Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Come by Hope House this Friday, December 14 between 10 – 4 to pick up some great items for a donation to Hope Studies. Items include: • Christmas decorations • Framed artwork • Office supplies • Furniture • Candles • Coffee makers & mugs Plus, FREE hope books! Free parking available. 89th Avenue is currently blocked off due to University construction, but there is still parking available in the alley behind Hope House or on 90th Avenue. Pick up some free books. , these books will be available for pick-up during regular office hours through December 19, 2012. It All Begins with Hope: Patients, Caregivers and the Bereaved Speak Out By Dr. Ronna Jevne Patients, their caregivers, and their families tell their stories in their own words, providing a profound revelation of the resilience of the human spirit. The narratives are accompanied by black and white portraits of the storytellers. (174 pages) © 1991 The Voice of Hope: Heard Across the Heart of Life By Dr. Ronna Jevne Using her own life as a focus, Ronna Jevne explores the mysteries of hope and how it develops in the seemingly ordinary moments of family, school, love and work. (157 pages) © 1994

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I went for a job interview back in 1977. Two fatherly men were asking the questions. “What gifts would you bring to the job,” they asked. “The gift of youth,” said I in hope, “The gift of female perspective.” “We don’t usually hire young women,” they said. “This will be an exciting new thing.” I went for a job interview in 2012. The place was the same place, the interviewers female. “What gifts would you bring to the job?” they asked. “The gift of age,” I said in truth, “The perspective born of living through change.” Did I thihnk they would say, “Oh, you’re not that old?” Gender was not worth mentioning. So now I pause in curious wonder, surveying two worlds so far apart Who will be asking the interview questions Who will be naming the gifts they will bring To that same place in 2047?

Saturday, November 10, 2012


How can I look to a less-than-promising future and be hopeful at the same time? 1. Hope audaciously. Others can give you statistics, predictions and probabilities, but only you can decide what to hope for. So decide. 2. Find hope in yourself. Discover how it feels to be hopeful. Hope is an emotion. Where does your body feel it? In your chest, your knees, your eyes or somewhere else? 3. Express your hopes. Use the language of ”I hope”. Check for that hopeful feeling when you say “I hope”. You may be surprised to find that others are willing to share your hopes, maybe even willing to work on them. 4. Hang out with hopeful people. You know you have found the right people when you notice that you feel hopeful when you are with them. Avoid people who bring you down. 5. Look for symbols of hope. Collect things that could remind you of hope at times when you might need it. 6. Remember things that turned out better than you expected. Tell others about them. 7. Remember impossible things that became possible. Tell others about them. 8. Take the long view. Remember things that took longer than you expected. Tell others about them. 9. Say things that make you hopeful. Speak as if you believe a hopeful future could happen. Use the language of “when” and yet”. Start sentences with, “I believe.” 10. Do things that make you hopeful. Call them acts of hope. 11. Hoping is a dynamic process. Keep finding new things to hope for. Wendy Edey Registered Psychologist 780-690-8452

Friday, November 02, 2012


With so much attention focused on bullying these days, I’ve been wondering what kind of talk would give me hope if I were being bullied. Of course, if I were being bullied, the bullying would probably have been going on for some time, and I would likely have already tried a number of things. I might have tried telling the bullies to stop, or ignoring them, or telling somebody about it. I might even have tried moving away. And having tried these things and found them to be ineffective would definitely have sucked out a lot of my hope. I might even be feeling that I should give up because the situation is hopeless. Now all of us know that hope is power. People who have hope are active. They look for options. If there’s one thing all bullying victims lack, it is certainly power. So if I were being bullied, and I told you about it, what could you say to me that would give me hope? You could say, “I believe that what they are doing to you is absolutely wrong!” You might not say that because you’d think I already know you believe it’s wrong. But if I were being bullied, I’d probably think it was my fault, and I’d be wondering if the bullies were right. I’d need to hear what you believe. I’d need to hear it more than once. You could say, “The human race hasn’t figured out how to stop bullying yet, so we have to work hard at finding solutions.” If you said that, you’d be hinting that the human race might just solve this problem some day. Even if I didn’t think you could solve my problem right now, the idea that you had a vision of solving it could give me hope. You could say, “I know you feel terrible now, but your life will be a lot happier when they stop bullying you.” That would give me hope, because it would show me that you can see a time when they will stop. If I were being bullied, I wouldn’t be able to see that time on my own. Most important of all, you could say, “I will help you deal with this. I will stick by you even if it goes on for a while before we find a solution. I will be your friend. I will not give up. You can count on me.” If I were being bullied, and you talked this kind of language to me, I might just keep on hoping. I might just keep on trying. Both of us would be stronger, more committed to getting something done. Both of us would have more hope. Both of us would have more power. If there’s one thing that scares off a bully, it’s knowing that other people have power. (This article was first published in the Edmonton Examiner, 24/10/2012)

Thursday, November 01, 2012


There’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: What is the difference between the Hope Foundation and THE HOPE LADY? It’s a difficult question to consider, the two—Hope Foundation and HOPE LADY having been so closely intertwined for 17.5 years. Still, there’s no getting away from it. It is a question that simply will not go away, because the Hope Foundation is a non-profit organization managed by a board of directors. Those directors have given notice that the Hope Foundation will officially close December 31 2012. Hope research will be the responsibility of the University. Physical assets will be dispersed. Holiday pay will be added to final paycheques. Come January 1 THE HOPE LADY will no longer carry a key that fits the lock on the door of Hope House. Her business telephone number will be reassigned in the campus phone system. And thus we come to a different question, another one that simply will not be thrust aside: If a Hope Foundation falls victim to a lack of financial support in the jungle of non-profit organizations, is there still a HOPE LADY? The answer to this question is clear and unclear at the same time. Yes, there will still be a HOPE LADY in 2013. She will most certainly be different from the 2012 version in some ways. Though we don’t know exactly how those differences will be manifested, we do know about some things. This seems a good place in which to state them, for she will certainly be doing many things that she loves. It’s more hopeful to focus first on the knowns. THE HOPE LADY will be blogging in 2013. This promise she has made to herself. THE HOPE LADY loves blogging. You may wonder about this, given the stretches when she does not blog at all. But rest assured that, at those times, she is thinking about blogging, explaining to herself the reasons for the gap, and planning what she will write when she starts again. Blogging gives hope to THE HOPE LADY. It clears her thinking. It sometimes makes her laugh. She will need all of these things, just as she has needed them in the past. THE HOPE LADY will be making public appearances. Some dates are already booked and have been for a long time. She will be doing conference keynotes, making her knowledge about how to use hope and strengths tools in counselling and group work available in workshops for professionals, and facilitating hope discussions for groups of people who are trying to find hope and strength in difficult times. THE HOPE LADY will still be supervising students who are learning to be counsellors. She won’t be able to do this at the Hope Foundation, but she is committed to supervising the Master’s students studying counselling psychology at the University of Alberta. She does this every Wednesday morning, and has for years. It is one of her great pleasures. Now for the unknowns. THE HOPE LADY does not yet know how she will exercise her love of counselling. A lot of people say they would not welcome the opportunity to deal with people who have illnesses, depressions, chronic pain. But this kind of work has made her very happy in the past, and she’d like to find a way to keep doing it. She will still, after all, be a Registered Psychologist. THE HOPE LADY does not know how she will deal with the looming loneliness. She is accustomed to arriving at the office knowing she will be in the company of friends. She is used to laughing some time in the first five minutes of the workday. She is, by nature, a social being and those social needs have been splendidly met on a daily basis through a shared enthusiasm for knowledge, challenges and experiments in the company of some of the finest people the universe ever created. It won’t be easy being THE HOPE LADY without a Hope Foundation. Without the supporting structure of a Hope Foundation it won’t be easy to be known, to be respected, to be reached. If the Hope Foundation had weathered the financial storm, I would have faced a different problem a few years hence. I would have had to wonder how to retire THE HOPE LADY when I retired from the Hope Foundation. Retirement would have offered certain perks. These I would have presented to her as an incentive. THE HOPE LADY might have welcomed later morning starts, more holidays, less drafting of annual reports and calculation of statistics for funding requests. She likely would have retired—albeit with a lot of complaining. But she still would have wanted to be THE HOPE LADY—wanted it because she liked it so much. Things did not turn out the way we had hoped. The Hope Foundation took early retirement. Seeing the inevitability of this, I have presented all the advantages to THE HOPE LADY. She can sleep late. She can stay home on cold snowy days. She can take a holiday whenever she wants. She can join a bridge club, sing in a daytime choir. But THE HOPE LADY has made her position clear. She is not ready for retirement yet. She has insisted on staying with me. She’s stuck like glue and hard to shake. Now I just have to figure out what, exactly, to do with her.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


! TALES at the archives ! QUESTION: What happens when you let a bunch of storytellers loose in the PHOTO & DOCUMENT files of Alberta’s Provincial archives? ANSWER: You get some very entertaining stories… come SEE & HEAR for yourself! FREE CONCERT TUESDAY - OCTOBER 30th Time: 7:00-8:15pm VENUE: The Provincial Archives of Alberta / 8555 Roper Road, Edmonton (corner of 51st avenue and 86th street) *Featuring TALES storytellers* Wendy Edey: “On Sale at the Bay” …a HBC land sale lottery in 1912 Edmonton launched an exciting tradition of “boom and bust” in our fair city Dawn Blue: “Velkomin” .... While Anita Hansen’s husband ran the legendary Markerville Creamery, Anita was one of Alberta’s pioneer newspaperwomen Kathy Jessup: “Mama and the Bear” ...Humans & Bears have a long history of encounters in Alberta’s wilderness. This story shares the lighter side Stephanie Benger: “The Fall of Filumena”...the tale of a young woman lured in to the dark and dangerous world of illegal bootlegging during Alberta’s Prohibition days Marie Anne McLean: “Frank Clarke’s Spectacular Ride” … the story of Edmonton’s first ski club is full of wild moments, crazy characters, and one big dare!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


A change is coming up for me. It will happen on December 31. It’s not a change I wanted, but it’s coming anyway. Managing that change will take some focus, some thought, some flexibility. Is that a good way to start thinking it through? No, let me try again. A change has already begun for me. It’s the change that happens when you begin to plan for a change on a specified date, take for example, December 31. Managing my life during the change is taking some focus, some thought, some flexibility. So here I am, doing the three things I tend to do in the face of looming change: hoping, coping and moping. Hoping, coping and moping. Even as I write these three words I suspect I have put them in the wrong order. Of course it’s only natural for somebody who calls herself THE HOPE LADY to put hoping first. And, to be fair, I am hoping, quite a bit actually. Hope, as I often say in keynote speeches, is a positive and healthy experience. It permits us to consider the future and simultaneously be okay in the present. I am luckier than the average person. I have, at the front of my consciousness, at the tips of my fingers, engrained in my repertoire of habitual thoughts, a fascinating and varied collection of hope-fostering tools and strategies. I have a history that constantly reminds me of something my good friend Christy Simpson once said to me: “When you do hope work, it works on you.” So why am I thinking I have the three words in the wrong order? Well, it’s a matter of time allocation, I guess. The truth is, I seem to be spending a lot of my time coping. Coping, as I have often said in keynote speeches, is the process of taking each day as it comes and doing the things that need to be done in response to the things that are happening. It requires energy and creativity. It often involves deliberate activity. It is focused firmly in the present. Its rewards are twofold. On one hand, coping gets you through each day so you can start the next. On the other, it earns you a lot of praise. Everybody loves a good coper. You hear: “I am just amazed by how well you cope!” With feedback like that, it’s small wonder we tend to spend so much time coping. So I’m giving a lot of energy to coping, which is why I think it ought to go first. But then, yesterday, I started to wonder, if I really didn’t want this change, why shouldn’t moping get the chance to go first? Moping, as I have often said in keynotes speeches, is the expression of a natural constellation of emotions, sadness, frustration, annoyance. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Yet it’s the process most feared by the world’s best copers. They fear that if they let it show, nobody will like them. They fear that if they let it take hold, they won’t be able to make it stop. To be quite honest, I have been doing quite a bit of moping—mostly in secret. Moping in secret, I have often said in keynote speeches, is a waste of good moping. Moping is a process with a purpose. It was invented to give the best copers a bit of relief from the unceasing pressure of having to cope all the time. Moping, in its best form, is a message to others that you need to be comforted, or helped, or simply allowed time and space to get your act together. Moping, I have often said, knowing that copers won’t mope forever, is something you ought to do more of. Yesterday I decided to take a little of my own advice. I vowed to start moping more, to mope better. “I’m tired of all this coping,” I told my friends. “I am tired of being responsible, of being professional. I am tired of being a hero. I am going to be a victim.” My friends were very quiet. I could see they were thinking. Finally one of them said with great compassion, “I expect this change will be very difficult for you.” Now there’s nothing that makes victimhood more difficult than heartfelt expressions of great compassion. Nonetheless, I was determined to mope, and I would not be moved. “No it won’t be difficult for me to be a victim,” I shot back in my best victim fashion. “I’ve had more than enough of looking after others. I’m going to be hurt and helpless. People can look after me for a change.” My friends were quiet again. They were thinking again. They’re a bit like me. They don’t like to lose an argument. One of them said, “You’ll have to develop some new skills. Take the diva stamp, for example. (The diva stamp is something I do with my foot when I’m planning to go ahead with something and I won’t be dissuaded. Just doing it gives me power, resolve, hope.) You’ll have to find something to replace the diva stamp,” they said. “You always smile right after the diva stamp. Good victims don’t smile.” I was quiet. I was thinking. This was exactly the time when I needed to use the diva stamp, to show them I meant business. But what if they were right? What if the diva stamp was always a precursor to smiling? Tears would be the thing I needed, tears pouring down my face. I concentrated on tear production. I focused on it. I waited for the tears to fall, fall in public, fall the way they fell in the days after I first got the news of the change. Unfortunately, I’ve never been any good at producing tears on request. A sad song will bring them down in 1.5 seconds, but you are not always in reaching distance of a good stereo. I was not in reaching distance of a stereo with the right sad song playing on it. Still, a voice echoed in my head, advice from A TED Talk, or a conference speaker, or a book I read some time. “Be the change you want to see.” I approached my failure with renewed resolve. I would do it. I would be a victim. “I have to go now,” said one of my friends. This was my chance. “Okay,” I cried in my best, almost-in-tears voice. “Okay, just go. Just go and leave me here in my sorrow. Just put other commitment above your loyalty to me. Yes, you’ve go. Just go!” My friends were trying to be quiet. They’re a compassionate lot, after all. But they couldn’t be quiet. They were giggling. There’s nothing more difficult than being a victim when your best and most compassionate friends are giggling. So I gave up the task of trying to find the proper order for hoping coping and moping. I didn’t really have time for it anyway. I had to plan a keynote speech. Still, when I get the time, I am hoping to become a better victim, a more effective moper. Apparently it isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be. It will take some focus, some dedication, some learning. I am kind of looking forward to it. Learning new things always gives me hope.

Monday, October 22, 2012


The fact that it failed doesn’t prove that it wasn’t worth doing. If it’s hard to do, it’s probably important. The person getting in the way of your success may be you. There is never a complete loss of opportunity for change, though there may be a paralysis of our willingness to try.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


My thoughts are a muddle My messages mixed I’m trying to plan I’m between and betwixt. I’m weighing positions I’m doing the math Considering strategies, Seeking a path. But let’s not forget While I figure tihngs out That we mostly need hope In the times when there’s doubt.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Pirate: I know you want to stay on the path, but I am tugging on the leash because there are some very interesting smells over there. Me: oh, those are bags of garbage that somebody should have picked up before the dogs got in them. Pirate: Now you see why they interest me. Me: Now you see why we’re staying on the path. Pirate: Don’t you ever wonder what it would be like to get down on all fours and push your whole face into a squishy pile of thrown-out dinners and lunches? Have you never imagined the pure joy of it? Me: As a matter of fact, I haven’t. Pirate: What can you expect of a species that has, for hundreds of years, subjugated its young to the tyranny of the fork and spoon?

Thursday, October 11, 2012


The study of psychology has given us a lot of talk about triggers—triggers of negative emotions that is. Triggers are memories that produce emotions. We have trauma triggers that cause people to relive terrible events, anger triggers that bring a history of events to boil together at the surface. But we also have joy triggers. Why is it that we so rarely speak of joy triggers? Joy triggers do what anger triggers and trauma triggers do. They focus attention. They change the mood. But unlike anger and trauma triggers, they change it in a good way. I have a few joy triggers. I am always grateful to myself on those occasions when I am smart enough to remember that I have them, those times when I call them up for the pleasure of having them. One is a memory made recently, this year in fact. David had been attending a conference in Virginia. He had been gone a week. I planned to join him for a vacation in Washington DC. The trip began badly. My flight was leaving late—so late that my connection in Chicago would most certainly be missed. “Settle down,” I said to my beating heart as we languished on the runway going nowhere. Then the pilot finally got the go-ahead. He took to the windy skies and raced the wind. Instead of being hours late, we arrived in Chicago only one hour late. There was a little bit of hope. My connecting flight was also late. But Chicago is a very big airport and I am a blind person. “I’m going to miss my connection,” I said to the United Airlines agent who came to help me. “Maybe not Honey,” she said. She crackled her radio. Here began an incredible journey. We sprinted the length of moving sidewalks. We boarded buses. We pushed through crowds. We vaulted up escalators. We rush through a gate. We sped down a tunnel. We greeted a steward. And then we arrived. I sat in a middle seat near the rear and the crew closed the door. I don’t think I felt joy then, only relief. The joy came sometime around midnight at Ben’s on U street. David and I sat touching fingertips across a table and shouting at one another over the din. Obama-eating-there pictures festooned the walls. It’s the memory of how it felt to be there in that moment of French fries and rock-and-roll that starts the joy flowing. A second joy trigger for me is much older. I was pregnant for the second time. The first time had unfolded as a series of joyless events that involved blood, nausea, hospitals, waiting rooms, tests and never produced a baby. The second time began like the first, with nausea and waiting rooms. Then one sunny Tuesday afternoon Dr. Boulton produced an electronic stethoscope and placed it where the baby ought to be. A moment later I could hear a train chugged, chug, chug chug. I almost expected to hear a whistle. I did hear a whistle. The doctor had whistled. “That’s your baby’s heartbeat,” he said. “This baby has a heartbeat. Things are much better this time.” Thus I was introduced to the baby of unknown gender who would soon be lovingly referred to as “Mark.” That was 1979. this 9s 2012. And still it takes only a second’s recall to bring back the joy.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Kitty: Why do cats have 9 lives? Me: Well Kitty, cats don’t really have 9 lives. The 9 lives expression is really just a metaphor that helps to illustrate the manner in which cats conduct themselves during the course of the one life they have. Take you, for an example. Given the number of times you have escaped the safety of home and then become involved with some scrappy street cat who either bit your ear, or left you with other injuries requiring the intervention of a vet, I’d say you needed about 5 lives to get to the point where you are today. And there’s the time you had a kidney stone which you likely got from eating too much of the food you love and not enough of the foods you wouldn’t choose unless you couldn’t get any of the foods you love. That kidney stone might have killed you, hence you needed another life. And then there’s at least a couple of times I can remember when you annoyed some person so much that you might have been murdered in a crime of passion. So you see, you would then have spent 8 lives and the fact that you had 9 would help to explain how it is that you are still with us today. Do you get what I mean? Kitty: I don’t get it. Me: Oh. What part of it don’t you get? Kitty: I don’t get how I just ask one simple question and you don’t even wait for me to give you the answer. Me: Oh dear. We seem to have had a communication problem. Shall we try again? Ask me a question. Kitty: Why do cats need 9 lives? Me: I don’t know. Kitty: They need one to live and 8 more to figure out what goes on in the heads of humans.

Monday, October 08, 2012


Twenty years have passed since John Gray published his landmark book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. I have been thinking of late about how this book started a revolution in the way that men and women are encouraged to help each other deal with problems. There were probably others before it, but Gray’s book was the first one that got my attention because it spoke to both genders in languages that made sense to them. What’s more, it was focused on the idea of using these differences to build relationships. I have been telling my colleagues lately how the world of getting help for men has changed. I feel it strongly when I go to conferences. In fact, I’ve been to three this year that featured programs that speak directly to men in an attention-gripping way. It used to be that such speakers spoke to women. It’s a refreshing change, given the number of men who come to counselling certain that they will be blamed for everything and cast as villains. But now I’m off track. Back to John Gray’s book. Men, said Gray, tend to face problems by retreating into caves and paying attention to things other than the problem. This, he says, is a natural reaction to stress. Women, by contrast, want to talk things over right away and they become even more stressed when the opportunity is not available. I’ve never cared much for the idea of gender stereotyping, so when I first saw Gray’s book I was suspicious. But I have to hand it to him. Here was a man who could explain men to women and save thousands of relationships in the doing. It was a step toward a change in the helping professions that took several years to get a grip. But these days I see at conferences that there is a different kind of help for couples, a help that works better because it is more appreciative of gender differences in the way we naturally handle stress. That gives me a lot of hope.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Last week I attended a conference where more than half the participants were First Nations. It was jointly sponsored by Aboriginal Health Services and Alberta Health Services. It got me thinking again about the role of family. There were more children at this conference than you would usually find at such a thing. People were sharing responsibility for them, carrying them around, planting them on willing laps. There were more generations of families than you normally see at conferences. That is because so many of the participants came from First Nations families. I was there without relatives, a normal conference condition for me, unless I’ve recruited a relative to drive me. Family support looks different in different cultures. Early in our marriage I recall thinking that it would be good to be far away from family. We could do our own thing, carve out a life for ourselves. I knew that if we were near family, they would influence how we lived. Those were the days before social networking, before you could be close to loved-ones, hearing their voices, seeing their picture while you spoke to them, calling as often as you liked. It turned out that long distance separation for us was not to be. Some parents were ten minutes away. Others were two hours away. And so, on this Thanksgiving, I have the great gift of being thankful for incredible family support, both given and received, the way that family support makes you grateful. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that one of our conference speakers said that everyone has a role in families. In aboriginal cultures, the role of elders is to be wise, to be cared for. The role of younger people is to care for them and learn. In our culture, things are a bit different. We think more passively of elders, don’t rely on them as teachers so much. But the rules of mutual caring still apply. . I will be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with my father and my mother-in-law. It is likely that both of them will give me at least one piece of advice. I’ll remember that advice, even if I don’t want to. I know this because it has often happened. I am going to be a grandmother soon, or is it a Granny, or a Gran? We’re not sure exactly what I shall be called. The object of my grandmotherhood, still being on the inside has no name at the moment so I call him Little Bun. Little Bun will be growing up a few thousand miles away from me. Still, I truly hope to be part of Little Bun’s life. I’ve been making lists lately of all the things my elders have taught me about raising children, of all the things my elders have done to help me raise my children. The list is long and impressive. And so, on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am especially thankful for family support. I am particularly willing to hold on through the ups and downs, to believe that it is a good thing to be with family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Houses in the 110 block on 89th Avenue are quickly coming down. One day a house has siding. The next day it’s naked. Two days later its front steps rise up from the street, leading to a pile of rubble. It takes a while to build a house, a shorter time to tear it down, no matter how long it stood there. This isn’t the first time a house has disappeared from 89th Avenue. A house can go very, very fast. One day it’s there. The next day it’s gone. Several years ago one house disappeared from the street. It was worrying to think that a house could simply go. But we all survived. But this situation is different. They’re tearing down 9 houses on 89th Avenue, the very block where Hope House stands. Even for a group of people who spend their working days focusing on hope, it’s not easy to come to work every day and not feel sad on a street where 9 houses are coming down. There are the minor inconveniences—no driving down the street, no parking. There is the total sensory involvement—the tinkle of shattering glass, the beep beep of the machine as it backs up to change position and take another bite. Now it’s a bite of the roof, next a bite of the wall. There are the challenges of working within metres of a major construction site. You do a lot of shouting. No more quiet meditations to help people deal with their problems. As if that isn’t enough, they’re also taking down the trees in 9 yards. Too bad there were so many trees in the 9 yards. Every day the view from the front of Hope House opens up a little. “I can see all the way to International House,” says Rachel. She says it sadly. It is clear that nobody at Hope House minded not being able to see International House. And then there are the experiences of a blind traveller on a street where the only predictable thing is that you can’t predict anything. Okay, I am THE HOPE LADY, so I’ll switch gears here and admit that things can get interesting. Construction guys are keenly aware that a blind person works on this block. They worry. They approach me. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’d like to give you my phone number. Then you can call me whenever you want to walk down this street. I’ll come out to help you.” Do you know how often guys want to give me their phone number? Not very often. Still, the task of finding the situation amusing can only carry you so far. Amid all the grieving and unsettling, there’s the good news. It’s good news that the university is growing. Who could be sad about that? More people want to study. More people want quality accommodation. The removal of 9 aging houses will allow further construction of the east Campus Village. East Campus Village, by all accounts, is a nice place to live. The best news is that Hope House is not one of the 9 houses. It is one of four that are staying on this rapidly changing block. With a little luck, it will still be standing when all the rubble is cleared away. “It’s in good condition,” explains the man from the university. So this old house will be put once again to the task of making the best of circumstances beyond its control. Hope House is a senior citizen among Edmonton houses. It’s celebrating its 96th birthday this year. Of course, it wasn’t always Hope House. But it’s had a long history of adapting to change. It was built for a family—a squarish 2-storey dwelling with a glassed-in sun porch topped up with a generous attic. For extra style it took on 2 second-floor balconies. Some time in the 1940’s it reached out in back to grasp a lean-to, a pantry maybe to augment its insubstantial kitchen. Some time in the 1960’s it graduated from family ownership to University owned property. It opened its doors to student renters—some legally there, some sleeping free of charge in the tiny space beside its huge basement furnace. Some time in the 1980’s it participated in the development of the Canadian Encyclopedia. One day the University of Alberta offered the dilapidated house at 11032 to the volunteers at the Hope Foundation. People with disabilities would be visiting, so the house went modern with a wheelchair accessible main floor bathroom where the pantry used to be. In the mid-1990’s it got an elevator. The attic space was opened wide enough for 6 desks. The leaning front porch was raised up a centimeter a day until it was level. One year the house got a new furnace. Two years ago it got new windows. Lucky Hope House. Somebody—no, many people—wanted it to have a future. And so they kept working on it until it was so cherished that it won the right to stand with three others on a street where 9 houses are being knocked down. It was, as they said, in good condition. There’s no getting around it. It’s sad to come to work on a street where 9 old houses are being knocked down. “We have to be reasonable,” I say in my HOPE LADY voice. “We have to take the long view. Two hundred years ago this street was a patch of bush along the river. One hundred years ago it was a farmer’s field. Last year it was a 2-sided row of old houses, most of them in deplorable condition. In two years a student will move here from Toronto, or New York, or Australia or Hong Kong and 89th Avenue, the way it will look at that time, will feel like home.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Congratulations to Lenora LeMay and her team on winning a Laurel Award for Post-secondary aboriginal Camps. . The Hope Foundation organized post-secondary camps for aboriginal students at the University of Alberta in May and November of 2011. The students, grades 5-7, came from Montana School at Hobbema and Mother Earth School, just west of Edmonton. The program was funded by. Given the right conditions, university is a good place to foster hope. It can show young people some possibilities for the future they might choose when they graduate from high school. At a glance we might think of post-secondary education as something that fosters hope because of the career possibilities it opens. But two instructors, Tracy Bear and Margaret-Ann Armour, gave interviews in preparation for the writing of this article. Coming from different perspectives, both stressed the importance of presenting the university as a place where these young students could feel that they would belong. Belonging, they said, was something the students would need to imagine before they would see a university as a place of hope for them. Tracy bear is passionate about university. As she strives to earn her third university degree, she is well acquainted with the obstacles that face aboriginal students. Tracy is Special Advisor to the Vice President academic. “We brought them to lunch in the council Chambers,” she says. We wanted to teach them how a university is run. So I asked them how many aboriginal University of Alberta students they believed there would be. Would there be 50, 100 or 1,000? They thought there would be 50, or 100. But I said No! There are almost 1,000.” Just knowing that so many of our people are on campus might be a trigger for them to say, ‘Hey, I belong here.’” Tracy remembers moving to various locations across Canada and never seeing another face and eyes that were brown like hers. She also recalls a time, just three months ago, when she went up in an elevator with five other women. All five were aboriginal, and each of them has a Ph.D. She says, “I just wish that the media and Canadian society could see those moments and see that there is so much more to aboriginal people than we usually see.” Asked why she is so passionate about the university option she says, “Coming to university has opened up a whole universe of opportunities that I never imagined. I planned to get one degree and go back home. At the start I wasn’t thinking of getting three. I went to New Zealand and I learned that there are aboriginal people around the world who are in similar situations.” At Hope Camp, Tracy taught a course in visual journaling. Using pictures as well as words, she guided the students through a process of documenting their camp experience. She hopes that future hope camps will have more involvement from some of the aboriginal students in faculties such as medicine and dentistry. She is now working with a team to develop an aboriginal gathering place at the centre of the campus. She says, “I am hoping this will be the starting place for future aboriginal hope camps. Having the students come on campus and not just see me, but seeing other aboriginal people doing all sorts of amazing things is, I think, the absolute idea of hope. It’s a fantastic camp and I love being involved.” Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour, a professor renowned for her efforts to make science accessible to a wide range of people, also mentions the need to belong. She tells a story to explain how this idea influenced the manner of her teaching. “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. She believes it is important for all of us to understand that science isn’t something that experts do in labs. Science is happening all around us, in the natural world, in our own bodies. Asked how an interest in chemistry might be extended beyond a single camp, Margaret-Ann said, “We have to make opportunities available for lifelong learning. The more you learn and the more you find interesting, the more likely you are to want to learn more. With aboriginal students, we come with baggage. Maybe we don’t work as hard to get them interested.” Margaret-Ann’s philosophy of science extends beyond the experiments that can be done in a lab. “Science can be informal.” It includes things known and understood through observation and experience. “Sometimes we devalue this knowledge because we think of it as not being proven by experiments. I hope the students will want to go on learning more about science. I try to talk about things that are meaningful in the life of the group.” Observing the group like any scientist worth her salt, Margaret-Ann noticed that “The group did a wonderful job of making nylon. Nobody did anything they weren’t supposed to, nobody spilled anything. I noticed that they had good hands.” When she mentioned this to their teachers, she was told that many of the students would have had experience making bannock. Hope is different things to different people. A post-secondary hope camp for young aboriginal students is one way that the Hope Foundation, working with partners, can foster a sense of boundless possibility, create a feeling of belonging, and ultimately offer a key to a future filled with hope.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Whenever I have a birthday, something I experience once every year or so, I am reminded of 2 things. First, I recall how much I like chocolate cake with chocolate icing. Second, and this is a recent development, I recall how I used to sit in grade school and calculate the age I’d be at the beginning of the 21st century. This, of course, was a fantasy. I did not, in practical terms, believe I could ever be that old.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Peter Lougheed died last week. Though many people remember him for many things, in recent years it has not been possible for me to hear his name without recalling the summer I helped to make him Premier. It was the summer of 1971 and I was 17 years old. Voters in our riding, Sedgewick-Coronation, had voted Social Credit for as long as they could remember, and they weren’t about to change their votes for some upstart lawyer from Calgary. Our local town was called Lougheed, named after Peter’s grandfather, and my folks thought it was time for a change. My dad looked around the village of Lougheed for a candidate to run for the Progressive Conservatives. Finding one, he and a few others put the wheels in motion. Mom was designated as full time volunteer at the election office. I was designated as cook and bottle washer. We were farmers. Summer was the time when there were men to cook for. Early that summer peter Lougheed announced that he would be kicking off his campaign in Lougheed. My family was over the moon. “Write a song,” commanded my parents. “We’ll have a parade.” So I wrote a song, to the tune of Has Anybody Seen My Gal. My song said, Herb Losness For The Lougheed Team. “Call up Gail,” commanded my parents. Gail was my best friend in high school. She was going to be a nurse. I was going to be a social worker. Her home town was Hardisty. Peter Lougheed’s grandmother was a Hardisty before she married a Lougheed. Gail and I were about as geeky as two teen-agers could be. Geeky was what they wanted. Both of us loved old-fashioned music. Our moms were handy with the sewing machines. Soon we were outfitted in Conservative colours, orange hot pants and blue tights. I got out the old accordion. Gail and I climbed onto parade floats singing Herb Losness For The Lougheed Team. For fillers, we sang a Johnny Cash song about the disintegration of a musical group with conflicting political leanings. Late August found us standing in a crowd of thousands on the parking lot of the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Other constituencies had sent singers for their own songs. I pumped up the accordion and we shouted ours over the din. Then we all went inside, far too many of us for the fire regulations, to cheer wildly at anything and everything Peter Lougheed said. It was election fever at the pitch. Election day arrived. The people of Sedgewick-Coronation voted Social Credit. The rest of Alberta voted for Peter and the Conservatives have reigned ever since. Later that year, I turned 18 and earned the right to vote. So far, that is my only experience working actively on a political campaign. For Gail and me—both of us volunteer church pianists in later life, it’s a memory that never fails to bring a good laugh. And though you might wonder about the ethics of enlisting help from campaigners too young to vote, I don’t think I felt abused. Just amused, and involved.

Friday, September 14, 2012


fLast night, when I couldn’t sleep, I got to thinking about reading. That is, I was thinking about all the reding I do these days, now that I am so much accustomed to insomnia. The older I get, the less soundly I sleep. There was a time when I was not a night reader. It was a time having insomnia meant that I was worrying about something. My bedroom would be crowded with noisy characters from my day life, nudging me, calling to me, chiding me, giving me instructions. I’d wake exhausted, not at all ready to go into the world where I’d have to face them in person. But over the years I have learned to worry less. Peculiar then that I should also sleep less. These days insomnia doesn’t mean anything at all, except that I am not sleeping. I might be feeling back pain, or bladder urgings. I might be hearing songs in my head. I know that I am not alone. All over the city people are tossing and turning. Others of my age speak also of this phenomenon. Some of them take sleeping pills. Some of them play computer games, or watch television. Some of them read technical journals. I know a fellow who practices the piano. As for me, I think of calling up the people I know, the ones who might be up in the night. “Hello, it’s Wendy,” I’d say, as casually as if I were calling in mid-afternoon. But I value my friends and relatives. How terrible would it be to interrupt an occasional good night’s sleep—if they were having one? And so, instead of calling somebody, I plug in the ear phones and listen to a recorded book. Fortunately, there are many audio books to hear these days—so many that I stop reading any book that does not please me—a luxury I never imagined possible in the days of more limited selection and waiting for tapes to arrive in the mail. I don’t usually keep a record of books I have read, but last night, when I could not sleep, I began to make a mental tally of books I have enjoyed in the past few months. It is not a complete list. Omitted are (a) books I forgot to put on the list, (b) books I didn’t finish, and (c) books I wished I hadn’t finished. If, some day, you can’t sleep and you find yourself reading one of these books, think of me. Heck, call me. Why not? Good-bye, Mr. Chips Author: Hilton, James; Water for elephants: a novel Author: Gruen, Sara. Big trouble Author: Barry, dave Room for all of us: surprising stories of loss and transformation Author: Clarkson, Adrienne, If these walls had ears: the biography of a house / Author: Morgan, James, 1876 Author: Vidal, Gore The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Author: Shaffer, Mary Ann How sweet it is: the Jackie Gleason story Author: Bacon, James; The onyx Author: Briskin, Jacqueline.; C'mon Papa: dispatches from a dad in the dark Author: Knighton, Ryan Volkswagen blues Author: Poulin, Jacques; Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being Author: Seligman, Martin Blue Nights Author: Didion, Joan Beyond Belfast: a 560-mile walk across Northern Ireland on sore feet Author: Ferguson, Will Small beneath the sky: a prairie memoir Author: Crozier, Lorna; Paul McCartney: many years from now Author: McCartney, Paul; Barry Miles; Irma Voth Author: Toews, Miriam; The Avenue goes to war Author: Delderfield, R. F.; Sanctuary line Author: Urquhart, Jane Lake Wobegon days Author: Keillor, Garrison.; A good man Author: Vanderhaeghe, Guy; The heart does break: Canadian writers on grief and mourning Author: Jean. Baird; George Bowering; Remembering the farm: memories of farming, ranching, and rural life in Canada, past and present Author: Anderson, Allan;

Thursday, September 13, 2012


“To a resolute mind, wishing to do is the first step toward doing. But if we do not wish to do a thing it becomes impossible.” Robert Southey This morning I sent an email—the way so many emails are sent, in a hurry, possibly with too little thought. Caution—as so often is the case--had gone temporarily into hiding, waiting for the email to be sent before appearing to issue a warning. “Be careful what you wish for,” it ought to have said. There are times when I have undersold the power of wishing. Wishing, I have often said in presentations, is for birthday candles, and Disneyland, and the times when I buy a lottery ticket—because I have some extra money, not because I expect to win. Wishing, I have thought, is worth doing because it’s fun. It’s inspirational. But as for being useful, well, that’s another thing entirely. It’s this casual, off-hand idea about wishing that has led me to wish for things. The thing I love about wishing is that it puts you in a magical place, a playful place. The easiest things to wish for are those things you utterly believe to be impossible. This morning, for example, I sent an email that said, “What I wish for now is magic spit with the power to cure. If I had that, I'd rush right over to your place and spit in your eyes.” It was meant to be a wish of comfort, a show of compassion, an invitation to laugh, a longing for the power to make something better. It was only after the email had flown irretrievably into the land of cyberspace that I paused to contemplate its full implications. Already my mouth was feeling a little dry. Is it possible, I wondered, that wishing for spit with curative powers could be the first step in getting it? Oh, I know what you are probably thinking. You’re probably wondering: Who is she to imagine the power to create magic spit with a simple wish? I know you’re thinking this because I have thought it myself. But I’ve been reflecting of late on a few wishes I made in the past—offhand wishes, wishes for seemingly impossible things. I have been remembering other wishful thoughts, and the scenarios that unfolded. Once upon a time I wished for a newspaper column. Of course, I didn’t know if I could handle a newspaper column, in fact, I was almost certain that I couldn’t. It was meant to be a whish that I would write more—the kind of writing I like to do, short writing. One time I even did a little experiment with the idea. I wrote a bit and I sent off a few packages of writing to some newspapers. Nobody wrote back to me. For many years that wish rested dormant, in absolute comfort. Then one day, not too long ago, somebody who never knew anything about the packages offered me a newspaper column—a chance to write once a month about anything I wanted. I was so surprised I almost turned it down. Panic seized me. My friends thought I was being a drama queen. “How can you say you can’t do it?” came the cries from around me. “You’ve been writing a blog for six years.” Coincidence? Maybe. Then there’s this other once upon a time—one that happened a bit earlier. I used to wish for an honorary degree. It was such a ridiculous wish that I felt perfectly safe in saying it out loud to lots of people. I said it for years and it got a good laugh wherever I said it. It was meant to be a wish to be freed of the ethical imperative to correct every person who mistakenly referred to me as Dr. Edey. But one afternoon somebody I had never met called me up to say that I had been chosen to receive an honorary degree. He wondered if I would accept it. Panic seized me. For a few unprecedented minutes, I was utterly without words to reply. No doubt the caller was having serious reservations about my ability to make the required acceptance speech. My friends thought I was being a drama queen. “How can you say you can’t have it?” cried the voices from around me. “You already got it. Stand up there and prove you deserve it.” So here I am, the bemused holder of an honorary degree, looking toward September 24--my first column copy deadline, acknowledging that I wished for both a degree and a column without fully contemplating the consequences of having either. Add to this the burden of having wished for magic spit with curative powers, and a few thousand other impossible things, and you can see why I might be feeling a little bit on edge, a little cautious about making wishes. But what could be more ridiculous than to give up wishing? For how can we possibly envision outcomes beyond our known limits if we prevent ourselves from wishing for them?

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Some things last longer than you expect them to. So it is with the wear-it-around-home sweater I call my homey sweater. My homey sweater doesn’t look like a sweater that wood last. Woven from some mysteriously stretchy yarn in a pattern resembling the popcorn stitch, you’d think its fuzzy edges would catch, pull and disintegrate to strings and balls. Believing I might only have it for a short time, I wore it sparingly when first it came to me. I met that sweater in September 2005, a bright, breezy September like this one. Early mornings arrived with a chill. In all other ways, that September was different from all others before and since. On the nights when I was able I drowsed brokenly on the cot in Mom’s hospital suite. Palliative Care was marked on the door sign. Every few minutes Mom would cry out and I would speak softly to her, stretching out the time, ramping down the tension, knowing it was too soon for the next painkiller. I’d read to her, tell her stories, sing songs, make promises. If she could be calmed she would rest again. I would doze again. Mornings dawning that September brought brilliant sunshine, chilly breezes. I’d lie a few moments of quiet, waiting for something to happen. When the hospital lights went down and the halls began to stir I would collect my weary self, grab a sweater from the end of Mom’s bed, and step out onto the patio. Closing the door behind me, I’d make phone calls, to Dad, to David, to my kids, to my sisters, to my brother. “A restless night,” I’d say. “We’re okay. See you later on.” Snug in Mom’s sweater, I’d hover in the ever-increasing swirls of autumn leaves, wondering how long it would be, how many more mornings I’d be here, how many mornings Mom would be here. The air was crisp, not the air of summer. Months ago I had wondered this. “We are talking in terms of weeks,” a doctor had said, back in early July. Back then, with work in its summer slowness, I easily developed the patterns of spending time. Work could wait, other things could wait. Now, with September pushing forward, promising October soon behind, people were looking for commitment from me. “I don’t know if I can be there,” I would say. “I might be there. You’ll need to have a back-up plan in case I can’t.” There was a back-up plan for a weeklong course I would have taught to health care staff from Manitoba. There was a back-up plan for a speech at the Canadian Palliative Care Association on September 28, and a good thing too, because that was a day when I could not make it. “Use the time you have,” I said to myself. “Stay here for the time you have.” The day when I would have been speaking on hope in palliative care was the day when we at last gathered up the things that had been brought to Mom’s room over the past few weeks. There were magazines and slippers, Tupperware containers, flower vases, bags of candy, packages of cinnamon buns, the accordion I had played to comfort her, assorted articles of clothing. We carried it all to the car. My arms were full. I wore Mom’s sweater out the front door, the efficient way to transport it. After so many hours spent inside, I haven’t been back in that room or on that patio since. Mom’s sweater was a white sweater, looking quite new at the time when first I began to wear it, not so old even now, though seven years ought to have dimmed the memory of how it felt to shrug in and out of it during that distant September. It’s the kind of sweater you wear, and wash, and wear, and wash and wear again. It’s light on your arms, warm in the cold, , a warm sweater that breathes, the right arm length, the right waist length. It is a comfortable sweater. I could see why she bought it, why she took it with her to the hospital. It seemed fragile when I took it home. “I’ll keep it for a while,” I said. “It won’t last long. It will be stained. It will snag. It will go to balls.” At first I wore it sparingly, not wanting to face the time when it, like Mom, would move beyond my reach. But that homey sweater has staying power. It travels about the house, perching on newel posts, hanging on the backs of chairs, resting on the back door bench, even hanging in the closet occasionally. Still reasonably clean, still reasonably free from snags and balls, it has lasted much longer than I ever expected. That sweater never minds being shrugged off wherever I leave it. It waits for a chill. “Put me on,” it beckons. “I will warm you. Use the time we have.” It’s my homey sweater.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Sixty years ago TODAY CBC began broadcasting television in Canada. You can hear about the early days at THE BIRTH OF TELEVISION. The future was uncertain. Here’s what the politicians and executives said: It’s a big country we have. It will be very costly. We have to broad cast in two languages. People living near the border are already getting American TV and might not want Canadian content. But they started. They broadcast 3 hours each evening in Toronto and Montreal. When they were ready to contemplate new locations, they considered Ottawa, given that it was our centre of politics. “But don’t worry,” said one comentator. “we won’t be broadcasting the proceedings of Parliament.” The audience laughed. Today this little broken promise is just one more proof that we’ve never been that good at predicting the future.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Welcome Allison! It was nice to meet you this week. What a pleasure it is for Rachel and me to have a Ph.D. student doing a group work practicum in our chronic pain group. Here we are, preparing to integrate another group leader. The great thing about having students is that we learn from them while they learn from us. Students, through their questions and their knowledge, teach us to be a little more clear about what we are doing, and why we are doing it. It’s hard to know what a student might expect a hope group for people with chronic pain to be. Group work done in a counselling setting is usually referred to as group therapy. Our work is therapy, though not direct therapy for the pain. It is therapy for the emotions and behaviours that attach themselves to the pain and make life difficult. Being psychologists rather than pain doctors, we will be using psychology to shape emotions and behaviours. . Our first stated objective is to bring people with chronic pain together in an environment that is fun and positive. The approach is rooted in the theory that bringing them together is good, that how you bring them together will matter, and that they’ll have more power against the pain in a fun and positive place than they would in other places. We’re expecting 8 participants. They will come to us for 2 hours on 6 consecutive Tuesday afternoons. Some may stand up or lie down because sitting is so uncomfortable for them, while others will sit peacefully and wait to be reminded that it is time for a break. Some may be very angry while others will say that they are grateful. Some may want to talk all the time while others might have to be addressed directly if they are to say anything at all. But all of them will have considerable experience with pain. Their pain is physical. Most of the people registered in this group were referred by pain specialists—experts in the art of medical remedies. The key word here, when you think of remedies, is chronic. Conditions are labelled as chronic when there is no cure. Chronic pain is persistent, resistant, insistent. It is as confounding to physicians as it is to sufferers. It refuses to go away when you bombard it with drugs. It sneers at you when you try to exercise it away. It turns you into a recluse, a grouch, a whiner. It drives your friends away and frustrates your relatives. Chronic pain scoops up your hope and bashes it against walls. When you search for a cure, it tells you to accept your condition. When you resign yourself to letting it win, it accuses you of being lazy. It blames you for being the cause of your own decline. When you get right down to it, chronic pain is not some little thing. It’s a big, big thing. That’s why professionals from many disciplines are experimenting with a variety of options. One option is a hope and strengths group. The group you will be helping to facilitate, Allison, is our 12th hope and strengths group for people with chronic pain. You’d think we might be getting tired of it, but we aren’t. Rachel and I have learned quite a lot along the way, as anybody would, repeating a process so many times. One thing we’ve noticed is this: you have to work on the hope and strengths before you work on the pain. When you bring together people who have chronic pain, chronic pain expects to be the elephant in the room—not the normal unmentioned elephant, mind you, but the big elephant that takes up all the attention. Everybody turns to look at the elephant, to talk about the elephant, to recount battles with the elephant, to curse the elephant. Left unchecked, the elephant tramples everything in its path. Suffice it to say, it’s not much fun paying attention to chronic pain. It’s not very hopeful either. So we are going against the tide when we promise to create an environment that is fun and positive. Having learned this the hard way, we carefully budget our attention—more paid to fun and positive at the beginning, more paid to pain later on. We’ve noticed that chronic pain withers a bit in the face of fun. Anything you can do to wither it before you address it has got to be good. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, but after you’ve made some space for the fun to grow, it’s hard for even the most intrepid elephant to trample it completely. Fun, though, is only part of the picture. If we wanted only fun, we might simply take the group to a comedy club and measure the impact. An environment that is fun and positive has more than just fun. It has the feeling that things can happen, that all hope is not lost, that more is possible. This is where our hope and strengths strategies and tools come to work. These are the tools and strategies you will be observing and using as we make our way through the six sessions. Using pictures and stories and modified language, people will identify themselves first as having hope, as possessing strength, as the bearers of possibility. These are the selves they will bring to our later discussions about ways of responding to the pain and all the complications it causes. We dare to hope that you will enjoy the group time as much as we do. We like to watch the people blossom, to laugh with them, to hear their stories, to see the pictures they choose for their collages. We like to learn when they teach us everything they know about dealing with chronic pain. Collectively they have a lot of wisdom about maintaining the personal relationships they cherish, and finding ways to re-imagine their lives. We like to see how much they enjoy working with our hope and strengths tools We like the idea of having a student. We have worked hard to establish a program that could gain the respect of physicians and teaching institutions. Being able to offer a place to a student is an indication that this work has been worthwhile beyond its benefit to the group participants. We are looking forward to working with you Allison.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


This morning I heard a song sung by Jane Doe with backup vocals and piano by sarah McLachlan and her band. Jane Doe and I were sharing a seat on the LRT. “I will rmember you,” sang Jane. “Will you remember me?” I expect that Jane was hearing Sarah in her earbuds. I was hearing only Jane, Jane singing a solo on the train. I was careful not to turn in her direction, lest she realize that I had heard, lest she might suffer, for the whole day and maybe the entire week, the embarrassment of knowing she had been heard. . Meanwhile, my cerebral cortex went to work, pulling up the sounds I imagined that Jane was hearing. “Don’t let your life pass you by,” Jane sang softly, smiling as she sang. The train rolled on. By the time I left my seat, I wasn’t hearing Jane anymore. But I still heard Sarah. An early morning concert for me and Jane, all for the price of a train ticket. For Jane, whose real name I do not know, I hummed as I walked the path to Hope House, “I will remember you.” It was a good day for singing to yourself. It’s the first day of class. Most of the students and some of the professors are paying more attention to the challenge of figuring out where they need to be than they are to the noises made by the people who pass them on the sidewalk. So I comfort myself with the belief that nobody heard me singing. “Weep not for the memories.” Anyway, it wasn’t really a solo. Sarah was backing me up.

Monday, September 03, 2012


Yesterday was Apple Pie Day. Telltale clues were wafting up from the kitchen. Even as I snuggled my head under the covers in a last ditch attempt to be warm enough I could hear the thrump of the rolling pin on the counter, the thump of the flour canister, and the tearing of the parchment. The clink of the measuring cup against the side of the bowl was the final message. “Up you get, Girl. It’s Apple Pie Day.” The guy in the kitchen was David. David makes the best pastry of anyone I know—except my sister Sandra whose pastry is about as good. Both of them are using Mom’s recipe. Mom used to make the world’s best pastry. They’ve got big shoes to fill. My job on Apple Pie Day is to cut up the apples. Some are hail damaged. Some have been touched in places by the fangs of wasps and beaks of birds. But all are tart and firm and tasting like pure joy. All winter we’ll be celebrating the forethought of this day. The possibility of it brightens the future. The first of our pies will go across the street to Ed. He and Sharon will be profuse in their thanks. For at least an hour they’ll be glad they have that apple tree. An apple tree is a mixed blessing. We used to have an apple tree back in the other house. It came to us quite innocently. We looked at a square of grass in the front yard. I said, “Let’s get an apple tree. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few apples?” So we got an apple tree, and it was nice too, the first year when there were a few apples. After that the season became a kind of tyranny of abundance, apples on our heads, apples on the ground, apples for the world. We reached out to the community, the way you do in times of crisis. “Take apples,” we said. “Take more apples.” David learned to make excellent pastry. “Take apples for your friends,” we said. Then we moved. David was the one who wanted to move. I was a bit inclined toward nostalgia. “We’ll take your peonies,” he said encouragingly. “We’ll take the anemones. We’ll plant new tulips, new lilies. We can get an apple tree.” It truly was hard to leave so many beloved plants behind, but we did the best we could. We took the peonies and anemones. We planted new tulips and lilies of gorgeous variety. The question of the apple tree hung in the air. “Let’s walk the block and see who has an apple tree,” I said. This, I suspected, was my chance to make a better decision. This, I hoped, would be our chance to make a neighbour truly happy. Ed has a big apple tree. It’s offerings come to our house by the bucketful. The job of cutting the apples is a good job. You nibble the bits left around the core. You smell the cinnamon. You pour the apples into David’s excellent pastry. Then you smile. You’re glad you got up this morning. You’re glad Ed planted that three. It’s never really clear whether Ed is glad he planted that tree. “Take as many as you want,” he says. “Pick ‘em up off the ground if you want,” he says. “Here’s a ladder if you want to climb it for the higher ones.” He never asks for a pie, but the sharing of this bounty has become a tradition as regular as summer turning to fall. Ed planted that tree long before we met, probably about the time when we planted our own tree back at the other house. Each of us was looking for a few apples to enjoy. What neither of us knew at the time, but have since learned is this: once those apples get growing, it takes a neighbourhood to love an apple tree.


I am hoping Obama will start talking about hope again when the American Democratic convention gets going this week. I am waiting for it, listening with a pricked ear for the mention of it in the mainstream media. To tell the truth, I’ve really missed hearing about hope lately. We’ve been hearing less about hope than we did four years ago. I am not party to any information that would explain the change. Did the advisers suggest that talking about hope would not be helpful? Is it because people sneered at the explicit mention of hope? Is Obama less hopeful than he was, given a four-year dose of reality? I listened for explicit talk of hope in last week’s coverage of the American Republican Convention. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear the word. I thought this peculiar, given how effective the hope talk proved in getting their opponent elected last time. I thought maybe they’d pick it up somehow. To be fair, if hope wasn’t explicitly mentioned, there was an implicit reference that might be perceived as hopeful. There was a lot of talk about “Getting America back on track”. The tug of nostalgia was employed as a forward force. Back, it seems to me, is the operative word here. It suggests that America was once on track, and then it wasn’t. It suggests that the future will be good once you go back to where you were. The fundamental difficulty with this, from the shared perspectives of both hope and reality, is that the track you want to go back to is the track that got you to where you are now—a place you don’t want to be. Who, having thought carefully about it, would really want to take that journey again? The thing I most like about explicit hope talk is that it seems to open up the question of how things can be different, and then requires an evaluation of just how you want things to be. But you can’t stop there. You have to look back to find evidence that things can change. The evidence gives you the motivation to do what you have to do. When hope talk shaped the rhetoric of Obama, he crafted stories that would give voters hope. The mention of hope compelled him to address two populations, the population who was served by the old track, and the population who was excluded. He managed to appeal to both, and they voted for him. Talking about hope is hard work. The easy part is thinking of things to hope for. The hard part is finding the reasons that legitimize the sense of hope. But the whole thing is worth the effort because when people hope, they are more apt to act. Even the most inspired president cannot run a country alone. Like the guide on a white water raft, a president can best steer the raft through the rapids when the people take up the direction and paddle together towards it. As a hope scholar, I like to be able to watch what happens when people make an effort to employ hope in any endeavour. Given how the campaign went four years ago, I had expected to hear more about it this time. I hope I will not be disappointed.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Kitty: My life is a mess. Me: Oh, I am sorry to hear that. What seems to be the trouble? Kitty: the couple I live with got married. Me: And I’ll bet that caused all kinds of stress. Getting married, you know, is one of the key stressors on the lists they give to us psychologists. Did it make them grumpy? Kitty: Not really. They seemed unusually happy. Me: Well that’s nice then. But you were telling me about your messed up life. Kitty: They went away on a long trip. I think they called it a honeymoon. Me: Oh, I see how that was stressful. You likely felt mistreated by the people who cared for you. Kitty: Not really. They fed me on time and let me out whenever I wanted to go. I know the people well. Our apartment is in their house. They let me walk on the furniture and they were friendly when I put my nose on the computer keyboard. They didn’t say anything when I threw up on the rug. They petted me and I rubbed their legs. I could sleep in my own bed. Me: Well, that’s good. But kitty-sitters never rreally replace your own people. you must have thought your people were gone forever. Kitty: Not exactly. They called up on FaceTime most days. I could hear their voices and see their pictures. They talked to me. Me: Oh, that’s good. But I understand they are back now. Were you glad to see them? Kitty: Oh yes. Me: Well, that’s good. I’ll bet you celebrated. Kitty: Absolutely. For the first couple of days I asked to go out every second minute. Then I ran away, and I did a bit of hissing and arm scratching when they caught me. Then I ran away again and I stayed away until it got dark and I hardly hissed and scratched at all when they found me. Me: How are things now? Kitty: My people are just impossible to live with. I’m grounded. I’m not speaking to them. Like I said, my life is a mess, and it’s all their fault. Just another day in the life of a counselling psychologist!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The accident that took the life of Zaidee Jensen has impacted my life. I know I am not alone in this. I expect it has affected the lives of all blind and visually impaired Edmontonians who take the LRT. We are a small group. We might not know each other, but a well-publicized accident that happens to one of us happens to all of us. Last week we were noticeable. This week we are more noticeable. Zaidee’s visual impairment focuses attention on specific threats to those of us with limited vision. I notice the difference in the people around me. It could be that my imagination is working overtime, but I don’t think so. I detect the anxiety that rises in strangers. They see me on the platform with a white cane and they fear that they will witness something terrible. It has never been unusual for people to offer me help, though it does not happen on most days. But on 2 out of the past 3 days, people have asked if I need help. Offering help seems to have increased. And something else has changed. Refusing help has become problematic. The would-be helpers have hovered apologetically close at hand when I replied that I did not need help. This morning’s volunteer helper made a declaration. “I’ll just stay here with you anyway,” she said. I notice changes in myself. With or without help, I am trying to be a little more attentive on the platform. I am taking a moment to think where I am, to orient myself in reference to things around me. Prevention being an immeasurable concept, I’ll never know how many accidents I didn’t have. But attentiveness can’t do me any harm. It is easy enough to let your mind wander and make a mistake. Every year, at least one person falls on the LRT tracks in Edmonton. They probably fall for a variety of reasons. Most of these people are not visually impaired. Fortunately, most are not seriously injured, let alone killed by a head injury. Because of all the attention paid to this particular accident, life is a little different for me this week than it was last week. Last week I liked to think of myself as a safely independent visually impaired LRT traveller. I liked to think that people didn’t notice me. It’s an illusion you can enjoy when your vision is poor. You don’t see people staring. You can convince yourself that they are not. This week I still want to be independent, but I like to think that I am a little safer. Strangers are watching over me. I am more careful, and there is a promising move afoot to ensure that LRT platforms are as safe as they can be. Every time I take the train my sympathies go out to the family and friends who are mourning the loss of Zaidee Jensen, a visually impaired person who suffered a terrible accident. . Accidents have a ripple effect that reaches well beyond the circles of people who know each other. To be human is to be a participant in a world where the experiences of strangers draw them nearer to each other. To excavate hope from the rubble of tragedy is to do what Zaidee’s family has done in a very public way—to express the belief that something good can come from it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It was one of those instances where too much information causes a problem. I was trying to prepare a workshop proposal on hope and motivation, so I searched for an appropriate quote. I found one that delighted me, not for the workshop, but for this blog . It was a quote to US president Rutherford Hayes. Now I don’t claim to know much about US presidents, but there was something that bothered me. This quote was dated 1876. Only a few months ago I read a novel by Gore Vidal called 1876. If Vidal had it right, President Ulysses Grant was in power. So I did a little more investigating and found that I was not the first person to smell a rat. Current wisdom has it that this quote first appeared in print in 1939, attributed to Grant. From then on, it continued to appear with slight modifications, until its attribution was changed entirely. it wasn't a flattering quote, but Grant was long dead by 1939, and there seems to have been no evidence that he or Hayes said it. All of this leaves me disappointed because I wanted to blog about that quote, and now I have nothing to blog about.

Monday, August 27, 2012


BELIEVE METhe doctor said, “I believe you.” I know he said it, because I heard it. I heard it at least twice. And hearing it made me think how often I hear patients tell me that doctors don’t believe them. It’s one thing to believe a person, and quite another to have the power to fix whatever is wrong. Of this doctor, the patient later said, “That’s a good doctor. I didn’t think he had a solution, but I did think he cared.” I concurred with the patient in thinking that the doctor did not have a solution, and I noted that he could still be thought to be a good doctor without a solution. It is impossible for me to break the habit of being as interested in the process that goes on during the development of a helping relationship as I am in the outcome. I believe that many doctors are falsely accused when patients say, “The doctor didn’t believe me.” I also believe it is difficult to express genuine caring in a language that others understand. Always curious about the conversational anomalies that make or break doctor/patient relationships, I wonder if patients feel more cared about when doctors explicitly say, “I believe you.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012


The halcyon days of the new car smell The mystery of buttons and features unknown Before the pop spills and the mud tracks in When the paint glows unblemished along the flanks And any factory defects keep their secrets for another time. After the halcyon days.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


One spring day I stood before a roomful of 20-somethings and shared, with what I hoped was eloquence, a thought that inspired me. “To have hope,” I said, “is to see the evidence that one thing can be more than one thing, depending on how you treat it. Think,” I waxed, “of the simple egg. One day it’s an egg. You take it into the house, you add a little heat, and it’s a boiled egg. You can eat it for breakfast. Or,” I gushed, “you can leave the egg in the nest, let a bird provide a little warmth, and in only three weeks that egg will be a new baby bird.” I stood silent, a pregnant pause. This was the moment when the audience would flower under the dome of inspiration. This was the moment when they would see how every object that appears to be something can also be something else. But this was the moment when they refused to be inspired. “Ugh,” they said. “That is gross! Eggs you buy at the store have been specially treated. They would never be baby birds.” This, it turned out, was the moment when I inadvertently took the joy away from the eating of eggs. There was nothing left to do but change the subject and get on with the workshop which, until that moment of confusion, was focused on the topic of hope. I tell this story today because it helps to explain the thing I will be doing tomorrow—spending three hours on a bus tour of market gardens—learning where our local food comes from. It’s not that I don’t know where food comes from. I am a farm girl. I have dined on the finest 4H calves that, only a few weeks earlier, were led in the show rings by my school friends. I have helped prepare Sunday dinners by holding fat roosters so Mom could chop off their heads with an axe. I have scrubbed bushels of cucumbers for dill pickles, shelled pots of peas collected from the garden in milk pails, dropped seed potatoes into planting holes and retrieved from the plants the bounty they created. But I am also a city girl, and it’s several decades since I plucked a chicken or planted a potato. My city is growing, now placing buildings on some of our finest land which, many years ago was annexed to accommodate future growth. Tomorrow many of us will be taking an educational tour, supporting market gardeners in the view that a city is not only a place to eat food, but also a place to grow food. The people in my spring workshop who were not inspired by my egg eloquence may, or may not be on the tour. But I had gone wrong when I assumed that they understood and embraced the basic concepts of food production. This, it turns out, was not a valid assumption. Clearly we city dwellers, we who cast the deciding votes that determine how our cities will be structured, need also to be connected to the sources of the food we eat. Tomorrow I’ll learn something.

Friday, August 24, 2012


What I did not know yesterday, while I sniffed the fragrances of my garden and pondered a blogging sequence in which to rank them, what I did not know, because I was not paying attention to it, was that the atmosphere had busied itself mixing hot and cold in just the right formula to produce magnificent ice balls that would have served nicely to cool a summer beverage. What I did not know, because I was attending to other things, was that the atmosphere was preparing to shower the garden with ice balls, pummelling, pounding, bombarding, propelling them with such force that they found their way to the floor of the covered veranda. What would I have done differently if I had imagined the ferocity of the gathering storm? What would I not have done at all? If you don’t count the time you spent comforting a trembling lapdog, or hunkering down with your family, or trolling the house for open windows that ought to be closed, there is not a lot you can do in a hail storm. If I had been aware a moment earlier, I would have protected the patio pot of Tiny Tim tomatoes that later disconnected from the mother plant to roll among the hailstones. And beyond that, I would have lamented the coming worry, not having the heart for celebrating the olfactory delights of the moment. Rising today, slithering down the sidewalk among the shredded foliage, I would not have written the fragrant salutations that came so easily yesterday. . But I did write them, because I was not paying attention to the whole picture, and because of that they are written where I can read them tomorrow and next month and later on in January. So, with apology to the Tiny Tims, I find no regret to utter. I will recall with awe and humility those few moments when the world around us banged and roared, that interval of chaos when Nature reminded us that, regardless of the direction where our attentions focus, she may choose at any instant to take charge.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


In a flaring celebration for all the world’s noses, and, and a bow of apology to those whose summers have been smellimited by rogue colds, I present to you OLFACTION WITH SATISFACTION: THE TOP TEN snifty SMELLS FROM our 2012 GARDEN 10 Freshly mowed grass. Who can catch the whiff without being transported to the days when your mom said, “How did you get those grass stains?” 9 Green onion. We step on it as we reach to pull the sheets from the clothesline. There’s a combination for you—tangy green onion and the laundry after the breeze. 8 Tulips. It’s never quite warm enough to stay outside in the early days of spring, so it may be that the fragrance gives us the first inkling that a blossom has decided to open. 7 Peonies. The white ones, lovely! The pink ones, fabulous! The red ones—the faint reminder of toilet water. Without their pink and white cousins, they’d never make it to this list. 6 Geranium. Some people say the pungent geranium reminds them of the school days when their teacher would pinch the leaves that grew lanky in the classroom. Geranium reminds me of Mom’s kitchen window, right behind the chair where I sat to eat fried chicken, or roast beef, or rice pudding laced with cinnamon. 5 Dill. Our dill leans over the sidewalk. It beckons when you bump it as you pass. It rewards you when you pick a sprig. The kitchen fills with delight when you boil it with the new potatoes, or the beets, or the beans. 4 Tomato vine. The tomato vine treats you to a promise every time you water it. 3 Rose. This year the yellow ones smell best. Today there are 17 on a single bush. Oh why does it have to be so near the end of August? 2Calendula. Rub the leaves and your nose could almost convince you to believe you were touching a lemon. 1.6 Marigold. They say bugs hate that smell, but I don’t. 1.5 Stocks. 1.4 Heliotrope. 1.3 Peas in the shell. 1.2 Carrots. Rub them before you sniff. 1.1 PANSIES. And the #1 smell in our garden for 2012 just came out today. 1 ACIDANTHRA!!!!!!! Acidanthra flowers call me out to play. “Don’t worry,” they say. “It only feels like fall. Feeling like fall is not the same as actually being fall. There are still a few summer days left.”


This morning I am working on the gardening 2012 file. Changes will need to be made next year and so we need a record of things we know now but will have forgotten by 2013. Yes, the garden was lovely, but changes will need to be made. Sigh! Face it, Ihave a love/hate relationship with change. This garden is the tenth we’ve grown since moving here. You’d think we’d have it figured out by now. You’d think we’d have found the ultimate combination of beauty and fragrance, the perfect balance among herbs and flowers, a place for tomatoes where the slugs can’t get them. You’d think we’d get it right and keep it there. So why don’t we? Things happen. The elm that was huge when we arrived, grew bigger and a sunny spot got shady. Nature takes a stand. The long planting troughs rotted and had to be replaced. Only short planters were available. . Things grow differently in short planters. C.S. Lewis said: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” There is, it seems, no point in hoping to settle on a garden. Gardens, like all living things, unfailingly resist all nudgings toward settledness. I suppose, if I am to be perfectly honest, the garden could be more stable then it is. I go to a greenhouse, thinking I’ll stick with trusted plants and then I am assailed by a temptation to try something new. And it doesn’t stop there. So many wonders grow in other people’s gardens. Each year we see a new flower somewhere, and somehow we find room for it. That is how we got the pots of ageratum. The ageratum plants should have been blue and fluffy. They should have been healthy. There was so much potential for them when they arrived. Why, we lament, did they die so young, leaving sorrowfully empty pots where beauty ought to have been? Gardens evolve. You can spend a whole winter planning them, and take infinite pains to carry out your intentions, but you never know how they will evolve, only how they did. That’s what makes them so frustrating, and so fascinating. Like I said, we’ll be changing a few things in 2013. Some of the changes will be improvements. At this point there is no way of telling which ones those will be. The gardening file is an attempt to learn from the past. This year, among other things, I write: don’t buy agaretum!

Monday, August 13, 2012


I tasted hope today. It was the plop plop of a bright blueberry falling into my breakfast bowl, one among a thousand. Could there be enough bright blueberries to feed the world? I smelled hope today. It was the tang of freshly sawed wood that called to me as I passed. Will this construction be a home for someone? I heard hope today. It blue air on my face when it screeched to a halt and opened its door to beckon me on board. Could I actually be looking forward to starting the work week? Hope touched me. When my key ground in the lock it shouted, “Start working. You’re back from holidays. Will you be a better hope lady now that you are refreshed?” I saw hope today, and squinted in the glowing flash of an unquestioningly heart-felt hello. Your senses can boost your creativity when you ask them to. They can broaden your experience of your daily routine. Invite your senses to step outside their comfort zone. To read the short article by Monica Davis that inspired this little piece, go to SEND YOUR SENSES SOARING

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Gore Vidal Dies at 86; Prolific, Elegant, Acerbic Writer --New York Times, 01/08/2012 Gore Vidal was an unexpected teacher of mine. From the New York Times: “He published some 25 novels, two memoirs and several volumes of stylish, magisterial essays. He also wrote plays, television dramas and screenplays. For a while he was even a contract writer at MGM. And he could always be counted on for a spur-of-the-moment aphorism, put-down or sharply worded critique of American foreign policy. Mr. Vidal took great pleasure in being a public figure. He twice ran for office — in 1960, when he was the Democratic Congressional candidate for the 29th District in upstate New York, and in 1982, when he campaigned in California for a seat in the Senate — and though he lost both times, he often conducted himself as a sort of unelected shadow president. He once said, “There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.”” That last quote made me chuckle. I remember a time when I also believed that the world would be a better place if people would only listen to me. I think I was fifteen years old. I got over the feeling, but I still remember it. I would not likely have noticed Vidal’s death if he had not died at the time when I had just begun to read one of his books, and I would not have continued to read that book if I hadn’t heard of his death at the moment when I was deciding to return it to the CNIB Library—having read only the first couple of chapters. At the moment before I heard the news I would have told you that I had begun a rather dull book called 1876 by an author I’d never heard of. The moment after I heard about his death, I decided to find out a little more about Gore Vidal. Though I am certain that I would not have liked this pompous and opinionated man, the Times reported other things that endeared Vidal to me. He was an activist who tried to change things. Vidal was gay, and he courageously wrote about that at a time when it was unacceptable to write about it. He created a wider awareness by addressing “sexual deviation” in novels. He as a forerunner of societal shift in attitude and his career paid a price for this prescience. This alone would have impressed me, but might not have kept me reading, for the recording of 1876 was difficult to follow. It was dubbed onto CD from a worn studio recording made for cassette tape. The combination of Vidal’s descriptive prose with the muffled reading was an apt substitute for sleeping pills when I listened from a horizontal position. The decision to stay the course was clinched by another revelation: “He loved to read to his grandfather, who was blind, and sometimes accompanied him onto the Senate floor.” And so it was that I resolved to stay awake through every muffled chapter of 1876. I am glad that I persevered, for Vidal’s extensive research, coupled with his ability to create story, introduced me to a time that can teach us something today. 1876 was a year when Americans lost sight of the importance of their democracy. Fearful of restarting the civil war that had so recently ended, they allowed an un-elected president to push aside the man his country had chosen for the job. They attributed his election to the voting power of the Negroes, who had recently been given the vote. To reverse this unexpected change, they permitted several southern states to produce two sets of election results, one on election night, and a later set of results with different counts. By this means the election was decided. People stepped back when they ought to have stepped forward. I have learned many interesting things from unexpected teachers. Gore Vidal is one of them.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


If I could turn the clock back six weeks or so, I would write the highlights of the family wedding that occupied so much of my attention, the wedding of Mark and Tracey. I would write about the surprising pleasure of spending 10 days in the close company of the bride’s family. Her parents, Al and Jane, came here from New Brunswick, moved into our spare bedroom, and cooked dinner for us almost every night. We’d have enjoyed their company even if they hadn’t, given what nice people they are. I’d write about all the fun we had—the dance that went on until the groom finally sent the DJ home. I’d write about the laughter that started at the rehearsal and continued right through the morning-after good-bye brunch. I’d write about the food—chosen for different occasions by different people--all of it excellent. I’d write about the pleasure of bringing families together, the moment of stressful waiting for the grass in the table centre pieces to grow to the desired height, the joyful applause at the church, the way everything ran on schedule, the quiet time of gift opening when the crowds had left us. Let’s take turns opening, said the couple. So ten of us took turns. Kitty-sitting for the honeymooners on this bright Saturday, with the wedding two weeks behind us, and my heart still overflowing with what the officiating minister later referred to as “all that marvellous energy”, I mostly recall the almost-unflappable graciousness of Mark and Tracey at the peak of emotional overload. Herein lies the greatest hope. For surely this is what we most often need in the winding and crossing of a long marriage—almost-unflappable graciousness.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Today, for the umpteenth time, CBC radio played a rerun of THE SLEEPING CRICKET “I won’t listen,” I said to myself. “I have heard that piece so many times, I just know I won’t laugh, and I am busy. I haven’t the time not to laugh.” So I didn’t listen—well, I didn’t really listen, until I overheard the beginning of the part about the cricket. Then I decided to listen because I felt certain that, having heard it so many times, I wouldn’t laugh. Not laughing wouldn't be much of a challenge. I was up for a small challenge. And now that I have listened again, for the umpteenth-plus-1 time, there’s only one thing I can say for sure: I don’t know how many times I’ll have to hear that program before I can listen without laughing.

Monday, July 09, 2012


It is the best possible day when work overlaps with play. For a formula to ensure satisfaction at work I would turn to advice given by Stuart Brown: “So I would encourage you all to engage not in the work-play differential -- where you set aside time to play -- but where your life becomes infused minute by minute, hour by hour, with body, object, social, fantasy, transformational kinds of play.” And here is something I have learned while studying my history of work and play: At those times when my work has not allowed me to be playful and proudly call it work, I haven’t much liked my work. I do not know if this is true for all workers, or only for those of us who are by nature playful.

Monday, July 02, 2012


Ghostly tales get taken to the next chilling level when they're being told as the sun sets in one of the city's oldest cemeteries. Professional storytellers Bethany Ellis, Laura O'Connor, Marie Anne McLean and Wendy Edey, along with puppet master Dave Tyler, will ensure you're shaking in your seat. Arrive 15 minutes early with a lawn chair, a blanket and a flashlight. The event takes place by the mausoleum. When: Friday, July 6, 8: 30 to 10 p.m. Where: Edmonton Cemetery, 118th Street and 107th Avenue. Admission: $20, cash only. Information:             780-442-5311      

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Me: (at the Pearly Gates) Knock knock! St. Peter: Who’s there? Oh, it’s you. Are you expecting to be admitted here? Me: Well, I thought I was sent here. Perhaps there is some mistake. St, Peter: (checking the records( Could you step aside. We have some questions to ask. Your conduct while on Earth has raised some concerns. Now, our records show that in June of 2012 you attended a gathering which had been assembled to view a variety of products intended for use by passionate people. Is this true? Me: Well, yes. St. Peter: And our records show that the products promised physical pleasure. According to this report, at the first half of the party the saleswoman displayed lotions, liquids and creams with appealing smells, tastes and tingles, suggesting possible applications for them. Is that correct? Me: Yes. That is correct. St. Peter: And our records also show that after the break, that same saleswoman displayed a variety of battery operated devices, mostly long and a bit round. Some were said to vibrate. Is that true? Me: Yes. That is correct. St. Peter: How, then, do you explain your presence there? Me: I was invited to go. St. Peter: Hmmmmmm. I can see that an invitation might have led to this, for someone else. In that case, it would have been perfectly understandable. But our records show, in your case, a distinct aversion to sales parties. You had often been invited to product gatherings in the past, Amway parties, TupperWare parties, jewellery parties, clothing parties, candle parties. Is that true. Me: Yes, that is true. St. Peter: And our records show that you refused these invitations. Is that true? Me: Yes, that is true. St. Peter: Which, as I say, would lead us to think that you would refuse this invitation as well, unless, of course, you had a tendency to appreciate things that might be thought of as—how shall I say it—risque. May I now point out one other confusing detail? This, clearly, was a party of a different sort. Shall we call it a tiny bit risque? Me: I suppose it could have been thought of in that way. St. Peter: Our records also show evidence that throughout your life, you had been a bit of a prude. There is plenty of evidence for this. The evidence began early in your adult development. Let’s see, you, for example, found Love Story a bit shocking when you saw it at the movie theatre. Is that true? Me: That is true. St. Peter: Once again I ask you: How do you explain your presence at this particular gathering when so many other party invitations had been refused? Me: Okay. I confess. I could not resist the temptation. You see, I was invited to this party by women of a younger generation, women born long after Love Story was released. To be honest, they might not have known I was shocked by Love story. St. Peter: Perhaps you should say more about the particular temptation that took you. Me: They said they believed it would be fun to have me there. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were right about that. St. Peter: And was it fun to have you there? Me: Actually, I can’t say for sure. It’s not the sort of thing you can ask. But I can say for sure that I had some fun. St. Peter: Fun with the products? Me: A little, perhaps. But it gave me hope also. St. Peter: Hope? How so? Me: There I was in a roomful of young women, some of them married, some of them mothers, some not yet partnered. It was a bridal shower, a bit like so many other bridal showers where women wish other women the joy of housekeeping by giving them baking pans and dishcloths. We ate a lot of good food, just like at other showers. St. Peter: But this one was different. Me: Yes, this one was different. At this one, there were good things to eat, but no baking supplies. I believe the difference was in the wishing. At this party, women were wishing the bride a life of physical pleasure. A life of physical pleasure! I thought it a marvellous thing to hope for.