Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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making a difference begins where I’m at. happy new year!

I had such good intentions. To spend the time between Christmas and New Year’s diving into what I’ve written over the past year to compile a New Year’s message full of insight and wisdom and thoughts on what I’ve learned about making a difference.

And then, my daughter had an accident. Sitting down to think about making a difference took backseat to thinking about what a difference she makes in my life. Coming to grips with my feelings and thoughts and realizations about that accidenttook over my thinking.

That’s okay, I told myself. I’ll give myself a day to settle into peace with the fragile nature of our hold on life and then, I’ll work on my New Year’s message.

Good plan.

And then, I put my back out. I kind of knew it was happening. One of my favourite places to sit in the early morning darkness is the chaise in the corner of the living room. With the lights of the Christmas tree twinkling in the darkness and the candles flickering, it is meditative, calming, creative. Except…. it’s a killer on my back. I know this because whenever I choose to spend a few days in a row sitting there, my back always goes wonky.

Ahhh. But this time  will be different, I told myself. Doing the same thing that caused pain in the past will not cause pain in the future.

Yeah right. Hello? Who am I kidding? Them be mighty fine drugs you’re smokin’ girlie! Cause, sure as the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, my lower back surely goes into spasm after sitting on the chaise that puts all the pressure on my lower back, for three weeks straight.

Which meant, my plans of sitting at my desk, or anywhere, gathering my thoughts for a New Year’s message were not to be. Sitting for any length of time just didn’t work.

But I could stand. As long as I was wearing my super-duper Nike walking shoes, I could stand. And so I did. Stand. And yes, I know I could have stood with my laptop on a counter but seriously…. there’s too much stillness and my back needed me to move to keep it limbered up.

So…. instead of being in front of my computer, I stood in front of an easel. For three glorious days, I stood in front of an easel and I created. I splashed colour. Collaged. Drew. Contemplated and splashed more colour.

Thanks to my friend TZ who is house sitting for a woman who has turned her basement into an art studio, I spent two glorious days with her and another friend DQ stirring my creative juices and throwing my expression of it onto a canvas. On Sunday, C.C. came and joined us. He sat in a big comfy chair in the corner reading while we painted to our heart’s content.

It was divine!

And then, yesterday, still unable to sit for long periods of time, I turned the dining room into my art studio and spent a third day immersed in colour and texture and visual stimulation.

I am happy.

I am content.

I am satisfied.

And I still don’t have a New Year’s message written.

And that’s okay.

Because it’s one of the very first things I learned in writing  about making a difference. The difference I make isn’t in the doing, it’s in my being. Present. Conscious. Awake. It’s in my loving acceptance of where I’m at, how I’m at, however I am, present, willing to know myself as I am without needing to be different. It’s in loving myself through whatever I’m doing, without wishing I was somewhere else or some other way.

The greatest difference I make in the world is found when I am being where I am, how I am, right now, right here, in just this way. And when ‘just this way’ is founded on acceptance, my ripple becomes one of acceptance.

I’ve learned a great deal about what it means to make a difference in the world, and one of the greatest things I’ve learned is that to make a difference I have to turn up, pay attention, speak my truth, and stay unattached to the outcome.

When I step into each moment with an open mind and loving heart, when I surrender my fear to Love, I become the difference I want to create in the world. And in that difference, miracles happen.

Looking back on the year of making a difference I know I have created more of what I want in the world. And I am grateful. I have touched hearts, opened minds and set spirits free and in the process my spirit has been freed to express itself exactly the way it is. My voice has been heard. I have reached out and been touched by hundreds of people reaching back.

I am grateful.

This morning, my back is feeling much better. This morning, the sky is still dark as I type but  I know the sun hovers on the horizon, waiting for the soft sweet calling of day’s light urging her to slip out of night’s blanket and leap across the sky.

Tomorrow is another day.

For today, I wish each and every one a Happy New Year. May you celebrate the passing away of 2012 with love and compassion and the knowing, you made a difference. May you welcome in 2013 with your arms wide open to the possibility of the wonder and awe unfolding in your life knowing, you make a difference. May you surrender fear and fall in Love every moment of every day.

Tomorrow, I shall be back here. I’ll be changing the name and design of my blog, but the theme will remain the same. I like exploring what it means, what it takes, what is, the difference we make in the world everyday.

And I love sharing the journey with all of you!

Thank you everyone for being part of my exploration. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you. You make a difference.

Happy New Year!

See you next year!


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Moving to Plan B: The Lessons of Pain and Disappointment (Guest Blog)

I first met Mike Webster in June 2006. He was one of the coaches in the room when I went through Choices, the personal development program I continue to support and coach in. I didn’t really get to know him though until I started coaching myself and saw him, month after month, always in the training room, always giving back, always sharing his experience with kindness, caring and laughter.

Mike is one of those people you simply cannot help but like. He’s intelligent, insightful and witty (and yes ladies, he’s single — Thelma made me say it Mike! 🙂 ) — he’s got a wicked sense of humour — Slightly sarcastic but never mean. He sees the funny in our human condition and shines a loving light on it with laughter and a smile.

Today, Mike shares his insight as the guest blogger. In fact, while this is the first time Mike has guest blogged, this will be his last guest blog this year — because he is the closing guest blogger of 2012.

Thank you Mike for sharing your words, your heart and your experience so gracefully and eloquently. As this year comes to a close, your insight on Plan B resonates. I have had an amazing year yet, there are things this past year that didn’t go quite as planned. Reading your words, I am reminded to find value in all things, to see the gift in all circumstances and no matter what is going on, to choose Love over fear.

Blessings on a Happy New Year!

Moving to Plan B:

The Lessons of Pain and Disappointment

 By Mike Webster

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. We have dreams and aspirations that we work hard to make come true, but sometimes things don’t work out.

When they don’t, when we have put our hearts, our hopes, and our dreams into something we desperately want, it hurts. It can crush you. It can leave a bad taste in your mouth. It can leave you to rail against God…the universe…life.

This summer I suffered one of the biggest disappointments of my life. And that is exactly what happens: we ‘suffer’ a disappointment. At the time, I thought the pain would last forever. At least that’s what I felt. I had been working toward something for more than six months, and then, when push came to shove, I came up short. I was sure in that moment that this failure was permanent, that it meant I was somehow defective and destined to be denied my hopes and dreams.

I’ve left out the details of my specific failure for two reasons. The first is that, contrary to the opinion of some, it is not always healthy to discuss your failures in public. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean that you should keep things like this a secret. If you hide the pain and disappointment in your life, it leads to  feelings of shame. I’ve shared what happened with my family and those close to me. I needed to share those feelings in order to separate what happened to me from my sense of my value as a person. I am very clear now that just because I suffered a disappointment or a failure does not make me a disappointment or failure. II am not defined by my experience. But that realization only comes by talking it through. I am grateful to the friends and family who listened to me.

The second reason I haven’t discussed the details here is that these types of disappointments happen to all of us, and they happen regularly. They are a part of the human condition. We all have hopes, dreams, and desires. All of human history is a testament to our ambition, our desire to improve ourselves and our situation. But the unavoidable fact is that not all of those dreams can come true. The odds are against us. Part of being human requires dealing with the inevitability of pain and disappointment.

That’s when life gives us a choice: we can choose to wallow in that pain and disappointment; or we can brush ourselves off, look for what we can learn from the situation, and move in a different direction. Too often, we choose to stay stuck. And it is a choice. When we choose to live in the pain and disappointment, when we choose to allow them to define who we are, we diminish ourselves. Remaining in the frustration of the moment robs us of our power.

What I had to do was acknowledge what happened to me. I talked it over with people I trusted. I used my disappointment and frustration as an opportunity to learn more about myself. I learned that, no matter how much it hurts in the moment, I can survive disappointment. I learned that I am more capable than I sometimes give myself credit for. I learned that the important people in my life are there for me no matter what.

But most importantly, I learned that sometimes a shift in direction can lead to a better destination than the one I was aiming for. Throughout my life, the real significant disappointments and challenges I have faced have allowed me to change and grow. With some distance, I can see that the great things that have happened in my life have been the serendipitous result of a change in direction or personal growth caused by a moment of disappointment or pain.

As hard as those pains and disappointments have been, I would not change them if given the chance. With every opportunity I have to help someone else, I give thanks for the lessons learned through pain and disappointment. They have made me who I am.


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Heroes in our midst

It’s a day of first and lasts. The first time we’ll experience this day, the last time we’ll experience a Saturday in 2012. Like every Saturday here at A year of making a difference, it’s time to celebrate the heroes among us.

My first heroes of the day are the two truck drivers from City Wide Towing who came to my daughter Liseanne, and her boyfriend Ryan’s rescue Thursday morning when she drove off the road and hit the guardrail on the highway.

Scott and Mike from City Wide Towing are heroes.

Every day first responders are out there answering calls for help. They put their lives on the line, and as in the tragic case of the two firefighters in New York last week, they sometimes lose their lives in the line of duty.

First responders are heroes. Police. Fire. EMS — you make a world of difference. Thank you for all you do.

My friends are heroes. On Christmas Day, and before, they turned up and lent a hand to help create Christmas at the Madison. Thank you.

And, as is the custom on Saturdays, I’m sharing a video to inspire you. This one is Brian Piergrossi reading, Love is the New Religion.

Namaste. May your day be filled with Love.


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A tow-truck driver makes a difference

I am driving on the Deerfoot, a super-fast eight lane highway that spans north to south ends of the city. It is 8am. The temperature is -23 Celsius with a 10 degree windchill factor. It is cold. Very, very cold

I am driving below the speed limit. It is icy. Treacherous. Blowing snow. Speeding cars. Upset mother.  Bad combination.

I breathe.

It is only moments since the phone call broke through my reverie as I poured myself a second cup of coffee in the warmth of my kitchen.

It is my youngest daughter, Liseanne. “I crashed my car on the Deerfoot,” she cried. And I fly into action.

C.C., who had been sleeping soundly, jerked upright at the noise of my searching for clothes to throw on. “What? What? What’s happening?”

Liseanne crashed, I cry out. I gotta go.

Do you need me to come? he asked.

What? Come with me? No. Yes. No. I don’t know. I gotta go.

And I race from the house. My mind wants to leap into that place of horror. Where what happened is magnified through the glass of what could have happened if…

Stop it. I tell myself. Drive. Safely.

The sun is rising. Ice fog dances in the air.

Breathe.

My cell phone rings. I answer it. Handsfree. It’s C.C.

Drive carefully, he says.

You should have come with me, I cry back.

You didn’t give me a chance, he says. You were gone before I even really had a chance to get my eyes open.

He’s right. But being reasonable isn’t high on my list.

I hang up and focus on my driving. My mind still wants to veer over into the lane of disaster. I bring it under control. It steers me back over the line. “Remember all those stories of people being hit on the highway when their car broke down? Remember all those…”

Stop it. Focus. Concentrate. Drive.

I see the towtruck lights flashing.

I slow down.

Pull over onto the median in front of my daughters car. It is stopped, snug against the guardrail. From the front, it doesn’t look like too much damage. I throw on my flashers. Get out. Walk back towards her, hugging the guardrail as close as I can. The snow is deep. the traffic close and fast. Good thing I put on my snowboots, my mind whispers.

I am walking on the Deerfoot. Cars are whizzing by. It is cold. Noisy. Terrifying.

I check on Liseanne and her boyfriend Ryan who she was driving to the airport for an early flight to Vegas when the accident happened.

I couldn’t see, she cries from where she is boxed in behind the driver’s wheel. Her door is fast up against the guardrail. We’ll later discover she’s lost both door handles, her side mirror and put a huge gash in the driver’s door. “I turned the heat vents onto the side windows to clear them,” she cried, “And snow blew up onto my windshield and froze. I couldn’t see.”

We’re okay, Ryan tells me. “She’s a good crasher,” he jokes. “Kept the car straight. Didn’t panic. Didn’t lose control.”

I am grateful.

I walk back to speak to the two-truck driver who is sitting in the warmth of his vehicle.

Cars whizz by. Nobody slows down. It’s the law, my mind says. It’s the law. I want to wave my fists at them. To scream out, Slow down! You’re threatening the life of my baby girl. Slow down!

And nobody slows down. I ask Scott, the tow-truck driver who was first to arrive on scene, if they ever do. Slow down. As required. By law.

He laughs what wasn’t really a laugh, more a ‘you got to be kidding?’ kind of snort. Never. He replied. I guess they just don’t get there are people’s lives at risk.

He suggests I go sit in my daughters car while we wait for the second two-truck to arrive. The one that can tow her away. “I’m the rover,” he tells me. “I was just a few minutes behind when it happened. But I can’t tow her off. We need the other truck to do that so I can stay on post. You should go sit in the car. He’ll be here soon.” He must see how I don’t want to go inside. How I want to scream at traffic to slow down because he adds, kindly. “It’s okay. I’ll stay back here and keep her safe.”

And he does. As does Mike who arrives fifteen minutes later to hook up Liseanne’s car. He walks along the shoulder seemingly oblivious to the traffic speeding by. I tell him how grateful I am. How thankful for his and Scott’s presence. “How do you do this?” I ask him. “It feels so dangerous.”

He shrugs. Smiles. “I like to help people.”

I am grateful.

It was a rollercoaster morning. But all is well.

Ryan got a cab to the airport. Liseanne had her car towed to our front driveway where it joins her other car that she’s been meaning to dispose of since she bought this one five months ago. When I call to tell C.C. where the car is being delivered to, he laughs. “Maybe we should start a used car sales lot,” he jokes.

I come home. Make Liseanne tea. Wrap her up in blankets and hold her.

She’s okay.

And I thank God. The stars and moon and sky above. I thank the universe, Mike and Scott, who, when it was time for me to go back to my car and drive home said, “I’ll walk you to it to make sure you’re safe,” and who then put himself on the side of the traffic as he walked me to my car. Thank you. And I thank the wisdom of the system that knows to have tow truck drivers roving the highway.

But I do not thank the drivers who whizzed by. They could have killed someone.


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Shared time, together time, makes a difference

I stayed in my pajamas all day yesterday. Did not change until I went to bed when I put on fresh ones.

What a gift.

To spend the day relaxing. Reading. Napping. Chatting. Playing crib. Spider Solitaire. Sure, we cleaned the kitchen, did the dishes, put away the clutter from Christmas Day dinner. Made turkey soup, fed the animals, but other than to go to the fridge in the garage to get the turkey carcass or to take out the recycling, neither C.C. nor I ventured outside. Ellie had to settle for brief forays into the backyard — it was so cold I doubt she’d have lasted long on a walk anyway!

Sometimes, the only way to make a difference in my own life is to simply checkout of the ‘big life’ out there. To step back from doing and simply be present to the ‘undoing’ of the moment. To relax into the space I’m in and feel my way through time, moment by moment.

It was refreshing. Invigorating. Enlivening.

And today is a brand new day. A new space and time to create, to live, to experience. A new moment to unfold.

In this space, I am exploring what to do with this blog come January 1, 2013. The intent of A Year of Making a Difference was to write about making a difference every day for a year. As 2012 draws to a close, I wonder… is there more?

And I know there is. There is always time and space and room, as well as the need, to make a difference. To reach out and be of service to the world, to others, to each other. There is always space for difference making.

The question is, how will it unfold in this space? What will A Year of Making a Difference 2013 look like?

As someone who has written a daily blog every morning for almost 6 years, (Recover Your Joy) I am kind of addicted to the habit! But, as someone with a book waiting to be finished, and several projects on the go, is daily blogging the answer?

I’ve got a few days to think about it. To ponder my path. To sit in the presence of the answer unfolding as I let go of ‘making it happen’ and make way for it (whatever the ‘it’ is) to happen. I know the ‘what’ of what I want to do. It’s the how I need to allow room to appear.

In the meantime, I’ve got a structure free day to explore. Coffee with a friend, perhaps a nap. Some writing and some cleaning-up (I didn’t ask for clutter for Christmas but I sure did seem to get a lot! Where does it all come from? Where will it all go? 🙂 ) And later, C.C. and I are going on a date. Dinner. A movie. Some delightful shared time together.

It is in the shared time, the together time, the just ‘you and me babe’ time that the difference in our relationship is known and made and felt.

I am so blessed.

Hope your day unfolds in joy and wonder. Hope you know the blessing you are in the world is a gift to be treasured and celebrated.

Namaste.

 

 


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And my heart cried out in delight!

Tamara, Ursula and Cameron

Tamara, Ursula and Cameron

No one knows for sure how many words are in the English language but estimates are anywhere from 175,000 to 260,000.

And out of all of those hundreds of words, not one adequately expresses the energy and feeling that was present as we celebrated Christmas at The Madison yesterday afternoon.

There were tears and laughter, stories and teasing, music and singing. Silent Night. Jingle Bells. We wish you a Merry Christmas. The Spirit of Christmas was alive and well and shining brightly at The Madison. And smiles glowed and spirits shone and hearts were touched.

It was a busy time. I arrived at 1 with the stuffing and cranberry sauce and the turnip puff Jane had dropped off  just as Agnes turned up with more vegetables. Tamara and Ursula quickly followed with decorations for the table and the turkey all wrapped up in towels to keep him warm.

And then, we were in full swing. Tamara decorated. Howard whipped the cream that he and Kerry had brought for the dessert they’d made.  Cameron, one of the residents of The Madison, carved the turkey like an expert while Mikaela and Amanda laid out the food for serving. C.C. arrived with Taylor and his guitar and Alex, a friend of Amanda’s brought her violin and the two musicians serenaded everyone.

Cory, the staff member from Alpha House, (Alpha House operates the program on behalf of the Homeless Foundation) kept the place organized, letting the residents know when dinner was served as well as ensuring each resident got the stocking that C.C., my beloved, helped fill with items we’d bought because of all the donations. As each person entered I handed out their present and card — presents that we were also able to purchase because of the generosity of so many people. People like Tim Richter, the former CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation who was instrumental in the establishment of The Madison — a 15 unit apartment building for formerly homeless veterans. People like Joy M., a woman I’ve never met, who arrived at my door one day with a box of 15 jars of homemade crabapple jelly and a box of books to give as gifts. And my friend Jackie who contributed books and a beautiful Hudson’s Bay Company jacket. And Lynda who made the most amazing Gingerbread cake with eggonog sauce and a pan of carrots (to die for!) and her son, Cody, who dropped it all off!

And then there was Ian and Liseanne and Vicky and Jerry who shopped and contributed to the gifts, as well as LP, Al and Jane, Caitlin, Troy and Marnie, Kayleigh, Wendy, Sharon, Nev, Veronica and so many more like Keri and Randy who contributed and who came to the concert and so many people I don’t know. People like Elizabeth O., another woman I’ve never met. When they heard about the event, they lobbied grocery stores for gift cards and made donations to ensure everything went well.

You made such an amazing difference. You touched so many lives and I am grateful.

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to create Christmas at the Madison.

A community of people committed to bringing peace, hope, love and joy into the world. A community committed to ensuring the spirit of this special season is known to all.

When Brian Weismiller, the reporter from the Calgary Herald who turned up to write about the event (Christmas Dinner Celebrates Veterans New Lives Off The Streets)  asked me, “What’s so important to you that you do this?” I told him about my parents. About growing up on military bases and how my mom and dad always ensured that everyone had a place at the table. Even complete strangers. I told him how the men and women who serve our country need to be celebrated. Need to be acknowledged for their sacrifice and their commitment to our freedom. How homelessness is numbing. How it strips pride and dignity, how it destroys hope. And how, through connecting through our human condition, we are able to transcend the sorrow and remember — we are all connected. We all deserve to know dignity, pride, Love.

And I told him how giving is receiving.

I received an amazing gift yesterday. The residents of The Madison invited us into their home and shared Christmas with each of us. I received the generosity of my family,  friends and acquaintances, and even people I don’t know who stepped forward and shared their time, treasures and talents. And, I received the gift of the spirit of Christmas as it shone in the hearts of everyone involved. In its shining, we all received the gift of knowing, we make a difference when we turn up and let magic happen.

When I returned home, as I finished preparing dinner, as I served the meal and sat at the table surrounded by the one’s I love — and a new guest too — I felt the wonder and awe of the day in the air all around me.

Oh yes, my heart cried out in delight. This is Christmas.

Thank you everyone. You have made an enormous difference. You have touched many hearts and raised many spirits.

Namaste.


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Merry Christmas to All

IMG_3073The table is set, the turkey awaits stuffing. The vegetables are prepared, the cranberry sauce ready. Beneath the tree the presents are wrapped and waiting for the household to stir.

And I sit in the quiet of this Christmas morning and breathe deeply in the peace, hope, love and joy that fills my heart, spilling over into the air around me.

Hark the herald, angels sing
Glory to a new born king

The sun has begun it ascent, the days are lengthening and the earth continues on its orbit, its path decreed billions of years ago in a cosmic blast that shook the universe to its very core and set our planet spinning.

And over 2000 years ago, a mother and father huddled together in a tiny stable and witnessed the birth of their child. The story of the Christ child’s birth has lived throughout the years. It touches all our hearts, Christian and non-Christian, believer and non-believer. No matter if we believe He came to earth to ‘save our souls from Satan’s power’, or if he was simply a powerful prophet, or just a great man whose story has survived the ages, His birth represents the power of love to create peace in the world and to restore our spirits as we celebrate the miracle of life.

Christmas is a time to celebrate. A time to rejoice, to dance in the light of day’s lengthening shadows, to sit in awe of a child in a manger. It is a time when we are connected in love to the miracle of one child’s birth long ago that reminds us, every year, that we too are miracles inspired by the act of love that ignites our journey of life – in all its limitless possibilities.

IMG_3071Last night, as I wrapped the final gifts and put the finishing touches to Christmas, I reflected on the meaning of Christmas and my spirit lifted. Sitting in my cozy living room, surrounded by twinkling lights and festive bows and crinkly wrapping paper, I felt connected to the millions of other parents, grandparents, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, friends and lovers who wrapped and taped and lovingly placed gifts beneath a twinkling tree – a tree that we had decorated together with those we love as we shared in the joy of hanging each ornament, old and new, upon its fragrant boughs.

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

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

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

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

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