Monday, April 29, 2013
Kitty: When the sun shines I just want to ambush my people, rush the door, make it out into the yard, sneak through the hole in the fence, race down the alley, catch mice, chase birds and scare all the neighbourhood cats. Too bad they won’t let me. Pirate: Gosh Kitty. All I want is to get my leash on and go for a walk. Kitty: Then why don’t you make them take you? Pirate: Well, David doesn’t have time. He’s too busy looking after Wendy, bringing her cups of coffee, getting her laptop, plugging in her iPhone, getting the ice for her foot, wondering if she should see a doctor and asking if there’s anything else he cando. Kitty: It’s spring! Why would anybody want ice? Pirate: I don’t exactly know. I imagine it has something to do with the 7-foot-deep pothole she stepped into on her way home from work. Kitty: 7-foot-deep pothole! Do you expect me to believe that? Pirate: Well I don’t know if anybody measured it. But I heard on the news that there are more than 500,000 potholes in Edmonton. Do you think anybody counted them? Kitty: Okay, okay. So she stepped into a pothole. Pirate: Yes, and she fell down and skinned her hands, and got a scab on her knee that would strike pride into the heart of any 8-year-old. Kitty: I suppose she’s moaning about the pain. Pirate: No, not really. She’s moaning about not being able to plant her pansies, or check out the primroses, or walk in the river valley on the first nice weekend we had. Kitty: Seven-foot pothole? Ice in April? Sounds like disordered thinking to me. the symptoms point to a serious case of Spring Fever. Pirate: Who knew it could spread so easily from animals to humans?
Sunday, April 28, 2013
LEAVING A LUSH GARDEN FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW There’s a story in YESTERDAY’S newspaper that caught my attention. Heather Miller writes about her mother-in-law Nellie, a railroad worker’s wife who was frequently FORCED TO CHANGE RESIDENCE without notice by her husband’s transfers to other towns. Come spring, she would plant a lush garden and then just when, or sometimes even before it began to produce the flowers and vegetables she had cultivated, she would have to leave it behind for a home where the previous worker’s wife had planted no garden. No garden is what anyone would expect to find. Why would anyone plant a garden knowing that it probably would only be used by someone else? One year, Nellie added a new element. Just before she moved, she left a note inviting the next person to use her garden. Redundant you say? Well, she was surprised, a few moves later, to find a note and a garden waiting for her. She had started a trend that continued for years, people investing their time in gardens that somebody else might use. Nellie was a generous woman, willing to garden for others if she couldn’t have the garden for herself. But why did her note start a gardening trend when her generous gardening had not? Could it be that the note helped the garden recipient see the gardening activity as an act of hope rather than an act of despair, an acvt of intentional contribution rather than an act of probable loss?
Thursday, April 25, 2013
The other day I sat down at a table, spread out my papers, and prepared to make a cell phone call. And then it came upon me, quicker than a speeding freight train, more surprising than a bolt of thunder in the bright sunshine—a stab of longing for the past. I had not seen it coming, even though I was at Hope House, where I go now on Tuesdays, to run our final hope and strengths groups for people with chronic pain. In need of a quiet space for calling, I had ventured into the office that was mine for so long, sat down at the table where I worked through the hopes and fears of thousands of people. Even though that office is no longer mine, I did it without expecting it to hurt. I thought I was over that. I wasn’t over that. I believe that in future I will look upon the winter of 2012-2013 as a winter of losses. It was the winter when my job as a hope cousnellor came to an end, the winter when I spent a lot of time visiting Mum Edey in hospital. It was the winter in which I put on the last pair of soft woolen slippers my mother-in-law made for me. In the past 35 years she had made dozens of pairs, a perfect fit, the ultimate pattern to thrill my feet. I had worn them every day, worn holes in their heels, holes in their toes, and then surrendered them at the point when there was more hole than slipper, surrendered them in favour of a fresh new pair. I still had one slightly-worn pair left when it became clear that Mum Edey would not likely be well enough to knit another. Small holes were showing on the left foot by the time she breathed one last gentle breath and skipped into a forever quiet. “Should I keep this one last pair?” I wondered. But Mum was never one to keep things, and neither am I. The best tribute was declared in the wearing. The other day I held up the remains of two tattered slippers. The bare floor came through to my foot whenever I wore them. “I’ll send them on their way now,” I said to myself. And then, as I tossed them into the garbage, it came upon me, quicker than a speeding freight train, more surprising than a bolt of thunder in the bright sunshine—a stab of longing for the past. I thought I was ready to let them go. I wasn’t ready. I picked up the slippers and put them back on the slipper shelf, just as I had picked up the chronic pain groups for one last wonderful go at intensive hope work. And thus it seems to me that if the winter of 2012-2013 will be remembered as a winter of losses, then the spring and summer of 2013 might later be recalled as the period of trial, practice and preparation for the difficult task of letting go of beloved things and people.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Ron MacLean: “I sometimes feel that without children to sort of rein me in and give me responsibility, I’ve never really grown up. I’ve been able to play hockey, go out with my buddies and be obsessive about work. I’m selfish in a way that children don’t allow you to be.” (Cornered, P102) I came across this quote when I was flying home from my most recent Granny visit to baby Ben. I smiled because I had, only that day, posed the question: “Why do we want kids anyway?” At the time when I asked that question, I was smelling a lot like Ben, a nose-wrinkling kind of smell that reminds you of last week’s milk. That same smell was on every blouse in my suitcase, except for one last shirt buried under the pile, waiting for me to put it on after the last kiss good-bye. Ben’s mother came running at the sound of the question. Perhaps she was wondering if I really doubt the worth of children. She was clearly ready to defend Ben against any suggestion of an emotion less extreme than delight. She need not have worried. This was not the first time I smelled that way. Baby Ben is remarkably like his mother was at that age. First we eat, then we spit up. “It all changes,” I promise her. “Look how well you turned out in the end!” Ron MacLean had intended to be a father, but fate had other things in mind. He was sad. Still, he embraced a grand career worthy of an autobiography. He basks now in the late-night freedom of a forever teen-ager. It’s possible that he never smelled like baby Ben. Smelling better now that I am back home in Edmonton, too far away to simply reach over to pick Ben up at the first possible opportunity, I say: “Poor Ron! Poor, poor Ron!”
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Want to hear something spectacular? Well then, go down into an underground station of the LRT in Edmonton. Make sure to be in a station with concrete walls and a high ceiling that echoes like the Swiss Alps. Wait for a quieter moment. Then pull out a white cane, take a few quick steps forward and propel a WET FLOOR sign into space. (Note: I suspect you don’t have to look for a station that has a wet floor. Pretty much any station will do.) Wait for the sign to clatter back on the ceramic floor, hit it a second time if it lands in a straight path just in front of you, and you’ve got a hubbub worthy to remove the ear buds and turn the head of even the most obtuse teen-ager. Is it just my imagination, or are WET FLOOR signs more popular these days? Admittedly, my memory isn’t what it used to be. I check three times to make sure I turned the oven on, four times to be sure I turned it off. Still, you’d think that a person with the capacity to spontaneously recall half the lyrics to half the songs on the pop charts of 1966 would not have forgotten the WET FLOOR signs from the good old days of her youth. Surely she would have noticed them if they had been as popular as smokers in Ladies’ washrooms. Or is it just that, in these smoke-free times, a lot of things have become more clear? Anyway, until somebody proves me wrong, I am going to stick with the theory that there are more WET FLOOR signs than there used to be. I’d say they border on the ubiquitous. You find them in places both private and public—taking up 90% of the available floor space in the washrooms at Tim Horton’s, cluttering the vast expanse in the tiled lobby of the dentist’s office, not to mention the place where I encounter most of them—centred boldly in the narrow pathways that lead from the street to the trains of the LRT. Why, just last week—on a single trip to work--I took out four of them—sent them flying, spinning end over end, clattering on their sides, sliding like hockey players on their way to the boards. . Each encounter in its turn was surprising, noisy, a moment of high drama. Four encounters in the early morning rush of sleepy commuters. A record to be sure, and still I’ll never know how many possible others I missed. There is a difference between being noticed and being stared at. I am not, and have never been, the kind of woman who likes to be stared at. Give me a joke, and I’ll try to make you laugh. Give me a stage with a mic and I’ll tell you a story, might even sing you a song. But send me out to work on a sleepy commuter morning, and I would prefer to be unnoticed or at least to imagine that I am unnoticed. I would prefer to have digital WET FLOOR signs flashing high on the walls rather than littering the floors in the most obvious paths of travel. I would prefer to be able to see these blasted items of clutter and not hit them at all. At the very least, I would choose to have WET FLOOR signs present only when floors are wet, rather than hanging about for hours on floors that probably dried yesterday. But if I can’t have any of these things, then please endow me with the delusion that the WET FLOOR sign launching event is one of the funniest entertainments of the day, if not for the startled on-lookers, then at least for me. Let me hear the applause when a perfect hit is made! Let me bow in humble gratitude for the twisted fate that presented the opportunity to entertain! It’s not such a big stretch of the imagination, is it?
Monday, April 15, 2013
Therapist: Good morning Kitty. What shall we talk about today? Kitty: I had another conversation with that dog named Pirate. Therapist: Tell me more. Kitty: So Pirate licks the bowl after I’ve eaten my dinner and then he says, “Hey Kitty! I hear you and your people are moving out of our house.” “Yep,” I say. “I hear they’ve decided to leave this little suite for a place with three spacious bedrooms.” “Yep.” “With a double garage so they won’t have to scrape and sweep their cars before work next winter,” “Yep.” “And I hear that instead of that tiny little bathroom with no counter, there will be two-and-a-half baths, with a new high efficiency hot water heater and furnace.” “Yep.” “And they say it has a spacious family kitchen with almost-new appliances and a friendly big living room.” “Yep.” “And a whole basement for your litter box, and your very own yard to play in.” “Yep.” “And now it will be just the three of you in Mark and Tracey’s bed without having to make room for me.” “Yep.” “And you won’t have me around to lick your bowl after every meal.” “Yep.” Then he gets that hang-dog look and he says, “Oh Kitty. I’m so sorry. You must be absolutely devastated.” Therapist: And how do you feel when Pirate says such a thing to you? Kitty: Tell me! What sense can there be in a world where the innermost feline experience can be distilled down in a few short woofs?
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The other day I got a chain letter. It was a different sort of chain letter, not the familiar kind that you send on without making changes, propelled to send it on by the threat of bad luck to the first chain-breaker. This chain letter changed with every sending. In fact, it was a bit of a tangled chain. It tangled on its weaving journey, shuttling back and forth across the country, traveling across the world and coming back. Its order was tangled too, email being what it is, always showing us the last letter first, previous correspondence chained below. And the topic was a bit tangled, though the theme was clearly hope, hope that became more entangled with love as it traversed the generation gap and returned by a slightly different route. I was intrigued to find myself both at the end of the chain and in the middle. So I untangled it. On March 31, Easter Sunday, Mark rogers from Waterloo Ontario wrote a piece on hope to his colleagues at Habitat for Humanity. This is what he wrote. “I thought I would send out my weekly rant today in order to wish you and those you love a very Happy Easter! Regardless of your religious persuasion, I think just about anyone can appreciate the message and themes of the Easter story, namely: suffering, sacrifice, resurrection, new life. Each year, millions of people around the world rally to celebrate this message because it has such profound significance for everyone of us. For at its core, it’s a story of hope and new beginnings. And who us could live without a sense of hope, or survive this journey of life without second chances? In his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, former Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp prisoner which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. In a heart-wrenching manner, Frankl describes the essential difference that characterizes those that survived these unfathomable circumstances from those that did not. His answer: HOPE! Without a sense hope humans by nature surrender to their circumstances, believing that their present conditions will remain the same no matter what effort is exerted to change them. And yet, with a sense of hope, regardless of how granular that hope may be, individuals can overcome almost unimaginable situations and triumph in the end. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Building Homes, Building Hope! I want you to stop today and truly reflect on that tag line, because it’s more than just our organizational banner. It’s who we are in the world. It’s what we represent to people around the globe. It’s our mission, our meaning, and our message! Far more than simply building shelters for families in need of affordable housing, we offer them a sense of hope, enrichment, optimism, and new beginnings. And when people sense they have even “a chance” for a better life, it’s astonishing what they will do with it! Just ask any of our Habitat partner families! Frankly, I cannot think of a better organization, a better mission, or a better message to be associated with on this Easter Sunday! Building Homes, Building Hope! It may very well be the best message you could share with someone this Easter!” On April 2, a colleague on Vancouver Island responded to that email with a note of her own, sent back to Waterloo. She wrote: “Good morning, Mark. I just wanted to send you a very personal note about your rant this morning. Nine years ago today, my first husband lost his battle with cancer. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer about two and a half years prior. Things progressed very quickly for us, as he found out that he had cancer in September 2001 and, within about another month, found out that he was terminally ill and had basically no hope of survival. Your message was especially poignant for me today as I remembered that he had meetings with Wendy Edey of the University of Alberta’s Hope Studies Central regarding his situation and how he found hope, even in the midst of his seemingly hopeless situation. We also met with Wendy together once and discussed how we were both able to find hope even in the very grim situation that we found ourselves in (our sons were 10 and 12 at the time of diagnosis). I remember that we just cried and cried and cried. He thinking about the end of his earthly life and missing all the significant events in our sons’ lives and me trying to figure out how I could possibly go on without him and raise our boys on my own. With some thought-provoking questions from Wendy, he admitted that he felt confident and hopeful that his family would be okay and would carry on after his passing and I admitted that, even though I thought it would take a very long time, that I felt hopeful that the boys and I would continue to live our lives and would eventually be able to find comfort in happy memories instead of always being surrounded by the rawness of our grief. This is getting a bit long, so I will wrap it up! In a nutshell, I truly believe that Habitat for Humanity can provide a beacon of hope for families, even when they feel that their situation is utterly hopeless.” Later on April 2, Mark distributed that note to some Habitat colleagues. One of them was Mary in Edmonton, who read it with interest, recognizing my name, knowing that our daughters are friends. . And so, even later on April 2, Mary passed the email along to Kate in south Africa. On April 3, Kate sent the email to Ruth in Guelph Ontario, just a short drive from Waterloo. On April 5, Ruth sent the email to her mother in Edmonton. “Somebody wrote about you,” she said when she sent it. And along that tangled chain, my words of hope work, spoken at a time of great suffering and remembered for 12 years, came back to me.
Friday, April 12, 2013
These days I am reflecting a lot on the differences between what I knew then, and what I know now, what I did then and what I do now. This week it will be 36 years since I got my first real professional job—a position at the CNIB, providing services to people with very low vision, mostly seniors. I was 23 years old, looking forward to a lifetime of infinite possibility. The seniors I met were inspired by me, and that was good, but they also pitied me—many of them in unguarded tearful sympathy. “You are so young,” they would cry in tremendous distress. “It is so sad.” I was immediately defensive. I did not want their pity or their tears. I wanted to give them accessible alarm clocks and library books on tape. I wanted to offer them white canes to ease their travel and magnifiers to aid their cooking. In short, I wanted them to stop grieving their losses and get on with the business of planning productive futures for themselves. Though many of them welcomed me and the great services I came to deliver, emotionally, it was difficult for me to reach them with anything more personal than professional detachment. Except for shared humour, an asset that worked wonders for me even at that early stage in my development, I wanted to set a boundary that said, “I am not you. Don’t pity me. I am young. I am doing fine. I am planning a great future. Leave me out of your sadness.” Years passed and I moved on to other employers, other educations, other life stages. Now, 36 years later, I am seeing people of that same population, seniors with low and deteriorating vision. Things are the same, and also different. The CNIB still delivers accessible alarm clocks, audio library books, white canes and magnifiers. More people are being served, and the population is older, largely because people are, in general older and healthier than they used to be. I am now a Registered Psychologist who has been hired because of my long experience in counselling for depression with people in all sorts of difficult situations. Others deliver the clocks and canes and such to my clients. My job is to deliver the emotional well-being that will inspire people to be the best that they can be. Something else is different too—and that is my point of view. A man has come to my office. He’s a young man by my current standards, only 77 years old. He’s had audio books for quite a while now. He was twice prescribed antidepressants—something that would never have happened to such an ordinary man 36 years ago. He stopped taking them both times. “They didn’t help,” he said. I start asking him about other medications he is taking—something I would never have done 36 years ago. He tells me about some, giving me the reasons why he got them. To show that I understand how he feels, I tell him I am almost 60 now, coping with ailments one at a time, quite often looking back with longing to the days when I could simply jump out of bed first thing in the morning without first causing to call a meeting of my body parts to ask who wants to move first. He starts to laugh. He tells me how frustrated he is with his television. He can’t operate it. He can’t see the menu on the screen. When I say that I too am furious that we can no longer get a television that a blind person can use, he perks up and tells me he wants to smash it. I get this. He has learned, as I have learned, that one wrong move on the remote will disable the TV and you won’t be able to use it until a sighted person comes along. He has learned how easy it is to make that one wrong move. We are different in TV watching, I not having much time for it. But I am well aware that in only a moment I also will be 77 years old, no longer employed, a woman with plenty of time to watch a TV I may not be able to use because I can’t access the information about channel and volume changes. Together we talk about the kind of message we need to deliver to TV manufacturers. We envision TV-throwing events where we will go together. He is laughing again. I am noticing that seniors don’t pity me any more. They see that I am almost 60 and have somehow wended my way through life’s challenges. Instead of talking about the magnifiers they need, we talk first about the times in their lives when they were faced with unwelcome changes. We talk about what they did in those instances. We wonder if they have changed much since then, if they still intend to be resilient, to be forward-looking, to take what comes to them and move on. They will hear and internalize this kind of talk from me because they can see me counting the years of my own future. Now that we are standing on the same ground, it’s hope talk pure and simple. “This is the kind of person you proved yourself to be. In the face of this unwelcome change, what kind of person do you hope to be?”
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
In one of those twists of probability that surely can only happen to a hope speaker, I found myself standing before a hotel ballroom filled with tax auditors—yes, tax auditors hearing a speech from THE HOPE LADY. A slight diversion from the usual assortment of social workers and patients with chronic disease. In this business you never know what might be around the corner. Now I would be less than honest if I claimed a long history of respect for the tax auditing profession. Some of my most colourful not-heard-from-the-mouth-of-THE-HOPE-LADY language I keep in reserve for the every-so-often days when they send me the letters demanding that I prove I am still blind and therefore entitled to the full amount of the disability exemption. . More of that language is saved for the days when they write for proof that we actually gave all that money we claimed to have given to charity. But the lady who arranged the speech and shaped the topic made the case with eloquence. “Tax auditors need hope too,” she said. And when I thought about how it must feel to be the people it’s okay to hate, even in our tolerance-striving society, it seemed that she was probably right.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
I’ve noticed a pleasing trend lately. More and more we are seeing the rise of helpful people in the health system. They come with various labels, nurse/practitioners, patient/navigators. Their role is to understand, inform, and guide patients through the maze of medical experts hired to assist them with complex problems. The cancer clinic has a patient/navigator who sees the whole picture, the way a family doctor might have done before we became specialized in treatments. The geriatric ward has a nurse/practitioner who gets to know the patients and learns how to work with their multiple disabilities and how to communicate effectively with their families. Members of my family have been greatly assisted by these professionals. I hope we will see more of them in the future.
Monday, April 08, 2013
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. –Serenity Prayer I once knew a woman who used a TV reader. It had a camera to take a picture of a page and a big screen where letters were magnified in large proportion, so large that only a few of them could be viewed at any given moment. She kept it in her livingroom, close to her kitchen. While her husband was in charge of the family finances, she used it every day to read books, magazines, knitting patterns and recipes. Later, when more day-to-day responsibilities fell to her, she read the daily mail in its entirety with its assortment of letters, notices and bills. The reader came from the CNIB. She came into possession of the thing when she was in her late 70’s, a time when her glasses had more than disappointed her. She had age-related macular degeneration, they said. It would rob her of her central vision—her reading vision. These days I think often of this woman because I am meeting others like her. “I think I need some new glasses,” they say to the ophthalmologist. “You have age-related macular degeneration,” he says in response. “Glasses won’t help.” “I just think I need glasses,” they say to the technician in the ophthalmology clinic. “You have age-related macular degeneration,” says the technician. “Glasses won’t help.” They come to me. “What is your eye condition?” I ask. “I can’t remember the name,” they say. “I just think I should be having some new glasses. My glasses haven’t been changed in six years.” Early dementia, I say to myself in my best Clinical Counsellor language. Maybe depression too. Then I begin a conversation about the people they are, the things they love, the way they deal with problems, the things they have learned and taught and lived through. They sparkle, they shine, they laugh, they cry. They give me advice. They ask me questions. Doors of conversation that seemed closed are opened. Anything becomes possible! When an hour has passed and it is time for them to leave, I venture into a conversation that was impossible an hour earlier. “You know,” I say, “I work for the CNIB and I think we have some magnifiers that could help you. Would you like me to arrange for you to have a look at them?” “Oh thank you,” they say to me. Graciousness and gratitude fill the room. “I don’t think I want to be referred to the CNIB to look at magnifiers. I just think I need glasses. It’s been six years since they last changed my glasses.” I think of the woman who read bills and recipes under high magnification for the last 20 years of her life and I wonder what made her different from them.
Sunday, April 07, 2013
“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen I once knew a man who didn’t have Internet access. At first, this didn’t bother him. He was, after all, one of the first to punch the cards that caused the action in the university mainframes. But when his 80th birthday came and went, and the younger generations talked more and more about Yahoo, and family dinner discussion centred more and more around the question of which provider gave the best deal on email, and it seemed that no product could be advertised in the newspaper or on TV without an accompanying code of w’s and .ca’s, he grew restless in his non-connected condition. The man was proud of his computer, proud that he had embraced the change from the typewriter when so many of his age had not. Each day he would spend time in front of his keyboard, writing letters for the printer to print, entering genealogical data into a database, and wondering what his next move would be. Ever a curious man, he said one night at Sunday dinner: “I’m just wondering what the difference is between email and Internet.” His family members were eager to answer his question. “Internet,” they said, “Is like a big library where people can store information that others can pick up. Email is private mail, sent only to you using the Internet. It’s like if you had a personal mailbox at the library.” The man seemed pleased with this response. The family offered to help him get connected. But two weeks later he said: “I’m thinking of getting connected, but I’m just wondering what the difference is between Internet and Email.” And so it continued, the same questions popping up, the same answers provided, the same offers made, continued for years until finally the man had a stroke and stopped using his computer. Early signs of dementia, you say. It’s a natural conclusion, given his age. Sometimes I think of the things the man was doing during this time. He was driving to meetings, chairing committees, shopping for the best grocery bargains, reading voraciously, studying French, visiting museums, growing flowers, investigating his war history, teaching us about the British Home Children, advising his children on how to raise their children. These days I think often of this man because I am meeting others like him. “I think I need some new glasses,” they say to the ophthalmologist. “You have age-related macular degeneration,” he says in response. “Glasses won’t help.” “I just think I need glasses,” they say to the technician in the ophthalmology clinic. “You have age-related macular degeneration,” says the technician. “Glasses won’t help.” They come to me. “What is your eye condition?” I ask. “I can’t remember the name,” they say. “I just think I should be having some new glasses. My glasses haven’t been changed in six years.” Early dementia, I say to myself in my best Clinical Counsellor language. Maybe depression too. Then I begin a conversation about the people they are, the things they love, the way they deal with problems, the things they have learned and taught and lived through. They sparkle, they shine, they laugh, they cry. They give me advice. They ask me questions. Doors of conversation that seemed closed are opened. Anything becomes possible! When an hour has passed and it is time for them to leave, I venture into a conversation that was impossible an hour earlier. “You know,” I say, “I work for the CNIB and I think we have some magnifiers that could help you. Would you like me to arrange for you to have a look at them?” “Oh thank you,” they say to me. Graciousness and gratitude fill the room. “I don’t think I want to be referred to the CNIB to look at magnifiers. I just think I need glasses. It’s been six years since they last changed my glasses.”
Saturday, April 06, 2013
If there’s one thing that can be said about THE HOPE LADY Blog, it is this: Things get pretty quiet on the blog when its author has a lot of conflicting feelings up near the surface where they might overwhelm the hope—grief, sadness, disappointment, anger to name a few—that yearning for the past that assails you from time to time. They say you should be careful what you publish on the Net where so many people se it and it never goes away. They are right about that. I have noticed, to my great relief, that I can still speak publicly about hope these days—still speak about it with credibility and honesty, speak it in a manner that causes others to feel it--even though I have hardly dared to write about it. You might say I have been forced to speak about it, having promised to do so last year when I was still working at the Hope Foundation. When your name is published in a conference program you show up to speak and it had better be good. Of myself I would expect nothing less. Thus I could keep commitments to appear, as I have this past winter, at discussion groups for seniors, conferences for people who work with seniors, Alzheimer family care partner training sessions, women’s conferences, illness conferences, and an educational psychology classroom where the students have gathered to spend a whole term studying hope. There’s no change in the good chemistry that bubbles up when you combine the time-tested ideas with the people who showed up to hear them. That said, the act of writing to a silent public is not quite as straightforward as speaking to them in person. People have said, of late, that my blog is a disappointment to them. Correction: they have said they read some of the things I used to write and I could sense their disappointment. When they said this I thought: I will write when the family obligations taking up my time have subsided and I have more time. I will write when I am no longer assisting with therapy, attending an end to life, rescuing people from floods, ridding others of bedbugs. So it surprised me when I began to have more time and still I was not writing. People continued to be disappointed. To myself I promised: I will write again in the spring. I need a symbol of hope to inspire me. I always feel inspired in the spring, and THE HOPE LADY strives to be inspiring. But spring is slow in coming to Edmonton this year. Anybody with a pesimistic outlook might surely say that spring is simply refusing to arrive. The first week of April is already gone and still the snow is falling, snow on snow, snow on snow. The weather forecast predicts more snow. To myself I said: I will write when I am a little more familiar with my new working self, a little more comfortable with my evolving public image. Last Thursday I was out in Westlock speaking to a support group for blind people. These days I am working part time for the CNIB. My official title is: Clinical Counsellor—a fascinating contrast with my chosen title, THE HOPE LADY. I have been striving for months to achieve a seamless fit between the ideas of clinical—a suggestion of professional expertise—and hope, a deeply personal and relational phenomenon. That struggle goes on even as I write this morning. Last Thursday the Westlock group presented me with a bouquet of tulips, a sure sign of spring. But these were—if they were going to be anything at all--tulips of the future. In the present they were tulips closed up tight, tulips not at all certain, it seemed to me, that they wanted to come out and be real flowers. Who can blame them? What self-respecting tulip would open up in this weather? But the tulips, it seems, were only pretending reluctance. This morning they stand on my kitchen table, alive, alert, proud and beautiful tulips in the fullness of tulip glory. When I asked them what made them decide to open up, they said, “Fake it till you make it.” And so I left the tulips in their glory and climbed the stairs to put something on this blog. Just a little tulip wisdom, brought to you, in writing on a very snowy Saturday, by THE HOPE LADY.