Capitalizing on Cupcake-Making

by Helene Louise  


Planning a child's birthday party can be fun but it can also be a lot of work. And, coming up with new ideas each year can definitely be a challenge. As a single mother, I already have plenty to do just keeping the basics moving along—from getting home from work as quickly as I can to planning meals days in advance in order to have enough time for homework, housework and after school activities, not to mention activities related to my daughter's rehabilitation after a childhood stroke.

 I am continuously thinking of new ways to improve my efficiency but sometimes, all I have to do is use someone else's great idea. A good friend of mine, with whom I share a deep appreciation for strong coffee, regularly translates her culinary and artistic abilities into the most beautiful cupcakes. She added, however, a strategic element to this skill, applied it to the birthday party dilemma and came up with an excellent solution. 

 Basically, her idea is to prepare a large quantity of cupcakes, icing and sprinkles. Then, when the party-goers arrive, the “activity” for the afternoon is to decorate the cupcakes, which is something that all kids love to do. Each child gets to fill up a box and that becomes the "loot bag" that they will take home at the end of the party. Once a child's own box is filled, the kids start filling up a tray so that together, they create the "birthday cake". My daughters and their friends had so much fun the first time that we did this under my friend's careful cupcake coaching that we recently had our second cupcake party which was, once again, both fun and efficient—thanks to my crafty friend's outside-of-the-cupcake-box thinking.

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The Importance of "Yet"

by Helene Louise  

Over the past decade or so that I’ve been helping my daughter overcome the effects of a childhood stroke, she has often said to me, in face of many different challenges, “I can’t do it, Mama.” And each time, I have always added, “...yet, you can’t do it yet.” It’s a small word but it has had such an enormous impact on our lives. I believe that if we close our minds to the possibility of something happening, then it is much less likely that it will ever come to be. In part, because with a mindset that is negative, we are more likely to miss all of the little opportunities (“fireflies”...) that might otherwise have taken us towards our goal. 

I certainly haven’t been convinced every time that I have stubbornly added “yet” to the end of my daughter’s sentences, especially, since it has not at all been apparent how we could ever get around the obvious  physical effects of her stroke. But I realize now that I didn’t need to see exactly how things would resolve themselves. What I needed to do was stay open to the possibility of progress and keep working towards it. Maybe there are certain things that my daughter will always do differently from others. But, there are also many things that seemed impossible at the outset and which we were told she would never be able to do, which she now has mastered.

“Yet” is such a small word—just three little letters. But when added to the end of a sentence starting with “I can’t...”, it adds a touch of hope and an openness to the possibility of a different, more positive outcome. 

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No Less "Wonder"-ful

by Helene Louise  


Just because something is not widely known, doesn't necessarily mean it's any less impressive. As I wrote earlier, on my trip to San Francisco last week, I was very impressed with the Golden Gate Bridge and it reminded me of the importance of persevering even when (and maybe especially when...) people say something is not possible.

 Although it's less well known, it wasn't on my "must see while in San Francisco" list and not considered a "wonder", I was equally impressed by the Bay Bridge. Built around the same time as the Golden Gate Bridge, it too was widely regarded as something that could not be built. The challenges were different—in this case not severe winds, tides and fog, but a combination of deep water, shallow mud flats and distance—but by combining elements from different designs, the challenges were eventually overcome. The Bay Bridge quickly became the favourite way to travel between San Francisco and the East Bay and when it suffered a major set-back during an earthquake in 1989, yet another solution was developed, different from the first one and adapted to the information and resources available at that time.

Certainly, in trying to find solutions to the challenges that my daughter has faced after suffering a childhood stroke, I can relate to the need to be creative and combine elements of different approaches to a unique set of circumstances.  It's not easy to push yourself to "think outside the box" and come up with new or combined approaches rather than simply applying ones that are readily available. And, the effort to do so is not necessarily apparent to others. However, just because others don't see the work that went into something or the result isn't considered as spectacular as something else, doesn't mean it's any less "wonder"-ful. 

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Something "Wonder"-ful

by Helene Louise  


This week, I had the privilege of taking a break from a particulary cold Canadian winter to spend some time in San Francisco. One of the sights I couldn't miss of course, was the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, now 76 years old. 

As the picture from my trip shows, the Golden Gate Bridge is indeed impressive but at one time, it was actually referred to as “the bridge that couldn’t be built”. Joseph Strauss, the engineer who designed the bridge apparently spent more than ten years building support for the idea in Northern California and after that, it took four years to actually construct the bridge—including major struggles with severe winds, tides and fog. Still, today the Golden Gate Bridge is considered on of the seven man-made “wonders” of the modern world and is one of the most widely recognized symbols of San Francisco.

As I looked at the bridge, I was reminded, on a very large scale, of the importance of working towards what you believe in, even if others say it can’t be done and even if the surrounding circumstances push against you. Because, with enough perseverance and commitment, the result might just turn out to be something enduring and “wonder”-ful.

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Fireflies for the New Year

by Helene Louise  

Every January, people make new year’s resolutions, promising themselves that this year, finally, is the year that they’re going to lose weight or get fit or accomplish that certain something that they’ve always wanted to do. But even with the best of intentions and the most sincere of resolutions, we often find ourselves discouraged and abandoning our goal after only a few months. 

I have struggled with this myself but when it came to helping my daughter overcome the effects of a childhood stroke, abandoning the goal of helping her progress as much as possible was not really an option. Still, the motivation to persevere didn’t just come on its own—it’s something that I had to continuously work on. As I explained in my book, it was a bit like catching fireflies on a high school camping trip many year ago.

The thing about fireflies, is that they don’t glow very brightly and they don’t necessarily glow consistently either. They flicker here and there as they go about their quiet bug lives. But, just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Maybe you just happened to be looking the other way or maybe there was something in the way so you didn’t even have a chance to see the flickering. Or maybe, you were just too distracted to even notice. That’s how it has been for me as I’ve looked for little flickers of hope, trying to figure out how to help my daughter.

It would be much easier, of course, if we all had a glowing bag of fireflies, so to speak, to guide us and serve as a constant source of inspiration. But that’s not how it works.  We are all responsible for finding our own little flickers of hope and keeping them glowing within ourselves as we travel along facing life’s challenges. The good thing though, is that the more I practice looking for little flickers of hope, the more I find them all around me—and the easier it is to stick to my goals.

I hope this year brings everyone many exceptionally bright fireflies.

Happy New Year.

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