Grannie’s story

Black History month is a reminder to me that I am a part of Canadian Black History, not just because I grew up here and built my life here but because my family has made contributions to the fabric of life in this country and specifically in the City of Toronto.

Although I may think of my Grandmother often, February gives me the opportunity to really assess what she accomplished as a young woman, way back in 1929, when she left her native Jamaica, on board the ss Lady Somers, headed toward Halifax and other places she never heard of in her life.  I suppose if she had been born to one of the wealthy Jamaican families whose children were highly educated about the world, it might have been different but she was a simple, poorly educated girl whose strength was tested over and over as she struggled to find a way to help her large family back home.  At the core of her desire to do better was her only child, born into sadness and heartbreak, who she left behind with an uncaring father.  In her dreams, it was clear to her that in the land of opportunity, if she could find a way to give him more opportunity for a better life, then she would do so.

I have been to Halifax a few times.  Mostly, I go by plane, complete my business there, sight see a little and then return.  On my last visit there I was alone.  My wandering footsteps took me to the train station.  In a moment of clarity back in 2004, I realized that my grandmother would not have landed in Ontario without first been processed through the maritime port, which boasted so much history of its own.  It dawned on me that indeed my own history in Canada began at that point.  When Agatha boarded a train from Halifax headed to Kingsville Ontario she opened doors not just for herself but for many of those who came after.

Years after her arrival in Canada, and by then married to a wonderful man who had taken a similar journey, my grandmother settled in Toronto.  With very little education, she worked at menial jobs, saving nickels and dimes to find a way to buy a house.  In 1940, she purchased a property on Dufferin St. and there she used her kind heart and natural ability to organize her family, her community and her heritage so that what she was not able to achieve with her son, she was able to achieve with her grandchildren.

As a child growing up in Toronto in the fifties, my siblings and I were different.  Many times there were no other Black children around to reflect our own experience, although diversity was not uncommon in my neighbourhood.  My grandmother was able to generate a sense of confidence and deep aspiration within us to achieve what she did not.  Education and independence were her keywords.  I believe that no matter what success I have in life, I will not be able to match the success of my greatest role model, my Grandmother and each February as Black history month rolls around, that is where I turn my thoughts and my deep pride.

Granny’s wisdom for the future

My grandmother came to this country in 1927. She left behind her young son to be raised by his father. They were not married. She was looking for a better life for herself and her large extended family. It was twelve years before she was reunited with her son. It was nearly eight years more before she was able to bring him and his wife and two children to Canada. I was one of those two children, little more than a baby.
The lives we lived as a family helped to shape my character. The community in which I was raised helped to shape my knowledge of life. I have believed, all my life that my destiny was formed before I was born. What I learned from my Grandmother was that nothing was impossible. How much effort I put into anything would yield results equal to the effort. It took many years for that simple value to be understood and acted on.
I started my working life as a nurse, travelling to England, Jamaica and then back home before settling in to the rigors of being a wife, mother and career person. If you ask me what was most important to me, it was to learn and to pass on that desire to my children. In the culture of my family, based on their background, getting an education was considered an opportunity to make a better life. Without it I would never be independant.
Now I am on my third career and loving it. My nursing has paved the way for me to be in touch with people from all over the world. I sincerely believe that human contact feeds the spirit. Being a Spiritual Minister has taught me how to draw people together to share ritual service in joy and in sorrow. This is a powerful and meaningful way to raise the energy of humanity to spiritual levels.

How We Got Started

Discover the path…..   then make it new

Discover the path is a community-based organization that was started in 1996 in recognition of the transitions in the life cycles of women.

A group of women with a vision of the future and in anticipation of the needs that each stage of life brings introduced Discover the path to a select group of 30 clients.

We opened with a weekend that had several alternative practitioners providing a sample of natural and energy related services that would enhance and support general well being.

The event was well supported.

We moved on over the next 2 years to include alternative health care information and support to women confronted with decision-making crises.  Some of the issues identified were breast cancer treatments, Menopause and related endocrine disturbances, diabetes, mental health and general well being.

We choose to affiliate with Sacred Medicine Sanctuary and Seventh Ray Press in the US, who provided products and information particularily in the area of breast cancer care.

In the year 2000, we saw the need to integrate a spiritual component to our services in recognition of the deeper needs expressed by clientele facing life affirming decisions.  Discover the path at Hestia’s Hearth was incorporated and affiliated with the International Assembly of Spiritual Healers and Earth Stewards (SHES).  This connection allowed us to find a medium acceptable to Faith, Religion, And Earth-Based Spirituality that would fulfill the needs of most of the women who seek our services.  This has been a powerful tool.  It has allowed the benefits of a feminine spiritual focus with positive role models from the distance and recent past.

In 2001 a permanent home was found for Discover the path at Hestia’s Hearth.  A Library of approximately 1800 books is being developed as well as a Centre for classes, teaching programs and meetings.

The future is here and the need for space to continue with our ultimate goal remains paramount.  Because we offer a unique grouping of services, we need the space to accommodate a more temporary, short-term client who may be traveling some distance for teaching, information or service.  Meal planning, Meditation, Therapy all require hands on teaching.  The value of juicing, for example, is important in the detoxification and support of tissues and organs stressed by drugs, and other treatment.  We want to pride ourselves on a homey atmosphere that creates a positive learning experience whether it be a day service or 3-5 day program.

Timeline

Date Action
1996 Discover the Path is born as a health and wellness service to accommodate the needs of women in transition
1997 Discover the Path gets a logo and opens its doors for its first wellness weekend
1999 Hestia’s Hearth is born.  This is the Sanctuary that will house the services of Discover the Path
1999 Discover the Path joins resources with Sacred Medicine Sanctuary, then located in New Mexico
2000 Discover the Path and Hestia’s Hearth join to form Discover the Path at Hestia’s Hearth Spiritual Organization Inc in association with the International Assembly of Spiritual Healers and Earth Stewards of Seattle, Washington
2001 A property is purchased to house Hestia’s Hearth
2003 The Board of Directors of Hestia’s Hearth agree in principle to create an Academy of Esoteric Arts and Sciences that will enable like minded individuals to be part of the rising need for Spiritual and Healing Arts.

 Our vision for the future

Provide accommodation for 3-5 women for daily visits and services.

Provide a satisfactory kitchen area that will enable teaching/training and meal planning

Allow a focus on healthy foods including a franchise for juicing and providing product to the clients and general public.

Allow private space for Energy Therapy, Therapeutic Counseling and Listening, quiet meditation

A home-like atmosphere for other related services within the larger community

For example:-

Lactation Consultant Services

Doula Services

Aromatherapy

Reflexology

Reiki

Computer Resources

Spiritual Conflict Resolution

Gentle spa therapies

All participants in Discover the path and Discover the Path at Hestia’s Hearth have been trained and certified in the various modalities that are offered. Where the training has not been completed in the introduction of new services, affiliates are available to provide specialized services.

The Principals in this venture are trained professionals who have been supporting the programs with personal capital and time.  The principals will continue to do so until the program is self-supporting.

Originally written in 2004:-

In fact, when this was originally written, we were well underway but unforseen circumstances created great change.  Now we are located in Creemore ON, and much of what we planned is still underway but we are working out of a different location.  Please visit us at www.discoverthepath.com to see how our vision has manifested.

On Writing – Speech given March 26,2012

On Writing

It’s hard to know where to begin.  All stories have a beginning, a middle and a grand finale but sometimes starting at the end makes more sense.  You can imagine, then that I love to read the last page of a book before I venture to the start and read through the storyline. That’s how I am going to start.

Writing a book and getting it published fulfilled a lifelong dream.  It’s always good for the soul to manifest wishes.  But, finding the courage to put an intimate part of myself in the public eye, with my name on it,  was a difficult decision.  No matter how removed the story is from my real life, the thoughts of the characters, the situations and the words on the page come from within me, from places I’ve seen and people I’ve met. However, the feeling of accomplishment was able to override my anxiety.  And every time I see and hold the finished product I know that the effort was worth it.

Before I go any further, I have to ask this question.  Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?  A very engaging commercial on TV asks that question of seniors.  You know, when you are 18 years old, the possibilities seem endless.  At 55, not so much.  But as I watch that commercial, I think about my answers then, when I was 18 and now.

My beginning starts way back in junior high school.  I wrote my first screen play when I was fifteen but the idea of pursuing a career doing something as exotic as writing, was just too far-fetched to even contemplate.  As a woman and a woman of colour, my opportunities were limited, at the very least, to professions suitable for a woman.  Motherhood, nurse, teacher or secretary.  Those choices were my reality in 1966 when I graduated high school.  Anything else seemed unacceptable.  Hard to believe in 2012 but less than fifty years ago, many young women were still trapped in stereotypical roles.  So when an uncertain career in writing, might have taken off, it died a unnatural death and I went on to become a professional nurse.  Did I submerge my desires?  I don’t know for sure but since you know the ending of the story, the answer could be yes, but I don’t feel that’s true.

To be honest, I had two great role models.  In 1927, my grandmother left her island home, all alone, to travel by boat to Nova Scotia, another island five times the size of her native Jamaica.  She then took a train across Canada to Kingsville Ontario to take on a job with a family she had never seen.  She wasn’t well educated but she was ambitious and took the opportunity to help each of her siblings back home and provide for her son, my father.  My own mother was a public health nurse in a time when married women with children often stayed home.  In high school, I was the only one of my friends who had a working mother.  In the end, I chose to travel abroad like my grandmother and like my mother, became a professional nurse.

I have no regret about taking on a nursing career.  Because of it, the middle part of my story is full of fascinating interactions with people from all over the world.  I grew up in Toronto in a multicultural community filled with stories of escape from war torn countries, political intrigue, courage and ambition, struggle and change.  Because I Travelled abroad to study, I got to listen to a different culture and character of people.  And I did listen to everyone, file-ing away the details of their individual histories.  My mind was fertile ground waiting for the seeds of stories to be planted.

At one time, I began to believe that I must have a headline on my forehead which reads ‘tell me your story’.  If I do have a look that invites confidence, as part of my work, I hope it makes me a better nurse, but the ability to listen, also makes me a better person.  Everyone has a story to tell.  All stories should  be told because everyone has a right and a need to be heard.

Why are stories important?  When you read a story which resonates with you, it is part of your story.  It gives validity to your story.  It puts you in touch with others and allows you to empathize, and sympathize and receive both.  A story releases emotion, gives you courage and makes you want to change.  A story should inform and transform. A story has meaning even if it only provides a few minutes of laughter to ease an ache which won’t go away.

The same ideal is true whether you read the story or write it.

These are all reasons why I read voraciously in my youth.  Epic books were not daunting to me at all.  Mostly, I enjoyed the stories  of a romantic, historical or biographical nature.  I loved going to the movies because they were also a way of hearing and seeing someone’s story.   Like most kids of my generation, I was also a big TV fan.  Each episode of those weekly sitcoms filled my head with lessons that have stayed with me.  Analyzing the plot was as important to me as understanding the message born in the mind of the show’s creator.

The need to write became a force in the middle of my own life story.  I was now forty years old, still raising my children and working just as I had always done.  What changed for me was not my job, or location.  I did not have a great revelation but I did get sick and suddenly all the hopes and dreams I had as a child came back to haunt me.  There was no planning, or thought behind this desire.  I was simply watching a TV show which resonated with me.  When the series ended abruptly, as good ones often do, I felt a yearning to create a better resolution of the unrequited love which drove the plot line.

One day, I just sat at my  computer, with a dedication well beyond my normal nature, and started to write a story. It wasn’t about the TV show but about the challenges of falling in love with the wrong person.  My first drafts were saved on a disc.   I applied myself to writing every day. Each week I would send out a few pages to my sister to edit and return.  My friends, that was more than twenty years ago.  I wrote both my stories within a year, started a third and then put them away.  I have no excuse to offer.  Procrastination is the bane of our existence.  But in retrospect, I felt that I had used an extensive recovery time to lay the groundwork for my future endeavours.

Twenty years!  You may ask why I waited so long to bring the stories to their natural conclusion.  Again, in retrospect, I can see that during those twenty years, I learned many things which added a maturity and confidence to my own sense of self.  Clearly, I needed time to think about crafting a story that was reasonably well written, grammatically correct and held all the elements a story should have, including drama, laughter, tears and a happy ending.  But more than that, I wanted the plot to include bit and pieces of ideas from those people who could not speak for themselves, to have their ideas brought forward.  I see now, that I had twenty more years of listening to do before I could craft a narrative which met those standards.

Another important point is that the creativity generated by writing those early stories was not in vain.  I would not consider myself illiterate but the discipline of making myself write gave me the courage to return to school and fulfill other childhood dreams which were not available to me in 1966.

Interestingly, when I did decide to restart writing back in 2007, twenty years later, I did not take out the unfinished work sitting at the bottom of a drawer, in my home office.  Instead, I started writing an online story to complete the unfinished love affair of that old TV show.  There is a wonderful site called fanfiction where thousands of would be writers fulfill their fantasy of creating stories based on movies and TV series.  Once I got started in that exciting realm, there was no stopping me.  But each time I crafted a story for the online community,  slowly and surely, the books at the bottom of the box called out to me every day until I could no longer ignore them.

I have to say that the challenge of actually rewriting the books was intimidating. I had to retype the manuscript from my original handwritten hard copy.  What I had saved on  five inch floppy discs in 1989 was obsolete by 2009.  There was no computer program that I had, which could bring those original words to life again.  The prospect of typing one hundred thousand words seemed really daunting and yet, in doing so, I found inner strength and even more discipline beyond what I could ever imagine.

This time around, it wasn’t my own health issues which precipitated a return to writing.  My husband of more than forty years was seriously injured in a car accident.  He spent a long time in hospital followed by months in rehab.  I needed to use my time wisely because thinking about the status of his health, and the changed circumstances of our life was even more daunting than writing.  If I learned nothing else in my 45 years of nursing, I knew that ‘over thinking the future’ and worry would have been the best way to create ‘anxiety- related’ ill health in my own body.  I had already been tested with a life threatening illness. I had used my recovery time to restart something close to my heart.  The close brush with death and the enormous challenges of my husband’s recovery were a huge reminder of the fleeting nature of our existence and the importance of self care.  It was time to complete those things left undone because I was now grown up.

We spend a lot of time living in the here and now, and we should, because today is what matters but we can also bring our dreams forward into the present.  When we dream of the past we only picture that dream as it was, but we can renew its presence in our lives and not allow it to remain unfulfilled.  If you have ever thought about that elusive bucket list, know that it is never too late.  I wasn’t too old at forty to start crossing off buried dreams from my list.  And, according to that line ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’……I have a pretty good idea now.

It isn`t about being a published author, which is important even though  I consider myself more of a storyteller than author.  What I learned was the value of using times of maximum stress in my life to find comfort, pleasure, self worth and healing by completing a lifelong goal. I was able to be a voice for the women and men who filled my life with their stories.  Most importantly I am able to leave a legacy of hope for my grandchildren just as my grandmother did for me.  That’s my story and I hope it will inspire you to tell your own story and share it with others in your own way.

I leave this with a quote from Thoreau

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

 

Is God Love? Part I

Is God Love?

A Journey of Discovery

No one knows when a journey will begin, a journey of discovery.  Sometimes the light of spirit moves us but the most important aspect of change is to recognize that change is needed.  I was at that point in my life back in 1991.  I had just buried my mother who suffered with  a very debilitating form of Alzheimer’s disease.  Shortly after,  I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a circumstance which dictated change in my life.  Clearly the loss of my mother left me with the feeling that I was on my own.  My own diagnosis left me with the sense that I was alone.  I wasn’t, but the loss of someone so important to my sense of self was devastating.  There is something about the mother child-dynamic which does not exist on any other plane of life.

At the time, I was working as a charge nurse in the nursery of a small community hospital.  Despite my grief and  the disheartening diagnosis, I could not ignore the demands of a very intense and high pressured job.  Strangely, the stress balanced the increasing depression associated with the surgery, therapy and radiation looming large in my future.  Into that whirling pool of life’s challenges, I was confronted with little choice about my future. This is where I found that journey of discovery.

My job gave me the wonderful opportunity to meet so many families.  I worked, and still do, in the Obstetrical unit.  In my part of the city, we prided ourselves on providing service to the community in sixty-six languages.  Compared to the larger corporate hospitals, our community based facility was considered small and low risk but the unique ability to provide culturally sensitive service brought us large volumes of fairly recent and ESL(English as a Second Language) immigrants.  Despite our size we were busy.

In 1991 Obstetrical prenatal assessments were not as sophisticated as we are now.  I credit an early diagnosis and treatment with saving my life but for many women, the distress of moving to a new country and leaving behind close family was always compounded by the inability to provide adequate prenatal and general health histories.  Many lives included factors of violence, abuse, war and death.  Some families had barely escaped with their lives from war torn countries.  Early diagnostic screening was an unheard of luxury for many of them.  Receiving these women into our care presented great challenges.  Many had children previously. Without an adequate medical history we were working in the dark.  It would be impossible to articulate what I saw as a nurse during that challenging period of my life but what I learned from the intensity of care was that courage comes when we feel at our lowest ebb.

We are nothing if we don’t find out selves moved by the ways in which we learn from the stories of others.  It was into this environment which I brought my own grief and fear and learned a lesson I will never forget.

I can’t recall every story I heard over the years but many are too compelling to be forgotten.  When relevant I have tried, in so many ways, to share some anecdotes in other areas of my work.  Sometimes the need to write about these experiences is overwhelming and this blog provides the time and space.  It allows me to bring to light the story of one family, who changed my life and spiritually transported me into another world of understanding.  Their story is not one of war and despair.  I had heard horrific tales over and over from other families but this story was a simple crisis of faith and how their cultural heritage and belief systems were challenged.  In order to save the life of their daughter they had to embrace change.  In doing so, they brought me to a new understanding of the strength of the human spirit.

Part Two to follow soon.

Life’s Enduring Journey – Part Two

We have seen many people forced to address issues because they saw an injustice and determined that they would work to right the wrongs. Equality, fairness, civil rights, and freedom are all causes which have taken people like Confucius who changed the psyche of his nation through teaching, Martin Luther King who brought awareness and change to the plight of African-Americans, Florence Nightingale who changed the face of nursing, Gandhi and Mandela, who brought freedom to their nations, Golda Meir, the first woman to lead the nation of Israel, Jesus, who preached of God’s love so that his disciples could bring Christ consciousness to the world, or Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, who fought for equality of women’s rights. Social, spiritual, ethical and religious revolutions brought their leaders to heights they never imagined.
Leadership carries its own weight and responsibilities. Without the brave men and women who saw the need for profound change, our world would be completely different. Each moved forward without knowing the end result but we can applaud their incredible foresight.
And yet, each Leader would tell you, that no one person works in isolation. As you make your way into the ‘journey’ of your own world, taking a stand for what you believe in, following through on the promises you made to yourself and others is important. If you join like minded souls whose passion for a cause matches your own, you will be no less an agent of change than those who have followed great leaders since the beginning of time. We are nothing in isolation. We are nothing if our message is lost because we failed to commit ourselves to an ideal and follow through.
From all of our earliest journeys, we have traveled the path of our destiny with others. We join hands across the table, the room, the country, and the world, to connect with our human brothers and sisters. Like us, took they took that first breath of inspiration and rose to meet the challenges of growth through development of skills and strengthening of faith in a common purpose.
Our early experiences may have been different but at a point in our lives, much like this point in time today, we must intersect with each other to learn, to create change and bring about a better world for all.

From The Desiderata

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann

Suspect, Love

Suspect, Love

Can love at first sight survive a second look?

An unexpected weekend romance which holds the promise of love, falls apart when Rosanna’s lover is charged with fraud.  Can  a disenchanted nurse and a cynical doctor find their way back to each other?

Suspect, Love… A Profound Abysm now available

Contact author for signed copies.
Read the blog for Suspect, Love and other stories related to matters of the heart at http://www.crossroadsofpastpresentfuture.com