the analogy of the fairy tale character Cinderella, who cooks and cleans for her abusive stepmother but ultimately is rescued and cared for by “Prince Charming.” Her book and appearance on Oprah’s talk show brought her book title worldwide public attention.

Rightly so!

For example, as a child, I dreamed of moving out and getting a boyfriend. From my teens and well into my twenties, I was perpetually searching for Mr. Right and, on more than one occasion, ended up with Mr. Wrong.

I wrote this book for anyone who may have had similar thoughts and trials as me.

The title, Where is My Happy Ending? could have changed many times over, yet the elements for the book would have stayed the same.

“I no longer believe in happy endings, but I do believe in happiness and working towards no regrets. Same-same but different.”

“Same-same but different.”

This famous Thai quote conveys vagueness towards something both the same and yet different, and therefore neither the same nor different. More personally, I first heard about this quote from my daughter while she was travelling around Thailand with her best friend—they branded themselves with matching tattoos of the famous quote “same-same but different”  Of course, since little girls, they used this term while chatting about something or other, followed with a shrug, a tilt of their heads, and a giggle, while in unison they chanted same-same but different” when asked their thoughts on any given topic.

Controversial? There’s that word again. A meaningful, artistic ink drawing, a tattoo, is open to question but not to everyone. Some may have a difference of opinion or feel that a tattoo is okay for someone else but not for them. All three of my children and my husband have one or more tattoos. My skin is void of anything permanently pictorial, decorative, and symbolic. However, I have secretly always wanted one.

But wait…

Here it is, 2021, and my next book will be published this year.


Because my sister asked me to write her life story.

Combined with her request were messages and reviews from my readers wondering when my next book was coming out. Both inquiries propelled me forward to churn out my third book.

I said, “Yes, let’s do it!”

Writing a book for someone else proved to be easier said than done, but still enjoyable, nonetheless.

To get the ball rolling, my sister and I started talking on the phone once a week. We laughed and cried at how remarkably different our lives had been. Yet, we were open-minded as to how we barely knew each other. We combed through foggy memories and relished them, becoming more transparent as we spoke. We both took notes during these calls. From those notes, my much older sister wrote and sent me beautiful handwritten letters telling me about her adventurous and often challenging life.

And boy oh boy, does she ever have a story to tell!

We communicated this way for one year and significantly looked forward to our time together each week.

I would write and write between phone calls and letters—kind of like a homework assignment from an overseas teacher.

As the manuscript came together, I started to anticipate what my readers would think. Would the story be relatable like my other books had been? Would my sister’s obstacles be well received? Would it make people who read it laugh, cry and grieve? I hoped and wondered.

I have received over one hundred positive ratings and book reviews on my first two books, so I did not want to disappoint with my third.

Those reviews always seemed to be heartfelt, encouraging, and endearing. A common theme has been that my life story, complete with controversial issues, caused feelings to come up and flashbacks to occur for my readers, which is every writer’s dream.

The comments encouraged me to keep writing. Concurrently the reviews caused me to become ill in a good way, rather like being lovesick with a tremendous case of “the writing bug.”

Here is an example:

Thank you, Amazon Customer and the many others who have contacted me. It has all been a heady experience, both flattering and rewarding.

Circling back…

When choosing a book, we look to the title as the first introduction of the book. Then, we select a cover that grabs our attention. A good book title should be both memorable and unique. Identifiable and unforgettable.

As a writer, I know the title is my reader’s first impression, essentially judging my book by its cover.

With that being said…

I want to show you the cover of my next book. The introduction at the beginning of the book brings light to the title. They go together like P.B. & J, Coffee and Cream, salt and pepper, Captain and Tennille, rock and roll and so on…

Without the introduction, the title might not make sense. Conversely, the introduction would fall flat and not be as impactful without that specific title. Thus, a good title is crucial.

If my title appears controversial to you, I ask that you dig a little deeper. Read the introduction, contemplate what the book is about and consider that maybe, just maybe, my sister and I were going for a bit of controversy. As unexpected as that may sound coming from two nonconfrontational sisters, we wanted to shake things up, bring awareness, hopefully enlighten, and most importantly, challenge you, the reader.

Even though my third book is about my sister, I kept you in mind while writing it. I considered what you told me. Your likes and dislikes. Your life. How your past has shaped you and how you have tried to move forward.

Stay tuned for the whole meaning of my title when the book becomes available in the Fall of 2021

Patience is a virtue.

Some may think three published books a major feat or a dream come true. On the contrary, (to me) I see it as a lot of work that has been highly therapeutic and life-changing. Rewarding and a sure-fire way to reach others who may have had similar struggles as me. And my sister.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it, it is a dream come true and a significant feat—especially something not to be taken lightly.

From your comments, ratings, and reviews, I am learning we are together on this planet, but we often feel alone, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Stay tuned as the estimated time of arrival for Fat and Beautiful – A Story of Love, Pain and Courage will be sometime in the Fall of 2021.

And if you haven’t done so yet, I would be honoured if you looked up my first two books Looking for Normal and Where is My Happy Ending? – A Journey of No Regrets

You can find all my books online or in person at the Chapters in Kamloops, B.C.

Alternatively, go on the internet and order from the following sites:


Barnes and Noble

And many other places where books are sold.

Looking for Normal

 by Karen Harmon

Where is My Happy Ending? A Journey of No Regrets

by Karen Harmon

You Are What You Eat – You Are What You Read

You Are What You Eat – You Are What You Read

You Are What You Eat—You Are What You Read

As a Fitness Expert, I have been instructing exercise classes since 1980. I know that must make me sound old, but as the saying goes, with age comes wisdom. So, as it stands with every flip of the calendar, I am much wiser.

During the course of my career, I can honestly say that I have heard every diet, weight loss regime, and strategy in the book for losing weight; all enlisted for the betterment of good health internally and externally.

My observation is this: striving for balance is the key to longevity and happiness in life.

However, everyone needs to figure this out for themselves. If it is weight loss you are looking for, change your eating habits, exercise, and burn more calories than you are consuming. Alternatively, you can take in fewer calories and work at becoming stronger.

Both concepts are basically the same and are scientifically proven to work.

Let it be known, I am a firm believer of not depriving yourself, so eat, drink, and be merry!

Health tip: calories in the food we eat provide energy so our bodies can function. Therefore, we need to eat a certain number of calories to sustain life. If we take in too many calories than we are utilizing, we will gain weight. BUT not all calories are the same. As a comparison, a regular chocolate bar is one hundred and fifty calories, coincidentally the same as thirty cups of lettuce.

If we understand what a calorie is and why we count them, we can make better dietary choices, with “choice” being the keyword in all aspects of our lives, not just with the food we eat. Freedom of choice is a big deal that we often pride ourselves on having.

This brings me to the second part of my blog’s title.

You Are What You Read

I started reading memoirs and biographies in my 20s. They became my go-to genre and first choice in reading material. Personal histories and self-portrayals intrigued me.

I picked books that were on Oprah’s book list, in addition to referrals from friends, and as it turned out, almost every book I read was a memoir. Fast forward 40 years later, and with two memoirs written and published, now under my belt, and a third one coming out soon, I still prefer to read anything and everything that is non-fiction.

Through self-discovery, trial and error, I discovered that I know what I like, and I like what I know. I am fascinated by how others tick. I love to learn and find great pleasure in other people’s lives and the choices they make.


I am not embarrassed to say that memoirs and biographies round out my entire reading list. Unless of course, my Book Club suggests otherwise, the women from my group and their choices in reading material have taught me a lot. For this I am grateful.

I have tried to read other genres, and what comes close to my taste are fiction books about families and family dysfunction, even if they are not true. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano are two great examples of books that I thoroughly enjoyed, both being written in the context of fiction. Sometimes, I find myself secretly pretending books such as these are non-fiction, and in reality, are accurate accounts from someone else’s life, somewhat like a memoir incognito.

Yet, many people do not share my likes and dislikes, and I understand this. Of course, to each his own. Differences are what make the world go round and so on… I respect and appreciate that we cannot like the same reading material as the next person. It would be silly, boring, and rude to think otherwise.

When I first realized that memoirs are not everyone’s cup of tea for “getting lost in a book,” it boggled my mind. It was hard for me to fathom that others did not enjoy delving into a true story about unique, eclectic lives brought together by pain and sorrow, joy and success; individuals who have conquered and gotten through trauma and tragedy; stories and blow-by-blows about people like myself, who have come out better on the other side of their struggles, or perhaps worse.

I found this out the hard way after my second book was published. After writing about the intimate details of my life, overall, the feedback was remarkable. I received a lot of five-star reviews and an award. I felt accomplished and was proud that my goal to help others who share similar struggles was realized. By the many reviews and book sales, I felt that I was reaching others.

However, eventually, my bubble was burst, and my self-esteem plummeted when two people shared their distaste for my story. This felt crushing, and as I assessed their comments in bewilderment, I wondered how they could find fault with my story since it was just that—my story.

Essentially, I took their thoughts and opinion far too personally.

As it stands, they did not care for my book, period. Which does not mean their disheartening and unnerving reviews reflected who I am as a writer or human being. This, I sincerely hope is true.

Those two negative reviews became a turning point for me. We all know the old saying, “We can’t please everyone,” even if it is in our nature to want to please most people most of the time.

I say this in pleasantry as I continue to move forward, writing, unravelling, and healing from my past and finding incredible empathy for others who write and divulge the secrets and mysteries behind their lives. Their true accounts of drama, humour, hard times, good times, and more, can be absorbing and helpful.

Now, I understand a bad review

All in all, I can completely grasp why someone would not care for the harsh reality that only a memoir brings. It might dredge up the pain, hurt, and even annoyance of their own past lives. It possibly sounds like minutiae and someone droning on about the injustices in life, grief and healing, and how people have wronged them.

Some might read a memoir and say in their head, blah, blah, blah or yada, yada, yada followed with…

Really? Do we always have to be learning something? And, who cares?

Can we not just get lost in science fiction, horror, mystery, or a Harlequin Romance once in a while?

I say a wholehearted yes!

To each his own, we all have choices, and I embrace that. The bottom line is to read.

My mother was an avid reader and said to me once, “I don’t care what you read, just read something!” With that being said, as a youngster, I chose Archie comic books. Every other Saturday, my mother took me to the comic bookstore in North Vancouver, where I lived. Sometimes I traded my comics in, and sometimes (if I were lucky, or she was in a good mood), I would get a brand new, crisp, never-before-read comic book. I can still smell the old worn books and see the colourful, encased plastic sleeve of the new ones. The experience of having an avid comic book enthusiast behind the cash register freely offering wisdom and know-how is still etched in my mind.

Eventually, I became obsessed with Betty and Veronica and wanted to look just like them. But I will save that topic for another blog…eye-rolling emoji here.

If you enjoy memoirs, you might like to read mine.


I was asked to choose and review five of my favourite books. You know, the book that you never wanted to end. Or the characters that stay with you, and their circumstance pops into your head periodically—sometimes, we feel so connected to them that we often wonder how they are doing now.

If you click on the link below, you will find a creative new way to read reviews, and you can see my five choices.

“Shepherd is a book discovery website that is like wandering the aisles of your favourite bookstore. Along with little notes from authors pointing out their favourite books.”

-Ben, creator #reading #books

These five books have inspired me, educated me and caused me to continue writing with the best storytelling visuals I can muster. Click on the link to view them.

AND guess what?

One of the books in my recommendations is not a memoir.

I Hate the Term “Less Fortunate”

I Hate the Term “Less Fortunate”

I Hate the Term “Less Fortunate”

By Karen Harmon

With the recent cold snap promised for Vancouver, the city where I live, I am reminded of what my husband does for a living. He manages a homeless shelter.

As part of his job, he checks the weather daily, if not hourly, to predict the outdoor elements for people living on the streets. The weather is often a topic of conversation in our home, in addition to the growing number of impoverished people, consequences of living outdoors, and possible solutions.

So far, in our at-home discussions, we have not been able to figure out any quick fixes, Band-Aids, or a perfect medley of remedies.

We have noticed there seems to be more overall awareness— how can one not see that the numbers keep increasing? We can all agree that when we drive or walk past a street person, we are reminded of just how dismal and unmanageable the homeless situation has become.

Vancouver B.C.

In 2010 I was asked to teach a marginalized fitness class for people in my community. I was hired by a Community Center that shared a vision with a Pastor of a local Church.

Some might call this Church an inner-city church with a mission to help those who might have fallen on hard times. I call this Church a saving grace and a genuine example of loving others unconditionally.

The number one definition from the dictionary for the word marginalized reads like this: placed in a position of little or no importance, influence, or power.

To that definition, I want to say, “Excuse me?!” Perhaps it is an accurate summary, but why does it sound so heartless and mean? I suppose that is the purpose of a dictionary. They give us the facts and only the facts.

With his vision, the pastor believes that everyone has a right to mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and financial health and well-being. Sounds very factual to me.

So, he started a group called Coffee Time.

No Strings Attached

Coffee Time is a warm place where people are welcomed in, greeted with a friendly face, a cup of coffee, and a snack. They can listen to a user-friendly sermon that offers a gentle message of hope and kindness. They are not judged. Everyone is given a ten-dollar grocery voucher and asked if they need prayer, a friend, or someone who can listen and hear them. Maybe they need assistance with their income tax, a place to stay, or a pair of shoes. The needs can be endless when a person is marginalized. Volunteers from the church offer support.

Once a week on the same day, one hour before Coffee Time, individuals are offered an exercise class taught by me. It is called the Active Living Program—a free 45-minute exercise class intended for people who cannot afford gym fees, or better yet, would not feel comfortable or even accepted in such an environment.

My class provides a non-judgemental place to socialize, stretch, strengthen, and feel welcome, with uplifting music and explicit basic instruction interspersed with encouragement. Each lesson consists of easy to follow, functional exercises, concluding with a 20-minute stretching and relaxation component with positive, relaxing visualizations and deep healing meditation.

During the warmup, when catchy tunes are playing, participants have been known to break away from the routine to dance with one another. These carefree actions are a testimony to the fun element that is inspired. Conversely, during the relaxation segment, some individuals seemingly take a moment for a well-needed cat nap.

A sense of community has developed with the participants over the last ten years.

Everyone who attends this program has seen results and changes mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically.

I have witnessed immense healing, gratitude, increased self-esteem, and confidence from a community of well-deserving people.


Undoubtedly all of these people, at some point in their day, experience judgement, rudeness, averted eyes, fearful glances, annoyance, and people wondering why they do not get jobs, clean up their act, or get off the streets.

Coffee Time, Me and Pastor Dave

I have walked in their shoes

When I was thirty-two years old, I was on the verge of being homeless. Thankfully, I had love and kindness displayed to me, and I was instilled with hope and courage from an early age. I was not abused physically, mentally, or emotionally. However, things could have turned out differently for me, much worse and more detrimental to myself and my children. The excerpt below describes my first day in low-income housing and on the threshold of collecting welfare.

Where is My Happy Ending? – A Journey of No Regrets

Starting Over
“I looked around the cluttered living room, assessing the damage, until I spotted the soft curls on my four-year-old daughter’s head as she sat with her little sister in an empty packing box. Both were contentedly colouring: Jessica carefully trying to stay in the lines while Emma, sitting as close to her big sister as possible, was eagerly scribbling.
Pondering their sisterhood with a full heart, I gazed at my daughters as if I was a bystander, lingering and wondering what would happen next. I felt like I was a person not wanting to leave the movie theatre, hanging on until the closing credits had scrolled off the screen, eventually emerging from the darkened cinema to face brilliant sunlight or perhaps a dreary evening rain.
For the last thirty-two years, I had watched the movie of my life unfold, and it seemed as though I was unable to control the course or path. Before I had arrived, the script had been written and the actors cast. As the story took on twists and turns, plot changes, and various climaxes along the way, I sat idly by, watching the series of events unfold.
Thankfully alive and seemingly unscathed, I decided that nothing was regrettable, everything was memorable, and I could learn from it all. Like any other moviegoer, I had sat patiently, waiting for the plot to thicken or the knight in shining armour to arrive. Comedic interludes were just as prevalent as the nail- biting cliff-hangers. Perhaps the happy ending was not meant to be, or maybe this, right here and now, was the happy ending, and I could not see it yet.
I was pleased with what a beautiful little girl my oldest daughter, Jessica, had become, not just outwardly but on the inside, too. Her spirit was soft and gentle, especially toward her two-year-old little sister. I realized now that she had become more of a mother to her younger sibling than I had been.
I looked deeper at Jessica’s bowed head as she filled the pages of her Cinderella colouring book, and I felt her determination. I was filled with compassion and reminded of how she worried about me, silently asking if I was okay. It was evident and showed in her constantly furrowed brow and ever-present look of concern as she stared into my eyes and pleadingly searched my face for answers. I would do my best to respond, interjecting and interrupting her deep, brooding thoughts. My father always told me that laughter was the best medicine, so as often as I could, I would engage my girls in stories, jokes, and silliness, even if it was the furthest thing from my mind.
The first thing on my to-do list was to find some semblance of order amongst the stacked boxes, furniture, and garbage bags full of clothes. I was looking forward to my new beginning, our new beginning, and a fresh start in our unfamiliar home—subsidized housing for marginalized people.
Receiving a lucky break and chosen from a long list of applicants just as needy as I was, it had only been two weeks since I had started praying, and now here we were in a two-bedroom, low-income townhouse unit, myself and two little girls. We were alone, the three musketeers, all for one and one for all.
Today I would finish unpacking, and tomorrow I would be applying for welfare. I was relieved to be free.”

Less Fortunate, but Less Fortunate than whom?

The definition from The Urban Dictionary of what the term “Less Fortunate” means is as follows…

A term used to label people who make poor decisions in life and are quick to blame those who have succeeded or have wealth. Less-fortunate is the opposite of fortunate, which is defined as “lucky; enjoying good luck,” and therefore, someone who is less-fortunate just has bad luck. Example: Katie has been divorced three times and has eight kids and cannot support them with her minimum wage job. She is less-fortunate than Sally, who studied in school, got a valuable degree, an above-average salaried position in marketing, and is happily married.

This definition is not so factual, and maybe we should erase the term entirely.

The Outside Wrapper

Remember when our mothers would tell us, “beauty is only skin deep; it’s what’s inside that counts?

As a fitness instructor, I have gone through a certification program, and I have taken various courses and classes to stay abreast of different fitness trends. I can save your life with my C.P.R. and First Aid training if you trip and fall or, heaven forbid, instantaneously go into cardiac arrest.

When I am upfront during my traditional exercise classes, I am professionally dressed, and my running shoes are pristine and clean. My microphone is securely in place. My ponytail is perfect. I have been known to wear lipstick to showcase an encouraging, friendly smile. My music is correctly uploaded from Apple Music or iTunes, and my routine is carefully planned out; the 20, 30 or 40 participants see me as their BCRPA fitness leader.

Not one single person in the class knows that I once collected welfare.

When I look out at my participants, equally dressed in their Costco Spandex, Mountain Equipment Co-op leggings, or Lululemon fashionable exercise gear, I can only see their exterior. Sometimes facial expressions or heavy shoulders can be a slight indication of what’s inside. Still, from their outside wrapper I cannot see their profession, how they were raised, or if they are lonely and hurting, on the brink of bankruptcy, or going home to an abusive situation.

I smile warmly, tell a joke or two, and offer sixty minutes to sweat, burn calories, and strive for buns of steel or washboard abs.

However, my Active Living fitness classes are different. I choose to dress more casually, move slower, be gentle and offer undivided attention. I take my time and greet each person individually. I thank them for attending and tell them how happy I am that they are there.

These participants are not striving for whittled waistlines and toned arms. They are joyous, kind, and happy to be in a community of like-minded people. They have grown to care for one another. When they pass each other on the street, they wave and smile.

My goal is to meet people where they are at.

The Active Living Program

Sometimes I think I get more out of helping others, than perhaps they get from being helped.

My point is, I see you too.

“Everyone has untold stories of pain and sadness that make them love and live differently than each of us.”

We do what we can…

We try to see past the differences of others—appearances, behaviours, and sadly, those who are impoverished, addicted and physically, mentally, and emotionally unwell. I like to think that we are all looking and striving to see inside.

We Do Our Best

We volunteer at food banks, shelters, give to the homeless, and try our best not to judge. We pray and hope for change. We are advocates. We picket, write letters, and get involved. We are annoyed at bureaucratic policies and wealthy politicians. We vote and follow the rules and protocols.

We worry, worry, worry and…

We feel fortunate to have a roof over our head, food on our table, a job, shoes, and at least one person, if not a handful of people, who love us, and we reciprocate that love.

We inhabit this earth with other humans.

Can we say we are all in the same boat?

No, probably not.

Some of us are on big cruise liners. Others take speed boats, rowboats, kayaks, or a little rubber dingy. Maybe we are floating aimlessly around in a life preserver. And sometimes, we are flailing around, about to go under with nothing keeping us afloat at all.

It is hard to live on this planet without feeling guilty or getting angry. Sometimes our empathy causes us great pain and sorrow.
We try to do what is expected of us, and often we go above and beyond.
It is not easy to follow the rules and do the paperwork when sometimes even getting out of bed and brushing our teeth is hard.

But what if…
What if we were poorly treated and abused as a child, had mental health issues, were physically disabled, had PTSD, or suffered a tremendous loss? Imagine waking up every morning soaking wet and freezing cold. Alone.

And now, imagine each of the above-described people filling out their income tax, making a dentist appointment, getting a job, or walking into a coffee shop for a piece of pie to check Facebook on their iPhone…

Perhaps my analogy makes the crisis of homelessness a little easier to understand. Life is hard. And yet, way harder for others.
By no means am I trying to guilt-trip us or make us feel bad in any way.
I know we are mostly good, and we are trying.

We care.
We are gentle.
We are kind.

Sometimes we are afraid.
I feel safe and confident in saying that I am describing you.
When we genuinely love people, we must meet them where they are, not where we think they should be. We must give them what they need, not what we think they need.

Karen’s writing comes from life experience. She grew up in a home where there was much love and joy. But, there were also mental health issues. She has attended Al anon and A.A. meetings and worked at The Maple Ridge Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center. She went to college as a single mom living in low-income housing and graduated from Douglas College as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant. Since Covid, Karen’s marginalized fitness classes have been put on hold; she volunteers weekly teaching zoom fitness classes for residents at a senior home and reads to them.
Karen has written two award-winning memoirs and writes blogs about family issues, alcohol addiction, trauma, grief, and trying to find the good in people.

For more information on Karen’s Blogs and Books go to;

“If laughter is the best medicine, then crying is an important vitamin.”

I welcome your comments

They Said Don’t Do It!

They Said Don’t Do It!

By Karen Harmon

If I Can Write a Book Then You Can Too!

In 2009, an unexpected event took place. A business that I had been working very hard on dissolved. It was a successful company six years in the making. It did well until it stopped doing well.

Then my mother died.

After the collapse of my career and my mom’s unexpected death, I packed up and moved away from the small town I had lived in for twenty years. My daughters were grown and succeeding independently, so I uprooted my eleven-year-old son and moved to an entirely different community. My marriage was on the rocks, and everything felt impossible.

Why I started writing

After moving away from friends and family, broken dreams, and what felt like wasted blood, sweat and tears, I found a place to live and enrolled my son in a new school. Much to my dismay, my husband and I temporarily separated.

The place we moved to was in a forested area on a hill overlooking the city. Every morning after dropping my son off at school, I went back up on my hill, wrapped myself in a blanket and sat outside in the back yard on my favourite lawn chair. It was late Fall. There I rested. I pondered, prayed, and weeded out the tangled gnarly bits in my brain and began the process of healing, taking some time to breathe.

We had two cats who marvelled at their new surroundings. I loved watching them explore. Sometimes brown bears would venture into our yard from the forest and sun themselves. I went inside during these times, but I took great pleasure in watching them frolic in their natural habitat, which just happened to be my back yard.

Eventually, I needed to work, so I applied and started teaching fitness at two local community centers. The exercise and oxygen to my brain assisted in helping me form new-found happy thoughts. I also began working for the school district as a teaching assistant.

Employment gave me a livelihood and a vocation gave me purpose.

As I sorted through the problematic aspects of this current disarray, I felt the insistent nudges of new beginnings. I began telling my son colourful and exciting stories about his grandfather, my dad, who had died before my son had a chance to meet him.

My father ran away from home during the Great Depression in the 1930s. At the age of thirteen, he rode boxcars to a different province. Tales of his adventures enamoured my son, and we grew closer through the storytelling. One day he said, “Why don’t you write a book, mom?” My response was, “Okay, I will.”

My Writing Process

We all know that writing a book is easier said than done.

I chose not to look at the big picture. The enormity of such a project could surely be overwhelming. I instead decided to write a story. One simple three-paragraph story. I wrote what I knew, my dad’s decision to run away. I dissected how a thirteen-year-old boy might feel, and then went on to describe the setting and his appearance. I enthusiastically researched the life and times in the 1930s. Times of poverty, hopelessness, and panic.

Before long, my three-paragraph story turned into what could be an entire chapter.

Initially, the purpose of my writing was to create a keepsake for my three children—a gift and a history lesson of where they came from. Never professing to be a literary genius, I threw all caution to the wind and kept writing.

Side Note—I did not think of myself as a writer. I disliked school, and through insecurities and low self-esteem, I assumed that I was not smart, at least not academically. Everyone in my age group, my grade, seemed brighter than me. However, I did not dwell on this observation because I had something else—I could be fun and funny, and because my father told me his life story many times over, I became an avid storyteller. The gift of imagination is a beautiful child-like quality. This was instilled by my father and has served me well.

Continuing with the process, I wrote and wrote. My computer skills were not the greatest. Everything about technology frightened me. Hence, those old feelings of not being smart arose. In sharing this with a dear friend, a woman who had already written and published a book, I was given some excellent advice. She said, “E-mail me.” I started to E-mail her all of my writing; she encouraged me and made suggestions, but mostly her reassurance is what propelled me forward.

Eventually, I learned how to make attachments and save my work. However, I needed to write all the steps down on a piece of paper, which I kept next to my computer as a reminder.

The writing process became therapeutic. My memory grew. Therefore, my recollections expanded. Sometimes I was driven to tears and, other times, laughter.

I felt a closeness to my lovely deceased parents. I cherished my time with them, telling their story. Surprisingly, I grew to relish life’s complexity, family dysfunction, nostalgia, trials, tribulations, and most of all, the healing aspects of self-discovery through my writing.

Overall, writing recharged my batteries and gave me a zest for living. Instead of watching television at night, I could hardly wait to get to my writing.

In the midst of this beautiful time, my husband and I were able to work out our differences and get back together.

How I Published

Being a novice writer and “not a literary genius,” I had no clue how to get my work published. Optimistic and somewhat naïve, I assumed I would send my manuscript off to Penguin Books, Harper Collins, or Simon and Schuster.

Not so fast…

After I wrote and wrote about my father, before I could even think about publishing, I realized the content was not enough. I needed more material. So, I delved into my mother’s struggle with mental illness. Subsequently, I healed some more.

In the meantime, my son became YouTube famous. I will save that story for another time, but practically overnight, he became a world traveller. This was all to enhance his YouTube career, meet fans, dance, make videos, and create brand deals.

Only thirteen years old, he needed a chaperone. Of course, I as his mother, was the perfect person for the job. We travelled, he performed, and I continued writing.

On a trip to Santa Monica, California, he had meetings to attend and much to my trepidation, he asked if he could go by himself. Other YouTubers had invited him to film and network, so I said yes. He was older by then. I gathered that no fifteen-year-old wants their fifty-year-old mother traipsing after them in sensible shoes and a bedazzled backpack.

Therefore, I had a lot of time on my hands. Instead of accompanying my son, I ventured out to various coffee shops and set up my laptop alongside cool hipster people drinking coffee, and I kept on writing. Alone, surrounded by strangers, I convinced myself that I was ready to publish.

Having no idea about Algorithms and how the vast arena of search engines work, I started to get advertisements on my iPhone, primarily on Facebook and Instagram, about self-publishing. This, to me, was like divine intervention. How remarkable, I thought; seemingly mystical in the theme of, “Wow, publishing my manuscript is meant to be, look at all the signs!”

Since then, I have discovered how the internet can be a friend, foe, and wealth of information. It is often confusing and sometimes scary. Falsehoods and too much information can certainly be a deterrent when trying to make a decision. Now I laugh about those sneaky Algorithms.

Yet, in that Santa Monica coffee shop, sipping a cinnamon-laced Latte, there came a dull roar in my brain that chanted, go for it, publish, publish, publish.

Advertisements for Tellwell Publishing kept appearing, asking me if I wanted to fill out a questionnaire. No strings attached, just a form to see if I was a writer in the making and someone capable of possibly publishing a book—with their assistance, of course.

I liked the idea. It reminded me of those quizzes some of us filled out from magazines when we were younger—questionnaires designed to help us discover personality traits, career paths, or if the man we had chosen was the right one.

Shortly after completing the extensive form, I was emailed a response. It stated that my story is worthy of being published by the information that I submitted. I was asked if an agent could contact me to discuss my options. I instantly became wary. But I said yes to a phone call.

After the phone call, the representative emailed me a list of three publishing packages without any expectations or pressure—the cost of each and what they all entailed.

There was an option for a monthly payment plan, and what stood out most was their promise of step by step publishing assistance and support. A design team would help me with the front and back cover. Also included was the interior and exterior layout, an ISBN and a marketing plan. They pledged to answer my questions in a twenty-four-hour time frame. I was ensured they would list my book on all the major bookselling sites.

Choosing the cheapest package, I told no one about my endeavour. I said yes, and the book publishing process was set in motion.

I recommend choosing two people you highly trust, mentor types to share your thoughts and publishing plans with. I went at it alone for fear of being judged. Now I say, who cares what people think.

There will be naysayers along the way. There always is. These are the people you might want to steer clear of when sharing your hopes, desires, and dreams. They will only squelch you. Wise, supportive people are best. And try to narrow it down to just a few. No sense in spouting off all your book writing ideas to every contact on your email list. At least not right away.

Why You Should Get an Editor

The best source of guidance came from my editor. Please do not think of publishing your book without one.

Looking back, I could not have written and published two award-winning books without her. I would never have made all of my invested money back, which did eventually happen.

The difference between hiring an editor and not hiring an editor is, in my opinion, monumental. An editor will ensure that your book is readable, professional, marketable and acclaimed. Plus, they pick up things we as astute over-zealous writers may miss.

For example, would you hire a plumber to clean your teeth? No, of course not! A plumber is needed to fix a drain, among other things, while an editor is required to improve a manuscript.

I visualized my book as a beautiful house I was building, my dream home. My editor was the city planner that said, “This needs to go here, and that needs to go there.” She also became an interior decorator and a housekeeper. Without her expertise, I am sure my home would not have been presentable and may have been reduced to rubble.

Your manuscript is your baby. Just like you would interview different daycares for your child, make sure the editor you choose is the right fit. Tell them your vision and be open to their suggestions. Professional editors know what to do, and they will not lead you astray. But as I said, it is your story, so do not be afraid to speak up.

Stop Thinking and Write It!

My best advice is to try what I did. Think back to a memory or an idea you have and plan to write three paragraphs about it. That way, you will not overwhelm yourself. Start with a topic you are familiar with. Afterwards, go back and add detail.

You may want to write a memoir, fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, children, self-help…your options are endless.

Libraries are still an excellent source for research. They are inviting and somewhat forgotten in this age of Google, Reddit, YouTube and various other sites. The library near my home smells of books and coffee. They have comfy chairs and proper desks to work at.

My favourite place to write is in my bed with my dog curled up beside me. I usually write on Sundays. Pick a day and time that works best for you.

You have to start somewhere. Break it down and do not look at the big picture. At least not at the beginning.

When my daughter Emma was a little girl, she had a terrible time cleaning her room. She would look at the mess and give up even before she got started tidying.

I came up with a strategy. Breaking down all the room cleaning tasks, I wrote every job on slips of paper. Put books away, pick up barbie dolls, fold clothes, bring dirty dishes to the kitchen, make your bed, dust, etc.…We then folded up the pieces of paper and put them in a hat. One at a time, she took out a piece of paper, read the task, did what was written on the paper. Voila, in less than an hour, her room was spotless.

The first piece of paper I would put in your hat would be, open up your computer and write three paragraphs.

Sometimes I am over the top optimistic, but I genuinely enjoy helping others, so please feel free to check out my social media sites, website and email me. I would like to hear your story, and I am willing to offer you suggestions and encouragement that may help you bring your writing dreams to fruition.

I know you can do it. Happy writing!

Looking for Normal and Where is My Happy Ending? A Journey of No Regrets