Grandparents are heroes

A day of heroes and I am celebrating…. grandparents!


Grandparents are heroes!

I don’t remember my grandparents very well. I only met my father’s father a couple of times, and my mother’s mother came to visit us once from India while we were living in France. What I remember about my grandmother is she used to sneak my sister and I treats, and money. Now that was fun!

I have often envied those who have grandparents in their lives. When my daughters were little, I went to great lengths to ensure they knew their grandparents on both sides of their family tree. In my mind, grandparents are gifts. They connect us to our ancestors, to the generations before us, and they connect us to our roots. Both the girls grandfathers have since passed away, but their memories live on and I am grateful they had an opportunity to have a relationship with both of these men who built the foundation of their parents’ lives with love and hard work and commitment and an unflagging sense of duty to family.

Glynn Young over at Faith. Fiction. Friends. will sometimes write about his love affair with his grandson, Cameron and everytime he does, I feel immersed in the beauty of Love come alive — especially when he shares photos!

Sandra Heska King often writes about her granddaughter, Gracee, on her blog, and in her words and the images she creates I am reminded of the power of love to transcend all.

My daughters have a friend, Jenn, whose grandmother raised her and her siblings. What a gift she was in their lives. Jenn continues to inspire me with her commitment to making a difference in the world through sharing her writing and her video skills.

My friends Debbie and Brian H. became grandparents for the first time last week. Congratulations to you both. Grayson is beautiful! And your love is radiant.

Nicole, (Nikky) who follows my blog, wrote a blog about her grandmother earlier this month. It is a powerful story of love and courage.

My brother-in-law Jim and Bill Cosby both have something in common — Bill Cosby’s father walked to school in bare feet in the snow and it was uphill for five miles, both ways. My brother-in-law rode a cow to school in the snow — and his path too was uphill both ways!

Grandparents rock! 

This one’s for all the grandparents out there!

Healing Hearts

I had dinner last night with two wonderful women who never cease to inspire me with their grace and their willingness to make a difference in the world. I love our monthly dinners as I always come away feeling enlivened and filled with the belief that Yes! better is possible and the realization that there are so many possibilities for me to create a difference in the world. And it begins with ensuring I am connected to people who are also willing, able and actively engaged in making a difference in the world.

Together, we can make a world of difference!

First off, — if you live in Calgary, or are visiting, do pop into The Gratitude Café. This delightful vegetarian/vegan/raw food restaurant  in Kensington is everything others have told me – the food is absolutely amazing, the attention to the environment and to ensuring guests feel comfortable and welcome is outstanding!

At dinner, Rosemarie McGonigle shared news about her upcoming women’s event, Healing Hearts Retreats, which is being held May 4-6 at the Sanctum Retreat Centre near Caroline, Alberta. She’s already 75% booked and is excited about this first step out from under the label of her ‘interior designer’ career woman into the full scope of her lived experience as a Seminar Leader. Not that she hasn’t had a great deal of practice leading people to living their best life yet. Rosemarie and her husband Dan volunteer their time every month to facilitate at Choices, the personal development/life-skills program I also coach in – which is where I met Rosemarie six years ago.

Rosemarie and her new endeavour inspires me. Like Rosemarie, I would like to lead a retreat, create space and time and opportunity for people to deepen their relationship with themselves, and the world around them.

And Rosemarie is doing just that — Making a difference in our world by being the difference she wants to create. Sharing her talents, gifts and beauty with others so that they too can experience life beyond their comfort zone, completely at home in that space where they know, better is possible because good just isn’t good enough anymore.

Thank you Rosemarie for reminding me that to be the difference I want to create in the world, I need to take action, open up and be proactive in sharing my best so that others can find their best too! Thank you for inspiring me to keep doing what I’m doing to create a world of difference all around me.



This is My City Festival! – What a difference.

In the spring of 2008, Beth Gignac from the City of Calgary Arts and Culture department contacted individuals working within the homeless serving sector to talk about homelessness and the arts and what the city could do to support our work in creating art-based opportunities for clients such as those who lived at the shelter where I worked. At the time, had an art program that met once a week, or when a volunteer was available and a bare bones music program that consisted of a group of people who met every Thursday night for a jam session. From those initial conversations, This is My City grew into a year-long celebration of the arts in the homeless sector. Mentor artists from the larger community joined with homeless artists in the shelters to engage in creative activities from plays to trading cards to mask-making to quilt-making to found object sculptures. The fact that Onalea Gilbertson and the oratorio she created, Two Bit Oper-Eh Shun is off to the New York Musical Theatre Festival in July is a direct outcome of the mentoring and support Beth and the team organizing TMC provided.

It was a year that ended with a panel discussion on Art Matters hosted by then Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean. And through it all, a profound difference was experienced in our communities, on every level.

From those year-long events, This is My City Art Society (TMC) was created. Lead by Board Chairperson, Linda Hawke, a textile artist who is one of the original TMC mentor artists, This is My City is committed to making a difference by connecting artists on every level with people experiencing homelessness. With artist mentors like Cat Schick and Eveline Kolijn, TMC  continues to inspire art-based exploration and expression throughout the homeless serving agencies and across the sector. It also continues one of the founding tenets of the initiative, to engage everyone in the dialogue surrounding homelessness and marginalized communities.

The team of This is My City Art Society are currently hosting an interdisciplinary festival of art from the margins. Featuring exhibits, panel discussions, theatre, walks and tours, music and more, the  This is My City Festival is an exciting opportunity to engage all Calgarians in the conversations and creative possibilities surrounding homelessness. The Festival has been ongoing since January and will culminate at the beginning of May with a huge block-party in downtown Calgary to celebrate the difference the This is My City Festival has created in our city, our hearts and our minds.

Hats off to the team at the City of Calgary Arts & Culture Department and to the board and members of This is My City Art Society, as well as Partners such as the MOCA, Calgary Public Library, High Performance Rodeo and all the other cultural and social serving entities that have engaged in bringing the This is My City Festival to life for every Calgarian.

You are making a difference!

This one’s for the people of Oyen

When C.C., my beloved, left on Monday to drive to Saskatoon, the weather report showed the winter storm north east of his route.

The weather had a different agenda than the weather report.

Two hours out of the city, he ran smack dab into the storm. Visibility dropped to almost zero. Snow blew and drifts collected on the highway in front of him. The road became a skating rink. He slowed down. And slowed down some more.

He wasn’t far from Oyen on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border when the accident happened. Coming around a bend, he spied tail lights in the distance. It wasn’t until he was a couple of hundred metres from the lights that he realized, the lights weren’t moving. Traffic was stopped.

He tried to stop. Touched the brakes lightly. And that was all that was needed. His car began to turn of its own volition, all four tires skating across the ice. He turned against the car’s direction. Tried to control his spin.

But it was no use. He side-swiped into the car in front of him. It spun across the ice, hit the truck that was jack-knifed on the highway and stopped. Eventually, C.C. found himself in the ditch. Right side up. No injuries to him or anyone else but big ‘owies’ on one side of his car and to the front-end of the car he hit.

Fortunately, no one was hurt, but as he waited for emergency responders to come down the line of the 40+ cars that had piled up along the 4 kilometre stretch of highway leading into Oyen, he said a prayer of gratitude, breathed deeply to calm his shaking nerves and thanked his lucky stars.

It could have been worse.

He spent the night in Oyen, along with about 150 stranded travellers who were billeted in schools and the Legion throughout the little town.

It was amazing, he told me the next day. The townspeople came out in full force and fed us and made coffee and ensured everyone was okay. And the next day, when the highway reopened at noon, they ferried people out to their abandoned cars, helped them find tow-trucks and shovels and anything else they needed so that they could get back on the road and continue on their journeys.

Makes me believe in small towns all over again, C.C. told me last night. The people were absolutely amazing. They barely slept the whole night, some of the emergency responders hadn’t slept in 48 hours, yet, there they were, helping, pitching in, doing whatever it took to make sure people were cared for and safe.

Here’s to the people of Oyen. Your support. Your help. Your amazing spirit made a huge difference in the lives of people like C.C. who were stranded on the road, seeking shelter in a storm. You were there to embrace them and make a difference.

And, thank you from my heart too. Knowing C.C. was safe, knowing he had a place to be, gave me comfort. Your loving support made a huge difference in the lives of everyone like me — those whose loved ones were on the road, battling the storm, seeking refuge.

Thank you everyone  in Oyen. You opened up your hearts to strangers and have touched thousands of lives with your generosity.

What one woman can do.

I vaguely remember hearing about the Blue Ribbon movie a couple of years ago. I might even have sent the link along to people.

I was reminded by the power of the story on Friday night last week when Melanie (who has given me permission to share this story) talked about buying 200 Blue Ribbons for her students and her experience of sharing 3 of them with teachers at her school. As she handed out each Blue Ribbon which states, “Who I Am Makes a Difference” the recipients were overwhelmed. Tears. Gratitude. Appreciation. Wonder flooded their beings. They were touched by this simple gesture from a fellow teacher and they were moved to create a difference in their world too.

I am inspired by Melanie and her story. I chatted with her about it later on in the weekend and she spoke about her vision of giving each of the students in her school a Blue Ribbon this week.

Wow. How one woman can and will make a difference!

I loved sitting and chatting with Melanie. Her enthusiasm and excitement are contagious. Like all of us, she has elements of her story that are sad and tragic. Yet, she is not letting those experiences keep her down. She is rising above the pain of the past and moving with joy into the promise of today. She is vibrant and alive and caring and willing to go the distance to ensure everyone knows — they make a difference. They are the difference in our world!

Melanie is a woman touching hearts and opening minds to their magnificence. Like Thelma Box, founder of Choices, she is committed to changing the world, one heart at a time.

Thank you Melanie for inspiring me and for touching my heart. You rock!

To view The Acknowledgement Movie — Make a Life. Make a Living. Make a Difference — click HERE.

To order Blue Ribbons – and to support this initiative by ordering other tools — click HERE.

To learn more about the Difference Makers International initiative (it’s awesome!) — click HERE.


I Remember

Yesterday, while sitting in the Sunday Spiritual Service at Choices, Bill Spangler, the speaker, spoke about Love and our human condition. It is something we all seek, desire, want — to love and be loved. To know our lives have meaning. To know our passing will be marked.

It struck me then. The anniversary of my brother and sister-in-laws deaths was on Saturday. St. Patrick’s Day.

And I forgot. Busy. Caught up in coaching at Choices, in watching people come alive, I forgot about my brother and sister-in-law who are no longer alive. There was poignancy in that realization — to forget means my heart is not heavy. I just don’t want it to mean I forget them. Because I don’t.

As I listened to Bill speak so eloquently on how we all yearn to be remembered in this world, I knew there was something I had to do.

Find the spot where my brother and his wife died. And mark it.

It was on a highway going north. About an hour from Saskatoon.

But I don’t know where exactly. I’ve never gone to the spot. Never searched for the information to be exact.

Now I shall.

And in my remembering, in my purposefully marking that place where their lives ended, they will not be forgotten, and I shall remember the beauty and wonder of their being here on earth.

It is an important difference. To remember them in Love and mark their passing. To let go of the ‘whys’ of what happened and move into the beauty of their presence in my life.

In that difference, I let go of anger and fear and regret and unforgiveness and all the other emotions that keep me from embracing Love.


A Community That Makes a Difference (guest blog)

I first met Maureen when she popped into my Recover Your Joy blog and left a comment. From that moment, a friendship was formed that continues to add light and texture to my life which I cherish.

A gifted writer, Maureen is the author of Neruda’s Memoir, a beautiful compilation of poetry that sings straight to your heart (visit her blog for more info). She is also the power and the voice behind, Writing Without Paper, her blog where everyday she offers up beautiful poetry that speaks of her warrior spirit and gentle soul as well as treasures from the arts — theatre, music, poetry, videos — you name it, Maureen provides her readers with a constant source of richness to explore — her finds are our gifts.

And in her guest blog today, Maureen shares another type of community that makes a difference to those of us affected by Cancer.

Thank you Maureen. Your spirit is bright, your voice strong and your beauty runs deep.


By Maureen Doallas

No one ever wants to join the community to which I belong and, once in, no one can ever quite leave it.

You won’t find my community starred on any published map; it exists mostly virtually, though its members are very real. Each of us knows the other’s name, the names of loved ones and family members, even intimate aspects of one another’s life. We know how much we’ve paid, are paying, in membership dues, how much we’ll continue paying to belong, because leaving is not an option. We see the cost in the pictures we exchange, hear it in the words that erupt from places deep inside where only metaphors and similes are sufficient to describe what we experience.

What we experience often wants for clear-cut explanation. The science is complicated, the medicine more trial than error, sometimes working, sometimes
not. It can be a life-saving poison. We talk about its effects, the difference it makes to wanting to get up in the morning, to breaking open the cocoon of unspoken love.

We have a garden in our community that needs no special soil, no prescribed amount of yearly rainfall, no potting sheds or rakes or lawn mowers, no fertilizers save ourselves. It flowers with words that each day make a difference to someone newly initiated or stopping by for the first time. Those of us who’ve been in the community long enough know that the words prayed in the garden always come down to meaning the one same thing: how community is grace, how hope makes a difference.

Once, the community had a leader who had a tag line that held the gist of everything he penned: that above all else, life is worth living. To recall it, which all of us in the community do daily, is to understand that there is no price that comes close to reflecting the value we give to time with each other until we’re out of it.

We in the community break down together, bend down together, and hold out our hands to pull each other up again.

We lift. We lift as One; we lift as Community, never feeling the weight in the air of loss that hangs like a shroud in a place that makes a place for us all.

We laugh together. We share the greatest joys. We tell of the last breaths in the last hours of the last day of life, after we’ve said our goodbyes. We grieve even when the loss is not our own, because it is our own, because it is we in Him in whose image we are born and die.

We are flesh and blood. We are bones and ash. We are ghost and spirit.

We are the difference we make in the community we call Our Cancer.