CKUA Radio Network is Alberta’s provincial listener-supported radio. If I listen for an hour, I inevitably recognize the names of great Albertan artists, events, and songs. The most overused adjective for the mighty institution: eclectic. And it’s cute when the ag report comes on. I picture lotsa farm machines humming through the fields around with me, tunes blasting. I guess if I could illustrate diversity, inclusion and equity without using that apple crate meme with kids looking over a fence, I could use a CKUA playlist. Heck they even amplify the voices and work of poets.
 
The ZMF Trio included Saskatchewan farmboy, Jesse Zubot. Jesse was a classmate of my friend, Charity. Promoting and watching him perform at the New Calgary Jazz Festival made me proud. Jesse’s mother is a painter. When his family decided where to put their farmhouse, they ran around the yard testing to see where they got the best reception for CKUA!
 
If you are Albertan, and you have never experienced CKUA, please tune in and see why we plan our lives around it.
 
I once went to a silent retreat and ended up at a garage sale with four other retreaters. 🤣 People who don’t consciously carve out time for retreats often ask me why I go. We have all spent SO MUCH time at home this year. The beautiful thing about retreat is that it takes you out of the everyday so you can come back to it better.
Peer supported retreats are so different because it creates a circle, instead of the hierarchies we are used to in daily life. We feel less judged and benefit from many voices in the safety of a vulnerable, authentic space. And it’s damn good fun to be together.
At retreat I found new techniques for my self-defeating patterns. I’ve made deep connections with others and watched people get to know themselves in a way they just can’t with demands of family, work, illness, and the daily grind nipping at them. It’s always a conscious experience that will leave you with something.
My friend said, “I went on a retreat about finding my life’s purpose. I was just in the wrong space to get much out of it…” Then she paused, “but I guess it wasn’t shortly after that I made the decision to go back to school for Education.” The magic sometimes happens without us even realizing it.
Retreats have been part of my life since I decided to change for the better. They are huge opportunities to realign, rest, create ways to improve your life, meet great people.
Try it! You might love it! Aug. 28 for just one day and your life could definitely change for the better. Willingness brings rewards.
One of the hardest things to face in long-term recovery is seeing the addiction or mental health challenges manifest in our loved ones. Even if we arrest the disease in ourselves, the likelihood of our next generation, or others we love having addiction or mental health issues is extremely high.
With that comes all kinds of hurt, confusion, and shame. And the most frustrating part is that there is no pat answer. The change lies with us, not them. There is nothing we can do to help them except take care of ourselves.
Often caregivers are depleted. The addiction through someone else takes resources and causes caregivers to lie, cheat and make excuses for the sake of the suffering person.
If you want to spot a codependent, they can be found lying for their kids who they feel can’t make it to school, or doling out money to their partners, or feeling like a martyr and saying things like, “after all I do for them!”
We need to stay in our own lane and keep looking at our own behaviours. While we look righteous, and the addicted person looks damaged, we too are damaged.
Affected family systems often change when the supports – not the addict – gets help. One small change in behaviour causes a positive shift. If you are reading this and you are struggling, consider reaching out for more information about an upcoming retreat and/or group to take care of YOU. You’re worth it and so are your loved ones.
Peace is possible, regardless if the person we love is in active addiction or in poor mental health.
May be an image of nature, tree and sky
She Was at the Ranch (part 1)
What was on the table at She Was at the Ranch seemed as important as who was around it and here’s why: each decoration represented feminine influences, like the poems. Some of the women on the table were in this edition of the book, some not.
As a displaced person living with traumatic losses, there are always key people missing. The relatives you live far from, the dearly departed, the double booked, the estranged and so on. Their objects carry parts of them and symbolically invite them in.
The table was set with a shawl from my mother’s sari. That sari transformed into a dress with the help of a local seamstress. Taking something and making it new (upcycling these kids call it!) is a form of spiritual alchemy. And let’s face it: reading poetry is a form of performance art, so that table literally was “the stage”.
If you look closely, you can see a framed photo I grew up with in my home of k.d. lang, her mom (my Gr. 2 teacher Audrey Lang), and one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Martina Navratilova, at the Recording Academy / GRAMMYs
I used to look at that photo as a child and I would see myself, my mother, the bond of strong women that were different, significant, successful and as important as men.
Every little girl needs to look up to someone. And if you are weird and different and powerful with nowhere to look, your table isn’t fully prepared.
Upcycled chickens with their deranged button eyes looked on as the poems came out. They were the folksy, creative vision of another artist and dear friend. Their whimsical otherness offset my friend’s mother’s funeral card with her beaming, beautiful face. New loss is not to be shoved away, but acknowledged and honoured. Pretending it’s not there works the opposite on grief and loss. And others have more conventional ways to honour people they lose, I take them to the table with me.
The stage was set and the wine was poured. Wine experts say, “let it breathe”. That’s meaningful for fine wine, deep loss, showing others who you are, embracing your gifts, and nurturing relationships.
A few measured moments to “let it breathe” can make all the difference. Strategic pause before inspired action gives the wine the best flavour, the poems the best meaning and the table vibe it needs.
The next public reading of She Was will be in August. Give Surrender Living a like to keep tabs on what and who comes to the table.

I have not been a “joiner” for several years. I don’t feel comfortable or safe in too many places outside the realm of those designed for trauma recovery. “Normal folks” (normies!) scare me!!

As you improve yourself, SERVICE becomes essential to staying well.
Whenever we are in recovery from anything, we need someone to show us it can be done, someone we know has our back and just believes in us.

This person can be referred to as a sponsor, mentor, or trusted advisor and their role is essential to growth. You look at them and think, “I want to be like you.”


Throughout the United Way’s Period Promise and our Soroptimist International of Central Alberta this person (not just for myself, but for many people) has been Sherri Barkhouse Smith

Venturing slowly into worlds like yoga, publishing writing and now Soroptimist International of Central Alberta has reignited my love of service, and shown me how to use my special gifts (we all have them) to benefit others.

Sherri has taught me in such a gentle way:

* it’s ok (and important) to talk about your accomplishments

* women together are a strong force for good

* everyone has incredible traits to focus on

* give credit where credit is due

* there’s a special spot in hell for people who can’t build up others

* don’t quit before the miracle

* there’s so much joy in service

Thank you Sherri for making me feel safe, encouraging my art, my passion for women’s equality and showing us all what amazing feminine leadership looks like.

#periodpromise

Every morning for several years, there has been a guiding practise. Over time, this has included morning readings from daily readers and time to put pen to paper. Nothing too deep, just some gratitude listed. This morning especially I am grateful for peace, as I hear the birds chirping and catch the sun rising off my back deck.

Most often these words aren’t overly thought out. We often have the same thoughts repeatedly.

Whether you know it or not, you have a morning ritual with deep connection to it. The installation of daily habits can make you a millionaire, give you a level of fitness, keep you sober. Morning is the time to collect your thoughts and guide the rest of your day. People often feel the most open and productive at this time.

The peace of intent is often in this beginning few hours upon awakening. What does your morning look like? How does it affect the rest of your day? What part of your life are you looking to improve?

It seems the plight of the marginalized is being exposed this past year in ways we never could have imagined. Several of us knew the connection between poverty and race, atrocities of residential schools and slavery transmuting into incarceration. Having this in our faces makes it unignorable.

Oprah Winfrey and my spiritual mom, a local elder, ask the same question:

What do we want now? When women (not indigenous women, btw) were given the right to vote, they didn’t know what to do with it. It was essentially another vote for their husbands, because subjugated people are not used to having a voice. Sadly, so many still aren’t. Women in rural areas are often more highly educated than their husbands, but hold up the patriarchy because “that’s the way it’s always been”.

It’s an important question: what do we want now? After a wonderful evening spearheaded by Patricia Biddart and the Welcoming & Inclusive Community Commitees, Jesse Lipscombe asked the same question. Where do we go from here?

I was reflecting and here’s what I came up with:

Jesse said he constantly receives pitches from artists wanting to make movies.

Well, how about this:

1. A Treaty 6 & 7 land acknowledgement. Video format, short and long. This is not asking too much.

2. Supporting BIPOC businesses and initiatives.

3. Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace. This one really hits home for me. I have literally been the diversity hire.

So if diversity is being asked to the dance and inclusion is being asked on the dance floor, I say stay ahead of it.

Before the incidents of blatant racism and micro-aggressions, sexual harassment and bullshit mistreatment starts, do the educating. There is nothing more humiliating than being the only woman of colour having to sit through a mandatory educational sessions by well meaning white women from HR AFTER this happens. An ounce of prevention is in fact, worth a pound of cure. Don’t just diversify, integrate.

I once had to defend the need for diversity in marketing in a room full of white Karens. It was not only ridiculous, it was really tough. One person said they felt embarrassed asking people of colour to be in photos. This is the definition of privilege.

4. Policy is great. Enacting policy is revolutionary.

5. Check your own personal bias. I still have to.

6. Make safer spaces. People of colour need to lead therapeutic processes where others can speak openly about race with others that understand. I have been diagnosed with severe mental illness for over twenty years, and am yet to receive any help from a psychologist of colour or even a holistic caregiver, with the exception of the couple who trained me to teach yoga.

7. Make art. Not “hang on your wall” art. The art that takes the raw feeling in your guts and your subconscious and pukes it out.

These are only a few ideas. What are some of yours?

Thank you so much Patricia for reading at the Period Promise Poetry Powerhouse, June 19 at 7pm on zoom. For tix: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/158173959571

One Halloween, Jen and I decided to dress in matching gorilla costumes, complete with gorilla gloves and masks. I was slightly taller, and one year younger, so we decided to switch classes. I would go to her “Career and Life Management” (C.A.L.M) class, and she would sit in on my computer class. The idea was silly to the point of being a bit absurd, and so were we. Perfect. 

So many of my other dear friends were in Jen’s CALM class. By Junior High, I was enjoying being friends with lots of people in grades above me, but in a rural school, truth was, we all grew up together. There were few people in my school who I didn’t consider my friend. This type of attitude served me well throughout my entire life, and our dear family friend, Carol would say, “It’s easier to be friends than enemies.” My mom would share Carol’s wisdom with me over and over to deal with the complexities of female friendship. Girly politics start early in life. 

Not halfway into my CALM class, Jen, with her mask and gorilla hands off was standing at the door with Mr. Lekas. She took off her gorilla mitts off to type,we didn’t factor in as an essential part of computer class. Her white hands gave us away! Later Mr. Lekas’ wife, Gail explained to my mom that her husband had been playing zookeeper.

There are many nuances to friendships, but having fun is absolutely essential. Belonging and feeling like you fit is so essential to mental health. This time in my life I was secure and happy, and naively unaware of the bigger world.

PROMPT: Do you have positive experiences with female friendships from childhood? How has that shaped you? The way you parent (if you are one)?

Can you send love to someone from the past? How would you do that to reconnect and show love for what they’ve done for you in your life?

 

She Was, Sabrina’s first book of poems about her phenomenal influences is available for $20 and $5 shipping

in support of CASASC

SPEAK TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT CONSENT AND BOUNDARIES.

Join facebook.com/surrenderliving for more information on Women’s Circles every Friday, 7pm on zoom

Tuesday, May 25 Write a Tribute Poem Workshop – $35 to register

 

I grew up on the prairies with my Pakistani parents. In the 80’s. I was tall, muscular, dark skinned, big smiled, hairy with wild eyes and wilder hair. The only other Pakistani girls I knew were in Edmonton. My dad’s best friend’s daughters, who we saw extremely infrequently. So I came by my feelings of separateness quite honestly. Even if I wanted to go unnoticed, I was like a giant birthday candle in the middle of a cake, cheerfully melting myself all over the place naively fading into nothing.

There are similarities to everyone’s gravitational pull to the earth and one another. Our lives are connected inextricably on mental, physical, emotional, and psychic planes. We all know this. Deepak has dumbed it down. 

I drank for the first time when I was just eleven years old. I was at the farm of a friend who I was often with. The farm was my second home, since my place was always filled with my brother’s friends with the television on. I actually didn’t get offered to watch what I would like to see on t.v. until I lived with my best friend in college. She also taught me to say goodnight. Every night she would wish me goodnight. I loved that, and wondered how I missed that slight acknowledgment of another person for my whole life until then.

We weren’t sneaking booze to determine the taste. It was for effect. 

When you force a ball into the hands of a child whose proclivity is to paint, you are innocently trying to force ideals. Make the individual, sensitive one know what it means to suck, play on a team, lose, and play together. But if you do it for their whole childhood, you can end up with a kid who thinks they suck at life. They lose confidence.  Many Picassos spent their youth striking out at home plate and somewhere making a fallacious conclusion that this was somehow failing.

Homogenous environments with one type of person can be extremely creatively stifling. Being different was so painful but at some point, it helped take away my embarrassment. Somehow I started just dressing the way I wanted, which was rather ostentatious in a classroom full of plaid shirted, blue jean wearing farm kids. And they somehow just embraced me. When we all look back at childhood, there is a level of awkwardness and discomfort with ourselves that is almost a rite of passage. 

There was all a lot of fun as well. So many things about my upbringing were remarkably sound and comforting. I spent a lot of time in nature. We were always up to something, and all the moms and dads in the village knew us by name. They would love us, reprimand us, and feed us, and send us home like we were all related. Our teachers were all especially encouraging. By the time I was in Junior High School, I developed a deep and enduring friendship with Jennifer. She lived just a kilometer out of town, and a dirt road separated my house from her farm. It was there I learned how to clean and cook and take care of others. Her mom was like a mom to me. She dragged me everywhere with her kids – camping, figure skating camp. Those were some of the best memories I hold from childhood. When things got hard, Margaret was there for me, always.

PROMPT: Stop reading, take a breath and recall someone from childhood who loved you. If you have a Higher Power, allow them into this vision of the person and send them love. If not, just think positively about this person while you breathe and picture them in your mind for 10 full seconds.

NOW: How do you feel?

This Friday Surrender Living Women’s Circle, 7pm on zoom, it’s a love offering and donations are gratefully accepted.

contact Sabrina 4035963464 or surrenderliving@gmail.com to register.

Tuesday is SHE WAS gratitude poetry workshop, 7pm, $35 includes the book, shipping, and 1.5 hr of time with me. You will leave with a full heart and a poem for a woman you love.

Please join us at facebook.com/surrenderliving 

If you are reading this, then something remarkable has occurred. I have overcome my fear and inadequacy to share some of myself with the world.  I just got the confidence to start actually reading my poetry to my group I have attended for several years. 

A lot of my childhood included never doing anything I wasn’t good at. This included most everything, given I didn’t have experience with much. I couldn’t find the correlation between learning something new, getting experience with it, and then succeeding. I wanted to instantly know how to do it. So what this led to was an attitude of quitting, “If I don’t like it, I will just quit.” 

The perfectionist odour of this stinking thinking followed me into young adulthood, where I quit friends I didn’t like, in his era defining work “Generation X” Douglas Copeland talks about this phenomena. If this marriage doesn’t work out, I’ll just get divorced. That level of commitment gets you everywhere in life until you wake up 40, alone, and living in mid-sized conservative city sameness. 

 Seems the only thing I have never been able to quit is giving up on the fact that belonging only comes to me in the form of outright accepting that I’m an oddball. Something I fail to conceive fully to this day, in spite of Stevie Wonder impersonations and dark poems.

I was put in the world for purposes I could not easily accept, and those around me couldn’t easily understand. Along with my penis envy, imagination, intelligence and perfectionism, was the deep longing. The longing most women fill with dreams of their wedding day, their babies, building lives amongst life long friends. The longing most men fill with making pots of money, finding their wife. For me this longing was never properly handled. I can blame that on external influences, or whatever, but the truth of the matter was that longing like mine was so completely different, I never even realized it.

I never thought I was valid and a deep longing of my heart still today is to be relevant. Heard. And make positive change. My writing of the work, She Was, did that for me like nothing before ever has.

What would you like to do if you could overcome your fear around doing it?