Thursday, June 21, 2018


I think that after a stressful event there are two ways to react: 
A happy dance, energized and exultant one whoops it up
weak-kneed, shaky, teary with relief one sinks into a chair 

I was the latter today.

6 years ago I stood in the shell of a decrepit old castle with a good few inches of bird (and other) poop on the floor and wondered if I (and others) must be mad to think children would one day play safely in this space.  

It has been a long journey, with many setbacks and obstacles.  This is the only project I actually walked out on in frustration and anger when things were not going in a direction that was respectiful of the children who would one day occupy the space.  I believe I packed up my stuff, as the room looked on in silence, and said something like "I wouldn't put horses on that playground let alone children.  When you decide to offer a space that is worthy of young children feel free to call me but this is not it".  
Someone called it a "power play" but is was my moment of "enough".  

These spaces are created for children and families and Educators but they are a piece of a much larger political and social agenda.  It can be tough to navigate and as merely the tennant we can get sidelined and squeezed out.  But we held the line for the children. We always do.

All those busy days, those days of discussions on flooring and lighting and the size of storage rooms, the height of windows and so much more (the discussion on the height to toilets is 15 emails long alone!)...  they... are...over! 

Today we had our final inspection in order to be granted a license to operate Gardens Children's Centre (notwithstanding the fact we have spent 50k, hired 9 staff and enrolled 40 families already) and we PASSED with flying colours.  

And I sat down, weak-kneed and teary after I high-fived my colleague.  

I am deeply grateful for all the people over all the years who stepped up to make this place the beauty it is today.  If ever it took a village, this one took a city, a developer, a non-profit and a ton of hours of work and thought and commitment to get us over the finish line.  

I have loved being in the castle for the last couple weeks (often on my own just taking it all in - reminiscing on the journey) but my time of start-up is coming to an end soon and I will be going back to my regular desk and the laughter, tears and energy of the smallest citizens will be the soundtrack here of living their lives alongside our excellent educators here.

My heart is full of gratitude and expectation for what this place represents for our community now and for decades to come.  Our vision is unfolding again in a new place - "Changing the world by honouring childhood"

And now I need a kleenex and a coffee. 

May the work we do, make the world we live in, a little more worthy of our children". Tom Hunter

Monday, June 4, 2018


Remember THIS start to our 8 week Warrior Challenge?


8 weeks - 8 nutritional challenges which were cumulative and 8 physical challenges which - thank goodness - were not!

This is what I remember:
Drink one large glass of water before you do anything in the morning (then proceed to spend the day calculating your distance from the bathroom)
No eating after 8pm (no problem.....on weekdays)
Drink a glass of water 20 minutes before every meal (see above for bathroom impacts)
Have 20g of protein at every meal.  40g for Allan.  
Prep all meals for 4 / 5 days at a time.
Have Vegetables at every meal (Please note: Bacon is not considered a vegetable) 
No sugar (no comment)
No alcohol (whatever - it was one week) 

500 push-ups (somehow continually cursing made these go faster)
Sleeping 7-8 hours a night ( ha ha ha ha ha ha - it's been over 2 decades since I put up those kind of sleep numbers)
A lot of V-ups (my abs, my abs, where the hell are my abs?)
20 minutes cardio 3 times a week (excluding gym time)
A jumpy, inchworm combo thingy for 5 minutes a day (total fail for me on this one - there are certain things one can do in a hotel room with a colleague - I felt this crossed the line)
1400 body weight squats (these were a pain in the butt... as they should be)
Ankle Grabs (I like these - I can do a lot in one minute, but in 2 and 3 and 4 minutes - UGH it's like time stood still and so did my core...but I ground them out while moaning loudly on the livingroom floor)
400 burpees (no words can describe my disgust at these but man my push ups are so much better than they were in week 1 - I have arm muscle bulges)

Anything I missed I must have blocked out.

But we DID do it - almost all of it... almost always together.

And some things will totally stick with us beyond the Challenge.  

Our water consumption is WAY up and more consistent. 

We have added spinach and protein powder to our normal morning smoothie and cut the orange juice making it a much healthier start to the day.  

We experimented with egg bites - egg/veggies and protein baked in muffin cups and then taken to work and reheated.  Allan loves them.  I cannot.  My egg pickiness cannot be overcome.

Our carbs are way down.  We cannot get through even a small loaf of bread.  The occasional bagel with peanut butter is still my comfort morning treat though. 

And beyond that we have much better awareness of good nutrition, the many ways sugar is hidden in everything, the muscles that hurt the most and the hate we have for burpees is unchanged. 

So today we measured and weighed in - we already knew we weren't going to see staggering numbers but we lost a couple pounds and a few inches between us.

When we got to the gym today - Coach Jeff walked over to congratulate us - we thought it was for surviving the Warrior Challenge but it wasn't... it was for being named the Clients of the Month at the Dojo - I choked right up and blinked really fast - to be recognised for the 66 weeks we have worked our butts off, through injury and pain, for having conquered some demons in trusting my body again, for having met so many incredible coaches and new friends and to be in the company of some of our greatest fitness inspirations, feels incredible.  

We couldn't be more grateful for this challenge, even the burpees and no beer week.   and all the support from our Coaches and Team mates #halusa!

We are warriors, even if only in our own minds... we have more battles to come ... I have yet to conquer the famed Hurricane class and we have aged bodies that still need a fair bit of conditioning.

But we are doing IT... one class, one day, one burpee ankle grab at a time.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

An unconventional life

Every now and then someone enters your life and leaves an imprint disproportionate to the length of time you have known each other or the amount of time you spent together.

Scott Taylor was just such a person.

He came into our lives a few weeks after a certain brown labrador did. 

And when I say came - I mean we begged him to come to our home and tame our wild thing.  

He walked into our home, as he would on more than one occasion, hat on head, long hair in a ponytail, a twinkle in his eye and more insight into dog behaviour and how to manage it than we will ever know. 

Scott is a large presence physically and emotionally.  

He does not beat around the bush - he tells it straight.  So he sat us down - without the dog and promptly dismissed any myths we had about dogs.  "This is not a Disney movie - this dog does not love you" "Your family is a pack and Spanner will be wherever in the pecking order you let him"  "This dog can be a jerk if you let him - your behaviour will determine that" "Teachers and Social Workers are the worst dog owners - way too soft!" 

We sat wide-eyed and wide-eared and I frantically took notes (determined to buck the teacher/social worker trend)

And then he asked to meet Spanner. 

In 30 minutes he tamed that little monkey into totally obedient submission.  Spanner did things we did not know any dog could do much less a mischievous puppy.  All of this in the family room.  And Spanner was completely exhausted from the mental gymnastics Scott had him doing.

Our jaws were on the floor. 

That was the start of our relationship.  

For two years Allan and David (sometimes Lindsay and I too) drove to Point Grey to do dog training classes with Scott.  Scott's friend Sue had bred Spanner and she and her dog Solo came too.  David would help Sue with Solo while Allan worked on Spanner. Scott was the benevolent emperor of the room.  Sometimes storming around barking orders and other times sociable and chatty.  But always completely spot on with the dog training.  Scott knew Spanners Mom (Tanka) and Grandad (Hudson) and he recognised the traits that needed work and helped Allan to manage them.  

He would return to our home and do some on-leash training with me and the kids who struggled with 65 pounds of labrador when said labrador spied a squirrel, a person, a candy wrapper..... within an hour Scott had Spanner walking with us all and then off leash with him on Steveston Hwy - an unbelievable display of Scotts incredible wisdom and skill with dogs. 

Scott died tragically a few weeks ago and we have carried our sadness around with us as well as many questions we wish we still had the chance to ask him.  Today we joined an incredible mix of people to remember Scott - a man who had hardship and heartache but found a way to live out his passion and in so doing inserted himself into the stories of so many. 

So much of enjoyment we have had with almost 6 year old Mr. Spanner was thanks to Scott and the hours Allan devoted to the training.  Allan and Scott found a way to communicate and worked on some projects together.  Allan the educator helped Scott the dog trainer to connect better with his clients while Scott imparted so much knowledge that Allan has so diligently used to make Spanner the delight he is to our family.

Scott will forever be remembered in this home.  With gratitude and a few good stories.  

Go well our friend


Allan, Nicky, Lindsay, David and Spanner Hudson Byres

Sunday, April 8, 2018

And so it begins....

So the big 52 week milestone at the gym came and went.  

And then 53, 54, 55.....

It was sorta anticlimactic.  

And the thought of another consecutive 52 weeks until the next milestone seems unattainable with an overseas trip etc...

So when they announced they were having an 8 week "Warrior Challenge" at the gym - we thought - what the heck! It will give us new focus and new drive. 

I was a little.... well ok.... a LOT ...terrified.

A Warrior Challenge sounds terrifying no?  This sort of image sprang to mind....

But no one can work out in all the armour and I am pretty sure the Dojo is a no weapons zone.... so WHAT could it be?

Coaches become quite vague all of a sudden, but also utterly confident that this is just what you should be doing.  But WHAT are we doing.....???

Despite the subterfuge we signed up and showed up on Saturday to be oriented. 

145 people divided into teams - each with a head coach.  A brief overview of the WHY...ya ya .. lets get to the WHAT people....

But no... first to the measurements..... UGH.

I suppose if one wants a measurable goal then one has to be measured.  

And weighed. 

A few more instructions and encouragement and then to wait for the weekly video on Sunday to detail the week 1 physical and week 1 nutritional challenge.

So we went home and carbo loaded.  

I'm not kidding - it had the feel of the last supper. 

Sunday morning arrived.  We waited and ate a big breakfast - we're not stupid.... nothing is Officially ON until the video is out. 

It's week 1 - how hard could it be?  They will start us off easy I'm sure.

The video was posted.  

We clutched our coffee cups and hit play.

Blah, Blah , Blah.... Week 1 physical challenge is.... do 500 push-ups.  

I'm sorry?  WHAT did he just say?   Even he paused to let that sink in.....

5 0 0 

Allan had already calculated it was 72 a day and some keeners had already posted they had done 100.  

WHAT????? - I was in disbelief. 

I haven't done 500 push-ups in my life.  I'm the girl with the gimpy arm remember.  I only started doing push-ups about 5 weeks ago.  And they are ugly.

5 flipping hundred. 

Oh yeah - the nutritional challenge (which unlike the physical one is cumulative) ... Nothing but water after 8pm at night.  Now that seems reasonable to me. ANYONE can do THAT.

500 push-ups

I ranted and raved around the house for a bit.  Told Allan we should have signed up as one person and halved the load.  And a few other things. 

I did the groceries (no chips I swear) and went for a walk and to a lovely art workshop that I made a cool shadow box diorama thing at.  Walked home and had tea with Allan.

And did 25 push-ups on the living room floor

As wannabe warriors do - apparently

I wanted to cry.  

I cleaned the floors and prepped the vegetables for dinner.  

Allan came back from the man house and made us do 25 more.

It's unbelievable.  It's madness

I have done 50 push-ups

A lovely Sunday roast is in the oven so we can eat before 8pm, settle on the couch and watch the Call the Midwife, sipping our water and be free and clear

Except for those next 25 push-ups which WILL be done. 

If you see a slightly round, middle-aged woman in the elevator tomorrow who seems unable to lift her arm to hit the button....please...for the love of all that is good...ask her what floor she needs and hit the damn button for her. 

Thank you.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Spring Break 2018

There is never a more loved or longed for vacation in our family than...Spring Break.  

For whatever reason the stretch from Christmas is long, or Christmas is so busy we start the year tired...or something....

But when we get Spring Break in our sights we start to breathe again.

This year was no exception except for the exception that only 2 of 4 Byres actually get Spring Break now.

That's odd.  

We have so many wonderful Spring vacations Oregon coast, NYC, Disneyland, California, Tofino.. to name a few.  

As you'll know Allan and I had a wonderful restorative break in Ucluelet this Spring Break and Allan had another week off when we got home (Dear powers-that-be please never go back to only one week Spring Break!).  He did lots of chores (re-caulking the shower, cleaning up the man house aka garage /workshop etc) but also had lots of time to play which for him right now means wood carving. He did some cooking, some movie watching, some reading and we had a few social engagements.  As I type this he is getting off the boat from a crabbing expedition with his buddy Fil.

My week was less enjoyable as our field continues in an HR crisis such as I have never experienced.   One wonders how we go on when there are so few people to hire.  Sigh.  And the demand for child care services is surging as Government made an historic investment in reducing fees.  It's a bit of a perfect storm but the good ship SRCC will sail on through as long as we can.  The upside is I am getting to be on-the-floor with actual children more than ever - it's such a good reminder of why I slog through budgets and interviews and funding applications and new facility development... and quite honestly 4 year olds are some of the most interesting people on the planet.

So as the cherry blossoms pop around us we start the final sprint of the school year - June commeth sooner than you think!  And for me the opening of our 6th child care facility on July 1 means it's going to be quite the sprint.    The new centre is in a castle - I kid you not.... very cool space to work with.

Our beloved children are much much closer to the end of their respective years - the end of 3rd year for Lindsay (one more to go) and the end of 1st year for mr. D comes mid-April.  Lindsay is not coming home this summer as she found employment in Victoria and has her apartment until the end of August  - it makes total sense as she finds her new sense of place over there and it helps her feel more settled and less pulled in 2 directions.  Thank goodness we have the trip to South Africa together or I would be bereft!  David will be home in slightly under 3 weeks and we can't wait to have that boy back.  He has a job and will be working in a local law firm until we get on the plane.  He and Lindsay fly home ahead of us to get themselves settled back into housing and readying for the school and David has some training for his new Residence Advisor (RA) position for next year! 

It is quite unbelievable how fast the months fly by.  

So we journey on into Spring (come on Spring - you got this!) and then into the glory that is summer.  Already the evenings are long, the soil is warming up for planting and the jackets stay on their pegs in the front hall more often than not. 


Monday, March 19, 2018

Me Day

For 3 hours today I was in a far away land.

I needed no passport.

I tossed my fitbit in a basket and crept between the covers on a warm bed, tuned into the nature sounds being piped through the speakers and surrendered to the expert hands of a magician / masseuse. 

Ahhhhh yes  - the de-stress, seaweed wrap massage and aromatherapy treatment I got as a birthday present was joyfully redeemed today at the aptly named Nurture Day Spa. 

Followed by a pedicure with a view of the harbour during which I chatted with the owner of the spa who with her husband opted for the simpler life and dropped into Ucluelet 15 years ago.  It was very tempting to let my mind drift to similar possibilities for Allan and I.

All too soon Allan returned to extract me from my happy place and we did a little drive around Ucluelet and then "home" for lunch.  

A nap crossed our minds at the same time the sun decided to peep through the clouds so we opted to make the most of that (seeing snow in the forecast for Friday - WHAT??).

We drove the 30km to Tofino and payed our homage to the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery  and then wandered around town poking in and out of cool and wacky shops as we did.  Allan is on the search for some first nations carving knives for a first nations mask carving course he is taking.  We popped into a thrift store but found nothing.... well, not nothing, as it turns out.

No knives were to be had but the shopkeeper directed Allan to Chesterman Beach a little ways down the road and gave some vague directions to a Carving Shed on the beach where "George" would be carving and may have some info.

We hopped into the truck and away to Chesterman we went as the sun broke through the clouds although the little breeze that popped us was pretty chilly.  We started to walk along the beach looking for "George" and his shed.  We walked the whole beach and found nothing but beautiful homes with enviable waterfront views, plenty of dogs for Spanner to meet, and a few brave surfers. 

As we headed back to the car I suggested we take one last look in the opposite direction - in the small amount of beach on that side.... and lo and behold... we found the most amazing place. 

And "George". 

A carving shed, with wood and tools and art and so much history.  A sand and sawdust floor, colourful characters sitting around chatting.  We were warmly welcomed and we chatted for a while.  No knives, no great carving oracle with amazing wisdom....but a shed that could tell some incredible stories if it could.

It was so very cool. 

A brief stop at the cottage to change and then off to the famed Norwoods for dinner - a reservation obtained many weeks ago. 

It was sublime - a warm spinach salad I shall dream off ..... I can't even talk about the chocolate bombe with sour cream ice cream and the whiskey foam... 

How this day was just as magnificent as yesterday blows my mind.

Off to the hot tub under the stars with the sea lions barking half heartedly in the distance. 

I love Spring Break.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bacon and eggs, wine and cheese, coffee and cream

There are some things that are just better if they are together...


me and Spring Break

forests and the sea

and how lucky am I these all came together today.  

We started our day at 5am which was only made memorable by the conversation and antics of the St.Patrick's Day revellers stumbling home.

A quiet ferry ride under grey clouds gave way to sun in Victoria where our beloved girl and Mr Joel were waiting for us at a funky brunch spot close to Oak Bay.  SO lovely to visit with them and catch up.  Oh how we miss that sweet, sassy, smart, beautiful girl.  

A walk on the beach with the kids and Spanner and then we headed north through showers and sun and 4 hours later, after the epic winding road, we arrived (tires still inflated - yay) at the edge of Canada.  

In sunshine and without a breath of wind - miraculous for this part of the west coast of Vancouver Island. 

And we knew we were lucky.

We hastily moved into our charming cottage on the edge of a cove - all cedar and light and trees and a hot tub.... perfect for a week of restoration.

But we put on the walking shoes and leashed up the hound and hit the trails.

The sound of the ocean was enough for this weary self but the late afternoon light through the wind beaten forest, the haunting whistle and clang of the bouys in the ocean, the sun on our faces 
the spouting, huge, crazy spouting of ....WHALES just off the coast line!  

We walked the wild pacific trail for a few km and were amazed and humbled and grateful around every corner.  

I couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

This is beautiful country even in the mist and rain that usually lives here but on this glorious sunny warm spring day - it was heart-stopping, soul-filling.  

A walk back to the cottage,  appy's (of course) and steak dinner and a puppy snoring, exhausted, and soon into the hot tub as the tide turns below us and the stars populate the clear sky. 

And then to sleep deeply

I am not sure I would rather be any other place in the world right now.