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Written in the Stars

Greetings from Edmonton! What am I doing in Edmonton when our VOKRA foster cat had kittens just over a week ago and I could be cuddling this? 

I KNOW! Well, I’m here doing my show Give It Up at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. 

I’m lucky to be staying with my wonderful friends, the Skaret family, who are taking good care of me and providing endless laughs and cute dog cuddles. 


But things have started out a bit rough, I’ve got to tell you. 

My first show was like a bad dress rehearsal. No big deal, it happens. But of course, that was the day a reviewer came. Oddly, his review wasn’t that bad (although he did miss the point entirely on the characters and must have been distracted and missed the ending). It was like a three star out of five review, I’d say. So it’s kind of odd that he gave the show ONE STAR. Ugh.

You know, I wouldn’t care, but in a town where I don’t have a following, where an unknown show can live or die by a rating like this, I care. And it sucks.

I’m feeling pretty bummed. I miss my family and my pets and my home and my community. The irony of doing a show called Give It Up about my wildly moderately successful career and feeling like I want to crawl into bed and watch Netflix for 26 days is not lost on me. I am a big…okay, moderately sized fish in a little pond at home. But here I’m not. And it’s a bit unsettling, to be honest.

I have evening shows all this week (I opened with two matinees to boot. In a venue a 10 minute walk from the epicentre of the Fringe no less.) so I know things will turn around. I’ve just had the wind knocked out of me but I’m getting back up, dusting myself off, and getting ready to do some extreme freestyle dog dancing and win over some audiences. I had a great audience yesterday and the show felt great again. Tonight will be even better. 

I’m feeling a strange mix of unfamiliar vulnerability and the teflon indifference that I guess comes with my age and how long I’ve been doing this for. I’m focusing on the faces in my mind from the audience members laughing at the show these first two shows, the woman who covered her face and put her head in her lap with laughter (and probably a bit of horror) when Caboodle and I started dancing, and the email I got from a woman just starting out in sketch who saw the show and raved that it inspired her. After all, those are the moments of magic I’m after. Like Roxanne, I’m digging down deep to remember why I started modelling…I mean doing comedy in the first place. The glamour. The magic. The pass that gets me on the Edmonton bus system for free. 

Welcome to (one) stardom, Morgan Brayton.

Oh, and I’m posting videos every day on my Facebook page. They’re fun and funny and don’t require any reading. Check out…

Today In Edmonton Day 1

Today in Edmonton Day 2 With special guest Graham Clark

And if you feel like writing your own review of Give It Up but don’t have a blog, you can do so here.

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Welcome Home, Lucy

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I found this teapot at an antique store in Wenatchee, Washington and knew I had to have it. When we started filming Morgan Brayton & Other People for OutTV, some two plus years ago, I brought it to the studio to be part of the set. I wanted to have a bit integrated into the decor. Today, I brought Lucy home, along with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a bunch of feelings.

Today we filmed the 50th and final episode of Morgan Brayton & Other People. The topic, fittingly, was endings. In preparation for the topic and the final episode, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about endings. I discovered that I’m way more comfortable with them than I thought. Or than I used to be. Or than I’d given myself credit for? Here are some of the things I’ve been thinking about.

We don’t stop a lot these days. At least, I don’t. In our world of multitasking and multiple tabs open and everyone having to do double duty just to make ends meet, the idea of marking time or change through ritual doesn’t happen a lot. Sure, we have birthdays and holidays, but they’re fraught with other complicated feelings and don’t always help us actually stop and look backwards and forward. (The exception to this being decade birthdays. I have had complete meltdowns at 30 and 40 and I look very much forward to doing so at 50 and turning my life upside down once again. Stay tuned!) But when something ends, either by choice (like the ending of my show) or without consulting us (like the death of a relationship or a loved one), we can’t help but  take a look around. Endings help us stop a minute and take stock. They help us reflect on what has gone before and what was important about it to us. Which is what I’m doing right now.

When I think about Morgan Brayton & Other People, the feelings are layered. I’ve had an amazing time. I’ve learned so much, I’ve laughed so hard, I’ve shed a few tears, and I’ve met some great dogs.

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And I’m also ready to move on. That’s not a phrase I say a lot. Working as an actor for almost 30 years, you get really used to other people telling you where your career is at and where you need to put your energy. You get used to being grateful for any work you have. This show, while being very much about the people taking part in the conversation, was anchored in me and what I wanted to talk about. But earlier this year, I had the interesting experience of saying, “This isn’t where I want to be anymore”. It was unfamiliar and terrifying and the angry gnome at the back of my head kept screaming, “YOU HAVE A TV SHOW! HOW DARE YOU NOT BE SATISFIED! SHUT UP AND BE HAPPY!” (His voice sounds like the whistling of a teapot and the screeching of train tracks combined, in case you were having trouble imagining.) When my feelings were met with agreement by the production team, I felt a sense of validation and satisfaction. Then sheer panic. Then satisfaction again. We were all on the same page and, best of all, they suggested we turn another page and figure out something new to write. Believe me, I’m aware how lucky I am. Thanks, OutTV. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves to beginnings, and we’re still talking about endings.

If we really take the opportunity they offer us, endings help us pause the busy-ness, the treading water, and encourage us to ask ourselves, “If this really were the end, would I be satisfied?” Oh man, when my mum died, I went through an amazing phase of having zero patience for nonsense. What’s that? Yeah, okay, listen, my WORLD just fell apart; your petty bullshit is trifling and will not be tolerated! MOVE! It was amazing. It didn’t last, unfortunately, but remnants of it remain and step up to shut down nonsense periodically. It’s pretty great. So I don’t want to let the opportunity of this ending go by without gleaning all I can from it.

So, how do I feel? Well, on the one hand, I feel sadness at letting go of this regular opportunity to bring interesting people together and talk about things that matter to them. When I ask myself why I love doing this show, that’s the reason. But, you know, I’ve realized that the reason I ended up doing that on OutTV is because I do that in life. Bringing interesting people together is kind of my jam. I’ve been lucky enough to build a community full of fascinating people over my past few decades in Vancouver and I love nothing more than to introduce those people to each other, growing that community even further and having conversations that bring together so many fascinating opinions and experiences. The show has given me the opportunity to present those conversations on a different scale. There’s no producer who books all these fascinating people, these fascinating people are all a part of my world. Looking back on these people and these conversations, as only an ending can make me do, has been overwhelming. Man, what a lot of smart, funny, interesting, passionate, loving people I know.

Some of them I’ve been lucky enough to learn more about through this show and I think that might be one of the big things I’ll take with me from this experience. People aren’t always who we think they are. They so often have experiences, thoughts and opinions I never would have guessed. But through this show, I’ve had the opportunity to ask them about their lives and their thoughts. I’m going to miss that. Or I would if I thought the end of Morgan Brayton & Other People meant the end of those conversations. But it won’t.

I’ll keep asking. I’ll keep bringing together people from all the various parts of my communities and finding out what they have in common. I’ll keep listening to them and facilitating conversations with them and finding out where we diverge. And yes, I will keep talking too much and making jokes at inopportune moments and crying when I get overwhelmed. Let a girl have her foibles, will ya?

But here’s another big thing I’ve realized. Through doing all that, I’ll be reminded that I belong. If not to all of these communities, at least to a part of all of them. My connections are my strength. I am not alone. None of us are. But maybe sometimes we need something–a tv show, a dinner party, a play,  a book of poetry, a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, some comedy, a blog post, or even, god forbid, a phone call–to remind us.

On today’s episode, we talked about endings. The ever-clever Tetsuro Shigematsu pointed out that every ending has many beginnings held within it. I love that. It think it’s so true. This case is no exception. So, I’m happy to announce that we are currently in pre-production on a new OutTV show and I look very much forward to sharing it once it’s ready. So stay tuned!

But in order to have a beginning, we must have an ending. So it’s time to say good-bye to Morgan Brayton & Other People. (Although, in this digital age, does anything ever really go away?) It’s been amazing. I’ve really loved it. And I am grateful to everyone who watched, tweeted, appeared on, worked on, or even heard about the show. Thank you. I’m glad to be connected to you. And good-night.
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Thank you to OutTV, especially my producer Philip Webb, for approaching me and for thinking I could anchor a show people might watch. Thank you to my director, Nicky Forsman for fighting for me and sometimes with me to figure out what works and what could work better. Thank you to our amazing cast for the bulk of our run, Katie-Ellen Humphries, Erica Sigurdson, Fatima Dhowre and Robyn Daye Edwards. And to all the many other guests who graced our set. Thank you to our crew which mostly consisted of Samantha Amaral, Jonathan Schmidtgall, Milan Wejr, Matteo Di Iorio, Jordan Sy, Evan Eye, Craig George and Meredydd Gray along with Davina Faye, Karly Paranich, Mark Barry, Sandor Gyurkovics, Cameron Sinclair, Travis Hansen, D’Arcy Hamilton, Rain Essery, Gloria Ching, Lisa Kolisnyk, Jack Fox, Lisa Forrest, Katherine Frost and of course Brad Danks and James Shavick.

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Making a Fringerer: Change of Plans

I bet you thought I’d been buried alive under boxes in my basement, didn’t you? I bet artists on the Fringe waitlist were hoping they could have my spot, weren’t they? Well, I’m alive and mostly well and I have, in fact, tamed the basement. What? You don’t believe me? I anticipated this, and I have photographic evidence. Behold! Before and after!

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I will assume you are duly impressed. Thank you. Thank you so much.

So, that’s the good news. The bad news is, the bins are still there. Well, it’s not bad news, per se, just news, I guess. See, the thing is, I thought that once I had cleaned up the basement and could access the bins, I could access those feelings and emotions and memories and write a show about it. I figured that was what was holding me back. But once the clutter was cleared away, I realized that wasn’t it. I realized I’m just not ready. That story is not the one I need to tell right now. I will one day. But I realized today is not the day. And then I had a little meltdown. I mean, here I am with this Fringe spot and these plans to write this show and these expectations from the world…

And then I realized, there are no expectations. People will go about their lives whether I write this show or not, whether I write any show or not, and so will I. We’re all going to be okay, you guys. Seriously. So, I set about Plan B. I know, I know, I barely had a Plan A! But that’s how life works sometimes, isn’t it? You set out to do one thing and you end up somewhere else. Maybe that’s a failure to achieve that original thing or maybe it’s a success because you ended up achieving another thing. Who can say? The important thing here is, there IS another thing! (sorry waitlisters)

In an attempt to calm myself down, I decided just to do a straight up sketch show, filled with all the new characters I’ve created over the last while, back to back monologues, no overarching theme, no message, just a bunch of goofball people I have dreamed up, thrown on a stage that will hopefully make people laugh. But when I started looking at the characters, I realized that, actually, there was a theme. These are all characters who, in one way or another, have dealt with or are dealing with their lack of success. Or at least, with their lives not turning out how they’d planned. They all set out with big intentions, sure they were going to “make it”. But something changed or they changed or nothing changed and now they’re trying to figure out if this is even what they wanted. Yup, there was a definite theme. And I have no idea where it came from.

Okay, that’s not true. Obviously, all these characters express some facet of the struggle I’m facing in my own life and have been for a few years. I’ve been acting professionally for 27 years, been doing comedy for 20. I’ve achieved a lot, I’ve been on my way to “making it” several times, but I really haven’t achieved success. Or have I? Is this it? And if so, is this what I want? And if I’ve failed (which is a strong possibility), why the hell am I still doing this? I have lots of questions I’m pondering and so many stories to tell about the experiences that led me here. Which leads to my new show.

I considered calling it Plan B but didn’t want to be picketed by a bunch of pro-life / anti-choice idiots so instead I settled on Give It Up. It’s a nod to that voice in my head that keeps telling me it’s time to pack it in. It’s a nod to the old comedy intro, “Give it up, for Morgan Brayton!” And there’s something in the act of surrendering too, of giving up on what I’d set out to do and following the path to this show instead, wherever it may lead. Maybe giving up won’t be so bad after all?

So, Give It Up mixes stories from my career and my life with these characters I guess my brain created in an attempt to try and sort this stuff out. I’m crafting them all together into some kind of shape that I hope works. I hope it will make you laugh a lot. I hope it will reflect some of the questions in your life and let you know that you’re not the only one. I hope it will be a huge success and become a smash hit on Broadway and then I’ll write a follow up show called I Didn’t Give It Up, I Made It! We’ll see. But for now, I’m just working away on it and getting ready to entertain you come September.

It wasn’t where I set out to go. But I think it’s going to be a great place to end up. I hope you’ll come see it.

Give It Up.jpegPhoto: Michele Brayton

Give It Up

Written and performed by Morgan Brayton
Directed by Shawn Macdonald
Stage Managed by Heather Johnston

Morgan Brayton has it all! Okay, well, she has questions about it all. Where is her husband Scott Baio? When is SNL going to call? What happened to her big break? Did she miss it? Is this it? Will there be snacks? Outlandish characters and true stories combine for big laughs from the award-winning comedian and Fringe Fest “Critic’s Choice”.

Part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival

Venue: The Cultch

Thursday, September 8
7:15 pm

Saturday, September 10
8:45 pm

Wednesday, September 14
5 pm

Thursday, September 15
10:30 pm

Friday, September 16
6:45 pm

Sunday, September 18
Noon

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Zigazig Ah, Allies

I’m used to more stringent friends rolling their eyes at me for some of my politics. I get it; what I call nuanced, you call a cop out. Fair enough. Look, maybe the Spice Girls weren’t the truest expression of feminism, but I will stand behind their messages about the importance of female friendships! You may criticize people for changing their Facebook photos to rainbows or offering prayers for Orlando, but I won’t. Because every message is awareness, every image is a statement of support. I realize that we are all fighting our own struggles and I don’t pretend to know what it takes each of you to get out of bed each day, let alone fight for what I think is imperative. Maybe all you’ve got in you today is a Facebook post. Trust me, I feel you. Is it enough? Of course not. Do I acknowledge and appreciate it? I sure do. Must we all seek out more effective means of creating change? Absolutely. Can anyone decide for you what that looks like and what is expected of you? Stop right there, thank you very much. (Spice Girls callback!)

I can’t explain how destroyed I have felt these past days and how buoyed up I have been by seeing support pretty much everywhere I turn. It’s important. It means something. So, thank you to all the allies who have texted, messaged, or posted support for the GLBT community and who have expressed their love. It means a lot to me. In large numbers, small gestures have great meaning. And, sometimes, even small gestures alone are enormous. Thank you.

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Making a Fringerer: Preparations

I am the laziest writer alive. I don’t even really like writing, just having written. Sometimes I read quotes from writers who say things like, “I am happiest when writing” or “I can’t not write” and I resent them for feeling that way and for their use of double negatives. But I have come to terms with the fact that I don’t write anything unless I have a deadline, a purpose, a waiting audience. When those things don’t exist, I need to create them in order to trick myself into writing. My first solo show only got written because I told a festival director I had an hour-long one person show so she’d book me. Then I hung up the phone and said, “Shit. I guess I’d better write an hour-long one person show.” I have booked theatres when I had nothing, and then created something to fill that spot with. Our monthly comedy show, The Lady Show, is just such an exercise, forcing me to create new content every month. Otherwise, I’d just stay curled up on the couch watching British mysteries and eating chips instead.

To that end, I applied for, and was lucky enough to win a lottery spot in the 2016 Vancouver Fringe Festival. I told myself that, if I got a spot, I’d finally write the show about my mum and finding my birth sister. When my name was called, it was another one of those “Shit, I guess I have to do this now” moments. So, I’m writing a new show. Or at least, I should be writing a new show. So far, I haven’t written a thing. Well, that’s not true. I wrote a plan. You guys, a plan is super important! You can’t write a word until you write a plan, don’t you know? Due to my other commitments like The Lady Show, Morgan Brayton & Other People, family, cats, British mysteries, chips and the like, it’s a very generous plan, allowing plenty of time to get things done. It begins February 1st. Today is February 4th. So far, so good.

First up in the plan is sorting, purging, cleaning and organizing the basement. No, it’s not just one of those “My assignment is due: I should take up rug hooking!” avoidance techniques. This is my basement…

I'll just put this here FOR NOW...Dear God what happened in the basement?!

“Yes, but Morgan,” you’re saying, “You can write anywhere in this day and age. Have laptop, will travel. Go to a cafe, rent an office, or maybe even just write in one of the many other rooms you have in your house!” I don’t actually intend to write in the basement. The problem is that, behind the contents of that picture, lie these…

Bins

No, no, not that stack of jeans I can’t fit into anymore, the bins! Those blue bins are filled with Mum stuff. Her writing. Personal items too painful for me to be in the presence of when she died. Memorabilia. I sealed those bins up, telling myself I’d look in them when I was ready. She died in 2007.

I need to open those bins. I need to look at that stuff. I need to process it and write about it and make notes about it and start gathering all the bits and pieces that will, one day, form the first draft of my show. So, here we go.

I mean, not right now. I don’t have time today. But maybe tomorrow morning. Or possibly in the afternoon. We’ll see. I’ve got a lot going on right now and my rug hooking projects really need attention. But this is the beginning. The beginning of talking about endings, of beginnings, of stories that didn’t get told for so long, of stories that never got heard by those who deserved to hear them. Of…well, actually, I don’t really know. I don’t really know what my show is or what shape it will take or what story it will, eventually, tell. I just know it’s my job to figure that out and, come September, to finally put it on stage and share it.

My plan is to blog about the process of making this show through all its’ stages. Maybe I’ll share things I find in those bins, maybe memories that come up, maybe photos of myself buried under a giant lobster costume and a wicker penguin clothes hamper after a failed organizing attempt. My plan is to clean up that basement so I can get to those bins and then everything should easily fall into place, right? Yay, I love writing!

So, I’m doing this. Okay, let’s get to work. It’s time to–ooh, new episode of Vera!

Vera Stanhope is my spirit animal

                                                Vera Stanhope is my spirit animal

I’ll keep you posted.

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Thank You, Frances

“Sorry about your friend,” my son said. My wife must have explained to him why, earlier that day, I’d been curled up in the corner of the kitchen, sobbing uncontrollably. 

“Thanks, buddy,” I told him.

“Who was she?” he asked.

I paused for a moment. I felt ill-equipped to explain a person’s life, especially a life like Frances’s, in just a few words, let alone to a little boy who had never met her.

“Well,” I began, “Her name was Frances…”

Frances was my first Women’s Studies teacher at Langara College. I won’t go into the details of what led me to Women’s Studies but it was an epiphany I had while sitting in a movie theatre watching A League of Their Own. Not even kidding. The important part is, I was 22 and decided to take Women’s Studies, followed by film school, so I could become a filmmaker and tell women’s stories. I had no idea what those stories were but figured Women’s Studies was a good place to find them. For me, it ended up being the academic equivalent of popping into a two year meditation retreat saying, “Listen, I’m looking for some tips on relaxing a little”. To say I got more than I’d bargained for is an understatement and I am still grateful pretty much daily for the life-changing experience that was my time at Langara.

Frances was a huge part of that. It would take the length of a two-year college program for me to try and explain all that Frances taught me during my time at Langara but it was more than just feminism. It was how to stand up and be counted as a feminist. The older I get, the more those lessons sink into my bones. Thank you, Frances.

In the beginning, Frances terrified me. Okay, I never entirely stopped being afraid of Frances, but, in the beginning, I was flat out terrified. Physically, she was intimidating, sure, but it was more than just her tall stature. It feels like some kind of lesbian feminist stereotype to say she was an Amazon but Frances was a damn Amazon. Now, I don’t mean that in the way people might describe someone as an angel. I don’t believe in angels. But I believe wholeheartedly in Frances. It was about how she carried herself, how she stood tall and took up space, unapologetically, and how she didn’t have time for your bullshit. As I told my son, she did not suffer fools gladly. (Which, of course, required an explanation of what the heck that expression means and derailed things a bit but hopefully you understand.) In a word, Frances was direct; she looked you in the eye and expected something of you. It wasn’t confrontational, just more along the lines of “Why wouldn’t I expect something of you? Don’t you expect something of yourself?”

I found Frances frightfully intimidating so I set about doing what I do when I want people I’m afraid of to like me: I tried to make her laugh. Lucky for me, Frances also had a great sense of humour. Making Frances laugh gave me a satisfaction so deep it was silly. And for years, when Frances was funny herself, it took me a second to be sure. (Wait, was that a joke? God, what if I laugh and it wasn’t a joke? Is it possible to actually die from her looking over her glasses at me?) It made the eventual laugh all the more delicious. Frances taught me that being funny could be an integral part of my feminism. Thank you, Frances.

While at 5’3”, I can’t begin to pull off intimidating like Frances could, thanks to her, I learned how to hold myself as tall as she stood and look anyone directly in the eye. I can’t always manage it, but the older I get, the easier it becomes and the better it feels. Thank you, Frances.

Almost a decade after my time at Langara, Frances came back into my life. I had landed an important job that I was very excited about. It felt like a pretty big coup and I was filled with passion and dedication. Things started off okay and I was doing a great job but, eventually, my inexperience and naivety about the sometimes unhealthy motivations (be they intentional or not) of human beings resulted in things starting to crumble. I had recently run into Frances at an event. By this point, she was Executive Director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival and was running things there. No small undertaking. No surprise. When I needed help, I turned to Frances who came to my aid like…well, like the Amazon she was. By then I was so filled with self-doubt, so confused about what I should be doing with my life, I was absolutely falling apart. One day, in a flood of tears and run-on sentences, I told Frances all the criticisms levelled at me by some of the people I was working with, how they’d said this and told me I needed to do that and how I felt powerless to fix things. Frances waited until I’d stopped for breath, then she looked me in the eye and said calmly, “These are the thoughts of stupid people. You’re right here. They are wrong.” That was all it took. In that moment, I knew I was going to be okay. (And that “These are the thoughts of stupid people” would become one of my favourite expressions.) Frances taught me that it’s okay to name it when people are acting stupidly and to respond to them accordingly. She reminded me that I was smarter than I was giving myself credit for. I wish I could say I learned that lesson firmly but I fall into thinking everyone is smarter than me a lot. I often have to remind myself to check in with reality, rather than bowing down to the thoughts of stupid people, but I doubt myself much less now. Thank you, Frances.

Spending as many years as I did intimidated by Frances, the day she told me one of her secrets brought me much closer to understanding what being bold actually involves. It involves bangles.

Apologies for not crediting the photographer. This is Frances's Facebook profile photo.

Apologies for not crediting the photographer. This is Frances’s Facebook profile photo and I don’t know who took it. Whoever you are, thank you.

Anyone who knows Frances will have a hard time imagining her without her signature silver bangles, adorning both arms. I was preparing for a meeting I anticipated being confrontational and I was in a panic. Frances jangled her bracelets at me and calmly asked, “Do you think this is jewelry?” I looked at her blankly. “This isn’t jewelry,” she told me. “This is armour. Every time I have to speak in front of people, every time I have to attend a meeting where I know some man will tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I feel these on my arms. And they can’t touch me.” I had seen Frances, on more than one occasion, very calmly and with a biting sense of humour, take down much bigger men than she at meetings. Knowing that she had to consciously step into that bravery made me think I could do it too. Thank you, Frances.

When my mum died suddenly in 2007, my wife Michele and I spent a month in a daze, packing up her home. Once that was done, the shock began to wear off, the grief began to set in, and the loss hit me with the strength of a freight train. My wife suggested we get away somewhere for a few days to just rest and grieve. It seemed a complicated thing to do. We needed to be somewhere relaxing and private, where we could feel comforted but not be expected to return anyone’s smiles if we couldn’t manage it. We found the perfect place when Frances and her wife Marguerite welcomed us to their bed and breakfast on the Sunshine Coast, Honeysuckle Cottage. When I needed it, Frances sat with me in their beautiful garden, overflowing with life, and talked to me. When I needed it, Michele and I stayed in the guest house and cried, watched movies, stared at walls, and grieved. When I think of that time, I am still overwhelmed with gratitude. I can’t imagine being able to be exactly where I was emotionally anywhere else. It was a softer, gentler Frances I experienced on that trip, one who didn’t expect me to be brave or even consider donning armour. But once again, Frances had quietly, calmly held me up and helped me know that I was going to be okay. Thank you, Frances.

There are many more Frances stories I could tell in which, over the past couple of decades, she taught me about things like organizational management, marriage immigration, bookkeeping and the fight for abortion rights in Canada. But it was the way she lived, how big she loved, how hard she laughed, how bravely she fought, and, most of all, how committed she was to mentoring the likes of me, for which I am forever indebted to her. I am not the only one who has Frances stories to tell. I know so many people who can trace back pieces of ourselves that we love directly to Frances. She didn’t create those pieces, but she held us up so we could figure out how to use them. She looked us in the eye and expected us to figure them out. Her mouth turned up at the corner in a smile or her cheeks ruddied with laughter and she encouraged us to step into everything we were worth. Sometimes she instructed us directly, sometimes she led by example, but always, she cleared the way. If we can be half the people she taught us to be, we too will be nothing short of Amazons.

“So, Buddy, she was someone very important to me at many times in my life and she taught me so much. I’m really sad that Frances didn’t get to die of very old age because that’s what should have happened.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m sorry you’re sad.”

I took a deep breath and marvelled at the compassion in my boy, the one with the usual attention span of a gnat, who had just quietly, calmly sat through all my tearful stories about my teacher, mentor and friend. And I was grateful.

Later that day, exhausted from crying, I had to get ready to go be entertaining at an event. I felt overwhelmed by the idea but, at the same time, that it was just what I wanted to be doing. Reaching into the cupboard where I keep my jewelry, I pulled out my bangles and a big, glittery bracelet. Armoured up, I knew I’d been well trained and could do this.

Thank you, Frances. For everything. I love you so much.

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Women, Apologizing ≠ Being Polite

You know, I try not to offer unsolicited advice but, sometimes, especially when it comes to young women, I just can’t help myself. I also don’t advocate the use of punctuation faces but appreciate their use in softening what might otherwise come off as harsh to someone sensitive. The latest in my exchange with someone applying for a volunteer position:

You are obviously a competent young woman with skills and energy to offer. Own that. Starting emails off with “Sorry to bother you” and ending them with “I hope I don’t sound too pushy!” is not necessary and might make employers feel like you lack the confidence to do a job. I can tell you that confidence is so much of what will get your foot in the door and women often mistake apologizing for being polite. You can be polite and willing without apologizing or qualifying. You’re worth someone’s time! Don’t try to convince them otherwise. So, there’s my totally unsolicited advice! Do with it what you will. ; )

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