Heart of the Hammer Cafe is moving!

The Heart of the Hammer Cafe is moving! You heard it here first. Sort of.

September 16th will be the last day in our King Street location, our first home, aka the Heart of the Hammer. We’re expanding into a Centre for Social Enterprise – Ottawa Street, here we come. Re-opening sometime soon; post renos, post permits. In the mean time we’ve got lots of art and music and neighbours so drop in to celebrate. (PS: new hours Tues-Fri 9am-9pm, later on music nights. Closed Sat-Sun-Mon)

Big organizations don’t like to tell people when their jobs are ending because productivity wanes.  I’ll tell you, now that the end is nigh, I have become the laziest barista ever.

When you place your order, be sure that you are also standing on the other side of the counter so that you can take it down. If nothing comes out of the grinder, it is probably not the machine’s fault: lift lid, add beans, grind away. If you can’t figure out the cash register, just leave the money in the tip jar. If you wash the dishes while you’re at it, the coffee is on the house. If you mop the floors, I’ll kiss you. If I don’t notice that you’re here, poke me on the way out.

My head is way far in the future. See you there!


This too shall pass

Oh Discouragement, your visits are like a time-out in a sensory deprivation tank filled with peanut butter. Redundant. You try to convince me that everyone is small minded, that they only care about the short term. I ask you, what about the often touted “live in the now”? You tell me no one has passion or zeal for what they really want so maybe they don’t really want it. I ask you, what of all this moderation we are urged to embrace?

Oh Discouragement, I don’t know whence you came, but while you are here there is one thing which, like a pill or a cross, gets me through your visits; the idea that you are temporary. That you are a phase or a stage. That once you’re gone I can get on with my zealous moderation.

Discouragement, if I didn’t learn so much from your visits, I am sure I would find a way to banish you forever.

Character s

In dramatic and literary circles it is acknowledged that the best stories are character-driven. What this means is that the story evolves because of the choices and actions and reactions of the characters. Their beliefs and values, their awareness or prejudices, all the characteristics that make them a unique individual influence these choices and actions, which in turn allow the plot to unfold.

Cliches are sentences, or plots or stories without individuality, without authenticity. They are sometimes efficient at conveying information but they go in one ear and out the other without leaving any impression.

I think life is like that. The more we are true to ourselves, say what we mean, do what’s important to us, the more we are living a character-driven story and not a cliche. The more we make an impact on each other rather than going in one day and out the other without leaving any impression, the more meaning we find in our relationships, our days, our stories.

The more characters we find in our lives.

Power and Leadership

As I sat at the Health in the Hubs meeting the other night I observed that it was a room full of leaders and wondered what happens when everyone at the table is a leader with their own urgent issues?

I had been thinking about stages of leadership/power lately, which probably already exists and has a name in circles that study this sort of thing. I contemplated how we outgrow (hopefully) certain uses of power and wondered what, ultimately, we are working towards as leaders? This question collided with the previous question today and I have the beginnings of an answer.

Observations on the Stages of Power & Leadership

1 – Might is Right. I am tempted to call this Entry Level. What comes to mind are young men who feel like they can’t walk home at night without a knife. The problem is, the knife is no good if you encounter someone with actual authority, like the police, and it’s no good if you encounter someone with a bigger knife, or two knives. So it’s only good on weaker people in which case you don’t really need it. Many of the weapons in this arsenal are intangibles, like bullying and intimidation. When people boast about their weapons of choice it makes me think they don’t have other tools at their disposal. There can only be one Boss in this scenario, so conquests are perpetual until the Boss is overthrown. Sadly, even at international levels we are still playing games of “My gun is bigger than your gun.”

2 – Authority: Military, Corporate and Religious models use hierarchical authority to designate power and leadership, chiefly because it is efficient. It becomes inefficient (and a pain in the neck) when a person’s authority exceeds their intelligence. (It becomes barbaric when people use their authority to wield their Might is Right.) Authority is the most prevalent form of leadership in our society but I sometimes think that we are only ever one disaster away from falling back into a Might is Right world.

3 – Engaged: The New-School models perceive the untapped potential of people so leaders try to engage them in the quest. It is goal-oriented and favours thinking outside the box, particularly when the resources are all gone and the status-quo is threatened. It is creative and rewarding beyond monetary fulfillment. It is overthrown by Authority (Martial Law) when efficiency (often masked as security) is the priority.

Next is the exciting part – don’t you think?!

4 – Collaboration: This is about recognizing that it is a big world and there is enough pie to go around for everyone. It is about cultivating the leadership qualities in others, however they may emerge. The answer lies in working together, in using everyone’s strengths towards shared goals.

Not only would it work for Neighbourhood Planning Teams, I bet it would work for international affairs as well. I think about bodies like the United Nations perhaps representing the Authority stage and wonder what an Engaged Earth might look like, to say nothing of a world governed by International Collaboration.

I suppose first we have to recognize that many of the goals really are shared.

Rally for Code Red

What happens when our attitudes become unionized? What happens when fighting the good fight becomes more important than the outcome?

I was at the Hamilton Spectator for the Code Red 2.0 presentation on Wednesday. I was very moved by many of the speakers, by their understanding and compassion and willingness to take an unpopular stand, find answers, forge a new path.

I noticed that it wasn’t a recap of any sort. No one said “Here’s what we’ve done in the last year,” (which is plenty) and I’m ok with that, cause lots of people work tirelessly all the time.  I noticed that no one said “Here’s what we’re going to do now,” and I’m ok with that cause I think the work involves all of us, and is not about “them” fixing “us”. So while I was emotionally affected by the evening and came away feeling as if Hamilton was in good hands, my mind kept asking, “What was this?”

And I realized, this was what it needed to be: another step toward building consensus among all of our leaders and all of us that these issues are priorities and need to be addressed. It was a call for help to you and me to make sure our representatives at every level know that we care, that the health of our communities matters and that broken systems need to be fixed. And I was ok with that, because the alternative might be more of the same solutions, and more of the same problems.

On my way out, someone remarked at the irony of a panel of privileged, white, men who were addressing an issue that is, by the numbers, about women, about minorities. “And don’t you think we need to have an alternate meeting with appropriate representation?”

No. No I don’t. I think this WAS the alternate meeting. I think that sometimes we fight the good fight so long, we don’t know help when we see it. We get caught up in the how and loose sight of the goals. This IS the beginning of the future we’ve been talking about, for all of us. It is collaborative. It is caring. We don’t need to fight each other; we need to join forces and spread the word to stop this terrible trend of tragedies, no matter who is suffering them. No matter who gets credit.

I am confident that Hamilton is in good hands; yours, mine and ours.

Get Your Assets in Gear!

When we talk about assets, as in, asset-based community development, we’re not just talking about the neighbourhood. We’re talking about you. And you. I know you think you suck, cause you know what things you’re no good at and they rattle around in your head, popping up just when you wish they wouldn’t. You try to fix them, get better at them, hide them. It doesn’t really work that way – unless you’re a type A in which case I don’t envy you your road!

If you focus on what you’re good at, give us more of that, give yourself more of that, then it’s not even about giving yourself a break, it becomes about reveling in your talents, skills, quirks and idiosyncrasies.

The Strategic Coach would have us delegate the things we are not good at, that is, if you are a highly successful entrepreneur and can afford to do so. For the rest of us that’s what family is for. Yay family.

If you look at the average anything you see a straight line, and yet that line is made up of dots above and below it, probably in equal number.  Nobody’s average at everything. And chances are the people who represent the dots below the line, are above the line on the next average. If you focus on your above the line skills and share them with the rest of us, you strengthen the average.

And anyway, averages are like money (and debt!) – it’s all imaginary. But those things you do so well, they’re as real as it gets. As Don would say, “More please!”


I had a scary dream yesterday. I was in a familiar place, large stone houses and storefronts ending in a cul-de-sac. Trees and greenery, blue sky. I was going about my business when you came to get me. And you were there, and you too. Familiar faces all. You were convinced I had to die.

You took me into the basement of one of the houses and led me to an old iron bed with a spring box, no mattress. A half-window let light in. Was I contained or did inevitability hold me there?

I had this sense that you had killed me before. I was frustrated that we’d come to this again. That I couldn’t communicate why you were mistaken, why this was wrong. I was sad to be leaving things undone.

As you got the fire ready, a small girl with a bag full of feathers came and joined me. I told her she couldn’t be here or she would die too. “I know,” she said, snuggling in, and I realized she’d been there all those other times as well.

And I woke up crying…