Thursday, February 1, 2018

One Little Word - 2018 Edition

This is it - February 1, the start of my new year, and my choice of word to be guided by in 2018 took until midway through my workout last night to show up.

Amazing what one thinks of while doing lateral lunges.

So here it is.... 

Lucky the last two years words were COURAGE and BRAVE if I am to tackle TRUTH

I don't know that I have a fully formed idea of what it is about TRUTH that compels me to be a student of it in 2018 but I do know that it is a deeply held value of mine.  It is a precious thing and so easily distorted and obscured. 

These are days of "fake news" and "#Metoo" and the death of net neutrality and algorithms that determine my newsfeed and internet searches.

Has the truth ever been more elusive?

My perpetual quest to be a person of integrity means I strive to both speak and live the truth as I understand it.  And isn't that just the thing.... as I see it, as I understand it... We live in an age of relativism having rejected absolutism for the dangerous and arrogant places it drives us to.

But this relativism leaves truth in murky water, on shaky ground.  I am all for considering multiple perspectives but I am also all for calling BS.  Nicely, of course. 

So I will try to seek truth, speak truth and live truth.  I will call out lies when encountered and falsehood when I am sure of it.  

But I suspect the hardest thing will be accepting the truth...about myself.  

I am still so enslaved to the negative voices in my head, so addicted to comparison and so unable to see myself as others do.   I try to outrun those thoughts and messages I send myself but I am determined to face myself, the truth of my heart and mind and body (ugh body too?) and show up in my life and in the lives of those I love and know and lead and walk through life alongside.

I will speak truth kindly when I need to
I will shout truth loudly if convicted to 
I will listen to truth (even about myself) when it is spoken to me

(PS - One Small Word had its genesis HERE and it is my 8th year of doing it - for some of my past one little word's click HERE for 2011 - 2015)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Well I never...

I should have known.

I should have known that a "quick" trip back to South Africa to see Allan's family would not be "quick".

I also should have known it was high season to travel there being the dead of winter  - but that is clearly the best time for viewing game in the game reserves - and Europe descends.

I should also have known our beloved children would think poorly of not being invited to join us. Me assuming they would be too consumed with working to pay for University...or something. 

And so this usually over-planned Mama finds her "quick" trip to see family has turned into a Byres4 odyssey to Cape Town, our home town, a game reserve/lodge, and.......the cherry on the top.... 5 days in Paris for just Allan and I on our way home.
Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background
I am actually speechless.  

It happened so quickly and the best travel agent in the world got us incredible deals.  The children fly home before us to get themselves ready for 2nd and 4th year studies and we follow a week or so later.  

An overseas family vacation - well.I.never.  

I really never thought that would happen again.

And I am more than delighted.  Not only to have them to travel with but so moved by their deep connections to their family there and the country itself.  Lindsay in particular left part of her heart there last time and has longed to return.  
Durban - 80kms from our home town
It will be a different experience being the opposite season to our last visit but our primary objective is our family and to have some time cozied up with them will be such a gift.  Not to be taken for granted given the time and expense of getting there and back but equally not to be missed for those reasons either.

All our flights are book
Fingers crossed
ed and now we start the fun planning of where to stay and what to do. Relatively short planning time for me given last time I had a whole year to prepare and now I only have 6 months..... I think I can do it though!

Life is sometimes so unexpectedly hard or challenging and then sometimes life is so unexpectedly joyful and exciting.  

I am learning to lean into ALL the moments with my whole heart. 

Tonight I'll go to bed dreaming of the sounds of the African bush, the crash of the Indian ocean, the chatter of cousins and the smell of Paris boulangeries.  

Lucky girl. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

I need help.....

I have learned a lot from my 41 weeks at the gym.  

And not necessarily the things you might think of:

  • I learned one must carefully consider ones nutritional intake (aka lunch) and coffee when one is working out at 4pm or 5pm.  Too much intake is  a problem.  Too little -  also a problem.
  • You don't have to stand in front of the mirror when lifting weights - just move over a little
  • A bad pair of socks can ruin a workout.
  • The length of your t-shirt is critical until your jelly belly turns into a washboard (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ..... I hear it's possible ha ha ha ha)
  • I look like an idiot in a headband (as it slowly moves up my head as I do my lunges and squats until I have a hair mound of crazy proportions on the top of my head) so I let my sweaty locks fall in my face and use my towel liberally.
  • Laces that don't stay done up - SO annoying
  • Fingerless gloves are not sexy but they sure save your hands when you are lifting weights.
  • My fear of being chased is activated when we have to run ladders to warm up - my heart is beating from fear rather than exertion.  I have to stop myself turning around and screaming "LEAVE ME ALONE" at the person "chasing" me.
  • Workout clothes cannot be worn twice and so I need 4 sets a week. For a non-shopper this has been ..... problematic. 
  • As inches depart ones bottom and (less so sadly ) ones waist the pants they be in constant need of pulling up. One can see this as additional arm exercise if one wants to but at a certain point it becomes tedious and shopping is again necessary. UGH.

But I have met my nemesis.  

I have come to a point on this fitness journey that has me foundationally flummoxed. 

I have finally decided that I need a sports bra. 

People...... I did not know such torture existed.  

While I fully (and I mean FULLY) understand the need to tame the bosom during burpees, how, in the actual heck, is one supposed to get into and out of a medium to firm strength sports bra without a) breaking into a sweat b) straining several muscles c) trying to use ones lungs d) swearing?

I am at a loss  - after far too long in a change room where other shoppers must have thought I was wrestling a gorilla. 

At one point I was so tangled I almost had a panic attack at the thought of having to summon help to free me from the blessed bra. 

I now stare at it as I am getting ready to workout and wonder just how much I actually need it. 

And tonight when I wrestled it off I stomped on it which was ungracious - it having prevented two black eyes and back strain and all.

The internet tells me I am not alone but I am not so sure - I see all those other ladies effortlessly wearing fancy sports bras and still breathing normally? 

The only silver lining is now that I am so focused on trying to keep air in my lungs  while working out that I hardly feel the burn in my abs and quads.


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!