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I watched Theo Fleury being interviewed on Global’s Morning Show today, and he talked abut his new life purpose.  I read his earlier book describing his life as a hockey player and disclosing sexual abuse.  It was called Playing with Fire and was a huge wake-up call for readers – and the whole country.  Now he has written another one, which I didn’t get the name of, but one can find it easily by googling him.  However, in the interview he said that now he has a new life purpose: to tell his story.  He believes by telling his story that others will learn and be encouraged to share theirs.  I think he is right.  That is a purpose for each of us.  I think about my book Your Invisible Bodies: a reference for children and adults about human energy fields.  I am frustrated that the website for that book has a virus and I haven’t yet been able to remove it.  However, this website still works, so here are my thoughts about telling my story.

I wrote that book to explain to children how Healing Touch, and energy healing generally, works.  In it I incorporated everything I’ve learned in my 70 years, including child & adult development, school guidance theory, energy healing, feminism, and Christian theology.  It is a wide-eyed book, and after it was published, I felt that I had fulfilled my purpose.  I told my story.  Funnily enough, even though I attend Knox United Church in Calgary, AB, I don’t call myself a Christian.  Too loaded a term, I think.  However, it is a child-centered book, and I’m happy for that.  I tell children to trust themselves, and to learn from their experience, and to be open to learning new discoveries.  Learning goes on all our lifetimes!

I am grateful to Theo Fleury for telling his story, and encouraging other people to speak up about their own experiences. I think he speaks for all of us when he says his purpose now is to tell his story.  He has been a professional hockey player, an advocate for children, and now is a healer and author.  Thanks be to Theo.  Thanks be to truth.  Thanks be to the wondrous spirit of newness that comes with sharing with another our personal truths.

 

 

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It’s springtime and I have been gardening and reading.  However, my friend Jen stopped in with a bunch of books she was taking to donate to WINS, and I chose several of her books for me to read before she donated them.  Jen has similar taste in reading to me, so I knew they would be good reads.  As well, I found a used book at WINS and read it.  It was called Sins of the Wolf by Ann Perry, and was a mystry novel about Inspector Monk and his accused side-kick Hester Latterly. I liked her social commentary on morals and cultural standards of a century ago.  Fun to read!  I figured out who was responsible for the false charge, about 1/3 through the book, and kept reading to learn in the last 2 pages that I was right.   I also read The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult.  This is the third Jodi Picoult book I’ve read, and I found it hard to read.  Again, I figured out the true culprit one-third through the book, but I liked its use of graphic novels as well as the Alaskan landscape.  An interesting read!  Then before that I read The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner.  It was very amusing, and reminded me of how much TV I watch, and what goes into creating a successful TV show.  Too much pap!  Before that I read The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry.  This is my favourite of the four books.   It was much more literary, spell-binding, and evocative.  Parts bothered me, as I saw similarities to my own life, and I was confronted by my daughter’s reality within the protagonist’s viewpoint.  However, I got past that, and had an interesting conversation with my partner Deb about taking on the viewpoint of the protagonist.  She reminded me that it’s totally unnecessary, and it’s a choice.  Not all books are meant to be life-changing!  Some are pure entertainment.  So four fiction books are enough.  Now I am reading a non-fiction feminist treatise by Susan Brownmiller, Femininity.  It is making my knowledge sharper and clearer.  A good read.  I like non-fiction books.  They are life-changing, after all.

 

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I have recently finished reading A Geography of Blood, by Candace Savage. My friend Mary told me it made her think again on being a Canadian, as it is historical and tells about native people in Canada.  The book  focuses on the native tribes that lived here before white settlers arrived, but dwells on recent past, only 150 years ago.  Given that native tribes have lived and flourished in our land for thousands of years, only 150 years is nothing.  However,  the way the tribes were treated is shameful.  I learned more of our country’s story, particularly the area around Cypress Hills, where the prairie has told its story.  Savage writes about her ancestors and those like them, in the small town of Eastend, Saskatchewan. From there she and her husband explore the prairie and Cypress Hills to the west.  It is a sobering book.

We are not innocent, we descendants of white settlers.  Our country’s forefathers are generally considered to be ‘white men’, and the native tribes that lived here (and helped the white settlers initially) were considered inferior beings who needed to be  subdued, oppressed, and assimilated as a last resort.  The book describes the treatment of the tribes from records in Hudson Bay Company, the NWMP, and the museum at Fort Macleod.   No white man who dealt with them on behalf of the Canadian government considered the tribes worthy of respect, so  they were lied to and starved.  The lands they asked for as reserves were denied them, and the government rations did not arrive.  Both the American states and Canada acted to do away with ‘the Indian problem’ through deception and greed.  I knew this before, but the book brought it home stronger than I had felt before.   Perhaps because it follows me reading ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ by Thomas King the book has hit me harder.  Or perhaps I am older now, and questioning more.   In either case, reading the story that the prairie has left, and that Savage has recovered, has changed me.  Thanks be to good books!

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This book by Chris Turner talks about the present Canadian government and how its policies have affected science in Canada.  The subtitle is : Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada.  I was interested to read a glowing review of it in Alberta Views (my second favorite magazine!) last month.  I was likely one of the first to buy his book from Amazon, for it arrived before Christmas.  It also reminded me of the Scientist’s Lament, sung by the Calgary Raging Grannies on Youtube.  The Grannies are sure hip to what is current!

This book is well-researched, hard-hitting and certainly inflammatory to a member of the Conservative party.  However, to any informed Canadian, the book simply confirms what we have witnessed during Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister.  This is the greatest reason for the opposition parties to unite to defeat him in the  next election.  Not that we needed another reason, but this book explains Harper’s rationale very clearly.  Here is an excerpt (p. 124):

“Even scientists working at Canadian universities have seen some of their most critical funding shift away from basic long-term research.  NSERC, for example, has long been a critical funding pipeline for academic scientists.  Its budget shrank by 5% in the 2012 budget, which included a moratorium on the Major Research Support program.  As a result, the Bamfield Marine Science Centre,  a 43-year-old research station on Vancouver Island, lost the funding that shared its critical data on ocean conditions with researchers around the world.  The observation post survives, but its role in the larger scientific project of understanding the world’s oceans has vanished at a time of climate crisis. As NSERC funding priorities have shifted to business-oriented research, Bamfield’s formerly stellar international reputation – and its ability to attract world-class scientists – has ben radically diminished. ”

The most worrisome phrase in the above paragraph, to my mind, is “funding priorities have shifted to business-oriented research”.  No wonder Bamfield isn’t to continue its former stellar reputation!  Harper wants no more research into oceans that may be polluted from future  oil tanker spills!

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This book, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, was published in 1996.  I have had it for a few years, but didn’t get around to reading it until recently.  A few of her chapters are dated, but overall, what Hillary says is still relevant to Americans and to all readers.  Her voice rings loud and clear about what children teach us, and how the global village is responsible for them.  The children are not responsible for bringing themselves up.  It is the village of parents, grandparents, siblings, and the extended family that form the core.  However, it is the system of governance that allows all children to grow and prosper.  In her work as governor’s wife, First Lady, then as a US Senator, then as the Secretry of State for the U.S., Hillary shows her commitment and her vision. Some chapters may be dated, but I am really happy I read her book.  I am also really happy that she is being touted as the next leader of the Democratic party in the US, after Barack Obama leaves the Presidency.  I like this woman a LOT!

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I promised I would include a few excerpts from ‘Oil Man and the Sea’ which I read last month.  The writer and a photographer took a sailboat up the channel of the B.C. coast where the oil tankers would go, should the Northern Gateway pipeline go through to Kitimat.  On page 84, Arno Kopecky writes about similar projects he has experienced internationally:

Everywhere you looked, foreign interests were at work.  It was hard not to be reminded of this three years later back in Canada.  Just as the conflicts in Peru or Burma transcended any one group of people or industrial project, whatever we were witnessing at home was much bigger than Enbridge or the Northern Gateway or the Hieltsuk. It was the local chapter of a story playing out in every country on earth. People were arguing, often violently, over hyper-local issues of land, jobs, and governance, but each of these conflicts had deep tap-roots that drew on global issues.  Can the world’s biggest corporations be trusted with the power they’ve amassed?  Is climate change an existential threat to human civilization?  Up to what point is it safe to pursue exponential growth on a finite planet?  But it was hard for people with opposing views to discuss these kinds of questions without slipping into hyperbole.  Better, maybe, to focus on concrete issues like the Northern Gateway proposal, or even, briefly, on something a little bigger, like Canada’s own version of Garcia’s 101 decrees, Bill C-38.

So, get the book and read it.  It says a lot, shifting from global views like the above, to first-person narrative from a host of characters who live on BC’s coast.

It reminds me of people’s concerns with hyperbole, and how friends in the oil patch discount protesters who they think are using hyperbole, instead of understanding that they are  reacting with their hearts as well as their head.

It reminds me of the Calgary Raging Grannies, who sing about Omnibus bills, and challenge Harper’s government through satirical songs to stop what parliament is doing by ramming through massive changes through complex bills.  See Youtube.com  for their performance, and search for Calgary Raging Grannies, to find that and several related songs about Canada’s governments.  I am so proud that I was a member of Calgary Raging Grannies for 8 years!  I am not now, but I support what they do!

Arno Kopecky has helped me understand much in his book “Oil Man and the Sea: navigating the Northern Gateway”  Definitely worth a read!

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Dealing with Upgrades


For the first time in almost a year I’m back looking at this website, and I went to add another item under Plays.  I was astonished to find no information on my play Village, even though I know I wrote it a few years back.  I have just added information about it, but when I view the page the formatting doesn’t transfer to the screen.  I think I need to set it up as a separate link, with each play having their own space.  Time to ask for help!  I can’t do it all today — appointments loom for the rest of the day.  Half of my writing life, with Village, and Mona, and Your Invisible Bodies, isn’t even on this website.  I can see I need to spend more time at the computer, trying to promote my work.  Sigh….

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Back to Writing


I was surprised to see I hadn’t written anything in my blog for two months.  I have been learning to post to my other website http://www.yourinvisiblebodies.com instead of writing here.  Because Lisa Francis updated that website to a new host, I have had to learn new procedures to write posts.  I am happy with the outcome, but it has taken a while.  Now that I’m here, I don’t know where to begin.  I have begun writing again. I am working on a one-woman play, a monologue from a woman who has recently retired.  I call it Mona, for now at least.  That has been fun to write, but also emotionally challenging.  The bards say “write what you know” so I have done so, but I also added “what you imagine” to the script.  Time will tell if it is accepted for the Knox Just Acts Play Festival in February 2013.

At the Kerby Centre this morning, after my exercise class, I told a colleague what the theme of the play is: a recently retired woman wondering what her purpose was in life.  She grinned mischievously, “Yes, I’ve heard there are people like that.”  She has probably been retired for at least 15 years, but shows no signs of being purposeless.  There is a lot of wisdom among senior women.  I look forward to our coffee conversations after exercise class as much as I do the aerobics!  Life is good indeed!

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                I am not being rude toward my church.  I am simply using an abbreviation to summarize my belief in the future of the United Church.  On the weekend of June 1st-3rd, I attended a Conference of the United Church.  It is not my first time to a conference; that was BC Conference in Victoria in the 1970s.  ANWC, which stands for Alberta North West Conference, is a huge area to represent: nine presbyteries from Southern Alberta to Northern Lights in the Yukon and Northwest Territory.  Ministers and lay people from every United Church in this region gathered for four days at SAIT in Calgary.  We filled a gymnasium with song, prayer, discussion, and joy.  We wrangled with constitutional issues and parliamentary procedure as we restructured our paid Conference positions to address the reality of declining financial contributions from local congregations.  I don’t think the majority of people attending the United Church have any idea of what Conference is or does.  For most of us, which includes me up to now, ANWC means a remote body that collects money from us but doesn’t have any impact on our faith.

Not true.  Not a bit.

 I used to read “IN CONTACT” in the United Church Observer to discover what was happening within our region.  I didn’t know that full-time paid positions were necessary to ensure that IN CONTACT was even written, or that Conference staff were providing support to congregations and ministers and lay people throughout the year and throughout the region. I didn’t know that Conference elected people to attend the General Council of the United Church of Canada.  Local people complain about dues to presbytery, conference, and general council.  They don’t know what they do, so they  don’t pay the fees.  They choose other priorities instead and forget their responsibilities as employers.    Presbytery and Conference seem remote, rather than the accessible and necessary structures that ensure communication and support to individual churches within its area.  Interestingly, of the 16 paid positions in Conference, all but three are filled by women.   By the end of the weekend, we passed a vote to reduce 16 positions to 8.  Three of these were full-time, others part-time.  Much of the work of Conference is conducted by over one hundred people serving on eighteen different standing committees.  Now we will need even more volunteers.  Coordination of services will be more challenging. 

Besides the major discussions and vote about restructuring (downsizing), we also passed two motions to carry forward to General Council. We asked that Diaconal ministers be given the right to administer the sacraments as part of the responsibilities they undertake at their Commissioning.  The second motion was that General Council develop strategies to take action with all levels of government, the business community and non-profit organizations to address child poverty in Canada.  A third motion, regarding boundaries of Conferences (especially ours), was defeated.

Two of the more emotional tasks of Conference are the Commissioning of new ministers, and the recognition of ministers who are retiring.  Comparing the new ministers to the retirees, I have concluded the future of the United Church is Female, Fun and Faith-Filled.  We welcomed five new ministers, all of whom were women.  We thanked the retirees, 13 men and 4 women.    This fact, more than any other, showed me what is happening in my beloved church.  We elected a new president, a passionate woman who spoke to our hearts about living and working in faith.  We are declining in numbers, but we are not disappearing.  We are more focused on mission, the mission of living our lives as Christ would have us live.  We believe in God and we are not alone.  We sing with joy of renewal and thanksgiving, and we welcome all to the table. 

Stephen Lewis said a few years ago that he believed the only way out of the mess our world is in would come from women.  He said that it is the women, especially the grandmothers,  that are persevering with hope and solutions.  He asserted men are stuck in traditional thought patterns and have forgotten to listen to their soul and higher power.  Women will lead the way.

In the fifties, most people in Canada attended church.  At that time it was part of the culture of being an adult that drove people to attend church.  For men, volunteering at a church was a good way to meet people and establish themselves in the community.  It was good for business, for church attendance  added to their credibility and reputation.  For women, the church offered community, support for children, and active volunteering in activity-based charity. Two generations ago, most women worked at home as full-time mothers, rather than work at jobs outside the home.  Families were more able to live on one salary because housing was more affordable, and the gap between rich and poor was not as large. The social gospel of justice-based initiatives impelled many United Church members into elected political positions at all levels of government. Both Catholic and Protestant churches thrived.  The 1970s saw a decline of those  churches  matched by growth of more evangelical ones. Despite the growth of those churches,  today many fewer Canadians attend  Christian churches.  Support for tithing, or even donating financially to a church, is dwindling.  Young families are not replacing the number of aging and deceased members.  Finances are tight.  Stuck with buildings that are too large for present numbers of members to maintain, congregations struggle with decisions to close, sell, amalgamate, or restructure.  It’s not an easy time.  Finances drive too many topics of discussion.  Our faith sometimes is forgotten.  The numbers of members have dwindled, but the reasons why members still attend church differ from those of two generations ago.  Church attendance no longer results in prestige within society; often churchgoers are received with skepticism and distrust of motive.  People who attend the United Church now are motivated by something much stronger than the desire for prestige.  I believe those in my faith community are driven by deeply-felt personal experiences, even though they may seldom talk about them.

At Conference, we talked – and talked.  We debated in table groups and in general session at the mikes.  We sang, prayed, clapped our hands, ate, drank, and celebrated being together.  We were not alone.  We celebrated.  For some people, it is a concern that fewer men are drawn to ministry.  For me, that doesn’t matter at all.  It’s been my experience that women have always worked harder and longer than men, with more conviction and less griping.  We manage money better and we don’t grow up with feelings of entitlement.  I truly believe, as stated above, that the future of the United Church is Female, Fun, and Faith-Filled.  We are in good hands.

 

                 

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Last week I was interviewed by Rita Sirignano for an article on Mothers Day, which will appear in Swerve on Friday, May 11.  Her original intent was to feature me, a member of Calgary Raging Grannies, in a side-bar to show that not all grandmothers fit the stereotype.  However, a few days after the interview she told me I would be part of the main article, not a sidebar.  I am curious to know what she will write.  We had a great talk about grandmothers, and when I learned she still has a teenaged son living with her, I wondered if she was reluctant to claim an older label when she is still actively parenting.  Rita is close to my daughter’s age, so I shared  my daughter’s thoughts on being a grandmother.  It was easy to just press the email button on my iPad and send her the notes.  Rita and I enjoyed our talk, but now I wish I had shared other thoughts.  While I agree with my daughter about what she said, from my 75-year-old perspective, I have a societal view of grandparenting.  I’m sure that grandfathers react the same way that I have.  At this stage in life, I doubt that gender differences matter.

What else I could have said to Rita:

The connection between grandparent and child is so primal it must be part of our hard-wiring as a species. In 1986 I was totally unprepared for the joy and automatic outpouring of love that I felt when my son-in-law phoned  to say that my oldest grand-son Riley was born. I took time off work and drove 11 hours to visit them, and to be there when my daughter came home from the hospital.
Since then I have 2 more grand-sons, and my step-granddaughter has 3 children whom I regard as great-grand children.
If the connection between grandparent and grandchild is so primal it must be to ensure the survival of the species. What does the grandparent provide that the parents don’t? Definitely more love. Support for the parents when they can’t do it all. Extra time and attention for the child. Another set of eyes to watch wandering steps. Another pair of hands to pick them up, change their wet clothes, dress them, care for them when they fall. The grandparents don’t replace the parents at all … Far from it. Hopefully they fill in the gaps.
The line between grandchild and grandparent is like the vertical threads in the fabric of life – the fabric of our society. The horizontal threads are present time parents and situations, adding color, variety, pattern and picture. The vertical fibres hold the people in place. They lend structure and support, keeping everyone together. We learn who we are by interacting with our world. Interacting with older generations affirms who we are at a cultural level, helping to form our identity. When we know we are connected by blood we are more secure in our knowledge of who we are. That may be why children who are adopted feel a need to find their birth parents. It could be that at an unconscious level they do not feel part of the lineage of their adoptive family. A sense of difference may pervade the adoptee.

Wait a minute.  That may not be true at all, for many people feel disconnected from their blood relatives. When I was ten years old, my sister told me that I was adopted.. I believed her, for hadn’t I always felt different and alone? Perhaps identity is only a part of the search for meaning as we grow and ask the eternal questions: “Who am I? Why am I here? what does my life mean?”

For  grandparents, those questions disappear when the grandchildren enter our doorways.  These blessed little people fill our hearts and our souls and we know who we are.  We are the way-showers.  We are the connectors.  We are their adoring fans.  We are part of the ever-widening circle of life.  Thank you, Riley, Jesse, Faellen, Ben, Dillan, Justin, and Ashlyn.  With you, I am whole.

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