For lack of anything better to write, here’s a list of the little treasures on my desk (and bookshelf and filing cabinet) and the little stories that go with them:

– A pottery figurine of a child lying on the floor leaning on an open book and gazing at a globe. This was a gift from my sister ccap, because she understands things about me and shares a common love of both reading and traveling.

– A Russian matryoshka doll which my brother Dwight and sister-in-law Lorna brought back from Russia. I love nesting dolls, and it is particularly significant to me because I once wrote a play (and had it produced) called “Wooden Dolls” which is about the various versions of ourselves we keep hidden inside the polished exterior.

– A magic eight ball. Ask a question, shake it, and the answer will appear. I bought it for fun when ccap and I were in New York City. I wanted some simple answers to my many questions.

– A black and white picture of me and my girls.

– A mini wooden artist’s model, because I’ve always dreamt of being an artist some day.

– A carved wooden bowl that has an elephant leaning over as if to drink from the centre of the bowl. I bought it in Tanzania and I use it as a candy bowl.

– A family picture that’s a few years old and should be replaced. Maddie’s still a baby in the picture. All three girls are wearing the matching purple dresses I made for them one Christmas. That’s the last time I sewed them matching outfits.

– A small translucent globe. I got this as a parting gift when I left my last job because they knew I was coming to work for an organization involved in international development and that I would do some globe-trotting.

– A small yellow cab, also bought in New York City, just because I loved all the yellow cabs in that fascinating city.

– A squeeze toy, also shaped like a globe. (Are you sensing a trend here?)

– A couple of plants that I’ve managed to keep alive for 2 and a half years (nearly a record!) One is actually a whole collection of plants in one pot – it was sent to me by a friend of mine on my first day of work here and it is still looking quite healthy.

– An inukshuk that was presented to me as a thank you gift for speaking at a communications conference. I spoke about crisis communications after my experience with communicating about SARS (I managed media relations at the lab where it was tested). Just recently, I met someone who’d been at that conference and she actually remembered something I said, so at least I made an impression on one person.

– An orange squishy toy/stress ball that my friend Jo-Anne gave me when she left work to start a new job. She was hoping for less stress in her life.

– A goofy-faced toy that speaks when you slam it against something. It usually says “You’re bothering me!” Maddie loves to play with it when she visits my office.

– A small plastic monkey. My friend and colleague Kelly gave it to me when we got through the huge challenge of communicating to the public that the lab was beginning to use monkeys to test deadly diseases like AIDS and SARS (we had to call them “non human primates” in all the communication material, because it sounded more scientific and less like cute fuzzy animals).

– A beautiful carved gourd that I bought in Africa. It has designs and animals (elephants, rhinos, and zebras) carved all around it. I bought it when I went to the market in downtown Nairobi with my friend C-L. To me, it holds memories of Africa.

– A pottery bowl that I made when I was learning how to use a pottery wheel (sadly, I never became proficient). It’s full of lentils and beans and rice, and for me it represents a begging bowl. Buddhist monks use begging bowls to go out into the streets of the village to beg for their daily portion of food. It represents their commitment to living simple lives and asking for only what they need and no more. It’s also about having trust that they will be provided for. I strive to live more like that, so I have the begging bowl to remind me.

I love all these little treasures gathered around me because each one of them tells a little story of my life and many of them are connected to special people. Sometimes I use them for ice-breakers when I facilitate workshops – each participant is asked to pick out an object and explain to the group how that object represents their life. It always seems to open up interesting stories.

What’s on YOUR desk?

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