Sunday, April 22, 2018

An unconventional life

Every now and then someone enters your life and leaves an imprint disproportionate to the length of time you have known each other or the amount of time you spent together.

Scott Taylor was just such a person.

He came into our lives a few weeks after a certain brown labrador did. 

And when I say came - I mean we begged him to come to our home and tame our wild thing.  

He walked into our home, as he would on more than one occasion, hat on head, long hair in a ponytail, a twinkle in his eye and more insight into dog behaviour and how to manage it than we will ever know. 

Scott is a large presence physically and emotionally.  

He does not beat around the bush - he tells it straight.  So he sat us down - without the dog and promptly dismissed any myths we had about dogs.  "This is not a Disney movie - this dog does not love you" "Your family is a pack and Spanner will be wherever in the pecking order you let him"  "This dog can be a jerk if you let him - your behaviour will determine that" "Teachers and Social Workers are the worst dog owners - way too soft!" 

We sat wide-eyed and wide-eared and I frantically took notes (determined to buck the teacher/social worker trend)

And then he asked to meet Spanner. 

In 30 minutes he tamed that little monkey into totally obedient submission.  Spanner did things we did not know any dog could do much less a mischievous puppy.  All of this in the family room.  And Spanner was completely exhausted from the mental gymnastics Scott had him doing.

Our jaws were on the floor. 

That was the start of our relationship.  

For two years Allan and David (sometimes Lindsay and I too) drove to Point Grey to do dog training classes with Scott.  Scott's friend Sue had bred Spanner and she and her dog Solo came too.  David would help Sue with Solo while Allan worked on Spanner. Scott was the benevolent emperor of the room.  Sometimes storming around barking orders and other times sociable and chatty.  But always completely spot on with the dog training.  Scott knew Spanners Mom (Tanka) and Grandad (Hudson) and he recognised the traits that needed work and helped Allan to manage them.  

He would return to our home and do some on-leash training with me and the kids who struggled with 65 pounds of labrador when said labrador spied a squirrel, a person, a candy wrapper..... within an hour Scott had Spanner walking with us all and then off leash with him on Steveston Hwy - an unbelievable display of Scotts incredible wisdom and skill with dogs. 

Scott died tragically a few weeks ago and we have carried our sadness around with us as well as many questions we wish we still had the chance to ask him.  Today we joined an incredible mix of people to remember Scott - a man who had hardship and heartache but found a way to live out his passion and in so doing inserted himself into the stories of so many. 

So much of enjoyment we have had with almost 6 year old Mr. Spanner was thanks to Scott and the hours Allan devoted to the training.  Allan and Scott found a way to communicate and worked on some projects together.  Allan the educator helped Scott the dog trainer to connect better with his clients while Scott imparted so much knowledge that Allan has so diligently used to make Spanner the delight he is to our family.

Scott will forever be remembered in this home.  With gratitude and a few good stories.  

Go well our friend


Allan, Nicky, Lindsay, David and Spanner Hudson Byres

Sunday, April 8, 2018

And so it begins....

So the big 52 week milestone at the gym came and went.  

And then 53, 54, 55.....

It was sorta anticlimactic.  

And the thought of another consecutive 52 weeks until the next milestone seems unattainable with an overseas trip etc...

So when they announced they were having an 8 week "Warrior Challenge" at the gym - we thought - what the heck! It will give us new focus and new drive. 

I was a little.... well ok.... a LOT ...terrified.

A Warrior Challenge sounds terrifying no?  This sort of image sprang to mind....

But no one can work out in all the armour and I am pretty sure the Dojo is a no weapons zone.... so WHAT could it be?

Coaches become quite vague all of a sudden, but also utterly confident that this is just what you should be doing.  But WHAT are we doing.....???

Despite the subterfuge we signed up and showed up on Saturday to be oriented. 

145 people divided into teams - each with a head coach.  A brief overview of the WHY...ya ya .. lets get to the WHAT people....

But no... first to the measurements..... UGH.

I suppose if one wants a measurable goal then one has to be measured.  

And weighed. 

A few more instructions and encouragement and then to wait for the weekly video on Sunday to detail the week 1 physical and week 1 nutritional challenge.

So we went home and carbo loaded.  

I'm not kidding - it had the feel of the last supper. 

Sunday morning arrived.  We waited and ate a big breakfast - we're not stupid.... nothing is Officially ON until the video is out. 

It's week 1 - how hard could it be?  They will start us off easy I'm sure.

The video was posted.  

We clutched our coffee cups and hit play.

Blah, Blah , Blah.... Week 1 physical challenge is.... do 500 push-ups.  

I'm sorry?  WHAT did he just say?   Even he paused to let that sink in.....

5 0 0 

Allan had already calculated it was 72 a day and some keeners had already posted they had done 100.  

WHAT????? - I was in disbelief. 

I haven't done 500 push-ups in my life.  I'm the girl with the gimpy arm remember.  I only started doing push-ups about 5 weeks ago.  And they are ugly.

5 flipping hundred. 

Oh yeah - the nutritional challenge (which unlike the physical one is cumulative) ... Nothing but water after 8pm at night.  Now that seems reasonable to me. ANYONE can do THAT.

500 push-ups

I ranted and raved around the house for a bit.  Told Allan we should have signed up as one person and halved the load.  And a few other things. 

I did the groceries (no chips I swear) and went for a walk and to a lovely art workshop that I made a cool shadow box diorama thing at.  Walked home and had tea with Allan.

And did 25 push-ups on the living room floor

As wannabe warriors do - apparently

I wanted to cry.  

I cleaned the floors and prepped the vegetables for dinner.  

Allan came back from the man house and made us do 25 more.

It's unbelievable.  It's madness

I have done 50 push-ups

A lovely Sunday roast is in the oven so we can eat before 8pm, settle on the couch and watch the Call the Midwife, sipping our water and be free and clear

Except for those next 25 push-ups which WILL be done. 

If you see a slightly round, middle-aged woman in the elevator tomorrow who seems unable to lift her arm to hit the button....please...for the love of all that is good...ask her what floor she needs and hit the damn button for her. 

Thank you.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Spring Break 2018

There is never a more loved or longed for vacation in our family than...Spring Break.  

For whatever reason the stretch from Christmas is long, or Christmas is so busy we start the year tired...or something....

But when we get Spring Break in our sights we start to breathe again.

This year was no exception except for the exception that only 2 of 4 Byres actually get Spring Break now.

That's odd.  

We have so many wonderful Spring vacations Oregon coast, NYC, Disneyland, California, Tofino.. to name a few.  

As you'll know Allan and I had a wonderful restorative break in Ucluelet this Spring Break and Allan had another week off when we got home (Dear powers-that-be please never go back to only one week Spring Break!).  He did lots of chores (re-caulking the shower, cleaning up the man house aka garage /workshop etc) but also had lots of time to play which for him right now means wood carving. He did some cooking, some movie watching, some reading and we had a few social engagements.  As I type this he is getting off the boat from a crabbing expedition with his buddy Fil.

My week was less enjoyable as our field continues in an HR crisis such as I have never experienced.   One wonders how we go on when there are so few people to hire.  Sigh.  And the demand for child care services is surging as Government made an historic investment in reducing fees.  It's a bit of a perfect storm but the good ship SRCC will sail on through as long as we can.  The upside is I am getting to be on-the-floor with actual children more than ever - it's such a good reminder of why I slog through budgets and interviews and funding applications and new facility development... and quite honestly 4 year olds are some of the most interesting people on the planet.

So as the cherry blossoms pop around us we start the final sprint of the school year - June commeth sooner than you think!  And for me the opening of our 6th child care facility on July 1 means it's going to be quite the sprint.    The new centre is in a castle - I kid you not.... very cool space to work with.

Our beloved children are much much closer to the end of their respective years - the end of 3rd year for Lindsay (one more to go) and the end of 1st year for mr. D comes mid-April.  Lindsay is not coming home this summer as she found employment in Victoria and has her apartment until the end of August  - it makes total sense as she finds her new sense of place over there and it helps her feel more settled and less pulled in 2 directions.  Thank goodness we have the trip to South Africa together or I would be bereft!  David will be home in slightly under 3 weeks and we can't wait to have that boy back.  He has a job and will be working in a local law firm until we get on the plane.  He and Lindsay fly home ahead of us to get themselves settled back into housing and readying for the school and David has some training for his new Residence Advisor (RA) position for next year! 

It is quite unbelievable how fast the months fly by.  

So we journey on into Spring (come on Spring - you got this!) and then into the glory that is summer.  Already the evenings are long, the soil is warming up for planting and the jackets stay on their pegs in the front hall more often than not. 


Monday, March 19, 2018

Me Day

For 3 hours today I was in a far away land.

I needed no passport.

I tossed my fitbit in a basket and crept between the covers on a warm bed, tuned into the nature sounds being piped through the speakers and surrendered to the expert hands of a magician / masseuse. 

Ahhhhh yes  - the de-stress, seaweed wrap massage and aromatherapy treatment I got as a birthday present was joyfully redeemed today at the aptly named Nurture Day Spa. 

Followed by a pedicure with a view of the harbour during which I chatted with the owner of the spa who with her husband opted for the simpler life and dropped into Ucluelet 15 years ago.  It was very tempting to let my mind drift to similar possibilities for Allan and I.

All too soon Allan returned to extract me from my happy place and we did a little drive around Ucluelet and then "home" for lunch.  

A nap crossed our minds at the same time the sun decided to peep through the clouds so we opted to make the most of that (seeing snow in the forecast for Friday - WHAT??).

We drove the 30km to Tofino and payed our homage to the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery  and then wandered around town poking in and out of cool and wacky shops as we did.  Allan is on the search for some first nations carving knives for a first nations mask carving course he is taking.  We popped into a thrift store but found nothing.... well, not nothing, as it turns out.

No knives were to be had but the shopkeeper directed Allan to Chesterman Beach a little ways down the road and gave some vague directions to a Carving Shed on the beach where "George" would be carving and may have some info.

We hopped into the truck and away to Chesterman we went as the sun broke through the clouds although the little breeze that popped us was pretty chilly.  We started to walk along the beach looking for "George" and his shed.  We walked the whole beach and found nothing but beautiful homes with enviable waterfront views, plenty of dogs for Spanner to meet, and a few brave surfers. 

As we headed back to the car I suggested we take one last look in the opposite direction - in the small amount of beach on that side.... and lo and behold... we found the most amazing place. 

And "George". 

A carving shed, with wood and tools and art and so much history.  A sand and sawdust floor, colourful characters sitting around chatting.  We were warmly welcomed and we chatted for a while.  No knives, no great carving oracle with amazing wisdom....but a shed that could tell some incredible stories if it could.

It was so very cool. 

A brief stop at the cottage to change and then off to the famed Norwoods for dinner - a reservation obtained many weeks ago. 

It was sublime - a warm spinach salad I shall dream off ..... I can't even talk about the chocolate bombe with sour cream ice cream and the whiskey foam... 

How this day was just as magnificent as yesterday blows my mind.

Off to the hot tub under the stars with the sea lions barking half heartedly in the distance. 

I love Spring Break.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bacon and eggs, wine and cheese, coffee and cream

There are some things that are just better if they are together...


me and Spring Break

forests and the sea

and how lucky am I these all came together today.  

We started our day at 5am which was only made memorable by the conversation and antics of the St.Patrick's Day revellers stumbling home.

A quiet ferry ride under grey clouds gave way to sun in Victoria where our beloved girl and Mr Joel were waiting for us at a funky brunch spot close to Oak Bay.  SO lovely to visit with them and catch up.  Oh how we miss that sweet, sassy, smart, beautiful girl.  

A walk on the beach with the kids and Spanner and then we headed north through showers and sun and 4 hours later, after the epic winding road, we arrived (tires still inflated - yay) at the edge of Canada.  

In sunshine and without a breath of wind - miraculous for this part of the west coast of Vancouver Island. 

And we knew we were lucky.

We hastily moved into our charming cottage on the edge of a cove - all cedar and light and trees and a hot tub.... perfect for a week of restoration.

But we put on the walking shoes and leashed up the hound and hit the trails.

The sound of the ocean was enough for this weary self but the late afternoon light through the wind beaten forest, the haunting whistle and clang of the bouys in the ocean, the sun on our faces 
the spouting, huge, crazy spouting of ....WHALES just off the coast line!  

We walked the wild pacific trail for a few km and were amazed and humbled and grateful around every corner.  

I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

This is beautiful country even in the mist and rain that usually lives here but on this glorious sunny warm spring day - it was heart-stopping, soul-filling.  

A walk back to the cottage,  appy's (of course) and steak dinner and a puppy snoring, exhausted, and soon into the hot tub as the tide turns below us and the stars populate the clear sky. 

And then to sleep deeply

I am not sure I would rather be any other place in the world right now. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

52 weeks

Today marks my 52 straight week at the gym.

One year of moving forward in my fitness.

Many months of finding a new community.

Surprises and challenges and frustrations and triumphs.

But I'll admit I am not as skinny as I thought 52 weeks at the gym would produce.  And I'd be lying if that wasn't a tad disappointing.  

There IS change though. 

The jeans may not be 4 sizes smaller but what is in the jeans is a whole lot different. 

I have traded much fat for muscle - some of it in surprising places.  There are less inches in some important places. 

But I am also coming to the realisation that 52 weeks in a gym cannot erase a life lived with some challenges - like 3 major abdominal surgeries that cut through the belly muscle wall, some artificial mesh in there that stops muscles moving as they should, and more scar tissue than muscle in my arm that was fractured in 5 places and was more metal than bone for a few years. 

And yet.

I am fitter, I hurt less often, my cardio is way better (arguably with two grandparents who had heart attacks this is most important) and I am so.much.stronger.  
Before Workout

I am learning to appreciate this body of mine for what it is overcoming and what it IS doing rather than what it is NOT able to do...yet.

I have the word "Ohana" tattooed on my wrist. Every night and every morning I see that word as I go to sleep and as I wake up.  It's a reminder of my tribe, my people and as I am settling in for the night I often run through all their names - family, friends, list is blessedly loooong. 

After workout stunned look

So as I reach this milestone today and celebrate, what is perhaps most precious is that my "Ohana" has grown this year to include a Dojo full of interesting and inspiring people in my community - each with their own story and journey who show up to work out under the expertise and care of an exceptional coaching team.

Isn't that really what it's all about in the end - the relationships we get to have with people as we walk through this messy and delightful thing called life. 

I am so very grateful for my personal cheerleaders this year - Allan,Lindsay, David, Mom, Emily, Kristen, Jenn, Helen, #TeamMPT .... they celebrated all my tiny achievements and kept me motivated.  

Here's to the next 52 weeks (unlikely to be consecutive) and some big goals I have for myself... the biggest of which are patience at my pace, courage to stretch into new fitness challenges and kindness to a body that has served me well.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

Showing Up

I took a long walk on the dyke as this sunny but cold day ended.  

I find solo walks very contemplative and my heart and mind were very full today as the rays of sun glinted off the leftover snow as I walked along the dyke - greeting friends, listening to the dusk bird chorus and breathing in the fresh breeze.

I was preoccupied with the unpredictability of life - the good and the bad, the magical and the sorrowful, the joyful and the challenging.  All the moments, big and small that we are all experiencing as we live these lives we have been given. 

I think to live wholeheartedly we are to embrace all the moments.

So much easier said than done. 

Perhaps the perspective of middle age allows me to start to rail less against the hard things, the desperately sad and unjust things and to accept them for what they have to teach me, show me about myself and others.

I wish I could say I did this with good grace all the time.... but alas. 

I didn't give anything up for Lent this year.

Instead I decided to redouble my efforts to show kindness.

I decided to show up more for my family and friends and for those in the ever expanding circles out from there - even when it's awkward or hard or when I doubt myself.  A message, a what's app, a text, a note,  an email, a walk, lunch, a coffee, ice cream- touching base, checking in, connecting.  Not to solve anyone's problems but to just show up and say "hello".

We need each other friends to keep on going, to see ourselves more clearly, to not drown in loneliness, to be brave together in a world that seems completely unpredictable most of the time.