Kids & Journaling

A photo of many coloured journals beside the words "Teach your kids to journal" as part of written therapy.

When I was in Grade 5 (10 years old), I wrote a short story and a poem and submitted them in a contest. As a result, I was invited to attend the Young Authors of Canada conference in Montreal later that year. When my radtastical teacher, Mrs. Kirwin, told me the news, I practically levitated with excitement the entire way home. Unfortunately, when I told my mom the news, even though she was truly proud of me, she told me I couldn’t go to the conference. 

I. was. pissed.

My 10-year-old brain could not even fathom the costs of flying a child and her mother across the entire country, so when mom told me that we just couldn’t afford it, I was less than gracious about it. I threw a tantrum. 

I remember this so clearly, in such detail, that it must be one of those defining milestones in a child’s life. I was mid-tantrum when my mom slapped me across the face. It wasn’t a hard slap (and shit like that was perfectly acceptable back then), but it sure as shit stopped me in my tracks. She told me she didn’t want to hear another word unless I could lose my attitude and be nicer. I stormed off to my room and stewed for hours, screaming in frustration every now and then. (Yes, I was a complete SHIT when I was a child…)

Just before bedtime, mom came into my room and sat on my bed, where I was still pouting, arms crossed and glaring out the window. She told me that she understood how upset I was about not being able to go to the conference and that she was extremely proud that I’d been invited because she knew how much I loved writing stories and poems. But, she said, despite the reasons for not being able to go, she wasn’t going to apologize about not being able to afford the trip and that my behaviour and treatment of her was totally unacceptable. She said that, from that point on, when if I became extremely angry, I was to come to my room and write down everything I was feeling and thinking instead of speaking out loud about it. She said that it would give me the chance to get all of my anger out and it would stop me from hurting someone’s feelings by speaking unkind words.  She also said that I didn’t have to apologize to her because she knew how upset I was, but she wanted me to really think about how I spoke to her from that point onward. 

She placed something on my bed and walked out of my room. I looked down to see a cute little notebook and a pack of ballpoint pens in assorted colours. It was one of those old Hilroy books with the top half of the page blank and bottom half lined and she’d written “Jo’s Anger Journal” on the front in her neat printing. 

Man alive, I was good at being a shithead.

Aside from the fact that I was THRILLED with the cool pens AND the gift of the new notebook, I immediately picked it up and wrote my mom an angry, assholish letter. I made sure to point out that she was a terrible mother, that she didn’t care about me, that if she really loved me she would find the money to make my dreams come true (hahaha, Jayzus, right!). One of the lines I wrote said, “My mom is such a bich. She is always trying to ruin my dreams. I don’t even like her at all.” 

I was 10. What in the actual fuck?

I went to sleep that night with the book on the floor beside my bed and, when I woke up, I noticed the book was on my desk. Curious, I walked over and opened it to the entry I’d made the night before. My mom, with the rad sense of humour that she was famous for, had used a red pen to cross out “bich” and wrote “bitch” above it. 😂She’d also written, directly underneath the part where I’d said I didn’t like her, “Sometimes I don’t like your attitude or your smart mouth, but I always love you, am always be proud of you, and will always be here for you.”

I bolted out of my room to the kitchen, feeling a huge amount of remorse for being such an asshole and so childish, and wrapped my arms around her and told her how sorry I was. 

I have been journaling ever since and it has helped me get through some of the darkest times in my life. That first journal turned into a lifelong therapy tool and, knowing how much writing helps me to process my own shit and connect with others, I am eternally grateful for her motherly insight and the push to get me started. 

I love Mondays!

Picture of a woman in a purple hat standing in front of an alpine lake and smiling so hard her face hurts.

It’s Monday ya’ll! My FAVE day of the week lately. Most people dread Mondays because they mean “back to the grind”, but lately I’ve been thinking of Mondays as a chance to start fresh, with positive energy and determination. 

Admittedly, I’ve had some shit days in the past month because of the good fight against asshole Lyme bacteria and my beloved OJ cat MIA since the full moon, but I haven’t lost my spark. In fact, if anything I think my light has been a beacon that I’m continuously using as a guiding light. Somewhere along the way—through the constant weakness in my hands and the debilitating Lyme arthritis migrating through my joints and the gut feeling that my wandering shitten is gone for good—my outlook has shifted into excessive joy. 

Life can be so much worse than the shit I’m rolling through right now (and it has been for me, many times). I’m alive, still mostly mobile, still able to do some of the things I love most (like hiking through the mountains), still able to write and be creative, and still able to choose positivity and joy on the hardest days, even through tears of pain and sorrow.
So whatever you’re rolling through, remember that YOU have the ability to make it a good (or at least tolerable) experience or the worst experience ever. You. Your choice, no matter what it is.
So yah, #ilovemondays

Haters Gonna Hate. A word about accepting this and moving on.

Last week, “someone” made a comment on my blog claiming that I exaggerate aspects of my life (namely my roller derby “career” and my “retirement” from professional photography) and advising me to be more honest with my clients about my writing and editing abilities. The comment was, of course, “anonymous” and tied to a fake Gmail address. When I saw the comment, I was surprised by it, but I immediately replied with a message of my own, thanking them for visiting my blog and congratulating them for having the courage to message me from behind the anonymity of their keyboard and screen. #keyboardwarriors #amiright

At first, I assumed that this person wasn’t someone I knew, but as I mulled over their comment, curiosity took hold of me and I wondered why someone I didn’t know would so personally and publicly attack me. My gut tweaked, so I asked a techy friend of mine to trace the IP address attached to the comment. I wasn’t surprised when the IP traced back to an address in Kamloops—one I recognized. Someone I DO know. [People just don’t realize how difficult it is to truly be anonymous these days. I mean, if you’re gonna say nasty shit about people on a public site without having the balls to show your face or name, at least use a VPN…details, details…]

Having discovered who sent the message and being both a bit shocked and also flabbergasted as to why this person would feel the need to throw shade on me, I still did nothing. My curiosity had been satisfied and, even knowing who it was, I still didn’t feel the need to react to it.

And then I sat back and had a huge A-ha moment about my progress in controlling my reactions. Five years ago, I would have lost my shit and felt an immediate need to defend myself and prove my worth or my truth or whatever else. Now, I recognize the futility of that kind of behaviour. There is simply no need to hang onto somebody else’s bullshit. It’s none of my GD business.

My point is this:

In life, you are always going to run into people who throw negative vibes like poisoned spears at your heart. Let them. Your shield is the knowledge that you have the choice to either let that spear pierce and infect you or bounce off you harmlessly because your skin is bullshit proof.

Everything Happens For A Reason – Jo Johnson Writer

Writing prompt from the weekend. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Admittedly, at first, 64,000 thoughts came to mind, but after 30-45 seconds, only one remained: nothing.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Even if I could, I wouldn’t change anything. Not the deaths of my babies nor anyone else I’ve lost. None of the struggles, the triumphs, nor the challenges. The fact is, every moment of my life—the good, the bad, and the three-ringed shitshow moments—have shaped me and grown me into who I am.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

And I love who I am. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I love all of my light and my shadow, my ever-present sense of humour, and the way I feel too much about certain things and nothing about others. I love my strength and resilience and my vulnerability. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

As much as life has hurt at times, it has always been balanced by periods of growth, usually followed by joy. It’s been a perfect balance and I wouldn’t change any of it.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Consciously Disconnecting

Yesterday, I listened to Dr. Adam Alter’s Calm Masterclass on Social Media & Screen Addiction. I cannot recommend it to ya’ll enough. It will open your peepers wide, even if you think you are already quite savvy about screen addiction.

The doc covered a lot of info in three short classes, but my biggest takeaway was that we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. If we have a lull in activity, such as when we’re riding in an elevator or waiting for an appointment, we pick up our phones. Boredom is the gateway to creativity. When our brains relax and begin to wander, we generate ideas and solve problems. In this way, meditation is incredibly beneficial to us because it leads to regeneration of ideas and inspiration. It allows us to be mindfully “bored” and gives our brains a much-needed technology rest, which leads to an increase in creativity and innovation.

Since I’ve been using the Calm App to meditate nearly every day, I have grown quite conscious of this boredom trap, but I still have to fight the urge to pick up my phone when I have a lull in activity. The thing that stops me from doing it is looking around and seeing 95% of people on their phones or knowing that my brain needs to refresh to be as creative as possible. Plus, walking into a room and seeing nearly everyone on devices disturbs me, especially when I see entire families glued to their screens while out for dinner together. Screen time is killing our ability to form communities and forge strong relationships. More connected while also more distant than ever before.

Listening to the doc explain how screen time removes our creativity, I was startled to realize that I have begun to struggle while writing. Where I used to be able to spit out original, descriptive language naturally and quickly, I have become sluggish and lazy. Can’t think of something unique? No worries, just throw in something boring and predictable. Can’t think of a suitable word? No prob, just fire up thesaurus.com and choose one. It’s so easy to “cheat” when we have unlimited access to technology that can take the thought process out of everything we do.

All of this has inspired me to change up my patterns. I tried to cut off my screen time, cold turkey, last year, and it did not work—the addiction and convenience were too strong to resist. So this time, I’m trying Dr. Alter’s approach. I’ve set up time slots for screen time and I’m going to do my best to stick to them. When I’m writing, I’ll be shutting off internet access and my phone to focus on writing and using my own brilliant brain (because I know it’s still in there, somewhere).

Lastly, and perhaps BEST of all, I’ve set aside an hour each day to grab a journal and brainstorm words in an attempt to revive my formerly extensive vocabulary. I did it this morning and it was SO DANG FUN!!! I chose the word “miffed” and then wrote down every synonym that came to mind. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I still have many words lurking in the depths of my lazy-ass brain.

What do you do to cut down on screen time and resist the addiction?

I Have a Love Hate Relationship With Humanity.

husky and dachsunds playing in the snow. A blog about animal abuse and neglect.
I may wrestle with loving people, but I will ALWAYS give my love, time, and heart to animals.

Every morning I wake up simultaneously grateful to still be alive and disgusted with roughly 80% of the human race. I live in a constant state of duality and, even though it is ridiculous on the surface, deep inside me, it takes me to places I would never get to without it.

I recently devoured Ainslie MacLeod’s brilliant book about the soul called The Instruction. When I say devoured, I mean I sat down on the couch at around 7:30 a.m. with my coffee and flipped it open with the intention of having a quick boo…only to look up six hours later to realize I’d read it cover to cover and had barely moved. (This ability to completely withdraw and focus on nothing else ONLY ever happens to me when I’m reading a fascinating book.)

That book REALLY opened my eyes wider than any other spiritual book I’ve read (and there are…uhm…a few…LOL). It left me with a much deeper understanding of humanity and the reasons people do the shit they do. It also gave me a much better understanding of myself and why I am the way I am. Up until reading The Instruction, I had only been able to feel a person’s energy and try to puzzle them out based on that. I was often completely flabbergasted by the behaviours exhibited by those around me because of constantly fluctuating energy.

A quick rundown before I go any further:
According to Mr. MacLeod, the human race is comprised of younger souls (Levels 1-5) and older souls (Levels 6-10). The younger souls haven’t learned how to be introspective, think for themselves, see the connectedness of the world, or seek change for injustice and inhumanity. Older souls are introspective, see the connectedness of the world and advocate for change through all sorts of avenues (including protests, art, caregiving, or, interestingly, pacifism).

I can now sit back and see the whole of every person I have a connection with. I now understand people better than I ever have. I see the reasons behind their actions and words and I finally just get people.

However, this doesn’t help me to like people or feel more compassionate toward them. Understanding, I’ve learned, does not equate tolerance or love. Both of those involve a conscious choice.

After doing all the meditations in his book to figure out what I am, I believe I’m a Level 6 Soul (just making the switch after many lifetimes into a greater awareness of connection and figuring out that change begins within) with a Thinker influence (spend a lot of time within my own head just trying to puzzle everything out) punctuated by a Creator influence (writing, photography, art, etc) and some leadership tendencies. So, as soul ages go, I’m somewhere in the middle.

Hence why I’m living in a constant state of gratitude and disgust. I feel that connection of all of us together, but I still can’t quite let go of my judgement of others—most specifically, anybody out there who believes abusing or neglecting animals is, in any way, acceptable.

Here’s a fine example of how I wrestle with my thoughts and emotions each minute of each day. A few weeks ago, I opened up my Instagram and there was video playing in my feed that instantly enraged me. I wanted blood and my mind immediately ran through about 29,000 scenarios that would bring about vengeance.

The video was about a litter of puppies, in a third world country, who were living in a pile of garbage. One of the puppies—perhaps 8-10 weeks old—had a broken leg and was yipping in pain and trying to hobble away to hide. The man who rescued the puppies (and helped all of them find homes) explained that the puppy had been stepped on, ON PURPOSE, by a young boy around the age of 10. When the man interviewed the boy on camera and asked him why he did it, the boy just shrugged and said, “Because I could.”

As I was watching this, tears streaming down my face, chest constricted with disgusted disbelief and totally fighting the compulsion to throw my phone across the room and collapse in a heap of sobbing blubbery, I was instantly filled with rage. I HATED THAT BOY. HATED HIM. I wanted to pin him down and smash the fuck out of his leg and then throw him in a pile of garbage and stand around laughing while he screeched in pain and cried out for help.

However, at the same time that part of me was wrapped up in this retaliatory fantasy, the other part of me was also chatting away, working out the reasons behind this kid’s brutality…The boy is poor. He is a young soul. He lives in a shithole in the middle of a third world country that has never known peace. He is malnourished and his brain has never been given a chance to properly develop. He is most likely surrounded by other malnourished, angry people who take out their frustrations about life on everyone around them. Malnourishment and improper brain development perpetuate feelings of anger, resentment, apathy. No one has ever taught him to respect himself, let alone the lives and well-being of others. He cannot possibly understand why he has acted this way nor would his mind even try to understand why it is wrong to hurt others. Perhaps this man who is saving the puppies—with his obvious compassion and higher level soul—can help this kid’s soul to evolve faster. Perhaps their connection is exactly what the boy needs to progress and learn to love himself and others.

So, even though I get it and even though my soul intuitively understands the what and why of everything happening in the world right now, it’s still a constant struggle to accept it. It’s still a struggle to stop wishing that anyone who subjects another being to intentional harm or neglect should be given a good dose of their own medicine before being obliterated from this plane. I know that to keep learning and growing we have to have all levels of souls existing together in a big ball of turmoil punctuated with moments of peace. But even so, my heart and logic wrestle with each other all the time. One feeling, the other reasoning, but both working together to make sense of it all. My soul still, clearly, has a lot of learning and growing to do, but I know I’ll get there eventually.

20-30 more lifetimes oughta do the trick. 😉