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Archive for May, 2010


I’ve been working on  a submission to an anthology with the working title ‘Feminists navigate mental health.’ It’s been very interesting to mine my personal experiences for reflections on psychiatric labels and practices.  If anyone is interested in submitting a chapter (500-5000 words), go to fnmhsubmissions@gmail.com and ask for the guidelines.  The woman coordinating this is Jenna MacKay.  When I wrote her that I had never received a psychiatric label, so might not be eligible, she encouraged me to submit something anyway.  I’m sure that many of the counsellors and therapists I’ve worked with over forty years could come up with a label for me.  Fortunately I’ve managed to stay outside the doors of a live-in mental health program.  So I have titled my submission “Just Outside the Door”. 

Jenna provided several questions to guide women in their reflections and writing.  You don’t have to be a writer, as she and her colleague will assist you with editing.  It’s been a good process for me to reflect back on 30 years ago, which is when I most strongly identified with feminism.  Now it’s just a part of me.  Check it out if you are interested.

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Yesterday’s paper had a short article about the Alberta Liberal Party’s response to cooperating with other progressive parties.  According to the Canwest News Service in the National Post, the ALP ‘may not run candidates in some long-shot ridings in the next provincial election to maximize resources, party leader David Swann says… will also strike deals with other parties to prevent splitting the progressive vote.  … could mean they won’t have candidates in some constituencies – including parts of rural Alberta.’

I have mixed feelings about this process, because I’m sure conservatives will interpret this as a desperation bid by the ALP.  The motion to cooperate passed by 81 to 64.  That’s a significant number of delegates who have a different vision for the party.  This must be the hardest on the members who have been with the Liberal party the longest time.  What is needed is wide-angle vision that surpasses party history.  The key word here is VISION.  It’s about perception.  If we see this motion as a last ditch grasp at electoral votes it will destroy us.  If instead our perception is about growing past our party limitations to embrace a greater good, then it will energize and enhance us.  Sometimes you have to let go of the good in order to be ready for the greater good. 

I hope the party leadership will take many deep breaths, listen to all, consider deeply-held values held by people in this province, and reach out to like-minded people.   The NDP have conviction and confidence in their policies.  They know who they are and what they stand for.  If the New Democrats hold onto their vision and allow ALP to consolidate and articulate theirs, then a truly vibrant collaboration can emerge.  Unfortunately the broad scope of the resolutions discussed at the ALP convention contained contradictory motions and made me wonder just what ALP stood for.  Stating the overall mandate of the ALP should help its members be more confident in knowing who we are and what we want.  It isn’t just about getting enough seats to form a government.  It’s about being an effective opposition that represents progressive ideas and keeps a conservative government accountable.  We can’t control who votes for us.  All we can do is know who we are, what we believe in, state it clearly, develop solid manageable plans to reach our goals, and see what develops.  Change happens when we are in charge from a solid base; when we truly know who we are and are consistent in our actions.  We will attract like-minded people then. 

We live in interesting times.  Societal change is sweeping across the planet, and the ALP is caught up in it.  Recent books like Marci McDonald’s Armageddon and Donald Gutstein’s Not a Conspiracy Theory are showing us the need to recognize the change and become an aware active part of it.  At the panel on Tuesday evening where Marci and Donald talked about their books (a Council of Canadians and Arusha co-sponsored event) the Unitarian church was packed.  The first speaker was a man who identified as a Baptist minister and attacked Marci personally.  Most of us turned off and away from him, but his motivation became evident near the end of his panicked diatribe: “We don’t have much time!”   He also is caught up in a sea of change, as fears about the future of our province and our world  accelerate. 

So to you members of the Alberta Liberal Party, take hope.  We don’t know what the outcome will be.  All we can do is be ourselves, know who we are and what we stand for, and communicate that strongly.  The time we have is now. We have to live politically and authentically in the present, according to our beliefs.  That means debate and argument, for sure.  It’s part of the process.

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The motion put forth by the New Democrats passed in parliament because New Democrats, Liberals, and BQs voted together.  I just visited the site sent in an email from Jack Layton, which shows our MPs standing to be counted Yea or Nay on Bill C311.  Go to http://www.ndp.ca/C311-adopted to watch the video if you’re interested.  Because the vote passed Canada now has a climate change policy.  It has to be approved in the Senate however, so that will be worth watching.   How will the new Senate appointees (Conservative) vote?

Aside from wondering if Senate will sabotage this bill, watching the video made me reflect on how democracy works.  In spite of all the complaints and ineptitude and slow movement forward, it does work.  Each MP had to stand up to be counted.  At some point in time, you and I and everyone has to stand for a position.  Canadians are moving forward, one little step at a time, despite a minority government.  I think UK citizens shouldn’t be so afraid of a hung parliament.  Positive change can happen.

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THE MOTHERS OF MOTHERS DAY

Published in Cricket Magazine, May/June, 2008, Vol. 35, No. 9, pp. 18-20

I am the author of this article, which describes the work of Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis, who each tried to establish Mothers Day during the late 1800s.  Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mothers Day Proclamation in 1870, and organized Mothers Day for Peace, an event which was recognized in Europe as well as eastern U.S.  Anna Jarvis worked to establish Mothers Day as a day to honour mothers.  Since both events were within 3 weeks of each other, in 1914 the U.S. Congress joined both to proclaim Mothers Day as the second Sunday in May.  Anna Jarvis’s mother Ann established Mothers Work Days in 1858, to teach women how to improve sanitation and prevent disease.  They made a significant difference in the health of their West Virginia communities, and were involved on both sides of the Civil War, working in the field hospitals to improve conditions. 

Read the entire article, geared to children 10-14, in Cricket Magazine.  Learn how the purpose of Mothers Day has changed from a day of action for peace and health, to that of honouring mothers at home.  This may be available on-line, at www.cricketmag.com 

Or, here is the article I submitted to Cricket Magazine.  It is slightly longer than the edited copy that appeared in Cricket magazine two years ago. 

IS MOTHERS DAY A LOST CAUSE?

By Sharon Montgomery

 

            If the founders of Mother’s Day saw how we celebrate this day, they would be dismayed.  Ann Jarvis, founder of Mothers Work Day in 1858, created a day for mothers to work for better cleanliness and health.  Because two of her children died before the age of three, Anna asked doctors in her Appalachian community to teach her how to prevent disease.  On Mothers Work Day, and in Mothers Day Work Clubs throughout her county, those mothers taught others how to prepare food properly and clean their homes.  This gradually improved the health of their  families. 

            Sadly, not all children survived.  Although Ann gave birth to eleven children by 1867, only four lived to adulthood.  Their lives were cut short, perhaps by childhood diseases of measles, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, or tuberculosis.  Infection spread easily among the mining towns and small communities.  Today most of these diseases are controlled by childhood vaccinations. 

Death was a constant presence in the area because of the Civil War (1861-1865).  Taylor County was a major battlefield between the Union and Confederate armies.  Since both sides surrounded them, Ann declared Womens Friendship Day, convincing local mothers to be fair to both sides. They went into camps to treat the wounded and to teach sanitation and disinfection.  After the war, local leaders asked these women to teach former enemies how to get along.

Ann invited people to  meetings.  She dressed in Gray and another woman wore Blue (the army colors).  Ann explained why they were meeting and asked the band to lead them in singing Way Down South in Dixie.  The woman in blue asked the band to lead them in singing The Star Spangled Banner.  Then Ann and her friend shook hands, hugged each other, and asked everyone to do the same, while the band played Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot.  In this way Ann honored the grieving hearts of her listeners, and showed them how to move on to rebuild their lives. 

Julia Ward Howe, a mother, author and activist, was inspired by Ann Jarvis.  Julia wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic early in the war.  In 1862 she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, joined the U.S. Sanitary Commission.  More men died in the Civil War from disease in prisoner of war camps and their own army camps than died in battle. The Sanitary Commission helped to reduce those deaths later in the war.

 After the war, Julia  wanted to bring an end to war and equality for all people, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality.  She wrote the Mothers Day Proclamation, calling mothers to leave their homes for one day a year and work for peace in their communities.  Julia translated her proclamation into several languages and  traveled around the world, urging all to join in a Mothers Day for Peace.   On the second Sunday in June, 1872, the first Mothers Peace Day was celebrated in Boston, Massachusetts.  For the next thirty years Americans celebrated this day in June.

In 1876, Ann Jarvis’s daughter, a twelve-year-old named Anna, listened intently during her mother’s visit to her school.  After a prayer, Mrs. Jarvis wished that “someone, sometime, would one day establish a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life.” Years later, in May  1908, Anna Jarvis’s church, Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, West Virginia, held the first Mothers Day Service.  Anna gave everyone a carnation to wear, white if a mother had died, red if she was still living. 

Anna wanted children of all ages to recognize and appreciate their mothers for their devotion and service.  At a large Mothers Day service in Philadelphia in 1908, Anna talked for 70 minutes, urging listeners “by words, gifts, acts of affection, and in every way possible, give her pleasure, and make her heart glad every day… if absent from home write her often, tell her of a few of her noble good qualities and how you love her.”  (Taylor).  Anna Jarvis asked many people to help get Mothers Day passed into law.  In 1913 Senate and Congress declared that Mothers Day would be celebrated on the second Sunday of May.   The first Mothers Day celebrated nationally was May 14, 1914.

 Julia Ward Howe did not lobby Congress to pass Mothers Peace Day.  She organized that day independently, and helped women become active politically.  Julia Ward Howe died in 1910, three years before the first national Mothers Day.

 American florists were happy that carnations were used to honor mothers.  Each year on Mothers Day more people gave flowers, cards and gifts.  Anna Jarvis was so angry at how commercialized the day had become that she started a lawsuit to stop a Mothers Day festival in 1923.  She wanted people to honor their mothers personally in word and act, not to buy something.   She protested against florists who overcharged for carnations.  Anna was even expelled   from a war mothers convention where women sold white carnations to raise funds.  “This is not what I intended,” Jarvis said. “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.”

Most families use Mothers Day as one day to show appreciation for our mothers, often with breakfast in bed, flowers, cards, or going out for a family dinner.  The people who benefit the most are owners of florist and gift shops and restaurants, not the needy people in our communities.  Few people know that it was intended as a very different day.  Can you imagine the ghost of Ann Jarvis if she was taken to a restaurant on Mothers Day?  Do you think she might visit the kitchen to see how clean it was?

War and disease are with us still.  However, the efforts made by Julia Ward Howe and Ann Jarvis challenge us to continue their struggle.  How can we honour these courageous women who organized others to work for change?

What can you do?  Ask your mother what she wants most.  If she says, “For one day, I would love the whole family to get along and not argue”, then she is in tune with Julia Ward Howe’s proclamation.  When families live in peace, they take the first step toward peace on our planet. 

Is it possible to reclaim this lost cause?  Can we honour the founders as well as our mothers?  Some organizations hold Mothers Day Marches as fund-raisers for medical research.  Peace groups use Mothers Day for local peaceful protests. 

What could you do?  Think about it.  Don’t just send a card that you have bought.  Anna Jarvis’s obituary in 1948 said she was bitter about what Mothers Day had become.  She said “a printed greeting card was a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write” (Wikipedia).  Ann Jarvis’s wish was that we remember the “matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life.”   That is why Anna created Mothers Day.  Tell your mother why you love her, and thank her for something she did to make you happy.  Write your own letter or make your own card, perhaps with red carnations!  Talk with her, then get out of the house and act for peace together. 

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to David Swann, Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, sent on May 6, 2010 via snail mail and to the party website

Dear David,

I am a new member of the Alberta Liberal party.  I have considered attending the Liberal Convention & AGM next weekend but am unable to do so.  However, I have strong feelings about the motion to cooperate with other political parties and wish to make my opinion known.  This is a move to sensible cooperation. I hope it would lead to more formal cooperation and a re-energizing of Alberta Liberals.  With Dave Taylor now sitting as an independent, and Kent Hehr announcing his bid as a mayoralty candidate in Calgary, what is happening to Alberta Liberals?  Is disappointment turning into despair?  What’s wrong with a party that looks good on the website and says the right things, but is not acting in a vigorous way to engage the people of Alberta? 

            In my wildest dreams I would like to see a merger of the New Democrats and Alberta Liberals.  England has a Liberal Democrat party.  Why can’t Alberta have one?  The two New Democrats in the legislature ask good questions, monitor the Conservatives well, and serve their constituents well enough to be re-elected.  Surely they are aware of this policy suggestion.  Will it go further?  With the active recruitment to the Wildrose Alliance and further splintering of the Conservatives, now is the time to think bigger.  I realize that cooperation is the first step.  With the demise of the provincial Green party there are potentially many progressive voters who are ready and looking for a real alternative.  We need a party that will take hold and speak for us. I urge the Liberal party to take leadership in practical cooperation.  I rather like the ring of Liberal Democrat party.  It would necessitate a serious look at existing policies in both parties, exciting debates,a leadership election, and a renewed dream to serve the people of Alberta.

            David Swann, you have and had my support.  Dave Taylor and Kent Hehr did too, but now I’m not so sure about them.  Can and will the Alberta Liberals take this opportunity to regroup and recharge?

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On April 23rd, I attended a lecture by Zeljko Matijevic, a widely respected Jungian analyst and lecturer.  Members of  the Jungian Society of Calgary filled the hall, for we have grown to know that when Zeljko speaks we can all learn.  His lecture was titled “Waiting for the Soul”.  He explained the difference between Soul and Spirit, stating the essential spiritual problem we humans have is disconnection from Spirit.   In this article I am writing my integrated thoughts about his topic.  His words will appear in quotation marks.

 “The language of the soul is the language of poetry.  Poetry is metaphor, simplicity, and imaginative connections.”  Therefore, if the soul is unable to play it languishes in boredom and sorrow…“A primitive village in Africa has a tradition of making toys for the soul and hanging them on the outskirts of their village, so a person’s soul can play.  They believe that if the soul couldn’t play it would go into the jungle and the person then got sick. “…  This wisdom informs us about the need for the Soul to be playful, spontaneous and real…  “In therapy, the patient needs to be taught how to play…  Play is dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious… Analysis is the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious.  Dialogue and play are interchangeable.  It we get too serious we stop playing and growing.” 

Gems of wisdom I noted during Zeljko’s lecture are: “The problem of modern man (humanity)  is that we are disenfranchised from tradition, ritual and community…  We feel increasingly isolated…  To be more spiritual is to be more in touch with ourselves…  The mid-life crisis can happen at any time…  It’s not about doing more, it’s about being…  Our inner space becomes cluttered by spiritual demands.  We need to empty it out to receive…  How do we create more time – by speeding up or by slowing down?”

“Spirit means breath or flow.  It may also mean inspired, inflated, blown away.  It is so powerful it can carry us away.  Spirit is a powerful force in our lives but needs to be kept in check.”  This statement was interesting to me.  It warns me that we can focus so much on Spirit that we forget our bodies and ignore physical cues in our desire to be “more spiritual”. 

“Soul and Spirit are inseparable, like the container and the substance… The Dali Lama describes the Soul as the valley and Spirit as the mountain top.”

“Spirit and Soul are like Yin and Yang.  Spirit is Yang: male, energy for action, concerned with separateness and boundaries…  Soul is Yin: the container, the part that performs the action, concerned with wholeness and connection…   The most important word in the first sentence is ‘and’.  Without the connector  and  you are unable to hold the two.  When Soul is infused with Spirit, there is connection and creativity and more will arise out of the Soul.  The essential part is to start playing.”

Dialogue is the play between Soul and Spirit. Soul is part of a human being.  Our soul  is our essence, our authentic aware Self.  It is the burst of starlight within our bodies at birth, which grows and sustains us throughout our lives.  Without a soul to manifest its being, Spirit is limited as to what it can do on earth.  Spirit needs a body, a person or creature, to make its essence apparent and present in real time and space. 

“Soul work and spiritual work are similar.  We need to slow down to turn attention to our inner soul and also to our surroundings.  It can be focussed or diffused, with a wide angle vision or a narrow one…When we slow down we can connect and use diffuse attention…Waiting for the soul is remembering who we are, and becoming ourselves fully and authentically.  This leads to mindfulness, peace and joy.  We are already part of something larger than ourselves.” 

Zeljko did not talk about the Self in his lecture.  He referred only to Soul and Spirit.  In my studies within ARC (A Return to Consciousness) we practice being present to our Self, in the here and now, aware of our bodies and our energy.  At the same time we expand our awareness to our surroundings, appreciating the interaction and play between ourselves and the world.  My Self is becoming stronger as I reflect and grow.  I am playing with Spirit and appreciating my Soul.  I love the vitality that I receive from Spirit and the sense of connection with “All That Is” which living in Soul enables. 

When Soul plays with Spirit, so much energy spills out!  Spirit moves Soul to act, to be authentic, to receive information, to grow in awareness, to love unconditionally, to be real.  Have you listened to your soul today?  You may need to slow down, and allow it to enter your awareness.  Too much speed makes it impossible to know and remember who we really are.  Too much clutter crowds out the soul.  Make space for it, and it will appear in your consciousness. 

What is the relationship of ego to the Self?  Too often, it takes up all the space that we consider to be us.   We probably all know someone whose ego is so large that his/her real self is not apparent.  We might even have thought  “she/he has no soul.”  That person may show no compassion toward others, or may be so driven by ego needs that he/she cannot perceive what others do.  That person often lives in the head, not the heart. 

When we slow down and empty space within ourselves, the soul can emerge and show itself.  We need to pay attention to our inner starlight and let it grow brighter and stronger.  Its light will bring clarity and vision to our senses, and help us to make better choices.   Its light will strengthen us in controlling parts of ourselves that try to take over.  By slowing down, emptying the mind, and “waiting for the soul to catch up” we can begin to play with Spirit.

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