Life as a peacock

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I met my friend’s “crazy Aunt Jane” last week and the first thing I said to her was how much I loved her hair.

“Thank you,” she laughed, obviously accustomed to hearing compliments like that.

Jane Coryell was visiting from out of town and we didn’t get to exchange many words during our first encounter, but a few days later I was able to pose the question I immediately wanted to ask: “How do people react to your purple hair?”

“Oh, they love it,” she said. “They think it’s fun.” I did too.

I asked her if it was an ice-breaker and she figured it probably was. “People of all ages are always commenting on it,” she said. “It makes them smile.”

The 70-year-old artist from Oakville, Ontario said she’d been dyeing her hair bright colors for decades and enjoyed the attention.  I could understand that.

Over the years I’ve met so many creative people who have expressed themselves in uncommon ways with their physical appearance, and I’ve always admired it. Their individuality and courage to stand out is so appealing, even when their look isn’t something I’d want for myself.

In my twenties, I had a co-worker in her thirties who liked to play dress up on a daily basis. We worked in a large government building with thousands of employees, and at some point during my first day on the job I noticed her.

She was wearing a red leather skirt, a zebra print blouse, black sequined stilettos and a shoulder length blonde wig that I didn’t know was a wig until the next day when I saw her with long curly red hair, and the day after that with a short brown bob. I quickly started looking forward to seeing what she’d wear next. Aside from her beautiful smile, she never seemed to sport the same thing twice.

“Crazy Colleen” was how some people referred to her, but like Jane, she wasn’t crazy at all. She was just artistic, theatrical and fearlessly playful, and I was instantly attracted to her courage and freedom of expression. I hadn’t seen that before. Not in real life anyway.

Attending a small high school back in the ‘80s, everyone seemed to dress the same except for a tiny group of goth kids who scared people away with their black hair, black makeup and black nail polish. The rest of us tended to blend in and not be too different from one another – like most of the cars on the roads and houses on the streets.

To observe someone like Colleen Ostlund, so willing to showcase her eccentricity in such a corporate setting, not caring if people snickered behind her back, was a real eye-opener. I believe it changed me.

I had always flown under the radar, afraid to stand out for fear anyone might think I was spreading my feathers like a proud, pompous peacock. Over the years, I stopped worrying about people’s perception of who I was or what I did, and I started doing my own thing.

I’m not visually colorful like Jane, Colleen or the peacock, but I know I’m unique, just as we all are. I now not only accept the things that make me different, I embrace them.

Life’s short, so we might as well celebrate who we are and have some fun while we’re here. If someone doesn’t approve, that’s their business, not ours.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

Coffee is no longer my cup of tea

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I moved to the Okanagan over 13 years ago and, as a recovering coffee addict, reluctantly drank my very first Tim Horton’s “double double.” The two-cream-two-sugar combination instantly had me hooked for the next couple of years.

I was a new mother at the time, so this silly passion wasn’t the most convenient, but I still managed to get my fix on a daily basis.

And then one day, when I was pregnant with our second child, and not yet aware that I was, I took a sip of the warm comforting beverage that I loved so much and it tasted awful. I sipped it a few more times trying to figure out what was wrong with it, but there was nothing different about the drink, just that I no longer liked its taste. I poured it out and never ordered another one again.

Once I realized I was expecting, I figured our unborn child must have had something to do with my sudden dislike for double doubles and I started to cater to different cravings, none of which included coffee. But after Daisy was born I picked up my coffee habit again – this time from Starbucks.

My “grande non-fat mild coffee misto with two pumps of sugarfree vanilla, extra hot” took longer to say and was a little more expensive, but I ordered it once or twice a day for several years until I no longer wanted to.

“This tastes awful,” I said to my co-worker one morning after taking a sip. “I hope this doesn’t mean I’m pregnant.” It didn’t. My body was just rejecting another long-time craving, and while I didn’t know the reason for it, I was relieved to see it go.

Much like the time I gave up double doubles, I had headaches for the first few days and then I was fine. I started drinking more water, and for the warm comfort I was looking for, I turned to tea. I tried several types and finally settled on peppermint as my favourite. I never craved it the way I did coffee, but it was still an enjoyable treat.

I can’t remember how long my java drought lasted that time, but it ended one day when I drank the most delicious cup of joe I’d ever had. It was Irish coffee, with Baileys added, sugar around the rim, a dollop of fresh whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on top. This, unfortunately, became my new daily craving and one that I gave into despite the fact that even though I never felt a buzz, I was technically boozing every day of the week – and in the morning no less.

By far, this was the coffee obsession I liked least, and I was constantly trying to end it. I didn’t include the sugar, whipped cream or sprinkles, but still added Baileys, making the drink fattening even without the extras. After countless unsuccessful attempts to give it up, and a noticeable unwanted weight gain, my cravings persisted until the day I was introduced to organic coffee lattes and I started drinking those instead.

My new addiction wasn’t one that I minded at all. It had some health benefits and was conveniently available in my cupboard at all times. But even that didn’t last forever. One day after years of drinking it daily, it too lost its deliciousness.

I no longer question why these intense cravings abruptly vanish, I just try to pay attention to my body, and if it’s no longer reacting well to something, I’ll eliminate it.

Now tea is back on the agenda and I’m looking forward to trying more varieties. I can’t imagine I’ll ever become addicted to it like I have with coffee so many times, but you never know, I’ve heard there’s a chocolate one I’ll love.

Sounds promising. Maybe I’ll steep a pot and mull it over.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

Chef Boy-our-Sam

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My 13-year-old son came home from school a couple of weeks ago and asked to do something he’s never asked to do before: make dinner.

“I want to make pancakes for you and Daisy,” he said. “From scratch.”

Wow. Even I have never made pancakes from scratch before.

“Why would you want to do that?” I asked, perplexed.

“It’s for school,” he said. “We have to do it for home ec. class, and then our parents have to mark us.” Ah, okay. Now that made sense.

Looking at the recipe provided I could see that it wasn’t just for pancakes but for syrup as well. Homemade syrup? Goodness. Obviously a trip to the grocery store would be necessary before the adventures could begin. I mean, really. Who has white corn syrup, cream of tartar and maple flavouring in their pantry? Well, maybe lots of people do. But not us.

After getting home from the store and putting out all the ingredients on the counter my son started to cook. And I, of course, started taking pictures.

“No, Mom,” he objected. “I don’t have a shirt on.”

“You never do,” I responded, since he never does when he’s at home. “Why don’t you wear this apron?”

He looked at it like I was a crazy person. “Why would I wear an apron?” he said. “Aren’t those for protecting clothes?”

He let me take a few pictures after I assured him I wouldn’t post them on the internet or sell them to the tabloids, and then I happily became his sous chef for the next messy hour.

His recipe called for a lot more ingredients than the Aunt Jemima pancake mix I’d normally use, so it took longer than either one of us expected, but we had fun. A lot of fun.

Since Dad was out, it was my job to taste the results. Not being a fan of this starchy breakfast meal since I was very young, I didn’t think I was the best to judge his creation. I took one bite of his blueberry, whole wheat pancakes with butter and homemade syrup and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. They were a little thick and I could taste the baking powder, but I could tell they were edible. I didn’t imagine Sam and Daisy would eat much more than I did. I was wrong. The entire stack of them were devoured in record time.

“Those were the best!” Sam said, proud to make such a delicious dinner for us. “I should do that for breakfast with chocolate chips instead of berries.”

Since our house usually becomes sleepover central on the weekends, and pancakes are a favourite with the kids, I thought that would be a much better plan than the decadent breakfast feast my husband made for everyone recently.

After getting a craving and going out early to buy the ingredients, Paul came home on a Saturday morning to surprise us with something more exciting than the typical scrambled eggs, French toast or pancakes the gang usually eats. He decided to make us eggs Benedict and asparagus.

Paul’s an excellent cook with a natural flair for creating tasty dishes and presenting them in a beautiful way like a nice restaurant would. His talents were lost on the children.

“It’s kind of disgusting,” Daisy said poking at the Hollandaise sauce and stabbing an asparagus spear with her fork. “No offence.”

The other kids weren’t quite that honest, and gave it a try with the tiniest bites imaginable, yet none of them could go the distance, and Aunt Jemima was called in to save the day. At least Sam will be able to do the saving now. I’d better get some chocolate chips.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

And the Oscar goes to … um …

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Now that Hollywood’s award season is finally over, I have a couple questions. First: why don’t some of these talented nominees and presenters get a bit of training in public speaking before getting up on stage in front of millions? Televised award shows are a form of profitable entertainment, just as much as the movies, TV shows and music the artists are being honored for.

I can understand a sound mixer or production designer struggling to spit out their words of gratitude after winning an award as prestigious and career transforming as an Oscar, but when the famous performers themselves have me feeling like the “Ah Counter” at a Toastmasters meeting, that’s not a good sign.

For those unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it’s an international organization that helps people become more comfortable with the terrifying prospect of speaking in front of an audience of any size. The “Ah Counter” is one of the duties in a meeting that has a member recording ahs, ums, filler words and repeats whenever someone gets up to speak. I seem to automatically take on that role every time I watch an awards show, especially one as grand as the Oscars. This year the beautiful best supporting actor Jared Leto uttered at least 15 ahs or ums during his otherwise entertaining and gracious speech.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some terrific presentations at the Academy Awards and I adore the institution that it is. I’m a huge movie buff and I’ve watched them every year since my Nanan first introduced me to the classic films of her era when I was a little kid. I love the fashions, the predictions and all the silly pomp and circumstance that goes along with the red carpet, star-studded affair. But I just think that if you’re a nominee with a one-in-five chance of winning a little gold man that will invariably increase your salary potential, you owe it to your massive audience to give a great – and brief – acceptance speech. If you can’t memorize and deliver your lines as if you’re in a Broadway play, you should read them from a hand held cue card and then get off the stage.

The same applies to the presenters who are sometimes betrayed by the faulty teleprompters or their own nerves, as was displayed yet again this year on several occasions. Despite the fact that these presenters are almost always incredibly famous actors who learn lines for a living, unprofessional mistakes often occur.

Maybe if the telecast wasn’t four hours long, these flubs would be less noticeable.

Which raises my second question: why aren’t the Oscars half the length in time? Out of the 24 awards that are handed out, the general public is probably interested in less than a dozen of those categories, and I don’t think they’d mind if the “boring awards” were given out at a separate ceremony like the ones handed out two weeks prior at the Scientific and Technical Awards.

I realize a shortened spectacle would result in fewer money-making advertising opportunities, but it also might assist in rebuilding the ratings, which have dropped substantially over the last two decades.

This year, for my first time ever, I didn’t watch the Oscars live. My son had a basketball practice that started at the same time as the show, so I set the PVR and avoided the internet, radio and TV so I wouldn’t hear any results in advance.

Almost two hours after the show began, my husband and I started watching the recorded program, fast forwarding through all the commercials and boring bits. By the time it was wrapping up with the final best picture award being presented, we had caught up, saving ourselves a bunch of time.

No doubt millions of clever people have been viewing it this way for many years. From now on, we will as well. And I’ll still be counting the ahs and ums as we watch.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

New marijuana law stinks

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In the spring of 1997, four days before his 20th birthday, my new friend Bob Raven was goofing around at Pioneer Park in Kamloops, playing volleyball and having fun with his buddies when he decided to join some of them in the lake. Without thinking, the college student ran down the dock and dove in to what he later found out was less than three feet of water. He felt his neck break instantly. Lying face down, motionless, he wondered how long it would take his friends to notice he was paralyzed.

Not wanting to be moved for fear his situation could get worse, he was supported in the cold water for over an hour before the ambulance finally arrived. By then the local newspaper was already there, and he was their front page story the next day.

He spent the next two months at Vancouver General Hospital before being admitted into GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, where he would begin learning to live his life as a quadriplegic.

After plummeting from 160 lbs down to 105, he started using marijuana to help regain his appetite and dull his pain and spasms in order to get through the day and sleep through the night.

“It was a natural way for me to get off most of the heavy prescription pills I was on,” he said. “Before my accident I had always been healthy and I wanted to keep living as well as I could. I didn’t want to be addicted to drugs like morphine.”

Four years ago he attained a license to cultivate his own cannabis, and with the aid of his helpers he’s been able to medicate himself sufficiently by grinding it down and either vaporizing it, putting it in capsules or using it in his baking so he reaps the healing benefits without getting high.

New regulations that the Canadian government is about to implement will change all of that.

As of this April people like Bob, who are legally allowed to produce their own pot for medicinal purposes, will now have to buy it from a federally-approved supplier at a much higher cost.

“It won’t just be more expensive,” he said. “It will be an inferior product delivered dry through Canada Post.” That means patients  unable to smoke or requiring the healthier extract treatments such as edibles, topicals, juices, tinctures  and infused food items won’t be able to use it at all.

“I can’t imagine they’ll be able to keep up with the demand or retain our privacy,” he added. “People will be forced to break the law by continuing to grow their own, or they’ll buy from illegal suppliers willing to sell it cheaper and more discreetly.”

Frustrated there’s still such a stigma regarding marijuana, despite its proven therapeutic impact, Bob believes these new regulations come down to politics and money.

“The only people happy with this change in law are the ones who will monetarily profit from it,” he said. “It will only hurt people like me.”

Recognizing there is a crime element that needs to be controlled, Bob thinks the government should simply limit the number of plants per person.  “With my prescription I only have access for enough to grow my own medicine,” he said. “But there are doctors out there willing to write up prescriptions for way more plants than one person actually requires.”

He isn’t against federally-approved suppliers, he just wants to see a combination of options so people who aren’t abusing the system can continue to safely grow their own, and those who aren’t able will have access as well.

“Big illegal grow-ops on the news have much of society thinking pot gardens are dangerous,” he said. “It takes the same electrical equipment to grow tomatoes that it does marijuana, and with my intent and limited supply, there’s nothing unsafe or corrupt about it.”

Bob is now hoping B.C. lawyer John Conroy’s class action lawsuit against Health Canada has these new changes declared unconstitutional, and the new regulations will be overturned. I am hoping the same.

For more info:

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

A more accepting generation

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I picked my 13-year-old son up from middle school on Valentine’s Day, and among the young teens walking home, I noticed two girls were smiling and holding hands.

“They’re gay,” Sam said when I asked about them. “They’re dating.”

“Do kids pick on them?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he replied. “Why would they?”

Wow. Things have really changed since I was in the eighth grade.

I explained that back in the old days, when I was in school, if kids were gay they’d do everything they could to hide it, for fear of being ostracized by their peers or possibly shunned by their families.

“That’s stupid,” he said. “They can’t help who they’re attracted to.”

I wasn’t surprised he felt that way since that’s the type of thing I would say, but to witness the other kids not seeming to care about the two girls comfortable and brave enough to be themselves had me feeling elated.

What if it had been two homosexual boys walking hand in hand, though?

“I’ve never seen that,” Sam said later when I asked.

“They probably wouldn’t because they’d get bullied.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Most of us like girls. Maybe it scares some guys when someone’s different.”

“Why wouldn’t lesbians scare them?” I asked.

He wasn’t sure, but his guess was that they could relate to liking girls and weren’t threatened or turned off by the idea of them being together.

“Lesbians might get picked on too,” he said. “But probably not as much.”

For other reasons as well, there definitely seems to be a higher level of acceptance in our society for homosexual females as opposed to males. That’s why I found it surprising a couple hours later to see Ellen Page, the beautiful Oscar-nominated Canadian actress making headlines for coming out of the closet. Why was she even in the closet in the first place?

In an emotional eight-minute speech at a human rights youth conference for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning) the 26-year-old described how she had been affected by the crushing standards of Hollywood, and that she was “tired of hiding and lying by omission.“

Her spirit, mental health and relationships had suffered due to her fear of coming out, and she now felt a social and personal responsibility to go public.

She said she had learned that the beauty, the joy and even the pain of love “is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being, and that we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”

I couldn’t agree more.

We only get to live our life once, and we should be able to live it authentically, without the judgment of others impeding our happiness.

I understand how difficult that can be, especially for young people with all their pressures to fit in and be like everyone else. But it’s when we’re able to embrace our individuality and gain the courage to be ourselves that we have a better chance at a fulfilling and wonderful life. And that applies to anyone, not just the youth, and not just the LGBTQ community.

“This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another,” Ellen Page said to a cheering audience. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is if you’re nice.

Live and let live. When we’re old and on our deathbeds, we’ll be happy that we did. Thankfully, the younger generations seem to be embracing this way of thinking, and will hopefully continue to become more accepting of other people’s differences.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

Painting art from the heart

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The day my daughter Daisy was born, her three-year-old brother Sam held her in his arms. The day Daisy’s friend Kylee was born, her three-year-old sister Kayla could not do the same. 

Kylee was born with a life-threatening condition called transposition of the great arteries and had to be flown to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver for emergency open heart surgery. Once the major operation was a success, she was in Kayla’s arms all the time. 
Despite such a terrifying and traumatic introduction to the world, Kylee is now 10 years old and is as happy and healthy as any parent could ever hope.  
Grateful to the medical team for saving her life, she and her older sister raised money for the BC Children’s Hospital three years ago by selling stones they hand-painted while camping. 
Since then they’ve sold over a thousand beautifully decorated rocks at campgrounds, in their neighbourhood, at craft fairs and even art shows. This Valentine’s Day they’ll be setting up their “Charity Rocks” table and selling their hearts out at the Kelowna General Hospital to raise money for its new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre.
“They’ve supported a variety of charities over the years,” their mother said. “And they’ve always insisted on donating 100% of the proceeds. They won’t even let me use a small portion for supplies.” 
When asked who their idol is, their answer isn’t a recognizable celebrity we might see in the tabloids, such as Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Their idol is Spencer West, a Toronto man who has no legs, yet has accomplished incredible feats such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro on his hands to raise money for Free the Children, a charity that builds schools and water systems for kids in third world countries. 
An author and motivational speaker, Spencer West has presented at the youth empowerment event “We Day” for years, and that’s where the sisters first saw him. For three years in a row they have listened to him share inspiring life lessons, and were thrilled to meet him in person when they participated in a fundraising hike up Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver last summer. They believe, like he does, that anyone can overcome their obstacles and become a force for positive change in the world. 
For them, their biggest obstacle might be their exceedingly shy personalities, which has caused them to miss out on opportunities reserved for the more extroverted students at school. But whenever they have the opportunity to raise money for charity, they have no problem coming out of their shells temporarily – proving the theory that introverts should never be underestimated. 
“Painting is fun,” Kylee said. “But talking to people and selling the rocks is our favourite part.” 
Driven to help those in need, the artistic duo plan to continue giving back in some form or another, fully committed to helping others while not limiting themselves. 
The girls don’t place a set price on their waterproofed creations, but they gladly accept donations. They also take custom orders and are excited about their expanding clientele. 
“The more we raise, the more we donate,” Kayla said. “As we get older and gain experience, we plan to help to a greater extent.” 
With loving hearts as big as theirs, I have no doubt these talented sisters will. 
Kylee and Kayla will be selling their rocks at the Kelowna General Hospital’s auxiliary bake sale in the Royal Lobby, Friday, February 14th from 9 am to 3 pm. They can also be contacted on their website: or you can like their Facebook page at:
Let’s help support these caring young ladies and others like them. Generous hearts are a gift to us all. 

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

A blonde walks into a bar…

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My friend Laurie posted a picture of Barbara Eden’s “I Dream of Jeannie” character on Facebook, prompting comparisons between her and Elizabeth Montgomery’s “Bewitched” character – also a blonde beauty who was magically inclined. Laurie made the observation that on both television shows these nice, sweet characters had evil, manipulative sisters, comically played by the lead actresses wearing dark wigs.

“Nice bit of cultural indoctrination there,” she said. “Just as bad as Disney and other fairy tales.”

It immediately had me thinking of additional characters that fit that good-versus-bad stereotype. Betty and Veronica from the Archie comics, Krystle and Alexis Carrington from Dynasty, and Aurora and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty were the first few that popped to mind.

“It’s a constant theme throughout Western European-based mythology,” Laurie said.

I couldn’t help but agree, and I had noticed this before, but I wondered if her being a brunette made her more conscious of that particular typecasting, while I was more in tune with another one: the dumb blonde cliché.

I can’t even begin to count how many blonde jokes I’ve heard in my life. I used to tell them myself just to beat people to the punch. Some are funny, but in reality when someone insinuates that I lack intelligence because of my hair color, it’s annoying.

I guess that’s why it can irritate Laurie when someone jokes about brunettes being bitter or less attractive – yet another ridiculous stereotype.

The concept that hair color can actually affect the perception people have regarding women’s characters, brain power or beauty is astonishing. But it can.

In my twenties, I dyed my naturally dirty blonde hair to a beautiful, dark rich brown. I loved the color. Unfortunately it didn’t love me and I looked terrible. I had to wear heavy make-up so my face wouldn’t look washed out. Despite this, I had several people tell me I looked better and smarter after the change. One friend said that it was an improvement over my “fake, blonde bimbo image.”

Ironically, my former self was far more natural than this transformed version of me that she preferred.

To prevent damaging my hair too much, I lived as a brunette for longer than I wanted and felt relief when I returned to my original color. It felt as though I was able to take off an uncomfortable Halloween wig and finally be myself again. If someone didn’t like my reversal, I no longer cared.

It felt absurd to be judged on something so insignificant. Does the color of a man’s hair impact the way people perceive him? Not to the same degree as a woman, I’m sure.

There are so many ludicrous stereotypes about many different things that can affect men as well. Sweeping over-simplified generalizations are made about people all the time. Sometimes with horrific results.

What I learned as a child, and now teach my own kids, is that regardless of one’s ethnicity, faith, profession, gender, age, income, appearance, sexual preference or whatever, there are wonderful and horrible people within each group.

Judging people based on stereotypes is dumb. Being a blonde is not.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

We will always love her

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Our beautiful mother died unexpectedly last week.

I’ve wept over that first sentence for at least half an hour before finally writing this second one. My head and heart are overflowing with so many thoughts and emotions I’m not sure where to begin, except to say that we loved her more than she would ever know.

Susan Ann Hetherington was her birth name, and at the age of 17 she became pregnant with me. She married her childhood sweetheart, our father, immediately after they graduated from high school. Two and a half years after I was born, she gave birth to my brother and best friend, Jeremie White.

From the beginning she made it her life’s mission to be the best wife and mother imaginable, and her efforts were noticeable to everyone who knew us. She was a fantastic cook, a wonderful homemaker, and it was obvious that she loved us deeply.

To the outside world, we seemed to be a happy and healthy family – and initially, we were. None of us had any inkling that a dark mental illness would creep in and eventually destroy our beloved mother’s life, along with the majority of her most cherished relationships.

Mom was loving, sensitive and deeply compassionate, but for whatever reason, she was a tortured soul and suffered from an invisible sickness that we couldn’t see, but we could certainly feel.

To neighbours, friends and strangers she was calm and kind, but with us, her temperament was wildly unpredictable. When we realized she needed psychological help, we tried to get it for her, but she would fervently reject the idea every time. She was mortified by the thought that anyone might think she had a mental health issue, and categorically denied the possibility.

Her verbal abuse became increasingly frequent as the years went by, and her illness not only went undiagnosed and untreated, but was exacerbated by alcohol, prescription pills and an overall neglect of her physical well-being.

It’s been intensely sad not to have the close relationship with her that we craved as much as she did. Her untimely death has been devastating since we never stopped loving her, and we never gave up hope that her tragic quality of life, and our weakened connections with her, would improve.

But we simply ran out of time. At the young age of 65 her lungs gave out and she died peacefully in her sleep. It still doesn’t feel real.

Our mother adored Christmas and she loved to give presents. On her behalf, and in her honour, I would like to offer this reminder as a gift for anyone who needs to hear it: mental health is the absolute foundation for physical health, and we should never feel shame when seeking help for either.

We love you so much, Mom, and we always will. Rest in peace beautiful angel – you touched countless people throughout your life, and your story is already helping others to heal.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

A celebration of her life will be held at North Shore Alliance Church, 201 E. 23rd Street, North Vancouver on Saturday, January 11th at 3pm. CLICK HERE for her obituary.

Black swans deliver message of hope

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For the last few years, every time I talked to my friend Kay Brown, I could see pain in her eyes. The physical suffering she had endured since her whiplash injury 17 years prior had become too much for her to manage, and the quality of her life was deteriorating at the same rate as the bone alignment of her diseased spine.

As much as she wanted to distract herself with the company of friends, the agony she was in made her withdraw once it became all-consuming. Having normal conversations felt next to impossible.

“I’d be talking to someone, already feeling terrible, and suddenly I’d get a jolt of unbearable pain that I wouldn’t be able to hide,” she explained. It became easier for her to just stay home than to try to be social.

After years of being told nothing could be done, a surgeon named Dr. Kim in Houston, Texas, said the words she’d been praying to hear: he could fix her.

“I sat across from that nice Asian doctor with his cute Texas accent and listened to him tell me that he could immediately eliminate 75 per cent of my pain with an operation he could do in his sleep,” she said. “He claimed the other 25 per cent would diminish over time. I was in shock.”

Her friends and family were overjoyed at the news, and Kay was hopeful, but she couldn’t wrap her head around the staggering cost.

“A one night stay in the hospital would be $80,000,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine coming up with that kind of money on top of the surgery and travel expenses.”

Loved ones urged her to get the operation and figure out the finances later. Her new friends whom she had just met at the hotel in Houston, managed to get the hospital charges decreased. Now $30,000 would be required upfront, and an additional $20,000 afterward.

Within one day some friends back home completely astonished her by coming up with the hefty loan for the down payment.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Kay laid down on a lounge chair at the hotel. “When I opened my eyes a couple minutes later, three black swans were beside me,” she said. “They stayed with me for 40 minutes. It felt magical – like some kind of omen. At first, I didn’t want to Google the meaning of it, just in case it meant the kiss of death or something.”

According to the Internet, the black beauties symbolized an epic event. That felt right to Kay. She went ahead and had the operation, and it was a huge success.

Talking face to face with my friend is a different experience now. Her eyes still well up easily, not from shooting pain or despair, but from the love and support extended to her by her friends and family, and even complete strangers during her time of need.

Her physical and mental transformation has come at a high price though, and her friends are now trying to help her pay the debt back.

“Kay’s a hard working single mother of three daughters, and a respected business owner in our community,” said Dr. Dave Manns, her friend and chiropractor.  “This woman has a heart of gold. I just hope that we can help her the way she would try to help any of us if the roles were reversed.”

A fundraising event for her is being held on Saturday, December 7th at the Holiday Inn in West Kelowna. Auction items and cash donations are being gratefully accepted, and there are a few tickets left for sale. It is sure to be an epic event. The black swans from Texas confirmed it.

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Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at