Sunday, December 30, 2007


Manhattan in March
Thirty minutes after finding out that it will be impossible for us to attend a taping of the David Letterman Show, Ruth, David and I are accosted on Broadway by a man inquiring whether we would join the audience of the David Letterman Show. Tickets are free if we promise to attend, and also if we answer two skill-testing questions. We can’t answer the questions without help, so he helps.

Hamilton, June
After meeting a Saskatchewan peony grower at our B&B, David and I spend a perfect hour sitting shadily under the tall trees amongst the peonies and irises at the botanical gardens. Classical musicians entertain us. Children frolic on the grass. Families eat ice cream.

Edmonton, May
On a warm evening, Mark, David and I stroll along the river with Julian, our British guest, slowly digesting an elegant French meal that thrilled us atop the Chateau Lacombe

Edmonton, July
Acidanthra flowers open and send out their fragrance.

Edmonton, September
Lawrence delights me into laughter when I am fearful of appearing live on stage with Shelagh Rogers.

Edmonton September
Appearing with Shelagh Rogers turns out to be enormous fun.

Edmonton, November
The email brings the news that the city is planning to install an audible traffic signal near my house.

Cancun, November
I frolic in the ocean waves with my husband, my father, and my sisters. It is 10:00 PM. The moon is full.

Edmonton, December
Mark announces his first term grades.

Edmonton, December
After eating double desserts at our staff party, my colleagues and I play carols on the combs.

So many warm days and evenings on the veranda! So many times when people asked how the kids are, and we said they are fine, more than fine really. So many fabulous walks with Pirate! So many times when we said we both enjoy our work!

2007 was a good year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


10. Carols playing in the stores. Hearing them in November might make me groan, but I’m usually singing along by the time I reach the cashier..

9. Presents, any kind of presents, not too many though. Getting too many presents is like eating too much chocolate. Excess diminishes the goodness.

8. Christmas trees, especially in living rooms. A Christmas tree turns a normal room into a celebration centre

7. Cards and letters. Trudy sends hers in cartoon form. Lilyon tells her story in medieval language. Chasity writes a cheery account of the year. I love them all. It’s the most decent mail we get.

6. Fruit salad. Why don’t we have fruit salad more often?

5. Shortbread! Throw in mince tarts, butter tarts and fruitcake for good measure. Mark’s favourite is Nanaimo bars. I like those also. But we do get them at other times.

4. Turkey. Throw in gravy, moist stuffing, and mashed potatoes. For a perfect meal, leave out Brussels sprouts.

3. Singing! Christmas is the only time of the year when our families will gather and sing together. The Edey family likes to act out the Twelve Days Of Christmas. Six Geese A-Laying seems to be the favourite.

2. Parties! More parties! Even more parties!!!

1. And now, my absolute favourite thing about Christmas! Christmas brings out the best in people. It is the one time of the year when they try extra hard to get along with one another. That, in itself, is worth all the fussing.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Pre-Christmas cleanup
Reckoning accounts receivable
Needing to find the money
Here is an invoice not paid.

Send a short note to the debtor
Quoting the invoice number
Along with the date of the invoice
And the total amount that was promised.

“Oh,” says the slippery debtor
Perhaps you did not notice.
We didn’t pay the invoice
Or quote you the invoice number.

Instead we increased the payment
By 150%
So the payment might not match the record
Oh, the perils of accurate paperwork!

In the darkening days before Christmas
Even at the Hope Foundation
Where amazing things happen often
This one comes from the shadows
To slow our frantic flurry.

Just a little reminder
Sent by an unexplored universe
In case we might not have noticed
That there is good in the world.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I learned to read and write Braille when I was ten years old. I learned by correspondence from Doris Goetz, the CNIB Home Teacher, who visited me exactly three times, brining a new book each time she came. It took me five months to learn the alphabet and all the contractions. It wouldn’t have taken so long had it not been for the fact that Doris wouldn’t give me the next book in the Braille Series until she came to visit. Nobody in my family learned. None of my teachers learned. Teachers’ assistants hadn’t yet been invented. Learning Braille was one of the easiest things I have ever done.

According to all the current wisdom, it shouldn’t have been easy. It ought to have been nearly impossible for me to learn to punch out the dots with a slate and stylus because you have to write each letter backwards. Blind children today are not expected to learn it. It should have been difficult for me to learn a couple of hundred confusing and inconsistent contractions. People have been arguing for decades about whether the contractions make it too difficult for blind children to learn Braille. When you follow that line of logic, you can only conclude that I must be brilliant. Nice thought, but there is absolutely no other evidence to support that theory. My grades were not the grades that win the scholarships.

So you might then conjecture that I must be very good with my hands. But if that were the case, you would think that I would be able to knit, or crochet, or sew neat hem stitches the way many blind women do. So let me set the record straight. My husband bought a crochet hook, and a crochet book with the idea of teaching me to crochet after he learned the basics. He made several lovely doilies before he conceded that my time could probably be better spent reading. And I take up knitting every fifteen years or so, just to see if time has somehow endowed me with coordination I was unable to demonstrate to Miss Darwood, the junior high dorm supervisor who moved on to easier projects after trying to teach me to knit. And as for neat hem stitches—well—if you use a bandage to secure your skirt hem, and you don’t wash that skirt very often, the bandage will stay in place for the life of the skirt. I probably would know this if I could stitch a decent hem.

So if we rule out brilliance, and we rule out good-with-the-hands, how can we explain such a phenomenon as learning Braille in five months by correspondence at age ten with no supportive adult presence? High motivation maybe? Well, maybe. But if we had kept all my old report cards from elementary school, I know you would read on one of them a grade D Minus in a category named Industriousness. The teacher who assigned that grade would have given me A in Lazy had the format offered her the chance.

It’s a bit of a mystery, why Braille was so easy to learn. I chalk it all up to genetics, to the reading gene in my family, passed on from Great Granddad Renshaw, to Granny Cookson, to Dad and down to me. Of course I don’t actually know if there is a reading gene, being more favorably disposed to psychology than to physiology. But I think there must be such a gene, activated into full and unstoppable motion when environmental conditions fall into place.

My reading gene had already been asserting itself for many years. I was actually literate before I learned Braille. That is to say I knew the words, and could type them on a typewriter. But my eyes would not follow the printed line and I was never able to read my own writing. I was, in fact, an explosive device without a fuse, a literate carrier of the reading gene lacking only a system that would enable me to read. The moment I was presented with the means—sentences to decipher, stories beckoning me toward their endings—braille rushed in to fill a vast emptiness, the way air overtakes a vacuum.

Perhaps this was also true for the young Louis Braille, the inventor of the code that bears his name. He lived in a society that did not expect him to read, did not even have a practical code that would enable him to read, but still he had this longing, this vacuum waiting for the air. So he invented a code, though he died young, and did not live to see it widely used, nor to savour the suspense in Braille books that he himself had not personally transcribed.

Like Louis, I did not notice a huge change at the moment when I finally knew how to read Braille. There were no Braille books in my school, or in my province, and the CNIB Library in Toronto had only a few ten-year-old-girl books to mail to an Alberta farm child. Nobody in my world could read the Braille I wrote. But—like Louis—I was pretty much thrilled to be able to read my own writing, and I did believe there would soon be books for me to savour.

This said, I will admit that things moved faster for me than they had for Louis. It wasn’t long before I got my hands on my all-time favourite book, Harper Lee’s To kill A Mockingbird. Every so often I would go to a restaurant and was presented with a braille menu. I met a man who learned to write braille so that he could write to me. Like Louis, I get to wishing that braille was easier to find, and easier to teach, and easier for some people to accept. But I think I can safely say it saved me a lot of time—just needing to learn the code without having to invent it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I might as well admit it right now. I felt a bit guilty serving frozen peas at the dinner party. I once heard my daughter say that the food in our house was simple. She was marinating chicken in double mustard sauce at the time. She was more stating a fact than aiming a criticism, observing how I’d picked up my mother’s legacy of meal planning—meat, potatoes and vegetables. Gravy as an accent. My mother was an excellent but simple cook. My father preferred it that way. He praised the simple and discouraged anything fancy. We all liked peas.

The peas seemed a little out of step with the larger plan for our dinner party. Perusing the menu, one might have expected Green Beans almandine, or Something Florentine. But by the time we’d envisioned Mediterranean Chicken and Rice With Garbanzos and Raisins and a huge Greek salad with three kinds of appetizers and a raspberry cream cheese dessert to top it off, one more fancy thing was just too much. And maybe I would have paid double for the top-of-the-line brand instead of choosing the low-budget store brand peas had my head not been bursting and my sinuses not been so plugged as to make it impossible for me to distinguish by tasting between tuna, artichokes and chocolate. So we chose the low-cost peas, partly because they were less than half the price, and partly because we were certain that nobody would really notice them, served amongst these other flavours. .

Fourteen people sat down to dinner, chatting, laughing, telling tales of Christmas shopping. The evening slid past, carols on the stereo, candles burning, a little wine, a little punch. The guests may or may not have noticed that dinner was ten minutes later than it ought to have been because I inadvertently turned off the burner before the rice was done.

And when, on Monday, a thank-you note arrived, this is what it said: Richard and I had a really nice time on Saturday night. The dinner was really lovely. Several times on Sunday I thought back on your peas – everything was really great, and I know you probably worked much harder on everything else -- but few people can cook peas really well.”

Perhaps, I mused, reading the note a second time to be sure I had understood, perhaps I am one of those people who will never be anything but simple. And I really think I ought to introduce my father to the guest who wrote the thank-you note. They’d get along like gangbusters.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


When people you love are having a crisis, they may be looking to you for hope. A crisis is the time for audacious hoping, for unusual measures, for speaking hopeful language, as much for your own health as for theirs. It is the time to skip forward across the rough patch, to use the language of when; when you are feeling better, when things don't look so bleak, when you can see a future for yourself again, when this crisis passes, when you are more like your old self, etc.

A crisis is also an ideal time to remember and tell stories about things that turned out better than you expected, impossible things that became possible, things that turned out okay, even though you didn't think they would. These stories don't have to have anything to do with the present crisis. In fact, they will be easier to hear and tell if
they are totally unrelated in nature. The purpose of telling stories with unexpectedly good results is that it opens a small space for hope, and once you start to feel hope, that feeling can creep into other areas of your life.

Stories with unexpected endings are surprisingly easy to muster. Who would have thought, for example, that the Berlin Wall would be
taken down by the local citizens, or that the slaves of the 19th century would ever have been freed? If these things were possible, then anything might be possible.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Here I sit with my little heater
Blowing on me while the wind blows on the wall
Warming the chill that had silently crept in,
Gentling the air though the wall is cold.

Here I sit while my little heater
Finishes the job the big furnace can’t handle,
Proving again what I keep on forgetting,
That the littlest things can make the most difference.

Monday, December 10, 2007


The hotel where I stayed last weekend made special accommodations. It was quite extraordinary, really! The staff came out from behind the desk to guide me when they noticed my white cane. The waitress took my hand to show me the exact location of my water glass. What’s more, the hotel recently purchased brand new signs that display room numbers in both print and Braille. It seemed that the place was designed with my needs in mind.

My room number was really special. The number on the door said 321, 340 in Braille.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I’ve been feeling a little blue lately, not quite perky enough to write on THE HOPE LADY Blog. Today I decided to see what would happen if I wrote a poem of complaints. Here goes.

It’s hard to be hopeful in winter
When the wind is cold
And the snow is falling
And the ground is slippery
And you’ve never cared much for winter.

It’s hard to be hopeful when pain strikes
At a time when you just didn’t need it
And you find yourself taking medicine
And sitting since it hurts to stand
When you want to be making shortbread.

It’s hard to have hope when you’re angry
At all the machines in your life
That just aren’t working properly
Taking more from you than they’re giving
But you don’t want to live without them.

It wasn’t my idea to write a poem of complaints. The idea came from Yi Li at yesterday’s staff meeting. Yi Li is a hope scholar whose poetry is so good that one of her poems took a prize in a contest for poetry by new Canadians. She set out to write a letter to her landlord, detailing a list of complaints about the lack of maintenance at here place. But instead of writing your average complaint letter, she wrote a poem about the problems and sent it off to the landlord. She says that as the poem progressed, she began to feel more and more happy, a wondrous thing for a person so utterly annoyed about the intrusion of mice and the lack of refrigerator repair. Not only did it make her feel better, but the poem also got some pleasing results. Her landlord offered to let her break the lease without penalty.

Even on the coldest days, with your painkillers and your laptop giving you grief, it’s hard—maybe impossible--not to be hopeful when you go to the office and find Yi Li there!!!

Monday, December 03, 2007


Hello back there.
It’s my back again
Checking in
Complaining when I stand, or sit, or walk, or lie down flat
Making itself felt, no matter what!

Here are my expectations for a back.
A back should stay in the background,
Being supportive,
Following obediently,
Straightening me out,
Bending when needed,
Extending my Reach.
A back should be seen and not felt, except for backrubs.

Now you might call this whining,
Or feeling sorry for myself,
And you might suspect me of making complaints,
Or complain that I am moaning.

You are right, of course.
I am whining.
I am feeling sorry for myself.
I am complaining.
I am moaning.
I am also working,
Because I expect myself to work.

Hello back there?
It’s me in front,
Apologizing humbly for whatever I did to offend you,
Asking you nicely to stop hurting soon.
It’s my way of being proactive.
They say you never get anywhere until you establish expectations!