Thursday, August 11, 2011


On June 19th I attended the pow-wow at Gage Park here in Hamilton; there I received a notice of the new Aboriginal Concurrent Disorders Certificate program that will be running at Mohawk College this fall. What a great program I thought, (so many street people suffer from concurrent disorders and I have a deep commitment to my urban Native clients) when I go back out west this will be invaluable. So I called the coordinator, and discovered the program would cost $3,000. Where am I going to get that kind of money? As a part-time nanny earning minimum wage (I don't get paid for my work with street people), it is all I can do to pay the bills. So I called the career centre at Ontario Works and was told they only cover funding for full-time schooling. Because of a bankruptcy I would not be eligible for student loans (or any other loan for that matter)… there were no bursaries or scholarships that would cover the full cost. By the college’s standards I don’t even qualify for a senior’s discount LOL. All hope was lost. Then I found out about the I Can Achieve contest…. even 3rd place would give me enough money to take the ACDC course. What could be more inspiring then a middle-aged woman who would give up everything to live and work among our poorest and most disenfranchised population? Surely this was God’s way of getting me the money I needed to take the class….
As I watch my profile stall out in the vote count between 80th and 124th place, I found myself confused by what is ahead of me in the polls. I get Dionne…she has an amazing life view, but a lot of the stories seem mundane to me… Someone had a struggle and they overcame it to move forward with their life. Abusive childhood…stepping in for an absent parent, teen pregnancy / finished high-school, teen marriage, divorce, back to university at 40ish, single parent, poverty, depression, relocating, starting a new career in midlife , while these things are challenging I did not see them a extraordinary or inspiring. I was telling my son about my confusion and he said, “Haven’t you done all that?” My response was, “All that and a few more…lol”.
I guess my whole life has been one struggle after another, I have just never seen it that way. I have mostly seen myself as blessed, with learning experiences. My personal hero is Linda Crabtree, a woman who while living with a lifelong degenerative disorder (CMT) has fought valiantly and tirelessly for disabled rights and accessibility. She is an amazing artist, writer, advocate, and has never allowed her struggles hold her back. I love visiting with her…she encourages me in my own quest for social justice, and a kinder, gentler world. When my faith seems a little shaky and the work seems daunting, I just think of Linda (
Perhaps the reason I work with street people (especially Natives) is because I respect caving under a lifetime of abuse and neglect… if I had not had my Grandmother’s wisdom to guided me I could have been lost in that same jungle of addiction and self-loathing. I bring to them (street people) what she brought to me… I guess that I’m just paying it forward.
Sadly I’m beginning to think bringing me to the I Can Achieve contest isn’t about getting tuition for my course; perhaps God simply brought me here to show me how the rest of society sees adversity. How relative, struggle is to each of us. My Granny used to say, “Shit Happens, deal with it”. I guess it is like anything else, practice makes perfect… it must be hard to deal with adversity, if your life has been relatively easy (or uneventful). It is wrong of me to judge others by my standards; I am well practiced at survival. To all the contestants, congratulations on every victory you have…always know that what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger. And I am once again grateful to the universe for a lesson learned. Have a joyous day my friends.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blogging & Flogging

The other evening I received a phone call from one of “my boys”. He said, “Thank-you, you saved my life”. My response was the same as it always is, “No kid, you saved your life….I just reminded you it was worth saving.” If that sounds immodest, you would be wrong. Humility is one of the building blocks to a happy life. Once we recognize the limitations of our influence we can stop taking responsibility (feeling guilty) over things for which we have limited or no control. I took this I Can Achieve contest as an opportunity to share my secrets of achieving JOY, PEACE & LOVE with a larger audience… not that my regular Angels of the Road readers aren’t important but all ya’ll have heard most of this stuff. Now, for the first time, here it is all in one place LOL.

Live outside yourself… I’m not sure what it is in our nature, the need to be needed or simply a distraction from self-assessment. But giving our energy to others (family or strangers) seems to fulfill something in our souls. Maybe it is just that by helping others we tend to appreciate what we have (in my case “am”). When we have appreciation we spend less time wanting and Buddhism teaches that wanting is the source of all our suffering.

Be realistic… optimism & pessimism both ignore aspects of any situation, which is dangerous because it leaves things that need to be dealt with undone. The realist says, “My glass is half empty, so I better start searching for a new water source, while it is still half full”.

Be humble… do what you can and rejoice in that… Canada has 170,000 homeless in shelters (50,000 are street people) I can’t help them all… but I can make any given moment a little easier & a little more enjoyable. And for some (like the young man who called me) that changes everything.

Be focused… there are a million places in the world that need help, find one speaks to your heart and give your time and energy to that. You can find yourself pulled in too many directions even by related issues; if you give in to this you will burnout. My focus is one on one outreach with street people, helping them find enough hope and self love to move themselves forward in their lives. Someone else will make the sandwiches, provide the blankets and provide the resources… it is for me to touch a heart and stir it to action. I support housing initiatives, welfare reform and most antipoverty causes to a limited extent. But I am a pebble; I am secure that one life touched ripples out touching others with its wake. The world is a better place for each small change.

Be kind … first with yourself, everyone makes mistakes (has a bad day) but as long as you do the best you can in any given moment you should be proud. Then extend that courtesy to others and appreciate that everyone one is doing the best they can and forgive any shortfalls.

Be respectful… it is not for us to judge another person, we have not lived in their head or in their life. I’m not going to tell you everyone is innately good…some people are just assholes, but it doesn’t make them or the situation any better by disrespecting them. Treating everyone with respect & kindness speaks to who you are and makes the world a better place for your having passed through it.

Be honest… this is probably at the root of everything. When you are honest you accept your limitations, take responsibility (& action) when you can. A person never has to live with guilt or regret when they have done what they honestly can do. Now you know how to create a life filled with  joy, peace & love.
Click this link to vote for me  I Can Achieve

Monday, August 1, 2011

hulahoop and lots of poop

I’m blaming the 1950s …. Yes, it is considered to be the best time in our history. A post-war economic boom meant lots of jobs, if a person (specifically a man) wanted to work there was more than enough to go around. The only homeless back then were drunks, drug addicts and drop outs (hobos and beatnik writers). A man could start with very little and build great wealth with nothing more than sweat and persistence. You could start in the mail room at a company and find a seat in the vice president’s office during your 30 year tenure, before retiring comfortably. The things that were wrong with the 50s… the 60s-90s worked vigorously to address, racial and gender equality has made great strides. The rights of the individual to safety and dignity, in society and within the home are now protected under law.

My problem is with the way the good old days have coloured or attitudes, our world view and our expectations. The homeless of the 1950s represents only 30% of today’s homeless population. In 1950 the mentally ill and infirmed were hospitalized. Better than today's lack of facilities and structure which leaves this population accounting for 20% of Canada’s homeless. There are a couple of city’s doing an excellent job of providing supportive housing, kudos to E4C of Edmonton Albert.

The other 50% of homeless are just poor… minimum wage earners, single parents on assistance, pensioners, and large families. True in 1950 people did alright on minimum wage which was only $0.65 an hour. You heard me right, sixty-five cents. A loaf of bread was 5 cents… a bus ride was 5 cents …a movie with pop corn was a quarter (25 cents). So a person earning minimum wage could ride the bus, take in a movie, ride home and bring a loaf of bread with him… and still have money for 2 Coney dogs at the McKellar Confectionary (not bad for an hours work). Today a bus ride is $2.50, the movie $20, a bus home $2.50 the loaf of bread $3; let’s add the 2 hotdogs that’s another $7. $35 THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS that is 3x the minimum wage in Ontario and 4x the minimum wage for Alberta. Let me be very clear increasing minimum wage is NOT the solution… minimum wage goes up…prices go up and the poverty just continues.

Thanks to the affluence of the 1950’s we still cling to the delusion that money = success=happiness. Since the economic shifts of the 80s and 90s one can no longer build great wealth without serious money with which to prime the pump. Today’s barons either have family wealth (or wealthy backers) or gain their foothold through exploitation enterprises like buying up foreclosures, or providing payday loans or buying your family treasures for pennies on the dollar. But not to worry there is always the lottery or… "The Secret" by the way, manifestation was intended for benefiting the universe, not to get you a private jet, but that's another discussion. Since, so few of us can actually have wealth; we keep ourselves in the chasing happiness game through credit. Let it go already …this is the 21st century… if the people in your life are only there because of your stuff; you should probably get rid of them and the stuff.

Thanks to the black and white sitcoms we all labour under the misguided notion that life should be perfect; free of any hardships, struggles, losses or challenges. But these hardships are what build us; through our pain we can gain strength and confidence and learn compassion toward the trials of others. Surviving (childhood abuse, teen pregnancy, single parenting, divorce, illness, death, depression, deferring your personal goals until the kids are grown, re-educating, changing professions) is not heroism …this is just living your life. My sainted old granny would say “shit happens …deal with it”. Stop trying to live up to imaginary lives…reality will always fall short, instead take another piece of advice from granny, “no matter how bad things get you don’t got to look too far to find somebody worse off than you.”

Just an interesting note Robert Young (Dad Jim Anderson of Father Knows Best fame) died an alcoholic. And here’s an interesting quote from Billy Grey who played the son on that show.

[On his "Father Knows Best" (1954) years,] "I wish there was some way I could tell kids not to believe it - the dialogue, the situations, the characters - they were all totally false. The show did everybody a disservice. The girls were always trained to use their feminine wiles, to pretend to be helpless to attract men. The show contributed to a lot of the problems between men and women that we see today....I think we were all well motivated, but what we did was run a hoax. "Father Knows Best" (1954) purported to be a reasonable facsimile of life. And the bad thing is that the model is so deceitful.....If I could say anything to make up for all the years I lent myself to that kind of bullshit, it would be: *You* Know Best."

The attitudes and mythology of the 1950s belong in the world of nostalgia … Reality requires new solutions applicable to the new situation which western society has to deal with in the 21st century.
Have a joyous day my friends... we'll talk again soon.