The wild woman of my dreams

I dream of being a wild woman. Of dancing late into the night upon a table in a smoky bar, my raven hair swirling about my body as the music pounds a dizzying staccato that races into my heart with the velocity of a thousand stars falling through the Milky Way.

I dream of throwing back a Vodka, my neck stretched long to receive the icy coolness of its elixir searing my heat-parched throat, my eyes closed, my long nails blood red against the fingerprint smudged glass that I pound upon the table when it is empty. I yell Ola! to a room filled with drunken laughter and bawdy jokes and I am consumed by the night lifting off into a galaxy of indescribable pleasures exploding into the night.

I dream of bodies entwined, passionately consuming one another, skin stretched taut against the first rays of dawn bursting through the night, of lovers unnamed, of life coursing through my body in a mind-blowing ecstasy of passion burning away the dark.

And then, I awaken and I laugh and shake my head and think, wow, what a night!

And I arise from my bed to enter my day, the wild woman of my dreams asleep once more, waiting for the dark to return so she can have her way with my psyche.

She is there. That wild woman. The one who throws off convention without a batting of her glitter tinged eyelashes. The one who swears like a sailor and says whatever she wants without caring who she provokes, be it state or rock star or whoever else turns up at the exquisite party that is her life.

She is there. That wild woman. The one who doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about who she is or what she’s doing. The one who consumes life without regard for tomorrow. The one who loves with all her body, never holding back, never giving up on feeling, knowing, expressing the life force within her.

She is there.

And she is here, in my surrender to the day. She is here in my letting go of the night. In my awakening.

She calls to me to throw myself into my creative being. To smear colour drenched paint upon a canvas and use every fibre of my body to make its up, to streak it and move it and create a tapestry of life worth living.

She calls to me to write the night out upon the page, to colour in the darkness with the vibrant hues of her knowing we are not meant to be consumed by life, we are meant to consume it. To suck it dry of every last breath, to eat up every succulent morsel, to savour every sun-drenched moment and live like wild women and men in the light of living each moment in the utter rapture of this moment right now passing by.

This is your life, the wild woman of my dreams says from the smoky recesses of her lair where she is holed up with the likes of Henry Miller and Anais Nin, partying late into the night, the heat of their words  searing her mind where she lays exposed, arms flung wide, back arched along the seductive lure of the Tropic of Cancer. Waiting. Willing. Eager to receive. Eager to give. Eager to capture and consume this one wild and passionate life for all she’s worth.

I am awake now. Day has broken and I leap from my bed, eager to embrace the unexpected that explode all around me like fireworks bursting in the night. I am awake now.

 

In the rhythm of the waves; I surrender

“We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.”  ~ Albert Einstein

I haven’t painted for the past week. But I’ve been creative.

Over the weekend I rebuilt my website on a new platform and in the rebuild, figured out how to include a page for my book, The Dandelion Spirit as well as the various courses and materials I’ve created. In fact, as I was plugging it all together I found Living Joy Right Now! a 7 steps process I’d created to help people live in the rapture of now. What’s funny about it is that I had completely forgotten I’d even created the Living Joy Right Now! 7 step process!  Which made it even more fun to discover. it felt like something new, unseen and yet known, deep within me.

It felt like coming home.

And in that place there was comfort and the challenge of rebuilding. It’s been so long since I worked on the technical plane, my skills were rusty, my memories dim of how to…. load this, move that, change this, reorganize that.

And that’s the challenge. No matter how deep my knowledge, my memory of it fades if I do not keep my tools in use.

I am a creative soul — and sometimes I forget to simply let myself express my creativity however it unfolds, like I’ll be doing today at noon.

Today, I am dusting off my dancing spirit’s knowledge and reconnecting with my love of Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms®Today, I am leading a one hour session for Self-Care at Work.

Last night, I spent over two hours putting together the music for the session.  I listened and debated and moved things around and wondered if… will this invoke the spirit of Flowing? Will this create the space for participants to move into the Staccato. Will this allow them the freedom to duke it out with the feminine and the masculine in Chaos? Will this piece take them over the crest of the wave into the Lyrical and will these move them effortlessly into the quiet surrender of Stillness?

I’m ready. Today at noon, for one hour, I will be joined by about a dozen co-workers who will move and groove and flow through the waves of the 5Rhythms®  as created by Gabrielle Roth.

It has been a long time since I lead a group in the  5Rhythms®. A long time since I let my body simply flow into the movement, and be with the music, in the rhythm, of the wave.

I am excited. In the rhythm of the waves, I feel the music pounding in my soul. I hear the beat drumming in my heart. I know the power of my body to awaken me to my creative essence expressing itself in the joy of this moment, right now.

I love to dance and in particular, I love to dance as if no one is watching — and 5Rhythms® is all about simply being present in your body, connected to the flow and moving where your heart leads you without fearing what be revealed or what you will discover.

For years, I studied Gabrielle Roth’s teachings. I danced and danced and when I got tired, I danced some more.

According to Gabrielle Roth, movement is as good a therapy for some as talking it out. Movement allows the pain and fear and whatever else is past or present to flow free, to move on out so that there is space for joy, wonder, happiness and stillness. And in that place, creativity flows, expression expands and your spirit opens up into limitless possibility.

Movement connects us to the wisdom of our bodies. It opens us up to the duality of the surrender of all and the embracing of everything and nothing. It releases us to the freedom of the authentic expression of our creativity rising from our soul. It heals, restores and exhilarates, our whole body, our oneness, our completeness.

And today, I’m going to share something I love with people who have never before experienced the 5Rhythms®. Today, I get to live on purpose and dance.

What could be better than that?

“5Rhythms® Waves  transcends dance—movement is the medicine, the meditation and the metaphor. Together we peel back layers, lay our masks down,  and dance till we disappear.” ~ Gabrielle Roth

And in that disappearance, what remains is the all of who we are when we let go and surrender to Love.

Life is an act of creation

This is a repost of my final post on my original blog, Recover Your Joy! A restless sleep. A sleep-in and I am running late. I decided to ‘cheat’ and repost — one of my favourite posts from the past.  Have a beautiful and creative day.
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When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.  Pablo Picasso

When I was a child, my sister and I spent hours re-enacting scenes from our favourite movies. Gone with the Wind. The Parent Trap. We knew all the characters, all the parts and we each had our favourites.
It didn’t matter that our stage was a stretch of lawn or that Tara was a sheet draped over a tree or that we each had to play three or four different parts, differentiating the characters only through our voices as we didn’t have time to change wardrobe —  we didn’t really have any wardrobe to change into anyway. This was a low budget reproduction — very creative, just not very accurate.
But none of that mattered. What mattered most was that we spent the time together. Laughing. Sharing. Creating.
When I was a child, I liked to draw. To sing and dance and to play piano. I liked to write and make up stories. To play dolls and the now politically incorrect, “Cowboys and Indians”.
It didn’t matter to me what the game or activity. What mattered most was that I was being creative. Expressing myself through arts of all nature.
And then, I grew up.
I still liked to write. To create. To make something out of nothing.
But the tone was different. There was something lacking in my creation.
I kept thinking it needed ‘A Purpose.’
To create for creation sake just didn’t seem to be viable, make sense, have meaning. If I was painting, there needed to be a reason. If I was writing, there needed to be an audience. And, if I was dancing, there needed to be ‘the right steps’.
I’ve grown beyond those ‘grown-up’ days of believing I need ‘A Purpose’ to my art. I’ve grown beyond thinking there are right steps, wrong moves, perfect brushstrokes or perfectly turned phrases.
I’ve grown into being me. Creatively. Expressively. Passionately.
Today, I know that at my core I am a creative being. That life is an act of creation.
Today, I express myself in ways that fulfill on my belief, and need, to create beauty in the world around me.
Today, I let go of the right steps and move with grace and ease into being each step I take to create beauty in the world around me.
There’s freedom in each movement. Freedom in being my creative self.
And, there’s joy in knowing every breath I take is an act of creation. Every step I take is an expression of the beauty I want to create in the world.

Imagine. And so it is.

Love has no desire copy

No matter your spiritual belief, imagine for a moment that you are the divine expression of amazing grace. Imagine that your body embodies all beings. That you are the sacred expression of Love, everlasting.

Now imagine that you are no longer the “I” of your being alone, but rather the unification of the “We” of our humanity. It is not you and you and you, it is “us” and “We”. Always has been and always will be, “We”.

We are all connected. The many. The all. The one. The everyone.

And in our unity, there is no expression that can separate us. There is no being that is not me and you, connected.

In our unity I am you and you are me and together we are the expression of our truth.

In our unity, there is only one thing to express, one thing to know, one thing to Be. Love. For we are all the sacred expression of all that we are when we are nothing other than the all that we can be. Love.

These thoughts drifted through my mind this morning as I meditated in the early hours. A deep sleep. An early awakening. The quiet before the dawn. The peace within the stillness.

In the silence it is so clear to me, so accessible.

There is no separation between us. No you’re this. I’m that. You’re wrong. I’m right or vice versa. There is only ‘us’. Only the oneness of my being expressing itself through our human being Connected. Compassionate. and Loving.

In the stillness I know it. Feel it. Am embraced by it. Become it as it becomes me. Love.

Full. Complete. All-encompassing. All-consuming. All-giving. Love.

Imagine.

And so it is.

For a moment, imagine that this is the truth into which each of us is born. Imagine that as I see you, you see me and in our shared experience of one another there is nothing that we can see or know or be except Love.

And now, imagine that through these eyes of Love we accept one another, exactly the way we are. Imagine that we are one another, exactly the way we are. Imagine that what I am doing right now, what I am typing, these words you are reading are your words, your fingers moving across the keyboard. Imagine that I am you sitting here in the quiet of the night, the desk lamp casting a golden glow upon your fingers, the quiet hum of the laptop the only sound except for the click of the keys as your fingers type.

Imagine I am you and you are me and in this moment, right now, this Love is your Love. Full. Complete. All-encompassing. All-consuming. All-giving.

 

 

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when all the noise is silenced

What in your life is calling you?
When all the noise is silenced,
the meetings adjourned,
the lists laid aside,
and the wild iris blooms by itself
in the dark forest,
what still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats
hides a summons.
Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must,
or leave it forever nameless,
but why pretend it is not there?

— The Terma Collective, “The Box: Remembering the Gift”

I have spent much of my life playing it safe. I don’t like to make waves, to address conflict, to upset apple carts.

And, in my playing it safe, I have spent an inordinate amount of time rubbing up against the dissonance of my decisions, the disparity of standing upright when upside down is calling me to jettison my life-preserver and dive into the deep-end untethered by the status quo.

Yesterday, I sat on the deck, wrapped up in a blanket, my iPad on my lap and indulged in an hour of TED talks. The morning sun was hidden behind a layer of clouds, the air was cool and fresh. C.C. slept in the bedroom, Marley, the Great Cat, sprawled out at his feet while Ellie, the Wonder Pooch, ever hopeful I would rub her ears or drop her a treat, lay beside me watching for marauding squirrels to chase after.

One of the talks I listened to was Margaret Heffernan’s “The Dangers of ‘Wilful Blindness’“.

Willful blindness, explains Heffernan is a legal concept that states that if there is information you could and/or should know, but somehow you somehow manage not to know, the law deems that you are willfully blind.  It happens on epic portions, the execution of Hitler’s ‘final solution’ is one example as is the Enron scandal. But it also happens on smaller scales, every day. In numerous research projects to determine if there are issues in corporations that people are afraid to raise, Heffernan and other researchers discovered that 85% of employees feel there are issues they should speak up against but stay silent because of fear, despair, a belief nothing will change, fear of retaliation, or simply because they don’t trust anyone enough to tell the truth,

“Freedom doesn’t exist if you don’t use it,” says Heffernan.

She’s right.

Recently, a brilliant woman I know, Karen GB, told me how she once warned a woman who was mistreating her small child in a grocery story that if she didn’t stop, she would call Social Services. The woman told her to get lost, (in not so nice language) and Karen didn’t back down. “I’m a social worker,” she said. “I know who to call.”

Normally, if Karen happens upon a parent whose child is acting out in a store, she’ll offer a smile and  words of encouragement, but in this case, the woman was being so abusive Karen felt she had to intervene. She could not stay silent. She could not feign blindness.

Several years ago, while walking along a street in the east end of downtown, I came across a group of people sitting on a grassy verge. As I approached I noticed one of the men jump up and start to yell and scream at another. He grabbed the man on the ground’s backpack, tore it open and started to empty the contents onto the grass. The group looked on in lazy indolence, not moving an inch while the one man screamed at the other and started to poke at him with one foot.

I was frightened. Both for the man being taunted and myself. I was a block from the shelter where I used to work and there was no one else around. The area is rife with dealers preying upon the vulnerable and this definitely looked like a drug-related shakedown.

I took a breath and kept walking closer. At one point, the man standing up punched the guy on the ground in the head. And then he hit him again.

I yelled. “Hey!”

Everyone ignored me.

I yelled again.

Still they ignored me.

I didn’t know what to do.

I had no desire to confront the man who was becoming more and more violent, but I did need to stop his abuse.

Just then, I spied a police car driving down a side-street. I ran around the corner, flagged the police officer down and told him what was happening. He promised to check into it after telling me to keep walking away.

So I did.

Walk away.

Now, I know walking away was the safest and smartest thing to do, but I can still see that tableau, several years later, in my mind’s eye.

The disparity of their positions rubs against my peace of mind. The raw casual violence of the one man beating up another who did not, or simply could not, or knew better than, to fight back. The disregard and/or acceptance/resignation of the others of the situation, of their situation.

And here’s the challenge.

I want to stop it. I want to stop such violence in our world. I want to spread sunshine, not discord. I want to teach people how to get along, how to find their dreams, how to stand up, not just for themselves but for love and dignity and respect and honour.

I want to teach people how to hear that sill quiet voice within and recognize it as their soul calling them to stand up, speak up, be heard and express their freedom in Love.

And I want to say to that man on the grassy verge, to all of that group, “You matter and what you do matters.” And when we beat up one another, when we silently watch another being abused. We are all being beaten into silence. We are all being abused.

I am so fascinating!

I’m starting over again. Yup. I’m activating my “Always begin again” muscles and re-igniting my clearing out my house commitment.

Earlier this year I started a page on this blog called — KISS My Life. the purpose, and goal, was to eliminate one item of clutter from my house a day. I’d take a photo of the disposed article and post it on the page.

Needless to say, the need to re-engage means I didn’t keep it up.

Now, I could beat myself up about falling down, or I could cover-up my embarrassment with claims of, well I didn’t want to do it in the first place but the truth is — I fell down. I want to keep moving on. I want to keep clearing up the clutter. It’s time to begin again.

And I laugh at myself and shake my head in wonder and exclaim with glee, “I am so fascinating!”

Because it’s true. We all are. Fascinating.

Seriously. We are. Fascinating. We’re these complex, amazing, unbelievably powerful beings who grow from a tiny figment of an evolutionary impulse to create something miraculous into these human beings who can dream and think and speak and push obstacles out of the way and scale mountains and leap from airplanes and dive beneath the ocean deep and explore unknown frontiers of outer space. And we do it all using devices and machines and technologies we created.

Isn’t that fascinating?

We’ve put a man on the moon. We’ve touched down on Mars. We’ve journeyed deep into unknown waters and explored deep beneath the earth’s surface where we dig out oil that we transform into energy that fuels the world.

I think that’s fascinating.

And still, a little thing like not keeping up with a commitment to clear out clutter can stop us in our tracks and cripple us in self-defeating angst.

What gives?

Why is it that I can be interviewed on national radio one week and the next I’m beating myself up because I didn’t keep to a commitment I made with myself to do something that needs doing to create the life I want?

What gives that I let a little bitty thing like ‘not doing’ keep me from ever again doing the things I want, desire, need to do to live in the rapture of now?

Think about it. Every day I do a gazillion little things really really well, and some big things too! Why, just yesterday, I got up, meditated, posted my blog, fed the animals, made the bed, showered, drove through busy streets filled with people going about their day — and I didn’t hit even one of them. I didn’t speed through red lights, cause an accident or miss my turn. I stopped. I started. I moved ahead. I moved backwards. I fit into a parking spot. I gathered up my belongings and walked to my office. And I did it all effortlessly. (Though I did forget my cell phone at home — does that make me a failure to thrive suspect?)

Later, on my way to a meeting, I walked down the street and passed two visibly homeless older men sitting on a bench, smoking a cigarette and talking. I smiled and said “Good morning” as I passed by and they smiled back and one of them called after me, “I like your dress!” I turned back and smiled and said thank you and then we both carried on with our days. It was an unexpected human interaction that left me feeling buoyed up and I didn’t even plan it, or think about it, or make it happen. It just did.

Don’t you think that’s fascinating?

And then, I met with a co-worker and we talked about an idea she’s floating and I gave her some feedback and we explored her idea back and forth and both of us got excited about the possibilities and now we’re taking steps to move it forward to make it happen because — it’s a really good idea and it’s worth following up on.

isn’t that fascinating too? How one person’s idea can spark a conversation and from that spread out to become possibility expanding into more?

And still, I want to beat myself up about not keeping KISS My Life a priority. I want to label myself an abject failure, a dismissal expression of human incompetence. I want to tell myself I never finish anything. I don’t keep my commitments. I may as well just go curl up into a ball and hide beneath the covers because seriously, what’s the point? You’ll just fall down again.

Nope. Not true. Not going to happen. In fact, it doesn’t have to happen because, I have choice. I am 100% responsible for my response to what happens in my life — and that includes my thinking.

I get that thoughts appear without my actually inviting them in. I get that in their appearance, I don’t always make the wisest or best choices — and nobody’s telling me to make those choices, it’s me, myself and I — and sometimes, my I doesn’t always get a voice. Sometimes, my me wants to make it all about me the loser, me the failure, me the “you’re not good enough”

Enough!  I do enough. I give enough. I am enough.

I am me and that’s good enough for me, in fact, it’s fabulous for me because being me leaves room for you to be you and you to be you and you to be you and in it all, there’s one undeniable, absolutely amazing fact — We are fascinating!

So, given that I didn’t KISS My Life for a few months, I get to decide differently today. I get to change my mind, redirect my thinking. and begin again. AND, I get to acknowledge — I am so fascinating!

Go ahead — try it. Go look in a mirror, smile at yourself and declare proudly, “I am so fascinating!”

It’s true! You are!

Beyond Letting Go

When I teach story-telling or any form of creative workshop, I invite attendees to write down on separate pieces of paper all the reasons why they can’t… speak in public, write, paint, draw, write poetry, be creative. I then invite them to crumple up the pieces of paper and throw them over their left shoulder onto the floor.

There’s always a gasp when first I instruct them to throw the paper on the floor. The little critter mind leaps into the fray to stop their littering. “Don’t worry about it,” I tell them. “Just do it. At the end of the session we’ll pick them up and throw them into the garbage, or, if you’re really attached to your excuses, you can pick them up and take them home with you. But for now, give yourself permission to simply let your excuses go. — (for however long the session is scheduled)

Sometimes, instead of throwing them onto the floor, I invite them to place them in an envelope, seal the envelope, write their name on the front and then place them in the negative thought box I provide. Once everyone has placed their envelope into the box, I make a great show of putting the lid on the box (it’s usually a shoe box I’ve covered with black paper and decorated like a coffin) and then, I walk the box to the back of the room and set it by the door. Again, I tell people their negative thoughts and excuses why not are locked away and inaccessible for the duration of the session. At the end of the session they are welcome to pick up their envelope and carry them with them, or not.

It’s their choice.

To pick up their worries, fears, excuses and reasons why not, or, to leave them behind and carry on lightened of their load.

Sometimes, someone will really think long and hard about relinquishing their negative thoughts. Sometimes, the thought of letting them go, of taking a physical action that symbolizes their release, is daunting.

As I drifted to sleep last night, I thought about the act of letting go of negativity and why nots and wondered if there was an even ‘bigger’ process I could create to signify the act.

I love the creative process. I love how out of seemingly thin air, a thought can arrive fully formed in my mind and suddenly, I see clearly what I have been missing.

Letting go is only one part of the equation, the muse whispered. To complete the cycle, you must transform the ‘why nots’ into possibilities. You must transform negativity into beauty.

What does that look like, I wondered. And then, the ‘negative thought box’ appeared in my mind attached to a ‘what if’.

What if instead of a cardboard box, you used a ceramic planter, the muse whispered, like the long one your herbs came in? And what if you painted it and made it all pretty and then, after people wrote out their negative thoughts and why nots, you invited them to rip them up into a gazillion little pieces and then throw them into the pot? And, what if then, in front of the class, you covered them in potting soil and planted a seed in the dirt and gave it a symbolic watering? And, what if you even named the seeds as you planted them, or invited the class to name the seeds. Hope. Love. Creativity. Joy. Anticipation. Possibility…

Wouldn’t that symbolize the transformative cycle of letting go to create? Wouldn’t that signify the birthing of something new from ideas that were once limiting and now were inspired by possibility?

I think I’ll try it. I’m teaching a workshop on story-telling next week to campaign reps for the United Way. I’ve got a small planter in the garage I can use. I’ve got dirt and a seed packet of wildflowers — though a few beans might work too…

The possibilities abound. The what if’s shimmer.

What if doing it this way truly does inspire people to let go and explore the possibilities of what can happen when they not only let go, but transform what they’ve released to become new ideas, new actions, new ways of being present in the world?

What if, I try it just to see what happens when I step out of what I know, into the creative space of what happens when I simply stay present to the muse and let her have her way?

What if, I let go of worrying about the outcome and simply stay present to the process?

What if…. I just do it?

I think I will.

What about you? Are there negative thoughts, limiting beliefs and why nots that are holding you back from living your best life yet? Do you have a creative suggestion to share on how to release and transform them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Life is good and I am joyful

Life is filled with magical molecules waiting to burst upon every moment.

They were dancing in the air all around me as I walked across the 10th Street bridge towards the north side of the river. Sunspots sparkled on the water that flowed benignly beneath its concrete arch. It is the same river that just under 2 months ago raged and overflowed its banks, flooding over its shoreline into the downtown core and beyond. Yesterday, the sun shone, a gentle breeze drifted in from the west, the sky was peacock blue and all evidence of the river’s fury had been swept away.

It was a beautiful afternoon and I was on my way to a meeting to talk about an event for Homeless Awareness Week with a woman from This is My City (TMC), the arts group that works with and within the homeless community in Calgary, building creative bridges that span the divide between both sides of the street.

ST is a visionary. I first met her at a TMC board meeting several years ago when I sat on the inaugural board for TMC. We had recently run into eachother at another meeting and I’d pitched my idea of using a song she’d written for last spring’s TMC Festival as the foundation of our Homeless Awareness events this year. Excited to be engaged in the initiative, we’d set up a meeting to talk about possibilities.

When I arrived at the coffee shop where we’d agreed to meet I found ST standing by a table chatting with three young men. “They’re helping me translate the words to a song I’m writing into Spanish,” ST told me as I walked up.  I smiled and listened as the three men, all of whom were musicians, shared thoughts on music and guitar playing and the joys of recording their songs (which is what they had taken a break from to come and grab a coffee). One man was from Barcelona, another from Brazil and the third from somewhere in the southern states. Suddenly, the man from Barcelona unsheathed his guitar and said, “I have a song to play for you!”

And that’s when the magic happened. There in the middle of a cafe on a sunny afternoon in Calgary, he began to play and sing his guitar, the rich tones of his voice sultry with the Spanish of his birth. ST began to hum, a beautiful melodic stream of sound that flowed beneath each note as natural as a bird singing in the sun. The man from Brazil sang the words to the chorus and I listened, my heart singing for joy.

It was magical.

Later, ST and I talked about what is possible if we dream big and forget to let our fears take rein and I was reminded that there is only one way to make our dreams come true. Believe and Do. Or, as Napoleon Hill once coined — Be. Do. Have. Be committed to Do what it takes to Have what you want.

Later, I was gifted with an invitation to meet up for a glass of wine with a young woman who worked with me as a summer student when I was at the shelter. She’d gone off to finish her undergrad degree, moving to Australia for a year and now to China for the past year where she teaches English. JM was responsible for Terry Pettigrew, a client at the shelter who was dying of cancer, receiving his Christmas Wish of a trip to Mardi Gras. Though Terry never had the strength to take the trip, the story of Jessica’s gift and Terry’s desire to make a difference before he died, garnered considerable media attention. Because of a story in the Calgary Herald, Terry’s family reconnected and I met two amazing people — Terry’s brother Larry and his wife, Bev with whom I still stay in touch today.

Talk about a string of magical moments suspended in time!

And then, to cap the day, I answered an invitation from DB, the meditation master of the group I often attend on Wednesday nights, to celebrate in an impromptu group meditation last night in honour of the Leo full moon that would reach its zenith at 7:46 pm. His invitation read, “Leo stands in a unique relationship to the sun at the heart of our solar system. The planetary and systemic alignment established at this Festival is a heart/soul alignment. This alignment is evocative of the cosmic principle of Love and Freedom.”

I couldn’t resist an invitation of a night of heart and soul alignment after so many magical moments strung like glistening pearls upon a day of wonder!

As I drifted into a restful and refreshing sleep I felt the magic of the day wrap itself around me in a welcoming blanket of heartfelt joy.

There is so much magic in this world and all I need to do to experience it is open my eyes and heart and arms wide and leap into the experience of living it up, moment by moment, on the others side of my comfort zone!  All I need to do to know the magic in every molecule is breathe and be present!

Life is good and I am joyful.

 

 

Everyone wins when homelessness ends. Everyone.

On Friday, Alexis, my eldest daughter, and I had coffee with a dear friend from the shelter where I used to work.

I first met MC when I started an art program at the shelter. Everyday I’d see him painting at his table in the Day Area on the 2nd floor. I’d ask him if he’d like to come up to the studio space on the 6th floor and he’d demur. “Not today. I’m not ready.”

One day I asked how he’d know when he was ready. He didn’t have an answer so I asked him, “What if you decide to make today the day you’re ready?” And he did.

Working in the art program I was always in awe of his amazing talent. Not just a gifted visual artist, MC is a carpenter, a writer, a poet and a musician.

MC also makes me think. He once wrote for a play he was performing in, “I am a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend. I am an artist, a carpenter, a writer, a musician. I laugh. I cry. I bleed. I feel. Which of these is diminished because I am homeless?”

On Friday, we sat and shared stories of the past many months since last we visited. He shared the music he was writing, his hopes and dreams of ‘moving on’.

For MC, homelessness hit over 20 years ago. The break-up of a marriage, the loss of connection with his only child, alcohol, all of these took their toll until he was no longer able to function in the world of theatre where he used to work. The shelter became his home. His ballast. His refuge.

But a shelter is not a home. It is designed to be a community space where those experiencing homelessness can find safe refuge. For a short time. Not forever.

Yet, there are those who will die in the shelter. There are those who will never ‘get out’. Not because they don’t want to. Working at a shelter I never met anyone who said, I want to die here, though I did meet many who were afraid to leave. Afraid that ‘out there’ would only lead them back. Afraid that ‘out there’ was too scary, unstable, unwelcoming and unkind.

For them, staying in the shelter became the safest and most familiar option. Their fear of leaving overwhelmed their capacity to dream, to see beyond the shelter doors the possibility of life beyond what they knew as the reality of their life today.

Shelters are filled with people whose lives are limited not by homelessness, but rather, by the belief they never will, or can’t, or don’t deserve to find their way back home.

Which is why it is so important that we must all hold the space, and the dream, of ending homelessness. It is not an easy task. In fact, there are those who would say it is impossible, to end homelessness. You can’t do it if you don’t first end all the things that contribute to someone becoming homeless, they say. Like addiction, abuse, violence, divorce, loss, poverty. If those things continue to plague our society how can you end homelessness?

Because even though those thing plague our society, not everyone impacted by them ends up homeless. In fact, of those who do suffer from addictions, abuse, violence, divorce, loss, poverty only a small percentage end up on the streets. So, why not take the ending up on the street option out of the mix? Why not remove one outcome that creates so much pain and suffering?

Yes, we need emergency shelter beds — as a temporary stop-over for those who suffer the loss of housing. But emergency shelter should never become permanent placement. it should never become our de facto solution for those who have no place to call home.

When someone enters homelessness they need supports to help them see and believe and know, there is a way out. Too long in an emergency situation creates lasting trauma and stress. Knowing there is  support, help, and a path out is vital to keeping the one thing alive everyone who becomes homeless needs — hope. Hope that they will not stay stuck forever in the nomads land of homelessness. Hope they won’t die in a shelter because, no matter which way you cut it, a shelter is not a home. It is a stepping stone on the way back to that place we all want to be, home.

At home, we can find the stability we need to rebuild our lives. At home, we can find the courage to do the things we need to do to take care of ourselves. At home, pride, peace, joy live with us because, at home, we find our selves.

Everyone wins when homelessness ends. Everyone.

 

Love is at the table

dinnerMy sisters and I love to cook. We come by our obsession passion honestly.

My father was an amazing Chef. As a teenager, he ran away from the boarding school where his father had sent him and hopped a train to Montreal. Once there, he worked in a bakery and then, when war broke out, he lied about his age and joined the RAF because Canada had not yet joined in the conflict and he was a British subject. He first became a gunner but lost too many friends and switched over to feeding the troops instead. When he married my mother in India in 1943, she couldn’t cook. Eventually moving to Canada, he taught her everything he knew. Together, they shared in his passion and love of entertaining making Sunday dinners in our house famous. People vied for invitations, always knowing there would be a gastronomic feast to devour along with the good company, and spirits, always present in my parents home.

Growing up, I didn’t cook much. Why cook when your parents always had the situation covered?

Even though I didn’t spend much time in the culinary arts, their love of cooking and entertaining was contagious. Once I was living on my own, spending time in the kitchen became a favourite past-time.

I loved to experiment. My theory was always, if you can read, you can cook. If you can imagine, you can create. And so, I’d take a recipe and experiment with ingredients adding dollops of this and measurements of that to see what novel thing I could create that had my signature on it. The joke has always been that if you like something Louise cooked, don’t expect it again as she seldom cooks the same thing twice.

Yesterday, my friend Jane called to check on what time they were expected to be at the house for dinner. Jane and her husband Al are my daughters, ‘other parents’. They have been in my life since before my daughters’ births, and have been there always to support, care, love, nurture and guide both girls (and me) through life’s ups and downs,  trials and triumphs. Along with their daughter and son, who are close to the same ages as my girls, they are family in the best way possible.

“Are you having a good day?” Jane asked when she called.

“I am having a perfect day!” I replied.

And I was.

Immersed in the creative space of my kitchen, my heart was full, my imagination on fire and my creative juices flowing as I prepared a meal for 14 that had to meet the dietary needs of everyone. Celiac. Vegetarian. Lactose intolerant. Meat eaters.

C.C. was in charge of the roast and getting things on the BBQ. I was in charge of the rest. A gluten free pasta salad with roasted tomatoes. Black Bean Rice Burgers, Guacamole, roasted beets, sautéed green beans, roasted potatoes, a chocolate mousse for those who couldn’t eat the cake. There was more — but you get the picture…

As my parents taught me, the perfect way to express your love is to gather people who are important to you around a dinner table and share what you’ve created.

And it was. A perfect kind of day capped off by a perfect evening spent sitting around the table on the lawn set beneath the canopy of the apple tree. The air was warm, the sky blue. Birds sang in harmony with our voices laughing, sharing, enjoying the thing that binds us all — Love.

And for my daughter….

Black Bean Rice Burgers

750 ml cooked or canned black beans, rinsed and drained (I cooked mine as I find the cans too soft and mushy)
250 ml cooked whole grain rice
1 med carrot, shredded
80 ml ground flaxseed
1 lge free-range egg
2 garlic cloves (I omitted as Alexis is sensitive to garlic)
10 ml Dijon mustard
5 ml ground cumin (I used fresh herbs from the garden)
pinch sea salt
1 ml black pepper
Grapeseed oil for grilling

Add black beans to food processor container and blend until broken down but now completely smooth (I had a big bowl handy as the beans plus other ingredients were greater than the size of my food processor bowl) You can also use a potato masher. Add rice, carrot, flaxseed, egg (garlic), mustard, cumin (herbs), salt, and pepper; pulse until well combined (I mixed it all together in big bowl and then ground it up in batches.) Form mixture into patties.
Preheat grill, or if doing on stove-top, heat oil. Cook 5 minutes per side.

Guacamole topping

1 lge avocado
Juice of 1 lime
handful of chopped cilantro
hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or Habanero pepper chopped fine
1 medium-sized tomato, seeded and chopped (or a salsa sauce works too)

In small bow, mash together avocado, lime juice, cilantro, hot-sauce or Habanero or cayenne pepper, tomato (or salsa) and a dash of salt.

Bon Appetit!