Boys Will Be Boys?

July 16, 2012

Here’s a story I published in 1994 when I was a Grade 6 school teacher – Peter

It’s a scene found on most school playgrounds. A boy, undersize for his age, gets shoved to the ground as he jostles for a loose basketball. I intervene in the name of fairness and one of my male Grade 6 students comments, “It’s like the woods, Mr. D., the strongest survive”, as he dribbles away eager to continue the game.

In that 11 year-old’s summation of an abusive incident lies an accurate analysis of how boys are socialized from a very young age to be tough, in control and aggressive. These sex role expectations are even found in boy’s comic books. This ad appeared on the back cover of a Superman comic I “borrowed” from a student that was supposed to be doing Math. Bold type, “Pick A Fight After School”, small print below video game boxes, “After a hard day at school, have you ever just wanted to go home and break a few heads, destroy a couple of cities? Or just blow up the entire universe? Of course you have. And now you can without getting grounded. Just plug in any of these four smash arcade hits….. and get ready for the fight of your life.”

What influences the minds of children today is overwhelming. My students will watch, on average, 22 hours of television per week, including18,000 violent deaths, by the end of grade 12. Based on time alone (not to mention stimulation effect) the entertainment industry is the first curriculum in young peoples lives. It’s a fantasy world where the powerful survive and the heroes are Terminator and GI Joe.

As we look at these and other dominate influences it should come as no surprise that newspapers are now reporting children bringing guns to school as well as a rise in swarming gangs and teacher abuse surveys. Schools still remain one of the last opportunities in society where positive values are transmitted but there is a lot of work to be done. Society and its primary professional mentors, teachers, are looking beyond reactions to violence by demands to toughen the Young Offenders Act. We need to look at where these attitudes are learned. How the practice of being male is taught ( it is men, lets face it that do 98% of the violence). When we understand how we learn then we can teach a lifetime of skills and attitudes to children.

A resource called Healthy Relationships: A Violence Prevention Curriculum for grades 7, 8 and 9 has recently been developed by Men For Change in cooperation with the Halifax County and Bedford District School Board in an attempt to meet this need. Grade 7 activities focus on aggression and emotions, Grade 8 deals with media literacy and sexist stereotypes and Grade 9 asserts healthy choices over of date rape. Men For Change is a Halifax based men’s group that formed after the Montreal Massacre to look a t what we, as men, can do to end violence against women, children and ourselves. We have since conducted dozens of workshops with eager teachers and insightful students in Halifax County. We look forward to sharing our resource with other school boards.

Sexism and violence are integrally linked as anyone working with battered women would attest. If we also believe that but sexism is learned and violence is one manifestation then our schools, as learning places, are one the best places to help children learn healthy attitudes towards gender. However schools can also be a place where we as teachers unknowingly pass on sexist and stereotype loaded expectations to the boys and girls we teach.

Subtle messages get passed to children when we have them separating into boys and girls groups to line up or hang up their coats The perspective that the world is to be viewed through male eyes may not even be considered next time we refer to a room of boys and girls by the popular term ‘guys’. Even the amount of praise we give male students or the statistic that boy’s hands are answered more frequently than girls are only small ways we may be contributing to a problem.

The following more explicit examples occurred in three different Junior High Schools in the Metro area. They are examples, hopefully even exceptions to the rule, but each bear witness to how teachers unknowingly legitimize male stereotypes and it’s violent practice.

I was recently in a Junior High early one morning making photocopies before a workshop when a Grade 9 student came into the building to seek refuge from others who had just punched him in the chest and kicked him. The duty teacher responded, ” You’re a big guy, why don’t you stand up for yourself?” The student stated simply, “I don’t fight”. The teacher then sent him back out to tell the perpetrators to come in. As my own students would say, Duh!! Not only was that young man’s need for safety ignored but I had a strong sense that nothing would be resolved even if his assaulters got suspended for a few days. My sense that the problem was not truly resolved was confirmed. I met the victimized student half an hour later in the washroom cleaning up the blood from a punch in the nose he had just received.

If we believe that violence is something that men and boys learn and use to maintain power over others then suspensions and other punitive measures, like a tougher Young Offenders Act are not the means to end violence. They merely offer token consequence in a society where violence is rampant, profitable and embodied as the very essence of what it means to act like a man.

Sometimes the messages to live up to this image come out through subtle comments. I was in another school where a grade 9 class teacher was welcoming students for the afternoon. A student asked him for a band-aid. The teacher obliged and commented, “I guess you lost that on huh! What’s the matter couldn’t you stand up to him?”

One of Men For Changes’ first in school workshop experiences several years ago was with a class of Grade 8 boys. We had a good dialogue about being macho, stereotypes and date rape. The discussion wrapped up10 minutes before the bell so the teacher hit p lay on the VCR with a Hockey’s Hardest Hitters Vol1 tape.

These anecdotes from the front lines may not be very pleasant to read at a time when teachers seem to be undervalued and stressed out but lets not forget the teachable moment here for all of us. As in all social change movements, from the successful TA DD ( Teens Against Drunk Driving) programs to anti- Racism objectives, the first step begins with an awareness of the breadth of the problem. It is when we realize how deep the roots and tradition of violence is that we begin to see the solutions.

We need to all work together and challenge the deeply ingrained illusion that we are all lock into a rigid stereotype, tough and aggressive for boys, passive and beauty bound, for girls. Then and only then will we be helping teach our students, and ours elves, not the law of the jungle where only the strongest survive, but rather the choices needed to build healthy relationships based on cooperation and trust where everyone is thrives.


Silly Love Songs

March 4, 2012

Do you think there are too many silly love songs?

Or do you believe that music is the universal language that unites humanity, heart-to-heart, voice to voice with a unison so pure and powerful that even walls that divide come tumblin’ down?

I offer two samples to share this in the spirit of celebrating life and its infinite possibilities for love.

I present two musical numbers. They are both songs of love but not in the narrow sense of the experience.

The first music celebrates the love freedom. The exquisite beauty of a human right many of us take for granted.

The second piece opens the heart to a deep abiding love that embraces us when we experience a loss of what we hold to be dear and close. It has been said that if one loves deeply enough then both joy and sorrow will be experienced. Or as Elvis cautioned, “Wise men say, only fools fall in love.” What greater celebration of love than to be okay that sometimes when we love, it hurts. Stay with it and give thanks for full range of love that is about being human.


I am excited to share this inspiring trailer for a newly released movie called the Singing Revolution. This documentary tells the extraordinary story of the non-violent path the small country of Estonia took to free itself from Soviet occupation. What a mass choir of committed voices who sing from the same song sheet can do.

Click Here to View How Music Changed One Corner of the World


Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings Opus 11 is arguably the World’s Saddest Love Song

Take a moment to experience this hauntingly beautiful violin or choir selection either with eyes closed or by viewing both with different slides.

Version 1 – Choir with Nature/Space Slides

Version 2 – Orchestra with 9-11 Photos

HOH OHO Wish List

December 20, 2011

What do you wish for? More time, less stress, a cappuccino machine, fewer bills, a hot vacation, a years spa pass, chocolate, a younger body, more courage, two front teeth?

A while back I presented my signature keynote, Journey to Everest: Unsung Heroes of Servant Leadership with a great group of Federal Government managers in Regina. This keynote celebrates the role of the unsung hero in work, those who make a difference by serving people whom they will likely never meet. I offered a simple reminder that our time, energy and talents can and does make a difference despite lack of credit or direct accolades. During the conference I interviewed and photographed delegates for the closing slide show and told a handful of stories to sing their praise by example before they leave the event to pay it forward.

It seems fitting in this season to share one of the examples of unsung heroes. I had a great chat with two Canada Post managers named Brent and Judy. Their picture in the closing slide show featured them in front of the Christmas tree in the hotel holding a sign that read the simple, creative postal code HOH OHO. As managers, they help coordinate the responses to, get this, over 1 million letters to Santa every year.

Each child’s letter is given a personal reply courtesy of Canada Post employees (on their own time, by the way) and select community service organizations. This is a heartfelt and excellent shining example of unconditional service exemplified by an unsung hero. There is no ego pat on the back because they will never meet the child but rather an internalized feeling of certainty that a small gesture keeps dreams and magic alive.

Here is the background of the Santa letter campaign. I share it as story worth telling because it is little known and, well, about unsung heroes.

In 1974, staff at Canada Post’s Montreal office were noticing a considerable amount of letters addressed to Santa Claus coming into the postal system, and those letters were being treated as undeliverable. Since those employees did not want those writing the letters, mostly young children, being disappointed at the lack of responses, they started answering the letters themselves. The amount of mail sent to Santa Claus increased every Christmas, up to the point that Canada Post decided to start an official Santa Claus letter-response program in 1983. Approximately one million letters come in to Santa Claus at postal code HOH OHO each Christmas, including from outside of Canada, and all of them are answered, in the same languages in which they are written.

This story came home with me when I told my wife Andrea, the story of the Santa letters. She smiled and reached into her bag and pulled out 30 she had volunteered to send replies! As coincidence would have it, just that day the service organization she belongs to distributed their annual quota to its members.

We had a great time reading each letter. They were all precious and unique and we could tell how old the child might be. Some included drawings of the man in red, some inquired as to his reindeers health and some had “gimmie this” wish lists, which probably gave rise to the one rule in responding: no mention of presents. All were full of belief in the spirit of giving and innocence and wishing dreams to come true.

One letter stood out from the rest. It was a wish list written by a mom tucked in with her children’s letters. It speaks for itself.

Dear Santa,
My wish list is easy. I would like to have another year like this year where I had happy, healthy children who are confident, safe and secure. This is all I want or need. Merry Christmas.”
– Marie S.

Regardless of what you wish for, at least give yourself credit for how you have been an unsung hero for someone this last year, as a professional, parent, coworker, boss, community volunteer, etc. And whether you celebrate Santa Claus, The Birth of the Christ Child, Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, observe Ramadan, or light candles for Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity, may all your wishes come true in the new year.

Continued blessings to you and those whom you love as you go forth to make a difference for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

From my family to yours

Leading in the Culture of Human Potential

March 7, 2011

What is it like to hang out at your work place? Are people vibrant and alive and fresh to serve? Here’s a trend at work where staff are moving ahead faster than management can keep up. Have you got first hand experience of what I am about to share with you? Enjoy…

Employees are changing and evolving in regards to how they see themselves in relation to their work and their expectations for finding connection, fulfillment and success. Professional development programs, HR practices, leadership styles and even meeting processes must reflect this change and feed staff and management who are hungry for new ways to gain satisfaction from the work-a-day world.. Leaders who ignore this hunger and unknowingly starve the desire for attitudes and tools that will help their people feel excited and be more fully alive at work risk making the culture of entitlement the default environment.

The culture of entitlement works like a bad apple in a barrel. Unchecked, it spreads its increasing influence until all is rotten to the core. In this “me first” environment you will find staff on their tiptoes reaching for their performance expectations only when the supervisor is watching. People take more mental health days and TBIF is the most effective incentive program. Precious management time is consumed by mitigating lost productivity, replacing the smart ones who jump ship and refereeing covert power struggles and suppressed conflicts.

Successful leaders in the culture of human potential recognize that the life force of corporate performance is personal performance. In order for fast companies to grow and thrive they must find new ways to help staff feed their desire to self manage. People who are driven from within to create harmony, find greater purpose with daily tasks and leave on Friday with more energy than when they started the week. Leaders are increasingly called to generate better working environments, both personally and culturally where people are serving in a climate that encourages enjoyment and a sense of ownership. This culture of human potential must support its people who are willing to change in order to live productively.

This is the new ROI. A Return On Imagination where the individuals are encouraged to contribute to something greater than themselves. It is a work culture where real answers are sought to the question, “How can leaders inspire people to self-manage and motivate themselves from within?” The awakened culture of human potential is more than fresh faces, light hearts and bright ideas. It is ultimately the result of a welcomed invitation for management and staff to unite in a joint venture and become part of a growing movement throughout the world to transform our corporations, communities, families, and individual lives into more balanced, respectful, and conscious environments.

Here’s a bit of the old “how to”

1. Invite overt dissent: There are two sides to every proposal or initiative. Invite the naysayers to voice as much as the yes people. Hear them out face-to-face or risk suppressing negativity that will eventually ooze out in barbs in the lunchroom or worst still, taken home.

2. Encourage and recognize virtues: Values based leadership expired when Enron execs valued lining their pockets more than serving the people. Values are too subjective, too malleable by circumstance. Virtues are the traits of character and not subjected to history or greed. They exist across all cultures as the foundations of personal integrity.

3. Be the change: Role model gratitude, balanced living, passion, presence and purpose and any other lead-by-example traits you expect of others in a thriving culture of human potential.

4. Flex your identity: When the giant awakes it can be very threatening to old school management styles because people want to participate, feel heard and validated for their suggestions and that could mean you just might have to think differently.

More on Engaging People

Courageous Kindness

December 26, 2010

When was the last time you took a chance and stuck you neck out to do the right thing?

Here’s the scene. You are on staff of a respectable establishment and notice him as soon as he enters the building. He stands out for two reasons. 1. Because he is carrying a cute little girl on his shoulders and 2. because he seems to be a bit unstable on his feet. He spends 15 minutes browsing around with the little girl. He completes a transaction at the counter with one of your colleagues and lifts the little girl back on his shoulders and seems to stagger across the parking lot to his car.

What questions come to mind? Do you check-in with your colleagues to see if they have any suspicions? Should we say anything? What do we say? How will this guy respond? And who’s going to speak to him?

You have until he straps the little girl into her car safety seat to make a decision before he gets behind the wheel and drives away. Do you risk embarrassment or even a possible confrontation? What do you do?

Here’s what happened. The decision is made to confront him and you’re the one to do it. You walk swiftly out the main door and across the parking lot. The man notices you behind him as he lifts his head after fastening in the little girl into her car seat. You take a breath and ask the obvious question, “Excuse me sir, have you been drinking?”

The pause after that question while the man collects his thoughts at the abrupt nature of the question might have created anxiety if you had time to imagine the consequences of all possible responses.

He replies, “No. I haven’t been drinking.” He assures you and continues to explain, ”I have Parkinson’s Disease and that makes my right foot flop when I walk.”

You reply with the conviction of your values, “If you have been drinking we wouldn’t want you to drive away with that little girl in the car.”

His eyes fill with tears as he thanks you for the courage and kindness it must have taken you to come out and check with him about the safety risk to him and his child. He is obviously profoundly moved by your caring.

This is true story. I know because I was the man and the little girl was my 2 year old daughter Hannah. She loves the library and we had just signed out several Christmas books including, as she calls it, a book on “Crosty the Snowman.” I don’t know the name of the librarian that came out to talk with me. But I do know one thing, that such acts of courageous kindness are what make the world beautiful place. And given the true meaning of Christmas, is much closer to a gift of love than any boxing week sale items we can score.

My heartfelt wish for you as the New Year rolls out is to celebrate life and it’s infinite possibilities for love by embracing opportunities to do the right thing and help others with courageous kindness.

Stay Blessed.

The Gift of The Hit

November 7, 2010

Have you ever been hit with news, events or circumstances that seemingly knocked you flat out?

My hit came at age 45 in 2005 when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
The story is part of a keynote speech I recently shared with the good folks attending the Parkinson’s Society of BC Conference in October, 2010.

View the Parkinson’s Videos Here

Peter Davison Motivational Speaker









If you don’ t have time to watch the various videos here is the punch line.
The “hit” of Parkinson’s changed my life forever and beyond my wildest dreams for the better..I wouldn’t switch my life and abundance with anybody.

See also Dreamweaver Story

With appreciation,


Dreamweaver Invitation

October 17, 2010

I found a sacred place to share with you where dreams really do come true and I can prove it!  This is a long story, but not as long as the time I’ve waited to share it. It’s an invitation to act on making your dreams come true.

April 2005 – The Dream Awakens

The invitation that would change the course of my life happened one April weekend in 2005. I had just wrapped up training with youth service agencies in Belfast, Northern Ireland when my colleague and friend, Tim Chapman, invited me to spend the weekend at his cottage on the North Coast. He grinned with fond memories as he spoke of spending carefree summers as a child in a little seaside village of Castlerock. As an adult he and his wife Alice built a cottage with a spectacular view of the magnificent North Sea.

I arrived on Saturday and strolled around the quaint little community and walked the dogs along the expansive white sand beach the stretches as far as the eye can see. Before supper, Tim and I watched the Grand National horse race, a famous and notoriously dangerous annual steeplechase with a massive $1 million plus prize to the horse and rider who survive first.

Sunday morning was a mild day with partially overcast sky as we walked the path down through a glen and up past sheep grazing in the field surrounding what remained of a once glorious estate castle that was the namesake of the village.

At the edge of the sea was an intact round building, a silent sentinel of days gone by. The Mussenden Temple sat on the precipice of a 200 foot cliff where earth meets sky and ocean. The only manmade objects that separated this view from a thousand years ago in time was a ribbon of rails far below us that support the train from Belfast to Londonderry-Derry that rumbles, quite literally, below us through a tunnel carved through the cliffs.

The surf met the beach far below us like a scimitar of thousands of tiny white stallions, manes flowing wildly, as they charged with pounding hooves into the sand closely followed by the next wave as they to, valiantly took up the charge only to be also lost in the unforgiving sands of time. There are many magical and majestic places on earth and this is surely among the most awesome.

The wind was whispering steadily off the North Sea. As I approached the round building perched on the precipice of the cliff, I recognize that it was out of place for the typical architecture of this land. I was unaware of the rich history of this place at the time of my first visit. All I knew was that it was carefully constructed and placed in the edge of the ocean with a deliberate intent.

The Mussenden Temple was built in 1785 and formed part of the estate of Frederick Augustus Hervey, a wealthy man who was the benevolent Bishop of Derry. It was built as a library and modelled on the Temple of Vesta in Italy. He dedicated the library to the woman loved, Lady Mussenden. I am sure they enjoyed many hours together “reading.” At the time of my visit I didn’t know the temple as inspired by love, nor did I know that it was a popular spot to rent from the National Trust for marriage ceremonies. But I felt it.

We walked up the 14 steps and crossed the threshold and the first thing I saw was an empty round room with brick walls supporting a brick dome ceiling high above us. The first thing I heard was the relentless wind off the North Sea that caresses the building and makes the windows tremble. The first thing I felt was not exactly a feeling but rather an intuitive flash. Do you ever get a notion that you can’t explain, an intuitive flash from out of nowhere? When my eye caught one of the cracked floor tiles, I bent over, picked it up and with out thinking, heard myself utter a dream that would unfold in my life in ways I never imagined.

“What have you got there?” Tim inquired.

“Tim,” I announced, “I have a crazy idea. I am going to place marriage proposal under this stone and bring the woman I love back here to propose.”

Tim replied without skipping a beat, “Great Peter, but you don’t even have a girlfriend!”

“I’ll work on that,” was my best reply.

I have yet to read the best selling book “The Secret” or indeed any of those popular books promoting the “law of attraction.” or those books on manifesting abundance. Quite frankly I was sceptical that the power of intention, simply asking, believing and receiving, was any thing more than a good turn of fortune. Boy was I wrong.

We took a picture of the floor stone and made our way back to the cottage. To be honest, I thought nothing more about it. I never put sticky notes on my bathroom mirror to affirm “I am loveable.” I didn’t watch any more Oprah shows than usual. But in a few short months I did give my romantic intention a booster shot.

July 2005 – Booster Shot

Every first weekend in July I attend the Stan Rogers Music Festival in the far eastern tip of mainland Nova Scotia in a little town called Canso. Eastern most point in the Nova Scotia is surrounded on three sides by ocean so not surprisingly the weather can be wet. It’s an annual sojourn that I take with my long-time friend Oliver. We were sitting on our portable chairs in the front row enjoying the Friday night mainstage concert when, about halfway through the evening, the heavens opened and the rain came tumbling down.

We pulled out our little tarp that was just barely large enough to cover us both and cuddled to stay dry. This situation prompted me to have another intuitive flash.

I said to Oliver, “You know I love ya bud but we really ought to do something about our bachelor situation. And I have an idea. Let’s make a bet that next year we each bring a girlfriend back here with us to share the music and cuddles under the rain tarp.”

Oliver replied, “Yer on! and let’s up the ante by booking separate campsites for next year!”

Little did I realize how I had just gave a booster shot to my dream of an Irish proposal.

July 2006 – Angel in the Mist

When the Stan Rogers Music Festival rolled around again the next year Oliver had actually met Karen and they were going steady but she was unable to attend the festival because of previous commitments.  I joke that he technically did not win the bet because she needed to be here in person to “tarp cuddle” and it looks like he was stuck with me again because I had no luck at all. Oh well, at least the weather forecast was predicting clear skys even though the fog was rolling in.

We were sitting on our portable chairs in the front row enjoying the Friday night mainstage concert when, about halfway through the evening, I went for a walk to stretch my legs. As I came to the back of the crowd I noticed an Angel walking towards me. Her blond hair peeked out from under her hood as she strode eagerly towards me, emerging from the fog and mist as if from a Wuthering Heights novel, and gave me a big hug.

Her name was Andrea and we had dated 18 years ago. We first met at church sponsored Friday night young adults group. We meet every Friday night to socialize with the group of like-minded young adults.  We had some great times, I was very fond of her but I was also working for Greenpeace at the time and I was a self-righteous vegetarian activist.  She recalls one date when I criticized her for wearing leather. I’m sure that had something to do with us going our separate ways. The time was just not right.

But this moment her hug was warm and welcoming and I invited her and her friend Lynnette to join us in the front row to listen to music. We enjoyed the music and conversation that eve and the next day. She shared that she had separating from her husband after 14 years. By the end of the weekend it felt like we were rekindling the fire.

I had two thoughts pop into my mind that weekend. The first was, “Yes! ” and the second thought was, “Does this mean that I won the bet with Oliver?”

We started dating and as the old expression goes, “going steady.” We were growing closer in heart and commitment so we planned for a trip to Costa Rica together in January of 2007.

January 2007 – Near Proposal

We planned half of the two weeks in Costa Rica to be a guided eco-adventure. The first half we were on our own. Noting my love of trekking up mountains, Andrea researched that there was a trail to the top of Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Mount Chirripo at 12,500 feet.

The trail was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, including my trek base camp of Mount Everest. The route was only 14 kilometres long but the trail has a heart pounding vertical ascent of 5000 feet over that 14 kilometres distance.  We started at sunrise, paced well and 11 hours later, well after the sun had set and I was wearing socks on my hands for the cold, we made it to the base camp lodge.

The next morning we set off up the last 5 km to the summit peak. The trail was gradual and forgiving except for the last 300 metres of which was “all hands on” climbing. Challenging to go up and terrifying to descend as we tried to plant our lead foot below us seeking a toe hold where we couldn’t see below. We did it !

At the top on a clear day you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. The clouds rolled in below us and enveloped the protruding summit leaving us above it all and with the sensation that we were in fact on cloud nine.

It was with this magnificent backdrop that I realized Andrea was the woman I would spend the rest of my life with.  After all is said and done, the person to spend your life with is the one that walks best beside you every step of the way through the joy and sorrow, the doubt and discouragement, the peaks and valleys on the trail of life as was so wonderfully miniaturized by our adventure to this place.

I had two thoughts in this order 1. What a romantic place to ask for her hand in marriage. That notion was trumped by another, “Doh! What about Ireland and the Mussenden Temple proposal?”

I bumbled my way through a conversation balancing these two heartfelt but contradictory possibilities. I fumbled with my intent to have both and actually said, “This would be a beautiful place ask for your hand in marriage, but I’m not going to.”

Before she kicked me off the mountain I partially recovered and blurted, “But I love you. Would be enough for you to know I want to spend the rest of my life with you?”

I told her I had something else in mind for a romantic proposal, if she could just trust that and be patient. This was a promise that I currently had no opportunity to deliver on.

We made up songs as we hiked back down the mountain in half the time and returned to the capital city of San Jose to join the eco adventure tour folks. When I checked my email at the hotel and found an invitation to speak at the Irish Travellers Association!  The event was this coming April. With a cosmic grin I promptly invited Andrea to join me on this trip to make it a vacation. I said it casually but inside I was bursting with delight. I now had the means to hatch my romantic plot.

Footnote: For some reason every room we stayed in for two weeks had the number 7 in it. We started to think that July 7, 2007 might be a good wedding day with or with out formal proposal.

April 2007 – The Proposal

We flew all night to arrive at 6am London’s Heathrow Airport and then skipped across the Irish Sea to land at the delightful Belfast City Airport. I drove the rental car on the “wrong side” to take us up the North Coast and arrived at noon in Tim’s cottage in Castlerock, I noted that the cottage was number 7 Shore Road.

We were exhausted from the all night flight so Andrea took an afternoon nap while Tim and I watched the Grand National horse race. I stayed awake because I wanted to confirm with Tim that every thing was ready. I had mailed him a photo of Andrea and I taken at sunset in Costa Rica and asked him to slip it under the floor tile as was the plan from two years earlier. As it turned out it was exactly two years ago this very weekend.

“Tim,” I inquired, “Is everything ready?”

“Yes,” he assured, “I put the photo in a wee plastic bag to protect it and slipped it under the floor tile as planned.”

“Tim,” I pondered, “How am I going to get her to pick up that stone?”

“I have no idea,” was his first reaction, but tried to offer a solution, “Maybe you can make a game of it by talking about leprechauns and looking for treasures under the floor. We’re in Ireland after all.”

“Not high on the romance scale but it might have to do,” I conceded.

At dinner that evening Andrea suggested that we take an early morning hike the next day up to, “that castle you’re always talking about.”  Yes!

Sunday morning was a mild day with partially overcast sky as we walked the path down through a glen and up past sheep grazing in the field. I was a bit distracted by some the visitors who were already checking out the building so I stalled going up the 14 steps by suggesting that we take in the view. When we crossed the threshold I had the thought of taking a picture of us using the timer. I bent down and placed the camera on the window sill but it sloped down to what would be a photo of our feet. Without thinking, I asked Andrea to grab something to prop up the camera. Of all the things she could have used she bent down and picked up that floor tile.

There is a quaint British term for what Andrea experienced, it’s called “gobsmacked.” After all, we had just walked through the door and there she was holding a photo of us she had just found under a floor tile she had just lifted. On the back was I had written the proposal. Good thing too because when she turned around I was on my knee and I squeaked out (my voice cracks when I get emotional) the proposal as written on the back of the photo. It was good to have a backup.

“Will you be my partner in life, will you watch the last sunset with me. Will you marry me?”

Fortunately she said yes.

Back to the cottage for some Ulster fry breakfast as the phone continued to ring from villagers who were curious as to what happened.

The next day, Monday, we bought our wedding rings from Steenson’s jewellers on Bedford Street in Belfast. We appreciated the synchronicity that my cousin’s boy is named Steen and live in Bedford, NS.

Once we selected our rings, the salesperson noted the number of diamonds embedded in Andrea’s ring before resizing. We hadn’t noticed the exact number. He counted seven.

We were married at the waterfront park near our home in Bedford on July 7, 2007 at 7 o’clock in the evening with seven attendants standing with us.

May 2008 – Bolder Dreams

I returned to Northern Ireland to offer a series of leadership development and good relations building programs in the communities of Derry and Newry. And, as tradition has it, I spent another weekend at Tim and Alice’s cottage in Castlerock.

Tim and I had fun as usual including some boyish adventure walking back from Mussenden Temple through the train tunnel, and getting caught half way through by an oncoming train! We pressed our backs to the tunnel wall and lived to tell the tale. Good thing because I had just committed 4 new dreams for a bigger life to a paper under the stone.

During this visit to the Mussenden Temple I felt encouraged by past success to write up a bolder, bigger dream list. This intention setting session also called on me to be more creative than I expected because the building was locked. I slipped my dream sheet under a foundation stone in the outside casement of the basement window. Close enough, I mused. And was it ever.

I wrote four intentions and forgot the actual wording but remember the spirit of them all. They were:

1. I Dream of a baby to love.

By May of 2008 Andrea and I had lived many months on an emotional roller coaster of anticipation and disappointment since we miscarried in September of 2007. When I returned from this trip we were scheduled to start in vitro fertilization.  As it came to pass we didn’t succeed through step one of this invasive biological process.

As a couple, we took on the perspective that we would be “child free.” As coincidence would have it, several weeks later we both called the Bichon dog breeder within hours of each other on the same day to inquire about the availability of new puppies. So much for surprises. We took 6 week old Millicent home on the Labour Day holiday weekend 2008.

That same weekend we received the phone call that changed it all. Andrea’s twin sister Angela called and asked us a simple question, “If a baby dropped in you lap would you keep it?”

We sat stunned and hung on every word as Angela explained the story that had been unfolding behind our back as orchestrated by her and her husband’s sister Nancy. Through a work connection, they had found out about a pregnant 16 year old who had decided to make an adoption plan for her baby due to be born at the end of November.

Over the summer, Angela and Nancy had written and sent the birth mother a glowing profile of Andrea and I. The birth mother must have been impressed because she approved us to be the adoptive parents! We had never considered adoption because it takes many years of waiting to succeed through, “The System.”  And here we were invited to adopt baby through a specified private adoption to be born in less than three months! Did we ever hustle to get ready!

I was working in the South of Ireland and flew back November 27, 2008. Andrea met me at the airport and we went directly to the maternity hospital. Hannah was born at 3:42am Friday morning November 28. We held her 15 minutes after she was born and took her home with an over whelming sense of gratitude.

The birth mother and birth father and their families visit from time to time because we chose to have an open adoption. We were honoured to be we invited to the birth mother’s high school graduation party in June of 2010. She wanted everyone who helped her graduate to be there. Our gift of Hannah was also a gift to her in knowing her baby had a safe and loving home so she could to follow her career dreams and get a higher education.

The birth mother asked me when she was pregnant about what our girl’s name choice Hannah meant. I told her that I didn’t know but I’d just loved that name for as long as I could remember and dreamed that if I ever had a daughter I’d give her that name. I later looked up the origin of the name Hannah in one of those baby name books. Hannah: “Gift of grace from God” We have our baby to love.

2. I Dream of financial freedom

I was surprised at the form this took but the short version is that I received an unexpected windfall that hit me in late 2009. I have emerged with no debt and very few financial worries and have the freedom to dedicate more of my speaking to charities and particularly offering free talks to Parkinson’s chapters across Canada.

3. I Dream of a bestselling book

I realised later that I hit the 5000 bestseller mark for copies sold with my first co-authored book published in 1994, The Healthy Relationships Curriculum. But what I really had in mind was a new book that was yet to be conceived.

My creative muse inspired me in 2010 to start two book ideas. The one that has the most passion and gets people most excited is, “The 10/90 Principle.” It’s about how life experiences can be seen as 10% events – stuff that happens to us on the outside and 90% how we think about and perceive what happens. Our two choices within the 90% that we control are “gratitude attitude” and “stinking thinking.”

It’s designed like a reverse book that looks at numerous life events from each of the two perspectives.  For example, the event in Chapter 7 is the hit of my Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. The gratitude attitude side of the book explores the amazing gift this disease has been in my life. Flip the book over in your hands to the stinking thinking cover and the same event, also Chapter 7 is told from the perspective the recounts shock, shame and sadness. Choose your perspective because we don’t get to choose the events of life that are going to happen anyway.

If everyone I told about the book that got excited by the concept were to order then I may well have a best seller. We’ll see how this dream gets fulfilled in it’s entirety in 2011!

4. I Dream of better health discipline

Since my Parkinson disease diagnoses in 2005, the one consistently proven factor for thriving with the disease is exercise! In the scheme of things, this dream was really more of a goal because it involves 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. To date I have ramped up my Yoga routine, take regular dog walks and have more Hannah in the backpack adventures. Fixing the elliptical exercise machine before winter sets in is next.

Perhaps not all dreams drop into our lives as a gift from an abundant universe. Sometimes to get what we desire requires hard work. But one thing remains the same whether we seek the manifested intention of a dream or the results of dedicated work in the direction of a goal. It’s a truth that underpins the entire success formula of Conceive, Believe and Receive. That truth that runs through is the degree to which we allow ourselves to celebrate life and it’s infinite capacity for love.

October 2010 – Share the Joy

I was blessed to receive a participant’s bursary to attend the World Parkinson’s Congress in Glasgow, Scotland. To add to my good fortune, the wonderful women at Women’s Aid Northern Ireland said yes to an Energizing Unsung Heroes workshop which enabled me to pop across the Irish Sea to support them and revisit Northern Ireland and my favourite cottage.

It was typical cloudy day when Tim and I once again hiked up to Mussenden temple. I had three goals in my heart. The first goal was to retrieve the dream list I had placed some two and a half years earlier. When I retrieved the paper it was soggy and a bit mouldy from 2 winters of storms that blew under the sill even though the window was on the leeward side of the building. I had actually forgotten the exact wording of the dream list and was astonished at how accurate it had become.

The second reason was to offer another dream sheet to slip under the manifesting magic stones. The dream was simply. I want to bring a group of 12 people to the Mussenden Temple in the Fall of 2011 as a way of helping them make their dreams come true.

The third reason was to create an invitation video for folks curious about the Dreamweaver’s Tour 2011. We hope you enjoy as you consider this invitation.

View the Invitation Video Click Here


This is my dream come true story so far. There is more to come, as always…and it may include you. I humbly share this big life journey with the sincere hope that it inspires you to release even greater passion towards what which you desire for your life, your career and your family. Thank you for reading this far, that is meant to be. What happens next is for you to discern…

Perhaps your soul will be satisfied by reading this as an inspirational blessing story that wells up a heartfelt sense of gratitude for your own life. You can never be too grateful.

Perhaps you are thinking of a friend, colleague or family member who might benefit from this story and the Dreamweaver Tour opportunity. If so, feel free to forward the link to this story with a personal “thinking of you” note.

Perhaps now is the time for you to enrol in this adventure yourself. Perhaps you are thinking of reasons why you can’t, barriers, real or imagined, that are all too familiar. Perhaps it’s time to grow anyway.

Trust that you know what is next. I Iook forward to the possibility of supporting and challenging you on the Dreamweaver’s Tour 2011 journey.

Stay Blessed,

To join the tour – click here

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