Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Need for Ongoing Learning..........

"One problem with our current society is that we have an attitude towards education as if it is there to simply make you more clever, make you more ingenious. Sometimes it even seems as if those who are not highly educated, those who are less sophisticated in terms of their educational training, are more innocent and more honest. Even though our society does not emphasize this, the most important use of knowledge and education is to help us understand the importance of engaging in more wholesome actions and bringing about discipline within our minds. The proper utilization of our intelligence and knowledge is to effect changes from within to develop a good heart." Dalai Lama

On the weekend, a friend gave me a copy a book entitled "The Art of Happiness." It's based on conversations between a Psychiatrist (Howard Culter) and the Dalai Lama. I had discussed the book with my friend earlier and knew that it had a profound impact on her thinking and approach to life. When we reuntited on the weekend, she passed the book onto me after she read from it at the Sunday chapel. It was such a wonderful gesture. I started reading it the following day and already I have found that many of the Dalai Lamas' insights have resonated with me.
It's one of those books, though that one should read slowly to allow the learning to take hold. I have this week off from work and other familial responsibilities and had the pleasure to spend the entire afternoon mooching and walking around downtown Toronto. It's a wonderful city, one that I used to call my own years ago. As I was walking, there was one passage that kept surfacing in my thinking, about his interpretation of higher learning. It captured my thoughts perfectly.
We seem to always be grasping for the materialism that comes with the brass ring. You attend university with that in mind. But, the most important component of higher learning, will undoubtedly be to understand the human race. I think I'll continue reading..................

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Winge Factor...........

Yap, yap, yap .............winge, winge, winge
.Complain, comment, bellow, whine!
Nothing works! Nothing is right! Everything sucks!
Scream out your rights!

Talk radio. Incessantly irritatingly intimidatingly intrusive! It's a constant barrage of one dimensional opinionated bigoted bickering. It's disrespectful diatribe.

Now, I'm not one to keep my opinions to myself. And, I'm not one to believe that we can all hold hands and sing "We are the World" as a means to find peace in the world. Gee, I wouldn't be blogging now would I? But, I just don't get the entertainment value of listening to people who don't have anything better to do than to call the "Morning Man" to complain and to share their beligerent rants on the air.

What does listening to talk radio all day do to one's psyche? Does it not feed the negativity factor in someone? Does it not seep under your skin, like a festering pustulating boil and poison your system? What if you start listening to the opinionated radio guy when you already feel angry? How does this help someone find perspective?

Yeah, yeah.................don't listen. Well, I don't normally. I just happen to be surrounded by it over the past couple of days, and it has got me wondering about the whole business of talk radio. It obviously fills a void of some kind............a faster method than letters to the editor, in a world where we are inundated with lightening paced news production?

I'm all in favour of a good debate between two people who are articulate, witty, and well versed. But, I havent really heard anything on this talk radio station except redneck ranting, which is encouraged by the redneck D.J. guy. Blogging is so much quieter, isn't it?

Oh...................wait a minute!
Did I just hear that they are banning all smoking in Toronto the Good starting tomorrow night? Did I just hear that one can't even have a smoke in their own car? What? Did Redneck D.J. guy just rhyme off the new politically correct gone awry law which states that you will be fined if you light up anywhere within the borders of Hogtown? Well! I've got something to say about that, dammit! Who do they think the are? What a load of horseshit! I can just see it now.............the city will be swarmed with armed by-law enforcers dressed in virginal white patrolling back alleys and parks looking for those nasty good for nothing smokers who are polluting the air and putting holes in our ozone! Don't they have anything better to do? Why don't they start hosing down the gangs that seem to be still in control of certain parts of the city? Why don't they start making large corporations that belch out disgusting amounts of toxic chemicals into the air and into Lake Ontario? Gee........................I have a lot to say.....................
Where is that phone number? I feel this adrenaline surge to share my opinion with the rest of Southern Ontario!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Past and Present.

Is it possible to return to your past? I'm fully cognizant of how the past can impact the choices and decisions you make in the present......... or the ones you decide upon for your future. I see that everyday in my office with clients. The past can haunt you to a point where it fogs your vision, where it can make you trip up and take the wrong path........the unhealthy "Oh my God, I'm in the same boat again" path. Without even being aware of it. Without even knowing that there is a thread linking various life experiences like a domino game.

For the most part, my role as a counsellor, is to help guide a person through the swampy myriad of their past. It's almost always negative at first until it's discussed and some perspective has been realized. Then, the more positive success stories start filtering through..... events that put a smile on their face. This is all talking, though. The past in this case is done through abstract discussions in an office.

What I'm wondering is different.............Can you return to your past?

I've been very lucky in my life, because my past is truly filled with goodness. And, this weekend, as you all know because I have been perseverating on it, I returned to a major part of my past. And you know what I found out? You can return........both physically, emotionally and spiritually.

My return was filled with happiness. Life affirming, all encompassing, sense of belonging joy. For three days and two nights, I entered a historical bubble with a wonderful group of people willing to suspend their "real" present day lives. There we were, all reliving and playing out our roles from 20+ years ago. The comedians, the storytellers, the party-goers, the pranksters, the organizers, the photo takers, the dreamers, the mentors, the mentees, the serious ones, the spiritual ones.......all happy and gleefully assuming their camp personas and having the time of their lives reliving their past.

I don't know what label my Kawabi kindreds would put on me.........I tend to straddle various roles. My time at camp fell in the "early middle" of the 40 years. So, in the eyes of some, I'm the mentee. In the eyes of others, I'm the mentor. With my circle of friends from my era......? I don't really know. What I do know, despite the absolute exhaustion that I feel at the moment is that I wasn't the only one there whose expectations were met. We all returned to the past, enjoyed a variety of "happenings" throughout the weekend that will sustain us until the next one can be arranged.

But before that....................I gotta catch up on my sleep!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Kawabi Kindreds

This morning, I read this piece at a chapel service on friendship that was held after a weekend reunion of a large group of staff from Camp Kawabi. The weekend experience has left me overwhelmed with a barrage of emotions, some of which need time to percolate and then blend back into my "present day" life. The only way right now to encapsulate the extraordinary weekend is to describe it as the most life affirming experience I have felt in a very long time. The chapel was a time for us to focus on some of our heartfelt and shared sense of belonging. I had the honour to start the service. I was nervous at first standing up in front of 50 or so of my peers (aren't we always?). But, the nerves disappeared very quickly as I began to talk and look out at a group of people dear to my a group of people whom I share a sense of belonging to.
Kawabi Kindreds
There's a feisty red head girl who lives out in the Maritimes, in a place called Avonlea. You may have heard of her before. Her name is Anne Shirley of Green Gables. Anne is full of exuberance and zest for life. She is a poetic dreamer........... a curious and creative dreamer full of insightful observations that she openly shares with just about anyone, especially someone she considers like minded. The poignant tidbit that Anne has shared with us is the concept of a kindred spirit.

Kindred spirit.

It's funny, the first time I heard the expression, I knew exacty what she meant.

Kindred spirit.

It's a friendship with a deeper essence, a shared spiritual understanding. It's a friendship that connotes the message: "I get you. I understand where you're coming from and what's important to you."

Unspoken. Unconditional. Acceptance.

Anne would also say that kindreds share a foundation of values, and of place. So, what would Anne say about all of us?

Here we are, all different ages, some more wrinkly than others, and yet we all have Kawabi kindred hearts. Over the winter as I continued to pursue my rediscovered joy of writing, as I read other's postings on the website while sharing my own, as I reconnected with old friends from my past, and met new friends with the same Kawabi foundation, I re-evaluated the importance of my Kawabi roots. I think we all did on some level.

And you know what? I get you. You get me. We get each other.
Sure we all had our own circle of kindred spirits from our era at camp, whom we can share the specific memorable moments with....... the people we had the "best day off with ever," friends you shared your tent walls with, laughed with, grew up with ....... under the starry northern light night skies and the bright blue cloud free summer days ..... and everything in between.
Then there are your closest friends within that circle who stood up for you on your wedding day, who made the speeches, whom you called when your child was born. These are the friends that you continued to keep in touch with outside the camp borders. Yes, we are all a part of a circle of friends from our era.
What's amazing is tht all of our circles, all of our eras overlap. This is what I have learned this winter. Like petals on a summer Shasta daisy, our circles overlap and are held together by a sunny yellow middle that consists of our loving and strong connection with Skip and Nish, and the core values and sense of belonging that we all feel towards Camp Kawabi. No matter where we all are on the path of life, we all connect to Kawabi through a poignant time in our personal development .... adolescence ... a time of firsts.
The first time you taught a child how to master thte J-stroke, hit a bullseye, pass their safety afloat, drop a ski ....... The first time you were on night watch, you helped a homesick camper, organized an outsupper, cleaned a kybo, washed a campload of dishes. Your first kiss, first love, first swig of cheap wine. The first time you heard Skip call you by your name. The list Kawabi firsts is endless. All are meaningfully understood.
We get each other.
We could be thousands of miles away from one another, but I guarantee that if I was to ask you to close your eyes and picture the beautiful rocky pine vista and envelopes the blue waters of Big Hawk Lake, not only would we be able to conjure it up similarily, we would also be able to describe the colours, the sound and the movement all around the picture. The shared stories on the Kawabi website is proof ....... we all have this ability, and we all feel a sense of belonging and presence to this place where we as teenagers grew up.
So, if Anne Shirley had walked into the banquet last night to have a peak at all of us enjoying ourselves, what would she have said?
"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out, there are so many of them in the world. These people are all kindred spirits."
We are all out there in the world living our lives ...... but we will always be graced by the kindredness of Kawabi, forever linked like the petals of a Shasta daisy.
How lucky we are.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

On Being a Counsellor, part 2.

Last fall, I wrote down my initial thoughts with respect to my role as a Counsellor. At the time, I was preparing a workshop for a conference, as well as attempting to put in words my personal "mission statement" of sorts in order to prepare the approach I would take in teaching a night course at the University. Not only did it help me clarify my opinion on the role of a Counsellor, it also allowed me a chance to realize again why I entered into the field in the first place.

I always knew I would return to the topic, since I spend most of my days in the role. Today feels like the perfect day to do so because I am about to embark on a trip down memory lane, into my past where the whole concept of counselling and the idea of becoming one was established and nutured. (cue up......."All My Life's a Circle"). From age 15 on, I was very clear that I wanted to pursue a career in the helping profession. Not only did it suit my personality, it also seemed like a path that would fulfill my interest in hearing the personal stories of others, while supporting them and helping them grow as individuals. My focus at the time was on children, and in fact pursued Child Studies at university. Six summers working at a children's camp was a great foundation to build on that goal. Somewhere along the line, I crossed over and began working with adults of all ages. It's challenging, inspiring and often life affirming.

The key to any counselling situation is to connect. The key to connecting is listening attentively, as well as being able to carry the conversation constructively. It's very easy to get off track, or at least I find it easy to get off track. This is probably the most challenging aspect of my job, because I love nothing better than a rambling highly interesting, thought provoking conversation with someone. However, linearity is key for most clients to move forward. If things get too convoluted, confusion sets in. On the other hand, often the client's confessions are multi-layered..........they are all over the map. Paraphrasing, summarizing, asking closed questions instead of open-ended flowy questions that can lead to adding more layers, and reflecting their emotions back to them are all techniques that can help hone in on one issue at a time.

Timing also figures prominently. As mentioned in my previous post, counsellors rely on their ability to critically assess, to problem solve quickly and to think broadly. However, more times than not, options and answers may be clearer for the counsellor much earlier than the client is ready to talk about them, or even hear them. This is where intuition and reading cues are the tools of the trade, so as to read the timing properly so that the client is at the most receptive point in their learning.

Counselling is like a waltz.......or a rhumba...........or a foxtrot............depending on the pace that it takes. The dance steps may change, but the initial learning of the steps is the same. It can take a while to figure out how not to step on someone's feet, while trying to adjust to the tempo. Initially, the Counsellor takes the lead and may always play that role. It's not that the Counsellor has all the answers! Far from it. I can honestly state that more often than not, I finish a session with someone and walk away from it with new thinking.......different ideas.

Counselling is also like a blank canvas big enough for two people (or a group of people) to create a mural open-ended, colourful mural. What continues to intrigue me and keeps me hooked into this field is that it is so similar to the process of creating and not focused on the end product. Though I work in the government world where it's necessary to jump through hoops, complete reams of paperwork, compile statistics, check numbers..................I get to be the Artist when I'm working with a client. I can close my door, shove the paperwork into a drawer all the while learning and listening and talking and confronting and asking and listening some more...................

Interestingly, I have often thought about the ideal counselling setting. If I had my druthers, it would be set up in a colourful room equipped for creativity, situated away from distracting traffic or noise. Nestled in the woods, possibly? I'd fill it with supplies of all stripes........paints, clay, all types and colours of paper, materials for making structures...........many tools for creating. Background music playing lightly. Welcoming, enticing, relaxing...........conducive to sharing thoughts and ideas, while possibly working on a project. Unintimidating. Yes, a counselling craft shop for all ages.

Hmmmmmmmm, I know exactly the right place. It's where my counselling skills were honed.... providing kids with projects to work on all the while listening to their heart stories. I guess I haven't ventured too far away from my roots.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

So, What's with the Name?

Believe it or not, my real name isn't "Awareness." When I started this blog last September, I wanted to be able to write without any trepidations. The idea of being anonymous was a bit thrilling too. My nom de plume was actually suggested to me by my Finnan friend and it just seemed to fit my persona. I also liked it as a theme of sorts.
So, Awareness I became.
But, it's time to reveal my real name.......... well............. the name I plan to answer to this weekend.........which is real and it is me. My real name is Muskie. Oh, I have other names, and some people may even call me nasty sounding names, but I won't be answering to any other moniker except Muskie. Why? Because it is my camp name, and I'm heading west to Hogtown, Ontari-ari-o for a splendiferous weekend of all things Camp Kawabi. Yes, we all had campy names.............. all part of the hilarity of summer camp. I'm not named after a disgustingly ugly I'm not named after an American Senator. Remember the cartoon, Deputy Dog? You gotta be over 40 I think to remember. Well, when I was a wee lass my Dad and I used to watch it faithfully every morning before he took off for work. Deputy Dog's deputy? Muskie. It was the nickname my Dad gave me way back then.
It's been a while since I had heard my camp name used. It's been a long time since I was a camp counsellor..........too long, really. However, over the winter, I started receiving e-mails with it used and all of a sudden, it started fitting me again like it did. You could say, that I have found my "inner Muskie." She had been lost for a while, but now she's back and ready to take on her role again with exuberance, surrounded by people named Murf, Frye, Fletch, Luten, Phineas, E-0r, Fastback, Zoe, Sprigg, Newt, Zoff, Bauer, Moka, Ribii, Skip, and Nish and about 200 others..........Gee, it does sound like a Tolkien sounding bunch, doesn't it?
For every name, there is a background story. For every person, there is a life story. I plan to hear about all of their life stories. That's what Muskie does.
1 more sleep and I'm outta here!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thought du Jour

On Waking Up by Anthony De Mello

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it,are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep,they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know ~ all mystics ~ Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion ~ are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Thought everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.

Last year on Spanish television I heard a story about this gentleman who knocks on his son’s door. "Jaime," he says, "wake up!" Jaime answers, "I don’t want to get up, Papa."

The father shouts, "Get up, you have to go to school." Jaime says, "I don’t want to go to school." "Why not?" asks the father. "Three reasons," says Jaime. First, because it’s so dull; second, the kids tease me; and third, I hate school. And the father says, "Well, I am going to give you three reasons why you must go to school. First, because it is your duty; second, because you are forty-five years old, and third, because you are the headmaster." Wake up! Wake up! You’ve grown up. You’re too big to be asleep. Wake up! Stop playing with your toys.

Most people tell you they want to get out of kindergarten, but don’t believe them. Don’t believe them! All they want you to do is to mend their broken toys. "Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success." This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be cured. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.

Waking up is unpleasant, you know. You are nice and comfortable in bed. It is irritating to be woken up. That’s the reason the wise guru will not attempt to wake people up. I hope I’m going to be wise here and make no attempt whatsoever to wake you up if you are asleep. It is really none of my business, even though I say to you at times, "Wake up!" My business is to do my thing, to dance my dance. If you profit from it fine; if you don’t, too bad! As the Arabs say, "The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens."

~ Anthony De Mello, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality

Monday, May 22, 2006

Songs in the Key of My Life.

On the CBC yesterday, they had a show specifically geared to highlight listener's choices of songs that touched their souls. It was an interesting eclectic mix interspersed with conversations with the listener's about their reasons behind their choices. So, as I putted in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon preparing dinner, I took it all in, and started thinking about the songs that resonate with me. This topic stuck in my head today as I attempted to garden in the rain. In no real order, here are my picks.

1. Van Morrison: When God Shines His Light On Me. This song makes me want to sing loudly, and do a twirling dance on the front lawn. It pierces me everytime I hear it with it's joyful beat and lyrics.

2. Mark Knopfler: The Soundtrack from Cal. The first time I really listened to this, I was driving through the Saint John River Valley at dawn over 20 years ago. It was also my first time driving through this part of Canada and I fell in love with it instantly. Who knew that 2 years later, I would end up settling here? Whenever I am driving along that specific piece of the old trans-Canada Highway, along the river, past the lush farmland, the music returns to me, and I feel whole.

3. Harry Chapin: All My Life's a Circle. I consider this my theme song of sorts. I was a devoted fan of Harry Chapin, attended many of his concerts and even had a chance to meet him. I introduced this song at my camp during a chapel years ago, before he died and it is still found in the camp chapel books. I love singing it with a large group of people, but I also love humming it to myself whenever. In fact, I was humming it in the garden today. It will be sung by a group of kindreds this weekend at the reunion I'll be attending. Chances are, I won't make it through the second verse without getting all veklempt.

4. Let There Be Peace on Earth. It brings chills to my soul. Always has. My son was in a boy's choir this winter with his school. This was the song they learned to sing for the Christmas concert. Innocent voices in harmony. I was a basket case by the end of it!!

5. Alison Kraus and Gillian Welch's version of I'll Fly Away from the sountrack of Oh Brother Where Art Thou? I do my very best to harmonize with them, which always sounds good from where I'm sitting, but I doubt if I'll be hearing from an agents. Willie Nelson played this song with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band last week at a concert I attended, interspersed with "Will the Circle be Unbroken." All of a sudden, I found myself standing on my chair singing along and feeling mighty fine. The very best version, by far is Kraus and Welch, however. I want it played at my funeral.

6. Billy Joel: Summer Highland Falls. Billy Joel's music is like the soundtrack of my life. I still love Piano Man as much I did the first time I heard it when I was 14. The one that poignantly strikes my soul will always be Summer Highland Falls...........the words, the piano, his voice, all blend into magic for me.

7. Paul McCartney: Mull of Kintyre. My husband just pulled together a new compilation CD for me for Mother's Day. This is the last song on it. I hadn't heard it in a very long time. So, as I'm driving along, coming home at the end of the day, all of a sudden, I hear the familiar bagpipes. I turned it up loud and let the song pour over me, as I envisioned the coast of northern Scotland, and a whole band of bagpipes marching along the shore. It pulls at my ancestral roots.

8. Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Sunday morning with the sun pouring into the living room. Hot cup of tea in my hand, still in my nightgown .......... It's the music of God.

9. U2: Still Havent Found What I'm Looking For. I have decided this week that this song is one of the best rock songs ever written and produced. It is magical. I have never had the opportunity to attend a U2 concert, but I plan to as soon as their tour swings close by.

10. Van Morrison: Irish Heartbeat. It was the song my husband and I chose to dance to at our wedding reception. All I remember is being surrounded by all the people who loved us and feeling like I was floating on air.

11. Gordon Lightfoot: Song for a Winter's Night. It's a beautiful love song. When I listen to it, I feel warm and cozy, all bundled up under a big duvet in front of a fire on a January night when the snow and wind are blowing outside. Safe and loved.

12. Cold Mountain Soundtrack: The Scarlet Tide by Alison Kraus, which is the saddest lament sung by Kraus in a clear beautiful voice, and I'm Going Home by Sacred Harp Singers, which is a choir who make their voices into an amazing orchestra of sound. Both songs touch me deeply.

13. Bruce Springsteen: Devils and Dust. The whole CD. From beginning to end. And again. It is the most spiritually enhancing music I have had the pleasure to listen to in years.

I'm sure there are more.....................these are the ones that literally popped to mind first. What about you? What songs touch your soul? Care to share?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tequilla, Tears and the Truth.

Sometimes, it takes a little nudge to get the truth out in the open. Last night, the nudge just happened to be contained in frosty glasses of icy Margaritas. Tequilla is a bit like truth serum isn't it? It has the power to get the tongue wagging and the tears flowing.

Yes......... last evening a group of friends and all the kids gathered for a celebratory potluck to toast and congratulate a family who will be moving away in a couple of weeks. The core group of people who attended I consider as close as family.

Chosen family. Ma famille de la coeur.

Since my family as well as my husband's live in another province, we have celebrated many milestones, and many holidays together. Weddings, births, deaths, promotions, illnesses, overcoming struggles, personal demons, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.......the whole gamut of life's milestones are tied in with these people. An accumulation of "remember whens" that bind people together. And now, one of these families is moving away.

We have all had mixed feelings about it. Joy and excitement for their new adventure, relief that they are now heading down a more financially stable career path all mixed with anger and sadness that they will not be just around the corner. And yet, those of us who are staying put have felt it was best to "suck it up" stoically, smile and only show the joy and excitement side. Turns out, they have been doing the same thing. Until the first Margarita was consumed.

The "remember whens" began flowing between myself, and my friends Anne and Linda............ the truth came pouring out. Here Anne and I were thinking we were doing the best thing by encouraging with brave words all the while our dear friend Linda was feeling like nobody actually wanted her to stay. We had done such a great job ...... taking her cues and listening to her brave comments about the whole move is a great adventure, etc and yet, what she really needed to hear was that we didn't want her to leave and we would miss her terribly.

Once the truth was established the three of us had a good teary laugh. Realizing that a bunch of kids were sitting behind us staring in shock and awe that their mommies were losing it, fearing that we would not be reliable if needed, we took the soupy discussion into the large bathroom, accompanied with topped up glasses of Tequilla and enjoyed a trip down our shared path of accumulated memories. Laughter, tears, confessions and fears all mixed with the truth and a sense of belonging. No stoicism was allowed.

A friend is someone who strengthens you with prayers,
blesses you with love,
and encourages you with hope.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Momma Defence

What corner of the boxing ring are you in? Is it just me, or are there more and more opinions and more and more books out this spring on the trials and tribulations of momma - hood?

There are the author "gurus" who fly in your face shouting their opinion that your career and your personal pursuits are the most fulfilling aspect of your life. The kids are resilient, and they'll respect you in the morning .................well not really, because chances are, you've already left for work before they wake. Then, there is the other side of the boxing ring punching out the opposite message: Stay at home, for the sake of the children. If you don't fully attend to their every need........ if you aren't there to wipe every snotty nose, read them their favourite books 100 times over .... if you arent there to make them home cooked meals, they will turn into serial killers.

Give me a flipping break.

You know what all Mommas have in common, no matter where on the bizarre continuum they find themselves? Guilt. We can't win.

Or can we?

For some reason, I have had a few conversations lately with different neighbourhood and school connected Moms. And, the schism between the two groups ...............working moms and stay at home moms ........... is definately real. And it bothers me. Understandably, there are varying differences of opinion and perspectives on the choices that individual Moms have made. Consequently, there is an underlying feeling sometimes that there is a sense of judgement happening. In other words, it's not often what is said .......... it's the message that is left unsaid.

For example, the other day, a mother approached me at a birthday party to ask me about summer camp programs I was considering for my son. She is a stay at home mom, and I have crossed paths with her on various playgrounds, soccer pitches, fundraisers and birthday parties and discussed concerns about the present crappy teacher that yells at all the kids in her class (our sons included) most days because, well......... she's a crappy yeller teacher with tenure or some such thing. Over the past 4 years, we have never really talked at length about anything except our kids. So, I launched into a list of various campy options, which led to her realizing that I use the camps as childcare for part of the summer, and not just for entertainment value. And you know what? She then started talking to me about the importance of kids being able to hang out at home for the whole 2 months and that they are really busy all winter, but they always have dinner together. That's what's best.

How did the conversation jump from her asking for information, me trying to give it, and then her not so cryptic lecture/self validation thing on her role as mom home with the kids? All of a sudden, I'm justifying my freaking choices by telling her that I "buy" vacation time so that I am home for a at least a good solid three weeks of the summer.......... blah dee blah dee blah ............. guilt................ and I'm thinking to myself .............. don't tell me about being busy, lady! Try juggling full time career, mom, cheerleader/taxi driver, cook, and snot wiper.

Neither side is right or wrong. Neither side is pretty. And, the impasse gets wider. The more interesting conversations on books and news and thoughts and ideas never get discussed because we are always feeling this guilt motivated urge to justify ourselves.

AND............. why is this not an issue for full time career DADS? We'll leave that for another blog post.

It's time to put away the pettiness and move onto respecting and accepting our own choices and needs. It's time to get over the guilt. The choices I make? I am a better Mother because I work. However, I can be the type of Mom I am because I have also made provisions. My career path is paced in a way that I am not on some trajectory upward movement. I refuse to work the gazillion hours that it would take to do that. I would rather be able to leave my office and attend a soccer game, or a choirfest, or a school function. I also live in a place where I can get to my kids if they need me in 10 minutes ............... these are my choices. I also have a husband who is super attentive and equally shares in the caring of our children and in the stuff that has to be done at home. I know I'm lucky. But, these are my choices. No one elses.

If a woman decides to work those gazillion hours, and has a high-falutin' career with lots of travel and commitments, fine! If a woman decides to stay home to provide for her family full-time. Fine! If a woman decides to work part-time while her children are at school............good on ya!

Let's just get over the guilt, can we? Let's start being more respectful of our well thought out decisions ............... Our kids will be better for it. You know what else would happen? We can get to those much more interesting conversations where we can actually share our wonderful thoughts and ideas!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Supporting our Troops

I have spent this early morning reading various articles on the Parliamentary vote yesterday on whether or not to support Canadian efforts in Afghanistan, and I am left with a sense of disgust and disdain.

The Jack Layton and his rousing band of NDP'ers are beyond the pale. First off, they believe in helping the "oppressed" and have in the past expressed the need for Canada to be involved in the fight against the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan people. And yet, once the going gets tough, they want to run away and let some other country get their hands dirty? The emotional flip flopping on policy and issues just makes this party look Sybil-like, as this leader continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth........... Or maybe Layton's ADHD doesn't allow him to look at more than one issue at a time? Afghanistan..........been there, done lets move onto Darfur?

We're needed in both places.................

There are times when the little yappy dog approach is needed in parliament to nip at the heels of governance. This is not one of those opportunities. Their whole approach and the fact that they voted against supporting our actively ensconced troops smacks of the spineless political postering that seems to be the "new normal" in Ottawa.

The Liberals? Excuse me.................. but who sent the troops in the first place? Without any debate? Who missed the vote yesterday............ ahem............ Paul Martin......... ?? Is there anyone out there who really believes that most of these MP's genuinely voted without thinking that their vote was tied into the next election? This party, which continues to waffle and wallow while their members duke it out over a Leadership race cannot be believed when it comes to sincerity. Andy Scott, who happens to be my Member of Parliament at the moment ..... former Cabinet Minister for the defeated Liberal party .... whose riding includes the LARGEST armed forces base in the Country, CFB Gagetown, voted against extending our role in Afghanistan.

What a shameful slap in the face of the troops and their families.

I hate the whole idea of war. I hate the fact that anyone has to go to battle. I hate the fact that there will always be psychotic evil lurking in various hot spots around the world........ that we are now living in a world that is being tossed on it's side by extremists and terrorists. There are days I want to just put my head in the sand and not think about it anymore. But, how does that help, really? No, it doesn't.
We are members of a global community. This country is not exempt from attacks. How alone would this country be if we decided to pull out of Afghanistan now and turn our backs on the people of that country who are trying to resurrect it from rubble? Pretty darn alone!!!
Afghanistan needs our support. Our troops need our support. Until every child can safely attend school; until every woman can freely choose to work and study outside of their home; until teachers are safely able to do their jobs without the fear of being beheaded .......... until the government is established, and democracy is up and running ........ until the economy isn't reliant on opium sales ............ we need to stay.
And while our "unnofficial and official" Opposition politicians in Ottawa continue to navel gaze and posture for posterity, let us fly our flag proudly in honour of Captain Nichola Goddard today, and send prayers to her family and friends.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Donny's a What???

Last night as I was channel surfing, I stumbled across Larry King interviewing Donny and Marie Osmond. I hadn't seen them in years, though somehow I had accumlated various and sundry information about their lives. Talk show hosts, game show hosts, Vegas gigs, Broadway shows, Marie's post-partum depression meltdown, Donny's stint as "Don", the death of Mrs. Osmond... and of course the Osmond Family takeover of Brandon Missouri.

Oh my God! Where does all this useless information derive from? How does it manage to settle into my cerebellum, in a place that is easily retrievable when I can't even remember to pack my own lunch everyday? Yes, I am a font of useless information ..... a good partner for Trivial Pursuit that's for sure. And, since I'm a glutton for fresh useless information, I stopped channel surfing and watched the interview.

Donny Osmond.......... yeah, I hesitate to admit it, but I was a big fan when I was 12 years old.......... and he was 12 years old. Crooner of Puppy Love and Go Away Little Girl, Mr. Fresh face, gleaming white teeth, big brown eyes guy, who graced every cover of every Teen magazine when I was young, made my heart throb way back when. In fact, his was the first concert that I attended, along with 10,000 other screaming little girls. I had every album, watch every TV special............. I never missed an Andy Williams show when the Osmonds were on. He electrified my 12 year old heart.

And, last night................. Donny gave me another electric jolt...... not through my heart. The shock struck me in the head, when he began talking about his grandson! What? Donny Osmond is a GRANDFATHER? He's the same age as can that be???? How can he be old enough to have adult children?

Jolted into reality...................... time has marched on ......

It's funny how the most bizarre things can send a jolt of reality to make you acknowledge that though you may act like a 20 year old, and you may think like a 20 year old................. you are in actuality middle aged? Nah!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Looking for Meaningful Work?

We have all been there.............on the other side of the interview desk, dressed in our Sunday best, and as prepared as we are going to be for the job interview. Somehow, you've managed to jump through the screening hoops. Maybe you've even had to write a couple of tests to display your applied knowledge, or your languages aptitude. Maybe by the time the big interview has rolled around, you have already met with individuals in the political peripheral just to make sure that they are aware and supportive of your pursuits..........that maybe they have a little bit of clout and will throw it your way. You've done your homework, tweaked your resume, prepared a cracker jack cover letter, networked, discussed the possible interview questions with a friend. You may have even lost some sleep from nervousness or excitement in anticipation of your interview debut with the organization you want to work for. The waiting process is over......

So, the big day have been shortlisted for the job...............a career position that will change the course of you life as well as start helping you pay off the bills accrued while unemployed, looking for work............ (does anyone realize how expensive it is to LOOK for work???)

Best foot gleaming smile......................crisp white shirt.................or even brand new duds......................all for the occasion of making the best impression, the right impression............


Hopeful, and yet trying to be realistic about your chances. You've been down this road and you know that as much as you believe in being in control of your own destiny, the reality is that it's being held in the hands of the Human Resources Officer (or even a whole interview team of suits) who has the privilege of sitting comfortably on the other side of the interview desk. He or she has the control.

Don't forget your armour. Did you hear me? Don't forget your armour.

So........... the hour long interview seems to go well. You were asked a slew of questions, most of which you thought were bogus and ridiculous, but you didn't let them know that. NO, you played the game and answered everything with as much honest sincerity as you could. You spoke from your heart. In fact offered up more of yourself to this band of people who make the decision on your future. But, you leave feeling very positive, like you've scored a winning goal, hit a home run, kicked the end of the game field goal.

Everyone shakes hands..............and all of a sudden you find yourself back in your car exhausted, yet hopeful that maybe, just maybe you will be working with this company or organization and making a difference. You head home feeling light, relieved and a bit exhausted from the mental drain of it all. After all, it wasn't just the job interview. The whole application process has taken months to culminate into an interview.

You head home and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Still have your armour on? You're going to need it. Why? Because if you arent the chosen candidate, you will never EVER hear back from the Human Resource person. You will be left hanging in the wind on a clothesline littered with other exhausted job seekers.

This is now the norm. No further contact. No personal feedback. Not even a PFO letter in the mailbox. The "human" should be taken out of Human Resources because these people have forgotten what it is like to be on the other side of the boardroom table. There is no level playing field. The sick power that has enveloped the HR INDUSTRY (yes, it's an industry all on it's own) has lost any form of human touch. Gone is respect for others. Gone are the manners that they learned from their mommas and pappas. And you what else is gone?
Gone is my respect for the field, and any integrity that they may have accumulated. It seems hat Human Resources..........the people who make the "God like" decisions for your future are more inclined to fill out reports, to complete their statistics, to sit in meetings creating new and refreshing job ads, and to fill their need for power tripping. They are no better than prison guards trapped in power struggle with their prisoners.
People come first. People come first.
Show some respect, and find your empathy. Revisit your personal reasons for entering the field of HR in the first place. Didn't it go something like this??
"I really want to work in a field helping people reach for their best. I really want to be in the frontlines coaching, facilitating, and developing effective teams. I love working with people. I want to help."
I see this time and again. I'm the person on the other end who helps those people you have treated so rudely and unfairly to pick up the pieces and move forward. Do you know how difficult it is to help someone find hope and optimism again when they have been beaten down by a rude and corrupt system over and over again. It breaks my heart. It makes me so darn angry. Who do these HR people think they are????
If you are in HR and you have lost sight of your personal mission statement....................start looking for another job or take some time off and do some navel gazing. are damaging the esteem of your neighbours and community members. You are not providing any service to the people you thought you were going to help.

Monday, May 15, 2006

11 more sleeps........waiting for the "Happening"

I am feeling like a little girl waiting for Christmas Eve to arrive. You know that butterfly feeling of wishful anticipation.........can't sleep well, all bubbly with excitement? That's how I'm feeling, and I'm pretty sure I'm driving my family and friends crazy. Why? What's up?

Well, in 11 more sleeps, I'm heading to Toronto to take part in a weekend long celebration with a whole slew of old friends, some of whom I havent seen in 20 plus years.

After 40 glorious years, Camp Kawabi, my home away from home for 12 glorious summers, is closing it's doors. As much as it saddens me that Camp won't be in full swing this summer, and this chapter is ending on an excellent era run, this ending has definately kickstarted a beginning. Living in the Maritimes, busy with a family, a career and other odds and ends, I had let all of my connections with camp slip away. I hadn't been in touch with anyone consistently except the Directors for a very long time........ until last summer when a reunion was held at the camp.

Right after that, we all received notice that they were retiring and not selling. Rather, they were shutting the camp down and settling on the property.
A website, and an organizing committee was established to plan this month's big bash. And, over this past winter, as I continued to pursue my rediscovered joy of writing, I actively reconnected with old friends, met new friends who were on staff years after I had been there and realized again that I was a part of a very special group of people who had similar roots.

The website became an addiction that I wholeheartedly embraced, as one by one my friends signed on...............women whom I had shared whole summers in the same tent with.........counsellors that were my role models when I was a little one sitting around the campfire or in a canoe..............campers who were in my group, year after year while I led them on various adventures through their early adolescence..................dear friends that I ran camp activities with, went on days-off with, learned how to drink and smoke and party with..............anklebiters (when I was there) who grew up, who had the staff torch passed onto them, and are now new friends.....................all signed on and began a winter/spring long catch up conversation.
We have shared our heartfelt feelings about Kawabi...............the touching moments of quiet talk under a starry sky by the lake.............the raucous parties during the changeover time between July and August camp............our insights, and shared understanding that this place somehow always felt like home.

Like all of my friends old and new, I always felt a strong attachment and sense of belonging to this place.

So, over the next week or so, chances are I will be writing about this place as I wait for "The Happening." Because, right now, my head is full of marshmallows, goofy songs, googly eyes and pipe cleaners, craft shop tales, canoeing moments, swimming horrors, and nostalgia.
11 more sleeps.......................and I will find myself in a throng of over a hundred and fifty kindreds...................all with big smiles on their faces, and adolescent hearts...............!!

mmmmm I want to linger.................mmmmmm a little longer..................

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Her Little Shadows............

Her Little Shadows
by Barbara Burrow

I saw a young mother
With eyes full of laughter
And two little shadows
Came following after.

Wherever she moved,
They were always right there
Holding on to her skirts,
Hanging on to her chair.
Before her, behind her --
An adhesive pair.

"Don't you ever get weary
As, day after day,
Your two little tag-alongs
Get in your way?"

She smiled as she shook
Her pretty young head,
And I'll always remember
The words that she said:

"It's good to have shadows
That run when you run,
That laugh when you're happy
And hum when you hum --
For you only have shadows
When your life's filled with sun."

I found this poem and it made me smile. My two little shadows are going up so quickly....They are now at an age where they arent always adhesively stuck to me anymore, though still very much like to snuggle in to watch a TV show, or sneak into my bed in the middle of the night for some reassurance.

My two growing shadows do take their cues from times it has felt daunting to be watched so much......................but most times, it feels naturally right..........

My two little shadows do fill my life with sun................ Not a day goes by when I don't thank God for being blessed with my daughter and my son.

Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

On Perception

Find the face among the beans

Read the image aloud--but rather than reading the words,
say the color of the ink that was used to write each word.

Perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information in order to give meaning to your environment. People make judgements based on their perceptions. People's actions are based on their perceptions. So, what if your perceptions are faulty? What if how you interpret something is based on sensory overload and your take on something miscontrued? How do you know when your perceptions are in line with your intuition and the facts provided to you?

I have been ruminating on this little word all week, and the more I thought about the idea of trying to gather my thoughts with some linearity, the more often I found myself in conversations about it. Another little wink from the cosmos? Who knows?

Like everyone, my perception of an event of some kind is always filtered through where I happen to be standing, what I am thinking, how I'm feeling at the time. Perception also is affected by other circumstances that I may be jousting with, or it may be added to previous knowledge and perceptions which alters the way I am going to see things. I'm the prism that reflects or refracts the event. I will most likely respond to one particular event in many different ways based on how I feel about myself, what my circumstances other words, how the light is shining on me the prism.

Somewhere along the line recently, my prism altered it's positioning again. I have been given new eyes to view my perceive things in a different manner.

Of course, this has happened time and again in my life. When I became a mom, for example, the way I saw the world flipped on it's axis. No longer could I stomach reading a novel about kidnapping. No longer did I find being the last one standing at a party a wonderful concept. No longer did I want my needs to come first. No longer could I keep all the things I needed to remember safely stored in my head for quick referral without forgetting anything........well that did return after the initial hormone blast passed, but has since reared it's ugly head recently since I started writing..........go figure!! Quite simply, my prism altered, affecting how I perceive things.

Could it be that any of life's transitions produces an opportunity or change in perception? I think so. Starting school, adolescence, first relationship, marriage, new jobs, new friends, new home, new community, children, death, your health all affect the angle of your perceptual prism. When there is new learning, there is a new way to see the make sense of your world.

Whatever the cause this time, I have found a quiet calmness inside that is now open to and accepting of a stronger belief system. Because of that, the way I am perceiving things is being filtered through an extraordinary prism of light which has allowed me to appreciate my family, my life, my friends in a more pronounced way. It has allowed me to find my creativity again by presenting me with a canvas of "new" views all around me.

This doesn't mean that I won't have moments when I take something the wrong way.....oh no! There's always the full moon affect isn't there? There will always be the times when I'm not feeling too darn special and the filter will have a black tinge to it. But, for some reason, I feel that the addition of having a rediscovered sense of a Higher Power will stay with me.

I found the following quotes that I really liked that definately added to my understanding of the power of perception...............and I want to share them with you.

Where we've gotten mixed up is that we believe actions follow belief. But experience creates belief..
Rev Cecil Williams

Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.
Hans Margolius

What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing; it also depends on what sort of person you are.
C. S. Lewis

That which happens in life is not as important as how you accept it.

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.
Henri Bergson

What will you allow your new eyes to see today? Can you find the guy hiding in the coffee beans?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Ongoing Brain Drain.

I fear that I live in the land of mediocre. As much as I love this's beauty and pace and sense of community, New Brunswick just doesn't know how to keep it's cream of the crop.
Today, I learned that two good friends are moving to Calgary. Between the two of them, both born and bred New Brunswickers, they have 6 degrees. And yet, they havent been able to land permanent jobs in a city where their talents and skills should be acknowledged, applauded and utilized. They have had to scramble yearly to nab another contract all the while using their creativity to juggle various other entrepreneurial pursuits in order to pay the bills.
As much as I'm very excited for them, and for the opportunities that lay ahead, I can't help but be angry that this province and this government, with all their talk of the "Prosperity Plan" and supposed opportunities blah, blah, blah.........., can't get their act together. What is wrong with this place??? We are losing people everyday! Smart, outgoing, creative, hard working and committed individuals who would much prefer to remain tied to their roots than to leave family and friends behind, are leaving everyday!!
One of the biggest stumbling blocks that I see from my view on the frontlines is that the leaders and CEO's are not visionaries. Rather, they can't seem to look beyond today. Whether it's due to disorganization or overwhelming workloads............. there are few of the key people who can get their act together enough to look up from their desks and develop a long term plan. They don't give themselves the time or opportunity to look beyond the status quo of how business and government is being run to see that the fresh faces with the fresh ideas is what they need to bring their department or company out of the mediocre doldrums.
So, here we sit.............. in this potentially fabulous province sucking our on our big toes, doing nothing to catch the train leaving the station................the train taking our very best away from home.
It's just not right. We need a leader that doesn't hide behind bs statistics on employment and repatriated returnees. We need a leader who doesn't hide behind glossy brochures that spill out a "Vision" for the future. We need CEO's and Employers who can see the possibilities in unique individuals and not hire a clone to replace the previous clone, who didn't have a new idea in their head. We need leaders who will take risks..........and there ain't one on the horizon.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Anne with an "e"

"Marilla, isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day
with no mistakes in it yet?"

The other day, I stumbled across a copy of Anne of Green Gables and sat down to read some of it. Before I knew, I was pulled back into the life of Avonlea and the spirit of that fiesty redhead from Prince Edward Island. L.M. Montgomery was brilliantly ahead of her time, writing a story about a young girl who shares her feelings openly during the turn of the last century, a period when people didn't express themselves as vividly as they do today. But, even today strong opinions and intense emotions make people uncomfortable.

Anne is a dreamer........... a curious and creative dreamer with strong opinions and an undimished zest for life. She loves fully, hates vehemently, and wonders out loud, all to the consternation of her pious caregiver, Marilla. And, the end result? Her penchant for talking about anything that gives her joy or sorrow or makes her angry opens the doors for others to feel more comfortable in sharing.

Anne rattles Avonlea out of its slumber. She makes them aware of the goodness in life and in the nature around them. She thrives on the small discoveries and events in her world...... picnics, beautiful flowers, streams and dunes and lakes and the glory of a sunrise. She renames many of the local areas to suit her dramatic disposition. The nearby lake becomes the Lake of Shining Waters. The spot called Willowmere where she and her best friend Diana build a playhouse becomes Violet Vale. She identifies a beautiful lane that is protected by large shady trees Lover's Lane. She is a true romantic.

One of the statements that Anne makes, when telling Marilla that she prefers ameythysts to diamonds?
"Marilla, do you think ameythysts are made from the souls of good violets?"
I love that line. It just resonated with the side of me that believes that my soul too is connected to nature.

I can relate to Anne. Often my emotions can get the best of me, and yet I wouldn't want to be any other way. I have been told that I'm too sensitive or too dramatic. I have been told to "bring it down a notch," or to keep my opinions under wraps so as not to rock the boat. I have also been told that I don't have a filter...........that I'll say what's on my mind in a direct way. In defense, I do have the ability to be sensitive to others and I do have the ability to be a good mediator. AND, my best counselling tool is my ability to understand a person's feelings and to reflect it back to the inidividual in order for them to evaluate it themselves. So, to those who are see these as flaws.................well tough luck. I'm going to continue to bounce into work and play my role as motivator, sharing my daily commentary of life.

What you see is what you get with Anne Shirley................and what you hear is what you get. I like that about her and I appreciate it in others. As much as it was refreshing in Avonlea in 1900, it's just as refreshing in my world in 2006.

We should all be more open to opinions and emotions. It allows for the door to better communication and understanding between two people. Say what you mean.......................say how you feel and own it.

My last comment on Anne Shirley? I will always remember her as the one who coined the term "kindred spirit." And kindred spirits are the best people to drink red drinks with. And red drinks are the best kind of drinks around.

"There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne, it would be ever so much more comfortable but then it wouldn't be half so interesting"
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Billy Green the Scout.

Billy Green the Scout

If you were to visit Hamilton Ontario and the surrounding area, you would quickly notice that there are a few names repeatedly referenced. Gage, Calder, Saltfleet, Dundurn, Whitehern, and McNab all figure prominently and represent part of the military history of the area. The largest park inside the city limits is called Gage Park. Dundurn Castle is a popular destination (one of my grandmother's favourite places), built in 1935 by the McNab family who are considered the "first family" of Hamilton. On the other side of the city, is the village of Stoney Creek, home of the famous Stoney Creek Battlefield, with the house museum which used to be owned by the Gage family and for a time occupied by American troops during the War of 1812. It now sits atop of a hill overlooking a baseball diamond where I spent many summer nights when I was a very young watching my Dad play ball and eating Cracker Jack.

The Battlefield park is also a place where my Grandmother, Mabel took me often. It now has beautiful gardens and historical monuments that tell the story of how the Battle of Stoney Creek was the turning point in the War of 1812. Since Mabel had a love of history, it was natural for her to take her oldest granddaughter to see the sights. One of the stories that always fascinated her revolved around Billy Green. Not known beyond the parameters of this area, really Billy Green was instrumental in warning the British that the Americans were planning on invading. Consequently, the invasion was a failure, which turned out to be crucial in the British eventual victory.

I remember the first time I learned about this man they called "The Scout." Since I was used to Mabel's jaunts into history and since I had many sleepovers at her place when I was young, it was only natural that I would be there to help her find the erected gravesite for this man. One day, when I was about 10 years old, Mabel and I started traipsing through a local cemetary that is nestled behind a ring of trees adjacent to a very busy intersection. Interestingly, you couldn't hear the noise of the traffic once you entered the cemetary. It took us about 1/2 an hour to find the site, all the while Mabel kept talking about Billy Green's story and how brave he was. We stood there in front of his grave and paid homage together. I kept wondering how many other people took the time to seek it out. Not many, I doubt. I know that it wasn't the last time that Mabel returned there.................more than likely with other grandchildren or one of her friends from her "girls club."

This weekend marks the 3rd anniversary of my Grandmother's death. I have yet to return to her grave since the day of her funeral, mostly because she is buried in Hamilton and I am living in the Maritimes. All weekend long, I have been thinking about the afternoon that she and I stood together in front of Billy Green's grave while she taught and I listened and learned.

It's time that I do the same for her..............and tell a story of one of the many times I spent an afternoon with my Grandmother to whomever is with me. Then, I will lay a bouquet of yellow flowers........her favourite and quietly pay homage.

Mabel, I havent forgotten. I never will.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Getting Skewered Again

The oldest trick in the political book when a provincial Premier is feeling the disdainful squeeze on the homefront, is to pick a fight with that big bad bully called Ottawa. Looks like that is the bedtime reading of Dalton McGuinty and crew this week. Yes, the little hilroy notebook with it's tethered pages is presently laying open on Dalton's bedside table at the section entitled: "Winning votes By Whining and Wingeing."

So, the whining began in pathetic earnest, simpering it's way through the breezes from Queen's Park, floating down to the Globe and Mail front office and permeating the editorial story meeting.

Horrors! Prime Minister Harper was in town to speak at a fundraiser for John Tory, the Ontario TORY leader and supposedly snubbed the Ontario Premier. How regrettable. Heavens! Conservative Prime Minister Harper has met with Premier Jean Charest more often than Dalton McGuinty. How sinister. So............ this makes the front page of the National rag.


"Dad, you like Jean better than me!"

"Yes dear, I do. He's a TORY. He may have had to run under the Liberal banner in Quebec when he was coerced into running for the Premier's job a while back by the rest of Canada because the sky was falling and we all felt that he was the only one to stop the storm of separation at the time. But, Jean is a TORY. Remember? You, Dalton are a Liberal. Now, back to Queens Park and look after your own sandbox of mishandled mishaps."

So, the Globe and Mail has fully truncated any positive vibes from Ottawa with respect to the first Consevative budget in years earlier this week (and there were many kudos............almost as many goofy gaffes by the Opposition.........see Carolyn Bennett's rendition of Nazi's and kids brought up at home..............) by hooking into the whining of Dalton, and recreating the schism between two provinces AND making Stephen Harper look like the unfeeling big bad wolf.

What a bunch of transparent balderdash.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Where the heck is the Art?

You know you're in the boonies in New Brunswick when the most available and cleanest washroom is located in a Gun and Hunting store that also oversees the only gas pumps in town. And you know you're in a place halted by poverty and dried up potential when a dollar store can't even make a go of it. It's a strange feeling to have to walk past the morning clutch of coffee drinking off season hunters, to stroll by the eye blinding orange and butt ugly camoflauge paraphenalia, to sidestep the display of decoys for all occasions and then to pass through the small doorway nestle amongst the wide ranging array of rifles just to find the ladies room. But, I've been in this neck of the woods, and know that I can count on the cleaniness of the facilities. Since the whole scenario is so foreign from what I am used to, it's interestingly absurd to me.

And real.

I was on the road today to visit clients in their homes; to hear their stories and to assess their health situations. It's a part of my job that I do find the most fulfilling. I'm away from my desk, away from the hubbub of an office that becomes more technocratic and numbers driven by the day. I'm free to drive with my latest CD love on full blast (at the moment it happens to be the Boss singing Pete it!) I'm free to stop and take photos if my eye finds something appealing. And, most importantly, I am free to engage with people who have stories to tell and who need my help.

Human services at it's basic best. The art of connecting with someone and really listening to what they have to say and how they say it. Who in their right mind would consider entering the field of social services or human services if they didn't want to engage with other people?

You know what? LOTS! Now, I don't know whether they are in their right minds............ because it's as alien to me as the gun shop............ but Human services, whether it's front line, or whether it's training the front line, or whether it's Management related, or whether it's Human Resources are all being squeezed into a numbers and computer driven bubble. People in this field are becoming more and more obsessed with output and input and exits (a term used around here to indicate that someone has been "terminated"........yes that's a term used too) from the system. Quantity driven human resources.

How awful. How unreal

So, what happens to the Artists? Well, for one thing, the science related data reports continue to pile up and fester on their desks, and then swamp them, taking them away from what they do best.

And the Artists who are trying to break into the field of Human Resources these days? Well......................they are being interviewed by techno headed individuals whose robotic thoughts don't compute the beauty of the Artist's creativity............. they don't get the need to have people with pulsating hearts and warm handshakes and big smiles..............people who will look another person in the eyes and say, "tell me your story. I'm listening.".............. and consequently will continue to hire their kin. They are not being allowed in. Their talents and skills are being wasted.

So......................this spring/summer. I'm hitting the road more often, to take the backroads of this province, and visit the clients who need my help. The science part? I'll just try not to let it swamp me. The art of human services is out in the boonies................ you just gotta go out and find it.

It's the Art that's real