Sunday, July 29, 2007

Row, row, row your boat

The dragonboat tournament is over. We did fairly well, for a new team. But Marcel's team did even better. Here they are winning their final heat... (If you listen carefully at the beginning, you'll hear Julie shout "go Dad!" And if you watch Marcel's boat cross the finish line, you'll see Marcel at the back of the boat throw his arms in the air in victory.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I am dragon, hear me roar

Here's how I'm spending the weekend...
At the end of the day, when all is at rest...

Note: If you click on that second shot to enlarge it, you'll see just how much fun I'm having. I think I'm hooked.

Friday, July 27, 2007


A lot of books get read in our house, especially this month when it's TV-free month. There are books in every room of the house, and where there are bookshelves, they are overflowing. Stacks of books rest on nightstands in every bedroom, books pile up on the table or the piano, and occasionally books get left behind in the bathroom. Marcel and the girls make a trip to the local library at least once or twice a week. Everybody loves books. Books, books, books. Yes, it's a happy thing.

We don't all like the same kind of books, though. Each person in the house has his or her own unique taste, so it means that we rarely share books.

Marcel reads mostly historical books, political books (and magazines), biographies, and occasionally a Tom Clancy novel for a little variety. He's a history buff, so he's got lots of war books, books on Hitler, Hoffa, you name it. He's currently reading a biography of Randy Bachman.

Nicole's a little like her father. She loves to read biographies and true stories. She can spout off details about the day John F. Kennedy died, the day Princess Diana got married, where Einstein grew up, when Anne Frank died, etc. She reads fiction occasionally, but prefers fiction that has its basis in truth. No fantasy or sci-fi for her. She is currently reading her second or third biography of Princess Diana, someone she is particularly enamoured with.

Julie is the most voracious reader in the house. She can get through almost any book in a day or a day and a half. Marcel had to change her library card to an adult card so they'd let her take more books out and he wouldn't have to go back as frequently. She reads almost any kind of fiction, but her favourites are in the fantasy genre. She breezes through series like Harry Potter and Narnia, and usually ends up reading them a second or third time when she runs out of new things to read. The last I checked, she was reading a couple of Nancy Drew books (after finishing the latest Harry Potter), but she's probably on to something else by now.

Maddie is on the cusp of reading. She's definitely ready to be a reader, and I think it frustrates her when everyone else in the house is reading and she can't. (I tried to get Julie to take it on as a summer project to teach Maddie to read, but I don't think it's caught on yet.) She loves to be read to, though, and doesn't show any particular preference in books yet. She's rather fond of anything by Robert Munsch - I'm not sure how many times I've read Stephanie's Ponytail. The last few nights, we've been reading through a fairly lengthy version of the Lion King together.

I read a fair bit of literary fiction, but lately I've been more interested in memoirs of all kinds. Travel memoirs (like Honeymoon in Purdah), spiritual/personal journey memoirs (like anything by Anne Lamott), or memoirs of interesting life challenges (like Left to Tell). I have a bunch of leadership and creativity books on my shelf too, because that's where I often turn for professional/personal development inspiration. I've also become quite interested in non-fiction books that are about the social condition (like The Tipping Point, for example). I'm currently reading The Paradox of Choice, a fascinating book that argues that the overabundance of choice in our western society is not actually good for us.

So there you have it - what books are YOU reading?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Seeing red (or wearing it, at least)

Reading the comments on my last post reminded me that I WORE RED at the big press conference last week. What was I thinking?! Ha! Kinda funny actually!
If you haven't worked in communications for the federal government, you probably don't know what a faux pas that is. You see - all the politicians at that gathering were Conservatives. BLUE conservatives. See the t-shirt Minister T. is wearing in the photo below? Yeah, it's blue. That wasn't just a casual half-asleep choice when he rolled out of bed in the morning. He would NEVER have worn red to an event. I'm sure the moment he got elected, he burned all of his red clothing, if he had any in the first place. It's the colour of the enemy. The Liberals.

I was, in essence, branding myself as "the enemy". Unwittingly. Perhaps THAT is why they are gazing at me so intently in that photo. It wasn't that they were hanging on my every word (though I do like to fantasize that perhaps it's because I'm such an irresistible conversationalist).

My communications mentor (back in my early days in the federal government) would be so disappointed in me. She reminded me every time we did an event that the colour of your clothes MATTER. How could I have forgotten? Not only did I have a rooster tail and a zit, but I was also wearing the wrong colour!

Thankfully, I DON'T work for the government anymore and I can wear whatever colour of clothes I WANT. Even IF I'm standing at a podium introducing politicians. So THERE! (This is where I stick out my tongue like a three year old and chant "nyah nyah nyah".)

Oh well - at least my husband will be proud! Perhaps he was sending me subliminal messages when I was getting dressed that morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday wondering

1. The next time I have to organize a big event where I have to schmooze/boss around politicians and other dignitaries, would someone please tell me I have a rooster tail growing out of the top of my head?
Oh and what's up with that massive prom zit on my chin? I'm forty-one years old. Weren't those supposed to stop coming around, oh, I don' t know - about twenty-one years ago??

Just doing my best to stay humble.

2. I've never been one to get hooked on computer games or electronic games of any kind. Or any games for that matter. Sudoku? Boring. Solitaire? Oh I might be able to kill 15 minutes or so, but after you've seen those cards topple once or twice, who cares anymore? Crossword puzzles? I get frustrated after about the third word. Tetris? Once in a while, but rarely. So then WHY am I suddenly getting hooked on a word search game on a KIDS' WEBSITE?? When Julie scored 48 points for a word, I just HAD to top her. Oh yeah - 57 points! But then it wouldn't let me use a doozy of a word - warehouse - because it limits the words to 8 letters. What's up with THAT? When I crashed and burned at level 7, I couldn't rest until I got to 8... and then, wouldn't you know it, the website announced a scheduled shut-down and then disappeared. IN THE MIDDLE OF MY HIGHEST SCORE YET! The audacity! I went to bed twitching and dreaming of words I could have used. (For those of you who are now determined to beat my score - sorry, you can only get on to Quizzy's word search if your kid has a Webkinz toy and password!) Oh dear. Where do I sign up for Quizzy's word search anonymous?

3. Did I tell you I joined a dragon boat racing team? Just for fun? Yeah, apparently I think it's FUN to subject your body to an hour of torture a couple of times a week. And it's FUN to suffer pain in muscles you never knew you had in the first place. And it's oh so much FUN to have the steer-person yell at you "pull! hard!" just when you feel like you're ready to melt into a puddle in the middle of the boat. Or vomit over the edge into the murky river water. Fun, baby. It's fun. (In all seriousness, though, it really is fun. Watch for pictures after the tournament this weekend.)

Monday, July 23, 2007


Two little girls. C & C. One's in Julie's class at school, and the other is Maddie's friend from daycare. They live across the street. They've been to our house for play dates and birthday parties. The older C wants to grow up before her time. We see her wandering the street sometimes, looking more like a teenager than a little girl. She misses too much school for reasons unknown to us. She's wearing sadness and the weight of life before her time. The younger C is shy and sweet. She has the most delightful smile that creeps onto her face when Maddie makes her giggle.

The other night, Marcel was taking the garbage out at midnight and saw the ruckus across the street. A man - we're not sure which man - father of the kids or boyfriend of the mother - got handcuffed and hauled off in a police car. The older of the two C's was there - in the parking lot with her older brother - talking to the policemen. There was no sign of the mother - a beautiful young woman who draws too much sadness to herself and her children.

That's all we know. We haven't seen the children since. I want to go looking for them, but I don't know what to say. Do I knock on the door and say "we saw the ruckus and we want to make sure the children are safe?" Or do I simply send the girls across the street looking for a play date - just to make sure all is well?

Sometimes, I feel paralyzed when faced with other people's pain.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The week that was

I've been meaning to tell you a bit about my week, but by the time things got a little slower, and I managed to catch my breath, I didn't feel much like hanging out on a computer. But today it's stifling hot outside, and since the beach trip didn't work out because of a sick kid, I'm hiding in the pleasantly cool basement with the computer.

It started last Sunday with a flight to Toronto... oh wait - let me go back a bit. For those of you who don't know, I have a very cool job that I love most of the time. This week was one of those times. It was crazy busy, but it was the kind of fun adrenalin rush that makes busy worthwhile. We've just had some major developments that are managing to change the face of the organization. We're an ecumenical organization with a lofty mission to "end hunger", and we just signed on two new member agencies. BIG agencies, which represent huge numbers of Canadians. So that was what my travel was all about - meeting the new kids on the block.

Getting back to Toronto... Taking the subway downtown on Sunday night on the way to the hotel room my contact had booked for me close to her office, I kept wondering why "Church Street" sounded so familiar. Had I stayed there before? Was it close to my favourite downtown bed and breakfast?

When I left my hotel room a little later to get a bite to eat, it didn't take me long to have that "a-ha" moment. "Oh yeah, I remember now - It's the gay district." (And yes, it turns out it's also close to my favourite b&b.) Well, talk about an interesting place to wander at 10:00 at night! I had dinner at a lovely Thai place, and then bought an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins and wandered around doing some serious people watching. Hmm... cross dressers and lots of gay men with expensive tastes in clothing - makes for fascinating watching. It was quite enjoyable knowing that this was one street I could walk down that late at night and not worry one bit about being harrassed or hit on. If I'd been a man, it might have been a different story.

The next day I was in meetings all day, and then I flew to Montreal to meet with the head of the second agency that just recently joined our ranks. When I got there, one of my contacts took it upon herself to serve as my personal tour guide. (I'd been to Montreal before, but never had much chance for sightseeing.) We drove up the "mountain" that the city was named after, and ended up at a delightful little park jutting out into the St. Lawrence where we watched the sun set over the city. Aaaahhhh.... Then we headed to Old Montreal to try to find a place to eat. My tour guide couldn't find either of the restaurants she'd considered taking me to, so after much wandering, while our tummies grumbled in complaint, we ended up at a Greek place where we ate in the garden and sipped wine until nearly midnight. Yes, it was another lovely evening.

Tuesday was another day of meetings, and then I flew home. On Wednesday I worked all day preparing for a big event we were hosting on Thursday morning. It was a media event, so I had to do all the prerequisite work like sending out press releases, working out the details with the political big wigs, etc.

Thursday morning - the big event. A couple of politicians flew out from Ottawa to attend a celebratory event we put on where they announced that the government was increasing our annual funding from $16 million to $20 million. Yikes! Plus we gave a sneak preview of the video we'll be releasing with Steve Bell. (Remember the trip to Ethiopia with the film crew? The first of two videos from that trip is basically completed. I'll share the link once we have it online.)

The event went smashingly well. Lots of people showed up, everyone was in a good mood, there was good food to eat, the sound system worked well, the media showed up, nobody screwed up their speeches, I didn't forget the names of any of the important people (I was the MC), and there were warm fuzzies all around. Whew! I made it!

So, with a busy, intense week behind me, I celebrated by taking Friday off. We took the bikes to Assiniboine Park and rode the trails there, and ended up at the local ice cream joint. Felt like a fitting end to a crazy week.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

All this for a book

Twenty minutes of driving around Assiniboine Park looking for parking, ten minutes walking from our car at the far end of the zoo parking lot to the festivities near the conservatory, being jostled and bumped by about ten thousand people (give or take a few), standing in line for forty-five minutes just for the chance to buy a few candies from Honeydukes, being surrounded by hoardes of people speaking a language that's almost entirely foreign to me (dementors? quittiche? I don't even know how to spell those things), another hour of waiting in line for the magic moment when they opened the van doors and popped open the first box... all of that was worth it for this look of pleasure on my daughter's face at 12:06 a.m. We managed to get a little food into her at lunch time, but that's about the only time she's lifted her nose out of the book all day. Wanna know how it ends? She'll be able to tell you by nightfall.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Remember a few posts ago when I made a rather cryptic comment about trying to plan a trip to meet some "important" people, but also needing to be here to plan a big event with some other "important" people? Well, it's ALL happening. IN ONE WEEK. Two major meetings and one big media event in three different cities in three provinces in the course of FOUR DAYS.

Yes, I expect to be a little stressed this week. But a good stressed, if that makes any sense. It's all exciting stuff - the kind of stuff I thrive on. The organization is growing, the program I lead is growing, we're throwing a big party and inviting lots of people including the media, we're showing off a new video project on which I am listed on the credits as "Executive Producer" (yikes!), I'm meeting two sets of new partners who are excited about the chance to work with us, I get to fly on a few airplanes, and I get that familiar rush of feeling that I, and the many people I work with, have done well. That's the kind of stress I can handle.

I'll try to come back and tell you all about it when it's all said and done, but for now, don't look for me on this here little ol' blog. Or in the comments boxes of yours.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Honoured to know her

Sometimes you meet someone, and you see a spark – a special light – something that shines through them and draws you to them in a unique, powerful, and almost irresistible way.

Nestar is one of those people. She is a rare gem, a force to be reckoned with, an inspiration, and an ambassador for truth. She is bold and beautiful, gracious and sweet, intelligent and strong. She is all of these things, but yet she is humble.

Nestar is from Uganda. She grew up in one of the most difficult environments any child has ever lived through. Her village was attacked when she was three years old. Family members were killed. They had to escape to save their lives. She has lived with the sounds of gunfire nearly every night of her life. Gunfire. Nearly every night. Let that sink in for a moment.

Nestar has been in Canada for 11 months. When she first arrived, her host family took her camping. She lay there in the tent, terrified, but too shy to say anything. At home in Uganda, sleeping in the bush was the equivalent of suicide. Rebels live in the bush. Murdering rebels. She wondered if she’d see morning.

Nestar has spent the last 11 months as an ambassador – bringing a little bit of Africa to Canadians. People across the country have fallen in love with her – and with good reason. You almost can’t resist loving her. But at the same time, you stand in awe of her. She is powerful. She is gifted. She is brilliant. She will change the world.

You can hear Nestar speak here. If you have a few minutes, you really must listen. Hearing Nestar speak will change you, even in just a small way. She will open your eyes to injustice. She will inspire you to act for change. She will change the way you think of Africans. She is no victim. She is no weakling. She is none of those things ethnocentric North Americans often attribute to Africans. She is grace and power all wrapped in one beautiful young woman.

Note: If you don’t have time to listen to the whole interview (and you really should find the time – it will be some of the most valuable time you’ll spend today), at least listen to the second half where she so brilliantly and graciously responds to narrow-minded callers who say things like “isn’t the hunger in Africa the result of their own sin?”

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thanks for the memories...

Note: This was supposed to have sound, but it didn't work and I don't want to waste more time trying to make it work. To hear the song I'd picked, just visit ccap's blog and watch her slide show - we picked the same song.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


The sun is shining
my bike tire is fixed
I’ve figured out how to delegate some of the work that was stressing me out
and we don’t have to replace the furnace.
My perspective is much improved today.

Ironically, it was this universal truth that I found strangely comforting last night.

I will disappoint you.

It’s true.
I will let you down.

If you are my employee
and you
always expect me to be fair
and never to be selfish or forgetful
I will let you down.

If you are my friend
and you expect me to remember your birthday
and always think of calling you when you’re sad
I will disappoint.

If you are my daughter
and you think that mommies should never get angry
and always have time to listen
I will fail you.

If you are a busy volunteer
and you think that I should phone you regularly
encourage you and show appreciation for your efforts
I will fall short of your expectations.

If you are a blog reader
and you visit expecting to be entertained each and every time
by elegant prose and witty anecdotes
I will miss the mark again and again.

If you are my mother, husband, sister, team member, neighbour, brother, or just a person I see on the bus once in awhile,
I will most certainly let you down.

It’s not that I intend to.
In fact, I try hard not to,
and there may be long stretches of time when I live up to all of your expectations.

But somewhere, somehow
I will disappoint each and every one of you.

That is the way of human relationships.
There is disappointment sometimes.

Because, like you,
I am wonderfully and awkwardly human.
And flawed.

But that’s not the end of the story.
These three simple words in a Martyn Joseph song
made the universal truth bearable last night.
“Waiting for grace”

I am waiting for grace.

It is grace that lets me get up this morning
and try again.

It is grace that lets you forgive me when I fail.

It is grace that gives you understanding and compassion for my flaws.

It is grace that makes something beautiful out of the mistakes.

It is grace that makes love grow even in the face of disappointment.

This morning
I am waiting for grace.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Today I am stuck
It’s raining again
The tire on my bike is flat
Sleep didn’t cooperate last night
The carbon monoxide tester woke us this morning (does this mean the furnace might need to be replaced? Groan)
Someone emailed me to say “get your act together and show some appreciation for so-and-so who’s feeling neglected”
I got another rejection letter in my inbox
I haven’t written anything creative in ages
I can’t seem to remember how to write anything creative
My work is piling up all around me
I’m losing a staff person, which means more work to add to my piles
There’s some conflict that I need to step into the middle of
There’s chocolate milk dribbled down my kitchen counter, and when I saw it this morning, I just shrugged and walked away – too many messes to think about
Somebody important wants me to come meet them in Montreal
but it happens the same week somebody important needs me to be here
to organize something even more important
so I might not be able to go
I think I’ve managed to disappoint someone
maybe more than one “someone”
I’m tired
I can’t seem to organize myself out of chaos
I have too much to do
I don’t know where to begin
I have to notify a bunch of people that we’re losing one of our staff people
I have to figure out how to get all the work done that the person used to do
without losing my mind
My in-box is overflowing
I doubt myself today
I might feel better if the sun would come out
and I could go for a walk
I can’t seem to get anything done
because I’m stuck
in a rut
It feels like too much today.

(Sorry about the whine. It's all I'm capable today. I'll try harder tomorrow.)