Heroes among us.

Saturday dawns clear and sunny, blue skies soaring above, just as heroes soar through everyday.

While C.C. and I were in the Russian Valley River wine country, we happened upon a concert in the town square. We were quickly befriended by Bill and Mary and Tony and Gail and their friends and became part of an exceptional evening of fun and laughter and good times under a canopy of leaves and a sky turning peacock to indigo. The warmth and welcome we were extended made my heart soar.

Strangers who embrace travellers to make them feel welcome in their town are heroes!

Chatting with Tony at the concert last Tuesday night he shared his recent appointment to the Goodwill board of directors in the Healdsburg area. He excitedly told me all about their good works, and his efforts to assist them in raising funds for the many important initiatives they undertake to create a great community for everyone. His excitement was contagious, and his passion inspiring.

Tony and all those who take the time to sit on boards and committees to guide charities in their work and to create great communities are heroes.

My brother-in-law Jim recently became a member of the Hospitality Committee for the Calgary Stampede. He is one of 5,000 volunteers who make Stampede work every year. Like so many, Jim contributes his time to ensure visitors and spectators have the time of their life — not only during the hottest ten days of summer when the Stampede is staged, but also throughout the year. Jim flips pancakes, greets visitors, stages cowboy dramas and does whatever it takes to ensure no one is left out of the festivities.

Jim and all those who volunteer to make the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth – the Calgary Stampede — happen every year are heroes!

Who are your heroes? These are just some of mine that I’ve encountered over the past week. Care to share yours? If nothing else, why not let them know — You’re a hero! You’ll definitely make a difference in their life.

Happy Canada Day Weekend to my fellow Canadians!  Hope it’s a blast!

And…. because it is a national holiday here in Canada — our Canada Day weekend, I’ll be sharing a video about Canada each day.

Here are the Arrogant Worms singing I am Canadian! And yes! the Arrogant Worms are heroes too — they rock!

What we think makes a difference

It is interesting some days, to look back on my day and wonder… where did I make a difference?

It’s not that I don’t, or you don’t, always make a difference. We do. Our presence in this world is the difference we make every day. And that’s the relevance of our difference. Did I consciously chose harmony over discord, joy over sadness, laughter over tears, gentleness over brutishness, peace over anger, no matter the circumstances unfolding around me?

Everyday we have the opportunity to take small steps, make little gestures, choose small significances that will make a difference in the world beyond our own state of being. Like holding open the door for  someone, or smiling at a stranger, or complimenting the checkout guy at the coffee shop, or letting a driver merge into traffic with a smile and a soft heart — those moments exist throughout our day. It is in choosing the road of harmony and openness that I make a difference within me — and from that state of being at peace within, my ripple becomes an echo of peace all around me.

It is easy to forget sometimes that peace is out there, everywhere, waiting to be made by each of us. That no matter how discordant our heartbeat in any moment, peace is waiting to be embraced by the choices we make. We can move anger up, or down, a notch. We can slow down our temper by giving way to our heart’s calling to be ‘at peace’ within our being in the harmony and flow of life without discord stirring up the muddy waters of our thinking — ‘it’s not my fault’, it’s them not me, I deserve…. I didn’t… I won’t…. I can’t help myself….

Every day I have the opportunity to make peace, or not. To choose harmony, or not.

Some days, I’m more aware than others. Some days, fear, pain, self-concern, self-protection and other limiting beliefs fog up my thinking with their litany of reasons why I don’t need to act in peace.

Like yesterday when I didn’t let that man merge because I didn’t like the way he drove up the right lane knowing it ended just ahead and he would have to merge, I am not creating ripples of harmony and peace. I am contributing to the discord around me.

Perhaps, in those instances where I don’t understand why ‘they’ can’t merge two blocks before like I did, I might want to ask myself, ‘why do we all merge two blocks early when the road is designed to have us merge up ahead?’ Perhaps it is the fact none of us trust other drivers to let us in that we then create an environment of distrust where those who use the road as designed are then accused of being pushy drivers?

When I stop to change my glasses, when I let go of my preconceived notions of right versus wrong, my way versus yours, I see there is a different way to see the world around me. I see that I contribute to the discord, and the harmony in all things.

All things are connected. We are all connected. And on that road, I created a thread of discord simply by my judgments and perceptions of ‘what was wrong’ with someone else.

There are thousands of opportunities everyday where I can chose to ‘be right’ or I can choose to let my difference be one of harmony, peace, love and joy simply by letting go of my judgments and letting my thoughts and actions be the difference I want to create in the world around me.

Today, let all my actions, thoughts and way of being create harmony, peace, love and joy.

 

Interruptions in service do make a difference

My internet at home is down once again. Shaw tells me it’s a ‘glitch’ in the neighbourhood and should be fixed by July 2.  I will experience interrupted service, they tell me.

Hmmm….. interrupted currently means ‘no service at all’.

Which also means, no blog today until I get time to take my laptop and sit in a coffee shop and write. It makes a difference to have the convenience of internet at home — I am so blessed by what I have in my life!

Not having internet is not a hardship — just an early morning meeting at 7:30 and now a day of work — I won’t be writing until later.

In the interim — have a day of making a difference — I plan on it!

 

Picnic baskets and friendship make a difference

We had no intention of attending an outdoor concert. Or eating dinner beneath a canopy of trees,, the fresh air and California sunlight caressing our skin in a warm inviting blanket. And we definitely had no intention of meeting some of the nicest, most welcoming people yet — but there we were, in the midst of a regular Tuesday night happening in Healdsburg, connected into a circle of friends who welcomed us like long lost companions, taking part in their Tuesday night ritual.

The only thing we had predicted  at the start of our day was that we’d end up in Healdsburg for a late lunch. The rest was up to the wine gods and the curve of the road. Turning off of River Road onto Westside Rd, we drove  along the Russian River, wine country laid out before us. We stopped at wineries and olive groves, sampling and enjoying  eachother’s company and the welcoming smiles of the merchants along the route.

In Healdsburg, it was obvious something was happening in the town square when at 2pm, we parked our car and were almost bowled over by people rushing to set up camp with blankets and lawn chairs on the grass of the square. “It’s live music Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm”, one helpful local told us before rushing past to stake out his claim on the grass before the bandshell.

Undecided, we went for lunch, wandered the streets and decided to find a goodwill store so we could purchase a blanket and pillows — in case we decided to stay for the concert or go to the beach for a sunset dinner.

It was Bill who convinced us to stay. “This is way better than the beach,” he told us when I asked if it was worth staying for. Bill is retired . It’s his Tuesday afternoon ‘job’ to stake out turf for anywhere from 10 to 25 friends who turn up for their Tuesday night picnic supper.

C.C., ever eager to hear live music, suggested we stay and I went off in search of a picnic, and wine glasses while he stayed back to hold our spot under the trees.

When I returned, Tony and Mary had arrived to join Bill and C.C. was part of the circle.

And thus began an evening we will never forget. By the time the music started at 6, we were part of a large circle of friends. By the time the music ended at 8, we had promises of visitors for the Calgary Stampede — winemaker John may even turn up next week to take in the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

Here’s hoping he does. Here’s hoping Bill and Mary and Tony and Gail and all the others who opened their picnic baskets and their hearts with such grace do come north to sample some western hospitality.

While their show of generosity of spirit will be hard to beat, it would be fun to try to extend it.

They all made an incredible difference to the texure and tone and depth of our last night in this little piece of paradise in the Sonoma wine valley. By opening thier circle to  two strangers,  they created memories that will lat our lifetime, and I’m hoping friendships too.

Extending a smile and a welcome to strangers makes a difference.

I am grateful for the difference they have made. I am grateful  for the time spent laughing and sharing and eating and smiling under the trees ona summer evening in Healdsburg.

Oh! And the music wasn’t  bad either. At least, I think there was music. Amidst all the fun and laughter, it was hard to tell!   🙂

Smiles (and wine) always make a difference

We see them everywhere we go. In coffee shops and line-ups. In stores and on the streets. They’re waiting for us at the B&B we’re staying at, and at the wineries we’ve visited and in the restaurants we’ve frequented.

Smiles.

They sure make a difference.

And yesterday, our smiles were as wide as the ocean stretching out to the west, flowing all the way to China. Our smiles were deep, like the roots on the Redwood trees we  wandered amongst in  Armstrong Forest where we ate two sublimely delicious sandwiches from the Big Bottom Grill in Guernville.

Stopping there to pick -up a picnic lunch before exploring the Woods was the recommendation of the vintner at Arista Wineries, a small family run business on the East Side of the Russian River. They only  make five kinds of sandwiches, he told us earlier in the day as we stood at the bar and sipped on some of the house speciality — Pinot Noir and a desert wine/sauterne varietal to die for.

“I’ve tried three of their five sandwiches and each one was the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life,” he said with enthusiasm, and a smile.

My curry chicken sandwhich may not have been “the best” sandwich I’ve ever eaten, but sitting at a picnic table beneath giant Redwoods, the wun filtering through the branches in dancing waves of light and shade was definitely one of the more suul-filling moments in recent memory.

This place is heaven on earth — I wrote about its relationship to Eden on my Recover Your Joy blog last night. (http://recoveryourjoy.blogspot.com/2012/06/in-wine-country.html ) and about the delightful couple and their friend we met at Arista who shared many smiles and laughter both there and at Iron Horse Wineries where we met up to share a sip or two of bubbly – all of which made our smiles brighter still.

Even Shannon, the 13 year-old resident cat at the Sonoma Orchid Inn where we are staying, wears a perpetual smile, albeit a tad smug. He doesn’t have to do anything for his living. Just lay about in the sun. “He doesn’t even mouse,” said Brian our affable Inn host. “But he makes our guests smile, and that’s what it’s all about.”

And he’s right. Smiles make the day feel oh so right.  I think it might be why the sun feels as though it shines brighter here  — it’s reflecting off all the smiles everywhere!

And what a beautiful day full of smiles it was yesterday. Roof down, sun above, trees forming a leafy canopy above our heads, we drove along country roads, up into the hills, along vineyards and olive groves and old forests. In Armstrong Woods the Parker Tree stretches 81 feet into the sky and is estimated to be 1300 years old. Imagine all the smiles it’s created on the visitors who have stood beneath its towering shade and felt the rich soils of the past beneath their feet.

We are all smiles in this magical place and loving every moment of it

Today, we’re off to visit more vineyards and to taste Olive  Oils along Burgundy Road. C.C. has a yearning to visit Caliistoga where we’ll hopefully find a late lunch delight and then who knows what the  day will bring..

My favourite kind of travelling. No concrete plans. No destination in mind. Just freeform exploring of what the land has to offer, and plenty of smiles to share and enjoy.

Sunscreen makes a difference

We drove up the coastal highway yesterday. Picked up our rental car at noon and headed over the Golden Gate Bridge north to wine country. We opted out of taking the main highway and wound our way instead along the coast. Two extra hours of driving, but we had no time table, no must be’s or do’s to dictate our time. It was divine.

Before we left San Francisco we wandered down to Maraket Street to watch the Pride Parade. It was wild. One million people come out to witness the event — in a city of 700,000 that’s pretty spectacular!

The parade iself is one huge spectacle of noise and colour and bodies wearing, or not wearing, rainbow colours and every other colour that suited their fancy. There was a lot of fancy everywhere including one man riding his bicycle wearing nothing other than the suit he was born in. I wondered if he was wearing sunscreen, everywhere.

You needed it yesterday. Sunscreen. The sun shone out of a cloudless sky.The air was warm and silky. The streets were filled with people, all vying for position to get a glimpse of the parade.

There were also the prerequisite protesters. A woman standing on an upturned crate at the corner of Powell and Market Street singing, ‘Jesus Loves You!’. Around her a bevy of people stood waving placards that said things like “Homo sex is a sin.” “Homo’s are a threat to national security.” And around them, another group in a circle, facing inward, yelling out, “We’re homo’s and Jesus loves us too!”

I was curious about the ‘threat to national security’ bit but C.C. suggested I not stop and ask for clarification. I decided to listen to him as an altercation flared up between one man from the group asserting his right to express his sexual orientation and a man wanting to deny that  right. Placards fell, bodies shoved and we moved out of the line of scrimmage.

It was all rather fascinating and as one man said to me as we stood at the edge of the street waiting for the parade to pass-by, ‘It must be very painful to hold such rigid views. Perhaps they forget, we are all part of the rainbow of life. Everyone of us. Maybe a little less black and white and a bit more colour would be helpful.’

I liked that man. We chatted for awhile. He and his wife come to watch the parade every year in support of their son. He’s been to the Calgary Stampede a few times. ‘That’s quite the parade you got up there,’ he said and then added with a laugh. ‘But nothing like this!’

And he was right. It was nothing like this. People wearing long tubular balloons cascading from their backs like jelly fish fronds floating in the water. Men in drag. Men in skimpy swim suits, their bodies painted in rainbow hues. And men wearing nothing but paint. Women too. Their bodies painted in multi-coloured hues, shimmering with glitter and sparkle paint. They rode Harley’s and Hondas and bicycles and trucks and everything conceivable. And not one horse.

Definitely not the Calgary Stampede.

And, with all the paint and glitter, they didn’t need sunscreen.

But I did and I forgot. C.C. had a ball cap. I stood, my face naked to the sun and oohed and aahed and yelled and cheered as people and floats and cheerleaders and almost naked marching bands passed by.

And then, I sat in the open car, the sun and wind streaming down as we drove north along the coast, through rolling hills and curving road towards Sonaoma County.

It was divine. We drove through groves of fagrant treess and lush valleys. Up over hillsides that opened into vistas of ocean glistening out into the horizon. We drove around curves that inspired oohs and aahs and Stop! Just one more photoo.

But I should have been wearing sunscreen.

This morning, my nose is a pretty red and my forehead somewhat coloured too. Perhaps it’s the rainbow in me coming out. Or maybe, it’s just I forgot my new face cream doesn’t contain sunblock.

I’ll be wearing sunscreen today. It will make a difference!

Kicking back makes a difference

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It is Sunday– the day for a guest blog but I have left my laptop at home and am using my iPad — which means, I don’t have my files. It seemed like a good idea at the time — to not carry my laptop, and it still is because it’s so light and versatile and today I have my keyboard with me at Starbucks — so typing is easier. but, some logistics escape me and the Guest Blog today was one of them.

So… instead of a guest blog, a couple of photos from our bike ride yesterday. It was glorious. Riding in the wind across the Golden Gate Bridge. Up the hill to the top of the Marin County headlands, flying down with the wind, into Sausalito, lunch at a table overlooking the bay and the ride back across the bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf where we’d rented the bikes six hours earlier.

A blissful, relaxing and enchanting day. Sunshine. Exercise. Great company. Ocean breezes. Sailboats scuttling across the bay and a view flowing into tomorrow. Oh, and did I mention… we rented electric bikes? Wicked awesome!

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Electric bikes are perfect. Don’t know why I don’t have one at home. What a perfect way to get around. Manual power unless you need a boost up a hill. How perfect is that?

And, wouldn’t you know it, technology once again defies me — I can’t add photos from my ipad. I did remember to bring the plug-in to upload them off the camera, but I don’t know how to get them into my blog. 🙂

It will have to wait until I get home.

In the interim. C.C. and I are off to watch the Gay Pride Parade this morning and then, we pick up our convertible rental car and zoom off to Wine Country for 3 nights.

Kicking back, relaxing, spending time together…. it all makes a difference.

Blessings on a fabulous day where ever you are in the world. May you see the rainbows peeking out from behind grey clouds, the sunshine streaming in your heart and the joy of knowing you are surrounded by a world of magnificent people.

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Heroes everywhere.

I am at a Starbucks in Bush Street a few blocks down from our hotel kitty corner to the gates to Chinatown.  The sun streams in through the window and San Franciso awakens.

Walking down I pass a garbage can overturned, a flock of pigeons feasting on the Remains of the day spilling out onto the road.  Further down a pile of grimy blankets hides a body sleeping on the sidewalk.  A panhandler stands holding a cup in his outstretched hand.

“I used to give to them when I first came to this country,” our Van-to-Door driver told us Thursday on our ride into the city. His voice heavy with the sounds of his country, Taiwan. His English is good. “I like this job,” he adds.  “it gives me lots of chance to practice my English.”

When he arrived in America he couldn’t speak English. Seven years later, he does. He proudly tells us of his eldest son who is graduating this year with a PhD in bio-chemistry and his younger son who just graduated with his bachelors and is going on to complete a masters.

“I don’t give to panhandlers any more,” he repeats.  “I come here with nothing. I get a job. I support my family.  I don’t care what job. I get a job. Why don’t they?”

There is an elegant simplicity to his logic. I understand his line of sight.

If only…

If only it were so elegantly simple-get a job, support yourself, do the right things to support your family, build your life.

If only…

That man driving the van is a hero.

The panhandler standing on the street is a hero.

Those who drop coins in his cup are Hero’s.

Those who walk by without a look are Hero’s.

Yesteerday, C.C and I wandered the streets. We had no clear plan, no stated destination other than if we could walk to Fisherman’s Wharf within an hour we would join a walking tour.

We got distracted. The prerequisite trolley ride. A stop in an art gallery. Photos along the way.

What I loved the most – the music. Voices from around the world. Taxi cab drivers honking their horns. Trolley bells clanging. Cars and trucks and people calling out and the buskers.

I bought four CDs yesterday. It’s part of my music of the streets collection. I have them from wherever I go. New York. Toronto. Barbados. Vancouver.  I love the music of the streets.

A man drumming on big empty tubs that once held cleaning products, another playing s guitar while we waited in line for the trolley. A band on the stage at Union Square. The Family Crest. And a trio playing soul music on the corner of Market Street somewhere along our route. A choir we happened upon in St. Mary’s Church in Chinatown. I felt like we were being serenaded by angels.

Street musicians are heroes. Musicians everywhere are heroes.

C.C. And I separated for while later in the day. He to an Irish Pub. Me to Macy’s. When I joined him an hour later where he sat at the bar nursing a beer, I chatted with one of the servers whose job it is to keep the bar flowing with cut up fruit, ice, clean glasses…

Ehria came to America at the age of 16 from Nicaragua. On his own. He’s holding down two full time jobs, working sixteen hours a day on the three days his jobs overlap.  When do you sleep, i ask. “when i die,” he replies with a smile. He got married last year to his childhood sweetheart in Nicaragua. She arrives here next month. To live. Forever, he says, a big smile opening up the light in his face. She’s a Public Defender in his country. Here she’ll have to study for two, maybe three years To be able to practice. “I gotta work hard to make our dreams come true, he says. And he will.

When I buy my Starbucks this morning the barista tells me some of his story s he prepares my Latte. He is from Honduras. “I feel safer here,” he says. He works to pay his way through University so he too can live his dream.

The immigrants who serve us, clean our room, carry and chop and wash dishes, they are all heroes.

And hero props to this country where those who arrive lost and frightened and alone believe in their dreams. Here’s to this land where dreams do come true.

How we treat our children makes a difference

It was a long  day yesterday. We left Calgary on a 7am flight to grab a connector in Vancouver at 9:30. Except… San Francisco was fogged in and our flight was delayed until noon. We boarded at about the same time we would have been arriving in San Fran if we’d been on time. Which, made me smile when we did arrive because the direct flight from Calgary to San Fran arrived in at the same time as we eventually did!

And in the end, it didn’t matter. We had a delightful driver ferry us to our hotel, a quaint B&B style, English mansion — The White Swan. We’re in the heart of it all. And loving it.

As we waited in Vancouver yesterday I watched a small drama unfold between a mother and fathere and their two daughters.  The girls, aged around five and three, were hugging each other and fell over backwards. The youngest hit her head and wasn’t sure how to respond. The eldest rubbed the back of her head, hugged her and told her she was okay. It was very sweet to watch. They were so natural and loving towards each other.

Laughing, they lay on the floor, looking up at the ceiling way above. The father told them to “get up”. The mother said, “they’re fine.” The girls kept playing. Finally, the father walked over, grabbed the arm of the eldest girl and hauled her to her  feet. The youngest quickly stood up, ran to her mother and hid between her legs as did the eldest. The mother looked at the father with a look of disgust and turned her back to him. He stood there looking confused and lost. What happened?

What struck me was how the dynamics of shame and fear played out in that little tableau. How the father felt unheard and while he was unnecessarily rough, it was easy to see how the roles in their family were set. How the children learn to play one parent against another – eventually the father bought both girls some candy…

We teach our children, constantly, how to be in the world. We teach them acts of love. We teach them how to fear. And, we teach them how to feel unsafe being themselves.

When we feel unheard, unseen, unknown, we act out in ways that shore up our fears against that which we fear. In watching the tableau unfold, I was struck by the power of seemingly simple gestures to affect change – in all directions.

Now, C.C. did not witness this drama. He was comfortable reading his book, not worrying about the world around him and all it’s drama. But, just before we were to disembark, I asked him what I should do with the ten dollar food voucher the airline hd given us. “you could find a young kid to give it to,” he suggested.

What a brilliant idea!

I walked over to the food court area and saw a young (late teens) boy buying a sandwich and drink. I offered him the voucher. Seriously, he asked and then quickly took it before I changed my mind.

Always thinking that C.C. He makes a difference in my world.

Blessings to all. San Fran is lovely!

Making a difference requires openness

I’m not sure what it is, but it’s been crazy busy the past few days. Perhaps, getting ready to go away for a week. Perhaps, getting ready for a major event Friday night where I won’t be. Perhaps, it’s organizing everything for the excitement of Brett Wilson’s Garden Party where the Calgary Counselling Centre where I’m working is the one three recipients of funding from the Garden Party event for its Eating Disorder programming. Or, perhaps it’s that I’m working with a core group of essential generatives to create a map for the future….

Whatever it is, I’ve been crazy busy.

Which makes me think about the meaning of making a difference.

Part of it has to do with slowing down to become aware, conscious of and flowing with what is going on around me. And when I’m super busy, I don’t take time to breathe and be aware. I simply push into doing.

Not good. Not healthy. Not fulfilling. To be my greatest difference in the world, I must breathe into the moment and simply allow what is to be without trying to make it anything other than what it is.

Take the Summer of Peace Calgary 2012. When we first began meeting several months ago, none of us had any clear vision of what it would look like. We simply had a vision for what could be possible if we all started working together to create Summer of Peace, with an event as the kick-off. And then the idea came to the surface to collaborate with Judy Atkinson and Circles of Rhythm in a Friday night drum circle. And then, the idea floated to the top to invite Calgary’s poet Laureate, Chris DeMeanor, and then…

It was the allowing of the ‘and then’  that created the magic and the wonder of Summer of Peace. It wasn’t ‘the plan’, it was the allowing for the co-creative process to inform each action, and then the next. That’s what made the biggest difference.

To make a difference in our world, we have to let go of believing we know what is needed and stay open and conscious of what is appearing in the moment. It is to let go of our plans, and open up to the unexpected.

It is to be allowing of miracles, expectant of wonder and open to possibility.

Making a difference isn’t a roadmap or a plan. It’s all about staying open and receptive of possibility.

And this morning, while it is currently half past midnight, I know I must arise early and get ready to leave for the airport by 5:30am. C.C. and I are on a 7am flight. it will be fun! I’ve all the time in the world to sleep on the flight. I’ve only got right now to experience the wonder and the possibility of now.

Namaste.