Monday, January 31, 2011

My One Little Word




There is a "thing" among several bloggers / scrapbookers etc to choose "One little word" for the year - something one is aspiring to or wanting to cultivate in ones life.  Most people did this January 1 but I missed the bandwagon and so I decided to wait to wait until February 1, which is my birthday so the start of my year (and also I needed the time to think about the word).

It has been challenging to decide on one word..... especially for me..... user of more words than necessary on almost every occasion ......


But I have chosen..... C O N T E N T

con·tent 2  (kon-tent)
adj.
1. Desiring no more than what one has; satisfied.
2. Ready to accept or acquiesce; willing:
tr.v. con·tent·ed, con·tent·ing, con·tents
To make content or satisfied:
n.
Contentment; satisfaction.
 
I do not think this will be easy for me but will require that I discipline myself to BE content, to not strive and yearn and fuss about "stuff".  I am going to have to catch myself and remember I can be content with what I have, not just materially but also emotionally, physically, in my work and in my home.  I hope it will help me to be grateful and generous.

I went to Michaels (Craft Superstore) today and bought some things so I can make a visual reminder of my word to hang in my bedroom so at the the start and end of each day I can check in with myself (and my husband) how content I am and to deal with any discontent.

I am excited about this little experiment!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Africa 101



I did a shift at my Dad's booth at MissionsFest today.
(My Dad works for a Mission organisation called African Enterprise - He is the Canadian office Executive Director.  Missionsfest is like a big conference/ trade fair held annually downtown Vancouver).
Some people come up to the booth and say
"I'd like to go to Africa".
I say "That's great. Which nation or country were you hoping to go to?
Them: "Ummm....Africa.....you know..."
Me: "There are 53 countries in Africa and they are all very distinct and different with different languages and culture".
Them "Well I am not really picky - I just want to go to Africa".
Me " What sort of skills to you have? What ways could you serve?"
Them " No skills really, I wouldn't mind playing with the kids though".
Me "Maybe you could try serving locally and try out some different things and keep praying about Africa". Them "There's nothing to do here, I really want to go to Africa.".
Me "Great, you keep thinking about it and maybe do some research about opportunities and ways to serve".  Them "Super, thanks, See Ya"......

I know this comes from a good place - a good intention (see my blog post about intentions here ) but it makes me so mad that people are so ignorant about the place they are wanting to go to and yet think they have something to offer there.

There is no doubt Africa has needs - BIG needs - but Africa also has capable and competent people with skills and knowledge.  Yes we can come alongside and offer assistance or respond to calls for assistance but we should not presume too much about how much we (from far away) are needed.  And parachuting in and out over the short term with no time to build relationships (especially in African time) has a dubious impact in my opinion.  No doubt you can build a house or a playground or a toilet which will leave a legacy but it will likely be you who benefits most from the experience - going and being in a different culture so vastly different from your own is a powerful experience.

If you want to hone your Geography skills on Africa this is a good site http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/af.htm  . And if you want to go on a mission trip AE Canada is a good place to start - tell my Dad I sent you.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

People not Places

I spent the day teaching today.

I taught at one of my child care centres.  A beautiful purpose-built space full of windows letting in tons of natural light, high ceilings, under-floor heating and filled to the brim with fabulous equipment and beautiful things.  My students were "oooooing" and "aaaaaahing" as they toured through each room.  And indeed it is a fantastic space and we are blessed to have it.

BUT

I truly believe the space is NOTHING without the people who work in it.  As I pointed out all the things in each of the rooms as we toured the centre I was again aware that thing are just things until caring, engaged and professional people bring them to life.  The "stuff" works because the people make it work in creative and innovative ways. 

I felt SO proud of my amazing colleagues who do a challenging job with such passion and dedication.

They could do this in a mud hut, or church hall or basement and the program would be great because THEY are great. They know they are blessed to work in a great space and they don't take it for granted. And I do not take them for granted.

I think this is true of so many workplaces and professions -it's the people more than the place that makes the whole "thing" work.

There is no denying a beautiful space is no small blessing........and big and small humans are very deserving of beautiful places to spend their time in.





Friday, January 28, 2011

Morning Commute

The direct route from our house to David's school is 3.9km and takes about 8 minutes and requires three turns (2 left and one right).

We NEVER take this route.

We take a different route that is 9.6km and takes 18 minutes (without photo stops) and has lots of twists and turns.

We LOVE this route.

Here is our route through Steveston Village, along the south dyke and up No. 3 Road..... in photos through many different seasons.  We see ducks and horses and herons and racoons and birds (sometimes eagles).  We try and guess the tide before we see the river at the bottom on No 2 Rd..... and we have a little adventure on the way to school and a great reminder of how lucky we are to live HERE!



Early morning on Moncton St

Sun catches the Gulf of Georgia Cannery

The mouth of the Fraser - looking towards the Islands

Sometimes we see Mount Baker

And sometimes we don't........

The sky changes all the time as the sun rises later or earlier

A late winter sunrise

Sometimes the fog rolls in

Sometimes there is traffic

My travel buddy with BIG traffic we saw this morning

Then we turn away from the river and drive north through the farmlands........ to school 


It is a GREAT way to start the day. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Toby Mac

We are off to a rock concert in Abbotsford tonight (about an hour's drive east).  Headlined by Toby Mac its going to be a great evening I am sure. 

A year ago I wasn't so sure.....

In December of 2009 Toby Mac was coming to Abbotsford on his Winter Wonder Slam Tour.  My son David is a HUGE fan and as a Mom I wanted to take him to the show.  BUT.  Allan couldn't make it so I would have to drive on my own.  Snow was forecast.  It would be a long, dark, late drive home alone. It was $100 right before Christmas. SO I waited until the very last minute to make the decision and on the morning of the concert I told the kids I would take them.  They we VERY excited.  After work we headed out through heavy traffic.  It became obvious that we had lost our window for a sit-down dinner stop so we drove through the omnipresent McDonalds Drive Through and the 3 of us ate dinner and dessert and had a drink each for $12 (which led to a great discussion on nutrition and poverty and obesity - funny how these moments so often come up on car rides).

I didn't have GPS but I had a printed google map and I managed to take the right exit off Highway 1 but ended up in a weird parking lot.  I did not have tickets so I was feeling the pressure to get to the box office and praying I had not come all this way in vain.  We ended up on the wrong side of the arena and so we jogged all the way around in the freezing cold  to get in line at the box office. 

As we were standing there a man walked over to me and asked "How many tickets are you looking for?" I said "3" but I didn't really engage with him - my distrust readily to the fore - no scalped tickets for me.  Then he said "A friend of mine came into my store this week and he couldn't make it to the concert tonight but he bought 3 tickets and he asked me to give them away.  I have been waiting here for the right people to come along and I would like to give you these 3 tickets.".  I was stunned and immediately offered to buy them. He said "These are a gift for you, please take them and enjoy the concert".  I took the proffered tickets and thanked him so much and told him what a last minute decision it had been to come and how far we had driven and how grateful I was.  He was clearly delighted and said he was going to tell his friend the story.  (He was Lando from the House of James for those who have heard him on the radio).

We went in and found great seats, met up with some friends and had a great, great evening.  David was beyond excited and delighted. I thought I was going to a) have a heart attack from the reverberations in my chest from the volume of the music and b) be deaf forever but to watch the kids have a ball and dance away was worth it.

I texted Allan to ask if he could find a gas station close to where I was as I needed gas before I went too far.  Her texted back there was one just before the highway and he also told me it was starting to snow.

After the show around 10:30pm  we headed to the car - the parking lot was chaos and it took us nearly 20 minutes to get out and the parking guys directed us out - I wanted to turn right towards the gas station but they had everyone turn left and soon I was following a line of red taillights on a country road going in the wrong direction.  After a few minutes we came to an intersection I recognised and turned towards home but I knew on this route there was no gas station for miles .  The kids were tired and after 15 minutes they were both asleep. And then it started to snow...... Now I was really asking (pleading with) God to keep us safely on the road and my gas tank from running dry.  I felt pretty peaceful and I drove all the way home no problem.  Allan helped me get sleepy kids into bed. 

This may sound like a nice story with some good karma or coincidence or serendipity or whatever you want to call it or you could say God worked it all out. He blessed us (though we were undeserving) through someone elses generosity and kept us safe (and enough gas in the tank!!).  My kids and I have chosen to see this moment as a God moment -  and we treasure it as a tangible sign of an invisible God and for how it strengthened our faith in a God who cares for us and has worked out all the details!

We have our tickets for the show tonight but I am kinda curious to see what God might have in store!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Say Cheese - almost 2 years ago

We didn't need much convincing that braces were necessary

SO worth it! Beautiful Girl!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big Day!

It's a big day workwise for me..... the details of which are not bloggable for lots of reasons. But I will say this...... its a BIG change, the first of many and ...... I hate change usually. 

I am, at heart, a creature of habit and routine.

Years ago my good friend KM and I would walk to work in Vancouver from 70th and Granville to 4th and Pine (for non-vancouverites with no access to google maps - that is a long walk up a big hill and down the other side).  Close to work there was a bakery/deli place where we would stop every morning.  I ate the exact same thing every morning - a toasted sesame seed bagel with peanut butter.  They got to know us so well they would see us coming down the hill and pop my bagel in the toaster. 

I loved being a "regular". 
KM hated it!! 

She thrives on change, she needs change to breathe.  Even if she wanted the same thing everyday she wouldn't order it just to keep everyone guessing.  She eventually persuaded me to change the venue of our breakfast for a while because it was all just too "boring" to do the same thing all the time. 

Maybe that's why we are such good friends - I ground her and she pushes me.

However this change at work has me excited and expectant.  I see the opportunities for great things for everyone in the organisation.  I am checking myself all the time that I allow the process to unfold and not rush everyone to the end goal.  I am sure there will be some bumps in the road but that will just make the journey more interesting and there will be more stories to tell when we get where we're going!

I will miss my Soup Groupers tonight (you had better all look at the magnificent completed puzzle - I left it for you all to admire ;) and its one of my favourite soups Al makes - chicken noooodle!!!

What ever "new" or "boring old" thing you are doing tonight - take good care!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bossy

This is a blog by request from my friend and business partner JB. 

"What is bossy?"

It started with an email she sent out to a committee we both sit on that is putting on a conference in late April.  We are all volunteers and trying to pull this conference together on email.  This is challenging.  So JB wrestled with the the tasks and program and who was on first..... and sent a clear, articulate and direct email to all with specific actions for specific people. 

She asked me today if I thought the email was bossy?
I said "Not at all - but I am almost as bossy as you so I am not really a good person to ask!!"
I then asked her to "get bossy" with another committee we have a paid gig with as their foot-dragging is driving me crazy.  She is on it!

It was a light-hearted exchange but is really bothers me that society in some ways applauds a person (especially women) for being assertive and articulate and "getting things done"..... there are so many ways we say this when we are affirming these traits (such a go-getter, always on task, yadda yadda yadda) but as soon as we are on the wrong side of those traits

assertive becomes bossy
articulate becomes mouthy or opinionated
getting things done becomes nitpicking (and other un-blog worthy names)

When I think bossy I think of a 5 year old , hands on hips,  assured that he/she is king/queen of the world and directing her subjects.  An adult might even smile at this behaviour and think its "cute" (I know Mom but its appropriate in this context!!) but when an adult does the same thing he/she is a bully being abusive!

Of course these generalisations are extreme but it is interesting to ponder.  I also think its something women get more flack for than men - do we really get drawn back to the Victoria notion of "unseemly conduct" when we speak our minds clearly?  When I googled "Bossy" today I found a website called "BossyMama - A business network for entrepreneurial women" - so maybe we do it to ourselves. :-(

So much has to do with "tone" and "context" but to me "bossy" still has more negative connotations than positive.

But sometimes bossy gets the job done, nice bossy that is :)




Google image of "Bossy"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cultural Identity

Today was "Taste the Nations" at church - it's an annual event during Missions month when our very diverse congregation bring a meal from their culture and we have a great potluck after church. 

I personally have a tough time deciding what culture I am in situations like this.  At the border coming back from the USA is a no-brainer......
Officer: What is your citizenship?
Me: Canadian
Officer: (skeptical of the un-canadian accent) Where do you live?
Me: Richmond BC

But at an event like today I am torn. I feel so very African so many times - people here still comment my accent (although I wish Canadians realised THEY have the accent not me) and I still often feel "other" than the mainstream. But at other times I feel very Canadian.

As an aside here I should say that although I was born just outside Johannesburg in South Africa I have been a Canadian all my life. My Dad was born in Geraldton Ontario and I had a Canadian passport when I was 6 months old.  As a birthright I also had a South African passport. 

I have both Scottish/English and Irish heritage as well through grandparents and great-grandparents!

My Dad quips that he is an Afro-Canadian  and I think that comes closest to what I feel although this term would usually denote a dark skinned person.....which I am not.

So today I put on an African shirt and threw a Canadian HBC Olympic scarf around my neck (but the Fashion Police aka Lindsay Byres (13 years old) disqualified the combination from public viewing so I left the scarf at home) - actually our whole family put on African shirts and we took our curry and rice to share and we had a good time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Point

I had an intense workout last night and was at Jazzercise bright and early this morning but had rather a blank agenda for the day - which is rare - I am working the next 2 Saturdays.......

When I get home from Jazzercise I open the door and sniff - if I am lucky there is the lovely smell of bacon but today I smelled lemon zest.... not an ingredient in any of our usual breakfast meals.  Allan made a "Dutch Baby" from his gourmet cooking magazine and it was quite delicious - a large fluffy pancake-like thing with crispy outsides - sprinkled with icing sugar and some lemon juice and with a side of bacon - very YUMMMY!

The boys went off to soccer and I threw on a load of laundry and settled at the diningroom table where I should have been preparing my class for next week but there is this unfinished (thank you Soup Group NOT) 1000 piece puzzle.  I decided to give it a few minutes and about 4 hours later I looked up!! (OK not quite but it ate the better part of my day).  I tried to get the Soup Groupers to assist the other night but they did not apply themselves to the task and I simply cannot give up and put it all back in the box and now I want to have it done by Tuesday to show those Soup Groupers what can be done with a little effort!!!

We arranged for David to go to Gaga and Papa's for the night and Lindsay is out babysitting so Allan and I had a date night - after reading several reviews of various places and surveying the Entertainment Book we ended up at a local restaurant called The Point.  We had a lovely meal and caught up on lots of conversations that are somehow hard to have in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Lovely Saturday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

PVR

Last night Greys was a repeat (for those who don't know I am a huge Greys Anatomy fan and it is the only show I follow on TV).  I was really tired though so I was happy to go to bed early and read the delightful Jan Karon book I currently have on the go.

However

IF we had had a PVR (I think this stands for Personal Video Recorder but I am guessing) apparently I could have recorded something from the night before and then watched it instead as my many FB friends were suggesting though even one of those was lamenting that she would enjoy reading too.  Several people have told me a PVR will change my life..... I believe them.

When we had our first apartment in Canada we had no TV. We listened to CBC radio every night.  We like to say everything we know about Canada we learned from Peter Gzowski.  We loved his gentle voice in the evening and the ecclectic offerings of "As it Happens" with Michael Enright (who was a lot less pompous then than he is now- in my opinion) and Barbara Budd.

Over dinner with friends one night we let it slip that we didn't have a TV. They were aghast..... this was crazy they felt. We assured them we felt no loss at all and even though we could afford to get one we weren't going to, not yet anyway. We came home a few nights later and there was a vintage small portable TV on our doorstep.  Turns out our friends had it in their storage unit and wanted us to have it.  So in it came and slowly but surely over many months our radio listening declined in proportion to our TV watching.  And then, of course, this small, black and white screen with the jumpy picture (did rabbit ears ever really work?) and having to get up to turn the dial to change the channel wasn't good enough and we bought a real TV.






For years we had a relatively small screened TV that weighed a ton and we moved with it several times. Even when the kids came we didn't upgrade the TV. 

And then we got a Wii, which meant we needed a bigger TV. I fought that - I didn't want a TV dominating our family room.....but I lost the battle. And it was a nice change to be able to see the tennis ball on the Wii game - Ha ha!!

We have been talking about a PVR for almost a year - we could have had one a year ago but we dance around the topic and never get to actually ordering it.  We feel ripped off by our cable company already and paying them more money is not appealing. But on the many nights that the Canucks are not playing there is often nothing to watch at a time we are available to watch it and to be perfectly honest I don't know how many more episodes of Mythbusters and Daily Planet I can cope with. (Currently boycotting TLC until they take the Sarah Palin Infomercial  and the Gosselins off)

So a PVR makes perfect sense..... I don't think its what we will gain by getting it that worries us, but rather, what we will lose.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Luddite

I had a bad day with technology (and / or the internet) yesterday.  FB blocked my ability to post my blog on my FB page.  I was SO frustrated!  Not so much about the block (although that was maddening) but that I couldn't contact FB to fix the problem and I wasn't having much luck trying to fix it on my own.  Thankfully I have some very techy friends who offered reasoned explanations (as opposed to my foot stomping ranting - thanks GH) and solutions (aka a way around the block - thanks NF).

But at the end of the day although the problem was resolved to a satisfactory degree I was feeling really dumb!

When I arrived in Canada 18 years ago I had no computer skills. I went to my first job interview and when I was asked about my computer skills I said "My best computer skill is that I am a quick learner".  I got the job and for the two weeks before I started I sat in front of my parents computer with "Wordperfect for Dummies" on my lap and studied hard (after I figured out how to turn the machine on!).  Since then almost everything I have learned I have learned by just having to figure it out.

I remember one time I was working for a couple of consultants who asked me to do a flow chart.  I spent hours figuring how to put text boxes all over the page with arrows etc.... I was SO pleased with myself.  I walked down the hallway, they were on a conference call, but I put the sheet in front of them.  I got the thumbs up and was ready to do an internal victory dance when one of them took her pen and made all the boxes into ovals and circles and handed it back to me with a smile.  I walked back to my desk with a pit in my stomach about how the heck I was going to meet this new challenge...... but meet it I did. And so I have figured it all out as I go.... word, excel, powerpoint, publisher etc....

And I am pretty adept at what I need to know to be efficient in my job.  I am even quite good at  troubleshooting computer issues and have often solved issues with various computer / printer / virus glitches at work.

I am pretty active on the internet too and was swinging along with my little blog and having alot of fun doing it and then yesterday happened.

I think what hit me most is the realisation of just how much I don't know.  As they say.... I have just enough information and knowledge to be dangerous.........!!! (Clearly the FB bigwigs think so!!)   I do wonder if I will ever be caught up on all things internet related, all the programs and applications and options that are out there.

Or am I a generation too late?
Or did my late start in all things computer related leave too big of a gap?
Or maybe I just need to find the drive to really apply myself to a new learning journey (I could take some courses too I suppose:). Already I am frustrated by what I don't know about blogger and am sure I need to do some more work to make it more effective and interesting and I lurk on enough other blogs to know I can do better.....

So while I feel like I am wearing a giant cone hat with a big D on it as I sit at my computer today, I am grateful for what I have managed to learn so far, and for tech savvy friends (that include my tech savvy husband) that saved my sanity yesterday!

Here's to new frontiers, whatever yours may be!  I am off to buy Blogger for Dummies !

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Intention

Intention is a tricky thing.... to define, to understand, to clearly articulate, to get right and to move beyond!

Twice this week (and I know its only Tuesday!) I have found myself pondering "intention" - both mine and others.

The consultant I am currently working with to develop a strategic plan for my organisation always starts off our telephone calls with "What is your intention for this call today?"....... The first time she asked I am sure I rolled my eyes (the clear benefit of not being face to face) and settled down for what I figured would be a bunch of "Consultantese". I duly stated what my intentions were and she stated hers and proceeded with the conversation.  She has done this on every call and I will now admit that it certainly helps to frame the conversation and I feel heard from the start and can relax that my points will be addressed and we always accomplish what we intend to in the time we intended to use! She knows her stuff!

In a different exchange today on email (already fraught with opportunities for misunderstanding) I got into a "conversation" in which my intention was not understood and was likely misinterpreted and things would appear now to be a bit muddied.  This community colleague has asked to have coffee with me and I am hoping I will be bold enough to ask what her intention is in having the conversation over coffee with me and I will be able to state my own intentions.  In that way maybe several years of frustration and posturing can be put squarely on the table and we can have an honest and frank conversation.

Its interesting that the word is still "intention" whether positive or negative - and what is that saying????...."The road to hell is paved with good intentions...."  Hmmmm.

So perhaps while clarifying and honestly stating our intentions opens up the opportunity for constructive dialogue (Oh dear, now I am speaking "Consultanese!) its acting on our good intentions that really matters......






Monday, January 17, 2011

Just another Manic Monday

Ha ha .... for those of you who remember the Bangles "Manic Monday" you won't be thanking me for putting the tune in your head!!!

But seriously - it was a crazy day.  I was reminded of the class I taught on brain development last week and the lively discussion we had about the difference between men's and women's brains.  Its pretty widely held that women can multitask better than men (although they seem to be able to multitask quite well with the remote in hand). 

If that is, in fact, true I was multitasking at warp speed today........ some days your head and your TO DO list are that full and everything is firing and you can get SO much done.  I felt like I used most of my day very productively (between repeatedly having to re-start my stupid computer - Have you drop kicked your Dell today?) and got so many tasks accomplished for work as well as filled in the forms for David's passport renewal and got my car re-insured and made it to Jazzercise.

I was so busy in my brain I had to really focus on my conference call - I could have easily typed a couple emails and filed the attendance and payroll while talking but I might not have been as "on task" as I needed to be (especially as the other person on the call is a high priced (and very smart) consultant I have hired to do a strategic planning session with my Board of Directors:).

I wish the TO DO list had been conquered but alas there is plenty to be getting on with tomorrow - just hope my brain keeps firing!!

Just another Manic Monday
Oooooh oooohh
Wish it were Sunday
Coz that's my fun day......

Ahhhhhhh 80's music where have you gone?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Top 10

1. A free weekend - a huge bonus in itself! (and not to be repeated until April I believe  - ok maybe its not THAT bad!)

2. Having been ill during the week it was great to feel well enough to Jazzercise on Saturday morning - and I had a blast doing it (Thanks Janice T if you are reading this).

3. Breakfast at the Cannery Cafe with Lindsay on Saturday - I love Steveston.

4. Visiting a friend who has been sick - JB the sick and BB the suffering!! Ha ha ...... Lovely to sit around their kitchen table and chat awhile.

5. Fabulous Farmers Market Finds by Allan and David ( organic pork (sausages and bacon), interesting squash, brussel sprouts, organic garlic, onions, carrots)

6. Cross-border shopping run - fun family outing but a decision today that we won't do it again unless we are going for other reasons as well - not worth it just for Costco.

7. Doing a puzzle - Lindsay and I started a very ambitious puzzle - we have made little progress but have had some great chats while trying.

8. Holding the ever adorable Sola in church as she napped - there is something delicious about that dead weight of a baby in your arms  - I am so past this stage of my life so to have the opportunity to cuddle a baby as often as I do makes my heart very happy.

9. Sunday Family Roast Chicken Dinner - my parents came over for an organic roast chicken dinner with some of the market veg - was delicious!  The totally not organic/not grass fed chocolate cake was lovely too.

10. Feeling content on a Sunday night on the couch next to my Honey...... getting ready for the week ahead.

Aaaaahhhhhhh..........

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sugar and Spice...... NOT

Little boys are something of an enigma to me.

I had only 1 sister, I went to an all girls school from Grade 4 through 12 most of our neighbours growing up were girls....... then I had my own baby girl.....

I admit with some guilt that when the Ultrasound Tech pointed out the obvious boy anatomy on the ultrasound screen with child #2 I was shocked stupid!   What the heck did I know about little boys and what was I going to do with one???  I had always imagined mothering girls, never boys and it took me several weeks to get my head around the fact I was going to have a son.  I remember Allan's obvious relief when I came home with a blue onesie from GAP - I was finally getting used to the idea of having a boy.  Even so I still insisted we have a back-up girls name in case they had been wrong.

But on September 1, 1999 David Allan Wray Byres made his very swift entrance into the world and of course I fell instantly in love.

As my previous post (The Tale of Two David's) attests our David was just what we needed.  I don't know if its always that he is a boy that makes him different to parent or if its because he is a second child or if I was more laid back with him as an infant than I was with Lindsay - but different he is  and rightly so!

For the last 18 months or so there was no Junior Youth Group operating in our church and David was missing out.  As Lindsay went to Senior Youth I decided to get the Junior Youthers together for some fun activities - and wouldn't you know - they are all boys!!  My good friend Graham graciously allowed himself to be talked into helping me out and as terrified as I was about taking on this venture it has been a blast!

They range from Grade 4 - 6 and they are SO silly!  They love anything we plan, eat everything we put in front of them and are game for any adventure.  They have made up ridiculous rules - the chief of them being "One cannot act like a chicken in any circumstance"!  They still find bathroom humour hilarious - last night on the way home from bowling Graham pulled his truck up alongside my car at a light and the boys in his car yelled 'Why did Tigger go down the toilet" and all 7 boys from both cars yell "Because he wanted to find Pooh".. and the hysterical fits of laughter lasted for blocks.... Good Grief!!

On my journey to understanding boys better I am delighted to have these silly monkeys (Yes Graham that includes you too) to hang out with every other week!

So thanks God for sending me a son and for stretching me in doing so. And for the adventures so far and still to come!

Now off to find some suitable jokes for the next Junior Youth night!

Friday, January 14, 2011

One month old

My blog is 4 weeks old today.... I can hardly believe it!!  And although I haven't written every day I have managed to find the time to do it most days.  Sometimes what I am going to write about is obvious to me and it comes easily and other days something surprises me by presenting itself as a topic.  I have not had a day yet where I have had no idea what to write. AND I am really enjoying the process of writing and editing my writing. I am also taking more intentional photographs and uploading them right away. 

In just 4 weeks my blog has had just under 650 hits (and I figured out how to take my hits out of the stats so it's not me :) - I find that really mind-blowing and a little unnerving - blogger gives you a geographical breakdown of your hits too which is even more incredible! 

And if I thought having my own blog would cut down on my own blog surfing , the opposite is true - I am linking through blogs to other blogs..... it seems never-ending (and sure can suck up a chunk of time).

Overall , so far, at least, my little blog adventure has been a success.  I thank those of you who comment and those of you who lurk......

Thanks for being along for the ride......

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Horizontal

I have been fighting a cold for a few days.  I truly hate being sick and staying in bed. Having had 5 surgeries in the last 6 years I have had a lifetimes worth of bed rest. But this morning I was totally wiped out and although I was still trying to convince myself I'd be ok when I got up and moving - I knew it was really going to be hard.  I love my husband Allan for many reasons. I really like it when he takes care of me (something I don't often let him do) so when he said he thought I should just stay in bed and beat this bug I listened. (He is likely still in shock).

So I had my cell phone and laptop brought up to me and started looking at emails...... I answered three, reviewed a memo from my lawyers about our current lease negotiations at work, made some adjustments to it and sent it back, left a voice mail for my staff and sent a memo to the church office about the Alpha meals I am coordinating. By now everyone had left for school and work and I realised I had just put in 1.5 hours of work on my sick day.  Fortunately I came to my senses and realised that, indeed, the world will go on without me and I should really go back to sleep.

I shut off the computer and the light and it was very delicious to snuggle under the duvet and listen to the CBC from my clock/radio and I was soon fast asleep.

Until the phone rang 20 minutes later and it was the Orthodontists office (I know you can tell from my FB and from my blog that I have a rising panic that my life is being consumed by the Orthodontic needs of my children's mouths - not to mention my savings account!). 

I dealt with them and went back to sleep until noon!!!  That has not happened for many years!!!  And it took me until 3pm to get my eyes opposite the holes but a good espresso made by Miss Lindsay on her return from school has done its work and I am up and about. (though in no shape for Jazzercise sadly).

Until this blog "Nicky's Space" was from 9 - 10pm on Thursdays.  I watch only one show on TV and am hopelessly devoted to Grey's Anatomy.  Allan goes to the pub every Thursday with a group of guys from church, the children vanish upstairs at 8:55pm, I pour a glass of wine, take full control of the remote and the couch and watch Greys..... tonight will be no different!  I love life's little rituals. 

Enjoy your evening!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Heart for Haiti

A  year ago tomorrow the earth shook violently in the small and desperately impoverished nation of Haiti.  The devastation in both human and infrastructure terms were inconceivable. 
I am a news-aholic and in the days after the quake as I trolled the news trying to get my head around this tragedy in a country I had so little knowledge of, I stumbled onto a blog written by Tara (and Troy) Livesay.  I have followed their story from those first few chaotic and terrifying days as their children were airlifted out on an American Airforce plane, through their anguishing exile in the USA as they waited for citizenship for their youngest adopted child, and now their much desired and hoped for return to a, sadly, still very much devastated Haiti. I have enjoyed their candid writing on all sorts of topics and learned much from their discourse on transracial adoption (they have adopted 3 Haitian children) and the efficacy (or not) of very large NGO's.
So Haiti has been much on my heart and mind over the past 12 months and as the first anniversary of the quake is tomorrow I am hoping that the small, emerging signs of hope will blossom and grow and that restoration of peoples hearts and minds and physical bodies as well as their homes and businesses continues. That those working their will be protected and effective in their work.  That the devastation of already suffering people by cholera will cease and that the seeds of democracy will grow. 

AMEN!

The West must not forget its obligation and commitment. And we must do more.

If you'd like to follow the Livesays in Haiti go to livesayhaiti.blogspot.com

Two of my favourite quotes:
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice,  you have chosen the side of the oppressor.  If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality" Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"Mans capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary". Reinhold Niebuhr
May God bless Haiti and all its people today and may He give them grace and fortitude to carry on day by day. 

Also mindful today of the devastating floods in Queensland Australia.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowfall warning.........

Alert: If you are a weather forecaster please do not be offended by this post - just be happy your pay isn't performance based - I'm just saying!!!

Is it just me or do these so called "weather warnings" bug you?. Last week we all waited for 5 - 10cm of snow to fall and nada, nothing, zip............or rather torrents of plain old rain....

"Big Deal" I hear you say - "Get over it already Nicky, move on!".

Well here's the thing - I have to make a decision on every snow day (or so-called snow day) whether or not to open 3 child care centres and I have to make this determination before 6am so I can call my Senior staff and they can set the phone tree in motion to contact 150 families and change the voicemail at the centres while I call the radio stations to get the closure broadcast so that parents can make alternate plans. So I am up half the night checking the weather.  For my blog lurkers in southern more temperate climates - it is hard to see snow falling in the pitch dark (especially so if your contacts are not in) so one looks for a light source (in my case a streetlamp out front) to see the little flakes wafting down.

AND then I have to get up at 5am and see if the School District is going to close because we follow what they do.  Now they almost never close so it makes my life easier IF school is in session.  But even if they stay open I have to figure out how bad the roads are and if I am going to have enough staff who will make it to work on time (we can't have the little people shivering outside and the big people aka the paying clients do not like to be kept waiting).

AND then I have to clear off the Zoom Zoom , my ever so light Mazda 5 with all weather tires (yes that is how they spell tires here) and I have to ramp over the lovely berm the snow plow has made alongside my car and hope like heck I can stop before I get to the opposite side of the street!!  This is NOT a skill I learned when I got a drivers license in 30 degrees C.

So here we are again..... Snowfall Warning in Effect now calling for 10-15cm and that is NO joke to drive in!!  It may come tonight and it may not start until tomorrow night - Wednesday looks to be a horrendous commute (of course that's the day David gets his braces on so no holing up at home like a Wus).

BUT its just as likely to rain..... without a flake to be seen.

AND then I will be disappointed - I love how the snow quiets everything  and softens all the angles and makes the light brighter.

HA HA - there is clearly no pleasing me, especially if you are predicting the weather!

That is my car on a mild 3cm day


Thank goodness I have a shoveller
My preferred view - from the kitchen island with tea in hand

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A moment leads to .........

I was standing in Barnes and Noble in downtown Seattle just before Christmas with 2 books in my hand. One was to be a gift from David to his Dad (if only I had remembered I had already bought something for David to give to his Dad..... ).  One book was called 52 weeks of bread (or something like that) a new bread recipe for each week and a lot of writing on the art of making bread.  Being the carb lover that I am I liked the look of this book immensely.  The other book was "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver subtitled "A year of food life".   It sounded intriguing. As a family we have endeavoured to grow some of our own food in the spring/summer months in our backyard - we even had some success!
Veggie garden year 1 - 2009
So I bought the Kingsolver book...... I think that will prove to be a seminal moment..... a moment that leads to other maybe important things.
Within pages of starting the book Allan was both tut tutting and laughing - enjoying the candid writing of Ms. Kinsolver and being concerned about the facts she was laying out.....  To be honest we have know some of these alarming things about our food sources for some time, at a superficial level at least, and we have been concerned enough to try to buy more local produce and to cook from scratch more often and limit the sodium and fat and sugar in our diet.
Our kids both attended an environmental leadership camp at UBC in past summers and have pushed us to consider our carbon footprint etc.  They got us started on making compost and they are a big part of the veggie garden project. (It must be said they love to eat too so they readily engage in any and all discussion about food).
Over our steak dinner on Friday night we discussed beef production! The startling fact that 80% of the US beef supply comes from 4 feedlots sent me heading to google to find some natural, grassfed, happy beef close to home.  Of course in this sprawling metropolitan city in Canada it was easy to find and we happened to be heading in that direction for David's soccer game anyway - it seemed providential.
We certainly found all we were looking for and made some purchases in the name of testing it all out - sausages / rib eye steaks / ham / lamb shanks and ground beef.  We had 2 kinds of sausages last night with some of Allan's amazing home made fries and grilled veg and the verdict ...... very good indeed.
lamb/feta/tomato sausage and "boerewors"
We were feeling quite self-satisfied... how good were we? - all this natural eating and growing what we could, making compost as an urban family- yadda yadda yadda.......
AND then as I was lying awake last night thinking (its a curse) I was reflecting that while this is indeed an important and good thing to eat more natural organic food it is going to take time, energy and money to do. And really these first steps are the tip , I think, of a vast iceberg of other sustainable and accountable choices we could/should make.
If we go this route for meat products we will have to eat less meat - $13 for 2 ribeyes is more than double the steak pack we usually buy at Costco and will feed us half as many meals. (and can you imagine if I overdo them or something drastic....horrors). We can buy more local produce but this is the pacific northwest in winter...... how do we get the variety?
And what about dairy, eggs, juice, bread etc......   ARGHHHHHHH
But as my husband so aptly put it on his Facebook this morning "Small steps are the way to begin".  Making better choices today than we did yesterday and sourcing local food, planning our veggie garden to be more productive year round  - that we can do.
Our national psyche is sometimes defined as "As Canadian as possible under the circumstances" so to prove we are well assimilated we will do this food thing as often and as well as we can under the circumstances.
And to think we could have been having a new kind of bread every week........... :)
Summer 2010's bounty from the backyard

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Simple Things

Its been a busy week with back to school and starting teaching and crazy weather and all the other daily dramas and doings....... I find it so hard to stop amidst the rush and take a deep breath and notice and even enjoy the small, simple things. I have read several blog posts and articles over the last couple of weeks that encourage pursuit of the simple life.  I wish I really understood what that was.  In theory I love the idea - declutter both my living space and my time.  But I know me, I would just fill it up again..... so I am attempting to at least see and enjoy simple moments this week coming up.
While on a conference call on Friday the sun finally made an albeit brief appearance - and there I was stuck on the phone - so I grabbed my camera, tried to stay engaged with the call and snapped this photo.  I like it - it is of a view I have everyday but I can honestly say there are far too many days I never even look up and out (damn that protestant work ethic!).  I will do better next week.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Family Friday

The Tale of....... Two David's


David R - My Dad
Yesterday he was awarded the Dean Crain Humanitarian award by his Rotary Club.  Presented annually to a member of the Rotary Club of Richmond Sunrise to recognize their contribution to the humanitarian ideals of Rotary International and those of Dean Crain. The Award will be presented at the first... club meeting in January of each year, if there is a suitable candidate.
What qualifies a member for this Award?
The award will recognize a Rotary member who has shown the values that Dean Crain exemplified and worked so hard to nurture in himself and others. These were:
Honesty in all things
Courage in the face of overwhelming odds
Determination to succeed
Unwavering integrity

He beat cancer in 2010 with amazing grace and a great cheering section led by my Mom.  His continued comittment to his work with African Enterprise through think and thin and ups and downs has alway been done with absolute integrity and singlemindedness and almost without complaint.
He is a good man, with a great sense of humour and I am proud to have him as a Dad.

David B - My son
Mr David is one of my favourite people in the world (and one of the people who can drive me crazy quicker than anyone else).  I feel like I needed to know David - our family needed his loving, quirky, laidbackness.  We joke that Allan, Lindsay and I are all firstborns with Type A personalities - go go go, task focused and David is always way behind, seemingly unable to rush (upstairs playing lego in his underwear while we are all dressed at the front door ready to go).  I try to slow down to his pace but more often than not he is dragged along with the rest of the rushers.
David has had some struggles in his life. He was almost blind in his left eye and he cheerfully and faithfully wore a patch on his eye under his glasses to school for 3 years. He had eye surgery with hardly a peep of complaint and SO many eye exams.  We have the greatest eye care at Children's Hospital and Dr. Chris Lyons has been so amazing with David and makes him feel like a champ for doing all the work he has done on his vision.
Yesterday I had a long consultation with the Orthodontist about just how crowded David's jaw is and how aggressive they will have to be to fix all the issues in his mouth and so he gets braces and elastics next week.  Again he sat there and took all the information with calm acceptance.  He is such a bright, curious, chatty guy.
He teaches me so much!
He is also a great Canucks fan and loved being at the game this week especially when the Canuckleheads won!!  He has 3 soccer games this weekend and will give his all in each one.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Teaching

For the last 3 or 4 years I have taught in the Continuing education program at local Colleges.  I have taught 2 classes:
Math/Science/Social Studies in ECE 
and
The Learning Child
for the Early Childhood Education Course.

I started teaching as a challenge to myself (I have a degree in Social Science and have worked as a Social Worker in the in the past).  Most of my professional work has been in administration in Early Childhood Services of one kind or another from rural farm school in South Africa to the lovely purpose built centres in Richmond BC.


It is also great to have some additional income that can be earned in a way that is easy on my family.
What an experience it has been!
1. It is/was WAY more work than I anticipated - the preparation time doubled the teaching time in the beginning and then the marking and dealing with students issues etc...  Now that I am teaching the same courses for the 4th of 5th time I am managing the preparation better and the material is more familiar.
Last night I actually taught almost seemlessly - I didn't have to rely on my detailed (over detailed / timed outline) or even the handout - I know this stuff.... It was a GOOD feeling.

2. It helps me stay current with the latest research in the field and I bring that back to my regular work.

3. Its also great to get that spark of passion back - after a tedious day of dealing with issues, building issues, accounting issues, staffing issues - it's so easy to lose sight of the big picture and of the passion for this work that hooked me so many years ago.

I came home energized and I came to work today feeling re-connected to the core of this work, doing my part in providing the very best early childhood environment and experiences for young children and a strong support system for their parents.

It feels good to be helping to shape the next group of Early Childhood Educators who will do this important work.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Soup tonight tonight.....

Its Tuesday - it's soup night (or soup tonight tonight as my 4 year old friend Quinn likes to call it and which we have adopted as a great moniker).
For the last 6 or so years (actually more I think) we have had a small group of young couples from our church come over to our house. It started as a bible study but then the couples went forth and multiplied (as well they should) and some of the most adorable babies on earth arrived. So we added a meal to start the evening (we remembered well what it was like to have young kids and get a meal on the table and then get out to something in the evening).
The meals have mostly been soup (except for the summer months - then we made paninis - but that is another blog) and mostly been made by my husband Allan with me as the mostly helpful sous chef and provision getter (aka bread and dessert buyer).  From time to time (when our lives get really hectic) some of the peeps (12 adults 9 kids) bring the bread or the dessert..... and for now we just have a community meal together and have conversation and hand babies around and admire lego creations and visit.  Its a sort of lovely chaos over a bowl of excellent soup.  And on a wet and snowy night like tonight its the perfect thing.
Tonight we are having an old faithful - Curried Butternut soup - with fresh bread and we are cleaning my house out of Christmas candy and treats for dessert (so as to save me from them).

I am seldom happier than when this house is full of happy, well fed, friends and their gorgeous children.

Allan’s Amazing Soup
(aka Curried Butternut Squash Soup)


For 8 servings:
Ingredients:
6 cups of vegetable stock
3 cups chopped butternut squash
1 small onion, chopped
1 large potato, cubed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp brown sugar
curry powder, to taste
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup cream
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley

Directions:
1.    In a large pot, bring the stock to the boil.
2.    Add the squash, onion, potato, bay leaf, sugar, curry powder, basil, oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
3.    Continue boiling until the squash and potato are tender.
4.    Discard bay leaf.
5.    Puree the soup with a hand blender or in a food processor.
6.    Gently fold in cream and parsley and serve.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Chronicles of .........

I guess like most mothers (or parents/grandparents/people generally) I am often challenged by how to chronicle our lives both for my own desire to have the record and for the future, but also how to share our lives with family and friends far away.  Like many of you I have the children's art from years of preschool and onwards and various elementary school projects filed away by year as well as boxes of photos (from the days before digital!).  Its always such a battle to decide what to keep (the paper mache volcano was a great project but really????)
Allan's mom called this morning from our town of Pietermaritzburg in South Africa to thank me for the photobook I made, had printed and sent to them that was our 2010 in photographs (and some text).  Although we email every few weeks - they are still on dial up - its hard to share photographs.  You could tell by her voice she was thrilled and I can imagine she will pour over each photo time and again. 
Of course Facebook has made sharing photo's and our lives easier for those who have ready access to FB and the internet.  I do love how I am connected to so many people across the world.  But I worry that just posting albums on FB is not enough.
A few years ago I started scrapbooking - not very well - but enough to actually get some printed photos into albums.  There are times I love to spend a few hours doing these books but sometimes its months in between these moments and I get behind quickly.  Of course I have many of these scrapbooks done and now they have to be stored.....somewhere!
The discovery of online photobooks has been a revelation!  I love the small ones I can get printed for an occasion for around $10 - just upload - do a little formatting and VOILA! Easy to mail overseas too!
This past summer of 2010 I felt strongly we were at a particularly special moment in our family having come through some hard years emotionally and not knowing, going forward, how much longer our kids will vacation with us for weeks at a time.  So I set out to chronicle the vacation in a different way.  I bought a journal - a lovely turquoise leather journal from Nikaido in Steveston Village. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

So..........

Here beginneth a new year..... We put so much pressure on the whole New Year thing, like one day is going to change all our bad habits and set us all on a new highway to better living.  No doubt there are times for stopping and taking stock of our lives but if we wait and only do it once a year I fear any real change will be a long time coming.
I do find some value in looking back and seeing the past year for what it was- the good , the bad , the undone, the neglected, the blessings...... that helps me see. See what was accomplished and what was not and then I decide what to do about that.
Resolutions without action plans are pretty useless anyway so I make plans and only a few make it........ I have been pondering what distinguishes these few from all the others and I think its a mixture of passion and desperation.  Either something I really really want to do or something I can no longer put off doing - it just has to be done.
For years I, like many others, have wanted to lose weight and get fit - thwarted time and again by.... myself - no time, no energy, stinky gym, cold weather, bad shoes, surgery, illness, cost, kids, work.... blah blah blah....... Then last January I took a left turn - a left turn I had driven by hundreds and hundreds of times, I drove into the parking lot and signed up for Jazzercise - I just did it, finally took a decisive step to a long desired goal.  (It had nothing to do with my looming 40th birthday of course....). And what started out as a step of desperation has turned into a passion, and so it has endured.  Next week will mark 12 months of Jazzercise for me and I feel so much better both physically and emotionally and although the results in my body are clear they are also slow (one cannot neglect ones body for 15 years and think it will bounce back) but steady. And the next 12 months do not feel like a chore to be checked off a list but rather a fun journey with some new and interesting people towards a healthier me.
Lest you think I am vain and vapid I assure you I do have loftier goals than fitness and weight loss but in many ways learning to take care of me, to do something just for me has been by far the bigger thing!