SPARK, A Mother-Daughter Journey

Sophia Rae and Jenny Kierstead

Hi, this is Jenny Kierstead and Sophia Rae, a Mother-Daughter duo. We’ve been through a lot together the last few years. As we moved through COVID self-isolation, we also dealt with our own traumatic grief from the massacre here in NS, which claimed the life of Jenny’s sister, and Sophia’s Aunt, Lisa McCully. We decided to channel our desire to spark a light amidst the darkness by creating this podcast.Our hope for this podcast is to ignite honest, whole-hearted conversations that bridge the generational gap, heal trauma and light the path for a healthy, united future.

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Episodes

Moving from loneliness to connection
Dec 21 2023
Moving from loneliness to connection
In this episode, Sophia and I discuss the epidemic of loneliness, which millions are suffering from around the world.We open with the surprising detrimental effects that loneliness has on our mental and physical health, like how it rewires our brains and increases inflammation markers.What's tricky about loneliness, however, is that we often can't just go out and remedy the issue, because it's contingent on our social skills, the nature of our communities and the proximity of loved ones. Complicated right? What we didn't speak about is how much more prevalent loneliness is in marginalized racial groups, people with low incomes and those who struggle with mental health issues. With this understanding, as we move through the holiday season, perhaps we can be aware of those people in our community who might be at a greater risk and extend ourselves to them in a way that's safe for all. Because we're human, we've both had personal experiences with loneliness, which we share about along with the tools we used to move through it. We can all take action to create a more connected life and we share a few easy things that we can implement starting today.Sophia finishes with her amazing debut song, Lonely, which she co-wrote with Juno Award Winner Meaghan Smith and ECMA Award Winning Producer, Jason Mingo. Lonely is now streaming on all platforms, so please download the song, have a listen and let us know your thoughts on her intriguing  preference to be lonely instead of surviving in a toxic relationship. Congratulations Sophia and thanks everyone for being a part of the SPARK community!
Repair and Recovery: The key to lasting relationships
Nov 10 2023
Repair and Recovery: The key to lasting relationships
This stellar conversation is the fourth and final episode (for now) with our champion guest speaker, Sophia's Dad, and my hubby, Blair Abbass. We begin with updates on our lives since we chose to postpone our pod to give our chat with Cindy Thompson from A Resilience Project Podcast its full moment in the sun. It was a difficult one, but a beautifully honest chat on our journey and how we're doing post trauma. If you haven't listened yet, visit: We also had the honor of speaking with Nancy Regan on The Canadian Love Map, about our mother-daughter relationship and how we make it work. To listen, visit:Sophia starts by letting us in on all the big decisions and growth she's doing in her final year of public school. It's so amazing to hear her perspective on these colossal choices like which uni to attend etc.I share about my new, and thankfully fully treatable diagnosis, and the symbolism behind learning to skillfully use my voice.We then move into our conversation with this amazing therapist and educator, Blair Abbass, who opens the topic of repair by emphasizing the hazards of blindly blaming others.We dive into the whole idea of repair, what it means to each of us and why it's essential if we are to have healthy, lasting relationships. Personal responsibility, self-worth, education and  boundaries are but a few solutions we discuss. What about you? What does repair mean to you and what's required in order to return to love with those who matter most in your life? We encourage you to discuss this concept with your people, perhaps using this episode as a conversation starter. As always, we want to hear how it goes and know that we appreciate every rating and response you share with us.Peace to all, Sophia, Jenny and Blair
Musicians, Meaghan Smith and Jason Mingo, on success in the industry and in parenting.
Jun 23 2023
Musicians, Meaghan Smith and Jason Mingo, on success in the industry and in parenting.
In this exciting SPARK episode, we chat with the one of a kind duo, singer/songwriter Meaghan Smith and her producer husBAND, Jason Mingo. It's fascinating to hear about them starting out, living and working in LA with the likes of renowned producer Greg Kurstin (who also worked with Pink and Tegan), and how Jason found inspiration in his modest recording set up that still enabled him to produce stellar work. Jason's work recently earned him the ECMA Musician Achievement Award.But aside from the easy topic of success, Jason also speaks candidly about the complication of being a sensitive male in this culture.One of his favourite phrases that he practices regularly is "You may be right", a sharp departure from men's prevelent need to be right and have all the answers.They also speak about how they've both chosen to ignore traditional gender roles in order to equally contribute to their work and parenting.Meaghan shares openly about when she became pregnant a decade ago and the rock bottom moment that followed when they lost their record label and management etc. They both speak about the mental and physical toll that took on their health and eventually, how they rebuilt their lives to reflect both their love of music and family. Ready for these precious words of wisdom? Meaghan explains how perfection affected her early creative years, which she now views as simply a fear of rejection. She now chooses to create from love, enabling her to be more honest and more herself.Finally, as full-time residents of NS, they share how they compose custom songs for people and produce for the entertainment industry all over the world, allowing them to provide a consistent homelife for their two little ones. What was so special for Sophia was when Meaghan spoke about her mentorship role with Sophia and how she wants to provide her with everything she didn't have starting out. Jason agrees that the industry needs more mentorship for supporting the up and coming artists in the field of music and entertainment. Listen in to hear Meaghan's candid response to a former manager who told her to be 'realistic'.And finally, Meaghan's closing statements: "I want to see more of this tending to our spiritual and emotional needs. Afterall, we're artists because we want to create an alternative reality, since so many of us are wounded. You can't stay sick so you can keep creating music, there needs to be healing too. I believe it's possible to have creativity and wellness co-exist."
Three Generations- A Mothers Day Special
May 11 2023
Three Generations- A Mothers Day Special
In this very special Mother's Day episode, we chat with Emily Kierstead, my (Jenny's) mother, Sophia's grandmother and a woman who's lost three of her four children.  The three generations discuss Mom's early years when she bravely left NB to attend theological college in Toronto, which women didn't commonly do back then, and how that experience shaped her career in ministry and teaching. She speaks tenderly about her first child, Jennifer, who was stillborn at full term and the faith in a happier future that enabled her to not only try again, but again, and again (yay me!). The conversation became very raw as we spoke about the loss of her son, Jonathan, in 2017 and her daughter, Lisa, in 2020, which she describes as 'heavy trauma', but that she appreciates the gift of having been mother to these incredible souls.Emily shares about the importance of friendship, partnership and passions that have kept her afloat, along with character traits, such as gratitude and hope. We didn't mention him, but Grandpa Don (who's soon to be 90), was sitting beside us the whole time, supporting the process."It seems my life has been a dance between gratitude and grief" she says near the end, which just about sums up the human experience for all of us, if we're fortunate enough to view it that way.Thank you Mom for spending time with us, just one week after your hip surgery, and thank you Sophia for transporting and setting up the tech equipment to make this sacred connection possible. On a final note, we just want to acknowledge how difficult these relationships can be. If you are struggling to connect with a mother, grandmother, or daughter, know that we understand, and we hope that you can find a message in this conversation that might help you to move toward healing and peace.
The three forbidden C’s: Conflict, Confrontation and Communication
Mar 23 2023
The three forbidden C’s: Conflict, Confrontation and Communication
In this episode, this mother-daughter duo discusses the uncomfortable, yet necessary topic of conflict and confrontation. Sophia starts us off with a quote from the Guardian: “Confrontation is the willingness to address difficult topics, while conflict is the willingness to engage in tense interpersonal relationships” We discuss our relationship with conflict and confrontation and marvel at the generational differences in how we react to them (hint, Sophia’s great with confrontation, Jenny’s preference is avoidance). Jenny suggests that our relationship with conflict might be a spectrum, where on the far left we find the conflict seeker and on the far right we find the conflict avoider. We all tend to live somewhere on that spectrum (a great point of discussion with your family members).We dive into the whole gamut of passive aggression and undelivered communication punishment by ghosting (which can feel worse than outright violence because of its sneaky nature). We both wholeheartedly agree that we’re always communicating somehow, even if we’re avoiding conflict by remaining silent. We also ask ourselves if our comfort with conflict is based on nature or nurture, or a bit of both. Ultimately, we agree that when faced with conflict, we could also stand to keep in mind that we all want intimacy and healthy relationships. So the next time we enter into conflict with another person, we can ask ourselves if our behavior aligns with the highest outcome for the situation.We conclude that neither being a conflict seeker or avoider is better or worse. The key is to become familiar with your triggers and instincts around conflict and then eventually, have the awareness to choose the best approach depending on your situation. The takeaway? Facing conflict is something we women, younger and older, could stand to practice more skillfully.We hope this episode inspires honest conversations with your loved one’s, leading to greater trust and connection.
The silent devastation of living with an eating disorder
Mar 8 2023
The silent devastation of living with an eating disorder
Happy International Women's Day everyone! In this episode, we begin with the IWD mandate: Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. From there, we springboard into our topic of eating disorders, which we've chosen because these life threatening disorders affect 1 in 12 Canadians today and there's a 2 year wait list for treatment.We also chose this topic because Jenny almost lost the battle to anorexia in her teens and miraculously recovered through the help of the healing methods of yoga and meditation that she's devoted her life to sharing. Sophia also shares about her experience with disordered eating as she moves through her post-acne phase and how her OCD tendencies could have very well taken her down a dangerous path.Then, the amazing, the determined, Shaleen Jones, Executive Director of Eating Disorder NS, joins the conversation and shares about the roadblocks and successes she's experienced over the last 20 years spearheading this organization that has supported people of all ages through their recovery. She finishes with her hopes for the future with regards to women and body peace.For anyone who has struggled with disordered eating that's consumed too much your life energy and mental real estate, this is a conversation that will give you faith that recovery and life beyond food obsession is possible, afterall, we're living proof!Access resources at: https://eatingdisordersns.ca/
Way of the Peaceful Warrior- with bestselling author Dan Millman
Apr 21 2022
Way of the Peaceful Warrior- with bestselling author Dan Millman
*Potential Sensitive Content Warning*We are thrilled to introduce Dan Millman, who’s been transforming humanity for over 40 years, with his dedicated work on personal development and human potential. Author of PEACEFUL HEART, WARRIOR SPIRIT: the True Story of my Spiritual Quest, Dan is a former world trampoline champion, Stanford University gymnastics coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. His 18 books are published in 29 languages and his first book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, was adapted to film in 2006. As we mark the 2-year anniversary of the April 18-19th mass shooting in NS, we are so moved that Dan opened his schedule up to be with Sophia and I and give this gift to our people, many of whom are still hurting and confused.For what would have been Lisa’s 51st birthday, I, Jenny, posted this quote from Way of The Peaceful Warrior “Be happy now, without reason - or you never will be at all.” We started our chat by discussing the idea of happiness and how it’s possible to experience joy even amidst the grieving process. Dan exquisitely described the crushing pain of grief and how it softens over time, allowing us to move from grief into gratitude. He makes mention of mud and stars and how we always have a choice to see mud or stars in every moment.  He then describes success as making progress toward a meaningful goal and emphasizes the importance of taking action, sometimes small action, to help move us into a different place when we’re suffering. Dan invites us all to consider what we want to bring into the world, and the answer is something we can all work toward. We are most grateful for Dan’s wisdom teachings and we encourage you to visit:  www.PeacefulWarrior.com for his books, events, online courses, and free life-purpose calculator. We are also deeply grateful to you, our listeners and friends, for walking this path with us as we work to create meaningful change in the wake of the NS tragedy.
The Olympic Dream- with 3x Olympian Karen Furneaux
Apr 1 2022
The Olympic Dream- with 3x Olympian Karen Furneaux
In this episode, Sophia and Jenny share reflections on their public speaking to a school in NB, and have a good chuckle at Jenny’s rather intense approach to health and healing with grade eights. They discuss the training opportunities coming up with Women of Light and Girl on Fire Empowerment, and share some excitement about their upcoming visit to California. The conversation with Strong Beauty author, Karen Furneaux begins with the acknowledgment of what a generous and kind person Karen is and how much light she shines into the world. She then describes her journey as a young athlete, driven by big dreams who eventually joins the ranks of the small percentage of athletes who actually realize their Olympic dream. Karen discusses her rituals on the water that helped her to enter the flow state before every kayak race and the importance of breath for connecting her mind to her body, which she claims is a key factor in any performance. She shared about her transition from the role of athlete to that of CBC broadcaster and how she’s learned to view new beginnings as exciting, in order to manage stress and anxiety. Conversation closes with Karen‘s passion for speaking to students and her new role with kids help phone. She finds it deeply gratifying to support someone through their darkest moments, and we are all so blessed to have people like Karen walking the earth. To find Karen Furneaux, visit @strongbeautytribe on IG, And Karen Furneaux on FB
Life after Tragedy
Mar 17 2022
Life after Tragedy
As the Public Inquiry into the mass shooting of April 18-19th was approaching, the Mass Casualty Commission asked the public how the massacre has affected their lives?Sophia shares honestly about how unrecognizable she was right after the events. She withdrew from socialization for a year and a half and dealt with her feelings of hopelessness and fear by micro-managing her environment with A LOT of OCD tendencies. We talk about big picture questions, like "Why now, with the girls so young (they were 11 and 13)?" and "Why us, why our family?" Sophia expresses how important it was for her to process it all with us, since it might have been too much for her friends.She talks about her school experience, post massacre, during a pandemic. She wanted to talk about it and no one acknowledged it.She wishes someone would approach her and say, "I'm holding space for you and I want you to know I'm here for you, for whatever you need."This experience has inspired Sophia to increase awareness into trauma-informed best practices.After a small poll regarding trauma with her peers, she concluded that the majority of teens have been traumatized.Jenny talked about the prevalence of traumatized kids and how they act out to cope. She believes trauma literacy needs to become more of a priority in all of our workplaces.Jenny shared a quote by John Eldredge "The accumulation of event after event that we're assaulted by, erodes our confidence that we are a part of something grand and good and reduces us to a survival mindset." She then went on to share the common feelings of being anxious, overwhelmed, scared, irritable like a wild animal, much of the time after the April event.Jenny notices that her life is divided into life before and life after the massacre.She has noticed way more fear and has grown super cautious.And anger? Jenny notices a deep rage surface when she sees her sister's name on the news in google. She's thankful she's got tools to self-regulate, like RBC (relax, breath, choose) which she explains in her Mindfulness in Schools Manual.Both agreed that it's too much to take in for a reasonable mind, since what he did was in such a state of insanity.We hope this conversation supports your own healing journey. We invite you too to talk it out, with a family member or a professional, because it really does help. We’d love to hear your feedback so feel free leave a review!