Saturday, December 31, 2011


I love the way language changes—the new meanings for old words, the old words that make a comeback. You can see it everywhere, once you decide to notice. Look in the news, where our modern search capacities track such phenomena. Journalist Tom Spears, for example, has noticed that the Ottawa Citizen printed ‘iconic’ 370 times in 2011, not even once in 1990. By 2032 it might appear thousands of times, or maybe none at all. Nobody knows which word would achieve iconic status, taking its place and soaking up the printer’s ink in the event of its demise. If I had the tools I’d find out how often ‘hope’ appears in the news, whether its use has grown or shrunk. Perhaps some day I will have the tools, maybe even be lucky enough to know how to use them. But that isn’t likely to happen tomorrow. The question is, what shall I do while I wait?
A few stories come to mind, might as well take a moment to tell them. This Christmas season, with the family gathered for kitchen chatter, seemed like the perfect time to drop a phrase that once echoed in our house. “Beats for you,” I said. Everyone understood.
I don’t know what ‘beats for you’ means in other households. In ours, it means, ‘Turn the clock back 20 years and imagine us smiling at one another, giving a playful push.’ “Beats for you,” the pusher would say with a grin. A mutually understood implication bubbled unspoken just below the surface. The intended meaning could, I confess, have been delivered with more directness. But what self-respecting just-about-teen-ager would say to his brother, “You have been fortunate to avoid the full force of my wrath on this particular occasion?” If you wanted to make a veiled threat with a smile, you’d warn of potential ‘harsh beats.’
I have no idea where the language of beats came from. Maybe it started at school, maybe on television. I know I didn’t start it, but I will confess that I encouraged it. I used it, though probably not at the office. It is difficult to imagine what direction my career might have taken had I—assigned the job of disciplining an employee—opened with a grinning exclamation, “Beats for you.”
Childhood is a veritable breeding ground for the introduction of expressions. This, possibly, is because youth so often exclaim. Most of our out-of-fashion exclamations began with kids and youth—cool, neat, rad, mint! Mint! What’s that you say? You’ve never heard anybody say ‘mint’?
Well, if you’ve never heard young people exclaiming ‘mint!’ every 14 seconds, then it is clear to me that you never attended Jericho Hill School in the mid 1960’s. The school was out in Vancouver, many miles from my Alberta farm home. I was 11 when I arrived. “I’m from Alberta,’ I told my new roommate.
“Mint!” she said. Being the new kid in the dorm, I let it go, didn’t mention it the first time, or the fiftieth time I heard it. I knew her a little better by the next day, so I said, “What does ‘mint’ mean?”
“What does ‘mint’ mean?” she repeated, drawing a wondrous breath. “What does ‘mint’ mean? You don’t know what ‘mint’ means? They don’t say ‘mint’ in Alberta?”
“Well,” said I cautiously, not wanting to cast too dull a light on my ancestors, “I suppose it’s possible that they say it, and I simply haven’t heard it.”
“Mint,” said she, rising to the occasion with the gravity of a philosophy professor accepting an honorary doctorate, ‘mint means nice.”
“Mint!” I replied. Twelve hours later I had almost forgotten that there was once a time when I didn’t say it, except in reference to certain candies my Granny kept in her purse.
Some days I get down about language, start thinking that no new language is ever good, that all new words of exclamation start with F. Sometimes I long for the days of ‘mint!’ Most often it’s the talk shows that bring it on. It’s listening to the endless programs where callers are encouraged to call in complaining about how the language has gone to the dogs, how the apostrophe is wrongly used, how young people can’t even write a business letter.

Then I go out shopping, and a cashier just past her 16th birthday asks me, “Will that be cash, or card?”
Out pops my credit card. She picks it up, peers at it, runs an affectionate finger over the security chip. “Perrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrfect!” she cries. And here is the message, the sign, the affirmation that the days of ‘mint!’ are still with us, albeit in a different form. I know that all is right with the world.
In 2011 Everything Became Iconic

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Here, from our Governor General is a message for the future.
Governor General David Johnston

OTTAWA— In the little over a year since I was installed as Governor General, Sharon and I have had the opportunity to travel to almost every corner of our
country—and to meet with Canadians from nearly every walk of life. It has been a remarkable experience.

What has struck us most is the generosity of Canadians. Generous with their talents, their time and their treasure. More than 80% of Canadians make some
kind of financial donation to a worthy cause every year. And some 12 million Canadians spend over two billion hours volunteering.

Those are impressive numbers and speak to the kind of people we are—and the kind of country we’ve built. We are a nation of barn raisers.

Whether it’s because of the geography we share or the climate we endure, giving seems to crop up everywhere in our society. We are bound to one another.
And every day, in countless ways large and small, Canadians demonstrate their gift for giving.

I have been reflecting upon the generosity of Canadians while thinking about the year ahead. In every new year lies the promise of a new beginning.

An opportunity to improve our lives and enrich our country. And as Canada approaches its 150th anniversary, in 2017, it’s time to renew our efforts to imagine
the kind of country we want—and to start building it in the New Year.

Imagine a smarter, more caring Canada. A Canada where giving—in all its forms—time, talent, altruism become an even more integral part of our daily lives—a
main stream part of being Canadian.

During the holiday season, each of us can plainly see the effect that the spirit of generosity and goodwill has upon our lives and our communities. And
each year we ask ourselves, ‘Why can’t every day be so full of sharing?’

Indeed, ‘Why not?’ An everyday culture of giving is one of the defining features of successful societies everywhere. This has been the case throughout Canada’s
past, but we cannot take it for granted. Together, let us renew our gift for giving as we look to the future.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


In the hour before dawn on Christmas morning
With the air as soft as a downy pillow
And the traffic so light you could play on Rowland Road
As the toddlers’ parents ponder a post-present nap
And the teen-agers parents wonder when they will be able to open,
We are walking the streets with Pirate
In the face of a looming crisis.

In our pockets there is no bag
To capture the inevitable.
Bags abundant still at home
Useless on the closet shelf.
David in the throws of worry
Me above it all.

“Ridiculous!” I scoff
“To be so utterly concerned.
2,000 walks, 2,000 bags
Who can boast of such a record?
A perfect pick up history.”

“I have a Kleenex,” David says.
“Neurotic,” echoes my reply.
Self-proclaiming Pirate chooses,
“Here’s the place where I shall go!”

Then from the shadows rings a voice
A front-porch-sitting Christmas smoker,
“Merry Christmas,” cheery call.
“Leaving us a present are you?”

There proudly sporting the smuggest smile
That ever graced the pure of heart stands
I, awaiting Dearest David
As he calmly demonstrates
the infinite worth of prior planning
And the pick-up power of the lowly Kleenex.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


“Are you ready for Christmas?” they always ask. It’s a strange question, don’t you think? What would it take to be so ready that a person would answer with an unqualified “Yes!”?
I, though I’ve never found the language to admit it openly, am always ready for Christmas, so long as you don’t measure readiness by the completedness of shopping, or the evidence of baking, or the perfection of carols practised beyond the genuine probability of error. What I do notice though is how, every year, despite the calendar, and the counting down, and the planning, and the scheduling, never cease to be surprise when Christmas arrives. “It’s here already,” I remark—though not too loudly. Would I want anyone to think I hadn’t been expecting it?

Friday, December 23, 2011


And as I played the familiar carols
Getting them ready for special occasions,
Feeling the ancient rhythms,
Absorbing the timeless beauty

I wondered at so very much complaining
about Christmas music played too soon in stores
And so very little
About the rush to early shopping.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Shall I pause to celebrate
The timeless gifts that keep on giving?

The accordion that came when I was 11
Accordions build lifelong character.

The china on the festive table.
China builds family memories.

Much-loved music playing on the stereo,
The clothes that bring the compliments.

And the very best of all,
Delivered 38 years ago today
With a promise and a ring,
A husband.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I never cared for chemistry classes. “Get it over with as quickly as possible and make sure you pass,” was what I said. But if I ever get truly interested in chemistry—interested for more than one day—which I’m not promising, I may very well owe the credit to a most remarkable teacher--Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour. It is almost 24 hours since I spent an hour with her, I am not preparing for an exam, and I still remember some of the things she taught me. Now that is something to notice!
Margaret-Ann is internationally known for her passionate teaching. She has a style that makes science accessible, relevant and interesting. “Science is not something done by a group of experts sitting in a lab somewhere,” she says. “Science is all around us, in the natural world and in our own bodies.”
Her teaching ideas are designed with a hook to draw people in, and an unshakable belief that we’ll want to be there once she’s got us.
She told me she could make a yellow compound and then shake it. As she shook it, it would turn red, then green. I was a little bit impressed at that point—a little bit. Then she told me that if we left the compound to its own devices, it would turn red, then go back to yellow.
I listened politely, but then, without even meaning to, I asked a question. “Why does it revert?”
“It’s because the dye in the compound picks up molecules of oxygen as you shake it,’ she said. “But the compound isn’t stable. So it slowly releases the oxygen again.”
It was a story, and I like stories, but since there would be no exam, I expected to forget it some time within the next few minutes. Margaret-Ann, however, was not finished with me yet. “That’s how it is with blood in our bodies,” she said. “It picks up molecules of oxygen in the lungs and the heart sends it through the body. It deposits the oxygen in the cells along the way, then goes back for more.”
I have been taught about the lungs and blood before. I hadn’t bothered to give it much thought. But when I heard myself telling the story to others, I knew that a skilled teacher had been messing with my attentions.
We got into that conversation because she was telling me, at my request, how she engaged the interest of young aboriginal students at a camp the Hope Foundation sponsored on the University of Alberta campus. “When those students came in to the lab the group was quiet. Normally I would get things going by asking questions. But that wouldn’t be the right thing here. They need time to feel that they belong. So I talked for a while and then I went right into having them make nylon.”
The process of making nylon went very well. By the time the nylon was made, the students were involved. They were ready to ask and answer questions. After that, they went on to make Bakelite.
Not missing a chance to engage me, she assured me that I would understand what she was talking about because of the work I do. I would know how important it is to consider first the needs and interests of the people you are trying to help, how important it is to hook them, to make participation irresistible to them.
The lesson ended on schedule. Margaret-Ann went away, but not without leaving something behind. For here I am today, writing about compounds on THE HOPE LADY Blog, and wondering how much the average person would know about chemistry if every teacher could teach like Margaret-Ann.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Me: We got an invitation today. We were invited to do something.
Myself: Really? We’ve had a lot of invitations lately, but I don’t recall getting any today. What have we been invited to?
Me: We’ve been invited to give up a grudge, one we’ve been holding a long time.
Myself: I don’t recall being invited to give up a grudge, unless, maybe, you mean that letter we got that said nice things about us.
Me: That’s the letter all right. So are we going to?
Myself: Are we going to what?
Me: Give up the grudge.
Myself: You mean today? You want an answer right now? What’s the rush?
Me: There’s hardly a rush. We’ve been carrying this grudge for decades. But I’m finding it a bit of a burden, and I’m just wondering when we’ll be giving it up.
Myself: Well I don’t really know when. The grudge, as you call it, is perfectly justified. We were wronged, you might recall, treated rather badly. I would say we’re owed an apology. I hardly see how a pleasant letter can stand in for that.
Me: What about several nice letters? There have been a few of them over the years, you know.
Myself: Well, I hardly think several nice letters spread over a long period equals an apology. Apoligy is the standard form of invitation when it comes to giving up grudges.
Me: Standard, maybe, but maybe not the only form. What about a few invitations added to a few nice letters? There have been a few invitations to events, as I recall, and never a word of hostility. Surely that counts for something.
Myself: Maybe. But you never really know where words of hostility could be hiding. Maybe they’re written between the lines.
Me: I’ve got that covered. I’ve been looking between the lines of every letter. There’s nothing there except white space. But, look, I’m not hard to deal with. Maybe today is too soon to part with something so familiar as this grudge. Maybe we won’t be able to part with this grudge until tomorrow. What do you think?
Myself: Tomorrow? Well we’ll see what tomorrow brings. I’m not making any promises. This will take some time to consider, and I’m pretty busy, what with Christmas coming and all.
Me: So just tell me one thing, will you? What is your biggest fear about giving up this grudge.
Myself: Fear? What do you mean, fear. I have nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a grudge, after all. What’s so scary about a grudge?
Me: Plenty, I’d say. Most of the world’s wars—maybe all of the world’s wars—are fueled by grudges. I’d call that scary. And here’s another thing. Only half the world’s apologies are generated by genuine remorse. The rest are matters of convenience. Try as I might, I can’t really think how it was convenient to write these nice letters. Now here’s another idea. Could you give it as a gift?
Myself: Give a grudge as a gift?
Me: No, dummy. Could we give up the grudge as a gift? Give the gift of forgiveness?
Myself: Well, there’s a new Christmas idea, the gift of forgiveness. But then, you’ve got to be careful with these new ideas? One year it’s a new idea, the next year it’s a trend. You know how these things get going. One year it’s Cabbage Patch Dolls. Another year it’s I-phones. Pretty soon the whole world is changing, and everybody’s talking about the new trend. Can you imagine what might happen if everybody started giving the gift of forgiveness for Christmas?

Monday, December 19, 2011


Lisa Rowbottom is studying counsellors who intentionally modify their strategies to meet the psychological counselling needs of people who have FASD. It isn’t easy finding people to study, but she now has three, and is hoping to find a fourth. I spent an hour or so answering Lisa’s questions last Thursday morning. The benefit of that time went to me as well as to Lisa. She got a research participant, and I, preparing in advance to make good use of that hour, got the incentive to pull together my thoughts. In doing so, I noticed how counselling people with FASD is a process to which I haven’t given much dedicated thought. I’ve simply plunged in when the need arose, and felt my way in, paying heed to my knowledge about the complex set of emotional, cognitive and behavioural barriers I’d be likely to encounter, and the stories of real people that give me cause to hope that the effort is worthwhile.
I’ve lately been observing how, when it comes to growing up with FASD, things happen, but they happen slowly. A person who had never been able to communicate in writing will, in the early 20’s, suddenly start text messaging friends. A person whose grasp of math has never allowed for serious money management will, at the age of 29, take a score sheet and manually calculate the Yahtzee totals.
At conferences I often hear it said that people with FASD, showing remarkable verbal ability, appear to be smarter than they actually are. They talk a good line, but their actions don’t follow their words. The flip side of this is also true. People with FASD, in my experience, use their verbal ability to talk a good line sometimes, and a bad line at others. They ruminate. Their words influence their mental health in a very negative manner, and our words about how they never follow through compound the negativity, for us and for them.
FASD is a disability—a very complex disability—not simple, like blindness or deafness. If you fail to see it as a disability, if you try to break it down into parts and address them one at a time, you’ll get brain fatigue trying to understand it with logic, broken heart protecting yourself in its emotional storms, and a case of frustration so big that only an extended tropical vacation can cure it.
At conferences I have heard it said that insight-based psychotherapies don’t work well with people who have FASD. Frankly, I don’t think we know what works and doesn’t work. That’s one good reason, I’d say, for Lisa to be doing her study. Another good reason is that others, like me, have probably developed some undocumented strategies to use with people who have FASD. Undocumented is the operative concept here—explaining why we find so little useful counselling information in the literature. Alas, we counsellors have something in common with people who have FASD. We’ve been slow to develop.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


We might get an artificial tree next year. That’s what we’re saying now, listening to the words we are saying, trying to figure out whether we mean them.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. In the corner of our living room stands a tree so fragrant that Mark and Tracey can smell it through the crack under the door to their upstairs apartment. It’s a tree with character, wide, embracing, flattish on top, shaved at bottom. Skinny branches extend their curving needle fingers to clutch at the bounty of treasures accumulated over the decades. Last night’s dinner guests said: “what a lovely tree, so full, not a single bare spot.”
The 2011 tree is everything an artificial tree will never be—difficult to handle, original, quirky. David acquired it at a Food Bank fund-raising event on Churchill Square. He asked them for a tall one, not realizing that he was making the choice to take home a tree that required the carrying strength of Hercules with a trunk that only a logger could love. He might have asked for a different tree, had it been a Thursday evening, or a Saturday afternoon. But that is not how it was. He had got it in the true Christmas spirit, in a sleepy haze at 5:30 AM on a Friday morning at the end of a week of working long hours of day and evening due to the commitment required during City Budget time. He had gone to get it at the earliest possible moment so that he’d be home in time to help Lawrence get his car into the repair shop before work.
All day, bottom in a pail of water, the tree languished stiffly in the garage, limbs imprisoned in string, silently wondering how we’d find a stand to hold it. “We might get an artificial tree next year,” we said, locking the doors behind us, hoping time would bring wisdom.
It takes a family to manage such a tree. Friday evening became an impromptu guys’ night out for Lawrence and David. After a period of experimentation resulting in the sacrifice of a dozen branches and approximately 10 billion long needles, they went shopping, came home with an electric reciprocating saw, and wrestled the trunk into submission.
Mark and Tracey loaned us their tree stand. It’s a bit more secure than ours for such a heavy tree. And we thought maybe we shouldn’t bother to get a new tree stand for ourselves, just in case we meant it when we said we might get an artificial tree next year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Two people sent emails early on Wednesday morning with stories to bolster my hope. I hadn’t asked either of them for that. Nevertheless, they had chosen the best possible day.
There are days when I really need somebody to tweak my hope. Wednesday was one of those. I was giving two hope presentations, one at the George Spady Centre, the other to the ATA Guidance Council. I was planning to say that you have to pay attention to hope, to notice it in amongst everything else. And there, offered on a silver platter, were two things I could notice—two things that gave me hope.
Jim had sent an article from the Globe and Mail. Secret Santas paying off strangers’ layaway accounts
Generosity, according to the story, had started with one person and gone viral, the way the urge to burn police cars tends to go viral in a riot. It happened in a store in Michigan, where an anonymous shopper paid off some debts for others. Publication of the story set off a trend of copycat behaviour in other stores, stores in other states. The very idea that generosity could be contagious was highly hope-enhancing, given all the Black Friday, threaten-and-crush news we’d been hearing, given the expectation that Black Friday behaviour will soon be present not only in the U.S., but also here in Canada. That alone would have been enough to put me in the mood for a presentation. But there was more.
David sent me a letter to the editor that appeared in The Edmonton Journal. Raise would close salary gap
Accompanying the letter was a note that said: “You could have written this.”
What he meant, but had not said, goes something like this. “Wendy, here is a completely straight-up no-nonsense letter saying something you’ve been harping about since the early 1970’s—that we can reduce the wage gap any time we choose to do so by giving equal dollar raises instead of percentage raises.”
It was affirming to know that one person has been listening to me. It felt good to see it written so plainly. It sounded good to hear somebody else say it. It gave me hope that we might actually begin to do something about the wage gap—some day. All this hand wringing about how we need to reduce the wage gap, need to reduce the need for food banks--gets a little tiring.
I do hope I will soon begin speaking out about one possible solution—to somebody other than David.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Tracy bear: “I rode the elevator in the Education Building with five other women. All of them had Ph.D.’s. All of them were aboriginal.”

Saturday, December 03, 2011


I hope to live in a country where a person can do a good day’s work and live comfortably on the wages earned for the effort. It’s a good hope to set your sights upon, a comforting hope, an easy hope to coddle. It’s a good hope to keep in a decorative box on your mantel, good right up to the moment when you open the box and take it out.
Like so many hopes of an ethereal nature, I’ve found that this one burns a bit when you hold it close and put its feet to the fire. In our house there lives a man who gets up every morning before I do, leaves for work before I do, and usually gets home after I do. For his efforts he is paid $11.00 an hour. Where will he live in the future?
“We’ll buy you a place to live,” I say, lifting the lid of the box where I keep my hope and peering inside. Facts are facts. We do not yet live in a country where a person making $11.00 an hour can save for a property purchase.
Free housing, you think. That ought to help make that $11.00 salary go a little further. But, when you really look at it, there’s no such thing as free housing. There are condo fees, and taxes. There’s the power bill, and the heating bill, and the phone bill, and the cable cost. You only have free housing when someone else pays all of that—not just this month, but next month, and next year, and maybe forever, if the hard day’s work you are able to do is not likely to earn you much more than $11.00 an hour.
In my world there are some seniors who live well. They have a comfortable home. They travel a bit. They can afford to hire some help when they need it. I hoep to be one of those. It’s a scary thought, the possibility of endangering this hope so that a person earning $11.00 can have a decent life. Isn’t that the government’s job? Or is it mine?

“If you wait for a better time… better than this very moment, if you wait until you feel settled, divinely inspired, perfectly centered, unburdened of your
usual worries, or free of your own skin, forget about it. You will be waiting tomorrow and the next day, wondering why you never managed to begin, wondering
how you did such an excellent job of disappointing yourself.” –Eric Maisel, Coaching The artist Within

Friday, December 02, 2011


Who wants hope and turns to me
To see if I have some?

An endless parade of people oppressed
By depression and poverty and family illness,
The guidance counsellors at schools bent with tragedy,
Care-givers in a drunk tank,
Pain doctors,
People with Parkinson’s,
Offender treatment staff,
Spouses and children of someone with alzheimer,
Downtrodden agents of child protection,
Day programmers for disabled seniors,
Student counsellors learning their trade,
Colleagues at Hope House,
My own family.

With no solution for any of these,
Sometimes I think there would need to be
A bottomless pit of hope to mine
With stories and pictures and words of encouragement,
And most of the time I think there is one.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Symbols of hope change lives. They stand at the head of world-altering movements. They help people face the days that threaten to be too painful for facing.
The hope-opotamus is a symbol of hope, a little stuffed animal of any colour that we can give away as a symbol of hope. And that is why we are asking you to bring a hippo to Hope House.
We are having an open house on November 24, 4:00 to 7:00. We’ll be showcasing our important work. We’ll be drawing the prize-winning names from our raffle of a WestJet trip for two and tickets to performances of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
The hippos you bring will, through the act of bringing them, become hope-opotamuses. Soon they’ll be going out to people who tearfully or smilingly approach us looking for hope and help.
You can find Hope House at 11032-89 avenue. The University is well served by transit. If you decide to drive, park on 89 Avenue, and avoid getting a ticket by getting a parking pass for your dash from our reception desk.
So join us on November 24. You’ll be giving us hope, and helping us spread it.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Things change. There’s hope in that. The Loud and Queer Caboret is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Stories about it are everywhere. Tickets are in demand. It wasn’t a big deal for me until I understood that, 20 years ago, the event went unannounced to the public. It wasn’t safe to put on such an event in Edmonton, would not have been wise to alert the media. There was a need to protect the audience, lest anyone be discovered there by someone who might report to an employer, or a family.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I hardly ever write about hopelessness. I generally prefer to leave that to others. But I saw the mmost magnificent example of hopelessness, and it seemed that I ought to record it.
I shared a tiny meeting room with a few others. It was a chilly autumn day, the kind that tends to show itself in rooms where the heating system has failed to respond to the change of season. “It’s cold in here,” said Mary.
“Yes it is,” said Louise. “I’ll report it to the receptionist.”
When the meeting was over, we emerged into the toasty warm reception area. Louise walked up to the desk. “The heating isn’t working in that room,” she said.
“Oh,” said the receptionist.
“I think it needs to be fixed,” said Louise.
“Oh, they don’t fix things around here,” said the receptionist.
“It really is too cold to work in there,” said Louise.
“If I called,” said the receptionist, “they wouldn’t come. It took me a week to get a light switch changed.”

Friday, October 21, 2011


All Canadians owe debt to Famous Five; Their fight was a foundation for human rights and equality laws

Paula Simons: “In Canada today, we are all, women and men, straight and gay, third generation, or aboriginal or brand-new immigrant citizen, persons, with the same legal
rights and privileges. We all get to vote.”

It wasn’t always that way. Five women made it possible, Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


“Hope is a healthy, positive orientation that allows us to think about the future and feel okay in the present.” –Wendy Edey

I spent a couple of hours with a dozen spouses and adult children of people with late-stage Alzheimer Disease. We talked about these caregivers as people first, people with their own way of dealing with things, their own likes and dislikes, their own sources of pleasure and comfort. Then we talked about hope, then about their present troubles, and their future worries.
Hope is a difficult topic for this crowd. Their loved-ones have passed the stage of independence. If they are not already living away from home, they likely will be in the near future. Some cry each time their visitors leave. Others are unable to offer their visitors even the smallest flicker of recognition.
The people who attend caregiver groups are a loyal lot, full of compassion, hobbled by the conflicting pressures of their own beliefs. Prolonging the lives of their loved-ones seems cruel, not doing so unconscionable. Long-ago promises of stayng together in sickness and health are broken by force.
As the end of our time grew near, I asked them: “Given all that we have said today, what is it that gives you hope?”
One family, mother and daughter, told the following story.
“Dad has two dogs, plush toys. He thinks they are real. He cares for them, hugs them, pets them, tells stories about them, cries when bad things happen to them. We found the first dog at a garage sale and took it to him, never thinking how much he would treasure it. He was with us when we bought the second one. He hugged it and said, ‘It isn’t real, is it?’ But it also was real to him.”
This story had a very appreciative audience. One person spoke up. “You can’t leave anything in a nursing home,” she said reasonably. “Things get stolen.”
“Oh yes,” said the mother and daughter. “The dogs wander off. Sometimes the staff brings them back. Sometimes we go searching for them. Dogs wander off, you know.”
“One time Dad packed the dogs in a kennel for a trip he imagined he was taking on WestJet. Where he found the box we do not know. The cleaning staff didn’t realize there were dogs in the box when they threw it out. We went right to the store and got similar dogs. Then we bought four more look-alikes.”
Hope is a healthy positive orientation to the future that helps us feel okay in the present.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011




All over the world, at this very time, people are gathering around symbols of hope. There is the Arab spring, the Other 99, the colour Pink.
In a global sense hope symbols draw together individuals into a greater whole. They say, You are not alone. Others care about this cause.” Because I am not alone when I engage with a hope symbol, I say, “I am interested.” Then, as those hope symbols take on personal importance for me, I say, “My participation matters. I can make a difference.” That is how hope symbols have defeated the numbing progress of apathy. That is how hope symbols have propelled us to take actions we might not have taken. That is how hope symbols have changed the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Here is something that gave me hope. I was invited to read a story to a class of teen-agers who have autism. Should it surprise us that they love a good story?
Most of them are boys, some are girls. Some speak clearly, others—not so much. Some can introduce themselves with a smile, for others the very idea is a minefield of anxiety.
The comings and goings are capably managed by four staff. Calm and cool they appear to be, at any point when chaos threatens. And though I sympathize with the teacher who worries about doing it well, and striving to do better, and having one more idea when nobody else has one, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of how far our education system has come, and how miraculously things have changed in the course of my adult life.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I stood on the edge of Churchill Square
Where a crowd had gathered to “occupy Edmonton”
A crowd of aged and babies,
Of centres and lefts and lefts of centre,
Earlier tallied at thirty,
Swelled to maybe a thousand.

The crowd was cheerful and peaceful,
Holding signs about global warming,
Being fair and ending poverty.
“Save our billionaire,” read one sign.
“Pay five hundred million in taxes.”

Though the media said it was nothing
Since the crowd lacked a crystal clear focus.
Here were a thousand citizens
Who truly believe that things can be different
Just saying no to powerlessness,
Just saying no to apathy.

And hope rose up inside me
For are not apathy and powerlessness
The things that keep the many down
Making all the influence available
To be placed in the hands of the few?

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I asked the Internet to find me a question to answer. It’s part of my October commitment to keep on writing, no matter what is happening in my life. Here is what the Internet asked me: “If your parents were just people your own age, would you like them enough to be friends with them?”
“Well,” I said in response, “I’d say this is a moot point. If my parents were my own age I wouldn’t even know them. We wouldn’t tend to bump into each other. My parent’s were/are rural people. You’d find them farming, or shopping at the Co-op, or throwing rocks at the curling rink. Somewhere along the line I turned into a city girl not often seen on farms, in Co-op stores or cheering on the curlers. Generally your friends hang out where you hang out.”
“Insufficient!” said the Internet. “You are ducking the question.”
“Yes,” said I, “I admit to ducking the question. But I do have an excellent excuse.”
“And what is your excellent excuse?” said the Internet.
“My excuse,” I replied, “and I think it’s a good excuse, my excuse for ducking the question of whether I’d like my parents enough to be friends with them turns out to be the wrong question. The question that perplexes me is: if I were the age of my kids, would they like me enough to want to be my friend? And, practical person that I am, the mother of city kids, I then must wonder: where would I have to hang out to meet my kids, and what would I have to do to get my kids to choose me if they met me there?”
My mind, in response, strays to unexpected places. Picture me having fun at poker games, paintball centres, evenings playing world of war Craft, scrap-booking parties, smoking on frozen front porches.
Now, back to the question. I don’t think I’ll answer the question. Suffice it to say that I love my parents. I love my kids. And I think I may have inadvertently come upon a few good reasons to maintain the generation gap.

Friday, October 14, 2011

helen keller on pessimism

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." - Helen Keller

If I could talk to Helen Keller, just spend an hour or two spelling words into her hand and hearing her speak in reply, I know exactly how I’d spend it. I’d start with a question: “Helen,” I’d say, “Would you please help me understand how it is that you have been able to maintain such a relentlessly optimistic outlook?”
It’s funny that I should be asking questions of Helen Keller, a folk hero who died in 1968. Helen Keller never knew it, but she and I have had a lengthy, rocky relationship. Life is full of surprises.
I dared not admit it in public, but the truth is, I did not admire Helen Keller when I was young. Admiring her was so fashionable, so done! I prided myself on being an original thinker, a critical analyst. There was much about the legend of Helen Keller that bothered me.
Her writing bothered me. I read some of her books and judged them to be untruthfully sappy. Her comparability bothered me. I looked upon the real deafblind citizens of Edmonton and felt the pain they must have felt when they were expected to measure up to her standards. Her wealth bothered me. I saw how impoverished other deafblind people were, lacking the financial resources of Helen’s wealthy father. Her teacher bothered me. I saw how isolated most deafblind people were, lacking a lifelong devoted teacher like the ever-faithful Anne Sullivan.
It is not too surprising that I felt something akin to joy when I began to discover evidence that Helen might not have been perfect. I heard Helen’s voice on the radio. It sounded horrible, almost not human! “Aha!” I said to myself, “You weren’t perfect!” I read that attending a dinner party with Helen was an experience in frustration. Helen, unaware of table conversation, would constantly interrupt. “Aha!” I said to myself. “More proof that you weren’t perfect!”
So now that I’ve finally come clean, confessed all this in public, it humbles me to also admit that somewhere along the lifeline, I joined that throng of billions who consider Helen Keller a personal hero. I know she wasn’t perfect, yet I look to her for inspiration. I think she would have been a great supporter of hope studies. Her comments on pessimism are actually unarticulated comments about optimism. She lived a philosophy of hope.
Helen Keller was not born a hero. She had potential and she became one, took her place as a hero—a celebrity—a well known person with power and influence. She possessed superior intelligence and didn’t waste it. She had wealth and she used it. She spent years in the company of an uncharacteristically faithful teacher and she put those years to very good use. As a deafblind person, she was a curiosity, a creature who could interest the public. She is my hero because she put all of this together and did extraordinary things. She attended dinner parties with powerful citizens. She wrote books. She addressed large crowds. She used these opportunities to work for charities and speak out on important issues. She was, in fact, a radical social activist.
When I was young, I thought I was alone in my rebellion against the lily-white saintly image of Helen Keller. In fact, I was not alone. I would later discover that many other people with disabilities were travelling my cynical path. Yet I have never met a person who could successfully present evidence to show that Helen was an ordinary, run-of-the-mill person. Nor have I encountered evidence that she was anything but an eternal optimist.
As such, she remains, in my estimation, a personal authority on the power of optimism, coupled with opportunity. If it is true, as she wrote, that pessimists don’t discover the secrets of the stars, or sail to uncharted lands, or open dorrs to the human spirit, might it be partly because they don’t have opportunities, and partly because they don’t do much with the opportunities they have?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


If Thanksgiving weekend can be as warm as a yellow-leafed summer,
Then surely November 11 can be as temperate as a lovely Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 10, 2011


For people with chronic pain

I wrote to the Edmonton Journal in response to their series on chronic pain. I wrote because the series was a good informational series that seemed to leave no hope at all beyond the eventual hope of a cure. In response to the letter from me to the edmonton Journal, Linda Baker wrote: Hi Wendy,
   I wanted to thank you for writing that letter about people suffering from chronic pain.  I, too, suffer from chronic pain - for 16 years now and I really
did not have any hope at all of feeling better until we moved to Edmonton and we found our wonderful doctor, Dr. Shute.  He really understood what I was
going through and didn't hesitate to offer me morphine for the pain.  He made such a difference in my life!  My hope is that there will be more research
on chronic pain and maybe some day, people will not have to suffer as they do now.  Your letter reaffirms that we shouldn't give up and there is hope for
chronic pain sufferers.  There are resources out there and we should spread the word. For too long now, we've been under-treated or not treated at all;
particularly women (it's all in our heads you know!)  My doctor in Westlock refused to have the opioid conversation with me as she asserted that I would
become addicted.  That we know is a fallacy.  We don't become addicted; we rejoin life.
Thanks again Wendy - I hope a lot of people read your letter!


And it came to pass that, after our Thanksgiving dinner,
When Mark had made the after-dinner walk especially fun for 11-year-old abbey,
And retrieved Pirate from his frolic in the bush,
And dealt the cards that weren’t a complete deck,
And re-dealt a better deck, but not quite right because the number of players kept changing,
And dealt again, then dealt again for Abbey, and for me, and for Aunty Donna,

Yes it came to pass that I promised to be grateful for Mark,
For all the things he does just because,
He can make the world a better place.
And to say that I am grateful—say it with feeling!

Thursday, October 06, 2011


It was in City Hall Not in a church That representatives of 12 faith traditions Gathered on a Wednesday night To welcome each other, To support each other, To say prayers of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Me: “What do you think of our new lady Premier?”. I admit that I was baiting him. Him: “Oh, I guess we’ll see how she makes out. I voted for her, you know.” Me: “really?” Him: “Yes. I always said I’d never want a woman there. But health and education are important, and that’s what she was talking about. I didn’t vote for her on the first ballot, but I did the second time around.” Just one more thing to remember when I get to thinking that people don’t change.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"Life changes fast." --Joan dideon Life changes fast. Didion didn't say it in a hopeful way, but from a hope perspective, the fact can be a good thing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


As a little girl I planned only two things for my grown-up years: I would have my birthmark removed, and I would change my name to anything but Wendy. In retrospect, these seem like small plans, given that my more focused contemporaries were dreaming of marriage, wealth and career advancement. But I held the theory that once my birthmark had been vanquished and my name changed to anything but Wendy, other things would be able to fall in behind. Now the birthmark, as my mother liked to point out when I mentioned it, was a harmless hill on my left cheek. Covered in soft brown hair it had the texture of a grassy knoll and spanned a circumference that would nicely have framed a fifty-cent piece. “Distinctive,” is what my mother called it in a fruitless effort to free me. Having survived medically necessary surgeries on a variety of body parts, she was disinclined to show any enthusiasm for surgery for beauty’s sake alone. I, in contrast, wrapped in a cloak of surgical innocence, remained steadfastly convinced that no mere operation could rival the indignity of wearing a big, brown, hairy birthmark. “What’s that?” babies would ask their mothers, pointing at the hideous thing. Cringing in embarrassment, I told all who noticed it that it would be coming off my face soon and hoped that Mother would soon come to see the wisdom of my declaration. . Mother said in a compromising tone that, when I was a grown up, I could make up my own mind about the surgery, though she, herself, would never recommend it. On the subject of changing my name some day, she was a little more flexible. Had it been her favourite name for a daughter, she might have been defensive. But Wendy was, in fact, her fourth-favourite. Her favourite name for a girl was Donna, and that name had long since been assigned to my eldest sister. The second sister had claimed Sandra, the second favourite name. The third favourite name, Diane, was reserved for use in case they should accidentally produce a third daughter while trying to have a son. But though I followed Sandra into the family, my mother overheard a conversation that changed her plans while I was still wriggling inside her. My aunt was heard to say that she intended to call her unborn daughter Diane. And so my mother opted for Wendy, publicly pretending—most of the time—that she thought it a good name. It was fashionable in those days to assume that any girl named Wendy must have been named in honour of Wendy Darling, the motherly little girl created by J.M Barrie to stand guard over her family amid the playful antics of the rascally Peter Pan. It’s a great story, and many a modern Wendy is said to be her namesake. I, however, am not one of these. My mother simply heard the name somewhere, and liked it fourth best among the names she considered giving to daughters. In childhood I cared neither for J.M. Barrie’s creation nor my mother’s name preferences. Being a Wendy was almost as humiliating as having a brown, hairy birthmark and I wished the curse of death by mosquito bites on every playground bully who ever called me WindyWendy As adulthood approached I occasionally indulged in tantalizing daydreams about the pleasant life led by a clear-faced woman named Karen, or was it Elaine? But then, before I had found the time and energy to seek out a surgeon, the birthmark sprang to life and grew with such enthusiasm that doctors insisted upon its removal and urged me to sign papers saying I was willing to submit the future landscape of my cheek to a plastic surgeon. It wasn’t until surgery day that I met the surgeon in question, a miserable fellow with all the bedside charm you’d expect of a rhinoceros. By the time I emerged from a half hour with him snipping, tugging, stitching and barking at the nurses, and subsequently survived the ripping off of bandages, I had decided to stick with the name Wendy. Perhaps, I mused, not being personally acquainted with any official name changers, I should leave well enough alone, maybe even try to like the name I was given. Wendy, it is said, is a modern derivation of older Welsh names with similar sounds, Gwendolyn, for example, and Guinevere. But it was J.M. Barrie who made the name famous. Legend has it that a little girl named Margaret Henley adored J.M. Barrie and called him Friendy, except that she wasn’t good at making the R sound. So her term of endearment sounded like Fwendy. Thinking of Margaret, he named his heroine Wendy, and the rest is history. Not surprisingly, dictionaries of baby names claim that the name Wendy means “friend”. Odd at this point to remember that the birthmark and the name once shared space in a single category of my consciousness. For the round, brown hairy birthmark has long since been reduced to a straight hairless scar, while the name has become a friend-maker. Occasionally I am introduced to one of my kind. “Wendy, meet Wendy.” As we smile in a shared greeting, I am only mildly surprise to hear myself say, “Good name, isn’t it?” To read more about the Wendys of the world, go to THE HISTORY OF WENDY

Monday, September 19, 2011


When I get to thinking I would rather be Somebody who can walk a straight line, Shortest distance to the end point, Brief, efficient journey Taking advice from the ones who advise: “Focus on home while at home.” “Focus on work while at work.” “Know where you’re going and how to get there.” Then it’s time to stop and notice That some of my proudest moments Are remnants of the days When the lines of my life went crooked, Accidentally intersected, And taught me something. I learned something new while thinking about my relationship to straight lines. Research shows that human beings do not possess inate ability to walk straight. Read more at Why Can’t We Walk Straight? pride, positive emotions,

Sunday, September 18, 2011


In the interest of interest, one of the ten positive emotions, I decided to spend three Saturday mornings at Grant MacEwan College, Writing Creative Fiction with instructor Kath MacLean. The first class was yesterday. Today I’m experiencing the side effects: homework. First on the list is the task of articulating my goals as a cnf writer. There’s space for three goals. Hmmmmm! My goals! This would be easy if I were a better goal-setter. Sometimes it’s better to move past the questions you can’t answer to the ones you can answer. Second on the list is the task of choosing a book. I am to choose a book that exemplifies the genre that most interests me as a writer of cnf. Shall I choose Beyond Belfast by Will Ferguson? Maybe. I do seem to like that book. I have been reluctant to delete it from the memory of my tiny talking book reader. But then, probably any book by Will Ferguson would do. But then there’s a bit of a snag. If I choose a book by Will Ferguson, I’ll wonder why I didn’t choose a book by Gary Lautens. Any book by Gary Lautens would probably do. I particularly like Peace, Mrs. Packard and the Meaning of life. Maybe I’ll choose it. If I choose that book, I’ll wonder why I neglected to choose a book by Greg Clark. Any book by Greg Clark would probably do. I could make it easier and choose Greg’s Choice. That would be a good choice. The only thing is, choosing any of these books would prevent me from choosing anything by Robert Fulghum, and that would be a shame. Any book by Robert Fulghum would probably do. Perhaps the best choice would be maybe—Maybe Not. Come to think of it, it might just be easier to define my personal goals than to choose a single book. Suppose I abandon the task of selecting a book, and consider the other assignment: stating my personal goals as a cnf writer. There are three spaces on the empty list. 1. I want to do writing that helps me think about my world in a way that makes me want to live in it. When I read books by Ferguson, or Lautens, or Clark, or Fulghum, I find I want to live in the worlds they write about. They, of course, are different from me. They have made a living with their writing, which could be my second goal, only it isn’t. If I wanted to make a living at something I’d probably study it on a Wednesday, or maybe a Monday afternoon. I’d be taking a rest from it on Saturday. . 2. I want to chuckle more. Ferguson, Lautens, Clark and Fulghum make me chuckle. But you can’t always be relying on others. I used to have a plaque that said, “Those who learn to laugh at themselves never cease to be amused.” 3. I want to play as I write, to play with emotions, with ideas, with the ever-changing truth. And if the things I write are not exactly true, well, then at least I hope they are entertaining.

Friday, September 16, 2011


THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT BLUE AND GREEN OVER THE PAST WEEK That a lot of people in my world like blue and green together That the tipping point for blue and green together comes when you mix two shades of blue with green before 6 AM That a person who accidentally wears green with blue, even with two shades of blue is still worthy of love.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


“You’re wearing a green top,” he says. “With blue pants,” he says. We are hurrying through the airport. Our seats are confirmed. Our suitcase has hit the conveyer belt. The time is 5:58 AM. I run my hand along the neck of my shirt. It’s smooth, no ridge denoting the change of colour from blue to white. He is right. The green top is occupying the spot where the blue and white top ought to be. I hate him! “You could have told me before we left home,” I grumble. “You could have told me before we sent the suitcase down the line,” I bluster. “You could have just kept it to yourself and not told me until we had the suitcase back and I could do something about it,” I rage. “Yes,” he said. “But it’s early, and I just noticed it, and you usually dress yourself.” He is right again. I hate him. We are proceeding, arm in arm, along the concourse. We are not speaking. It’s quiet here, but not peaceful. I am hearing the voices of my childhood. When I was a kid, adults would tell me important things that every blind child needed to know. When I was a kid, people would say, “You’ve got to learn that people see you, even though you don’t see them. So don’t do things you wouldn’t want to see if you were a sighted person.” Modern English translation: Don’t wear green shirts with blue pants!!!!!!! Wearing a green top with blue pants, I am walking with my husband along a quiet concourse at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning. Quiet though it may be, I squirm under the critical scrutiny of a thousand eyes. Could I have counted wrong? Are there ten thousand eyes, twenty maybe? “Stop a moment,” I say. “I’ll button up my sweater.” The blue sweater now pulls tightly across my front. Only a thin green line shows above. “But we’re going through Security,” he says. “We usually take sweaters off.” “I’ll wear the look of a woman who has nothing to hide,” I declare. At 6:08 AM, wearing the look of a woman who has nothing to hide, assuring the screener that I am carrying no liquids, I try to remember whether, on past trips, I have ever been subjected to a lie detector test. That’s what gets me thinking about past trips. This particular trip is a short trip, all trips considered, only a couple of days. We’ll be home before we notice ourselves gone. I didn’t give its preparation a lot of thought. Maybe that explains why I am wearing a green top with blue pants. Maybe that explains why I didn’t dream the dream I often dream before I take a trip. Here is the dream I didn’t dream. I am at the airport, standing in a line. My ticket is in my hand, my suitcase has hit the conveyer belt. I shiver a little. It is cold in here, and I am naked. Naked? I am naked? Oh no! What should I do? Crouching forward, my right arm stretched across my breasts, my left arm shielding lower parts, the back end fending for itself, I try to think. Should I go home now, leave my suitcase and go home? How could I go home? A naked person can hardly find a service clerk and ask to hail a cab. Shall I simply go on, pretend I don’t know I am naked? People might buy that. They think the blind have no idea what they are wearing. And so it goes, on and on, fussing, figuring, dithering, indecision for as long as it takes for me to wake up. The dream I have so often dreamed, the dream I didn’t dream for this trip, never ends. I never find out what happens next, never have the luxury of making the choice. But on this particular morning, things move along. At 6:13 AM, on the other side of Security, touching the thin green strip along my neck, in that liberated space where we are again allowed to carry liquids, I reach a decision. I have decided not to hate this man. It is, after all is said and done, very early, and I do usually dress myself without incident. Our little trip is so short that it seems a shame to waste any of it hating someone. And ultimately, perhaps the most important thing of all, I actually got a chance to live a milder-and-more-comprehensive version of that tiresome old dream. It’s nice to know it ended well.

Friday, September 09, 2011


And when Lawrence brought in a huge trophy: Employee Of The Week!  That was pride for a mom.


There are teachers in my world
Working through the weekend,
Learning names of students
Writing WELCOME messages
Soothing anxious parents
Making friends with colleagues
Seeking help from mentors
Cleaning messy classrooms,
Bursting with excitement

How could I fail to be inspired?

Friday, September 02, 2011


Joy is: (though not exclusively nor necessarily in this order)
Laughing aloud at something he said in his sleep, and waking him up to laugh with me
Hugging her when she meets us at the airport
Throwing the ball when he leaps to catch it
The warm hello at work after holidays
The nights when all of us joke in the kitchen
The enchanting fragrance of sweetpea, evening scented stock, acidanthra
The juicy chin drip from the fresh fruit of summer
A thousand birds in the hedge and the yard
The days when I grin and ask: “Do you think you might be done needing counselling?” and my smile is returned with a simple: “I truly believe that I am.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011


The sunflower blooms beside the sweet peas,
Bushy abundant, dozens of blossoms.
Descended from a lineage of Riverdale sunflowers
How the line started, nobody remembers.

Its cousins have rooted in cracks along driveways,
In patches of clay where no hand will remove them
One tiny flower adorning each stem
Producing enough tiny seeds to keep going.

But once in a blue moon a seed will drift onto
A spot where the rain can begin to ignite it.
And then if the humans too late with their weeding
Continue the nurture as if they had planted it,
Then one in a million old Riverdale sunflowers
Will grow as a tree sprouting multiple granches
Resplendid with blossoms, the radiance of joy!
The parent of ten million new possibilities,
The infinite future of Riverdale sunflowers.

Lucky are we at those magical hours
To witness the good that can come from nurturing
Ideals and talents and people and sometimes
The visiting seed of a Riverdale sunflower.

Friday, August 26, 2011



Chronic Physical Pain: I don’t like to be paranoid, but I believe the people at the Hope Foundation are out to get me. They’re putting on more of those hope and strengths groups for my sufferers. They’re bringing in positive emotions to work against me. It’s not fair.
Awe: isn’t that amazing? A few years ago nobody would have thought you should pit positive emotions against chronic pain. And now, here’s Pain, claiming it’s not a fair fight.
Gratitude: That’s something to be thankful for.
Joy: How absolutely delightful. I’m thrilled.
Amusement: I think it’s rather funny. Chronic Pain is such a monster that not even the medical profession can vanquish it. And here it is whining about fairness.
Pride: Yes, it is most satisfying to see how much attention we positive emotions are getting in the psychological research. Barbara Fredrickson says we broaden the repertoire of potential responses and build resources. It seems like people who have us find more options for themselves and more ways of getting the things they need. That’s why we’ve been asked to square off against Chronic Pain. There are people out there who believe we can really make a difference.
Pain: But it’s not fair. Here we have ten positive emotions fighting against little old me. I have been around a long time, and I know that ten to one fighting is not fair. I say you make it a fair fight. Choose one positive emotion. One to one. That’s fair.
Inspiration: I have an idea that might solve this. If Pain insists on having only one opponent, we should send Hope. Hope is the most complex of us all, and the only one that’s equipped to focus on the future. People with chronic pain need to be able to hope for a good future. Yes, I do believe that Hope can go in alone. Raise your hands if you agree,
Hope: Not so fast. I have my doubts about the wisdom of sending me in alone against Pain.
Serenity: Don’t worry. Hope always has doubts. That’s what distinguishes it from positive thinking and optimism.
Pain: I hope they don’t send Hope. It gets people thinking that they could have a good future, and I find that very threatening.
Hope: But I still don’t want to go in alone. We positive emotions have done it together and it has worked out well. I wouldn’t want to try it without your support. You’ve all been there to help. I am a helpful conversation piece. People can think about me, and talk about me, and make me the centre of activities, and it’s good when they feel me.
Pride: Actually, you have a bit of each of us in you.
Hope: That may be true. But each of you makes a special contribution. I say we all go together. Usually there’s more than one way to get what you need. Is there some other way of thinking about Pain’s complaints?
Inspiration: I suggest we send interest over to have a look at Chronic Pain. Maybe Interest will be able to notice something that will help us decide who should join the fight. Go on over, Interest. Take a look.
Interest: hello Chronic Pain. I’ve come over for a closer examination of your corner. Now that I have a better view, I see you’ve been misleading us a little. You are hardly here alone.
Pain: Of course I am. It’s just me against all of you. Not fair, I say.
Interest: Oh no you’re not. You are taking all the credit. But some others are acting alongside you. Fatigue is over here, tiring out the people who have to live with you, and Disappointment is demoralizing them when they try to find solutions. Hiding behind you I see Isolation, keeping your sufferers away from their friends and routine activities. And who is this over here on the left? Is it Despair? Why, yes it is. How are people supposed to take advantage of opportunities and resources if they don’t expect anything good to happen? And there’s Depression keeping its head down, making people feel like they’re not worth helping. Shame on you for whining. You aren’t alone at all. I say it’s a fair fight. Positive emotions against you and your team. We all should go in.
Awe: Nice job, interest. A case well stated.
Pain: okay okay. So I admit that my sufferers might be feeling more than me alone. But it still won’t be a fair fight. The leaders of the Hope Foundation groups are against me. They don’t give me a fair hearing. It starts on the first day.
Interest: Tell us more about what happens.
Pain: The sufferers come in, thinking mostly of me. Then the leaders just ignore me. First they make people feel welcome.
Love: That’s where I begin, with the warm welcome.
Pain: Then, instead of acknowledging me and giving me the right to speak for every sufferer, they get people to introduce themselves in ways they never expected. They don’t even mention me.
Joy & Amusement: Yes, it is a pleasure to be there for introductions. We’re always there at introductions.
Pain: After they get going, the leaders help them brainstorm about hope. I can’t stand it when the sufferers start brainstorming ideas about hope. Pretty soon they all think they are poets or something.
Hope & Inspiration: It does set a lovely tone, doesn’t it?
Pain: Near the end of the first session they start talking about hope suckers. I’m usually on the list of hope-suckers they mention, of course. But even then, I hear people giggling. How can I have power if people don’t take me seriously?
Amusement: Laughing and being truthful at the same time. They’re mentioning their discouragements and laughing at the idea of hope-suckers. I love it.
Pain: Sometimes nobody mentions me at the end of the day. I feel so small when that happens. But the second day is just as bad, or maybe worse. They start making those hope collages. It wouldn’t be so bad if they’d stick to picking pictures of things they hope for. I could definitely get in the way of that. But then they start picking out pictures of beautiful scenery.
Awe: That’s me at work.
Pain: It’s disgusting. They start choosing pictures of happy families.
Love: That’s my territory.
Pain: They’re always showing pictures of things they like to do.
Joy: It does get very pleasant.
Pain: Worst of all, it seems to be contagious. All that pleasantness and awe starts spreading. It’s like a disease and it’s hard to stop once it gets going. And there’s always something about peace and patience in those collage pictures. Don’t bother saying anything Serenity. I recognize your hand in it.
Amusement: Pain certainly is going on and on. It’s being positively chronic.
Gratitude: Thank goodness we sent Interest over to stir things up. I now see that we all have a part. Hope ought not to have to face it alone.
Pain: Pay attention to me. I am not finished yet. On the third day those leaders get going on strengths. Depression has a terrible time with that. You can almost see people getting bolder, prouder.
Pride: Oh, I love it. Depression is my worst enemy.
Pain; But that’s not the end of it. By the fourth session, they’ve started paying attention to me. But are ,my sufferers complaining, letting me have the day? No! They’re making lists of resources, sharing information on ways of putting me down. All sorts of things come to light. One person knows something and pretty soon everybody knows it.
Awe: They actually start talking about things that help them.
Interest: And they get excited about searching for options.
Pain: How am I to defend myself against all that?
Gratitude: Can’t you just be happy that they’re dealing with you? You were complaining about being ignored.
Pain: The worst thing about the strengths and resources is that they start to build up Hope.
Amusement: I get a kick out of watching Hope sneak in, growing a little bigger all the time. Maybe on the first week Hope is the subject of a little amateur poetry. But on the last day, people are laughing about the future and imagining all sorts of adventures. Hope seems to be running the show.
Love: Don’t forget about me. The people with pain always say they hate to leave. They get rather attached to each other, and to the leaders, and to us. They remember that Isolation made them lonely and they don’t want it back. I guess they really aren’t too keen on facing Pain alone.
Pain: I don’t see why. I’m not nearly as powerful at the end as I am at the beginning. All those positive emotions release hormones that work against me. The sufferers aren’t nearly as willing to bow down to me. They’ve got their new friends and their new resources. They’ve got funny things to remember and pictures to look at. They’ve got ideas of things to try. Even if I stay around, I am not nearly the force I used to be.
Interest: Well, Pain, I have assessed the situation from many perspectives and I do believe you are justified in being fearful. Over the next few years there will be a lot more research that will help us find more effective ways of handling you. The medical people are working on it, and the psychology people too.
Hope: Sounds like there’s good reason to have me. When it comes to your future, Chronic Pain, I think you can expect to meet some stiff opposition. In the meantime, we positive emotions, your sufferers and the Hope Foundation leaders will be at the Hope Foundation on Tuesdays this fall, waiting to take you on.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


What do counsellors of broken people have in common with forest fire spotters who study the landscape from lonely towers?

The answer lies in this quote: "You can't go there to find yourself. You have to like yourself," (Tim Klein, Alberta's provincial wildfire detection co-ordinator, Edmonton Journal, Aug. 21, 2011.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Me: You seem a little down today. What’s up?
Myself: Oh, nothing really. I’m just a bit worried about retirement.
Me: Retirement! Worried about retirement?
Myself: Yes. I’m worried that I might not be happy in retirement.
Me: Okay. Let’s just think about this for a minute. We’re now on the second to last day of a 3-week holiday, right?
Myself: Right.
Me: And we have had a wonderful time doing relatively simple things at low cost. Right?
Myself: Right.
Me: We’ve had time to read. Right?
Myself: Right.
Me: We’ve had time to write. Right?
Myself: To write? Right.
Me: We’ve had time to garden. Right?
Myself: Right.
Me: We’ve done some fabulous exploring. We even learned a lot of new things on the free tour of downtown. Right?
Myself: Right.
Me: Sounds like good practice for retirement.
Myself: Right.
Me: When are you thinking we would retire?
Myself: Oh, we’re not ready for retirement yet. We still love working, at least I do. I am quite certain that retirement is a long way off.
Me: So tell me then. Why are you worrying about whether you will be happy in retirement?

This blog post sponsored by AWRY (Associated Worriers about Retirement Years)

Friday, August 19, 2011


Pirate: I have some concerns and perhaps we ought to discuss them.
Me: Oh. What’s on your mind?
I see you’ve been reading Internet articles about how to deal with dogs who dig.
Me: Yes.
Pirate: Is it because of that cute new hole I started in the lily patch?
Me: Not entirely.
Pirate: Is it because David caught me digging up the gladioli?
Me: Well, not entirely.
Pirate: Is it because David fell in the hole I dug in the raspberries.
Me: Well, maybe that’s part of it.
Pirate: You aren’t still mad about the holes I dig in the lawn every spring, are you?
Me: Don’t be ridiculous! You know I’ve never been one to hold a grudge. But I do wonder why it isn’t enough for you to have the three holes we’ve allowed you to dig behind the peonies.
Pirate: What does the Internet suggest?
Me: It says you might be bored, or anxious. It says we should install electrice fences, or put balloons in your holes to scareyou when you dig, or go out in thenight and dig up all the things you bury.
Pirate: And ...
Me: It suggests that we spend more time playing with you, build you a sandbox to play in, take you to behavior classes, give up gardening when we are in your sightline, or give you to people who don’t mind a few dozen holes in their yards.
Pirate: Perhaps you should be told that, at this point in life, I’d rather not be given away.
Me: Okay.
Pirate: And I’d rather not be shocked by a fence.
Me: Okay.
Pirate: And I already know that you garden. So there’s no pint in sneaking out to do it in secret.
Me: Well, actually, I thought as much.
Pirate: What did it say about yelling and spanking your dog?
Me: It said not to bother.
Pirate: And did it say that all dogs like digging?
Me: No. It said that terriers like to dig more than any other dog.
Pirate: And I’m part terrier. Right?
Me: Well, that’s what the vet said.
Pirate: In that case, I guess I’ll have to forgive you.

One short search of the Internet, one giant defeat for humankind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


If I didn’t live in Edmonton, I’d come here just for the Fringe. So far we’ve seen:

Ring The Bells, a snappy musical melodrama from the 50’s,
This Is Cancer, a commedy of the funniest kind (deeply serious underneath)
Mrs. Lindeman Proposes, a love storyin Jasper
Firing Lines, an historical play about a journalist covering World War I

And we have seen theatres packed to the limit, a great thing for the actors who make their money off ticket sales. Some people see 30 plays, maybe even 50 at the Fringe. We will be seeing 6. Six plays seemed a lot when we bought the tickets, but now it doesn’t seem excessive. Only the delight is excessive.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"The best kind of happiness is the happiness one creates for oneself, quite incidentally, out of the everyday materials and commonplace beauty of the world at hand."

(Anne Giardini, The Sad Truth About Happiness, Harpercollins, 2006 P12 of the P.S. Section)

Him: You sure are writing a lot of animal conversations lately.
Me: I know. I’m doing it for Tracey.
Him: Really?
Me: Yes. She likes them.
Him: I know she likes them. She always reads them out loud to me. But she doesn’t think you’d be writing them for her.

Of course she doesn’t think I’d be writing for her. She is, after all, the modest type. That’s one of the things I like about her. Another is her approach to happiness. Tracey has a happiness blog: LIFE, LOVE, HAPPINESS. There is absolutely nothing extraordinary about its content—absolutely nothing except for its focus. The name says it all.
I suppose there are some who would say that blogs like Tracey’s are disingenuous, even misleading. There are those who would criticise them for telling only half the truth, for leaving out the gritty details.
Gritty details definitely have their place. They are the stuff of interesting gossip. They help create narrative tension in the best of stories. But they also shape our emotional response to the world in which we live. When it comes to writing our own diaries, we tend to believe what we read.
The truth is a matter of selection. Of course there are gritty details in tracey’s life. But you won’t read them on her blog. You have to get to know her to know them. Tracey writes this blog for herself, to shape and record an important aspect of her emotional life that might get lost in the daily routine of coping and complaining. She could keep it private, but she makes it available to any of the rest of us who like to know about her life. In a world where upcoming newspeople are taught to shape our reading by the saying “If it bleeds, it leads”, blogs like Tracey’s help to tip the scales a bit. And every time I write an animal conversation, I think of happiness. I picture Tracey, smiling, and reading it out loud to Him.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Pirate: (scratching at the door) Ruff, Ruff!!!
Me: Oh Hi Pirate. Did you miss me?
Pirate: (wagging) Yes, I want to go for a walk.
Me: Just let me put down this suitcase and then I’ll give you a pet.
Pirate: (Jumping on my leg) I want to go for a walk.
Me: Just let me check the messages and then I’ll see if you need some food in your dish.
Pirate, (scratching) I want to go for a walk.
Me: We had a great weekend Pirate. It was the 100th anniversary of the village of Lougheed. We spent so much time visiting with all the relations and many friends.
Pirate: (lying down in front of my feet) I want to go for a walk.
Me: I saw people I haven’t met in 40 years. They had a 45-minute parade, a street dance and an indoor dance. They fed us 2 breakfasts and 2 suppers. We saw all the exhibits at the Lougheed Fair, and we watched the horse show for a bit, and we went through the buildings in the museum. They had a big church service that filled the community hall. We had pie and a drink at the curling rink for only $2.00. Two dollars Pirate. Where can you get a bargain like that? We went to the ice cream shop. We visited the cemetery and spent time with some of dad’s former neighbours at the nursing home in Killam. The weather was fabulous, Pirate.
Pirate: I want to go for a walk.
Me: Okay Pirate. Why don’t we go for a little walk before we unpack.


Friday, August 12, 2011


"Gardening is a way of showing that you believe in tomorrow." (Source unknown)

One: Remember those petunias that I watered because they looked like they might be dying?
Other: Yes.
One: Well, it looks like they are waterlogged. They look deader than they did yesterday and weigh three times as much. Let’s take them down.
Other: And what would we replace them with?
One: The healthy geraniums from the side.
Other: Okay.
One: What are you doing with those petunias?
Other: Putting them where the geraniums were. They’re not quite dead.
One: They will be dead tomorrow.
Other: You don’t give up hope that easily, do you?

And that is how gardening progressed from spiritual pursuit to resurrection theology.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Me: How happy are you, on a scale of 1 to 10?
Myself: How happy am I about what?
Me: About everything. How happy are you in general?
Myself: Right at this minute?
Me: Sure. Right at this minute. How happy are you?
Myself, Well, so-so, I guess. Maybe 5. I certainly can’t say I’m delighted to be answering these boring questions. We are on holidays, you know, or perhaps you’ve forgotten. Seems as if you have us thinking about some pretty serious stuff.
Me: Serious stuff? We’ve been thinking about happiness. How serious can that be?
Myself: Pretty serious when we’re supposed to rate our happiness on a scale of 1 to 10. Looks like psychological research to me, the kind we’d be thinking about at work.
Me: exactly. It is what we’d be thinking about at work, if we were in the mood and if we had spare time. But right now we’re on holidays, and we’re having fun, and we’d got time to think. We’ve got time to be thinking and reading about happiness, which is why I’m wondering how happy you are.
Myself: Well, I’m very happy to be on holidays. I’ve been having a great time seeing friends, working in the garden, spending time with family, having little adventures, finding places in the city that I hadn’t known about before.
Me: So if you are very happy, then that must count for more than 5 out of 10. I’ll raise it to 8, maybe 9. How happy do you think you’d be if we were at work?
Myself: I don’t know. It depends which day, maybe even which hour. It’s just like holidays. One minute you are 5 and the next you are 9. It goes up and down.
Me: the pleasure part goes up and down.
Myself: The pleasure part? What other part is there to happiness?
Me: According to Martin Seligman, 2 other parts, meaning and engagement. In fact, it appears that meaning and engagement may be even more important than pleasure when it comes to being happy.
Myself: Meaning and engagement? What are they?
Me: Meaning is whether you think your life is important, whether it seems to matter. Engagement is about the things you do. Do they seem important?
Myself: Well I guess we must be pretty happy then.
Me: How do you mean?
Myself: Well, here we are, at home on vacation, reading research articles and thinking about things that pertain to work. And in a minute, we’re going to stop this conversation and go to a flower show. Then we are having company over for dinner. Nobody’s making us think about happiness, or go to a flower show. We’re doing these things because we like to. They give us pleasure. And when we go back to work, we’ll tell everyone how much fun we had on holidays. And it won’t matter that we are wasting work time thinking about holidays, because we were thinking about work when we were on holidays. Sounds like a happy life to me.

Schueller, S. & Seligman, M. (2010). Pursuit of pleasure, engagement, and meaning: Relationships to subjective and objective measures of well-being, The Journal of Positive Psychology 5(4) 253-263.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Research psychologists have developed a genuine interest in positive psychology. What better news could there be for a HOPE LADY? It’s hard to say why that interest took so long to develop. But some things are worth waiting for.
Hope is one of ten positive emotions Barbara L. Fredrickson discusses in her book Positivity. The other 9 are: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. She asserts that positive emotions broaden our repertoire of responses and build our inventory of resources. I was thinking about this theory last Friday night while a thunderstorm raged outside my bedroom. The room was ablaze with flashing and the air roared. All over the city people and pets were trembling with fear. Trees might fall. Power might fail. Gardens might be ruined. Fires might start. Those who were fearful had good reason to be. I was a little frightened myself. I am not certain whether you can decide not to be frightened. You can try to be safe, and still you’ll feel the fear.
While fear is a legitimate response, other responses are also possible. While you are feeling the fear, you might be able to feel other things. I decided to notice what I could feel. I could feel interest—could be interested in the cause of such storms. I could feel awe—be awe-struck at the power of the thing that was happening in my city. I focussed on the awe and the interest as I crawled out of bed to protect the computer by shutting it down. A fascinated person—more resourceful in some obscure way--finds it a little easier to leave the bed for an entry into the uncertainty beyond.
The focus on positive psychology brings with it a shift in perspective regarding emotional life and the role of a professional counsellor. When the primary emotions of interest are anger, sadness, guilt, etc., the professional seeks to help people reduce the emotional severity and subsequent consequences. But when it comes to positive emotions, the professional seeks to produce the positive emotions. The goal is to enliven them, to intensify them so that they can become a vibrant component of emotional life.
The counselling program at the Hope Foundation of Alberta was ahead of its time in the early 1990’s. As a new employee I was asked to do an unusual thing: use all my psychologist skills to create an atmosphere of hope in which problems could be addressed. The atmosphere of hope was more important in the hierarchy than the problem itself. Nowadays this idea would not seem radical, but at the time professional respect for the theory was hard to come by.
In the current research environment a considerable amount of energy is being devoted to the study of basic positive emotions. As we learn more about how they work, counsellors are asking what they ought to do with the information. To THE HOPE LADY, this perspective shift brings joy and a sense of serenity. And—oh yes—it also brings hope.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


The Association for Psychological Science has released a new report by Psychologist Harold Herzog. In an article entitled Are Pet Owners Healthier and Happier? Maybe Not, Herzog asserts that current research is inadequate to support the popularly held theory that pet owners are healthier and happier than their petless counterparts. Surprised by this finding, I decided to dig a little deeper in search of the truth.
Me: (to Kitty) I’ve just read an article by a scientist who says there is inadequate research to prove that pets improve the health of their owners. I am wondering what goes through your mind as you hear this news.
Kitty: Absolutely ridiculous!
Me: Do you have evidence to support your view.
Kitty: No, and I don’t need any.
Me: (to Pirate the Shih-tsu) I’ve just read an article by a scientist who says there is inadequate research to prove that pets improve the health of their owners. I am wondering what goes through your mind as you hear this news.
Pirate: Ridiculous! When is the last time you got sick?
Me: Do you claim that I am healthier because I have you?
Pirate: Of course. It’s obvious.
Conclusion: 100% of the pets interviewed believe that pet owners are healthier and happier than their petless counterparts. How can you argue with evidence like that?

Monday, August 08, 2011


"Deeply happy people are noticers and thinkers. They are attentive. They are aware of, and appreciate beauty, goodness, and complexity. They find a way to do meaningful work,or have the knack of investing the work they do with meaning. They stay connected with people they enjoy. Happy people believe that the future will be good. A set back is only temporary.”

(Anne Giardini, The Sad Truth About Happiness, Harpercollins, 2006 P12 of the P.S. Section)

Sunday, August 07, 2011


It’s a good week to be writing about happiness—a good week to be feeling it too. There is some happy news. Rachel says she’ll soon be back at work—back from a journey that started in the spring and consumed much of the summer.
Happiness is a complicated condition—layered and nuanced—not so simple as happy versus sad. I was happy while she was gone. I was contented. I had hope. Days were pleasant. Still, something I valued was noticeable by its absence.
The absent thing—the thing that took a rest with Rachel’s leaving, was the glee—that quality described by Anne Giardini as “hopped-up happiness”. Glee takes hold of you. Transports you. It sets you down in a place you had no idea you were about to visit. Glee surprises you. Glee, in my case, is the edge of happiness that announces itself in the sudden entry of a giggler upon a scene that seemed to be benign a moment before. The giggler is irrational, irreverent, often irrelevant. She lies in wait, waiting to burst out, somewhere behind the eyes, ready for a call, a challenge, an invitation. In my reactionary world of relationship chemistry, Rachel is an artist in the medium of giggler invitation.
I have missed the giggler in me—missed having her pop out in the early morning, at lunch, during the most serious of discussions. I have missed Rachel too. So I am looking forward to seeing more of them both, Rachel and the giggler, looking forward, among other things, to an increase in the number of moments of glee.

Saturday, August 06, 2011


"Happiness has many aspects and comes in more guises than we may readily recognize. Contentment is a purring, low-maintenance kind of happiness; it is
happiness without the energy to aspire to joy. Glee is hopped-up happiness, happiness on a tear. Nostalgia is the craft of discerning happiness in the
past, just as hope is all wrapped up in happinesses that are anticipated in the future." (Anne Giardini, The Sad Truth About Happiness, Harpercollins, 2006 P12 of the P.S. Section)

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Kitty: (Sighing with pleasure)Day 2 of our new routine!
Me: New routine? Maybe we should review day 1.
Kitty: Okay. I convinced you to save time and bother getting me back into the apartment before you went to bed. I spent the night in your house so that you didn’t have to crawl into small spaces, waste your breath calling me, and make me spitting mad by carrying me over to my place.
Me: And then …
Kitty: And then, about an hour before it was time to serve my breakfast I jumped up on your night table and purred in your ear to wake you softly. Then I walked on your face to ease you in gently and I let you pet me until you got up.
Me: And the consequences of that were …
Kitty: You saved the time and bother you would have had putting me to bed, had the pleasure of petting me, and I got breakfast half an hour earlier than schedule. Just another success story from the Kitty Cat school of Behavior Management.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Kitty: They’re packing the camping gear into their backpacks.
Me: Yes, I know.
Kitty: I suppose that means they are planning a trip.
Me: Yes, it does.
Kitty: I suppose that means you’ll be looking after me again.
Me: Right again, Kitty.
Kitty: You remember the routine? Remember how I don’t eat for a day, and then I eat, but not when you are there, and then I eat when you are there but I don’t let you touch me for a day, and then I sniff you from a distance for a while and then I rub your leg and then after a few days I jump up on your lap?
Me: Yes, I remember that routine?
Kitty: Looks like they’ll be gone for about a week.
Me: Yes Kitty. That’s right.
Kitty: Well, I was thinking that under the old routine, you had to wait almost a week for attention from me. So this time, instead of putting you through all that, I’ll just rub your leg today and jump on your lap in an hour.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


From the University of Chicago Press, media release

An article to gladden the heart of a hope lady, or anybody else who strives to enhance hope. I’ve printed the release here in full. The original source is named at the end.

Happy people are more likely to eat candy bars, whereas hopeful people choose fruit, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. That's
because when people feel hope, they're thinking about the future.

"Most of us are aware that we often fall victim to emotional eating, but how is it that we might choose unhealthy or healthy snacks when we're feeling good?"
write authors Karen Page Winterich (Pennsylvania State University) and Kelly L. Haws (Texas A&M University).

Because previous research has explored how feeling sad leads to eating bad, the authors focused on the complicated relationship between positive emotions
and food consumption. "We demonstrate the importance of the time frame on which the positive emotion focuses and find that positive emotions focusing on
the future decrease unhealthy food consumption in the present," the authors write.

To understand why someone who is feeling positive would be more likely to choose a candy bar versus a piece of fruit, the authors teased out the difference
between positive feelings that arise from thinking about the past or the present (pride and happiness) and hope, which is a more future-oriented emotion.

In the authors' first study, hopeful participants consumed fewer M&Ms than people who experienced happiness. In a second study, the authors found that consumers
who were more focused on the past chose unhealthy snacks, even if they felt hope. In the third study, the researchers shifted the time frame of the positive
emotion (having participants feel hopeful about the past or having them experience pride in the future). "That is, if someone is anticipating feeling proud,
she prefers fewer unhealthy snacks than someone experiencing pride."

Finally, the authors compared future-focused positive emotions (hopefulness, anticipated pride) to future focused negative emotions (fear, anticipated shame).
They found that the combination of positivity and future focus enhanced self-control.

"So, the next time you're feeling well, don't focus too much on all the good things in the past. Instead, keep that positive glow and focus on your future,
especially all the good things you imagine to come. Your waistline will thank you!" the authors conclude.

Karen Page Winterich and Kelly L. Haws. "Helpful Hopefulness: The Effect off Future Positive Emotions on Consumption." Journal of Consumer Research: October
2011 (published online March 18, 2011).

Monday, July 18, 2011


David had already left for his early morning work out at the gym when I awoke to a house dark and deathly hot. Surprised, with the clock reporting not yet 5:30, I stumbled downstairs to open some windows. There was an eerie
feeling about the place. With windows opened and little else to do, I went back to bed.
Within moments the world was whirling. Rain was pelting and veranda
furniture was on the move. Pirate, never one to miss an opportunity to snatch what is forbidden, leapt trembling on to my bed and dug his paws into my
breast bone as the first brilliant flashes consumed the sky. With the walls vibrating in a thunderous massage, Mark came out of his house, closely followed by Kitty, to report
that the heat had awakened him to a sky of brilliant orange that lasted about a minute before the storm hit. Lawrence, displaying a family solidarity reserved
for the few seconds before and after an event of doom, rushed up the stairs to evaluate and commiserate.
The sleepy radio morning crew took up their Monday post. Ignoring the forecast in hand they resorted to reporting that something cataclysmic was going on downtown. They'd get the updated weather report later, they promised. They were shaken, but willing.
A reluctant Monday began to take shape. Rain filled the barrels depleted by yesterday’s watering. The phone rang. By 7:20 I had turned down two offers of a ride to work. The sky was clearing. The tempest had moved on. The trees were dripping. The edges were muddy on the path up the hill. At the office we gathered, each with our own story of awakening.
The sun is out now. The pavement is steming. The air is sweating. We are left with the memory of a surprise, the drama, the unmistakeable reminder that the world is an uncertain place. It is impossible to deny the magnetic power that draws people together in the wake of an unanticipated Monday morning storm, and that is a good thing.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Have you ever discovered, to your utter surprise, that a milestone you’ve been chasing has somehow been reached—and you didn’t even notice? Well, if it hasn’t happened to you, as I suppose it possibly has not, that I truly hope it will.
This week it happened to me. The realization dawned with startling clarity in the middle of Wednesday afternoon as I distractedly jotted rushed notes in preparation for a Thursday lunch meeting. I answered a phone call, made an appointment, then returned to my notes. I read over the first point. The first point said: We now have an identifiable, replicable transferable body of knowledge that we can use for practice, research and teaching. In our own practice we refer to it as Hope-Focused Counselling, or simply Hope Work. In the teaching context we call it Hope and Strengths Tools For Counselling and Group Work. It was a surprise to see that I had written this, and also that I could provide evidence that it was true.
I was not the only one working on notes. Preparing notes for the same meeting, our Director of Research, dr. Denise Larsen had written: “Our research appears to be the only sustained, ongoing program of applied research on hope in the world. Specifically, we research *how* to work effectively with hope. This draws international attention, including international visitors and correspondence, and some programming. Our service programs are documented and delivered in a manner that makes them highly researchable. Indeed, we have ongoing funded programs of research with both our school-based work and community counselling service. In short, we are a well-organized and collaborative team, working to the mutual benefit of our research and service. This makes it possible to provide very unique research of excellent quality with high external validity to international practice and research communities.”
Across the room at the meeting sat Lenora LeMay, the team member who has done parallel work beside me for years, adapting hope tools and strategies for use in classroom setting and youth projects. It is Lenora who made a book of my early group work with teachers on disability. It is Lenora who offered a conversion of the boring counselling and research language of hope threats and barriers to the vibrant engaging language that describes threats and barriers as hope-suckers.
It takes a team of extraordinary people to create an on-going sustained program of applied research on hope. You could see it at the meeting. There were people who had supported the Hope Foundation for a long, long time, and people who were quite new to the work, yet very interested. The were people who had played multiple roles, board members who had used the hope materials in their places of employment, board members who had once been clients, staff who had been clients or volunteers.
Not in the room, but still very present, was Dr. Ronna Jevne, the person who started the Hope Foundation, the one who introduced me to hope work back in 1995. At that time we had the writings of a few wise hope theorists, combined with Ronna’s practical ideas, her inspiring presence and her unshakable commitment to building a resource team that could develop the practice of hope work. The objective of having an identifiable, replicable transferable body of knowledge that could be used for practice, research and teaching was her goal. Not an aim that could be accomplished by a single individual or in a neatly defined plan, it was the type of thing that could only be advanced by many cogs in a wheel of human effort rolling forward.
Call me a cog! This is the end of a week during which I felt particularly proud to be part of a team that has worked hard in relative obscurity for a long time on something that felt important. I felt enthusiastic about the prospect of working with the foundation that has been laid. As I left the meeting to begin a conversation with a client who was in pain, I turned for direction to the body of knowledge that informs our counselling and group work. That body of knowledge, ever growing, open to investigation, translatable into formats that meet the continuing heducation requirements for various professions, felt important still.