Life in Balance

Through this online art blog/gallery we can encourage, inspire and share hope with one another…We invite who you to share your “NAPS” (News, Art ,Poetry, Songs) or inspirations. Email if you would like to share inspirations. Please note we can not post advice with regards to nutrition and exercise.

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Welcome to Spring!


Beautifully vibrant flowers line the pathway of Neville MacKay’s home just outside of Halifax.

Yes, you read that right.

The rainbow of reds, greens, and yellows on MacKay’s snow banks were made with floral paint on Thursday, and are a welcome sight in the region’s otherwise depressing winter landscape.

“Every spring on my birthday there has always been one crocus or snowdrop flower blooming around the house. They might have been hidden, but they were there – except this year,” MacKay said on Friday.

“I decided to add colour to this dreary winter.”

MacKay, who owns My Mother’s Bloomers flower shop on the corner of Spring Garden Road and Dresden Row is a local florist who, like many other Haligonians, has had enough of winter.

“People are all bundled up, and there is no fashion to be seen. In the beginning it was for me and my 92-year-old mother, but once I put the pictures up on Facebook it has just been getting hundreds of shares,” Mackay said.

“I am happy people are getting a laugh and a giggle from it,” he chuckled.

MacKay had also taken some blooms outside and created designs on the snow with frozen flowers, which have a stunning effect.

“If you can’t beat it, flaunt it. It is spring and we need more colour and cheer, otherwise this winter is enough to drive anyone crazy,” MacKay said.

MacKay said he remains upbeat and hopeful that spring is finally on its way.

By Ernesto Carranza

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Blind puppy mill survivor therapy dog brings joy and comfort

Blind Stouffville therapy dog an online sensation

Puppy mill survivor Smiley, born without eyes, brings joy and comfort to elderly and kids. And now his story is being told globally.

Smiley, the blind therapy dog from Stouffville, Ontario is taking the internet by storm.

MUSSELMAN LAKE—Smiley, the world-famous dog from small-town Ontario, lives up to his name.

The 12-year-old golden retriever trotted along the pavement in front of his home in Musselman Lake, just north of Stouffville, on Sunday with a wagging tail and a constant canine grin that belies his tumultuous early life at a puppy mill, where he was born without eyes. More than a decade later, he’s a therapy dog, beloved family pet, and suddenly an online sensation.

Millions have seen Smiley’s story online in recent days, and his owner, dog trainer Joanne George, isn’t surprised. “Anyone who meets him, I see how touched they are,” she says.

George isn’t sure how the fuss got started, but thinks someone in the media may have picked up on photos of Smiley posted online a few years ago by a local pet photographer.

The family has faced a barrage of calls about their cherished pet. They’ve had coverage from media outlets across the U.S. — CBS News, CNN, Fox, Inside Edition, BuzzFeed and the Washington Post, to name a few. On the CBS News website alone, Smiley’s story has been shared over 190,000 times. The family has also started getting international calls from as far away as Italy and Brazil.

“This morning it was Korea,” George says with a laugh. “Someone in Korea wants to do some kind of animated film.”

 Smiley, rescued 10 years ago from a puppy mill, is unhindered by blindness in his work as a therapy dog.


Smiley, rescued 10 years ago from a puppy mill, is unhindered by blindness in his work as a therapy dog.

Back in 2004, George rescued Smiley from the puppy mill near Peterborough where he was born. She first met him when he was covered in scars and unable to see due to a condition associated with dwarfism — he’s smaller than a typical golden retriever, with a slightly larger head — which left him anxious and afraid.

But soon enough, the loveable pup learned to trust his new owner, and George quickly realized Smiley’s story and personality resonated with everyone he met. “I thought he’d be such a great therapy dog,” she recalls.

So she made it happen. For the past seven years, Smiley has worked as a St. John’s Ambulance Therapy dog, helping children learning to read and comforting the elderly by visiting nursing homes, libraries, children’s programs and schools in the Whitchurch-Stouffville area, about 45 minutes north of Toronto.

“There’s one gentleman at a place that we visit — nobody had ever seen him show really any emotion, and I’m not sure if people thought that he could show any emotion,” George says.

“And after a few visits with Smiley, he was obviously smiling and laughing, and the nurses all came in because they had never seen him smile like this. It was so beautiful.”

Wearing a bright red bandana emblazoned with his name, Smiley seemed blissfully unaware of his newfound international fame as he frolicked at home with George, her husband Darrin, and the couple’s 5-year-old son Shepherd on the weekend.

But amid all the positive coverage, George says, there’s another side to Smiley’s story: He’s getting older, and a compressed disc in his back could jeopardize his therapy dog career.

She says the pain in Smiley’s back and his weakened back legs means that certain types of flooring — like the slippery floors of a hospital — could be dangerous. Pricey surgery isn’t an option, she adds, so they’re managing Smiley’s discomfort with pain medication and steroids.

Even so, this inspirational dog keeps on smiling.

“We’re hoping that he’ll still be able to do lots of (therapy dog) visits in his life,” George says.

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Toronto Star Letter: Let’s resolve to be kinder to each other

By Janine Mitrevics, Brampton

For a nation that is reputed to be polite, I have noticed over the last several months an increasinf rudeness that is permeating society on a daily basis.

we have left New Year’s Eve behind us, so as the weather warms and the grip of our long, cold, winter loosens, I propose that everyone make a Spring Resolution: to be kinder.

It’s not that hard to say “please” and “thank you” to people you interact with. Take responsibility for your actions, especially mistakes. Apologize when you wrong someone and be sincere in your words. Be patient and wait for your turn. Assert yourself politely, not rudely.

Clean up after yourself and encourage others to do so. Watch where you are going, driving or walking, and remember to signal when you should. Public spaces are shared spaces. Hold open a door for someone right behind you. Look up from your devices and offer a smile. Extend a hand to help someone up if they fall.

Lead by example so each generation learns to follow the expectations. Communicate clearly and listen.

We are not perfect creatures, but we can all make small efforts to do better in how we treat others, from strangers to close family members. Let’s strive to be more respectful and considerate.

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“I knew that if you don’t follow your truth, your life becomes a lie”

Cover Story: Nadine St-Louis Mar/Apr2015

Cover Story: Nadine St-Louis Mar/Apr2015

As she became aware of her own purpose St-Louis began to encourage indigenous artists to follow their individual creative paths.

Photo, Nadya Kwandibens,

In her early thirties, Nadine St-Louis had it all: two healthy, happy children, a lovely home, and an important position with the Canadian National Railway, managing a staff of 14 that oversaw the overseas intermodal market.

Although her work at CN was rewarding, St-Louis says, “I needed more. I knew that if you don’t follow your truth, your life becomes a lie.”


Now 47, St-Louis, who is of Métis heritage, says she’s exactly where she wants to be and is doing work she considers her “destiny, my purpose on earth.”

As the founder and executive director of Sacred Fire Productions Inc., St-Louis is on a quest to promote Aboriginal art, artists and culture, and to give indigenous artists the tools they need to follow their own creative paths. And today, CN Railway is a corporate partner in this initiative.

St-Louis’ own journey took an important turn when she enrolled in University after a four-year stint running a restaurant in Montreal, which she bought in a bankruptcy sale. It still exists on St-Antoine Street in St. Henri as Café Joe.

“I wanted to learn about culture. But what did that mean? I thought it meant European culture, so I learned all about the Renaissance, and the Romantics, and the Victorians. But I also began to learn that I had my own culture, but that colonialism had given it a European lens.”

“I started paying attention to my surroundings. I noticed whether you look at soap operas or sitcoms, we just were not there. The first Aboriginal woman I saw on TV was Buffy Sainte-Marie. We’d always been part of westerns — the last of a dying race, a part of a history that no longer existed.”

St-Louis references the original Indian Act, passed in 1876, which banned or suppressed Aboriginal practices, such as the sun dance and potlatch, as the beginning of a cultural imprisonment for indigenous peoples.

The more she studied, the more St-Louis learned that such “absence of representation makes you an invisible person.” At the same time, she was becoming more aware of Aboriginal icons in the world of art — discovering such artists as Daphne Odjig, Bill Morrissey, and Bill Reid. She also began focusing on the achievements of people like Roberta L. Jamieson, the first Aboriginal woman to earn a law degree in Canada, and the first female chief of the Six Nations, and Elizabeth Steinhauer, a Cree who became Canada’s first indigenous female doctor in 1980.

By 2011, St-Louis had been hired by the Canadian Council for the Arts as a consultant. For six months, she traversed Quebec’s North Shore and Labrador to compile data about Innu artists working in remote areas and to identify stumbling blocks to their development. St-Louis came back with a list of recommendations.

“I said they need access to markets, they need representation. They need workshops to help them fill in the grant documents. Imagine you are 3,500 kilometres from an urban centre. You’ve never been to a gallery. You don’t know what your career path is supposed to look like, what it is to be recognized by your peers, or what professional development is.”

Those realities led St-Louis to found Sacred Fire Productions. She saw it as a way to create an infrastructure for artists who needed to build a network, one that allowed them to stay in their community and to build economic development through the arts.

On reflection, St-Louis came up with a business model that would allow them to generate more funds. “I thought about derivative products: What if we digitized the original art and massproduced products and we targeted museum boutiques and corporations. People could buy them and 30 percent goes back to the artist.”

St-Louis also saw value in creating a bricks-and-mortar space for artists. So in the fall of 2011, the company launched an exhibit that brought together Aboriginal artists from each of Quebec’s Nations in the heart of Old Montreal for a duration of 12 months.

Métis Queen by Dominique Normand

Fishing by Ulaayu Pilurtuut

Big Bang by Euroma Awashish

Fish Loon by Frank Polson

In April of 2015, the Ashukan Cultural Space, named after an Algonquin word that means bridge, will open in the heart of Old Montreal to act as a connector between artists and the art market. It will include a training centre, exhibition space and boutique, and a new website ( will promote online sales of works of Aboriginal artists. St-Louis now works with some 40 artists and is reaching outside Quebec to artists in Manitoba, and beyond.

The notion of building bridges — between artists in remote communities, between those just starting out, and those in mid-career, and between artists expressing themselves through painting, sculpture, writing or music — is of fundamental importance to St-Louis.

“My spirit name is Ashukan Ishkwe. It means `the woman that bridges’.” St-Louis feels that’s fitting; that Métis are a bridge between First Nations and Europeans.

St-Louis now works with some 40 artists and is reaching outside Quebec to artists in Manitoba, and beyond.

“You know,” says St-Louis with a generous smile, “if my people had not stopped to talk to your people a long time ago, neither of us might be here. I’m here to make sure we carry on the conversation, and that my people have a voice in it.”

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Meaningful Activity

By Michelle Scott
There are a lot of misconceptions around mental health issues and employment. Many people believe that people with mental health issues are unwilling or unable to work, when this is not the case. In fact, for many people, finding and maintaining meaningful productive activity is a large part of the recovery process. There is indeed a bidirectional relationship between mental health and employment status; not being meaningfully employed negatively affects one’s mental health status, and mental health issues negatively affect one’s ability to maintain employment. This is why it’s so important to have programs and organizations that offer employment and employment programs for people who are in recovery. It is vital for people with mental health issues to have the opportunity to engage in productive and purposeful activity, because productive activity builds feelings of self-efficacy, self-esteem. Having an opportunity to volunteer or work also builds employment-specific skills and general skills such as social and communication skills.

For someone who has had to take time off work to deal with mental health issues, sometimes a transitional approach to returning to employment is a good idea. It’s important that the lines of communication remain open between the employer, the employee, and any workers that the employee is working with (such as occupational therapists or career counselors). Employers, therapists, and employees can all work together to design a return to work program that maximizes the possibility of a successful return to work for the employee. But this requires an open-minded employer who understands the facts about mental health issues.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of organizations out there that actively create space for people with mental health issues and other concerns. There is also a growing awareness about the issue in the media. A recent article in the Globe and Mail (which you can find here highlights several stories of people in recovery from mental health issues who found and maintain meaningful employment. For instance, one young woman with anxiety, depression, and anorexia, shares her feelings about what her work means for her.
“In terms of stability and just being able to function in general, this job has really pulled me out of my shell. It’s done more for me than I think any psychiatrist or doctor or any medication could ever have done,” Ms. Whiteway said. “Working there, nobody judges me, everybody’s very understanding … it’s just accepting and the only thing they want you to do is just do a good job.”
While self-disclosure in the work place is a personal choice, it is wonderful to know that there are more and more employers out there who are welcoming and supportive of individual’s needs and goals. We can all do our part to challenge the misconceptions about mental health issues and the workplace, because everyone deserves to have access to meaningful activity and purposeful occupations.