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A Gift from Goddesses

Wow, wow, wow.

I came home today to find a stamp-kissed package perched on my doorstep.

SUFEY CHEN — it sang in big bold letters.
BERGMAN — it was a love-box from darling miss wendy.

Open me, it teased. I shrieked like a child on Christmas Day.

I gingerly peeled open the first layer and gasped:
a beautiful family of polka-dotted packages peeked out under pretty yellow flowers.

I counted them— 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, seven.
My goodness, Wendy Bergman, you’ve outdone yourself. 

I opened the gifts before the letter, as per instructions.

I bubbled up in happy exclamations:

peanut butter M&Ms + fuzzy peaches (I haven’t had these since I was a kid!)
a box of funky-coloured straws (I love sipping through straws!)
The Book of Awesome (I’ve been dying to read that!)
Chicken Soup for the Soul word-finds (perfect for the plane ride to Maui!)
bright pink nail polish (my favourite colour!)
Hello Kitty band-aids (oh. my. god. Hello Kitty!!!!)
and two beeeautiful drawings from Gracie and Charlie.

Oh, wow.

I tore open the letter and tears sprung to my eyes.

That Wendy would take the time to create such a beautiful gift—
such an incredibly sweet, thoughtful, big-hearted gift—
made me so very happy and gooey and glowy inside.

And the letter, oh. It overflowed precious wisdom for my hungry soul:

Dear Sufey

Life sometimes has a way of knocking us down
and making us question everything about ourselves. 
The best advice I can give you is to just let this time 
wash over you like waves over stone. 
This experience is meant to polish and strengthen you; 
ultimately to make you even more beautiful. 

This little gift’s purpose is to help you connect with your inner child
(Gracie picked most of the gifts for you),
as the best things to heal our wounds are 
hello kitty bandaids,
cold milk through a straw,
a fresh coat of pink nail polish,
an easy word find to build your confidence
and a good book to fill your soul. 

All our love, 

Gracie & Wendy

 I melted.

Gracie and Wendy, thank you.

Your sweet, selfless act brought so much joy to me today.
Thank you for your healing love in a time of need.

You are genuine pearls in an ocean of empty shells.
And I’m — really, truly, heart-too-fully — lucky to be your friend.

I’m sipping cold milk through a straw right now.
And somehow it makes everything a million times better.

Adventure #5: Heather Jones

“You don’t need to be amazing. You don’t need to be not amazing. You just are.
You are, in and of yourself, worthwhile.”

Heather Dawn Jones (nicknamed “Noodle”)  |  Artist  |  31  |  Lookout Arts Quarry

I fell in love with Noodle the moment I saw her.

There was something about Noodle—
her bright turquoise cowboy boots,
her addictive, unscripted giggle,
her handwritten notes in big green print on pale pink paper—
that captured me instantly. Instantly.

I was at Creative Mornings with a dear friend, and Heather was giving a talk on Minimalism.
She spoke a rawness that blazed open my spirit— I listened, I connected, I lusted.
I didn’t realize it then, but she was a living possibility of what I could be.

I tackled her after her speech— I swooped down and hugged her and sing-songed:
“Will you go on a date with me?”

And thus began our adventures.

Decorating our brunch at Catch 122!

Noodle is the kind of person that gets better and better as you get to know her.
She also makes art of everything (like breakfast!)

She lavished my mind with stories of her journey, and my own forgotten dreams began to flutter alive.

Heather wanted to be an artist.
But the life of an artist, romantic as it sounds, is not one that comes easy.
She tree planted for six years and put all her earnings into the bank, keeping only $2000 to live off each year.
She would sweat and toil over the summer, then hibernate and create over the winter.
She found cheap art supplies— rocks, tin cans, broken chair legs— lived simply, and made her own clothes.

When she saved enough, Noodle and her friends pooled their money.
They bought 50 acres of land (previously an industrial rock quarry) near Bellingham, and dubbed it an art collective.
They live, breathe and create as circus performers, slackline walkers, visual artists, musicians… everything.

People go to lose themselves in nature and find themselves in art.

I was hooked.

Photo of Lookout Arts Quarry — Heather’s home!

Noodle was the living, breathing proof that people could manifest their own destiny.
She was so happy, so spirited, so generous, so free. She was everything I wanted to be.

“It’s one thing to make a beautiful art piece.
It’s another to create an environment that changes people.”

And that’s what Noodle does— she designs immersive art pieces: a place for transformation.

Like a 75-foot installation at the Vancouver International Children’s Festival,
where 4000 children wove recycled strips of fabric onto a gigantic dinosaur framework.

“From the outside, it was cool… but from the inside, it was a whole new world.
Kids were playing tag, whack-a-mole, crawling around, I’ve never seen so many kids laughing!”

Heather and her dinosaur from the Children’s Festival!

She reminisced about her own childhood, growing up with her cousins and neighbourhood kids.
“Once you know what that’s like [a connected collective], you’ll always be looking for it.”
And in Noodle’s case, creating it. Building it. Pouring her loving energy into it.

I could write a book about breakfast alone.

But soon we gathered up, biked our way to the Maker Faire and lost ourselves in a musical abyss.
We danced to fiddles, poked at glow-in-the-dark contraptions and surrendered to the midday sun.
We soon parted ways, and planned to meet up the next night.

But the next night, while she was biking up to my house with pho for dinner, I smashed my bike into a wall.

And this is where our friendship truly begins—
because that night, this beautiful, exquisite stranger, who I had known for just a day, saved me.

She mothered me, soothed me, and held my hand as I lay writhing in agony.
She comforted me, dressed me, and told me that I would be okay.
She took me to the hospital, talked for me, and stroked me till the wee hours of the night.
She gave me everything.

If I had been alone, I don’t know what I would have done.
I was in the kind of pain that makes a sane person irrational and crazy and reckless.
And she saved me.

That night, she was Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and every holy angel in the world to me.

I was grateful (though grateful is not strong enough of a word) to her then, and I will be always.

Because that night, I saw the sweetness of humanity in her eyes.
I tasted a radical, exhilarating love.
I felt kindness sweep up my soul,
gathering up all the cracked little pieces of me
and sewing me back together,
laboriously,
one soul-stitch by one.

I have a million words and no words left to say, but there is no need to describe a thing more.
I discovered a new language with Noodle, one that exists only in being.

 ॐ

Her affirmation from earlier that day echoed in my ears:
“I am worth loving.”

A Return to Love | 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training

The day I left the corporate world, a teaching opportunity manifested.

I said: I want to heal, travel, teach.

To touch and be touched, move and be moved.
To scrub mud on my body and joy on my soul.
To kiss the sweet earth and taste love on my lips.

I want to set my spirit alive.

He said: come to Maui, teach teachers, return to love.

And so it begins.

Adventure #4: Ty Heathcote

“We had the option to be inspired or threatened — and we both chose inspired.”

Ty Heathcote  |  Yoga Teacher  |  22  |  @typeacenlove  |  ty’s blog

I have a vivid recollection of the first time I saw Ty on stage.
She was 15 or 16, a tiny, fiery thing with a marvellous eloquence.

I remember thinking, quite smitten, “I want to be just like this girl one day.”
She went on to win debate provincials, place 1st in public speaking, and render the crowds speechless.

Not much has changed.

A week ago at Landmark, I felt a hand squeeze me from behind.
I looked over and gasped  it was Ty, the last person I would’ve expected to see.
We screamed, hugged, hugged a little more… It had been years since we last saw each other.

As it turns out, she moved from Kelowna to Victoria. Found the love of her life. Ditched competition for collaboration.
“Who would’ve imagined?!” She giggled  “Both of us little debaters as yoga teachers!”

The past few years had taught her a profound lesson.
After a rocky relationship, a year of journalism school and battles with severe anxiety, she hit her own rock bottom.
Her doctor prescribed pills. She flushed them and went to yoga class instead.

Soon after, she quit her job. Took a risk. Bought a flight to Bali. Immersed herself in yoga.
The Balinese men said: “Yoga girl, you walk too fast.”
And Ty realized: “I do — I need to slow down.”
And it was here that she began to heal.

She learned to let go. To breathe. To love.
And love flowed into her life.
(Funny how the Universe does that, eh?)

We strolled down the streets under a big blue sky.
She posed beside the tulips. Owen Wilson and his son whizzed by on bike.

“We’re just babies, you and me,” she said with a smile that could light up the sky.
“We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us.”

Adventure #2: Sophie Hsin

“When you have the knowledge that you are really, really loved, you live life a different way.”

Sophie Hsin  |  Artist  |  25  |  @sophie_hsin

I first found Sophie on Instagram, where her stunning (seriously, stunning) artwork captured my heart.
Her use of white space, meticulous creativity and vivid concepts inspired me day-after-day.

So when I met up with her, I was surprised by how incredibly open, down-to-earth and humble she was.
No fancy, no frills. All real.

Originally from Taiwan, Sophie moved to Vancouver less than a year ago.
She was torn  she had just finished medical school, but knew deep down that she wanted to be an artist.
So she dropped everything to chase a dream. “I felt so hopeless in hospitals. I wanted to create.
Sometimes I think I’m crazy, but I have to keep going. There’s no going back for me.”

We spilled open our hearts on Sunset Beach, and I dove layer after layer into her intriguing life.
She’s a pianist, violinist and guitarist. She sings at soup kitchens with her church.
She teaches art therapy to autistic children. And one day, she wants to write books for kids.

She pulled out Eric Carle’s “Mr. Seahorse” and I giggled I had never seen that in a purse before.

Coming from similar backgrounds, we reminisced on our traditional Asian upbringing (and our resulting perfectionist tendencies). She told me stories of scootering down sketchy streets to visit the Ming Tombs and I admired her the way I would a (much cooler) older sibling.

When we left, the sun had already set. We took the bus home and hugged as we parted.

Something she said lingered on in my mind:
“Be bold about trying new things. You never know what’s going to happen.”

And I thought, “That’s the best part.”