Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The end of the journey

I'm in Toronto at my favourite Bed and Breakfast. I have one more lunch meeting today, and then I fly home this afternoon. It's been a long and full (and so many other adjectives - all of them good) journey, and I'm looking forward to being home with my dear family.

I'll be loading more pictures on Flickr eventually, but for now, here's a little taste of the many places I've wandered this week. (In no particular order.) These are just the "places" pics, the "people" pics will come later when I have more time to share the stories that go with them.

For a little more on the transformative impact of the trip, go here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Perfecting the art of doing nothing!

I'm in Cleveland! If this trip were to end right now, it would already be worth the trip. (And the best part hasn't even begun yet!) It has been truly wonderful. The train ride was sublime (you meet the most amazing people on a train), wandering around Chicago was delightful, meeting Connie and Sandy and Christine was everything I dreamed of and more, meandering along the shoreline of Cleveland was magical, and relaxing in the hotel room has been rejuvenating.

It's been perfect timing, because Jamie Ridler's book club "The Next Chapter" is studying "The Joy Diet" and the first chapter is about adding a little more of "nothing" into our lives. I've added it in big doses in the last few days. Sitting and staring out the train window, wandering aimlessly down the streets of 2 new cities... it's all been a lot of joyful "nothing", but EVERYTHING at the same time.

I know it will be whole lot harder to find 15 minute snippets in my day-to-day life to continue the practice of doing nothing, but for now, I'm certainly enjoying what I've got. One day at a time.

There are a whole lot more photos to come (Millennium Park is amazing at dusk), but this seemed like a suitable "nothing" shot.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stories, photos... you name it

I got tagged by my dear friend Sandy (with whom I get to hang out in Cleveland in just a few days! Yay!) with this photo tag meme.

1. Open your first photo folder.
2. Scroll to the 10th photo.
3. Post the photo on your blog and tell the story behind it.
4. Tag some CREATIVE JUICY people to do the same!

Luckily, the first photo folder on this particular computer holds my Ethiopia photos. It's not a terribly inspiring photo, but at least it's from an interesting place. I'd just arrived at the Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. I was suffering from major jet lag, but I was SO EXCITED I just had to start snapping pictures. My hotel room had a small patio out the back which I took full advantage of - sitting for hours reading, writing postcards, and processing all that I'd witnessed.

I arrived in Ethiopia 3 days before any of my companions did. I was bringing a film crew into the country to film some of our agriculture programs, but before they could enter, I needed to obtain the necessary film permits and government blessing (which required a whole lot of leaping through hoops, sweet-talking, and... well, it's too complicated to tell you the whole story). In between multiple visits to the appropriate government offices, I wandered the streets of Addis Ababa (and that's an adventure, I tell you!), and did a lot of de-compressing on the very spot on my patio that this photo was taken.

One thing you should know about Ethiopia that you probably never heard from anyone else - it is a STUNNINGLY beautiful country! Set aside all the images that come to mind when you think of Ethiopia (you know the ones - people dying of famine) and imagine a place where you begin your day of driving with vistas that rival the Rocky Mountains, in the afternoon you drive through the desert, and in the evening you pass through the Grand Canyon. In between, you reach the top of a plateau that is so surreal in it's odd apocalyptic beauty that there are no words to describe it. Your jaw gets tired by the end of the day because it has dropped so many times. A few of my other photos are here.

And now it's time to tag someone else. Hmmm... let's see...I'll go with
1. Michele
2. Anvilcloud

On an unrelated note, those of you who were present at my launch party for my new website (and maybe even those of you who weren't) might enjoy the guest post I wrote about it over at this blog.

On giving and receiving

My lovely friend Michele is my guest today over at "What are you giving away". She's got a great post about whether in sharing our gifts we are actually receiving more than we're giving. Check it out!

I'm looking for other guest posts, so please consider submitting one!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Random bits and pieces

1. I just made chicken noodle soup. I make a lot of soup, but I think that's the first time for chicken noodle. Frankly, it was a little intimidating and felt like I was walking on sacred ground. My grandmother made THE. BEST. CHICKEN. NOODLE. SOUP. BAR. NONE. Oh you may THINK you've tasted good chicken noodle soup, but until you've sampled the soup made with farm-grown chickens and fresh homemade noodles made by the loving hands of a Mennonite grandmother, you don't know chicken noodle soup. Mine tasted quite good and the family was pleased with it, but it's a pale shadow of what remains sacred in my memory.

2. Nicole's been getting a little bored, sitting around letting her leg heal, so last night she had a bit of a party, inviting 4 of her closest friends over. We went out for awhile and when we walked in, the house was filled with laughter. I love that. I think if I were to write a mission statement for how I want my home to be, "filled with laughter" would be up at the top of the list.

3. Some of the keys on this computer are sticking. If a word happens to be missing an "n", blame the keyboard.

4. Later this week, I'm going on an adventure and I am so excited! It involves a 24 hour train ride (lots of time for reading, writing, and daydreaming) a couple of days in Cleveland with some very cool people, a day spent at this amazing workshop, a couple of business-related days in Toronto where I'll stay at my favourite B&B, dinner with one friend in Toronto, and then lunch with another. Is that fun or what?

5. Is this not the most spectacular September you have ever seen? It almost makes up for the crappy weather we suffered through all summer.

6. N&J signed up for a flyer route, and wouldn't you know it, they got the call the week Nikki had knee surgery. So of course, Mom got recruited to walk and walk and walk for two hours - on the hottest day we've had all year. Two hours of walking and we didn't think to bring a water bottle. Ugh. But the fun part? You get to check out a lot of houses - I didn't know we had such a cool neighbourhood!

7. Last weekend, Marcel and I took Maddy and Abby (our niece) fishing. What a delightful day we had! Within minutes of our arrival, both girls had caught their first fish. Maddy's a fishing veteran by now, but it was the first experience for Abby and let me tell you, that girl knows how to show delight!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


She's thirteen. She's beautiful. (Aren't ya diggin' the blonde highlights, compliments of her mom?) And she's going for knee surgery today.
My athletic daughter tore her ACL (ligament) in her knee playing soccer and now she has to have it repaired. Considering she was quite a worrier as a child, she is amazingly relaxed this morning. And...wow - I wish I had her determination and drive! Our physiotherapist friend taught her an exercise routine to do for pre-hab (so she'd heal faster) and she has been faithfully going to the YMCA to work out, often running up to 4 miles on a damaged knee. She is SO determined that soon she'll be back to playing soccer, and volleyball, and basketball, and... well, you get the picture. I marvel at her dedication/focus and look forward to watching where it takes her in the future.

Feel free to send up prayers on her behalf. I expect there will be some impatience in the weeks to come when she's unable to do the things she loves most.

Update: She is home and in good spirits. The nurses were rather impressed with how athletic/strong/resilient she is and so they sent her home early (tonight instead of tomorrow morning). The pain is manageable and we hope and pray for a speedy recovery so that she can return to the sports that she so loves.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cookies, unemployment, and health care

I'll admit it - I'm seriously in the dark when it comes to understanding the recession and I'm even MORE in the dark about the debate around public health care in the U.S. Being a Canadian who has enjoyed easy access to public health care all my life, and never having had to worry about whether we could pay the medical bills (even when finances are tight), I am completely puzzled with how much fear and objection there is to what's being proposed in the U.S. Sure our system's not PERFECT, but at least I didn't have to re-mortgage the house when I ended up in the hospital for three weeks before finally giving birth to our stillborn son Matthew.

For the most part, I can simply ignore the news stories around some of these issues, because it barely touches my life. But when I read stories like this one on a blog I've been frequenting lately (written by a Twitter friend), suddenly the stories begin to feel a little closer to home. It just doesn't make any sense how a wealthy country could deny its own people access to equitable health care.

There's nothing I can do about fixing the system, but there is one small thing I CAN do for a family that's struggling to survive in the face of huge obstacles. I can buy cookies!

I grew up with some of those similar challenges (with incredible parents who struggled to stay afloat financially), so I know what kind of toll poverty can take on a family. When I saw that this family was selling cookies to try to pay the bills, I did the only thing I could - I ORDERED COOKIES! And it turns out that Priority Post delivers cookies across international borders!

You can do it too... order cookies! I barely got a chance to sample the ones that showed up in my house, because my three daughters devoured them like ravenous dogs (you'd think we didn't feed them! yeesh!), but the crumbs they left at the bottom of the box sure tasted yummy.

Just to tempt you further, here's a bonus picture of a Tootsie Roll eating a cookie! (Tootsie Roll costume not included with your order. You'd have to pay me BIG bucks to make another one of THOSE.)

School's back in session!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In with a whimper, out with a bang

In years to come, we'll probably refer to the summer of 2009 as the "summer that wasn't". I don't remember when we've had so much disappointing weather. Mostly cool and rainy... followed by more cool and rainy. I think I wore shorts twice, and when I went shopping for clothes in the middle of the summer, I bought cardigan sweaters instead of cute little summer outfits.

But... at least it finished well! Gotta look on the bright side, I suppose. We just finished a perfectly lovely long weekend and we managed to celebrate the sun and warmth in almost every way we could. We went for bike rides, we took an artists' studio tour of the interlake region north of our fair city, we went to the beach (as did thousands upon thousands of other starved-for-summer folks - oh my - the crowds!), we ate ice cream, we went for more bike rides, we went for drinks on a patio with friends, we went for walks - we did it all. Basically, we tried to live a whole summer in one weekend and, short of sitting by a campfire, we almost did.
At least now we'll be a little more prepared when Fall starts knocking at our door.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What do you wish to begin?

When I read Jamie’s prompt for Wishcasting Wednesday (what do you wish to begin), I thought… oh my! That’s an easy one! There are so many things I want to begin!

The truth is, I’m a little addicted to change. I get restless if things stay static too long. I need something new in my life on a regular basis – a new adventure, a new job, a new project, a new creative art form to sink my teeth into, a new friendship – or I get bored and restless and a little bit ornery. (Just ask my husband about the look on my face when I get that “new project energy”.) That doesn’t mean I can’t stick with things (I’ve been married 16 years and a mom for 13 and don’t need to change either of those things!), it just means I need a few changes on a regular basis to balance the things that stay the same.

I come by it honestly – my mom lived on the same farm for 30 years, but she desperately needed SOMETHING to change, so she re-arranged the furniture nearly every week. We never knew for sure where the couch was going to be. Now that she’s off the farm, it’s not the furniture that’s moving, it’s HER. She’s barely in the same location 2 weeks in a row. It’s not unusual for her to call me from Wisconsin when I didn’t even know she’d left town.

But let’s get back to me… when I hear the word “beginnings”, I get a little giddy. The problem is, I get so excited about new stuff that I don’t always have enough focus to concentrate on one thing at a time. Right now, for example, I’m contemplating about a half dozen courses or workshops I’d like to take this Fall, but chances are I’ll get so flustered with trying to make the choice that I’ll suddenly realize that it’s a week too late to register for any of them.

So it’s time to focus my beginnings. This week, I want to begin (or at least register for) the following:
1. An art course of some kind. I think I’ve picked the one I want, now I just have to get around to registering.
2. Some way of learning more about the practical side of building my own consulting/writing business. I haven’t figured out exactly where I’ll start, but it could be a book, an e-course, or a local workshop. (Any suggestions?)
3. Find some serious focus time on how to move www.whatareyougivingaway.com from a lovely community space to something that generates an income for me. I know what I want to do – now I just have to spend time getting it done!

That’s more than enough for now. All the rest can wait!

p.s. Check out my guest this week at www.whatareyougivingaway.com. Some of you will know him!