Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Every other day over the next few weeks, tears will be shed, heartfelt goodbyes will occur.....intimate separations bringing forth fear, sadness, loneliness and pride all mixed together. Families and friends touching and hugging and kissing..........passing on hope and love. Every other day, the airport in Fredericton will see a hundred or more troops board a plane to head to Afghanistan, until more than 1,500 men and women from our community depart.

Given that this community has a population of only 60,000 it is a large's a lot of people...........brave, patriotic, focused soldiers. Everyone knows someone getting on those planes, some at a distant...............some intimately.

Today, I'm thinking of all of these families. I don't have a loved one boarding a plane to go to war, though I'm surrounded by people who do.

This is not a time to express opinion on the war in Afghanistan. This is a time to ensure that our troops know we support their mission, that we see them as members of our community.........neighbours, moms, dads, sons and daughters......lovers..........and send them off with our love and empathy.

I wish them well.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

dare to be different

Muskie, circa 1981

"We need pilgrims with unflinching honesty,

who are willing to take risks,

who accept that there is no point in upsetting yourself

if you're not willing to be different."

Jean Vanier

Monday, January 29, 2007

darkness to light.

Bringing our secrets into the light.

Harbouring secrets only do harm to our spirit.

Safe harbour sharing

To rid shame and guilt

To enlighten and lighten

Bringing our secrets into the light

Chases away negative self-talk

Allows the people whom we love to know us deeper.

Helps us discover that we are not alone.

That no matter what.........

We are loved and accepted unconditionally.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

a rock pile of ideas............

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it,
bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Since returning to work after a much needed hiatus over the Christmas season, I have been happily inundated with offerings of open-ended opportunities. It seems like I have gone from an empty cupboard to a potentially full cupboard, with the gleeful option to fill it as I please. I'm only restricted by my open-ended imagination. Sure, there are parameters to the work I have been asked to delve into, but not restrictive ones. In fact, the parameters are actually what was missing before the Christmas break. The parameters have fed my sense of purpose. And if one doesn't have a clear picture of their sense of purpose, one will just continue to wander down a road aimlessly.

Rock picking to throw into a useless pile
Apple picking without a basket to fill
Pinecone gathering without creative way to use them
Kindling collecting without a fire to feed

A sense of purpose........a gameplan, even if it is very sketchy allows you to look at the rock pile and see potential to build, to hold an apple in your hand and dream of deliciously steaming cinnamon scented pie. Direction offers you a chance to look at the pinecones nestled in the loam under the tree and envision how beautiful a wreath they could make; to look at the twigs and sticks as a means to generate a well lit gloaming to warm your creative thoughts by.

To tell you the truth, the difference between my workload before Christmas and after Christmas is better described as 6 months hanging out with Rod Serling in the Twilight Zone and then waking up to realize it was a frigging nightmare. And it all started when someone in authority decided to check out my job description and CV.

All of a sudden.........BINGO! Their lightbulbs went on........ that gal may be worth somethin'.


Bring it on!

So..........since this authoritative enlightenment, I have been "offered up" to orchestrate a training plan for a group of professionals who for the first time are going to rally as a team to focus on "Prevention." I was also "signed up" to develop and deliver "Counselling and Assessment" skills (ie. how to be respectful and nice to clients while listening with your heart) provincial wide to hard nosed staff who have worked in the frontlines for thousands of years and have never had any training. That'll be a toughie, but I'm pumped!!

What else................... a Professional Development plan.........ranging from in-house information sessions on mental health issues to family violence and the law........ME! Developing and delivering. AND, I will be involved in the designing of a case management plan for people who work in social services. Little do they know they are already "case managing" to some extent....wait 'til I introduce the idea of "case interacting" under the guise of case management.............(laughing wryly......oh the subversiveness of it all)

So, my brain has been ticking...........pling,, I collect the rocks, the apples, the pinecones and the build a learning and doing cathedral filled with light and colour.

Teaching, facilitating, coaching, leading, sharing, whatever you want to label the person who orchestrates the what stokes my fire. I thrive on interactive learning. Most days when I'm up in front of a group (and at the side, and at the back and sitting in a circle with them..........I move around a lot) I often feel like I have learned more than I have taught. Group work is fascinating because the changing dynamics and chemistry of each and every group is different.

Bring it on!

My approach with any training, whether it's dry procedural process and policy stuff or counselling and assessment related or whether it's a college course on human relations, is to be as prepared as I can prior to the session. The lesson plan, handouts, the right room..........the whole lot needs to be ready and then I can take flight from there. By being prepared, I feel more confident to be flexible which I believe is very important when one's method leans toward open interactive dialogue. Sure, I have specific outcomes or ideas I want to relay.........but the process of learning alters depending on the group dynamics.

The key is to set up the environment where people are comfortable sharing.

Sharing......opening up......dialoguing......
Making the links between old knowledge and new ideas. Talking...applying....questioning.....arguing.....debating
with passion!!
Wondering aloud comfortably.
Feeling, feeling, feeling .....the gamut of feelings
And remembering that one can't have enough laughs!

I want participants to say to is this helpful to me? How can I use this new learning in my life? Am I comfortable sharing my thoughts and feelings? How does this help me work more effectively with people?

I'm a firm believer, as this blog can attest, in being an open book; sharing stories, feelings, thoughts, a teaching style. If I'm going to expect someone to reach out to another human being, I must be comfortable self-disclosing. I must be comfortable sharing vulnerabilities as well as strengths.

Isn't that the key to leadership?

When one is providing training in counselling and human interaction skills, every single person attending must feel safe to do the same. Learning how to "be a counsellor" is learning about oneself first. The only way this EVER works is if the learning environment is welcoming and safe. It takes time sometimes for a group to gel, for the group to be trusting. What helps are the "in between learning" discussions, sometimes called "icebreakers" that may seem like a waste of time at face value. But if you pick the right one, you would be amazed at how much is shared.

Timing is everything..................

So, this week...............................I'm going to throw out a couple of questions or ideas which I have used in the past as "session starters" which have provided the most interesting jewel filled sharing moments I have experienced as Coach........... and would love to read your thoughts....your feelings.................

AND, I would love it if you shared with me any "icebreaker" ideas you have had fun doing in a workshop....... first question FOR YOU?

What is one thing that gives you joy?


If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Saturday, January 27, 2007

the voice of an innocent

"I see the eight of us with our 'Secret Annexe' as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds. The round, clearly defined spot where we stand is still safe, but the clouds gather more closely about us and the circle which separates us from the approaching danger closes more and more tightly. Now we are so surrounded by danger and darkness that we bump against each other, as we search desperately for a means of escape. We all look down below, where people are fighting each other, we look above, where it is quiet and beautiful, and meanwhile we are cut off by the great dark mass, which will not let us go upwards, but which stands before us as an impenetrable wall; it tries to crush us, but cannot do so yet. I can only cry and implore: 'Oh, if only the black circle could recede and open the way for us!'"
- Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

One of the most profound books I have read in my life was actually one of the very first books I ever read. It was written by a girl in the 1940's when she was the same age as I was when I read it in the 70's. Though it wasn't the only commonality in our lives, we lived worlds and times apart. A lot of what she wrote about, her questions about faith and truth, her observations of the people she lived with, I could relate to on a personal level. But the insights and descriptions of her harsh reality........her living conditions coupled with the unrelenting suffocating fear she and her family had to function in were only accessible to me because she wrote a diary. Initially she wrote for herself as an emotional and spiritual outlet. She also wrote because of her desire to pursue a career as a published author when she grew up.

"Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?"
Anne Frank

Anne Frank along with mother, father and sister and another family of 3 lived in a secret annex tucked away in the attic of a storefront business office. For over 2 years, they stayed quietly hidden in a very small space unable to walk freely outside, unable to communicate with anyone else except for the two people who cared for them. Waiting out the war........waiting for the Nazis to be defeated. While she waited, Anne captured her thoughts and ideas............her unrelenting curiosity.........her unfailing belief in beauty and goodness........her expressive emotional adolescence for all to learn from.

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy" Anne Frank

Anne's words and experiences introduced me to this horrific time in our history and generated many questions I wanted answers to. Some of these questions I still have no answers to and probably never will. Her diary opened up discussions between generations and still does. Personally, reading Anne's diary was the beginning of my desire to learn about the Holocaust. Her words pointed me down a reading and learning path, like they did for millions of others. Anne's words brought her world to my conciousness. Many books have been devoured since then in an attempt to learn about the Holocaust and the devastational scars of evil.

Prescient circumstances intervened allowing us a glimpse into the life and longings of Anne Frank. Unbeknownst to this young woman, her chronicles were found and saved and then published for the whole world to read. Anne Frank is the everlasting voice of the innocent during a War that murdered 6 million Jewish people. She died at age 14 from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just 2 months before Germany surrenders and the war is over.

The Diary of Anne Frank has since been published in 67 languages. It has sold over 75 million copies. It continues to resonate 60+ years later. Anne Frank's deeply felt passions were captured by her passion of writing.

Her chronicled words and her innocent face provide us with a glimpse of eternal beauty. Thank God.

"How wonderful it is that nobody wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." Anne Frank

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death." Anne Frank.

I was inspired to write about Anne from the Sunday Scribblings prompt, "chronicles." To read others, click here...........

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Late night thoughts


It's been a day and night of meetings and life interwoven within the confines of agendas.

Productive meetings, but mind twirling boardroom sitting thought chewing meetings all the same.

Tonight I chaired one that lasted 3 hours and has left me with responsibilities to fulfill soon.

But, I don't want to think about the to do list.

I'm tired and in need of a decluttering of my brain.

A cup of tea in front of me.
Peace and more talking and listening.
No more negotiating and mediating

No more drumming up ideas
No more offering up options

No more finding resolutions
Tonight. yay.

So, here I am wrapped in my favourite quilt dancing in pink tulips

My feet tucked under.


Only one lamp is on to write by.
Stillness and solitude
Safely home.
How lucky I am to be warm and loved
To be sitting where I belong
Soothed by the sound of my dog clicking up and down the hallway checking to make sure her family is tucked in.

Today, I made inroads to finding peace with a friend whom I have been distant from for too long. The wounds between us, caused by us, were deeply felt. But today, a lightness reappeared. I hadn't realized how much of a burden it felt until it started lifting.......

She is someone whom I have worked with for a long time.............someone whom I used to teach with and always had such fun facilitating groups together.........She taking flight with her thoughts and ideals and heart lessons.......Me keeping her on track, with at least one foot on the ground, generating the discussion after the lesson...........interacting. We were a good team.

Today, as I heard her present her ideas for a three day course on nonviolent communication using empathy, compassion and self awareness as a means to dealing with conflict.........I was struck by how much I had missed our teaching times together.

Today, as I heard her express her frustration about her inability to structure the lessons she wanted to deliver, as I heard her admit that she has a difficult time finding the words to develop a training manual for her lessons so that others could deliver it (never as good as she could, but they would try), I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for her. My empathy, which she calls the grounding of compassion.............flooded me.

I could feel my heels lift............I wasn't digging in anymore.

I spoke up across the big boardroom table ......................
"This is wonderful! I love your ideas!"

She looked right at me and smiled...............locking eyes
She grateful that I was supporting her
Me grateful that I saw things in a different light again.

We spoke briefly at the break..............I offered to sit with let her talk her way through her wonderful ideas while I jotted down my ideas as to how it could be delivered. It is what we have done many times in the past. It is what works well with us. The irony that we were going to be working on a conflict resolution training module together didn't slip by unnoticed, but before more words could be expressed.

Before we could get to the "I'm sorry" part, however, we just stopped talking for a bit.
She looked at me and said......................"its hard being a human being. It's hard work isn't it?"

"yes," I whispered.....................and gave her a hug.

The rest will come...........we will talk it through when we have some time to be alone again.....she taking flight with her ideas, and me helping her keep one foot on the ground.........

I guess you could say that I'm the grounding empathy and she's the soaring compassion.

Tonight, after a long day, I got into my cold van shivering to drive home from the last meeting. As I turned onto my street............snowed covered and deep chilled........I looked up and saw the sideways moon smiling at me.

I smiled back......................

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I found this on Pip's blogsite.

It made me think about the sweeping generalizations we often make that can lead to misunderstandings and even angry words shouted at another human being. It can lead to a person dismissing the thoughts and feelings of another human being disrespectfully. Sweeping generalizations can shower hurt and pain on a cherished a matter of seconds! Poof! Both individuals walking away in anger.....digging their heels in, wondering what the hell just happened.

Then, I read this tonight......................

"To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, "I no longer hold your offense against you." But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the "offended one." As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or worse, pull them as a heavy load. The grea temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then defince ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other, but also ourselves. "
Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

So..............if both parties have dug their heels in, thinking that the other was the offender, how do they get to forgiveness? Just wondering........that's all.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

what to believe..............

What I love about the autonomy of blogging, well writing in general really is that it allows me to write anything I bloody well want to. Not only that, I can complete a thought and a sentence without being loudly talked over. Sure, my point of view can be dismissed by the reader with one click of the mouse. Fine. But, I can lay out my opinion as linearly as I can even if it's just for my own benefit.

Blogging is not as all pervasive as other methods of mass communication. It's more intimate, more personal as well as one sided until (and if) comments are left to offer another view or another opinion. And, if someone leaves a nasty rude comment that I deem inappropriate, I can delete it and move on because it's my blog. My perogative......................

Unfortunately, the media is very difficult to turn off, dismiss and ignore. And this week, I'd like to turn it all off. Why? The Robert Pickton trial has begun in British Columbia. His heinous crimes are worse than Bernardo, Legere, and Olsen combined. If you havent heard about this evil man and the gruesome murderous acts he is accused of commiting, just take my word for it, it's beyond comprehension. And yet........

CTV has been "promoting" the trial for over a week like it was a CSI episode. They are inviting us to tune into the National news at 11pm to get all our updates on the trial with these "alluring" ads. It sickens I try to explain to my kids what the networks are "promoting" while they are watching some innocent TV show that's gone to commercials.

CBC Radio One not only has the updates during every top of the hour newscast, albeit with warnings just before they rail into the gore (at which time I am running around the house turning off the radios in all the rooms so my children don't have to learn any more details of it), they have also developed "angles" for interviews on forensic this and DNA that with experts during their morning, afternoon and evening shows. You may have turned on the radio in the morning to try to catch the local information and news (weather, school bus delays, updates etc) but be prepared to switch off at any time, because Robert Pickton is front and centre.

All newspapers have a gruesome eye catching photo and headline on the front page, and then have a "special section" devoted to the details.

Any online newsite you click onto will have a picture of the scumbag front and centre because he's intriguing??? I'm sure if you looked.........and it wouldn't take a lot of could learn all the details which the court has banned from reporting on.

I have stopped reading newsites online................I have turned off the radio............I refuse to watch the TV news. My choice, I realize...................... and if you want to watch or listen.......if you have a driven desire to learn more, well then fill yer boots.

What I don't understand is why someone would want to pollute their brains with such vile descriptive violence? Is it some kind of thrill? Where does the curiosity for this stuff come from?

This particular story, along with a few others that seem to be in the news every single day has also generated a lot of questions in my head about the amount of lies and disceptions we are fed daily.....................stuff others with an agenda want us to believe. I find it very difficult to find my way as I filter through propaganda, spins, left leaning thought vs. right leaning thought, political correctness, fundamentalist finger pointing, poll inducing assessments, opinionated editorials, heartfelt testimonials, and emotional diatribe that makes up the majority of our media. I don't care which political planet you're from...........................we are all fed a lot of bullshit, and innuendo that more often than not reinforces our own take on the world.

WHERE is the BALANCE? DOES BALANCED reporting exist? Did it ever exist. I don't believe it ever has...........but who am I for YOU to believe? I'm just a lowly little blogger with an opinion.

Just like a horoscope, it makes sense to you by the way you interpret it. You can make a horoscope fit your day anyday!! How scientifically magical that is. The news is that way as well. If I'm a supporter of Stephen Harper, I can find many articles to support my point of view. I can even decide to only read those articles and dismiss everything else as lies. Same with any issue.
It leaves me confused and at times unsure as to where I stand on certain issues. What I try to do, if I'm interested in learning about a topic or an issue...........if I want to form an educated opinion, I try to read a variety of articles that reflect many angles. Easier said than done..... but I try.

'Cause the truth HAS to be in there somewhere...........doesn't it?

Not that I want a world that is black and white, right and wrong.....but it would be nice if I could at least trust something that I hear or read or see in the media because right now, not one politician comes out smelling fresh and not one journalist comes out unbiased......... integrity and honesty seem to have been flushed down the toilet and into the sewers.........polluting the rivers, which in turn is consume by the cows, which in turn produce flatulant methane gas, which as we all know is the major cause of global warming.......or not.

Gee........this was the fastest post I've written in weeks. I wonder why??

I will end this little bloggierant with a quote I found in the newspaper today. Not only did it make me laugh..........I BELIEVE it.....

"The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. The alter the facts to fit their views, which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering." Dr. Who.

Anyone going to watch Dubya's State of the Union Address tonight?


Monday, January 22, 2007

i don't have silver and i don't have gold.........

One never knows where you will be when you hear the "person" story that plinks your heart the most during your daily travels. Somedays we just keep our heads down and avoid plinking at all costs.......somedays we want to keep within ourselves and not hear about another but there's no avoiding it...........somedays we are graced with a symphony of plinks.........and our day feels overflowing and bountiful...................

plink..........plink........plink...........grace notes

In the middle of a dry proposal writing meeting today with 3 other women, one of the women shared a story of her niece who at 33, just received a new kidney and is feeling better than she has in years. The donor was a neighbour of the niece. The two met only a year ago, when the niece and her family (she has three young children) moved in next door. Despite complete renal failure which required nightly home dialysis and treatment twice daily, the niece managed to LIVE, wife, part-time self employed jewellry maker. The neighbour was compassionately moved. When tests indicated that no one in her family were a good donor match for a kidney transplant, the neighbour offered hers.

The neighbour offered a woman she had only met a year ago................her kidney........

The neighbour and the niece found out last autumn they were perfect matches.

At Christmas this year, the neighbour gave the niece a picture of two women with an inscription which read........something like................

I don't have any silver or gold to give you. I only have myself to give you.

Within an hour after recovery from the operation last Friday, the nieces health was markedly improved. Colour and vibrancy returned.......................

Not a dry eye was to be found at the proposal writing meeting!!

plink......plink......grace notes......sometimes a symphony

I returned to my office at the end of today to hear good news. John had been contacted and was told that he definately has a new place to live. Right in town, close to all amenities and supports. So did 10 other people who are some of the neediest people on our list............... the office was alive with hope and smiles. This is a place where good offerings are rare..........

only two to share have your own to share.

no silver, no gold..............just a graceful hymn............

living in dread

John and I spent a couple of hours together on Friday morning trying to sort a few things out. His biggest need right now is to find a new place to live which is why I had booked an appointment to meet with him. When I first met him in September in his "home" to help him apply for a disability pension, he was in a state of dread and desperation. He still is. But, he's now on TWO waiting lists for affordable clean housing, closer to amenities, closer to help. When I had heard that a frontline worker was trying to reach him to "ask" if his name could be shared with the local "non-profit" housing organization so that THEY could contact him for an interview to see if he would be a good candidate for one of their apartment units, I knew this would confuse him beyond his comprehension.

John has been trying to seek help for years............YEARS to no avail. Consequently, as it would any one of us, he had lost his temper when he has left messages that aren't returned.........he had threatened with his words, tried to seek help through human rights, called his local politician, called his financial worker to intervene, shouted obsenities to faceless workers over the phone.........his desperate tactics and reactions only created defensive responses by the "people" who could help him. As far as they were concerned, because he was faceless to them, John had dug his own hole.

The system is a failure. Unable to understand the reactionary behaviour of a man at his wits end, who lashes out with venomous words.......... the system blames him and turns away.........

He arrived in a snowstorm, after securing a ride into town with a neighbour, with a shopping bag full of papers; form letters from various government departments, requesting information and updates. One to apply for a fuel supplement for which he would qualify, another to re-apply for medicare because his was expiring............heating bills, monthly expense calculations, lists of government people whom he has tried to contact. The shopping bag of papers overwhelmed him. On top of that, he couldn't afford a stamp to mail the forms. After paying his bills, he only has $7.00 left for the rest of the month.
Important, immediate this took precedence. We began by focusing on the shopping bag of responsibilities. As I began filling out the forms for him, the fear and dread poured out..........

  • The water pipes in his rundown mini-trailer have frozen
  • He still has fleas in his trailer and he's tried to get rid of them
  • Mold is growing in the walls. He knows it makes him sick.
  • He is $600.00 behind in his hydro payments
  • Despite only living in a mini-trailer, his hydro/heating bills per month are more than $200.00 a Month because two of his windows have rotted off the sills.
  • His body aches
  • He is bone weary tired
  • He's so sorry if he offended anyone...................

And all the while he is sharing this unbelievable list, he is apologizing for how he has behaved, for the voice mail messages he has left on my phone...........and on many phones around town.

And all the while he is sharing his overwhelming shopping bag of his life in dire poverty, he continues to call me "dear." It's the Maritime way......................"dear" said with compassion.

And all the while he is telling me about his aches and pains, his depression and physical numbness...................I am cursing inside, feeling overwhelmed, wondering how I can secure a clean, warm apartment for him. I have been told in the past that he's a "priority. I've heard responses like..........."he's a great candidate for one of the new apartments we are building" which is beyond comprehension since the shovel hasn't even broken ground. This man's needs are immediate.

What is he asking for? He is asking for a safe warm affordable place to live..........a place with a flush toilet, running clean water, no fleas.............a place where the wind doesn't whistle through like a loud locomotive. He is asking for the chance to have more than 7 dollars left in the middle of the month so he can buy food. He is asking for help. He is asking to be treated with dignity and respect.

"Please, dear".........................he pleas, as he shows me the flea bites on his legs.

I continue to fill out the forms, and look through his shopping bag to find the needed bills etc to attach to the proper forms and to listen to him pour out his heart. I show him where to sign the forms and then take them to our mail box............ His shopping bag is lighter. He is relieved for the moment. I can see some tension leave...........his burdened shoulders visibly relax.

I reassure him dear..............and on the way out the door into the snowstorm, I walk with him past many offices to introduce him to the people whom he has left curses on their voice mails. He smiles a tired smile............"nice to meet you, dear" and leaves with them a different view of his human face. It has a profound affect on a few of them I learn later.

Poverty is fear, malnutrition, chronic bad health, loneliness, illiteracy and depression. Poverty is the look of dread and dreariness on the face of a desperate human being. Poverty is alive and well in this country. Poverty is sucking the marrow out of our collective souls. Poverty is bone crushing fatigue from living with dread and fear.

It's time for real action. It's time to meet our neighbours who are barely surviving, who are living in unacceptable conditions right down the road from where you live.

It is beyond time to demand we have a system that works............a system that is compassionate and capable of being the safety net for our needy. This province........this country needs a strategy on poverty that not only fixes the holes in the safety net, but that revolutionizes the perceptions and attitudes of all Canadians.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


She rubbed the steam off the window with her sleeve to look out the window of her winter cabin to view the January sun setting through the pine. For the first time in a couple of hours she stood still........holding a full glass of wine, chilled in the snowdrift by the door. She swallowed her first sip and took a deep breath, inhaling some fresh confidence. It may happen.

Inside, the fire had taken the chill out of the room, replacing it with an alluring warmth of twilight. Candles flickered on the hearth and the table set for a late dinner. The background music, a compilation of her favourites lulled her into believing that it may happen.

It had been a month since she impulsively sent him a handwritten invitation in the mail. Well, it seemed impulsive but in retrospect, she had been wanting to share a romantic night with him, away from city realities...............suspended in time. Her note had been specific about the time and place, but brief in expectations. She had wanted the invitation to tickle his own imagination, to leave him with a sense of intrigue........enough to pull him into her world with the desire to explore the mystery. He had not replied. She had asked him not to..........she simply wanted to offer the invitation and if he was interested, he knew when and where to find her.

She took another long sip of her wine......................Van Morrison's Irish Heartbeat began to was their song and it sounded as fresh as it did the first time they dance to it over 20 years ago. As if on key, she heard the snow crunching under tire sound of a car slowly coming up the plowed driveway.........headlights sweep through the windows as the car stops beside the cabin. The engine sound disappeared, followed by the clunk of the car door slamming shut. She turned to face the cabin door smiling as she heard the stamping of feet to dust off clinging snow.

The door opened, he breezed into the warm cabin............his arms filled with an overflowing bouquet of tulips...........knowing these were her favourites. He took in the romantic touches she had added to their cabin in the woods. With a big twinkling grin on his face, he turned to his life and dance partner.........and asked.......

"Can I have this dance?"

*****for more sunday scribblings..................on this week's prompt............fantasy..............********

Saturday, January 20, 2007

midnight flurries.........

One of the greatest dangers in the spiritual life is self-rejection. When we say, "if people really knew me, they wouldn't love me," we choose the road toward darkness. Often we are made to believe that self-deprecation is a virtue, called humility. But humility is in reality the opposite of self-deprecation. It is the grateful recognition that we are precious in God's eyes and that all we are is pure gift. To grow beyond self-rejection we must have the courage to listen to the voice calling us God's beloved sons and daughters, and the determination always to live our lives according to this truth.
Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

Friday, January 19, 2007

along the walking trail

The snow was falling heavily when I ventured out for a walk at lunch time today. But the temperature was just right, and there wasn't a speck of arctic breeze. Seemed like the perfect time to inhale fresh air, to glory in the season, and to find beauty. Sounds were muffled except for the excitable gulls gliding along airstreams. I had the walking trail to myself as I stumbled across these two snips of beauty tucked away under the blanket of hibernating hope.

photos of downtown

If you were to meet someone from the Miramichi region of New Brunswick, more times than not, they would never say good-bye, so long or toodle-dee-doo to you. Instead, they would smile, wave and say, "the very best..............."

Downtown Fredericton is smattered with brightly painted homes, some of which were built during the Loyalist times. St. John Street, is unique in it's design. The fronts of the homes are flat along this section and are nestled right up to the sidewalk. It reminds me of a European city with a maritime colour flavour. Any colour is acceptable.

storm pending...............

A storm is predicted and there's a uncomfortable calm feeling all around me that always precedes one. A static anticipation of wondering how it will manifest. Will the snow fall gently blanketing the stark winter night or will it be a loud blustery whistling wind that will come knocking loudly?

Late evening silence when all are fast asleep. Tucked in cozy. Safe from harm.

A storm is pending and I can't sleep. Silence hasn't found me. The calm facade drums up the storm. Will peaceful sleep ever come?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Subversion 101

"Men in authority will always think that
criticism of their policies is dangerous.
They will always equate their policies
with patriotism, and find criticism subversive."
Henry Steele.

A good friend of mine who has known me for many years called me a subversive shit disturber a couple of years ago. When she blurted out this label during a conversation we were having about our perspective careers and our desire to seek out new challenges and all the actions we had taken to make it happen, I was taken aback by the remark. For about 10 seconds......... .........because she was right! I am a subversive shit disturber (even when I'm ALL ALONE) by nature. I just had never thought of those words to describe me before.

Busted!!! And may I say..................busted by a very good subversive shit disturber in her own right.

Heres why I think she's right:

I suck at following rules.
I follow my own beat.
I don't like joining groups, I'd rather be leading one.
Lemmings scare me.
I would never put up with someone else signing me up for some volunteer task or making a decision on my behalf if I hadn't had a huge say in it.
I am not one to be directed or micromanaged. You might as well put a gun to my head cause that's how I feel when someone is breathing over my shoulder.
I can sniff out manipulation and phoniness in one whiff.
If I see a wrong, I can spend many brain waves trying to figure out a way to make it right even if action goes against the norm.
I can be a pitbull with a chew toy if I am motivated to sort out something.
Challenge my brain and I'm there my friend.
If you find me in a room with a big box, I will be standing on the outside of it.
Offer me an underdog issue, and I'm eating steak tonight!

Mark Twain, master of subversive humour as a means to encourage shifts in perspectives and perceptions, lived by his motto: "Whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.........."

Right on!!

It's not a fully concious act on my part to veer towards an issue or the "minority," when it first is introduced to me. In fact, most often I'm up to my hip-waders in some issue before I realize that my actions constitute's honestly how my brain works.......... I hear or read about an underdoggish issue and before I know it, my thoughts have taken me down a problem solving road less travelled. Put a bunch of rules on a plate in front of me that are directly and negatively affecting a person in need and I'm trying to figure out how I can quietly slip the rules under the table.
And you know what? This stuff follows me around. I often wonder if I go looking for it, or if it finds me. If my day isn't busy, I will go looking for it, which isn't a good thing and is often when I get in hot water. But, it seems to me that it finds me too. Many a time I have been acting in a supervisory role at work for example and a whole slew of "exceptionalities" to the rules slide onto my desk and I did these not so straightforward situations arise specifically on the day that I seem to be in charge? It's uncanny really. I'm like a kid in a candy shop and have to be very careful which issues to "take on," and which rules to abide by through a quick risk assessment of the situation. this a good thing or a bad thing? It can easily be perceived as manipulative or threatening, especially when dealing with people and working in a system, especially by authority who have made the policies. It definately can be frustrating for a creative subversive, but I think if utilized wisely, one can rock some sense and sensibilities by helping to alter policy, to positively impact other's force change when it is really needed. It can also help build a relationship with a person in need, when I tell them I'm on their side and I'll try to go to bat for them. No guarantees, but I'll try.................
The bad part? Some perceive me as a threat, which doesn't help my upward mobility. I'm basically shooting myself in the foot. Sometimes I get nosing into territory I should'nt be concerned about but my curiosity gets the best of me.

I'm glad my friend and fellow subversive shit disturber pointed this out to me. This insight of how I am perceived, and how I project myself has allowed me to evaluate my approach and interactions with others.........making me feel either pride or shame.......pride when I was able to use it in a way that helps, or shame when I look at the times when I didn't approach a situation or deal with "authority" respectfully. It is both a strength and a weakness, that's for sure. I just have to continue to remain more cognizant of my "subversive" button is pushed and for what reasons..................

Monday, January 15, 2007

who am i when no one's looking?

a matter of trust

Trust men and they will be true to you,
treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you grew up in Canada in the 60's or 70's, you would automatically feel a sense of comfort and belonging if you were to ever hear the melody of the folk song "Early One Morning" being played on a tin whistle and harp. It is a song that even as an adult I can automatically wet my lips and whistle to. If I hummed the first bars, the majority of my friends would easily start humming along. Not only that, they would smile in remembrance of one Friendly Giant, a giraffe puppet named Jerome and a rooster named Rusty who invited us into an imaginative castle every morning to join them. Always the same greeting.........the inviting music, and this familiar welcome from the Friendly Giant himself to cuddle up by the fireplace. "Oh there's lots of room," he'd say as his GREAT BIG HAND would move the chairs closer to the warmth as he gently encouraged us to choose the place we wanted to settle in............

"One little chair for one of you, and a bigger chair for two to curl up in, and for someone who likes to rock, a rocking chair in the middle." The Friendly Giant, dressed in his medieval castle outfit, used his voice, and his reliable movements and words to pull us into a place where we would feel safe, as his finger moved the rocking chair back and forth, back and forth.

"Look up! Look WAAAAAAAAY up!" The camera would then scan slowly up from the chairs all the way up to the Friendly Giant's face. He would be smiling. His eyes twinkling. And the morning TV show would begin...............every morning for 27 years on the CBC.

Just like his American buddy, Captain Kangaroo, "Friendly" knew how to set the right environment for us to trust him. They were both believable gentle souls who always smiled and who always talked to you like you were an equal.

You want to engage someone, create a setting where someone feels safe enough to spill their hearts? It doesn't take much, but it takes a whole you know what I mean? I can list the ingredients, but it's the authenticity behind the ingredients that have to be felt by the heart and believed by the head. It's all a matter of trust. It takes a whole lot of yourself to make it happen.

I have worked with so many individuals whose trust boundaries were mangled beyond recognition. Consequently, they have put up thick fortresses to buttress both meanness and kindness. They don't want to risk being hurt again, understandably. Often because of their upbringing and subsequent unhealthy relationships which consistently reinforced the angst of mistrust, the human beings I work with have never ever experienced safety that lasted. They may have been lured in by a siren-like intimacy only to realize they have lost another chink of innocence. When I think about how wounded some of my clients are because of this, it leaves me feeling so sad and sorry for them. Time and again, they have reached out for the trust found in the sense of love and belonging only to be slapped back with nasty words or actions.

So, how do you counteract this? How do you set up a scenario like the Friendly Giant? It's always nice to have the fire in the fireplace and the cozy chairs nestled in front, but that often isn't the case. No, more often than not, the physical environment may be a boardroom or an office. It could be right out on the street in the middle of life. It could happen sitting in a public foyer, in a church basement, driving in a car, at their kitchen table.......the settings all change. But the approach to developing the safeness of trust needed to engage in meaningful dialogue and learning is the same. You have to trust yourself enough to spill out a story of your own life. But before that, you need to pick up on the cues the other person gives you.....their "vibes." IF you're lucky, you may have a good idea of where the person may be coming from so that you can decide on just the right personal story you want to share.

sharing builds trust...........sharing a vulnerable part of you sets the stage for initmate conversational engagement. It's a risk.

The stories may change.................and the depth of disclosure alters greatly............but the sharing and openness produces a safe harbour. It sends the and I are the same. WE are equally a part of this big old goofy world. We may be taking different paths but that's fine. That's what makes life so very interesting and complicated at the same time. It starts with you, and then you listen..................asking the right questions, encouraging with your eyes and your full attention...........pulling them in to a safe spilling place where they feel like they are sitting comfortably in front of Friendly's fireplace.

One of the most important gifts we share with one another is our trust..........we do it through our tone, our open hearts, our personal stories, our listening ears and our smiling krinkling eyes. We do it through sending the message out that what you say matters, what you feel matters, and I am wanting to hear it all. No matter if it is one on one encounter or you're up in front of 400 people, it's the same method you use to pull people create a feeling of being in a clubhouse away from the rest of the create a sense of sitting in front of the fireplace curled up in the chair for two.'s the key ready for it?

Add a touch of tenderness.

When it works, its magical. When it works, it feels completely safe..................just right.

When it works, you leave the moment with enough positive energy you feel like you could light the fire with your own spark.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

jelly bean ideas...............

Well, here she offering for Sunday Scribblings. The prompt was "Idea" and boy did I have a journal scribbling feast..........lots of ideas germinated and captured for future consideration. I decided on writing an analogy and for some reason, jellybeans won out. As I was trying to find the right words, I kept thinking about J.K. Rowling and how absolutely amazing her one idea about a wizard named Harry Potter captured her own imagination and expanded the minds of millions of others. Sometimes it just takes one idea, one little thread of an idea that needs a tug and well..........................................who knows where it will lead??

Hope you enjoy............. :)

A burst of tangerine,

the tangy taste of lemon,
an icy air blast of mint.
midnight jazz licorice,
lazy pink bubble gum summer chew
comforting cinnamon
hot buttered toast

brain zipping cappucino
carnival candy floss
vine-sweet strawberries
exotic tropical mango

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm........a bouquet of mouthwatering morsels.

Ideas are like Bertie Botts Every Flavour jelly beans. They all have their own pizazzzzzz. Sometimes you can take a handful and throw them all in your mouth at the same time and somehow the flavours interplay as a brand new taste, and it works. Some, however, you want to bite right into it, letting the flavour burst open spontaneously all on it's own. Other times, you want to leave it on your tongue in rumination, savouring the flavour while letting the memory settle in.

Not all jelly beans are tastefully inviting.............just like some ideas. There are definately duds hidden amongst the pack.

Squishy squid
rancid vinegar
repulsively foul rotten eggs
toe nails

The very thought of them make me squeamishly turn up my nose and shut my mouth tight. But, it doesn't stop me from wanting to seek out a new flavour.........a new idea to savour. Once I've tasted the successful sweetness of brown sugar combined with a tarty blueberry, my curiosity pushes my desire to explore, to experiment, to stretch my tastebud boundaries. I may stumble across one that tastes like cough medicine or worse a mouthful of mud, but I know if I keep at it......................I'll find a winner in that inviting bowl full of jelly bean ideas..........

C'mon, put your hand in there and dig in..........

rage against complacency

"What is, therefore, our task today? Shall I answer: "Faith, hope and love"?

That sounds beautiful. But I would say -- courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature... we lack a holy rage -- the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of a God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth... a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God's earth, and the destruction of God's world. To rage when little children must die of hunger, when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the madness of militaries. To rage at the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against the complacency. To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God.

And remember -- the signs of the Christian Church have been the Lion, the Lamb, the Dove, and the Fish... but never the chameleon."

Kaj Munk, Danish priest. He was killed shortly after delivering his sermon by the Gestapo in 1944. His words continue to ring true.

Friday, January 12, 2007

refresh the irritation

Twice this week I have read the phrase, "refresh the irritation." When I read it last night on Pip's blog, my second encounter............the phrase stuck. It stayed with me like a pebble in my flip flops, like a scratchy throat whenever I a persistant pressure of my finger pushing on my temple, it's muscles moving other thoughts out of the way. The phrase was irritating me! How ironic.'s to unravelling the mystery
A drip, drip, drip of a tap in the silence of the night
denting the porcelain
leaving an ugly iron stain
waste of resources

What does it mean?
Why should I refresh an irritation?
Wouldn't that just bring forth discomfort?
Won't it go away if I just ignore it?

A drip, drip drip of quiet lonely tears unshared, unexpressed to anyone else
filling the messy cracks temporarily
smearing mascara in rivulets
empty puffy sore eyes

slow burn, inner storm brewing, agitated, frustrated, disconcerted, deny, deny, suppress, repress, swallow..............scratch............drip, drip, drip........turn away from the pest.

Refresh the irritation.
Use it as food for inspiration
Reveal it's reason for provocation
Wonder about it's festering aggravation
Surrender to your exasperation
Use discomfort and agitation
For personal growth and motivation

Our lives are messy. Our crisscrossing journeys are messy. I don't think God would want it any other way. Do you think maybe God throws us irritating curveballs just to ensure we're paying attention? Maybe he's asking us to turn our irritations into action.............into pearls of wisdom.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

downtown bronzing.......

Crisp winter January day..................the sun bouncing off bronze..............and inhaled by me. A few shots I took during my stroll.....................what FUN my new camera is!!! I'm loving the learning..........and experimenting.......and exploring and CAPTURING illuminating sights of my beautiful downtown................bronzing cupola, top of the provincial legislature building. Taken from the parking lot behind my office.

Christchurch Cathedral steeple............looking gothically majestic as always

Old train bridge, now a walking bridge...........
takes you on a journey north.......
across the Saint John River and beyond....................

"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance and write poems and suffer and understand, for all of that is life." J. Krishnamurti.

That is why we need to see beauty illuminated by the sun

fire and water

Morning shot............the sunlight hitting the river and bouncing off.
Perhaps the water was too cold to touch?

"The big fire burned on faith, and the little fire burned by the grace of God, Ezekial saw a fire a burnin' way in the middle of the air...."

Keep Albert Central

The vitality of a downtown is directly related to the flow and interconnectivity of the people who live and work and study in and around it's heart. The healthiest city centres thrive on active community and business development that involves people of all stripes and ages. Accessible, inviting, educational, entertaining, and economically viable..........this is what every city and town strives to attain and maintain. As we all know too well most downtown hearts are eroding for many reasons, most predominantly because of the lure of big boxy stores and other developments which are allowed to fester on the city skirts.....pulling people away........... changing the pulse.............wounding the core.........

Fredericton's city centre is about to be altered by another misguided scud missle......

Just before Christmas, the ever so humble (ahem) new Minister of Education, released a press announcement which has the potential to close a door on a group of young community member wannabes who presently attend Albert Street Middle School. Located within walking distance of the downtown amenities, Albert St School has been a vibrant part of the community for over 50 years.

Over the past couple of years, concerned citizens (who vote by the way) took it upon themselves to rally the past government to build a new structure on the same property. Their efforts seemed to have had paid off. Provincial money was set aside for a brand new state of the art structure. Building plans had been approved. Since then, $3,000,000.00 had been spent on the design, the purchase of adjoining property and various and sundry legal ramifications. Let me repeat that..................3 MILLION DOLLARS spent ALREADY to reach the point of approved design and approved location. All was rosy..................all was moving forward. Target date for the opening of the new school at the Albert Street site: September, 2008.
Then, the sitting government lost the election last fall by a hairline fracture...........big surprise, big faces, new departments, new appointments.............hard fought agreements scrapped.............. all of a sudden the Albert Street school project was put on hold.

Without ANY input from families who had been involved in the process from the initial discussions identifying the need for a new school (Albert St. is old and falling apart and drafty beyond repair and is really only held together with amazing teacher and student shared school spirit) , the approval to have a school built, the agreement of the process to build on the same property etc, etc...........................without ANY plans shared or discussed with interested parents and staff, this new Minister of Education announced that ALL of the plans would be scrapped for a new school to be located on a piece of property next to the highway on the way out of town!!!

End of story, done deal.................all in one press release distributed the Friday afternoon before Christmas. Known until recently for his oppositional bellicosity, all of a sudden the new Minister went into hiding and wouldn't even respond to the concern community members.......until yesterday, when he took time out of his busy day to be interviewed on the local morning radio show. The political rhetoric he schmooozed through a myriad of lies. Haughtily, he dismissed parent and student's outcry which included excellent and rational reasons to keep the school where it is by placing all of these arguments under the umbrella of an "I know better than all of you because I am a parent and you are all children..........."

So, because of this "I've put a lot of thought into this decision" rash decision that has to have some personal ulterior motive attached to it, 600 plus kids who are bussed in from all parts of the southside of the city, including some of the more rural outskirts, will no longer have walking access to the following downtown community offerings:

The public library
The Provinicial Legislature
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery
Many museums
City Hall
Fredericton High School for plays and presentations
3 ice arenas, used regularly as part of their physical education program
3 beautiful parks, one with walking trails used often for outdoor phys ed
Officer's Square
The New Brunswick Craft College
Two universities where many walk to afterschool to meet up with a parent. The university students also play an integral role within Albert Street School as tutors, coaches, and extra-curricular coordinators. As well, many fulfill their student internships at Albert....all within walking distance of their residences.
The Fredericton Playhouse
Science East
Pools and tennis courts which can be utilized in the fall and spring.
The YMCA, often accessed as an afterschool program

The trans Canada walking trail along the river.......

As well...........and just as important...................the Community Kitchen, and various other community based organizations which expand these student's awareness of social issues and the importance of volunteerism.

Since the Department of Education and the local School districts have cut their budgets so dramatically that money is NEVER available for field trip goodness, they can't even hire library assistants to oversee school libraries these days..............since most schools rely on their Home and School committees to orchestrate fundraisers in order to be able to purchase essentials such as school supplies for the classrooms..................these kids will completely lose access to all that our city core has to offer.

A big box school on the outskirts of the city versus a fully integrated involved vibrant middle school in the heart of the city? What makes more sense to you????
Granted, the new site has a couple of tennis courts, a ball diamond and a skateboard park................
A group of concerned parents, students, alumni and community members are working hard to fight this demand a voice at the table, to request that this government reconsider their decision. Letters to the editor, voicemails to the local radio stations, feedback to their MLA's, requests for information...................all avenues are being pursued actively and with passion. A website will be up and running soon (i will post the site as soon as it is).
Let's hope it's not too late.
Keep Albert Street Central!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

A sweet voice

I met a woman over a year ago who was referred to me because she was looking for work, but was dealing with various mental health barriers. She had a strong fear of leaving her apartment and it was verging on agoraphobia. She had told the Case Manager stories of stalkers and threats, but presented her issues to the Case Manager in a way that seemed like the stalking stories weren't based in reality. When stories get a bit dicey and verge on delusional, I am often asked to meet with the person.

At the same time as our meeting, I had just written a piece on trying to understand what "grace" meant to me which had really helped form my own definition. It was published on the local CBC website as part of a series they were doing on "finding faith." I posted it on my blog as well. So, it was a fresh piece of important learning for me when this woman walked into my office.

I don't know what happened the moment we met, but I honestly knew then that our connection was special, that I was sharing my office space with a very spiritual woman. She was full of innocence and yet had experienced recent loss, fear and despair which had put her in a personal tailspin. To describe her as ethereal makes her sound otherworldly but she did have that essence to her. She had a dazzling smile and big warm brown eyes. Dressed like a gypsy with a little funky flair, her presence illuminated my office with her beauty.

We talked for over 2 hours...........our conversation covered so many was like we both wanted to touch on them ALL! She told me her story............of the stalker, of having to move many times within the city, of having to quit her job.........of losing her mother whom she believed was the only person who ever understood her and of being misunderstood by the rest of her family. She shared her dreams of recording her music, of following through on her entrepreneurial ideas. She spoke of God and of looking for grace everyday. She also disclosed that every night she talked to her mom, and that sometimes her mom sent her messages. I wholeheartedly believed her.

It wasn't a one-sided conversation................I shared as well...........about my family, my desire to write, and my recent understanding of what grace meant and of how I had just written about it. When she asked for a copy, I printed it off at the end of our meeting.

Two people who shared a couple of hours that turned out to be memorably special. There was nothing wrong with this woman that time and support wouldn't help heal........ I asked her to keep in touch with me as she continued on her journey.

The next day, she called me in tell me how much she enjoyed my grace article and how much it meant to her that I shared it with her...............she left me in tears...............I was so touched.

Every now and then a voice message would be keep me up to date as she found work, and found a band who would help her record her music........... We never met face to face again. Her life had taken her off social assistance and she was doing a bit better. Still not at a point where she was fulfilling her dream of singing again in a public venue, but close to it. Though it had been a while since I had heard her cheery voice, I often thought of her......wondering if I would bump into her one day. It's never happened.

Today..........I arrived back to my office after being away for 2 1/2 weeks. Sitting on my keyboard was a small envelope. In it was a card..............with a picture of a beautiful ethereal woman on the front.................with a dazzling smile and warm brown eyes. Her picture from her music portfolio.

Inside I found the words:

"I'm noticing 'grace' everyday. Thanks to you. Don't forget about me. Keep a look out in the news!!"

How can life be any sweeter than that?