Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memories of the farm.

When I was a little girl, about six or seven I'd say, we lived in a town at the edge of the prairies. It was a small town, maybe 1,000 people except for the air force base which swelled the population by another 2 maybe 3 thousand. But I could be wrong. The town could have been larger, or even smaller. And there could have been more military, or less.

Memory's like that. It's not good with numbers.

On a good day, and only if I rode my bike to the top of the hill that rose behind the 'base' where we lived, I could see the mountains, far off in the distance, sprawling across the western skyline. "Blocking the view," as one farmer called it.

There was a farm there. An old woman and a man owned it. At least, in my memory they seemed old. I don't remember their names, though I like to think they were 'The Frasers'. Mr. and Mrs. Fraser. I don't remember any children either. Just Mr. and Mrs. Fraser, a black and white dog, lots of cats, chickens and a cow.

On Saturdays my father and I, and sometimes my sister, would drive to the farm and buy eggs. Farm fresh eggs were the best, my father told us. Clear of everything. No pollutants. And when we got home he'd demonstrate. Show us the difference in the colour of the yolk. Pale yellow for store bought. Bright orange for the farm fresh. "See. Clear. Fresh. No pollutants," he'd say.

Like the prairie sky above us. Clear of everything. No pollutants.

He used to say that every time we drove down the highway towards, 'the city' to the south. My father would drive and point out the gas flares and say, "That's pure Alberta air. Best clean air in the world."

On the farm, Mr. and Mrs. Fraser grew accustomed to my arrival during the hot summer days. Short legs pedalling my bike up the gravel drive. Long black hair flying about my face. I'd pull into their yard unannounced, wave, jump off my bike, (I think it might have been green), drop it to the ground and walk over to pet the dog. He'd always greet me, black tail wagging, mouth open, tongue flopping. He'd make a fuss and Mr Fraser would admonish him, "Down Rufus," and while I don't clearly remember if that was his name, it somehow seems fitting in my memory to call him that, "Rufus."

After the greetings were over Mrs. Fraser would invite me in for a glass of lemonade. "Come in. come in, child," she'd say as she opened the creaking screen door to their kitchen. And I'd go in. Happily. I'd sit at their Formica kitchen table, its surface covered by a sheet of clear plastic and drink my lemonade and watch the goings on of the farmyard.

I chattered a lot back in those days. Everyone said so. I chattered up a storm, no matter the weather, and asked lots of questions. Question after question after question.

I imagine I asked Mrs. Fraser where all her children were. And in some dim recess of my memory I feel the fragment of a memory tingling. There was a tragedy, somewhere in the not too distant past. A son. Lost. An accident I think, involving some piece of farm equipment.

It happens, Mr. Fraser said. It happens. And I imagine he put one arm awkwardly around Mrs. Fraser's shoulders as she twisted a corner of her apron in her hands.

Those days on the Fraser's farm happened many years ago.

We moved to France after that where I stayed for many years. I remember the day our plane landed. I looked out at the patchwork network of farms neatly stitched together as far as the eye could see. Occasionally, a town was stitched into the fabric of the land, a pocket of activity where people met and lived and talked and led lives beyond my prairie imaginings.

Those farms were vastly different than the prairie farms of my childhood. Those farms were small and compact. You didn't live 'on the farm' in France. You lived in the town and rode out to your land on tractors, and sometimes your bicycle. Not much had changed on the land, though centuries had passed and farmlands had passed down from hand to hand to sons and daughters who still worked the land and lived in the towns where they were born.

On the prairies, farms were vast and lives unfolded far from neighbours and other folk. Farms passed from hand to hand but those hands were not as caked in the mud of years gone by. Those hands were not as worn into the soil of centuries passing by.

On the prairies, wide open spaces called. Children left their father's farms and ventured into the cities. Children wandered far from the land upon which they were born, the land their father's father and mother cultivated by hand a few short decades ago, their dreams for the years to come expanding out across the prairies, as far as the eye could see.

I remember that farm of childhood wonder. There was freedom there. Freedom and comfort. A place to call home. A place to belong, to be welcome, to be happy. Those wide-open spaces call to me still. They beckon me to leave the city sidewalks and wander out beneath the cerulean arc of clear blue sky calling me to open up to the expansiveness of life all around me.

Prairie grasses sweep out to that place where the horizon gobbles up the east. To the west, jagged peaks soar skyward touching the heavens with every upward thrust of their craggy tips, "blocking the view," as that farmer said long ago.

And still the prairies sprawl. Vast. Golden. Inviting.

I've never gone back to visit The Frasers. Never gone to see if their farm still stands, rusted mailbox at the edge of the drive where it meets the road taking you away from farmhouse to city life to living off the land far away.

I've never gone back. Perhaps someday I will.


It's blog carnival Tuesday and today's one word prompt is "Farm".

To read more wonderful posts on the prompt, FARM, drop on by and set awhile at Peter Pollock's place. You'll be grateful for the rest on the dusty road of life.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Common Ground

For the first three months of the year, I met once a week at 7am with police officers from District 1 to talk about homelessness, their concerns, issues, ideas and suggestions on what can be done to work more effectively with the homeless shelter where I work.

At times, the discussions became heated, tense. At times, their comments bordered on what I judged to be -- the ridiculous, the hard-nosed, hard-lined, hard-hearted perception of the agency I work for and the people we serve, that did not provide a common ground upon which to create a cooperative working relationship.

My judgements did not serve my purpose well. My judgements did not create harmony -- and had I stayed mired in their sticky mass, my 'mudgements' would have kept us working on two sides of the fence. They would have held us pinioned to the 'us and them' thinking that did not serve anyone well.

Something had to give -- it may as well be my judgements.

After three months of meeting and talking and listening to their frustrations, their perceptions of what we do and why we do it and how we could do it better, we found a common ground. In our conversations I discovered places where, because we did not understand the parameters of their job, we were actually making their job harder. In our procedures we were contravening the tenets of the lawful execution of their job. And so, we made changes. On both sides of the fence. And in those changes, the fence lowered, common ground appeared and we found ways to work cooperatively and effectively together.

As I told the officers in each session. "You work in the black and white landscape of the law. Our world isn't even in the grey. It's a multi-coloured rainbow of humanity swirling together in a big vat of hues mixing up everything we do."

Since those meetings we've created Standard Operating Procedures that are working to align our services and our attitudes.

This morning, I begin the round of talks with another district. This district is across the river from the shelter. One of their beliefs is.... their problems are stemming from the people on 'our side' of the river, moving over to 'their side'. As police crack down on drug dealing on 'our side' of the river, the 'bad guys' are moving over to 'the other side' of the river, causing discord and criminal activity in their neighbourhood to rise.

In these sessions I have one major purpose. To listen.

I am not there to judge. To even try to change their minds. I am there to hear what is said, and to find a way to create openings for us to work together on common ground.

And, because the sessions begin so early, I must run!

Wish me luck. As we begin this round of talks, emotions can run high, extremes, intransigence, rigid backs can appear.

I must remind myself throughout the sessions to breathe, to open up to expansion, to be open. Their opinions are not 'about me'. Their feelings are not personal -- about me. They are, their thoughts, their words, their ideas. My job is to open up the common ground and let it begin with me.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm not losing my mind!

I have been worried about my brain.

Thinking (at least I know I can still do that!)... maybe I'm losing my mind.

Maybe it's early onset Alzheimer or dementia that is causing me to forget the simple things. Like the name of a former co-worker with whom I spent a week at a conference in San Francisco -- how could I forget her name? Or, when I walk into a room with a purpose and that purpose is lost in trying to remember why I walked into the room in the first place.

Gotta find my brain. Gotta locate my dimming braincells. Have I lost my mind?

Gotta figure out where it's going, if only I could remember where I put it!

But..... now there's good news! Researchers have found out there is power in this 'ole middle aged brain. and man! Can it is a muscle of cognitive power!

Yup -- my cognitive abilities are at an all time high, even as my libido wanes and my waist thickens. how's that for mixed blessings?

The video below gives me hope, and encouragement. It also makes me feel a whole lot better!

For you middle-agers out there... don't give up. You're not losing your mind. You're just busy figuring everything out!

Happy Sunday!

Now... what did I plan on doing with my day? Oh right. I'm off to the Lilac Festival. We've got a booth and will be selling WHERE. Check us out if you're in town. If not, check it out here!

In the meantime -- get inspired by this RSA speak by The New York Times' health and science editor Barbara Strauch, author of, The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain (looks like a must read for this middle-age brain!). I discovered this gem at William Harryman's Integral Options Cafe blog. Watch it -- You'll be inspired and reassured! It's not you. It's just your brain! And all is well with the brain -- and it can be better yet!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The best dang story (a poem)

It's a Short Story Slam over at Bluebell Books blog today, and I'm participating, just for the fun of it!

The prompt is this photo of John Wayne and the invitation is to write a short story or poem based on the prompt.

Here's my contribution. To read more -- ride on over to Bluebell Books and enjoy the Short Story Slam (week 2)!

The best dang story

They called him
was his ride
He sat tall
and proud
eyes squintin'
into the distance
where she carried him
ore the plains
through many a stormy
with pistol shot
lashed winds
tangled up
in places where
the 'twain never
did meet
on the wide open
of his dreams
in the wind.



through a long
dusty prairie
of the best dang
wild west
ever told.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Moments of grace

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear. Aung San Suu Kyi
I visited the other day with a man who spent 23 years in prison for a sex-related murder he didn't commit. He was 16 when he went to prison. 39 when he was released though it would be another five years before he was exonerated and cleared of the murder for which he spent so many years behind bars.

He is not a bitter man.

He is not twisted nor hell-bent on revenge.

He is kind. Caring. Gentle.

I asked him, "How have you kept your... freshness."

"I like that word," he replied before going on to tell me of his struggle to find the light and how now, having found it, he will not, cannot step into the darkness again.

He has a philosophy for it -- the fire philosophy. "Every day you have to put something into the fire that will fuel your dreams. Keep putting things into the fire, no matter what, and eventually you'll get the future you dream of."

I am in awe.

For this man, giving people the opportunity to experience moments of grace is a calling, a quest, a necessity. "We all need to experience moments where we know we are special," he told me. And he is committed, read that, compelled, to help others find their moments.

And he does. Help others. It's in his DNA.

Not the DNA that was found in the semen on the dead woman's clothing. That belonged to another man who eventually was convicted and imprisoned for that brutal murder along with several other sex offences.

His DNA is one of truth and justice. Of helping his fellow human being find those moments of grace where they know -- they have significance, they are significant. They count.

He helps people shine and being in his presence I felt the glow of greatness. Of significance. Of truth and beauty of the human spirit in flight.

I am in awe.

And I am humbled by this gentle man who has found that state of grace to give back so that others can receive.

Here's to you David Milgaard. You are a true Canadian hero and I thank you for the light you shine with such grace and ease you illuminate the path for all of us to follow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let me. (a poem)

This morning over at Ruth's blog, synch-ro-ni-zing, she shares a prose poem, Skin, which was inspired by a photo she took of a deer skin left to wither on a fence post. It is a powerful photo and poem and as I read her words, the image of this poem started to form in my mind.

I'm not sure where it comes from (though I have an idea) but that is for more pondering. As always though, when the muse calls, I heed her voice, giving room for her to express what must be released. And as always, I am grateful for her presence inspired by someone else's words connecting me through the flow of creativity. Thanks Ruth!

Let Me

Let me
flesh against flesh
red and blue
veins flowing
arteries pumping
bone against bone.

Let me
into sinewy
strung like telephone wire
linking cells
flush with life
pushing back against
your tourniquet
bound heart
in fear
of being touched.

Let me
peel back
the layers of your
skeletal matters
of who you were
before time
exposed you
on a bed of
black on white truth
beyond the pale
of dreams lost
running cold
against your flesh
pierced by a warriors arrow
long before
could heal
all wounds.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I can't wait

It was just a phrase I used to describe my anticipation of Diane Walker's exploration of a technique she's discovered using Photoshop. "I can't wait to receive the gift of your explorations," I wrote.

And it's true. Given the beauty of the photo she's posted today over at her blog, Contemplative Photography, I'm excited to see what wonders she comes up with.

What struck me, however, was the contradiction within the phrase, "I can't wait".

Taken literally, that phrase begs the question, "So, what am I going to do about it?"

Hello? I don't really have any option do I? Until Diane posts another image, wait I must.

So, why tell myself, I can't wait, knowing I must?

It's a phrase often used in prose and song and poetry. A phrase meant to express our anticipation of something, someone, someday when... we won't have to wait any longer for whatever we're looking for.

Yesterday, as I stood talking to a client on the second floor of the shelter where I work two women walked towards us. A man approached. The older of the two women immediately stepped in front of the younger woman and told the man to 'get lost'.

The man was incensed. The trio began a heated dialogue, spiced with expletives and threats of what one would do to the other if... Front line staff quickly intervened. The drama was defused and everyone walked away.

The man with whom I'd been speaking looked at me and said, "I can't wait to get out of here."

"When will that be?" I asked.

"Soon," he replied. "Soon." And he went on to explain the many reasons why his wait couldn't end today.

Just then the intercom buzzed and I was requested to come down to reception. I bid the man good-bye, wishing him luck in his quest to leave the shelter. As I passed the two women who had played such a vital role in the drama we'd witnessed earlier, I overheard the older woman tell the younger what she'd do to the man who had tried to talk to her. "I can't wait to get him alone outside," she insisted. "I'll teach him how to treat a lady."

And there it was again. That phrase. "I can't wait."

Now, I'd like to tell you I intervened at that point and talked to the two women about the incident, but I didn't. My mind was focused on the visitor I was on my way to greet and the meeting I had next. I'll have to wait for another opportunity.

And that's the rub. My purpose in life is to 'ignite joy in an enlightened world'.

Waiting to do it until the time is right, or I have more time, just doesn't work. Living on purpose can't wait.

What can't wait, what mustn't wait, is what I can and am doing about my world today.

I can't wait to change what isn't working in my life today.

I can't wait to stop doing what brings me down.

I can't wait to do whatever will lift me up.

Those things I can and must do today. I don't have to wait until some distant date. Some moment in time in the future when I quit waiting and start telling myself, "It's true. I can't wait any longer. It's time for me to do it, NOW."

I can wait for Diane to post her new images. I have no choice. Her life is in her hands. When and if she posts her new work, I'll be the grateful recipient of the gift of witnessing their beauty on her blog.

I can't wait to change what isn't working for me in my life today.

I can't sit around any longer waiting for 'someday' to arrive.

Someday is now. It's time to live it NOW.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 21st has come and gone.

It came. It went. May 21st. The rapture. The last day. Doomsday.

It didn't happen. But it's still coming -- at least that's the latest news. October 31st this time. We've been warned. It's time to prepare ourselves.

What May 21st did bring was an anniversary. One I didn't even notice until the next day when it struck me -- May 21st. That day has significance for me. What is it?

And then I remembered.

May 21st. 9:14 am. A clear blue sky day when my world changed from dark and gloomy to possibility. Maybe I would survive. Maybe I would be free of the past. Maybe I would smile again.

It just took one moment. One event to change my world for the better.

On May 21st, 2003 at 9:14 a.m. a blue and white police car drove up and I got the miracle of my life. Two police officers stepped out of the car and arrested a man who I believed held my destiny in his hands. I believed there was no other place for me than in his unholy arms.

and then, he was arrested on that morning eight years ago and I was set free.

I thought I'd never forget that morning. I thought I'd never notice that date's passing without being reminded of those dark days.

For all the hype, for all the news attention, I never connected doomsday to those events. I never connected the calendar date this year to that occasion.

Healing is a gift that sweetens with time.

I am blessed by the sweetness of my life today.

I am blessed to have had eight years to heal and to know -- no one can ever take my dignity, my hopes and dreams, no one can ever tell me who I am -- unless I give them the power to do so.

Once upon a time, I was lost.

Today, I am free and in my freedom, the memories of those days fade as I joyfully embrace living this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now.

I have heaven on earth today when I live fearlessly in Love -- moving with grace and ease as I let go of limiting beliefs that would have me standing in the dark, fearling the light of day.

I am living in the light today. Living large and loving who I am, where I am, what I am. I am loving this life of mine and cherishing each moment as a gift, knowing it is my gift to share, to create, to enjoy.

May you live today filled with the knowing you are a child of God, the divine expression of amazing grace.

Whatever tomorrow may bring, today is ours to fill with wonder, to live in Love.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rainy days and Monday

"Rainy days and Monday always get me down". So sang the Carpenters in their 1971 hit.

It's gotta be tough being a Monday. The whole work-a-day world deplores you, groans and grumbles about your arrival, talks down to your necessity, decrying the need for 'Monday to ever come'.

It's gotta be tough being a Monday. Even the Mamas and Papas came out singing the blues where Monday was concerned. And if you do a google on the term, "Monday Songs" there are loads of songs listed, like The Bangles, Manic Mondays, and Tegan and Sara's, Monday Monday Monday. Several sites list, "Ten Monday Songs" and include the Boomtown's "I Hate Mondays".

Well, I don't hate Mondays though this one is kinda getting me down... It's raining and it's a Holiday Monday here in Canada. It's the day we celebrate our former Queen's birthday, being a former colony and all that. Right proper we are, we Canucks. Though I'm sure if you troll through the historical ledgers you'll find, the real reason we celebrate Queen Victoria Day is actually... because... collectively, as a nation, we have always hated Mondays and our forefathers wanted the day off in May!

Poor Monday. Just can't get no respect.

And on this Monday, rain falls and C.C. is loving Monday. All those plans. Flowing down the drain. Remember -- the one's where I had it all written out as to what would get done in the yard this holiday Monday? Well, hello rain. Good-bye chores. 'Cause they're not happening today!

Even Ellie the wonder dog is curled up fast asleep on her cushion.

No getting her out of bed this Monday.

Me, I love rainy days and Mondays. Another good reason to curl up with a book, a cup of tea and my favourite music playing lightly in the background.


Gotta love a rainy holiday Monday!

Hope your's is great, no matter the weather, 'cause if nothing else, Monday could sure use some support!

and, just to show Monday I don't mind it in any kind of weather, here's a link to Shaun Smith's Britain's Got Talent (it been Queen V day and all) audition in 2009 -- singing Bill Wither's Ain't No Sunshine -- ain't no sunshine here today but listening to Shaun sing sure does put a smile on my face!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Something

So.... I'm relaxing today and instead of blogging, I'm reading....

So... here's a special treat -- a poet in LA who is quite unusual -- both in his medium and words. Robert Montgomery's website describes him thusly: ROBERT MONTGOMERY WORKS IN A POETIC AND MELANCHOLIC POST-SITUATIONIST TRADITION

Not sure what that means, but I do like his use of billboards to share his urban poetry.

Enjoy your Sunday!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Making less of his condition

I am curious. By nature. And, I am curious when I see or read something that jars, or causes me to ask, "Why would he do that?"

In this case, a man in a wheelchair calls a reporter and publicly lambastes the city (which does a good job in most areas) of providing and ensuring accessibility for everyone is considered in design of public spaces. Road construction downtown has caused a gap in accessibility and the man lambastes our lack of consideration because of the lack of accessibility with this site for him and his wheelchair. As they put in new sidewalks a gap exists between concrete sidewalk and roadway. A gap too treacherous for a wheelchair user to traverse. He was stuck on one side of the street, unable to reach across the gap. Fortunately, passers-by come to his aid and carry his chair safely over the gap and to the other side of the street.

Good story. Good ending. Yup. And the flaw in planning needs to be exposed. Our thinking needs to be shaken. We need to be aware of the 'how what we do because it makes sense to our able-bodied perspective', impacts those with disabilities.

Is there a better way to pour new sidewalks to ensure, even in the process of creating, accessibility is considered?

Very important. To bring that awareness. To enter that discussion. To create those conversations.

Where I wonder, "why would he do that?" stems from his place of residence.

He doesn't live where he says. He lives in a homeless shelter.

And I wonder how the stigma of homelessness became so great he could not mention it when complaining about our insensitivity as a society to the needs of those with physical disabilities.

Did he believe it would undermine the value of drawing attention to the sidewalk gap?

Did he believe people would disregard him if he said he was homeless?

Did he fear being dismissed, that he would not be listened to?

Does he fear those things everyday? Does he experience them everyday.

I know he does.

It is the tragedy of homelessness.

And of being in a wheelchair.

Feeling less than, not because of your human condition, but rather because, our human perspective of your condition diminishes you to 'other than' what we deem, 'normal', or an appropriate condition of the human being.

It is sad. His fear of speaking up of what is true for his condition, makes less of his condition, for all of us, housed and homeless alike.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Inside Out -- makeovers

We are driving back to Calgary today. C.C. and I on the road south by south west. He's promised... really he has... to work on the yard with me this weekend. We're beginning to look like that one house in the neighbourhood that makes all the other houses look bad because of the discord on the yard.

I did finally get the Christmas boughs off the front porch though. And removed the miniature lighted Christmas trees from the walk. But the dead and spindly tree that was to have been picked up by 'the yard guy' has not yet been picked up. After Christmas 'the yard guy' had placed it upright in the snow with the intent of coming back to get it later.

For awhile, it looked rather nice. Tall and proud, branches still green and full. It looked like it was growing there. But then time took its toll. Needles began to fall. Branches to break and, by the time he returned to get it, the trunk was frozen solid into the ground. "I'll be back for it in the spring," he said.

Spring has sprung. The frost has left the ground and the tree toppled over in a windstorm and is now parked in rusty-coloured needleless disarray at the edge of the drive. I'm hoping 'the yard guy' gets there soon.

There's lots to be done. Our house is reaching that age where it needs more than just cosmetics to prop it up.

Like my body. No amount of cosmetic can cover the lines etched into my skin. And while I can't do much with the lines I can do a lot with the sagging skin and aching muscles. I can get working, get going, get doing more to stretch and build and tone and smooth bulging thighs and drooping waistlines.

It's been one of the many gifts of this past week. I've walked every day. Eaten healthily. Slept well and slowed down my hectic pace to a more manageable version of living life in the moment. I've not spent a great deal of time responding to emails or phone calls. I've not been checking into the office every hour -- yeah for me! I've disconnected as far as I can to give myself a chance to renew -- energy, passion, spirit.

And in that renewal is the realization -- I need to give myself medicine in the now. In the moment of living -- not at some distant date.

Like our house. It house is asking for tender loving care. For some attention to its needs in the moment so that it doesn't become shoddy and disheveled looking. so that it doesn't require major work to take care of the things that needed taking care of at the time.

Time to give it a make-over from the inside out. Think I'll join with it in making over my body too! Inside out -- here I come!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Indolent Daze

I wandered along the South Saskatchewan River yesterday, breathing in the warm spring air, feeling the sun against my skin. The trail winds along the shore, following the river's tract through the valley bottom. On the far shore, the verdant hillside gave way to houses lining the ridge above. The University sprawled in concrete and glass as cars whizzed across the bridge linking both shores. There were people in those cars. Going places. Getting to things.

I had nowhere defined to go. No thing necessary to do.

From my Iphone
It was pure luxury. A day of indolence and relaxation. A late start. A visit to a local cheese shop to pick up some delicacies for dinner at a friend of C.C.s who was cooking dinner that evening. A drive into the city to visit the Mendel Art Gallery where I spent a few delightful hours -- some of which were whiled away sitting in the conservatory watching a bumble bee busily buzzing amidst the flowers.

From there, I walked along the river and happened upon the Ukrainian Museum of Canada where I feasted on an entire room of specially commissioned William Kurelek paintings of life on a Ukrainian homestead -- quite stunning! Having little knowledge of the Ukrainian experience as early pioneers in Canada I was fascinated to learn about this unique and important element of our history. As I read about the flight from Russia, about families torn apart, about oppression and enforced servitude I was struck by the strength and courage of these peoples who populated the prairies.

Years ago I knew a woman named Peggy Armstrong who immigrated to Canada from England with her brand new husband shortly after the end of the first world war. She was 19 years old, a 'town girl' and unaccustomed to physical labour let alone living in the wilds of northern Alberta. Peggy and her husband homesteaded 300 km north of Edmonton and to have had the opportunity to hear her accounts of the trials and tribulations, and small and big triumphs, of those days was a wonderful gift.

Peggy, like the women portrayed in the various displays at the museum yesterday, exemplify true grit. They speak of determination. Commitment. Of getting the job done and putting aside ego and fear and hesitation.

To support their families, many men had to leave the land and take up jobs on the railroad or at factories in the cities. They had to leave behind the women and children who would clear the land, work the soil, harvest the crops in their absence. To claim their 160 acres at the end of the government allotted three years for ownership of their homesteads, there was no choice. It had to be done and so the women did it.

And while doing it, they reclaimed their cultural and religious heritage that had been oppressed for so long under the rule of other nations in their homeland. The museum is filled with examples of their handicrafts, fine embroidery, blouses and skirts and wedding dresses and hats. Beautiful hand woven rugs and all sorts of examples of Ukrainian art and history.

It was a fascinating journey back through time. One I'm glad I took.

The view of the river from my Iphone
And when I was finished I found a lovely restaurant overlooking the river, sat and enjoyed a salad and a glass of wine as I wrote in my journal or simply watched passers-by on the river pathway, or birds bobbing on the water.

Later, I met up with C.C. and his friends and spent a delightful evening of conversation, laughter and great food.

What could be better than a day filled with all of this?

I'm grateful. Relaxed. And happy.

All is well with my world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fr. Maillard's ode to joy

"At the center of your being, you have the answer;
you know who you are and you know what you want."

Lao Tzu

Mural on town wall commemorating 100th Anniversary of Gravelbourg.
I have left Gravelbourg. Travelled north to meet up with C.C. in Saskatoon. As I was leaving town I asked a man for directions. "Which way did you come into town?" he asked.

"From the west, through Swift Currant."

"Then follow the road east, to Highway 2 and head north," he replied. "You'll see the turn-off in 60 k. (kilometers) You can't miss it."

There is no question that I will go back the way I came. Only the belief I will continue on my journey, in new directions, upon new roads, seeking different views and experiences.

He was right -- on all counts. I couldn't miss the turn-off. It was the only one I came to. A t-junction. Little traffic.

There is only one road into Gravelbourg. And one road out. And both roads connect to highways further north heading east and west and further north.

I drove through more wide-open prairie, past farmland and grazing cattle, a lake filled with pelicans floating on its ruffled waters stirred by the wind that kept blowing. And I left behind the grandeur of this small prairie town with its majestic cathedral and turn of the century (20th not 21st) architecture that sits exposed to the winds and chills of prairie weather.

On a tour of the cathedral my guide told me that they don't use the upper balconies too often. "Way too cold up there in winter," he told me. "Though it's a nice place to be in summer when the heat is bearing down," he added.

There aren't enough people coming to church these days to warm up the place -- no matter the language of the service. French and English. There is one of each every Sunday. And sometimes, like last Sunday, there is an event, in this case, Confirmation. "The place was humming," he tells me. "It was nice to see it so full."

The Cathedral was constructed in 1919. An enormous structure built on the prayer that the elite of the province would be drawn south, that population would grow, that culture would thrive and this tiny town would become a mecca for religeuses and those seeking spiritual redemption, or just a place to renew their faith.

The growth didn't happen, but the draw and the beauty of the Cathedral has withstood time and politics and religious infighting to become a beacon of hope, of faith, of celebration of mankind through the work and commitment of one man, Fr. Charles Maillard.

He was 45 when he began his odyssey of painting along the Cathedral's walls and ceiling For the next ten years, Fr. Charles Maillard would dedicate his life to painting murals of the old and new testament in the style of the grand masters. Like Michelangelo, he spent time lying high up in the air on scaffolding that let him reach up so he could paint the ceiling, a brush in one hand, a mirror in the other. For the ten years it took him to complete his masterpiece along the walls, scaffolding lined two sides of the cathedral -- which is why there is no centre aisle, but two separate aisles in the interior of the space.

"Brides and grooms come down the separate aisles to meet at the altar," my guide tells me.

I like that idea. Two separate paths meeting as one at the front of the church.

Fr. Maillard, wanting the cathedral to have stained glass, but not having the money in the coffers to commission it at a time when the Depression was gripping the hearts and tightening the pocketbooks of everyone, originally painted the windows. Later, a patron paid for stained glass to be created that reflected Fr. Maillard's design exactly as he had painted them. Stunning. Beautiful. Inspiring.

I left Gravelbourg in awe of the people and the courage and commitment it took to build the town upon the hard-scrabble earth of the prairies.

I left Gravelbourg knowing that whatever happened to bring my father there, he could not have left without carrying with him some of that awe of its beauty. I remember visiting Cathedral de la Notre Dame with my father in Paris. He didn't like 'the church' -- its rules and political infighting. He didn't like the clergy, but he loved the architecture, the majesty, the soaring buttresses, the arches, the stained glass, the beauty of its spaces. He admired what man had created in the name of God, what they withstood so their faith could withstand the tests of time.

And I left knowing that had Gravelbourg not played a role in my father's history, I might never have visited this jewel upon the prairies. I might never have stood beneath glorious stained glass windows and said a silent prayer of gratitude.

Thank you Dad for bringing me here. Thank you for showing me the wonder of this place.

My father was an enigma throughout his life. In Gravelbourg I found him to be a part of the land. A part of a history that stands proudly in the midst of wide-open prairie beneath a cerulean sky that soars into infinity where all things are possible, all dreams come true. And where faith has room to be become the One through which we are all connected, no matter our beliefs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The journey

It has been an interesting journey. Beautiful sites. Lovely people. Interesting insights. Shifting perspectives. Time alone. Time spent experiencing the moment. The past. The present. The gifts of every moment.

And in it, the realization -- it isn't about 'finding my father', my father has always been there. Present as only he could be.

It is about me being present in the moment. Being in the moment of the journey. Being present to what is around me. Who is there. As they are. Not as I want to see them.

The mysteries still abound and in some ways are even thicker, more dense because of my searching.

My father's school records, at least from one year, still exist. They show an 11 year old boy who entered the school and in the first semester did abysmally. Last in his class on marks. The next semester, he's climbed to fifth in his class. A remarkable feat for one so young, the teacher who gave me a copy of the record told me. Most unusual.


And on the sheet, a note of the presence of his father. Residence, Mazonod. A small, now derelict, town ten kilometres from Gravelbourg. My father never mentioned his father was close by. He always said he was there alone. Is it possible his memories were fickle. Faulty.

Memory is like that. Fleeting. Fuzzy. Fickle. Faulty. Of the moment, memory loses clarity in moments past, moments passing, by, onward, forward, away from a time where experience clouds our perception of what is really happening.

For my father, a young boy torn from foreign soils, it must have been terrifying to stand on prairie lands after the gritty streets of London. To stand beneath soaring skies where during the day the sun shines fiercely bright and where at night, the stars glitter in sparkling splendour. The skies would have been different in London. Cloudy. Foggy. Softer. The night less resplendent of stars.

The shift, from city life hemmed in by bricks and mortar to farmlands stretching for miles all the way into tomorrow.

From bustling city streets going places you can name with the familiarity of childhood nursery rhymes to dusty country roads leading from nowhere you've ever heard of to places you've never imagined.

The change, from a mother's home to a place far away with a man who'd 'run away' when the marriage had broken down.

Were there fights? Arguments. Bitter words spoken in the breakdown of his familial home?

Was there animosity? Anger? Pain?

Most likely.

It is possible we will never know what really happened, but in the happening of searching, I found myself, again, in that place where I am at one with the One. At peace with the moment. At rest with the happenings.

I 'know' no more of my father than I did, but I 'know' so much more of who I am, of where I came from, of who he was than I ever imagined.

All is well with my world. Past and present. The future is yet to be lived.


As suggested by Maureen at Writing without Paper who posted a beautiful poem today. A Higher Moral Ground and subbmited it to Tuesdays Blog Carnival, I too have shared at Tuesday's Blog Carnival over at Peter Pollock's place.

The word for today is: Road.

I didn't know that until after I'd written my post -- but it is appropriate that I wrote of being on the road, of life, of searching, of travelling, of finding, of being...

To read other fabulous writings on ROAD (and some great photos too) visit Blog Carnival -- HERE.

Monday, May 16, 2011

In search of my father

I am in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewn. A small town of French heritage founded in 1896. The brochures call it, 'a touch of Europe on the Prairies'.

I call it, the beginning of my search for my father.

I drove here yesterday. Drove across rolling prairies spread out beneath cloud streaked sky where ghosts chased cats and dragons flared their nostrils. The wind blew steady. Ferociously. Fields recently freed from winter's grip, lay fallow, prickly signs of wheat and grain pushing up through the cool, dank earth.

I drove past abandoned farm houses and tractors deserted in the fields. This is grainland. There are few fences here. Just open fields of huge tracts of land rolling out in undulating waves towards a far and distant horizon. Stretched out to meet the promise of infinity in a sky they can never touch, never reach.

I was alone. I needed the time. Needed the opportunity to just be, away, alone, singular in my world embedded on a ribbon of highway heading east then south then north east then east again.

I drove. Sunroof open. Wind gusting around my head, music blaring on my Ipod plugged into my stereo. Keith Jarrett flinging piano chords into the wind as I flung the aftermath of busy out the window.

I drove. In search of my father.

When I arrived in this 'piece of Europe on the prairies, I asked the proprietor of the B&B where I'm staying about the deserted farmlands and boarded up houses. "Most of the little farmers are gone," says the proprietor of the the 'Historic Bishop's Residence'. The Residence is a grand old dame dwarfed by the Cathedral on the east and the Gravelbourg Elementary School on the west. It is indicative of much of the architecture of the town. Golden brick that glows in evening light. White trimmed windows. Porches where wicker furniture beckons. "Farmings an expensive business these days. The conglomerates are buying up the little guy. They cannot face the fact they must leave the land but they have no choice so they just walk away, leaving everything to rot behind them."

I wonder if that is what happened to my father. He never wanted to leave his homeland, his mother, his life as a young boy but had no choice. And in his leaving, in his being pulled across the ocean to a school far away, he left his past to lie fallow behind him. Never looking back. Never looking at what had caused him so much pain.

This place called Gravelbourg is where he came as a boy. Nine years old. Alone, he sailed the Atlantic to arrive in Montreal. His father met him and as far as we know, put him on a train westward bound where an Uncle met him in Regina and brought him to Gravelbourg where a school welcomed him for awhile.

My grandfather, my father's father, had arrived in Canada in 1907. He stayed in a boarding house in Toronto for awhile and then, the war drew near and he signed up with the the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He sailed back to London sometime in 1917 where he wed a woman named Rachel.

We don't know much of the story after that. We know there was a daughter. Her parentage is dubious. Some question about, "Who really was the father?" though in the records, she is registered with the same last name as my father, and me.

And then the story grows faint. My father seldom talked about his past. Seldom mentioned the whos and whats and wheres of his life. But he did mention Gravelbourg. This small town set on the prairies in a region settled by Francophones and, if the town names are an indication of heritage, some German's too.

Today, my search continues. I have a meeting with a woman at the high school. There is a record of my father having been there. I have a photo my sister gave me of him with a class. 1930 the photo says. He would have been 12.

I wonder about this boy. What did he feel? What did he think of the circumstances of his life? I know he seldom spoke with his father. We only met our grandfather twice. I remember the tension. There was an argument. Promises made and broken.

My father often made promises. And then he broke them. Did he learn that as a boy? Did his father promise to bring him to Canada and then find he could not take care of a young boy alone. His business took him all over the world. Africa. South America. He was an oilman. Did he send his son to a school on the prairies where he could learn French because he believed knowing the language would be good for him? Did he send him hear because he had a brother close by. A brother with six children who could care for him on weekend breaks and holidays?

Did he do it because he thought it was best?

Could my father ever see that?

Will I see traces of my father here?

I had promised myself long ago that one day I would go in search of my father. I had promised myself I would come to Gravelbourg. To see for myself if some trace of my father could be found, some understanding of his past be uncovered.

I am keeping my promise.

Time will tell what I will find.

It always does.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


When I first see them, they are just two men walking down the street. One towards the homeless shelter where I work. One away from it.

The moment transcends 'normal' in one instant. As the two men pass eachother, the man walking away from the shelter, strikes out and shoves the other man off the sidewalk onto the roadway. He falls to the ground and the other man continues to walk away.

The man on the ground jumps up. His hands are balled into fists. For one moment, he takes a belligerent stance, and then it's gone. He's standing facing the retreating back of the other man, his shoulders slumped forward, his arms hanging loosely by his side.

I am sitting in my car, about to drive down the lane, away from the shelter when this scene unfolds in front of me.

I am stunned. Bewildered.

I stop my car. Get out and approach the man who is still standing in the laneway. "Are you okay?" I ask.

He turns towards me. He is in his 50s, maybe 40s but it can be hard to tell sometimes how old someone who has lived the 'streetlife' really is, 'the street' can age you ten to fifteen years.

"Yeah. I'm fine." And he shrugs his shoulders and starts to walk towards the shelter.

"Is there anything I can do?" I ask.

He sighs. "No. I just got off work. I don't wanna make no trouble. I just wanna lay down."

I leave him, get back in my car and turn around back to the shelter. I follow him into the building. I want to make sure he's okay.

At the security desk I wait until he's checked in. "I'm sorry that happened to you," I say. And I touch his shoulder with one hand.

"Yeah. Thanks."

Tears form in his eyes. I wonder when someone last spoke to him kindly when he's been hurt. Offered comfort. A gentle voice.

"Can I give you a hug?" I ask.

He looks at me surprised. "Sure. That would be nice."

Later, at my meditation class I am deeply relaxed when our guide instructs us to 'walk into the desert.'

"Walk with no intention," says our guide. "There's a figure walking towards you. Welcome them. See who it is."

It is the man. Not the one who was thrown to the ground. It is the perpetrator.

He is dark. Dark clothes. Dark hair. Dark shadow.

As he walks towards me I want to shake him. Rattle him. Ask him why he did it. Do something to 'make him see'.

And I realize, he cannot see me. His world is too dark. Too shadowed to see there is light all around. He is beaten down in the darkness.

I stand and hold the light around him. It is all that I can do.

It was a powerful realization. To know that there was nothing I could do to 'make him see', or hear or be anyone or anywhere other than that moment right there.

In that realization I knew - he didn't see the man he shoved. He saw -- his past, the pain and anger of the moment, his powerlessness to change the past, his anger at the moment.

It doesn't make what he did right. It does make my witnessing of what he did more understandable to me.

Sometimes people do things that hurt others. They strike out -- with hands and fists and words and weapons of destruction. They strike out and we rail against the injustice, the inhumanity, the cruelty of what they did believing we would never do the same.

Standing in the desert in front of that man, I knew -- I was capable of those same actions. His darkness exists in me because I can see it.

The only difference is -- he can not yet see there is light within that darkness.

In Africa there is a word -- Ubuntu. It means -- Humanity to others -- "I am what I am because of who we all are".

I cannot be me unless you are you and you cannot be you if I am not me.

That man's darkness cannot exist without my darkness. And my light cannot exist without his light.

For him to see his light, I must be my darkness and light. Hold true to my being, without being pulled into darkness.

It was a powerful moment.

May that power inspire me, to be my most incredible self, even in the face of darkness.

May we all live the truth of Ubuntu.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hospice care for TP

These are days of mixed blessings. Of joy and sorrow walking hand and hand, alleviating fear, giving light to darkness.

TP, of whom I've written several times, sharing the triumphs and sadness of his battle with cancer moved to a hospice yesterday. Our goal had been to have him live at the shelter until the end, but we could not provide him the level of care he needs to sustain his quality of life. To provide him the dignity he deserves. We do not have the resources.

I was there when we told him the news. He knew it was coming. He has been struggling with certain aspects of his condition that he knew we could not address compassionately and effectively. It has left him feeling distressed. Earlier that morning, one of our staff had spent a couple of hours with him addressing a situation that was recurring all too frequently due to the disease's advances.

"This isn't right," she'd said. "This shouldn't be happening to you."

He knew it but he didn't want to face it. To make it right, he had to be somewhere he could receive more in-depth and focused care.

When our Medical Administrator came to my office to tell me what was happening and that she was going to tell him there was a hospice bed waiting for him at 3 that afternoon, I asked if she wanted me to be with her.

"Yes please," she quickly replied.

We walked down to the fourth floor from my 6th floor office. He wasn't in his room. We knew where to find him. He was sitting on the smoke deck of the 4th floor, enjoying the sun and his favourite vice -- a cigarette. One of our nursing team was with him.

C.B., our Medical Administrator told him the news as gently as she could, but it still felt cold, clinical.

"It's today then?" TP asked.

"Yes," she replied. "I'll go with you. Is there anyone else you want there?"

He looked at me.

I smiled. "I'll be there."

When I walked in later that afternoon, TP had already checked in and gone off to the patio for... a cigarette. I smiled. "Of course he's not in his room," I said to the woman at the reception desk. "He gets around that TP!" And I went off to find him sitting in the sun, the brakes locked on his wheelchair, his frail body encompassed in a heavy jacket.

"I'm supervising," he said as he pointed to a couple of men stapling shingles to the roof of an adjoining building to the hospice.

"How are they doing?"

"Not bad." He paused. "This isn't the building I worked on the roof of," he told me. "This one seems nice."

He had been afraid. He'd worked on a hospice's roof some years ago and didn't like what he saw.

Relieved this wasn't 'the place', I wheeled him back to the room where CB was still organizing his belongings.

"Did you send this over?" she asked me, pointing to a large poster board framed in a western themed border. It stood on an easel beside TP's bed. The large print heading read, Welcome TP. On it, someone had pasted photos of TP they'd found online. Photos from the Calgary Herald. A photo from our website including one of the shelter. It was beautiful.

"No," I replied. Later we'd learn that the Admin Assistant, knowing of TP's arrival that day, had taken the time to prepare the welcome board.

It was a beautiful gesture.

And so, TP has moved from the shelter. I know he is being well-cared for. I know he will have people around him who understand, who will be able to provide him what he needs to spend however long he has left with dignity, pride and peace.

Something that delighted him -- two small dogs wander the halls, moving in and out of the rooms, checking up on the people in their care.

He is in a very very caring place. I know these things and still, I am awash in the mixed blessing of this event.

For us, we have had the privilege of being part of TPs journey. Today, it is good to know he is being cared for, provided for, taken care of with the level of care he needs.

Yet, it is sad to know we cannot give him everything he needs to stay at the shelter.

It is a time to adapt, to shift perceptions, to change glasses and find the gift in this circumstance. When I left, TP was surrounded by people interested in his care, wanting to do the best for him, able to give him everything he needs.

As I walked out the door of his lovely room that has a large picture window looking out towards the mountains, another staff member arrived.

This is a tough change to accept we agreed -- tougher on TP. Yet, looking back, seeing him sitting in his wheelchair surrounded by women, a dog cradled in the arms of one of the nurses, I felt the energy of the place surround me.

It is a place of comfort, of peace, of hope. And, regardless of the change, TP is still the same and we will continue to visit, to play a part of his journey until we no longer can.

And so.... the blessings of the day. Yesterday we finished the video highlights of the WHERE book launch event. I've embedded it below -- and yes, the Alexis McDonald reading part of her contribution to the book is my eldest daughter :)


WHERE book launch Highlights

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two Thursday Treasures

I have an early meeting this morning and must run. I wanted to leave you with two ideas to watch. One is inspiring because it involves a little six year old physically challenged boy and his mission to raise funds for an orphanage in Vietnam -- the place he was taken when he was an infant because of his birth condition.

The second is a ten minut animated film about water, our environmental accountability and the ripple effect of our actions.

The first, I found at my friend Brandi's blog, Drama, Conspiracies and just General Awesomeness.

The second treasure I discovered at Maureen's, Writing without Papers.

Please take a moment to read Sam's story at Samuels Ride for Rescue. Brandi used to work with his mother's sister -- it is a compelling and touching story.

And, I've embedded the video clip for the short -- The Incident at Tower 37. At Maureen's place you'll find all sorts of other links regarding this award winning animation. They're well worth the click!

May your day be filled with treasures that touch your heart and open your mind to the wonders of your world.

And thank you Maureen and Brandi for opening my world up to wonder today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cancer (A poem for TP)

T.P was in hospital for a week and is now back. He's looking much better, getting his pain medication adjusted really helps!

He's in a wheelchair now. It's easier for him to get around, less taxing, less tiring. He still has use of his limbs, its just the cancer is spreading into the muscles controlling his legs.

And he's cheerful. Optimistic. An inspiration.

I am a little angry at Cancer this morning. And I know, there is no point in being angry about something that I cannot control. But sometimes, it doesn't matter. The rational doesn't have a place in my irrational anger at this disease that steals so much and leaves nothing behind other than memories and a reminder of how short and sweet life truly is.

There are many forms of cancer. From the medical to the spiritual, cancer always eats away at the host, consuming the body in its quest to consume hope and faith and possibility.

And because I am angry, I turn inward to find that place within where I am at peace with all that is going on around me. Poetry.

This poem started to form itself after I chatted with TP yesterday. I know 'cancer' doesn't care. I do. And so, I wanted to express my anger at 'it' so that I could be at peace with where I'm at, and in that peace know that my anger is not spilling out into the world, causing more harm than good.


Corrosive bodies
of ill-will
you consume all hope
in your relentless
pursuit of the host
denying spiritual
you chew up the future
breaking-down lives
into morsels of time
that can only be spent

too soon
you steal away
no future
in your disease
no present
in your unfaltering
of one body
one man
one spirit

you don't care
about families

you don't care
about lives
and found

you don't care
for anything
or anyone
other than your unremitting
within a body
too weak
to fend off your disease

Take what you will
of one man's body
but you will never take
his will
to live
to experience
you will never take
his memory
living amidst us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let yourself shine!

On Saturday at Choices, I saw Thelma Box and was telling her about a trainee, a former client at the homeless shelter where I work, who had gone through Choices and afterwards returned to eastern Canada. He hadn't been heard from in awhile and many people wondered how he was doing.

I heard from 'Jack' last week, I told her. "He's doing really well. Working. Sober. Bought a car. Sees his dad and his sons regularly. He's really happy."

She was delighted to hear the news and then said, "I hope you said, 'job well done' to yourself."

I paused. Smiled and laughed -- it was a shadow laugh. A nervous exclamation -- it wasn't me doing it, it was him my underlying thought -- and replied, "I will now!"

"That's good, because you are the one who cared enough to get him into Choices. You are the one who kept caring about him, even when he wasn't caring about himself. You played a role in where he is today and you need to celebrate that."

In "A Return to Love" Marianne Williamson writes, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."

What is it that frightens me about claiming I played a role in one man's happiness?

It is something about myself I have witnessed often.

Several years ago I worked with street youth. For nine months we met once a week and wrote a play together. I then brought in a director, stage manager, and other professionals and working with the youth, we staged the play as part of a concert I produced to raise funds for an agency that works with street teens.

A couple of years ago I was at a business function and a young man came running across the room, grabbed and hugged me and told me what a difference I'd made in his life. "You changed my life," he said.

I laughed and denied it. You did that, I told him. You made the choices that changed your life.

He was one of the youth from the play. Now in his late 20s, he's a father, a husband, a home owner, a 'success story'. He showed me pictures of his family, his dog, his house.

"You encouraged me to find my voice. You gave me a stage on which to use it." That's what I heard this young man tell me -- and I didn't' want to claim it.

I'm claiming it today.

I often hear from people how selfless it is to do the work I do at a homeless shelter. it's not. Selfless. I don't do it out of selflessness.

I do it so that I can be me. Working at the shelter enriches my life. Working with those street teens years ago, enriched my life. Helping people helps me be true to me. It helps me fly.

In "Make the Impossible Possible" founder and CEO of Manchester Bidwell and the Craftsman's Guild in Philadelphia, Bill Strickland writes, "I have an unshakable belief that each of us has not only the potential to live a rewarding and purposeful life but also the responsibility to do so. It's an obligation we bear as human beings, but it's also the source of our greatest potential."

This morning, over at Joyceann's Peaceful Legacies, she wrote a blog, Mothering an Idea. In it she writes about almost killing a beautiful idea she had created because of self-doubt. And then, the idea was given wings and she realized how she needed to nurture her ideas, not douse them with her fears.

I'm with Joyceann. I have an idea that all people are worthy of living rich and vibrant lives. That everyone, no matter their background, socio/economic status or heritage have the capacity to be great. And I believe it is my responsibility to do what I can to make it happen.

And my playing small doesn't make it possible.

Bill Strickland also writes in Make the Impossible Possible.

"Success is something you assemble from components you discover in your soul and your imagination. Authentic success, the kind of success that will enrich your life and enlarge your spirit, the only kind of success that matters, comes from knowing and trusting the deepest aspirations of your heart. If you live that way, in harmony with the real needs of your spirit, then you can't help but craft a life that will automatically make the world a better place for everyone who lives in it, and, incidentally, you will dramatically increase your chances for success on all levels."
Today, I claim my role in changing lives. I claim my need to be part of lives changing, opening up to possibility, opening up to their greatest potential.

I like feeling like I'm making a difference. I like knowing my difference counts.

So, here's my challenge for you today -- Are you willing to claim you make a difference? Are you willing to quit playing small, to quit minimizing what you do to make the world a better place? Are you willing to live large?

If you answered yes to any of the above -- Get doing it! Claim your magnificence so the world around you can shine. Let your brilliance light up the world!

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Mother's Day

My daughters came to join me yesterday at the hotel where Choices is held so that we could have Brunch together. It was our last chance in a long while to do that. Alexis, my eldest, left later that day to move back to Vancouver, a city she loves and a place where she believes she will be better able to pursue her acting career.

It was a bittersweet moment. We had a couple of hours to connect and then she was off. I am so proud of her.

I can't remember a time when creative endeavours from painting to acting to costume design and writing and singing and dancing were not a part of Alexis' life. When she was two I would line the railings of the deck with craft paper, put out pots of paints and brushes and she would spend hours 'painting the walls'. She wrote funny little poems for the dog that she tried to teach her to bark and plays for her sister to act out with her -- being the eldest, she felt it her duty to direct. Her sister always acquiesced. She made costumes for each of them, along with their friends and they would re-enact the Titanic. Alexis could make a short black crinoline into a fancy turn of the 20th century hat as quickly as the cat could disappear when he saw the little miniature superman cape appear -- he just knew intuitively where it was intended to go.

And now she is moving away.

And I shall miss her.

Alexis is a woman of great heart. Beautiful and talented, it is her inner beauty that shines out, illuminating the world in love and joy and laughter and tears and smiles and hugs and heartfelt words that warm hearts and set spirits free.

She sings like a nightingale, dances with the grace of a dolphin flowing through water. She paints and writes and touches the world with her incredible talent, always making it a better place, always creating a more loving glow to everything she touches.

I am so blessed to call her my daughter.

And now, she's gone. West. She's meeting up with her boyfriend in Vancouver who just flew in from Halifax where he's going to law school and on Wednesday, they are off to South Africa for a month and then, returning to Vancouver. And then, she will begin in earnest the task of building her career. Agent. Auditions. Writing. Connecting. Doing what it takes to make it in the world of acting.

"I'm going to give it five years," she said. "And then, I'll probably go back to University to take a psychology degree."

She wants to change the world. She wants to create a better place for children to live and learn and grow. She wants to make a difference.

She already is.

The ripple effect from her kind and caring ways, the waves of laughter and joy she sends out, already resonate in places far flung as her love rolls out across the universe like a ripple effect from a butterfly's wings in Africa.

It is just her sister and me at home now. C.C. is in Saskatoon for a long while, returning every second weekend. Ellie, the wonder pooch, Marley, the Great Cat, Liseanne and I are adjusting to the quiet and the absence of Alexis and her mercurial moods, her deep feelings and open conversation, and did I mention, her constant clutter around the house? I miss her already!

I will miss our late night conversations in my bed, her probing insights and powerful questions. I will miss sitting with her talking about books and life and love and fears. I will miss her phone calls asking me "Have you seen my..., or, Where's the vacuum? (She didn't ask that one very often but when she did, I always told her where it was!)."

I will miss her physical presence in my life, but I will never miss her love in my heart. I carry her with me.

I carry her with me where ever I go, where ever I am. She is the warmth of sunshine caressing my face, the lightness of gravity supporting every step. She is the beauty of a butterfly flitting in the garden, the joy of a child laughing at the park.

She is my daughter and I love her, more than all the good-byes that will ever be spoken, more than all the tears that will ever flow at a farewell. I love her more than all the heartbeats that will ever pound across the universe, more than all the wind that will ever blow. I love her more than all the grains of sand that will ever shift, more than all the blades of grass that will ever grow.

I love her with all my heart and am so blessed she is in my life. Through the gift of my daughters, Alexis and Liseanne, the circle of love can never be broken.

May your day be blessed with the love of those you hold dear. May your day be filled with the joy of knowing the circle of love into which you were born can never be broken.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Starry, starry nights

This is a Choices weekend -- which means I'm coaching in Givers 2 -- the Purpose focused weekend -- and short on sleep, long on joy.

This is a 'mixed-blessings' weekend. The final segment of the trainees 3 month journey, this weekend marks the last time the group will officially get together. Come Sunday evening, 60+ individuals will step out into the world armed with the tools they've learned, the new friends they've made and the Contract/Purpose statement they've crafted over the course of their Choices journey.

It is a beautiful, gentle weekend.

And, like all Choices weekends, it is busy, hectic and fun!

For me, it is a chance to re-stoke my energy. To recommit to my Be. Do. Have. of living this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now.

It also means, I don't have as much time to write here.

I have to get running. Get to the hotel for 8 to help set up the room for team meeting at 8:30.

and because it doesn't seem to matter how often I go to Choices, or how long I carry the experience, there is always a WOW! at some point, I want to share this thought with you by scientist/astronomer, Edwin Hubble Chapin, for whom the Hubble Telescope is named -- "Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury."

The truth of that statement appeared at the far reaches of my inner universe last night and resonated with me all through my dreams, coming into clear view with dawn's awakening.

But... more about that another time!

In the meantime, may your world be filled with starry, starry nights and days of wonder as you fly high and soar amidst the stars.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Beautiful. Brilliant. Being.

You may remember Terry. I've written of him several times since before Christmas. We went horse-back riding together and he was the recipient of the Christmas WishList gift of a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras at Christmas. And then, he couldn't go as the cancer eating at his body progressed and his health deteriorated.

He's back in hospital -- and it's okay. It's a good thing. They're getting his pain medication stabilized so that he can be comfortable.

What is amazing about Terry's story are the people who have come into his life since his story became public. Terry has asked to die at the shelter. He doesn't want to go to hospital. He doesn't want to be in a hospice. He wants to be in the shelter, surrounded by people he knows.

A few weeks ago, Sean Meyers of the Calgary Herald, wrote a story about Terry. From that story, Terry's brother found him -- a brother he hadn't seen in 34 years. It's been amazing.

Yesterday, Sean called me to say Hi and to ask about Terry. He wasn't calling for anything other than to know how Terry was doing.

Later that evening, I spoke with Terry's brother's wife. They've come to Calgary to visit. Like her husband, Bev hasn't seen Terry for 34 years. It was Bev who called me three weeks ago after Sean's story was sent to to them by her sister who lives in Calgary.

Since then, Larry, Terry's brother, has visited twice and now, for the third time driven many hours to be here, along with Bev and their two foster children.

And that's where the story becomes so incredible.

This is not just a couple who 'take in' foster children. Bev and Larry take in children whose physical/emotion limitations make them very difficult to place.

This humble and beautiful couple create a home for children for whom an institution would be the only option. And in that home they create a place of love and respect and kindness, a place where children can grow up knowing they are safe, loved and cared for.

They create a place every child deserves -- and which so many do not find -- a place where love lives.

I am excited. This afternoon Bev and Larry are dropping by my office and I will meet Bev for the first time.

I am excited because in every conversation I've had with Bev on the phone, I've been touched by the brilliance of her spirit and the loveliness of her heart. She always leaves me feeling inspired and believing in the wonder and beauty of the human spirit.

And that's what's so wonderful about this story. it is about the human spirit and its capacity to open up to the divine within.

In 'real world' terms, it isn't fair that after 34 years, two brothers meet and one is dying of cancer.

It isn't fair, yet, it is what is. It is what is happening.

And while it could be expected that they could rail against the unfairness, they don't. They accept with gratitude this time they have. They are making the most of what is, grateful for this chance to spend time together -- for however long that time is.

They are letting their spirits shine and leaving the rest to God.

They are being their most incredible and beautiful selves, and in their being, they are living proof of the divine within shining brightly in the world all around.

I am meeting a woman and a man today who in their gentle and humble way express all that is magnificent of the human spirit.

I am grateful.

May you have a brilliant day creating a world where your beauty resonates in the world all around.

I won't be online over the weekend. It's a Choices weekend and I am coaching.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Magic night

The party's over -- and what a party it was!

175 guests joined with us to celebrate the launch of WHERE and our short-documentary, Standing By.

It was a huge success.

And I am tired.

And I am going back to bed.

I'm still processing. Still taking it all in. It went off so smoothly it was like a dream.

And did I mention, I'm tired?

It's the let-down after the enormous build-up to the event. Having been so focused and directed on both the creation of the book and then the launch event itself, I feel somewhat adrift. Cast-free.

It will take a few days to process but for now... I am very, very happy.

It went extremely well.

A couple of highlights. Both my daughters were there as was my eldest sister. My friend BA flew in from Vancouver, and C.C. from Saskatoon (I have to get him to the airport this morning). So many friends and well-wishers turned up it was an absolute delight. My other sister flew in but her flight didn't get in until later -- but it was still wonderful to see her there.

...And the 'readers'.

We included a segment on the program called, "Three Words/Three Writers.

Brian Norman was delighted to share his poem, Silence, which was fabulous. he couldn't quit thanking me for including him (it was a blessing to have him there) and he couldn't quit commenting on how he'd never been published before.

As each author read, the two large screens on either side displayed their Word, and the photo from the book.

My eldest daughter Alexis also has a piece in the book. Invisible. It was so wonderful to stand and watch and hear her read her touching story about sharing a hug with a homeless man in Vancouver. it did my mama bear heart good!

And then there was Grant Fischer. Grant turned up and turned it on! He read his piece Addiction and you could have heard a pin drop in the venue as he read. Powerful. Moving. Disturbing. Compelling. He cried and so did people in the audience.

And when he was done, his brother came across the room, put his arms around him and they clung to each other. And for a moment, they were just two human beings standing heart to heart in a room full of people who watched and felt their hearts melt in the pure joy of the moment.

It was magical.



It was a night to remember. A night to cherish. To savour. To hold dear.

And as I started my speech, I remembered your advice. Breathe. Slow. Sunflowers smiling in the sun. Smile. Breathe. Slow. Smile.

and so I did. Breathe. and feel my pulse beating a slow steady beat and smile and breathe again.

And when it was over, I kicked off my heels, sat back and sighed a happy sigh. Ten of us got together at one of my favourite downtown restaurants and shared an amazing meal and champagne and laughter and love and everything grant.

And you were all there! Thank you my friends. I carried your words and support with me throughout the evening.

We rocked!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Launch Day

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. Thich Nhat Hanh
MSN and I are having a fight this morning. Or perhaps, it's even more global. Perhaps it's me against cyberspace, and the Bits and Bytes and Terradots are winning!

But I shall prevail. I shall press on and forge a path through the confusion of Cyberland's maelstrom of websites that refuse to close and pages that will not open. I shall prevail!

And maybe, armed with my smile, I'll recover some of my joy when I first awoke and realized, today's the day. Book launch day. Party time!

We're having a special, by invitation only, event this evening to launch the book. The photographs are all mounted and will be delivered this morning. The books arrived yesterday afternoon. Signage is done. The program completed. The menu and wine selected and ready to go.

I've checked my list countless times. Checked off. Crossed out. Highlighted "To Do's". "Done's" and "Forget it's" with great glee.

And still I wonder...

What am I missing?

It is possible, nothing.

It is possible, along with my team, we've thought of everything.

It's possible, I'm completely organized and prepared.

Whew! That feels better... and still I wonder...

Am I missing anything?

Got my outfit bagged and ready to come with me. I doubt I'll have time to return home and change before the event.

Global TV were in yesterday to do an article on the book. CBC Radio did an interview. Other media are scheduled for today. Got a client/subject of the book ready to be interviewed. Have the three readers lined up, ready to go this evening.

The M/Cs notes are written. The Thank You signs are done.

Yup. I'm ready.

Oh right. My intro to the book speech. I wrote it the other night. At 3am. It was brilliant -- if I do say so myself. Except...

I wrote it in my head and didn't put it to paper.

The task this morning -- whew! I've got one thing left to do.

Write my notes.

It's about courage. And perseverance. And the human spirit in flight. And faith and commitment and working together and believing in a dream.

That's it, I'll begin....

I have a dream.

no wait.

Been done before.

I'll start with Friends. Calgarians. Countrymen...

No he died. Long time ago. Not that well either.

I know. I know.

Got it.

I'll begin with the truth. From that place where all things happen with grace and ease. From that state of being that adds beauty and light to my day.

I'll begin from gratitude. With thankfulness.

I'll begin with Thank you.

Today's the big day. Gotta run. I'm sure I've got way more than one thing left to do...

And before I go, one last thing.

Thank you. Thinking of all of you and how much you've given me over the past few months, I smile. And my joy is recovered! Thank you.

Thank you everyone for your support and words of encouragement. For your light and laughter and love. You've made this journey so much more graceful and light. You've added such value to the process. And I so appreciate your support!

And FYI -- in case you didn't know, I really appreciate you! Thank you!

Here's to WHERE -- you make a difference.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It is done.

You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea. Pablo Picasso

It is done. Finished. Complete.

This book, WHERE, that has taken a year to create, I held it in my hands yesterday. The first copy out of the bindery. The first bound book.

I glanced through it.

Page 6.

"It's backwards," I told the pressman.

Collating stopped. The page was flipped. The process continued.

And now it's done.

Tomorrow we launch. Tomorrow we begin the process of publicizing and marketing and getting it out into the world.

I am pleased.

It looks fabulous. A work of art. A work of love.

For the past three months, it has been a journey through, into with words and photos and ideas and thoughts.

Yesterday, the sales rep from Sundog Printing asked me how we came up with the idea for the words.

"It was a case of constantly listening to intuition. To heeding the muse as she flowed through the process."

It started with an idea, a vague one, but an idea that seemed to have merit -- what if we take 50 words that represent our 50 years of service and the value we add to the community and then write something for each word -- invite people from the community to contribute.

I started writing out words. I asked staff to add to the words until the list grew and grew. 200 words. 220. 250. 265.

We must stop with the words. Start paring back. We got it to 100. We need photographs, a co-worker said. We've got clients in a photography club. We could ask Calgary photographers to submit a photo. Good idea, we agreed. And then, he was at a dinner party and he met two photographers and told them about the idea.

"We want to play too." And they joined in with their talents and gifts and whole heartedness.

And we kept going. Listening. Heeding. Moving through the process.

It felt effortless, even in those moments of working hard to meet deadlines and timelines and expectations.

It felt effortless. Fluid. Graceful.

I did find a typo though. Even after countless read throughs, countless people proofing, I found a typo.

I was reading a piece out loud for one of the authors. I had asked him if he would read his piece at the launch. He wasn't sure. He'd never actually read it after he'd written it. It was a letter he'd written to his father, just before he passed away. It was about his addiction.

A powerful. Provocative. Beautiful piece.

And he'd never read it, even to himself.

I offered to read it out loud to him.

Please do, he said.

And we sat in my office and I read and he cried. Sobbed.

Should I stop, I asked.

No. Keep reading.

and I did and when I finished he sat silently and then said. "It's good. Thank you."

My worst fear is that I'll cry, he said.

My worst fear was that there's a typo in the book, I told him. And there is. Right in the middle of your piece. I apolgoize and yet, I cannot change it. And even in the presence of my worst fear, the earth didn't open up and swallow me whole when I found it.

He laughed.

He's not going to let a few tears stop him. He's going to read his piece on Wednesday. He is a courageous man.

It's done. This book that I have nurtured into creation.

And I am pleased.

And I am grateful.