Category Archives: Life Design

Conversations with Your Life | Challenge: Day 3

Day 3 is about sending some love out into the universe.

There’s absolutely no better time than now. xo

You can learn more about the course, which begins on August 30th, over here.

Conversations with Your Life Challenge: Day 2

This one allows you to play a bit + draws on your imagination and your intuition.

{Week 2 of the course is about conversations you can have with your life in your neigbourhood.}

Conversations with Your Life Challenge: Day 1

What’s the feeling you’d like to have as you start your day?
{Play with this. How can you fine tune your mornings?}

Week 1: Conversations you can have with your life at HOME.
In this week, there are three essays (in writing + audio versions) about my jade plant, loving your home as it is, and a Martha Beck tool called the 3 Bs. You’ll receive exercises and tools with each essay and a workbook for your good stuff.

Conversations with Your Life begins on Monday 30th October.

Conversations with Your Life: 6 Day Challenge

Starting tomorrow, Monday 16th October, I’ll be posting micro versions of a few of the exercises we’ll be doing in my upcoming course.

Each challenge will be posted here, on Facebook and Instagram.

I’d love for you to read the challenges, share and respond. Please participate in whatever way feels right to you.

Wishing you interesting + helpful Conversations with Your Life.

To the Glorious Round Woman in the Piazza

I see you
in the Piazza
near the Uffizi.

It’s a hot day,
hotter than we
expected for October.
You’re wishing you
hadn’t chosen jeans
this morning
and your polyester top
isn’t helping.
You pull the top away
from your collarbones,
fan yourself with the fabric.

Your face is pink with heat
and something else
I recognize.

Your tour guide is talking
but you find it hard to focus
on what she’s saying.

I see it.
The moment you think,
“I’m too fat for this.”
“I’m too fat for this tour,
too fat for Florence,
for this piazza ringed
by statues
of perfect bodies.

You think people are looking at you.
You think you should have stayed home.
You think, “Who was I kidding?”

Oh, Girl!

I want to tell you that
you’re exactly where
you’re meant to be.

The piazza suits you.
Florence suits you.
Travel suits you.

You are glorious beyond measure.

Drape yourself in cotton and linen.
Move through the city.
Employ all your senses.
Let the world dazzle you.

Surrender yourself to your life.

You are exactly where you are meant to be.
You are glorious beyond measure.

What I’m up to right now + how you can join me:

Conversations with Your Life: An Online Course
This yummy six-week online course begins on Monday 30th October and the deadline for registering is Friday 27th October at midnight (EST). Here are the delicious details.

Six Day Challenge
During the week of October 16th – 21st, I’ll host a six day Conversations with Your Life Challenge where I’ll offer daily exercises to give you a wee taste of the course. I’ll be posting the challenges on my blog, Facebook and Instagram. I’d love for you to check out, and participate in, the challenge.

New Year’s Conversations with Your Life Retreat
We’re hosting three or four women in Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia from Thursday 28th December 2017 until Monday 1st January 2018. The retreat is a live version of the online course and includes transportation, accommodations and meals. The deadline for registering is Friday 27th October at midnight (EST). If this is your jam, you can learn more about the retreat here.


The Picnic + The Ants

I keep waiting for my gap year to begin.

It’s been two months since school ended and two weeks since I officially finished my job as Director of University Counseling.

During the summer vacation we flew to Canada, took all of our things out of a storage unit in Ottawa, moved them to my parents’ home, sorted them and decided what we were keeping, loaded this stuff back on a 16-foot truck that Damien drove across four provinces from Ontario to Nova Scotia where two very generous friends helped us unload the truck. We unpacked some (but not all) of our things. Damien assembled two sofas, our dining room table, and two of what are quite possibly the heaviest bookshelves ever constructed. We placed our dishes in a drawer rather than a shelf which felt like a revelation after decades of reaching over my head for plates and bowls. We hosted my parents for a week ~ showing them the South Shore of Nova Scotia. In mid-July, I went to Paris for a glorious week… three days on my own and then a retreat with other life coaches in the city of twinkling lights. For a few days we hosted a dear friend from our time in Barcelona. At the end of our time in Canada, we had two weeks on our own in Casa Limon.

I had this idea of how the summer would be: Fun. An adventure. Romantic. The summer-images I assembled in my mind felt just like the promise of the Ikea catalogue that arrived in my mailbox each year when I was a university student. All those perfect rooms… just waiting for me to inhabit them. This was the way I thought about each of the weeks of our summer; I imagined them as perfect rooms of time.

This is not the first time my expectations have kicked my ass.

It’s not that the summer wasn’t fun/adventurous/romantic. It was those things… at times. In little bits, in flashes, in moments when Damien and I would look out at the Lunenburg Harbour from The Fish Shack where we’d ordered fish and chip and iced tea and then we’d look back at each other and that look would contain the thought, “We’re so lucky to live here for part of the year.” And in those moments, it was eternal summer and everything yucky fell away. But there was also this pile of hard, frustrating and not very romantic moments. We had no hot water for several days. The guest bed did not arrive when expected and when it did, we couldn’t get the box springs up the stairs. We wanted to throw a party for our neighbours but we ran out of time and steam. It took many visits to banks in both Japan and Nova Scotia and two actual transactions to successfully send a transfer of funds to the USA. We didn’t spend as much time by the sea as we’d hoped. We spent way more money than we’d planned. I didn’t write a single Sunday Reader.

I’m not complaining about my life; I’m very clear about how fortunate we are. But I was surprised to find that our summer wasn’t perfect.

It never has been and it’s never going to be.

I realize that my feeling of waiting for my gap year to begin comes from the exact same crazy place as my desire for a perfect summer.

Once I heard a Buddhist teacher tell a story about a picnic. He encouraged listeners to imagine ourselves going on a picnic. We were asked to imagine that we had a delicious lunch packed away in a basket, the sky was blue and filled with white fluffy clouds, and the temperature was not too hot and not too cold as we set out our food on a red and white gingham cloth. The fried chicken was delicious and the lemonade was the perfect combination of sweet and tart. But then we noticed a procession of ants on the gingham cloth and our first thought was, “These damned ants are ruining my picnic.”

The storyteller then suggested another interpretation… that the ants are the picnic.

The picnic doesn’t exist in spite of the ants. The ants are as much a part of the picnic as the blue sky and the crispy fried chicken.

My hopes for, and understanding of, our summer had been way too limited.

The broken element in our water heater was the summer. The guest bed that arrived in pieces and cost more than we’d budgeted for was the summer. The jet lag and the packing and the unpacking ~ yup… they were all the summer. Also summer: the gloriously cool weather in Nova Scotia, the fog that crept in to the shore the day we took my parents to Green Bay Beach, ice cream cones, hugs, Chef’s Table on Netflix and great visits with new and long-time friends. Daisies cut from our own ramshackle garden, movies in Bridgewater, a pair of black leather sofas that feel like home, raspberry iced tea in blue rimmed glasses from Mexico, afternoon naps, the way the sun slipped through the blinds at twilight and filled the living room with golden light, driving with the sunroof open as the bass of the Hamilton Mixed Tape thrummed through the car. All summer.

When I opened my mind to accept the more challenging aspects of the summer as part of our picnic, a surprising thing occurred. Not only was I able to feel more peaceful about the rough bits but I found that my heart opened up WIDE to ALL of the beauty the summer held. I was able to see our entire summer with greater clarity and peace. Our summer was awesome.

News flash: Conditions will never be perfect.
Buddhist wisdom: It’s all part of the picnic.
Monna-move: Let’s get this gap year party started.

Yesterday, when Damien headed up the hill to start his seventh year at our little school in Japan, I didn’t go with him. I made a list of emails to send, blog posts and Sunday Readers to write, and people to help. And I began. And it wasn’t perfect because it was never going to be.

But it was a start and that was kind of beautiful.

What’s been stopping you from enjoying your picnic?


Perhaps there’s something in your life that you’d like more of (or less of) but you can’t figure out how to make that happen. You have a sense that you should be happier but you don’t know where to start.

If you’d like some help with your journey, I have openings for four coaching clients.

Here’s what a couple of clients said about our work together:

I’d never participated in life coaching before, so admittedly I was a bit skeptical if it would be helpful. Thankfully, I gave it a shot because working with Monna over the course of a few months was really beneficial for me. I found Monna to be warm and patient and genuine, and I actually looked forward to diving in and discussing things that have not always been the easiest for me. What I found the most helpful was that she always found a way to turn a negative statement into a positive one, flip a bad experience into something I could learn from and present my self-doubt as a building block for much needed self-care. I’m truly grateful to Monna for this experience.” ~ M. in Montreal

Monna is the Marie Kondo of the mind. She has helped me declutter my mind, throwing out unhelpful ideas and those which were none of my business. She’s guided me through setting a plan which will help me find my North Star. Thank you Monna, I’m on my way.” ~ L. in Melbourne

We’ll start by working together for six sessions over six or twelve weeks. You’ll choose what works best for you.

If you are interested, or even curious, email me at I’ll happily answer your questions and we can even hop on the phone and have a 30 minute chat to help you decide.

Please share this information with a friend who might benefit from working with a coach.


This post was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive these notes directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.

Imagine you are a gardener

Over the past few weeks I’ve talked with a number of women who are having a tough time finding/making time for themselves. They feel exhausted and stressed. Used up. A damned long way from happy.

One friend told me that her own teenaged son recommended that she take some time to tend to her own happiness.

Over the years, I’ve listened to teenagers lodge a host of complaints about their parents… most of these concerns will be resolved with a bit of time and perspective. Not once in twenty years as an educator have I heard a young person complain that their parents were too happy. Quite the opposite. We are rooting for our parents’ happiness for a couple of reasons. First, we genuinely want to see them happy. When the parents in a household are happy, everyone is better off. Second, when our parents are happy, they worry less about us.

Worrying is a prayer for the worst case scenario.

Although I don’t have children of my own, I’m an Honourary Mother from way back; I’ve helped raise thousands of kids over the last two decades. {I’ve just realised that what I’m writing here is as true for teachers as it is for parents. Yay, teachers!} I’ve learned that in order to care for the kids with whom I work as a counselor, I must first care for myself.

Some of you are feeling uncomfortable with all this talk of happiness. It’s not selfish to want to be happy. The idea that we should always put other people first is just a story and not a very helpful one. One can be happy at the same time as she pursues meaningful work and helps others. This is not an either/or situation. This is completely AND territory.

Turtle Steps Towards Happiness

So what are some small steps that you could take in the sacred direction of yourself?

{I love that scared and sacred have exactly the same letters in them. It helps me understand that we’re often just one small shift away from something amazing.}

What’s something you could do in the next 48 hours? If you are a person who thrives on a homework assignment, consider it assigned. If you are a person who need permission, consider it granted.

Here are some examples of happy-life-turtle-steps from my own weekend:

Haircut step
I went to Tokyo (an hour each way on the train) to get my bangs cut. They were a little shaggy and I deserve fierce looking bangs.

Japanese curry step
I located the Coco Curry House in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Ebisu… on my own. I love the curry from this place so I looked up the location on my phone but I wasn’t sure where I was on the google map. I have this little story about myself which is that I’m terrible with directions so I considered giving up my search but decided instead to ask for help. I went inside a sporting good store and asked the young Japanese women at the cash register for directions. She didn’t speak much English but she was able to explain that when I got to McDonalds I should turn left, then go to the next intersection and it would be close by. So I followed her instructions and then I asked my intuition where it would build a curry house (if it was in the habit of building curry houses). I had a strong sense that I should turn left… and there it was. By not freaking out, by asking for directions and then listening to my intuition, I found my favourite Japanese curry.

Starbuck seat step
After lunch, I went to Starbucks where I had a Chai Tea Latte and began writing this Sunday Reader. At the Starbucks locations in Tokyo, there is a member of staff whose job it is to help customers find a seat during busy times of the day when seating is at a premium. As I walked up the steps to the seating area, I saw an available table and quickly nabbed it. What I didn’t realise was that it was right beside the area with where people waited while the employee found them seats. So I had grabbed the Starbucks equivalent of the table right beside the bar. Within a few minutes, three women were perched on the little wooden Starbucks stools and they chatted back and forth in a loud and animated way. Thy had every right to do so but I felt a bit frustrated as I’d come to the cafe to work and I could hear their voices above the music in my headphones. Then I did a crazy thing. Instead of packing up and leaving, I found the employee who was seating people and let her know that I would appreciate a quieter seat and that I didn’t mind where it was. Within two minutes she came to my table and escorted me to a seat at the front window where she retrieved a a small reserved sign she had placed there t save my spot. It was the best seat in the house and I wrote and people watched happily for more than an hour.

Dance steps
I like John Mayer. I’m a big fan from back in the day. DP and I first saw John Mayer play in Houston when he was a 17-year old kid in an long-sleeved orange t-shirt and khaki cargo pants. He has just released Phase 2 of his new project and there’s a song called “Still feel like your man” that I’ve been grooving to for the past couple of days. On the trip back to Yokohama, I was listening to the EP and this song, in particular, made me want to dance. So I did. I danced on the platforms of Ebisu Station and Naka-Meguro Station. A woman smiled at me at Naka-Meguro. One of the train employees moved closer to make sure I hadn’t dropped my basket. It was an unusual move but I felt compelled to let my happiness out. And so I danced and no one came to take me away.

Time steps
I’m a person who worries about time. It’s another one of my not-very-helful stories and I come by it quite honestly. My mother tells a story about her father wanting to be SO early for church that if they arrived after the pianist had begun (30 minutes before the service), they would turn around and go home. Yesterday, as I was travelling home from Tokyo on the train, I realised that I had enough time to stop at JINS, an optical store at Landmark Plaza, before my appointment at 6:00 p.m. Despite a couple of false starts including getting off at the wrong station and then being directed up to street level at Minato-Mirai, I had 45 minutes of shopping for eyeglasses before heading home. When I began to feel anxious about the time, I breathed deeply and reminded myself that I had lots of time. I’m learning how to draw an image of greater spaciousness inside my mind. I’m learning how to create my own white space.

It feels, to me, as if happiness
is a magical thing we create,
little by little.
We can always create it.
We’ll never lose our ability to conjure it up.
There’s no way to get this wrong.

*This piece was originally shared in my newsletter, The Sunday Reader. To receive The Sunday Reader directly in your inbox twice a month, you can subscribe here.