November 21, 2012

Nothing replaces the warmth of human kindness.

“I have nobody. I need someone.”

¾Amanda Todd

FACT:  There are more people on the planet than ever before.

FACT:  People share e-messages within seconds.

FICTION: That we are meaningfully connected.

One of my mentors Sharon MacKenzie wrote this about our changing communities....
Sharon MacKenzie, Victoria BC
Parent, Teacher, Grandmother
Inter-generational Community Advocate

I’m sixty-four years old with three grown sons. I recently gave one an earful because for three weeks we had texted and send random photos. I had not heard the sound of his voice nor sensed the timbre of his tone to know if he was content, harried or healthy. Yes, we were connected, but no, we were not.

Having nobody and needing someone are serious issues that confront two generations¾ young people and older adults. Governments lack sufficient flexibility, funds, and personnel to cure the ill of social disconnection. The answer may be to prevent the debilitating circumstances of social isolation by ‘becoming community’. There is untapped inter-generational power that can build resiliency to heal what ails us. “I have nobody. I need someone.” is not just the call for help of Amanda Todd, it is a call from Canadian society. We as individuals need to stop viewing our neighbourhoods as locations, and start interacting face-to-face within them.

At some time in our lives, each of us will find ourselves alone and isolated as a result of death, divorce, re-location, as a new parent, a reluctant retiree, or as a neglected child. Circumstances of disconnection make us vulnerable. If someone is not there to fill the void within, we may fall victim to depression, addictions, suicide, gangs, or we may turn to cyper-space. But Facebook can be faceless and texts are text without context. Nothing replaces the warmth of human kindness.

Governments and institutions fund programmes that grapple with the complexities of teen bullying, depression, addictions and suicide. Meanwhile at the other end of the age continuum, they fund projects to promote awareness of elder abuse, self-neglect, depression, addictions and senior suicide. In aged and youth, isolation is now a leading health concern. It costs us lives. It costs us money. It causes us despair.

Two generations, opposite ends of the ageing spectrum, both facing astoundingly similar issues, both looking to be empowered and connected. Could working inter-generationally be a winning double-dip?

Canada’s history is proof that generations working shoulder-to-shoulder create resilient community, but now we disconnect generations. We develop paths to efficiently target age groups: seniors in seniors’ facilities, high school students in high schools, middle-age in workplaces, First Nations in Residential schools, pre-schoolers in pre-schools. In disabling inter-generational strength, the middle generation is left to care for both the young and the old. But why not let the young and old together form a coalition of care with each other? Co-participating as age-friendly partners, they can positively address some of the very criteria in which depression, lack of purpose, and isolation are rooted.

Ministries of Education are proposing ‘project based learning’, a community-context approach. We know historically that elder knowledge was revered as part of teaching, tempering, and applauding youthful creativity. Schools and community can once again offer opportunities for building respectful bridges between youth and older adults, an inter-generational stand against ageist attitudes, isolation and bullying. Prevention is the key. It’s easy, cost-effective, and it will work.

Regardless of how much money government hands out, how many dedicated volunteers, how trained staff is, or how strong the family unit, there will never be ‘enough’ to correct all that plagues us within the social milieu. Party politics come and go, families split and move apart, and education and health care run the race between burn out and responding to the myriad of problems in an ever-changing field.

Everything costs more and takes longer, with no promise that funded programs are sustainable. What we do have is children and youth with time on their hands, and a bulging demographic of older adults. We have the people power.
It is unfortunate that it took the death of another young person to re-focus our attention on how important kind and respectful face-to-face relationships are to our societal wellbeing. How many more calls for help do we need to hear? As individuals within democracy, we must all take personal responsibility for the solution and act now.

Research shows that purposeful and simple inter-generational activities make positive differences. They bring long-lasting strength to participants who reflect, “I have someone. I do not feel alone.”

 So, what are we waiting for?

One place to start is with excellent resources newly developed by government and not-for-profit in Canada. Check them out at and then do something.

Sharon MacKenzie, Victoria BC
Parent, Teacher, Grandmother
Inter-generational Community Advocate


October 08, 2012

Happy 50th - I promise not to grow up!

I have recently reached my 50th year and I feel so grateful for so much.  I want to continue to live life with tenacity, to push my boundaries and to continue to find ways to appreciate and live my best life.  I hope I can make a difference in the lives of others and leave my mark while I am here.  I am enjoying a wonderful life with wonderful family around me, it’s just that I can’t imagine falling into a routine during the next 50 years...... 
You see, age is so not a barrier and I have promised myself not to grow up.


Seems like yesterday I was playing at the cottage in Collingwood, Ontario with cousins and family swimming, sailing, exploring and creating memories on Georgian Bay.  Understandably, with little concept of just how wonderful that life was, yet I remember it like it was yesterday.  That yesterday was actually 45 years ago which seems like AGES in time.    

It doesn’t feel so long ago that I turned 40 when my husband and friends crowned me Edgemont Idol, an honor to bestow. I remember the costumes. performances and the dancing until the wee hours of the morning (something we are known for).   
Thankfully these costume parties still happen and proud to say, we still dance until the wee hours.

A community gal at heart, I will always try to connect people together (through parties, sports team or community events) and to encourage others to also push their boundaries and to live their best life. For me, it's wanting others to have more.

We know change comes from within and only those with the confidence and courage will move into a life they love.
Then arrives the 50th – the day I woke with a smile and a heart that was full.  It was as if I had reached a peak and a place whereby I was given permission to actively explore what the world had to offer and to carry on.  Quite weird, but I felt like I was in new shoes, bigger shoes......

A birthday trip to Vegas was in order and it wasn't too hard to convience my girlfriends it was a good idea.  Being around such wonderful friends was an honour and a blast.  The book tells our story.....

Our children are a reflection of us and I am super proud that ours identify with me.  Both are expressive with their words and I have received many treasured cards from each encouraging me and thanking me for helping them to dream big and follow their passions. It became apparent that these expressions were honest and real when I received this homemade birthday card.  

I can’t express my gratitude for such wonderful and humorous messages from my husband, daughter and my son.  You will note, that it appears, our dog Mel is also the centre of my universe. 

I feel grateful for my parents who continue to support me even though my actions sometimes fall outside their comfort zone. My Mom and I share a similar sprit and I have learned much from her.   I sometimes think that she is vicariously living a life alongside with me, always eager to hear the details and share in my joy.

And of course, life would be lonely without your best friend(s) walking beside you. 

Here’s to another 50 years. Bring it on.....

May 26, 2012

Just another chapter in my story

Ah yes, it has been some time since I have taken time to myself to sit and write my thoughts in this blog. You see I have been busy. Busy with making challenging and sometimes difficult decisions about my life and my work and how I want to spend my days. Is it age related, do we sometimes feel that we are here to make a difference and the years simply are now passing by too quickly? We have the choice to take control and yes, the great thing is that we have control of our decisions if we can muster up the courage. We are here to carve our path and write our own story. I relate everything to music and the song, "we're here for a good time, not a long time" always resonates with me. I have been known to sing this with friends very loudly with feeling. Music makes me happy.

Whoosh, I had found myself in a space (work space) that provided me with more insight into myself and clearly helped me define what it is I didn't want. I am very thankful for such opportunity to have contributed to this team and even more appreciative of the strong references for my contributions (as if that really matters but in our society, it does).

You see, each of us is very different and what provides us energy and confidence and meaning is found in a variety of ways. For me, my lesson over this past while was reassurance. Reassurance that it is okay to be driven and drawn to others who are big thinkers who have a similar vision and believe their work has meaning. From this past experience, I bounced out stronger and more focused on the next chapter, leaving behind impressions and (hopefully) my positive influence on others (I am sure this work space has returned to calm and quiet). Thank you to one of my new peers there who had the courage to tell me that having met me has left them a changed person, and that they now see fewer barriers to this next stage in their own life. How rewarding. Sadly, all that was needed was someone to believe in their capabilities, and to show appreciation of their work. If you are leading others in this very influential role, consciously welcome input and ideas from your team in order to create a culture that thrives.

Whoosh again, one sunny night at a prospecting meeting over dinner, this "opportunity thing" falls into my lap.  Karma, I say. Chance was knocking and I had to face the difficult decision to go with the heart, or what society expected from me. I guess, psychologically, I had put out into the universe the "heads up" that I wasn't thriving. I felt frustrated and ready for the next adventure in my own story. Over dinner (actually before dinner even came) we were connected. I was confident that she could sense my passion, energy, and drive. Our values and goals were in synergy and it was obvious that I was meant to meet her (thank you for that introduction again). You see, this new role tied in all my past experience working with kids and seniors as well as new businesses. I didn't hold back, like I have done before. I gave her the real goods and presented the "real me", and she continued to identify my knowledge that I could bring to the team. I start next week and it feels like I have a new spring in my step, and again, I have come alive.

My family smiles, supporting me like they always do (even my mom and dad say it is like seeing a new flower blossoming), for which I am ever so thankful. There has been such change over time, and together they ride this rollercoaster with me. Something is pushing me to leave life lessons with my children, and I believe that with their observation of my personal growth (they see me laugh, cry, and I seek their advice), and by me openly sharing, they will receive an insight that many don't have. Some people judge us when we step outside the comfort zone to take risks, and sadly, because of this, many never do.

I can tell you that it is only when I step out of this comfort zone that I feel I am growing. It ain't easy and I admit; I cry, sometimes feel unfocused, and lost with such uncertainty. I trust I am not alone. I also continue to try to figure out why others share words or opinions that are so hurtful, but each and every time, I pull myself out and trust the process, remembering that I am here to make a difference, and that it ain't easy.

We're here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can't shine every day

- Trooper

March 03, 2012

The China Cabinet – a collection of our memories

Many of us have moved through our lives with what was traditionally called the china cabinet, a catchall for treasures collected over a lifetime.    

According to Wikipedia, traditionally, this cupboard or cabinet was made of wood, used indoors to store household objects such as food, crockery, textiles, liquor and to protect them from dust, vermin and dirt. 

My china cabinet also known as the pine hutch, is a product of love and has a story.

My husband and I in our early years of marriage would spend our Sundays exploring the small communities and their architecture of Fergus, Mt. Forest and Shelburne, all towns outside of Toronto on what we called our “road trips”.  One Sunday afternoon we found by accident, a road which led us to a crafter’s studio and furniture designer.  That Sunday, we left Shelburne having designed our own cabinet which later became the first piece of real furniture we owned together. 

24 years later the cupboard is jammed with a collection of items we have accumulated over time.  Filled with treasures including the Christmas Turkey plates and platter, a number of unused glass serving plates, tea cups and saucers left from Aunt Jean and a Pewter tea service from my Grandma.  Also, dishes that were left over from parties (my friend was just reunited with one), half opened packages of napkins, cards, candles, tablecloths, numerous wine glasses, kids treasures and our good china.  Most of the stuff rarely used.

Our good china dishes and the silver serving pieces, gifts from our wedding, are like new despite residing there for almost 24 years. Having grown up in a traditional household, the good dishes were often saved for formal dinner parties and entertaining only.
Well, like in many homes I assume, the unused good china dishes are no indication to the celebrations and parties enjoyed by family and friends!  In fact, our pine hutch front panel once caught fire from a tea light during a roaring Christmas party. The scar still remains.  
I will just ignore that fact that the drawers are stuffed and hard to close, I almost cause a disaster every time I reach for one of those glass dishes and some of that dust has likely been there for the entire time. 

A couple of my favourite pieces found in that old pine hutch include the sticker from a girlfriend that says “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” and my grandma’s old ashtray that says “Halitosis is better than no breath at all”.
Hey, why not open up your china cabinet to take a trip down memory lane and celebrate with dinner on your good dishes! 

January 29, 2012

We can expand and not just in our waist!

I don’t know what happened but things just seem to be spreading out and expanding in my life right now and I don't believe I am alone.   Does anyone else feel like their waist is changing and things are starting to sag or on the upside, their mind is expanding and the opportunities that go with that?! 

It’s like all of a sudden life throws you a lifeline when we are struggling with the reality of midlife, our grown kids leaving the nest, menopause and the realities of financial challenges or health issues. 

Attitude is everything and just being positive might change the world but if not, it can certainly help one cope with the many stresses of life and aging.
Let’s try to find positive ways to make others feel needed, wanted and to help them to draw out the strengths that they have.  Imagine if we all gave more compliments to others every day how attitudes would change in a community and the ripple affect into the world?
We seem to live in such a competitive world and sometimes people forget that compassion and competition need to learn to dance together.

 If you are part of a volunteer organization, a team, a club then take the time to recognize and celebrate those who are contributing but better yet, give responsibilities to those that show the slightest interest in helping out.  We call this opportunity and by sharing, it gives chances to help others so that they can expand out of their comfort zone, into greater knowledge and in the long run, expand their confidence.  

 Extend a hand to someone or simply make the effort to recognize and share a compliment however minor and you might feel your heart expand too. The rewards will be numerous.  Life is much more about giving than receiving.  Go ahead and pay it forward.

Thankfully this expansion life hasn’t just been in my waist but also in my working life.  Expanding into our capabilities and believing in ourselves and others can create incredible new opportunities. I find some of my friends are now brainstorming new businesses, writing blogs (on Hot Pants to Hockey) and finding ways to volunteer and test this new ground.  I smile with pride and try to encourage them. 
These lifelines that we are thrown,  in my opinion,  are simply those people in your lives who care:)