Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The divine tastes of dinner with Chef Michael and team

Julius Caesar is quoted as having written in a missive to the Roman Senate after successfully winning a battle in 47 BC, Veni. Vidi. Vici. (I came. I saw. I conquered.)

After Friday night’s extravaganza with Chef Michael from the Calgary Westin Downtown, I would change it to, Veni. Vidi. Edi. Which loosely translated means, They came. They saw. They ate.

And eat we did.

It was extraordinary.

There is nothing about the evening I would change except perhaps a walk between each course.  I could not send my plate to the kitchen without cleaning it off. It was soooo good.

They arrived in a white van. Unloaded baskets onto carts that they then wheeled into our kitchen.

Roma and Jennie immediately set to work setting the table and organizing glassware and wine while Chef Michael and Sous Chef Saurabh began preparing the food in the kitchen.

I am in awe of how these four amazing individuals came into our home, created a masterpiece of a dinner and then, when they departed, left the kitchen as if it had never been used. All they left behind were the incredible memories of a delicious meal and sublime service. Of laughter. Shared times and divine tastes that lingered on my memory long after my tastebuds settled down.

Definitely a night to remember.

Particularly as it’s the first time I’ve seen my brother-in-law each salad and like it. He jokingly told Chef Michael he was coming over to the dark side. But not for long. Once the tenderloin was served he let go of his memory of salad and dove in with nary a thought for tomatoes and greens.

Even Beaumont agrees the evening was a huge success. Along with all the treats his Uncle Jim provided, at the end of the evening he snuck into the kitchen to lick the plates as they were being placed in the paniers to go back to the hotel!

As Chef Michael said in his parting remarks, the Westin is committed to giving back to community so being able to do dinner’s like this that support a cause like Inn from the Cold is really important.

Thank you Michael, Sandhu, Roma and Jennie. Your food, attention to detail, care and incredible grace left an impression in all our hearts.

And thank you the Marriott International and the Calgary Westin Downtown for believing so whole-heartedly in giving back to community and making evenings like ours on Friday night possible.


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The Big Dinner with Chef Michael Batke

It doesn’t matter what I have, what I’ve done or do, the titles, accolades or accomplishment if in my doing and being, I do not put people first, I am empty.

My life is not richer because of what I have. It is richer, more vibrant, more ‘livable’ based on the quality of my relationships.

I am blessed to have amazing people in my life. People who have supported me over the years, through ups and downs and in’s and out’s. Who have stood beside me in dark times and celebrated with me in good times.

This evening, my beloved and I are hosting a special dinner. If we could, we would have had others at the table but this dinner is specifically limited to 8 people. (Alexis and James, Anne and Lee, T.C., M.C., CJ x2, NR and so many others – we would have found a way to have you at the table if we could have!)

Tonight’s dinner is in honour of two beautiful people — my sister Jackie and her husband Jim. It’s their birthday soiree and while not ‘big numbers’ their big hearts make it extra special.

What also makes this dinner extra special is, I’m not cooking it. And we’re not ordering in.

This evening, the Downtown Westin Hotel’s Executive Chef Michael Batke and some of his team will be preparing and serving the meal, in our home.

In July, Chef Michael participated in a lobster cook-off at the Marriott’s Annual Lobster BBQ held at the Delta Calgary South. Funds raised went to support Inn from the Cold, the organization for whom I work.

In the process, the five chefs competing in the cook-off, proffered up Dinner at Home for the successful bidders of a live auction. Now that’s community spirit and giving in action!

C.C. and I were fortunate enough to be the lucky bidders for Chef Michael to come into our kitchen and cook it up!

Tonight is the Big Dinner. (I know. I know. Caps are sooo annoying. But I am sooo excited I can’t help myself.)

It promises to be an incredible evening of extraordinary food, wine and service. The Westin’s wine guy gave us a listing of wine pairings and the incredible team at Vine Arts is fulfilling on the list. (I must remember to remind C.C. to pick up the wine!)

What’s incredible about this dinner is… I don’t have to do anything and it’s all as a result of our supporting a cause I am deeply committed to:  ending child and family homelessness in our city.

I gotta tell you, excited doesn’t even begin to describe how I’m feeling!

And just to whet your appetite… and to tease your tastebuds just a little bit.  Bon Appetit!


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The Promise of Flowers Yet to Bloom (a poem)

The Promise of Flowers Yet to Bloom

©2018 Louise Gallagher

A flower lost itself to fall today.

Autumn fell upon its delicate petals
vanishing all memory of summer’s heat
as frost nipped its buds
and winter whispered with wicked glee,
I will see you soon.

A flower lost itself to fall today.

And with autumnal grace, golden leaves drifted down
into that place where winter’s cold embrace
lurks at the edge of lengthening shadows
creeping silently across leaf covered ground
lying fallow in anticipation of arctic winds yet to blow.

In autumn’s falling colours
the earth prepares
to awaken to black on white images
of frosty mornings
kissed with winter’s icy breath.

A flower lost itself to fall today.

Its petals fell effortlessly
as with one final sigh of relief
the flower dropped its seeds to cast
the promise of flowers yet to bloom
upon the wind.

And I wait in this liminal space
where autumn falls all around.

In the midst of golden leaves
and cast off petals
strewn haphazardly upon the ground
I stand hopeful in the shimmering possibilities
that awaken with every changing season.

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The creative process fascinates me. I awaken unsure of what will appear once I touch my fingers to the keyboard and give myself up to trusting in the process. In that letting go of expectation, space is created for the muse to flow through me, creating space for that which is yearning to be expressed.

This morning, I had no idea an autumn poem was birthing itself in morning’s slowly awakening light. I had no idea that a photo I’d taken of the bunch of Asters I’d placed by our front door would awaken thoughts of changing seasons and all the possibility that sweeps in with every falling leaf.

Fall is my favourite season.

It seems fitting a poem would write itself out of that place where I let go of expectation of what to write and allow trusting in the process to give birth to that which is yearning to be expressed.


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Frozen Shoulders and other aches

I have a frozen left shoulder. It hurts.

And one thing I know about pain… it’s not only physical, it’s mental too. It changes my outlook from bright and cheery to gloomy and dark.

Doing anything hurts. Though it does also make me laugh. Kind of.

Like when I try to blow dry my hair and can’t hold the hairdryer in my left hand so have to bend my body down to meet it where I’ve placed it on the top of the bathroom vanity, desperately trying to hold it in place with my hip so I can get some heat on my wet hair and brush it at the same time. Looking in the mirror I did create a rather odd perspective. And why I didn’t think to just hold the hairdryer in my right hand and forget about brushing is beyond me!

Who knew one frozen shoulder could impact every part of my body? Just goes to show, it’s true. Everything is connected to everything. And when one part of your body is out of whack, your whole body feels the pain.

My poor beloved is also feeling my pain.

I’ve not been the most ‘cheerful’ of people to be around. Which is probably why he took off on his 3 day golf junket with nary a ‘would you rather I not go?’ on Sunday morning. I’ve been wallowing in self-pity ever since.

Even Beaumont is keeping a low profile, though he is taking advantage of my lack of mobility by sleeping on the couch in the living room confident I’m not about to get out of bed to tell him to get off. Quite frankly, he can sleep where ever he wants right now. I just wish I could.

See. I’m whining and whining and the challenge is, whining does not make me feel better. Drugs do. 🙂 And acupuncture helps too. As do meditation and loving self-care.

Yesterday, I went to see the amazing Michelle for a treatment. It helped. Just not enough. She did tell me it could take a few treatments to unwind the damage. I believe her. At least the spasms are gone.

This morning I’m not feeling quite so helpless and in not feeling helpless, I’m able to hear the deeper messages of my body.

Louise Hay, author and self-help guru whose book, “You Can Heal Your Life” has changed millions of lives worldwide, says that any illness, whether mild or severe, is a reflection of what is going on in our emotional state. Shoulder pain is all about carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.

I relate. I’ve been dealing with a high stress situation at work and most of that stress has landed on my shoulders. In addition, Louise Hay also states that left body pain relates to the ‘feminine energy;’ When it’s out of balance, I’m out of balance.

See, that’s the thing about when our bodies are hurt. They are giving us messages but often, we can’t hear the message because we’re focusing in on the pain.

When I step back and breathe into the pain and ask it what it needs, I create space for my mind to hear what my body is trying to tell me.

And a lot of that relates to the thing I keep forgetting — it’s important to take good care of me.

This is my one body. The one vehicle I’ve got to carry me through life, moment by moment. Ignoring its needs, over-stressing it, taxing its capacities without balancing whatever I’m doing with healthy food and exercise and all the things I know are good for me, is not good for my well-being. Not to mention my attitude!

So here’s to taking good care of myself. Here’s to balancing my world with loving kindness and letting go of burdens that are not mine to carry. and doing the things I know are good for me while letting go of the things I know do not serve me well.

And more than anything, here’s to treating my body like my life depends on it. Because it does.

Namaste.

,


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Being okay with change

My mind is rambling this morning. It’s a bit unfocussed. Flirting with thoughts without grasping on one.

Generally, meditation helps me quiet my mind. Today, my mind has a mind of its own!

I’ve decided to change the way I handle my mind when it feels unsettled. I’m going to let myself be okay with letting myself ramble. Letting the words simply appear without trying to wrangle them into some cohesive thought or idea.

I’m going to be okay with letting myself be in this space without being angst-ridden.

It’s a change for me. I generally like feeling in control. Like what I’m putting down here makes sense!

Life has a way of changing. Constantly.

This morning I arose and there is snow on the leaves of the bush outside my window.

Yesterday, I drove home along my usual route and one of the roads I take was blocked off.

Neither of these changes are permanent. But in their transitory nature I am reminded of the impermanence of life. Of the delicateness of our presence here on earth.

We are constantly changing, evolving, learning and growing. We are continually adapting and adopting new ways of being, seeing and doing.

Sometimes, we’re slow to embrace new ways.

Sometimes, we baulk. We resist. We dig our heels in. We push back.

Sometimes, we can change the way of change around us. Sometimes, we can redirect, refocus, assess and discover new ways that are different than the way we were going to find a new way that works better.

But we can’t stop change. It is part of life.

My daughter and I were talking about how every day is a brand new day for her 7 month old son. “Actually mom,” she said. “Everyday is new for each of us. None of us have ever seen this day before.”

It took me a moment to embrace that thought. To recognize that by changing my outlook on how I see today, I have the capacity to see everything in it as brand new. I’ve seen many September 14th’s in my life, but never this one today.

I like the new perspective.

Like the opportunity it brings to start afresh. To accept new ideas, information, knowledge and use the ‘new’ to inform my journey in ways I’ve never before imagined.

Change is a constant in our lives even when we fight against ‘too much change’ as if we know the right amount of change that is acceptable at any given time.

I’ve never yet figured out how much change I can handle at one time. Guess I don’t have to. All I have to do is accept, change is part of living and every day is A Brand New Day.

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This Friday Rambling deserves one of my favourite songs!

 


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How do you recharge?

I made a list yesterday of things I wanted to accomplish.

C.C., my beloved, is away on business for a few days. It’s me and Beaumont, the Sheepadoodle and my daughter’s cat Zoë, who is visiting while her parents are away.  (Unfortunately, Marley the Great Cat has not yet returned.)

Home alone. Uncharted time. Why not make a list of things I want to accomplish?

My Home Alone ToDo List

1. Wake up when I feel like it.
2. Lay in bed and savour the morning and a latte in bed.
3. Have a leisurely bath.
4. Go to river and play with Beaumont.  (repeat as necessary later in day)
5. Go to store to buy ball to replace one lost in river. (We lost two yesterday.)
6. Dance by myself. Done. (repeat as necessary)
7. Read a book.
8. Relax and watch the river flow by.
9. Organize front hall closet.
10. Change the bedding.
11. Vacuum
12. Relax and watch the river flow by.

I accomplished 1 – 8 with ease. Jumped to No. 12 several times throughout the day and never did get to No.s 9, 10 and 11. But I did add one more item.

13.  Get creating.

My studio downstairs is not yet set up. It’s planned for September when our contractor has time to comeback and start building.

I still need to create.

And that’s the beauty of a 15ft island and the house to myself.

Not being able to access my art journals — somewhere buried in a box they wait for me to find them — I wasn’t sure what I wanted to create.

I had a ‘needs list’.

  1. It had to be free flowing.
    • I didn’t want to go into anything with a plan. I just wanted to ‘let it happen’.
  2. It had to be tactile.
    • I wanted to feel the work. To not paint a ‘scene’ as much as create a feeling, a sense of being immersed in the process.
  3. It needed to be soft and romantic.
    • I wasn’t into harsh colours or straight lines. I wanted soft tones, muted melding together of colours and lines.

As I was scouring my ‘studio-to-be’ space, I found a box from a hairdryer I’d bought some time ago. It is sturdy, is a perfect small treasure-box size, and has a unique opening. I also found a rolled up tube of all my rice papers as well as naturally made papers and decided to bring it up along with a few paints, pens, inks and other supplies.

And now, my island is a creative mess. A centre for free-flow expression of my desire to simply be present to myself, to the process, to the wonderment and awe of letting the muse have her way with me.

I had a day all to myself yesterday. Aside from saying ‘Thank-you’ to the young woman at the checkout counter at Chapters when I went to see if they had a new issue of Somerset Studio (they didn’t but they did have a beautiful book of Embers, a collection of Ojibway meditations by the late Richard Wagamese), the only people I spoke with were other dog owner’s at the river and both my sisters on the phone.

It was a day of meditation, restoration, and creation.

A day to be present in the stillness of being one with the universe around me.

What do you do to restore your equilibrium? How do you sink into your core and connect to your creative essence? How do you enter the stillness?

 

 


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Unexpected Loveliness

I received a beautiful card yesterday in the mail.

A woman I’ve known off and on for many years, a cousin of dear friends, sent it to me.

It was an unexpectedly lovely gesture.

Beyond the beauty of the card, and her reason for picking it, just for me, was the loveliness of her words.

They touched my heart deeply.

I am blessed.

I have been writing an ‘almost daily’ blog for over 10 years. Mark Kolke @ Musings got me into it. “You need a practice,” he said. Or something to that effect. You need to get in the habit of writing everyday.

He was right.

At the time, I’d just begun working at an adult homeless shelter. A large one. Every night almost 1,000 men and women slept under its roof.

It was life changing.

Like writing an ‘almost daily’ blog.

Both have taught me about being me. About how to be authentically human. About how to hold space for others to find their way without getting in their way, or thinking I know ‘their way’. And in that space, how we can both find the common ground of being human, without having to make the other a mirror of how we express our humanity.

Last night, at a fundraiser held in support of the family emergency shelter and housing organization where I work, I met a young man who spent two summers during university working at the same adult singles shelter where I used to work.

“It changed my life,” he said.

I’m with him.

Everyday, people arrive at a homeless shelter carrying their meagre belongings along with an invisible load of angst and fear.

Everyday, shelters across the country give them a place to rest, a place to catch their breath, a place to find their way home again or a place to find a new direction.

In their passing through, they touch hearts and change lives.

Through their brokenness, fierceness, courage, unflaggable desire to live, they give those of  us who have the gift of working in such places, lessons in the power of kindness, the inescapable value of compassion and the beauty of our shared human condition in its multifaceted dimensions.

Like Evelyn, a 70 something woman who stayed at the shelter where I used to work. Cantankerous and feisty, she would occasionally take her pension cheque when it arrived, go to the Greyhound bus depot and travel across the country until her money ran out. At the end of the line she’d do something ‘that got the police called’, and voilá! She had a place to stay for the night. Inevitably, the end of the line would become the beginning of her journey back here until she felt the calling to set out on a journey to somewhere else.

When she passed away, staff discovered a treasure trove of poetry she’d written tucked away in her belongings.

Unexpected loveliness revealed.

While her mental health and addictions trapped her far away from the family she loved, her poetic words told the story of a woman whose love for them never died. A woman who recognized how her mind was playing tricks on her well-being but who never had the resources, or opportunity, to find help, until no one saw she needed help. By then, her family and the life she’d known was gone and the only place she could find where she felt she ‘belonged’, was a homeless shelter.

I received a beautiful card filled with words of affirmation yesterday.

Unexpected loveliness revealed.

An unexpected gift with words to fill my heart with gratitude.

I am so blessed.

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Thank you IM for your amazing gift. You touched my heart, stirred my soul and raised my spirits with your unexpected loveliness.