Thursday, June 30, 2011

Standing in the dark

It was one of those 'dang', why can't I sleep?' nights. Tossing. Turning. Drifting off. Waking up only to drift off and awaken again.

And there was no milk in the house!

I did go stand out in the backyard for a few moment. It's part of my 'taking back the night' campaign for myself. Getting over my fear of 'the dark'.

And let me tell you.... I can't believe how unbelievable scary that is. To stand in the middle of the night, in the dark, in the yard, surrounded by a sleeping city. No sirens. No traffic. No nothing but the night.

Where did this fear come from.

Ruth Mowry over at synch-ro-ni-zing once suggested to me that her fear came from impressionable childhood moments religiosity compelled a fear of the dark to rise.

I'm sure stories of Satan and the fires of hell do play a role in my fear of the dark -- but whatever the cause, it is time to let them go.

So into the dark I go.

I'll keep you posted -- but really what all this is about right now is... I did finally fall asleep and woke up late!

Gotta run!

I'll be back later to thrill you with stories of Tip Your Hat and our first ever 'Celebrity Paint-Off' held yesterday evening.

it was a blast and wow -- what wonderful creations. Stay tuned y'all. I'll be back soon now, ya'hear?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I am grateful.

I am hungover today. No. Not the 'I drank a bottle of wine and finished myself off with a Scotch' kind of hangover.

This one's emotionally driven. And not because my eldest daughter left yesterday to return to Vancouver where she is now living. No, it's not of the separation anxiety genre. Though I do miss my daughter and am sad to say good-bye, I am excited about her journey, the future bright and sparkling on her path. I am not sad for my daughter.

This hangover is of the 'I'm so sorry you're hurting. How can I help you when I know your pain is so deep you can't breathe... What is wrong with humanity?' kind.

It's of the, 'I remember those days when I was catatonic. Numb. Terrified. Immobile...' genre. This hangover comes from not being able to process what I heard, what awoke within me, and what I cannot change.

This hangover will pass, as all things do. But, for the woman who sat in my office yesterday and cried and insisted she didn't know what to do. Who spoke of dark places and ending it all, 'this' will not pass quickly. 'This' will take time. If she gives herself the time to find herself beneath a lifetime of abuse, bad marriage, shame, fear, and self-loathing. If she gives herself the gift of healing.

"But how can I heal when I have to find a job. Go clean someone's house so I can have some money in my pocket. Find a way to connect with my children. Deal with my ex-husband. Go to court. How can I heal?"

I remember those times. Those days when the darkness pressed against my skin, compressing air, pressuring time. Release me. Give me up. Give up on me. Give me a break. Break me. I am broken. Broken into so many pieces. Scattered. Shattered. I cannot think. I cannot find my mind. I cannot. I can. Not.

I remember those days. And I breathe.

That was then. This is now.

In the now, there is a woman in pain. She is crying. Sobbing. She cannot hear me. She cannot hear. Anyone. But the voices in her head. Screaming at her. Whispering. It is the whispering that kills. The whispering that sucks the lifeblood from her veins, twining about her ankles, sucking her into despair. Her body leaden. Her mind heavy. the whispering sucks her dry.

I do not have the tools to help her. I can only listen. Prod here, poke there, like a scientist searching for life on a distant planet. She is far away. Lost. Alone. Frightened.

Please let me call one of our counsellors, I ask. Let me help you by finding someone who can help you, right now, right here.

Finally she agrees and I call one of our counsellors and she comes and they agree to write a contract that she will sign and check-in with her every week. She'll take professional help, she says. Anything. Please. To make the whispering go away.

It's in your head, I tell her, but I know she cannot hear me.

It's always in our heads. And the only way to stop it is to, Stop It. To not listen. To bring our will to bear.

It is the will bringing that is so hard to bear. After falling down for so long, standing up is hard.

and yet, we must. We must stand up if we are to live our lives without fear, without abuse, without believing we are worth nothing.

We are each and every one of us worth so much, but only we can find our only value. Only we can stop the voices in our heads that would have us believe -- there is no purpose for us here on earth.

I am hungover. This too shall pass. I know that her journey is not my journey, though for awhile, her journey awakened memory of a time when my journey hurt so much I wanted to die.

And in its passing, I am left knowing -- I have great value. I have great worth. I am worthy.

In its passing, I am grateful for the story I told one day in a classroom at a homeless shelter about a time when I was lost. In its telling one human being awoke to the belief that maybe, just maybe there was hope. That maybe, just maybe there was a possibility of change.

I cannot change her journey, the choices she makes, the paths she takes. I cannot clear her mind, or wave a magic wand and 'make it all better'. She can. She has already taken the first step. 'Baby steps,' I told her yesterday. 'Baby steps.' In walking into my office yesterday, she chose to reach out and that is the beginning of hope rising that for this woman, this too shall pass and she will find her worth, recover her joy.

I am grateful to have heard one woman's cry for help.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yesterday died

I found this short story I think I started writing a year ago. I don't remember why. I barely remember writing it. I have this memory of a writing exercise of taking a line and working it in a new direction but I'm not actually sure where it came from! So, if you know the inspiration for this story, or are the inspiration, please let me know so I can credit you and apologize if necessary. I've had this story in my blog list for months. Occassionally worked on it and kept pushing it forward by a month. And then, yesterday it was scheduled for publishing and I forgot to push it forward again and here it is. I'm still editing. I'm curious though where the inspiration -- and possibly some of the story came from! Sometimes, I'm a mystery to myself! And sometimes, what I write is a mystery to me.

I vaguely remember that at the time I'd read a news report about a reporter who was kidnapped by insurgents somewhere in the world. I remember reading that news and thinking about what it must feel like for the mother, or father, who so wanted their child to live their dreams -- and then to have them come into harms way because of that dream. That thought lead me to write -- or, did a story I read by another lead me to be inspired to write...


Yesterday I said goodbye to someone I loved. As I hung up the phone the last time we spoke, hearing the echo of the distance separating us, I believed I'd see him again. I thought I'd hear his voice again but life has a grim way of reminding us of our mortality.

Last night I opened my door to the police. I remember the frost on their breath as they gravely asked my name.

Their words seemed to freeze as they asked if they could enter. I felt only curiousity at their presence. No premonition of death. No cloud of despair.

And then, they entered and asked me to sit down. I knew. I knew then they were about to destroy me. Good news can be taken standing up.

They told me my son was dead. They told me he was shot. Shot by the stray bullet of a gunmen who remains nameless to me. He remains nameless to my son, the boy he killed. I sit and worry that this man who was probably no more than a boy himself, could kill my son without ever having known him. And in my grief I wonder if it would make it any easier knowing the man who killed him.

It is hard to hate a faceless enemy.

They told me my son was doing his job, doing it well I assume. He was gathering information for a documentary on the plight of the Palestinian refugees when he was hit by the bullet. A rubber bullet they said, a new type of bullet meant to maim not necessarily kill. A round steel ball covered in hard rubber. It made a small round hole where it entered his skull, almost invisible until they cut away his hair. I told him he should have had it cut. Perhaps they would have seen it sooner and saved him. But they tell me he was killed on impact. It's hard to imagine his life over in an instant.

I try to remember what I was doing when it happened. But 4:56 p.m. in Palestine means I was sleeping and I weep to think that I could sleep while my son died.

I remember when he left he was so excited, so alive. His first big assignment, a challenge, an opportunity to write something of consequence. He was full of dreams, full of hope. And I wonder if I caused his death. I wonder if I encouraged him to go in search of truth, and in that truth, death searched him out. Death was waiting. I have always believed that we create our destiny. That we have control of our lives. But death takes that away and I cannot believe that he created this.

Numbly I sit in his darkened room. He hasn't lived in it for over three years but it's still his. The signs of his passing life are all here. Trophies, pictures, scarred desk and toys. The chaos of his youth was tidied up when he left but his spirit remained. Idly I flip through his old records, some of them mine. Wings, America, Bob Dylan. I look at the Dylan album and remember his favourite song. He always wished he'd been born in the 50's so he could remember the 60's. Instead he cherished the songs calling for peace not war. Love not hate. He knew all the words to Baez and Dylan and now I do know where all the flowers have gone. They rest on the graves of our young men and women killed too soon by stray bullets and intentional ones too. By friendly gunfire and not so friendly 'enemies' we can name but never know or see or hear without fearing their truth will kill ours by gunmen we canot name and bullets we cannot feel.

And I think about the bullet. The bullet that killed him. It won't be in his grave, even though it is what put him there. Where was it made? Was it a product of a factory that employed someone just like him? Young. Youthful. Full of dreams and promise. Yearning to make their mark on the world. Yearning to show the horrors of war in an effort to make peace?

I wonder about that bullet. The men, and women, who work for the company that made it. Do they know their bullets kill? Their bullets kill mother's sons and father's daugthers. Do they know that in their killing force whole lives are torn apart, whole families are decimated by the force with which they enter someone's life and end it.

Do they know?

The police said my son didn't know. Didn't know the pain of dying. Didn't know death was coming. I know they're wrong.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Inside Voices. Outside Places

The other day I was sitting waiting for a friend to join me in a coffee shop when a group of young mothers walked in. Two strollers. One baby-bucket. Three diaper bags with numerous pockets stuffed with this and that. The women wore crisp cottons and designer jeans and sandals with sparkles and jewels and leather straps. Their hair was sleek and shiny, one streaked, one bobbed, one pulled back in a pony tail. Their babies were chubby cheeked. Smiling. Cooing. They were all beautiful and fresh looking.

After maneuvering their strollers and baby-buckets into place they sat down at the table next to me and proceeded to chatter as their infants slept or toyed with plastic rings or ate Cheerios from a plastic tub.

It really was hard not to overhear their conversation -- honest, I wasn't trying to eavesdrop - but the women didn't make any attempt hide what they were speaking about.

First, there was the conversation about breast-feeding and sore nipples. Ouch! That one quickly digressed into a comparison of designer labels on their children's clothing which morphed into an inspection of one woman's sandals which she'd just bought in Phoenix. She proudly displayed them for her friends, and anyone else who was within a fifteen foot radius, to see, along with a blow by blow account of the shopping expedition she'd had while buying them.

Don Cherry and every other wannabe sportscaster take note. You ain't got nothing on a woman describing her frenzied zip through a discount store, carrying a baby in one arm, an armload of designer jeans and blouses in the other while trying to grab the last pair of Manolo Blahniks from an equally crazed, shoe coveting woman intent on scoring the same shoes. What action! What tension! What drive! And man, can she talk fast in the recounting of the tale!

Now, I'm not sharing this story because I'm complaining about the baby-totin', fast-talkin' mama's who were seated beside me that day. Though I must admit, I don't remember looking that fantastic when my daughters were that age. I remember feeling lucky to get out of the house with a blouse on -- that's if I could find one that didn't have milk leak stains in strategic places.

Okay, so I was a little envious of their youth, their beauty, their belief in their centre stage place in the world. I was a little jealous in their confidence that their conversation, from best baby food to designer labels to nanny woes, was the only conversation worth having (and hearing) in the coffee shop that day.

But seriously. When did we decide that the coffee shop was just an extension of our living room and because it's 'home' no one can hear us so, we are safe to share the most intimate details of our lives?

Have you noticed?

You go into a coffee shop looking for a nice quiet corner to sit and read or simply contemplate the foam bubbles popping on the top of your triple decaf, extra hot, two pump skinny vanilla latte in a 'to stay' mug when your reveries are interrupted by the couple at the next table talking about their newest sex toy, or a group of highschoolers sharing every detail of their drunken binge on the weekend.

I mean seriously? Do we have to know everything? Do we have to share it all?

From Joy Behar to Dr. Phil, are we just so into 'me' we've got to let it all hang out where ever we go?

Has going viral usurped common sense?

Has reality TV dumbed down our ability to be real? The Bachelorette. The Biggest Loser. The Bachelor. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Sex in the Itty Bitty City. Intervention. Tough Love. Trading Places.

Seriously... do I care if a Hollywood Housewife loses her cellphone and can't call her chauffeur to come and take her across the street to her neighbours? Do I want to look like a movie star, or a dancing queen, or be the next Ultimate Coyote Ugly?

Somewhere, in the midst of all that reality TV exposing the unreal lives of the rich, and not so rich, and famous, within the talk show opening of Kimonos and purging of our psyches, we have lost our minds and are wandering this lonely planet in search of a place to be alone.

Because it's hard to imagine anyone is alone when a walk down the street is accompanied by a hundred people holding conversations on their cellphones.

Sometimes I think we're all in such need of having to look like we're connected we're all just walking down the street talking to invisible friends, throwing our words into little black devices that are wired-up, wired-into.... dead air.

I mean, really people, if every one of those cell phones is active, that's a whole lot of data packeting going on and a whole lot of brain cells getting fried.

It's impossible to go to a movie or theatre or any live event these days and not have at least one cellphone go off during the show. Just as it's impossible to sit in a coffee shop and not overhear someone else's conversation.

So here's my campaign. Let's get the living back into the rooms where we live. Let's not take our latest conquest, latest purchase, latest sexual exploit onto the streets. Let's take it all back home!

And if we can't do that, let's at least use our inside voices when outside the home!

You with me? You willing to join this one woman crusade of taking back good manners? You willing to teach the world that being at home in the world doesn't mean treating everyone like they're in our home, it means treating the world like we're visiting in someone else's home.

Best behaviour children. Be good now!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Around the dining room table

The forecast was for rain. All day.

Weather disagreed with the forecaster and shone its magic all day long, late into the night.

The forecaster is smiling today.

Rain falls. Weather weeps.

And I sit in bed, listening to the birds chirp, watching the rain drip wet against the window as Ellie, the wonder pooch, sleeps beside me.

Yesterday in the sunshine, I played.

With paint and ribbons and strings of pearls, along with my friend Tamara, I pasted and glued and crafted and created.

Cowboy hats.

For this years, Tip Your Hat -- it's the third annual charity hat auction on behalf of This is My City, a initiative that creates and engages every Calgarian in the conversation around homelessness through using the arts as the medium to build bridges.

And yesterday, Tamara and I did our bit. We were to have been five but only the two of us were able to turn up at my dining room table to create.

It was fun. We shared laughter, conversation, ideas. We shared a glass of Fieldstone Wine's Blackberry Currant (delicious!) and painted and glued and glittered the afternoon away.

And when we were done, it didn't matter that we were only two with five hats. All five hats were adorned and affixed and astonishingly fun!

And to prove it.... here's a short video on our final creations!

Have a wonderful Sunday. I will -- today is Alexis' birthday dinner. Family and friends will gather together around the same dining room table (sans plastic sheet and art paraphenalia) to share once again, laughter, conversation and ideas. How blissful is that!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A river of emotion (a poem)

John Atkinson Grimshaw 1878:
The Lady of Shalott

A River of Emotion

She sleeps on a floating river
drifting beneath her

body supine
undulating on a silky wave

of feeling nothing more
than the water's flow

passing beneath
her weightless body

endlessly drifting
into eternal release

a sea of emotions
crowding up against

wisps of memory lapping
gently at her fingertips

tracing memory's path
leaving not a trace

of time passing
on the river of emotion

where she lays sleeping.


A Note on the Poem

As I was reading Maureen's Saturday Sharing (My finds are yours) column this morning, the title of a book she mentions triggered an image of John Wodehouse's painting depicting Alfred Lord Tennyson's epic poem, The Lady of Shalott.

From that image, a line drifted through my mind with the effortless ease of water flowing in a river.

...and from that line, the poem took form...

Thanks Maureen for the inspiration! It was fun -- and yes, you're right, that isn't Wodehouse's Lady of Shalott -- while one of my favourites, Grimshaw's painting is actually the one that triggered my muse to awaken.

So... here's the invitation. Check out Maureen's blog today and see if you can identify the muse's inspiration.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Dandelion puffs and passing moments.

Dandelion Puff's in evening light. (from my iPhone)

It was a delightful hour. Both my daughters, Ellie the wonder pooch and me. Walking along the ridge of the reservoir in a glorious summer evening.

It truly doesn't get much better than that.

And as we walked, we talked and talked and shared and in the sharing, I slipped into awe. Awe for these two amazing young women who shine with such effortless beauty, the world is illuminated in the lightness of their being.

Yesterday, I wrote of my angst in being here every morning. Yet, it's not the angst of being here, it's the angst of some of what I'm wrestling with in my professional life that carries over into my writing here -- or rather -- limits my writing here.

It is the limits that concern me. Limits do not serve me well.

And yet, until I work through some of the issues I must deal with, writing of them here is not propitious, nor constructive.

and so, I limit myself.

Which is what causes the angst -- interesting isn't it? It's not the vastness of possibility that inhibits me, it's the constraints of where I'm at that causes distress.

It is, I am learning, one of the reason's I love living here on the prairies at the edge of the Rockies. Vast skies, even on rainy days, open up the world to light and possibility. Every moment is saturated in hope. Every vista infused with curiosity. To the west, mountain peaks soar into the heaven's above, pushing up expectations. To the south and west and north, vast undulating plains unfold, streaming out into the possibility of tomorrow and all it will bring.

Like my daughters. At 23 and 25, the world is vast and filled with possibility. So many avenues to choose from, so many paths to take.

And still they tremble. At the thought of what could be. What might happen. What if's not defined.

Recently, I moved my office to create space for one of my staff. We didn't have an appropriate space for him, and, as we work closely together (he is our media guy -- website design, video specialist, graphic designer) I decided to share an office with him. His title is: Creative Asset Coordinator -- or as he jokingly likes to call himself -- the Creative Ass.

Ahhh, I said, then that must mean our shared office is the Creative Ass Office or CAO -- said COW.

And wouldn't you know it, two days later, I saw this wild and wacky wooden sculpture of three cows -- with movable head, udders and tail. That's right. The three cows sit on rocking horse bases and when a switch is flipped, they rock back and forth causing their heads, udders and tails to rock in opposite directions.

It's so bizarrely weird it's wonderfully perfect!

And so.... I bought it and brought it into the office and set it up on the filing cabinet that sits against one wall.

Whenever you get to thinking this is all soooo serious, I told him, just flip the switch and let the cows remind you to 'quit taking yourself so seriously'.

It's perfect!

It works.

But... it doesn't dispel the need to reflect on choices and thoughts and ideas of what needs to happen next. It doesn't negate the need to find the long view in short horizons.

Because, no matter what is going on around me, there is always the.... what happens next imperative.

Like my daughters view of the world -- staying open to new ideas, new possibilities is imperative.

And letting go of fear of 'what happens next' is vital.

Just like the cows -- seriously? Is it really all that serious?

Is it not best to just quit 'taking yourself so seriously' so that life can unfold in all its wacky, wonderful and 'wicked awesome' delight?

My daughters and I went for a walk last night. The world shimmered in evening glory and we were infused with pregnant possibility opening up all around us.

It isn't the weather outside that's the issue. It's what's within me percolating, fermenting, germinating that causes my angst -- and in that angst is the possibility of more, the invitation of 'what if', the opportunity of 'yes'!

In that angst is the irrefutable truth -- all is well with my world when I walk in harmony with the one's I love. Like dandelion puffs shimmering in the evening light, this too shall pass and become another moment, another event, another glittering cause for celebration.

Because, seriously, none of it is lasting. All of it is transitory except for one vital truth that sustains and nurtures and feeds me as I bask in its beauty -- the love we share will never die. It is immortal.


And thank you everyone for such beautiful out-pourings of support. I appreciate your words, your heartfelt sharing and your generosity of spirit!

And... I promise I'll take a photo of my three cows and post it! I know you're dying to see it :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Evolutionary change

The view on my walk with Ellie

My eldest daughter, Alexis, arrived back from South Africa via Vancouver today. She actually arrived back in Canada last week, but, as she's moving to Vancouver, flew directly there before coming back here for a week.

The meeting I had scheduled was postponed so I could, unexpectedly, pick her up at the airport. And, because we're 'us', we decided to stop off at our favourite restaurant for a late lunch and conversation. And, because it was 'Cilantro', our favourite restaurant, we had to share a tear, or two. It's just what we do. I ask questions, she dives into her heart and the waters of her feelings flow free.

Alexis inspires me.

She is fearless. Heartfelt and heart-driven. The mirror of her feelings constantly reflects her beauty, regardless of the murky waters in which she may, or may not, be swimming.

Me, I like to hold off diving head-first into my heart by clinging to the foundational belief embedded in my mind, -- I know the answers and the answers keep me safe.

Which is why... I ask the questions and let her lead me to the heart of our human condition.

One of the things Alexis said to me that jarred my thinking to sink closer to the heart of my ennui -- along with her golden heart she is incredibly perceptive -- was a comment related to my writing here.

"Your blogs, at least some of them, have lacked in depth," she commented. "I get the feeling you're not really present." (or something to that effect -- at least that's what I heard her say.)

The hard part of Alexis comment is.... I know it. I've been feeling it. I've been experiencing it.

Maybe it is that after 1,446 posts (this is the 1,447th I've written since I began this blog on March 1oth, 2007) I am running out of things to write, or possibly, finding the imperative to write here every morning more of a chore than a labour of love, or, it's simply that I'm tired and need to re-focus, re-assess, re-jig what I do here every morning.

I'm not exactly sure of what it is. I do know the gifts I've received writing here every morning are plenty.

I've met some incredible people I treasure as friends and even sisters of the heart.

I've encountered people I truly admire and care about who turn up every day to read and share and support me. People I can turn up with and read and share and support too.

A place to write it out, think it through, work it over to find what is real and true and meaningful for me.

And, a place to hone my craft. To sharpen my writer's presence, to fill out my voice.

Writing here (almost) every morning for four years has been an incredible gift for me. It has given me too many gifts to count -- and I want the gifts and gift-giving to continue.

but.... and I know. I know... keep your but out of it... but, the but is, I need to reassess what I'm doing here, what I'm writing here, what I'm sharing and giving and learning.

I need to create value in all things I do -- and I'm not sure I'm focusing on value in my presence here. I'm wondering if I'm simply turning up here because... I must. It's a habit. It's expected. I don't know what else to do. I don't know how not to do it.

Which really means -- it's part of the evolution of being here. It's part of the learning, growth, change, expansion of being in this place.

So.... I'm still here. Still turning up. but I may start to shift how. Shift what. Shift the way to create value for me, you, and the universe.

I'm finding myself examining so many elements right now. My work. My purpose. My evolutionary being. And in that examination is the opportunity to grow and expand my understanding of who I am, where I am at, and what I am all about.

Which I find exciting! Exhilarating! Inspiring!

It's time to shake myself up. To destabilize the status quo and dive into the heart of all that matters to me, all that brings meaning to me, all that adds meaning to my life and the world around me.

So... bear with me please. I'm shifting. Evolving. Expanding.

And in that shift is room to explore new horizons.

In that shift is the more of life that awaits when I let go of 'knowing' and embrace my being inside out, outside in, living this one wild and precious life in the rapture of now, fearlessly diving into my heart without requiring directions to lead me there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morning has Broken

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. Oprah Winfrey

Ellie (the wonder pooch) and I walked along the ridge of the reservoir last night. Early evening sun cast lengthening shadows. Birds flitted from tree to tree. Bikers, walkers, joggers, mother's carrying small children, father's steadying sons and daughters on tiny plastic two-wheelers were scattered along the path. The air felt fresh and light. The world felt pregnant with possibility.

Ahhh, summer. You have arrived.

This morning, brilliant sunshine filters through green clad branches of the cherry tree outside my bedroom window. Birds flutter around the feeder. They peck at the feed and each other, chasing one another away, darting back to grab a seed.

I hear the sound of water pouring from the lion's head fountain mounted to the wall of the garage. Hops entwine the trellis on either side.

Morning has broken...

And I am awake.

Blackbird has spoken...

I hear its song.

Praise for the singing...

Let your voice rise.

Praise for the springing...

Embrace all that is.

Today is a new day. I have a choice. To greet it with trepidation, or embrace it with joy. No matter what today brings, my choices will determine how I move through each moment of the day.

And so, for today, for every day, I choose to dance, to laugh, to sing. I choose to cry, to weep, to feel.

I choose to be in the moment of feeling the temperature of the day fresh against my skin. And in my feeling, I choose to accept -- I cannot change the weather. I can greet it with a springlike anticipation of all it has to offer. I cannot dissuade the rain, I can always choose to dance.

And no matter what I choose, no matter what the day brings, my attitude is the difference between how I weather the storms of life.

And because it is just one of 'those kinds of days', here's Cat Stevens singing one of my all time favourites, "Morning has Broken", lyrics by Eleanor Farjean

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The possibility of a new tomorrow

We said good-bye to Terry Pettigrew on Friday. The 58 year old man who had lived at the homeless shelter where I work for the final 4 years of his life passed away on May 31.

Over 100 people gathered in the multi-purpose room on the 6th floor of the shelter to pay their respects and to share stories of Terry's journey through their life.

It was a beautiful, moving and touching ceremony in honour of this humble man.

and in the midst of it memory tapped and I remembered.

It was March, 1997.

Cold. Snow covered the ground. Winter still clung fiercely to the land.

We were in Saskatoon. My two sisters, my daughters, my eldest sister's husband and my mother.

It was not a journey we wanted to take. It was not a place we were welcome.

My brother and his wife had driven into the front end of a semi-trailer on St. Patrick's Day. There were no remains to bury. Their car had burst into flames and little evidence was left of their passing.

Except for the tracks they'd left in our lives. Except for the pain in their two daughters' hearts. The girls were 17 and 18. Too young to be orphans. But accidents and fate don't ask first if you're ready before interrupting your life.

My nieces were devastated. Angry. Confused.

It was a heart-attack someone suggested about my brother's state at the time of death. My nieces took that to mean he was so hurt and confused by a fight he'd had with our mother -- and by my sisters' and my insistence mom not move to Saskatoon with them when they'd moved from Ontario a few months before.

They blamed us for his death. They had to blame someone. How else could they make sense of such pain?

They didn't want us at the funeral.

We had to be at the funeral.

Death is a powerful force. It strips us to the bone, laying bare our raw emotions, exposing our pain and fear and regrets and loss to the fates. It strips us and in its inexorable pull to drag all semblance of order from our lives, it leaves us exposed to the irrevocable, irrefutable truth -- someone is gone and we will never see them again. Never get them back.

I sat in the multi-purpose room on Friday and watched two sides of a family take opposite sides of the room in an attempt to keep the distance that has separated them for years intact.

But death doesn't respect distance. It doesn't have time for family squabbles.

Death only has time for itself.

In Terry's passing, four brothers came to bid him farewell, and in their appearance a path was laid for distance to be crossed, for olive branches to be reached, for families to heal.

Thirteen years ago my brother and his wife passed away in a fiery crash. It's taken time, and distance, to put out the flames of their passing, but, in time's wake, hearts heal, memory of discord fades and in its stead, the circle of love that connected us at birth joins forces with the family ties that could not be broken.

I watched a family take sides on Friday and prayed they'd find a way home to the ties that bind them, regardless of what side of the street they stand on.

In coming together in one place to bid their brother good-bye, they've laid a foundation for a new path to be taken. A path that will lead them towards eachother and away from the past that pulled them apart when a father rampaged through their lives and tore a young boy from their hearth but not their hearts.

On Friday, four brothers met and in that meeting is the possibility of a new tomorrow.In coming together in that place to remember a brother, memory stirred of the love that binds all of us through the circle that is our family. For, no matter the past, there's no time like the present to create a new path home.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Alexis!

I upset someone I love yesterday. I hadn't meant to. It was an accident. But hurt them I did and for that I'm sorry.

See, it was my eldest daughter's 25th birthday yesterday.

I forgot.

Ok. So I didn't really forget as in I completely forgot about her birthday... It's just I didn't connect the dates. The fact it was Father's Day and her Birthday and the 19th of June all in one cohesive unit that awoke me up to the realization her birthday was yesterday not this Wednesday when she arrives back in Calgary.

Which I knew it wasn't. This Wednesday when she arrives. I knew this Wednesday was the 22nd. It's the 19th date I had difficulty connecting. The fact that yesterday was the 19th. If I'd noticed the date her birthday would never have gone unremarked. I know her birthday is the 19th of June. It's just I hadn't realized yesterday was the 19th of June.

Go figure.

But then, according to research, it makes sense. My memory cells just ain't what they used to be. So, when my daughter came here in search of a post about herself here -- because I hadn't phoned and I always post about each girl on their birthday, there wasn't one. I'd forgotten. though I prefer to call it, deferred the date to when I remembered :).

So... in honour of my daughter, in honour of 25 amazing years of her presence here on planet earth, I dedicate this blog to her.

She deserves it. (even though both girls forbid me from writing about them some time ago -- I'm going to do it anyway! I'm a rule breaker y'a know!)

Here's to Alexis. Amazing. Talented. Kind and caring. Intelligent and creative. Her beauty shines from the inside out. Her presence creates a light in the world that illuminates a kinder, more caring path for all of us to follow.

When she was two, Alexis liked to paint outside. I'd line the deck railings with paper, load her paint pots with rainbow colours, hand her a paintbrush and without hesitation, she would commence to paint. Even at such a young age she had an eye for colour and light. Decked out in bathing suit, sparkling tiara and a feather boa, she'd spend hours painting, singing to herself and telling her bear, who sat beside her in the child-size lawn chair complete with umbrella and watched, all about the worlds she was creating.

She spoke in full-sentences. Had been doing so since she was just a year old. It was a bit disconcerting for strangers. Not accustomed to her articulate manner, they'd be surprised when this tiny little two year old walked up and introduced herself, telling them her name, her age, and the fact she really liked chocolate.

She also knew never to ask women their age. She'd figured that out relatively quickly when at 16 months, after introducing herself to an older woman in the airport lounge where we were waiting to board a flight to Toronto, the older woman had told her that was not an appropriate question. She'd come back to me and asked why it wasn't appropriate and I'd told her that sometimes women would rather not speak about their age because they were sensitive about it. "What's sensitive?" she asked.

She always did. Ask. If she didn't understand the meaning of a word, she asked, and once she'd learned it, she'd use it in her next sentence. Sometimes in many next sentences.

Like the time she was playing with her bear in the cubbyhole beneath the sink in our bathroom. She was two. Her father had just come out of the shower and upon seeing him naked, pronounced in her singsong voice. "Daddy has a tail."

Her father, somewhat consternated by her comment called out to me in a pleading voice. "Louise...."

Just tell her what it's called, I suggested.

And so he did. Tell her what it's called.

It's not a tail. It's a penis.

Penis, she repeated.

And again. Penis. She glanced down at her teddy bear who was sitting with her in the laundry basket she was using as a boat to sail around the world. "Does Teddy bear have a penis?"

No, I replied coming into the bathroom as her father scooted to safety in our bedroom.

Why not? she asked.

He doesn't need one.

Why not?

Now, I know the simple answer would have been, because he doesn't need to pee but that particular anatomical reality of the appendage in question had escaped my mind. And I wasn't prepared to get into a detailed conversation about birds and bees and reproductive systems.

So I did what any self-respecting mother would do whose husband, when faced with the option of explaining to his two year old daughter why daddy's body is different than mommy's or going for a bikeride, had chosen the latter.

I changed the subject.

Alexis was never one to be deterred from finding answers. Penis became her new favourite word and every bear, lion, any stuffed animal in the house, had to be inspected to see if it contained an appendage called penis.

The toughest question to answer though was when she asked, as we walked past the church down the hill from our house, "Does God have a penis?"

"No," I replied.
"Why not?"
"He doesn't need one."
"Why not?"
"Because he's androgynous."

That stopped her. For a moment.

"What's an-dro-gy-nous?" she carefully sounded out the word.

"It means having no particular sex, yet compromising both sexes."

"What's sex?"

Oh dear. There they were again. Those darned birds and bees...

and so she grew. From inquisitive two year old to beautiful twenty-five year old. Life with Alexis is always an adventure. Always a gift.

I know I'm a day late, but happy birthday my darling daughter. You make my world brighter. You bring me joy and laughter, light and love.

You are my first born. For twenty-five years I have practiced my mothering skills on you and as you can see, I'm still perfecting them.

Love you more than all the memory cells I will ever use or lose.

(Thanks Fi at Inspiration to Dream for the badge! It fits me well today!)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong. Charles Wadsworth

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Highlights of my week

Saturday morning. C.C. is home this weekend. Marley the Great Cat and Ellie the Wonder Pooch are both sleeping on the bed between his legs. He sleeps. I sit beside him with my laptop on my lap and type. Domestic Bliss.

Blogger and I are fighting. It doesn't want me to post comments on the blogs I read. It's taking forever to load pages. I'll try again later. Internet Distress.

Glynn Young, @Faith. Fiction. Friends, who is one of the most ardent supporters of writers online, mentioned my poem, Saturday Waits, in his Saturday Good Reads today. Cyberland Gratitude.

We held a memorial service for Terry Pettigrew yesterday. It was beautiful. Touching. A fitting end. Real world thankfulness.

C.C. and I went out for dinner last night after he arrived back. We sat and chatted for over three hours in a tiny french bistro and shared hearts and minds. Loving satisfaction.

I received an email from a man the other day who saw the documentary on my book. He wrote to ask if he could be my boyfriend, despite the fact he is obviously much younger than me, he added (and he is a complete stranger). "You are unequivocally the third most ravishing woman I've ever seen," he wrote. Email consternation (though I'd sure like to know who no. 1 and 2 are! :) )

I attended an amazing event Thursday night. TimeRaisers celebrates great art and volunteerism. Company's purchase art works that individuals can bid on to buy through volunteer hours. One of the artists who started coming to the art program I started at the homeless shelter five years ago had a painting up for bid. Philanthropic win/wins

This week I heard from a woman I met online eight years ago when we were both posting on a support website for people involved with psychopaths. Her email was a wonderful gift. Grateful re-connections.

Had a long chat with a dear friend I haven't spoken to in a couple of years. He'd moved away and while neither of us are quite sure why we disconnected, reconnecting is a wonderful and beautiful thing! More grateful re-connections.

I heard from a woman who read my book, The Dandelion Spirit. "You really helped me," she wrote. Grateful connections.

I had tea with a woman whom I admire. We chatted and connected and I am looking forward to our developing friendship. Blossoming friendships.

My mother wasn't feeling well this week. My sister ensured she received medical attention. Sibling gratitude.

And so much more...

Friday, June 17, 2011

A rude awakening

It was a rude awakening. A friendship built on two people new to a city, finding a common ground only to discover, one of them was lying. There was little truth in their story.

And in the wake of their passing through, destruction, pain, anger, disbelief.

"You won't believe what I discovered about A.J.," C.C. text me from where he was watching the hockey game Wednesday night. "I'll Skype when I get home."

And then the mayhem ensued and I was mesmerized by the drama unfolding on the streets of Vancouver while C.C. was driving the streets of Saskatoon, searching for a man he couldn't believe would lie with such aplomb. He had to admit that even the father and brother-in-law he believed had been killed in a car accident were probably sitting drinking a glass of wine in La Belle Province, or maybe at a sidewalk cafe in The City of Lights.

C.C. was devastated.

"I can't believe I could be so stupid," he said when we later connected.

"You weren't." I told him. "He is a subject matter expert in human manipulation. He's spent his lifetime perfecting his craft. You weren't suspecting deception. You were expecting what you were giving. Your honesty. Truth. Care."

"But how could he do so many kind things and be a liar?"

"Because the things he did were based on creating the effect he needed. Your confidence. Trust. Respect. He'd do anything to get those. And that includes lying."

In the wake of A.J.'s passing through the lives of several people C.C. knows there has been much destruction. Jobs lost. Bank accounts slimmed down. Items stolen.

And yet, in the wake of A.J.'s rampage through trust and hearts and minds, there is left behind an awareness no one ever had before -- this could happen to me. It could happen to anyone.

And in the end, it isn't about closing down trust, it's about opening up to intuition. Fine-tuning our hearing to our inner voice.

It was there.

I heard it when I first met A.J. But, pushed it aside. It's just me being my suspicious self, I told myself. C.C. is enjoying this friendship. You're just being difficult.

But each time C.C. told me of something else, some other promise -- that didn't materialize (yet, he said), some other missed event that didn't happen (yet, he insisted), I wondered.

But I didn't stop to listen.

Last night C.C. said, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true."

So true.

I learned that the hard way. In a relationship with a man who promised me the world, who promised to 'love me 'til death do us part' and who then actively set about making the 'death' part come alive so that I would be out of this world.

And now, a police file has been built. A warrant issued. Somewhere, out there, is a man rioting through people's lives. Sure, it isn't of the magnitude of the destruction in Vancouver, it isn't of the dark and lethal nature of a Jeffrey Dahmer, but it is deadly.

A.J.s brand of rioting kills trust. Kills spirits. Kills hope and belief in humankind. It kills.

If we let it.

And we can't.

For in the end, the A.J.s of the world can only survive with our collusion.

and we don't have to do that.

We can fight back.

We can't stop the A.J.s of the world from being who they are. We can stop them from being who they are in our lives.

I can't change an abuser. I can stop abuse in my life.

By waking up. Opening up. Living up to all I'm meant to be.

It's been a hard go for those who got caught in the web of A.J.s deceit. But they will survive. They will grow and thrive and flourish.

Sad thing is, the A.J.s of the world seldom do. Trapped in the lies of their creation, floundering in a world of little conscience, they continue to create mayhem where ever they go, moving on when the heat gets too hot to stay. Spinning their web faster and faster.

The A.J.s and Conrad's of the world seldom find what they're looking for. they can't because there is no truth in lies. No beauty in deception.

But you and I can.

Because what we're looking for is right here. Inside each and every one of us.

Truth. Beauty. Honesty. Integrity. Joy.

It's all there, waiting for us to claim our gifts. Let's do it!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brandon Sinclair. I disagree.

"It's kind of expected, but, I don't know — it's kind of embarrassing in a way. But it kind of shows our passion in a way, if you think about it." -- Brandon Sinclair, 18, from The Fan 590 website
I didn't join my meditation group last night. I had intended to, but I was drawn to watch 'The Game'. Drawn to cheer on 'Canada' as two teams battled it out on the ice for the privilege of hoisting The Cup and the right to call themselves, Stanley Cup Champions.

Except, the battle wasn't on the ice. On the ice it was a game of two high-calibre teams pitted against each other in a bid to claim the cup. On the ice, it was a game, fought fairly. Fought with honour. Fought with passion. In the end, after the Boston Bruins took the first goal, it was a decisive 4-0 final win for the Bruins.

And it was over. All hopes dashed of bringing The Cup back to Canada. Except for the battle on the streets. Except for the mayhem that ensued outside the Rogers Stadium in Vancouver where the game was played.

That fight broke out in the waning moments of the game and raged late into the night. And in its passing along Granville and W. Georgia, in its sweeping through the downtown core of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it swept away 'the game' and left in its stead memories of violence and destruction.

"Grow-up Vancouver", people type in comment boxes all over the Internet. "It's just a game." "What a bunch of losers." "Dumb Canadians."

Oh Canada. What have we done?

The violence on the streets of Vancouver last night was not just Vancouver's mess. It is all our mess. It was not just a reflection of a game crowd gone wild. It was a reflection of a deeper ennui within our society. An ennui that says -- "Hey! It's game day. Let's get to the bar early. Let's start drinking and let's not stop until the game's over...." And then, the mess that follows.

It was not just Vancouver youth (it was a predominately young crowd, mostly males) rioting.

It was our youth. Our sons. Our daughters. These were our children hoisting drink after drink. Slugging back mickeys. Downing 24s and calling for more.

These were our children.

We have a problem Canada. We have a problem world.

Our youth are drinking themselves into frenzies. It is not just happening in Vancouver. It is happening all over the world.

What are we doing?

I saw it in Saskatoon when I was visiting C.C. a few weeks ago. One night we'd gone for a late dinner at a downtown restaurant. When we left, a concert was just ending at a theatre across the street. Suddenly, a swarm of 18 somethings erupted into the street. They were drunk. They were belligerent. They were fighting.

C.C. and I searched for safe egress but there was none. We had to walk past them. We hurried. Eyes straight ahead. Skirting the crowd as far as the roadway would allow us.

And we were both scared. Both concerned.

At one point, a young girl, obviously quite drunk, leapt forward, thrusting her face into the face of a young boy, also obviously drunk. She's screaming. The crowd is watching. Laughing. C.C. and I are looking around for police. "Don't you touch my boyfriend!" she screams at the young boy. "I'll f**ing take your face off!" Someone pulls her off. The boy laughs. And yet, you could see the wounded pride, the desire to save face. He looked around. Searching for something that would give him a sense of control. He kicked a concrete flowerpot. It's a good thing he had heavy boots on. It's probably a good thing he was drunk because his aim, and the velocity of his kick, were impaired by his state of being.

They rioted in Vancouver last night.

It was to be expected. 100,000 people stood outside watching the game on giant screens. And as many of them watched, they fuelled, 'their passion' with alcohol.

Large crowd. A hockey game. Alcohol.

They do not mix.

Yes. It is a black mark on a city I love.

It is a blemish on our Canadian identity.

But even more, it is an indication of something gravely wrong in our society. The belief we cannot enjoy an event without alcohol to fuel the fun.

Brandon Sinclair. I disagree.

There was no passion on the streets of Vancouver last night.

There was our Canadian identity. Our pride. Our honour. Our place in the world.

There was our humanity battered. Our youth storming and looting. Breaking glass and smashing flowerpots.

That was us on the streets last night. We were not passionate. We were angry. We were drunk. We were out of control.

And last night, we all lost.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'll say a prayer

"I think of all those nights I wasn't home, all the nights I sat in a hotel room, getting high, when I should have been home with my family. How can I forgive myself for that?"

We are in a classroom. I am sitting beside him. He is a student in a program that provides low income and homeless Calgarians an opportunity to obtain job certifications that will facilitate their finding employment. As part of the program, they are provided a workshop on 'Self-esteem'.

That is the class I am teaching. That is when I realize this man, this tall dark-haired man with deep penetrating eyes and a sonorous voice, is crying.

I ask the class to take a break. It's time anyway. We've been talking for an hour and a half. Lively. Engaged. Challenging conversation.

The class leaves and this man stays in his chair. His head is bowed. Penitent. Sinner. They are words he uses to describe himself.

When I sit beside him he apologizes. "I'm sorry for the way I am right now."

"Don't be," I reply. "The way you are is perfectly you."

He shakes his head. "I want to," he says, referring back to the conversation we'd just had in class. "I want to forgive myself but I can't."

"What's stopping you?" I ask.

He looks up. His head pulls back slightly as if startled. "You don't know what I've done," he says. "You don't know where I've been. How I've hurt the people I love."

"I don't need to," I reply. "What you've done is nothing compared to what you are doing right now. What you will do tomorrow and the day after and the day after because you have chosen to walk away from where you were to be here, present, sober and filled with courage today."

He has shared snippets of his story during the class. I know how far he's come. His story is the story of so many addicts. The drive for more. Constantly more. The need for the next fix. The fear it will not come. The fear it will. The self-disgust. Denial. Lies. Horrible lies that eat at your soul like the poison of the drug eating at your mind, your very essence.

He has come a long way. "I am grateful for God's love," he says. "He has carried me through the darkness."

And now he stands at the threshold of that place where to forgive is to let go of the need to hold himself in the mud and dirt and darkness of the past. The need to hold his future hostage to a past he is ashamed of, fearful of but never ever forgetful of.

And so he stands.

Fearing forgiveness means he will forget, and if he forgets, fearing he will go back.

"I never ever want to go back there," he says. "And if I forget it, I might."

"I can't tell you what might or might not happen," I tell him. "I do know that if you forgive yourself, you set yourself free to live in this moment, right now, loving yourself exactly the way you are. As a man who hurt himself and the people he loved. As a man who has the courage to love himself and the people he loves free of the things he did that hurt them."

"How do I do it?" he whispers. "How do I do it?"

"Do you believe God forgives you?" I ask.

He nods his head quickly. Up and down. "Yes," he whispers.

"Then ask Him to show you the way."

He smiles for the first time since I sat down beside him. Just a small smile. One corner of his mouth turning up. He smiles and takes a breath.

"When I go home tonight I'll say a prayer asking for forgiveness. I know God hears me. He heard me then in my darkest hour. He'll hear me now."

And in my heart, I know he's right. And I am grateful for his faith.



It's One Word Blog Carnival Tuesday hosted by Peter Pollock. Today's one word writing prompt is: HOME.

To see more posts on HOME, pull up a chair, click on over to the One Word Blog Carnival and have a visit. You'll feel mighty welcome at Peter's place.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Welcome

Warriors come home. Warriors always come home.

I don't know who is saying it. It is a voice offscreen. But it is powerful. As is the post this morning at Maureen's, Writing without Paper.

I am off to a 7am meeting. My post I was going to put up will appear tomorrow as I believe Maureen's post is too important to be missed.

You can read and watch here.

She's posted about The Welcome. A documentary on war vets finding a way home, finding a way to overcome PTSD and, as one man says, 'who I was before I went to Iraq.'

There's also a second video of a former Iraq soldier reading her poem, Girl, though I think the way she says it, it may be, 'gurrrrl'.

Please -- give yourself the gift of time to read and watch these powerful stories.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dropping the Party Line (a poem)

Photograph: They Never Call by Rob Hanson. Used with permission for One Stop poetry.

Dropping the Party Line

Dust settles
its shiny patina
immortalized in time

have you heard?
have you heard?

Mrs Wells' daughter,
Julie, lost...

the baby had...
poor dear...

I picked some apples
and made the family a pie
it's settin' by the window now...

so glad the weather's
coolin' off...

I'll drop it off...

on my way...

Have you heard?
Have you heard?

they landed
at Utah
and Omaha
and Salerno

a line
of men
onto the beaches

the pastor says
we must rejoice
in our victory...

Have you heard?
Have you heard?

Joe's calf took...

and the words
are lost
gobbled up like
apple pie and ice cream
at Mr. Simon's barnraiser


and no one hears
what Joe's calf took
on the party line

Hello? Hello?

is there someone else
on the line

Is that you, Mary?

I heard your son
Billy is coming

Did you hear
Agnes' boy fell
so sad
some place called
Iwo Jima

she's takin' it

Are you there Mary?

and silently the line
holds time
and Agnes
the receiver

She walks out the door
no longer strong
to hear
the words
she was never meant to hear

We're sorry to inform you...

in her ears
she cannot hold
the party line

and drops
the conversation.

and far away
on a blood drenched beach
guns roar
and planes soar
deadly cylinders
of war
and a boy drops
and apples fall
to the ground
from the tree
standing outside
the window
of a room
where the party line
was broken.


This poem is submitted to One Shot Sunday hosted by One Stop Poetry. To see other poems submitted and the conclusion of the interview with photographer Rob Hanson, please visit the site. (Thanks Glynn for the paragraph explaing One Shot and the inspiration to write!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Waits (a poem)

Summer is taking her own sweet time to appear here on the edges of the Rockies. Rain falls today. Apple blossom petals that never truly burst forth into magical frothy wonder, fall. The long grass, the grass that was cut only a week ago, catches each snowy white blossom blanketing the yard like snow in winter.

This poem is the poem I posted (or attempted to post) on Wednesday. Yet, in waiting to post it (again) it is no longer the poem I posted on Wednesday. It has changed. Like the weather. Like the seasons. Like life. It has had time to settle, to evolve, to grow.

We are looking for heat here on the prairies. Waiting for summer to appear. And while I know it cannot stay away forever, it sure feels like it might as rain falls and apple blossoms drift to the ground.

Summer Waits

I lay dreaming,
of that place
where summer’s
supple heat
and I fall
head first
into love
rioting in a garden of colour.

Summer is hiding,
at the edge
of spring
in frosty memory
where winter
clings to naked boughs
and fields
beneath a woolen blanket.

In my dream,
summer bursts
full bloom
body ripened
and I run
for air
beneath the heat
of summer’s
searing gaze.

Summer waits
and I wait for her.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A beautiful tribute to Terry

The email was waiting in my Inbox when I arrived at the office.

Hi Louise, we've finished the video and article on Terry. The link is below.

And I clicked on the link and I cried.

Katie Turner is a reporter with Metro News. She's young. In her twenties. And she's kind and caring and willing to learn and grow -- the best kind of human to be.

And in her caring attitude she has written a beautiful tribute and created a wonderful documentary on a humble man, a man of limited means and big spirit. Terry Pettigrew.

He passed away on May 31, 2011. But he will always be remembered.

I am grateful.



And I cry.

I recommend having a box of kleenex available as you read and watch.


You can link to her article and video HERE.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Be the poem

Blogger. Cyberspace. The Interverse. I have no idea what it is... but whatever it is it is causing me grief this morning.

My poem, Summer's Embrace, which I wrote on a prompt from a quote by David Carradine, has disappeared.

Sorry. We can't find that page.

Who the heck is 'we' and what have they done with my poem?


And now, I must run -- my 'writing time' is over and the day awaits!

I have the early version I started with in Word, but opted to do my edits online as I eagerly explored the muses gift of words this morning/.

and now I must run!

But, before I go, here is the quote that inspired me:

If you can't be a poet, be the poem. David Carradine

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shall We Dance?

It is an early morning meeting for me today and so I've decided to post a story I wrote in Dec 2003 that was published in a newspaper in Vancouver. It came to mind as I read some of the comments at the end of The Accordion Hours.

We all have favourite music memories. Those wispy threads of the past that waft through our minds when we hear a piano note struck, just so, a violin string plucked in plaintive calling out to our memory to arise and take us back.

The events in this story happened several months after Conrad, the abuser no longer in my life, was arrested. I had joined a church choir and we would sometimes go to sing at a senior's home in the neighbourhood. This story was written after one such Sunday session.

Shall We Dance?

Yesterday I went to a senior's lodge with a group of friends from church to sing. We walked into the cafeteria where about 20 wizened and weathered faces congregated to meet their Sunday visitors. Some lolled in their wheelchairs while others pushed their walkers up to a table and carefully maneuvered themselves into a chair.

Thin and wispy hair, graying, white, balding and freckled, their heads bobbed against their chests as they kept time to the music or simply nodded off to sleep. We had purposefully chosen a few old time favourites, Amazing Grace being one of them. At the end, our pianist moved into Jesus Loves Me. Suddenly, eyes opened, smiles beamed and cracked and aging voices sang along. The sound was heavenly, the room charged with that special energy that arises when grace descends and we are touched by the Divine.

As the song ended, Randy, who was playing the piano, gracefully moved into secular favourites. Big band tunes, 'elevator music', Perry Como classics. At the back of the hall sat a woman with her dyed brown hair carefully coiffed into a bun held together by a big velvet bow. Her eyes were lined with black that had smudged at the corners and her lipstick was slightly crooked but her smile erased all signs of her trembling make-up application as she sat in her flowing blue and green chiffon gown, her feet tapping eagerly to the music.

I walked over, sat down and introduced myself. She told me that she had once been a stage performer. A singer extraordinaire but she had lost her larynx to cancer long ago.

“Ah,” I teased her. “That's why you have such a sexy voice now. It sounds like a life well lived both on and off stage.”

She smiled coquettishly. “But I still love to dance,” she whispered with her throaty purr.

"Would you care to dance with me,” I asked?

“Oh no”, she demurred, while looking at me from beneath her lowered eye lashes.

I persisted. I could tell she really wanted to dance.

Soon, she was on her feet, twirling about the room, leaving me behind in a waft of chiffon and sweetly cloying perfume. She spun and bowed, dipped, and curtsied, a vision of graceful arms and smiling face as she held her dress outstretched in one hand, her body twirling in delight, in love with the dance.

She was beautiful.

At another table a woman with a pinched in face and pursed lips sat primly in her off white sweater set and plaid skirt. As the dancing woman waltzed by, the woman hissed, "You look silly. You're embarrassing yourself."

The dancing woman never missed a beat. "No I'm not," she smiled. "I'm having fun." And she spun away.

The prim little lady harrumphed her passing and went back to staring into her empty teacup. I offered to get her some tea and when I brought it back she complained it was too full. “Pour out half”, she admonished me.

I took it away and brought it back to her, half empty.

Life is in our perceptions. For that twirling dancer, life was joyful and carefree a moment by moment adventure for which she always came prepared. She had waltzed into that hall dressed to dance and enjoy the simple music of a Sunday afternoon.

She danced the afternoon away and as we left she held my hand and thanked me for telling her she had a sexy voice. "I'm 86," she said, "I haven't been told I'm sexy in a very long time." And she kissed me gently on the cheek before gracefully gliding from the room, a queen in her own right, one hand gracefully carving a wave in the air as she bid her admirers adieu.

The old lady in her sweater set continued to sit at her table, staring into her once again empty tea cup. The afternoon had passed and nothing had changed in her life. She waited, as I assume she waits everyday, for something to happen, something to change that would give meaning to her day.

Perhaps one day she'll rise to her feet and dance. Perhaps not.

And so she waits.

Me, I'm planning on dancing my life away and singing my song of freedom with all my heart and soul. My life depends upon it.

May your day be filled with dancing.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Accordion Hours

A few days ago Ruth, over at synch-ro-ni-zing, asked readers to broaden her musical base by submitting their favourite music recommendations.

Music is a huge part of my world. Always has been.

As a child, I studied piano... and ok, really, I studied accordion and piano only for a year but I really really wanted to stick with piano. My father would say, but you can't take a piano to a party. You can always take your accordion.

And I would reply, "I wouldn't be caught dead taking my accordion to a party!"

Okay, so I wouldn't say it to his face. I'd save it for years later when I could use it as part of 'my story'. One of those funny, throw away lines I invoked when friends talked about music they'd played, or instruments they'd learned long ago and I would admit to my deepest darkest secret.... I played the accordion!

In those days of youth, I obeyed my father, or faced the consequences. Not wanting to face anything other than being able to go out and play with my friends, which I couldn't do until after I practiced for an hour, I would mutter unhappily under my breath, haul out the accordion and start practicing.

My sister Anne also played. She practiced. Regularly. Even though the dog, Jasper, would sit outside the door of the room where we were playing and howl. And I mean howl! Loud. Plaintive. Sad howls. I never knew if he was sad we were playing, or sad that we couldn't go out and play when we wanted -- which often included him. Stuck in the purgatory of our accordion hours, he would howl until we stopped and one of us took him for a walk.

As the least wanting to practice member of the duo, I opted for the walk while Anne practiced. Which would explain why she always beat me on our Conservatory exams. (who even knew you could take conservatory exams for accordion!? It's true. You could. Grade 8 theory and practice in fact!)

Music lived at the soul of our family. More than food, music defined the times and the places we lived. From big band era to soul to folk, my father had an album to play. From Canada to France to Germany, music moved with us and amidst us.

Sunday mornings were marching bands -- full blast. Pounding throughout the house. "Time to get up and get marching!" my father would intome. And get up we would. Church was no longer on the menu in those days. It would be a VolksMarch through the Black Forest with a stop at a Schnitzel Haus for lunch, the dog asleep under the table as we drank crystal clear Gewurtztraminer and wolfed down plates of Weiner Schnitzel and Frites.

Sunday dinners were prone to the folksy sounds of Esther and Abi Ofarim or something more melodic like one of the crooners or Astrid Gilberto. And any moment of the week could be filled with sounds from trombones to guitars. Sweet music to hard rock.

That was the music of my youth.

Herb Albert. Duke Ellington. Dave Brubeck. Stan Getz. Bach to Vivaldi. Elvis Presley. The Beatles. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.

Yesterday, as I drove back from Canmore where I'd gone to give a speech, my Ipod blasted Keith Jarrett's, Koln Concert, and I was lifted up to heights beyond my imaginings as the powerful notes flying off of Jarrett's fingers filled the tiny capsule of my car with the big, voluptuous notes of his piano.

this morning, as I type, the bourbon infused, smoke laden voice of Tom Waits plays in the background -- it is Tom Waits who takes me back to those days long ago when my father played his music at 33rpm and I waltzed through the house entranced by the sounds coming out of the record player.

The music still lives in my heart. It still stirs me. Moves me. Gives expression to me.

Perhaps that's why today's Mermaid card resonates so powerfully within me. "Music for Manifesting". It reads, "Music is a powerful ally on your spiritual path... Music is part of the invisible realm... It wraps us in a protective shield to guard us from negative energies."

May your day be filled with music, with notes of positivity pushing back negative energies calling you to ignore the music of your heart. May your heart be stirred by sweet notes of hope and love and possibilities. May you dance with joy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My contradictions

A warrior does not try to be coherent; he has learned to live with his contradictions. Paul Coehlo, Warrior of the Light, A Manual
I am learning. Learning to live with my contradictions and without them.

I am learning. I am a contradiction and I am not a contradiction.

Logically speaking, I am a Tautology.

Learning that my contradictions are who I am even when I am being something else.

Which is a relief. Given that I've spent a great deal of my life pushing against the contradictions of my world. Thinking I needed to conform, to find the logic in everything, to go the 'straight' and avoid the wideness of my existence.

I am learning to live with contradictions at the heart of who I am.

I love peanut butter. Dislike peanut brittle.

I love tomatoes. Dislike ketchup.

I love music. Dislike acid rock.

I can live with all of that.

What I can't live with -- which is a contradiction in itself because I am living with it in my world -- is unkindness. Cruelty. War. Poverty. Abuse. Drugs.

My world is a contradiction of what I can't live with even when I am.

I am learning to live in my contradictory world.

I work in a homeless shelter. People always ask, "Oh, isn't that depressing?" "Doesn't it stress you out?"

It only depresses or stresses me when I try to 'change' it. When I try to make it something it isn't by working hard on changing someone's circumstances without engaging them in the change.

It is only depressing when I tell myself 'It is wrong'. It is neither right nor wrong. It simply is.

To change it. To affect it. To impact it, I must give up my 'right and wrong' thinking, and move into that place where I accept it is what it is today. And, until embrace the truth of what we are doing to each other, what we are doing in and to our world, it will always be some form of what it is today. Doesn't mean it will be this way always and forever. It simply means that until we, each and everyone of us, awaken to our magnificence, our beauty, and our contradictions, and stop killing each other, stop hurting one another, it will be what it is, as it is today.

Take the man who finds it hard to believe that if we can 'fix it' if we just give everyone a hot meal, a shower, a haircut and clean clothes. They'll go out and find a job and everything will be 'fixed' and homelessness will end.

He is a millionaire. Sure, many years ago he had nothing. Pulled himself up by the bootstraps, made his way in the world on his own grit and determination.

He built his wealth today, his way.

Long ago he had something to prove. Something to say about who he was. He wasn't born into poverty. Violence. Drugs. Alcohol. Abuse didn't play a role in his early childhood.

He was taught that hard work brought its own rewards. And he was told he'd never amount to anything.

Now that was a challenge worth taking on.

And so he did.

He worked hard. All his life. He worked hard to put food on his table. To take care of his family. To build a business. He worked hard and is now reaping the rewards of his hard work with travel and adventure and everything money can buy.

Except for one thing. One very vital thing.

He doesn't love himself.

He doesn't really love his wife, either. Oh sure. They've been together many years, but he's accepted the fact they do not love each other as lover's do. They love each other as partners in a business called, 'the family'. They stay together because... And they're free to have other 'adventures in love', as long as they don't rock the boat of the adventure called 'the marriage'. Vows can be broken. Just not ties.

I don't know the because of why they do what they do. I don't know the because of why the clients we serve do what they do. I only know what they do. I only know the contradictions.

A man who is generous with his money. Seldom gives his time.

A man who is generous with his advice. As long as you're willing to take it.

A man who supports many charities, as long as they conform to his view of the world.

A man of contradictions.

Intelligent. Kind. Miserly. Giving. Funny. Well-read. Narrow-minded. Well-spoken. A man of few words.

We are all like this man. In one breath, light and laughter. In another breath, sadness and sorrow.

In one glance we see the wide-open spaces, the complexity and the vastness of life unfolding before us.

In the next, we see dead-end alleys and impossibly steep canyon walls blocking the light from getting in. We fall into the trap of believing the canyon is the only place to walk and never attempt to scale the heights and feel the breath of light above.

It is in learning to live with these contradictions that we learn to live free.

Because in acknowledging my light embraces dark, I learn that darkness embraces my light.

My job is not to make sense of the darkness, but rather, to live fearlessly in the light of my truth appearing false when I turn my eyes away from the gift of my brilliance.

I am living my contradictions and learning to be less coherent in my actions!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

My amazing daughter

It was raining as we drove west out of the city towards the Rockies. Low hanging clouds clung to hilltops. Ghostly mist vapours rose from river waters flowing steadily eastward from the Great Divide.

We were on our way to Camp Chief Hector where my daughter, Liseanne, was to give a welcoming speech to a group of volunteers. They were from an oil company in downtown Calgary, giving up their Saturday to help move piles of wood at the Camp that eager campers would eventually use to keep their tee-pees and camphuts warm in the cooler months. The wood had come from trees felled by the forestry-service in a preventative bid to stall forest fires in the coming warm months.

There was a lot of it to be moved!

Liseanne is working for the United Way. She started last fall when she returned from her semester abroad, and was hired on full-time as soon as she graduated from University. She is a young woman with a big heart, an amazing work ethic and a creative perspective on life and how to make the most of it, for herself and everyone else too!

Liseanne cares.

For people. Animals. The planet. The underprivileged. Marginalized. Homeless and hopeless. Helpless and hurting.

She cares.

We were only to be there for a few minutes for her to give her speech of welcome, but she wanted to stay. She wanted to pitch in and help out. So we did. And it was fun. And hard work and satisfying.

I am grateful.

And when we got back to the city, C.C. was waiting to take us to the market and then on to a pub to watch the hockey game with friends.

It was a great day!

And in the midst of it, I completed the video of Liseanne's grad -- which I must share! It was so much fun and such a wonderful day!

I am incredibly blessed and grateful for my two amazing daughters and the wonderful people in my life. The only thing that could have made the day better would have been to have Alexis, Liseanne's eldest sister, here. But.... she's off having an amazing adventure in South Africa! And that is good because, no matter where she is in the world, she lives in my heart always.

What an amazing gift my daughters are in my world.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Graduate

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. Randy Pausch
I watched my daughter walk the stage yesterday. I watched her walk and accept her degree and my heart swelled with pride and joy and love.

The graduate and her aunt jackie
It was a moment to be captured, savoured, cherished.

It was wonderful!

And when the ceremony ended, C.C. and I took her to one of our favourite restaurants and celebrated with friends as Liseanne glowed in the light of her big day.

And now I'm busy putting together a little movie for her -- very time consuming but so much fun.

Note to self-- do not place camera in purse while it's still turned on. There's not much to see and an hour of nothing but music in car and chatter and then silence is.... nothing worth noting!

Have a great day. I'll be back once I've finished the movie!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A big day

It is a big day today.

My youngest daughter, Liseanne, graduates from University today. This child, who 23 short years ago was pulled from my womb, kicking and screaming and making quite a fuss, will walk the stage in mortar and gown and accept her degree later this morning.

It is a big day.

For everyone.

A joyous, exciting and amazing day.

But first, I must run off to give a presentation to a group of city police officers. And then, I must return to pick up C.C. and LeLe (lee-lee) as we call her at home, to go off to the University.

And while I must run off to business, my excitement runs high. My anticipation, my wonder, my joy of this moment flows over!

Not that we weren't anticipating she would graduate. It's not that at all. It is that she set a goal, kept moving towards it, kept achieving what she'd set out to do -- and excelled. Dean's List. Invited to apply for an Internship. Group Leader. Student mentor. She has excelled.

I am so proud.

She is one amazing young woman of heart, of dreams, of compassion and hope.

She came into this world kicking and screaming, and she's still kicking up her heels, screaming in delight and making a huge fuss about living life to the full and in the midst of her living it up, teaching others how to do the same.

I am so proud.

May everyone have a day of wonder -- and I promise, I'll post photos :)


Thursday, June 2, 2011

That distant star where we are FREE

A person will sometimes devote all his life to the development of one part of his body - the wishbone. Robert Frost
When I was a child, I wished for many things. A red rubber ball one Christmas, a bride's doll for another. I wished I didn't have to share my Easter chocolate with my sister and that Santa didn't keep a list. I wished for children in Africa to quit starving so that I could quit feeling guilty about not cleaning my plate and I wished I'd grow up already so that I could live my life the way I wanted (and that wish always included a stomping of my right foot for emphasis.)

I wished upon falling stars and rabbit's feet. I wished I had x-ray vision and healing touch. I wished I was a movie star, a famous doctor healing people in Africa. I wished and I wished and nothing really changed about who I was other than time did catch up to my wishes and one day I was all 'growed up' and people stopped asking, "what do you want to be when you're all grown up" and started expecting me to be grown up.

I've spent a lot of time 'wishing', and sometimes bemoaned the fact my wishes didn't come true. Though I did once wish for a story to write and got one in the form of The Dandelion Spirit! And while it's true I had to live the experience to get the story, I'm grateful for the wish that set that story free so that other's could heal through its expression!

In all our lives there are stories we tell, stories we hold onto, stories we wish for, if only.

If only... I was taller, younger, prettier, smarter, richer, bigger, smaller, happier, older...

If only... I could go back and, change direction, re-write the script, re-direct traffic.

If only... I knew the answer. Could see the future. Could erase the past.

A question I often ask when teaching self-esteem classes at the shelter is, "If you had a magic wand that could make any wish come true, what would you change, right now, in your life."

And, no matter the answer, I always ask, "And what's stopping you from doing one thing today to start making that wish come true?"

You don't have to be homeless to know the power of wishes. You don't have to lose everything to know you can have everything you ever dreamed of, wished for, wanted, if you just get clear on your wishes and start taking one step today that will bring you one step closer to your wish coming true.

British novelist, George Eliot, wrote, “It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them."

I hunger for a world where everyone has value. Everyone is treated with dignity and respect. I hunger for a world where poverty ends, addictions never awaken, violence never erupts. I hunger for a world where every child is free to dream, to laugh and dance in the rain, to run through mud puddles and play with wild abandon knowing that food on the table, a stable home and loving parents is not just a fairytale dream, it is the truth for everyone.

I hunger for a world of difference.

And I wish....

I wish I could make it all come true.

And in my wish, I know, wishing has a place, a role, a mission in my life.

Wishing colours in my dreams. It sets my imagination free to dream, to conceive, to create a world of beauty and wonder in everything I do. Wishing keeps me open to possibility. Wishing keeps me thinking bigger than just the street I'm on. It keeps me seeing new avenues opening up, new roads clearing in the distance.

Wishing won't make my dreams come true -- but it will keep me focused on doing whatever it takes to make my dreams come true. It will keep me doing everything I can to make it happen.

I know it is possible my wish may never become reality. It doesn't matter. Because to not wish for 'world peace' is to say, I give up. I give in. I am defeated. There is no hope.

There is always hope as long as we keep doing whatever we can to change the world. There is hope as long as we keep believing -- we can.

I believe there is hope for humankind. I believe.

And while wishing for a wishbone won't make anyone's dreams come true, accepting we have the power to make dreams come true will inspire us to keep moving towards that distant star where we are free to be all we're meant to be, because we are -- FREE!