Saturday, December 3, 2016

That's a wrap

Dec 3, 2016

Let the record show I am almost done my Christmas shopping AND wrapping (the items that have arrived at least).  Hate me if you must - it will not dim my slightly smug joy at my surprising readiness.

But as I stand at my diningroom table and wrap while the Christmas tunes blare away I have some words of wisdom to impart. (side note I managed to find the right remote, get the sound system and TV on the right channel and used the chrome cast to play my music of choice ALL BY MYSELF #christmasmiracle)

1.  Beware the cheap wrapping paper for it will tear and crease and rip and ruin your joy.

2.  That jumbo roll seems like a good idea until you are staring at it for the 11th Christmas in a row.

3.  On the other hand that lovely glossy paper you splurged on (with the blessed grid lines to keep the edges looking straight) won't last more than 2 gifts.

4.  Don't cut off small pieces of paper thinking you'll them for something else.... you won't be able to because it's always going to be 5mm too small.

5.  When re-using gift bags from holidays past.... check for and remove tags to prevent Christmas morning confusion and potential embarrassing situations

6.  Don't cheap out on tape - buy the good stuff.  Lots of it.

7.  Get a good dispenser - hundreds of little pieces of tape waiting patiently on the back of the dining room chair are a hazard to unsuspecting guests with long hair who drop by for tea. 

8.  Tags.  You think those sheets of sticker tags look like there are many.  There are not.  There is also no space to write anything other than 2 names and xo.  On the other hand tying on the ones with tiny threads ensure a distinct lack of peace on earth.

9. If you stuff up a wrap job - start over.  Better to use more paper (even the good stuff) than gift something that looks like the dog mauled it.

10. Put tags on IMMEDIATELY after you wrap - you think you'll remember what it is until you have 15 similar looking packages. 

Put on the kettle - have some tea,  sing out loud, think of those people you love as you wrap their gifts and try and remember it's not about all these gifts, in the end.... its about....


JOY and

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Messy stories are ok

Funny how something major can happen in a day and no one really notices.

The rain keeps falling.  The emails flood in as usual.

In fact it happened to me and I just noticed.  

I just noticed that a thing that has been on my heart and mind for ages, a thing I have been noodling around and around, looking at from multiple perspectives, tallying up the pro and con columns on, listening to and reading advice of experts and also trying to listen to my heart and intuition.

And quietly, over an excellent coffee, in a tiny coffee shop in a nondescript building I reclaimed my voice. 

"They" said .... you should not lead the curriculum - the power differential will make it messy.  You be the Leader of the other stuff but let a real Early Childhood Educator do this part. 

I listened.

So I stepped away from that role. 

I picked a great person to lead that part of the work.  She has done so extremely ably, forging a path in a job there are very few blazing ahead of her.  She has been breaking a path through thick vegetation with just her head and her heart and her hands and the steady shouts of "hooray!" and "courage!" from my desk, always a listening ear, always giving her permission to be her authentic self.

I sat at this desk increasingly feeling disconnected from the heart part of the work which turns out to be the reason I get up to come to work most days.

So the more technical and strategic my job became the less I loved it.  

Recently I have realised that despite all the work we have done, the years invested and the vast distance we have come, now so many more of us are singing from the same song sheet - yet I still have a profoundly deep understanding and passion for the curriculum work that is not yet equaled in the organisation.

I have invested in those leading that work and it was worthy and inspirational work. And I couldn't be prouder of my leadership team.  We are learning, growing, living into our vision and values while occasionally bumping our heads and stubbing our toes.

But today I sipped coffee with my colleague and I stepped back on to the curriculum path with her - shoulder to shoulder.  She needs me and I need to walk with her for my own sake.

And so we hatched plans, grew a little misty eyed at times and I felt the stirring in my belly again, the gentle rekindling of the fire for the work we do.

It may be messy, there may be power issues, "they" might have a point....

But I am going to rediscover my voice and reconnect to our people and to our work and I will figure out how to do that and attend to the 50 million other things my job demands and we will write our own story about how we changed the world by honouring childhood. 

I'll write my own leadership story that is true to who WE are and who I am.  

We like messy stories in our work anyway.  


Friday, November 18, 2016

Flying through Fall

We hit a low point in our home this week.

We ran out of our usual tea. 

If there was ever a sign that Fall was kicking our butts this is it. 

Tea is the currency of our little kingdom here on Steveston Highway. 

It is how we start the day.  

And by we, I mean Allan makes us tea and we have it in bed every morning. 


Days do simply not begin without tea.
It is also essential to the "Honey I'm home" time of the day.

The barometer of the day is "One cup or two?" 

Red tea pot for two, brown betty teapot for one.

So when I tasted the tea this morning and knew were into the hidden emergency stash I knew..... what my body and my mind already knew....I knew.....we officially have Fall Fatigue.

I wanted to believe the absence of soccer and teaching for me would lead to a serene Fall, quiet evenings, crackling fire, red wine, hearty soups...


The flurry of Fall activities both planned and unplanned have left us a little breathless.  My work has been plain crazy and after a great AGM last night I decided a day off was needed.  My challenges with sleep are worse than ever and though I didn't sleep any better last night I snugged under the covers a little longer than usual.  I spent the morning accomplishing several errands I have been trying to get to for weeks (new jeans yay - one size smaller than the last time yay yay!), passport photos (nothing to yay about that), some christmas shopping, groceries....

and TEA.

 The arrival of snow on the local mountain tops heralds winter and I am ready to bundle up and dive in.  
I am done with Fall.  

Bring on snowflakes, hot chocolate, crackling fires, red noses, brisk walks, christmas lights and carols.....

Ahhh enjoying this moment of unrealistic anticipation...with a cup of tea. 

Have a great weekend friends.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Engine light

The engine light came on in my mazda on Saturday.  

And it caused the car to lose power while I was driving.  It was barely inching forward.  I parked it and called Allan.  And then my parents  - feeling strangely adrift at thought my trusty zoom zoom was ill. And I was without a vehicle.

After making all kinds of plans and contingencies I got in, turned it back on and despite the continuing presence of the engine light the car drove normally.

I drove home slowly. 

It is now sitting outside the mechanics garage waiting for a scan tomorrow to reveal what is troubling it. 

Of course I hope it's just a sensor and not the transmission or something else huge and costly. Fingers CROSSED. Please please please

If I had an engine light.... that signalled trouble... it would have come on last Monday morning. 

And although I could have used the warning I surely could not have managed a loss of power.  A crisis at work is no time for anything other than full energy, focus and attention.   

Of course this, in a week my Dr changed some of my medication, and despite our best hopes my sleep is decreasing not increasing.  

By Friday I left the office, crisis unresolved, feeling pretty ragged and yet a lengthy TO DO list for the weekend stared me down.  

But in a remarkable show of maturity I turned off the alarm clock (alas to no avail sleep-wise) and I pared down the TO DO list to essentials - like baking cookies and making lasagne and doing the groceries. Ok maybe laundry too. And a few work related must-do's.

And then I let the rest go. 

I let go the desire for a perfect looking house when my leadership team gather here for a retreat tomorrow.  I let go off dozens of small details I still wanted to accomplish on our guest room for a friend arriving from South Africa on Wednesday - the room  is lovely and comfortable and clean - a complete redecorate, was I realise, unnecessary.  I did not gut the Laundry room as I intended, I shall simply close the door. The chest freezer remains in need of a defrost - I shall simply chip back the ice advancing over the top. 

Instead I spent time with Allan between his bouts of Masters work.  I visited with friends, caught up and connected.  I ate good food. I drank good coffee. I browsed a very odd flea market with my co-adventurer EV... I walked many steps, marvelled at the sunshine however briefly it appeared, turned back the clocks and tried not to grump about the early darkness it brought or how many clocks I had to change.  I chatted with my kids - gosh...I love those two.  

And so while the Mazda engine light may signal something dire (please please please be a sensor) , my own engine light was dealt with with gentleness and connection and is thankfully now off....I'm powered back up to face the week! 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Thank you Donald Trump

I know,  I know... don't panic.

The toxic invasion of The Donald into the airwaves and psyche of millions has been terrifying and yet illuminating.

As a parent raising teenagers in this unfortunate and distressing era of US politics, as a human being and citizen, a defender of democracy and believer in personal responsibility,  the events south of the 49th parallel have sparked more than a few conversations we might not otherwise have had. 

We now banter the word "misogynist" around the dinner table like bosses. 

Jokes aside...... we have had some engaging and intense conversations about power and race and gender that have allowed us to be explicit about our values on those topics (again) and to have intellectual conversation about living our lives in ways that that mark them as starkly contrasted to the Trump Tribe.

We have engaged in good discussions on Christianity and abortion and fundamentalism and what Jesus really meant. We have wrestled together about how to make sense of it, how to walk in integrity.

We have discussed family loyalty and parenting and marriage.

Plagiarism and authenticity came up as did truth and lies.

We have discussed the democratic process, the challenges of two party systems, the issues with not voting because of a leader.

We have sent and laughed at the 50 billion memes of The Donald and shaken our heads in utter despair but that has led us to conversations about the power of social media and the bias of media and the power of celebrity.

And finally we are thankful for the cautionary tale The Donald offers regarding self tanning and hair products.

My US friends- we do not envy the fiasco your country is living through - but we hope like crazy y'all stay sane and pick the much lesser of the two evils.

So the Trumpkin....sort of. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Squeaky Shoes

I had a breakfast meeting today after a late Board meeting last night ( for those of you loyal enough to have been reading this blog for years you will know that  I am notorious for scheduling snafoos - like THIS one).

I found myself surprisingly early for the meeting and decided to use the 30 minutes to get some steps in.

I found the walking oval in our central city park quiet and dark and full of puddles but, as is ever the case, intrepid walkers and runners are always out there.

And so I grabbed the old pair of runners in my car and joined the track. (possibly without considering how I'd be arriving at my meeting with soaking wet pants from the knee down).

I guess as much as steps I was also craving just a few minutes of peace and quiet to steady myself ahead of another long day (the middle of 3 long days/evening - see aforementioned scheduling challenges).

I walked out my prayers and thoughts.

There were distractions aplenty.

Mr squeaky shoes up ahead - my first thought was "Great...just great"  but I decided to use his squeaky cadence to sync my own pace.

The construction site next door was starting up and soon the hammering and other building noises "Great...just great" until I decided to look at what was being built and then when I one day stand on those stairs, in the completed building, I can say I saw it being built.

The Tai Chi ladies who were surprisingly grunty today and whose slow movements almost mesmerized me to the point of slowing my own pace.

The ladies in the stands meditating on mats with their music playing on a portable radio - chants and bells.

The conversations of those walking behind me in other languages defying my over-hearing tendencies.

The regular rhythm of a lady running in jeggings and a sweater with a sparkly cat on it, breathing hard, making little puffs of air.

Fire trucks with sirens and light, the ever busying streets, as the sky lightened with every lap.

But I found that the peace and quiet I needed filled my lungs and heart and mind with every cool breath of air I took and the lesson was not lost on me.

Peace is what you are gifted in spite of your circumstances (and squeaky shoes)

Peace is a choice in spite of the surroundings (and squeaky shoes)

Peace can be practiced (even when there are squeaky shoes).

I walked into the dawn and the sky tinted pink behind grey clouds.

It was a good way to start this day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Relentless "Hello"


The world is a big and often scary place.  

And for some people like me the weight of that can feel crushing at times.  

I am a taker-on-er.  

I hear it and I see it and I allow my heart and mind to take it in.  Some things stick around in my head and heart too long, or with too much intensity.

I have trouble letting it go or dismissing it. 

Which is why I pray a lot in the long dark awake hours of the night.

But I find the best way to sort out my heart and mind is to DO something.

Finding the "right" thing to DO can be hard and paralyzing in itself.

Writing a cheque only goes so far for my heart.   I'm not looking to assuage guilt or silence the questions on my mind - I am looking to face them with authenticity and grace and energy.

I don't have all the answers - I am still working it out for myself....some things have worked and other have not .... I think the point is that I am still wrestling with my role, my personal response in the face of the suffering of others.

The one thing that surprisingly takes a lot of effort and also has some pretty great results is my relatively recent decision to relentlessly say "Hello" to every person I pass while out walking.

Seeing as walking is also often my internal processing time and I am often deep in my own thoughts - it is super easy to keep my head down, eyes averted and just keep walking.

But that keeps me separate and disconnected. 

So in spite of feeling a bit shy (yes me) and a bit odd at times, I now keep my head up and I look directly at those I walk by or pass and I say a cheery "Hello"....and keep walking.  

So many times people look surprised and then they greet me back by a smile, a nod, a wave and often their own "Hello" as we pass. 

I see that sometimes I startle them out of their own reverie and sometimes I meet searching eyes looking to connect. 

Very few people make no response.  I see some regulars starting to anticipate my "Hello" now.

And it doesn't matter who it is - a plugged in teenager, a old chinese man who lives on our block, other walkers, children on bikes, shoppers... I WILL say "Hello" to everyone.

"Hello" and a smile is a bridge - a universal connector and I always feel better when I finish my walk and know I saw my neighbours, my fellow humans
on this journey, and left them with a "Hello".  

An acknowledgment that they exist and are noticed.

Obviously I am not walking in Aleppo or Haiti or Uganda.... I am walking where I am right now where there is relative poverty, ageism, racism, rampant individualism.... hurting hearts are no respecter of geography, ethnicity, age. 

Loneliness is a universal experience.

And "Hello" is free.  It takes zero expertise.  

It surely does not solve any of the worlds big problems and far more may be required of me but insofar as change starts with me .... I choose to be relentless in saying "Hello" believing that it just may lead to more than that with someone, sometime.

So in case you missed it at the top.... "Hello!"