Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I've known for several days now that, due to adjustments demanded to syncronize the atomic clock, experts plan to add an extra second to this day before it ends. What I can't figure out is how to use the bonus time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


When I retire
My life will be
Much like it is
In the Christmas holidays.

Except that..
There won’t be a mountain of chocolate in the cupboard
Or turkey and trifle in the fridge
Or company coming every second day,
And dinners with others on other days,
Or New Year’s eve to consider,
Or a pile of new clothes to try on
And new records to listen to every day.

Yes, when I retire
My life will be
Just like it is
In the Christmas holidays.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Today we are eating leftover trifle. We didn’t really need to make trifle at all, given the large number of sweet things that were already here. But Christmas is the only time when we ever have trifle. So I made it anyway. Trifle is layered, like my life. It is something I make with my heart.
It is impossible for me to make trifle without remembering Granny Cookson. So far as I can recollect, my trifle is fairly similar to hers. Granny always made trifle at Christmas. In those days I ate it happily without stopping to consider its ingredients. In fact, I thought all trifle was Granny’s trifle until I met David and heard that his idea of trifle was a layered dessert containing Jell-O.
“Jell-O!” exclaimed my mother, when I told her what I had discovered. “Granny’s trifle doesn’t have Jell-O in it.” And that was only the beginning of my trifle education. One year I proudly carried a trifle to the Mill Woods United Church Choir Christmas potluck party. My trifle was Granny’s trifle. I was the first to arrive. There followed in my footsteps six other choir members bearing six bowls of trifle. Each of them was different from all the others. Each of them was made with layers of cake and other things, but none of them was granny’s trifle.
To eat a dish of Granny’s trifle is to taste all my childhood Christmases, to be once again warmed in the holiday good nature of my father’s family. Christmas was at granny’s house. We ate the meal and washed the dishes. We played board games and snickered at the men snoring in the living room. We played hide-and-seek in Granny’s closets, and listened to the Queen’s Christmas address. Then we ate a late-night snack and I cried because we had to go home. Christmas was the day that should have lasted forever.
Mom’s family did not gather at Christmas. So even though Granny was not my mom’s mother, it seemed natural that Mom should take up the cause of recreating Granny’s trifle when Granny stopped hosting large Christmas dinners. David and I would arrive at Mom’s a day early to help prepare the feast. The trifle would already be in progress. Mom would have the cake made and the raspberries thawing. We would make the custard, toast the nuts and whip the cream. To make a bowl of Granny’s trifle is to stand in Mom’s kitchen, stirring the custard and talking to Mom. "Don't leave yet," she'd say on Boxing day. "We haven't finished the trifle."
Nowadays, the job of trifle making has fallen to David and me. David’s family was never much committed to the Jell-O layered dessert, so Granny’s trifle it is. No matter that its assembly creates a pile of dishes. The process begins in warmest August. First we eat the ripening raspberries hot off the bushes, then we bring them in for breakfast. Finally, when there are too many for breakfast, we freeze the first bag. “That’s the trifle,” I say. After that I forget all about Christmas and go back to appreciating summer.
A few days before Christmas is the time to think about the cake. Will it be half an Angel Food, or a yellow cake mix, or a recipe for jellyroll? Usually it’s the recipe for jellyroll. I bake it, tear it into little pieces and place a layer in the bottom of the straight-sided berry bowl I got as a wedding gift. (It came with six little bowls, but they didn’t fit well in the dishwasher, so the ones that have survived now serve the dog his daily meal.)
On Christmas Eve morning it’s time to thaw the raspberries. Two cups of berries go nicely atop the cake in the berry bowl. Then, if you are only making one bowl, which is something we rarely have the good sense to do, you make one recipe of custard using the directions on the can of Byrd’s Custard Powder. The hardest part of the operation is waiting for the custard to cool before you pour it over the berries. I don’t know precisely why you have to wait for it to cool. Mom said so and she’s gone, so I can’t ask her. I suspect that if you poured it hot it might cook the berries and soak right into the cake instead of hovering above the berries in a tasteful layer. While you wait you can pass some time toasting a few slivered almonds to sprinkle after you pour the custard.
Some people might add a layer of whipped cream, but we don’t. Instead, we always whip the cream during a very chaotic time on Christmas morning and keep it in a separate bowl. I don’t know why we do it this way. That’s how Mom did it. Some day we might serve trifle to somebody who doesn’t want to eat it with sweetened whipped cream and that person will definitely be grateful.
While we clear the turkey from the table we start begging people to eat the trifle. “Please eat it so we won’t have so much left over!” Then we force them to work up a new appetite playing games before serving trifle again. Eventually we have to let them go home, leaving us with the leftover trifle. Then we try to appreciate it for as many days as it takes to finish. After all, we won’t make it again for at least another year.

Friday, December 26, 2008


From A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, (1914-1953) first read publicly in 1952, published posthumously in 1955

“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes
hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days
and twelve nights when I was six.”

From the Cookson/Martin/Edey Christmas at our house yesterday

“Okay, we need to finish up this food so we’ll have room on the table for the plum pudding, caramel sauce, trifle, whipped cream, and seven trays of Christmas baking. Now, will you have turkey (basted by david with melted butter and red wine like they suggested on CBC)? Cranberry sauce? Potatoes and gravy? Turnips (We made them for Andrew.) Andrew—any turnips? Corn festively mixed with green and red pepper? Brown or white bun? How about Donna’s fruit salad? Layered salad with peas? Oh, and here’s the pickle tray and the olives! Now Donna, we need you to eat more. What will you have, donna?”
“Oh, more stuffing please.”
“Okay, I’ll get you some. Now where is it? Pass the stuffing please. Donna wants more stuffing. Hey down there, could you pass the stuffing up here? Where is the stuffing anyway?”
“Are you sure we had stuffing?”
“Well, yes, I think we had stuffing. We did have stuffing didn’t we?”
“Sure we had stuffing.”
“Yes, we had stuffing.”
“Where can it have gone?”
“Maybe it’s still in the oven.”
“Can’t be. We already had it and I only made one big bowl.”
“Maybe somebody should check the oven.”
“Oh, here it is, in the oven. Untouched. Now let’s have the stuffing course before we get to dessert!”

Summary: On Christmas Day 2008 only half the diners remembered having stuffing. People are even more forgetful than they used to be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Here is some information you may, or may not have. If you take a banana, (it has to be fairly ripe, though not squishy) peel it, then pinch gently on one end, the banana will divide lengthwise into three long, curving, beautiful banana sticks. Of course, I am aware that you probably already knew this. Everybody seems to have known it, except, that is, for me. And my question is: Why wasn’t I told?
Is it because I am not curious enough? Surely I could not have been expected to find this out on my own! That would have required playing with my food, an activity frowned upon by the adults of my childhood.
Or was I deliberately left out of the loop? This seems unlikely. Try as I might, I certainly cannot think of any reason why the truth should have been hidden from me. It’s not as if I have a history of cruelty to bananas.
The truth slipped into my sphere of awareness. It came so softly, so unobtrusively that I might have missed it had I been daydreaming. I first heard rumblings of it while having lunch with my colleagues. “What did you say?” I queried, rousing myself from visions of an afternoon nap. “A banana will divide lengthwise into perfect thirds? Describe to me the exact process.” I assumed they were pulling my leg (they are prone to antics like that). But they described a process, and insisted it could work. . I’ll confess it. I didn’t believe them. Trouble is, they’ve been right in the past.
I recalled how the friend of one of my friends convinced my friend that you could boil water in a paper bag over an open fire. He said it wasn’t easy. You had to start with a very hot fire so the water could boil quickly. It was, he said, a race against time. I recall how vehemently I argued. I said the bag would catch fire. Then I reasoned that the water would soak right through it. He praised my deductive skills (I am a sucker for flattery). Then he said that explained why you had to hurry. It is just possible that I believed him for a moment. Tricksters are everywhere. My friend believed him more than I did. I’ve mentioned it to a lot of people over the years. None of them believe it.
But the banana thing? Well, I just couldn’t tell for sure. And so, on the off chance that there might have been some substance to it, I asked David a tentative question about the nature of bananas. He answered me calmly. He said you could split a banana in three by squeezing its tip. He offered to show me. I didn’t know what to think when the experiment did not work on my breakfast banana. He said maybe the banana had to be riper.
Then, yesterday, all by myself, I peeled a banana and deftly but gently pinched its tip. Voila! Three long, perfect, curving banana sticks. I didn’t know what to do. I thought of bronzing them. I almost called my friend in Vancouver to ask her if she believed a banana would split in thirds if you gently squeezed its tip. Then I remembered that it was only 5:30 AM in Vancouver, so I gazed at them in a prolonged rhapsody of wonder. . They were so exquisite I could hardly eat them, though I will say that they formed a lovely pattern on my toast.
Now I am wondering what other amazing discoveries await me. This morning I spoke to a green pepper in the vegetable compartment of the fridge. “What secrets have you been keeping from me?” I asked. I tapped its top, massaged its middle. I bonked its bottom. Nothing happened, no change I could determine at the time, anyway. But it could be that the results have a delayed effect. Science is like that. It’s a lot easier to interpret a result once you know what result you are expecting. And then again, it may be that I aimed my inquiry at the wrong source. I didn’t hear about the banana miracle from a banana.
If there’s an extra spring in my step this morning it is because a window of possibility has opened for me. A lot of things are possible. I can’t tell you what they are. Nobody has told me yet. Well, maybe people have been telling me and I haven’t believed them. I didn’t actually try the thing with the paper bag. I don’t know if I will. Opportunity may be limited. I am hardly ever left all alone with a paper bag, a cup of water and a very hot open fire.
This I can say for sure. In 2009 I will be keeping my ears open for unsolicited tips on the nature of green peppers, or red peppers, or any other facts that have been kept from me all these years.

Monday, December 22, 2008


It’s December 22, deep, deep winter. But it’s not always cold on December 22. Thirty-five years ago today the sun shone brightly. It melted the snow and turned the streets to mud. I don’t need a weather calendar to confirm this statistic for me. It was hot that day. There was mud on my wedding dress to prove it. And later in the evening, when the ice fog dropped low over the countryside, turning the roads to glass, the family chimed: “We told you so!” But we didn’t care what they said. We were newly-weds dining on deluxe burgers and fries in our going-away clothes at the Esso Voyageur in Camrose, the only place open at 3:00 AM. Later, we’d be settling down in the cozy comfort of the Camrose Motel.
On future anniversaries, I would look at our wedding day as a curiosity, witnessed proof of the only real rebellion I ever had. “Get married next summer,” my mother said. She had every right to say it, seeing as how she was already making a wedding dress for my sister’s wedding on the Thanksgiving weekend. “Wait for next summer,” said David’s mother. She had every right to say it, seeing as how she would be travelling two hours east for the wedding, most of the Edey relatives would be travelling hundreds of miles from the Peace River country in northern Alberta.
But I, family pleaser extraordinaire, was mysteriously deaf to their pleas. For I, to my great surprise, had come upon a man I wanted to marry. He also wanted to marry me. We had decided to delay our announcement when David’s brother announced his wedding plans for the summer of 1973. Then, as we were contemplating Thanksgiving, my sister announced her intentions for that date. That left us no choice. December 22 it had to be. We were both going to university, both working part time. At that time grocery stores were closed on Sundays, and also on Boxing Day. So David could get five days off in a row.
Thirty-five years later I can see an easy solution. We would simply tell our parents we were moving in together and announce that a wedding date would be chosen for their convenience. And though we had lived in the Free Love mentality of the sixties, and couples were living together in many apartments, neither of us could envision the conversation in which we would tell them that David was leaving the comfy family nest for the other half of the bed in my cramped basement suite. So wedding it was, over all objections. (No, we did not have a baby on the way.) We simply couldn’t wait through the long winter months for the kiss of June. I couldn't wait. Never before or since have I felt anything so urgently. For the privilege of filling up the other half of that bed I would have eloped, really made our parents mad, done without all those presents. I suppose this is why other parents got on with the wedding plans.
Thirty-five years ago today we received the card table and folding chairs we will use on Christmas day, the green flowered dishes we use every day, the pots and pans that will cook our dinner, the bowl that will hold our Christmas trifle.
We got pieces of the china that adorns our company feasts. We got the simple candleholders we were given before the days of candle parties. One of the mixing bowl set is broken. Some of the wine glasses bit the dust.
As for the grumbling parents, they bit the bullet and showed us uncompromised support when they saw that the battle was truly lost. It wasn’t the marriage they objected to, after all, only the timing of the wedding. David’s father made an insistent phone call, prompting the relatives to change their minds about making the long journey from Northern Alberta. My mother designed for me a white velvet gown with overjacket that supported a train and a Margaret trudeau hood. My parents gave us a piano because I asked for it. David’s parents bought us a bedroom suite and fed us Sunday dinner every week.
When we drive down the highway, passing the Camrose Motel, looking just as plain now that it is thirty-five years older, Ruth asks: “Why would anybody have a honeymoon in the Camrose Motel?” It’s a good question. The answer might surprise you.
I had never spent Christmas away from my parents, and the Camrose Motel was only an hour down the road. Staying there, we were well positioned to return to their place on Christmas eve. In later years I often spent Christmas away from them, but never to this date away from David. And all of these Christmases have felt right, except that all of them are a little too close to our anniversary. This, I guess, is the dawning of perspective in a process of growing up.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Today I got a letter from Wilma Clark. It said, “You are what the world needs more of—hope.” I don’t think I could claim to be hope itself, but I do confess to being a great supporter of hope, and I totally agree with Wilma that hope is what the world needs more of.
There are those who disagree with me. They are saying that the world needs common sense, the wisdom of the free market, solutions to all its problems, the annihilation of certain destructive elements. Some are even saying that hope is destructive. Some say it’s a waste of time.
But I still like hope. I like to hear Obama talk about it. I like to know that there is a guy next door who wants to talk about working together to make a better world. I like to hear how he doesn’t blame anybody. It gives me hope.
Of the leaders in my own country, at this time when they are taking a rest, this is what I would like to say.
Let's put all four leaders in one room and ask them hope questions. Each question must be answered with the words I hope.
What kind of country do you hope canada will be?
What do you hope Canadians will have?
How do you hope they will interact with each other?
What do you hope Canadians will do?
What do you hope other nations will say about Canada?
What do you hope to achieve in Afghanistan?
What do you hope other countries will say about Canada's environmental policy?
What do you hope historians will write about your contribution to Canada?
What do you hope will be your proudest accomplishment at the end of your career?
I hope this experiment will some day be tried. I believe it would raise debate to a mush higher level. You will notice that this approach asks for no
promises, no action plans. It will be much criticized for this. It will be called pie-in-the-sky, derided as impractical. But I believe the hopes will
direct the actions.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Yesterday we celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We watched improv comedy by Laugh Inc. Dogs with Wings picked up money from the floor and turned on lights for us. I thought back to the days—not so long ago—when there were no comedy troops of people with brain injuries. I thought back to the years when service dogs who might have served other disabilities were jealously guarded by the blind community, and the training of such dogs was sanctioned only by the Seeing Eye Inc. in Morristown NJ. And it seemed to me that a lot of progress has been made in the past few years.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I have been noticing lately
That our hopes regarding others
Tend to be only as large
As the world we can imagine.

And I have been noticing lately
That our hopes regarding others
Tend to have an influence
On the hopes they have for themselves.

Which is why it pays to be diligent
In exploring the world with vigor
So that the world we can imagine
Is a large, large world.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


There would be more hope if lonely people had somewhere to turn for ideas about how to spend a sociable Christmas Day. In a good world people wouldn’t have to be lonely. One of my hope projects this year is to make a list of sociable things lonely people can do on Christmas Day. I am thinking of any and all people, but I am not thinking of dating services, which is what you get when you search the Internet for ideas. . I am thinking of suggestions that would be helpful to people who need people, people who are not expecting anyone to reach out with a Christmas Day invitation. I began the project by looking for ideas for the Edmonton area, but will welcome other ideas as well.

Send ideas to and look for future postings on this topic.
Here are the first three ideas I have received.

1. Call the International Student Centre at the university and offer to host a student who has no Christmas plans.

2. Contact a travel agent to ask about short Christmas trips.

3. The Victory Christian Center in Edmonton puts on a huge Christmas Day dinner at the Shaw centre. Attend the dinner or volunteer to work at it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


What fun it is to go to a classroom where the kids have been making hope art. If you haven’t had a chance to do it, you have missed an amazing experience.

Last Thursday I visited a very active classroom. Most of the children were either 6 or 7 years old. All had met the requirements for assignment to the category known as ‘behavior disorder’. They were lively and bouncing by the time I got there, but their teacher said they had had a very peaceful morning. Why had they had such a quiet morning? Well, it seems they had been doing their hope art, giving it their full and undivided attention. It was so unusually tranquil that their teacher called the principal in to witness this uncharacteristic peace.

A memory, clear and sharp, came to me as the children introduced themselves, telling me about their hope creations. The memory was of a conversation I had a couple of years ago, when the hope art project was still an idea in its infancy. The conversation was with a teacher.

Her: “I just don’t think this project can work.”.

Me: “Why not?”.

”I know it’s a good idea and all,” she said thoughtfully, “giving the kids the challenge to think about hope and draw something. But I am thinking about some little people I have known, little people with no support from home, maybe not too smart, been through unspeakable things that you and I cannot even imagine. I think about me asking them to draw about hope, and these kids sitting there, failing again. It would be cruel to expect them to draw hope!”

I don’t recall what I said. I wanted to persuade her, so I imagine I told her that I believed it would be okay. I believed it because I have met hundreds of adults who have been through unspeakable things. Some of them are seriously considering suicide. Some of them are not too bright. And yet I would be willing to risk asking any and all of them to reflect on hope and draw something. If they seemed unable, I would help them a tiny bit.

I don’t recall exactly what she said in response, but I do recall that she wasn’t convinced by what I had said. She was thinking that it’s different for adults than for these little people. She was thinking that classrooms are different from counselling sessions. She was thinking that I probably didn’t understand what teachers face in their classrooms. I wouldn’t have disagreed with any of this.

I know a number of teachers who have struggled with the idea of making hope explicit in their classrooms. Many years ago I had another conversation with a teacher. He told me that a teacher wouldn’t be wise to ask kids to draw hope because they would all draw pictures of the latest toys in the department store. Since those toys would be unavailable to some of the children, he said it would be unfair to start such a process. At that time I had much less experience. What he said made sense to me, given the materialistic attitude of our society.

On the other hand, I have known teachers who embraced the idea of doing hope projects. They did them purposefully, anxious to see what would happen, suspending any fears they might have had about the worst possible outcomes. One of these was in command last Thursday, in the classroom where I was meeting little people who were proudly displaying pictures of rainbows and animals and such. There was no mention of toys, even though Christmas is coming. I couldn’t keep myself from thinking about the conditions that disrupt children’s behavior so badly as to render them unmanageable in a regular classroom by the age of 6 or 7. We know they are more likely to be in a behavior disorder classroom if they have been abused, neglected, or have parents with mental illness or addiction issues. Some were damaged by drugs or alcohol before they were born. We know that poverty is common in their ranks.

It was an exciting day in that classroom. They had a guest—me. The had art to show. But there was more. One of the children was proudly displaying a chicken puppet. It was on loan from the principal. It was his reward for the marvelous behavior he had shown during the peaceful art time that morning. The whole class was bursting with chickenly pride.

Many lessons were evident during my hour in that classroom. It was abundantly clear that you don’t have to be smart to understand what hope is. You don’t have to be rich, or clean, or popular, or happy. You don’t have to be an artist to draw hope. What is it about hope art that leads children to that reflective place deep into their centre core? From where does it draw the power to create a quiet lull in a behavior blizzard?

Hope art projects create many benefits. They give children the space and quiet time to think about hope, to feel hope, to do an act of hope, and then to see the mirrored image of their own hope when they show their work to others. Some of the children in this busy classroom found time to make two or three drawings. Some of the drawings will be exhibited in the children’s hope art show. Others will be displayed in their school.

Though the art can stand on its own, and sometimes it has to, there is no doubt that the best way to experience a hope art project is to see the children and the art in the same room. You get more out of it when you see what went into it. That’s when you feel the hope. That’s when you experience the separate, private and individual meaning of each and every rainbow that found its way onto a page. That’s when you know that the process of considering hope is every bit as significant as the outcome. I wish you had been there with me. If you have never visited a classroom where the children have been making hope art, you have missed an amazing experience.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Ruth is growing my hair, tending it, touching it, encouraging it the way she brings along the flowers on her deck. This is Ruth of the long blonde hair, Ruth of the silky strands, Ruth the gorgeous, Ruth the sleepy riser who would rarely have time for breakfast, always have time for beauty. This is Ruth, whose father used to sit for half an hour, twisting the French braids while her mother did something else, read a book maybe.

Under Ruth’s supervision I am hosting my ever-lengthening hair, trying my best to be welcoming to the unruly tufts at the sides, the errant strands that slide across my face. “Don’t cut your bangs,” warns Ruth. And then, “You’ve been cutting your bangs, haven’t you?” Turning in frustration to a friend she says, “She cuts her hair sometimes.”

Her tone is serious. It makes me think of the people on my counselling caseload who cut their arms for reasons we cannot fathom. But I am not one of these. Cutting my hair is a natural thing. I know why I cut it, to get it out of my eyes.

Hair grows when you don’t cut it. “Your hair is growing,” my friends say in wonder, when it suddenly comes into their awareness. “You must be growing it.” They gaze in wonder. This is not the Wendy they have known.

“Ruth is growing my hair,” I say in return.

“How long is she growing it?” they ask.

“I don’t know,” I say. Then, fishing a little, “How long would you grow it?”

My baiting never catches. “How long do you want it to be?” they always ask. That’s where the conversation ends, possibly because I want it to be short. But if it isn’t short, I want it to be as long as Ruth wants it to be, and she doesn’t exactly know how long that is yet. She has no standard by which to measure it, no memory to which she would return.

My hair has been short for quite some time now. It was long in high school. It was long in university—the first degree. It was long at my wedding. Then I cut it off. I stored the old brush rollers at the back of a very dark cupboard. Gradually my brain recovered from the dulling effects of the piercing of their picks and bristles through my scalp on all those sleepless Sunday nights. I gave the electric rollers to a garage sale. They never really worked as well as the brush rollers. I stored the old hooded hair dryer under the basement stairs, in case I ever had a daughter to need it some day. It has been happy there for many a decade.

A little attention is a powerful thing. Ruth was watching my hair. I was growing it. There was a wedding in our family last summer. “Ruth,” I said, “maybe you could do my hair.” She could hardly refuse, now that there was hair to do. I sat on a chair in my mother’s kitchen while she stood behind me, comb in hand, curling iron blazing. My ears shrank in terror. “Sorry Mom,” she said. “You’ll have to trust me.”

I trusted her. “I’ll have to spray it,” she said. What could I do at that point? I swallowed my environmental concerns, screwed my eyes shut and pinched my nose. I remembered all the times I sat in my mother’s kitchen while Mom stood behind me, doing my hair. They were good memories.

“Ruth and I are growing my hair.” That’s what I almost wrote in the first draft of the annual Christmas letter. Then I deleted it. Something told me it would bring a cry of frustration from Ruth, and maybe she’d tell me to cut it.

Okay, I confess that it is actually me who is growing this hair, growing it for Ruth, and maybe even a bit for me. Her dad used to like it long, though he never pressured me to keep it that way. He’s a practical man. But he still might like it long.

I can always cut it off, I tell myself, or, even better, get somebody else to cut it. And, as long as I don’t have to spend another Sunday night lying awake on brush rollers, I think I’ll just celebrate this time of noticing that I am still capable of change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Five years have passed since the day when I impulsively decided to take a step towards being recognized as a storyteller—an official storyteller. I was already the unofficial kind. These days I happily say that my hobby is storytelling. And as I look back I can see, to my surprise, that with the help of many others, I have actually acquired a repertoire of 20 stories, told on storytellers’ stages, stand-alone stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Wonders never cease! Here, listed under the year in which each was added to the repertoire, is the list of stories

The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate by Margaret Many
A man and his mother set out on a voyage to find the sea.

The Berlin Wall by Wendy Edey
Back in the 1960’s, when we were practicing for the end of the world, we never imagined what might be happening in 1989.

Put On Your Own Mask First by Wendy Edey
They give you a lot of advice on airplanes. Some of it is more valuable that you think.

My Financial Career by Stephen Leacock
A bank is a scary place when you’re “rattled”.

Good-by Grandma by ray Bradbury
Grandma organizes the family for her final exit.

The Cat Who lived A Million Times by Hyakumankai Ikita Neko
Sometimes it takes a million tries to learn the most important lesson.

The Wedding of Dame Ragnell, A Tale Of King Arthur
King Arthur searches the land to find out what women want.

The Street That Got Mislaid by Patrick Waddington
Who could imagine that a treasure lay behind that ordinary-looking brick wall?

Felicity’s Fortune by Wendy Edey
We know that a chicken was found in Dawson Park. What we wonder is how she got there.

Comb Concert by Wendy Edey
This is a story about Kathryn Tucker Windham, Selma Alabama and the transformative power of audacious hope.

Miracles and Wonders by Wendy Edey
Mother couldn’t perform miracles, but she could do wonders. When she seemed the most helpless, she showed us all what a simple hope-opotamus could do.

The Words the cat took by Wendy Edey
59,995 words is a lot to lose in a single night. On the day after the big stroke Harry still had five good words, and a message he wanted to deliver.

I Could Use Some Help Up Here by Wendy Edey
Even a damsel in distress will try just about anything before she admits she can’t do it on her own.

Lawrence Gives A Hope Talk by Wendy Edey
Only a desperate person would seek public speaking advice from somebody who would rather eat carpenters’ tools than make a speech.

Knitters by Wendy Edey
“Murdering her is not a good idea,” he said. “We’ll send her to Gramma for knitting lessons.”

Mr. Andrews by E.M. Forster
A Christian and a Muslim meet on their way to Heaven. This tale is as relevant today as it was when Forster penned it in 1914.

Stream, Wind, Fire (a Sufi tale)
A stream tries to hold its shape while crossing the desert.

Burnout and Rekindling by Wendy Edey
How do you inspire a group of social workers after a presentation that tanked, sank and went all the way down the toilet?

The French Invention by Wendy Edey
Louis Braille made it possible for blind people to read and write. All he needed was support from the school for the blind. But few people know how long it took for Louis to get any respect.

Learning To Play Jacks by Wendy Edey
At last I had found a game I could win. It was a story that seemed too good to be true.

Singing Country Music by Wendy Edey
Everything I ever needed to know about moonshine I learned before the age of six. I learned it while sitting on the edge of the bed with my sister, singing country music.

How High’s The Water by Wendy Edey
If the North Saskatchewan River could talk it would have some stories to tell. It would tell about the floods that changed its banks forever, and the people who had to change their plans.

Little Mary Ann (adapted from a tale by Donna Lively)
Jane thinks it would be just about impossible to be as good as little Mary Ann.

The Woman With Many Names by Wendy Edey
In the 19th century pipe organs were springing up in American churches. There was a demand for American hymns, and there were many writers to meet that demand. This is the story of the amazing life of one writer, Fanny Crosby.

The Sword Of Wood (a folk tale adapted by Doug Lipman
A King sets out in peasant’s clothing on a quest to understand the people of his kingdom.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Hopeful people are better copers. That’s what the research says. They heal more quickly, deal with problems more creatively, demonstrate more tolerance for uncertainty and pain. Regardless of the circumstances, hope is most certainly influenced by the things we hear from others. That’s what the research says. It says we are susceptible to hope.

Gramma is susceptible to hope. I think of this when I visit her. Though she speaks with conviction and clarity, she is not always an easy woman to understand.

As I understand it, there are two things Gramma would like. She would like to die suddenly and conclusively of a heart attack. Any time would do. Now would be fine with her. She would also like to resume her active and happy life after recovering quickly and fully from the hip fracture that sent her to surgery. Though apparently in conflict, these two wishes dwell side by side in Gramma’s conscious awareness. The slightest shift will turn her attention from one to the other. “Gramma is susceptible to hope,” I tell myself when I am with her. “Make sure you help her to see it.”

A test of hope arrives while I am visiting. In comes the physio team. This is the team that gets Gramma moving. Though she wants more than anything else to get moving, she has been anticipating their arrival with a sense of impending doom.

Gramma’s mind is on the pain. Come to think of it, it’s even more than that. Her mind’s on the hope-sucking implications of the pain. She has been saying, “I shouldn’t be in this much pain. They tried to cut back the medication. It’s been six days. I shouldn’t be in this much pain!”

Gramma does everything she can to help the physio team get her moving. The pain is unspeakable. She tries to make them hear it. They are kind, and I know they hear what she is saying. To her they say, “You’re doing better.”

This convinces her that they haven’t heard her. She says, “It’s not better!” They don’t argue. They know she’s talking about the pain.

The physio team is about to leave. They are going to leave now, taking Gramma’s hope out with them. When they are gone there will be only the memory of Gramma saying, “It’s not better!” I picture the remains of the day. When her son comes she will say, “It is not better!” To her granddaughter she will say, “It’s not better!” Soon the whole family will be saying, “Gramma’s not better!” It will be the truth.

But it won’t be the whole truth, only the truth without the hope. I was sure I had heard them say something that should have brought hope, something that would have brought hope if only they’d said more about it. “Wait,” I cry to the retreating physio team. “Gramma says she isn’t better because of the pain, which I know you have heard and I know you are dealing with in terms of medication. But I heard you say that she is better. What did you mean by that? Could you tell us why you said that?”

Back comes the team. They tell us that Gramma is stronger today then she was yesterday. They show us what they mean. She has lifted her foot higher, stretched it farther. Then they go back a few days and remind us of what Gramma cold do a few days ago—much less.

“She is stronger you say?” I repeat. Then I ask if it is normal to have this pain.

They explain that pain is extremely variable, that it is affected by bone density, that some medications work better for some patients, that we just have to experiment with medications. They get the doctor and we all have a chat about the pain. Gramma is in control now. I tell them what Gramma has told me about the medications, she enthusiastically backs up what I say she said. A new pain plan is made.

When they are gone Gramma is ready to take a tour of the hospital in her wheelchair. The nurse asks about the pain and she says it is a little better now. As we wait for the elevator she says, “It’s so much better if somebody is here to ask questions when they come.”

Now she is chatting in the elevator. Things are factually no different then they were ten minutes earlier, but Gramma is visibly different. The part of her that wants a heart attack has receded into the background. She is different because the physio team came back and put the hope in the room instead of taking it away with them.

It is one of those times when I know beyond all doubt that it matters to be a hope specialist. There is still so much to teach so many about the need to pay careful attention to hope when you talk to vulnerable people. There is so much to teach about the need to make sure hope is visible before you leave the room. It is my day off, but it seems that I have been at work anyway. How could I not be?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


November 12 is different for me this year—different because I am still remembering November 11. For as long as I can remember I have spent November 11 doing what the media have asked me to do—remembering the sacrifices of soldiers and their families, gratefully appreciating my own personal freedoms. What I did on past Novembers 12 I frankly have no idea.
But today I am remembering yesterday—not because I reconnected with the soldiers and the wars, though certainly I did do this—but because I also held Baby Matty, 2 days old, weighing in at 6 pounds 10 ounces. What I noticed as I cradled her was that I felt hopeful, hopeful for the future. It felt strange. Hope is something I do not usually feel on November 11. Though I don’t dispute the importance of remembering the sacrifices of the soldiers and their families, I try hard to hope there will be no more wars. While others see this hope on November 11, I have yet to be convinced that remembering past wars helps us prevent future wars. Holding Matty, for whom anything is currently possible, I really did wonder, if more of us held more babies, came closer to the perfect hope of an unfolding life at its very beginning, would we be more motivated to work harder to prevent the wars that cause so much pain?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Great nephew Isaac was born on Saturday
Great Niece Matty was born on Sunday.
A great weekend all round
To be a great aunt.

There were great aunts when I was a kid,
And they were okay I guess,
But great aunts were older and wrinklier back then.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


I am pondering life’s mysteries—the big ones—like, Why does the sun shine? And Why is it harder to launch a kite on a windy day than a zillion-ton airplane in the calm? And, get ready for the biggest one of all, Why do dogs roll in stuff?
Pirate escaped yesterday. I suppose it was my fault really. I didn’t check to see if all the gates were closed. I simply let him out when he asked. It was such a sunny day, the kind of day when pirate can pass two happy hours in the yard without ever calling on me for anything. So out he went, and that was that. Silence was golden.
Maybe an hour had passed when two big dogs strolled by, dragging their person behind them. The neighbourhood went into an uproar. There were deep wolfish barks from across the street. There were yelpish barks from down the street. Pirate wasn’t barking. I was so proud of him for that! Well, on second thought … How much can a dog actually change in an hour?
Out I went, calling pirate’s name. No response. He’s a good dog. It was probably my mistake. No response could mean that perhaps I had let him in half an hour ago and simply forgotten about it. It has happened before. I checked the living room, the couch, the love seat, both rocking chairs. I checked the family room, the love seat and both rocking chairs. I checked our bedroom, the study, the spare room, Mark’s place. I checked them all again.
I sighed heavily. On went my shoes. On went my coat. Out went I, calling Pirate’s name.
Pirate came when I called him. I had to admit that he really is a good dog. He wanted to be at home. A smarter dog might have re-entered through the back gate which stood wide open, instead of marching along the front walk to the front gate, waiting for me to open it and welcome him home. But I did acknowledge that he was a good dog. Then we hurried inside, because it sure did smell bad out there.
We hadn’t been in the house for more than a second when the inside began to smell a bit like the outside. Bad smells can come in through an open door. I reached down to give Pirate a pat.
There are a lot of things I can’t say for sure. But one thing is certain. Somewhere in the neighbourhood there is a pile of poop that is a lot flatter than it was at this time yesterday.
I don’t think it would be honest to say that Pirate was grateful for all that I did for him, for the free shampoo and cream rinse and the time under the hairdryer, for the removal and washing of his collar, for scraping it out from inside his ears, under his chin, in the curve of his long bushy tail, lathering the flat of his back. In fact, though I confess that I don’t always understand exactly what Pirate is saying, I believe he may have told me that he’d do it all again if he had the chance, which still leaves me wondering—WHY DO DOGS ROLL IN STUFF????

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Last Friday night Susan and her friends dressed up as Waldos and Wendas from the "Where's Waldo" books. There were 3 Waldos and 4 Wendas (Waldo's female friend) and 1 Odlaw (the barely known evil Waldo). They painted striped shirts, sewed red and white hats, and bought cheap glasses. I never saw them, but I heard about it from Susan. It was Halloween. Dressing up is a tradition for Susan and her friends. One year they went as five bowling pins! I, in contrast, dressed up as Wendy. It’s what I do every year on Halloween—a tradition, you might say.
Susan says it’s fun to dress up, and even more fun to have a photo session with your friends before you leave for the party. That’s the jolly time, the optimistic time, the hour when you feel connected yet certain of your uniqueness. If there are going to be other Waldos at the party, you don’t yet know it.
Those to whom I am connected, in contrast, tend not to photograph me on Halloween. Admittedly there’s not much to photograph, seeing as how I look like the same Wendy you’d photograph any other day, except for wedding days when there tend to be a lot of photos of me dressed up, and Christmas mornings when the focus is on the gift I am holding not the outfit I am wearing. When I was a kid I used to dress up as a witch. I wore an old black cape and a pointy hat my mother made of cardboard and crepe paper. The hat had an elastic that hurt my chin. One year I wore the hat without the elastic. It was windy that year. Windy years and calm, I believe I was always a witch. I don’t believe there are any photos to prove it. I liked being a witch. What else can I say?
There is, however, one photograph of me on Halloween. I am an adult in the photograph. My mother was not around to make me a pointy hat, and hat-making has never been a talent of mine, so David made me a hat. It was a memorable evening. I went as a sunflower. I don’t recall the party, but I do remember putting on the costume and feeling like—like—like a sunflower, bright and perky, an unusual situation for a sunflower on Halloween in Edmonton, just about as unusual as Wendy in a costume.
Susan is my niece. She probably wouldn’t have written to me had I not begged her to do so. She used to write to me when she was travelling and I have found that life gets a little bit boring without her letters. The subject of her letter (because it was an email it had a subject) was: An Update On Susan’s Life In Edmonton. She would not likely have mentioned the Waldo costumes, were it not for the fact that she was finding it a struggle to think of interesting things to tell me about her everyday life—going to work, evening classes etc. The costumes were something a little different, a little more interesting. It got me to wondering how much Susan knows about my daily life. Probably very little. If she were to ask what I’d been up to lately, I’d probably say Not much. Then I’d think up the only extraordinary thing that’s happened to me in the past month and tell her about it. The rest of the details I would leave for her to take for granted.
I am told that archaeologists develop a passion for knowing the ordinary details of lives lived in the past. They dig and scrape and survey and catalog in a frenzied attempt to figure out what people ate for breakfast, how they cooked it, and why their neighbours a hundred miles away ate something different. Most of the details are fashioned through informed speculation which may, or may not be well-informed. I wonder how many of these same archaeologists go home after a hard day’s work, never stopping to notice the details of their own daily lives, never quite taking the time to catalog them for the educational benefit of future archaeologists. The relative interestingness of current detail is subject to many variables, distance and familiarity being two.
Come to think of it, Halloween is not the only event which is under represented in our photo albums. I wonder if there is a single picture of me cooking supper, or doing the dishes, or shopping for groceries, or getting on the bus at Corona Station. Future photo lookers will undoubtedly conclude that I opened a lot of presents and took a lot of vacations. Will they think I had a full-time cook? And if they deduce that routine events were seldom photographed, how will they explain the presence of only one sunflower photo? Will they surmise that I probably dressed up as a sunflower on a regular basis, thereby rendering the event unworthy of further recognition?
After so many hours of listening while sad people tell me what they believe to be the interesting parts of their life stories, I think I am developing an appreciation for both the exceptional and the normal. We need the normal to keep us grounded, to give us security. We need the exceptional to shake us up occasionally, to change our position in life. Exceptional things throw us off balance and increase our core strength. It is the core strength that gives us the ability to re-establish our balance. Too bad we fall into the trap of thinking that the normal is boring.
I myself am pretty attached to normal, though I admit to an occasional rash decision based on the need to break the pattern. Had I received Susan’s letter last week, I likely would have vowed to dress up on some future Halloween, not because I like dressing up, not even because that sunflower costume was comfortable. Heaven knows I can still remember sweating like a sprinkler under the brown polyester centre while trying to relieve the future scalp blisters by fiddling with the poky petal-wires. But when I read Susan’s letter I immediately felt the connectedness, that moment of fun when you and your friends get to laughing and taking pictures.
How grateful am I that another letter, one that arrived on Halloween, threw me off balance, thereby saving me from the tyranny of the costume Susan’s letter would undoubtedly have inspired! The letter came from Linda. It was a thank-you letter. In farewell it said: Happy Halloween Wendy, the good witch of North Riverdale! I only met Linda recently. She doesn’t know I used to be a witch. She doesn’t even know about my brief stint as a sunflower! She probably thinks I never dress up on Halloween. But when I read that letter I felt really connected. And just for a minute I felt like a kid again, pointy hat and all, counting up the candy.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


I made buns this morning, soft dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls fragrant and sweet. David made fried bread with some of the dough and served it hot with cheese for me to nibble while I formed the cinnamon buns. It was just like old times.
I started baking buns 35 years ago to please my new husband. I used his mother’s recipe. His mother was kind of thrilled and she kept on baking them too. It wasn’t a competition. She seemed constantly to be changing up the ingredients with some brown flour, less sugar, and healthy additions of bran or Sunny Boy porridge. My buns, in contrast, didn’t change much. Some brown flour did creep in during one health phase, but mostly we liked them the way they were. For her it was a win-win situation. It was flattering that I made them the old way, and she didn’t have to be bored to tears.
I haven’t made buns in a few years. I wanted to, but things got complicated. My mom got sick and my back got bad and my shoulder flared up with tendonitis. Then we started going to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings to buy bread from Baker Bill or Cinnamon Girl. We lived fine without my buns, no doubt about that.
But this morning was one of those Saturdays when we didn’t have to go anywhere and my back didn’t hurt and my shoulder was fine. I remembered the time the TV repairman came just as I was packaging up cinnamon buns I’d promised to a bake sale. “Oh,” he cried, “It smells wonderful in here!”
Like I said, they were all packaged up for the bake sale, so, instead of unpackaging them and giving the money to the bake sale, I ignored his compliments, his hopeful hints. I’m still regretting that.
I remembered all the Saturday mornings when I’d call the kids from their date with Saturday morning cartoons. Up from the basement they’d come. Each would take a small glass pan, grease it with margarine, lift a sizable lump of dough, and start the process of creating bun people. Out of the cupboard would come the raisins, the walnuts, the chocolate chips (Bun people need a lot of buttons and facial decoration). Down the hatch would go copious quantities of raisins, nuts and chocolate chips (growing bakers need sustenance for the work ahead). Out of the oven would come the bun people, adorned with squishy chocolate melt and singed raisins. Down the hatch would go the lot.
This morning, as I kneaded the dough, recalling the perfect stretch and give between my hands, punching and pressing with mounting glee, I imagined the scene in two hours or so. Out would come the cinnamon buns, sweet and warm and smelling like Heaven itself. Out would come Mark, opening the door of his upstairs apartment, coffee cup in hand, calling “Something smells good down here!”
He would remember his childhood! I would glow. I would bow. Everything would be perfect!
And this is how it happened. Out came the cinnamon buns sweet and warm and smelling like Heaven itself. Out came Mark, coffee cup in hand from his upstairs apartment. “Something smells good down here,” he called. In the sound of his voice I knew that something was wrong. But what was wrong? What could be wrong? I pondered the question as he started down the stairs.
In only a moment I had the answer. Mark was carrying more than just his coffee cup. Both his hands were full. He and Tracy had made cinnamon buns. He was bringing them for breakfast.
“How terrible!” I cried in anguish. “To have waited so long and then have two lots in one day! How terrible!”
But Mark was having none of it as he sat at the table, eating a bun he had brought. “They're not the same," he said. "Ours have raisins. How can it possibly be terrible,” he asked, “to have a few extra cinnamon buns?”
And so, as I lick my lips, awed to observe the passage of things among the generations, I am left wondering: How can it possibly be terrible?

Friday, October 31, 2008


My specialty is hope tools. How funny is that, given my usual relationship with tools in general? Show me a bread knife and I’ll serve you a lopsided slice. Hand me a pair of knitting needles and you’ll doom yourself to the thankless task of picking up dropped stitches until I finally give up and hand you back the needles for good. Offer me a corkscrew and then plan to wait while I learn to use it—for the hundredth time. Did I say it was funny that my specialty would be tools? I understated it. It’s hilarious!

Wondering how such a thing could have happened to a klutz like me, I chalk it up to one main factor, something that sets my history with hope tools apart from previous ambivalent encounters with knitting needles, corkscrews and bread knives. I’ve been curious about hope tools, how they work, when they work, what difference they make. And because I have been curious about them, when it comes to hope tools, I’ve been willing to practice, falter, learn, refine, practice more, falter often, learn more, refine more and keep on practising.

I’ve practiced on sick people, suicidal people, dying people, confused people, angry people and teachers on disability leave. I’ve practiced on nurses and social workers and secretaries and therapists and journalists and occasionally even with doctors. I’ve practiced on wives of ALS patients and husbands of Alzheimer patients and children of diabetics and parents of children who reported sexual abuse. I’ve practiced at conferences and support group meetings and board retreats and management training events. I’ve twinkled in the laughter of smart people with brain injury and trembled under the critical scrutiny of classes in educational psychology.

The more I practiced, the more I noticed how much I was enjoying those hope tools. The more I enjoyed them, the more tools I got. I got so many I couldn’t fit them into an hour, or a day, or a week. Still I find myself preparing to practice, falter, learn and practice again. It’s that old curiosity coming to call. Had I worked so hard with corkscrews, I might be winning awards for tending bar!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Today I am making a hope kit, a collection of objects associated with my hope. It’s the first hope kit I have ever made, which is rather surprising, given that people were making hope kits before I started working at the Hope Foundation, and I have been working here for 13.5 years. Hope kits are like first-aid kits, or picnic baskets. You put stuff into them and then later you get the stuff out. You open your hope kit when you are hungry for hope, or when your hope needs to be repaired. Like I said, I’ve never made a hope kit.

But tonight I will be asking a group to make hope kits, and they might not understand how to make one, and they might think it’s a stupid idea. So I am making a hope kit to show them. As I gather stuff together I am thinking about past, present and future. I am thinking about people, places and things. I am avoiding anything I hate, like decorating special containers, which is one of the things hope kit experts suggest is meaningful to people when they make hope kits. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t decorate a container and call it your hope kit. It’s just that I hate decorating containers. So I have chosen to use a bag I was given at a dinner a few years ago. It’s so hard to know what to do with all those extra bags people give you. Now I’ve found a good use for one. I’d tell you what’s on the bag, but to tell you the truth, I once asked somebody to tell me, and they told me, but I can’t remember. It’s something Hopey, I know. The dinner where I got the bag was a hope dinner.

Here’s what’s in my bag—my hope kit.

A small pine cone. Just last week I sent a group of care-givers out on a walk to look for hope. One of the walkers picked up this cone and handed it to me, along with $15 to pay for a book called It All Begins with hope. I would have been pleased even if it wasn’t so easy to see the hope in a pine cone. I was out of town and I would have had to carry home all the books that didn’t sell that day. A pine cone isn’t nearly as heavy as a book.

Key Elements of Hope-Focussed Counselling. the first and only book I ever wrote. Some day I might write another. But if I don’t, it won’t be so bad, knowing I wrote one.

Finding Hope, Ways To See Life In A Brighter Light. the book I most often sell. It’s just a little book of pictures and short essays about hope. I saw it in draft form and to be honest, I thought it was a bit fluffy. But after it was published, so compact, so real, I suddenly realized that it was a little book I could give to anybody, knowing that they could read any page and start a conversation with me about hope.

This Little Light of Mine. That’s a book with a story of mine published in it.

A little wooden flute Lawrence bought me in Jasper. Lawrence rarely buys gifts, and he was thinking of me.

A shiny oriental flute David bought me in the Philippines. He said it sounded so beautiful when the man played it in the store that he knew I had to have it. Every time I try to play it, I think of how beautiful it must have sounded.

A laughing cup mark gave me. I can just imagine him in the store saying, I have to get this for my mom. Every time I turn it on it makes me laugh. Where there’s laughter, there’s hope.

A picture of Ruth that Ruth gave me. I was never gorgeous, but I do have a gorgeous daughter, and she’s even smart and generous as well.

A harmonica I bought for $4.95. I bought it at a gift shop in Nashville. Tennessee is a hotbed for two of my passions, music and storytelling.

Hopey, my first-ever hope-opotamus. Gary gave him to me as a gift of thanks, and I later gave him to my mom. He stayed with her in the hospital and she told me stories of the adventures they shared. When she died I got Hopey back, and I have the stories to go with him.

This is the seven-minute version of a hope kit, things I could pick up without wondering why. There are a million other things that could go in. I’d have a story for each of them. But you don’t have to put stories in a carrying bag. You carry them with you always, and I like stories, which helps to explain how I’ve worked at the Hope Foundation for 13.5 years and never made a hope kit—until today. .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NURTURING HOPEFUL SOULS: Practices and Activities For Working With Children and Youth

The Hope Foundation of Alberta has published a new and exciting resource for teachers and youth workers who want to use hope strategies with children. Nurturing Hopeful souls is the creation of hope specialist Lenora M. LeMay. Grounded in her long experience as a teacher, this book invites adults to engage children in activities that put hope front and centre. It describes ten sample learning activities and leaves the door open to those who would want to create activities of their own. Though I love the idea of creating hope trees and taking hope photos, I must confess that Coping with Hope Suckers is my favourite sample activity from the ten she has highlighted.

It would be enough if Lenora’s book were simply an activity book, for we surely lack such a resource. But it is much more than that. Pulling together some of her favourite concepts from hope research, Lenora presents a broad perspective on hope that embraces resilience and goal-setting. There is something in this book for thinkers, and something else for emotional types.

Nurturing Hopeful Souls acknowledges the need to help teachers be hopeful. Lenora writes:”Not long after I became the HOPE KIDS Manager, I responded to a call from a principal asking if I could speak to two of her staff who were worried about their students’ futures. I listened to the teachers describe the students’ sadness and lack of hope and how these students needed a safe and trusting environment where they could connect with others willing to listen and comfort them. I felt that these teachers were, literally, the students’ hope. They were experiencing what many teachers experience-a deep concern for children who appeared to be without hope. And, as hopeful individuals, these teachers did what hopeful people often do-they reached out for support.”

Lenora LeMay is likely the world’s most experienced youth hope facilitator. She has been nurturing youth hope programs in classrooms and community centres for the past eight years. Always insistent upon crediting a team of colleagues for her accomplishments, she prefers the role of learner to the role of expert. She sees her book as a beginning, a door opened to people who will teach her more about the craft she knows best.

Nurturing Hopeful Souls costs $34.00 plus shipping. To order a copy call the Hope Foundation at 780-492-1222.

Check out Lenora's blog

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Eight airplanes picked me up in October
And eight airplanes set me down safe and sound.
Seven of the eight set me down a bit early
And the eighth would have done so had it not arrived late.

So why did I expect them all to be late?

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I have been noticing lately how the most popular academic speakers open the ears of professionals with PowerPoint, and then retreat, as quickly as possible, to the language and stories that touch the human heart. I have been noticing how impatient are professional audiences are with the highly professional presentations they appear to demand. Isn’t it funny how we rarely get the opportunity to touch the hearts of professionals unless we begin with professional language and possibly display it on PowerPoint?
Last week I sat among an audience comprised mainly of people who work in vocational and residential facilities for people with disabilities. We were listening to Al Condeluci Ph.D., supported by PowerPoint, an expert in the field. How extraordinary it seems that I have now told many others the essence of what I heard him say. I heard him say that all people want a job—something meaningful to occupy our time, a house—a place that is ours to inhabit, a car—a way to get somewhere, and friends. I heard him say that any of us who do not belong in a community need a gatekeeper—an accepted member of that community to bring us in and find us a place.
This is what I did not hear. I did not hear anybody saying he was wasting their time because they already knew the information he was giving them. I did not say it either, though the information was not new to me.
If he had presented the research from his PowerPoint, I would have had to look it up in order to present it again. But since he presented it to the heart through the door of story and the simplest possible language, I did not need to look it up in order to remember it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Doug Roche Speaks Hope

Former Canadian Senator Douglas Roche is a board member of the Hope Foundation. His memoir, Creative Dissent: A Politician's Struggle for Peace, published by Novalis, is being launched in Edmonton this week. Doug is a man who understands hope at the deepest level and knows how to bring it out in language. .

“I want a world that is human-centred and genuinely democratic, a world that builds and protects peace, equality, justice and development. I want a world
in which human security, as envisioned in the principles of the UN Charter, replaces armaments, violent conflict and wars. I want a world in which everyone
lives in a clean environment with a fair distribution of the Earth's resources and international law protects human rights.

To my critics, who say that this is just Doug Roche dreaming again, I say, have you got better policies for the future? The policies of the past have brought
us untold wars and suffering, massive poverty, environmental destruction and repression of human beings, and have taken us, with the invention of weapons
of mass destruction, to the edge of human annihilation. Isn't it time to try something better? Isn't it time to bring our heads and hearts together to
produce true human security? Isn't it time to raise the standards of civilization for the sake of survival? Spare me the charge that this is mere idealism.
The agenda for survival is no longer a dream but a demand of the human race.

Let my critics write a book and state why 25,000 nuclear weapons are good for the people of the world, why it is good for the global economy that a quarter
of humanity lives in destitution while the profits of arms merchants soar, why it is good for the planet that the glaciers are melting and the seas rising.
I want my critics to explain to me why it is coherent for governments to pledge to help the children of the world but then fail to provide the necessary
money because they have diverted it to war. I need to hear from my critics a rational argument why the United States and Russia keeping nuclear weapons
on high-alert status--meaning they can be fired on fifteen minutes' notice--makes the world a safer place. I want to hear why it is not possible to put
a plan into motion to rid the world of nuclear weapons by 2020."

Friday, October 17, 2008


When the kids were little, and Daddy would rake the leaves into a huge pile, I would say: “leave them for a day, so the kids can jump in them.”

And last week, when Mark raked the leaves into huge piles, and his dad said, “Think you for raking up those leaves. I’ll get some bags”, I said, “Remember when you kids used to jump in the leaves?” Mark said he remembered, but he didn’t say, “Let’s jump in the leaves, Mom.”

But I am getting wiser as I am getting older. A plan is surely taking shape. The next time there’s a kid in the yard at leaf-raking time, no matter who has raked the leaves into huge piles, I will say, “Could you leave the leaves for a day so we can jump in them?”

Monday, October 13, 2008


I have always been one to scoff at the idea of the supernatural. The notion of past lives has been, for me, a literary device and nothing more. So it surprises me to say that, if, by some unimaginable chance I did have a past life, that life was almost certainly lived in Tennessee. I have been there twice in this life. I recognized this inexplicable affinity on the first visit, but was certain I would get over it as soon as I got home.
Everything in Tennessee seemed so familiar to me. I told myself it was just because I grew up with country music. I could sing you songs about Knoxville, about Gatlinburg, about Nashville. I could take you on a wild musical ride outrunning revenuers with a tank of moonshine in the back. Give me just a few opening chords and I could smell the air of Dolly Parton’s Tennessee Mountain Home. I told myself it was the long-remembered country music imagery that made me think I’d been there, made everything so coherent, so familiar.

I told myself it was the storytelling that made me feel I knew the people there. It was my love of the southern drawl, my admiration for those with such a superior grasp on my hobby. I assured myself that I most certainly could never have lived a past life in a state where they didn’t know we were having an election in Canada, a place where the notion of public transit has gone the way of the dodo.

But then a total stranger mentioned that East Tennessee University is offering a degree in storytelling with a minor in bluegrass music. And though I neither resigned my job at home, nor called the kids in Alberta with instructions to sell the house, both those ideas made a certain amount of sense. So here I am in Edmonton, a safe distance from ETSU, my Airmiles rewards reduced to nothing, generating great guffaws at the suggestion of a degree in storytelling with a minor in bluegrass, wondering when I might next visit Tennessee.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I am just back from another hero worshipping expedition. It’s a funny thing, really, to write this down, given that until I reached the age of fifty I took holidays, and educational trips, but never, ever hero worshipping pilgrimages. It was back in the days before I heard Tim tingle tell the story of the Trail of Tears in Bellingham Washington. It was before I heard Elizabeth Ellis tell the story of her mother’s death in Jonesborough Tennessee. It was before I heard Carmen Deedy tell stories of her father in Denton Texas.

Last week I made a second pilgrimage to Jonesborough, the home of the mother of all storytelling festivals. Ten thousand people go to that event. It lasts three days. On the Saturday they simultaneously operate six tents, each capable of holding 1,800 listeners, and you have to get to your tent half an hour early to guaranty a seat.

When you make your plans for Jonesborough you think, “Oh I will surely get bored. I’ll take some time away from the festival. I won’t be able to hear stories for three days solid.” But when you get to Jonesborough, you can’t bear to miss an hour, even if your back is killing you, even if you are freezing, which is what makes it more like a pilgrimage than an educational event—or a vacation. .

Sunday, September 28, 2008


When we go to our church on a Sunday
We hear stories of welcoming strangers
Extending of warm hospitality
And trusting the world will be better.

We welcome the welcoming stories.
We like to think we are inclusive.
We feel good on days when we offer.
We generally strive to do more.

But somebody gave out our address
And did it without our permission.
It happened in early September,
The time when cold weather is looming.

Before we could think what was happening
We were hosting a party for thousands
Who’d gathered out on the veranda
To find a warm spot for the winter.

In panic we called the authorities.
They said this was not an emergency.
Since we weren’t being burgled or bitten
And no genuine harm was occurring.

The word on the web says they’re harmless
That they just want to stay for the winter
In a warm comfy place until springtime
And how can we blame them for that?

They won’t eat our food or our houseplants
They won’t lay their eggs on our property.
They’ll die if they stay until summer,
How could we turn them away?

So if you are the kind who gives welcome
To strangers in need of a shelter
Just send us your addressed permission
And we’ll send you …
Absolutely free …
Without checking your references …
With no strings attached …
And no payment required on your part …

Thousands and thousands of Box Elder Bugs.
Don’t worry!
They won’t hurt you!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


When you run a hope group
As I have had occasion to do,
For people who are struggling
With issues beyond our imagining
You witness a miracle of making hope explicit.

You unveil the mysteries of humankind,
You find the light buried deep beneath the fog,
You reveal the talent lying unnoticed beyond the chaos,
You see the resourcefulness flare light the last spark in a burned-out campfire,
You see people grow taller, stronger, braver as they reach out to help each other,
You feel the ground settle neath the firmness of their stand.

This is why, amid the horror,
It is such a joy
To run a hope group
For people who are struggling
With issues beyond our imagining.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I had intended to write an essay
On despair and its relationship to computers
With reference the way my scanning program crashes
And the fact that my emails to my sister are rejected.

But then I was sidetracked with writing instead
A poem about my writers community
A community I hoped for but never had
Until I started keeping a blog
And reading the healing stories list serve.

A happy ending in many respects
Since hope is better than despair
And poems are shorter than essays.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Kate Macdonald Butler is the daughter of Stuart Macdonald, who was the youngest son of L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne Of Green Gables. She writes: I hope that by writing about my grandmother now there might be less secrecy and more awareness that will ease the unnecessary suffering so many people experience as a result of such depressions. You can read her essay on her grandmother’s suicide at

I think of Montgomery, and Robert Fulghum, and so many others, and I wonder how it comes to pass that depression enables artists to present the world so hopefully to the rest of us yet still leaves them struggling under depression’s oppressive weight. What, beyond buying their creations, can we do to ease their burden?

Though we like to think of mental health work as a science, I think it is as much an art as a science. And though artistic expression alone may not cure depression, it is amazing how many people find comfort in it.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Harry is one of those people who has inspired my hope as well as my writing. Fond as he was of universities, I suspect he would have been pleased to know that McMaster University Press has published a story about him as part of an anthology from the Writing Down Our Years Series. The book is:

This Little Light of Mine: Stories and Poetry from Family Caregivers
Kathleen M. Banchoff, Editor
Illustrated with the photography of Richard and Eleanore Kosydar.

The book can be purchased for $15.00 online from McMaster

My contribution, one of many in the book, appears here in its entirety, my tribute to Harry’s courage and persistence.

Wendy Edey

It is a good thing old age comes so late in life. It gives you the time to develop the resources to deal with it. There is a lot of noise in Harry’s room—too much noise really—given that this is a hospital and the official beginning of visiting hours is still an hour away. There is a lot of noise, but not quite enough to cover the sound of the too-loud voices coming from the hallway.

It is the morning after the stroke, the morning after the big one, the whopper, the cataclysmic stroke of all strokes, the stroke that stilled his good right arm and turned his leg to jelly. It is the morning after the cat got Harry’s tongue.

Harry’s room is a double room shared with a stranger. Harry would like to share the bathroom. For the moment that is out of the question because he is trapped in his bed. But Harry is not a man to be trifled with, and already he is having an influence, holding court from a horizontal perspective, using every muscle that moves, conducting the family through a modified game of charades.

“Bed pan,” cries a son. Bedpan is, on that morning, a guess of enormous importance, a guess you would want to make in case there wasn’t much time.

“No!” shouts Harry. It is a firm no, a definite no, the kind of no a three-year-old shouts when you try to put his shoes on. But it is music to the ears of the family. Maybe the cat that got his tongue has left some important words for Harry.

“Water jug!” cries a granddaughter. Thirst might be the problem.

“No!” shouts Harry.

More guesses. “Close these curtains!”


“A tissue for your nose?”

“No!” And then Harry says, “There!” A sigh from the family. Another word left by the cat.

He says it again. “There!”

But where? We try again. “Pull up the blanket?”


“Crank up the bed?”

“No!. A breath. “No! No! No! No!” And then, a flash of anger hot as fire, ”Damn it all!”

Shocked silence from the family. Can Harry really have said that? The cat who took the words must have a sense of humour. Harry has never been a man to swear. But then, communication has never been so difficult before, so promising and so daunting at the same time.

We pause to collect our thoughts. But silence will not do. It is noise we need now, noise. Make more noise! If we make more noise it might be impossible for Harry to hear, for us to hear the too-loud voice of the young doctor echoing in the hallway just beyond Harry’s door. Only a moment ago that man came right into the room and said, “If Harry’s wife is here I would like to speak to her about a do-not-resuscitate order. We don’t have one on the chart.”

Not a word did he speak to Harry. Presumably he was in a hurry. He wanted to get a do-not-resuscitate order on the chart. In his hand was a clipboard, and he would likely have had the full conversation then and there had one of Harry’s sons not risen to guide his mother to the door. There might have been a quiet room in soft pastels where Harry’s wife might have sat to discuss this difficult issue. But just outside the door the doctor stopped abruptly, turning back to continue the conversation, addressing himself to Harry’s wife.

Harry’s wife was tired, but she was not a woman to be trifled with. “Harry made a living will,” she said, getting the upper hand. “We brought it with us last night when we came in the ambulance. Maybe they still have it down in Emergency. He didn’t want to be a vegetable.”

The doctor was unimpressed. The word ‘vegetable’ was not on any of his forms. But that was the word Harry had used. What did he mean by that anyway? He meant he did not want to be passive, so passive he could be thrown into a pot and boiled up, so passive that others would have to tend him, keep his basic systems going. He wanted to be active, interactive, involved in the rhythm of daily life like a human being would be involved.

Inside Harry’s room there is no sign of vegetablehood right now. Harry is definitely not passive, not even close. He is, in fact, the centre of attention. It isn’t even visiting hours yet, and there are already a lot of people in Harry’s room, two patients, seven visitors. In the who-can-have-the-most-visitors competition, Harry has a definite lead, five visitors for him, two for the other guy. It is a difficult situation in some ways. Hospitals never quite know what to do about visitors. Visitors are good for the patients, but too many visitors can be too much of a good thing. Visiting hours keep things organized, but patients need their families in times of crisis. If the cat’s got your tongue your family can speak for you—sort of.

The too-loud conversation in the hahll is very short, as impromptu standing-up conversations among strangers tend to be. A granddaughter rises to make a chair available to Harry’s wife as she comes back in. One way to control the number of visitors is to control the number of chairs. Harry’s room has only four chairs, but we don’t mind standing. Things are pretty active anyway, what with Harry trying to give us a message we can’t understand, and all the guessing going on.

There is a better chance of solving the puzzle now that Harry’s wife is in the game. She ought to be exhausted, having spent last evening and most of the night in the emergency ward. This does not seem like a good time to discuss the too-loud hallway conversation, so we ask instead for her help with the game. We have exhausted all possibilities, made a hundred guesses. We have surveyed the ceiling, surveyed the floor, and still Harry persists. Whatever it is he wants to say, it must be very important.

“There!” he cries in agitation, the way an ignored messenger of war might cry when bringing news of an impending attack. “There!”

Harry’s wife has been his wife for 55 years. She knows him pretty well, well enough to predict that he will not give up until we have finally understood whatever it is that he wants to communicate. He has never been a man to give up. Anyone who knows him will tell you that. This is the man who insisted on finishing high school at a time when farm boys were not offered a full education. This is the man who went to war, cleaned guns, fell in love with a Welsh nurse, sacrificed his wedding day for D. Day in France and later married her in his army boots because he had no other shoes.

“He is looking at your chair,” she says to a daughter. It is not twelve hours since the cat got his tongue and already she is developing a skill in telepathy. “He is looking at your chair. Stand up will you?”

This is definitely going to be a challenge. Yesterday he could marshal 60,000 words. Today he is limited to five, including no, there and damn it all. It’s quite a loss when you consider it, 59,995 words wiped away in a single night, gone, but not forgotten. He has not forgotten them. She can see it in his eyes, know it from his history. Once they lost a daughter, a happy, laughing, bouncing daughter. One moment she was swimming in the river and the next moment she was gone. And there was nothing left to do but pull her lifeless body from the weeds where it was tangled. There was grieving, unfathomable grieving. There was heartbreak so deep that tears could still pour out forty years later. What is the loss of 59,995 words and a good right side compared with the loss of a daughter? Can a mere stroke be expected to vanquish a man who has lost a daughter and still not given up?

He has not given up on whatever it is he is after. Now, if his wife is guessing correctly, he is deeply concerned about a chair, the chair where another daughter is sitting. At her mother’s command she stands, and he smiles. They are making progress. But he is not finished yet.

This is a farm boy who started university at 43, survived a major heart attack at 58, studied French at 75. He taught math to bank tellers, computer science to students of business. This is a man who crossed the U.S.S.R., cruised the Amazon. He is a historian, a genealogist. His thoughts are not always simple.

His daughter is standing and he is smiling and still the puzzle is not solved. Is it something about her? No, it seems to be something about the chair. No, not about the chair, but about the bed next to his. No, not about the bed next to his, something about the visitors to the man in the bed next to his. What can it be?

And then suddenly the puzzle is solved. It is the chair. The visitors of the other patient only have one chair, and we have three. We have their other chair. We took their other chair and we need to give it back to them. So we give it back to them. Now both of his visitors have a chair. Two chairs for them and two for us. It is the thing Harry would have told us to do in the days when he had the words. We are cheering now, cheering the way we would be cheering if one of us had won ten thousand dollars on a TV game show.

Harry is not a vegetable. He is involved. We do not know it yet, but in the face of his new life, Harry will be more resolute, more resilient, more resourceful than we ever imagined he could be. We do not know it on this morning, but he has six more years, six more years of laughing at family parties, winning at cards and crying occasionally for his lost daughter. More words will be reconnected, names of people, names of objects. He will proudly display newspaper articles and army medals. He will give to charity, attend church, go to the bank, sign his name with his left hand, walk, fall and walk again.

On this difficult morning, when he knows there are still some things he can do, he chooses to hope there will be more things he can do as time goes on. He has always been a learner. Just this morning he began learning how it feels to be disregarded, as if he were invisible, invisible because he does not speak a language that can be understood by people in a hurry. And so he begins to take charge, to rally his family and friends. To us he will not be invisible. It will take more people to solve a problem. It will take longer than it used to. But we will do the best we can. This is not the only game of charades we will play. It is the first of a thousand enactments, enactments leading to guesses, guesses to fill the spaces, millions of spaces left by the thousands of words the cat took.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I followed a hope trail early today
Over to Ed South 221
Where the university class on hope
Has been taught in winter on Tuesday evenings
Sustained for three years running.

And even though a hundred other classes have been taught there
Day after day, year upon year,
The bulletin board at the back of the room
Stands resplendent with cheery cartoons,
Serious poetry, powerful sayings,
Mobiles depicting theoretical models
Of hope from an academic perspective.

How has it happened that this hopeful display
Accumulated over three years of classes
By students depicting their passion for hope
Persists unassaulted by cleaners or vandals
To welcome this year’s hope class?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Oh the plague of facts and numbers! With what I’ve been through this week, I find it a wonder that any history ever gets recorded accurately, or maybe it doesn’t.
First, there was the matter of the river floods on the North Saskatchewan. When I set out to develop a story about the floods, I thought I’d just get the numbers for the dozen or so high-water years. Not so simple though. Take 1915, for example. Did the water rise 14M as quoted by the Edmonton Public Library, or 12M as quoted in the City of Edmonton Disaster Plan, or 45.2 FT as recorded in the history books (No, 45.2 feet doesn’t equal either 12 or 14 meters. I already thought of that.) And then there is the catastrophic flood of 1899, which we are somewhat certain happened in 1899, though the 1915 Edmonton Bulletin newspaper refers to it often as the flood of 1898. Only 16 years passed between those two floods, and already they were getting it wrong.
With all this confusion going on, I wanted to drop the story, not wishing to be responsible for spreading inaccurate information. But I had already promised the story for a program, provided advertising details and taken up the time of the Provincial Archives staff doing the research, so quitting was out of the question. Alas, I have settled for the relative certainty that the 1986 flood was almost as big as the 1899 flood, which was almost as big as the 1915 flood. And I am not even going to mention the 1 in 100 year flood projection, which doesn’t mean that a flood will happen once every 100 years. In fact, the 1 in 100 year flood could theoretically happen every year, though it doesn’t seem to, especially since they installed the big dams up river, the dams which are supposed to prevent all serious floods, which they seem to do, except they didn’t in 1986. Nobody knows whether they prevented a serious flood in 2005, when we all prepared for a flood that didn’t turn out to be much of a flood, just a flood scare at 8.8M according to the Edmonton Public library.
Then there was the matter of Fanny Crosby. I started out knowing that she was a blind woman who lived to the age of 95 and wrote a few hymns, so I thought I’d do a little research and tell my music buddies about her. But it wasn’t more than ten minutes before I was mired in confusion. Did she write approximately 8000 hymns, or roughly 9000 hymns? There are only four in our hymnbook, though it is possible there are more, because the stories say that many of her hymns were published under other names, it not being appropriate for publishers to publish so many under one name. One story says that Fanny would occasionally hear a song by an unknown author and, finding it pleasing, would remark upon it, only to discover that it had actually been written by her. Well, that could be true. Surely nobody could actually remember 8000, let alone 9000 hymns. Fanny, born 1820, published three books in her lifetime—not books of hymns. At one time she had a publisher’s contract to write three hymns a week for the Sunday school—no problem for one who sometimes wrote seven hymns a day. She married but had no children—all the more time for writing. A minister said she told him she would have chosen to be blind so that she might praise her savior. This may have happened, but to me, a pragmatist jaded by the real life limitations of blindness, it sounds like the kind of story ministers really like to hear, and guilty congregations like to repeat with possible embellishment. And did I mention that Fanny also taught history at the New York Institute?
In the end I settled for one basic truth. Fanny Crosby was still a remarkable woman, even if she only wrote 8000 hymns. And one other truth, the North Saskatchewan River caused a lot of consternation with its flooding.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Many thanks to the City of Edmonton for installing an audible traffic signal on Rowland Road at 89 Street. This retrofit to the visual signal makes a huge difference to me. For the first time ever, I now feel confident that I am crossing to my bus stop at the appropriate time. I also want other blind people to know that this new signal is there so they can use it when they pass by, though I haven’t yet figured out how to communicate it to them.

Although many Edmontonians believe that these signals are installed wherever they are needed, this is not the case. Audible signal installation has received minimal attention compared, for example, to curb ramps. I am told that the current plan calls for installation of only three per year, and since new lights are not equipped when they are installed, the possibility of making all walk signals accessible to blind people gets further out of reach each year.

Though budget limitations are a contributing factor, the responses I got when requesting the signal show how the situation is made worse by the persistence of myths about blind people. Officials use these myths to defend policies when blind people ask for signals. In turn, we blind people are silenced by these myths. Having spent so much time trying to gain acceptance by proving ourselves, it is difficult for us to change gears and admit to our needs.

When I asked for the audible signal, I was told that the CNIB could solve my problem. This is a myth, though the official who told me this believed absolutely that it was true. Contrary to popular belief, the excellent training provided by the CNIB does not take the place of knowing when the signal changes. Like sighted people, blind people need a signal that tells them when to walk. The CNIB trainers are sighted. They teach blind people how to guess when the signal has changed. They watch the walk signal, and they pull you back if the traffic conditions don’t allow you to guess accurately. After they leave you, you’re on your own.

When I insisted that the CNIB could not solve my problem, I was told that blind people have a sixth sense which they use to cross Edmonton streets. Unfortunately this is not true in my case. I only have four senses, the number that sighted people have when they cover their eyes. If you think blindness gives you a sixth sense, try guessing at walk signals with your eyes closed several days in a row. You will still be able to peak to make sure you got it right.

When I confessed to having only four senses, I was told that the street I live on would never be a priority because it makes sense to spend limited resources on putting signals in central locations. In fact, signals are needed in central places, but these are usually the places where you can get help from other pedestrians. It is near your own home, where traffic is irregular and the streets are empty of pedestrians that you generally cross unaided on a daily basis.

When I argued that it would be difficult for me to reach a central location without leaving home, I was told that the neighbours complain about the noise when audible signals are installed. No numbers were produced to show the extent of the complaining, but I took their word for it and offered to reduce the chances by doing some P.R. work in my neighbourhood. No response was made to this offer.

I will admit that I was discouraged. I thought it would be impossible to influence a system that seemed so disinterested. I likely would have given up had it not been for the unwavering support of some people who love me.

The good news is that the City installed an audible signal that doesn’t make any noise unless you keep it pressed for about five seconds. . I am absolutely delighted with the 89th Street signal, though I don’t understand why this quiet version is automatically de-activated between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM. Still, I hold out the hope that policy changes can be achieved, another reason for writing this piece. We have organizations that could be taking an active role, using information to shape policy change—the City’s advisory committee on disability services, and the CNIB, to mention two. The city’s advisory committee has begun to show an interest kin the past year. And though it takes both work and courage to make even a small change amid the apathy and ignorance that holds things back, individuals do have the ability to make a difference.

Today I joyfully crossed the street after getting off at my local bus stop. Had it not been for the audible signal, I would not have known that the light had changed. There wasn’t anyone there to help me, and there wasn’t quite enough straight through traffic, and two cars were turning in different directions. But I knew I could go because the signal told me so. I found myself hoping that audible signals will some day be considered a given, rather than a gift, that, like ramped curbs, they will be automatically installed. I am hoping that visually impaired people will step forward and ask for the signals they need, that they will challenge the policies with facts, and that they won’t feel ashamed of admitting that they have difficulty knowing when to cross. Any person asking for a signal should remember that sighted people also find it difficult, and that the problem is addressed by giving them visual walk signals.

Monday, September 08, 2008


And when he said, I’ll just leave now because you walk faster than me and I can get a head start,” it seemed right to us. He is, after all, eighty-two years old.
And when he started the stairs, half a block ahead of us, we wished in worry that he had waited, so we might have directed him up the gentler slope of the hill.
And when he reached the top of the 230 stairs, turning back to say, easiest steps I ever climbed," we were once again reminded of the dangers of stereotyping.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


If ever there was a poem to describe how THE BEGINNING OF THE September ROUTINE GETS THE BETTER OF ME, it HAS TO BE this one.

By Edith L. M. King (1871-1962)

A centipede was happy quite,
Until a frog in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg comes after which?"
This raised her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in the ditch
Considering how to run.

BUT DON'T WORRY ABOUT ME!!! The historical perspective predicts that I'll be fine by October.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


When you float down the North Saskatchewan River on a sunny Friday morning, stalling momentarily on sand bars, gliding effortlessly beneath the bridges, dodging ducks, peaking at the holes in the bank where the swallows make their nests--when you float down the North Saskatchewan River on a sunny Friday morning—it is almost impossible to believe that such a peaceful river could have caused so much consternation to so many. But then, rivers are unpredictable. They ebb and flow like life itself, sometimes stalling or going in circles, sometimes racing, other times overwhelming with their flow, picking up the flotsam in their way.
What good are sunny Friday mornings on lazy rivers? Would we not get more exercise if we paddled? Would we not earn more money if we worked? We certainly would get farther and go faster if we hired a jet boat.
Let me take a stand for Friday morning floats, just as I have taken a stand for positive emotions when others have said they are simply a cover-up for the more important serious issues. We need the lazy Friday morning floats, the shining sun, the cooling breeze. We need that perspective to reinforce our resources against the day when we face the floods. So also do we need the positive emotions, love, joy, hope, mirth. They build us up. We need not rush through them, expecting the worst, waiting for the shoe to drop. These positive emotions, along with whatever does not kill us, make us stronger. They give us strength to face whatever is to come.