Saturday, August 31, 2013


If you have flown in airplanes much you may have learned to detect that precise moment when the pilot slows the plane and prepares for descent.

Its a certain change in the hum of the engine....a slight change.....

A few minutes later they announce the plane to be on final descent to the destination.

And the passengers perk up and pack up and prepare for arrival.

I felt that moment.....that moment where the journey goes from level to nose down......when the final destination comes tangibly close.

After an incredibly hard week in many, many ways.......despite careful and meticulous preparation the aforementioned hurdles plus the illness of  my trusty sidekick and right hand colleague for the whole week meant a week of running hard.

There were times is was comedic - the number of people needing my attention, the random people showing up to do unscheduled things (like turn off the water for 6 hours just before all the children and families arrived for their first visit!!!), the never ending lists the staff teams kept generating for me to get and do, answering hundreds of questions....... one of the new staff exclaimed in frustration one afternoon "Nicky....we just need another one of you so we can get things done around here!"......OK then!

I was at work before 6am twice and after 6pm twice.  I am surprised I haven't walked a pathway around the building and up and down the stairs.  The Mazda and I ran errand upon errand.   

But on Friday afternoon at 2:30pm I sent everyone upstairs and I turned down the lights downstairs, lit some candles, put on some music and put some driftwood sculptures in each room (that Lindsay and I salvaged from the river at 8pm the night before) and together the staff, their families, my family, staff from across the SRCC, a Board member.... we took time to quietly walk through the space and write down our hopes and dreams for the children, for the families and for the staff in each room and we tied them on to the driftwood.  

The staff had a space to write themselves a letter that I will send them 6 months from now when the newness and freshness has worn off and the work is the work......they took time to put their thoughts down on paper.

It was in these sacred and special moments I heard the tone of the engine change.....I knew we were coming in for a landing soon......and as the staff and families left and I cleaned up the rooms.....I felt the emotion rising.......tired..... bone tired, achy tired, brain tired......and yet proud, delighted, relieved much much to offer the community, such an amazing place.... the work of so many people ......and ready...licensed and ready to welcome families and children and to do the work of "Changing the world by Honouring Childhood" .

I lived into my vision this week - a rare opportunity - a growing and challenging time......but one from which I learned so much and for which I am actually grateful (or I will be after I sleep for a week).

As the tears flowed at home last night as I fell into the warm and sustaining embrace of my family ...I knew we had made it.....the landing is coming and we are going to be alright.  

Thanks for being on the journey with me.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Have you ever watched those hurdles races at an athletic meet......when a hurdler missteps and then starts to hit the hurdles instead of clearing gets ugly, disjointed, inelegant.....its almost impossible to regain your rhythm and get back over those hurdles.

In this race to open our new facility there have been many many hurdles.  

We have switched locations, changed building types and sizes, gone through project managers, real estate contacts, had several communication break downs, too many cost over runs...... not to mention the building burned down 3 years ago and we had to start over.

But through it all, I have managed to skim the top of the hurdles and make it over.....sometimes my toes tapped the top and the hurdle wobbled but it stayed up....

Of course by this point in the race I am pretty darn tired.......there has been a lot of heavy lifting literally as well as lots of background work, human resources, managing budgets when something that was supposed to be a mere formality became not just a minor hurdle but a veritable brick wall that even my trusty pole vault doesn't seem up to clearing......well.....I felt the stumble starting......I changed the pace, tried to outrun it..... close to the finish line it just so totally sucks to have a hurdle that is so significant and could cause a major derailment...... in my best moments I believe someone will break down that wall, reset the lower hurdle I was ready to leap, that exemptions will be made, a huge bureaucracy will be nimble and flexible and fast......that on Thursday at 11am I will have a license to operate as I expected to....

In my less optimistic and more fatigued moments I....... well.......I frankly don't like to think about it.  But if I do then I feel my stomach drop, my heart beat faster and the sweat break on my brow....just like those falling hurdlers must feel......

I keep running......hard.....head up.....knowing there are more hurdles ahead but believing that once this one big one is done the finish line will rise into view and that final burst of energy will be found and the tape will be breasted with joy....... tired joy.

Tomorrow I have the immense privilege of welcoming the new staff team into their new space.  I spent the day there setting it all up to make sure the welcome is warm and invigorating and not overwhelming.  I want them to feel energized, integrated and committed.  I look forward to seeing their teams come together and start the work.  I am so appreciative of their desire to embark on this journey with us.  I am ever grateful for the my trusty 2IC Jennifer who is limping along beside me also desperately searching for the finish line....she has done an amazing job.

Its a big week..... a BIG WEEK........ I am excited for that moment when we gather tomorrow and celebrate the race so far, the hurdles already week the children and families will walk through the doors - WHAT a moment that will be....... 

Stay tuned for Thursday......that is the final hurdle......wish us luck!  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Money and stuff

I have been kept awake at night the last couple of weeks worrying about money.

Not our personal finances but the money to equip the new child care centre and do some work not covered in agreements etc.

I am over-budget.

The stuff in storage was not as much as I thought.

There was way more of the small stuff we just hadn't factored in but when standing at the till paying adds up to more than expected.

Less was done in the building (or done wrong) than anticipated and we have to pay to install or fix.

But yesterday morning as I was in the building alone......dealing with some rising panic......

42 children ready to start, 11 staff, the whole upstairs preschool space still empty and on the back burner for now.......

Two things occurred to me:

1.  It will never cease to make me mad that funding for children is so hard to get.  Why is a small community non-profit being utterly depleted to offer this needed community service?  I know my fellow ECE's and Educators in the public system also lament the funding crunch..... I know this to also be a universal matter ... I read blogs and know organisations across the globe scratching around for pennies for children.  I know this is a problem way greater than my present circumstances and I should do more than just rage about it....but for today my energy and time allow for a hearty GRRRR.

2. The second thing that occurred to me, like a slap upside the head, is that these particular 42 children already have more stuff here than they miles.  Sure their parents are paying a ridiculous amount of money and have certain expectations of "stuff" and of course I want to provide the excellent educators I have hired with all the resources they need.....but really......why I am stressing that there are not enough toy cars or dress up clothes or cd players??  It is so easy to get sucked in to thinking we NEED all theses things but really (once regulation is met and quality care is assured) most of what we still "need" are really things that will make life easier not necessarily better.

I have kept a tower of cardboard boxes that much of the stuff came in or were used as packaging and I bet you those will be more played with in the early days than the $300 doll house.......

It's so easy to lose sight of truth and perspective when one is tired and stressed and feeling pulled and pushed in too many directions but that quiet hour in the building yesterday created enough space in my head and my heart to see a little more have a bit of a reality check for myself and then to try and communicate that to others without sounding like I lost my mind.

How to communicate that to children is maybe a bigger yet no less important thing.  Maybe having a little less ( albeit by north american upper middle class standards) might lead to a little less entitlement, a little more care for what we do have and bit more understanding that sharing resources can make us all richer for the interaction it brings.

Here's to all of us considering our wants vs our needs and gaining some perspective.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It's just like.........

I was very excited to book myself to go to a dinner at the Terra Nova Farm.

I was excited my friend Emily and some others I knew were also going.

I pretended not to hear Emily when she said we would cycle to the farm.

But as the time time drew nearer she made the plan quite clear. 

I remained in denial.

Then the weather turned and it looked like it might rain.

My soul rejoiced.

And then the weather cleared.

On Friday at 4pm I got on a bicycle for the first time in over 15 years and practiced up and down the alley. Stopping at each end to get off and turn around to the amusement of my family watching from the back of the truck all redneck like.....

I was impressed with myself for remembering how to cycle......but I felt wobbly and not very "in control"...and as we all know that is NOT my happy place.

I thought about just driving there.

But at 5:20pm I set out on my bike to stop No. 1 on this epic journey...... Not with any sense of delight or anticipation but with a deep pit in my stomach wondering if I was actually going to survive.

I look so happy in this photo because I thought is may be my last one ever and I wanted to be remembered as happy not terrified.
On Phase 1 I rode for 5 minutes and learned the following:
1.  Bikes do not have rear view mirrors no matter how many times you check.
2. Bike have gears.....I have no idea what gears do.
3. Clenching your butt does not have a stabilizing effect on the bike.
4. Cars mean trouble.
5. Momentum is a "thing" careful how you apply the brakes.
6. No such thing as a graceful dismount.

Phase 1 was meeting the other cyclists at Donnas house - all veterans of this debacle escapade......we had Vera-sized Mojitos as we chatted and got ready......because that seems like a swell idea before a long bike ride.

And then we were off...... all cheery and happy.... were I was still deathly afraid......and when I was given less than 200 meters warning of a turn I nearly died of fright....but I made it....all the way to the dyke..... I happily brought up the rear of the group, pedaling like mad to keep up......not able to take my eye off the path or my hands off their vice-like grip of the handles.....I had no breath for cheery chatter.  

"How are you doing Nicky?" they called from up ahead.  "I am not having a heart-attack" I said "It just feels like it"....... When one fellow cyclist said "Great work Nicky you are half way there" I wanted to die on the spot.... HALFWAY....... I was writing farewell notes to my family in my head.

And then we rounded a bend, my legs still happily pumping up and down but my butt screaming in protest and my hands now fully molded to the handles......and down a hill and into the farm we rode......Not at all like 18 year old carefree girls from Amsterdam as I had been promised but more like a slightly rotund, 40 something, sweaty survivor of the amazing race.......

I knew then and there that going back the way I came was.not.happening.......

But on to the dinner....... after my heart stopped pounding and the sweat dried I enjoyed the farm dinner prepared by Chef Ian Lai very much..... local ingredients prepared in interesting ways.....great chatter, interesting people, great sunny evening with lovely puffy clouds, outside.... quite charming.

And sunset  just as the dessert was served

It was then Allan texted to say he was off to the pub with some friends (husbands of my fellow cyclists).  Oh jolly nice......but clearly I would have to cycle home.  He did offer to come and get me when I texted my alarm at making it home alive but I felt I had to get back on the the dark and it.

It was a gruelling ride back.  All the symptoms from the ride there plus a full belly.....and not just of food.... 

I mainly focused on not throwing up or going into the ditch.

With my personal cheering section of Emily on her bomber bike, in her dress, bag swinging off the handle bars, chatting away, texting while biking, extolling the delights of night time biking, on how perfect the night was - all carefree and "Amsterdamy" while I assumed the hunched over, focused stance of person on their death ride....

We made it.  I actually made it home.....all sweaty again.......where the party resumed in a house my children cleaned up and made presentable in under 10 minutes after my text (while blessedly stationary for a minute) "People coming - clean!".......

An Epic night to be sure......... in fact my butt still hurts...... 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

48 hours

It's just totally incredible to me how unpredictable life can be.

And so totally unsettling.

Especially for a planner such as I am.

This weekend was supposed to go like this:

Friday: Work, Pedicure, Date Night.
Saturday: Workout, Get kids from camp boat, laundry, Family dinner with my parents
Sunday: Church, laundry, write a report for work, laundry, family time

As many of you will already know that unraveled in a fairly significant way.

I knew we were in trouble when the call display showed the name of the Director of the camp my kids were at.  I actually said "This is not good" before I answered.

And it was not.

Long story short:  Banana boat being towed by ski boat flips.  One boys head collides with another ones back.  Suspected neck injury sets emergency response in action in the ocean - back board, boat trip, ambulance, x-rays, CT scan.

The boy on the spine board was my son.

Allan and I grabbed care card and some clothes for David (but no shoes!) and headed for Lions Gate Hospital over an hour away through downtown Vancouver, in rush hour, on a summer Friday.

Allan drove.  I cried.  I called my parents.  I texted an army of people to pray.  I cried a bit more.

We got to the hospital a few minutes after the ambulance and I hardly recognized David all strapped up.  But I have never been happier to see him.  Especially to see his fingers and toes move.  It makes me cry now just to recall that moment.

I think we felt pretty positive from when we saw him although the medical staff were super serious about it all.  X-ray showed some concern so they called for a CT.  After 5 hours strapped to the board and in a neck brace, even this brave boy who tried to be so positive, started to fall apart a bit as his back went into spasms.  He toughed it out and eventually we got the all clear to take him home.  He is still stiff and sore - maybe as much today as when it happened but he is managing well.

Weak kneed with relief........ adrenaline gone.....completely and utterly emotionally spent.

As if that was not enough of an event...... enough overwhelming for one weekend.....I have continued to be overwhelmed by the love and concern of SO many people.  People who don't pray, prayed. People we haven't see in months or years wrote messages.

At the boat the next day - where we went to pick up Lindsay and all David's stuff (as he left in only his swim suit!) I think every one of the 167 people getting off that boat hugged him!  Especially the little children he had been babysitting all week - they threw their little arms around him - I teared up just seeing it.  Strangers come up to me.... "Are you David's Mom?  How are you? We felt so bad for you getting that news.  We prayed for you".... humbled and thankful.

We spoke with the Doctor from camp and the Director - tried to express how grateful we were to them and their teams for such incredible care and good decision making.  Its no small thing to send your children off to trust others to care as you would......and they did.

The love was amazing.

So lovely to have our girl home too.....super tired but happy.  She saw the whole accident and had to watch from the bank above the dock as they worked on her brother.  She was scared but brave.

And so the messages and love have kept on coming.  The pies and cupcakes too.

How loved we are.  How wide is our circle.  How amazing is prayer.

No one wants to get that call we got.
Or live through that hour and a half of not knowing what direction your life may be headed.  I have banned my children from ever getting on that Banana boat again (Lindsay got a black eye on it 6 years ago).

But the big hug we got from our community...... that was an amazing outcome of a very scary moment and serves to remind me that we are so very blessed.  And to be mindful that community is a growing, dynamic thing and I must play my part in nurturing and sustaining it.

If you touched our lives since Friday at 5pm with love - I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I send you a virtual hug.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

You will love Lucy

Can I please introduce you to Lucy......Lucy's Eastside Diner.

For if you ever find yourself in VanCity at a ridiculously early hour dropping your children off to sail away to camp and need to stay in the general area for a furniture pick up at a more human hour......then you will need breakfast.

If you were to google best breakfast in EastVan you would find most establishments open at 8am or 8:30am by which time your suburban stomach would be nibbling on you liver in desperate need of food.

No problem.....Lucy has you covered.

Lucy's Eastside diner in an unassuming (which is a generous description) block on Main St north of 12th avenue is open 24 hours.

It's a little grubby (when do you clean the floors when you are open 24 hours a day?) and being that its open very late and very early it has the requisite odd balls on the loose.

Odder than us early morning boat people.

There was Monty - a construction hat revealed his name, the duffle bags revealed his journey, his frequent cigarettes and 2 vanilla milkshakes revealed his lifestyle and his ridiculous flirtation and wild promises of wealth and fortune to the waitress revealed his character.  We avoided eye contact as it was clear he needed some help and was willing to talk to whomever.

Like the cabbie who parked out front and with rotund frame wandered in and asked if they served breakfast ..... Monty saw him coming and before the over easy eggs and crisp bacon where at his table he had already made two calls to dispatch for Monty.....

Monty who asked the waitress if New Westminster was in Vancouver to which she answered vaguely and with little concern " I think so" (it's not just FYI) ....she.... all clad in black and lace and boots with black hair swept messily up, pale faced, revealed she was a starving artist but that she was "down with that".....maybe she was or maybe she had come up with a story to get Monty and his promise of $70k a year job off her back.....Monty who borrowed the starving artist/waitresses phone so he could make a call.

As we watched these vignettes of other lives play out we looked through the eclectic menu.

They had me at "bottomless hashbrowns". And, of course I only ate what came on my plate!

I had read that the food was great but not exactly healthy but when ones eyes are having a hard time getting opposite the holes one wants ones coffee hot and strong, ones eggs scrambled and bottomless hashbrowns.

To our delight the food was fantastic.  Allan had the smoked salmon benny which he loved - fresh, great hollandaise.....and I had Lucy's scramble - a delicious mix of mushrooms, bacon, onions, cream cheese and eggs....with sourdough....SO GOOD!

So do not stumble around Vancouver on dark early mornings searching for food.

Go to Lucy's Eastside Diner.  Heck go even if you are not hungry - get a milkshake and watch life unfold for a bit.