Beyond the label ‘homeless’.

In the course of the This is Where I Belong project unveiling Monday, Bill, an individual who is currently living the realities of homelessness, shared his story with a Global TV reporter. Listening to Bill’s account of the realities of his life, hearing his dreams of a future where art has become the foundation of his life, I was moved by his willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable. I was moved by his joy in finding himself surrounded by a group of people willing to work alongside him as he explored his human condition, his art and the condition of being homeless.

Homelessness is not a cake walk and it definitely isn’t a walk in the park without fear.

There is constant fear in homelessness.

Fear of what to do next walks beside fear of what might happen to you next. And while shelter life creates a community in and of itself, it is a community based on the shared experience of ‘lack’. Lack of stability. Lack of safe housing. Lack of money, social connections outside the homeless circle. Lack of everything, including for many, a sense of lack of purpose in life — though the act of trying to make it day-to-day, to stay alive could be considered a purpose in and of itself, it does not fulfill on our greater need to feel like we are contributing to the improvement of our own lives and the lives of our families. For an understanding of the fear that stalks individuals in homelessness, check out this 2007 report I co-authored on a survey of clients at The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and their experiences of crime — Mean Streets. Safe Streets.

Homelessness is harsh and when we try to explain it away with platitudes such as ‘he chooses to be homeless’ or ‘well if she’s not going to quit [name of addiction] then she deserves what she gets’, we are sentencing people to a life of crime — not necessarily crimes that they commit, but, as the Mean Streets. Safe Streets. shows, crimes that will be committed against them.

Sometime ago a man I was working with on another project told me about his plans of going ‘undercover’ in a shelter. I really want to understand, he told me.

Don’t do it, I cautioned.

In his late 40s, he believed he had it all covered. I can handle myself in any situation, he said.

Shelter life isn’t ‘any situation’, I told him. It is a way of life, a way of living that none of us are equipped to live up to — even those who find themselves in its circumstances.

Well, I was only thinking of doing it for a week max, he said. I’m sure I’ll be okay.

I understand the need for experiential learning. Years ago in an effort to understand what happens when a woman goes ‘eyeball to eyeball’ with a john, as the police sergeant I was working with described it, I chose to stand out on the street dressed as a prostitute.

It is not something I recommend to anyone.

Just like living in a shelter.

It is not something I recommend to anyone.

It’s not that those who operate shelters are not doing good work. They are. They do amazing work. They are caring. Compassionate. Thoughtful in what they do.

And it’s not that shelters aren’t filled with good people. They are. There are beautiful, caring, loving people living and working in shelters.

It’s just that, by its very nature, homelessness is chaotic. It is unstable. It tears away an individual’s sense of self. It rips apart a person’s belief in their capacity to make a difference in their life, and the world. It destroys their belief in their right to have more, do more, speak up more, be more. It undermines their attempts to change circumstances, to change direction, to change anything.

I watched Bill’s interview and felt hopeful.  While Bill almost breaks down in the video, Bill is hopeful. He has a dream. A vision. A path to change his life. His dream is unfolding because of his belief that he is more than the label ‘homeless’. Working with Linda Hawke, the President and facilitator of the amazing team at This is My City, the art society that mounted the This is Where I Belong project, Bill has found himself in a community of people focused on creating better through the act of creating art together.

This is My City does not measure progress by the past, nor do they limit their thinking of what one person is capable of by the circumstances of where they are living. They see possibility in every person. Find value in every stroke of paint, whisper of poetry, thread of needle that is shared, regardless of what side of the street the person lives on.

And in the act of standing together in creative expression, This is My City and all the artists involved, create a world of difference. A world where possibilities open up and limited thinking falls away beneath the stroke of every picture they paint, whether it is through words, photography, sewing, — it is through their creative expressions that lives change and people find themselves again beyond the label of homeless.

Thank you Linda Hawke and all the artists involved in this project, and in every project that is created to make a difference in our world. You rock!

And thank you Bill for having the courage to share your story with such grace.

If the video from Global TV does not appear below, click HERE to see Bill’s interview.

To read Jason Van Rassel’s Calgary Herald article on the project, click HERE. To read his follow-up blog, click HERE.

Robson Fletcher wrote an article Monday on the art/community event in Metro Calgary, HERE.


This is how community works

It was a day bracketed by dignitaries and celebrities, laughter and fun, dreams and possibilities.

It was a day of community at its best.

It began with the invited guests, Acting Minister of Municipal Affairs, Greg Weadick, Minister of Human Services, Manmeet Bhullar, CEO of Cedarglen Living, Scott Haggins and CEO of Boardwalk Residential who was also standing in front of the crowd as Chairman of the Boards of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and The Resolve Campaign, all of whom marked the occasion with their words. Our Emcee, Gerrad Oishi, Acting CEO & Pres of CHF shared his vision of how the property, and homeless will be transformed and then en masse, the group unveiled the plans for Stepping Stone Manor, and wrote the first wishes to be hung in the Wishing Tree as the assembled crowd huddled beneath umbrellas and applauded.

Seven hours later, the day ended with three performers from Cavalia who marked the occasion with their words too. Words they hung in the Wishing Tree as one stepped onto the shoulders of the other and balanced high above our heads, stretching high to place her wish in the upper most branches she could reach.

Hanging the last wish

Hanging the last wish

“We wanted to make our wish hanging different,” the one performer said, the lyrical notes of her French accent trickling in the chilly evening air.

Those of us left at the house applauded their dexterity and daring and agreed, it was different and fitting for the occasion.

And thus the day came to a close.

A day that began with sunshine peeking through grey clouds and then transformed itself into dark skies that showered rain then sleet then snow upon the heads of the almost 100 people who gathered to mark the kick-off of Stepping Stone Manor, the name of the project we were celebrating yesterday.

And then, the speeches concluded, the plans unveiled, the first wishes hung, and the sun shone again!

And still, people stayed to engage and learn and take part in the festivities by hanging wishes in the trees and reading ones already hung. Over the afternoon another 100 people walked by, stopped in, chatted, engaged and hung wishes. Some wishes for community, for the people who would one day reside at Stepping Stone Manor. Some wished for themselves, for loved ones, for the environment and the world. One man, hung wishes with the names and date of birth and end of life of his friends who had died on the streets. “It is my memorial service for them,” he said. It was touching and moving to see the care and thoughtfulness he took in hanging his wishes.

It was the best way to celebrate community and people. There were neighbours, people walking to and from sections of the city. There were people experiencing homelessness. There were school girls completing an assignment on philanthropy and school children running home with their mothers who stopped to make sure they hung their wishes too. Everyone hung wishes. Everyone shared in the spirit. People from all walks of life, including those who brought their dogs as they took their evening strolls and checked out what was going on at 222 15th Ave SW.

And everyone was interested, supportive, appreciative of the work being done.

We constantly heard, “We need more of this housing.” “What a great idea.”

Some, leery of stopping, asked if we were taking donations.

Not at all, though you’re welcome to donate anytime you wish, we told them. Today is about celebration. Today is about hanging wishes on the tree so that your wishes can be part of the wish for communities to be strong, vibrant, welcoming places.

And so they wished.

And chatted.

Had a cookie. A cup of coffee.

They spent time admiring the artwork on the side of the house. The photos on the front as the music played and laughter and chatter filled the air.

It was a wonderful day to celebrate all that makes us strong. All that makes us people. All that makes us a community.


This is Where I Belong – a TMC art project

It is a big day today. For the past week, a group of artists from This is My City Art Society, have been painting and affixing large-sized photographs of the community to the exterior walls of an old rooming house that the Calgary Homeless Foundation purchased last year. In May, the tired old house will be demolished to make way for 30 units of affordable housing for formerly homeless individuals. it is part of the RESOLVE Campaign and the Calgary Homeless Foundation’s housing first initiatives.

And first, before it comes down, we are giving it a facelift. Dressing it up for the kick-off party that will be happening today in celebration of the past and future of what is possible when we share a vision of ending homelessness.

Friday, one of my co-conspirators in The Basement Bombshells Art Collective, Tamara, joined me for the day to paint alongside the other artists at the house. It was an awesome day. We laughed. Share stories. Ideas. Inspiration. We painted mailboxes and window frames. Doorsteps and door frames and windows and trees. As people walked by, they stopped to chat.  About the house. Our work and also to share their thoughts on the need for affordable housing in our city and their support of the project.

It is not always the case. That people support affordable housing in their neighbourhood. Sometimes, fear of the unknown, fear of what they think they do know, fear of what they believe will happen to their community if ‘those people’ become their neighbours, diminishes people’s capacity to see the benefits of building homes for people experiencing homelessness.

They think their safety will be compromised, their property values diminished, and maybe even, their parks taken over by ‘those people’.

It is  ‘those people’, that gets me working harder to find common ground.

When we speak in us and them, we separate ourselves from our humanity. We put a rift in our human condition. Because, ‘those people’ are first and foremost, people. They are human, just like you and me. What’s different for them is the condition of their lives, not their human being.

Yes, for many, addictions take a toll. Poverty extracts its price. And lack of social networks, lack of support, of self-resilience, impact each person’s capacity to weather life’s ups and downs.

Once housed, and as long as individuals and families receive appropriate supports, the factors that cause such dismay and disruption in their life, and in community, begin to abate. Addicts begin to see the path more clearly, people with mental health issues begin to find themselves again, and lives begin to change.

It’s not easy. It is not a straight path. But getting out of emergency shelters or leaving sleeping rough outside and moving into stable housing makes a difference.

For everyone.

Just as the decay to the house we were painting didn’t happen over-night, the tearing apart of someone’s life doesn’t happen over night. It is a slow process of slippage, of one agonizing step after the other away from what people want towards that place they never imagined they would end up, homeless.

In my almost ten years of working in this sector, I am always in awe of the desire of the human spirit to survive. It is strong.

Working in a shelter where over 1,000 people a day come through its doors, I was always amazed how fiercely people fought to stay alive, to keep their space on earth filled with their presence.

It is humbling and inspiring.

We are born to live. And even when all the odds are stacked against us, even when the only thing we have left to hold onto is our story of how we got to be in this space, we still fight to keep it. We still fight to stay alive.

This afternoon, dignitaries and community members will stand together to mark the beginning of the end of homelessness for 30 Calgarians. It will take hard work, commitment and time to build their new homes.

But it will happen.

And in its happening, the past will be set to rest so that the future can be built on solid ground today.

This past week, we transformed the exterior of an old house. Today, we will come together as a community to celebrate its history, commemorate its past and share our dreams for its future.

If you are in Calgary, please do drop by anytime between 2 – 8 pm to say hello, place a wish in the Wishing Tree and to view what can happen when people come together to transform a house, and homelessness. Amazing things happen when people stand together to make room for change.


This is Where I Belong

A community building event to celebrate the past and prepare for the new.

222 15th Ave SW


2 – 8pm.

Come and view the art, place wishes in the Wishing Tree and enjoy community.

Thank you to The Calgary Foundation, CHF and RESOLVE Campaign member Cedarglen Living for supporting this important initiative.

Next time, I will get off the train.

I am on the C-train. I have a 5:30 interview with a woman for an article I’m writing. I know that I am getting off at a different platform than my normal stop on the way home so walk to the front of the train. It’s closer to the exit I need for where I’m going.

Three women have babies in strollers in the area at the doorway. I get on. Manoeuvre between them and tuck myself into a space by the far doors.

I hear a voice raised in anger further down the train.

I hear another voice.  I can’t make out their words but they sound slurred. Disoriented. I think they’re seated but I’m not sure. I can’t see.

The first voice says loudly.  “f***in’ scumbag.”

I think it is the voice of the tall man. Late 20s. Early 30s. Sandy coloured hair. Short, neatly trimmed beard. He’s dressed in labourer’s clothes. Hard hat in his hands.

There is a collective stiffening of the people around him. A noted silence. There are children with the mothers with the strollers. No one could avoid hearing him.

The other voice moans something again. There is a look of disgust on the face of the sandy-haired man. People try to back away but there’s nowhere to go. It’s rush hour. The train is full.

We come to the next stop. One person stands to get off. It is the person who was muttering. People make room.

I am not sure if they are drunk or simply disoriented. From where I stand on the far side of the train, hemmed in by strollers, there is not much I can do, I tell myself. I think about getting off at the same station if only to check if they are okay, but the thought comes slowly and the train doors close before I can make up my mind.

They leave the train. I watch them on the platform struggle to get their feet steadied beneath them. It isn’t that they are visibly homeless. It’s more a sense that homelessness has played a role in their life. Dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. Backpack slung across one shoulder. Khaki jackie hanging from their frame.

No one on the train says anything. The train moves on.

I get off at the next station. I say nothing to the sandy-haired man. I wonder, was there anything I could have done or said?

And I think about the man who got off.

How many times has he been called a scumbag? How many times have people created room for him to get through, as if he is diseased? How many times have they let him pass by without stopping to ask, “Are you okay?”

There was a woman at the shelter where I used to work. Addictions. Living rough. Street life had all taken their toll on her physical body, and her mind. She was sober. Had been for several years when I met her. But her speech, her gait, her unsteadiness often left people believing she was under the influence. She shared the stories of the names she’d been called. The treatment she’d received.

For her, those names had become her truth. No matter how hard she fought the names, they lived within her.

Born on a reserve, she was adopted out to a white family as a child. She never felt accepted in the ‘white man’s world’ as she called it. And never knew where she belonged in her aboriginal world either.

I think about the man on the train. He too was aboriginal. I know that just a few blocks from the C-train station where he exited, there is an apartment building owned by the Foundation where I work. It provides permanent, supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals. The agency that operates it works primarily with first nations peoples. I wonder if he lives there. I hope he does.

At a meeting earlier that morning, a program manager from one of the agencies the Foundation contracts with to provide housing in our buildings told the principal of a school with whom we were meeting that, ‘this work requires great patience’.

It can be slow. Arduous. If we’re not careful, our judgements can slip in and undermine someone’s progress — progress we deem to be too slow or invisible. “Sometimes,” she said. “We can’t see the progress, it is so slow, so tiny. But it’s there. We simply need to be patient, and kind.”


I think about that man’s words on the train. I think about how it serves to call another human being a scurrilous name, regardless of their state of being.

And I wonder how many times the other gentleman has heard those names.

And I wonder how deep his belief runs that those names are who he is.

I don’t know what happened to cause the one man to call another such a name. I do know that there is nothing in this world that gives us the right to name another with words we would never want to be named ourselves

And I wonder, what could I have done differently. I don’t know that there was. But I wish there was. I wish there was some way to show the world, how we treat another, how we do one thing, is a reflection of how we treat ourselves, how we do all things.

And I decide, next time, I will get off the train.





Let peace of mind have its way

I have a rule when I walk with Ellie. That rule is: Do not answer the phone.

I’m not always conscious of following my own rules. Yesterday was no exception.

While C.C. was resting from the procedure that removed a cancerous lesion on his forehead, I decided I needed to clear my head, restore my balance and find my centre. The best way I know to do that is to get out into nature so, Ellie the Wonder Pooch and I headed off to our favourite walking trail.

It was a gorgeous spring day. A slight breeze blew in from the west where the Rockies lined the horizon, their snow covered ridges a sleeping dinosaur’s razor edged back separating earth from the blue sky above. Birds sang and squirrels skittered along tree branches. Ellie, whose age no longer allows for a fast pace or off leash running, toddled beside me, eagerly sniffing spring scents in every blade of grass.

We walked westward along the ridge that parallels the river below that flows in from the Rockies in the distance. Patches of ice and snow still clung to its banks in tucked away places and behind us, the centre of the reservoir was a giant island of ice surrounded by still dark waters that had freed themselves from winter’s grip.

It was beautiful.

Ellie and I sat on the ridge. I breathed in the fresh air, the sounds and scents. Ellie snuffled about in the grasses then lay down beside me for a bit before getting up to sniff some more. She knows this spot well. It is where we always stop. It is where I meditate, legs crossed, face slightly uplifted to feel the air against my skin. Ellie is not that impressed with meditation. It bores her to sit still and mostly she rolls in the grass, nudges my leg with her nose, wanders off to check out a new scent.

It is our ritual. Our ‘thing’. We both like it.

As I sat and let my mind rest, I felt the tension easing. C.C.’s results from the surgery are good. The doctor removed all the cancerous cells and is satisfied — he got it all. Of course, the critter mind would like to play in that field. Stir that pot. Create fear where none need tread.

I don’t let him. I breathe into what I know. The doctor removed all the cancerous cells.

Ellie grows tired of my stillness and leans up against me. She pushes her head against my shoulder, “C’mon. C’mon. It’s a beautiful day outside. Let’s get moving.”

Finally, after a short ten minutes of silent contemplation, I give into her exhortations and stand up again.

She is delighted. She also knows there’s a treat in my pocket and butts her head up against my thigh.

Okay. Okay, I laugh and give her a treat.

It is a beautiful day.

And then, as we walk eastward, back towards the main trail, my phone rings.

I promised my daughters long ago that I would always carry my phone on my solitary walks. Mostly I remember.

I promised myself long ago that if my phone rang while I was on my walk, I wouldn’t answer it. Mostly I remember.

Yesterday, I forgot. Well, not so much forgot as checked the caller ID and saw it was a girlfriend I’ve been wanting to talk to.

I answered.

We chatted and then she asked me where I was. When I told her, she exclaimed and said, “Didn’t you hear about the stabbing?”

“What stabbing?” I asked while my mind leaped into high gear. Another stabbing? Haven’t we had all the stabbings we can take?

“At Glenmore Park. Granted, on the south side, but you get out of the woods right now and back on the main trail. It’s not safe. They don’t know if it was a random stabbing or not.”

I thanked my friend for her words of caution and hung up.

Now, I have run and walked through the woods, along the escarpment, into all the nooks and crannies along the river in this park for years. Years.

I have never felt scared in my aloneness.

Suddenly, hearing my friend’s cautions, fear leaped in and said, “Ha! Here I am! Gotcha!”

The sunny blissfulness of my walk started to slip. I felt fear nipping away at my peace of mind.

No way.

I am not letting fear take over.

I breathed and reminded myself that nothing had really changed in the past few minutes other than a piece of information I didn’t know about before I started my walk. It was that piece of information that was playing tricks with my peace of mind, not the reality of my experience right now.

Ahhhh…. there’s that stinkin’ thinkin’ again.

Take an isolated incident. Move it onto centre stage, maybe even run it up a flagpole and dance around it in excited anticipation of the havoc it will wreak.

No way.

Fortunately, I couldn’t pick up my pace. Ellie’s lumbering body and arthritis won’t allow it.

We trundled along the path. I spied several patches of crocus pushing up through the ground. A flock of Canada Geese flew over head, their honks filling the air. A gopher raced across the trail in front of us. Ellie tugged on her leash as if to give chase. I settled her down and peace returned.

And when I got home, I checked my computer to see if my friend’s words were true.

Yes. There had been a stabbing the night before.

The police had one person in custody. They were not looking for any other suspects.

There were no random attackers running wild through the woods. No marauders lurking. It was just the critter trying to steal my peace of mind. I won’t let him.

No way.

And next time, I will follow my own rule. I will not answer my phone while on my walk. In fact, I’ll just turn it to silent and let peace of mind have its way with me!


Ain’t no room for stinkin’ thinkin’!

I am taking my beloved to the hospital this morning to have a cancerous spot on his face removed.

They say it’s not life-threatening.

They say it’s  not of concern.

They didn’t ask me.

What my mind knows is not always what my thinking listens to, and given the dreams I had last night, I think my thinking may have been stinking up my mind.

I read somewhere that 15% of what we think is conscious. The rest is all subconscious.

No wonder my dreams were in high gear. They must have been fuelled by my subconscious fear and anxiety.

The only recourse is to get conscious of what I am thinking and put out the stinkin’ thinkin’ in the trash.

Scott Peck writes in, People of the Lie, about the importance of acknowledging the shadow. He equates it with taking out the garbage. You can’t just ignore it. It won’t go away by itself. If you don’t take it out, you are at risk of disease, unwanted pests and other calamities — all because you refused to acknowledge the garbage needed dealing with. 

The shadow’s like that. It often contains those aspects of ourselves we don’t want to look at, or love, or acknowledge we possess. When we avoid the shadow, or refuse to acknowledge its presence, we are at risk of the shadow taking over our lives.

Consciously, my mind hears what my beloved has told me about the doctor’s comments concerning the cancer on his face.

Subconsciously, my mind kicks up a fuss because it thinks it knows best.

How do I tell it that it doesn’t?

How do I reach my subconscious and quiet my fears that are based on nothing other than…. fear of the unknown?

Meditation helps. And so does staying conscious with my thinking. Staying clear of the shadows where fear lurks.

It isn’t always easy. The mind is a shadowy place. It likes to hold secrets, keep fears intact and doors shut.

My job is to not be confused by my mind’s desire to control me through fear based projections of the future. My job is to not negative fortune tell and to stay in the present where what is known is the best information I have to work with, and create with.

So… in 20 minutes I must take C.C. to the hospital for a procedure that will remove what doctors have told him is a non-life threatening spot of cancer.

I’m going with that.

I’m staying in the now.

And, in this place of being present, I’m taking my stinkin’ thinkin’ for a walk out to the black bin in the laneway behind the garage where it belongs.


I hate to but I have to….

It began as one of those “I hate to but I have to” tasks. After so much snow and not enough time in between to clean up all the backyard mess, (and did I mention a habit of procrastination?) Ellie’s presence was visible across the lawn. As were all the dead leaves that fell after our big fall clean-up was followed-up with an early season snowfall last October!

I’d avoided it all weekend, even the evenings last week when I had had an hour to clean up. I hate to thinking had gotten in my way.

Now it was time. I hated to but I had to clean it up.

But first, I needed to change my frame of reference. I needed to change my glasses.

I hate to but I have to was not sitting well with my psyche. To spend an hour in ‘I hate’ was not going to be an hour well-spent.

It was time to acknowledge the power of choice.

It was time to reframe my thinking from “I hate to” to “I choose to for the benefits of”….

I choose to clean up the backyard for the benefits of…

It’s a gorgeous afternoon and I want to spend some time in the sun. (“But you’re tired. You cooked Easter dinner for 18 last night and you’ve only just finished cleaning up the kitchen,” my critter mind hissed)

I’ll be able to spend an hour outside in the backyard. (You could be reading on a deck chair in the sun, the critter continued)

True. But I’ll also be getting some good exercise. (What? All that bending isn’t good for your back. You’ll regret it!)

I pulled on a pair of plastic disposable gloves. Got the bags, shovel, trowel ready.

Seriously? the critter asked. You’re going to do this? It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Maybe the rain will wash it all away.

This time the critter’s voice made me laugh. Really? Wash it away? How disgusting.

I turned my back on the critter and began to clean up.

Even though I had cleaned up throughout the winter, even though I’d done a major clean of missed doggie-doo during the last melt, there was still a lot of Ellie’s evidence around the yard.

That’s because you’re a loser, the critter hissed. You should be out here everyday. You’re so lazy? What’s wrong with you?

I smiled at the critter (perhaps a little pityingly) and kept cleaning.

I don’t have to listen to you critter. In fact, I choose to not hear your voice and am choosing to focus on the benefits of what I’m doing.

I got the rake from the garage and moved onto raking up the dead leaves that lay in sodden messes all over the yard.

I kept my mind blank. Calm.

And even though the critter attempted to hiss and distract me, I consciously pulled my thoughts away from listening to him to thinking about how I was choosing to do this for the benefits of Ellie the wonder pooch, the beauty of the yard and my peace of mind.

I tackled one small portion of the lawn at a time. Kept my thoughts from going wide and big to appreciate each small section as I completed it. Going wide and big depresses me — it is a big yard and wide and big makes the job seem insurmountable. Best to keep my focus on where I am at so that I don’t become discouraged.

I reminded myself that I was there by choice. And my choice was to focus on the benefits of cleaning up the yard so that when I was done, I could look out the kitchen window and appreciate our pretty yard and a job well done.

It worked.

An hour and a half of silent, meditative cleaning and the yard was finished. No more doggie-doo. No more dead leaves. No more mess.

And best of all, the critter was silenced! Even when he tried to remind me that the mess was all my fault. That I should have been out there every day. That my excuses for not doing it were just not good enough,  I bested his pesky sibilant whispers with a peaceful mind that focused on the benefits of what I was doing.

Which means, I didn’t spend my time in ‘I hate to’! Instead, I got to spend a lovely sojourn working in the yard, enjoying the afternoon sunshine, physically using my body and benefiting from the exertion.

And, when I was done, I raked away the dead leaves C.C. had piled on top of the flower garden last fall as winter insulation and found several plants already popping up! Bonus! My plants survived and are now ready to greet the spring sun.

Of course, I’ll have to remember to cover them up again at the end of the week as the weatherman is predicting frost. But that’s okay. I love to enjoy my garden in all kinds of weather, especially when my mind is cleansed of “I hate to” thinking!



Love is never foreign

“Life is the journey of learning to become ourselves.”

That phrase was on my mind as I awoke this morning. I don’t know if it was something said at dinner last night, or if it was part of a dream. But it continues to resonate, to shimmer in the morning light, pushing back the cold, dark winter of my thinking spring will never appear.

Spring always appears because spring is part of the earth’s journey around the sun. It is its nature to arise and push forth blossoms and blooms every year. It cannot stop itself. It must spring forth into being.

It is in my nature, and yours, to arise. To push out of the darkness, to push through to life beyond the narrow confines of the past and our limiting beliefs that what happened “then” is the limit of what is possible now.

Our life journey is always about becoming — our true self and true to our selves.

It isn’t that my true self or your true self were never there. Like seeds awakening from the earth’s embrace beneath the warmth of spring’s welcoming rains and lengthening days, my true self has always been within me. It’s just, its been sleeping. Hibernating. Holding itself close to the roots of my soul’s path into the light waiting for me to feel the warmth of spring loving me just the way I am so that I can become in Love with myself and all my world, just the way I am and just the way it is.

Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God, talks about how when he first began the process of transcribing onto paper the words he was hearing that could only be divinely sourced, he wrote something so scandalous, so startling, so upsetting that he dropped his pen and sat back and exclaimed that it wasn’t possible. What he wrote was that because God understands, Hitler too went to Heaven.

Not possible, his mind wanted to insist. But, as Walsch explains, while that thought was ‘foreign to my mind, it was not foreign to my soul.’

Loving ourselves can feel foreign to our minds. Sometimes, we might say, of course I love myself, even when we’re doing things that demonstrate clearly our lack of love for ourselves. Sometimes, we know we don’t love ourselves. Our minds repeat the litany of our sins, it reminds us of our wounds and in our distress, we cannot embrace the one we believe ourselves to be — this wounded, broken, and shattered human being.

Our soul knows.

It always knows we are loving, loveable and loved.

It always knows there is nothing we can do that will turn it away from loving us.

Our soul knows.

And in this journey of becoming who I am, I step into the love of who I’ve always been, always will be, even in those moments when my mind tells me it is impossible, not true, not real.

My soul knows.

Your soul knows.

We are LOVE in the pure and beautiful expression of all our human condition.



Let me be brutally honest — I don’t think so.

What do you say when someone says, “Do you mind if I’m brutally honest.”?

“Of course. Hit me with the truth! Go ahead. Fling your words at me and cut me to the bone. Beat me up with your need to be brutal.”

Or, are you more likely to respond along the lines of, “Well, actually, I’d rather hear loving honesty. Brutality just isn’t my thing, you know?”

It is such an odd phrase, and to me, a contradiction.

To be honest, I must not just watch my words. I must be accountable for every one of them, as well as my actions. For me, honesty is, by its very nature, loving. It is never brutal.

When I was a little girl my mother used to always say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, for years, I thought that meant, “Don’t speak the truth.”

Finally, after years of learning how to discern my truth, and to recognize what it means to speak truth without fearing the outcome, I get it. It isn’t about not speaking truth, it’s about always speaking truth in Love.

It’s about always standing in Love and knowing that when I speak from that place my words are never meant to hurt or cut, they are always spoken with the intention of being kind, caring and loving — of all.

It doesn’t mean I swallow my feelings, my responses, my reactions to things that hurt or disturb or distress me. It means, I find the path to expressing what hurts, disturbs and distresses me in Love.

It doesn’t mean I accept other’s bad behaviour. It means, I accept my right to speak of those things that do not sit well with me with a loving heart and the intention to always ‘create better’.

And it means, I never ever beat someone up with my truth or what I perceive to be their truth.

Disagreement does not equal rejection.

It also doesn’t give me the right to be cruel, mean or ‘brutal’.

We will not always agree with one another, but when I ask to be ‘brutally honest’, I am asking to be unkind.

And I do not want to be unkind.

I want to create better in the world.

And to do that, I need to let go of being brutal and surrender my fear of truth, of disagreement, of darkness and of light to fall, In Love.

In Love, all things are possible,  including honesty without fear of being hurt or hurting one another.


This post is inspired by my friend MF who yesterday shared that one of her goals was to be brutally honest with herself so that she could grow in love and compassion. For me, being brutally honest with myself hurts the one I need the most to help me grow in Love and compassion — myself.

Thank you MF for shining your light so that I could see my truth.

Let us share compassion.

I want to write of something else, I want to find ‘the normal’, but I don’t know how.

I don’t know when it’s okay to move on, to change the subject. Because, no matter what I do, nothing will change what has happened. Nothing will bring back the lost. Nothing will change the course of the future for the accused.

And so, I write as tears run down my face.

I have a friend who lives on the street where it happened. Her husband just had surgery. She is at home with him for the next few days as he recovers.

The house at the corner is visible through her front window. As she sits in her living room, as she looks out over her yard, as she stands at the kitchen and pours herself a cup of coffee, she can see the house at the corner. The house where it all happened. The house where police tape still separates the yard from the neighbourhood. The house where a steady stream of cars and people pass by, some stopping to leave flowers and cards and candles at a makeshift memorial in front of the house. Some just simply driving slowly by.

Her neighbourhood is consumed by the tragedy and my heart is heavy for her.

My friend has a son who died in a motor-cycle accident. He was the same age as some of the five youth killed in this tragedy, as the suspect too.

How will she avoid seeing the pain and grief on her street? How will she be able to sleep soundly in her bed knowing that just a few houses down and just across the street this happened and that other parents and families, just like hers, have suffered an incomprehensible loss?

How will anyone on that street be able to get back to ‘normal’ when that house, that address will always be known as the ‘place where it happened’. The place where Calgary’s worst mass murder transpired?

How do they find peace amidst the sorrow and pain flowing all around and the reminders lying on the sidewalk at a makeshift memorial?

How will the parents of other young people who have been concerned about their son or daughter’s mental health rest easily tonight? How will they feel confidence in their son or daughter’s ability to make good choices?

It does not seem right nor just to simply move on today.

According to a news report, the father of the accused was out on the streets looking for his son that evening. He was concerned for his well-being, fearing his son might harm himself. Not others. Himself.

And then, the worst happened. He did, harm himself in a way that is incomprehensible. In taking five lives, he forever changed the course of his life. Forever shattered hopes and dreams and possibility.

I don’t know how to move on at the moment. I feel the need to simply stay in this space, to feel the sadness and sorrow. To let the pain wash over and through me. To let the tears flow so that they can cleanse my heavy heart.

Perhaps it is the only way I can honour those who are gone, those who are living with the pain of their missing children. Those who are lost. And those who must face the reality of the situation every moment of every day as they see the evidence on their street, or as they sift through the evidence searching for answers, or as they sit at the Easter dinner table and feel the silence in the empty seat that will never be filled by their loved one again.

It is in this way that I can be present to what others are feeling so that I can share my light, not my fear, my compassion, not my sadness.

And as I write, I remember to once again surrender all fear and fall in Love.

We cannot undo what is done. We cannot change what happened. We can only love one another, support each other and take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.

And in our taking care of others, we will find hope in the pain, light in the darkness, and compassion for one-another in the sorrow as Love embraces our tears and opens our hearts to beat freely again.