Reflections on my 43rd birthday

1. I didn’t know 43 would feel so YOUNG!
2. I thought I’d be smarter by now.
3. No matter how old and comfortable in your own skin you get, it’s still always nice when someone remembers and wishes you a happy birthday.
4. It seems my daughters managed to pick up a little kindness along the way to teen-hood. The oldest two bought me the soundtrack for Slumdog Millionaire for my birthday.
5. It feels good to know that, at 43, I’m pretty close to where I’d like to be in my life. I live with few regrets.
6. Perhaps we should be in the habit of making birthday resolutions rather than New Year’s resolutions.
7. In my 44th year, I resolve to be kinder to myself and to the people I love (yes, that means you, Marcel.)
8. I resolve to give away more things.
9. I resolve to forgive myself for wasting time.
10. I resolve to be me and not wish I were someone else.
11. I think this might be the year that something big will be launched. I’m not exactly sure what it looks like yet, though.
12. My Brazilian friend wished me a Brazilian birthday wish for “everything that is good in the world”. I like it.
13. I really need to make a better effort to record people’s birthdays. A friend on the east coast phoned me this morning to wish me a happy birthday – I’d mentioned the date months ago, and he wrote it down and remembered. That’s classy.
14. A few years ago, I was working at a place where I wasn’t very happy and had few friends. Nobody wished me a happy birthday all day and I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday. It was a lonely day.
15. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, several work friends know it’s my birthday today. It doesn’t feel as lonely.
16. I wish I’d made lunch arrangements with a friend today. A birthday lunch would be nice.
17. At 43, I guess I’m about halfway through my life. I think the next half is going to be the best half.
18. The first half’s been pretty good too.
19. I like being in my forties. It feels old enough to have gained a bit of wisdom, but young enough to still be foolish now and then.
20. The only problem is – I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up.
21. I just got a lovely serendipitous Skype call from one of my favourite people who’s in Holland right now. She didn’t know it was my birthday, but phoned me spontaneously none-the-less. It was a lovely birthday surprise.
22. In a second call from Holland, it was lovely to hear the harmonizing voices of my mom and her husband singing happy birthday to me.
23. I should be at home right now, reading a book. I just heard from a friend that there’s an old saying that “if you spend your birthday working, you will work every day of the year ahead.”
24. I have met a lot of really cool people in my 43 years.
25. I’ve been to a lot of really cool places in my 43 years.
26. After the 2 calls, I’m wishing I were in Holland right now.
27. Our consultants just sang happy birthday to me on a conference call. That’s what you call “going the extra mile” as a consultant.
28. In another lovely birthday surprise, I’ve just been invited to participate in a fundraising art exhibit! Ach! The organizer couldn’t believe I’d only started painting in January.

Interviewed by Liz

Liz sent me some interview questions, and though I’ve been a little deliquent lately (not to mention sleepy) I finally got around to answering them…

1) You’ve traveled a lot for work. Is there any one place that you’ve been to that you would like to take your family and go back for a family vacation?

Do I really only get to name ONE PLACE? Hmmm… There are lots of places that I visit and I think “oh man, I would love to bring Marcel and the girls here some day.” But if I have to narrow it down to one place, I will say the Octagon Safari Lodge in Tanzania. It is a magical place with some of the most gracious hosts you will ever meet at a resort. It is owned by an Irish man and a Tanzanian woman. I didn’t meet the woman (she was traveling at the time), but Rory is absolutely perfect for a place like that. He makes you feel like you are his absolute FAVOURITE guest of the year. His staff are the same. After a long, hot, dusty drive, they greeted us with warm moist towels and glasses of fresh mango juice. It felt a little like what I imagine heaven to be. And the surroundings? Oh my, what can I say? It’s near a lovely Maasai village, just on the edge of the amazing Ngorongoro crater (a dead volcano that you can actually drive into, but we couldn’t because we were in a bus and you need a 4X4). It’s not far away from the Serengetti where we saw the most amazing animals by the hundreds.

Here’s a pic of my friend C-L in front of the lovely little cottage we shared at the Octagon.

2) If you had a whole day to do anything you wanted to with no restrictions, what would you do?
A WHOLE DAY? Guilt free? Sounds dreamy! One of the things I LOVE to do, but never can find enough time is simply to wander. Just wander wherever my feet take me. That’s why I enjoy my business trips, because in between meetings, I wander around whichever city I’m in. I think if I had a day to myself, I would find places to wander (maybe by bike and by foot). I would stop to sit in a park to read for awhile, or watch the children or ducks or whatever happened by. I would stop in a lovely café for a cup of tea and maybe to write in my journal. Then I would wander some more and maybe end up in a bookstore or art gallery. I’d probably take my camera along and look for some cool artistic shots. At some point, I’d have to end up by water – a stream, river, lake, or even water fountain. I always find myself drawn to water. Perhaps in the evening I would phone my husband or a few of my closest friends and ask him or them to join me in my wanderings and end up somewhere for a late supper and relaxing conversation. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is the PERFECT kind of day to refresh me.

3) How did you come up with your girls’ names? Are they named after anyone?

Because Marcel is French, we tried to find names that could be pronounced equally well in both French and English. Nicole and Madeline are just names we both liked, but Julie is the name of my best childhood friend. Nicole and Julie each have one of my names as middle names, and Madeline has Marcel’s Grandma’s name as a middle name.

4) What is your favorite flower?

Hmmm… that’s a tough one. I think I’m most moved by Spring flowers, partly because they are so refreshing after the long, cold, monochromatic days of winter. It’s a toss-up between lilacs and daffodils. I rarely walk past a lilac bush without stopping and burying my face in the blossoms and breathing deeply of the scent. (In fact, one of the daycare workers walked by the other day while I was doing it, chuckled and said “you always hear people saying you should stop and smell the flowers, but it’s not often you see someone actually doing it!”) And daffodils are just so cheery and “honest”, if that makes sense. (In honour of my dad, though, I have to throw in the lowly dandelion as a runner-up.)

5) How long after you met Marcel did you know he was “the one”?

It’s a bit hard to answer this one, because I really don’t know exactly. I’m not particularly romantic, so I wouldn’t say I ever “fell in love”. It was more like “growing into it”, and at what point I would define it as “love”, I can’t say for sure. It took me awhile, because I’m also not particularly decisive. Plus I knew that I would need to do a fair bit of wandering in my life, and Marcel was more inclined to stay close to home (he’s changed somewhat since then). That being said, I knew almost from the start that he made me laugh and that he made me feel “at home”. It just took me awhile to decide that I would be happier with him than without him. He said “I love you” much sooner than I did, but I eventually came around. I think it was probably about a year into our relationship, after we’d broken up twice and gotten back together again. I may not be quick to make decisions, but once I make them, they stick. I couldn’t imagine living without him now. Plus, I’ve been lucky to find wandering opportunities that always bring me back home to my family.

That’s it for me. Anyone else want to be interviewed? Leave a note and I’ll send you some questions.

Five things ccap doesn’t know about me

In the comments of the last post, my sister challenged me to come up with five things she doesn’t know about me, which is rather hard since she’s known me all of her life (I’m older, so I had three and a half years of living without her, but I don’t remember those years), lives five minutes away from me, goes to the same church as me, usually sees me twice a week, and then – as though we don’t see enough of each other – she went and married my husband’s brother. So she even knows about the stuff on the “other side of the family”. This is gonna be tough…

1. One of my favourite things to do when I’m sitting in my office deep in thought (or trying to avoid work), is to stare out the window and watch the group of pigeons who always huddle at the top of the chimney on the building across the street. I think perhaps they like the warmth coming out of the chimney. (I have a large window in my office, but the view is not that spectacular – just the tops of a bunch of office towers.)

2. I’m wearing mis-matched socks today, because I didn’t get the laundry done. They’re both black, but one’s a little more faded than the other one. (And now that I look down on them, in a much brighter room than the one I was getting dressed in, I’m thinking I’d better keep my ankles hidden today.) I’m actually a little anal about matching socks, so this is a little tough for me – but I was desperate this morning.

3. I have a sticker that says “”Unleash Infinity” on the filing cabinet beside my desk. I put it there to remind me of the possibilities and the power that is outside of me but always on my side.

4. (This one she might sort of know, but I’m telling it anyway.) One of my very favourite moments in my life was the moment I stepped off the ferry from England to Belgium and I saw my sister’s face in the crowd. I hadn’t seen her in a couple of months, and we were about to begin our back-packing journey around Europe. Talk about possibilities! (The part she probably doesn’t know though, is how proud I was of my bold and independent little sister, teaching English in Romania, and then trekking across Europe alone to come meet me.)

5. I like inukshuks. I have a small one in my bookcase at work – it’s currently functioning as a bookend. It was presented to me at a conference where I was a speaker 4 years ago. I’d like to have more inukshuks.

How’d I do, ccap? Learn anything new about me?

And, just for fun, a few things you might not know about my sister…
1. Of the four siblings in the family, she is the best one at maintaining her finances – both keeping accurate books and saving money. (Yes, bbb, I know you’re good at the first one, but I’m gonna have to say she’s got us all wiped at the second.)

2. She has a new photography business, and I helped design her website. She’s more talented than she usually admits.

3. She has way nicer boobs than me and I’ve always been a little jealous. Mine are more of the “saggy-baggy-elephant” variety. (Too much information?)

4. She may not have walked a 20 mile walkathon, but she DID walk home from school one day (6 miles) without telling my mom. Yes, she scared the pants off my poor mom when she didn’t get off the bus – especially since she’d decided to walk across country with her friend and couldn’t be found on the roads anywhere. (Oh, and the part about me being freakishly stubborn? Well, that’s a trait we happen to share. It was passed down through the generations on my dad’s side.)

5. Although I was proud of her the moment I stepped off that ferry, I wasn’t feeling quite the same way a couple of weeks later in Spain when we couldn’t find the beach, and we both chose the same moment to let our freakishly stubborn natures rear their ugly heads. Fuming, we stormed off in separate directions, but thankfully we got over it, and eventually ended up on the beach together.

And here’s the bonus point…
6. Some day, I hope to backpack around Europe with my sister again – this time with our daughters in tow.

Five things about me (or “just another post where Heather goes on and on about herself”)

I got tagged by Kristin to come up with five things you might not know about me. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know way more than you want to know about me, since I’m a bit of an open book and I have a tendency toward verbal diarrhea. But here goes anyway…

1. Even though my name is rarely mentioned, I have been “quoted” by hundreds of media sources all across the country and even in other parts of the world. As a professional communicator/media relations person, I’ve written lots of press releases and “media lines” about everything from mad cow disease to world hunger to the commemoration of D-Day. The next time you read or hear that politician or senior bureaucrat so-and-so said such-and-such about this or that, remember that there’s a good chance it was penned by some clever communicator who knows how to “voice-shift”.

2. I love road trips. (Well, almost any kind of trip really, but for now let’s focus on road trips.) I love to drive, even when it’s not a road trip to any particular destination. I could drive and drive for hours and not get bored. I used to go out driving sometimes when I needed quiet time by myself, but now I feel too guilty for burning fossil fuels selfishly. Once in awhile, though, when I’m on my way home from grocery shopping, I “miss” the turn-off and take the long way home.

3. When I was six years old, I completed a 20 (or 22 – I can’t quite remember) mile walkathon, just because I am freakishly stubborn and don’t like to quit. At 40, I am still freakishly stubborn, but I have less to prove, so I don’t know if I’d bother. On second thought, there’s a good chance that, if I got started, you wouldn’t be able to convince me to quit.

4. I don’t like phones. As my husband likes to point out “how can you be a professional communicator and NOT LIKE PHONES?” Weird, I know, but I really don’t. I’m SO happy I no longer need to have a cell phone attached to my hip. If I can avoid using a phone, I will either walk to someone’s office/house if it’s close enough, or send them an email. I’m a much better communicator when I can do it in person or in writing. I would rather talk in front of a room full of thousands of people than use a phone.

5. I once spent a summer dressed as a panda bear at the local zoo. (And you thought those were REAL animals in those cages. Pshaw!) When the pandas were visiting our city’s zoo one year, I got a summer job at the panda photo booth. Half of the time I was the photographer and the other half of the time I was the panda. It was depressingly hot that summer, and I was busy melting in a fur suit with people sitting on my lap. (Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this on another list on this blog, but it’s all I can think of this morning.)

And, because Robin asked, I thought I’d throw in a bonus point. (And, you know, there’s that verbal diarrhea thing.)

6. Robin wanted to know what I do for a living. So, because I am an open book (which you probably occasionally wish you could slam the pages on), here it is. I am the “Director of Resources and Communication” at a Canadian non-profit organization “working to end hunger in developing countries.” (That’s part of the mission statement I just helped re-write.) I lead the team responsible for all kinds of interesting things like public relations, community/church relations, media relations, fundraising, education, and public engagement. On the fun days, I get to travel to interesting countries and take pictures and tell stories of fascinating people who have to cope with hunger but often have greater joy and more interesting stories than many of the people I meet in “rich” countries. On other days, I develop material (brochures, website, posters, videos, press releases, newsletters, etc.) to help the organization communicate hunger issues. On the least fun days, I deal with human relations issues that come with having a staff of nine people. (This is where my phone albatross becomes a bit of a hindrance, because most of my staff lives in other provinces than I do.)

Here’s me on one of those fun days (well, except for the fly that’s trying to crawl into my eye – it may be one of the 5 that committed suicide in my tea that afternoon):

(Kristin – by the way, that’s me in Kenya. I threw that in because you mentioned Kenya in your list of 5.)

Now go ahead, tag yourself. Tell me something I don’t know about YOU.

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