Time to say good-bye.

Today is my last day at the Foundation where I have worked for the past 4+ years.

It is time to say good-bye.

I am sad. I am excited.

Both emotions co-exist in a field of possibility that opens up whenever we begin to step through a portal from one threshold to the next.

Life will change. It will keep flowing. It will adapt. Fill in the spaces behind. Open up the spaces in front.

And I move on. Along. Through. Stepping across this threshold into a new space.

The unknown beckons. The known is carried with me.

For 4+ years I have worked alongside incredibly talented and passionate people. In that time, people have changed, moved on, moved into the Foundation. Yet, no matter the faces at the table, the passion and commitment to ending homelessness has remained constant.

It has been 4 years of growth, of learning new things, of stretching my talents and gifts, of stretching my capacity to lead, to inspire, to collaborate, to share, to listen, to step back, to step forward.

It has been 4 years of being inspired by those I work with, for and amongst. Of building community where every voice matters, of working within a community where every act counts and is valued.

I move on and already the space I held is being filled in by the passion, talent, commitment and brilliance of those who remain.

It is what I love most about this point in time where I stand at the edge of the doorway leading into a new portal. Behind me are the infinite possibilities of change, just as there are before me. Where I stood can never remain the same. It is physically impossibly. As it changes and as I step out of it, it becomes part of the changing spaces behind me that others are creating through illuminating it with their brilliance and passion.  The possibilities of what they can do and create are limitless.

The spaces I move into have been created by others just as committed, just as brilliant in their passion to end homelessness. As I move into that new space, it too will be changed as we find our way together to create a space that is illuminated by our different voices, ideas, passion and creativity.  Informed by the past. Steeped in limitless possibility.

And so life continues.

We move from one space to another, leaving behind the possibilities of change for others to pick up, creating in front of us new possibilities for change for us to enter into.

I have been so incredibly honoured and blessed to work with amazing people. To Andrea, Kayleigh, Aaron, Wendy, Sharon B., Paul, Darcy, Kelsey, Joel, Ben, Sharon D., Teresa, Kara, over the years you have all played a role in creating an amazing space to be a part of and to work within. You have all touched my heart and made a difference in my life.  I carry you with me.

Throughout my tenure at CHF I have worked alongside incredible leadership. John R., Gerrad, Diana, thank you for sharing your brilliance.

To the team at CHF. WOW!  Your passion, commitment, willingness to learn and adapt and take risk to create better continually inspires me to do the same. Thank you.

To the CAC, your courage, commitment, humility and honesty have touched my heart deeply.

I am stepping through one doorway into the next today.

I am excited. I am sad. I am grateful.

Namaste.

Creating through anger, hurts and pain.

When I began the #ShePersisted series, it was in response to a feeling of discomfort within me that was triggered by the statements Senator Mitch McConnell made to Senator Elizabeth Warren.

I began the series with the thought of touching and exploring whatever was triggered within me to give it expression so that I could understand its essence, and move through it.

Last night, while having dinner with the remarkable Kerry Parson’s of the Academy of Rising Women, she commented on the pain and suffering she felt in the series.

I was surprised. I hadn’t thought of it as being filled with pain and suffering. In retrospect, she’s right.

The #ShePersisted series is my personal expression of years and years of sometimes stealthy, often overt, societal feedback that says:  Being a woman isn’t good enough. You have to be more like a man.

It is my personal expression of countless encounters of struggling to carve my place in the world where my place is defined by masculine concepts of success. Of having men use my femininity as a means to get what they want, as an object of their desire, as a toy for their enjoyment, as a sexual tool to sell products and ideas that objectify and subjugate women.

Now, I am not saying men are bad. Or men are wrong. This is about a more pervasive sense that men = power and power is what runs our world and in that power dynamic, testosterone is king. Women don’t belong or fit in, unless they act like a man. Unless they embrace masculine traits. Unless they tone down the estrogen that is inherent in their nature and up their testosterone levels. Or, as that distasteful (to me) Ovarian Cancer campaign called it, you gotta get some lady balls.

As I contemplate the drive behind my expression of the #ShePersisted series, I recognize it comes from a deep place of anger, hurt, discomfort. It is that place within me that has at times bought into the myths of, I need a man to feel complete, women are the weaker sex, you can’t get ahead unless you act like a man.

The power of creating the #ShePersisted series for me is that it is my feminine expression of anger, hurt, discomfort. It is created through my feminine lens of what it means to express those feelings without targetting, blaming, shaming or calling out an individual or group of individuals in a way that diminishes the essence of our shared humanity.

And that is the feminine.

To create in a way that opens up space for awareness to rise up through our hearts into grace.

For me, creating from the heart of what troubles me with the intention of rising into my full feminine potential, awakens the possibility of expressing that which has been inexpressible. It awakens my nature to give voice to that which I’ve never known how to express because of my fear of what others will say about what I’m doing/saying/creating.

My vision is to create space for others to move into the conversation. It is to explore what it means to be a woman. What it means to express the feminine essence of our nature without giving up or losing our voices, our bodies, our dreams.

And reciprocally, to invite men into the conversation so that the feminine is not feared. It is revered. It is not condemned. It is celebrated. It is not corrupted. It is made sacred.

And to create that space, I must move through the anger, hurts and pain to find that space where love for all humanity remains my constant companion on the journey.

Namaste.

The creative process is a constant journey through trial and error, experimentation and hope.

On the weekend, I began working on a couple of paintings loosely based on my #ShePersisted series. For most of the paintings in the series, I drew a figure that became a stencil, or the actual figure I collaged into the painting after printing onto coloured paper.Which means, I’ve got a bunch of stencils and cut-outs I can use to create new paintings with.

I am not yet ready to sell any of the paintings in the series. I’ve created 40 different paintings with quotes and want to create 52 before I do anything with it.

And that’s where the experimentation comes in. I decided to start creating using the stencils and cutouts and see where it took me.

What happened was fascinating.

With a ‘destination/purpose’ in mind, I was not as loose nor fearless as I like to be when I create. I was too conscious of the outcome. In fact, while I didn’t take a photograph of the original background for this painting, I was so attached to that background, I worked carefully, not fearlessly. In that space, my curiosity took a back seat to my desire to ‘create an outcome’.

And I felt frustrated. Dissatisfied. Unfulfilled in the process.

Creative endeavour is a journey through discovery.

What happens when…

What if I…

I wonder what…

Painting with an outcome in mind limits my freedom to be ‘in the process’. Attached to the outcome, I think, rather than feel, my way through.

The results showed.

The first iteration of this painting, once I applied the same figure who is in the final to it was not satisfying. Though there was a point where I gave a big ‘oof’, which is my sigh of contentment when something goes just right in the process, I moved beyond that moment and muddied up the colours, over rode the symmetry and was too careful in my application of everything!

The final painting pleases me more — though I am thinking of going back in to now bring out some of the flowers…

But, we shall see.

For me, the secret is to let the painting sit for a few days so I can feel my way back into what is calling out to be revealed, or not.

I often begin my paintings with meditation. From that space, words often appear. I like to write them onto the canvas. I use them to inspire me to ‘stay loose’ and to inform whatever is calling out to be revealed.

Underneath this image is written:

A flower doesn’t think about what it is going to grow up to be. A flower just grows into itself.

We can learn a lot from flowers. How to bloom in full colour. How to grow where planted to be who we are and not spend endless time trying to become someone we’re not.

If you look really closely at the first photo of the words painted on, you can see the image of the ballerina — upside down.

As always in life, it’s all in our perspective.

If you don’t like what you’re seeing, change your glasses, change your position, turn things upside down.

Namaste.

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I am creating these paintings for an art show & sale I’m in —

South Calgary Art Show & Sale

Friday, May 12 — 2 – 9pm

Saturday, May 13 — 10 – 5pm

Marda Loop Community Centre,   3130 16th St. SW

Alberta Bill 9: a step in the right direction

Several years ago, while working at a homeless shelter, I gave a talk about homelessness to a group of 4th year University students. “The challenge for many of individuals experiencing homelessness is that depression is pervasive,” I told them. “It settles into your pores like soot from a chimney, clogging your mind to the possibilities beyond where you’re at. It limits your thinking to being homeless and inhibits your actions to a narrow corridor of activity because in many cases you can’t afford to venture far beyond the confines of the shelter, beyond the limitations of the labels you carry when you’re homeless. ”

One of the students asked me about why so many clients remain in the building during the day. “Don’t they want to get out and at least get some fresh air?” she asked.

Sure they do, I replied. However, when they leave our building they are at risk. If they have an addiction they’re trying to keep clear of, they risk running the gauntlet of dealers standing on the other side of the street, eagerly waiting to lure them into ‘feeling no pain’. They risk condemnation from passers-by who feel it is their right to comment on their obvious lack of economic well-being, and, they risk getting ticketed for a host of infractions that end-up making being homeless criminal.

I shared the story of a young man, who, while trying to evade a $50 fine for riding the transit system without a ticket, ended up receiving $695 worth of tickets when he was caught by the police after trying to run away. At the time, a co-worker said he hoped we could advocate on this young man’s behalf, (he was 18). “The tickets seem excessive and he cannot pay. He’s a nice kid and feels this [the tickets] will set him back awhile”, he said.

While the tickets do seem excessive, we can always fall back on ‘the law is the law’ to explain away their nature. The most costly fine he received, is a $395 fine for having an expired driver’s license in his possession. Who knew that was illegal? The co-worker didn’t. Neither did I. For the kid, the fact the license was stashed away in his underpants, speaks to something much bigger than an expired piece of ID. In a world where lost ID or no ID is commonplace, it speaks to wanting to retain some personal piece of ID that would identify him, just in case. Just maybe. It speaks to wanting to hold onto some hope that someone might want to know who he is, if something happens to him. (I should mention that the police got this ID by searching his body on the street — which is a whole other issue.)

For me, advocating on his behalf has to include a piece wherein the opportunity to learn and grow away from where he’s at outweighs the penalty imposed. If this kid started living at a shelter by the time he was 18 something is terribly wrong in his life. It’s pretty obvious that he’s lacking in a whole bunch of experience that should have given him the tools to live his life where he belongs — not in a homeless shelter.

The question is, what is a young guy of 18 doing living at a homeless shelter in the first place? Where have we [as a collective, as a society that states ‘our children are our future’] failed him and the hundreds of other youth who crowd our system? Where are we letting them down?

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This post appeared originally on my old blog, Recover Your Joy. I am being interviewed this morning about Alberta’s new changes to Alberta’s laws that changes enforcement of minor offenses. Last week, it was passed into law that the government has put an end to the practice of issuing warrants for unpaid fines for minor infractions such as not shoveling a sidewalk or not paying a transit fare. It is a step in the right direction. I am in favour.