Tuesday, July 20, 2010


And on this day …
You see bright sunshine, thunder clouds on the far horizon, picnic invitations. I see a calendar of hope presentations and workshops stretching all the way to Christmas.
The interests of the audience will vary. There’ll be chronic pain patients and mental health teams; housing facilitators and FASD mentors; school liaison workers and lab managers; parents and storytellers; nurse/educators and relatives of people with early stage Alzheimer Disease. All will be interested in hope. Each will have a pre-set number of hours, a seating plan, a few notes of quotes scribbled while listening to the person who asked for the presentation. For each there will be some careful consideration. What do I know about hope that would matter to these people? This is the beauty of a career that focuses more on a concept than on a problem. You get variety, diversity, stimulation, an opportunity to grow. Looking back at it all makes my head spin.
The length will vary as it has in the past. . The longest one (not counting the university course on hope and the helping relationship) lasted 4.5 days. You can get a little tired of the sound of your own voice in 4.5 days. The shortest lasted 11 minutes. Originally scheduled for 30 minutes, that one was contracted and paid for by someone who said she hired me because politicians were speaking before me, she couldn’t regulate the politicians, and she knew she could count on me to finish exactly ten minutes before the moment when the concurrent speakers after me were scheduled to begin—thus saving the conference pattern from the chaos that would begin if the first session ran overtime.
Positioning will undoubtedly present itself in unpredictable ways. On one occasion I was surprised to find myself presenting to a group of people who were lying down. They were injured, and lying down was comfortable for them. I, on the other hand, was distinctly uncomfortable, not knowing just how to stand, possessed by a desire to flatten myself on the ceiling facing them from above. On another occasion I chatted with a group of moms sitting on a circle of chairs. In the middle of the circle was a quilt where half a dozen babies wriggled, babbled, crawled, reached out tiny hands and gazed longingly at those in their midst who had been granted a bottle. Try keeping to the topic under those conditions!
Audiences will find their own way to respond. In the past there were keynote beginnings enhanced by microphones lobbed into crowds sitting row upon row in lecture theatres. There were intimate round-table discussions and times when people from the session next door knocked on our door to ask if we could laugh a little more quietly so that their presenter could be heard better. And then there was that one terrible unforgettable Friday afternoon when the organizer decided to stay home while all the people for whom she had organized the event sat fidgeting, and wishing they had been given that option.
Looking back on it all I have to say that some of it was really good. Most of it was pretty good. A little of it was inescapably dreadful. After 15 years you’d think I must have seen everything. But somehow, I doubt it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Are they Married yet?
Definitely! The act of commitment was ably and lovingly guided by Pastor Bob who made certain that each of the partners would speak their vows clearly into the microphone, thereby making it possible for everyone to hear what they said. Pastor Bob knows what really matters at a wedding.

Did the mother of the bride cry?
Yes, but only at the rehearsal.

How was the cake?

At what hour did the mother of the bride trade her pretty shoes for comfortable shoes?
6:46 PM (approximately 7 hours before she arrived home). The shoes are now in the charity box. They’ll soon be gone forever.

Who helped make the occasion a success?
So many people helped hugely with the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, the reception, the dance, the pictures, the flowers and the next-day barbecue in the park that it would be impossible to name them! And then there are the ones who helped in medium and small ways!

Where are the bride and groom now?
In Kelowna, at least that’s where they said they were going.

How are the parents of the bride spending this day?
Saying farewell to relatives, doing laundrey, eating leftovers and counting their blessings. Later today they might book air tickets to Guelph. It will be fun to look ahead to their first few nights of sleep in the couple’s guest room. But before that time arrives there’s work to do, holidays to take, gardens to tend, and a little bit of sleep to catch up on.

What is the mother of the bride going to write about now that the wedding is over?

GOOD QUESTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What did the mother of the bride actually say to the crowd at the reception?

Hard to say exactly, but this is what she wrote to say.
One night last February, Derek called David and me to tell us he would be celebrating Lupercalia by proposing to Ruth. Lupercalia was a very ancient Roman pastoral fertility festival observed on February 15. The Romans drove out evil spirits by sacrificing two goats and adog. Now this might not be your idea of a romantic day for a marriage proposal, especially from an animal welfare guy. Derek was planning for Valentine’s Day, until Ruth said that the meaning of Valentine’s Day had been completely overshadowed by commercialism guided by a conspiracy of profit. He wanted us to be happy about the proposal, and I guess he didn’t feel he’d said enough over the phone, because the next day we received this follow-up email.
“Something that I forgot to say last night when I had no idea what to say last night, was something that should never EVER go without saying, least of all last night. That is, WHY I want to talk to Ruth about spending the rest of our whole entire lives together. As you both know, she is sensitive and thoughtful, caring and intelligent. she is special. But she also just makes me want to be a better person and I already am a better person with her in my life. I respect her. I admire her. I look-up to her. She makes me want to have a family. I want her to be my wife and to be my partner for life. I want to go through the rest of my days knowing her and being close to her. And these are just some of the things that come to mind but words are sometimes hard to find ..” Signed, Derek
What more could we wish for Ruth than to find a partner who would send such a note to her family. Derek, you sure have made it easy for us to love you.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Things are better than they used to be.
We decorated. Where once we would have spent hours folding Kleenex flowers to decorate cars that would later drive to the wedding in the rain, we tied bright sashes on the backs of chairs garbed in pristine chair smocks. (Those chairs have absolutely no chance of being pushed out into the rain.)
Instead of crowding 35 people into the house for the rehearsal dinner to avoid the rain that had been falling all week, we were able to let them flow out onto the deck, the veranda, the lawn to enjoy the evening sunshine.
And in a few short hours there will be no more wedding prep. Only weddeing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


And the groom is with us, smiling, yet practical. You can, he advises the mother of the bride, go to the website of the New Yorker and find cartoons filed and easy to research. He searches for cartoons about animals and scientists and uses them to illustrate his presentations.
The couple is a radiant team, fresh from their final pre-wedding consult with the pastor. There was still a lot to decide on last report—the wording of the vows, exactly what to promise.
“And what will you be saying to each other?” asks the mother of the bride.
And the groom replies, “You’ll do.”
Has he been searching for topics other than animals?

Sunday, July 11, 2010


And the groom arrived last night, a fitting development for a wedding. We were all glad to see him. It makes all this planning seem more purposeful. He hasn’t been here since late May and he says this time it feels different. After ten months of back-and-forth airplane romance they’ll be taking flights together from now on. In less than two weeks they’ll have flown off to begin their life in Ontario.
Mother of the bride is happy for them, feeling sorry for herself. The father of the bride cut to the chase this morning. “You know,” he said, “We don’t miss our parents that much when we’re away from them.” He’s right too, and we really love our parents.
His mother left her mother many years ago. She set sail for Canada in 1946 to join the soldier she’d married more than a year earlier. Just think of it! There was no intention to phone her mother, no possibility for email. Tragedies were communicated by telegram. News of daily events was relayed by mail. She did not return to Britain for 18 years. Her children were teen-agers by then.
The mother of this bride has a telephone, and email, and a daughter who has shown herself to be an excellent communicator. There will be visits. She plans to visit that new house in Ontario in early September. She plans to phone. She plans to write. She doesn't see that bride every day now, doesn't even talk to her every day. Things will be fine. But who among us would pass up the chance for a pity party now and then? The sad with the happy. A mixture. That's what it is.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


And when the father of the bride rolled out of bed saying, “I’ve had enough sleep for now,” the mother of the bride said, “then turn off the alarm.” The clock said “4:15 AM.” She intended to go back to sleep, and she really might have, had the man not closed the bedroom door before he left, thus compelling her to find out what he was up to—actually down to—in the kitchen below.
He was making the wedding cake. Would you like the recipe?

Open up your Internet browser, go to Kijiji and check to see if the four-tiered wedding cake pans we listed there have sold yet. Buy them if they haven’t. We promise to use the money wisely.
Go to the store and get 2 pounds of butter, 1/4 cup vanilla, 8 large bags of marshmallows and 112 cups of Rice Krispies. Also get a roll of parchment and some scissors. You’ll need the paper to line the pans, and you might want to use some spray for the corners in case the cake sticks there.
Now get a very large cauldron with a source of heat. A backyard hot tub would probably do nicely. This family didn’t have one, and their one large mixing bowl gets a little too hot when you make several batches in rapid succession, which is your only option for this recipe if you don't have a backyard hottub. So they borrowed another mixing bowl from the brother of the bride and used it even though it's a fancy bowl that says "POPCORN" ON THE SIDE. It’s good to get the whole family involved.
(Optional): one small dog willing to cruise the floor and lick up spills.
Melt the butter and then add the marshmallows and stir like crazy.
Add the vanilla and Rice Krispies and stir like crazy.
Put the stuff into a pan, get a spoon, and crunch the whole mass down like crazy.
Now you’re done. If you started some time around 4:30 it will be somewhere around 6:30, MAYBE 7:00. If you have a good wife she’ll clean up the kitchen for you. If not, she’ll be upstairs blogging about it.
Warning: don’t follow the recipe on the Rice Krispies box! The father of the bride never follows recipes exactly, sometimes not even approximately, and he’s one of the world’s best Rice Krispies Squares bakers the world has ever known. .

Friday, July 09, 2010


And here sits the mother of the bride, wondering what she should say in her one-minute speech at the reception. One minute? Has the mother of this bride ever restricted her comment on anything to one minute?
The bride says, “Say whatever you want. Take as long as you like.” Oh the power of permission-giving! She’s a shrewd one, this bride.
Given that the mother of the bride has no idea what to say, one minute ought to do it. She wants to say, “We like you Derek. Welcome to the family.”
But that will shock everyone. They won’t even have started listening by the time she’s finished, and on the way home the guests will say, “Too bad the mother of the bride couldn’t think of anything to say.” What should she add?
She could start with a little joke. Jokes are always a good option. Always? Well, maybe not always. She might never forget the joke told at one wedding by the master of ceremonies, a well-respected relative. He said, “Marriage is like a bathtub. After a while it’s not so hot.” It’s not the kind of joke one would want to remember forever. Jokes can be a little bit dangerous. Stil, a tasteful joke might be nice.
“Last June, when Edmontonions were being bitten by mosquitoes, our daughter was bitten by the love bug. At first the symptoms were barely noticeable, mild fever, slight agitation. But in only a couple of weeks we saw signs of a full-blown infection.”
But that won’t do. It’s the start of a longer story, and the mother of the bride gets carried away if you let her loose on a story. She doesn’t think she can tell a story and welcome Derek to the family in a single minute.
She could give a bit of advice, like Robert Fulghum would. Think of all the money he must have made publishing Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten! And what would she say? She has had a long and happy marriage. What has she learned?
“Be nice to each other. Let your mate overhear you praising him/her to others. Listen hard and seriously to what the other person is saying. Have fun every single day.”
Would she say, “Don’t go to bed mad?”
Are you kidding? The mother of the bride may have had a long and happy marriage, but she also believes firmly in the importantce of a good night’s sleep!

Thursday, July 08, 2010


And the bride and her credit card somehow became separated. And the company said it would take two weeks to get a new one. So the groom had to charge some stuff, which seemed like good practice for the future.
But then the bride remembered that she is a very powerful woman ….
The company is couriering a card immediately.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


And the groom, sweltering in the Ontario heat said, “Do you think that, in the week after the wedding, when we’re unpacking everything into the new house, if it’s really really hot, we could take a break and go swimming in our pool?”
And the bride--rushing through her last few days here in Edmonton where the weather is so unreliable that a pool would seem utterly ridiculous, exhausted from months of finishing her thesis, choosing wedding facilities, talking to photographers, selecting flowers, selling her house, choosing a new house on the web, packing up her classroom, moving the classroom stuff to her house, packing up her house, dealing with banks, going to bridal showers, writing thank-you cards, and dealing with a million zillion wedding details with a determination suggesting that any one detail is as essential as life itself--projected herself into the future and replied: “You know, I just really want to get everything unpacked.”
And the mother of the bride had a good laugh—along with the bride. Proof positive that humour is more powerful than fatigue.
Could it be that the bride has no idea how hot it gets in Ontario?


It’s summer and there’s some time to reflect on how things have been going. I’ve been looking at this blog and thinking about how mixed up my life gets, the personal and the professional. Others talk about boundaries, but my life seems to be more of a unified whole.
From a personal perspective, this blog has been about the wedding. We talk about the wedding every day. It fills our thoughts.
At work, however, it’s been about running hope and strengths groups for different populations, people with chronic pain, parents of children who reported sexual abuse, parents with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder—FASD. Sometimes at work the boundaries are clear, and sometimes they are not so clear. The FASD work is an example of the not-so-clear. And yet I cannot help but believe that it has a place in the professional world. Interestingly, it has been the easiest work to publish. You can find it in the AASCF Research Journal Volume 2 Spring 2010
That piece builds on a personal piece written earlier for publication by the FASD Support Network of Saskatchewan in Living with FASD Spring 2010

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Today two brothers were rounded up and fitted for pin-striped suits with complementary shirts, ties and dress shoes. Their sister said they cleaned up pretty nicely. Before we left the store their father photographed them on his I-phone and both brothers requested copies. Possibly tomorrow they'll be wanting proof that it really happened. This isn’t an easy family to dress up for a special occasion.

Friday, July 02, 2010


I put on my wedding shoes and walked to the computer. I got out a ruler and measured the heels. One-and-one-quarter inches. Sometimes the sacrifices that accompany real love are larger than they appear to be.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


With only two weeks to go, and the frightfully faint hope of being a credible mother of the bride, I have begun to practice. This morning I took out those fancy spike-heeled shoes that look like somebody else’s shoes, and wore them to breakfast. I stood in them. I sat in them. I walked in them! Who can say what challenges I shall take on tomorrow?