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.