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EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 1 - THE EARLY YEARS

My soul’s calling has always been to help others heal themselves.
We all have invaluable life journeys to speak of and we are all survivors in some way. I am similar to the many who have lived with parents who were violent, had mental health illnesses and were heavily addicted to alcohol. I found my life initially chaotic and terrifying, with many hurdles to overcome; however, my life has also been enriched with the rewards I received from the spiritual depth of my learning and in facing down the things that frightened me.
Love, compassion and acceptance of myself and others in this life’s journey have allowed me to go further in greater empathy and attunement to people’s feelings and their needs. This kind of clarity and focus becomes invaluable in offering support and healing to others.

Family Constellation

I was born second in a lineup of four children. Next to my brother, Rob, I am the eldest daughter. I have two sisters, Lindsay and Catherine. We were all raised in Penticton, British Columbia. My father, Gordon, was a handsome lawyer, with wavy reddish hair, a brilliant mind and a terrific sense of humour. He was a strong legal advocate for Aboriginal rights. He understood the First Nations Peoples culturally and spiritually and he spent much time with them throughout his life.
Gordon came from a well-known Scottish/Viking clan of seven boys and five girls who grew up appreciating hardships as well as successes. His parents came from the very North of Scotland and the Shetland Islands. His father was a well-respected Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Chief in Penticton for many years. His mother was a kind, soft-spoken woman who had once cooked with the chef who worked for King Edward VI. Her skills were well utilized with that large, active clan. He grew up in Nelson and Penticton, BC. While in Penticton, Gordon became part of the BC Dragoons Pipe Band. He and his brothers were notable pipers.
My mother, Shirlee, was a remarkably beautiful woman, with big blue eyes, auburn hair and a broad smile that could light up a room. She was the eldest daughter of three girls. Shirlee was a sensitive and very intuitive woman who loved animals, people and all plant life. She loved to cook. She had a charismatic, magnetic energy that was easily felt when you met her. Shirlee was stylish, charming and well cultivated in the social graces. Her father was the manager of the Seed Division of Buckerfields in Vancouver at one time, and her mother was a school teacher. She grew up in Kerrisdale, Vancouver.

Parents’ Challenges

Both of my parents were severe alcohol abusers. My mother also had a bi-polar-schizophrenic mental health issue that was exacerbated by her alcohol abuse. She was tormented by hallucinations (usually religious in nature), paranoia, confusion, severe depression, violent outbursts and sexual inappropriateness. She had periods of wellness, but they seemed to last for only a few weeks at a time.
Gordon drank too much for most of his life and would never completely stop. His World War II years took their toll on him. He never fully recovered from the trauma and the death of his comrades around him. His despair seemed to revolve particularly around his plane crash off the BC coastline, when his men were trying to come into the Abbotsford airfield in BC. A bomb exploded in his plane, killing several men and dumping the rest into the ocean. His men eventually drowned around him, but Gordon was a strong swimmer and was finally able to make it to shore.
As Gordon’s alcoholism continued, his public displays of inebriation increased. These and his subsequent abandonment of his responsibility as a husband and father became fodder for the professional circles in town and newspaper articles. One time his van was found “abandoned with man missing,” much to our despair and humiliation when we read about it along with everyone else. He was also known to reside with other women and support their children, while his family had to resort to being assisted by Income Assistance or “welfare.”
However, Shirlee and Gordon were far greater people than the illnesses they suffered. They had aspirations, dreams, heartaches, losses, and longings. They had love they wanted to give. They had strengths, triumphs, successes, wisdom, spirituality and a sense of their own special gifts. They both wanted to be happy and they wanted to be happy with each other. These desires were never realized.
In spite of the hardships and tests that would come to each one of us in this family, my parents, whom I loved, were two of my greatest teachers.

My Arrival

After my brother Rob was born I came on board sixteen months later. I was born premature at 3 pounds, 11 ounces. So right off the hop, so to speak, things were not going so well. I was put in an incubator for a month. In those days premature babies didn’t survive as easily. Of course I made it because I came from hardy, brave Viking stock and nothing stops us except a case of bad brew, and even then, not always.
My father told me I was up and running in just over six months after I got home. It was a good thing I knew how to run as I’d need some good hooves to try and outrun the abuse that was coming my way.

My Mantra
In the first four to six years of my life, and when my mother was giving birth to my siblings, I was placed for a few weeks with several of my father’s sisters: Joan, Cae and Marjorie. I do remember, at about age four, my aunt Cae attempting to dress me. I loudly insisted, “I can do it! I can do it myself!” They remind me to this day about this stubborn, independent part of my personality that rose up constantly whenever someone tried to assist me with anything. Although I was more like a shy rabbit then, I seemed to be very determined to loudly proclaim my independence and skills.
I can do it!” became my own personal power mantra for every challenge I faced for the rest of my life. I meant it every time I said it. And I said it a lot.

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