Saturday, October 31, 2009


Hope is a personal thing. A quote that makes one person hopeful will annoy another half to death. It's a matter of perspective, and context of course. In the moment context is everything. Yet some quotes live beyond their context, taking on a significance of their own.
Here, I believe, is a potential hope quote for the future. It will be hopeful for those of us who tend to abandon hope and throw up our hands in despair when we think that something has gone one step forward and two steps back--a pretty common occurrence as we wind our way through the linked corridors and dead-ends of change. here’s a hope quote aptly stated by David Gibson in the Ideas section of today’s edition of the Edmonton Journal. “a reformed reform doesn't equal a return to the past”. Gibson’s ideas are thoroughly fleshed out, showing the remarkable way in which an effort to return to the past is creating a previously unimagined future. Here are a few pieces of the article.

Pope's traditionalist acts may have liberal results

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005, all the world rejoiced--or recoiled--with the certain knowledge that the cardinals had settled
on the one man who would be more conservative than John Paul II.

For those who weren't so enthused about the Holy Spirit's selection, there was grim consolation in the fact that Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was 78 and
himself predicting a brief papacy that would serve as a transition to whatever came next.

Thus far, Benedict's papacy has been one of constant movement and change, the sort of dynamic that liberal Catholics-- or Protestants--are usually criticized
for pursuing. In Benedict's case, this liberalism serves a conservative agenda. But his activism should not be surprising: As a sharp critic of the reforms
of Vatican II, Ratzinger has long pushed for what he calls a "reform of the reform" to correct what he considers the excesses or abuses of the time.

Of course a "reformed reform" doesn't equal a return to the past, even if that were the goal. Indeed, Benedict's reforms are rapidly creating something
entirely new in Catholicism.

Friday, October 30, 2009


The need to be seen as a hopeful leader has taught me how important it is to recognize the difference between now and later. A clear understanding of this difference makes it easier to be hopeful in the face of anything impossible.
Right now many things are impossible, peace in Afghanistan, equitable distribution of wealth, and the solution of so many problems that I am asked to address in counselling. But who can tell what will be possible later? Who remembers the things that used to be impossible in the past?
For the first 55 years of my life I believed it was impossible to treat the condition that caused my blindness. I didn’t even know its name until I was an adult. Its name is Leber's congenital amaurosis. But what’s in a name anyway? Rather than hope for a cure, I pinned my hopes on other things and built the best life I could build, given the circumstances.
I had no need of doctors at that time, and they had little interest in me, for there was nothing they could do. Fifteen years ago the ophthalmologist who gave me the name told me that the researchers had begun to isolate the genes associated with Leber's congenital amaurosis. Having directed my hope elsewhere, I was interested, but only in passing. That doctor has long since retired. There isn’t an ophthalmologist anywhere who would know my name.
But these days it is not uncommon to read that people with my condition are being treated with gene therapy, are actually regaining useful vision. And though I have not yet found my way into the inner circle of professional knowledge and physician interest that would win me a spot among the candidates who might receive a treatment, I am beginning to poke at the edges of that circle, asking to be known. For the thing that has been good enough all these years—the idea that I need not consider something known to be impossible—is no longer a valid idea. The first 55 years was now. This is later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Today I spent some time reading a few pages from the book Introducing Narrative Therapy by Cheryl Whyte and David Denborough (Dulwich Centre 1998). It’s a great book. Narrative therapy is a very complicated topic, and that book is an excellent effort to simplify it a bit. The authors do fairly well at keeping both the voice and spirit of narrative therapy. This is not an easy task because narrative therapists speak their work in a very friendly voice. But the writing about the process rarely captures the truly collaborative spirit of the work.
Though I was reading for a specific purpose, the reading had a larger effect than intended. It reminded me of an old hope I’ve had, the hope to write a decent little book on hope-focussed counselling.
On first examination, this doesn’t seem like such an unrealistic hope. They say you always start a book by writing what you know. I don’t think there’s anybody anywhere who could argue that I don’t know hope-focussed counselling. I’ve been doing it for years, teaching others how to do it for years. I am so confident in doing it that I can commit without much fear to conduct a hope-focussed interview on the spur of the moment before a live audience with a volunteer who, until that moment, was totally unknown to me. If I know it well enough to do that, then there really is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to write about it. Is there?
Reason or not, the prospect of writing such a book has daunted me for years. I think of it the way others think of quitting smoking, or running a marathon. In short, I think of it as a desirable thing that I cannot do, and it doesn’t help a bit to know that thinking you can’t do something is a major cause of not being able to do it.
There is no evidence that I can’t do it. In fact, looking at the evidence only proves that the idea that I cannot do this is truly ridiculous because I did once write a little book on the topic. It’s called Key Elements of Hope-Focussed Counselling. It was published in 1998 by the Hope Foundation and it sells for $5.00. It was a decent little book—little being the operative word. In 2009 it is sadly out of date, hinting at the possibilities but not laying them out. So many possibilities have been tested and articulated since then. The core of the work is unchanged, but we now implement hope-focussed strategies with much more precision than we imagined possible at the time when I did that writing.
So even though I have a lot of knowledge, and have even written one small book already, there are some good reasons why I can’t write a decent little book on hope-focussed counseling. Try as I might, and believe me, I have tried, I can’t find a comfortable voice to write in, a voice that speaks like a professional and feels like the real me. The real me is relational, conversational. She is like that in counselling. She is like that when she teaches.
The real me in a counselling session is warm, caring. It’s hard to write about counselling in that voice. When you write about counselling it tends to sound like us and them. “This was what was wrong with them and this is how we cured it.” The real me doesn’t think or talk like that in counselling.
The real me likes to be knowledgeable but doesn’t feel at home standing behind the voice of a lecturing expert. She compensates for this when talking to a group of professionals by saying funny things, quirky things. She can say such things in front of a crowd and get away with it. A mood is created in that contact, a mood that feels quite natural standing alongside a hope focus. I haven’t figured out how to create that mood in writing.
What would a hopeless person say about all this? A hopeless person would say, ”I really can’t write a decent little book about hope-focussed counselling. I tried and it didn’t work. I can’t write such a book in the voice of the real me.”
What would THE HOPE LADY say? My HOPE LADY Blog voice would say, “You can’t publish this writing on the blog because it’s not very hopeful. It’s setting a bad example.”
The teacher in me would say, “Figure this out using hope-focussed strategies. What would a hopeful person say?”
A hopeful person would say “”I haven’t yet figured out how to write a professional book in the voice of the real me.” A hopeful person would say, “I will get that book written when I figure out how to write a professional book in the voice of the real me.” A really hopeful person would say, “I believe I will one day be able to write that book.”
At this point, an honest me would have to admit that I’m not all that hopeful about being able to find a right writing voice. For that reason I really shouldn’t publish this little rant on THE HOPE LADY Blog. But then again, maybe I’ll take a course on writing a book. You never know what I might learn. After all, the world has many voices, and I do really admire this friendly book on narrative therapy by Whyte and Denborough.

Monday, October 26, 2009


I’ve been doing a little reading lately. A book that, surprisingly has caught my interest is Scattered Shadows, a memoir by John Howard Griffin. It’s a book about going blind and then regaining sight. Often it seems that I get more than my share of books about blind people, sent along by my main source of reading material, the CNIB library. Usually I open these books, skip quickly through them and send them back. Over a lifetime, you can only read so many books about the experience of going and being blind. But this one is a little different.
Griffin’s memoir, published as a book in 2004, is a compilation of journal entries and articles he wrote in the ten-year period between 1947 and 1957. During this period, suffering consequences of nerve injuries from World War II, he gradually lost his eyesight, the use of his legs and sensation in his extremities. He bred ribbon-winning livestock by touch, learned to use a typewriter and read braille, wrote two best-selling novels, was a key player in a Supreme Court battle over censorship, regained the use of his legs, and finally got his eyesight back. He also married. His first child was born when he was in a wheelchair. He was on crutches when the second child arrived. He saw his third child on the day of his birth. His journalistic accounts of regaining his vision came at a time of poverty for his growing family. They brought in enough money to support the family for a year. Yes, John Howard Griffin was a most unforgettable man.
Griffin certainly had some interesting ideas. In fact, I read his book twice just to enjoy them. Take, for example, his theory that people would adjust to blindness much more easily were it not for the presence of sighted people. In support of this theory he observes that a blind person left to his own devices will freely explore his environment, locating its features and adjusting to its particularities. But then, as soon as sighted people enter the scene, that same blind man will cease his searching behavior, will stop exploring, and sit politely in one place, make himself dependent on the sighted people.
Sighted people are rather uncomfortable with the kind of searching and exploring that works well for their blind counterparts, and we blind people are uncomfortable learning about our environment while they watch. . The sensible thing for a blind person to do upon entering an unfamiliar house would be to take a touch tour of the walls the way sighted people take a glancing tour, identifying with hands and feet the location of furniture, admiring the ornaments. Such an exploration would facilitate independence and provide valuable information. I say Griffin has hit the nail on the head. I cannot imagine how much more I would know if I took it upon myself to explore the environments I enter.
I recall a time many years ago, making my first-ever visit to my sister’s new home. She was there to welcome me when I arrived. She invited me to sit on the couch. Then, summoned by some urgent call, she went out for a few minutes.
The moment she was gone I got to my feet and did a touch tour of the whole house, visiting all the rooms, finding the position of things relative to each other. By the time she returned I was perfectly comfortable at her house. Funny, isn’t it, that I would not have explored while she was there.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


How often do I lecture a group of professionals on the value of using the language of “I hope”?
Pretty often, I guess. It is, after all, one of my favourite hope ideas. “Get things going,” I say, “by asking your clients to identify their hopes in the language of I hope. Get it out there on the table,” I say. “Find out what they are hoping for.” And though I’d hope to report that my lesson is well received with open minds by excited professionals who can hardly wait to go back to work so they can try it, well, I suspect the reality falls somewhere short of my hope.
Thinking about this brings to mind several related experiences from my past. In each experience, I was at a bowling alley, throwing wobbly misguided balls down the stretch. In each of the experiences, some well-meaning and overly optimistic on-looker left a comfortable seat to stand by my side. There would be words of encouragement to me, “A little coaching will fix this problem. Stand a little more to the left when you throw.”
To the left I would stand. Into the left gutter would go the ball. “Stand a little more on an angle,” the coach would say, adjusting my shoulders slightly after bringing me the next ball. Right gutter for sure.
“Bend your knees a little,” the patient coach would urge. A weak ball would wander down the alley, stopping somewhere near the end.
“Do exactly the same thing harder,” the coach would enthuse. Left gutter ball again.
And so it would go, for a while anyway, until the coach had exhausted all possibilities. All coaching considered, bowling balls are mysteriously independent objects when placed in my hands. Needless to say, I haven’t been bowling lately.
I work so easily in the language of I hope, as easily as some people work a bowling ball down an alley. My client files invariably contain lists of hopes, hopes we explore together, hopes that change over time, hopes that get discarded, hopes that flower brighter than spring lilacs, hopes I look back on time and time again. The conversations that generate hope lists are the foundational building blocks of my work. They support a structure of communication in which hope is an explicit ally as well as an implicit support. I nurture them. I cherish them. Just how others manage without a good list of hopes to get them started is surely a wonder to me.
“Use the language of I hope to start a discussion with your patients,” I suggest at a workshop with a mental health team. I give a few examples from hope lists I have known.
A doctor pipes up. “I don’t really see the value of these hopes,” he says honestly, but not unkindly. “I am hoping the patients will take medication and they are hoping not to take medication. How is that getting us anywhere?”
“Oh,” say I. “This is only the beginning of a much longer conversation. Once you’ve told them you hope they’ll take medication, you need to tell them why you hope that, to inspire their hope by letting them know what changes you expect to see when they start taking the medication. You need to help them understand the reasons why you are recommending it, the good results you see in their future. If they are hoping not to take medication, the chances are that they are afraid of something. Perhaps you can replace their fear with hope.”
A silence falls. A gap has opened up between me and the doctor. In this room in front of these others, I don’t know quite how to bridge it. It would take role-playing. It would take practice. It would take hard work for my ideas to inform his understanding. And so ends the conversation. It’s only a workshop after all.
I have a feeling that it will take a long conversation to make me a better bowler. Somewhere there’s a gap of understanding between the coaches’ ideas about my body position and my ability to imagine where the ball will go once it has left my hand. So far I’ve yet to launch a ball under the gaze of an optimistic on-looker who could truly make me believe it would be worth my effort to strike out on a journey across the gap. But I’d work at it—honest I would—if only more professionals would be willing to give the language of I hope a fair chance.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


“We can’t be thinking that we must choose between hope and reality.” That’s what I always say. I Say, “Reality will always be there. It’s not a choice. The choice we have is whether or not to have hope alongside the reality.”
That said, and said often too, I found myself in a right tizzy over a lunch presentation I was invited to give. The request came from a hospital chaplain looking for a speaker to help the hospital celebrate Spiritual Care Week. He said, “We need somebody to give us hope given all the cutbacks and changes.”
Cutbacks and changes? This man is surely a master of the understatement. Last spring our health system was in full boom mode. Nursing schools were growing and recruiters were combing the world to see what nurses we could steal from poorer countries who had trained them. Politicians were proudly announcing major new medical centres. Doctors were flocking here everywhere.
It was a welcome change from the early 1990’s, when, following a boom, enormous cutbacks threw the system into chaos. Beds were closed, services were regionalized into 17 regions. Elections were held so that “real people without special interest” could run the system. The elected officials were dismissed. The number of regions was cut to 9. The number of regions was cut to 1. Taxes were cut in the time of prosperity. Health care premiums were eliminated. And then, when the boom turned to bust, as booms have done throughout history, the government said we didn’t want any new taxes, or restoration of the premiums that used to pay the bills, and hired a guy from Australia to shrink the system. In the blink of an eye we no longer needed any nurses, and we could close entire hospitals on the promise that the community would pick up the slack. Students in spiritual care came to work and found they no longer had supervisors. Hospitals didn’t need many chaplains. “We need somebody to give us hope given all the changes and cutbacks,” said the man, and the very idea of making a luncheon speech to people experiencing all of this put me into a right tizzy.
I fussed and stewed for a while, then put the file away and got on with other things. As the date for the lunch approached I retrieved the file and waited for inspiration to take charge. Inspiration was apparently unavoidably detained.
Down I went to the main floor to throw myself on the mercy of my colleagues. “I don’t know how to go there,” I whined.
Now I think, and this is always a motivator, that although my colleagues are always there to support me, there was not one of them who lusted after the opportunity to take my place. So when I remained unaided by their assurances that everything would be all right, they stepped up to the plate and got creative. Rachel said, “Wendy, if we can easily talk about hope with people who are dying, how bad can staff cuts and system changes really be?”
There was no argument that could be made to that. So we had a good laugh, and then we role-played some really irreverent things that I could say but wouldn’t, and then I got some of my old faithful materials together and went to speak at lunch.
Three people had arrived 5 minutes before talk time. My host said, “I don’t know how many people will be here.”
“We’ll be fine with three,” I said.
Two more people came in, two more followed behind. Three minutes past start time the crowd had swelled to forty and the room was feeling full. The universe was friendly. The crowd contained a program assistant who went to school with my kids, and the mother of a young university student I taught in last year’s hope class. They laughed at my little jokes, and we talked for a while about the hope-sucking conditions that plague their work.
When it came time to provide the hope, I brought out Barrack Obama’s acceptance speech and showed them how he artfully gathered American history into a “yes we can” scenario when he might have used the same facts to write a speech called “No we can’t.” Then we talked for a moment about the long view of health history, the gains that have been made over a century and never lost. Then we ran out of time. There’s only so much you can do in 55 minutes. They laughed at my final jokes and went smiling back to work.
Not much changed in health care that day, though it struck me that some patients might have a better afternoon because I’d been in the basement in their hospital at lunch. And once again I was confronted with the truth, the thing I know beyond any doubt, the truth that holds across the world, across the ages. Hope exists regardless of the circumstances. Some people see it more easily than others. Hope work gives tools to those who tend to see it, tools of story and language and symbol, tools of humour and understanding. If you can find somebody who can see hope and show you how they see it, it’s not so difficult to see it yourself.

Friday, October 23, 2009


How fun it was to find, while searching my name on the internet, a blog describing one of my all time favourite hope projects. Authored by a former family physician, HOPE 101 it describes and shows pictures of the Edmonton family medicine clinic that adopted a hope theme and implemented a new set of hope practices that started with a sincere interest in hope and changed a clinic to a place where patients and physicians could see hope.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I had a few worries when I came upon the idea of getting up early to do pool exercises before going to work.
I worried that it would be difficult to get up an hour earlier. I needn’t have worried. It’s not hard at all. I worried that the bus service at that hour would be unreliable. But the bus has been on time every single day. I worried that the water would be cold. I needn’t have worried. The water feels warm, not a shiver in it. Without my white cane to warn them off, I worried about bumping into fellow aqua-joggers. What can I say about that? Hardly anybody aqua-jogs at that hour! I worried that I wouldn’t keep going to the pool after it snowed. No worries there. It snowed last week just to test me, and I went anyway. I worried about crossing the streets that have no audible traffic signals at a time when there are few people to help, and not enough cars to let you know whether the light is red or green. I still worry about this, but not enough to make staying home an option.
There were a whole bunch of worries I didn’t have, though I can’t say for sure why I didn’t have them, given that my mind isn’t always as sharp as I’d like it to be around 6:00 AM. Be proactive was my motto, so I did try to ward off potential problems. I knew the little touches would make all the difference, like putting on my bathing suit under my clothes every morning, just to save time at the pool. If any problems came up, I felt sure they wouldn’t matter.
I was right too. After all, it didn’t really matter that I accidentally wore my pink sweater into the swimming pool one morning instead of taking it off when I undressed. I was able to button up the pink over-sweater so high that nobody at the office even guessed that the smart little matching sweater which should have been showing itself at the front was secretly drying in my coat closet.
And it didn’t really matter that my towel decided to stay home one day. It didn’t matter because Rhonda, my favourite lifeguard, rose eloquently to the occasion the moment she saw me slinking out onto the pool deck with the despairing face of one who is calculating the amount of time that will be needed to dry an entire body under the change-room hand dryer. Boldly rejecting my offer of cash, she vehemently presented my case to the guy in charge of the towels. I heard her say, ”That lady comes really often and she always brings her own towel.”.
And it didn’t really matter about the other thing—the unmentionable thing either, because when all is said and done, I don’t think anybody ought to go through an entire career without ever experiencing the heightened adventure of spending a full day in the role of professional woman freed from the tyranny of underwear.
Indeed, given the evidence presented so far, it does seem that in the matter of going for a morning dip on the way to work there is nothing to worry about at all.

Friday, October 16, 2009


“I miss my mom,” I said to David as we were preparing thanksgiving dinner. We were unbagging those nice clean vegetables that come from the farmer’s market, a little swish of water and you dump them into the pot.
Mom’s been dead for about four years now. “I miss her cooking,” I said. He said he missed it too. “And I miss being in the kitchen with her, getting things ready.”
At times like this your senses kick in. Just thinking about those good old days I could pretty much feel my hands hoisting and scrubbing and trying to peel those great big knobby garden potatoes stuck together like Siamese twins, triplets, mud caked in the places where they join. I could remember raising up my shoulder and slamming the knife down hardr than a camper’s axe to split those carrots that were so huge it only took one of them to feed five or six people. Do I miss that part? Maybe not so much. But I do miss my Mom.
Every spring she’d make the journey down to the basement, into her cold room. The cold room was the place where she kept the food. On the shelves there were beet pickles, the best beet pickles I have ever eaten. There were dill pickles, sweet pickles, canned raspberries. Some of them put up last fall, some of them—maybe a little older. Believe me, that cold room in spring was scarier than any haunted house you’d put together for your kids at Halloween. She’d open the door and after checking for mice, listening for frogs, she’d reach down into a dark bin where no arm really ought to go. She’d pull out something withery and soft, with tails hanging off it. Then she’d take that thing out to the garden, stick it in the ground, give it a little water, give it a little time and presto! It was garden magic! She’d have enough new potatoes to feed the army, with some left over for the navy and the air force. And that was only the beginning of mother’s garden. There’d be radishes and lettuce, peas and beans, carrots and parsnips and turnips, onions and cabbage and tomatoes, beets and cucumbers for pickles, and finally when you thought you couldn’t wait another day, there’d be corn on the cob.
But one spring day Mom said to me, “This will be the first time in 61 years that I haven’t planted a garden.” She was in the hospital then, sleeping on an air matress to chase away the bed sores, all tied up with tubes. She was suffering. It was hard visiting her, hard on the back, hard on the heart. When my dad heard her say the thing about the garden he jumped up and said, “Well, I guess I’d better go home and plant the garden.”
That made her laugh. He’d been growing food ever since he left school at the age of 13--growing wheat and barley and oats and canola and occasionally even flax. But planting a garden and fixing the vegetables was women’s work.
In June they packed Mom into the car and sent her home for a visit. She looked sceptically at the garden. The rows weren’t quite where they should be. The beets were probably planted too deep. The radishes needed eating. Still, things did seem to be growing. Mom went back to the hospital, a little room with a bed and chair, paying for tv and telephone by the day.
One day they offered Mom a choice. Did she want to stay where she was, or would she rather go to the room marked palliative care? Apparently the name palliative care keeps some people out. But Mom was always a practical sort. They’ve got a 27 inch tv in there and a free phone, she said. They’ve got a recliner for your father and a couch that guests can sleep on. They’ve got a microwave and a coffee pot and a toaster and a fridge and dishes in the cupboard, they still serve three meals a day. The room also had a patio door, leading out onto a patio with a table and chairs.
And a good thing it was that she moved, for out in the garden, the vegetables were getting restless. You couldn’t blame the turnips and radishes. They were bothered by bugs. Peas were bursting out of their pods, carrots were pushing and groaning and twisting around each other. The beets were jamming together and, of course, there were a lot of potatoes.
So every weekend we’d go to Dad’s house and help him get in the vegetables. Then we’d throw a roast in the crockpot, and we’d clean and shell and peel and scrape. We packed up the dinner when it was cooked and rush it to the hospital. A little crowd of family across the generations would gather there and we’d all go out to the patio with mom and eat together,. The nurses came out to take pictures. That was four years ago now. Seems like yesterday.
Not long ago we had dinner at dad’s. We told him we were coming. Dinner was ready when we got there. He served beet pickles. Oh they were good—not just god, they were great in the way that only beet pickles can be great- round and slippery and delicious; sweet and sour at the same time; tangy and gentle at the same time; firm and juicy at the same time.
“These taste just like Mom’s beet pickles,” I said.
“They are Mom’s beet pickles,” he said. “Seems like they’re not too old yet. There’s only a few jars left.”
He didn’t stop at beet pickles. These days, if you invite yourself to dinner at Dad’s, and the season is right, you will be served sweet buttered corn so fresh it snuggles the memory of the garden’s afternoon sun, and carrots scrubbed glossy and turned in butter, and slices of fried ham, or roast of beef from the crockpot. And did I mention potatoes? Well, no matter what else, there will always be potatoes, for the garden has performed its usual wonders.
And you might find it difficult to believe that this is the same man who, by the age of 79 had eaten mostly meals that had been cooked by his mother, or his wife, or an unseen cook behind a swinging door. But then, this could just be the final proof that an old dog can learn new tricks, or maybe it’s simply Dad’s indisputable declaration that eighty is not old at all for some dogs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


October 14, walking to the bus stop, walking in the approximate location where there was a sidewalk last week. Now it’s anybody’s guess what’s under there. A week ago there was snow, and even in Alberta we don’t usually shovel snow that falls in the first week of October.
Last week the trees looked down at the ground. “”Snow,”” they cried. ”It can’t be snowing yet. We haven’t even turned our leaves to fall colours yet, let alone dropped them.”
This was certainly irregular. All the trees agreed on it. Some of the trees wanted to wait for the weather to warm up. Most of them waited. But the weather did not warm up, so they called on the wind to blow their leaves off.
“”How can I blow your leaves off,”” whined the wind. “”They are still green and hanging in clumps.””
But the trees insisted. If there was snow on the ground, they reasoned, then it was time for the leaves to fall. Now the wind faced a challenge. A little breeze had definitely not been enough to dislodge those green leaves. Then Wind had an idea.
It blew hard, very hard, lift-the-veranda-furniture-up-and-toss-it-on-the-lawn hard. It only took a day of that before things started to happen. Down came the leaves, not the dry flaky leaves of most Octobers. Oh no. These were the green leaves, falling in clumps of five or six, falling like the branches Noah’s dove carried in its mouth when it flew out to Noah to tell him that land was somewhere beyond the horizon. Down they fell until they lay there ankle deep, reaching for the knee, catching in the laces of your snowboots.
Normally most people would rake up a sidewalk full of ankle-deep, the leaves. But even Albertans don’t usually rake the majority of their leaves when the temperature is hovering around -10 with a major wind chill. They wait for the weather to warm up.
Meanwhile, the skies noticed how interested we all were in the unusual weather. How could they have missed it? Hardly was there a conversation about anything else. Even skies tend to do more of whatever gets you attention. So they continued to dumpt a little skiff of snow each day—conversation starter snow, they called it.
But, as people will, people began to get bored talking about the same thing all the time. So desensitized were they that even the coldest Thanksgiving on record couldn’t impress them.
So the skies had a meeting. ”We’ve been playing it entirely too low key,” they concluded. ”If we want to get attention, we have to produce something truly significant.”
Soon they were dropping snow in balls and banks, dropping it like it was Christmas. They dropped it on the ankle deep piles of leaves that had been insulating the layer of sidewalk snow below. They dropped it on the lawns and the streets and the bus stop benches. They halted the traffic.
You worry about being late on a day when the wind is blowing, and the snow is falling in banks and balls on the ankle-deep leaves that are insulating the snow that covered the sidewalks that were there last week. I worried about being late for physio. But my worry was needless. ”Don’t come in yet,”called Laura, the physiotherapist. ”Wait until I get the shoveling done.”
I think they call it multi-tasking. Even a physiotherapist in Alberta doesn’t hire a contractor to shovel snow before October 15.

And the reason for writing all this is …
Well, why not? Maybe my future grandchildren won’t believe me if I tell them how lousy the weather was in October of 2009, so I might as well turn it into a story.

Friday, October 09, 2009


An the news flash says:

Barack Obama awarded Nobel Peace Prize for bringing hope. Critics say he hasn’t taken any action.

I say it will take a lot of action by a lot of people to make the change he brought hope for, and we have yet to see whether enough people will take enough action to make it come about. But we could say for sure that none of this change would likely be possible unless someone with the power to lead led many other people to hope for it too.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I like to think that most of my professional work, the counselling, the teaching, the group facilitating, the presenting, the supervision of aspiring counsellors—I like to think that most of this work is hope work. People say my standards are pretty high, seeing as how I keep insisting that we have to be able to put hope alongside reality, look at them together and stil have both.
When I look closely at my work, I see that some of it doesn’t meet my standards, maybe because I am human, and some people have huge problems, and good counselling requires a large array of skills, and teaching takes a lot of preparation, and group work can be taxing, and some audiences are more receptive than others, and the task of inspirational student supervision is harder than it looks.
So I try to remember to remind myself that a lot of implicit hope work happens without my notice, taking on a life of its own when I respect people, listen to them and give them some combination of control with the information to help them use it. And I try to remember to think about doing hope work. The surprising thing is that when I do think it, I mean really think it--the surprising thing is that when I do think it, some of the work that wasn’t necessarily hope work tends to turn into hope work.
It helps to have some tools. When I think about hope work I am more apt to tell a hopeful story, to ask a question about hope, to suggest a symbol of hope, or recommend a book, or stop doing something that appears to be taking the hope away. But tools aren’t always enough. The many tools in a hope work repertoire can be put to good use, but no matter how many wonderful hope tools I have in the repertoire, the first step in doing hope work is to think about doing it.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


THE HOPE LADY Blog has been curiously silent. A number of you have noticed this. What does it mean? Have I lost hope? Am I languishing in the depths of despair? Did I stop going to the pool in the mornings before work? Has a crisis overtaken my life? Did I contract the flu? And the short answer is ………………. NO!!!!
In truth, I am just fine, more than fine really, only it seems that, when it comes to the blog, I may have—well, forget the may--I have developed a case of writer’s block. I surely wish I could write more about that!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


(Author Unknown)

If you can start the day without caffeine, 

If you can get going without pep pills, 

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains, 

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles, 

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it, 

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time, 

If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong, 

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment, 

If you can ignore a friend's limited education and never correct him, 

If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend, 

If you can face the world without lies and deceit, 

If you can conquer tension without medical help, 

If you can relax without liquor, 

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs, 

Then You Are Probably the Family Dog!