April 2009

Maxx being a ‘big’ cousin to Liam – helping him catch his FIRST fish!!

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What I love most about my boy is his huge, HUGE heart.   

If one of his friends is going through a rough time, Maxx is the first one on the scene, ready to help them through it, sharing his own journey of challenges and teenage wisdom.

And for him, family always comes first.  

Yesterday, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.   Maxx had left for school in the morning knowing we were expecting the results of the needle biopsy.  He called me before he even arrived home to find out the results.  

He came into the house to find me sitting on the couch and immediately came for a hug.


Then he got on the phone and called grandma and made immediate plans to go to see her, and called his cousins to arrange for them to come too.  

Because the one thing I know about my son is that he’s ready to face whatever life is tossing him.  Face on.  Arms wide open.  

A diagnosis of cancer is never something you want for any family member, but already what I can see is that there’s a deepening intimacy as we remember how precious, fragile and fleeting life is.  

In these moments we can choose to turn away from that reality, or…..

….we can turn into it, feeling all the feelings that the pain, the fear, and the sadness bring to our hearts.  


For years I’ve known that this conversation was going to arise one day.  

I thought I’d planned for it.  But I still wasn’t fully prepared for it.  

I knew one day he was going to want to try it.  After all, I’d tried it.  

But when your teen lets you know that he’s thinking about trying it – what do you say?   Because when it comes right down to it, I don’t want him to try it, like it, do more of it, let it lead to trying other things, and possibly allow it to do to his life what it did to mine – temporarily, or possibly even permanently derail it.  


Today is 420.  

Funny, I didn’t know about 420 until my teen told me about it.  

Lots written about it:





So, even though my son sees me working on my undegrad degree in my late 40’s because I was too stoned in my teens and 20’s to focus on my education, is he still going to try it?  

And how do I most effectively guide him through yet another major life decision?    

How much influence do I have?  How much control do I have?

When my son was 7 years old and I realized that living with his father was no longer good for my health, my sister and her family were kind enough to take us in.  We lived with them for a year and a half while I recovered from the sadness of a failed marriage, and developed new hopes and dreams for a different sort of future for Maxx and I.

Transitioning from being an only child, to one of four children in a busy, chaotic household was likely a healthy distraction for Maxx as he adjusted to living life without his dad as part of the day to day household.  

He also had to adjust to an entirely new style of parenting as well as being one of four children.  

One day as both my sis and I pounced upon him about an incomplete task, he drew on his remarkable wit and comedic sense of timing and yelped, “oh NO!  I’ve been DOUBLE-mama’d!!”.

scary-double-moms                                                                                                                                                                                                      ……..Ok, we weren’t quite that scary.  

I look back on that time with deep appreciation for both the support we received, but also for the opportunity to deepen my relationship with my sister, my brother-in-law, as well as my niece and nephews.  

As for Maxx, I’ve come to realize that one of the many benefits was that he learned to adapt easily to different household expectations.  

After my sis’s place, Maxx and I shared two homes with girlfriends and their kids, providing Maxx yet another opportunity to adjust to new parenting styles, and new rules for sharing space and other people’s belongings.

At times I longed for my own home, with my own set of rules, the ability to create ‘our’ rythm of life, as I’m sure Maxx did, but we both enjoyed the journey, and developed very special friendships with those we shared homes with along the way.  

Then I met, and fell in love with Andrew.  

We decided to create a home together, marrying almost two years ago.  For the most part, we three have a co-created a harmonious household, treating one another with respect, sharing much laughter and good times.  

But, like in all co-parenting situations, my husband and I don’t always see eye to eye.  For the most part we usually can settle our differences amicably, and then there’s that occasional, somewhat inevitable robust exchange of views.  couple-arguing_pq_7574921



Maxx has learned to adjust to yet one more home-life configuration as we’ve negotiated new rules and guidelines that honor both Andrew’s parental expectations as well as mine.  

There’s a step-mom added to the mix now as well, and Maxx spends time in his dad’s new home as well as ours.  

At the time of the marriage break-down Maxx had a barely functioning mom, and a rarely present father.  

Now, he’s dealing with FOUR functional parents with relatively clear expectations, rules and guidelines.  It’s not exactly a fairy-tale but at least it’s not a nightmare. 

For the most part, I think the transitions through all these parenting configurations have provided Maxx a unique view on the different ideas that different adults bring to their role as parents.  When I travel with Maxx, I witness how easily he adjusts to the expectations of whatever household we’re in, and when he’s invited to travel with friends, I always get rave reviews from the parents on his cooperation and participation.

It isn’t always easy, but for the most part – I think we’ve been able to surround this amazing boy with a LOT of love, as well as exponential parenting. 


boys                …..what IS it with boys?  



What is with this ‘tough-guy’ attitude that they seem to default to when they don’t know how to properly communicate with one another?  

Last night my teenage son was involved in an altercation with another boy, relatively new to the area, that easily could have escalated to more physical violence than it did entail.

It frightened him.

It frightens me.  

What was challenging, but kind of cute a few years ago……bad-boys-4….is quickly shifting to boundary exploration and pushing that can rapidly become destructive and potentially dangerous.

tough-kids-smokingEvery day of parenting is now my own exploration of where to set, where to expand, and where to re-define boundaries.  

I’m thankful for the level of communication I have with my son, hopeful that it will continue as he progresses into his teen years, and nervous about which boundary he’ll be pushing next.  What’s around the next corner for us? 


Alcohol, drugs, physical boundaries, curfew, sporting prowess, helmet use……there always seems to be ONE more thing he’s exploring, and I’m negotiating boundaries with him on.  


…and as he grows, the risks become greater:  the potential fall-out from engaging in a fight, choosing NOT to wear a helmet when snowboarding, or biking, trying a drug at a party.  

I can’t always be there to guide him.  

But hopefully he’ll respect the boundaries I’ve set, and use them occasionally when the peer pressure gets intense and threatens to push his OWN boundaries.  Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to say, “my mom will give me ***** if I do that”, and to have his friends know that’s the truth because they’ve seen him face the consequences of crossing ‘set’ boundaries.

                                    As his youthful innocence 

tough-laughing-boys                                                                                                                                                transitions into acquired wisdom…..

I hope that the boundaries I’ve established for him, serve him in determining what boundaries he’ll set for himself in the years to come.

I sometimes wonder where I’m making an impact as a parent.  

Do the things I care about matter to my boy/child/youngman?  Have I done a good ‘job’ of being a parent?  Am I doing a good ‘job’ being a parent?  

Am I instilling in my son the importance of volunteerism, of philanthropy, of community and global awareness?  

When my ‘job’ is done, will Maxx be a good citizen, a contributing member of his community?  


We sponsor a boy in Zimbabwe, and this week will join other sponsor families at a very cool gathering that World Vision is having in Vancouver – music, sharing, info on how our donations are assisting the children we have come to care about.  Obry’s face is on our fridge – I think of him daily, and Maxx talks about him often, even if he’s not fully aware of the challenges that are faced by those eking out an existence in Zimbabwe.

We have served up potatoes on the downtown eastside with SPUD (although it’s been way too long since we’ve done that!).  

Recently I was interviewed for a soon to be launched web program:  Life On Purpose, a part of Pincgiving (www.pincgiving.com) 

The questions they posed were thought provoking, and I’ve shared my responses with Maxx to prompt him to think a bit more about philanthropy, volunteering, and giving to others.  


I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely comfortable in front of the camera, under the bright lights, but I really enjoyed journalling responses to the questions that Chantale sent me:  

What does living your life on purpose mean to you?

  • Living life from the inside out, rather than the outside in….
  • Truly being connected to my gifts, my passions and being engaged in making a difference where I am able. 
  • Some days that means being the best mom, or daughter or wife I can be.
  • Some days that means taking time out for me, to fill myself back to the point where I have something to give.
  • ….and some days that means opening my heart, my energy, my life, fully to the causes that call to me. 
  • What it DOESN’T mean is living my life in sacrifice, although from time to time I may find myself giving beyond my capacity, I try to remind myself to keep living my life with Presence, in Balance and in Joy. 

Who/what inspires you and why?

  • It’s easy to say that Mother Teresa, Bill Gates, even Bill Clinton with his recent book and speaking engagements on Giving are inspirational.  Famous actors, bigtime philanthropists that engage our facination, and receive media exposure…
  • What REALLY inspires me is anyone who sees a cause, gets involved and makes a difference, sometimes beyond their wildest imagination, with a wider impact than they thought when they took their first step.
  • What also inspires me is every person I’ve ever met who has been hurt in some way – lost someone they loved to illness, been anguished by the pain of others living in poverty, or illness, or visited another country and seen something that broke their heart – and they found that the way out of that pain was to open their cracked heart a bit further, and transform their pain, their anguish by giving of themselves, inspiring others deeply to join them in their cause.  Beverley Pomeroy  – the founder of this company is one such woman. 
  • My dear friend Tommy ‘Transit’ is another such person – he’s a bus driver in Vancouver who has made it his personal mission to touch the lives of every person who steps on his bus with authentic acknowledgment of their importance – he does this through ‘seeing’ them, speaking to them from his heart, and often making them laugh with his sweet, yet somewhat wild and wacky sense of humour. 
  • Sometimes it’s the simple, unexpected acts of kindness and giving that inspire me the most….

In your opinion, what can people do to promote philanthropy and the spirit of giving?

  • Start with themselves – be inspired, be inspirational and attract others to their causes, or inspire others to find their own passionate path of engagement.

What charity causes are you passionate about and why?

  • Locally – several that are working with homelessness – Linwood Ministries, Emerging Hope, on the North Shore – the Harvest Project
  • Globally – I’m currently engaged with the folks who have started AWE – Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs.  AWE is an alliance-based marketing campaign for the global women entrepreneurs movement – created to tell the story of women entrepreneurs and of how, by Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs, we can mitigate poverty, increase prosperity, and advance peace.  (you can find out more about AWE by visiting http://www.flowidealism.org

Describe in detail a personal experience where you witnessed the power of people coming together to do good and how did it affect you?

  • SPUD  (http://www.jeffreyarmstrongtalks.com/oldsite/spud/vancouver.html ) What I’ve appreciated about my experiences with SPUD (serving potatoes to unrecognized divas), a monthly gathering of Vancouverites who lovingly bake up batches of potatoes in their home kitchens and then meet to serve them up to folks on the downtown eastside with all the trimmings – folks who may not otherwise have a hot meal that day….what I’ve appreciated about that experience is that it brings people face to face with people they may not otherwise speak to, or even be close to, to have a better understanding of who they are, why they are in the circumstances they’re in, and perhaps can lead to further action to reduce poverty, to eliminate homelessness. 
  • On a deeper level – my son had a horrid experience several years ago with a very intoxicated man pointing a shotgun in his face – it was a horrifying example of how being in the wrong place in the wrong time can change everything in a moment.  Maxx was terrified of so many things for years after that – especially terrified of being driven through the  downtown eastside – all those lurching bodies, that chaotic movement of humanity brought back the terror of looking into the face of someone that to him, looked very much like any one of those men staggering along East Hastings.  By encouraging him to join the serving line w/ SPUD he gradually saw past the face of addiction, past the ravages of poverty, and into the humanity of those living in very different circumstances than him.  He slowly connected to the heartbeat of the downtown eastside, and has gradually been able to fully release his fears, seeing beyond the difference, to the common desire that we all have of being cared for, loved, fed, connected with.  

If you had the power to change the world, what’s the first thing you would do?

  • I feel my naivete and idealism rising to the surface when asked that question….
  • I would banish the lie that as humans we are separate from one another.  If I could inspire every human on this planet to live with that truth leading ALL their thoughts and actions – everything else would simply fall into place.
  • We laugh about the phrase “six degrees of separation” – even our Prime Minister was quoted recently at the funeral of the Canadians who had died tragically in the helicopter accident off the east coast as saying we’re all separated by just six degrees…..the reality is that we’re NOT separated – we’re incredibly connected to everyone in our communities, everyone on the planet and we need to think and act with that knowledge in our hearts and our minds. 
  • AIG – CEO’s bonuses – how this debate can be raging on the front pages of our newspapers and as a daily headline story is beyond me – what kind of insanity allows this financial fiasco to continue in this way? 
  • Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe – one of the worst examples on our planet today of a leader gone mad w/ his separation from the needs of the people he should be serving. 
  • That lie has become our planet’s truth, and it’s making us all insane – it’s at the root of so many of our local and international issues of the day. 
  • If we live our lives from the truth that we are all connected, interdependent, and that no one has the right to take from another…..what a different world this would be – our relationships , our homes, our communities, our companies, our countries…..so different. 

What do you want to be doing more of and why is this important to you?

  • Connecting people through deep, authentic dialogue
  • Redistributing wealth

Which of your values are you most proud of and why?

I’m not sure I would use the word ‘proud’ when I think of my values….that causes me to pause and reflect…..I’m passionate about my values, I’m engaged with my values, I’m connected to my values, I live from my values….I guess in some way that gives me a sense of pride…..

  • Making a difference
    • I ask myself, and my Creator daily to allow me to use my gifts to serve – and as I said previously, some days that means being the best mom, the best daughter, the best wife I can be.  If I am not living my values from my home, I am not living in integrity.  When my family is ok, when I’m ok, then I can bring my gifts out into the world. 
    • I recently spent a day with my mom in the emergency ward – there were two slightly senile women there without anyone to sit with them – I know that the few moments I spent with them in between advocating for, and being present for my mom made a bit of a difference to their day.  Sometimes it’s those moments that count the most for me.  …and when my mom said to me at the end of the day “you being here really made a difference for me” – that made my heart sing. 
    • Netweaving – it’s a place where I give daily – thinking about who I know who could benefit from knowing other people I know, and connecting them. 
  • Honesty / Trust / Integrity
  • Connection through dialogue
  • Empowerment / Achievement

Tell us about any profound experience(s) or encounter(s) that has shaped who you are today.

  • I don’t have ONE particular experience or encounter that has shaped who I am – who I am today is the culmination of all my life experiences, and they continue to unfold, I continue to grow and evolve (I hope! )
  • When it comes to the topic of philanthropy and giving though….what has connected me to this topic is mostly the more painful moments of my life: 
    • growing up with an alcoholic father, feeling that pain – connected me to getting involved w/ a suicide hotline when I was a teen and sharing what I’d learned through all our family therapy w/ those who didn’t have access to those resources
    • my first primary relationship was verbally, and sometimes physically abusive – when I left that relationship I worked at a battered women’s shelter
    • when my son was identified as having learning differences – ADHD – I became involved with that community, bringing together families for informative sessions, working for two years w/ the provincial association as a Board member
    • everytime I drive through the downtown Eastside of Vancouver I ask myself – What can be done?….then I ask myself – What can I do….so I’ve volunteered w/ Emerging Hope, offered my services to Linwood Ministries, served potatoes w/ SPUDS, volunteered w/ last year’s homeless count….that’s an area where I’d like to do more – if I had more time….it causes me such grief driving through that part of our city….

If a young child approached you and asked candidly, “What can I do to make a difference?” how would you respond?

  • beautiful quote by Howard Thurman: “Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. The world needs more people who have come alive.”
  • First and foremost figure out – what do you most love to do.  Then determine what in the world causes you the most pain or concern.  Is it the environment?  Poverty?  Local, international?  Is someone in your life that you love dearly ill with a disease that requires more research funding? 
  • Connect deeply to yourself, then connect deeply to the cause that means the most to you, and ensure that when you engage w/ the organization, or if you create an organization that you align your OWN gifts with the cause you’re working with. 
  • BE inspired, and inspire others to join you. 
  • Operate from a place within your heart that KNOWS that if each of us give a bit, our entire world can, and will change for the better.  A bit at a time. 
  • As Melita Thornhill says (the founder of Emerging Hope)….we’re all here to walk each other home.  

Oh, and if you really want to see the interview, it’s been posted in alpha version as the site is being further developed at:


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password: gnivig-krowten

How sweet this is. The sound of my boy strumming his ukulele daily.

With no sounds of a parent bellowing “it’s time to go practice!”.

I  love self-directed passion.

As a mom, it’s much gentler to breathe life into a passion of my child, than to force feed what I think he ‘should’ be doing.

Ah, but then there is that issue of school homework, isn’t there?  How do I inspire passionate engagement in his academic pursuits?  

Ok, why don’t you just play me another song?

....and he's still loving it at home.

He LOVED this uke when he saw it in Kauai....and he's still loving it at home.