Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Budget Blues

I wonder if CEO's in big ol' mahogany boardrooms on high floors with expansive views agonise over their annual budgets the same way I do.

I think probably not.

I'm only the ED of a medium-ish non-profit but on this day that I present my budget for the year starting in September, I am utterly conflicted and feeling vulnerable with my less-than-extensive financial background... they didn't cover managing 2.5 million dollar budgets in my Social Work degree.

I have been staring at multiple spreadsheets and numbers and inputs and considerations and financial statements for days - my eyes are actually physically tired.  My brain is frazzled, terrified of accidentally deleting a formula in excel I could never fix, trying to make line items add up and make sense....

But really it is my heart that is most exercised. 

Not to completely appropriate the cliche of a bleeding heart non-profit leader BUT there are real people behind all these numbers.  

People I care deeply about and for whom I want to do well by. 

I want to pay my incredible people decent wages and offer them good benefits.  But, in this user-pay system, that means asking for more money for the service itself...from families, many of whom are already struggling to pay what we charge in fees now.  Knowing that for every $20/month jump in fees a family could loose their child care. 

It's finer than a fine balance - it's a social fabric balance we really cannot afford to screw up. 

There are times I think this is all a mugs game and I cannot change the world here - I can't live my dream of affording it all - those numbers just won't add up.

But then paradoxically I am reminded that I need to make those columns add up, I need to get that bloody minus sign to take a hike, because this work is worthy... it is needed...it needs to happen.

It's my job to make it so.  

The buck literally stops here (actually come to think of it I could use a few more bucks to stop here anytime now).

So my ED pants are on. The spreadsheets are done.  The columns add up (sort of).

Fingers crossed someone is happy at the end of today.

PS: I won't burden this post with my thoughts on why Early Childhood Education should be publicly funded but trust me....it should be.  And not just for my sanity. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016


smh - "shake my head" text lingo

That is about all I could do as the news from around the world came flooding in the last week or so. 

cmeo - "cry my eyes out" or bmh - "break my heart"  are likely not commonly used text abbreviations but give this crazy world a few minutes and you just might see them cropping up. 

So much to be so sad and daunted by and feel so hopeless about.  

In my many steps walked I have prayed for all of it.

And for me.

What should my response be?  what should I do or say?

I find big feelings stirring watching the drama of "Black lives matter" being subverted to "All live matter".   I grew up with white privilege and the power and pain it brought me personally.  Many times I literally longed not to be white.  Or I longed not to be judged just because of the colour of my skin.  I wanted to be known for who I was not how I looked because how I look makes a difference in this world -  a difference heavily in my favour. 

Of course all lives matter - DUH - if that were not a universal principle then the world would descend into anarchy and worse.  Instead we guard life, we celebrate life, we work to have lives of meaning and we dream of lives of peace and health and prosperity.

But Black lives, in many places and clearly in the USA, matter more right now.  Because they are under disproportionate attack.  Not for who they are or what they do but simply because they are black skinned.  We  - the privileged people of the pale skin - must stand up and be part of the solution here.  To deny your immense privilege through zero effort on your part is only to choose to stay part of the culture that continues to be driven by fear and mistrust based on nothing more than colour.  

It is such a complex issue and we have had some very deep conversation in our home and circles of friends and this blog post is no solution - it's just been striking to me that my life in Apartheid South Africa - and the luck I had of being brought up to understand my privilege - is a lesson lost on many today.  It is not lost on my children now - I can't afford for them not to understand, at some level, the luck of their birthright, country of citizenship and all the other benefits afforded them.  

I carry these weighty thoughts around with me, thinking for long stretches of time, contemplating actions and reactions - sometimes trying to think about other happier or more mundane things and sometimes wallowing in the pain I know others are feeling.

These last few Sundays I have found myself alone.  Allan writing papers, Lindsay working, David away.  I hate going to church on my own.....I don't really know why... but I do ... so I have planned my Sundays to keep me moving, to practice a little self care for my body and my mind and my heart. 

I have walked miles, gardened, had a pedicure, done the groceries, cooked, cleaned, baked... Surprisingly I find myself emerging a little as I do these things on my own.  I have found space and the return of some creativity, some rest, enjoyment of the time....my prayer life is better, my self-talk more positive and my life feels a little more balanced.

So while there have been many moments that "bmh" and I have "cmeo" and "smh"..... there are also many affirming moments, moments of joy and connection and LIFE.  

From me, on this self-care Sunday, to you..... wrestle with the hard things and be humble and graceful and embrace your story and take care of your heart.... we need each other.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


The Dixie Chicks were part of the very eclectic sound track of the many road trips we took when our kids were little.  As new immigrants we eagerly explored this land and, in retrospect, were pretty fearless about taking the little people on big car journeys.

And we love music.  

We would all bring along our favourite CD's and we'd draw lots for the order we'd get to play them in.

We would veer from Queen to Crazy Frog to Tracey Chapman to John Denver and Charlotte Diamond.

And the Dixie Chicks.  

A clear favourite for the bouncy melodies and the clarity of the lyrics.

At some point an inquisitive mind in the back seat had a question about Earl. 

Because, as you may know, "Earl had to die".  

In a moment of parenting genius he will never live down Allan decided that at their tender age revealing that Earl was an abusive husband murdered by his wife and her best friend was not happening and so - for reasons we cannot fathom but remain in awe of - he said "Earl was a goldfish".  

And that ended the conversation - the children already fairly well acquainted with dead pet fish in our house - accepted the statement without ado.

And as these things happen - we forgot to reveal the truth when they were "old enough" and it wasn't until a scowling pre-teen stood looking at us one day declaring  "Hey - Earl was not a fish Dad" that the lie was revealed, to much hilarity on our parental part.  It took some time for the children to forgive us.

There was no doubt when the Chicks announced a Vancouver stop on this tour that we had to be there - a family memory-making trip to sing along and relive some old times.

Until David decamped (ha ha) to Kelowna. 

So we elected an honorary Byres to fill his spot and our boots and blue jeans are on and we are ready.

Lindsay is wearing a shirt that says - "My parents told me Earl was a fish" - or she would be if I had thought of that in enough time to get one made but alas.....

We'll be singing "Earl had to die " tonight with big smiles on our faces as the Chicks rock the arena.  (and missing our Mr D for sure!)

Monday, July 4, 2016

The story of summer 2016 - Chapter 1


It's me.

I've missed you but I have been languishing in the land of " I have nothing to say" or rather "I have nothing worthy or noteworthy to say".

Every summer has a story and this summer of mine is a bit "lite" on story line.

No big plans, trips, renovations...

It's an odd summer - a summer of being a three-wheeled family - a summer of studies and a whole heap of working (mostly to pay for all the learning and learners I am surrounded by!).

And so I thought - meh - who wants to hear about that.

But in a curious way this lack of summer activity has me quite wrapped up in thinking and contemplating.  

It's funny how the absence of TO DO lists and itineraries and online bookings can create a space both in time and in my head.

Those of you who know me well know my internal head space is not quiet and so in a paradoxical way I find my head super busy even as I have less to do.

And that brings me here, where words need to find the page and dislodge themselves from my head.  

My summer story may be dull but many would choose it over their own and I am mindful of that.  

I'm contemplative about what I might do with the time and space and I am the tiniest bit worried that the answer will not be found in action and activities of which I am so fond but, just maybe, in a quieter time, a space to sort out some things that I have conveniently ignored (like facing the Brene Brown course!)

And so I am gate keeping the never ending work (she says having worked all long weekend) and just wondering what may be revealed if I make even the tiniest bit of space.

I'm cautiously curious and, if I am honest, there are a few things I already know I need to take care of. 

Like find a new Dr.  UGH.  Help me someone.  I need a female Dr who will listen to me.  I miss my beloved Dr Joy so much it hurts.

So my summer of space starts here, now, with a commitment to doing something about my physical health (I'm fine btw - no worries - just tired of not having a primary physician who doesn't listen or even seem to care and a bit skeptical of his assessment lately).

Let's see if the story of "summer lite" can deliver a twist in the tale. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Hello June my old friend
I've come to talk to you again....

I know the ways of June - I see them coming, I brace myself but no matter the planning, thinking, strategising I am always sucked into the June vortex a strong and capable woman and spat out the other end a strong, capable and oh so weary woman. 

It's how I imagine it feels like to be in the spin cycle of the washer - a short but crazy ride that leaves you weak kneed.

But no matter the craziness - the multiple events, the never-ending TO DO list, the running around - there is a sort of amazement at the end of it all when the sum of those events are contemplated.

Heck - a lot got done!

Lindsay has worked a lot - and signed a lease on an apartment and made housewares and grown plants and made many a muffin.  She starts as a Senior Leader at a summer camp program locally in July socking away those bucks for the those pesky rent payments.

David finished his year strong (even defying the odds of making it through math) and  has been a total social butterfly getting in all the friend time before he leaves for 8 weeks at summer camp tomorrow - for which we can only hope he is, at least, mostly prepared. 

Allan finished the Masters 5-out-of-6-Saturdays slog and is now staggering to the finish line of the school year and hanging on until he is on a lake with a fishing rod in hand.  Which is right before he starts another 6 week double course master stretch while teaching physics at summer school.

I am here...at home...with Spanner (recently recovered from a broken wag - he wagged himself into an injury as only an over-friendly lab can).  

I took today off to get David ready and to pack myself.  

For I saw a gap in this here June and I said to myself - "If I must drive David over the mountains to Kelowna to camp then I may as well grab my fellow adventurer EV and we may as well have a night or two in the sunny wine country...."

And lo it will be! 

In my case I am calling it my summer vacation as the aforementioned schedule of my spouse and children makes an actual summer vacation a pipe dream.  The Byres4 will actually not be back together until Thanksgiving or so - a fact on which I refuse to dwell - such is life with older teens - they don't need a moping mother dragging them down.

So I am packed... the car is ready... and my heart is going to override my weary body and I am going to have myself a merry mini break starting tomorrow.

The sun will shine, the tunes will play, the coffee will be strong and the chatting long and sustaining. 

There will be mountains and wine and lakes and food, good food.

There will be a bed and a breakfast and a dear companion.

So take that You June You.... You have been more than survived! 

We are stronger than that!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The absence of Power

It has been an incredible 3 days of learning and growing.

Lots of new ideas to process and contemplate and wonder about.  

Some conundrums to puzzle about.

And soon decisions to be made for action.

There was absolute delight for me in moving from an email relationship into a friendship-in-the-flesh with the keynote speaker Ann.  A genuine and intelligent woman  - kindred spirits we are in so many lovely and interesting ways - allies in THE WORK we do and passionate about many of the same things.

Although I remain far from as eloquent as she is and far from as deep a thinker about incredibly important things in the early childhood field in terms of pedagogical leadership and literacy of place / ecological identity in young children.  She lights the path for those of trying to figure it out and mentor others into this important and transformative work.

This was my first event planning gig flying solo without my dear Joyce as my event partner. 

I sure missed her but I used all our collective knowledge and planned the absolute heck out of these three days.

I had 5 million details and I covered almost every one.


Two things did not go as planned.... 

I forgot the tea bags.  I had remembered to order Hot Water for the odd non-coffee people and then I forgot their tea bags which some reacted to as the ultimate betrayal.  All day I saw people scanning the table in search of tea bags....UGH!  I hate to miss a detail.

And then there was the power.  

Or complete lack thereof.  In any outlet in any proximity to the sound system or computer/projector set-up.

Despite calls to facility people for help and some inventive stringing together of multiple extension cords to reach the kitchen, 9am came and went with no sound or power point.

And boy was I sweating.

And so annoyed that despite all the things I HAD thought of, planned for, triple checked... I had sunscreen, first aid, back up of every handout and art supply, back-up batteries for the mic, extra extension cords... I did not have a back up generator.

At 9:10am a facilities person arrived and unlocked the electrical panel and we had power!  But gone was my planned 30 minutes for sound check with equipment I had never used before but thanks to the fact I had set it all up 2 days before in my living room and David had given me a good tutorial, which even in my mild state of panic I managed to recall, we were underway with the day by 9:15am.

I was a hot mess but once my heart rate returned to normal and I washed my face and reapplied my lipstick and had a coffee and a muffin sitting just outside the room listening in, I regained my equilibrium and the day went off without another glitch.

All in all it has been a wonderful journey from dream to idea to plan to execution and today the weariness in my bones is a happy one, a fulfilled one.

I am full of gratitude for all the folks who played a part in getting it done...our field is better, richer, for the experiences so many of us had over the last 3 days. 


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Failing and Winning

People ask how my Brene Brown course on Daring Leadership is going.

It is not. 

I stalled out on Lesson 3 and that was a couple moths ago.

I blame time constraints and shared office space. 

In truth it is because it was hard.

Hard in a therapy-is-hard kind of a way.  Hard-hitting , heart/emotion stuff. Values, priorities, truth, self-worth, shame.... HARD stuff.

So I stopped.  I don't want to do that work right now.  I know it's there, I know I need to pay attention to some of those things. And I might.

However, before you deem me a lost cause, I did complete all the reading.  I do reference the principles espoused quite often.  I think about it a lot. 

And in 3 days, if all goes well, I will have passed the practicum part of the course.

If there was a practicum part.

Because tomorrow - tomorrow starts 3 days for which I "Dared Greatly".  I actually stepped out of my sometimes bewildering head space and DID something to make a HUGE goal of mine happen. 

And Lo - People listened, ideas were endorsed, plans were made and a process has unfolded that has been deeply personally and professionally enriching.  

Tomorrow one of the great thinkers and writers of the Early Childhood Field, a world renowned speaker, a genuine and authentic human and a person I can now call a kindred spirit (and she does the same of me) will arrive in Canada, in little ol' Richmond BC and begin a 3 day event.

I am truly beside myself with excitement (and just a little overwhelmed and exhausted!!).

Tomorrow night she speaks to 200 folks and on Saturday she does an all day event at UBC for 90 Educators but on Friday....on Friday my Dare Greatly moment becomes reality as she spends the day with just my Leadership Team. 8 of us and Ann Pelo....at my house...delving deeply into the work we do and ways to lead it better, more deeply, with more authenticity and congruency. 


Of course at this moment I am frantically cleaning the house, preparing hundreds of details, sending last minute emails to my long-suffering colleagues, learning how to manage a sound system microphone thingy, double-checking multiple lists and I suddenly needed to buy new pants to wear (not really but it seemed important an hour ago when I dashed to the Mall and was smiled upon by the shopping Gods).

So as I sit in a chaotic jumble of stuff and emotions I have proved to myself that I can step into the Arena and "Dare Greatly"  - that I can act and collaborate and make things happen  - that I CAN actually do something GREAT, something that matters greatly to my colleagues and the children and families we work with, something that moves our organisation into a new place - THAT, my friends, is a win despite stalling out on Lesson 3. 

Wish me luck - it's going to be an amazing few days in my world!