Stimulating Conversations from a Summer Road Trip

summer road trip

My family loves road trips. It is perfectly normal, especially in the summer, to drive for 8, 10 or 12 hours in a single day, to travel to a destination. We have visited many parts of Canada, all in our car. During a recent 8-hour drive, from our family country home in Quebec, to Toronto, with my husband and son, I thought about the interesting behaviours of people while in a moving vehicle.

I started to chuckle as I remembered the “party bus” with my office colleagues last summer. You can take a group of mature, often serious adults – put them on a bus – and they turn in to rowdy, and silly, toddlers!

So, what happens to people when they are strapped into a car for hours? Does the mix of people matter? How about the intended destination? Or maybe does the length of the trip make a difference? The weather? The kind of road? Traffic?

I put these questions to the test during the recent drive. I will set the scene:

  • Starting location: Saint Donat, Quebec
  • Destination: Toronto, Ontario
  • In the car: My husband (David), my son (Matthew), our dog (Olie), and me

We left mid-afternoon on a Saturday, with clear skies and high temperatures. If we drove without making a stop, it would be a 7-hour drive. But I knew we’d stop for gas or snacks or to change drivers, so we planned for 8 hours.

With just 3 people and a dog in the car, we had lots of room. No one felt crammed. The roads were clear, and we were all set for an easy drive (which it was).

Fifteen minutes in, I look over and see David is already tired. Really? Our first conversation focused on how a grown man, who knew he’d be driving for hours, chose to not have a good sleep the night before. He just yawned. After a stop at Starbucks – which included a five-minute nap – we were back on the road.

While a group bus experience brings out the toddler in adults, that’s not the case of the car. During a long road trip, one has the opportunity – whether good or bad – to discuss topics at length, some of them to exhaustion. What I learned was that when my husband and son are together for such a trip – without my two young daughters – wow do they ever find a way to beat a topic to death. Here’s some of what they discussed:

Who knows more about Math and Science?

This topic lasted well over an hour. Where do I begin? It amuses me, and it brings David great pride, that our son has a knack for math and science. Matthew just completed grade 11, which included two math courses and physics this past year. David grilled Matthew on whether or not he knew this concept or that. I’d include what those concepts were, but it was clear early on that I not only know less than them but also don’t care. Trigonometry? This or that law of physics? Or, can you explain why such and such plus this or that make sense or don’t? Back and forth the two of them went. I felt like that dumb kid in high school who sat at the back of the class and doodled all day.

What is the most efficient energy source?

This was a very exciting conversation that must have lasted at least half an hour. I believe it began as we passed some field that was covered in solar panels. How efficient is solar power, they asked each other. I learned: not very. So, they just had to know, what’s more efficient? Matthew pulled out his phone as they came up with various ideas, to see their percent efficiency. Hydro? Nuclear? Wind? I don’t even know what they decided was most efficient, as I drifted off into my own thoughts, as the conversation became more boring by the minute.

Is there alien life?

I believe the alien conversation flowed from the energy conversation. You don’t even want to know how that happened. They went back and forth asking each other “tough” questions whether each think there is some kind of intelligent life out there, beyond our solar system or universe. That turned into a deeper conversation about just how big our solar system really is. Their deep thoughts included the idea that we (as in people of Earth) have sent out signals that just may not have reached other intelligent life yet. But what if some society, smarter or more advanced than ours, gets our signal? Will they come and destroy us? That was pleasant.

Was Matthew hungry?

I admit, I participated in any conversation that included food. I like to prepare various snacks for our drives. And the food I bring mainly depends on what my starting point is. Sometimes I bake muffins or cookies, if I start from home. Or I like to cut up vegetables or have fresh fruit on the ready. And then there is the bag of snacks. Chips, chocolate, candy and other easy-to-consume foods. Matthew made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with fruit or vegetables, or any homemade baked goods.

Was there a Tim Hortons at the next exit? Did I throw in enough of those small packets of Brookside chocolate? What variety of chips could he grab from the snack bag? Was David starting to nod off again and needed a square (or ten) of dark chocolate? Did the dog have any water? Does anyone need coffee?

University Applications

Since Matthew just completed grade 11, it means that this fall it’s time for him to formally start to apply to university. Let’s put aside this huge life milestone and just get to the car conversation. Matthew is an ambitious kid with aspirations to enroll in a Sports Management program, preferably at an American University. We’ve done our research and already visited some schools. So what’s to discuss in an 8-hour car ride? So much. Even if much of it is repetitive. What are his top five choices? What schools do we still need to visit this fall? On what date later this summer does he need to sit down and formally start the applications? Did he secure the references he needs from school (yes, he did)?


In 2024, no 8-hour road trip would be complete without a rousing conversation about politics. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of what was discussed as it may either send your brain into a tizzy or put you to sleep. Let’s just say that over the last year, my son and husband have come together on where they sit politically. They both like to quote all kinds of pundits, writers or other politicians, to convince me that they’re right. I will say that I don’t always disagree with them, but wow, I’m not that kind of passionate.


We jumped around to many other topics during this particular road trip, some light hearted and amusing and some more serious and sometimes upsetting. The conversations were very rich, and I think I will remember this particular drive quite fondly.

The summer is still young, and my family and I have many hours ahead and highways to conquer. Coming up are more back-and-forth road trips on Highway 401 between Quebec and Ontario, a drive East to pick up our daughters in Halifax, and a new special drive after to Boston and New York.


There will be laughs and for sure there will be tears. There will be memories from road trips of old to share and new ones to write.  Aren’t summer road trips great?

A Place Where Time Stands Still

a place where time stands still

Is there a place in your life, or maybe an experience, that is so clear to you, that the thought of it, or the memory of it, is brilliantly vivid? Did you travel someplace in childhood that’s still a part of you today, or is there a person who was – or is – important to you and has impacted your life?

These questions popped into my head as I was paddle boarding on a beautiful lake deep in the mountains in Quebec. Whether it was this lake, or another, I’ve been traveling to the Laurentian region since I was born. With maybe the odd exception, I have spent time on a lake in this area every summer of my life.   

I looked around at the magnificent vista and said to myself, “this is a place where time stands still.” Does it? Or in my mind, have I created a story of what’s around me and hold it so sacred that time seemingly stands still?

Let me explain and give some context. As I write, I’m sitting on the deck of a house that’s been around for 75 years. Back in 1949, my husband’s grandfather purchased land, with a partner, and with very limited funds, started to build a small home on one of the plots. He hand-picked the spot, with 180 degree views of the lake and mountains.

Over the next few years the house was completed, and it was enjoyed across all seasons by the family. As the children married and had children, more people benefitted from this magical place. 75 years later, multiple generations return in the summer, to be together, to suck the goodness.

Whenever I am here, no matter what is happening in my life, or the world outside, I start to feel that this house, actually, this whole region, feels like it’s a place where time stands still. As I start to really think about it, I have always felt this way around here.

My extended family also had homes in other parts of the region, which is why I was fortunate to spend parts of the summer or winter around here. As a child, I remember a special smell that always hit me when I arrived at my grandparents’ country house in the little village of St. Adolphe. I associated it with wonderful memories (I only realized later, as an adult, that the smell was really just mustiness or mold, which would have been solved with a dehumidifier!).

Maybe it’s a certain kind of design, or decoration, that I see across the homes in this area. Or maybe the décor hasn’t changed in the 75 years some of these homes have existed. I often jest that my husband’s family home is a perfectly preserved retro home from 1952! To paraphrase from a family friend who wrote an article on the home in the National Post 15 years ago – when the home turned 60 – from a dark and cramped kitchen come gourmet meals – well, besides the new shiny fridge – the original kitchen is still there.

The floors creak, the mattresses are lumpy, and unless I turn on the dehumidifier, it’s musty…. I’ll just say it – it’s not exactly the most comfortable home. And yet, and yet, I don’t think anyone would want it any other way. Time stands still here, in our little bubble.

This is a concrete example where time stands still. But what about memories or experiences that have been placed in a vault in your head? Could it be that cute hotel by the beach you stayed at 30 years ago, and in your head – even if a city has grown up around it and it’s commercialized, it’s still a tiny shack by the water? Maybe it’s the elementary school you went to until grade 4. The chairs in the classroom still seem big in your head, and wow, the teachers were tall. The slide in the playground is long and scary, and it was so many steps to get to the second floor of the building!

Time can’t really stand still. But I love that I have a place – both in my head – and in real life – that when I’m here, I look around – and I swear, I feel like nothing has changed. And that brings me comfort. My children grow up. My jobs have changed, or my career has gone in a new direction. Politics and wars have overtaken our lives, and families have moved around the world. The people who built some of these homes, 75 years ago, are physically gone. But they are here with us every day.

When our family sold my grandparents’ country home, we took my grandfather’s canoe and moved it my husband’s home nearby. We now call this canoe, the Zaidy Lou, in honour of my grandfather. Every time I see this canoe, I half expect my grandfather to appear, asking me to join him on the lake.

When someone bites into a peach, I immediately conjure the memory of when my husband’s grandmother taught me how to pick a basket of peaches at the local Provigo grocery store in the village. I remember she said to me, “Alicia, they sell the peaches by the basket. Make sure you pick the best ones, even if you have to move peaches between baskets. And when you think the basket is full, put one extra peach on top!”

These memories, of my grandfather canoeing down his lake, or my grandmother-in-law teaching me how to buy peaches, or so clear in my head. They are a moment in time that are still very alive today.

Where does time stand still for you? Is there a place, a moment, or a person? I would love to hear your story.


Be Kind

be kind

At the start of every summer, I am fortunate to escape the city and head to our family country retreat in Quebec. I’ve written about this special place many times. We were thrilled to get in the car this weekend and make the multi-hour drive from our home in Toronto. We encountered heavy traffic and on-and-off rain, and in between the skies cleared and we flew past towns and small communities across Southern Ontario.

Suddenly, during one of the periods of rain, the driver’s side windshield wiper flew off the car. At over 100 km per hour, it disappeared fast, off to the side of the road. Luckily it didn’t hit another car or anything else. It was just gone. The rain was coming down, and it was hard to see.

There was a town not far away, so we got off the highway and headed to a larger gas station. Could we find a replacement wiper? Maybe just move the passenger side wiper over? My husband parked at the corner of the gas station and considered our options. He looked at the wipers.

A man walked over, who clearly lived in the town, and politely asked if we needed any help. He held a fresh bottle of Pepsi in his hand, and he was headed back to his pickup truck. My husband hesitated, then explained what happened. The man paused, then he quickly jumped in to help. He grabbed a tape measure from his car and advised us on the exact wiper we needed -which he knew was sold at that gas station.

My husband went in to the station’s store, bought the wiper, and the man waited to make sure we were okay. He even offered to help put the new wiper on. His tone was gentle yet confident. He exuded warmth. Quite simply: he was kind.

Why did something so simple as this affect me so much? What did this man do that was so special? On the surface, it was nothing really. It was a rainy early summer afternoon, and it was easy to offer help. It was only moments of his day, and he then he moved on. He was a stranger, and he didn’t have to help us. He wasn’t obligated.

And yet he did. It made me think about kindness and how there just isn’t enough of it in our world today. I often feel that the world has been overtaken by hatred and anger. Instead of offering a helping hand, people offer negativity and vitriol. Instead of helping you succeed, they go out of their way to ensure you fail.

I don’t just read about this in the news or hear anecdotes. I experience this in my own life. I brace myself every day in case I have to face any barriers – from a fellow driver cutting me off in traffic to someone who shuts the elevator door instead of pressing the open button. It’s witnessing protestors shutting down a street or screaming hateful words instead of keeping an open mind and considering having a dialogue. Or it can be a workplace culture that, on the surface, exudes warmth but instead instills fear in its employees.

Being kind is not always necessarily the only option. I’m not naïve. But it’s rarely a starting point anymore or even a consideration. I tell my children every day how important it is to be a good person – to care for others, respect people around them, and yes, to be kind. If it’s the one thing they learn from me, then I would consider myself to be a good parent.

Am I fooling myself that this is possible anymore?

So, here is my ask, if you are reading this. Let’s all make an effort to be kind. Some examples:

  • Say please when you want something.
  • Then say thank you.
  • Say excuse me if you want to get past someone or if you accidentally shove them.
  • Don’t cut people off in traffic. Go a step further, and slow down to let a car in.
  • Hold the elevator door open for the person running towards you, even if you’re in a rush.
  • If you are in a leadership position, help your subordinates. Raise them up – don’t bring them down.
  • Buy your colleague a coffee.
  • Offer to help carry that giant stroller down the stairs when you see the parent struggling.
  • Even if you disagree, keep an open mind and listen to a different perspective.
  • Take your child paddle boarding (added this one for fun – I just did that today!).

I could go on and on, for pages, hours, or days. It has become harder than ever to be kind. It seems easier to dismiss someone, or their idea, or to ignore them outright. People skip any niceties and go directly to cruelty.

But not everyone. A stranger stopped to help us. He smiled, and he waved. He stopped whatever it was that he was doing, just to be kind. I think we are all capable of this. If we only gave it a try.




Have you ever eaten a Sabra? It’s a prickly pear. On the outside it has rough edges, almost sharp. But once you remove the skin, underneath, is a soft, gentle fruit that is delicious. The sabra is often used as a metaphor for Israelis. It was during my recent visit to Israel that I realized just how true this is: sharp on the outside, but as soft as can be inside. A dichotomy.

A Sabra fruit

A dichotomy is what I would describe as my time in Israel. I experienced highs and lows, great joy followed by sadness, and a sense of security mixed with fear. This is what life has been like in Israel for the past seven months. Until I was there, until I could see it for myself, I would never have believed it.

My daughter arriving in Israel, seeing the faces of hostages.

I felt it the moment I arrived. As I strolled towards passport control and saw one of my favourite signs, “Bruchim Ha’baim” (welcome), I walked past sign after sign, names, faces, ages, of people being held hostage in Gaza. Around the airport were signs warmly welcoming me, surrounded by reminders that over 200 people had been kidnapped. How could I be so excited to arrive in a place I love so much, to be with family and catch up with friends, with all of this suffering?

Instead of letting the sadness, the pain or the fear overtake me, I embraced the dichotomy of what Israel is today and focused on joy. I actively sought out the Israel I know and love, to remind myself why this place is so special.

I am not a fool, and I know that huge numbers of people around the world hate Israel and everything it stands for. It is the home of the Jewish religion, the Jewish people and the Jewish nation. And while it is far from perfect, it’s also the protector of other religions and peoples.

You will find the most advanced, high-tech society that leads the world in innovation, and yet the sidewalks are uneven and it seems like no road is straight. In one neighbourhood there may be an ultra-religious community, while next door are secular Jews. You will eat the freshest, juiciest watermelon in the local market, then step on rotten oranges a block away.

As the traffic light goes green, you had better step on it and drive. If you hesitate, the horns will honk. They will tailgate you and cut you off on the highway. If you aren’t fast enough, you will lose the best parking spot, and grown adults will push a child aside to get their breakfast first. You will be yelled at for no apparent reason, and good luck finding anyone who will stand in an orderly line.


They will give you the shirt off their back in an instant. If you are hurt, they will stop and help you. They will give you some extra chips and salads, just to make sure you eat enough. Ask for directions, and you will get a story about how their brother’s wife’s aunt lived in the house next door. Smile and you will get a smile back. They will give their life for you.

How can these two extremes exist together? How can one person be both aggressive and gentle? It is the story of Israeli survival. I saw it everywhere I went on this most extraordinary trip.

When you live in a place that you have to fight for and defend every day, maybe you love it just a bit more. You appreciate the land and the people so much more. You need to be tough, and yes, a bit rough around the edges, to survive. But you feel warmth in your heart, and grateful every day, to be living in your ancestral homeland.

Now that I have left Israel, and I’m back to Toronto, so many dichotomous moments are swirling around my head, and I don’t want these memories to fade….

We visited the grave of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister and a founding father of the nation. He’s buried in his beloved Negev desert, overlooking a canyon. I think about the beauty that surrounds his final resting spot and the fierce battles that must happened throughout history on this exact spot.

We spent a day in Jerusalem, possibly the most fought-over city in the world. I lived here for 6 months, many years ago, and I love to show my kids my favourite spots around the city. As we happily walked along Jaffa street, on our way to the Old City, suddenly we heard sirens. Police cars. Ambulances. Racing past us. One after the next. I froze. I was terrified. My kids had no idea, but I knew there must have been a terrorist attack nearby. I was right. We never made it to the Old City. We pivoted and instead visited the pedestrian mall and a market. We went from fear to joy in a matter of minutes.

The beaches of Tel Aviv are of the most beautiful in the world. This is the modern Israel, with hundred-year-old Bauhaus buildings mixed with glass-covered skyscrapers. A walk along the soft, white sandy beaches is like stepping into another world. The Mediterranean Sea is a magnificent blue, and on land there are bright white apartments. The city is alive, with hip restaurants and wide boulevards, but also great street food and tiny winding alleyways. Every turns brings you a new surprise.

Then there’s our family and our friends. As they shared with me, there were days not long ago when they ran to a protected stairwell or shelter, and waited, for the sirens to end for the incoming rocket. They cried, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, or when they went to a funeral for a fallen soldier or the shiva of a friend’s child or grandchild.

But our family also celebrated a wedding a few weeks ago, the birth of a new baby a year ago, new jobs, graduations, and so many other personal achievements. We hiked and walked together, we ate one spectacular meal after another together, and we laughed together. Oh did we laugh.

They told me that life must go on. It is the story of the State of Israel. We defend and we protect. We are scared and sometimes we cry. We must be tough, and yes a bit prickly with sharp edges. But we live to the fullest every day. We sing and dance, and smile and laugh. They reminded me, we are warm and kind and caring.

I understand this dichotomy now. I trust it and believe in it. I’m so happy that I was able to be in Israel again. Chazak chazak v’nitchazek. Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen one another.



5:30 am. There is a hint of blue in the sky. I’m standing on the edge of a canyon, waiting for the first rays of sun to rise over the horizon. It’s hazy. The sky begins to lighten, and I wait for the red and gold streaks of light to appear before me. It gets lighter. No colours in the sand.

A new day has arrived, deep in the desert of Southern Israel. While I didn’t see the sunrise I had hoped for, I did experience the quiet serenity of early morning in the desert, in the land I have hoped to visit for months.

The Israel I arrived to this week is not the same one I last visited in the summer of 2022. In recent months I have written about, and  I have shared my thoughts, about the attack on Israel on October 7th, 2023. And since that day, over 6 months ago, instead of fearing this place, I have longed to be here.  

I’m a “words” person, I often tell people. I can take random, often unconnected details, and string them together into something coherent, often beautiful. I tell stories. I even joke that data can’t tell me what I need to know. Data is just numbers. A bunch of numbers are meaningless. It’s what you do with the numbers, how you can connect them, to create your story.

Somehow, many different kinds of numbers came at me today, in the desert, and together they are forming my story.

Hundreds of Millions of Years          

That’s the approximate age of the Ramon Crater, where I watched the sun rise this morning. With its unique rock formations and colourful sands, it is central to the history of this land and its geology. I looked out at this magnificent vista, which holds the stories of thousands of years of civilizations who have lived in this land. It grounded me. It calmed me. It reminded me of where I was and why I worked so hard to get here.

The hint of sunrise over the crater

Three Attempts – on Four Airlines

For this one there are so many numbers that keep swirling through my head. We were booked to fly to Israel on April 13th, on Air Canada, non-stop. Stay with me as our saga has many twists and turns….

The flight was canceled, just after we boarded. With hundreds of drones and missiles being shot at Israel by Iran that evening, all flights were grounded. The flight was rebooked to take off the next day, but of course the rebooked flight was again canceled the following morning. We were determined to still fly (to attend our niece’s wedding), so we were rebooked, on Air Canada and Austrian Air to fly through London and Vienna.

With our second trip to the airport in two days, that flight didn’t happen either. But I didn’t give up. Our tickets were refunded and we rebooked on KLM, to fly on Saturday, April 20th, with a stop in Amsterdam. A couple of days before we were scheduled to fly…. Yep, that flight was canceled too and we were moved to Air France, to fly on Sunday, April 21st.

The third time was a charm, on the fourth airline, and we landed in Israel, on Monday, April 22nd.

Twenty-Six People

We landed in Israel just a few hours before the start of the holiday of Passover. After a week trying to travel here, and two long flights, during which I didn’t sleep, I was very emotional. As the pilot announced that we had entered Israeli airspace and to please fasten our seatbelts, I felt tears falling down my face. I couldn’t keep it in anymore, how I felt to finally get there.

Usually one of my favourite places, I felt sad as I walked this path.

When we got off the plane, I immediately felt that I had arrived in a different Israel. As I walked down the ramp to passport control, looking at the sign telling me, “Welcome to Israel,” to my right and left were the names and faces of the hostages. It was these people who welcomed me, who are being held captive, and that I must remember that every moment I am here.

An empty Seder table set up in front of an ancient winery in Rehovot.

We arrived at my mother-in-law’s house just two hours before the Seder, exhausted. There was no time to relax, as we cleaned ourselves up, and we felt the warmth and joy to participate in our family’s Seder, of 26 people.

We came here because of our love of Israel. And we came here to be with our family. I held back the tears as the Seder began, when it slowly started to sink in of where we were.

One Scorpion

It was 39 degrees today in the desert. I’m not talking 30 degrees plus humidity. I mean solid, wall of heat, with a beating sun and no shade, 39 degrees. All we could muster up was a visit to an alpaca farm and iced coffee and popsicles. But the heat disappeared in the evening, and some of us had the opportunity to go on an evening Scorpion Walk.

You are thinking, what’s that? As we drove up to the designated spot, at 8:30 pm, in total darkness, I wondered too! You see, the Negev desert is a rocky desert. Forget gentle even foot paths. It’s rugged and not for the faint of heart. The guide handed us special ultraviolet flashlights, and the group set off in all directions (on the edge of the crater!), to literally search for scorpions!

Best shot I could get of Nessa shining the ultraviolet. I’m not posting the photo of the scorpion!

I learned more about scorpions in that one hour walk than I had known in my whole life. They capture their prey with their pincers and snap their tail over to kill with the poisoned tip. They camouflage well with the desert landscape, but shine an ultraviolet light at them and they glow in the dark, like a fluorescent yellow light! They also don’t seem to be bothered by a couple of dozen crazy people shining ultraviolet flashlights at them and snapping their picture!

I saw one, yes one, scorpion tonight. Even I admit, that was kind of cool.

80% and 70%

As the day began to cool down, a few of us took a pre-sunset hike, along the edge of the crater. The haze was back, like in the morning, so we couldn’t see the vibrant colours pop out, but still it was a sight to see. Our guides shared their vast knowledge about the desert and the beauty that lies within it. And near the end of the hike, they challenged us with some numbers.

We had to do the selfie in front of the crater!

Two numbers stuck out in my mind, and together they brought together everything that I personally have experienced in the last six plus months: 80 and 70.

80% of the Negev desert is used for either Israel Defense Forces (IDF) army bases or training facilities.

70% of the Negev desert is protected as national parks.

How is that possible? 80 plus 70 does not equal 100%. That’s because, our guide explained, that the IDF shares its training spaces with the national parks, and the IDF rotates where they train. Both are responsible for caring for the land.

It took a moment for that to sink in. These numbers tell the story of the State of Israel, and the deep, and historical love and connection the Jewish People – the Jewish Religion – the Jewish Nation – has for this land. It must be protected and preserved. It must be defended and deeply cared for. It is a symbiotic relationship that is unique and so special.



Everywhere I turn here there are numbers, and I could write and write about how each one tells a story. I am taking in every moment of my short time here, and I’m thankful that I’m here. My children are surrounded by their cousins. My husband is surrounded by his siblings. And I am filled with joy.

Take Action

job security

It’s easier to be idle, or to sit down and stay home than to stand up, be in motion and take action. I admit, I am naturally a home body, and so often there is nothing more I would like than a nice day in comfortable clothes, with a hot cup of coffee, a nice couch and maybe a book or good TV show. There is little to nothing I need to do to make a day relaxing and pleasant.

It’s rare that I can do this, as, on the surface, my life is very active and very busy. Like so many women, I have a demanding job, a family to care for and a house to run. There’s always a deadline at work, a meeting to get to, an appointment I need to book, a child’s feet  just grew and needs new shoes, or a dog I need to feed. And that’s just on Monday!

Clearly I am not idle, nor do I sit much or stay home often. I am always on the go. The fact is, I really don’t slow down often enough (that’s for another blog another day!). But in recent weeks I can’t stop thinking about how I spend my time and what my priorities are. I am busy, for sure, but am I busy doing the right things? Am I balancing my time properly? Does each day feel like the repeat of the last one, almost like my life is automated?

Like being idle, it’s easier to just keep things as-is. Many would say that routine is good. It’s predictable and keeps life simple. For children it’s great, and for me, for some tasks, I think it’s important. But when every part of the day becomes routine, are you living your life the way you really want to?

So, what sparked these thoughts for me? I can’t point to one aha moment, rather a series of events in the last six-nine months, which is making me ask myself if my life has become too passive.

First, I had a great summer. I’d say part of the reason was that it was so different from the rest of the year. I spent considerable time away from the city, out in the country, my kids went to camp for six weeks, and our whole family went away and celebrated a milestone event together (so what if we all got sick after?!). I also didn’t take the easy way out after a busy work day all summer: I went paddle boarding, or for a walk, or swimming – I took action. I exercised, or I was simply outdoors. And you know what, it felt great.

The fall began and I felt energized about my future. As many of my readers know, a significant part of my family lives in Israel, and the events of October 7th, 2023, have impacted my mental state more than I could have ever imagined. As family texted me to let me know they were okay after a siren and rocket barrage, or I watched my children enter their school in the morning through really a police checkpoint to ensure their security, I was shaken. I started to ask myself: is Toronto the place I want to live? Is this what I want for me kids? What are my priorities? Where is, and what is my future?

I didn’t act, but it’s in my mind all the time. And when a day is very routine, I can’t get these thoughts out of my head: do I need to take action? Do I need to change my life?

As the Fall continued and we moved into winter, work became increasingly busy and demanding. I am not unique, and I know that I need to do what is expected of me. People rely on me, as they should, and actually, I thrive when I am stimulated at my job and am surrounded by smart, skilled people. But, as can happen in any work environment, some things changed, and some people left. It happens, almost like a cycle.

I think what this did is get my mind going again, like it did in recent months. Was I bothered by the changes, or were they really nothing, and I still have my routine? Or, really, as I think more and more about it, is what’s irking me really nothing to do with work but more to do with my general feeling of being idle while also being so busy, all at the same moment? How can I balance these two things?

Why I am writing today is that while I don’t yet have any specific action I will take, I know that I need to take action. Most of what I realize I need to do is really simple and small. Back to where I started – it’s easier to sit on the couch in sweatpants than to go out for dinner with friends. It’s easier to take a nap on a Saturday afternoon than to exercise by taking a walk or 30 minutes of yoga. For sure it is easier to watch a new show on Netflix than to write this blog!

I need to prioritize what matters to me, and really, what I care about and what makes me happy. Just sitting here, writing this blog, helps. I’m going for dinner this week with some former colleagues, instead of rushing home from work and cooking dinner. I am going to try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise today. That’s a start. I also need to book a haircut. I mean, I really need to get a haircut!

I also need to help my kids. And I don’t mean buying them new shoes, making sure they bathe or getting their lunch ready in the morning. My son is in grade 11, and we’ve started to look at universities for him. The list of items to take action on is long – book the SAT, visit potential schools, ask my former sports colleagues about a co-op opportunity for grade 12. For my daughters, the action items are maybe a little less significant, but still they matter. I need to have a daily chat and check-in with my older daughter, and the younger one is in the most wonderful children’s chorus (she has the most beautiful singing voice) and we need to practice daily. It’s so easy to skip a day, or delay doing anything. But I need to get on this.

My husband and I need to spend more time together. We need to be adults – go out more, do things without our kids sometimes. Maybe go away for a long weekend. It’s something we noticed in the summer, when our kids were away for 6 weeks. Life was not routine. We need to make that time outside of those 6 weeks in the summer!

I need to make time for quality family experiences. As I just discussed with some colleagues last week, it’s so easy to pass on a family celebration, especially one that is far away, than to make plans to participate. In recent months, I have often chosen not to join family for dinner, as it was a school night and just logistically too hard. Or I had decided we would not attend a family wedding overseas because maybe work would be too busy or we didn’t feel safe to travel. I need to be smart about it, but I need to participate. Life flies by too fast, and you can’t get time back with family. I need to think about a ski day with three generations, or a hike in the desert with four generations. My kids need to have winter weekends with their cousins in Canada or a Passover Seder with their vast family in Israel.

I am not ready, nor do I think I need to take profound action to change my life. But every day I need to think about what makes me happy, what makes me sad, or sometimes why I need a day on the couch. Even that, in its own way, is taking action. Making the decision to not do something, to not make a significant change, is another form of taking action.

Every time I write here is my way of taking action, to remind myself that I love to write. It is my release, it is cathartic for me. I remind myself what the name of this space is: Kinetic Motions. Kinetic energy is the energy an object has because of its motion. It’s about action, moving forward. Every time I write I am moving forward with my life. I need to remember that every day.

Please Light a Menorah


On Thursday, December 7th, 2023, as the sun sets, the eight-day Holiday of Chanukah will begin. It is a special time of year that Jews across the globe look forward to, but this year, many of us are scared, discouraged, or in some cases, not allowed, to celebrate publicly.

There are many ways I could describe Chanukah – what it is, and what it represents. It is a festival of light. It is a celebration of a victory over evil, and it’s also the realization of a miracle. The story dates back to ancient Israel, almost 2,200 years ago, when Jewish forces defeated the Seleucid King Antiochus IV. Antiochus’ army tried to desecrate the Temple in Jerusalem, and as the story goes, when Jewish forces returned to the Temple, they renewed and restored it. They found only enough oil to light the Temple lamps for one night, but the oil lasted long enough to provide light for eight nights.

Since then, Jews in Israel, and around the world, celebrate this joyous story. And in dark times, we need to celebrate, with light, more than ever.

Many religions and cultures celebrate a festival of lights at this time of year. For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching the longest, darkest days of the year, and we gather together to bring light to the darkness. Christmas trees are covered in beautiful lights and homes are lit up with bright colours. For Diwali, people place clay lamps outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

And Chanukah? A Menorah, also known as a Chanukiah, is lit, with a new candle added each night until the nine-branch candelabra glows bright on the eighth night. It is traditional to place the Menorah in the home’s window, to share its warmth and light with the community.

My husband said to me yesterday, “I don’t feel safe placing our Menorah in our front window this year.” Every year, since we got married, we have lit the same Menorah, and placed it in our front window. Whether we lived in France, New York or Toronto, no matter who we celebrated with, we lit, and sang, beside the window.

But my husband, and Jews around the world, are terrified to do that this year. Hours after my husband shared his fear with me, I saw a Facebook post from an American friend about Project Menorah, started by a Jewish man named Adam Kulbersh.

Here’s what Adam wrote, “Project Menorah is a grassroots movement encouraging non-Jews to place a Menorah, along with their other decorations, in their windows this December in fellowship with Jewish friends and neighbors who might otherwise not feel safe to do so. Participants are asked to share photos of their Hanukkah decorations on social media with the hashtags #onlyloveliveshere #projectmenorah.”

Jews are feeling isolated right now, and we need our non-Jewish friends more than ever. No matter your religion, nationality, ethnicity or race, it is never okay to attack another person because of their religion, nationality, ethnicity or race. Putting a Menorah in your window tells us that you are standing up against hate.

But there’s more. While it is traditional to place a lit Menorah in the window, Jews also join together, as a community, to light the Menorah throughout Chanukah. Some people celebrate at parties, or they stand side by side with non-Jews, in public spaces, to light a large candelabra. It is perfectly normal at this time of year to see a Menorah at city hall, in parks or large public squares. Remember, a central part of Chanukah is to bring light to the world.

So, I was further upset, last night, when my brother-in-law, who was born and raised in Moncton, New Brunswick, and owns a home there, sent me an article from CBC. This was the headline, “Menorah won’t be displayed outside Moncton city hall for first time in 20 years.” City council, in this small city in eastern Canada, decided, behind closed doors, according to the mayor, that, “City hall should be neutral as far as religion is concerned.”

A Menorah brings light and joy to all who see it. The public lighting of a Menorah is a way that a community, Jews and non-Jews, can come together to celebrate tolerance and the values we share as human beings. I don’t know what dark forces came over the city council of Moncton, but they should feel ashamed.

I don’t always ask you to take action when I write, but today, I’m asking for a few small favours:

Please, Light a Menorah

No matter what you celebrate, or how you celebrate, join Jews around the world from Thursday, December 7th to Thursday, December 14th, to light a Menorah, and place it in your window. Or, if you don’t have one, follow these steps, recommended by the Project Menorah team. You can also reach out to a Jewish friend and light the Menorah with them one night.

Write to the Mayor of Moncton

We need to let the Mayor of Moncton know that what she did is not okay. Email Mayor Dawn Arnold, and politely explain to her how her decision is offensive. She can be reached at Please copy

Help us Bring Them Home

While almost 100 people who were kidnapped on October 7th were released over the past week, over 100 people are still being held captive by terrorists in Gaza. There are still women and children, men young and old, people with citizenship from countries across the globe, who are hostages. Their lives are in danger. Many of them need medical help, and they are all malnourished. Write to your local government. Hang a poster of a hostage. Attend a rally. Tell your friends that terrorism can’t win.





On Friday afternoon I cried. I was in my kitchen, washing dishes, about to prepare dinner, and I turned on the TV. A journalist was interviewing a woman who looked like she could be my age, and she described the moment her daughter was shot and killed.

And I cried. I just had a very challenging week, as my husband and I had to deal with a medical emergency with our youngest child. It was the first time, in my 16 plus years as a parent, that I felt real fear about the health of my child. When a medical professional tells a parent that they need to get their child down to the pediatric emergency department immediately, because of a raging infection, you feel fear.

My daughter received world-class care, and less than 2 days later, she was back to her active, busy, smiling, nutty and happy self. She reminded me again why her name – Nessa – which means “miracle” in Hebrew, is so fitting. Watching her skip around the house, sing quietly to herself, or play with her toys, brought me tremendous joy in the latter half of the week.

I never took my children for granted, but this week I appreciated my healthy, happy and wonderful children more than ever. I watched Nessa suffer through tremendous pain, and she had to endure a difficult procedure. I held her hand. I hugged her and I kissed her. And I appreciated her.

But I didn’t cry.

Until Friday.

Here I was, feeling thankful that my child was once again healthy, out of danger, and on my TV was a woman who shared, in intimate detail, how Hamas terrorists entered her home and shot at her family through a door. The bullets hit her 18-year-old daughter and killed her. Somehow, and no one may ever be able to explain how or why, the mother and her two other children, were not physically harmed. But her husband was kidnapped and taken hostage to Gaza.

In the past month I have read countless stories, watched an untold number of news reports, pored over social media and had an unlimited number of conversations with family and friends, and yet I broke down and cried, alone, when this mother told her story.

I don’t care what your politics are, your religion, your race, your ethnicity, or your nationality. No mother should have to describe how her daughter was shot and killed. No mother even wants to see her child sick, or in pain, or suffering, but to describe the murder of her daughter, in front of her eyes? It is unfathomable.

I’ve been walking around in a bit of a haze and daze for the past four weeks. Or maybe that’s not the right description. In some ways, I’ve actually been hyper focused and more aware of the world around me than ever before. While it could be so easy to feel alone and isolated, instead I have felt a closer kinship and closeness to what is called Klal Yisrael than ever before.

I’m sure the thought was simmering in my head already, but in the moment I watched that mother share her story about her daughter’s death, I felt connected to her. I have never met her, I don’t know her politics, her religious observance or really anything about her. And yet I felt close to her, so close that tears trickled down my cheeks.

What, for me, is Klal Yisrael? Or put another way, what is Judaism? It’s not just a religion. We are a people, a nation, an ethnicity and a religion. We are a community who unites when we are attacked, and with the exception of those on the fringe (which the Jerusalem Post editor so eloquently described as the Un-Jews), we are connected through an unbreakable bond. As writer and scholar, Yossi Klein Halevi, who I much admire, shared recently, we don’t wish to be pitied. We are not victims. We can defend ourselves, and we are here to stay. “Given the choice, we preferred to be condemned than pitied.”

I am not going to use this space to give an overview of over 5,000 years of Jewish history, or to give a synopsis of the story of the peoples of the Middle East. The Jewish People (that’s right, People, as I stated above Judaism is not just a religion), have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel for thousands of years. And we want to continue to live there, in peace and security.

For me, that doesn’t mean that the other Peoples who live there can’t continue to do so too. If we are all to survive – and thrive – we can criticize each other, but we must start by accepting each other’s right to live, to learn, and to prosper, and be mutually respectful.

No mother, whether she identifies as Jewish, Muslim, Arab, Christian, or anything else, should have to describe how her daughter was brutally murdered in front of her eyes. That for me, is the crux of the war raging right now. If an army of terrorists is committed to sadistically murder every daughter in Israel (as well as sons) and wipe the Jewish People off the map, then our future is bleak.

You don’t need to agree with all my views or perspectives, but as a fellow human being, I expect you to respect me as a person first. When hundreds, or maybe it was thousands, rage, as a mob, and rape, maim and murder more than 1,400 people, it means they have been raised and taught that Jews are not human beings. If you raise your child to not love others as one wants to be loved, if you teach them that some in this world are no better than an insect that is meant to be squished, then it is easy to kill them.

When the terrorists entered that home on October 7th and shot through the locked door where the terrified family huddled, the terrorists had the mindset that all they had to do was kill the insects. The germs. The sub-humans. And move on to the next home. They didn’t see the people behind that door, or the inhumanity of what they did.

During the interview, this mother went on to describe her daughter’s funeral. She cried as she told the journalist that what’s so hard is that she can never hug her daughter again. Too many Israeli mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and children can never hug their loved ones again.

This mother, who buried her daughter a few weeks ago, is a human being, a strong, loving person who inspires me. She is the epitome of the Jewish mother, and she gives me hope for the future. For without hope, or Tikvah in Hebrew – the name of Israel’s national anthem – life is not worth living.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round      


As soon as you read the headline, did you start to sing? Are you humming along right now? Are you singing the first verse…. “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round….” Or are you on another verse already, like “The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep,” or “The doors on the bus go open and shut….”?

Do you feel nostalgic? Memories of childhood? Moments of time spent on a big yellow bus, on a class trip with friends, or on your way to summer camp? During our childhood, most of us spent some time on a bus. Maybe it wasn’t one of those bright big yellow ones. Maybe it was small, or it was a big coach, with big comfy seats. But, I hope that I have you thinking about time on a bus when you were a child.

When children are on a bus, headed to school, a special outing, camp, or anywhere else, they are often rowdy. They sing. Some dance. Others joke around. The moment a group of children climb onto a bus, it’s like a party has begun.

I experienced that this week… with a group of adults. What is it about a bus that transforms mature, professional adults into silly, boisterous children?

I will give you the context. I had a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time last week at a leadership summit with people I work with. We spend hours, days, weeks, months of our lives working side by side. We put out “fires” together, work on projects and solve problems.

But, it’s when we leave the office and spend a few days together that we really get to know each other. The brainstorming sessions are important, as are presentations and workshops. And I’m glad, and very appreciative, that in my role as the Communications Director, I’m invited to participate in these sessions.

However, that’s not what I want to write about. You may be wondering, how is she going to connect a favourite childhood song, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, with a work offsite? It’s all about the bus.

I will ask the question again: Why do we, grown, mature, stuffy adults, quickly become children the moment we step onto a bus? Or a better question is, why not?

Our evening began with the group shaking hands, giving some hugs, as colleagues quickly became friends. We walked down the steps of our hotel, and in front of us was a big white coach bus. The party bus. Or at least it became a party bus when the first person climbed the steps.

One of the organizers tried to count as each person stepped on, and he failed, as no one behaved. It was pouring rain outside, the traffic was terrible, and while we had a short distance to drive from the hotel to the evening activity, it took a long time. No one cared. They were too busy talking, singing and screeching to notice. Even my colleagues in HR. We cracked jokes about our bus driver. Some people teased their friends. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling. And the laughter. Oh, the laughter!

Do you know that feeling when you smile and laugh so much that your face starts to hurt? I can’t even remember half the silliness that went on during this crazy bus ride. Jokes that would never be funny during a meeting at the office were hilarious. Jabs at our boss were received with unctuous cackling. We laughed so hard we cried.

When the evening was over, and we hopped back on the bus to return to the hotel, the silliness returned. The fact that our poor driver had no sense of direction only encouraged the group to be even more immature. Our evening activity could have been a ride on a bus, and I think the group would have been perfectly happy.

And yes, we even sang our favourite song, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round. We continued to sing the following evening, when we once again journeyed across the city on the bus. Everyone dressed up in our fancy adult clothes for a night on the town. But the child in us all came out the moment the wheels on our big white bus began to go round and round. The jokes, the jabs, singing, teasing and a ton of laughter, it all began again.

It was so much fun. Of course our three-day offsite was great, but really, the bus was the best part. It’s like giving a child a big thoughtful gift, like a dollhouse or toy kitchen, and all they want is to play in the box the toy came in. Or you plan a special day in the city, and what your child remembers most is the subway ride downtown.

I hope that the wheels on the bus keep going round and round. That the doors on the bus go open and shut. That the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish. But most important, I hope that the people on the bus laugh, laugh, laugh, and have fun, fun, fun.

I’m smiling just thinking about it.

Are we all a Little Anxious?


My day-to-day life is very busy. And everyone around me is busy too. It often feels like we never stop. If I take a break, I usually just think about what I should be doing, or what I will be doing next. I’m not very good at emptying my head, living for the moment and just relaxing. And when I do, I sometimes feel guilty, which causes me to be: anxious.

I feel like the word anxious was often taboo until recently. Maybe it’s the COVID-19 pandemic that forced us to think inwardly, maybe society has changed, or maybe something else. For me, I never really thought about it until I couldn’t explain – to myself – why sometimes I am nervous, or I feel overly stressed, or I’m just plain upset.

And I don’t think I’m unique. I’m not talking about crushing anxiety (which I know many people do suffer from). What I’m speaking to here is something more under-the-surface, more subtle, harder to pinpoint. It doesn’t hold me back – in fact sometimes it helps me gain the courage I need to push myself.

But it’s there, every day. It’s the less concrete, but important stuff like, are my children healthy? Are they succeeding? Do my husband and I earn enough money to support the lifestyle we want for our family? Where will I be in 10 years? 25 years?

What really makes me unsettled, speeds up my heart, causes my hands to be unsteady and scares me a bit are the little things. It’s stuff that may stop me in my tracks, and even as I type, I’m a bit embarrassed.

It may be that I have a list of appointments to make, from dentist or pediatrician for the kids to a haircut for me or grooming for my dog, and I’m so busy at work that I won’t have time to actually go to any of these appointments. So I don’t pick up the phone to book anything.

I hate driving. I drive because I have to, not because I like to. Anytime I go anywhere, I plan my route, consider how long it will take me, or before I turn on my car, I pause and take a deep breath.

There are never enough hours in the day. I don’t wish the day away, because it means I may fall behind. How do I please everyone? How do I write that important message for this person, attend a list of meetings and track it all? That meeting is at the same time that I need to pick up my 7-year-old. Can I miss the meeting? Can someone else pick her up? And what am I making for dinner tonight? Do I have the ingredients? Yikes, the kids’ laundry basket is full. Did I sign the kids up for hot lunches next term? Did we move money into the chequing account so the next mortgage payment goes through?  

I could write page after page of questions just like these that swirl around my head every day. It’s only very recently that I realized I, like many other people across the globe, suffer from anxiety. And it made me think, are we all a little anxious?

There’s nothing on my list above that is unique. What causes me to be anxious is probably not that different from many other working mothers, or just mothers, anyone who has a job or who is just trying to live life. It’s only in the last few months that I have thought deeply about anxiety, and why I – and many others – have it.

The list of daily stresses in my life isn’t going anywhere. I accept that. But I can create coping mechanisms, or find tools to help me try to overcome what makes me anxious.

Surround myself with great people

I’m putting this first because for me it’s the most important. Both in my personal life and professional life, I have people I can lean on. I can laugh with them and cry with them. I don’t have to name them, as you know who you are. A few years ago, someone who I look up to taught me about creating my own Board of Directors for my life. These are people who I can trust, who always have my back. They cheer me when I need cheering, they step in to do the work if that’s what I ask – or don’t ask. But they also tell me like it is – they are brutally honest with me and know what’s best for me. I love my Board of Directors.

Be Active

When I feel anxious, my first reaction is to do nothing. It’s easier to be indecisive, or to sit on the couch, than act. And when I say be active, it’s two-fold:

First of all, I feel better when I pick up the phone and book that haircut or put away that clean basket of laundry. I can let it sit, but it doesn’t go away.

Second, literally be active. I try to exercise every day. It may be just 15 minutes, or maybe it’s a long walk (I love my walks at work with my steps buddy!). I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in, and when I exercise I feel great. I feel those endorphins being released. It’s easy to say, I’ll exercise tomorrow. But I know it’s good for me.

Take a Break

I mean really take a break. I know I should take a lunch break every day, which I rarely do. But what I mean here is to get away from it all once in a while. Take a physical break. Take a mental break. I don’t even have to go anywhere. But I have to walk away from work. I have learned that I am more valuable to my employer when I’m refreshed.

But it’s not just a break from work. It’s a break from everything that makes me anxious. I may grab a day or two here and there, but right now, in the summer, is my time to take that true break I need. It may be time by the lake in the mountains, or sitting under the oak trees in my backyard. Paddle boarding on the smooth lake, picking wild blueberries or reading a great book. It’s what I need to do.

Try Yoga

This one may sound cliché, I know! I learned yoga years ago, as a teenager, and I enjoyed. But I thought nothing of it. I have rediscovered yoga recently, and even just taking a few minutes every day to do the Sun Salutation calms me. I close my eyes, I focus on each yoga pose, and that’s all I do in those moments. It actually clears my head. It doesn’t mean that my list of tasks goes away, but my heartrate slows a bit, my hands don’t shake and I feel confident. Give it a try, it’s worth it.

Write about it

One key thing I have learned about being anxious is that it’s important to accept it, and to talk about it, or in my case, write about it. It’s okay to have anxiety. I really do believe that we are all a little anxious. Don’t keep it to yourself. I have thought about this blog post for a while, that I wanted to write it. But I was anxious to share this with the world. So I put it off.

I finally got enough courage today, on my birthday, while I sit by the lake, in the mountains, with my kids at camp and a few vacation days from work. For just a few days. I haven’t walked away from everything that makes me anxious, but I let myself take that well deserved break.

Pause. Take a deep breath. Try it.