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.