Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 2

So after 300 squats  getting the tile up and vacuuming yesterday I can barely walk today..... being an Anglican was very challenging - Up, down, up down...... Ai YA!

But the work must go on........

And on it went with crazy speed.  Today's focus - the brick fireplace in the family room.

If the white tiles cracking made me happy the red brick falling made Allan happier.  Notice he used power tools and I just used my own  super powers!  And a hammer.

Construction Selfie!

The dust still won the day despite our best

David and I took half a ton of bricks to the dump - over 500kg....the lady on the way out who was billing us couldn't believe we had THAT much stuff.

Lindsay showed up to home!  And that damn sub floor is now level!

My parents brought us dinner - Yay for parents!

Off to shower the dust out of my hair AGAIN and take more ibuprofen!


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Reno 2014

Yeah we know it's crazy to take on a sizeable reno in the dead of winter over Christmas.

But that is our kind of crazy.... We do it so well.

We did the thinking and planning and so when we started yesterday within hours of the final school bell we were ready. 

We got off to a great start. It's always exciting to start... I was particularly delighted to hear the first of the white tiles in our entrance hall crack.... No turning back now!

It became clear that while most of the tiles came off with a chisel and hammer ... The "stuff" under them would need more power. 

We rented a scraper and Allan did a masterful job of getting the floor cleaned off.

Here's what I learned today:

1. No matter how much you hope the sub floor will never be level.

2. Dust will escape your well hung plastic barriers... And the 50 shades of grey in your hair are 49 shades of dust.

3. When you add lots of sweat to the dust in your hair it turns to a concrete like texture.... Lovely!

4. Good friends bring fuel in the form of hot food.

5. Everyone in the house should have had hearing protection ... Especially Spanner who was not a happy camper and thanks to the ringing in my ears I will be the one singing loudest in church tomorrow.

6. A pop-up Starbucks outside out house would be super helpful ... Anyone got a contact? Could be loud and dusty but there will be super friendly and frequent customers!  Until then there is tea.

7. Those small extras one ends up needing ... Foam underlay, paint, floor leveling stuff, drywall hole filler (oops) .. they add up cost wise.., quickly.

8. Sometimes redoing things isn't time or cost effective ..... New baseboards for us... Selling 100ft of well used baseboard to defray above noted costs - good deal available for the right customer!

9. Lindsay, who suggested we do this reno now hadn't been seen since breakfast ... We knew that girl was smart!  She has been at paid gigs all day.... But she did make bacon and pancakes before abandoning us! And got us Blizzards after dinner.

10. Demo is fun but is followed by double time of cleaning up. The shop vac and I are well acquainted.

11. Ibuprofen is your friend.

12. No point in pulling all nighters... Quit and enjoy a meal and a drink by the Christmas tree as the rain buckets down.  Plus we are too old for that.

13. It will all be there tomorrow!

You notice that missing spindle on the staircase.?
And tomorrow... Big moves on the brick fireplace .. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A birthday and A gift

My good friend Graham texted me this morning to wish me a Happy Blog Birthday.... Which was awesome mainly because he is my biggest critic/cheerleader (I hear his voice when I blog... Sometimes I listen... Sometimes I dont) and I totally appreciate a friend who will be keeps me thinking and also because I had totally missed that it was the blog birthday!

So happy 4th birthday to my space on the www.

This blog has given me much joy and much needed space to process my life... To document our family, our adventures and misadventures ... For future generations of Byres to laugh heartily at no doubt!

To you dear readers - my deep, deep gratitude - you keep me going!


Today I got a gift , not for the blog birthday, but a Christmas gift that touched my heart deeply. 

It's been "a year".... A tough year... I am tired.... Very tired.... And for the last week I have been feeling unwell and in a lot of pain from a pinched nerve in my upper back....

I may, possibly, have been a bit grouchy... My inner Eeyore may have been getting the best of me.

But today at 3:30pm all my Senior Staff from all our Centres very suspiciously happened to be milling about outside my office making curious small talk..... My radar was well attuned to something being up...

Once the last person arrived I was presented with a gift ...... Even now I find it hard to express how touched I

It is a painting, an original painting by a local artist ...

Painted FOR me!

I love love this artist and my senior staff wrote to her about me and then she painted this for ME!!!!!!!

It's called "Grounded Strength" and it's an April Lacheur original! 


I was tearful and speechless for all the thought and effort that went into this gift.

I am undeserving of not only the gift but the words they each wrote.

They, Jennifer and Farida and Jolanta and Helen and Linda and Jannel, they make me want to live up to those words... To push through the hard times and continue to do this work with THESE people....

It was a great moment I shall long cherish in my heart.

I am one lucky Leader.

I am one deeply grateful Leader. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Remind me, remind me not......

1 year ago tonight I wrote THIS blog post from a far far away place.........

My favourite little app "Timehop" has been reminding me everyday of what was happening one year ago today (as well as 2, 3, 4 and 5 years ago).....


It is so bittersweet and that blog post I wrote a year ago I could almost write again from the perspective of being here and longing for there.

It feels acute right now...... I haven't felt like this all year but right now those memories are heavy on my a good a way of remembering that brings joy and deep gratitude but also a strong undertow of longing.

Longing to feel the sun, smell the air, hear the birds, the voices, feel the hugs........

We were so blessed.  We ARE so blessed. 

It's starting to look very Christmassy over here and the work days of 2014 (which have been FAR too many) are drawing to a close.....the lists are getting done, the recipes being chosen, the renovation plans being finalised........ 

YUP you read that right......instead of a vacation we are renovating the house.  We chose a new floor for half the downstairs today......the front hall, downstairs hallway and family room floor plus new banister and a demo/reno in the family room, freshening up the trim paint throughout......and may a couple of walls........

And YES we are doing it all ourselves.

Seemed like a solid idea when we came up with it....

Why curl up and read books for a week when you can rip up carpet and lay floors?

In the craziness of it all I hope we, and you, can find some joy and peace ..... click this Early on one Christmas Morn for a favourite Christmas song of mine from an under appreciated album.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pro D A+

I just returned from the first of 4 Parent-Teacher conferences I have over the next two days.

And, as always, I am so impressed with the level of knowledge these teachers have not just about my child's academic progress but about WHO they are.  I (mostly) love hearing insights about their behaviour in the classroom, how happy and social and engaged they are as learners.  It's a joy and a relief to hear teachers say what lovely people they are.  

"We" are still a miserable failure in the homework on time / handed in /  done well department but I digress....this isn't about's about them......which is sort of about us......

Let me explain.

At the last Teacher Professional Development Day at my kids school (also the school at which my husband is a Teacher) there was an elaborate plan hatched.

The teachers were handed a schedule as if they were a student.  They got a few minutes to study it and figure out where they had to be and when.

Then an announcement over the intercom came that switched the class order.......with just a minute or two until the first bell.

They rushed to get to their "class" where a teacher acting as a teacher gave a lesson.  Some "students" chose to be disruptive, others compliant and the teacher was to create some stress or other
 while teaching.

This was repeated in a couple of classes in the morning.

In the afternoon the teachers sat down to dialogue about this simulated student experience so they could better understand their students and their students experience of stress in the school, in the classroom.

There were discussions about the stress caused by the physical school layout and the time pressure of moving around. About the the stress when "rules" are not enforced fairly.  About different expectations from different teachers.  About the stress of being talked at, having information dumped on you without discussion and time to process it.

Tonight the teacher I met reflected how she noticed there were two "curricula" going on....the social one the students are dealing with (the person I have a crush on, the kid who makes rude remarks about me, the person annoying you biting their nails, the one on the phone under the desk) and then the curriculum the teacher is trying to teach in spite of and through all that other "stuff".  She reflected that this had caused her to think through how to connect with her students differently.

All this to say how deeply touched I was as a parent that the teachers in my kids school cared enough to even try and understand students and their stress, and even more they put themselves through some of that stress......and they really  DID feel the's still the chatter in the school.

And now as a staff team (of 60) they seek ways to help kids find balance,  encourage them to enjoy what school has to offer as well as getting the academics done.... committed to helping kids be successful in their school.  They had some education on how teenagers manifest their stress and they are watchful to spot those and support those kids as needed.

The strike earlier this year was utterly demoralizing and disheartening and most teachers are still stressed, still feeling like they are catching up, adapting their curriculum,  many are still in financial distress and working / learning conditions are no better and sometimes worse in schools (like the heat being turned off at 2:30pm to save money so teachers who work til 5pm are sitting in their coats by 4pm to stay warm as are the students they are working with....... over crowding, under funding, little help for ESL or Special needs...... same old same old rubbish)......SO very sad for them and for our kids.

It's a hot mess in SO many ways and yet.....and yet......the professionalism and commitment continue....because kids matter.

So to the people who teach my children which includes my husband....


And I promise to try and do better about staying on those kids about homework!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"No Thanks"

I had a feeling I might be getting an iPad for Christmas.

Once I found my suspicions were correct I said "No Thanks".

Once again leaving me with the dubious reputation of "worst person in the world to buy a gift for"
and a very perplexed spouse.

I did actually, at one time, think and iPad WAS what I wanted.  And as my eye sight deteriorates a larger screen seems advantageous.

But here's the thing..... having an iPad worries me.

I am already far too attached to my iPhone. 

Far too attached.

As much as I would use an iPad, would enjoy an iPad for many things I think I have proved to myself that I cannot be trusted not to cede far too many hours to that iPad.

So I have said "no, thank you"

Leaving my family in despair.

"What now?" they ask....."Where is your list?"

I honestly have given these questions a lot of thought.  

It's only fair if I decline their big idea that I at least make an attempt to come up with an alternative.

But as soon as I start my conscience kicks in..... I really want for nothing.....sitting here in my warm and cozy living room.....

It doesn't help to imagine that money is no object because it is.... it's a constraint and I want to be wise.

I am sure I could be more stylish but asking a husband to buy clothes brings on hives and he knows me well enough to know if he gives me cash or a gift card I will likely spend it on others.

And this is the massive contradiction I find myself in.

I love buying for others and yet I am totally lousy at knowing what I want to receive.

My joy is more in watching others open their gifts than in opening mine.

I know that makes me a royal pain in the patoot for those wanting to demonstrate their love in a tangible way, who also want to see my joy.

This year has taught me so much about appreciating the small things,  the little gestures, the quiet moments... to appreciate what I already have, to be settled in my heart, not longing for more of anything.

So my apologies to my family.....for being useless at a gift list....remember this....there is always coffee....and books - I love books.....

Maybe this is a guide that would work for me?

Do any of you have trouble with gift lists?

Friday, December 5, 2014


This time last year we "Celebrated" our 22 wedding anniversary in London's Heathrow airport between two veeeery long flights and with one very sick husband.

In fact directly after our airport pub lunch we loaded him up with some cold meds and found some valuable real estate on a day the whole of the UK's air traffic control system went down and half the world it seemed was stuck at Heathrow.......the boys napped while Lindsay and I shopped Terminal 5.  
Tres Romantic!

As if the day could get any more thrilling we made good use of our air ticket investment with high class drinks with "dinner" on British Airways.  Cheers to us.

While we were in South Africa my amazing sister-in-law organised THIS Amazing Race to show off our town to the kids and take Allan and I down memory lane..... which brought us here....

Worlds View - a beautiful spot overlooking the sleepy valley of our old home town, Pietermaritzburg!  
Not JUST a lovely view point but also site of our first date (after the drive-in movie we came here to see the City lights...uh huh....yup....).

So of course, despite being in a madly competitive race Allan and I took a moment to remember our first visit here.....almost exactly 24 years earlier.  
Having the entire extended family watching and knowing "someone" was pointing a camera at us......we kept it decent!

TBH there is evidence of an actual smooch thanks to the lovely photos my sister-in-law sent us this week but it's NOT going on the interweb mainly to save our children from further trauma.

Allan was mortally offended when I suggested the kiss may have actually been a delaying tactic to try and get the boys team ahead in the Race and insists it was to celebrate our love!  
I'll believe his story.....mainly because the girls team won anyway 
(with a Byres at the wheel there was little doubt about that).

Which brings us to today...... almost 23 years after we said "I do" on December 7th, 1991

We are celebrating in luxurious fashion at a beautiful oceanfront hotel.
With good food and wine.

It is one more memory in a marriage spent trying to figure out how to do life together in a way that honours each of us, that calls out the best each of us has to offer the other and our family, that holds onto vows even when they ring hollow, that perseveres and chooses love day after day after day.

It's a moment to reflect and rejoice that we are still together.

And Happy.

And in Love.

A fact that is miraculous to us and held very gently and tenderly for we know the fragility of that gift we have been given.

Allan Byres......I love you.