Saturday, December 23, 2017

Eve's - not my thing

6 years ago I was on a beach in Hawaii.

That was the last time I didn't suck at Christmas Eve eve.

3 years ago I famously had the carpets cleaned and the whole house smelled like a rain-soaked New Zealand sheep farm and was barely dry as the Christmas Eve dinner guests arrived.

TBH I can't even remember last Christmas eve eve but I am sure it fell short of my expectations. 

Today was another christmas eve eve that fell short. 

I was SO on my Christmas planning this year with an empty nest and all. 

I was crossing off the lists,  finding sweet deals, making plans with people.... I was on fire. 

I was also contemplative, grateful and focused on advent.

Also maybe a bit smug about just how well it was all going.

So today I have walked 7km mostly in grocery stores and my house.  

I even went into a mall today - briefly. 

The house is stocked for a few big meals, the happy turkey is chilling in the fridge, the dressing and vegetables are made for Christmas day (thanks to Allan even with an injured calf) and the table is half set. All the gifts are wrapped (except for that one I keep forgetting to do!), the lists are getting shorter, Lindsay is baking, David is out with friends.

There was no quiet family day, christmas music, cider-sipping, movie watching, shortbread munching.... no napping.

The house is a mess.  The dishwasher is running for the second time today. 

This time tomorrow we will have had a delicious Christmas eve dinner with family and friends, exchanged some gifts, be sitting in the glow of the beautiful christmas tree contemplating Christmas to come and this madness of christmas eve eve will be forgotten.   

Right now I am finally putting my feet up, sipping a glass of wine, putting Boney M Christmas on the ipod and ignoring the several tasks I should try and accomplish tonight.  

Next year, if I am not sipping Mai Tais on a Hawaiian beach I will be here, lowering my expectations of this strange day of the year - the eve of Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Friends in a frosty forest

When we first mooted the idea of a December weekend in a cabin in the woods it seemed so far off in the calendar we didn't really consider that we would be heading out of town (and wifi!) for a weekend exactly one week before Hanukkah and two weeks before Christmas.  

All of us with grown families, many of us with children about to return from afar, dinners, year-end functions, shopping, baking, lists etc. BUSY!

We all wondered if this, in the end, was a wise move.  

But deposits were paid and the cabin in the woods looked so lovely that soon plans were afoot for food and forest frolicking.

We drove north out of the fog blanketing the city and into the evening on Friday arriving just before 6pm..In short order a fire was blazing, a growler was open, tunes playing and we settled in.

As the next 36ish hours unfold we exclaimed to one another, on several occasions, what a genius idea it was to be out of the city, away from the bustle.

And the surroundings were pretty spectacular - sunny, frosty, snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, eagles by the dozen, still lakes, mossy woods.... we spent most of Saturday outside, bundled up and enjoying the immense gift of our surroundings.  

And each other.

As a clan of incredible cooks, bakers, coffee makers, wine pourers, table setters, we were spoiled with 5 incredible meals from a full French feast to perfect soup and corn bread lunch between hikes and a delicious Italian dinner and two breakfasts with fresh baked scones and loaves and croissants and no end to delicious goodies in between.  The hikes were lovely and, as you can see, totally necessary! 

We talked, we walked, some fished, some napped, we laughed, we spotted so many eagles, we sang along to Christmas music, some drank Jagermeister.

And I was deeply reminded that THIS is such a gift: good friends, beautiful Brakendale BC, wonderful food,  good conversation, warm beds.  The busy-ness of the season can be fun but slowing down and dropping out for the weekend was totally charming (and maybe needed more than we care to admit).

Thank you friends.   

Sunday, December 3, 2017


The last week was a gift beyond measure with a professional development residency at work that brought deep and profound learning for many in our organisation - often resulting in tears and gratitude for the opportunity to learn from a top practitioner in our field.  

It was my dream come true and I held the week tenderly as I watched it unfold - almost unbelieving that a girl can dream, speak her dreams, convince others of them and then see them unfold.  Crazy stuff. Blessed stuff.

I left the week with my heart and mind full and my body weary.  

And the weekend held little rest.

Does December ever hold any rest?

This is a question I have sought to get to grips with this December - this Advent.  

Afterall it is the pivotal moment in my faith - without it - without the birth of Jesus ...... well really ....there is no faith at all.  

But like many I spend the time ,making lists, checking them twice, three times, 25 times.... rushing from party to event to store to amazon pick up depot .... 

But my heart feels called to more this advent.  

And I have space to contemplate, to dedicate myself to the disposition of anticipation.

In fact I have an entirely new appreciation for this disposition of advent - this anticipation of great Joy to come.... 

I too am waiting for important and beloved humans to come from away.

So much greater should be my anticpipation of Christmas morning when the baby in the manger is moved from the relative obscurity behind our homemade manger and placed in the manger scene with Mary and Joseph and the Sheperds, Angels, Wise Men (we have 4 somehow but we make the extra dude feel welcome - it seems metaphorical to have an outsider / stranger as part of the whole scene) and some sheep and cow figurines.  

We do this before we do anything else on Christmas morning. 

Lest we forget amid the gifts and food and joyous exclamations - the reason we celebrate at all.

Today I spent an hour or so with some friends and we we settled our hearts for Advent.  And then I came home and started the decorating with a twinge in my heart for the missing kids who I am missing so much (it's been a long stretch since Thanksgiving and I have a couple more weeks to wait)

I will no doubt miss the odd day of focus and contemplation but I have started well. 

The events and dinners, an anniversary, even a weekend away with friends will add to the richness of these days - remind me of the blessings of marriage and family and returning university students and friendship and living here and the privilege we enjoy.

And I will be JOYFUL.  

For if this is not a season of JOY then I surely do not know what is.  

Sunday, November 19, 2017

ALL the moments

Ahhhh it's good to be back in this space again.

I'm adjusting to a new rhythm in my life and the writing-to-living-ratio is still not quite in balance.  I spend way too many sleepless hours "writing" any number of posts but in the daylight hours I find much else to fill my time.

But on this wet and rainy and dark Sunday having accomplished many of the tasks I had set for myself (although not all - will that day ever come?) and feeling that sort of contemplation one feels on the eve of something big.... I am here to write as the evening settles in far too early.

The next 2 weeks, indeed the next 6, hold many important and heartfelt, anticipated moments.  Moments long in the waiting for, long in the planning for,  long in the leaning into.  

I don't know about you but at this moment - on the eve of such moments - I don't often stop and fully realise them.  I rush from planning into doing and attending and - boom - I find myself on the other side, usually happy, sometimes tired and sometimes without having really tuned in to the whole of the moment.  And sometimes wishing I had just slowed down and settled into the presence of the moment.  How annoying to be regretful that you mis-attended a moment so long anticipated and worked for consumed in details that likely hard matter at the end of the day.

Not this time.  Not these next weeks.  

Of course I don't yet know ALL the moments that will request or require my attending but I am keenly attuned to try and notice them.

The ones I do know about that rush at us this next few weeks are these:

Allan Byres will become the 3rd Byres to cross the Chan Centre Stage but the first to receive a Master's Degree as he does so.  Convocation and all it's ceremony will not be endured but thoroughly celebrated.  As hard as it was at times, it was also a joy and a privilege for him to learn and grow in his thinking.  Truth be told - he misses the studies.  And so as their cohort cross the stage and then raise a glass, I will attend to that moment with pride and love and joy for a journey so well completed. 

On Thursday a colleague, and joyfully now also a friend,  arrives from the USA to led my organisation in a Professional Development Day and a week of in classroom residency the following week.  My heart skips a beat at the culmination of dreaming and planning and investment this will be.   So many details, so many conversations, so many logistics and I will attend to her, to her words and actions but also to all my staff, to their thinking and work and ideas about how to take this investment and make it count individually and corporately.  While I am tasked with keeping the plan moving I am coaching myself to not let the clock dictate the length and depth of the work.  I am so very excited for what these many moments will bring forth.

And then - drumroll worthy moment - in late December those Byres kids will be home - oh the joy.  I have dearly missed them. They are thriving and I love our texts and messenger communication but they best be ready for some serious Mama hugs.  Those moments are not hard to relish and store up in my heart for the lean days.

And then there are the advent moments as we prepare for Christmas.  Trying not to rush through and stress about the lists of gifts and food and events but to relish them and to not be too distracted from the reason we celebrate in the first place. 

And as for the tough and hard moments that are sure to come my way I will breathe through those too and look for the learning inside them (without being grumpy - hopefully without swearing too much)

So here's to the moments - big and small, good and bad - here's to being fully alive and all-in with all of it. 

Or at least giving it a heck of a good try! 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Ovals and other things I learned

Tonight I am attending the 30th Anniversary of the organisation that gave me my first job in Canada - 24 years ago! 

As I was sponsoring Allan (who was waiting in South Africa for paperwork to be completed)  I needed to get work quickly and the place my Mom was working had a maternity leave posting for Office Manager. 

I applied and was interviewed while still jet-lagged.   I remember they asked if I had a personal mantra and somehow I replied "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well" something I believe to this day.  

I also remember them asking about my computer skills and I skillfully non-answered with something like " "I am a quick study"  "I am quite technical and figure things out quickly"

I was basically trying to convince them I had computer skills  - which I did not.

So when I got the job I spent the time between the offer and my start date in front of  a massive desktop computer and "Wordperfect for Dummies" on my lap frantically trying make the answers I had given true.

The office manager job morphed into an admin assistant job for various departments and I learned and grew every step of the way. 

I vividly remember working for two heroines of the early childhood field and formatting a report they were writing.  I walked down to their office to give it to them.  They were on a conference call and they looked up and smiled as they started to look over the document.  Just as I was basking in my achievement one of them took a pen and drew a box around some pieces of text.  I tried not to panic as it dawned on me she wanted me to make boxes on the computer - text boxes - dear heavens - and my wordperfect for dummies was at home and google was not what it is today. 

I walked back to my desk in a mild sweat and sat down, drew breath and figured it out in pretty short order.  Ah ha - I waltzed back to their office triumphant.  Until I noticed the furrowed brow of the esteemed consultant as she looked at the text boxes, picked up the pen and made the boxes into ovals. 


Well - I conquered ovals and many more things in the years I worked at Westcoast Child Care Resource Center.  I found a cause to support, a field to grow in, a community of passionate women I could look up to and who invested in me (including the privilege of working in the same organisation as my Mom), and friends with whom I am still close.

My life and career have taken some interesting twists and turns but I am looking forward to celebrating tonight the good and important work Westcoast has and does and will do and also to reflect on how far this re-patriated Canadian has come and what a gift meaningful work is.   

Thursday, October 19, 2017


rain falling outside

a warm dog snoring next to me

a kick ass workout survived

a long hot shower


and slippers

at 7pm

peanut butter and honey on toast

for dinner


a glass of red wine

a working oven

sole control of the remote

the rest of the week, the rest of the world - heavy, busy, crazy....

this moment.... pretty close to perfect.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

10 years

10 years ago today Allan's sister Hazel died after a brutally short illness and only in her 30's.

It sent a shockwave through our family.  

As it would.  

Hearts broke. Even from far away.

And so a journey of grief began for a son, a sister, a brother, parents, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles...friends

One life gone like a pebble thrown into a pond - ripples and ripples and ripples of sadness and pain.

And each year, that ripple bumps up against my heart again. 

But I can brace for it now.  I stand my ground and it no longer overwhelms me.  

I let it wash over me and I feel the sadness but I can remember the joy too and the frustrations and we can speak the stories to one another now without our throats closing and eyes stinging.

We can remember her satisfied smile, the twinkle in her eye and the stubbornness of her stance and so she lives on in our memories and hearts.

Grief is a strange thing/process... a decade does make a difference in some ways and in other ways we can never recover.

We carry on as family less an important person.  We are poorer for her missed presence.

Never quite who we once were.

Hazy - we love and miss you - shine bright sister.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Still going

I didn't quit the first day, even though I almost threw up, because someone said it would be hard but I would be ok

I didn't quit the second day because I didn't feel like I needed to throw up #win

I didn't quit after the first week because Coach Jeff was so encouraging

I didn't quit after the 28 day challenge because I could do 20 ankle grabs without wanting to die and lift my feet off the ground while doing russian twists.#miraclesdohappen

I didn't quit after the second month because the children were watching their mother.

I didn't quit when I levelled up to 60 minute classes.  Although I really wanted to.

I didn't quit after the first Lift class when I could only lift the bar without any weight on it. 

I didn't quit after the third month because people knew my name and I knew theirs and I finally realised it's my workout and all I have to do is MY best.

I didn't quit after a bad week in the summer when I only made it to one workout even though coming back was hard.  

I didn't quit when the kids went back to University

I didn't quit after the 4th month because the community at the Dojo was starting to feel like a place I could belong, be known, encourage others

I didn't quit after the 5th month because #roar and #noexcuses and #lastsetbestset made sense

I didn't quit after the 6th month because, though my progress be frustratingly slow, I see strength returning to my body. 

And here I am... 28 straight weeks of gym classes, buckets of sweat, a couple of tears, a fully awakened body, new friendly faces, amazing Dana and Jeff (and all the other coaches) and the big heart of Mr Maki himself.

There are many more months ahead.  

This body needs much more work.  

There are heavier weights to lift (although I can deadlift 130lbs now!) there are more muscles to be worked and toned (although my arm, 5 fractures, 3 surgeries can now hold me in a plank! But I can't do burpees yet #don'thateme) and there are more laughs, more shared moments with Allan, some rolled eyes and I may be praying for rain so they stop making us run outside so much :)

I'm as surprised as anyone to be have fallen in love with a gym.  But this isn't any gym, as it turns out.

You are never too old or too out of shape to start moving. 

If I can. You can. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The nest

This is the second Saturday of the "empty nest".  

And to be perfectly honest..... it is quite enjoyable.

There is no doubt I miss my monkeys, a lot, and I am so proud of how they are doing out there in the world and so grateful for their communication and connection with us. 

And this nest is sure quieter in volume and activity.

With the parenting role on hold, or redirected in different ways, there is space.

Space for our spousal relationship.  We have more time to spend together, conversations are uninterrupted and timely, we are working out together, cooking together and managing to stack and unstack the dishwasher together without arguing (which was a task our children shared for years with no small amount of disagreement!).

We clean the kitchen and.... amazingly.... it stays clean! 

Our grocery bill is less than half it was.

We cannot get through a gallon of milk before it expires.

The dishwasher and washing machine run much less.

The children's bedrooms are clean and tidy and my blood pressure doesn't rise every time I walk by them - in fact I pause and look at the beauty of them. (and maybe have a little heart ache about the missing messy children)

Syncing our schedules take 5 minutes and very little logistical gymnastics

A pack of bacon lasts longer (ok not really)

The fridge, tupperware and shoe cupboards have all been cleaned out and restacked and neat.

We can eat mushrooms in everything.

We talk more to the dog.

We don't have to share the cookies.

No need to lock the bedroom door! 

It sure is an interesting new phase of life (and quite likely temporary if current statistics are to be believed).  So far I think we are doing just great.  Although I may be bugging both kids to come home for Thanksgiving - Christmas is just too long without hugs and face to face chats and laughs. 

Byres2 is wonderful but Byres4 is wonderfuller.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Better late than never!!

When one is due to enter the world on a well planned mid-august date and one decides to hang out in the womb for an extra 2 weeks and thus arrives September 1, then one will quickly determine that Sept 1 is possibly the busiest time of the end-of-summer and birthday celebrations will be haphazard at best.  

And so our beloved Mr David has found this to be the case.

We have certainly had some good celebrations but the last 2 years he was at camp and his birthday passed with little fanfare and only one slide into the ocean as per camp tradition.  This year David will be home but we, the parents, will be on the early ferry to Victoria for parental moving duties with his sibling. We will not even set eyes on the birthday boy until after 8pm! 

In many ways his tardy arrival and his lack of fuss about his birthday is a good indication of his personality.

This boy of ours, 18 today, is a laid back dude with very few demands on life.

He likes a good, crisp, shirt (he is the only family member who irons his clothes), breakfast is his favourite meal of the day, never without friends to hang out with though they be a varied and diverse group, loyal and steadfast and with little care for the what others think, strong in his faith, deeply enjoys jumping out of his bedroom door and scaring his sister, YouTube devotee, He loves to sing in the long showers he takes, has a deep love of broadway musicals and Starbucks, apparently takes amazing photographs (ah hem still waiting!!), generous and gracious and with a sharp wit!

I so love this boy - he is loving and caring and though his bedroom is a disaster, he is a procrastinator of the highest order and his text communication skills need developing - He makes me laugh, he amazes me with his breadth of knowledge on SO many subjects, he will debate his point of view to the e n d o f  t i m e, he gives good hugs and will dance with me in the kitchen, his long arms are the family selfie-stick and his smile makes my heart sing.

I cannot imagine our house without him.  

David Byres - you are such a gift to me, to our family.  

Go well - be true to yourself, eat healthy food and sleep enough, study hard and unless you want to unleash the craziness that is a mama bear far away -
learn to text more than one word at a time!!!

I love you to infinity and beyond.

Happy Birthday!!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Snap shots

As many of you know - time with our kids at home these days is precious.  

We are all home for just 48 hours and while my trusty iPhone snaps are great for FB posts and for me to troll through when I am feeling like I need to see all my peeps - they are hardly "good" photos.

But with so little time I didn't want the stress of a photo session. And I wanted relaxed photos...not formal ones.

So I asked a huge favour of a friend whose photos I love.  He has a great eye and while he is not a professional photographer,  you'd never know it from his shots.

He agreed to hang out with us over family dinner last night and just shoot as we did our usual thing.  He was so unobtrusive and we felt very relaxed and had our appy's and sat down to a bbq dinner - as we so often have.  

Here are some of the photos.....I am SO SO grateful  - I love them.  I was determined even to love the ones of me (which I usually detest) and you know what.... I actually do love them.  Of course I see all my flaws first but I lingered long enough to see the joy and love too.  And the ones of my parents and the kids and Allan - so wonderful.  No staged group shots - just us as we are, right now....

Garth Poon - you did such a great job - we are so grateful that you took on the challenge - you did a masterful job - if that teaching gig doesn't work out we think you could make a go of the photog gig!  Thank you thank you thank you.

Byres4 + Gaga and Papa Summer 2017

We are lucky to have each other, to have this home and the means to enjoy wonderful meals.  Boy am I going to miss these gatherings as Lindsay leaves tomorrow and David next weekend but I will cherish these memories and photos and trust that there are more moments and meals to come - together.

Lindsay and David - I am so very proud of you.  I know you are ready for your next chapters and will do us and yourselves proud as you go.  Remember this Mama loves you to the moon and back 50 million times and that will never change.

Go well my sweeties