a mother of invention…

POLARIZED POLITICS drives a wedge between people.

Perhaps you’ve been on the receiving end of disappointment & anger of friends who feel rejected or judged because you’re not joining their team. 

Finding a pathway through the prickliness can seem impossible. 

IMG_1856One of my best guides in clearing new pathways has been my mother, Eleanor. Diagnosed with stomach cancer last October, the past eight months have been hell for her. Nearly miraculously, Eleanor was declared cancer-free in late April. We’re basking in the glory of that outcome. 


Decluttering is the latest rage: No longer a mundane task, it’s a near-spiritual ritual. Margareta Magnusson recommends döstädning, a cleaning ritual that brings together the Swedish words for death and cleaning. The essential message is don’t burden others (deal with your stuff before you expire, err.. die…errr, pass away). 

015 William and Louisa ElliottIMG_6305Eleanor lives, alone now, in a two-story red-brick home built at the turn of the century by my father’s great-uncle Will Elliott. Four generations of my father’s family have called this farmhouse home. One of the most magical places in this house is the enormous attic under the eaves; it’s other-worldly. 

Found: Mom’s wedding dress!

Occasionally family members scurry up here to pull Christmas lights & ornaments from their boxes, and again, to store them away at season’s end. Rarely used suitcases are lined up in a neat row. Beyond that, it’s a hodgepodge: Old wooden chests full of God-knows-what; treasured children’s toys deemed unsafe for modern kids; worn baseball gloves; my great-uncle-Arnold’s University of Guelph veterinary college texts & graduation cap; a cannon ball made of stone; arrowheads found in the fields; a 1950s vintage wheel-chair; random photo albums with pictures of people we no longer recognize; bowling trophies and Dad’s high school football jacket; fur coats and christening gowns and wedding dresses.

The detritus of lives lived.

Elliott Clan at the farmhouse

Ninety-percent of the stuff in this attic isn’t hers, yet Eleanor is committed to clearing this attic. I’ve spent a lot of time with her this past year and can attest, her quest doesn’t have a morbid feel. Under her watch, this attic will be cleared. 

Every family, every community, every country has an attic full of old stuff — ideas — stacked up by earlier generations. Some are treasures worthy of restoration; some need to be tossed. Old and musty crap can clutter your thinking. You have to deal with this  if you want to move forward.

Watching Eleanor, I know it can be done.  


Two years ago, most of us were watching American politics & the polarization; today we’re living it. There’s no pretending it away.

Here we are in the present. Stuff from the past dictating a future trajectory.

Think of it.

Alberta’s 2019 election: the choice as either/or. And so it is…

The majority United Conservatives sit on the right in Alberta’s Legislature building in Edmonton & the minority New Democrats sit on the left with no other parties represented in-between.

And next fall?

A federal Liberal/Conservative either/or face-off this October. 

Are you fer’ or agin’ ?

Do you care about the ‘climate emergency’ and the Liberal Party of Canada or you are a climate change denier… Either you care about our country’s competitiveness and the Conservative party or you are an economic nitwit…


Make_The_Leafs_Great_Again_Front_View_1024x1024You can be honest about Canada and Alberta’s current situation. The planet is reorganizing itself around three vectors:

Make America Great Again

Make China Great Again

Make Russia Great Again

We’re in the crosshairs of all three proclamations!

Canada isn’t a super-power.

Are we a vassal state? And, if so, what to do?


There’s a classic model, a template for storytelling. And it goes like this:

Things are bad. Things get worse. Things get better.

In Canada, think of it this way:

Things are bad. Things get worse. Things get weird.

In this weird new reality, how do we adjust Canada’s foreign policy & trade policy in ways that make sense?

Across Canada, farmers don’t know what crops to plant this spring & they are growing weary of being told to be patient by out-of-touch trade experts with no dirt under their fingernails. 

As the Arctic waters melt, why isn’t our government engaging public imagination on what’s possible?

While Canada’s prime minister apologizes to the Inuit for transgressions of the last century and wrings his hands in despair over Revelations 2.0 climate change, our neighbours in the Arctic are taking a pro-active approach, building ice-breakers able to access the emerging shipping lanes. 

Politicians can feel nostalgic & secure clinging to centuries-old ideas but to thrive we need to free up space for 21st-century thinking:  

  • Germany’s leader Angela Markel admits that 20th-century guilt isn’t going to to compel modern-day Germans to accept unrestricted migration.
  • France’s President Emmanuel Macron knows he needs something more than elitist platitudes & new tech to calm citizens’ rage.  
  • Even amidst Brexit chaos, British politicians recognize the need to figure out how to securely embrace the 5G network if it’s the internet of the future.


Think of it as a garage sale.

What ideas from our past need rebooting and what ideas need to be pitched? 

Decluttering in the midst of an election campaign isn’t going to be easy.

Social media platforms tend to be a swamp.  Newspaper journalism in our country is a shadow of itself. You cannot and should not rely on mainstream media to tell the stories from a local perspective. 

So can you trust us?


Pragmatic-at-heart, we’ll continue to share fresh & new ideas for you to try on for size.

And more than ever, we need your support & ideas. 

And to all the mothers–like Eleanor– who offer us their hard-earned wisdom, we wish you a Happy Mother’s Day & thank you!

And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to BEYOND POLARITY — scroll down on your phone or tablet, or look to the right in the panel beside this post. Enter your email to FOLLOW, a wheel spins, hamsters get fed.

7 thoughts on “a mother of invention…

  1. Welcome back Donna and Beyond Polarity! Keep us with the excellent thought leadership. We all know about populism, polarity and division – our QUEST today is to find the “better” way and the way to “better”

  2. How well I remember that attic. It was supposed to be my playroom when I moved there but I found it spooky to be up there alone. Loved poking around when someone was with me. Some of the trunks had props and scripts from plays they used to put on – entertainment before TV!

  3. This resonates with me. The Liberal rhetoric is that of “going where the puck is going” but they are trapped in their own narratives, unable to walk back from them. The opposition is trapped in the narrative of saying no to whatever the Liberals say yes to. The puck has moved on….. Is there a way to do a deeply thoughtful, depoliticized, “Canada in the 21st century” scenario exercise. Who is able to bridge the divide? It feels like think tanks do what they are funded to do and funding is as polarized as everything else

    1. Astute observation. Who is able to bridge the divide? These questions need to be asked.

  4. I feel like a broken record, but I am so tired of rhetoric on ‘both’ sides, whether provincial or federal. good ideas should be good ideas. bad ideas are just bad. yes, each political party has different views on some topics, but tribalism and partisanship is really doing a number on things both here and across the border. It would be nice if there would be some leaders who stood up and were open and honest about what they believe in and why.

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