I was @LauraHickli ‘s music video mom!

I think the title of this post could be a movie title!

Fact is, yesterday, to support @LauraHickli and the release of her newest song/music video, yesterday I got to play her mother.

It was energizing and exhausting. Invigorating and difficult.

Movie-making involves a lot of repetition.

One tiny moment in a scene played over, again and again, wide lens, close-up lens, fast speed, slow motion. Every minute detail of one movement filmed to capture that ‘beauty shot’, to tell a compelling story that both awakens the mind and touches the heart.

In movie making, every detail counts.

Yesterday, the years on my face, the wrinkly skin on my hands, the arthritic knob on my knuckle – they all played a role in the video.

And man. Was I uncomfortable.

I have never been enamoured with watching myself on screen.

Watching myself in close-up on screen…

Wow. That’s an even bigger leap of faith and, leap into self-love.

Stilling that chattering voice in my head, you know, the one who says, “Gawd you look old. Look at your double chin. Shouldn’t you have lost that twenty pounds before agreeing to do this.And, seriously, you look soooooo old….”

Yeah. That voice.

Well, when the film is up close and personal, that voice goes into its relentless hyper-active self-debasing vitriolic screeching with great enthusiasm!

I am remembering to breathe.

To ground myself in self-love.

To remind myself that falling in love with myself means acceptance of all of me, as I am, not as how I wished I was, once upon a time, when I was younger, or prettier, or slimmer, or a whole swathe of ‘things’ I am not now.

I think that’s one of the big lessons I’m learning from these conversations and from yesterday – aging and wishing it was something, other than what it is, are not comfortable life partners.

To age with grace, I must become comfortable with reality.

And as I write that last sentence I smile and laugh.

Someone once asked me why I don’t paint scenery or people or things as they truly appear in life. My response… I don’t do reality.

Time to face reality with a smile, a warm welcome and, a word of two of gratitude for what it has provided me in my life — the ability to breathe freely without fearing every breath I take will be my last.

Which also makes me smile.

Because, life, particularly as I come closer to my 70s, is feeling like a change of seasons. As summer’s end fast approaches, I cherish the still warm nights, the blossoms still left on the stems, the leaves not turned golden, the geese not yet flying south.

I cherish all these things deeply because they are reminders of summer I do not want to end. They are a foretelling of winter as I become exquisitely aware of autumn’s approach.

I want to cling to summer’s beauty, yet know that there are autumn vistas that will take my breath away in the riotuous colours of leaves falling and flowers shedding their dewy blossoms.

Like the sun’s rays reaching closer to the southern hemisphere as earth moves in its eternal orbit in the sky, I want to reach across time and capture all of nature’s beauty, old and new, in my arms and hold it tight as if in doing so, I can forestall time, and the relentless reality of its passing days.

It’s time to let go of wishing I could hold onto ‘what was’ and breathe deeply into the promise of all the beauty still to come in living this life with my heart and mind wide-open to the limitless possibilities of my life – today.

When I stop looking back at ‘how I looked’ compared to how I appear now, the wrinkles fade and I no longer feel the need to measure my age in the lines written on my face or even the calendar pages turned.

I no longer feel compelled to hide behind the memories of all I’ve done, nor do I feel the need to ‘wish’ I could do what I used to do with the same vigor or ease.

In this space of summer gracefully easing into autumn’s glory, I feel myself becoming, each beat of my heart, each moment that takes my breath away, each glorious day of riotuous colour and turning leaf.

In this space, I become… Love.

In this space, I am… In Love with me, my life and everyone in it. It is here I live within the quiet joy of being part of this life, right now, deeply embodied within this moment unfolding as it becomes the measure of my day.

Episode 7 – The Gifts of Aging

As both my computer and phone decided to say good-bye at the same time, I have had to purchase a new laptop and iPhone – I thought about switching from the MS world as well as the iPhone world but… I decided to ‘stay the course’ with what I was familiar with, both for ease and immediacy.

The thing is though, my phone and laptop were both about 3-4 years old. ‘Back then’, when I got them and had to load my data from the old to the new, it was a cumbersome task that left me feeling frustrated. It also left me with a loss of data!

Yesterday, I discovered how much more intuitive everything is than it was… so long ago. 🙂 In the world of technology things keep changing so quickly it feels like everything was… so long ago!

Anyway, by simply falling the prompts, both my laptop and phone are all loaded up, working as if they never crossed the invisible lline separating them from my old devices to the new.

While I was in the Apple store, the sales clerk asked if I wanted them to upload everything to my new phone. I promptly replied, “No thanks. I’m sure I can figure it out.”

Trusting myself to figure it out has its advantages. It says to my brain, “You got this” thus building my confidence naturally in other areas of my life too.

It also let’s me stretch both my ‘trusting myself’ muscles and my trust that I shall not be defeated, nor left behind, by technology.

And it worked. The intuitive nature of today’s operating systems made it easy as baking a cake (or in this case, as easy as making homemade pasta as I did on Sunday. A feat I have not attempted since my daughters were very young! The ravioli I made turned out delicious — and I had a whole lot of fun in the process!)

Todays’ video talks about the enriching of our intuitive natures with time and experience. I hope you enjoy and find something in it to enrich your journey!

And please, do keep sharing your thoughts, experiences, hopes and ideas. In sharing, you enrich my journey and others.


(Week 2 – Topic: Unconscious Bias) Episode 7 – Dare Boldly: No Matter Your Age

Week 2: Episode 1 – Unconscious Bias

The first time I filmed this morning’s video I unconsciously knew there was something not quite right. I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

And then I watched it back and realized — I wasn’t wearing my glasses. Which meant, I was squinting the whole way through it couldn’t really see anything.

A very uncomfortable feeling.

So… I refilmed it with my glasses on.

Felt much more comfortable.

I share this story because having started to use ‘readers’ in my mid 50s, I recently got my first pair of prescription glasses. I had no idea I held an unconscious bias around wearing prescription glasses – the bias has to do with the idea that it’s an admission I’m getting older to need them!

‘Cause here’s the thing. If you have a brain, you have conscious and unconscious biases.

Bias is inherent in our human nature.

Our brains are always seeking feelings of belonging and safety. We believe we’ll be safer in groups of people who look, sound, behave like us. Which leaves us with an unconscious selection process of gravitating towards people… much like us.

When I look at our friends, most of them are white, middle class, have children, have similar interests and lifestyles.

We didn’t set out to create a circle in which we feel like we belong that looks similar to us. We naturally gravitated toward people who reflect ‘us’ and our life circumstances. (Selection bias)

While the many types of biases have a detrimental impact to varying degrees on our lives, ageism and the biases we hold about older people, impact our social, political and environmental practices, policies and ability to embrace aging as a beautifully rich and powerful time of life.

One of the areas of ageism that impacts all of us is the collective fear of what it means to age. We try to hide from it, avoid talking about it and in some cases, do everything we can to defy nature’s natural aging processes.

Being stubborn combined with my nature to persist, in spite of perceived obstacles and hardships on the road, has stood me well in my life.

It’s also created hardship and unnecessary challenges.

Once, in my late 40s, shortly after having an orthoscopy on my right knee, I was standing at the top of a mogul field debating whether to take the black run or the more cruising blue one. As I stood contemplating the mogul run, a 20-something dude went whipping past me, effortlessly zig-zagging his way through the field. “Ha!” my febrile mind declared. “I can do that!” And, without another thought, I pushed off and started down.

Knees limber, body loose, I was crushing it.

Until I hit an icy downside of a mogul, lost an edge, and fell.

On the way down in the Ski Patrol cart, I realized my unconscious bias toward having to prove… I can do anything I set my mind to combined with that stubborn streak of telling myself, no ‘young thing’ is going to outdo me, lead to my fall!

I’d like to say the awareness of that unconscious bias has lead to my awakening, but I still catch myself doing things that defy my body’s capacity to do them because I am also ‘awakened’ to the unconscious bias that says, “I can’t do that. I’m too old.” Am Not! 🙂

See… unconscious biases lead us to befriend those who are like us (or hire them). They lead us to do things, or not, because we think we can do anything we set our minds to, or we can’t do them because we’re too old.

They also mean we limit ourselves in our capacity to explore new and interesting pathways, especially as we grow older, because we believe, somewhere deep inside ourselves, that it’s just not done.

And… just so you know… I’m smiling as I write this because I know I’m not yet clear on what it is I’m thinking or even saying about it.

There’s a part of my that thinks I should scrap this post until I get it ‘right’.

Fact is, the reason I’m doing this is to EXPLORE my thinking, ideas, beliefs. And I can’t do that without being willing to risk being vulnerable, not getting it right, not ‘knowing it all’.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Reading what you write helps deepen my understanding and broaden my perspective.

And I know that is a GOOD THING!


My Beautiful, Messy, Masterpiece I Call My Life!

Bake up something delicious in your life today — my morning scones

When I woke up this morning, I decided to make Lemon, Cranberry Scones.

As I was throwing the flour, baking powder (I don’t use self-rising flour) and sugar into the bowl it struck me how much baking is like life.

We start out with an essential ingredient or two – in life’s case, ourselves, our family of origin and our environment and then move on to add other ingredients to the mix. Like learning to walk, talk, going to school, puberty, and all sorts of things, some organic to our lives, like the aging process such as puberty, menopause. Others, more environmental, or accidents, losses, and circumstances, like where we live, our parents uprooting us and moving to another community, city, country…

And through it all, all those ingredients go into the ‘pot’ we call our life and get all stirred up into this thing we live every day that we call, Our Life.

Sometimes, on the journey of life, ingredients end up in the pot of our living process that simply do not create the right flavour, colour or texture or scent We can throw them out, adapt the recipe, perhaps add a bit of sugar or spice or some other thing to sweeten the pot. In life.

Just as when I bake/cook, I tend to go off script/menu, I’ll take a different path than expected, or add an ingredient/person to the mix to see how that thing/person will gel. Through it all, I am constantly adjusting and adapting. Stirring and combining. Ingredients. People. Environments. Circumstances. Happenings.

And that becomes the thing about aging.

One day, at some unspecified age, we look up from all that beautiful mess in our pot and say, “Wow! Look what I created!”

My wish for you today is that you revel in what you’ve created without judgment. That you don’t focus on your life, no matter your age, as ‘the mess’ but revel and celebrate, ‘My Beautiful Mess” Better yet, “My Beautiful Life.” Or…. if you’re really feeling bold, call it, “My Beautiful Messy Masterpiece I Call MY LIFE!”

Because that’s the thing. Whatever you call it. It is YOUR life. And having a perfect life is just not possible so why not celebrate its beautiful messiness?

In the end, and every day up until the end, only you can determine how well Your Life fits you. And, just like you don’t go into a shoe store and try on the wrong sized shoes again and again, if you don’t like where you’re at today, why not try another way, a different ingredient, an unknown path?- which is my way of saying, if how you’re seeing your life today does not bring you great joy and happiness, how about changing the way you see the mess and focus on what is there amidst all the things you see wrong — great joy, beauty, and worth celebrating.

It’s your mess. Your choice.

This week, I embrace the truth that I can and am falling deeper into love with my life, mess and all, is a daily adventure that grows on me every day!


Thank you everyone for being part of this journey. Your comments, emails, likes, shares, and presence bring me great joy and happiness!


For those who are curious…. next week’s theme (as it stands now… 🙂 ) is — what are my unconscious (and conscious) biases around aging? I’m looking forward to an enlivening conversation!

May’s Woman – Rise Up. Speak Out. Act Now.

May Woman – #ShePersisted 2021 Calendar https://etsy.com/ca/shop/dareboldlyart

In a comment on yesterday’s post, Iwona wrote, “The timing of this post is uncanny given the resurgence of news about the RCMP’s class action lawsuits and the release of the special report by former Justice Bastarache on the long standing “mysoginistic, racist and homophobic attitudes” within the RCMP. Equal rights. Equal voice. Equal opportunity. Maybe one day, maybe.”

I wish it were just the RCMP where such attitudes and behaviour persisted.

It’s not.

It happens everywhere. Not always to such a blatant degree as the report found in the RCMP, but throughout our world. As Justice Bastarache says, “The problem is systemic in nature and cannot be corrected solely by punishing a few ‘bad apples.’

We must Rise Up. Speak Out. Act Now.

Many years ago, I worked as a stockbroker. (I know. Seriously? Me?) I only lasted 4 years in the business.

In part, because I was good at longterm portfolio planning. Terrible at day-to-day trading, the bread and butter of the trade.

And also, because I grew weary of the misogynistic attitudes many of the predominately male brokers held, particularly those of ‘the older generation’. Like my VP at the first firm I worked at. He offered to share his ‘book’ with me (a book is a list of client names and contact info – gold to a broker) if I had sex with him. “I can make your life easy. Or make you wish you never set foot in this office,” he tsaid. He went on to inform me that whether I accepted his offer or turned him down, if I told anyone, no one would believe me – “I’m a VP. I make this firm a lot of money,” he said. “You’d just be some little chick looking to either sleep her way to the top or stick it to ‘the man’.”

I stayed silent and left the firm. It felt like my only recourse.

A few years later I was working for a technology company as their Director of Marketing. A counterpart in the US office kept making sexual innuendoes on the phone. My response was to laugh and pretend I didn’t get ‘the message’. I treated it as a joke. Until one night, while we were at a conference together in Dallas, we happened to be the only two people in the elevator at the end of the day. The elevator stopped at his floor first. The doors opened, he turned to me and asked, “So? You coming with me?” And once again, I laughed it off. He turned and walked away. The doors closed and I thought that was the end of it.

He didn’t agree.

The next day, where once he treated me like the golden child of marketing, suddenly, everything I did was crap. And he made no bones about telling everyone how incompetent I was.

Even the president of the company noticed. In a meeting one day he asked me what was up. I told him the truth. His first response was one of disbelief. “You sure he wasn’t just kidding?” Eventually, he shrugged it off as ‘boys will be boys.’ The solution – say nothing. Pretend like it didn’t happen.

I am not alone as the Me Too movement and others so clearly illuminate.

In my response to Iwona, I wrote,

“I get so tired of what some days feels like ‘same old, same old’ misogynistic, racist, homophobic practices all packaged up in some worn-out patriarchal suit.
To raise myself up, to find my balance and calm my pounding heart down, I must write and paint it out. It is there, in the creative field that courage draws me out to face my fear that these ‘things’ will never change.
They must.
And they will if we continue to speak up, act out, and raise our voices above the fray so that those who have been bullied into silence can find their voices again.”

May’s Woman is the reminder I need – Silence is the adversary of change.

Silence allows disbelief and make-believe to overcome truth and reality.

To change the world, to make a difference, we must speak out against the practices, policies, social mores and discriminatory laws that disenfranchise, minimize and segregate people into ‘haves and have nots’, ‘worthy and not-worthy’ of being treated as human beings worthy of dignity, respect, kindness, fairness, equality and justice.

It is just one century-in-time since most women were enfranchised in Canada (Asian Canadians and Indigenous Peoples had to wait a few more decades.)

The roots of patriarchy that kept us ‘in our place’ run centuries deep.

We must keep digging them out with our hands, our feet, our bodies, our voices. We must keep working together and stand up tall for what is right, just and fair, again and again.

And we must not allow our silence to be heard as a vote of confidence for the voices who would tell us to not ‘worry our pretty little heads about the state of the world.”

It is those voices that have created the state of the world.

It is our voices united, calling out for justice, rising up in a song of freedom and equality for all, that will make the difference that will change it for the better and make a difference for everyone.


You gotta stir the pot to change the world (A short story)

This post is longer than usual. It is a short story/fable I wrote inspired by my #ShePersisted series. 


Stirring the pot to stir up change.

A fable by Louise Gallagher

©2017 Louise Gallagher

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to change the world. The world was a pretty big place which was kind of scary, so she kept doing the little things she knew she could do to make her own little world a better place.

One day, while walking to work at the Ivory Tower where every day she did what she was paid to do to keep the wheels of commerce turning, she met a man who asked for some loose change. “I’m hungry and have no money to buy a bowl of soup,” he told her.

“I’m not allowed to carry loose change,” she told him. “My bosses only like to deal in millions of dollars and it makes them nervous to hear the jingling of small coins.”

She wanted to do what she could to help him though and promised to meet him in the same spot the next day. “I’ll bring you a bowl of soup,” she told him.

And that’s what she did. The next day, and then the next and the next until one day, the man brought a friend to share in the bowl of soup. A few days later, a third man joined them and the number of people trying to share the one bowl of soup grew.

Eventually, the girl realized that one bowl of soup was not big enough to feed all the people who kept turning up. She decided to make a great big pot and bring it down to the street.  And the people kept coming and she kept making soup until she realized, she had to do something different.

She didn’t feel a lot of satisfaction counting money and pushing paper. She decided to quit her job. There were so many people clamouring for her soup, she decided the time was now to find a space to make soup close to where the people were so nobody had to travel too far to fill their bellies.

The girl pooled all her money, posted a CrowdFund site on the internet and asked her friends for help. Everyone pitched in until she had enough to get a great big room with a great big kitchen in a building that stood all by itself on a side street near the great big Ivory Towers where once she’d worked.

Every day she’d go to her soup kitchen and make great big pots of soup to feed the people who kept turning up.  They said it felt like home. They said, ‘Thank you’, and offered to help make the soup and serve it and clean up every day.

It worked well. Everyone contributed what they could and she felt good about what she was doing. So did her friends who’d helped raise the funds for her soup kitchen. They couldn’t always take time out from work to help her make soup, but they always made sure she had enough money to buy the ingredients she needed to make a wholesome meal for the people who needed it.

She was doing her bit to change the world, one bowl of soup at a time.

One night, just before the lights went out in her soup kitchen, the girl noticed a man curled up under a table sleeping.  “You can’t sleep here. It’s against the rules,” she told him.

“Then where am I supposed to sleep?” the man asked.

“Why don’t you go home?”

He laughed and said, “I don’t have a home to go to.”

“Oh. What happened to your home?” she asked the man.

He told her the story of how his job was made redundant when a robot took over what he did. “I couldn’t afford the rent on my apartment ‘cause the boom kept pushing the cost higher. And I couldn’t find work because I never had a chance to finish high school after my dad died and I had to get a job to help my mother take care of my brothers and sisters.”

The girl was surprised by what had happened to him and started asking everyone who came to the soup kitchen if they had a home.

Lots of them didn’t.

She didn’t think that was right and decided to go see The Powers That Be to make them change the rules for her soup kitchen so the man, and all the others who came to eat soup and didn’t have a home to go to, could sleep on the floor at night.

She travelled to the Seat of Government and told the elected Powers That Be her big idea. The Powers That Be really liked it. They’d received lots of complaints from other citizens about the people without a home wandering the streets and asking strangers for money. The Powers That Be didn’t like complaints, especially when they piled up just before an election.  The girl and her soup kitchen, that also had a floor to sleep on, was the answer to their prayers.

And so it went. Year after year. She kept changing the world with bowls of soup and a warm place for people to sleep on the floor at night.

And all around her, people kept going to work and businesses kept humming along as the wheels of commerce kept turning and the Ivory Towers kept growing taller.

One day, a man in a black silk suit looked way down at the street far below his eerie at the top of his Ivory Tower and noticed all the people lining up outside the girl’s soup kitchen. He called his assistant to his side and asked , “Do you know what dwelling that is yonder and why so many people are lining up outside its door?”

“Yes sire,” his assistant said. “It’s a soup kitchen.”

The man in the Ivory Tower had never heard of such a thing and called his cronies together from all the Ivory Towers around him to find out if anyone else had heard of a ‘soup kitchen’.

Nobody had. But one man, an economist, informed them that a soup kitchen fell into the fiscal category of Not Good for Business. “I understand from my assistant that it attracts people of dubious background. He tells me they are all poor.”

As one voice the gathering of men from the Ivory Towers rejected the idea of poor people on their streets. Poor people will bring down our credit ratings and the value of our realm, they declared.

Something had to be done.

They made a plan on how to conquer the problem of the people on the street. They would go see the Powers That Be, the ones they had elected into the Seat of Government. It was their job to take care of the poor people. They would force them to do it.

Together, as one voice, the men from the Ivory Towers went to the Seat of Government and demanded the Powers That Be fix the problem of the poor people on their streets. It’s Not Good for Business, they told them.

The Powers That Be told them that they needed to pay more taxes if they wanted to fix the problem because they did not have enough money to fix the problem..

The men in the Ivory Towers did not like that solution. They left the Seat of Government vowing to find a better way.

After lots of gathering and ruminating over their thoughts and much pounding of fists on tables and counting from on high the people lining their streets and number crunching and filling in the boxes of profit and loss, they determined that the girl and her soup kitchen was the root of the cause of the poor people on the streets. Without her, they wouldn’t be lining up for soup. She was The Problem.

Determined to wrestle the problem into submission, the men from the Ivory Towers gathered en masse to take matters into their own hands.

They donned their cashmere winter coats over their $3,000 silk suits. They entered their gilded elevators and rode down to street level. Their assistants scurried before them, stopping traffic so they could cross the street safely, sweeping aside the people asking for handouts and clearing the way to the building where the girl and her soup kitchen operated. As they walked towards its doors, their assistants used their bodies to shield their bosses from the people who stood in line, and one rushed forward to open the doors so that the men from the Ivory Towers could sweep into the soup kitchen like a covey of crows descending upon road kill.

A gust of cold air preceded them as they entered, but the room remained warm and cozy. The men in their cashmere coats did not notice it. They were on a mission. They marched as one body towards the girl who stood in front of a great big stove, stirring a great big pot of soup.

“Welcome,” she greeted them, smiling sweetly as they jostled for position in front of her. “If you would like a bowl of soup, you’ll have to wait your turn. It’s only fair. Others have been standing out in the cold much longer than you.”

“We don’t have time to stand around, and we definitely don’t need your soup,” they proclaimed, ignoring her suggestion they wait their turn. Their assistants busied themselves laying out upon the kitchen counter top the reams of paper they’d prepared with their pretty coloured graphs and balance sheets and profit and loss statements.

They pointed to the bottom line, “Look. Here’s the evidence. It doesn’t lie. Your soup kitchen is Not Good for Business. You run it. You are The Problem. Because you’re here, people are lining up outside your doors. They don’t look like us. They look poor and that’s not good.  It’s not good for our businesses nor the people who make the wheels of our businesses turn. It makes our city look bad and it scares the tourists away. You have to stop making soup.”

The girl didn’t know much about balance sheets and profit margins, but she did know that what she was doing was changing the world, a bowl of soup at a time. She showed the men from the Ivory Towers the people sitting at the tables quietly eating their soup. “Who will feed all these hungry people if I stop?” she asked.

The men from the Ivory Towers looked around the room. They hadn’t noticed the people when they’d first entered on their mission to fix The Problem. Looking down their noses at the huddled masses, they were surprised to see how many people were gathered in the room, eating soup.

“These people are not contributing to the Greater Good,” the men from the Ivory Towers proclaimed. “All they’re doing is sitting around eating soup and bleeding our city dry.”

“They can’t contribute to the greater good if they’re always battling the greater issues of being poor,” she said as she slowly continued to stir a great big pot of soup.

The men from the Ivory Towers were not moved by her emotional appeal. It’s just a sob story, they muttered amongst themselves. She’s trying to sway us from the facts with her bleeding heart.

They pounded their fists on the closest table. “If their issue is being poor they need to get a job!” they told her.

“And how do they do that?” she asked, gripping the ladle in her hands a little bit tighter and moving it around the pot with a little more force. “You won’t hire them because they’re poor and even when you do, you don’t pay them a living wage because you’re always more concerned with balancing your bottom line.” She stopped stirring for a moment, looked each of them in the eyes before adding. “And without a job, how can they afford food on the tables they don’t have and a place to call home they can’t pay for?”

The men from the Ivory Towers were growing frustrated with the girl and her bleeding heart. “Be quiet and listen to us. We know what we’re doing,” they told her. “The problem isn’t whether or not these people have jobs. There’s lots of jobs around if they’re willing to work. The problem is you keep making soup and that keeps them coming back. You have to stop.”

“But isn’t that good business?” the girl asked, innocently enough, as she continued stirring the pot of soup at a more measured pace. “Don’t you call it supply and demand? I’m simply responding to their need for food and shelter. What are you doing?”

The men from the Ivory Towers puffed up their chests and huffed loudly through their noses. “We are keeping the wheels of commerce turning and building empires and taking care of the little people who keep our Ivory Towers growing higher.” And they pounded the closest table again, just to make their point.

“Please don’t pound the table,” the girl told them. “You’re scaring my guests.”

“Your guests are not our problem!” the men yelled loudly. “You and your soup kitchen are The Problem. You have to stop making soup so people will stop lining up on our streets and scaring people on their way to work.”

And the men from the Ivory Towers kept pounding on the table, telling her to stop.

And the people kept lining up for soup and a place to call home.

And the girl persisted. She kept stirring the pot and doing what she could to change the world.

The moral of the story is:  You can’t change the world if you don’t stir the pot.


What if we change the story?

I watch three men, sitting alone at the bar watching the hockey game on TV. They don’t look at anyone. They don’t chat with the bartender. They don’t look at each other. They eat, sip their beer, watch the game on the screen in front of them.

I am witnessing these human stories at a pub where I have joined C.C. for dinner until his buddy arrives to watch what they hoped would be the last game of the Stanley Cup.

“Do you think those men are lonely?” I ask my husband of the 3 men at the bar.

“I don’t know,” he replies.

“In the story I make up about them, they are,” I tell him. “See their rounded shoulders. The way they never look at anyone. The way one sits huddled over his food, one arm on the bar’s counter, swooping out and around his plate as though he’s protecting it. Maybe he came from a large family where people grabbed for food and you had to fight for everything you got.

In the story I am writing about the man at the end of the bar, he feels lost, his marriage is broken down, his kids are grown up and he feels like life is avoiding him just as he avoids it.”

I am always making up stories of people’s lives. C.C. smiles and says nothing.

There was a man at the shelter where I used to work. He was like those men at the bar. Lonely. Depressed. His marriage had fallen apart. His kids were grown, their relationship with their father strained. He’d sit at the bar by his condo every night just to feel human connections around him, even though he did his best to avoid them.

One day, a stranger came in and sat beside him. They struck up a conversation. They became friends. A few days later, the stranger whispered into his ear, “You know. I’ve got something in my car that will make you feel way better than that Scotch you’re drinking.” And the man decided to try it. His friend was giving it to him for free. His friend would never hurt him.

That man had a Masters Degree in Education, worked as a High School Counsellor. And still, his loneliness drove him into taking the risk. It wasn’t long before he lost everything, including all connection with his family. He did gain a criminal record. He carries it with him today along with the scars of that five year period of his life when, at 60 years of age, he was so lost he gave up on fighting for himself and gave into the despair of homelessness.

Today, that man’s story is one of loss and hope. Of sadness and possibility.

Everyday we pass people on the street who have stories we have never heard, yet about whom we make up stories based on what we believe homelessness to be all about.

Drugs. Addiction. Crime. Loss. Abuse. Hopelessness. More crime. More drugs.

Yesterday, as I took a walk at noon, I passed a couple sitting on a concrete barrier lining the sidewalk. They were visibly homeless. Pan-handling for change. A woman in front of me stopped, handed them a bag with two sandwiches. She smiled and said, Enjoy! and walked away.

What’s her story I wondered? Did she buy the sandwiches to give away? Would she have to stop again to get one for herself and her boss or co-worker? Does she have a loved one who is lost to the street and this is her way of giving back, of making a difference.

What is the couple’s story? Where do they sleep at night? What brought them to the street?

What’s the story we tell about panhandling? People are just asking for money so they can buy drugs? Why don’t they get a job instead? What’s their problem?

What if we change that story?

What if every outstretched hand was viewed as being extended for help, not money?

What if we view our role as a response to someone asking for help?

What if the stories we told changed everything? What if instead of despair we read hope. Instead of loss, possibility. Instead of homeless, humanity.

What if we stopped believing the stories we think we know and lean into the stories of our hearts where truth is written beneath the wounds we carry. Where truth is known beneath the fears we believe are real.

What if the stories we tell are the stories of our shared human condition? The stories of what make us one humanity, not separate human beings.

Would you change your story if you could see all humanity as you? Would you write a different ending for a world desperately asking for help?




#tbt Gratitude in a glass of water

FullSizeRender (91)It’s #throwbackthursday – the following post has been edited from where it originally appeared on Recover Your Joy  May 19th, 2007.

Last night [May 18, 2007] we held a dinner for client volunteers at the shelter where I work. Client volunteers are individuals who are using the facility and who volunteer while staying there. In the course of a year, using a base salary rate of $10/hour, client volunteers provide the shelter with about $600,000 in service.

The dinner was attended by over 60 people. The tables were covered with linen tablecloths and serviettes. China and silverware was at each place setting and the room was lit by the soft glow of candlelight. A big difference from the chaotic and noisy dining room on the second floor of the building where dinner is served to over 600 people a sitting.

As I was greeting guests last night I was struck by the gratitude each person expressed as they walked into room. “Hey. This is nice!” “Haven’t had a candlelit dinner in years.” “This is for me? Wow.” “Cool.” The comments were simple. Appreciative and reflective. Each guest felt part of a moment in time away from the rigors and fears of homelessness. The meal was a scrumptious buffet of salads, roasted chicken and potatoes or lasagne, a cheese plate with fruit, delectable delights and coffee.

As the guests were arriving and getting settled, someone came up to me and asked, “Is it okay if I pour myself a glass of water?” “Of course,” I replied. A few moments later someone else asked, “May I pour myself a cup of coffee?” “Help yourself,” I replied.

After about the third or fourth person came up and asked if they could help themselves to water or coffee, I decided to take action. I picked up a jug and walked around the tables offering people water. As I went, I reminded them that there was coffee to which they could help themsleves on a side table.

This may not seem like a big issue to you, but to someone who is homeless, who must wait in line for just about everything, who must wake up when told, go to bed when told, cannot just pour themselves a glass of water at will or make a cup of coffee when they want, being able to simply stand up and help themselves to a cup of coffee is a big thing.

What struck me even more, however, was the hesitancy with which people asked if it was okay to help themselves to something so simple as water. The night before we’d had a dinner for corporate volunteers, and no one asked if they could get water or coffee. They just did it.

For the client volunteers, conditioned to having to ask for the simplest things, having an entire evening dedicated to them was refreshing and sad all in one. It reminded them of all that they have lost. And yet, over and above the reminders of the past, there was one single attitude that overrode everything.


There is so much in my life I take for granted. A cup of coffee I brew myself every morning. A piece of toast made when I want. A computer to work on when I need it. The house a temperature I decide because I have control of the thermostat.

As I listened to the people gathered in the room, there was no difference between their behaviour and the behaviour of community volunteers served the night before. They all knew what a fork and knife was and how to use them. They all put their serviettes on their laps. They chatted and laughed and told jokes with those sitting at the table with them.

What was different was none of them took anything about last night’s dinner for granted. Not even a glass of water.

Next time you pick up a glass of water, think about what it means to be able to pour it at will.

You are blessed.

May we all have the blessing of not having to stand in line for everything we need today.

Share your Smile | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 1

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On January 1st, 2012 when I began this blog (originally called, A Year of Making a Difference) my intent was to explore what it means to make a difference in the world.

Working at a homeless shelter for 6 years, it was fairly easy to make a difference every day. It was fairly easy to feel like I was living on purpose.

But what about when I wasn’t at the shelter? What about when I wasn’t working in an environment that naturally brought countless opportunities to make a difference just by being present to those around me?

Ahh, now there was a challenge. Or so I thought.

Making a difference is not a choice. It’s not a ‘thing’ we do or way we act.

We are the difference we make in the world. By the very act of being present on this earth, we make a difference. The air I inhale came from the air you exhale. The air I exhale becomes the air you breathe in. When we move, the space around us moves too.

Like a butterfly’s wings fluttering in Africa creating waves on other side of the globe, our presence in this world makes a difference.

The quality of our difference is created in the choices we make. It is in how conscious we are willing to become of how we express our difference that we create change for the good, or not. To be the change we want to see in the world, we must know what that change is.

I believe we are all born magnificent. That our birthright is to shine, to radiate, to be lights illuminating the darkness.

I believe we are all capable of greatness because greatness is inherent in our human nature.

I believe we are all connected through this condition called being human and in that connection is the capacity to make a difference for one another by being present to one another.

How do I want to express my difference in this world? With grace and ease.

Living in grace and ease does not always come effortlessly. Some days, when the sky is dark and shadows are long, it is easy to forget my desire to express myself through grace. Some days, it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of life and forget all about rising above as I sink into the quagmire of being busy, or letting doubt, fear, confusion and a host of other non-productive human conditions pull me from my path.

It is in those moments I must stop, and breathe and act out — with grace.

For the next 52 weeks, every Monday I will be sharing one act of grace to inspire your every day living.

My goal is to practice each act of grace in my life every day. Some of the ideas I share may be things you do everyday, or maybe what I share will ignite your imagination to share some of your own acts of grace. I invite you to share them with me and everyone else here.

I hope you join in. I hope you share your ideas so that together, we can be like the butterflies and create waves of change all over the world.

Who knows what magic and wonder will arise as we delve into the joy of inspiring acts of grace in every day living.


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UEP. How to make a difference

United Way of Calgary and Area

Yesterday, the United Way of Calgary and Area announced the results of its 2015 Campaign.

Calgarians contributed $55,200 million to Calgary’s social services network. In spite of job losses, increased and on-going anxiety around job security, the continued collapse of oil prices pummelling the major industry of our city, Calgarians once again stepped up to show they care and to make a difference.

Last night, I presented at one of my favourite projects initiated by the United Way — Urban Exposure Project or UEP as everyone calls it.

I can’t remember if this is my 4th or 5th year of presenting to this group of ‘next generation’ Calgarians. I only remember how much I love being part of their desire to make a difference in our city and how grateful I am to be invited to be part of their endeavours.

The description for UEP on the United Way’s website reads:

The Urban Exposure Project (UEP) engages next generation Calgarians on social issues affecting our city and the impact of United Way through the lens of photography. Participants enhance their knowledge of social issues and photography, producing a final project to be shared with the community. UEP empowers young Calgarians to build leadership, awareness and community through their art.

The project runs from late January – April each year with weekly sessions focused on social issues, photography skills and the work of United Way and partner agencies in our city. UEP culminates with a gala-style event in May to showcase your work, stories and experiences with friends, family and community members.

The amazing and talented Jeremy Fokkens shares his photographic knowledge, tips and talents to inspire the photography skills of the group. My role in the project is to help the participants get comfortable with story-telling. To help shift their awareness from ‘fear’ — how on earth can I ask someone if I can take their photo? How do I find my story in the photo? How do I not mess up?… To a place of — Wow! What a great opportunity to connect, heart to heart, to other Calgarians and to learn more about our human connection and inspire others to learn more too.

The first time I presented at UEP there were maybe 15 – 18 participants. Last night, there were over 40 people crowded into the room — all of them coming from different walks of life, all of them eager to learn more about Calgary’s social services network.

I always begin my presentation with an invitation for participants to pair up and…. wait for it… “Draw the face of the person beside you. You have 1 minute. Start. Now!”

And the response is always the same.

Groans. Nervous laughter. Apologies for the lack of ability to create a masterpiece.

When the minute is up I ask, “How many of you immediately went to ‘I can’t do that!’ when I gave you the instructions?”

Inevitably, at least 50% of the group says yes and then, when I challenge everyone else, most of them sheepishly acknowledge they too felt an inner angst kick in the minute they found out what they had to do.

The point of the exercise beyond it being a great ice-breaker– we all have a natural push back when asked to do things we tell ourselves we can’t do. Few of us are immediately comfortable stepping outside our comfort zone. Few of us actually believe we can draw – or allow ourselves time to explore our creative abilities.

So what? I ask the group. Did you have fun? Did you laugh a lot and did you get a little more comfortable with the person beside you?

Last night, I had the privilege of working with a group of engaged, excited and inspiring people who are committed to learning and doing more to create a great city.

Yes, Calgary is facing tough times. Everyone in that room is nervous about their job security. Everyone is nervous about the uncertainty of the future. As one young woman I spoke with said, “I’ve never gone through this before.”

It’s okay.

Whether we’ve gone through a market downturn and downward slide of the economy once, or twice or more, it is always hard. Even without a crumbling economy, people experience hardship, tough times, uncertainty.

What’s important isn’t The Job or The Title or even the newness of label on our designer clothes.

What’s important is we turn up. We commit to making a difference and we give back.

Giving is Receiving.

Last night, as evidenced by the number of next generationers who were in the room to give back to community and the United Way, Calgary is in good hands.

Markets may tumble and stocks may fall, but our willingness to give back, to be there for one another, to support eachother will carry us through.

Thank you UEP, to everyone in that room last night, to the United Way of Calgary and Area, to the thousands of people working in hundreds of agencies across our city to support people in good and tough times.

You make a difference.