On Writing

Reflections on Total Recall Women’s Retreat 2011, Pelee Island, ON


I was both a presenter and a participant at this year’s 9th Total Recall Women’s Retreat on Pelee Island, ON. The theme of this year’s retreat was ‘courage’. I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Pelee Island with my sister and eighty other women who participated in the retreat. It was organized by a young woman named Anne Marie Fortner who took over the leadership role after islander and founder Mary Lou Atkinson passed on her brightly shining torch. 

I love being on Pelee Island. I feel at home there, immersed in nature,surrounded by fresh water. It’s the perfect getaway – alone, with my family or for something amazing like a women’s retreat. This was the first time I attended Total Recall. I presented a workshop called Memoir – The Courage of Being You. Seventeen people attended it! We talked about what a memoir is, we did several writing exercises and we shared some of what we wrote. It was inspiring and uplifting!

My sister and I shared a room in a lovely bed and breakfast, laughing and talking till the wee hours of the morning (I think they call them ‘wee’ hours because that’s when you laugh so hard you ‘wee’ in your pajamas). It was such a special bonding experience.

It was a special experience for me as soon as the retreat began. To best explain how the weekend affected me, here are some reflections I wrote while I was there: 



It’s different here

Standing in courageous stances

On rocks that crunch beneath our feet

Moving energy around like wind

Fear holds vigil in each of us

Praying for freedom


We are women

With meaningful names

Playing laughing crying

Reaching for  everything we need

Among the strong trees

Under leaves thick with life

We choose to exhale

Speak our truths in safe circles


I attended my sister’s (Danah Beaulieu – www.art-indeed.ca) workshop and she had us stand in our ‘courage’ poses. It was actually quite invigorating. We all had unique stances for what we felt was courageous with our bodies.


I am often the first one to cry

I hear your stories

Feel your life and

I am overwhelmed with love

It overflows in tears

Undeniably we are connected

 When it was my turn to talk about my name and what courageous thing I did, I was very emotional. I was surprised at how much courage I needed to share my story. I was touched by what I heard. I’m a cry-er. I can’t deny it. And so I let the tears flow…as i did the words…


The truth is that we choose to come consciously willingly searching for courage when courage is what fueled our choice. 


There is ultimate freedom in being alive so gather and celebrate the life you live because you are courage when you breathe.

It amazed me that everyone was talking about how they came to the retreat because they weren’t feeling courageous in their lives but their stories only spoke of courage and perseverance. Their mere attendance was a courageous move. 


“I feel sadness. Not like poor me sadness, like wounded child sadness,” she said to me. I rub her back because I don’t know what to say even though I think she’s incredible. 

I met incredible women who were openly vulnerable and clearly living courageously.


I am safe on white pages covered in words.

When it came time to work with our hands, I was pulled to a blank, white paper mandela. I had to write. In pencil. By hand. I felt deeply connect to the white space and needed to clear my head by letting the words come out. I re-connected with my passion for writing – yes, even though I do it everyday. I took the time to recognize that one of my man purposes in life is to write.


Although my heart yearned for the kids and my love (my husband), I had to let it be okay that I gave myself the gift of this retreat. That as a woman it’s important to connect and share with other women. That as a mother it’s important to take off my ‘mom’ hat and wear my ‘writer’ hat intentionally, purposefully, happily sometimes. I had to quiet the guilt in my mind that wanted to tell me it’s not okay to leave. I did quiet the voice and I had a wonderfully, needed, important retreat – I did exactly that – I went into myself and did some work, and this only made me a stronger more confident woman – and, of course, mother.

Thank you Total Recall women!!