Better Because of your Shining Spirit Kori!

My first introduction to the sweetness of Kori’s spirit was not even in person.  Although we had never before met … many, many years ago when I was in charge of soliciting donations for something … she voluntarily dropped off a donation for our cause. Who does that?? Unsolicited?  I suspected, in that moment, that she was a very special soul.  It would be a few years before I would actually get to meet her … and have my suspicions confirmed … in the flesh.

And she did not disappoint.  She joined a book study that I was leading at the time.  The sparkle from her brilliant internal flame lit up the room.  Her eyes twinkled with kindness. Her smile welcomed your heart.  Her quick wit brought on the belly laughs … when you least expected them. Yes. The vibrancy of Kori’s spirit is very visible.

We were studying a book by Byron Katie called … “Loving What Is”.  I find myself wondering how hard it must be to stand in that  frame of reference for her now … with all that has transpired in her world.  At that time, we could never have expected the turn of events that Kori would be invited to endure.

It turned out that we got to work together a few years later … and … we did so for quite a number of years.  We were not in the same department, but we were employed by the same agency.  As a result, sometimes we meet for lunch to ensure we get to connect with each other every now and again. She’s the kind of person you want in your circle. Yes. She just shines.  And … she invites every one in her presence to shine too.

Oh … and were it not for Kori … I would never have visited “Carl” at “The Divine Mine.”  Carl is a medium who reads your cards and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting with him on a couple of occasions. It’s always interesting to have someone tell you things that other people aren’t supposed to know about your personal lives.  Yes … my daughters and I, along with my Bestie and I have enjoyed some time with Carl because of Kori! I now find myself questioning whether Carl had any inkling of what was in the cards for Kori …………

I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated what was about to unfold on that seemingly regular Tuesday. We were all together attending a computer training … and another of our remarkable colleagues, Jackie, had generously offered to have us over to her home so we could sit in the sunshine and enjoy our bagged lunches outdoors in her yard.  Some of us never arrived.

Five or six of us were walking just out of the building when it happened. Our beautiful Kori was walking between Kimmy and I when she fell. Toppled right over beside us. Usually when someone falls … they are flailing about … trying to catch themselves … grasping for anything to hold them up.  But none of that happened.  Kori didn’t even put her hands out to break her fall. She stiffly hit her chest on the ground and skidded forward … landing on her forehead when she came to rest … arms straight down by her sides.

She roused quite quickly … in response to our clamoring around her …

“Are you okay??” …. “Kori, Kori … oh my gosh Kori … are you okay??”

She said she wasn’t sure.  She was disoriented. She said she felt sick to her stomach. She had some trouble getting the words out though. And for a moment, the left side of her face drooped just a little bit.  I called 911.  By the time the EMTs arrived, she was arriving back to her bubbly self.  When they asked what happened … she cheekily joked – with her ever ready quick wit:

“Well, she tripped me … and … she pushed me  … and … then I fell.” And after an impeccably well-timed pause … she jovially continued:  “No … not really. I just tripped.”

And well … not a single one of us who witnessed her fall were convinced that she “just tripped”. We shared some of our concerns with the handsome EMTs who took her to the ambulance for assessment. We told them that the way she fell seemed very odd.

And while they were assessing her,  we laymen collectively concurred that something wasn’t quite right.  But that is not what the professionals determined.  The EMTs speculated that she probably sustained a concussion in the fall. We tried to convince her to go to the hospital.  She pleasantly declined … assuring us that she was “just fine”. Given that they could find no obvious need for immediate treatment, the medics invited her to seek additional medical support if her symptoms got any worse over the rest of the day.

And our beautiful Kori was determined to put it all behind her and get back to work.  With one eye on our computers and the other on Kori, those of us who witnessed her fall watched over her when we got back into the training.  Not a single one of us was comfortable … and when she indicated that she still felt nauseated … one of us got up and  followed her out of the room. And, it took a while, but eventually someone convinced her to let us call her husband to come pick her up.

And even though I knew she was in the loving care of her husband …… I found myself fretting that she was likely to minimize it all and tell him that she had simply tripped.   And so, although I worried that I might be overstepping, I decided to call and talk to him about my concerns. When he didn’t pick up, I ended up leaving a message on his voicemail, suggesting that they might want to go get her double checked at the ER.

After he got my voicemail, Kori and I exchanged a few text messages and had a chat.  I pressed my point that she should be re-examined. She indicated that she had an appointment with the doctor the next day, so she was comfortable to wait until then. She was so patient with me. I was not so sure they should wait … but after assuring me that she was comfortable at home and “eating popcorn” … I surrendered my attempts to control their evening and reassured myself that things would be checked out the next day.

I will never know if it was by luck or by divine design … but my schedule magically cleared the next morning. I was so encouraged that I would be able to attend Kori’s doctor’s appointment with her …. so I could tell the doctor myself how odd it had looked to those of us who saw her fall. I also mentioned that the side of her face drooped for a bit. I shared that her speech seemed somewhat labored and that she slurred a bit right after she roused. I told him she was instantly nauseated. I was grateful for the opportunity to make the case that something was not just NOT right.

Despite my best efforts, the doctor seemed nonplussed and determined that she likely had a concussion. And, he ordered an x-ray of her wrist … instead of her head.  I was absolutely dumbfounded. I even felt a bit angry. And powerless. And perplexed. And scared.  She was off to x-ray and I had to get back to work, but I made her promise me that she would ask him about getting a scan of her head. I’m not sure how their conversation unfolded, but the scan never happened until another  doctor … doing another completely unrelated procedure ordered it … a whole week later!!

And that is when the real issue was discovered.  I still haven’t done it, but I have asked Kori’s permission to hug the wise and intuitive physician who ordered the scan … and … kick the other doctor squarely in the shins. It’s really hard not to be indignant about his diagnosis of ‘concussion’. He missed it. We gave him all the red flags and he totally disregarded our observations. He never even looked at her brain. He was more worried about her wrist. Gah. I will not apologize for questioning the quality of his care or discernment in this moment.

And so … a week later … Kori was completely blindsided by the most ominous diagnosis! She did not have a concussion. No. Kori had a brain tumor.  A brain tumor. How does one even wrap their head around THAT news??

We learned later that they believe she had a seizure … which is why she fell. Okay. That is why it looked so odd.  And … they determined to treat the tumor for a couple of weeks in order to shrink it before they attempted to surgically remove it.

During that time, Kori was such an inspiration.  She approached it all with such grace and optimism and, of course, her exceptional sense of humor.  She posted the following on her Facebook page.

And … then she posted this one:


And this one:


And we all bombarded her with love and support and prayers!  Her surgery was scheduled for July 6, 2018.  And, she posted this on social media in the wee hours on the morning of her surgery.


Yes.  THAT is the vibrant energy of this exceptional soul!  Even a diagnosis as grim as a brain tumor could not dim the glow of her blazing internal light. And we all crossed our fingers and populated the ethers with more love and prayers.

And … the good news was that the tumor was removed!  And more good news … the tumor was not cancerous.

The not so good news is that Kori experienced a stroke resulting from the surgery.  And, so although she has bid good riddance to the tumor … we have been holding space for her healing from the lingering effects of the stroke.  And, oh my, the love and prayers persisted  … wrapped in an infinite plenitude of care and concern and compassion.

And the recovery has been long.  She fell on June 12, 2018. Her first surgery was on July 6, 2018.  Her second surgery was immediately thereafter. Her third surgery was just over a year ago in early September 2018. She was finally allowed to return home on November 16, 2018.  And, on November 30th … a number of her colleagues met to have dinner together and catch up with one another. It was so wonderful to spend some time with her again … and yet … as I said in my text to her the next morning:

 I sensed there was so much more we could have discussed. I felt both the brightness of your soul and the weariness in your spirit. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is on some days … to find your smile as you work to regain your losses.

And, it occurred to me that because she has always been such a bright light, it might be hard for her to find safe spaces where she could set down her cheery demeanor and simply rest and hold space for the grief that must also be part of the journey. I knew Kori had what it would take to thrive despite of all of this, but I guessed there had to be days when she just felt tired and discouraged. I’m sure there were … but she doggedly persisted in the pursuit of her healing.

And … all her tenacity was rewarded when she got the very best gift for her birthday on May 6th, 2019!  As she said in a Facebook post:

“What a nice way to spend my Birthday….. I got to go back to work today! 3 brain surgeries, one hemorrhagic stroke later, and I’m back to work! What a great way to spend my Birthday. Wonderful gift!”

And, the agency is so fortunate to have Kori back at work!  She is so incredibly gifted and brings so much to her career!  I have always marvelled at the way she handles an audience.  She is a fabulous public speaker … brilliantly weaving her beautiful heart together with her fabulous humor. Kori is exceptional. She works with senior citizens … and … her compassionate care and concern for them is obvious.  It has been beautiful to witness their love and support of her on social media!

And the love continues to pour in her direction. And … I am in awe of her strength and resilience as she finds her way through this dire turn of events. And, she is a shining example of how one can decide to live a great life anyway … regardless of what you find on your path. And, I think it is fair to say she has inspired so many of us to rethink the way we are living our lives, because one can never know what will come one’s way … on a seemingly regular Tuesday.

And, she has done just that!!  Thank you Kori … for showing us … for teaching us … that people can get through the most daunting adversity with the right attitude and the will to overcome the roadblocks tossed on their paths.  And, as a counsellor, I am aware that we do not always publicly see the struggles and challenges that are also part of any great overcoming … but … your grit, grace and glow remain an absolute inspiration.

And Kori, I know you have always lived your life from a perspective of gratitude … so much so that you even have the word “Blessed” tattooed onto your foot.  And, while most of us would be hard-pressed to find the blessings in all you have been through … you continue to do so. Regardless of how dark it may seem … you are always looking for the light!

Yes, it is clear that all the love and support extended your way is cherished and treasured in your heart.  No. The gifts and blessings in your life are never lost on you!  But … I also want to ensure that you know that our lives are so much better because of you … and … with you in them!

I am so grateful our lives intersected beautiful one! I sincerely thank you for casting such a brilliant glow into my world … both pre and post stroke! Yes. I just wanted you to know that although we no longer work together … I am grateful that we still connect every now and again for lunches … and … have hopes that we will have continued opportunities to connect at our monthly “Von Schnitzel” collegial suppers! ❤

 I know that your journey continues.  And, I also know that you will find a way to ensure that any blessings that might be hidden in the hardships you have endured will be honored and appreciated. You are one of those amazing souls that turns lemons into lemonade … and then … generously offers to quench everyone’s thirst! And may this blog serve to remind you that we are all still cheering you on … ever grateful for all the ways that our lives are better because you are in them. Yes … we are all so much better because of you.

And so, in closing … I just have to share this.  When I saw the following quotation, I laughed.  It sounded just like something you might say … using your exceptional sense of humor to describe all you have been through since that fateful Tuesday …

With heartfelt gratitude for your shining presence … ❤ Karen ❤

 

 

 

The World is a Better Place Because of You … Fatemeh!

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated!

I was inspired to become a social worker given my passionate commitment to help people ‘live a great life anyway’ … despite all the people, circumstances and situations that often compromise our best efforts to do so.  As such, I attempt do so in a variety of ways. I am a counsellor working with people in my private practice to help people find ways to savor the moments in their lives rather than merely enduring them.  I am also an EMDR therapist (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)  and an ART therapist (Accelerated Resolution Therapy)  invested in helping people process and heal from the traumatic events that often prevent them from living their best lives.  And, in my role as a Certified Integrative Coaching Professional with The Ford Institute, I have been trained to help people transform any areas in their lives where they are feeling ‘stuck’ in some way, shape or form.

I have been a life coach for about 17 years now.  One of the blessings of coaching is that it is done over the telephone, and so over the years, I have had the good fortune of working with oodles of wonderful individuals from all different parts of the globe! Notwithstanding that, I could never have known the gift that I was about to unwrap when I received this coaching inquiry almost four years ago  from the Coaches Listing Page on The Ford Institute website. .

March-22-15 11:53 AM
Subject: Coach Page Inquiry
Message
hi my name is fatemeh from iran. spring is start of our new year. i am studing the book “the best year of my life” in persian. can u send to me some schaduale?

I was delighted to discover that a woman from Iran was reaching out to me for coaching!  Unfortunately, I did not have any space available at the time.  And so, I responded by saying:

Hi Fatemeh …

How nice to find your coaching inquiry in my email expressing an interest in being coached! I trust you are enjoying “The Best year of Your Life”. It is such a powerful piece of the work offered by Debbie Ford and the coaching experience is one way of truly bringing the concepts into your life in powerful and transformative ways!

Unfortunately, at the present time, I do not have any space for new coaching clients. I expect that it will be about 4 months before I am able to take on another client. I realize that this is a long time to wait. You may prefer to seek out another coach … or … if you like, I can keep your email and contact you when I have some space available.

Please let me know what would suit you best. Either way, I wish you all the very best as you move into the best year of your life!

With warmest regards,
Karen

Generally speaking, when people decide they are ready to hire a coach, they do not want to wait.  So, I was entirely surprised when I received her response:

hi karen

thank you for u answer and your kindness. I will wait. I have started my new year and I will send to u my progress. spring is really a good time to start …. 
with love and respect
fatemeh noroozi

It turned out to be even longer than four months before Fatemeh and I reconnected in December of 2015.  In my coaching practice, I annually offer to provide my coaching services ‘pro-bono’ for one client and because we were just turning the corner into a new year, I was able to offer the pro-bono space for 2016 to Fatemah! I was eager to work with her and meet her via Skype because there was something about the energy of this magnificent being that touched me so deeply. And so, the most remarkable journey began … on January 15th, 2016.

And, what began as a coach/client relationship has grown into the meeting of two hearts … who are clearly very old friends (as Hafiz would suggest!). I  am not sure either one of us had any idea we would feel so connected and that, three years later, we would still be meeting, on occasion, to reconnect and catch up with one another.  And, I am holding hope that one of these days we will get to meet each other in person!

Fatemeh … or … Fatima (as I have affectionately come to refer to her)  has done some of the most remarkable work.  Not only internally  (through her personal growth) … but … also externally (in her professional capacity as an educator).  Fatima defines herself as a “teacher/explorer” and when we started our coaching relationship, she was about to make her first venture abroad by traveling solo to Europe. Our coaching agreement was centered around helping her overcome some of the fears she was experiencing in anticipation of her upcoming travels.

I learned very quickly that Fatima is whole-heartedly committed to making the world a better place. It didn’t take very long before I was sensing the genuine goodness of her being … her heart … her loving spirit. And, I knew that she was making a significant difference for all those touched by her kind and altruistic nature.

I have been so inspired by all that she is and all that she is doing, that I recently asked her if she would be willing to share her remarkable story with me, so that I could share it with all of you here on this “Better Because of You” blog. She expressed some reticence because she was self-conscious about her command of the English language.  She requested that I edit her story to ensure that it reflected proper English.  I responded by saying that I was reluctant to do so because I could feel so much of her joyous soul and benevolent spirit and compassionate heart in the way she strung her words together that I didn’t want to risk losing that energetic resonance in exchange for optimizing her spelling, grammar and/or vocabulary.  And so, I didn’t. And, I trust that you will understand what I mean!

Fatemeh / Fatima

It is my absolute honor to share Fatemeh’s story with you here. And, although I feel a bit self conscious about publishing it because, within it, she has so very graciously elevated my presence in her world … I would most humbly suggest that we are seeing her own bright light projected in my direction. While her generous description of me warms my heart with fond appreciation, I trust you will hear the brightness of her spirit as you are touched by how her own sparkling soul is rendered visible in this impassioned story of a woman with a love filled desire to make a difference in the world. Here is Fatemeh’s story, in her own words:

 

 

 

And … my relationship with this exceptional soul is a genuine example of the humanity that loudly exists despite our differences in culture or geography or religious beliefs.  Fatemah and I are in a relationship that sees well beyond the obvious … we know each other at the heart level.  And our relationship is an example of what can happen whenever any one of us seeks to suspend our beliefs and our biases … when we decide to look beyond the superficial stereotypes and into the treasures of each human spirit.

And, to see the world through the eyes of this amazing soul … to feel her efforts to unify our global population is beyond extraordinary!  And then … out of the blue … I received this parcel in the mail from her just this past December, 2018.

There were so many beautiful offerings reflecting her country and expressions of the cultural spirit of Iran. I truly appreciated her efforts to bridge the geographical gap between us because we live in a world where misperceptions of other cultures are publicly perpetuated and ‘others’ are misunderstood and marginalized with criticism and judgement. I am excited to share the contents because they reflect the heart and soul of our shared humanity.

One of the things Fatima sent to me was a parchment with my name written on it …  in Persian. It serves as a reminder to me that regardless of the culture we inhabit or the language that use we use to name things … the essence of someone/something cannot be fully captured  in the finite flow of ink, but rather … to be fully known … must be experienced at an energetic level.

Fatima also sent a most beautiful weaving called a “Termah”.  My dining room table is now adorned with the beautiful tapestry. It serves to remind me of the threads of love that have been woven into the tapestry of all of our lives. For me, it reflects the exquisite beauty that can be created when we are wise enough to honor and blend differing colors and textures together.  It is exceptional in it’s refinement and spectacular detail. Wikipedia states:

“Termeh (Persian: ترمه‎) as a type of Iranian handwoven cloth, produced primarily in the Yazd province. Weaving termeh requires a good wool with long fibers. Termeh is woven by an expert with the assistance of a worker called a Goushvareh-kesh. Weaving termeh is a sensitive, careful, and time-consuming process; a good weaver can produce only 25 to 30 centimetres (10 to 12 in) in a day. The background colors used in termeh are jujube red, light red, green, orange and black. Termeh has been admired throughout history … “

Fatima also included a little box filled with small gold figurines called “farvehar.” As she shared, they are intended to be symbol of “good thoughts, good words, good deeds” and are intrinsically related to the history of Iran from 1500 years ago.

As per Wikipedia, “The Faravahar (Persian: فروهر‬‎)… is one of the best-known symbols of Iran” and “is the most worn pendant among Iranians and has become a secular national symbol, rather than a religious symbol. It symbolizes good thoughts (پندار نیک‬ pendār-e nik), good words (گفتار نیک‬ goftār-e nik) and good deeds (کردار نیک‬ kerdār-e nik).”

Also included in this package was a glorious painted plate which is called “Minakari”. It is absolutely exquisite in its beauty! I love the richness of the colors and the intricacy of the pattern is gorgeous. I found the perfect place in my new office to hang it so that all my clients can also enjoy it’s beauty … and should they inquire about it’s origin … learn about the abiding connection between Fatima and I.

“Minakari or Enamelling is the art of painting, colouring and ornamenting the surface of metals by fusing over it brilliant colours that are decorated in an intricate design. Mina is the feminine form of Minoo in Persian, meaning heaven. Mina refers to the Azure colour of heaven.” (https://surfiran.com/iranian-minakari-art-heaven/)

Fatima also sent me a beautiful scarf. It is so soft and, as I shared with her, “whenever I wear the scarf, it will be as though I am wrapped in a hug from you”.

There were also a number of other things that she thoughtfully included in her gifts to me. As I shared with her …

“The rosary beads. They feel so beautiful to the fingers. I shall count amongst my blessings … the heartfelt union of our souls. And, I shall display it in my new office, as a fond reminder of the deep connections we have with each other and the spirit of the divine that bridges any geographical distance between our souls.

And … the rose blossoms! They are so delicate and fragile and remind me that we must pay attention to the little blessings and blossoms of tender love and natural beauty that surround us. And, I shall sprinkle them on my shelf in my office as well.

And, the tiny figurine of mother and child … is such a beautiful depiction of how each and every one of us needs to feel the warm embrace of someone who cares deeply about us. “

Although there were a number of other things, I offer up this smattering of the gifts she sent so you might get a sense of her culture and herself. She has gifted me with so much and not just in the package that arrived via Canada Post.  As I shared in an email to Fatima:

“I can so very much feel your loving presence in these gifts Fatima. And, I don’t know how to thank you enough for the blessings of your loving spirit that speaks to me in such meaningful ways. Your thoughtfulness is so very deeply appreciated. My life is so much better because of your presence in it!

And so … as I sit surrounded by the gifts of your spirit … I am basking in the joy of connection and love and all the divine energy that moves between us. You are treasured. Thank you again. I am so honored to have you in my life.”

And, as much as our relationship is unique and special … it is but an example of what can happen all over the world … if/when we accept an opportunity to connect at the heart level with each other.  As you can see … Fatemeh/Fatima is a very exceptional soul. And … her message of love and unity is deeply needed as we collectively attempt to bridge the gap that often exists between our souls based on cultural or religious differences.  If we dare to look beneath these perceived differences, we will find as Hafiz as contended … that all our hearts are, indeed, very old friends.

And … that said … I am honored to use this “Better Because of You” blog space to introduce you all to this exceptional woman.  Please join me in celebrating this wonderful soul and all the loving energy that she brings to our world! And, please, may we heed her wise words:

“Love is a global language and its alphabet comes from all diversities and cultures and acting beyond ourselves.”

Fatima … I remain blessed to have come to know you and remain humbled by your loving presence.  You do, in fact, make the whole world a better place!

With deepest reverence for your heartfelt being, ❤ Karen ❤

 

 

 

Better Because You chose Me …

I’d heard her name before. She and my bestie had met each other in class … there were both enrolled as mature students in the Social Work program offered through a nearby University.  The woman standing before me introduced herself as “Jody”.  She was direct … and … got right to the point. She was hoping I might be willing to supervise her Junior Practicum.  I sensed she was a very determined soul. There was something about her energy that both impressed me and intrigued me.  We agreed to meet at a later date to determine if we’d make a good fit for one another.

She recently reminded me that, when we subsequently met,  I told her that she might cry if she did her practicum with me.  I do like to give students a chance to reconsider having me as their supervisor, because I know its not easy being my student.  Not because I am nasty or malicious … but rather … because I don’t step over much. I don’t believe it would be in my student’s best interests to hold them in anything less than my highest vision for who I sense they could be in their careers.

From where I am looking, practicum is not only the time to put all that social work theory into practice … but it’s also the time when all of our own unhealed ‘stuff’ will be triggered by the things our clients are expressing and experiencing. I tell every potential student that I am going to invite them to examine their own perceptions, explore their beliefs and excavate anything that could hinder their capacity to ‘hold space’ for their clients with the utmost compassion and empathy.

If we are not clean, clear catalysts for change, we will not be able to stay focused upon our client’s interpretations of their experiences. Rather, their struggles and sharing may trigger some of our own unresolved prior lived experiences, and then, we can unwittingly getting caught up in the energy of our own unhealed pains of the past. And, even if we’ve been through ‘the same thing’ … our felt sense of that ‘same’ experience may be very different from theirs. And so, if there are places in our history that we are not yet at peace with, we are at great risk of projecting our own meaning making into their situation … rather than making room to deeply honor and understand the internal world of the person we are attempting to support.

And so, yes … I like to give my students the heads up that this practicum will likely be more about their own internal processing than they expected  In keeping with that, I require every student to do daily reflections … discussing three things:

  1. Learnings – what did they notice/learn about counselling skills/practice/theory during the sessions and/or our debriefing?
  2. Questions – what questions arose for them during that day?
  3. Reflections – what got stirred up in their own souls during our daily round … or … what ‘aha!’ moments may have grabbed them unexpectedly … or … how is our work stretching who they know themselves to be?

Students often think our job is to save people … to offer people solutions … to rescue/protect them from the messy parts of their lives.  I must humbly disagree. For me, the work that we do as counsellors is not at all about showing up all shiny and bright and guiding people to the perfect resolution for their situation … from some loftier place of academic enlightenment. No. From where I am looking, counselling is about connecting with the deepest parts of people’s lives … honoring all the spaces where the sacred soul seated before us may be struggling … feeling scared, sad, sleepless, soured, silenced, stuck … or stressed in some significant way.

And it is remembering that ‘stress’ behaviour often looks like ‘bad’ behaviour.  When we as humans are alarmed or overwhelmed by stressors, we are far more likely to make poor or unfavorable choices. Yes. It’s recognizing that people will try to ‘numb’ any pain that they can’t endure … perhaps with drugs or drink or gambling or sex or internet gaming … or even food. It’s remembering that our logic and reason can be high-jacked by our ‘fight/flight/freeze’ response.  It’s realizing that our job is to create a safe space so they can trust us enough to be vulnerable … so we might help them to sort things out. And from that humble space, we get to support them in connecting to and/or building the strength and knowledge they need so they can save themselves … with us safely by their sides.

Yes.  Most importantly, it is our job to check any assumptions, biases or beliefs that might invite us to judge people rather than understand them.  And, understanding does not necessarily mean excusing … but … I believe that everything makes sense if you have enough information. I believe that effective counselling is driven by compassionate curiosity.  It’s being aware that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  And so, if someone says or does something that just doesn’t make sense to me, it is my job to look deeper … to keep searching their soul until I can say “oh, of course … if that is what you were thinking/feeling/experiencing … I can see why you would have responded that way.”

A young boy’s iceberg … source unknown … but deeply appreciated!

Jody assured me she was up for the challenge.  And, you know what?  I believed her.  I also sensed a bit of an edge … like if I pushed her too hard … she might push right back. And yet, I also suspected that her seemingly unfettered and impenetrable exterior might be protecting a very tender, kind and exceptionally loving heart.  But we never discussed any of that then.

And so … we embarked on a staggeringly remarkable journey together. Neither of us could possibly have anticipated where our connection was going to take us. I can tell you right now … it was a divinely inspired union … for so many reasons.  But, it’s probably not wise for the practicum supervisor to admit to having favorites. So, I won’t do that. 😉

And, that is not to say it was all gumdrops and roses.  I suspected at the time … and I know for sure now (because she confirmed it) … that there were days when she was cussing at me under her breath! Nonetheless, Jody was a trooper!  And she challenged me and I challenged her … and ultimately … we gained such tremendous respect for one another. And through it all, the infinite depth of Jody’s capacity to care became exceedingly evident.  Yes.  The tenderest parts of her soul became more exquisitely exposed and empathetically expressed as she leaned into our work and honored the hearts seated before us.

I started to look forward to seeing Jody every morning.  Her unfailing sense of humor always tickled my heart. She always had her homework done … no matter how exhausted she was at the end of the day!  And, we never ran short on incredibly interesting conversations … about trust and shadow work and the challenges of honoring differing perspectives while standing in our own truth.

In the beginning, I sensed that she abhorred my unfailing allegiance to the philosophical constructs of Debbie Ford and her impeccable body of work.  Yes … I even thought I might lose Jody the first time we really dived deep into some of Debbie Ford’s most controversial teachings. Her contention that each an every one of us holds the capacity to be both divine and diabolical … both saint and sinner … both light and dark … is hard for many to swallow. While I sensed that Jody would rather spit that paradigm out right out rather than chew on it …. she didn’t.  She went home and tasted it. I’m not sure she actually liked any part of it … but she held some space for it.  Some say that a sign of true wisdom is the capacity to entertain an unfamiliar idea without feeling the need to immediately embrace it or reject it.

And, despite the differences in our perspectives, we learned that we shared a mutual passion for being allies to those whose voices have been muted or silenced by a majority that often refers to those of our sort as “bleeding heart” social workers.  And in addition to all that, it turned out that Jody also shared my compassionate concern about the potential for unreconciled grief related to unexpected pregnancy loss.  And with that often overlooked issue in mind, she returned to do her senior practicum with me as well!  Her passion for grief and loss and trauma work rose to the forefront as we shared another four months together.

And, ultimately, the eight months we invested with each other became precious to me. Her willingness to continue peeling back the layers of who she was and who she wanted to be was deeply inspiring.  She wisely wrestled with everything she thought she knew and made room for perspectives she had not yet considered.  It was so refreshing to watch her meeting herself in brand new ways … growing and glowing and generously embracing the gifts of her own gentle spirit.  I looked forward to seeing her and enjoying all the conversations and curiosities and laughter we shared.  And, when her practicum was over … and she graduated … I knew I was really going to miss our time together.

My Bestie Marie, Jody, and myself – celebrating Jody’s BSW graduation!

But then … something wonderful happened!  Jody asked me if I would supervise her as she acquired her required “provisional”  hours when she started to work in the field. I was honored to do so, but we had one communication obstacle.  Jody is a night owl and I am often in bed before 8:30pm. And so, she would send email updates at night that would greet me early in the morning while I had my first cup of coffee.  And, I must admit, my mornings were better on the days that started with a nice reconnection with this special soul!!

Jody has gone on to do some very empowering work in a small rural community that is populated with many homeless people.  It is her job to help them find shelter for their bodies. And, most remarkably, while she does that, she also shelters their souls. As with so many of those who are living on the streets … they may be struggling with various addictions and/or have experienced domestic violence and/or continue to endure various forms of abuse and/or neglect and/or trauma in their lives. She compassionately honors their struggles and warmly embraces the hearts of those who are often ostracized and marginalized and stigmatized by mainstream culture.  When she is working with her clients who she affectionately refers to as her “peeps” … she does not proceed from the condescending space of questioningWhat is wrong with you?”  but, rather, gently approaches her work from a trauma-informed space of wondering …“What happened to you?”

And, from where I am looking, Jody brings unparalleled compassion and respect and loving care to her social work practice. She is a rare gift to her community … with eyes that see beyond their unfavorable circumstances.  She never loses sight of the fragile hearts and traumatized souls that are simply doing their best to survive the reprehensible conditions that often unrelentingly color their capacity to choose differently and/or to rise above their day to day existence.  She is a true blessing to the social work profession.

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated!

And so, Jody … this “Better Because of You” tribute is in honor of you.  My world has been so much better for your presence in it! My mornings continue to be blessed by your engaging emails. You are no longer a student … but instead … have become a highly skilled professional … and … a very precious friend. And for this, I remain eternally grateful.  Despite all you have going on (especially now that you are doing your Masters degree!), you somehow remember to check in with me, regularly, and see how things are going in my world!  And, you have created a safe place for me to be open, honest and vulnerable with you. We’ve had enjoyed some deeply philosophical discussions via Gmail, haven’t we? 🙂

Remember one of the email exchanges we had in the stifling and unrelenting heat of last summer? We’d been talking about how the blazing temperatures were taking a toll on my flower beds. I responded to your morning email on July 20, 2017, by saying:

“I did sleep well … and … my anxious mind is still tending the blossoms.

I’ve been coddling them and I so very much enjoy them standing in their fullest glory that it saddens me to see a few of them falling through the cracks … succumbing to the hard knocks of life. I guess I feel the same about people. My heart aches when I see anyone or anything losing the struggle to be the best expression of themselves. Even a pansy.

And … it’s so metaphorical really. It can happen in a heart beat. One moment all is well … and then … it’s not. Life can be so hard … even for the pansies. And especially for the super sensitive begonias and fuchsias. Hmmm …. it strikes me that I’ve always been a bit of a begonia myself. I think my life would have been easier if I was more of a petunia. They tend to roll with the punches better … they don’t even seem to notice the wind, heat, flooding and/and drought as much. My delicate begonias feel everything! Anyway … my plan is to give the most wilted little souls a little extra TLC today. Sheesh … who knew I could even get all social worky about flowers??? 🤤

I hope you rested well too …and … I’m glad we’ll get to spend some more time together on Saturday!

Hope you enjoy a wonderful day.
Much luv … k”

Ha Ha.  And you responded by saying you love my ‘social worky’ mind and then compassionately added: I know it’s not easy to be a begonia my friend, so don’t forget to tend to yourself ️❤ !!”

Yep. You tend to my spirit in the most loving ways.  And may I say that I am just so darn grateful I get to be all of myself with you Jody. Strong and capable … quirky and anxious. Wise and ‘supervisor’ worthy … scared and insecure.  Joyful and hopeful … discouraged and defeated. And, you find a way to hold space for all of it without raising an eyebrow. I know you create that same safe container for your peeps … and … that their lives are touched for the better in countless and meaningful ways.  Like I said to you in a recent email:

“Ahhh …. I love, love, love your “long winded” emails. I love hearing about your work and your peeps and the passion you have for all of it and all of them […] along with all the possibilities you envision within your heart space and invite into your peeps perspective. All of your ‘light’ that you bring to their ‘dark’ is so incredibly palpable in your words.

More often than not, I can hear your voice as I am reading … and it’s like we are talking face to face … and I can hear your tone and imagine your facial expressions and I am thoroughly captured by your big juicy loving heart and all of it’s divine intentions.

You have created a movement out [where you work]. A much needed movement towards love and compassion and away from the cultural judgment and righteous indignation that often permeates mainstream interactions with our indigenous population.

I can’t even imagine the gap of support that would be left if the grant for your position was not extended!!! And … so it’s no wonder you are always thinking!! Once we ‘see’ the root of the problem we can’t not ‘see’ it … and … we can’t [be complicit in] covertly blaming the victims with our lofty behavior interpretations and hands off solutions.

And … I can only imagine how overwhelming it is to ‘see’ so clearly what needs to be done.  But … you are only one person … albeit with the heart of 100!!”

And, I love your ‘social worky’ heart.  It knows the way … but sadly … you bump into barrier after barrier within systems that have no room to ‘see’ what you see.  And yet, you allow your frustrations to fuel your determination to challenge and resist the oppressive social structures that have historically ignored all that lies beneath the tip of the iceberg..

And, as a result of who you are ‘being’ …  your people feel your presence … and … you make a difference in their hearts. And, as we have discussed … ‘heart work’  is so critically important … although often socially dismissed and/or professionally discounted in favor of outcomes and statistics. But … as Paul Brodeur  astutely contended: “Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off”.  Yes, you and I have both seen what a difference it makes when we are able to honor the heart of our humanity by adding a little bit of kindling to people’s internal flames.  As Eldon Hubbard  has wisely acknowledged: “We awaken in others the same attitude of mind we hold toward them.”

And we have talked about this often … in so many other email exchanges we have shared with each other … like this one you sent:

“I have had some interesting client stories this week as well … I am always in awe of the power of the human connection and how despite the circumstances that bring people together in one room you can share that space with compassion and understanding and safety for them to share their stories and feel loved and heard and often, for the first time a sense of peace … My work is ever evolving and every day is stretching me and allowing me to see through new eyes!!! ️”

And that is what you bring to your work: your tender, compassionate, loving heart.  You often like to hide it behind your strength … but … people can feel it. It sneaks out through your kind eyes. And, your sweet soul shines through your smile. And I suspect that for many of your peeps, you might be one of the first people to look beyond the messy ‘doings’ in their orbits and acknowledge the soul-filled ‘beings’ of their precious spirits instead. It doesn’t hurt that you are also very real and authentic and approachable. And funny.  Sheesh … you have an impeccable gift of being able to find the humor in everything!

Yes. That is the energy you bring to your relationships Jody. You never fail to make me laugh and ponder and feel grateful for our connection. And, I trust that with you by their side, your peeps are invited to see possibilities for their lives that never before crossed their radar.

Yes.  It’s true. My life has been touched in countless ways by your presence in it.  As I say that I am reminded that one of the other blessings of our morning email exchanges is that every once in a while you forward an amazing TedTalk … like this one … which you said reminded you of conversations we have had in the past. I would agree and responded by saying:

“I love this! Thanks so much for brightening my day. It’s like we are still in practicum … chewing on meaningful perspectives, compassionately reframing our perceptions and finding new eyes to make better sense of the chaos and distress we see our worlds.”

And so, “Sawubona” my beautiful friend … and … thank you for “seeing us.”  All. Of. Us. There is nothing more empowering than being ‘seen’ and ‘accepted’ and ‘acknowledged’  for every part of our being … especially during the times when life feels most grim. It is in those moments that we need someone to cast a light and help us find our way. And Jody … that is what you do so well.  As you bring your tender soul to those in your orbit, your presence fills up every inch of our hearts.

Yes … your energy and heart and intention are such a gift to humanity.  You are changing peoples lives … one heart at a time. And so, at this moment … it seems fitting for me to add a little wisdom from Debbie Ford.  Are you cussing again?? Ha ha … I know you are appreciating her more and more these days!!  😉

And I have absolutely no doubt that you will do exactly THAT.   You are a rare gem in the jewels of life Jody.  You are such an enviable and exceptional blend of sparkle and shine … grit and gumption … wisdom and wit … edge and empathy … love and laughter … courage and compassion … intuition and irreverence. Yes … Debbie would be inspired by your beautiful integration of polarities!!!  And … I know that the world is so much better because you are in it Jody! ❤

I could say so much more but I hope you are getting a felt sense of my love and appreciation of you.  Yes.  Let me close this tribute by saying … “thank you for choosing me”!   My life is so much richer because you are in it!  I will remain forever grateful I got to be your practicum supervisor (twice!) … and … even more grateful that, now, I get to be in your circle of friends.

With infinite enthusiasm for all that you are … and … all that you bring to others, ❤ Karen ❤

 

 

 

Better Because of You … and … my 20 plus 2 years with FCSS!

Source Unknown but deeply appreciated.

I was scheduled to receive my 20 year long service recognition award at an agency function on Saturday, January 12 … but … because I won’t be at the gathering, I had arranged for my colleagues to accept it on my behalf.  They agreed to record the moment, so that I too, could listen to my “acceptance speech”. The whole idea made my heart smile.  Unbeknownst to me, however, I learned plans had changed, and it was supposed to be presented to me during our monthly staff meeting instead. And so, being one who can typically fly by the seat of my pants, I agreed to accept the award, at the meeting, with about 10 minutes advance notice.

Well … it had been quite an unusual staff meeting – leading to all kinds of unexpected moments.  I was still feeling a bit rattled, and so, when it came time for me to offer a few words, I kept it really short and simple. I remember briefly acknowledging my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to my colleagues – with some slightly gushing but entirely genuine generalities.  In retrospect, I regret that I hurried my words … and … I recognize that I didn’t do justice to the fullest expression that actually fills my heart space when I looks back over my time with Barons-Eureka-Warner Family and Community Support Services [FCSS].

Now that I’ve had more time to gather myself and collect my thoughts, I would like to use this “Better Because of You” space to more deeply honor the folks that have framed my remarkable two decades as an employee of FCSS.  Because, after all, it is not the walls that define one’s experience in a workplace, but the people within them. Each and every one of them. And, believe it or not, our agency has not seen much staff turnover over the past 20 years. I wish I had more photos right now … so I could picture everyone, but unfortunately, I do not.

Staff Retreat January 2017

 

Christmas Party …. 2014

I remember my interview, way back in 1993, for one of the six “Parent Programmer” contract positions that were being filled. We would be allotted 20 hours/month to support families in our communities … with the most noble job on the planet … parenting. I was up against one other applicant … a woman who had some shiny credentials and fancy letters behind her name.  I had neither of those.  And then, during the interview, when they asked something about my own childhood, my ‘got-it-all together‘ demeanor was unbecomingly betrayed by some tender tears trickling down down my cheeks.  Argh. There I was, trying to be my best professional self … trying to put my best face forward … and … my cheeks were wet with tears. Who cries in a job interview?? Double argh!  I am usually really good at managing, hiding my emotions.

No one was more surprised than me when I got the call to say I got the job!  They did suggest … however … that I might also want to get some counseling to help me work through my own family of origin stuff.  Fair enough. And, that framed my beginning with an agency that clearly looked beyond academic credentials.  I must humbly concede, however, that I never hastily heeded their sage suggestion that I seek some support.  Instead, I eagerly and enthusiastically immersed myself in my brand new responsibilities as a ‘parent programmer’!

I loved, loved, loved my work for a couple of years.  But then … as my unhealed wounds from the past caught up with me, I ran into some significant challenges with raising my own three daughters. It got to the point where I no longer felt credible enough to presume I had any business trying to help others with their parenting concerns. And so … I quit my job.  And, I recognized that I best seek out that counseling that my employers had so earnestly recommended when they hired me.  And so, I did.

The irony of it all was that my childhood dream was to become a counselor . But … there I was, calling a counselor instead of being one. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.  And so … a couple of years of healing later, when an opening emerged in the Parenting Program  I initially resisted applying for it.  But then, I received an unexpected call from my prior supervisor … asking me if I was going to apply.  I was convinced that my own personal failings  experiences in the parenting trenches would prevent other parents from respecting anything I had to offer in that professional role … but she indicated that management was hoping to see my application in the pile.

Encouraged by their faith in me, I submitted my resume and started back with FCSS in September of 1997. And … guess what?  It turns out that parents find you even MORE credible when you can relate to their stumbles and struggles. It turns out, you are even more approachable and believable when you have endured some humbling parenting moments yourself.  Yes, it turns out that parents who are looking for support don’t feel as comfortable with professionals whose parenting journey sparkles with too much perfection.

And so … was the second beginning of my employment with FCSS … and … the 20 consecutive years that preceded the presentation of my long service award. There have been both blessings to behold and challenges to be championed over my time with FCSS.  In the early years, I was so timid and shy that I blushed every time I spoke up in a meeting … which was rare (the speaking – not the blushing!).  I am such an introvert and really need time to process things before I speak. And so, by the time I had integrated the conversation and knew what I wanted to say … the discussion had already moved on.  So I often said nothing.  These days, I am more likely to interrupt and ask if we can circle back to the prior conversation … so I can add my two cents.  I think my colleagues are getting used to that  … :-).

I can honestly say that I am so much better, both personally and professionally, because of my time with FCSS.  It really grew me as a person.  I found a deeper sense of faith in myself. I have discovered that my heart can be trusted and my instincts are reliable. I have learned to claim my voice and to stand behind my convictions.  I’ve always had a compassionate heart … but as Joan Halifax has so eloquently stated … in order to ultimately serve the greatest good …. we need to approach our experiences with a “soft front” and a “strong back”.  Yes. I’ve learned that well.

I don’t talk about it much, but I experienced some of the most critically challenging times in my life while working with FCSS.  At the worst point, about 15 years ago, I was being shunned in my multi-disciplinary workplace … by the bulk of my colleagues … who believed some misinformation circulating about me.  I opted to take the high road.  I thought it best to not get into the muck with the perpetrator (another colleague) by defending myself against such twisted ‘truths’.  I hoped my actions would outweigh her words.  But … as the gossip increasingly fueled my ostracization, it got to the point where I could barely force myself through the doors to face the hostility I felt in their scathing but silent condemnation.

And , I just kept turning the other cheek … thinking that  response was the most noble thing to do. I told myself that she was wounded … and … reminded myself that “hurt people hurt people”.  And while I still believe that to be true, I was fooling myself to think it was more spiritually enlightened to simply let it continue to happen. I didn’t realize, at the time, that despite one’s understanding of why people might be behaving badly … it is not kind nor altruistic to continue to allow them to do so.

I needed to find my back bone. I was being bullied and no one was coming to save me.  Not even me. No. With my silent stoicism, I was actually enabling someone to hurt me.

When I received a disdainful email from said ‘hurt person’ in another blatant effort to further diminish me … I couldn’t take the seemingly ‘high road’ anymore.  I found my back bone.  And … as I learned to stand strong in my own integrity, things eventually corrected themselves.  And my colleague finally found herself being held accountable for her words, actions and deeds.  And then, one day, she was gone.

I vowed to myself, at that time, that I would never let that happen again … to me or anyone else. I vowed that when I saw injustice or harm being perpetrated upon another … I would not step over it.  I would speak up and stand up … not with any intention to cause harm to them, but with the intention to help the situation.

 

And for the better part of my years with FCSS, we were blessed with an Executive Director who was an exceptional visionary.  He stretched us to places we never would have gone without his leadership. We became a cutting edge agency … partnering with the highly-esteemed leaders of the Neuroscience department of the University of LethbridgeBryan Kolb and Robbin Gibb became part of our FCSS family. Under Greg’s initiative, we were also gleaning new direction by rubbing shoulders with incomparable thinkers like Bruce Perry. Collectively, their bodies of work and expertise informed and underpinned our practices as we sought to support individuals and families in our communities. Greg was also inspired by the renowned Mary Gordon and her foundational work with Roots of Empathy and Parent Link Centres.  Mary came to Alberta and helped FCSS introduce these remarkable supports so that children could to get off to the very best start in their lives. Oh my … I can’t begin to list it all … but Greg’s legacy is long and lives on in the hearts and souls of so many who were lucky enough to be touched by his vision.

And, his staff rose to the occasion.  He told me once, he hired people based upon their attitudes not their credentials.  Some might scoff at that … but … he indicated that you can teach people skills, but you can’t transform their hearts as easily. I agree with him.  And … the people he chose to fill positions within FCSS … aka my colleagues … are people of incredible heart and unparalleled zeal and exceptional passion. Together we braved all the unknown territory our Director invited us to venture towards. And we formed an incredibly tight family that was often the expressed envy of other agencies and organizations.  Staff morale was high and so was staff retention.  We felt valued and acknowledged and appreciated … not simply seen as a means to an end … but rather he regarded his staff as exemplary catalysts creating a better and brighter future for those we sought to serve. And, we didn’t want to let him down. And, we never left a meeting without him sincerely acknowledging our efforts with a “thank you for all that you do”.

Thank you Greg Pratt, for your insight and intention.  Thank you for creating a work space that no one wanted to leave.  May you rest in peace.

Almost 15 years ago, Greg allowed me to reduce my hours so I could resurrect my dreams and go back to school.  He certainly had no obligation to grant my request. I will never forget him compassionately responding, “Karen, I would never want to stand in the way of anyone’s dreams”. People first.

And ultimately, I got the credentials that allowed me to land my dream job.  And … as it happened, I was even able to remain employed at FCSS while doing it. I surrendered my duties and responsibilities within the Parenting Program and claimed a space that opened up within the Counselling Program.  It has been the most rewarding time of my life.  So much so … that … I am in violation of the number of  vacation days I am allowed to accrue.  True story.  I was informed that I need to use up my vacation time in order to be in compliance with policy.

But, even the dreamiest part of my job has not been without challenges … and/or … opportunities to keep a soft heart and exercise a strong back.  Once again, about five years ago, FCSS was the backdrop to another of the most challenging times in my life. And, even when I was threatened with a law suit … a potential end my dream career … I was committed to standing strong.  I had taken heartfelt exception to what I was seeing and simply could not stand idly by and watch vulnerable people get harmed … however unwittingly by their well-intended but oblivious and cavalier perpetrator. I had to take the risk. Strong back, soft front. Fortunately … the individual opted to retire.

And, I know I could not have made it through those challenging times, were it not for the support and encouragement I received from my management team and my cherished counseling colleagues at FCSS. Yes. Management stood behind my decision and that helped fortify my resolve. I owe tremendous thanks to them for having my back … on that occasion and many others.  I also applaud them for gently helping me to shift my gaze, if and when, I needed correction.  The blessings of solid, predictable management over the past 20 years cannot be understated.

And, my counseling colleagues at FCSS have become my safe haven. They are among the few people in the world who I invite into the most tender parts of my heart space. And, they have handled the most fragile parts of my soul with such impeccably compassionate understanding.  I have grown immeasurably because of the support of these folks.

And, because we work in different departments and different communities at FCSS, I don’t see everyone all the time … but I hold the deepest regard for each of the staff at our agency.  And that doesn’t mean we always see eye-to-eye on things. We don’t. And we’ve had some prickly times as a result. But, as I shared with someone recently, “From where I am looking, its not the bumps that ultimately define us, but rather, it’s how we decide to move through them.”  And, it cannot be argued that despite any differences we may hold, we share an unfailing commitment to serve the constituents of our communities … to the very best of our capacities. People first.

I must also take this moment to pay due respect to our administrative staff.  Your impeccable skills and unfailing expertise provide such a secure foundation upon which the rest of us have come to depend.  Your energy, effort, enthusiasm, encouragement and support are second to none.  Thank you for holding us together with such dignity and grace … despite our messed up time sheets (among other things!)

And, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the Boards of Directors we have seen over the years.  Their dedication to keeping FCSS funded and recognized in our communities has been essential.  We have been led by some incredibly inspiring individuals. Thank you for spearheading our services and gifting us with the best supports you could provide.

And, as I write this, I am leaving for the weekend to celebrate my 60th birthday … which is officially in a few weeks.  And … as I am honored for my 20 years of commitment within FCSS, it strikes me that I have spent a full ONE THIRD of my life working within this agency. And, I am so proud of who we have been and who we have been invited to become.  Strong back … soft front … people first.

At our last staff meeting, we were invited to reflect upon our journeys as employees of FCSS.  I, once again, found unexpected tears trickling down my cheeks. I am not prone to such emotional expressions during meetings … but … in that moment, my heart was flooded with all the amazing moments and memories that I have collected over the last couple of decades. And, it is difficult to put into words … just how transformational it can be when people have believed in you and invited you to soar.  It is rare to work in a space where people have honored your presence and valued your being. My time at FCSS has been such a gift …

And … so … it is from the most humble place in my heart, I thank all of the bright and beautiful spirits that make FCSS a workplace where priority is given to the souls that we serve … not just the statistics we are required to collect. I honor you all for keeping your eyes on our mandate’s most precious commodity … it’s humanity. I applaud each of you for the tireless hours you invest into the care and support of those who might have minimal resources and/or may be struggling in isolation to find their way.  I admire your capacity to keep your own hearts soft … despite many invitations for them to get tough.  I respect your courage to stand in the truth or your own beings. I adore your authenticity and sincerity and genuineness of spirit.  I love being a part of this impeccable group. I am proud of who we represent and what we are capable of creating when we put our hearts and spirits together in the name of FCSS.

Thank you … truly … deeply … immeasurably … for shaping my days with this agency.  I am so much better because of you … and my twenty plus two years with FCSS.

Yes … this is what I wished I would have said at our staff meeting  … Karen

 

 

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[GUEST POST]: Township Environment

We are often inspired to support those less fortunate than ourselves. This Better Because of You Tribute is dedicated to Jim and Janet Jamer for their selfless efforts to bring more hope, light and love to the incredible souls trying to thrive despite the unfathomable hardships they must endure whilst living in the townships in South Africa.

We were so sadly sobered when we saw for ourselves the plight of so much of our humanity. It has been one of our deepest pleasures to provide just a wee bit of support.  I hope you will spend a few moments taking in the magnitude of both strength and strife that is reflected in these pictures and words. And, if you are so inspired, please feel free to contact Jim or Janet and see how you might be able to add your heart to this project!

AND … most importantly …

THANK YOU” Jim and Janet for being such amazing light workers. Our humanity is so much better because of you!

With deepest respect and appreciation for your hearts, Karen

My Heart Smiles More Because of You Jack!

My heart smiles more … because of you Jack – Jackie – Jackson!  And I thought that today, on the occasion of your birthday, would be a good time to honor and acknowledge a few of the ways that my soul is tickled by your exquisite existence.

While the light in your soul is always on and ever twinkling … my heart smiles a little bigger on the mornings I arrive to work and see the light on in your office too.  The soft glow beaming from your window is so inviting … beckoning me to enjoy all the ‘little touches’ of heart and humanity that grace your office … tempting treats on the table, birthday balloons honoring your colleagues, coffee station thoughtfully re-stocked, and attention to various other details too numerous to mention.  All of this, along with your warm smiles, richly reflects the benevolent beauty of your spirit.

And so, often before the sun is up,  there we are  … sipping coffee while I enjoy my daily eggy sandwich … deliberately delaying the inevitable clamor of the daily workload and very purposefully disrupting the chaotic pace that often impedes our capacity to connect with each other at more meaningful levels. But for me, connecting heart-to-heart like that is one of the most nourishing ways to fortify a firm foundation upon which to build and balance the rest of my day.  So, thank you Jack for bringing so much ‘light’  to my world … both figuratively and literally!

My heart also smiles more because you are so deeply committed to exuding love and fostering kindness in this world!  And I see you achieving that goal in the manner that Gandhi so very sagely suggested … you are being  the change you wish to see in the world!  I know I am not alone when I say that you are one of those unique individuals that people feel truly blessed to have in their circles. I can feel you holding others with such tender care and compassion. I can see you stretching your heart to gently cradle people’s fragile spirits and/or tend to their wounded souls.  And, personally, I always feel deeply nurtured in your presence … and … for that I am truly grateful.

And, in keeping with that, my heart smiles more because you are so incredibly intuitive!  It seems you can somehow tap into the wisdom of the Universe. You instinctively sense things that most people don’t notice.  You tune into things that most people might not recognize.   And, you can see into people’s ‘inner being’ in such a unique and empathic way.  And, by doing so, you awaken a sense of security and safety for those in your midst.  And that  is such a delightfully rare gift to our humanity. And so, on behalf of so many of us, I thank you for that deep knowing.

And my heart smiles more when I see your social work studies inspiring your determination to hold hands with those who have lost their way and to stand in solidarity with those who have lost their voices.  And I love that we can share in the passionate pursuit of social justice … finding more space in our hearts for recognizing the challenges that people may be enduring, and investing more energy into resisting the dominant places where power and privilege can unfavorably continue to marginalize and oppress so many ‘others’.  Your altruistic intentions are a genuine blessing to so many.

And my heart smiles more  … often inspiring laughter until my cheeks hurt … because somehow you are adeptly able to juxtapose your thoughtful and wise ways with the most phenomenal sense of humor.  You never cease to amaze me with your quick wit and clever comebacks. You are just so darn funny!  There is no denying that much of the levity and laughter and light in our workplace is often fostered by you … 🙂

So Jack … let me be crystal clear … my heart smiles more because of all that you are  and all that you bring to our planet. I could say so much more … but please know that I am so grateful our paths have crossed. I look ever forward to the moments we get to amble along this journey with each other … knowing that the story of my life would not be as rich or rewarding without you in it!  Its all made so much better because of you …

And so, my heart is smiling even more today because it is your birthday!!!  And, I am hoping you can let these sincere sentiments land comfortably in your beautiful heart. May this little note expressing my fond appreciation add to the joys and delights and blessings of your celebration today! Happy, happy, happy birthday beautiful one!

With much love and heartfelt gratitude for your birth, Karen

P.S. Get ready to spend some time embracing your awesomeness … I’ll explain later!  ❤

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Better Because of Your Luminous Light Debora …

Debora Bradley - 1

Source Unknown but Deeply Appreciated

Well, Debora Bradley, I can’t think of a more accurate description of the bright light that is you!!  Although there are many, many remarkable lightworkers in the world, your generous gifts of grace and your compassionate, caring contributions to humanity are all rendered visible in the loving-kindness that is so inextricably woven into your beautiful benevolent beingness.

While it’s a rare treat to see you in person,  I am so grateful that I do get to ‘see’ you on a regular basis on Facebook.  You inspire such rich traces of love with your thoughtful posts/responses/reflections … uplifting spirits whenever you add your ‘shares’ to those in your virtual circle.  Thank you for being the wind beneath so many of our wings.

Your energetic touch is infused with something so nurturing and nourishing in it’s comforting caress.   And I can actually feel it … each and every time it lands.  While I might scroll quickly over many of the posts that pop up in my news feed, I have learned not to skip over any of yours … lest I miss out on something inspiring, meaningful and/or clearly drenched in divinity.

Encourager Extraordinaire.

Compassion Crusader. 

Luminous Lightworker. 

Love Incarnate.

Yes, that is you Debora Bradley. I deeply appreciate you for steadfastly shining your radiant light into all of our orbits … like the facets of a diamond reflecting sunshine in limitless directions … scattering points of light with warmth and wild abandon. Thank you for persistently looking through a lens of love … both personally AND professionally  as a remarkable integrative life coach.  The energy of altruistic intention that inspires your countless contributions to our humanity is entirely transcendent.

Thank you for ‘being’ the change we need to see in the world.  I sense you are making a remarkable difference in our collective consciousness.  And, I for one, am so much better because of your precious presence in my life. I just wanted you to know that … ❤

With utmost reverence for light of love in your soul,   Karen

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Kindness Stopped This Homeless Man From Committing Suicide

THIS is such a touching story. We can never know whose life could be better … simply because of us … because we showed some kindness.

Kindness Blog

Today I went to Dunkin (Donuts) and saw a clearly homeless guy singing on the side of the road and picking up change.

Eventually I saw him stroll into Dunkin, as he was counting his change to buy something I began to get super annoying and talk to him over and over again even when he didn’t really want to talk.

Since he had maybe $1 in change I bought him a coffee and bagel and asked him to sit down with me.

He told me a lot about how people are usually very mean to him because he’s homeless, how drugs turned him into the person he hated, he lost his mom to cancer, he never knew his dad and he just wants to be someone his mom would be proud of (along with another hours worth of conversation.)

This lovely man’s name was Chris and Chris was…

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Her Tears Brought Out the Kindness of a Stranger

Better Because of the Kindness of a Stranger! AND … we ALL have the opportunity and capacity to bring such bright points of light to the dark parts of people’s journeys! May this poignant reflection remind us of our collective and universal potential … ❤

Kindness Blog

‘heartlines’ wrote:

“I was sitting in the airport by myself crying.. embarrassing in public, but I just couldn’t stop.

A man gave me this. He didn’t say anything, just slid it in front of me when he walked up to his terminal.”

kindness of a stranger

“He’ll never know how much it means to me to know a stranger cares.”


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Better Because … YOU fill(ed) my Heart!

Valentines Day - February 2015

St Valentine’s Day – February 2015

I will be tucking this away into my Sunshine File (for someday when I need an emotional pick-me-up) … but before I do that, I need to say a few words to my co-workers and colleagues. As I shared in a previous reflection, this year at our office, we were invited to resurrect the old elementary school ritual of offering little Valentines Day cards to our co-workers and colleagues. There was no pressure to participate … and whether you joined in or not … this tribute is dedicated to each and every one of the employees in our office.

You know who you are … but for those who don’t, I work in a multidisciplinary office where there are counsellors, youth/parenting coaches, several public health nurses, a physiotherapist, some speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, a public health inspector, a number of practicum students, some outreach workers for populations who are considered within the human services arena to be ‘at promise’ (i.e. at higher risk), an outreach worker for senior citizens and the marvelous administration team that holds us all together.

So, harkening back to grade school, we were provided stickers, papers, markers, colors, envelopes and a vast assortment of little cards with popular children’s characters/themes on them. We got to decorate a big red envelope that would be stapled to the bulletin board in the coffee room … altruistically intended for us to give and receive a little love from each other.

I’m guessing it’s been about 45+ years since I’ve done that … and despite the benevolent intentions that I know inspired it, I had some mixed emotions about doing it again. You see, I remain haunted by some misty, melancholic memories of those hand-made holders that we annually crafted for public display in my early school years.  By February 14th, some of them were stuffed to over-flowing and mounted on the wall, in stark and sobering comparison, beside the ones that stayed uncomfortably empty. My heart painfully ached for the kids who never seemed to get much visible validation from their peers honoring/valuing their presence in our class.

And, I also remember my own anxious trepidation … my fret-filled fears that my friends would get way more cards than I did (of course we counted them!) … OR … that I wouldn’t get a card from someone I really hoped to get one from … OR … that I wouldn’t get an equal and/or reciprocal nod from someone I might not have known very well but for whom I had vulnerably risked expressing some affection or admiration.

I cannot even begin to express how anxiety provoking it was for me in those tender, formative years. Putting your heart out into the world … or into someone’s envelope … is such daring, risky business.  It leaves one ripe for all kinds of rejection (real or imagined).  It felt like every single card represented tangible proof and/or unarguable evidence of your personal worth or miserable lack of it.  For the all too sensitive me, it was like purposely inviting all the worries and insecurities that were persistently perched like perilous piranhas in my subconscious mind to promptly pounce up and devour my unguarded heart.

Anyway … although all THAT old stuff blind-sided me for a brief moment when I got the email invitation to participate, I decided not to let those recalcitrant rumblings dissuade me.  The whole experience turned out to be nothing short of stellar … in the shining star sense of the word!  It was heart-warming and wonderful for me.  It was somewhat sublime to marinade in the energy of appreciation as I reflected upon the things I admired, valued and wished for my coworkers. I noticed there were NO empty envelopes and no one was comparing or counting the number of cards.  From what I could see, only the sheer sweetness of the sentimental exchange was stirring in our souls. And it was entirely enchanting to see peoples hearts swell with eager anticipation as they tucked their envelopes under their arms and/or to notice their eyes well up a wee bit and/or the corners of their mouth turn upward when they peeked at a card or two.  And so, for the staff who opted to participate, I want to THANK YOU for pacifying the pesky piranhas this year and filling my envelope with warm reassurance that my presence in our office space is appreciated in some meaningful ways.

But, even more than that, I realized in doing this that I owed my heartfelt gratitude to ALL of my amazing colleagues and incredible co-workers.  I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for filling my heart … on a regular basis.  Whether we are children or adult professionals, we all have a deep need to feel safe, respected and significant to others.  It is pure pleasure to bask in the energy of expressed affection and appreciation that permeates our office day in and day out. It just never gets old. And I want to use this space to publicly applaud ALL of you … for the energy you bring to our office space.

The blessings and gifts of your collective presence are not lost on me.  Not everyone gets to say that about their workplace. Not everyone feels safe and supported where they work. Not everyone is met with grins and cheery “hellos”  when they cross paths with a colleague in the hallway. Not everyone gets to laugh over lunch with others … sometimes about the most outrageous things!  Not everyone gets to have juicy conversations about topics that really make you think … or really make you squirm (nurses can talk casually about ALL kinds of unspeakable things – even while you are eating)!  🙂

And, not everyone gets to start each work day off on the right foot by sharing coffee and conversation with folks that so generously radiate the light and love that is inherent in all of us.  Not everyone gets the chance to embrace the blessings of belonging to a group of people who exude kindness, compassion, and empathy. Not everyone is welcomed into the heart spaces of their colleagues.  Not everyone gets tenderly cradled by their coworkers when times are tough and it feels hard to find a smile.  Not everyone gets to claim such precious moments in their workplace.

But … I do.  And I haven’t always, so I don’t take it for granted.  Not for one little minute.  All it takes is one ‘bad apple’ (for lack of a better metaphor) to alter the atmosphere in the work space.  And so, I cherish the warm, caring and supportive energy that greets me every morning as I turn my key into the door. I treasure the moments of shared humanity and humble presence that are downright palpable within this remarkable group of people.

I am so much better because I get to ‘work’ in your company. You invite me to be the best I can be … with each and every smile, with each and every conversation and with each and every interaction. I am grateful for each and every one of you.  I truly am.

So thank you again to all of you … for all the ways you fill my heart. My work world is so much better because of you.  Yes it is … and …  I just thought you should know.

With a full heart, Karen

P.S. For those who might be wondering, my Sunshine File has morphed into a whole drawer in my file cabinet where I store meaningful mementos, greeting cards, letters, quotes, inspirational verses, pictures, drawings, poetry or anything else that will nourish my spirit when I am feeling emotionally depleted and/or just a little down in the dumps/discouraged.  If you don’t have one, I highly recommend you start one!

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