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Mental Health, Youth and Butterflies

I am someone who has struggled for mental health. It isn’t glamourous to share this, and it certainly doesn’t fit with the illusion of authorly success, but I must be honest.

After all, if adults aren’t honest about their own struggles, how are young people supposed to know they can get through their own? At least I have a track record that spans decades of knowing I can get through it.

A child or teen has no track record.

For them, feelings of estrangement and despair seem like they’ll never end. It is a tragedy that so many beautiful, gifted young people are killing themselves because they have no hope.

I struggled through high school. I had severe, undiagnosed PTSD. I felt alone, unlovable, and too damaged to love. It was as if the entire world was in a room, laughing, joyful, in on the joke, while I stood outside with my nose pressed against the glass.

For me, thoughts of suicide were a constant.

But I was one of the lucky ones.

I had a mom I could talk to. I had my faith. I knew from my father’s lessons at the dinner table how to intellectually challenge my desire to end it all.

And so, I doggedly put one foot in front of the other, slogging through the darkness when despair lapped at my heels and hope seemed foolish. I put my feelings into stories, into art, and slowly, slowly learned how to let love in, and to my surprise, found joy.

I look back now and see how those trials deepened my resilience, my compassion, and my ability to love.

Those times of darkness made me appreciate the light.

For me, mental health continues to be a daily decision, a daily turning inside-out to allow the light in.

Young people need to hear that it gets better, from adults who’ve been there and are still on the journey. They need to know that they carry the strength within themselves to put one foot in front of the other.

They need to know that one day, one miraculous day, they may even look back and be thankful for the precious gifts those dark times gave them.

Just as the caterpillar thinks it’s dying as it lies encased in its own cocoon, the butterfly knows the struggle was worth it.

If you’d like more information and some help with Mental Health, please read the following document.

Growing Wings -Tools for Surviving & Thriving

I Dreamed a Dream

[Indie authors have an uphill battle getting their books noticed. Bloggers can make all the difference. One such amazing blogger is Sue Vincent. Sue hosted me on her blog and shared the following post with her readers; to visit her site, click the link at the bottom of this post.]


It was daylight.

I was alone on a dirt road that stretched as far as I could see.

There were no houses…no trees…

Just me.

I glided along the road.

I couldn’t see my hands, or anything that would identify me as me.

“Who am I?” I wondered.

What did I look like?

What colour was I?

I didn’t know.

I tried guessing—I thought I was probably a deep brown.

But I wasn’t sure.

All I knew was that whatever I looked like,

I was me.

I dreamed that twenty-five years ago.

I had recently been introduced to the concept of Unity in Diversity, the understanding that although people were diverse, with different skin colours, different languages and ways of doing things, humanity was one.

The dream unseated my unconscious identity of myself as a woman with white skin. In the dream, I was just me. None of the cultural packaging of what being “white,” or “brown,” or “black” meant had any reality.

My picture book, The Nightingale’s Song, sprang from that dream.

It starts out,

“Last night, I had a dream,

That my skin was brown, like mahogany,

My outside had changed,

But my inside was ME,

And a nightingale sang from the nearby tree…”

The Nightingale’s Song is about the beauty of humanity, about how our diversity is a strength. Children reading this book see themselves in its pages, and see themselves as beautiful, as they are. 

It was published in 2018, but shortly thereafter the publisher closed its doors. In its short time out, it won silver in the Nautilus Book Awards as a book that promotes peace.

I am getting this book back out there. I am running a Kickstarter campaign through Kickstarter Canada, entitled, “Changing the World, One Child at a Time,” to fund its reprint.

As the nightingale sings in The Nightingale’s Song

“Brothers and sisters we shall be,

Stars of one sky, leaves of one tree.”

That dream changed me forever, and by its inspiration, I hope to be part of the change toward a world in which every human being is cherished.

Join me.

Visit my Kickstarter campaign, Changing the World, One Child at a Time, to back this project, and be a part of the change to make the world a place fit for children.


Guest author: Andrea Torrey Balsara ~ I Dreamed a Dream   


My Kickstarter Campaign is LIVE

It isn’t every day that I launch a Kickstarter campaign. In fact, this is new to me, and SLIGHTLY out of my comfort zone. Okay, a LOT out of my comfort zone! But Unity in Diversity is an issue I care deeply about.

I care about it enough to get a little uncomfortable.

What IS Unity in Diversity, anyway?

It’s the awareness that we are all ONE. Just as there are flowers of different colours, shapes, and sizes in a flower garden, there are people who are different colours, shapes, and sizes (and ages!) in our human family.

We would never say that only red roses are allowed in a garden, as pretty as they are. Or white daisies. Or orange marigolds…you get the idea. If flower gardens are more beautiful because of their variety of colours, scents, shapes, and sizes, why is humanity any different?

Hint: It isn’t.

Diversity is a strength. Diversity means that where I am weak, your strength bolsters me up, and where you are weak, I can be strong. We can be strong together. Every people, every person, every child, is unique, precious, and beautiful.

The Nightingale’s Song brings that message of hope to children. Please support my kickstarter campaign, and be part of a worldwide shift toward UNITY.

Click here:


The Nightingale’s Song–2018 Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner

I am pleased to announce that The Nightingale’s Song has won SILVER in the Nautilus Book Awards (past Nautilus Book Award winners include Deepak Chopra, Barbara Kingsolver, Thich Nhat Hanh, Marianne Williamson, and Eckhart Tolle, to name a few).

This book has been years in the making. Evolving from original pastel drawings, to being finished digitally, the art work shows the beauty of diversity in our human family.

There is a movement afoot that casts people into groups of “US” and “THEM.” I say, and I’ll shout it from the mountain tops (or write a picture book about it) that THERE IS ONLY US.

We are ALL part of ONE human family.

MORE and MORE people around the world know this is true.

Just as a flower garden delights the senses with its varieties of flowers, colours, and scents, so the human family is powerful, beautiful, and magnificent BECAUSE of its diversity.

Unity Rocks!

2018 Nautilus Book Awards Winner “Better Books for a Better World”

#UnityInDiversity #ChooseLove #WeAreOne



A Little Help From My Friends

Sometimes, we just need a friend. We need someone who gets us, who nods and says, “Yup. Been there, done that.” Or, “You’ve got this.” Or, “It gets better.”

Our new dog Rocky spent his first two years in a crate that was locked in a dark shed. He’s known freedom, sunlight, and grass under his feet, for 6 short weeks. His only previous contact with life was the old woman who fed him, who for whatever reason, waited two years to call for help. Rocky has no idea how to be a dog. He is as thin as a rabbit, and as timid as one.


Our other two dogs, Oliver and Maisie, are also puppy mill rescues, but they were more fortunate. They were rescued much earlier, and have had each other, and the company of other dogs on their forays to the dog park, for many years. When Rocky arrived five days ago, frightened, clueless as to the ways of dogs, they looked puzzled, but not alarmed. After a day, Rocky started to settle in, studying his two mentors for clues as to how to be a dog. (So far, he’s been taught to bark at squirrels, taught to run around the yard and play, and taught to lounge in the sun. Not bad for five days of lessons.)

Rocky with Big Ollie
A lounger in the sun

Rocky has a long way to go. He will need months of gentle rehabilitation, of learning to trust. But I see a glimmer in his eyes that wasn’t there when he first came to us. And the blanket of sadness that he carried, is starting to lift, just a little.

Rocky with new friend Maisie

We all need friends, unconditional love, and a quiet acceptance that we are okay.

Rocky will be okay.

The Blind One Who Sees

In my book, The Great & the Small, the old blind rat, Balthazar, cries out for the rat colony to seek truth. As in fiction, those who stand up for truth in real life face grave risks.

We don’t want to see. We cling to our mythologies, our reasons why we can’t be whatever we secretly dream of, and most of all, we resist change. We resist change to the point that change-makers, those daredevils who scoff at the status quo, take their lives in their hands. Or paws. Depending upon species.

Balthazar reaches a level of heroism I can only aspire to—after all, isn’t that what writers do? We explore our own dark corners and wonder what could be? But heroism isn’t just for characters in a book. It is for us. Each one of us.

Every day that we take an extra second before pronouncing judgement that something is “good,” or something is “bad,” we take a step toward heroism. Every time we truly look into someone’s eyes, whatever their species, and try to understand, we step forward. Whenever we listen to the words of those who supposedly know, and question…we inch closer.

Time is short. And knowing this, perhaps we can take that stand, listen harder, look deeper, and seek truth.


And We Will Light Up This World



Why does the change of a number, 2018 to 2019, feel like a chance to take another try at things that have eluded us in the past? After all, every day, every moment, we have the chance to make different decisions, to live more fully, to wake up a bit more. But there is something about a new year that feels different…


2018 was a hard year. Midway through I had already dubbed it “The Great Scouring,” when assumptions I’d had were challenged, when my most cherished dreams were upended, and when everything I thought I knew was on the table. To be honest, I am glad it’s January 2019, and not 2018.


And yet…


2018 taught me that my worth isn’t measured in dollar signs. It taught me that the fate of the world is not just in my hands, but in the hands of a human collective worldwide that is working to bring true justice, unity, and dignity to all life. It taught me that in the face of corruption, cynicism, violence, and extremism, there are people of goodwill who will not back down. It taught me that doing something for love is, in the end, the only real reason to do something. Love transforms. It lights the darkness. It is the underlying purpose of life, running through the length of our days like an underground river.


Yes, every day I can make choices. Every day, I can wake up a little more. But now, at the break of a new year, I consciously choose to live more fully in each moment, to let go of trying to control the future, to be here, now. I consciously choose to reject the many messages of society which teach me that I am not enough. I choose love.


In 2019, if enough of us choose love, we will light up this world.



The Book of Negroes–A Review

THE BOOK OF NEGROES was as brilliant as I thought it would be. It follows Aminata Diallo, a young African girl in the mid-1700’s, in her village, until she is kidnapped by slavers. She is forced to walk naked to the coast, where she is branded, and stuffed into a slave ship bound for the new world.

The account of what life was like for those stolen from their homes, bound in heavy chains and thrown into the hold of the slave ship was no doubt based on historical accounts. It was hard to read. I kept imagining what it must have been like. How would you go on? Some didn’t. Some people flung themselves into the ocean, or committed suicide by attacking the crew. Although the events depicted occurred over 200 years ago, there was little comfort in that. The prejudices that allow for one person to do to another such heinous acts are still alive and well. This is not just a tale of yesteryear, but a story of today. How we treat groups of people that we see as “other;” how we allow horrors to occur for them, that we would never want for ourselves.

Aminata Diallo narrates the story, and through her unflinching honesty, dignity, and wry humor, we walk through events that would shatter most people. She is highly intelligent, and learns on the fly how to navigate the new culture in which she finds herself. Through the beginning and middle of the book, her life is recounted in detail. My one critique of the book is that as she ages, there is less detail and more summary of events. That aside, it is a powerful narrative, told by a heroic woman. While she is fictional, she represents the thousands and thousands of heroes who survived against all odds to make a life—if not for themselves, then for their children and grandchildren.

On a side note: while slavery is illegal on paper, there are millions of modern-day slaves working in agriculture, in the fishing industry, in the sex trade, and many other areas. The issue of viewing some people as “other,” continues. There are abolitionist groups that are working to make change, and to finally, finally, free the slaves. Some groups are: Free the Slaves ( , Beyond Borders ( Modern Abolitionist Coalition (on Facebook under the same name), and the Frederick Douglass Foundation (  There is also a course through FutureLearn called, “Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition (  which I took, and highly recommend.

While THE BOOK OF NEGROES dives deep into the depravity to which human beings are capable, it is also about the human spirit—its strength, its inherent beauty, its stubborn hope against towering odds.

The Great & the Small…AWARD WINNER!

The Great & the Small has won high honors in the 2018 Literary Classics Book Awards, winning the ELOQUENT QUILL Award! It also won GOLDS in the “Upper Middle-Grade” and “Epic” categories. The Great & the Small has won several silver medals in 2018, but this is its first gold! I’m very excited, and very honored!



This book has been, and continues to be, a “heart” project for me, one that I had to write, if I ever wanted to get a good night’s sleep again! An author never knows if anyone else will connect with their book, and it is gratifying to know that this book resonates with so many people!


The Great & the Small–Top 10 List

Thank you to reviewer Scott Cahan for adding The Great & the Small to his Top 10 list for 2018. Scott is an author/illustrator and wrote a beautiful, thoughtful review. It means a lot that he added it to his favorites for 2018.

Here’s the link to Scott’s list, and to his blog:

My Favorite Books of 2018