Dare boldly

Inspiring acts of grace in everyday living


8 Comments

Growing up Beaumont – Tales of a Sheepadoodle

Beaumont is off on an adventure.

Tomorrow, we are heading west to the coast and then, across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island and to delightful, laidback in a, hey dude, I’m chillin’ on the west coast, kind of way town on the farthest western shore of Canada, Tofino. A week of beach-combing, cuddling by a cozy fire and chilling out in the rainforest.

I think he’s excited.

Okay, that’s just transference on my part, but if he were aware of where we were going, he’d be excited!

Tofino is a place of treasured memories for me.

Throughout their growing years, my daughters, their friend Vicky and I would head out to Tofino for a week every Easter break. We’d pack the car with everything possible (including 100 Beanie Babies, dress up clothes and other paraphernalia necessary for 3 pre-teen to teens girls to play dress-up on the beach and indulge in other escapades). We’d spend the week by the ocean where we would gambol in the surf, wander the boardwalks through the rainforest and sit on rocks watching seals cavort in the waves. We’d eat and laugh and chatter and dance and play cards and board games and skip through tidal pools and lay in the sun when it was shining, which, given this is the west coast, was sometimes dubious as the weather can often be moody.

Every morning, I’d sneak down to the beach to write a daily installment of a story I’d created just for them in the sand. Every morning, they’d awaken and race to the shore, read the story and act out the tale of three star maidens who climbed down the staircase from heaven to earth every night to cast dreams upon sleeping children. Some mornings, the tide devoured the story before they could. And that was okay. It was all part of the adventure.

C.C., nor Beaumont, have ever been to Tofino.

I’m excited. To share one of my favourite places on earth with the man I love, and the puppy who continues to bring pure joy into our lives every day.

I may, or may not be blogging regularly. For sure tomorrow morning I won’t be as we plan on heading out early to arrive in Vancouver in time for dinner at my sister’s.

For the next week, I will be enjoying the company of my beloved, our pooch and as a special treat, my eldest daughter will be joining us for the weekend.

What a gift. To spend time with those I live in a place that has always filled my heart with loving memories.

Life is delicious.


13 Comments

Full Moons Rising and all that Jazz

Harmlessness is not negativity or inaction; it is a condition of perfect poise, a completed point of view and divine understanding.
Dr. Joshua David Stone

It is the time of the Blood Moon (did you see the red colour of the moon – that’s because earth cast a shadow on the moon). Of the full moon, super moon, also called harvest moon (when the moon is closest to the earth and appears larger because of its position on the horizon) and lunar eclipse aligning to open gateways to possibility for all humankind to find another way of being present here on earth. Source

The four moon’s state of being (the first time since 1967) calls forth the need to cultivate ‘harmlessness’. To not act out thoughtlessly and unaware of our impact, but instead to act with intentionality, to be conscious of both the yin and yang of everything we do and to know, we are the change we want to create in the world.

“Ugh!” my critter mind wails. “Can’t we just revert back to being unconscious? Unaware? Unawoken?”

Just as a river cannot flow backwards, the mind cannot unknow what it has learned.

Dang. I just wanted to moon gaze without having it be all esoteric and heady.

Moon gaze away! says my mind of knowing. Just keep your eyes open, and your heart too.

This moon calls for us to open our hearts completely. To let go of fear and apprehension that we will never be perfect enough and surrender to the human imperfection of being all we can be when we release our need to be perfect. Which is why when I read the title of one of Joshua Stone’s books, “The Soul’s Perspective on How to Achieve Perfect Radiant Health: A Compilation”, I had to laugh.

Striving for perfection is a fool’s game. Perfection doesn’t exist.

Ahh that critter mind. He just loves to play with my thinking I know it all.

And deep within, a voice whispers, “Breathe. To cultivate harmlessness you must let go of criticism.”

A friend and I were talking yesterday about Canada’s upcoming election. She has chosen not to engage in the criticism of our current Prime Minister, no matter what.

I laughed. “Well, that’s challenging. There’s so much of it going around!”

But I don’t have to engage in it, my friend replied. I don’t have to take part in adding mockery and criticism to any conversation.

And my heart feels heavy.

I have contributed through criticism. I have been part of adding to the mockery, not just of our current Prime Minister, but in many ways.

Back to the drawing board. Time to release self-criticism and judgement and flow into intentional harmlessness, with myself and all the world around me.

It is Monday. The business week begins and I find myself feeling on edge, in turmoil, without calm within me.

Good, says my knowing mind. Stay with the unease. Dig into the unsettledness within and allow yourself to feel it, be it, know it. This is a time of allowing the universe’s energy to guide you. Don’t struggle to be in charge of your life, allow life, all of life, to be in charge of you.

Fine. Whatever.

But dang it. I really did just want to dance beneath the light of the full moon rising and gaze into my lover’s eyes and toss moonbeams on the waves of passion emanating between us! Now that would have been fun.

 


2 Comments

Keys to Recovery: Unlocking the Potential

Karen Crowther is compassionate, dedicated, fiercely loyal and determined. She gives her whole heart and being to creating success for her organization, her staff, and the people they serve. And in return, her staff, the people they serve and the communities within which they live and work love her back.

Karen is the Executive Director of Keys to Recovery and as Broadcaster, Performer and last night’s Emcee Jonathan Love said at the Keys to Recovery (Keys) Unlocking the Potential fund-raiser C.C. and I attended, “There’s a lot of love in this room. I can feel it.”

It’s true.

There was Love. And… passion, commitment, a fierce conviction that we can make a difference. A deep understanding of what it takes to do that and a belief that everyone deserves a second, third, even fourth chance to change their lives. No one is hopeless.

Keys fills a unique niche in the homeless serving system of care in Calgary. They provide housing with supports to formerly homeless Calgarians who would otherwise be discharged from successful completion of rehab back to the streets.

It can be a vicious cycle.

Imagine. An individual knows what they are doing is not working for them. They want to get clean and sober and make the scary, yet liberating decision, to go to rehab. After treatment, they are sober, have the tools to continue their sobriety but, the one thing that is the same, is the lack of housing that contributed to their homelessness, and their addiction, in the first place.

Without Keys, they would be returning to an emergency shelter, or the street, with little support to maintain their sobriety and thus, change their lives.

Keys provides that support. They wrap a person in compassionate care, providing both housing and structure to support them in their efforts to retain sobriety and create a new life for themselves and their families.

Gabriel Chen, the keynote speaker last night shared a powerful and inspiring message of what is possible if we imagine a different way.

Gabriel knows. He is a lawyer whose client base is entirely made up of individuals experiencing homelessness.

In the first story Gabriel shared, “Mary” found herself homeless and, feeling defeated, gave into the lure of drugs to numb her from the dark reality of the life she was experiencing. Eventually, she knew she had to do something different, went to Rehab and got a place of her own and was working on her sobriety. But she was on her own, struggling every day to make ends meet and to retain her sobriety. One day, she got picked up on a misdemeanor and when the police ran her name through ‘the system’ it was determined she had some outstanding warrants from when she was using drugs and stole some food and got caught. She was sent to the Remand Centre and attempted to call Gabriel. Except, she was only allowed one call a day and the phone at the Remand does not allow the caller to leave messages. It was a week before she reached Gabriel when he happened to be at his desk. By then, she was terrified of losing her apartment and told Gabriel to plead guilty on her behalf.

She lost her apartment anyway, Gabriel shared and because he was brought into the cycle after she’d already represented herself at her bail hearing, he could not change the course of her journey. She ended up with a criminal record which, upon release, impeded her ability to get a job, an apartment, go back to school or to make any constructive changes in her life.

And the cycle continued.

Imagine instead, asked Gabriel, if Mary was supported throughout her journey. That upon exiting rehab and being immediately housed with supports, she chose to work with her Case Manager to clean up the outstanding warrants before they created more trouble in her life.

Imagine if Gabriel was able to stand before the Court to plead on Mary’s behalf, before the judicial process kicked into high gear with its judgements and criminalization of homelessness and addictions.

Imagine if he could have demonstrated to both the Judge and the Prosecutor that Mary was maintaining her sobriety, was going back to school and had support to change the course of her life.

Imagine that the judiciary were aware of Keys and respected and supported the work they were doing in the community to end homelessness.

Imagine if…

Keys to Recovery makes this possible, Gabriel said.

It’s true.

************************

Keys to Recovery plays a vital role in Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness. Every Calgarian has a role to play — the board members of Keys who were all present last night, the volunteers who helped organize the event like my dear friend Wendy C., and the people who came out to support Keys in their inaugural fund-raiser like Diana Krecsy, President & CEO of the Calgary Homeless Foundation, all made a difference.  You can too. Check out the Plan and see where you fit. (Action Step No. 14 is a great one for every Calgarian) Let’s take action! Together. We can end homelessness in Calgary.

 

 

 


14 Comments

Pride: it cometh after the fall too

Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.     — Andrew Murray

I wrote last week about The Fall. About landing on the cold, hard cement in front of my office building downtown and the mind chatter that ensued.

At Choices last week, while chatting with another coach about monkey mind chatter, I shared what happened and told them that I was shocked to see how, even before I knew if I’d broken anything or not, my mind immediately leaped to that place of, “OMG! I hope no one saw me!”

Imagine. Lying on the ground, not even sure if I am hurt or not and all I can think about is my pride.

On Monday, I gave a presentation on homelessness to a group of University students. After the presentation, a woman came up to share the story about her daughter.

“She’s lived in a group home for 20 years,” she shared. And she told me about some of the things she’d done to protect her daughter’s well-being and to ensure she always had a nest egg to support her, no matter what happened to her mother.

“The Public Trustee manages her money,” she told me. “Yet, when I tell other parents about what a great job the Public Trustee has done for my daughter, they balk and say, ‘no way’. Their pride won’t let them use a resource that makes a positive difference.”

Pride. We all have it to varying degrees. And we all suffer its consequences.

When I was lying on the ground, my pride said, “You look ridiculous. People will think you are…. weak, stupid, drunk, ignoble…  A host of impressions my pride could not abide.

Truth is, after falling to the ground, it would have been wonderful to have someone come over and ask me if I was okay. To offer to help me back up. To see that I had fallen and ensure that I was okay. Deep within me was a need to be cared for, cherished, helped.

Instead, my pride would have me believe, I did not need anyone’s help. I did not need assistance. I did not deserve someone else’s concern.

English cleric Charles Caleb Colton said it well centuries ago,

pride quote

Where does pride hold you back? Where are you not asking for what you want because pride tells you not to?

 


8 Comments

Homelessness isn’t sexy

I am talking on the phone with a peer at another agency about their efforts to stage an event, and the lack of up-take from corporate Calgary.

Homelessness isn’t on a lot of company’s radar, they tell me. Most big companies want to invest in kids, women fleeing violence, the environment. Things that capture the public’s attention and help them feel like they’re making a difference. Homelessness just isn’t sexy enough.

Not ‘sexy’ enough? When was ‘sexy’ ever part of the homeless equation?

Somewhere in our collective psyche is the notion that people fall into homelessness by their own fault. Their own doing. Collectively, we hold an unspoken belief that people don’t deserve to receive any more help than having an emergency shelter to fall back on simply because, what they need to do to fix their homeless state is to clean up, dress up and get a job.

It’s not that simple. It’s not that easy.

Homelessness is not that benign.

Homelessness is a state of being present in a world that has not taken steps to address the issues that undermine people’s capacity to access the resources they needed to live without fear of falling through the cracks.

When we feel strong, when we have access to knowledge, resources and supports, finding our way is possible — no matter where we stand on the road of life. We have enough resiliency to get through the dark times because we’ve been supported in building a foundation that is strong enough to withstand life’s knocks.

People living on the margins, who have never known what it means to have equal access to resources to help them achieve their dreams to not know what it means to be resilient, self-confident, self-determined. Their lives have been limited by the lack of resources, lack of support, lack of advantages most of us take for granted.

In their lifetime of scraping by, of being unsupported, unacknowledged, unseen, they don’t recognize or see resources waiting to be accessed. They are too familiar with doors slamming closed in the face of their efforts to not fall through the cracks gaping on their road of life.

Homelessness is not who someone is. It is not a dream come true. It is a nightmare.

Believing people can fix the potholes and cracks in the road that lead them into their state of homelessness is like telling someone with terminal cancer to stop dying. No matter how hard you wish for it, it isn’t going to happen without a miracle or two and a whole lot of care and attention. Like a diagnosis of terminal cancer, the damage was done long before the evidence was in or someone hit the doors of a shelter.

We humans can be shallow. We can be pack animals. We can be easily lead to judge and label others based on our lack of understanding of what it is that they are experiencing.

Homelessness isn’t sexy.

It also isn’t a choice. It isn’t a decision one morning to get up, jettison everything in your life you hold dear just so you can wander the streets and sleep in a crowded space with others experiencing the same condition, and eat what you’re given when told and sleep where directed and lose your dignity and pride and sense of who you are in the world — if you ever knew it in the first place.

Homelessness is nullifying.

Debilitating. Scary.

Homelessness is deadly.

It strips you of everything you own, and steals your life from the inside out, one nullifying indignity at a time, scraping away your pride, your confidence, your belief in yourself (if you ever had any) with every grinding step you take.

Homelessness isn’t sexy.

Neither is telling someone when they’re down to just get up, clean up and carry on.

If it were that simple, we’d all do it every time we hit a bump in the road of life. If it were that easy, we would all just pull up ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going on living the dream life we’ve always imagined.

Someone told me yesterday that homelessness isn’t sexy.

They’re right. It’s not.

 


18 Comments

Savouring autumn.

“Savoring calls me to slowness: I can’t savor quickly.  
Savoring calls me to spaciousness:  I can’t savor everything at once.
Savoring calls me to mindfulness: I can’t savor without being fully present.”

Christine Valters Paintner,  Abbey of the Arts

Here on the eastern edge of the Canadian Rockies, autumn falls in graceful disarray. Summer leaves turn golden and crisp chilly mornings awaken each day with hints of frosty filigreed mornings glistening on the horizon.

Autumn is my favourite time of year. It is a time to savor sun-soaked days filled with long golden rays of light lengthening the day’s shadows. It is a time to breathe deeply into morning’s indolent passage from night. To savour sunlight bursting with fierce determination across the windswept land. It is a time to settle into evening’s cozy light embracing the earth as the moon sends the sun early to bed behind the snow-tipped ridges of the Rockies sprawled out across the horizon.

It is a time to harvest. To pluck still green tomatoes from the vine and gather round the hearth to share in autumn soups and hearty breads. It is a time to gaze into the faces of those you have gathered round the table to share in autumn’s bounty and to treasure the faces of your loved one’s shining in the light of a hundred candles glowing in the night.

Autumn is a time of release, of moving into stillness, of letting go to fall with grace into silent rest.

It is a time of preparation and renewal. Of savouring the paradox found in summer shedding its vibrant cloak of bounty as you prepare the soil for winter’s long rest yet to embrace the earth.

I find myself in autumn’s gaze balancing the tension between releasing old ideas that no longer bear fruit with harvesting the abundance of all the seeds I’ve planted throughout the year.

In the tension of release and gathering I find myself looking inward, seeking comfort in the well-worn pathways to my heart.

In autumn’s slow, long light filtered through the branches lining leaf-strewn paths, I see the way more clearly. Life is an eternal circle of release and renewal. Relinquishing and rebirth.

Autumn soils bear the inspiration of spring’s first flowers even as trees shed their leaves in the sudden gusts of north wind blowing in on a breath of Arctic chilled air eager to embrace the land.

Autumn reminds us there is life and death in everything. It reminds us to hold onto life and to honour the dying as we release our fear of the unknown. It reminds us to let go and surrender to the beauty and the sorrow of living on this earth, and of leaving it. It urges us to dance in the sun’s shortening gaze and release our fears to the night.

Autumn is a time of contradiction and contemplation. It is a time to celebrate the bounty of harvest, and to prepare for the scarcity of winter.

Autumn urges us to give thanks, to sip the sweet wines of vine ripened grapes and to rejoice in letting go of summer ripened fruits as we dig into the earth to savour the rooted bounty growing beneath the surface.

And as autumn descends in fiery beauty, I breathe deeply into the rich verdant soil of my life and rejoice. Autumn is descending. My heart is full and life is a rich and vibrant journey filled with the bounty of this life I treasure and those who make it so rich and beautiful.

Autumn is falling and I give thanks as I rejoice in all I have to hold onto and to let go of, to savour and to release.


16 Comments

In the light of today, there is no past.

At Choices, I watch people of all ages struggle to step out from beneath the shadow of their upbringings, the burdens of the past, the sadness of the lessons they’ve learned on the road of life that have broken their hearts and undermined their belief in their capacity to live freely and whole-heartedly.

Seldom are the burdens they carry intentional ‘gifts’ from the people who loved them. Most often, they are a reflection of the pain and fears of those who meant the best for them but didn’t know how to give or create ‘the better’ they dreamt of passing on.

Our parents were not handed a roadmap to raising us when we are born.

There is no surefire way to raise a child, to protect them from encounters that hurt them or cause them pain.

All we can do is provide them tools that will help them get up when they fall, move on when they falter and stand tall when the world feels like it is pushing them down.

Years ago, a child psychologist I knew told me that my job as a parent was to ensure my daughters survived their childhood. You’re going to mess up, he said. You’re going to make mistakes. We all do. As long as they can get to the age of 16, they have a chance of repairing the damage you did.

At the time, I remember thinking, What damage? I love my daughters how could he suggest I’d hurt them? Truth is, even before I disappeared into the darkness of a relationship that was killing me, there were things I’d done unintentionally to cause them pain, to wound their hearts, to limit their capacity to live whole-heartedly. I carried my own childhood wounds and lessons learned on the road of life with me. Unacknowledged, they limited my ability to be whole and present with my daughters.

Didn’t make me a bad mother. It did make me very human. And in my humanness, it made me capable of change, if I was willing.

We are all capable of change. We are all worthy of living life on the wild side, on the outside of our comfort zones, never looking back at the things that dragged us down or held us silent in our fears.

We all deserve to love and be loved.

And that’s where programs like Choices come in.

Choices is not a cure-all or magic potion to drink that will fix everything. It’s just a beautifully constructed program with some very well-defined and effective processes that gently and lovingly create space for each person to look inside and heal the broken spaces where the light has been distorted. And in the healing of those broken places, learn to live in the wonder and beauty of who they are when Love can get in to outshine their fear they’ll never be enough.

So many times we think we have all the answers to who we are.

What I’ve learned at Choices is I will never know all of who I am because all of who I am is greater than my fears and wildest dreams. When I let go of the fears that hold me back from being all of who I want to be in a world of love and joy, anything is possible. When I risk letting go of the protective walls and shields I’ve built around me and my heart, I free myself from the habitual behaviours and responses I’ve  adopted to keep my heart from getting hurt and my dreams from getting shattered. And in that freedom, life happens, miracles unfold.

Because, once I tear down the walls around my heart, the world is a wondrous place where my light shines brightly in the freedom of being all I am when I no longer walk in fear that my past is my future and all I’ll ever know.

When I let go of measuring each step by the length of the shadow of yesterday, I am free to walk in the light of today becoming all I ever dreamed my life would be.

Namaste.