A few things I need to get off my chest…

Dear Mother Nature;
Come on REALLY?! Another day of -24 C? This isn’t funny anymore! Can’t we start talking about Spring? Crocuses? Buds on trees? T-shirts? Yes we’re hardy folk up here in Winnipeg, but you’re going a little too far just to prove it!

Dear Air Canada;
Didn’t you learn in Customer Relations 101 that it is not good practice to sell someone an airline ticket and then, when the passenger (who booked her ticket weeks ago) shows up at the airport, tell her you don’t actually have a seat for her and she’ll have to fly stand-by? Can you stop thinking about the almighty dollar and put an end to your policy of over-selling seats on airplanes? This is the second time it’s happened to me and I am not amused. It’s NEVER happened on West Jet and their flight attendants are SO much nicer, so you can guess whose plane I’ll fly on next time.

Dear friend who gave me and my colleague the free passes to the airport business lounge;
THANK YOU! I felt so pampered (after an intense couple of days) sitting in big-ass comfy leather chairs sipping free wine and munching on cookies while enjoying free internet (and feeling rather bourgeois and privileged all the while). Yes, I felt a little guilty participating in a system that perpetuates class distinctions, but the guilt passed by the second glass of wine.

Dear SAME friend who nominated me for communicator of the year;
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! You clearly did a good job of describing my accomplishments! I’m gonna owe you big time! May I buy you a glass of wine at the gala luncheon when I receive my award?

Dear friend who hung out with me over Indian food in Toronto;
It was a delight! Thanks for being my friend for 40 years! (Yes, we really have lived that long!) Thanks for trusting me enough to share your secrets. Thanks for being so damn likeable. And thanks for building all those lopsided teepees with me in the bush thirty some odd years ago.

Dear lovely B&B host;
You are a treasure! Thanks for giving me a home away from home in Toronto. I’ve been to all of the other lovely B&B’s but yours is my favourite, partly because YOU are my favourite host. I will be back – you can bet on it. Thanks for saying cute things like “righty-tighty and lefty-loosey”. Thanks for trying out your new recipe for coconut french toast for me. Thanks for pointing out the special towels “just for my feet”. Thanks for not being one of those cookie-cutter hotels.

Dear people who participated in the two day workshop I organized;
Thanks for being so cooperative and appreciative and for not making a big deal over the fact that I screwed up the two days. You made me feel like a leader again. It was a pleasure spending a couple of days with you. I really, really mean it. It is so comforting to know you’re among good people who “have your back” – especially ones who have such like-minded passions and values.

Dear husband;
You are a good teacher. Why else would all of your daughters’ friends beg you to be their substitute? Why else would you get calls from teachers saying that their students had INSISTED that you substitute for their class again? You will be a full time teacher some day, but for now you’re doing a damn fine job of being a substitute.

Dear daughters who made it into the soccer teams you were trying out for;
Congratulations. I’m so very proud of you. You’ve both worked hard to develop your skills and I delight in your accomplishments and your drive. Here’s to another summer of sitting on the sidelines cheering for you.

Dear Mother Nature;
Can we get back to you for a bit? You know all those soccer games I’ll need to watch? Yeah, well, I was thinking… Spring? Could you make it a good one? Please?!?

A bunch of random things about me

I got tagged by a couple of people on Facebook to come up with a list of 25 things about me, so I’m cross-posting here. You can decide whether a.) I’m an over-achiever, or b.) I was bored last night.

1. This Spring will be the 25th anniversary of my high school grad. I’m a little freaked out about that.

2. I do NOT feel old enough to have been out of high school that long.

3. I have three daughters, but have given birth four times. My son was born still. But don’t feel sorry for me – I’m still a very lucky person.

4. I have a job that, most days, feels like it could not be more perfect for me. Lots of opportunity for writing and other creative things, travel to interesting places, a chance to make a difference in the world – what’s not to like?

5. My husband is one of the funniest people I know.

6. I love frozen blueberries with milk. The milk turns all purple and slushy and my daughters turn up their noses at it. But I just laugh and enjoy the cold purple goodness. Mmmm.

7. I love getting published. I have another article coming out in the Globe and Mail next month.

8. My business trips have taken me to Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Bangladesh, Rome, Dallas, and almost every province in Canada. How cool is that?

9. I suffered from a severe case of bedbugs in a rather sleazy guest house in Bangladesh.

10. The photo of my bedbug-bitten legs is my most viewed photo on Flickr. Apparently, alot of people are searching for photos of bedbug bites. My sympathies go out to them.

11. My favourite phrase out of my youngest daughter’s mouth is “can you imagine if…” She has a delightful imagination.

12. On the right hand side of my screen (while on Facebook) is a distracting ad for organic wrinkle reducer. I’m starting to get wrinkles, but so far, I have no desire to reduce them. I think there is beauty in aging gracefully. (I’m wondering if the ad is targeted for me because my profile puts me at over 40?)

13. There are many, many days when I long for just one more conversation with my father.

14. I just took Maddie to see Madagascar 2. It was fun, but at 6, she still hasn’t learned to sit still in a theatre.

15. I have spurts of creative energy – like sometimes I’ll sew for days on end, and then I won’t do it for a year. Same goes for writing.

16. I’m going on a date to a French restaurant with my husband for Valentine’s Day tomorrow. We don’t usually make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, but we’ve been wanting to check out his cousin’s restaurant, and now seemed to be a good time to do it. (You can tell we’ve been married a long time when we plan to stop at Home Depot on the way to check out toilets!)

17. I have a fairly restless personality. If I don’t have some change or adventure to look forward to, I get bored and listless.

18. I started yoga last month and I love it.

19. When I turned 40, I got my nose pierced and then jumped out of an airplane (with a parachute attached, thank goodness). Midlife crisis perhaps?

20. My oldest two daughters play alot of soccer and I love being a soccer mom. I’m really bummed when I have to miss a game.

21. I don’t feel like a very interesting person, but sometimes when I look at a list of things about my life, I think “hmm… she sounds like an interesting person. I bet I’d like her.”

22. I love to read. I have about 30+ books piled up on my nightstand and the floor surrounding it. It makes me feel sloppy and disorganized, but it also makes me feel cozy to be cocooned by books.

23. I’m a fairly messy and disorganized person, and sometimes I think that if people would see the inside of my fridge or my laundry room on a bad day, they’d never want to come back to my house and would probably try to come up with polite reasons why they couldn’t be friends with me anymore.

24. I’m just a tiny bit obsessive. Like now, for example. I don’t think I can stop this list before I get to 25.

25. I love riding bike and I can hardly wait to start riding again in the Spring. I have a beautiful green and silver Trek mountain bike.

26. I think people are often surprised when they find out how much an overweight over-40-year-old like me loves to ride bike. I usually ride about 22 kilometres a day, and yet, I will never have one of those sleek biker’s bodies.

27. When my dad died in a tractor accident, I became a tiny bit obsessed with knowing every little detail of how he died. I’m not sure why – it just seemed important to know what his last minutes were like. My siblings and I went to the ditch where it happened and tried to recreate the details of the scene to figure out how and why.

28. I’ve just been nominated for a “Manitoba Communicator of the Year” award. I’m flattered, and, well… “Gosh, it’s just an honour to be nominated…” (Just working on my rejection speech for when the hordes of media show up to ask me how it felt to lose out to somebody who helped cure cancer by their tireless efforts.)

29. I am slightly addicted to Nutella.

30. I love taking hot baths, but I only take time for them on the weekends because they cannot be rushed. Showers are for days when I have to rush off to work.

31. I don’t have many regrets in my life. Either I have a bad memory, or I’m okay with living with my choices whether they turn out well or not. I think it’s a little bit of both.

32. I worked for the federal government for 13 years, and though there was lots about it that I didn’t love, I met some amazing people, learned alot, and got some great opportunities along the way. No regrets.

33. I should finish this list and go to bed.

34. But 34 doesn’t seem like a very clean number to end at, so I need to think of one or six more.

35. I wish Cheryl Tiegs would stop staring at me and telling me I need her secret for looking young at the age of 61. Didn’t I already tell you that I don’t WANT organic wrinkle reducer?!?

36. I had too many Sour Patch Kids and Coke at the movie tonight. Didn’t my hand and mouth and brain KNOW that I’m trying to lose weight? Sheesh.

37. My favourite body feature has always been my feet. I was more than a little disappointed when they started letting me down and I had to invest in orthotic footwear.

38. I just finished reading “A Long Way Gone”, the memoir of a boy soldier in Sierra Leone. It is an amazing story that you really should read.

39. My kids like to make chocolate chip cookie dough just to eat the dough. I let them. Does that make me a good mom or a bad one?

40. I made it to 40. I’m going to bed.


1. I’m in Calgary, sitting in a comfy reclining chair at my brother and sister-in-law’s. I’ll be flying home in a few hours. I just finished doing a round of interviews. Sadly, we’re losing our Alberta staff and I have to hire again. Sigh.

2. After 8 interviews, I find it remarkable what different energy people bring into a room with them. Some bring an air of confidence, some aloofness, some boundless energy, and some calm comfort. I could almost always tell within the first few seconds what kind of energy the person was bringing and whether I would find myself drawn to that person or not. It made me wonder what kind of energy I bring to a room. I remember being told once, by a boss who became a really close friend, that the minute I walked into the interview, she knew she would like me and that we probably read the same kind of books. She was right.

3. My brother just brought me a Starbucks chai latte and it’s yummy. I kinda like him.

4. In the interests of putting myself out there a little more, and maybe taking on a little more freelance work (it’s what paid for my camera, so what’s not to like), I made myself a website and my kind brother helped me upload it. Go check it out.

5. My sister-in-law is busy taking goofy pictures of her dog. A few minutes ago she was reading sections of a knitting book out loud to me. And when I arrived two days ago, she handed me a lovely wool hat that she’d knit. I kinda like her. (And now she turned the camera on me.)

6. I have to go catch my plane soon.


I was interviewed by the lovely Karmyn of Dreaming What Ifs

#1 – You have been writing about living Fearlessly. What is the biggest obstacle you face to accomplish this?

Well, the most obvious answer to that would be “fear” is the biggest obstacle. But to get a little more specific, I think a lot of it has to do with self doubt. When I’m afraid to confront staff members, it’s mostly because I doubt whether I am blameless enough to have removed the log in my eye before addressing the speck in theirs. And I doubt whether I will offer as much grace as I need to. And I doubt whether I’m strong enough to handle their rejection and their calling out of my own flaws. When I’m afraid to try new things or take risks, it’s because I doubt my own abilities and I convince myself I will fail. When I’m afraid to take risks on new friendships, it’s because I doubt whether I’m an interesting enough person to make it worth their while. To be honest with you, I think self doubt is also a little about pride. I don’t want to tarnish my image by falling flat on my face. So this year is as much about challenging my own self perception (and recognizing how that gets in my way) as it is about fearlessness.

#2 – What is the most important lesson you wish to instill in your children about life?

There are a lot of things I want my children to learn, of course. One of my first responses to this kind of question is often “boldness”, but lately I’ve been thinking that integrity is more important than boldness. If they can live with integrity, being true to their values, true to themselves, and true to the global community, I will be happy. I think integrity is a pretty big word, because I think it also has elements of humility and servitude that are really important for each of us as global and community citizens. If I have to pick an area that I was particularly influenced by both of my parents, I think it would be integrity, so I just want to live in a way that passes that on.

#3 – If money were no object, where would you travel to?

Oh… there are SO many places I want to go. It’s always tough to narrow this one down. I’ve been lucky enough to already go to many of the places I’ve dreamed of, but there are still lots more. I just finished reading Honeymoon with my Brother (about 2 brothers who travel around the world after one of them is jilted at the alter), and it instilled a whole lot of new dreams in me and made me relive the really pleasant memories of backpacking in Europe with my sister (back in 1992 – can you believe we’re that old ccap?). One of the places that intrigues me (partly because I did a science fair project on it somewhere around grade 6, and more recently because of the book) is Brazil.

#4 – If you could meet any Leader, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Hmmmm… This is another tough one. I’m trying to think of someone who wouldn’t intimidate me – who I could sit with in a congenial manner and have a really good inspiring conversation. I really hate those stilted conversations when you meet somebody who’s a celebrity or significant leader, and you just feel stupid and tongue-tied because you feel some pressure to be brilliant and live up to the moment. (In my past job, I met several big muckity-mucks like the 2 former Prime Ministers, Ken Follett and John Ralston Saul, and I didn’t enjoy it that much.) So my inclination is to pick someone who’s pretty down-to-earth. I think someone like Rosa Parks, who was just an ordinary person who made a decision one day that enough is enough. I am most inspired by ordinary people who make bold steps toward change. (I love the quote on this t-shirt.)

#5 – What is the one meal you cook that your family RAVES about?

Well my kids LOVE my homemade oven-baked mac ’n cheese. My husband is pretty tired of the mac ‘n cheese (as am I), but he loves my Thai noodle stirfry. (And if he reads this, he’ll probably beg me to make it for supper tonight.)

Thanks Karmyn!

Anyone else want to be interviewed? Leave a note in the comments, and send me your email address if I don’t already have it.

Where am I now?

This is a bit of a housecleaning random blog post. Just some thoughts that need to be cleared out with the cobwebs in my mind.

– I don’t have a lot of desire to blog anymore. I’m not sure what to do with it – give it up, or try to re-invent it. Or just take a hiatus. Now that I’m having such fun with my new camera, I’ve considered transforming it into more of a photo blog.

– I decided to write a book. And then I told you about it. And now I can’t seem to write anymore. Something is stopping me. I think it’s fear. And of course, the lack of time. But sometimes that’s just an excuse that’s masking fear.

– I’m facing some tough decisions at work. One in particular. The resolution is finally coming clear to me, but it’s a tough road to go down and I want to stomp my foot like a little child and say “No! You can’t make me go there! It’s much safer over here!” Once again, it’s probably fear that’s holding me back. Okay, it’s DEFINITELY fear.

– A while ago, I decided that I needed to reach out to more friends, because I just wasn’t giving enough attention to that area of my life and I was feeling a little lost. And unsupported. And distrustful. The past few days, I’ve had some wonderful conversations with friends – some new, some old. It is reminding me just how good it feels to be known and trusted. And to give someone some truth that you’ve protected. And then they honour it, caress it like they would your tiny baby, and give it back to you a little more beautiful than it was before.

– My oldest two daughters did a lovely thing for their three-year-old cousin. She loves videos and pictures of people that she loves (and, like any three-year-old, pictures of herself). They spent all evening making something special for her and it just fills me with such delight. I’ve never been close to my cousins, so when I see my kids bond with their cousins (like they did at Christmas, with those who don’t live close by), I get all warm and fuzzy.

– I started a yoga class on Saturday. It’s the first time I’m trying it, and I HATE being the new kid on the block (most of the people in the class are seasoned veterans), but despite that, I think I’m going to enjoy it. The nice thing about facing the “new kid on the block fear” is that once you’ve stared it down and done it anyway, you don’t have to go through it again, because before long, you’re one of those seasoned veterans.

– I’m working on a little project. About fear. (Are you sensing a theme here?) I’ll share it with you soon.

– Okay, maybe I’m not done blogging yet.

Nothing much to say, but that never stopped me before

How foolish of me to admit that I’m writing a book, because wouldn’t you know it – those simple words had the powerful affect of sending the muse into hiding. I can no longer write. I simply sit in front of my computer screen and daydream. And pick my nose now and then. These few random thoughts are the best I can muster.

My new office makes me feel happy. For the first time since I started this job (4 ½ years ago), I feel like I’ve really taken ownership of my space. The first office in the old place was big and square and always felt a little awkward. I never got the desk in a position I liked it, and never got around to hanging some of the things I wanted on the walls, so it never quite felt like my space. Then I got down-sized (because we were running out of space and two people needed to share my big office) and I didn’t really have enough room in the new office to make it look pretty or even un-cluttered. Plus the walls were a dull shade of beige and seriously in need of a paint job. This space is different. I love my orange wall, and my wall of windows and I’ve hung a bunch of my favourite photos of people I’ve met in Ethiopia, India and Bangladesh. Plus I’ve got some gauzy fabric draped over my bookshelf and windows. Some of my colleagues are still working out of boxes and few of them have anything on their walls yet. They stop by my office and gaze in envy and admiration at my pretty space.

The photo that’s hanging directly above my computer screen is the one below of Dilip Arong who lives in the Sundarban Islands in India. I love LOVE this picture. We met Dilip and his family on the second last day of our trip, when we’d spent a near perfect day on a rickety old boat putt-putting along from island to island, visiting people who’d lived through a horrible flood the year before. Dilip’s amazing smile and contagious sense of joy reminds me of the beauty and resilience of the people I’m working for.

I’m meeting my friend and mentor Gisele for lunch today. Gisele will always hold a special place in my heart. She was the first person who hired me to be a manager and over the years she has taught me a lot of lessons about trusting that people will give you their best if you give them enough encouragement. The last time we had lunch, her parting words were “it feels a little like our roles have shifted and you’re starting to mentor me.”

At lunch time one day last week, I ran across the street to pick up some pictures just before 1:00. Half an hour later, I was eating in the lunch room when someone came in and said there’d been a shooting on the street and police had taped off the bus stop in front of our building. It turns out someone got shot in the bus stop just moments after I walked past.

The fourth anniversary of this blog is coming up in a few days. My how time flies. Back then I was preparing for my first trip to Africa (to Kenya and Tanzania), and now I’ve got pictures of people I’ve met all over the world hanging on my wall. Lucky me.

Two of my favourite employees gave their notice recently (for health reasons). I’m seriously disappointed. They’ll be tough to replace. (On the bright side, B&S, it will mean I’ll have a trip or two to Alberta in the coming months. Hope, if it brings me to your neck of the woods, I’ll look you up too.)

Some years (like the year I lost my dad, my uncle, and my grandma in a three month period while working at a job I seriously hated) feel like they are just one excruciatingly long dark night of the soul. Pain upon pain is heaped upon you and all you can do is try to keep your head above water. This year feels like the opposite of that kind of year. It feels like contentment.

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