Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Celebrating Love.

Two years ago today, my beloved and I stood on a sun-drenched patio overlooking Okanagan Lake. Surrounded by the vineyards of Bench 1775 stretching to its shores and the beautiful mountains on the other side, we said our “I Do’s” and promised to grow through love always.

The day began dark and stormy. I really wanted an outdoor wedding but it appeared Mother Nature had a different idea. The rain fell in heavy sheets. The sky was dark and gloomy. Finally, knowing I had to get back to Therapy Vineyars and Guest House where we were staying, and the girls and I were getting ready for the wedding, we set the chairs and bower up indoors. I reconciled the image I held in my mind of what our wedding would look like to the reality of nature’s downpour and breathed deeply. Love is in the air. Who cares about the rain?

And then, it happened. Just before 4pm when my daughters and I were to arrive at the venue, a friend text me to show me the skies had cleared.

Tell everyone to pick up their chairs and move the wedding outside, I text back.

And they did.

Amidst laughter and good humoured jostling and comments of, ‘trust Louise to put us to work’, guests quickly picked up their chairs and moved everything outside.

The chairs were lined up on the patio. Our dear friend Alyssa placed her chair and harp at the front of the gathered guests and began to play.

My daughters and I walked down the aisle from one direction, while C.C. and his son and daughter appeared from a side entrance. We met in the middle of the aisle. C.C. and I joined hands, kissed our children who lined up behind us and together, we walked to the front of the deck where our friend Al waited to marry us beneath the white, flower laden, bower that had been moved outside when the sun came out.

Across the lake, above the mountains that edged the horizon, fluffy white clouds danced a heavenly chorus beneath the bright blue skies above our heads. The wind blew. It wasn’t all that warm, but I didn’t care.

This is the stuff wedding dreams, and marriages, are made of.

Weathering storms. Confronting obstacles. Changing course. Going with the flow, and always following your heart.

C.C. and I have been married 2 years today.

It hasn’t been all blue skies and sunshiney days. We’ve faced ups and downs and not so pretty moments. We’ve struggled sometimes to understand why the other does what they do. We’ve picked opposite sides. Sometimes, we’ve held our opinions as more important than thespace we share as husband and wife.

But, no matter the weather, or the storms, we always come back together to this sacred space where we hold each other in love. Where we honour the other’s opinions and have the courage to let go of whatever side we’re on so that we can stand on the sacred ground of our being together.

Two years ago I said “I Do” to the man who always makes me laugh. He also makes me a smoothie every morning and dinner lots of nights. He is kind and caring and thoughtful and loving. He is willing to stand in the broken places with me so that together, we can find our way deeper into the heart of what makes us, us. To the threads that bind us together stronger and stronger every day. To that which is always the answer, Love.

I am so blessed.

Namaste.

 

 

 


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The ending of one thing is the beginning of the next.

I handed in my resignation last week. I will be saying good-bye to the Foundation where I’ve worked for the past 4.5 years and moving on.

I am excited.

I am sad.

Sad to be leaving the amazing people I work with. People who inspire and challenge me every day to do my best, to give my all and to be committed to do what it takes to make a difference in the world of ending homelessness.

I’m excited because I’m going back to the front lines. Back to an agency that works directly with families impacted by homelessness, where I will be able to tell the stories that touch my heart and awaken my spirit every day to the amazing capacity we humans have to survive and move through life — in darkness and in light.

It is what inspired me so much when I worked at the adult shelter for six years prior to joining the Foundation. Every morning 1,000 people awoke, people whose lives were in tatters. People for whom life had not always been kind, who struggled to find themselves in this world somewhere other than homeless, and yet, despite the hardships, who still woke up every morning and took another step and another.

I may not always have been aligned with the steps they took, but I was always in awe of the power and will of the human spirit to see beyond the darkness to find the light of possibility.

On May 4th, a chapter in my life will end and on the 16th, I will begin another page.

The ending of one thing is the beginning of the next. 

My decision to stay in the sector was inspired by a very wise woman who asked me where I wanted to land for the final portion of this part of my working career.  In a place where you aren’t telling the stories you love, or at the front lines where you know the stories you tell make a real and lasting impact?

I don’t want to end this part of my working career feeling like I wasn’t 100% immersed, committed, intentional in what I’m doing. When my beloved, C.C., and I talked about my next move, I told him I don’t really want to retire yet. I want to end my career on a high note, not on a ‘ho hum’.

I enjoy my work at the Foundation, (really love the people) but the work does not engage my heart entirely. And when my heart is not 100% engaged, I am not 100% in my life. My life is always better when I am 100% in.

The ending of one thing is the beginning of the next.

On May 4th, I shall end working in a place that has provided me a sense of belonging, of being part of something bigger than myself, of knowing what I’m doing is making a difference.

On May 16th, I shall be joining Inn from the Cold as their Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations. In my new role I’ll be working with a team of committed, passionate people who believe, ending family homelessness is possible.

I’m excited.

I believe that with the right programs, right housing and right people, we can do it. End family homelessness.

We’ll do it together. We’ll do it as partners in a bigger system of care that ensures everyone has access to the right resources, right housing and supports that are targetted to ensure ending homelessness in their lives, and in particular their children’s lives, is possible.

And what can be more important than that? To ensure every child grows up knowing they have a home to begin a new story of their life. To ensure every child has the opportunity to grow resilient and strong, in the place where they belong, home.

I am excited.

_____

About the Painting:  

I created the painting above sometime last year using a gelli print pad. I printed the bird on polka-dot tissue paper and collaged it onto the canvas.  I have been playing with PicMonkey, trying to learn its many possibilities — learning new software is challenging, and fun. It can also sometimes be frustrating. But, it’s always worth trying.  🙂

 

 

 


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The #ShePersisted Series

When I began the #ShePersisted series I thought that I would create 12 images and quotes for the series, and that would be that.

Ideas continue to flow. The muse persists.

I am grateful.

The muse and I have a love/hate relationship. She loves me 100% of the time, I am not so loyal. In fact, I like to tell myself, I don’t need her. Or, in my willful disregard of her presence, I like to believe she has deserted me.

It is my victim’s voice. That monkey mind chattering place where I tell myself all sorts of things to justify why/how/what isn’t happening in my life, isn’t my fault/responsibility/accountability.

I cannot control 100% of what appears on my path. I can choose to be 100% accountable for what I choose to do with what appears.

This morning, the muse awakened me with her insistence I pay heed.

I decided to get 100% accountable and take her lead.

The thoughts that awoke me were about my youngest daughter’s ballet point shoes that still hang from the corner of the armoire in my art storage room downstairs.

They are pink. Scuffed. Well worn.

I remember the first time she danced ‘en pointe’. She was so excited, in spite of the pain.

She continued to persist, to push herself to dance ‘en pointe’ because it was so beautiful, so seemingly effortless when done well.

It was never effortless. And it always hurt.

In her teens, her feet were a mess.

I am grateful today for her wisdom to stop doing it.

I didn’t want to interfere. I didn’t want to take a stand against doing something she obviously loved, even though it caused her pain.

Life’s like that. We do things, in spite of the pain, telling ourselves we have no choice. To be a ballerina, you must dance ‘en pointe’.

To be a woman, you must wear clothes, shoes, outfits that squeeze, reveal, bunch, crunch and push up places that don’t need pushing up and scrunching in. Not to please ourselves, but rather, because we believe it is important to please others.

I like my daughters point shoes hanging in my art storage room.

They are a good reminder to stop doing things to please others, even though it hurts me.

Namaste.

May your day be filled with ease of heart, mind, and body. May you have the wisdom to stop doing things to please others if doing them hurts you.

_______

The #ShePersisted series can be viewed on my website.


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A morning haiku

She has defied the odds, again.

To everyone’s amazement, she’s turned the corner and is doing better.

“God’s not ready for you yet,” the doctor told my mother yesterday.

This morning, a haiku wrote itself into being.

All is well.


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What’s in your DNA?

There is a picture of me at five years old, arms flung wide, like I’m flying. Most likely, I’m dancing.

I love to dance. As do my daughters. As do my sisters.

Recently, at the wedding of a friend of my youngest daughter, the bride’s father came up to me to tell me that they were all standing in awe, watching my daughter and I dance together.

I laughed. It’s just what we do, I told him.

Dance. Laugh. Play. Eat. Share. Be. Love. Together.

I am blessed.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of being at one of my mother’s family events in Paris and dancing and spinning and twirling about to the music that blared from a cheap stereo that never stopped playing the songs of my mother’s complicated history. French. Indian. Spanish. Portuguese. Hindu. Tamil. English… A beautiful potpourri of sound that flows wildly through my body today.

She was always a complicated woman, our mother. Yet, in all her complexities and insecurities and the sadness that invaded her pores like soot clinging to a chimney, she constantly taught us the value of family, of being connected, of being and loving together.

Yesterday, as my eldest daughter spoke on the phone about her Nana, I listened to the loving and compassionate words of wisdom my daughter shared and wondered, when did she become so wise? So loving. So caring.

And I knew.

The wisdom, the love, the willingness to give and to care deeply are woven into her DNA. They are threads pulled through from the warp and weave of my mother’s tapestry of life. It is the tapestry that created the warp and weave of my life, my sisters’ lives and my daughters’. Those threads of gentleness, kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness… they have always been running through the threads of my mother’s loving hands weaving, weaving, no matter how bent and painful arthritis has made them. She has been quietly weaving her story and the stories of her mother and her mother’s mother and countless women of our family before her, into our DNA.

I am thankful.

These threads that link us are what make our family, our family. They are the story of our lives; colourful, textural, beautiful, woven together, taking separate paths, creating unique patterns and pathways into the future and always coming back together in the loom that is our family history filled with the DNA of wisdom, love and the willingness to care deeply from our hearts and live freely from our feet up through our whole bodies dancing our way through life, committed to feeling every moment, intensely, deeply, in Love.

I am blessed.

The warp and weave of my life was woven from a history of fiercely loving women who danced together, laughed together and above all, Loved together.

 


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In the space between living and dying, there is life as we know it.

It is early morning. Outside my bedroom window, I hear the quiet meowing of Marley the Great Cat. As the weather warms, he likes to spend the night outside, sleeping under the sheltering branches of the birch tree in our backyard.

Until around 4am that is. Then, he likes to sit outside my window, meowing in the hopes of waking me up.

It inevitably works.

I get up, no matter the hour, and let him in.

Though this morning, he managed to awaken my sister who is staying with us while in Calgary visiting our mother in the hospital.

Our mother is in that twilight time of living in this moment passing into that space where the moments are no longer here.

She is alert. She likes to get dressed in the morning with the help of her nurses. She likes to put on her own make-up and then, be moved from her bed to a wheelchair where she spends her days, sitting beside the window.

Outside her window, where once the view was of the distant peaks of the Rockies, she now has a red brick wall to look at.

She laughs about her view. Thinks its funny to only see a red brick wall.

I wonder if it reminds her of her life that is quickly changing its course from being amongst the living to being in that other place where life is no longer here on Earth.

She sits in her wheelchair, does her WordFind puzzels, watches TV and eat her meals, as long as the food is minced. She chats with whomever comes in, and in particular, flirts with the males who enter.

She’s good at that, our mother. Flirting. Always has been.

A beautiful woman all her life, she perfected the art of making men (and women too but I notice it particularly with men) feel welcome, important, special.

She loves it when my beloved, C.C., comes to visit. She smiles and treats him extra special, like his coming to visit is the best thing that ever happened, at least that day.

It’s very sweet to see her so animated, so committed to making him feel special when she’s the one lying in a hospital bed.

My sister and I chatted about mom’s state of being this morning.

About the uncertainty of her days to come. Concern for what happens next.

“It has to be frustrating,” my sister said as we stood in the kitchen sipping coffee in the pre-dawn quiet of early morning. “To feel so helpless. To not know what’s coming next.”

Yesterday, Anne offered to take our mother for a walk around the hospital. She was working with a nurse’s aide to rig up the IV onto the wheelchair when the head nurse came in and vetoed the idea. “We don’t want to risk her having a cardiac arrest somewhere in the hospital,” the head nurse said.

Well that’s reassuring. Not.

The sepsis that has invaded mom’s bloodstream continues to fight against the antibiotics they are pouring into her system.

The question remains, which will win?

At almost 95, it is a precarious battle. The winner unknown except, we know she has little resiliency to fight against anything, especially something as insidious as an infection seeking to claim her red blood cells as its own.

I see it in how she flirts with male visitors. She wants to be ‘normal’, she wants to act like life will continue on as one big adventure.

And she is losing the battle. Her heart isn’t in it. She’s tired.

Life is taking its natural course. Like a river flowing to the sea, it continues on, gracefully flowing around obstacles in its course, embracing them in its never-ending journey towards release into the great body of water that awaits it at some distant point upon the horizon. And as it gathers volume, its waters become deeper, more silent, more accepting of the flow, moving ever more gracefully towards the great sea beyond.

Our mother’s life is like that river. She continues to be in and of its flow, embracing what comes along her path, gracefully breathing into each moment, effortlessly letting go of each breath, moment by moment. And with each passing moment, she settles gracefully into the depths of knowing, her life is moving towards that giant sea where she will once again be united with those she has loved, and lost, upon her journey.

 

 


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Share a Meal | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 51

We did a lot of sitting around the table sharing a meal, sharing in good times and conversation and the beautiful, yet invisible threads of family and friendship that tie us together.

It was divine.

From Easter Sunday brunch at the Golf Club with my two sisters, my beloved, brother-in-law, my youngest daughter’s man (she is in Vancouver visiting her sister) and dear friends, to dinner last night at the warm and loving home of Kerry and Howard, it was a weekend of love, cherishing what time we have together, and revelling in the love that binds us, heart to heart.

My middle sister arrived on Saturday. Our mother is not doing well, an infection in her blood continues to weaken her — yet, at the sight of my sister, she perked up. Even decided that getting dressed was better than lying in bed in her hospital gown. She also put on make-up. But then, that’s our mother; wanting to look her best for company.

We don’t know how long she will be with us. We do know that whatever time she has, we cherish each moment and the gift of being together. And while my mother couldn’t be at the table with us, her presence is felt in every breath we take, in every morsel of food we eat.

Gathering people around the table is what my mother, and father, did.

I am grateful we continue to gather and cherish the power of sitting around a table. I am grateful for the memories, and the gift of knowing, gathering around a table with family and friends is an act of grace that expands through love.