Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016

While the world seems to be freaking out about the number of celebrity deaths and seemingly trying to pin the blame on the year 2016....suggesting that the dawn of a new year will solve the ills of the world and stop people dying I am choosing to not write a post on my annoyance at this shallow and misplaced sense of anger and sorrow in the face of real pain and sorrow and war so many of our fellow humans are facing across the globe. 

Instead I am reflecting on 2016 in my world. 

2016 has certainly been focused on tertiary education in the Byres household. 

Allan spent the year completing the bulk of his Masters of Education in Leadership and Administration at the University of British Columbia.  The finish line is in sight and another 4 months of research and presentations will see this journey over.  He has been a dedicated and conscientious student and despite some hard times and pressured timelines he has enjoyed his studies.  He continues to enjoy his work at McMath and we are both curious about what the future holds for him.  He got in many fishing days and spent many happy hours in lakes and rivers of our beautiful province.  



Lindsay finished her First Year Psychology at the University of Victoria with a very impressive set of results.  Residence was a blast but she was more than ready for some time at home and in the kitchen.  She had a bit of a fight with an avocado early in the summer which led to surgery and a few weeks of rehab for a damaged finger. She worked all summer while amassing furniture for her first apartment.  We moved her in September to a sweet place and one in which she has managed a steep learning curve as she embarked on second year and living alone.  She got a nasty case of mono in the Fall but managed to keep on working and going to school after a weeks rest.  We are so proud of how she handled herself this semester in the classroom, at work and managing her home.  She loves her studies but does not love living alone and we will search for a different arrangement for her for next year. 


David is tackling Grade 12 and applying for University for next Fall.  He hopes to go to UBC like his Dad but the process is super competitive and he is going to need a bit more hard work and some luck to pull it off.  He spent the summer away from us in Kelowna working in various roles at Green Bay Bible Camp.  He loved it and hopes to reprise that experience in 2017.  He continues to be a very social, very busy boy involved in leading youth at church and many other activities as well as working 12-18 hours a week. He pulled off a 5th straight year at Strathcona Outdoor Ed - a place that will forever have a special place in his heart.  He continues to be an avid photographer and has had some wonderful times shooting various things, the highlight of which was We Day this year.

My work continues to be busy and fulfilling and ever changing.  Our organisation has doubled in size since I started and we are set to grow again in the year ahead.  HR takes the bulk of my time but I continue to have a deep heart for the curriculum side of early childhood and my passion for creating an organisation that honours childhood and the Educators is undiminished.  I am also continuing to teach in the evenings but the program in Richmond is closing so it may be my last course.  The additional teaching work is rewarding but is a lot of work but it has certainly helped with all the tuition fees we have !!  I do a lot of driving for our busy teens and am happiest when my little family are all in the house.

We managed a brief family getaway to SaltSpring Island at Spring Break and Allan and I had another brief vacation in August on our way to pick David up. Lest you think we were footloose and fancy free..we did have Mr Spanner with us.  He continues to be a delightful addition to the family in spite of the work he creates!

Some other highlights for the Byres Clan this year were our community farm plot with our friends that yielded delightful crops all Spring / Summer and was a good reason to get out on the land; lots of lovely meals and some great adventures with friends; our St.Johns Richmond home group, my Dad's retirement; a visit from an old friend; and so many ordinary yet extraordinary moments that enriched our days and weeks and months.

We look back with gratitude for a year in which we grew and learned and loved and we look forward to a year ahead in which some important milestones will be reached and in which we will endeavour to walk in peace and with joy in all the circumstances.

Thank YOU for being part of our story, for tracking with this blog that continues to be a source of joy for me and a means of connection with friends and family across this planet we call home. My very best wishes to you for a year ahead that sustains you and challenges you and in which you find a path that brings you JOY! 

xoxo



Friday, December 30, 2016

Snow Adventures

Finding joy in the everyday has been a quest for me this year.  

I often identify strongly with gloomy Eeyore (in Winnie the Pooh) and need to practice prayer and gratitude to search out the JOY that is there is to be found in the every day messiness of life.

I am not always successful.

I need more practice.

But today..... today was a day it was gloriously easy to find, see, hear and feel.

And for a mother who woke up two teens well before sunrise that is it's own special miracle!

We headed out in dense fog but as we cleared Stanley Park downtown we saw the sun rising and catching the tops of the local mountains.  

Joy!

We headed for Hollyburn Mountain with a good number of our fellow snow lovers. 

Still ahead of most of the crowd we got snow shoes rented and trail tickets in short order, and a parking spot mere feet from the trail (jackpot!) and we were off.

It was all sorts of wonderful.

The kids took off up the trail like puppies bounding in the snow.... leaping into deep snow... running and racing one another.... sibling rivalry about speed and strength and smarts being bantered about all the time. 
Chasing each other all the way

They are standing still....fakers


Allan and I smiled at one another.  It felt like one of those moments that is granted as a huge reward for not murdering them when they were toddlers or pre-teens. 

I trudged along at the back of the pack, stopping frequently to take  a photo and catch my breath.  I sound like I am dying when hiking uphill and I get very sweaty (sort of like I am about to have a heart attack) but  I'm fine, really, I can keep going and going... just more slowly than some.  I love watching my peeps on the trail ahead of me and love the odd quiet moment of the hush that you can only get in the middle of a snowy forest. 




I had packed many snacks - no weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances would stop my family from surviving on high calorie snack food in the great snowy wilderness.  Every back pack was equipped with "food" and water and dry socks. 

Would have been great if we had remembered a map.  

Anyhoo the trails are well marked and while we like to pretend we were all alone on the mountain we saw plenty of other adventurers along the way who could have helped us if we we would have asked for directions.   

But what's an adventure with directions I ask you?  

So we sipped our water and ate our fishing cookies on not-a-fishing-trip (nobody tell Fil Vera) and we made it up Snowy gully to the upper warming hut.


We stood outside the warming hut enjoying the fog that had now left the City and settled at the Upper Warming Hut.  We could have gone inside the hut but there were many small children from the ski school and we wished not be annoyed.... especially by that one kid in the neon orange toque...with no volume control and an opinion on everything..... you know the one. 


So as the icicles formed on my apparently barely existent eyebrows (a fact that causes constant amusement to my teens) we headed down.  

Until now I have diligently stayed on the green trails (easiest) and already today I had been up a few blue trails (moderate) but the teens decided a black diamond trail (life threatening) was in order on the descent off their youthful bravado and legs took them before I could protest or contemplate my imminent death.

Allan ready to catch a BIG snowball


As I am now writing this story I obviously survived.  I only fell into a snow bank once and that was when trying to vacate the trail for a group on the ascent. 

And so a most delightful, joy-filled, morning was had by the Byres4 bounding and stomping and jumping through the 28cm of new snow.
Why take a normal photo?

Ok - see - we can do normal - but it takes effort

"Wait for me"  

Allan and I "dabbing" while David prays he's adopted

AND as if this day could honestly give any more.... Lindsay AND I had naps on our return.  

For those counting - that is 2 naps for me in 2016.... clearly I am on a streak.   All I need in 2017 is my ability to sleep at night to return or finding the joy in anything is going to be harder work.  Especially for those who live with me lol.

Now please excuse me - I have some cheesies and swedish fish in my backpack I need to finish as we did not get lost in the snowy wilderness and need a rescue after all but snacks don't keep.

OUTTAKES:

Excuse me while I put my sunglasses on to look cooler here on my arse

We are always here to help our kids out

Ha Ha I am taller than you

Nope

No adventure without a jump shot!  Go David! Photo cred Lindsay


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Gifting

I was very excited for Christmas this year.  

Mainly because giving gifts is one of my favourite things to do.  
I know some people find it a trial but I relish the task.

I am one for tucking away ideas and hints and storing them up until I see something just right.

I am one for spreadsheets and checklists.

I famously squirrel things away and have, from time to time, only remembered a gift once all the others have been opened on Christmas morning.

Somehow this Christmas was different.  

I got a very early start and I was so lucky to think of and find so many things I thought were just perfect.

I got over my fear of online shopping and despite some anxious moments waiting for the last parcel to arrive - it all worked to a T.

As I already blogged I decided to wrap each item as I got it instead of my usual pre-Christmas frenzy of never-enough tape and paper!


JOY! 
So as I unpacked my bags (checking and re-checking the closet to ensure none were left behind) I had forgotten what some of the items even where..... and I fell off on the spreadsheet filling-in a bit at the end too so there were a few more gifts than I realised... 

So on Christmas eve I read and relaxed and anticipated Christmas morning.

I think I was the most excited person in my household in the morning although my parents were over here before 8am! 

Not only did the gifts I gave bring the reactions and joy I hoped (or was assured of if I had shopped from a list I was given - our family pattern being something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to
read and something to brighten the world) but I watched as my family gifted each other with such thoughtful and creative gifts.

So much laughter - so many fun gifts - we had a very joy-filled morning.

Never was it truer for me that the joy is as much, if not more, in the giving than in the receiving. And for sure this year there was joy in the buying from some very cool etsy folks and other local and regional artisans and charities and causes.  And what was given was more than stuff - it was time and effort and love and energy and thoughtfulness. There are (lots) of new things but there is also deeper appreciation for one another. More love.

Of course, for me, it is also about the baby in the stable in Bethlehem.  Loving my family and friends deeply and tangibly on Christmas day is one 

Lindsay gave a big box to Allan
with the tag below.
way I share some of the love that came into the world that day.

As I survey my own gift pile with gratitude - I was well loved too - I am looking forward to a new year and hopefully a chance to do this all again in 2017.
From my college student - a beautiful gift
HA HA - so much pressure for a puppy
but NO WAY am I falling for that again



I WANTED all new tea towels - and boy did they heed my request!
Threw all the old one out !  Yippee!


The requisite Christmas puzzle - no so impossible after all.
Lucky because I wasn't allowed to eat turkey until it was done!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Balthazar

2016 delivered another twist today. 

We had to pick the annual Byres Christmas tree without the Byres children. 

(insert the sound of a mother's breaking heart here)

David was working and Lindsay is being held captive by the UVIC library studying for finals. 

Weird priorities.

Whatever....We needed a tree and we needed it today because we host the first Christmas dinner of the season on Tuesday and also it's not currently snowing!

Usually (whatever usually is?) When the 4 of us go we each find trees but Lindsay always names her tree then makes us feel really bad for rejecting or leaving "Neville" or "Phillip" or "Archibald" .... so we never do.

Today she pleaded with us from the UVic library where she was "studying" to give it this tree a good name. 


We found THE tree in short order.

And Allan named it Billy..... and we proclaimed our triumph....as one does.


So Balthazar (and the new toque) came home with us. 

We set him up in the living room and put the lights on and waited for David to get home. 

After a dinner I lovingly made and muffins I lovingly made I asked the boys if they would help me decorate Balthazar?

They leapt from their seats and ran to the living room with joyful glee and delight.

Not.

They dragged their rather cute butts into the living room and I handed the older one a bag of balls and declared if he could manage to add those to the tree his duty could be considered done.

Give two boys a bag of balls...... 

Ai ya.....

They were soon being ridiculous and all manner of antics ensued.  

Quickly it became a contest as to who was taller and could reach the top of the tree..... unorthodox and unsanctioned methods were used.






So the tree is sort of done-ish. 

As I sit here, the boys both off to the land of netflix, I can hear said balls slowly falling through the branches, scattering fir needles as they drop.

I could be sad.

I could be mad.

But no.... I have put on my Hawaiian Santa hat, filled my red wine glass and I am going to bathe in the joy and peace of the season in the lovely glow of Balthazar and his many golden balls.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Silver is golden


Dec 7, 1991 a girl faced a boy and they made some promises to one another.

It was 35 degrees C

200 people were watching

They believed in the optimism of the day. Their youth and audacity made them bold, reckless, brave.

Dec 7, 2016 a woman faces a man and together they are deeply grateful that despite what the intervening years have brought them, the promises have endured. 

It's about to start snowing

No one's looking.


It is too hard for me to say in words or even with my voice, what is in my heart today. 

To have walked these 25 years with Allan learning to be myself, learning how to be a partner, how to be a mother.  In these years I have changed so much, grown so much, had some of my lowest lows and highest highs.  We have shared so many "once in a lifetime" moments, made so many memories. 

We have failed ourselves and one another at times.  We have lost our way and one another for a time or two. 

We have endured with and for each other.

Today we are the sum of all of those moments.  

Even the ones I wished away at the time.  We have a marriage that is a topographical map of our combined lives - valleys and mountaintops and long flat plains.  Rivers, oceans, meadows... we are uniquely all of them.

Today we face each other feeling deeply deeply grateful that our journey is still with one another.  

We are deeply grateful for our beautiful children who are the best of us. 

Deeply grateful for our sets of parents who both have been beacons we can calibrate to.

Deeply grateful for family, friends, community who have walked parts of this journey with us, held us up, given us strength, laughed and cried with us. Listened, counselled, loved us.

Our faith in God, our faith in the best in one another, our faith that love conquers all were are travelling partners on the journey.

We chose love Dec 7, 1991.
We chose it for 9,125 intervening days
We choose it again today. 

I did, I do, I will Love you.



Saturday, December 3, 2016

That's a wrap

Dec 3, 2016

Let the record show I am almost done my Christmas shopping AND wrapping (the items that have arrived at least).  Hate me if you must - it will not dim my slightly smug joy at my surprising readiness.

But as I stand at my diningroom table and wrap while the Christmas tunes blare away I have some words of wisdom to impart. (side note I managed to find the right remote, get the sound system and TV on the right channel and used the chrome cast to play my music of choice ALL BY MYSELF #christmasmiracle)

1.  Beware the cheap wrapping paper for it will tear and crease and rip and ruin your joy.

2.  That jumbo roll seems like a good idea until you are staring at it for the 11th Christmas in a row.

3.  On the other hand that lovely glossy paper you splurged on (with the blessed grid lines to keep the edges looking straight) won't last more than 2 gifts.

4.  Don't cut off small pieces of paper thinking you'll them for something else.... you won't be able to because it's always going to be 5mm too small.

5.  When re-using gift bags from holidays past.... check for and remove tags to prevent Christmas morning confusion and potential embarrassing situations

6.  Don't cheap out on tape - buy the good stuff.  Lots of it.

7.  Get a good dispenser - hundreds of little pieces of tape waiting patiently on the back of the dining room chair are a hazard to unsuspecting guests with long hair who drop by for tea. 

8.  Tags.  You think those sheets of sticker tags look like there are many.  There are not.  There is also no space to write anything other than 2 names and xo.  On the other hand tying on the ones with tiny threads ensure a distinct lack of peace on earth.

9. If you stuff up a wrap job - start over.  Better to use more paper (even the good stuff) than gift something that looks like the dog mauled it.

10. Put tags on IMMEDIATELY after you wrap - you think you'll remember what it is until you have 15 similar looking packages. 

Put on the kettle - have some tea,  sing out loud, think of those people you love as you wrap their gifts and try and remember it's not about all these gifts, in the end.... its about....

HOPE

PEACE
JOY and
LOVE


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Messy stories are ok

Funny how something major can happen in a day and no one really notices.

The rain keeps falling.  The emails flood in as usual.

In fact it happened to me and I just noticed.  

I just noticed that a thing that has been on my heart and mind for ages, a thing I have been noodling around and around, looking at from multiple perspectives, tallying up the pro and con columns on, listening to and reading advice of experts and also trying to listen to my heart and intuition.

And quietly, over an excellent coffee, in a tiny coffee shop in a nondescript building I reclaimed my voice. 

"They" said .... you should not lead the curriculum - the power differential will make it messy.  You be the Leader of the other stuff but let a real Early Childhood Educator do this part. 

I listened.

So I stepped away from that role. 

I picked a great person to lead that part of the work.  She has done so extremely ably, forging a path in a job there are very few blazing ahead of her.  She has been breaking a path through thick vegetation with just her head and her heart and her hands and the steady shouts of "hooray!" and "courage!" from my desk, always a listening ear, always giving her permission to be her authentic self.

I sat at this desk increasingly feeling disconnected from the heart part of the work which turns out to be the reason I get up to come to work most days.

So the more technical and strategic my job became the less I loved it.  

Recently I have realised that despite all the work we have done, the years invested and the vast distance we have come, now so many more of us are singing from the same song sheet - yet I still have a profoundly deep understanding and passion for the curriculum work that is not yet equaled in the organisation.

I have invested in those leading that work and it was worthy and inspirational work. And I couldn't be prouder of my leadership team.  We are learning, growing, living into our vision and values while occasionally bumping our heads and stubbing our toes.

But today I sipped coffee with my colleague and I stepped back on to the curriculum path with her - shoulder to shoulder.  She needs me and I need to walk with her for my own sake.

And so we hatched plans, grew a little misty eyed at times and I felt the stirring in my belly again, the gentle rekindling of the fire for the work we do.

It may be messy, there may be power issues, "they" might have a point....

But I am going to rediscover my voice and reconnect to our people and to our work and I will figure out how to do that and attend to the 50 million other things my job demands and we will write our own story about how we changed the world by honouring childhood. 

I'll write my own leadership story that is true to who WE are and who I am.  

We like messy stories in our work anyway.  

Right?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Flying through Fall

We hit a low point in our home this week.

We ran out of our usual tea. 

If there was ever a sign that Fall was kicking our butts this is it. 

Tea is the currency of our little kingdom here on Steveston Highway. 

It is how we start the day.  

And by we, I mean Allan makes us tea and we have it in bed every morning. 

Every.morning.

Days do simply not begin without tea.
It is also essential to the "Honey I'm home" time of the day.

The barometer of the day is "One cup or two?" 

Red tea pot for two, brown betty teapot for one.

So when I tasted the tea this morning and knew were into the hidden emergency stash I knew..... what my body and my mind already knew....I knew.....we officially have Fall Fatigue.

I wanted to believe the absence of soccer and teaching for me would lead to a serene Fall, quiet evenings, crackling fire, red wine, hearty soups...

ALAS 

The flurry of Fall activities both planned and unplanned have left us a little breathless.  My work has been plain crazy and after a great AGM last night I decided a day off was needed.  My challenges with sleep are worse than ever and though I didn't sleep any better last night I snugged under the covers a little longer than usual.  I spent the morning accomplishing several errands I have been trying to get to for weeks (new jeans yay - one size smaller than the last time yay yay!), passport photos (nothing to yay about that), some christmas shopping, groceries....

and TEA.


 The arrival of snow on the local mountain tops heralds winter and I am ready to bundle up and dive in.  
I am done with Fall.  

Bring on snowflakes, hot chocolate, crackling fires, red noses, brisk walks, christmas lights and carols.....

Ahhh enjoying this moment of unrealistic anticipation...with a cup of tea. 

Have a great weekend friends.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Engine light

The engine light came on in my mazda on Saturday.  

And it caused the car to lose power while I was driving.  It was barely inching forward.  I parked it and called Allan.  And then my parents  - feeling strangely adrift at thought my trusty zoom zoom was ill. And I was without a vehicle.

After making all kinds of plans and contingencies I got in, turned it back on and despite the continuing presence of the engine light the car drove normally.

I drove home slowly. 

It is now sitting outside the mechanics garage waiting for a scan tomorrow to reveal what is troubling it. 

Of course I hope it's just a sensor and not the transmission or something else huge and costly. Fingers CROSSED. Please please please

If I had an engine light.... that signalled trouble... it would have come on last Monday morning. 

And although I could have used the warning I surely could not have managed a loss of power.  A crisis at work is no time for anything other than full energy, focus and attention.   

Of course this, in a week my Dr changed some of my medication, and despite our best hopes my sleep is decreasing not increasing.  

By Friday I left the office, crisis unresolved, feeling pretty ragged and yet a lengthy TO DO list for the weekend stared me down.  

But in a remarkable show of maturity I turned off the alarm clock (alas to no avail sleep-wise) and I pared down the TO DO list to essentials - like baking cookies and making lasagne and doing the groceries. Ok maybe laundry too. And a few work related must-do's.

And then I let the rest go. 

I let go the desire for a perfect looking house when my leadership team gather here for a retreat tomorrow.  I let go off dozens of small details I still wanted to accomplish on our guest room for a friend arriving from South Africa on Wednesday - the room  is lovely and comfortable and clean - a complete redecorate, was I realise, unnecessary.  I did not gut the Laundry room as I intended, I shall simply close the door. The chest freezer remains in need of a defrost - I shall simply chip back the ice advancing over the top. 


Instead I spent time with Allan between his bouts of Masters work.  I visited with friends, caught up and connected.  I ate good food. I drank good coffee. I browsed a very odd flea market with my co-adventurer EV... I walked many steps, marvelled at the sunshine however briefly it appeared, turned back the clocks and tried not to grump about the early darkness it brought or how many clocks I had to change.  I chatted with my kids - gosh...I love those two.  


And so while the Mazda engine light may signal something dire (please please please be a sensor) , my own engine light was dealt with with gentleness and connection and is thankfully now off....I'm powered back up to face the week!