The memory of my mother

In the photo my mother is laughing. Head thrown back, neck arched.

I don’t remember her laughing. I don’t remember her ever being so light of being.

The photo doesn’t lie.

Memory can.

Years ago, I met a woman against whom I’d carried a grudge for many years. My last memory of her was when I was around 16. She was walking down a lane, holding hands with the boy I thought was still my boyfriend.

When I met her again, we were both in our forties. It was at a school reunion and she was sitting with the boy, now a man, as well as another woman who’d been in our class.

The four of us chatted and I told her how I’d carried the memory of the two of them walking hand-in-hand and how it had hurt to know she’d stolen him from me.

“I never dated him,” she said.

The other woman who was chatting with us (she happened to have the same name) jumped into the conversation. “I dated him after you!” she said. “But I never stole him. You’d already broken up.”

Turns out. We had broken up. He just hadn’t told me.

 

The man in question, sitting between the two women, said nothing. Just shrugged a shoulder, smiled sheepishly and gave his little grin that seemed to say then, as it had said long ago to my teenage heart, “I’m so dang cute, you just gotta luv me.”

At the time, I laughed. Wow. All those years of holding a grudge and I’d had it wrong all along. How fickle and unreliable memory can be!

Looking at the photo of my mother, I wonder how true my memory is of her. Perhaps she was happier than I remember. Perhaps laughter came to her more naturally than the tears I remember.

I hope so. Because, no matter the details, just as the wound of a long ago betrayal weighed heavy in my heart,mom the image of my mother as being sad and fearful does not sit well in my heart. I’d like to carry the memory of my mother as a woman of light heart. A woman who laughed from the depths of her soul. Who danced long into the night, drinking champagne and flirting with men and spinning circles around the room as she sang some outrageous diddy she made up as she spun, her voice enchanting everyone in the room.

That woman was powerful. That woman never stepped back from her fears. She headed heart first into any storm, fighting for what was right, fighting against what was holding her back from being free. A fierce protector. A bold defender of the one’s she loved.

I saw a photo of my mother. She is the woman I remember. Laughing. Light of heart. Fierce and strong. Free

HomeSpace: a home in our community for everyone.

Today is the release of the preliminary report of the Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness held October 19th in Albereta.

PIT Counts are interesting beasts. They provide a moment-in-time snapshot of homelessness in any given city. They are not the de facto scientific answer to who is homeless, how long they’ve been homeless, or what are the issues contributing to their state of being.

They are a moment in time of those counted on a given night.

Yet, often, media see the PIT results as the measure of a city’s success, or failure, to end homelessness.

The PIT number only tells part of the story. The part where we count who is on the streets or in shelter, incarcerated with no fixed address, or hospitalized with no fixed address on that night.

The more important data is how well a city is doing at housing those for whom home was a long ago place. How well those who are housed thrive in housing. How much is health, physical and mental well-being improving.

In Calgary, we are doing a stellar job of ensuring the system of care is strong, responsive and proactive. We have agencies who work together to share data, discuss housing plans, develop strategies to ensure the system of care is using its resources as impactfully as possible.

Challenge is, the economic climate, the lack of affordable housing especially for those with lower incomes, is limited in our city.

We need housing.

homespace-logoWhich is why I am so proud to work for an organization that had the courage to take the bold move of transferring its $60 million housing portfolio to an independent entity so that organization could focus on the development, building and management of housing for the h0meless-serving sector and vulnerable Calgarians.

On Friday afternoon I stood amidst friends, colleagues, agency partners, government officials and stakeholders as HomeSpace Society was officially launched.

It was exciting. Moving. Thrilling to see this dream that was seeded in the early 2000’s become a reality.

Some of my favourite people from the Foundation where I work have moved over to HomeSpace — and the enthusiasm, commitment and passionate excellence they carry with them is inspiring, and hopeful.

They know their job like no one else.

They know what it takes to move a project from concept, to land acquisition, to development approval and to final build.

They know what vulnerable people need for housing and to stay housed. And, they know how to work with the funded agencies who provide supports to tenants so that those for whom homelessness has been a long time reality can let go of the ‘homeless identity’ to claim their new way of being in the world, ‘at home’.

It took a lot of hard work, commitment, vision and patience for HomeSpace to become a reality.

Congratulations to everyone involved. From CHF management, board members, and team to the entire team at HomeSpace, and everyone who played a role. Job well done!

I’m excited about what the future will bring for vulnerable Calgarians, the homeless-serving sector, and our city.

This morning we will be talking about the people experiencing homelessness on one night in our city. And while we won’t be talking about those who are housed, it’s their story that must be told, because that the bigger picture of how Calgarians are making a difference, together!

Be at peace with yourself | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 34

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How often do you do something that ends up a mess only to create a bigger mess by calling yourself out?

C’mon. Be honest.

How often do you drop something, hear it break and then think, or say out loud, “You are so clumsy!” “Can’t you do anything right?” or words to that effect?

Stop it.

Dropping it was not your intention. It was an accident.

Treat yourself with respect. Kindness. Consideration.

To borrow from the teachings of Benjamin Zander, conductor, life-muser and philosopher, when you do something that’s a little incomprehensible to you about why or how you could have done it or it could have happened, throw both hands up in the air above you head and exclaim (with a big smile on your face) “Aren’t I fascinating!”

And then, carry on.

Clean up the mess. Make apologies and amends as appropriate. Definitely learn from a mistake if there’s a lesson to be learned, (for me it’s often to pay attention. Too often, I’m thinking of something else as I’m doing something else totally unrelated) and then, continue on. No matter the situation, don’t get stuck in self-condemnation.

Keep growing through the circumstances, don’t let the circumstances define you.

Namaste.

And bonus today!  This is one of my favourite TEDTalks.  Benjamin Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music. (or as I like to call it — The Transformative Power of not taking yourself too seriously.)

https://embed.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion

The value of No.

When my daughters were infants I read some silly stat that said a child hears 100 no’s an hour. (I’m not sure of the actual stat so I made that up — you know… I don’t have time to go look up the real stat because I have to get into my office early to finish off the projects I still have to complete by noon today because I forgot to say, No that’s not doable in that timeframe, when a new project appeared on my desk. 🙂 )

I’m never going to say No to my child, I declared. (And yes, there is a pattern here.)

I proceeded to replace No with a more rational, kinder approach. (I write that smiling and shaking my head in bemusement at my own folly).

The fact is, there were times when No was the appropriate response.

Like when my youngest daughter asked if we could get a pet —  in this case, an Elephant Giraffe. Goat.  After three Nos I settled for Yes on the dog. (I think she outsmarted me on that one but in the end, we all won because the dog we got filled our lives with love and laughter.)

Learning to say No is an important lesson for every child.

Say no to drugs. Abuse. Bullying. Fighting. Lying. Cheating. To inappropriate/nonconsensual sex. Those are all vital lessons we must all learn early to live whole-heartedly and well.

Hearing No. Learning to deal with the No’s of life is also important.

When I was a child and my mother told me No, I inevitably went to my father. He was a much easier mark.

What they didn’t realize is the non-value of that lesson was, if you don’t like the No, go find someone you know will say yes.

Too often, in changing who I asked, I missed the lesson my mother was trying to teach me. That my needs are important, but they can’t come at the expense of other’s not getting their needs met too.

My father, not seeing the big picture of our family dynamics (he was away a lot) didn’t get that often, my requests were to fulfill on my own selfish needs, stated without thought of how it would impact my sisters, brother or the family as a whole.

That lesson I had to learn later in life. Because, no matter what I want, if it impacts someone else’s life in a way that hurts or harms them, it is not a good choice, for anyone.

Often, learning these important lessons as adults is harder than if we’d started to embrace their meaning as children. Like learning another language, the older we get, the brain is not quite so flexible and willing in its capacity to learn new things.

Sometimes, when I look at what is going on in our world today, I wonder if part of the problem is, there are a whole bunch of people out there who did not learn as children the value and importance of knowing that getting what they want does not mean others can’t or don’t get what they want. Or that they matter too.

That compromise is not a win/lose scenario. Compromise only works when it’s a win/win.

That getting everything you want does not give you everything you need to live a prosperous and fulfilling life.

The lessons of childhood are important one’s to remember and employ as adults. The playground bully who continues to be the boardroom tyrant is not leading. He or she is just behaving like a child. A child who has never learned that to get ahead does not mean having it your way, no matter the cost. It means finding a way that makes the best possible at no cost to others.

Namaste.

 

 

Gratitude and Thankfulness: Happy Thanksgiving!

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Gratitude is the foundation of joy. It is the bedrock upon which we build our hearts calling us to awaken to our natural way of being in the world free of greed, selfishness and self-centeredness. It is our way to hear and acknowledge our deepest yearnings for peace, tranquility, ease.

Gratitude opens us up to receiving love. It propels us to step fearlessly into the waters of life untethered to the need to have more, be more, get more.

Gratitude is essential to finding ourselves at home in our hearts.

When I begin my morning with statements of I am grateful for… I open myself up to gratitude’s inherent power living within me. In gratitude, I become richer, fuller, more balanced and grounded in every way of my being present.

Today is Thanksgiving Day for my neighbours to the south.  Today I give thanks for them. I give thanks for their constant journey into democracy, their willingness to see darkness and still step into the light, their unwavering commitment to truth, liberty, freedom.

As they travel these new times, I am grateful for the hearts that beat so wildly to freedom’s drum, the minds that know so clearly freedom’s ways, and the voices that call so strongly for freedom to have its way.

I am grateful for you all.

May you gather together at the millions of tables to be set this weekend and remember the love that binds you is stronger than the differences that separate. May you be surrounded by family and friends sharing joy, love, laughter and above all thankfulness for the ties that bind so strongly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

On being a good mother in these times.

 

When I became a mother, I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of mother I wanted to be. I wanted to be kind, caring, loving. I wanted to be the kind of mother that didn’t get caught up in the nitty-gritty of dirty diapers and spilled milk but one who celebrated the miracle of life my daughters represent. One who sang silly songs in the car, danced in the streets with them and lay in the grass beneath trees making up stories about the clouds and all the people walking by and even the dogs and cats too.

I did not want my impression upon their gentle spirits to be a heavy hand of authority, but a light touch of loving guidance filled with caring consideration for their unique selves and their needs to grow into independent, strong, self-determined women.

Today, when I look at my daughters I am in awe of the beauty of their human essence. I am in awe of their kindness, their caring natures, their capacity to stand for what they believe in, to speak up in the face of tyranny, to tear down walls of discord, to build bridges of peace and love and joy. I am in awe and always have been, in their capacity to make my heart feel like it is bursting with joy, that being their mother is the most precious gift I have ever been given.

I believe I was (still am) a good mother. I believe that despite my many mistakes, some big, some small, some ginormous, I am still a good mother.

Not because I did everything right. Believe me, I didn’t.

No. I believe I am a good mother because… Well, just because. I am.

It is a choice.

 

To believe in myself. Or not.

And, because I can and want to, lovingly let my daughters’ living their lives without my constantly telling them what to do, how to do it and when to do it. I want them to be able to speak be their truth, not mine.

It is perhaps one of the hardest things about being a mother to two amazing women. They have minds of their own, ideas of their own, ways of their own that carve out their own unique paths in this world.

It is not my way, my path. It is theirs and as their mother, my role and responsibility is to honour their ways, their path, their own unique voices so that they can be free to be in this world without fearing my condemnation, criticism and complaints.

As a good mother, my job is to give their words, ideas, dreams space to grow without my interference.

And yet sometimes, I want to beat myself up with the stick of having failed because I fear.

I fear they will not have a world where it is safe to sing freely, dance with abandon, write without caution. I fear this world we are co-creating in all our flawed humanity will spiral down into rigid morality where there is only one path, one way,  — and that is the way of hatred. The path where racism, misogyny, territorialism grows stronger in the voices of those who believe all humans are not created equal, divine and miraculous, rise up and beat down the hearts of those who stand for the truth: We are all one humanity. One human kind. We are all One.

 

Bullies in our midst

There are bullies amongst us. People who believe that to feel good about themselves, to get what they want, to have it all (which they must have) requires ensuring others do not feel good, or possibly better than, them. That others do not have what they want, do not have ‘it all’.

They were not born this way. They did not come screaming out of the womb declaring with their first breath, I am going to have it all because I’m me and what I want is what I want, and getting what I want is all that matters.

They were made.  Forged in the fires of life raging around them. They were created in the bosom of their families and community, sharpened on the anvil of hard-luck stories where the child never felt safe and secure, loved and cherished. Like she/he belonged or was wanted.

Knowing this doesn’t make being a bully ‘right’. It does help to see the possibility for different when we let go of hating the bully and allow ourselves to understand, bullies aren’t born. They’re made. By life.

Like you and me, they were born as beautiful, innocent and precious children.

Like you and me, the promise of their birth held unlimited possibilities, limitless potential.

Like you and me, they suffered hurts and pains. Disappointments, misunderstandings, confusion.

Like you and me, they struggled to make sense of their world.

Like you and me, they hid their fear, found workarounds to hide the fact they felt lost, confused, alone.

Unlike you and me, hiding their fear lead them to never being able to admit they were afraid. It lead them on a path of having to constantly hide behind a tough exterior, because at a time when they were too young to make sense of the world around them, they learned to act like those around them, do as they were taught — to lie, intimidate, cheat and bully.

Unlike you and me, they didn’t have the same opportunity for their brains to form in ways that allowed them to see or understand that force, violence, intimidation and lies cannot create a world of harmony and caring. They didn’t know, were never taught, the value of harmony and caring. Getting along with one another. Being kind. Considerate. Thoughtful.

None of us are powerful enough to make a bully be someone else. We are powerful enough to stop bullying in our life. Not by bullying back, yelling louder, overriding their every word and action with equal amounts of intimidation. Making war on the world does not create peace, tolerance, community. It creates opposite sides, us and them thinking, get them before they get me responses.

To stop bullying in our lives we must learn to stand in our truth, respect our selves, our values, ideas, principles, beliefs, without giving into responding through fear and ‘just-in-kind’ intimidation.

There are bullies amongst us.

They were not born that way.

They were made.

They can choose to remake themselves. To change their tactics, the way of living their life.

Change does not happen in fear. It happens when Love appears and lights the way for all of us to see, there is another way to be in this world that does not include, intimidating others to feel better about ourselves, lying to get what we want and bullying those who get in our way, to get out of our way.

Change happens when we create space for everyone to feel heard, valued, loved and cherished.

Namaste.

 

Sing a song of joy | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 33

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Sing a song of joy.

I know. I know. You think it feels silly. Ridiculous. And… you can’t carry a tune anyway.

Doesn’t matter.

It’s not about the quality of your song. It’s all about the fact you sing.

Out loud. Loud and strong.

Sing a song of joy.

Practice gratitude through your song. Let gratitude be the bedrock upon which your song of joy rises up.

Express your gratitude for this one, holy, precious life. Let your song of joy lift you up.

Don’t worry about the notes. The words. The sound.

Just sing for the pure freedom of it. For the absolute joy of singing as if no one is listening.

Because the fact is, your heart is listening and it needs you to sing out loud so it can beat wildly and freely to the sound of your song of joy.

Go ahead. Sing for joy.

And while you’re at it. You  might even try kicking up your heels and giving a little leap or two for the pure joy of it all!

Yup. Life is great. Sing it out loud!

To create change I must be the change.

Gary Paterson is the first openly gay person to be named the Moderator of a major Christian-based church, in the world.

The times they are a changing.

Chris Ball is from Calgary. A tourist in a city on the south-west coast of the United States. On the eve of the US election, while walking back to his hotel, he is attacked by three assailants, pummelled and kicked and beaten badly.

The times they are a changing; sometimes they seem to stand still.

On Sunday evening my eldest daughter and I attended the Jazz Vespers at St. Andrews-Wellsley United Church in Vancouver. Throughout the hour-long event, Rev. Gary Paterson intersperses the music with eloquent, educated and thought-provoking commentary on how to create change: We must name what concerns us. Be forgiving. Be grateful. We must create from the intention of creating better, for everyone. “Jesus Christ loves Donald Trump,” he says. “I’m glad he does because I’m not there. Yet.”

Not there. Yet.

Which suggests, the intention is to get there. To get to that place where the actions of a person are not the measure of how I love. How I love is the measure of my response and way of being in the world – may my response always be one that listens, hears and acknowledges the position of another from a place of integrity, dignity and compassion.

Miles Davis said, “I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up in the morning and see the light. Then I’m grateful. To keep creating you have to be about change.”

What is the change you want to create in the world?

Chris Ball, the Calgary film-maker beaten on election night in Santa Monica is quoted in a Calgary MetroNews article as saying, “I’m in pretty good spirits. That’s just how I have to handle it. I’m alive and well and still very gay,” he laughed.”

The article states:

In retrospect, Ball doesn’t think it was really a political issue – it was a hate issue, fuelled by the charged atmosphere of the election night, with a group of drunk people who used Trump’s rhetoric as an excuse to get in a fight. He feels it could very well have been a Clinton supporter, or just someone else with a homophobic attitude on any other night – it’s an ongoing issue.

Chris Ball nor Gary Paterson can change the fact they are gay men. They can change their attitudes towards hate. And that’s what they’ve done.

We all can as Gary Paterson stated in his homily, “Stand with strong backs and soft fronts.”

We can all soften our hearts and love one another through eyes that see into and recognize and honour the human condition we each carry with us.

To create the change I want to see in the world, I must not hate those with differing views from me. I must not look at them through eyes of distrust, disbelief or disgust.

I must see them through eyes that honour their humanity. I must listen to them with a heart that is open to understanding their point of view. It may be different than mine but it is as right for them as mine is for me.

And, I must listen to their thoughts with the intent to not constantly override their words with mine. I must create space for their words to be as true as mine. It is on that common ground that we find space to hear, honour and know one another.

I must, as Ghandi so passionately exhorted, ‘Be the change I want to see in the world.”

In 2012, the United Church of Canada appointed a gay person as its Moderator.

I welcome the day when it is not the fact that he is a gay person or a woman or a First Nations person or person of colour that makes their appointment or accomplishments newsworthy.

I welcome the day when we have changed our minds enough on what it means to be human beings that the colour of our skin, our gender orientation or native bearing are not what we talk about. What we do. What we say. How we behave and accept one another as equal in all ways is how we greet and know and treat one another.

And for that change to happen, I must be the change I want to see and experience and create in the world.

Namaste.

Mother Daughter Relations: A Journey Home to Love

img_9999When I was growing up I always wanted one of those movie kind of relationships with my mother. You know, where we were best friends. We lunched together, shopped, laughed and I could tell her anything and she would understand and where she was the first person I called when anything happened in my life.

My mother and I never had that kind of relationship. Not because we didn’t want it but mostly because we saw the world so differently, I never could figure out how to cross the divide between us. The fact I tended to be obstinate, opinionated and somewhat critical (okay, a lot) of my gentle mother didn’t help bring us closer. The fact I liked to learn by experience, or as she would say, ‘do things my way’, didn’t give her heart much peace.

What the tensions in my relationship with my mother taught me though was that to have a strong relationship with my daughters, I had to do the work. I had to be the mother of my dreams by allowing them space to grow, to experience and to learn who they were, without my dictating how I wanted them to be or without my fears becoming their limitations.

I have done many things not so well in being a mother. Like cutting my eldest daughter’s hair into a pixie cut the night before she was to be Peaseblossom in Mid Summer’s Night Dream. Or letting her wear her black Micky Mouse leotard to ballet class when the rule was to only wear pink. There were other infractions, too numerous to cite, where I was woefully unequipped to model any behaviour other than my behaving badly or unwisely as their mother.

Fortunately, those infractions are just part of the story of how we got to be who we are today. How we get to love one another and be with one another as adults. How we trust and honour each other to be the person we are, not the person we want the other to be.

I have just had the gift of spending time with my eldest daughter in Vancouver before coming to Victoria where she graduates from Royal Roads University today. We laughed and cried and shared. We lunched together, walked together, took photos and made funny faces and laughed some more and even fought and made up and laughed again at our human richness. All of it is part of the rich tapestry of how we love one another because it is the love that carries us through the disagreements and the agreements. It is the love that connects us, shelters us and draws us together.

I may not have been able to create the movie kind of relationship with my mother that I always dreamt of, but with my daughters I have the relationship my heart has always yearned for, always wanted, always searched for in its journey home to Love.

I am blessed.