Monday, December 31, 2007

Endings and beginnings

The call, as these calls seem to do, came just after midnight. I missed it. Had forgotten my cellphone was on silent. Wasn't at home when the call came in. Checked my messages first thing this morning and there was my sister's voice. "Mum fell. They're taking her to hospital."

I drove over and saw my mother in the emergency room. "I want to go home," she said. Her glasses hid some of her black eye -- but the swelling was obvious, the cuts and scrapes on her face evident.

"Let's wait and see what they say," I counselled.

She's still there. She's been admitted. It is a good place for her. Depression has always been an issue for my mother, and Christmas is a time fraught with tears and sorrow, sighs of "what's the point", and I want it to end thinking. They'll take good care of her, I know.

A new beginning for the New Year perhaps. A new opportunity for her to get the help she needs. Perhaps an ending to life as she currently lives it. A beginning of life she can enjoy.

To everyone, I send the following wish received today from a friend. Happy New Year.

What amazing gifts the new year brings!

An entire year's worth of wonderful opportunities, given to us one sunrise at a time.

Many of the moments ahead will be marvellously disguised as ordinary days, but each one of us has the chance to make something extraordinary out of them.

Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life.

The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can.

Have pages on understanding and tales of overcoming hardships.

Fill your story with enthusiasm, adventure, learning, and laughter. And make each chapter reflect time doing these things:

Follow your dreams. Work hard. Be kind.

Do what you can to make the door open on a day that is filled with inspiration in some special way.

Remember: Goodness will be rewarded. Smiles will pay you back.

Have fun. Find strength. Be truthful. Have faith. Don't focus on anything you lack.
Realize that people are the treasures in life, and happiness is the real wealth.

Have a diary that describes how you're doing your best, and...the rest will take care of itself.-

by Douglas Pagels

Have a Wonderful Year!!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New beginnings

New Year's brings with it memories of days past slipping through the cracks of this moment now. I find them littering my path, like fallen leaves scattered on the trails of forgotten days of autumn.

Distant memories found me yesterday as the puppies and I hiked along the ridge of our favourite park. They came bristling in with the stiff breeze that blew in from the west, rustling the dry prairie grasses that lined the trails upon which we walked. Above, the sky was clear blue, the white ridges of the Rockies rolled across the western horizon and to the south, the city skyline challenged the distant peaks, taunting them with their power to reach the skies.

This was my first Christmas with C.C. We both agree it was a stellar first attempt and bodes well for the Christmases together we look forward to. Firsts displace pasts and in the passing away of days gone by, memory lingers, teasing the tendrils of time and space, tugging at the edges of new memory laid on the path to tomorrow.

I felt the tug of those memories as I walked in the crisp, clear air. Felt them blow through my mind with the chill of the wind against my cheeks. Tiny tears pricked my eyes. A gentle wave of sadness washed through me as softly as the tide washing away footsteps in the sand. Their rhythmic ebb and flow eases the evidence of someone's lingering presence into the depths of the ocean of possibilities that stretches before me. That was then. This is now.

I smile and shake my head.

There was so much drama back then when I was with the man who is the lie. So many inconsistencies, incomprehensible circumstances, indescribable confusion. I thought about that first Christmas all those years ago. Confusion had already taken hold. Fear had me gripped in its reins. The story of his dying heart. The looming fear of an operation that would supposedly cure the disease that was stealing his life from mine. The stealthy infestation of his lies eroding my peace of mind as the web he wove began to block the sun and stars and air. The cloying vapours of his lies clogging my breathing.

And then I breathed. Gentle tears flowed through my heart. Tears are memory's gateway to the sun and air. Tears refresh. Tears purge and wash away the debris of those times clogging memories pathway to renewal. Tears are my friend.

There is no end to memory. There is an end to memory's pull when I let memory flow freely and step fearlessly into today letting my tears wash away the footsteps of someone else's treacherous passing through the journey of my life long ago.

This is the time of new beginning. This is a new dawn. A new day. A new romance to cherish and nurture and hold in tender loving arms. This is love.

The question is: Where do your tears free your peace of mind and set you free to begin afresh? Where do you step free of someone else's footsteps and leap with joy into the loving waters of life today?

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I read this quote this morning. It reflects the past year aptly. "Humans grow through the metabolism of their own experience."

It's December 28 and New Year's Eve is just a couple of turns of the calendar page. It is a time of reflection, of consideration, congratulations and celebration. It is a time to be grateful for all the events of my life. No matter whether I judged them -- good, bad or indifferent. It is a time to measure my progress on goals set, goals achieved. And, it is a time to refocus on goals set and to plan on how I will achieve them in the coming year.

It is a time of settling into this moment, right now and feeling the awesome grace of being bathed in gratitude. Gratitude for my life, my world around me, the people in it, the people who touch my heart and open my arms to love.

Years come. Years pass and with each passing day that adds up to a year spent creating my beautiful life on a daily basis, I am grateful for the awesome power of love to heal, to soothe, to expand my life into all it is meant to be.

It's December 28 and I sit in the quiet of the morning anticipating the excitement of another year, a different year, a new year. A year in which love envelops me in ever expanding circles that connect me to those who make such an enormous difference in my life.

Like the years past, this will be a year of change. A year of movement, of grace, of joy, of sorrow.

I do not know what the year will bring. I do know I have the courage and the confidence to deal with whatever it brings with grace, ease and dignity.

That is my commitment for 2008. To confidently step into my courage to be all that I am meant to be when I release myself from fear that I will never be enough. I am enough. Just the way I am.

The question is: Will fear drive you away from your one true self, or will you be drawn by courage into the freedom to be the most magnificent being you are?

Friday, December 28, 2007

May your spirits be bright

Whew! The mad rush. The tearing about. Wrapping. Cooking. Rearranging furniture. Shopping. Decorating the table. Dish washing. Putting away and Tearing apart are over. And with them, Christmas is officially put to bed.

Okay. So my house still looks topsy-turvy. The living room furniture is in the dining room. The round glass table from the dining room is out on the back porch. My easel also sits on the porch along with bags of garbage, empty bottles and sundry other things. The Christmas tree is back in the living room after having spent a two day sojourn in the dining room that is still the living room. The tree had to move to make room for the tables that would seat the 15 people who arrived for Christmas Day dinner and then the 19 people for Boxing Day dinner.

All has not returned to normal, but that's okay. It's still the holiday season! The kitchen is filled with the aroma of turkey soup that C.C. concocted yesterday. There are still glasses and dishes on the living room table waiting to be put away. And I'm in no rush. Christmas may have gone to bed, but I'm still savouring the sights and sounds and laughter of the event.

No matter how rushed, how hurried or busy Christmas may be, it is the laughter and love that permeates the air that I savour the longest.

This year, the sensations of Christmas were enriched by the presence of the men in our lives -- mine and my daughters. J.W. and Alexis have now been dating for three years and his presence was a welcome face around the Christmas table. His parents were here too, for the second year, a tradition of sorts in the making. Liseanne's beau, E.S. was here for the first year -- but not until Boxing Day. What a joy to watch the four 'youngsters' laugh and play cards and chatter about what not. They've become as Alexis likes to say, one of her greatest wishes come true -- I always dreamt of double-dating with my sister and her boyfriend, she said. And now it's come true.

Christmas. A time for wishes to come true. For memories to be made. For traditions to be carried forward.

C.C. was the newest addition this year and his presence was a welcome gift. Like E.S., Liseanne's boyfriend, C.C. is a sports fanatic and the two of them had a great time catching the odd game on TV, talking about scores and players and who moved where instead of there to cause the score to go down or up or nowhere. In between helping out in the kitchen that is! What a gift to have a man who pitches in without needing direction. He chopped and diced. Sliced and minced. He filled guests glasses and carried dishes to the table. Gotta love a man who knows his way around the kitchen!

We were three generations at the table. My sister escorted my mother to the party where her quiet charm was a welcome presence, though every year her size seems to diminish in relation to her place setting at the head of the table, she is always a presence to contend with. My bestest family came too. AJ and JD. along with their two adult children who are the same ages as my daughters turned up both days laden with food and gifts and wine and their amazing spirits.

On Boxing Day, AJ gave us another installment of his (now famous) radio show, Tales of Louise. Dressed in a wig, an old imitation fur coat and long black silk gloves, he does an admirable impression of yours truly organizing my daughters, dogs, and house and any one else who crosses my path. Though I don't believe I'm really as saccharine as he makes out! -- or as ditsy! His performance is a highlight of the Boxing Day festivities, though C.C. almost stole the spotlight when he appeared as the Las Vegas singing sensation, Charletta!

For my daughters and their friend CJ, it is a Boxing Day tradition to con one man into drag so that he will perform Santa Baby, a la Marilyn. To the racuous laughter and guffaws of the crowd, the poor victim, oops I mean couragous man, trips into the living room red lips pursed, buxom body teetering dizzily on high heel shoes and mimes the song -- it's quite the show! C.C.'s son, TC, almost split his sides laughing at this side of his father he's never seen.

And once the laughter had died down, TC picked up his guitar and enchanted everyone with his amazing talent. Boxing Day nor Christmas Day nor any day for that matter, would not be complete without Alexis singing -- and this year her sister introduced a new magic act that had us howling with laughter! Though I did miss Liseanne's land-based synchronized swimming routine -- I need a partner for it to be synchronized, she reminded me -- and no one would take her up on her special offer to teach them dry land swimming!

Me. I was simply in awe of the whole event. In particular, I was in aw that this man who has captured my heart would willingly undergo my daughters and CJs ministrations, manipulations and applications of make-up, lipstick and mascara! After three years of Santa Baby's appearance, the tradition was threatened with abandonment as no man had stepped forward to participate. Boxing Day would not have been complete without C.C.s good sportsmanship! Though he did spend an inordinate amount of time yesterday going through the cameras lying around, searching for evidence. Fortunately, J.W. was the only one who wasn't blinded by laughter and had his wits about him enough to take pics -- and his camera had gone home with him before C.C. could delete any photos of Charletta.

And now, it's time for a rest. Yesterday, was a quieter day, though C.C., Liseanne and her boyfriend and I did manage to go out for a late brunch and later, I grabbed a coffee with an old friend from out of town, and a dinner with another longtime friend. while I was out, C.C. made turkey soup, set up the TV in the dining room that is currently the living room and settled in on one love seat for an evening of hockey with Liseanne's boyfriend sprawled across from him on the love seat on the other side of the coffee table. There was a dog with each of them, cookies and other Christmas treats on the coffee table -- what could be more perfect?

This morning, the garbage awaits portaging to the front drive, the dishes await nestling back into the cabinet, the table decorations sit awaiting their return to the boxes from whence they came though my glue gun has already been returned to the craft box -- it is a staple of my Christmas preparations! My serviette rings would not be complete without its assistance!

The busy-ness and festivities may be over, but the sound of laughter still resonates throughout the house. The air is still permeated with the love that filled each room. It continues to live on in each of our hearts. It will brighten the cold days of winter yet to come.

Listening to my brother-in-law at the front door as he wished one of our Christmas dinner guests good bye, my heart was warmed with the realization that over the past three years in this tiny house on 15th Street we have created a tradition we cherish more than the giving and receiving of gifts, more than the table groaning with food. It is the gift of friendship. In J.T.'s words of farewell lived the spirit of the season. "I look forward to seeing you at the table again next year," he said to a departing guest. "As long as I'm invited, I'll be here," the guest replied.

A tradition. An invitation to be anticipated. A memory of good friends, laughter, love and joy to carry with us throughout the year. May your spirits be bright, your hearts be light and your world be filled with laughter, love and joy.

The question is: What's filling your heart today? What memories will you cherish throughout the cold days of winter to come?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning and all is well

Poet Walt Whitman wrote, "In the faces of men and women, I see God."

In the faces of my daughters, lit by gentle candle glow and twinkling Christmas tree lights, I see Love.

Christmas morning awakens and with it the festive furor of gift unwrapping and tissue crinkling. For the moment, I am alone. Alexis and Liseanne indulged in their late night Christmas Eve tradition of a movie and sleeping together in Alexis' bed. They've done this since childhood. Allowed to open one present before tucking into bed, (always their new pajamas) they load the DVD and cuddle up together. This year, as it has for many years past, Love Actually is the Christmas Eve movie of choice. Next door, C.C. sleeps on, three dogs curled up on the bed with him. (We're sitting Liseanne's boyfriends dog!) Christmas music plays on CBC FM, the lights sparkle. For now, the house is quiet and serene.

I move quietly through the house, tidying, preparing, anticipating the day ahead. Sixteen for dinner. Turkey stuffing to prepare. Bread to bake (another tradition Alexis would be upset to miss!) Cranberry salsa to ready. Table to set. A plethora of activities that imbue this day with a loving rosy glow.

All is ready. All is well. I am blessed.

It's Christmas.

I sigh and take a deep soothing breath.
To all of you, a very Merry Merry Christmas. May your days be bright, your hearts be full and your lives be embraced in love.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

In Anna Maxted's novel, Behaving Like Adults, the main character, Holly, loses her faith in her ability to trust people when she dates a rather difficult man. After she comes through it, she says, "I don't think suffering teaches you anything that you couldn't have learned in a pleasant, civilized alternative way. But my reactions to the whole experience and afterward have taught me a lot about me, some of which can be improved upon. I hope to be happier as a result of the knowledge."

Life. Ups and downs and ins and outs. Insides. Outsides. Upsides. Downsides. And each side filled with the opportunity to learn more about myself -- or not.

As John Lennon wrote, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

I had a lot of plans this year. Some I have fulfilled on. Some I haven't. I've had a lot of things happen this year -- and most of them were awesome. Good. Bad. or Indifferent, however, none of them were the universe teaching me a lesson (the Universe doesn't care. Caring and taking care is up to me). Whatever the experience, however the event unfolded, each was an opportunity for me to learn more about me. It isn't the situation that makes the difference in my life, it's how I respond to it, what I do, and how it affects me.

As New Year's eve draws close, I reflect upon the past year and see a year filled with love, happiness, joy and laughter. I see a life filled with vibrancy and richness, a tapestry of rainbow colour woven together with the love of family and friends.

I pray for you a Blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's Christmastime! Lots to do!

In the stillness of dawn slipping across the night sky, I sit in the quiet of my home, surrounded by twinkling lights and festive packages all piled up under the tree.

Yesterday my daughters and I went to have our photos taken -- it was their birthday gift to me. What a wonderful day! We laughed and teased -- oh don't wear that mummy, it looks too..... frumpy? Maybe a different colour of lipstick, something less.... red perhaps. We posed in front of the photographer, me with them, them alone, the two of them together. The photos are awesome. They're already hanging on my living room wall.

While waiting for the ones we chose to be printed, we stopped for a coffee and ran into a friend I haven't seen in years. The last time he saw the girls, they were about 3 and 4 -- he definitely noticed a difference! He remarried about two years ago -- to the man he'd left his wife for fifteen years before. It was a tumultuous time. We used to run together. He'd pour his heart out as our feet pounded the pavement and I would listen and not know what to say to help ease his aching heart. The burden of coming out, the pain of watching his kids pull away in their confusion and angst. It was a sad time, and now, his daughter has five sons and his two sons are working and thriving in their lives. With his partner, his life is a rich and vibrant tapestry of love, laughter and joy. We sat and sipped our lattes, laughed and chatted, caught up on happenings and old friends. They're going to come for Boxing Day celebrations. Their presence will be a wonderful surprise for the friends who are coming over who also haven't seen him in years.

And thus, I must run. Tomorrow C.C.'s kids are coming for dinner and then on Christmas Day we'll be 16 people gathered around the table. Boxing Day we're 20 -- lots to do. Have to move the dining room to the living room and living room to dining room. Have to finish wrapping, get my cookbooks out and make a list, check it a hundred and twenty times to ensure I don't miss something.

I love this time of year. Love the fellowship, the music, the lights, the candles. The festive bows and crinkly paper. I love the laughter, the good times spent with friends, old and new, the quiet times spent alone with just the one I love.

May your day be filled with love and laughter. May the anticipation of Santa's arrival and the lighting of the candles in celebration of that special moment be filled with joy and peace.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Miracle of Christmas

Over 2000 years ago, a mother and father huddled together in a tiny stable and witnessed the birth of their child. The story of the Christ child’s birth has lived throughout the years. It touches all our hearts, Christian and non-Christian, believer and non-believer. No matter if we believe He came to earth to ‘save our souls from Satan’s power’, or if he was simply a powerful prophet, or just a great man whose story has survived the ages, His birth represents the power of love to create peace in the world and to restore our spirits as we celebrate the miracle of life.Christmas is a time to celebrate. A time when we are connected in love to the miracle of one child’s birth long ago that reminds us, every year, that we too are miracles of birth inspired by the act of love that ignites our journey of life – in all its limitless possibilities.

Last night, as I wrapped presents and reflected on the meaning of Christmas, my spirit lifted. Sitting in my cozy living room, surrounded by twinkling lights and festive bows and crinkly wrapping paper, I felt connected to the millions of other parents, grandparents, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, friends and lovers who wrapped and taped and lovingly placed gifts beneath a twinkling tree – a tree that we had decorated together with those we love as we shared in the joy of hanging each ornament, old and new, upon its fragrant boughs.

As I wrapped and hummed a Christmas melody (and sipped a glass of cheer!), I felt the power of Christmas surround me. As I placed a pretty bow upon each gift I thought about the person to whom I was giving and my heart was filled with love. In that love lay the true meaning of Christmas. It wasn’t in the gifts, or the giving. It didn’t lay in colourful disarray piled beneath the tree, but in the love that filled my heart as I thought about my daughters, family and friends whom I love so dearly and who mean the world to me and who create such meaning in my world.

What a miracle Christmas is! 2000 years ago a child was born and from His birth has grown this night where the world stops, and takes a collective breath as we join in a song of love, faith, hope and joy. 2000 years ago a child’s birth gave birth to my evening last night. I sat alone and felt the power of that moment touch me.

I took a deep enlivening breath and felt my heart expand in love. In that breath, I was connected by the circle of love into which I was born and which encircled my daughters as I embraced the miracle of their lives to change my life. For just as the Christchild was a gift of love for his parents, and ultimately the world, with my daughters' births I was given the greatest gift of all -- the awesome reminder that life is a miracle and each birth a precious gift of love; powerful, enduring, everlasting.

This Christmas, as I reflect upon my life, I am reminded, once again, of the power of love to heal, to make peace and to create miracles. And that is the true meaning of Christmas for me. A celebration of birth, of life, of love. A healing. An awakening. A miracle that wraps us all in a never-ending circle of love.

Whatever your celebration -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice (this morning), Bodi day, the Fast of Ramadan, the ancient sabbat - or a family-centered gathering, a Blessed Holiday to each and everyone of you. May your spirits be light, your hearts full of love and may your world be filled with the limitless possibilities of the miracle of your life as you live each moment, filled with love, gratitude and joy.

Friday, December 21, 2007

How quiet is your heart?

Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, said, "Be silent and calm every evening and morning...this will produce an undaunted, unbreakable inner habit of happiness that will make you able to meet all the trying situations of everyday life."

I agree -- stillness in the morning and evening is beneficial. Life is always filled with trying situations. It is part of everyday living. Sometimes, I think it's my need to avoid the trying situation that causes the most stress.

Somewhere, I believe life shouldn't be trying, it shouldn't have stressors. And that's just not true.

A good life isn't in the things we have, or the fact we don't have difficult times happen. Life is in how we deal with the difficulties, the stumbles, the rocks in our road, the trials and tribulations of daily living.

Yesterday my day was chocker block full with media, people dropping in unexpectedly to drop off Christmas gifts for the shelter and its clients, meetings and places to be and not enough time to get everywhere. None of the happenings were bad, just challenging to fit them all in.

That's life.

At this time of year when Christmas busy-ness is a glittery overlay of lights and music and rushing to and fro, I sometimes forget to take time out from the busy to simply relax into the beauty and joy of this time of year.

This is a time of peace and yet I feel anything but peaceful. Time to step back, take a deep healing breath and centre myself in what is real and true and beautiful about Christmas.

It isn't the gifts or the tinsel hanging from the tree. It isn't in the dollars spent, or pennies saved. Christmas is in the air. It's in the smiles on people's faces. In the light in their eyes. It's in the warmth of a greeting. The gentleness of a touch. The wonder of each moment spent thinking about someone else -- and that is what gifts are all about. Not the purchase, but rather the time out I take to think about those I love. To spend time thinking about what they like, what they need, what they want. To think about their habits, their idiosyncrasies, their likes and dislikes. To think about what they mean to me. The joy, the laughter, the love they bring to my life. The gift is simply a physical statement of the time I have spent thinking about them and what they mean to me. It is the outcome of my reflections on their beauty and spirit.

Christmas is a marvelous time of year. My youngest daughter Liseanne, is a Christmas child. She lights up at this time of year. She exudes joy and laughter and caring. This year, she and her sister have adopted a young woman and her eleven month old baby. She's calling friends and family to assist them in raising funds to help them buy the necessities for this young woman who is currently finishing high school, working and raising her daughter. I am in awe of both Alexis and Liseanne's commitment to helping this woman and her baby. There is no greater gift as a mother than to witness her daughters caring hearts opening up to the needs of a stranger. Christmas is in their heartsfelt caring.

Christmas is in the faces of the Grade Six class who came into the shelter yesterday with 81 backpacks filled with 2,736 items they had collected to help out our clients. They had shampoo and socks and cough drops and toothbrushes and candies and mittens stuffed into the backpacks. They arrived with their teacher and some parents to unload the gifts late yesterday afternoon. Christmas was in their infectious laughter and joy and willingness to make a difference.

Christmas is in my good friend Suzanne's wish to help out. She wrote an email to all her friends asking them to support her in a drive to purchase mittens and hats for the shelter. She raised over $2,000.

It's in my friend Donna's desire to learn more about what homelessness is in our city and who is now looking to volunteer her time at a shelter for women and children.

It's in the film crews wish to not charge full rate for their time yesterday. It's in the woman walking by and offering one of our actors a sock filled with toiletries. It's in every nook and cranny of our city. It's the simple gesture. The small significance that makes a huge difference to the recipient.

Christmas lives in our hearts. It is the spirit of giving. It is the knowing that we are all connected through our humanity. That place beneath the scars and bruises. Beneath the dirty clothes or designer togs. The perfect stylist job or the dirty hair. Christmas exists in the spirit of our caring, our concern, our desire to make a difference in the lives of those we love and of the strangers we reach out to when we lend a hand, or give a dollar to ease the stress of difficult lives.

Christmas is in knowing that even though life is filled with difficulties we have the power to stop and take a breath. To connect to the deep, still, quiet waters of our heart's steady beat. And in that breath, as we open our eyes to the wonder and beauty of this life, we find the power and the courage to step beyond our trials and tribulations, to awaken to the triumphs of life lived from morning to night full of hope, faith and joy. Christmas is in our unbreakable, undaunted habit of happiness in all kinds of weather.

The question is: How quiet is your heart beat? How steady is your habit of happiness?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Generosity of spirit on the street

People are amazing.

We were filming a commercial for the shelter where I work. The film crew, about 8 people, had all donated their time -- an amazing gift as it cut the cost of the already discounted budget by half!

When I arrived on the 'set', two gentlemen who were obviously homeless were talking on the street in front of the plate glass windows where the cameras were set up. I wondered if they were the actors or not -- they were. We chatted for awhile and then the crew all went inside as we were filming through the glass to the actors outside. One lay on a piece of cardboard on a grate on the sidewalk while the other sat on a bench behind him. At one point, a crew member went out to fix something. As he was talking to the man lying on the ground a female passerby approached, her body posture combative.

"Are you bothering this man?" she asked the crew member, her voice filled with concern.

The crew member looked at her, surprised. "No," he replied. "We're filming a commercial."

Embarrassed, the woman quickly apologized and left. We were all touched by her concern for the homeless actor on the ground.

Awhile later, the actors were alone outside as everyone was busy getting ready for filming inside. Two police officers approached, their ticket book ready as they attempted to move the actors from their resting place. The Director and I raced outside and moved the officers along.

Another woman, carrying a bit paper shopping bag, walked by and stopped to chat. "Here, she said to one of the actors as she pulled a big woolen sock out of her shopping bag, "Merry Christmas" and she handed him the sock filled with toiletries and Christmas goodies.

"Oh no. I can't," said the actor. "I'm just playing the role of a homeless guy for a commercial."

The woman didn't believe him. "Please, take it." She waved the sock towards him. He gestured to the camera and crew hiding behind the glass.

"Oh!" She laughed. Waved at us and carried on her way.

Aaron is a client of the shelter. He wandered onto set. Watched the action that wasn't really action as much as one man lying on the grate, the other bending over him for a moment before moving to sit on the park bench. Eventually he came inside. "Hi," I said as he stumbled towards me.

We chatted for awhile, his words slurred. He's quick minded. Funny. Self-deprecating kind of humour. "I auditioned for a movie role," he said. "They told me I was too good looking."

"I can understand that," I replied with a smile.

"I could be in this movie," he said, motioning to the actors outside. "I could go out there an pick bottles. I'm the world's greatest bottle picker."

"They'll want you to be sober, Aaron," I replied gently.

"Oh that." He laughed, waving his 'to go' coffee mug in front of him. "Everyone always wants that." He paused and grinned at me. "I gotta drink to get through my day."

"Can I get you some more coffee?" I asked pointing at his mug.

"Aahhhh. I cannot lie to you," he said grinning sheepishly. "It's beer." And he tilted his head back, lifted the mug to his lips and took a long, satisfying swallow.

It was a day of contradictions. Another homeless woman stumbled onto set. Set her backpack on the ground and started to chat amiably with the actors. We watched from behind the glass. They obviously didn't tell her what they were doing there. From her jacket pocket she hauled out a pack of cigarettes and offered them both a smoke.

The generosity of someone who has nothing.

I filled a coffee cup, grabbed a couple of sugar and creams and took it out to her. "Would you like a coffee?" I asked.

She looked at me, nodded her head up and down, her body in constant jerky movements. "Nice," she said. "Nobody gets left behind."

She took the coffee, sweetened it with the sugars, picked up her pack and continued on her way.

The actors continued to hold their positions. People continued to walk by, most trying to avoid looking at the door derelicts lying on the ground. A school group wandered past, a mother hastily grabbing her son, tucking him under her arm as she pulled him closer to the side of the building so that they could pass as far away from the scene as possible. A well-dressed, affluent looking man walked by. He glanced furtively at the scene, his face a study of disgust. Others looked for a cup to drop coins into.

Contradictions. Generosity of spirit. Meanness of heart.

It was all in part of the parade of life that unfolded yesterday on the street where so many people live.

The question is: What's happening on the street in front of you. Do you walk with eyes up, looking at the world unfolding, or do you walk with eyes fixed to the ground, never once glancing at the lives passing by?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Morning gratitudes

Slept late. I had a reaction to the pills I'm taking for my tooth -- couldn't sleep. Body vibrating. Eventually moved to the couch and after a cup of warm milk and honey fell asleep in the early morning hours. Ugh.

But! There's still the matter of the day unfolding. Still the excitement of another chance to live it up!

And that's the thing about the day. No matter how I'm feeling, what I'm thinking, how I'm doing, the day unfolds, time opens up, moments expand into the next. No matter my mood, the day awakens with opportunity.

Today promises to be filled with excitement. We're producing a new ad for the shelter where I work and today we're filming. Plus, I'm having lunch with a very dear friend -- one of the very first people I met when I moved west from Toronto in the 70s. What fun. And then tonight, I have a Christmas open house to go to and a concert at a mall where some friends of Alexis are singing -- five young men who formed an acapella group and do an awesome job on Christmas carols. Last Saturday night they came down to the shelter and wowed our clients and staff with their singing.

So, rather than focus on how tired I am, I've decided to focus on how excited I am to step into my day. To greet each opportunity with an open mind, loving heart and an attitude of gratitude.

I am grateful for this day. For this opportunity to expand into my being all that I am meant to be. I am grateful for my warm cup of coffee steaming in my favourite Christmas mug on the desk beside me. I am grateful for the warmth of my cozy house surrounding me. For the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree in the living room, and for the lights twinkling on the 'boys' tree on the table beside my desk -- Alexis and Liseanne decided our big tree was rather 'girlie' -- and it is! All pink and rose with beautiful glass balls and ornaments of ballerinas, dancing slippers and skates and exotic faces. To balance the femininity and to provide 'the boys' a tree of their own, they created "The Boy's Tree" in the dining room just beside where my office desk is. It's covered in blue balls and tinsel and miniature booze bottles -- a miniature tree but a real masculine concoction!

And I am grateful for being able to witness the beauty of the sun rising in the east. A girlfriend just dropped by to pick something up and we stood at the front door and watched in awe as the fiery sunrise lit up the skyscrapers downtown and set the sky aglow with rose and pink and auburn hues.

What an awesome day to be alive.

The question is: What are you focused on? How much you have to do, or how much you have? Is your heart filled with gratitude as you step into your day?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Morning has broken

Morning arrives and with it, my toothache awakens. I went to the dentist yesterday. I am terrified of dentists -- well not actually the dentists but rather the feeling of the machinery on my teeth. Just having them cleaned is a nerve wracking experience -- I need drugs to get through it!

Going to the dentist is one of those life taking care of thingies I have avoided. You know, the things you need to do to be effective in your life and avoid -- and because I forget that avoidance strengthens fear, I put off doing the things I need to do to go through my days with peace of mind.

I've developed a new technique, however, to help me get over my avoidance -- I make a list of all the things I need to do, and then beside each I write out why I'm avoiding them. What I find is that generally, I'll have three of four excuses for not doing it -- and one of them is always connected to my fear of being reprimanded.

Where does that come from?

In writing about it in my journal, I believe it comes from long ago. One of those childhood beliefs that was cemented when the adults around me behaved a certain way, and I translated that to mean something much deeper, more damaging, more limiting than their intent.

I hated making mistakes. I also hated taking risks that left me at risk of being ridiculed. So, I buried my longings, my feelings, my fears beneath a belief that if I just don't think about it, it will go away.

"It" never goes away. Just like my toothache. It's an abscess under a gold crown on one of my molars that was put on years ago. I've had the abscess for years too. Just kept ignoring it. I had been scheduled to get it repaired when I was still with Conrad -- when it was first beginning to hurt. This was just towards the end of the relationship when there was no money to pay for such a delicate surgery -- and wouldn't you know it, that was my fault, of course.

I've had dental coverage since, but I've still avoided getting that tooth looked at. I'd apply balm to it every time it hurt and when someone told me a story about someone dying from an abscess, I'd laugh and say, how silly. You don't die from an abscessed tooth.

For me, avoiding the reality of an abscessed tooth was a way of avoiding having to deal with a painful situation -- not the physical pain, but rather the mental angst of dealing with something that is connected to Conrad.

And the memory of that date with the dentist returns. I'm sitting in the car outside the mall where the dentist's office is. Conrad is yelling at me to get out and go in. I know he hasn't got the money to pay. I know he's lied to the dentist who happens to be a friend of his. I don't want to go in. I don't want to face people who know him and will now know I am with him. I don't want to say anything to him about my fears -- If I doubt him, he'll just yell at me more.

It's really cold out. Freezing. I hear footsteps crunching on the snow and Conrad is at the passenger door of the car, pounding on the window. He yanks the door open and drags me out. "Don't be so ridiculous," he screams. "I made this appointment for you. Don't make me look stupid in front of my friend."

I go in. I pretend that I'm okay. I want to cry. They make an appointment for me to go to a specialist to get the abscess fixed. I cancel it. It's too expensive. Whenever my tooth hurts after that, Conrad reminds me of how he had everything set up for me to get my tooth fixed and I refused to go get the work done. I am so stupid. Such a coward. So dumb.

I breathe. That was then. This is now.

Yesterday, I went to the dentist and had a check-up. The dentist didn't yell at me. He didn't scold me for not having it looked at earlier. He poked and prodded. Carefully examined all my teeth and made recommendations. I have no cavities. I'm scheduled for a cleaning. I have an appointment with a specialist to get the abscess taken care of, and I can afford to pay for it myself. I have insurance.

The fear in my head was greater than the reality. Bigger than the truth. The fear of touching that memory from the past kept me entrenched in unhealthy behaviour. Like the sore spot in my mouth, every time I touched on the idea of getting it fixed, I awoke my fear of those memories burning at the back of my mind like tears pushing out from the back of my eyes. And so, I buried myself deeper and deeper beneath my fear of those memories. And with every avoidance of getting it done, I strengthened my fear of looking at what I feared and avoided going to get it done.

I breathe again. Strongly. Purely. Today, my tooth hurts. In a few weeks, I'll have it fixed and the pain will be gone -- and the memory will have floated away on the healing grace of breathing into the angst of what was in the there and then, troubling me in the here and now.

The question is: Where does memory from the there and then hold you back from doing what you need to do in the here and now to take care of you? Where does avoidance strengthen your fear of doing what it takes to live a peaceful life today?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Daily alchemy

Alchemists were/are philosophers and sages. Since time memorial, alchemists have believed in the power to transmute lead into gold. The reasoning was, if one can purify one's own spirit, distill one's essence into purity, he/she could learn to transmute real lead into real gold.

In life, every day presents moments where we can turn the metaphorical lead into gold. Alchemy is the glass half full outlook that lets us transform the stuff of everyday life, both the joys and sorrows, into everyday treasures that inform, learn and inspire us to keep going, keep moving, keep striving for our personal best.

When I was released from an abusive relationship, I had a choice. Stick with the leaden facts, or find the golden truth within me. My choice was to turn that trauma into a new, richer, more vibrant, more fulfilling life. To get there, I had to be willing to feel the pain of the past, feel the angst, the sorrow, the anger, the fear. Through those feelings I followed my heart into creating my beautiful life today.

Long before I met Conrad, the abuser no longer in my life, I was on a quest to find my one true self. I knew that who I was was not necessarily who I was meant to be. Sure, I had lots of good qualities, lots of talents, lots of achievements, but I still felt like I was missing something. That I wasn't pure of heart -- or at least, that I hadn't touched the purity at my heart. I felt like somewhere within me a dark little worm was eating away at my essence, keeping me mired in the muds of unhappily going about my day, existing, but not living my true joy.

Most of my life I struggled with unearthing my inner self from beneath the fears and trepidations of my daily existence. I wanted to believe I was an awesome human being, worthy of love, deserving of life, but there was always a little voice of condemnation rippling through my affirmations. Through that experience with Conrad, I met my one true self, I affirmed -- I am an awesome human being, worthy of love, deserving of life. Period.

Not everyone needs to go through a cataclysmic exercise to reach their truth. It just happened to be the route I took. But, I believe we all need to embrace the truth of our beauty, our awesome nature, our powerful selves.

We are magnificent human beings on the journey of a lifetime. Live it up.

Today, as I journey through each moment, I embrace the truth and let go of the lie that once held me back from being all that I am meant to be. I embrace my fearless spirit, my passionate commitment to be all that I am when I live fearlessly in love with the world around me. Because, as the publisher, Malcolm S. Forbes, once said, "Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs." I'm sticking to my job of being magnificent on this journey of my lifetime. I'm taking the lead out of my daily grind and stirring the golden pot of opportunity with every step I take towards creating the life of my dreams.

The question is: Do you stand mired in the lead of your existence, or are you transmuting life into the limitless possibilities of being free to be all that you are meant to be?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Expect the unexpected

It's Sunday. A time of quiet. Of reflection. Of gentle awakening to a beautiful day.

Except. I had to get up early. Had to pick up a client from the shelter where I work and take him to a church where two young women had organized a fund-raiser on behalf of the art program I run at the shelter.

What an amazing experience. I hadn't wanted to get up. Hadn't wanted to be committed to do anything this morning other than spend some lazy time beside the man I love. But, duty called. I'd made an commitment. I had to go. I left C.C. snoozing as I drove off into the quiet of a Sunday morning wishing I was back in bed with him.

I'm glad I left.

And that's the thing about life. We really never know what experience is awaiting behind the next moment. We never know what heart-warming event will open up with every door.

This morning was one of those mornings. Heartfelt. Joyful. Touching. Profound. I wasn't expecting it. Didn't really want to go out into it. Thought about ways I could resist. Could change the course of my morning. I may have missed the moments in bed reading the paper beside C.C., and that's okay. I can do that next Sunday. This Sunday I was given the gift of a young woman's heartfelt attempt to make a difference, to change a little bit of her world, to leave it just a little bit better than it was. And she did.

Who could have known?

The question is: How many times do you go out the door resisting the moment you're stepping into and resenting having to leave the place behind you? How often do you leave yourself open to the surprise of the unexpected opening up before you?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cherishing the ones we love

Saturday morning. Lazy. Sleepy. Up early. Back to bed. Brunch. Back to bed. Grey skies. Chilly air. Curled up reading the newspaper in bed.

Perfect day.

And it's Christmas. That time when spirits rise and emotions lift us into that time and space where hearts connect. Where giving opens us up to receiving that which we cherish the most -- love, peace, faith, hope, joy.

C.C. and I are going shopping today. He's not too fond of Christmas shopping. Me, I love it. I love the crowds, the lights, the music playing, the decorations. I love the purpose of it. The searching for that perfect something to give that perfect someone. The feeling of it. Of being connected to an event that was inspired over 2000 years ago with one child's birth. In celebrating that event we strive to embrace the significance of a moment in time when we are connected through all that is true and beautiful and harmonious in our lives.

I love Christmas.

The question is: What brings significance to you this time of year? The gifts or the time spent thinking and doing for people who are special to you? Are you creating perfect moments to cherish the special people in your life?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Song of Joy

Last night, we had graduation at the Dale Carnegie course I have been taking. It was a beautiful event, filled with heart-filled stories of people's lives becoming more than every imagined possible. Of hearts learning the words to songs they've yearned to sing. Of eyes opening wide to the beauty within. Of minds listening to the unique voice behind the speaker.

The assignment for last night was to talk about a specific time during the training where one of Dale Carnegie's principles helped each of us do something differently. And then, to spend a minute talking about six months from now as if six months from now was reality.

For me, I talked about the form I had to fill in when registering for the course. One of the questions was -- What's your vision of your life?

Now, I have always resisted dreaming. Always resisted setting goals. Not that I haven't had any, but my fear of articulating them kept me from actually putting them to paper and then taking the necessary steps to move towards them. Too many voices from childhood clamoured to overrun my dreams with their insistence that I was stupid, or dumb, or simply wrong for dreaming. My fear kept me mired in building sandcastles in the air because I was terrified that anything I did to make my dreams concrete would be washed away beneath the laughter of others. I was afraid of falling and never gave myself the chance to learn how to fly.

Last night, I stood up in front of the group and claimed my dreams. I stepped into the centre of my light, and cast away my fear of standing in the darkness of my dreams vanishing into thin air because I was afraid of living them. Last night, I spoke of my dreams and claimed my right to create them as the centre piece of my very own wild and precious life.

Last night, I was privileged to share in my classmates doing the same. What a powerful, moving and inspiring event. To witness wings unfold. To watch in awe as they expanded into the delicate and vibrant beauty of their owner's light shining for all to see. To sit humbled in the glow of the greatness and the magnificence of the hearts beating around me to the beautiful sound of their dreams awakening and their unique voices singing a song of love and joy.

It was magnificent.

For these past three months I have been privileged to hear the stories and to see into the hearts of people who give themselves everyday to the care of those who have lost their voices. Like our clients at the homeless shelter where we work, however, for many of us, we never knew how beautiful our voices were. For some, because somewhere in the past someone told them they sang off-key, or perhaps because someone silenced their voices through fear and intimidation and abuse, their voices had never been heard.

Last night, I heard voices in song so pure my tears flowed in awe. My heart beat a wild tattoo of joy.

There is nothing more beautiful than the human spirit opening itself up to love. Nothing more inspiring than passionate voices rising above the cacophony of the past and singing out in joy for the freedom to be all that they are meant to be.

I was in awe last night. These are my co-workers. These are my friends. These are people I admire. I care for. People who inspire me. Who challenge me and who, through their example, teach me the meaning of being a magnificent human being filled with gratitude, humility and love.

The question is: Whose song are you singing?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In awe and love.

Morning slides through the night on the dark velvet ribbon of dawn. Daybreak lurks on the eastern horizon. Tinges of peacock blue streak through the indigo sky. A deep purple aura rises.

Dawn comes late in these northern climes. Days are shorter. Night rests longer.

Winter is a time of rest. Of renewal. Of stoking the passion of possibility deep within us as we linger longer around the fires of hope, faith and love. As December 25 hearkens, images of Christmas morning to come dance a brilliant arabesque upon the imaginations of millions of children who excitedly watch the northern skies for any sign of golden reindeer streaking through the night.

Centuries ago, a child was born upon whom all mankind placed great hope. The promise of his birth awakened our nascent need to believe, to have faith, to be reborn in the image of the creator, the Divine, the one we call God, the Father.

Call it Buddah, Call it Ahura Mazda, Ek Onkar. Allah. Jehovah. Call it any name, any language and at the seat of its Divinity is the belief we are born into a world of powerful wonder.

For me, the Christmas season is the awakening of all that is wonder-driven in our world. The magic, the mystery, the mystical.

Little children believe in a jolly old fat man who is capable of circumnavigating the world in one breathless night of gift-giving. Parents take delight in keeping the secret alive, knowing that come Christmas morning their child's eyes will open in awe at the perfect gift nestling under the tree.

As December 25th draws near, schoolchildren learn the words of ancient carols, practising them again and again, their sweet voices raised high in honour of the Child who came to give them life eternal. And in the quiet of a church basement or a school gymnasium, parents hearts break open in love as they watch in wonder their children's faces lit in the glow of candles as they sing and perform in the countless pageants taking place across the land in celebration of the Child's birth that was filled with great tidings and joy. No matter our age, or faith, we are all touched by the enduring love that came to life in the story of the Christchild's birth. We are all moved by the Divine.

Christmas lurks upon the horizon. Love. Peace. Serenity descends with dawn's breaking rays and I move into my day in the belief that for today, all things are possible when I stand in awe and love.

The question is: Where are you standing today? In belief, or disbelief that you are a child of wonder, of love, of mystery? Do you stand, in love?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blessings of the day

It was a day filled with blessings.

The first appeared in the mail in the form of a large cardboard box from New Brunswick. Once opened, it revealed its contents in a colourful array of hand knitted love and care. Scarves, mittens, caps. A mother whose son and daughter had once used the services of the shelter where I work committed last year to send a box of hand knit woolies every Christmas. What an awesome gift. In her letter she told me of meeting a woman at a garage sale while she was hunting for wool to knit with. "She too used your shelter last year," she wrote. She went on to write how the woman had told her the shelter had saved her life. "You saved my children's lives too," she wrote. "May this box of rainbow colours brighten the day of everyone and lift their spirits."

What an awesome gift.

Another blessing arrived later that night. At 7pm a large truck followed by a yellow school bus pulled into the loading dock. The back door of the truck lifted up to reveal its packed insides. Jackets, blankets, underwear, boots, mitts, toques, sweaters. From the bus, a stream of yellow caped "Angels in the Night" disembarked and began forming a conga line to carry the goods into the building. Amidst laughter and singing of Christmas carols, the task was accomplished in half an hour. When they were done, our store was piled high with new warm winter wear that will be distributed amongst our clients over the coming days. What an awesome blessing from a group of 30 angels who during the day are mortgage brokers.

The most powerful blessing arrived all mixed up in a young girls pain and sorrow.

We have an online Christmas Wish List that tells the stories of our clients for everyone to read. People can log-in, read the stories, pick a person's wish and send in the gift specifically for that person. Mid-day, I received an email from the organizers (a group of volunteers from a local church). "Can you deal with this please? It's pretty intense."

The email contained was from a 15 year old girl searching for her mother. "Hi," she began. "I know it's next to impossible to find a homeless person online but I was reading through all the stories on your site and I think I've found my mother. I haven't seen her in a year and a half. She ran away from home three years ago. The last I knew she had gone to live there. She's a crack addict and I know it's hard for her but I need her. Even if this isn't my mother could you please make sure the woman gets my letter -- maybe it will help her."

I went on to read the letter, tears in my eyes, my heart pounding, my hands shaking.

Perhaps I'm too close to this young girls story. My daughters once lost me. Didn't know where to find me. And then a miracle drove up and I was set free. I was found.

For this young girl, time is running out. Three years is a long time to be on the streets as a crack addict.

I am determined to get the letter to the woman she named.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Letting go to put down attachment

Joan Chittister wrote in her essay, After Great Pain: Finding a Way Out, "But the truth remains: Nothing lasts. No single thing can consume our entire life’s meaning. No single thing can give us total satisfaction. Nothing is worth everything: neither past, nor present nor future. It isn’t true that the loss of any single thing will destroy us. Everything in life has some value and life is full of valuable things, things worth living for, things worth doing, things worth becoming, things worth loving again. It is only a matter of being detached enough from one thing to be open to everything else.

The essence of life is not to find the one thing that satisfies us but to realize that nothing can ever completely satisfy us."

Powerful words.

Last weekend was my birthday. Another year. Possibly wiser. Definitely older. But what is age? A calendar page turned, the accumulation of 365 days crossed off which mark a total year. One page follows another, the sands sink into the hour glass, the hands pass across the face of time marching on.

My age is nothing compared to my experience, my learning, my knowing. The essence of my life is not in finding one thing that makes me happy, it's in the realization that I am responsible for my happiness. I am responsible for what I do that brings me more of what satisfies me and less of what doesn't.

Will I ever be satisfied with my life? I hope not. To be satisfied means to be so attached to where I'm at, I never want to be somewhere else.

I was once so attached to a man I wanted to die. Was I satisfied? In many ways, yes. I was satisfied that that was all I deserved, all I could ever have. That pain and turmoil. In my satisfaction that he was all I deserved, I let go of believing in the truth even though the truth was, I was hurting myself and those who love me.

At one time, I believed the loss of his love would destroy me. I could not see, his 'love' was destroying me because I was focused entirely on my fear of losing that which was destroying me. I had become so attached to my self-destruction, I could not let it go.

In this new year of my birth, I embrace the future with an open heart. It may have been broken, but in its breaking open it became filled with the possibility of love's power to detach from needing to hold onto that which I believed I could not lose.

Nothing in life is worth holding onto so badly I want to die. No one is so important I cannot let them go. For when someone else takes precedence in my life over me, I let go of the one thing I can hold onto that can bring me the satisfaction of knowing I am forever changing, growing, evolving, moving beyond and moving into all that I am meant to be.

Will I ever be satisfied I've gotten to where I want to be in my life? I pray not. My goal is to be forever growing beyond where I'm at today.

The question is: How satisfied are you with where you're at? Are you so attached to this place you fear letting go? Are you so attached to what you know you cannot see there's more to learn, to do, to become, to evolve into?

Monday, December 10, 2007

In the cold crisp mountain air

Birthdays. Celebration. Jubilation. A time to give thanks. A time to acknowledge a life, a time, a soul's journey.

C.C. and I both celebrated our birthdays this weekend. His was Saturday, mine Sunday. We drove up to the mountains, past Lake Louise on to the Highway to Jasper and stopped at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, a beautiful oasis nestled on the shores of Bow Lake, beneath the soaring beauty of dark mountain peaks striated with snow and ice.

We drove into the sunset bruising the sky rose and purple and indigo. Darkness had settled in when we arrived. The snow was white against the dark of night. Stars glittered in the sky above. The air was cold and clear. The vast white expanse of the lake stretched out before us. The welcoming lights of the Lodge twinkled in anticipation of our arrival.

We had dinner beside a roaring fire. Laughed and chatted. Sipped wine and watched the flames burn. After dinner we moved to the library where in front of another blazing fire we played cribbed and C.C. teased me about my lack of card playing skills. In the cool comfort of our room, we nestled beneath the eiderdown, the silence enveloping us in its welcome embrace. Serene. Calm. Peaceful.

These are moments where cherished memories are created in the desire to become more than the sum of two people spending a weekend together. These are moments when possibility awakens to the potential of two hearts opening up to each other without reservation as they surrender and fall into that space where love carries them through good times, hard times, shared times.

It was a weekend of laughter, of shared stories, of shared moments, of happiness floating on the cold crisp mountain air.

It was perfect.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

HI! I'm away for the weekend for my birthday. I'll be back Monday. Have an awesome weekend.


Friday, December 7, 2007

In memory of Dec 6

When Dec 6, 1989 dawned in Montreal, Mark Lepine was not a name that had made its mark on the history books of Canada. By the end of the day, Mark Lepine would be dead and his name would have scarred Canadian history forever. On that day he marched into l'École Polytechnique of Montreal carrying a semi-automatic pistol he had bought a few weeks before and murdered 14 young women.

In 1991, the Canadian government marked Dec 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Last night, I was the guest speaker at a vigil for the young women and all women who have died at the hands of violence. It is important we remember these events, that we give voice to these women whose voices have been lost.

Some time ago I interviewed a doctor at a Cancer Care Centre in Ontario where I was doing some consulting work. He told me about the challenges of his job and of working with people who were dying from such an insidious disease. He said, “One of the hardest things about cancer is it gets into a victim’s mind and robs them of their spirit even before they die.”

He could have been speaking of domestic violence and abuse. Like cancer, it is insidious. Like cancer, it kills. And like cancer, abuse takes over your mind and robs you of your spirit.

The statistics on cancer are sobering. A 2005 report released by Statscan stated 1 in 5 Canadians will die of cancer and 1 in 9 Canadian women will be affected by Breast Cancer. The statistics on abuse are even more sobering. 1 in 3 women in North America will be physically or sexually abused sometime in her lifetime. In Canada, 50% of women over the age of 16 will experience an act of violence at least once in their lifetime. (1) One in 6 pregnant women are abused and every 17 minutes someone is sexually assaulted and every year, 130,000 Canadian women report living in fear of domestic violence (2).

What struck me last night, however was not the statistics. It was the fact I know the name Mark Lepine and when I think of l'École Polytechnique of Montreal, the massacre of these young women is what I think about. I don't, however, know the names of the young women, mostly students, who were murdered. I don't know the names of young women who died on that day, many of whom were the same age as my daughters today. I share them here as their names should never be forgotten and the sound of our voices speaking out against violence and abuse should never be stilled.

Geneviève Bergeron (b. 1968), civil engineering student.
Hélène Colgan (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Nathalie Croteau (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Barbara Daigneault (b. 1967) mechanical engineering student.
Anne-Marie Edward (b. 1968), chemical engineering student.
Maud Haviernick (b. 1960), materials engineering student.
Maryse Laganière (b. 1964), budget clerk at the Ecole.
Maryse Leclair (b. 1966), materials engineering student.
Anne-Marie Lemay (b. 1967), mechanical engineering student.
Sonia Pelletier (b. 1961), mechanical engineering student.
Michèle Richard (b. 1968), materials engineering student.
Annie St-Arneault (b. 1966), mechanical engineering student.
Annie Turcotte (b. 1969), materials engineering student.
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (b. 1958), nursing student.

I invite you to spend 4 minutes in silence watching the video at the following You Tube link and please remember -- Abuse Hurts. Stop It. :

(1) Pavilion Family Resource Centre

(2)The Federation of Shelters for Abused Women in Difficulty (or FRHFVDQ, its French acronym)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Harmony and peace in Christmas decorating

Last night my daughters and I invited Christmas into our home. It could have been a disaster -- fortunately it wasn't.

There are times when I simply do not feel like being reasonable. The beginning of the process last night was one of them.

The boxes from Christmas are all downstairs. I think it's rankled me all year that they were in a disorderly mess. I was away last January when the girls decided to do something really nice, and pack away the Christmas treasures while I was gone. It was a treat to come home after 10 days away and not have to face the prospect of putting away Christmas. But.... they hadn't really payed close attention to how the items were packed up, and how they were stored in the basement. At the time, I chose to simply appreciate the thought and effort that went into their gift and thanked them for having done something so helpful.

But.... the mess.

It rankled. It burred. It was always there. Now, I'm sure I could have waded through the chaos and created reason out of it, but I had a better reason for leaving it as it was -- I was being stubborn. Plus -- I truly was appreciative of the fact the girls had pitched in and willingly, lovingly put everything away. I didn't want to discourage them from doing it again. Why complain about how they did it? I was grateful for the fact they had done it!

Unfortunately, I let the grating irritation of not having it done my way fester. Last night, it broke through like acid breaking through the vessel that contains it.

Liseanne was busy finishing off an essay for school so Alexis said she'd help me bring everything up. She carried one load up and disappeared. I hadn't realized she was gone until I was three-quarters through carrying everything upstairs. When asked what happened, she replied, "Oh. I forgot I had to make my phone calls."

Hello? Phone calls? What about the boxes?

I kept bringing the gear up and by the end was royally ticked off that she wasn't helping.

Now, I am not known for blowing up. It's not my habit. Not my nature. I'm actually trying to teach myself to express anger in the moment as expressing anger is something I don't do well -- except through silence and withdrawal. So, I thought I'd tell her about how I was feeling. The part of expressing anger I forgot about was the how to do it appropriately. In my haste to get it out and over with, I dumped the final box on the kitchen floor, strode into Alexis' bedroom and began to berate her with my ire.

"I am very angry," I said, my hands on my hips, feet spread apart, chin jutting out. "You said you would help and then disappeared. That wasn't fair."

"I had to make my phone calls to my group from Choices," she replied defensively. "You know that's important."

Now, I hate it when someone takes my righteous anger and douses it with their righteous cause. Never having been adept at expressing anger, or even acknowledging I feel it for that matter, I feel like their excuse means I don't have the right to be angry and thus need to back down.

I wasn't into backing down last night so I forged ahead, heals kicking up as my high horse took off across treacherous ground.

"I don't think that's a good enough excuse. You said you'd help. Where were you?"

"You could have waited for me to finish my calls before bringing up the boxes," my daughter responded. "You were just being stubborn and trying to prove a point."

I was?

Oh. Well, maybe. Possibly.

And that's the challenge with anger and I'm right, You're wrong thinking.

I was right to be annoyed. She had said she'd help and disappeared without a word.

She was right to be defensive. I was over the top in my expression of my anger with her behaviour. And, she had simply become fixated on her need to make the calls and gotten side-tracked with the urgency of her mission to connect with her group from Choices training.

Doesn't make either of us right in how we acted. She resorted to tears and crying. I resorted to hands on hips, riding my high horse with abandon posturing.

In the end, sobriety prevailed. We hugged and made up and the evening carried on filled with love and laughter.

But, in reflecting on the events, I realized how my ire about the mess in the basement had corroded my thinking for almost a year. It had eaten away at my peace of mind.

My anger wasn't all about Alexis' behaviour last night. It was about my not accepting the gift of my daughters help last year -- and letting go of my need to have it done my way. I paid lip service to my acceptance -- and did nothing about cleaning up the mess.

It is my responsibility to clean up my mess -- and if I needed them to pitch in to do the job 'properly', I needed to be clear in my message.

Because I let the issue fester for a year, I acted out my frustration last night. My unconscious overrode my conscious need to have a beautiful, happy, loving experience with my daughters as we spent the evening decorating our home.

For all of us, this is an important event. Alexis had specifically booked time off work so we could do it together. Liseanne has exams all next week and asked if we could do it now so her studies wouldn't interfere. And me -- well both girls know Christmas doesn't enter our home until after my birthday! Because I wanted us to do it together, I let my birthday position ease into Christmas the first week of December.

Had I stayed conscious of what I wanted, I would not have flown so quickly into anger and could instead have settled into what Stephen Covey calls, 'the third alternative'. What was the win/win I could have created?

I could have taken a breath. Got out of my head and into my heart and recognized that I was being stubborn. I could have spent the time in the basement sorting through the boxes and consciously pressed my rankled thinking into harmony and peace by focusing on the gift my daughters gave me last year and what a gift it is to be able to do this together. I could have waited until Alexis was finished with her phone calls and Liseanne had her essay completed. And, I could have accepted the fact Alexis didn't intentionally disappear -- she truly did forget because she has a habit of becoming distracted in the midst of whatever she's doing. I could have made different choices. Whether or not I chose to be annoyed -- I never had the right to be so over the top in my assertion I deserved to express my anger in the way I did.

The question is: Where do you not take responsibility for how you express your anger? Where do you choose discord over your desire to create harmony and peace?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What's your choice?

Last night I had to meet with some community leaders at one of two satellite shelters we run for homeless men. One of the clients, as he walked passed our group where we huddled out of the way of the sign-in desk, stopped to say hello.

"Thanks for coming in to see us," he said. "This shelter is Calgary's answer to affordable housing. I can afford $200 to $300 a month. But there's nothing to rent in that range in Calgary so this is what I get. It's okay, though I'd sure like my own place better."

There's that perspective thing again. I'd never thought of the satellite shelter, or any shelter for that matter, from that particular point of view.

I chatted with a man at the main shelter before I left earlier in the day. "It's not that bad," he said. "I suffer from severe depression. I need a safe place and can't afford anything in Calgary right now. At least I've got this place to stay until I can get back on my feet."

Gratitude in the face of adversity.

Pretty awesome.

It's easy to lose perspective when surrounded by the darkness. It's easy to become negative when the world around you continually reminds you of what a loser you are to be homeless, out of work, down on your luck, addicted, or mentally ill.

One of the artists said to a photographer who had come in to take some photos of his art work the other day that he would never have begun to express himself artistically again if it hadn't been for the shelter and the art program. "What art lets me do is surround myself with beauty," he said. "Chief Dan George once said that it's hard to find the beauty within if around you the world is constantly showing you how ugly you are. When you're homeless, being told you're ugly is a constant litany thrown at you by the outside world, as well as inside you. When I paint, I dip myself into a beautiful space and push away the ugliness around me."

Pretty profound.

Every day there is ugliness in the world. Everyday I have the opportunity to change my perspective. To dip myself into the beautiful space within me and touch the well of my creative spirit. Every day I have the choice of painting a vibrant rainbow coloured world, or a world of foreboding darkness. I can pull beautiful threads of vibrant colour from within me into my tapestry of life. Or I can weave in the doom and gloom of the world around me.

The choice is mine.

I can take the good with the bad and make it a full meal deal. Or, I can spit out the good as I choke on the bad filling me up.

The question is: What's your choice? To fill yourself up on a healthy perspective of life is bountiful, my possibilities are limitless. Or, life is a daily grind of same old, same old filled up with the pessimism of believing, nothing ever changes? What's your choice?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What's your perspective?

Busy times.

Snow flies, settles to the ground. Time flies faster, in every direction away from right now. Within a blink of the eye, it's gone, into the next time, next moment.

I wonder some days where it's gone and then don't have the time to wonder as I fill the moment with what needs to be done, must be accomplished, has to be completed within a given time frame.

Time. Like the limit on my credit card, the closer I get to the deadline, the faster it appears to go.

Perhaps time is on my mind because this Sunday is my birthday. Where did the time go? I look at my daughters at 19 and 21 and wonder how could they be so mature? They didn't arrive on the scene of my life all that long ago. Where did the years fly?

And still time passes. And with it, all hope of getting the moments spent back. Must spend them wisely. Must fill them with the joy of living fearlessly.

Somedays, time is the prison I wear when I limit the expression of my magnificence, my bounty. My world becomes the prison of my perceptions.

When I perceive that I do not have enough time to accomplish all I want - it is my choice to cut back, pare back, realign my perceptions to be less chocker block full of 'must do's' and more filled with want to do's.

My choice how I spend my time.

Today, I was feeling stressed. So much to do. So little time to do it in.

Is that true? Or am I lying to myself by telling myself I have to do it all.

My choice.

Today, I choose to sit back, breathe and relax. Today I take the pressure off and move into that time where the possibilities are limitless and I am inhibited only by my imagination. My point of view determines my outcome. If I take a negative perspective of time, there will never be enough time to change.

In turning around and finding the positive perspective I see a whole new point of view where I can fill my time with meaningful work that makes a difference in my world today.

My time. My choice. My perspective.

The question is: What perceptions do you need to leave behind as time closes in on the end of this year? What do you need to change to shift your perspective from the negative value of not enough to the positive perspective of limitless possibility?

Be back later

Hi! I'm off to a 6:30 am meeting --UGH!

And I'm late.

Be back later this morning.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Fear of turning up

Yesterday we held an art show with clients from the shelter where I work. I started the program a year ago and it has had some success helping clients find their creative spirit and to recognize that they can change their lives if they express themselves in a different way.

One of the clients, M., has turned up regularly -- he's incredibly talented but alcohol has taken a toll on his life. He has been working steadily for the past few months getting his art ready for the show. On Saturday when I saw him in the art space busily finishing off one piece, he was excited about the show. Yesterday, he didn't turn up. "I've got the flu," he said, momentarily lifting his head from the table where he rested it. "I'm not coming."

One of his friends, R., who also had works in the show was angry. "I love the guy," he said. "But right now I'm really angry with him. He's not sick. He's drunk."

The show was held in a church that supports the art program . We had about fifty pieces of art to transport to the church and to set up. We needed all the help we could get, but M was not having anything to do with it. The other two artists and myself scurried about getting the job done. We did sell a few of M's pieces, but given the difference in the amount R sold, it would have been much more successful had M been there.

M's not turning up is a pattern. He's done it before. As the pressure for accountability mounts, the fear rises. Sometimes, the fear overwhelms the need to turn up and swamps it with self-defeating behaviours.

Yesterday, M's fear won.

Today is a new day.

I know that fear of turning up. I know the reality of self-sabotage. It hurts the saboteur the most.

As I was speaking with the Minister yesterday about M not being there, she said, "It is what we do to ourselves when we fear our greatness that causes the most pain."

So true.

M feared his success and stayed away. He may have told himself, why bother. He may have said, I'll just have one drink to ease my fear. He may have said, No one will miss me.

I don't know what he told himself but his actions told me a lot.

In the moment, I too shared R's anger. But mostly, I was disappointed. I know how much the show meant to M. I kn0w how hard he'd worked. I know how important his paintings are to him. And I know the incredible vitality of one moment's success and its ability to shift the paradigm of a life lived in defeat to one of hope for a new tomorrow.

And he let himself down. Let himself off the hook of responsibility.

That hurts him.

All I can do is continue to treat him with respect. He is a man who has fallen hard on the road of life. He is a man who has forgotten his greatness.

The show yesterday was a success. For those who attended, their perceptions of homelessness and the people who suffer from it were shifted. For the artists -- their belief in themselves was shifted too. They gained a new perspective of their capabilities, a new appreciation for their ability to make a difference in their own lives.

The question is: Where do you let yourself off the hook of responsibility with the excuse not doing 'it' is the only option? Where do you refuse to fly for fear you'll fall?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Your unique voice

I took a workshop yesterday on mixed media. We used acrylic paints and pressed leaves to create wonderful images that were to become Christmas cards. The instructor had several examples of cards she'd created with detailed instructions on the back as to what to do when, and how to do it to create a card like it.

The woman across from me painstakingly began re-creating one of the instructors pieces. After a few minutes she stopped and asked the instructor, "Am I doing it right?"

The instructor inevitably replied, "There is no right nor wrong way. It's all in what you choose to do."

A furrow of fear appeared upon the woman's face. "But it isn't looking like yours."

"Of course not," replied the instructor. "It's your work. Your creation. It will always look like yours."

The woman was stymied. "You mean I don't have to do it exactly like you?" she asked, consternation clouding her words. Could she believe her?

"Absolutely not. I gave you my examples as a reference point. It's up to you to give the card your own..." She hesitated, searching for the right word, "unique voice," she finally said.

Unique voice.

We all have one. In The Eighth Habit, Stephen Covey implores all of us to find our own unique voice -- and then inspire others to find theirs.

Everyday I have an opportunity to live on purpose. To express my unique voice. To live with significance in each moment. To make each moment a reflection of the significance I create in my life when I purposefully claim my right to be all that I am meant to be.

It is no easy task to live on purpose. It's also not very hard. Living on purpose is simply the decision and the choice to find the gift in each moment I am alive. To see the beauty in the world around me. And then -- to celebrate the joy of everyday living.

When I move through my day with a joyful heart, greeting every circumstance with 'holy indifference' I experience the pure bliss of living in the moment without being attached to the outcome.

I used to have a sign above my computer that read: It is my responsibilty to

Turn Up. Pay Attention. Speak my Truth. Stay Unattached to the Outcome.

The first three are easy. The fourth.... not so simple.

I always want to control what happens to events once I've become involved.

Like painting. I want to control the paint to make it go where I want it to go. Working on my cards yesterday, I let the paint flow. I pushed it around, scraped it, moved it -- and then found the images within the images to create the impressions I desired. I worked in sync with my medium. I turned up. Paid attention to what was happening on the water colour paper before me. I searched for the truth in what I saw and expressed it in my own unique way -- and I stayed unattached to the outcome. I didn't anticipate a beautiful result. I let it happen.

The woman across from me yesterday struggled for awhile trying to make her cards look like the instructors. Finally, she let go. She gave into her frustration and loosened her grip on her brush. As she relaxed into the process a smile began to appear on her face. She let colours blend. Paint flow. Images move of their own volition. She stopped trying to control the outcome and let it happen.
"This is fun!" she cried as she let her brush move paint across the surface of the water colour paper.

From across the table I laughed and agreed. "Yup. It is. I love the free form of the process."

"I've taken hundreds of hours of oil painting classes because I told myself I should know how to paint. And I've never enjoyed it," she told me. "I hated having to do it exactly within the lines. To always follow step by step what the instructor said." With a flourish she affixed a red leaf to her painting. "This is really fun. I'm enjoying myself!"

She had found her unique voice.

The question is: What about you? What's your unique voice? Do you give yourself the grace of letting life happen without controlling the outcome? Are you willing to splash paint outside the lines and let it run with abandon? Are you willing to create a world of difference by celebrating the magnificence of YOU?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Doing nothing

Cold winter air has settled on the city frosting the world with scalloped edges of crisp white pristine snow. Brrr. The mercury dips and I want to go back and curl up in bed.

But the world awaits.

Ellie paces impatiently for her walk. The laundry piles up in anticipation. Light expands across the dull grey sky. Chimneys leak smoke. Snow crunches beneath the tires of cars passing by on the road outside my window. The furnace hums spewing warm air throughout the house.

Winter has arrived on a breath of frigid air, and I want to curl up in bed.

What to do? What to do?

Some mornings are just better designed for lazing about. Tomorrow, I won't have a chance to curl up in bed. The art program I run at the shelter is holding an art show and I have to help set up in the morning.

This afternoon I'm taking an art class. This evening we're out to dinner.

What to do? What to do?

Most mornings decisions are easy because they're simply not necessary. My schedule is laid out like a freshly pressed suit waiting for me to step into my day.

Mornings like today are not so defined. I have choices. There's nothing heavy resting on my mind. No urgent deadline that must be met. I've got options.

Mornings like today are little gifts in an otherwise busy agenda filled with meetings and projects to complete, errands to run and people to see. For this morning, I get to choose to let the errands go. The projects and deadlines can wait. Those who would want to see me are hopefully curled up in their beds savouring the moment.

For me, I'm going back to bed. The morning has arrived and I don't have to leap out into the cold until....

Well, until I must! My choice! My day! What a delightful opportunity to be alive and free!

The question is: Do you allow yourself moments of lazy splendour curled up doing nothing but enjoying the comfort of your bed, and your bedfellow? Are you willing to give yourself the gift of time to do nothing but savour the moment?