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Archive for January, 2010


In December the Calgary Raging Grannies were invited to attend the AGM of the Parkland Institute in Calgary, AB.  The Parkland Institute is a non-profit organization designed to research, educate and inform Albertans about government policy, particularly as it pertains to healthcare.  We knew we were singing to the converted, so we sang several songs about health care.  One of the songs was to the tune of “Ruler of the Queen’s Navy” from HMS Pinafore.  It is a satirical view about Stephen Duckett, the CEO of Alberta’s Unified Health Board.  We enlisted one of the audience to video this song, and now it’s on Youtube.  If you are interested in seeing it, go to www.youtube.com/calgaryraginggrannies and it should come up.  If not, just go to youtube and in the search box type Calgary Raging Grannies at Parkland Institute.  It was fun to sing it.  Now that we know how easy it is to put videos on Youtube, we are considering preparing some songs just for Youtube.  We still intend to sing at political and social rallies of course.  The Ottawa Raging Grannies have a great video of songs about Stephen Harper proroguing parliament.  They have inspired us to be more!

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Last week I saw a great documentary film called Yoo Hoo Mrs. Goldberg! It is the story of Gertrude Berg, who created the character Molly Goldberg for a radio series in the 1930s.  Set in the Bronx, Molly Goldberg and her family and neighbours shared their lives and opinions for almost two decades.  Gertrude Berg wrote, produced, directed and starred in  this popular radio show, attracting dedicated viewers across America.  She pioneered the story of ordinary people living ordinary lives.  Her show became a fixture for families as they tuned in daily to find out how the Goldbergs were dealing with the depression, the war, and loss of freedom under the McCarthy Act.   After WWII the show transferred to television, where again   Yoo Hoo Mrs. Golberg attracted a large following.  President Roosevelt was often credited with pulling the country through the depression. In the film, he says he thought it was Molly Goldberg who helped the Americans the most. 

Gertrude Berg died at age 68 from a heart attack.  The film’s commentator stated it might have just been from overwork.  During her career she wrote, produced and starred in more than 12,000 shows.  She was an amazing woman: creative, energetic, inspired, mother to all, strong friend, active inquirer, and a believer in the essential goodness of people. She heralded a feminist perspective of living the life she wanted to live, without discrimination or inequality.  The end of the film revealed that her mother suffered from severe depression after the death of Gertrude’s older brother, and spent most of her adult life in a mental institution. So Gertrude was an unmothered daughter — and like the book Motherless Daughters suggests, she picked herself up, brushed herself off, and used her creativity to live a rich full life.  In her role as Molly Goldberg she mothered herself, and in doing so, an entire nation.

Yesterday on Oprah, Rosie O’Donnell was the guest for the full hour.   Rosie shared her life, her family, her work successes and challenges, her beliefs, her changing relationships, and also revealed that she too was a motherless daughter.  Her mother died when she was 12, and Rosie did what Gertrude Berg did: picked herself up, brushed herself off, and  tapped into her creativity.  She had a painful cutting adolescence first, but eventually turned it around by recognizing and using her strengths.   Rosie is now parenting her four children while producing a radio show from home.  She is soon entering a blended household with another woman who has six children.  So these two women will mother ten between them, most of them in their teens.  Not an easy task.   With the spotlight on them all the time it wll be even harder. 

Rosie’s energy, creativity and passion also broke ground on television.  One of the gifts given a motherless daughter is independence.  Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  The grief of mother-loss can be expressed, and needs to be mourned sometime — whether at the time or in the future.  However, often when a daughter muffles grief in a flurry of DO DO DO, this  results in amazing growth – for others as well as the self.   The grieving happens at the urging of the soul.  It will happen when you just cannot put it off any longer, or you will go mad.   Within that grief will emerge new ways to express yourself and to share what you have learned and who you are.

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I’ve just finished reading the book Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman.  Published by Addison-Wesley in 1994, this book breaks new ground in its interviews with motherless daughters and their particular issues.  It addresses women whose mothers died when they were young, from infants to early 20s, and how this has affected their personality, typical behaviours, choices in partners, and life attitudes.  It is a painful book to read.  I did it because it was time.  In this past year I’ve examined all my relationships in order to understand why I have chosen the partners I have, and why my emotions over-rule my common sense.  It hasn’t been easy.  One of the most helpful statements is that love choices by motherless daughters tend to go through four stages: transference, projection, displacement and (I think) acceptance.  I was so blown away by the first 3 stages I’ve blanked the fourth.   I’ve made many notes on insights in this book, and will refer to them again as grief returns.  However, the book has helped me to grieve and mourn my mother’s early death (cancer at age 35) so that I won’t be so powerfully and helplessly  hooked  the next time I’m attracted to someone.   If you were unmothered as a child, through her death, absence, addictions, or illness, this could be helpful to you.  It’s not an easy book to read, but its wisdom and progression to the final chapter make it a most worthy endeavour.  If you are ready.  Read it with love, love for yourself and your family no matter how dysfunctional.  Pick what fits for you.  Recognize when it doesn’t apply.  I think reading it will help you grow closer to your mother, mourn her passing appropriately, and bring you more in touch with your true self at the end of the book.  That’s what it did for me.   Let the blessings come.

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The authors group that we call Growing Past the Edge now has 18 members.  This is especially gratifying to me, as the group formed as I reached out to other authors of spiritual books.  We have a website, www.calgaryauthors.com and we join together to help market our books.  So far we are also our own distributors, and in the future may form a distributing company.  However, that’s down the road.  By meeting monthly we inspire and motivate each other in our writing.  We all like to write.  We have all self-published our books.  However at the meeting on Monday we decided not to limit our membership to self-published authors.  There are many authors of spiritual books in Calgary and southern Alberta, and we welcome other authors too.  We’re not so keen on marketing.  However, with new members and new ideas our enthusiasm for marketing is growing too.  Thanks Susanne and Tina for helping us in that area!  So keep in touch and check our website to see what’s happening with us. 

This is a great lesson in the power of collaboration and inspiration.  Only two of us are present from the first event called Ghost Writers in the Sky: Coral Sterling and myself.  However, since forming Growing Past the Edge to share booth rental at the BodySoulSpirit Expo last year, our numbers have grown.  Our books all challenge and inform.  If interested, go to www.bestucanb.ca for an outside opinion.  Tina Thrussell attended her first meeting Monday evening and commented on us on her blog the next day.  Tina is a workshop facilitator as well as writer.  Now within our group we have a graphic designer (Jeane Watier), a tech-savvy wizard (Roger Joyeux), a marketer par excellence (Susanne Alexander-Heaton), a publisher (Anna Mae Sebastian), an entrepreneur (Cathy Jacobs), workshop leaders and consultants, peace activists, socio-political activists, nurses, healers and poets.  We are blessed with talent, and we share inspiration.   We are also open to new members, so if this interests you, let me know.

Let the blessings come!

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Judy Chicago: Thread


Last week I attended the  exhibition If Women Ruled the World: Judy Chicago in Thread at the The Art Gallery of Calgary.  As I write, I’m wearing the T-shirt with the first five words — a challenge to think about what might change if women actually did rule the world.   Would we be more peaceful?  More collaborative?  I believe so.  The process of creating Threads was collaborative; led by Judy Chicago and carried out by many women artists.

The exhibition contains every variety of fabric art from weaving of large coils to tiny tiny stitches.  Vivid colurs.  Sensuous forms.  Vital connections.  Feminist frames.  I was moved, inspired, and sometimes  challenged by the messages, especially the tapestry Mother India.  The pieces are huge.  I watched the video about the show’s development,  delighting in  interviews with the women who worked on the tapestries.   Judy Chicago designed most of the pieces, with many people (mostly women)  producing the works.  Credit is given to the artists who made each piece.  They used a wide variety of techniques used, from different paints and finishes to every type of stitchery known to me.  Beautiful and inspiring work.  In one piece the minute stitches in the leaves of the trees awed me.  I used to do embroidery in my teens, so I know how painstaking is this work.  No wonder it was years in development!

The show continues till Jan. 23, so if you are in Calgary and haven’t yet attended, do so this week.  The price is low, only $5 for adults, $2.50 for Seniors!  

Go to www.artgallerycalgary.org to find out more about this magnificent show.  Connect with women’s talent and energy.  Remind yourselves of  human experiences in birth, mothering, life and death.  Go.

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I have just finished reading The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics by Arthur W. Frank.  This is a new addition to the Healing Touch library at Knox United Church.  It is the second book by Arthur Frank I have read this year.  His first book, At the Will of the Body: Reflections on Illness, was written after three years of being a patient.  He received heart surgery and two years of treatment for testicular cancer.  Arthur Frank is a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary, so was formerly on the other side of treatment.  His first book describes the sometimes dehumanizing aspect of medical treatment, providing welcome insight into the desires of the patient.  Treatment is not just about a cure; it’s about being treated as a whole person.  Each patient has a complicated story and personal desires, and is not simply a case for diagnosis.  S/he is definitely not just the disease.

In this second book, Frank invites those afflicted by illness to tell their stories.  He describes different types of narrative which the interruption of illness may produce: restitution (where the story ends in a cure), chaos (where the plot line remains chaotic and unresolved) and narrative ethics (where the person shares his bodily experience in order to heal and to teach others about health).  This aspect guides the ill person toward ‘a good death’, which is the end of all our individual maps.  Illness forces one to redraw the map and destination of his/her life.  Reflection on the body’s experiences brings each of us to greater consciousness of our Self and of the inter-human and supra-human realm.   

Frank writes “To tell any story of suffering is to claim some relation to the inter-human. Any testimony is a response to the half-opening of nameless suffering” (p. 180)…”The wounded, spiritual body-self exists in moments of immanence. Humans are not alone, even if being with God is a process of resistance, contest and wound.” (p. 181)…”For wounded storytellers, the return from illness brings the responsibility to teach others so that not only sick people can ‘know what health is’ ” (p.182).

I found this book heavy reading at times because its academic style deals with abstractions and generalities.  A few anecdotes illustrate Frank’s themes very effectively. On every page are gems of wisdom that guide as well as inform.  For anyone involved in healing, whether as patient or healer, this book reframes illness and suffering in essential truths.  It presents a big picture with a sweeping focus that places the lens on all aspects of illness and healing.  I recommend it for all those who are ill, or who live and work with ill people.

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