13 Reasons Why – and why it should be seen by ALL

I knew a bit about these episodes, I knew they dealt with teen suicide, but nothing more.

I binged watched, because once the first episode started, I was compelled to watch episode after episode after episode. My heart broke for many reasons, mostly for the young people who have gone through difficult and at times devastating life challenging and life changing events.

Everyone is aware, to some level, of the challenges today with the social media component. It is a good tool but can also be deadly, in many ways… cyber bullying, cyber shaming, cyber incrimination, cyber discrimination, cyber intimidating matched with real life bullying, shaming, incriminating, discriminating and intimidating destroy self esteem, self worth, self-value, self confidence…

It’s a different world than when I was in high school – bullying happened then as well, but without the cyber component.

Reputations have been tarnished, shredded, torn, misinterpreted, misshaped, invented, blown up, misrepresented… each and every time the affect is often for life. Oh, as we “grow” up we may remember less and less, and talk ourselves into believing that we need to overcome these situations.

We are taught that these actions are “common” and that everyone at one time, has been bullied. People can be very cruel to others, without really knowing the impact that the actions can have, for decades on.

This series, in my opinion, is a MUST SEE, for EVERYONE. For teenagers to help them understand how their actions affect others, and understand that they are  not alone, that they are loved. For parents to understand how very complex this world is for teenagers, and for young adults. For grandparents to understand that the world today is so vastly different than the world of their youth.

This series has shaken me to my core – has made me recall some memories I would have preferred not to remember, but it has empowered me to speak out, and recommend this series to EVERYONE. We all can be more aware, more open, more receptive, more understanding, more questioning, more able to reach out, whether to others who may need  support, or to GET support ourselves.

Needing help is not a sign of weakness, and if anyone out there ever need to reach out, for whatever reason, I hope that you know that I WILL LISTEN and support… This is always always always available… I venture to say, most people, and those around you and me would do the same.

Life is precious… very precious.


The Father we know or have known

dad 3Syls DadThere are moments in life that simply bring us to our knees in sheer emotions… Today was one of those moments… I heard this song that was written for Celine Dion by the amazing artist Pink.

It is such a totally emotional “cry out your heart song” of gratitude and love, and the constant reach to manage life’s most crippling and humbling experiences… the lost of a loved one. Out of nowhere, I chanced through the channels between housecleaning activities, and in a moment, was sitting down in amazed concentration to the show StandUp2Cancer. It was late, but I chanced on the channel as I heard the first note played on the piano, and I was riveted. And Celine started to sing – like the angel whose voice she has, this haunting, disturbing and comforting song….

I am recovering…. Aren’t we all recovering from something? An old hurt, a failed project, a lost member(s) of family, a failed marriage, a heartbreak or more…  We all have SOMETHING, acknowledged or not, that is likely in need of recovery.

I lost my Dad 46 years ago – and to this day, I still think of him. I lost my Mom, my sister Denise, my aunts, uncles, friends, grandparents, in laws… we all have. Many wish just one more moment with them, one more thought, one more “I love you”. I believe, and this is my own personal belief, than they are still with us, but in different “state or form”.

They are still missed and loved. My girls still have their father and they are so blessed.

Humbled and grateful for those I loved





The wonders of nostalgia

“Live in the present” we hear, almost on a daily basis. My philosophy differs somewhat. I see validity and value in the past, the present and the future.

old coffee cup

Memories galore…

I found myself busy cleaning the kitchen and chanced upon this beautiful cup. How many of us remember our parents or grandparents drinking from such a cup.

These flashbacks to my younger days are to me, a gift… A gift from the past. Such gifts make me remember the great moments of my childhood or my growing up days.

I feel happiness and security when I see such treasures. Granted, LIVING in the past is not something I would recommend, but the past has tremendous value to add to our growth. Notice I didn’t say growing up, but wise! Up is not a direction I aspire.

Nor, I truly believe, should we live in the future ALL the time, but I truly aspire to do so to enable me to see and feel myself in my own created future. It allows me to dream, to create, to imagine, to picture myself in a better version of who I am today. All of us can use some “tweaking” to be our best selves.

I also live in the present – enjoy these feelings of nostalgia I have from being items of my past, and being thankful for my life… each and every day.

So perhaps you might consider doing some “downsizing” and sharing what you have that you can give out to others. And in the interim, if you find those “treasures” that fling you into some past experiences or time, well then, keep those in a special place. We can live a balanced life in all three spaces… the value of past positive and happy memories, the present of appreciating what we have and what we had, and projecting what we could be.

I am forever thankful for my charmed life, my beautiful family members and friends…

Love and appreciation.




New appreciation for my ancestors

On June 27th, I, along with 47 other pilgrims (mostly from Bordeaux France) set sail from Bordeaux to A Coruna in Spain. The 3 mast sailboat made its maiden voyage in June of 1896. Its original cargo was of cocoa beans from Brazil to Nantes in France for the french chocolatier Menier.



Today it serves as a training vessel for various groups, including ours. We spent 5 days learning and doing many of the tasks needed to keep the vessel in working order. Although the very able crew of 15 sailors could do this on their own, they included us in many of the maneuvers such as raising the sails, navigating and maintaining the ship.

A sailor I am not I soon discovered as I suffered seasickness during most of the trip; extreme seasickness that plagued me during 4 of the 5 days of sailing. I will omit the details, suffice to say I managed to lose a few kilos along the way.

One of my many thoughts (other than the dream of terra ferma) was that of our newly found ancestor information. Through research, my brother Paul was able to trace our father’s ancestors right up to the migration of Andre Poutré dit Lavigne who opted to set his sights on la Nouvelle France (Québec) in 1655.

He, along with 224 other brave individuals crossed the ocean on a ship called l’Aigle d’Or on what must have been nothing less than a hellish trip lasting 111 days. I cannot even fathom the hardship of such travels. The conditions of their surroundings must have been near impossible to survive with so many people for such a long period of time with limited rations, limited space and treacherous waters.

How many actually arrived in Nouvelle France is not noted, but he, along with his future wife who sailed a different ship as a chosen “Fille du Roi” established themselves in Canada and had a total of 12 children.

I have such a respect and admiration for those like them who defied the odds and headed towards a new life in a newly inhabited country which included extreme cold, snow, undeveloped land, and much hardship. I planned to visit the birth place of André, but due to changes to my schedule, I have to postpone this visit until my next trip.

Today, I salute those that made that extreme leap of faith and traveled to our country.

Santa wore mascara

The tree was beautifully decorated and the sweet smell of cookies wafted from the kitchen. We were all gathered at my Mom’s house and I had planned to be Santa for the young ones.

We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company, and I quietly left the living room, making sure no one saw me. Granted, I didn’t make a tall Santa, but I was a very well dressed Santa. I stuffed a cushion to make my belly round, slipped the white wig and lifelike white beard, and sneaked out of the house by the side door.

I waited a few minutes, adjusting my bag of toys over my shoulder and in my best deep voice, practiced my Santa laugh. I noticed the kids had taken notice and ran to the front bay window to catch a glimpse of  the jolly guest.

I walked into the house, and the children gathered all around me, and others spoke so my words wouldn’t give me away. I did throw out a few loud “Ho ho” that seem to satisfy the children. So not to overstay my welcome, I waved goodbye and left the children to open their Santa presents. I noticed a few of them watching me through the window so I walked over to our neighbor to make it seem a bit more real.

After a short while, I softly crept back in, unnoticed, and went upstairs to change back into my regular clothes. I walked back down and a few of the kids told me that Santa had come by to visit. One of the youngest girls was a beautiful dark eyed dark hair little one who hardly spoke. She was a bit on the shy side, and hadn’t even spoken to me earlier during the evening. I caught her staring at me a few times, and an hour later, she approached me and sat beside me and took my hand in hers. This was quite unexpected coming from this shy little one.

After a few minutes, she motioned me to get close to her, and with her soft voice, she whispered “You know, Santa is a girl” she said quite proudly. “A girl?” I asked with a surprised tone. “Why do you say that?” She looked at me and smiled, and after a minute or so, she replied “Because Santa wore mascara”!

Did she really know I had taken on that role or was she simply sharing her discovery with me? I won’t ever be sure but she spent the rest of the evening sitting close to me.

By the way, that little girl was Anna Lee! this remains as one of my favorite Santa stories!

Merry Christmas to you all,

Santa Sylvie

A Special Camino post – honoring my sister Denise

Say not in grief thaPoppiest she is no more
But say in thankfulness that she was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
But the putting out of the lamp
Because the dawn has come
– R. Tagore

This month I am photo blogging about the Camino, and at this time last year, on this very day, I said goodbye to my wonderful sister Denise, promising her that my next Camino would be in her honor. She loved poppies and she would always comment on my poppy pictures I took for her on previous Caminos.

It is said that the first year after a loved one has left, is the hardest. We live all the typical celebrations, events, moments without them and these are all different – slightly tarnished in their incompleteness. I choose to let the tears fall but ask her spirit  to help my heart be guided by the love we shared together.

I choose to let myself drift in thoughts of shared experiences, shred vacations, shared simple moments and shared quiet moments. I choose to  smile at the sight of poppies (and there have been so many these past few weeks), the symbol I have made hers and hers alone.

I choose to rejoice in the fact that we siblings are very close and we share much love among ourselves. Love is a strong thread that keeps us together regardless if our presence is physical or spiritual.

alto del perdon 1When I undertook last year’s Camino I felt her presence with me at all times. Unfortunately, I was faced with cutting my journey short but I vowed with all my heart to return and finish the trek we both undertook.

It with this plan in mind, on this special day, that I renew my commitment to walk beside the fields of poppies, to feel the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, and her presence in my heart.




The best plans don’t always work out

well life happens and even the best laid plans don’t always work out. I am very disappointed to have to cut short my current Camino plans due to a health issue I must address at this time.

I don’t want to go into details other than the fact that all will be ok AND I will be back to resume my Camino in honor of my sister at some point in the next few years. The Camino will always be there!

My biggest disappointment and heartfelt regret is that I will not be able to fulfill my volunteering in both Moratinos with my good friend Bruno and in Santiago with my good friend Daniel.

If any of you have extra time and were considering volunteering either during the period of June 9-30th on the meseta or July 1-7 in Santiago, please let me know.

I am sad that I must change my plans but I do want to give a shout out to the great folks in Burgos who took care of me. I want to let folks know that I still stand by my original statement shared back during my first Camino in 2011 – so many people in Spain really care for us pilgrims in so many ways.

I WILL be back, healthy and able to continue my pilgrim trek.
I have lots of gratitude in my heart…

Unspoken compassion and understanding

I knew this Camino would be an emotional rollercoaster but I really didn’t know the extent of even the first few days. I personally have a very strong belief that life on earth is but a step in a longer journey. This is not everyone’s belief and I appreciate this as I always try to revalidate my thinking every so often.
On the Camino, I don’t question my belief as I constantly feel many
things that tend to reaffirm my belief. Whether this is the ultimate truth or not, it is the truth that I need in my life. I also believe that everyone has the freedom to their beliefs and I will always respect this.

This morning I set out for my first “official” walk day. I was looking forward to reaching the challenging climb leading to Alto del Perdon, an iconic set of metal cutouts Representing various pilgrims. When I arrived there, I took off my pack and pulled out the fabric case that holds some of Denise’s ashes. This was her first stop. With strong emotions and tears running down my face, I said a prayer and released some to the wind. I stood there silently for a few minutes, oblivious to the sound of the incredibly strong wind and the wind turbines near by. I turned around to see 4 pilgrims standing there with their heads bowed down.

alto del perdon 1
Seeing me walked towards them to get to my backpack all four of them walked to me and one by one hugged me. Not a word was spoken, nor were any needed. They then proceeded to offer to take my picture with my camera and then, and only then did they ask in whose memory was I walking my Camino.

Those kind gestures will likely be one of the most impactful memory of this Camino. This was a true sign of compassion and empathy!what a way to start this journey!
Cheers from the Camino
alto del perdon 2

Making a difference in the world


Do you ever wonder if you can make a difference in this world? Do you think it needs to be a big project, or a simple smile? Either one can make a world of difference, even if it is to ONE person. A smile, a hug, a shoulder to cry on, two ears to listen, a hand – – all of this can brighten someone’s day.

And then, there are those who undertake BIG projects. Yesterday I met a group of individuals who collectively have raised awareness of the strength, ability, determination and focus of those who live in a world that is not easily accessible to them.

Today, on the Camino de Santiago a young man is turning heads as he and his team ride through Spain on a specially made bike. Pietro, a 34 year old paraplegic is an amazing example of someone who is taking life by storm. I had the pleasure of his company and I learned a wee bit about his life and projects.

His biggest wish is to one day, see the world as an accessible place for all people. He is on his second Camino and he is surrounded by supportive people who love and admire him. This Camino he is making with his father Bart, and two friends, Manolo and Andrea. Spending time with the four of them really allowed me to see how cohesive they are.

Pietro speaks to many groups as well as conducts many interviews during his treks. He is a gentle person who is quick in acknowledging everyone he sees. He speaks many languages and works in the information technology field when he is not traversing entire countries.

People like Pietro are many; just look around and seek those who are fighting for justice, for equality, for freedom of speech, for kindness, for humanitarian causes and such. But not all of us can or choose to be as visible yet we all can make a difference in the world.

I know that I have been touched by Pietro and his group and I feel very privileged to have spent an evening with them. I am to connect with them again when they arrive in Santiago in a few days and I look forward to celebrating the completion of another of their project.

And I will remember that no matter how small the gesture may be, how short the encounter may be, how fleeting the connection may be, we all impact one another every single day. It is our choosing to make the impact a positive one, a goal I will strive to always keep in mind.
Cheers from the Camino




Update – mid point to Santiago

Update May 13  – halfway point to Santiago

It’s been a few days since my last update since these last locations had limited WIFI. It’s hard to believe I am halfway to Santiago already!

I cannot say it’s been a breeze, believe me! Before Marie-Jo and Patrick went back to France, we talked about the fact the first Camino was as difficult but we likely forgot about the hard parts!

I personally know I have a lot more challenges this time. First with my bronchitis then my knee problem. The bronchitis has disappeared and now that Jean has taped my  knee I can walk without knee pain. 

My feet still are sore each night but that’s par for the course – that never really goes away… Even on the last day!

The Camino has also been challenging due to the amount of pilgrims this year. Many of the albergues are full early on. This results in many pilgrims getting up very early (5 am) trying to beat the rush. There were some last Camino but they got up quietly and tried to be prepared as to cause the least amount of disturbance to all the other pilgrims.

Well, this seems to have gone out the window this year! People are turning on lights, packing their entire bags or talking to each other – quite frustrating for those who aren’t  playing the get to the albergue first game.

There have been a few times Daniele and Jean had to use the tent, and I get a room somewhere, but we still opt to take our time and enjoy each moment.

I’ve met many Canadians this time around and even today I met a Mom and daughter from Gatineau. We’ve formed a larger group of a mix of French and Quebec folks with whom we regularly meet for dinner.

This will change tomorrow as we plan on spending the day in Moratinos at my friend Bruno’s albergue which is only 13 km away. Most of our new friends will walk to the next logical step which is typically 18 – 22 km away. Such is often the case as people follow their set schedules.

It was great having Marie-Jo and Patrick with us but their time was limited and they are missed.

It”s also very strange walking the familiar road. I am remembering so many experiences past. On one hand it makes me look forward to the fun experiences AND makes me dread the challenging ones. Yet I am still able to discover new things and of course meet a whole new set of people! That is a true highlight of doing the Camino!

I look forward to sharing more pictures next time I have access to a computer and I’m able to transfer my camera pictures to my blog. 

Until then I am sending you good thoughts from the Camino