Kim and Sara, the Language of Music

Like Mother Like Daughter was my first collaboration with Kim Blanchard Souch and her daughter Sara Sobey. This mother-daughter duo began performing together when Sara was just a young teen. Kim was a touring singer/songwriter while pregnant with Sara, so it was not a surprise that Sara could sing before she could speak! What Kim could not have known was that music would be more than a bridge between them. For a long time, it would be their only shared language.

Diagnosed on the autism spectrum, Sara had a very limited vocabulary. It was when she sang that Sara could communicate with an extensive vocabulary, discovering a joy that was both physical and emotional. Her body would almost hum as her voice resonated!

This is just where this duo’s story begins. Tours, fundraisers in support of the Autism Society, recordings and appearances brought much attention to their beautiful harmonies and storytelling.  Original songs penned by Kim have told the stories of mothers and daughters, family, life, love and loss.

Now, something extraordinary is happening. Along this life journey Kim and Sara have developed their own unique voices. They perform together – and always will! But now there is room for self-expression. Kim’s path is returning to her roots as a touring artist with songwriting for herself and others as a renewed focus. Sara’s dream has been to perform with a Symphony, which happened for the first time this year.

There is more, much more, to come from both these artists and I can’t wait be a part of this next chapter! Over the coming months, their music journeys are diverging and yet we know they will always be entwined. For as they find new strength with their own voices, that beautiful harmony they create will only deepen.

Enjoy this link, to Kim Blanchard Souch and Sara Sobey singing:

Like Mother, Like Daughter

The Importance of a Friend

My Brother’s Keeper, an Obama Foundation led initiative to provide mentorship to young men of color, found a special home in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It was an honor to tell its impact story in this video. The partners from the community, the school and school district as well as the men who commit to years of mentorship, are making a difference one young man at a time.

 

Gestures of Love Live On

Two very dear and deeply loved women who had great impact in my personal and professional life died a week ago. Accomplished, smart,talented, beautiful and blessed with a lovely streak of mischief. Beacons of joy, they radiated love and kindness. Cruelly, both were ravaged by disease.

janetJanet Heerema battled ovarian cancer then acute leukemia fighting until her last days when she finally, gracefully, stopped. In the midst of her illness, Janet organized a ‘Celebration of Life’ which was a monumental sold-out concert raising thousands for Ovarian Cancer research. Janet had a way of inspiring, bringing out the best in people. She created community, using music as a balm and an inspiration. The times I needed counsel, Janet would offer thoughtful, experienced, kind reflection. She lived fully, with the belief love was the reason and the answer. Her example is one I will always draw upon.

 

 

lesleigh

Lesleigh Turner’s battle was also courageous. Struck down by the relentless illness of depression, Lesleigh put a brave face on her struggle finally succumbing to her disease by taking her own life. An unfair end to an unfair diagnosis. An incredibly talented woman – photographer, actor, director, producer, creator of community. Over her challenging final years she moved heaven and earth to build a home for her family. Lesleigh was a great friend, a great collaborator and a champion of everyone she knew. She loved and lived fiercely, an example I will carry.

 

My friend Donald D’Haene beautifully described Lesleigh as having ‘drowned with love’. I would say that Janet was ‘buoyed by love’.  The world shifted with the loss of these powerful women. It’s a different place this Sunday then it was a week ago. I don’t believe Janet and Lesleigh knew each other but they have impacted my life and our communities through similar gestures of love.

Living too far away to be able to attend their memorial services and life celebrations, this reflection is my way of honouring the lives and my friendship with Janet Heerema and with Lesleigh Turner.

 

 

 

 

 

The Promise

Video

Promises are sweet. As I have grown I have learned to be more judicious with the promises I dole out. Living has shown that promises aren’t to be given out on whims and fancies. A true promise is heartfully rendered. A thoughtful quiet proclamation that connects us deeply with each other. And because I now understand this, I don’t have that many to share. They require attention, a gentle upkeep – they are responsibilities and so take time. I also now truly and better value the promises that are given in return, holding very close the gesture and the promise giver. I believe and trust better, in myself first and then in those whose promises I choose to accept.

Quiet promises given and received.

The Promise, by Aaron Copland, is a composition that captures the true nature of a promise offered, the gentlest ripple resting on an epic undercurrent of repercussions. A statement of a people and country but also a personal gesture.  Given from one to another. Simple and sweet. Lyrics by Horace Everett.

The Promise of Living,

the promise of giving,

the promise of ending

 is labor

and sharing

and loving!

Soup – with a Sprinkling of Nuts!

I’ve become kind of ‘known’ for my soup. If you’ve been invited to my home, attended a workshop, a dinner meeting, chances are as you walk through the door, you’ve had soup thrust upon you. In fact my soup has become so legendary that at one speaking engagement the wonderful woman who introduced me waxed poetically about my soup – which was perhaps the most flattering personal endorsement I have ever received.

This section of The Principal Collective website shares some musings on why I love making soup, as well as a look at some past productions (this is the Nuts part!). When I look back on some of the outlandish projects I have undertaken and participated in, it seems a bit, well, nutty! Alas, ask me today to be a part of something extraordinary and audacious, my response is likely to be – ‘What could possibly go wrong?’!

Let’s get back to the soup pot….

What is it about soup? Quite a bit of thought-full-ness goes into each bowl. I search through the cupboards and fridge to suss out ingredients, assemble a collection on the counter then mull over the soup possibilities. Next I wash, chop, dice and mix. Toss everything into a pot and begin to stir. Simmer, stir some more, taste, add herbs and spices, stir again, then serve.  The recipes are equal parts chance, luck and experience plus one secret ingredient – they are each made with LOVE. Trust me, it makes all the difference.

This is Julia Childs, not me, making soup - just in case there was any confusion...

This is Julia Childs, not me, making soup – just in case there was any confusion.

Preparing soup is as much an exercise in zen living for me as it is a gesture of welcome friendship for those I am making it. The best soup cannot be rushed. The flavours need time to mingle, the vegetables have to soften, the broth must come to a gentle boil. When I am making soup, time slows down. And when we sit to eat it the slurping and sipping, smacking of lips makes it a shared experience. You can’t gracefully eat soup on the run. In life, it’s true that nurturing takes time, with ourselves, our relationships as we mingle, soften and boil into the flavour-full people we are meant to be.

February 2006 my work  was featured in O, the Oprah Magazine. Once you have been introduced to the Oprah family you carry a kinship with their ongoing conversation on what it means to live a deep meaning-full life. Since then, I’ve been peeking over the fence of the OWN empire as they happily picnic the ‘it’s always summer at Oprah‘s’ days away, lounging elegantly in Oprah‘s backyard luxuriously tossing ideas around like balloons, wondering what can I bring to this conversation? I have realized that my unique weapon, full of my secret ingredient, is my soup.

As a big thank you to those who have enjoyed my soups and to those who continue to ask for my recipes,  this blog called ‘Soup for SuperSoulSunday‘ ran each Sunday in conjunction with OWN Network’s SuperSoulSunday programming and now I re-visit on occasion to add and refresh! A new soup recipe will appear, with heaps of love and hope that you will enjoy the meditation that comes with chopping, sauteing, and simmering. If you have soup recipes and soup stories, please share them with me on the Contact Form below, or message me through this website. It would be wonderful to share your soup inspiration over the coming months. The Soup recipes to date are found on my website by hovering over this page title in the tab and choosing from the drop down list. (Does that make sense?)

Check out Oprah’s website here, for more SuperSoulSunday information – it’s very inspiring.  http://www.oprah.com/app/super-soul-sunday.html

 

 

The Summer of Dunking

The ALS fundraising craze is more of a tsunami than a bucket! I have clicked on  videos of friends, celebrities, the occasional pet, dunking themselves in bracing cold water to support the ALS fight. These clips are hilarious and this is likely the most successful online campaign for funding and awareness ever created. So why haven’t I dunked myself?

setMy dear friend Danielle would have loved the Ice Bucket Challenge – I am pretty sure she would have participated whole heartedly. That was just her style. Diving right in to the thick of it. Danielle died two summers ago from ALS. Much too young, much too vibrant, leaving behind family and friends to cope. (I wrote about Danielle shortly after her funeral – Fields of Gold).Danielle’s Mom and Dad, sister and brothers had the hardest time of course. She moved in with her parents, her brother quit his job and moved back to the family home to assist with her care, their lives taken on a path from which there was no diverging.

Last summer, Danielle’s Mom Suzanne sent an email announcing she was participating in the Walk for ALS Please support me in my Walk for ALS…” Not in the best health herself, a woman who had aged from caring for her daughter, Suzanne was going to walk 5km to raise money to support ALS research while honouring the life of Danielle. And so she did. I’ve been thinking a lot about Danielle this summer as the Ice Bucket craze swept Facebook, knowing she would have sent me the challenge yet just not able to do the dunk. And I haven’t been sure why. Then last week I received an email from Suzanne that began “Please support me in my Walk for ALS…” In the midst of the social media fun, came a heart felt request. A whisper in contrast to the squeals and laughter of the Ice Bucket Challenge. I burst into tears. Without video, fanfare, not looking for accolades or attention, Suzanne would again embark on a 5 km walk with each step dedicated to Danielle. Just like she did last year and if her health allows, will next year too. Ice Bucket Challenge or not.

If you, like me, are looking for a way to participate but without ice water, then perhaps you would like to learn more about Suzanne’s participation in the Walk for ALS. If you go to her fundraising page on the ALS site, you will note that Suzanne humbly hopes to raise $300. You will see  beautiful pictures of Danielle, including one in her RCMP uniform (yup, she was amazing!), and you will read, in true quiet Suzanne fashion, a loving short statement about losing her daughter.

Here’s to a summer of fantastic attention to ALS, to unprecedented amounts of money being raised, and to one Mother who will walk in memory of my wonderful friend Danielle.

http://my.e2rm.com/PersonalPage.aspx?SID=4999776&LangPref=en-CA

 

 

 

 

Fields of Gold

In June, I determinedly announced that this was going to be the ‘summer of Louise’. Unexpectedly in my hometown for the long summer months ahead, I was eager to spend precious time with my university aged son and daughter , take short trips to visit out of town friends, lounge in the parks at summer festivals, outdoor concerts, impromptu dinners, the promise of some time for deep introspection and the shifting towards the next important phase of my life. All this was going to be punctuated with the visiting of my dear friend Danielle. A friend since high school, Danielle’s life of adventure and accomplishment had taken her from undercover work as an RCMP officer in British Columbia, to working in orphanages in Thailand and Malaysia, travel throughout much of the world, media work with the RCMP, and policy analysis in Ottawa, now her summer was also anchored in our hometown. Five years ago, this phenomenal woman was given the most cruel news – a diagnosis of ALS ( Lou Gehrig’s disease).

We had kept in touch sporadically since high school, sometimes going 2 – 3 years without hearing from each other. About 12 years ago she contacted me, we enjoyed a rare long visit, reconnected, and determined to stay in better touch.  And we did. Emails, visits on the odd occasion we were in the same city, letters and photos. As the disease ravaged her body, Danielle’s big life was increasingly diminished in mobility although never in scope. She may have become less mobile, lost her independent living, but never her expectations for herself or others. As the disease unjustly took over her body, Danielle had no option but to move back to our hometown and be in the care of her extraordinary family. And yet, her  joie de vivre was not lost. For ALS robs your body of mobility and function, but not your mind. Your essence is left intact, to witness your physical decay. When I was in town, we would go out – her hands/arms were the first to be rendered useless; initially she could walk aided, then needed assistance with a wheelchair, too soon could not leave her wheelchair, speaking became difficult and finally no longer able to breathe on her own, was mostly confined to her family home – a sanctuary they created for her with gardens, paintings, a vibrant blue Buddha, photos, colours, laughter, underscored by all  the traditional and non-traditional medical communities options available.

A wonderful and true friend Barb, part of our Grade 10 triumvirate, was also keeping in very close contact. In mid-June, Barb and I began our soon to become ritual of Sunday morning coffee with Danielle. Barb and I would meet at Starbucks, get Danielle’s favourite Americano, and head to Danielle’s for our weekly visit.  Between offering Danielle sips of coffee through a straw that one of us would hold up to her, the three of us laughed hysterically, talked in hushed tones, cried together, discussed our pressing concerns – in some ways things had not changed since Grade 10! Barb and I also continued to visit Danielle on our own. And as July progressed, these visits became more frequent, and longer. The last Thursday in July I took dinner for all of us, and spent a luxurious visit with Danielle and her family. Even after many hours I had a very difficult time pulling myself away.  I was on my way to NYC for a week and was really going to miss her! As I walked home, I reminisced about how the summer was unfolding and realized that it had become the ‘summer of Danielle’.

I landed in Toronto after my week away, to an urgent phone call from Barb; our Danielle was in crisis. Learning she had been taken to the hospital, we waited throughout Friday for news, and Saturday received a call on behalf of Danielle, asking Barb and I to come to say good-bye. And we did. Our final intimate moments will remain private,  but I will reveal that in this most darkest of times, Danielle still remained the truest and sweetest of friends. In the worst moment of her life, at the instant she knew that it was her time to die, she looked to all of us who loved her and gave us the opportunity for a bit of peace.

An architect of her life from the beginning, Danielle managed her final years with the same tenacity and heart that had propelled her throughout the world. She not only fought to live, she fought off death. An incredible amount of strength that I will forever be in awe of. Courage, heart, truth, that resulted in an example of how it is to really live in this world. Nora Ephron determined at the end, that she wanted to ‘write her own story’. And so it is with Danielle.   Thus, on this Sunday morning, I am sitting in Starbuck’s, having an Americano, missing her greatly and deeply. Treasuring in the privilege of my summer of Danielle.