Être ou Avoir

Trying to find the balance.

My Grandmother: 100 Years

Posted by IR on June 25, 2014

On Friday June 26 1914, my grandmother, Margaret Thomson Barr (née McGowan) was born. In the hundred years that have gone by, she has brought alive core values that have inspired and led those around her. I am so incredibly fortunate to share her as a grandmother, and as she becomes a centenarian tomorrow, I am overjoyed to be celebrating her.

My grandmother lives in Kimberley B.C., her home for most of her 100 years, and I always look forward to each opportunity I have to visit, speak with her on the phone or see her via FaceTime. Our conversations usually focus on politics, hockey, family, and to affirm the Canadian nature of it all – the weather. We compare precipitation levels, we discuss the state of goaltending around the NHL – usually that of the Canucks – and she explains with vigour what provincial and federal politicians have been up to lately and how they should be held more accountable. Having been alive longer than the NHL has existed, and having lived out the terms of 15 different prime minsters it is well within her expertise to appraise positions on the ice and in the parliament. That being said the greatest joys in our conversations are when she relates stories of her incredible experiences and when we talk of our family, which owes so much to her values and her leadership.

 

Commitment, determination and work ethic are strong characteristics of my grandmother. There are numerous stories from her time as a nurse, beginning in the 1930s, that have her meeting challenges, and serving others. From overcoming a very valid fear of bears lurking on the trail while walking to the hospital, to fighting for rights at work, to nursing in Bermuda during the war – she has never been one to back away from a challenge. When she has a goal or task in mind, she is tireless in its completion.

As the second oldest among seven siblings, she grew up helping to take care of others. Caring for others, expression of kindness, being selfless, and prioritizing family are the values she has lived, passed on, and continues to focus on to this day. From my very first summer, to those in to my teenage years, I spent my formative Julys and Augusts on her Lake Windermere property and witnessed how she was incredibly welcoming to all visitors and so selfless in everything she did. As I grew older and took in more and more stories of everything she had done for her siblings, for her own children – my mother and aunt – and how she has continually watched over her four grandchildren, and now two great-grandchildren I am continually astounded with her kindness. She worries – for others and never for herself. She goes out of her way to think of others’ needs and experiences.

Out of my teens, into my twenties, and now beyond, I cherish everything I have learned, and continue to learn from the most amazing woman I have ever known. She laid the foundation for a strong and loving family that takes care of each other. She inspired me to experience a full life. Some of my happiest moments are sharing my experiences and photos from adventures with my grandmother. Her keenness, encouragement, and unwavering support of every risk I have taken and every challenge I have accepted – has given and still gives me strength on a daily basis. As someone who knows the effort needed to take on goals, and to overcome fears, it is incredibly powerful to have her unwavering support and love.

My grandmother turns 100, and I simply do not have the words to express how much I love her, and how much her love means to me, and how much I know it means to our entire family. I am such a better person because of her love.

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Grandma and John Calgary 1914

 

 

Scrapbook Page 15 1930s_2

Grandmother

Lake - Grandma, Ian, Megan 1983 1

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Happy Christmas 2013

Posted by IR on December 24, 2013

Peace, Hope, Joy, Love… Redemption.

Hopefully you find yourself surrounded by these values, and ready to pass them along this season, and in the year ahead.

In thoughts, or in person, may you be with those you love and care about, and celebrate that which is important to you.

Krismasi Njema – Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas – 즐거운 성탄

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IR’s 2013 Christmas Playlist: Get Christmasy

Posted by IR on December 24, 2013

In just under the wire this year is the 2013 version of the Christmas playlist. As in previous years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), the criteria for a song to be considered:

- Is tied to a memorable event from the past year.
– Is musically meaningful to someone, or a group of people I care about, and/or have interacted with lately.
-Has been a popular song in the preceding year.
-Could be allowing me to send a message – but not always what appears to be the obvious one.
-Is a Christmas song.
-Is by an artist I think you should hear more of.
-A hands down cool song.

You’ll notice some artists who had new albums get a bit more playtime, and you’ll also notice some ties to Iceland – for good reason. There are also the same Christmas tunes that keep showing up, but we’ve tried for a different selection of artists for Silent Night, and Hark!

What songs were important to you this past year?

Hope you are able to enjoy the preparation, and start of Christmas tomorrow, surrounded by plenty of music, and plenty of friends and family. Be sure to Get Christmasy.

Get Christmasy

1 – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Choir of King’s College
2 – Take a Walk – Passion Pit
3 – Inner Ninja  – Classified, featuring David Myles
4 – Lightning Bolt – Jake Bugg
5 – Young Boys – Sin Fang
6 – Christmas in L.A. – The Killers, featuring Dawes
7 – I Need My Girl – The National
8 – Mountain Sound – Of Monsters and Men
9 – You Already Know – Arcade Fire
10 – Get Lucky – Daft Punk, featuring Pharrel Williams
11 – Let Go – RAC, featuring Kele & MNDR
12 – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Musical Christmas
13 – Pompeii – Bastille
14 – Back in Black  – AC/DC
15 – Pink Rabbits – The National
16 – Time to Run – Lord Huron
17 – New York Groove – Kiss & Ace Frehley
18 – Dirty Paws – Of Monsters and Men
19 – Changing of the Guards – Bob Dylan
20 – Silent Night – Michael Bublé
21 – Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio

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Eve of Tuesday 2013

Posted by IR on September 2, 2013

This is the 7th annual post for this time of year.

Admittedly, this space has been rather reticent in the past year. While there has not been much new writing there has been plenty of life going on, and plenty of stories being lived out, and shared. I have had many ideas for posts, and a few were even started in the past 12 months, but it seemed as if the next challenge, adventure, or a different potential post kept creeping up to prevent any writing from actually getting completed. I have not felt any discontent, as I continue to feel this space has a worthwhile existence. Thus, writing here has only taken a brief hiatus, and with the start of a new year – the day after Labour Day – I have hopes that the break is ending.

Those familiar with previous Labour Day posts (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) know that tomorrow typically marks the beginning of a new cycle in my life, as it does in many of yours. In reflecting on this past year, it seemed that story telling played a prominent role. This realization reminded me of Thomas King’s words: “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are”.

When I first read his phrase some years ago it struck a chord that continues to resonate to this day, and since that time I feel as though how I interpret, take in, share, and participate in stories has been evolving with much deeper meaning. Stories are multi-sided. Stories have conflict. Stories have hope. Stories have tragedy. Stories have redemption. Stories have love. We live stories. We are stories.

I am appreciative of the amazing storytellers I have in my family and as friends They are continually contributing to, and improving on, how I tell stories, and how I help others share, interpret and take-in stories. This is of no small importance, as stories fuel our inspirations, teach us lessons, build a sense of connection and belonging, and at the same time provide opportunities for creativity and individually. I am excited about how my growth with regards to stories will continue in the year to come.

As is typical, I will take this Labour Day post to encourage you to look around at those in your life, and be ready to offer them support as we take on new challenges, or expand on old ones in the year ahead. In other words, consider what type of character you will play in the stories being lived out right now. Even periphery characters can offer positive values, and support to a story. What type of character will you be in the stories being lived alongside and among your own personal story?

This year we will have the Counting Crows take us in to the Tuesday. In just over a week it will be the 20th anniversary of the stand-out album that featured this memorable song. The storytelling aspect of the tune was also mentioned in a previous post, I Was Down at the New Amsterdam.

Take care,
Peace and love – à bientôt,
IR :-)

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EBB Project Reflection – 2012

Posted by IR on January 28, 2013

The following piece was originally written for the Education Beyond Borders Website in the autumn of 2012. With some minor edits I have finally posted it here.

During the past summer I travelled to Kenya for the second time. For approximately a month I was fortunate enough to work with Kenyan and Canadian colleagues on three Education Beyond Borders (EBB) projects. Each project provided me with opportunities to share, to learn, and to grow with other professionals. One of the most powerful experiences was returning to Gilgil, where I had spent three weeks the previous summer.

Over the course of the past year I kept in contact with some of my colleagues from the Gilgil and Naivasha districts. As spring drew near we collaborated professionally on the planning of this summer’s Navaisha-Gilgil Student-Centred Methodology workshops. There was nervousness and excitement in this process. It was to be the first year that Kenyan teachers would take on the roles of project leaders, and primary planners for nearly all facets of the preparation and delivery of the workshops. In fact, there would be no direct Canadian presence for the teacher workshops in late August. Noble Kelly was the only other Canadian teacher going to Naivasha-Gilgil this year, and we were set to be focused on observation and feedback.

This was to be an important step for the Naviasha and Gilgil districts, as well as EBB. The EBB model aims to support districts and teachers in such a way that they are able to take ownership of sustainable professional development over the course of four or five years. As the longest running project in Kenya, Naivasha-Gilgil had provided lessons for other projects in East Africa. Now that it was in its fifth year, it was time to discover just what the next steps to local sustainability would look like in a project that was approaching the end of the model’s cycle.

With the anticipation and curiosity of how this transition would unfold, Noble and I travelled towards Gilgil in early August. As we approached Utumishi Academy, where we would be working with trainers and facilitators, I recalled 2011. That year I witnessed the reunion of Kenyan and Canadian teachers who had worked together previously. I wondered if I would experience the same sense of palatable joy, and feeling of homecoming that I had witnessed in others previously.

The wonders soon became answers, and as old friends poured in to the room it felt as if we had spent merely a few weeks apart, rather than a year. The warmth of reconnecting with my Kenyan friends and colleagues, who inspire me with their dedication to students, learning, and teaching, is difficult to fully convey. The intense experience of EBB projects forges friendships that last over thousands of kilometres and years. This intensity also fuels an ambition for collaborative and student focused education. The next two weeks were filled with passionate discussion, debate, and preparation. Long hours and little electricity were but small obstacles as the core team of experienced trainers planned how to welcome new facilitators, and create new workshops. Admittedly there was some uneasiness as the reality of a new future, with less concrete ties to EBB, took shape. However, by collaborating and sharing successes of the past year, it became apparent that this new future would be no less meaningful, inspiring or effective than the previous four years. In fact, the strength and commitment of the teacher leaders in Naivasha-Gilgil was on full display, and it was clear to me that future professional development in the area can be focused specifically to meet local needs.

The teachers in Naviasha and Gilgil truly embody the EBB philosophy. No one person owns the process, there is no one way to always do things. New participants, facilitators, and trainers are welcome to share new ideas, and to develop new resources. Feedback is consistently pursued, and positively given, with support and care. There are many hands to lift heavy work. This process may not always be comfortable, or easy, but it is always fulfilling, full of learning, and focused on improving the future learning of students.

This year, close to one hundred new teacher participants in Naivsha-Gilgil attended professional development workshops at the end of August. Noble and I had returned to Canada by that point, but we were able to connect briefly to this gathering over Skype. A sense of accomplishment, collaboration, fulfilment, and unbridled joy among our friends and colleagues came across loud and clear. Professional development and collaboration is entering a new era in Naivasha-Gilgil. I am honoured and humbled to have worked with amazing colleagues and fantastic friends. I look forward to sharing and learning in new ways as an exciting new time for EBB and teachers in Naivasha-Gilgil begins.

Posts made from Kenya during the summer of 2012:
Adventures in Collaboration
Observation of Engagement

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Happy Christmas 2012

Posted by IR on December 24, 2012

Peace, Hope, Joy, Love… Redemption.

These are more than just feelings or wishes. They are aspects of our lives we can take control of, and lead by example.

In thoughts, or in person, may you be with those you love and care about, and celebrate that which is important to you.

Krismasi Njema – Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas – 즐거운 성탄

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IR’s 2012 Christmas Playlist: Rhymin’ and Christmasin’

Posted by IR on December 23, 2012

As another calendar year draws to a close, it’s time for a little tradition. Unfortunately the latest blog posts have only been the traditional ones. At least they remind me that I should be writing more.

As Christmas approaches I took a look back at songs or groups that featured prominently in different aspects of my life in the past year, and reflected on the annual criteria for this list. In order to be considered for inclusion, two of the following conditions must be met by the song:
– Is tied to a memorable event from the past year.
– Is musically meaningful to someone, or a group of people I care about, and/or have interacted with lately.
-Has been a popular song in the preceding year.
-Could be allowing me to send a message – but not always what appears to be the obvious one.
-Is a Christmas song.
-Is by an artist I think you should hear more of.
-A hands down cool song.

After careful (and again rather hurriedly) contemplation, the 2012 edition was battle born: Ryhmin’ and Christmasin’. For the first time both David Gray and Death Cab were left off. The Black Keys had a big year within my ears, and around the globe and thus garnered two spots. The other double feature on the 2012 list belongs to the late Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys, for obvious reasons. The only hat trick goes to the Killers, who always get their Christmas release added (I Feel it in My Bones this year) but also got two off their latest album, as their recent concert in Vancouver was lights out!

This is about the sixth or seventh year I’ve made a playlist for Christmas, but only the fourth time it’s been posted (2009, 2010, 2011). Comments and questions on the list are always welcome. What musical selections were integral to your life this past year? Music is a big part of our lives – don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, here, or elsewhere.

Have a Merry Christmas, and be sure to get out there and go Rhymin’…

Rhymin’ and Christmasin’

  1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Vince Guaraldi Trio
  2. Sussudio – Phil Collins
  3. Pick Me Up – Hollerado
  4. Closer – Tegan and Sara
  5. Charlie Brown – Coldplay
  6. I Feel It In My Bones – The Killers (feat. Ryan Pardey)
  7. Love Interruption – Jack White
  8. Rhymin’ and Stealin’ – Beastie Boys
  9. Runaways – The Killers
  10. Midnight City – M83
  11. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
  12. Young Blood – The Naked and Famous
  13. Needing/Getting – OK Go
  14. Fake Empire – The National
  15. Little Black Submarines – The Black Keys
  16. Ebony and Ivory – Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder
  17. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town – Pearl Jam
  18. Some Nights – Fun.
  19. Intergalactic – Beastie Boys
  20. A Very Vancouver Christmas – Dan Mangan
  21. Battle Born – The Killers
  22. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
  23. Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental) – Vince Guaraldi Trio
  24. Silent Night – The Canadian Tenors

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Happy Thanksgiving 2012

Posted by IR on October 8, 2012

The Thanksgiving holiday is drawing to a close. As has become the norm for my favourite holiday, this Thanksgiving has been about spending time with family and friends. There has been some hockey, some time in the mountains, some physical activity outdoors, some filmfesting, and some eating of good food – all activities I am fortunate to be able to do, and thankful for.

This year I am particularly thankful for hope and positive thoughts. We are challenged in many different ways in our lives, but sometimes unexpected challenges, those life changing challenges can make things seem bleak and negative. We have all had challenges, and to have witnessed friends and family overcome challenges with the help of hope and positive thoughts. Admittedly, feeling hopeful, and feeling positive are not the sole factors that guide us through life’s challenges. However, they are helpful, and they do bring us closer together. Thus, thank you for sending out hope, and sending out positive thoughts to those people in your life who need it – on Thanksgiving, and throughout the year. As a wiser individual than I noted, thoughts ultimately lead to much more, including actions and habits.

On this Thanksgiving, thanks for sending out out hope and positive thoughts.

Hoping you are able to spend time with those you care about.

Merci – 감사합니다  – Asante – Thank you

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Eve of Tuesday 2012

Posted by IR on September 3, 2012

This is the 6th annual post for this time of year. Previous entries may provide some background understanding and more complete explanation of some points mentioned below. They can be found here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

This Labour Day weekend has been filled with family, friends, traditions and celebrations. All of these are connected closely with a common theme of previous Eve of Tuesday posts: support.

In addition to support, those closest to us also offer perspective. Sometimes the perspective can be agreement and affirmation. Other times, those who care about us can offer differing perspectives. An obvious example is the differing perspectives on this time of year. It has been suggested here multiple times that the Tuesday after Labour Day marks the beginning of a “new year”. There can be many other perspectives on when the “new year” occurs most naturally. Learning and growth can happen through changing one’s perspective. This does not mean that decisions, values, attitudes and practices need to change when entertaining every different viewpoint. Often, prior knowledge and beliefs can be strengthened by coming to understand different views.

As Labour Day drifts away, and we begin a time of year that is filled with new beginnings for so many of us, it may be time to reflect upon the importance of perspectives – those that are common to our own, and those that are different.

At this point, I am afraid I will repeat much of the same expressions that have been written in Labour Day posts of the past. However, it seems that these sentiments only get stronger each year, so please forgive the reinforcement. It has been an amazing year, filled with adventures for all of us. The past year has finished with a summer that was busy, and full of stories from friends that still beg to be told.

As usual, it is a time of year where there are thoughts of appreciation. I am extremely grateful to those I shared adventures with during the past year, and those who supported me. I am all too fortunate to have many people in my life who broaden my perspective and make me a better person. In turn, the summer has finished with reconnecting and celebrating. Thanks to J, D & family for continuing with a long standing fun tradition. Thanks to L, R & their family for continually being so welcoming. Thanks to E & T for continuing with a new tradition.  Congratulations to A & T, and a special thanks to them for hosting a wonderful evening filled with caring people!

Finally, as this season of renewal gets underway I wish us all the best. As always, there are new challenges, adventures, and perspectives that await. A particular note and word of encouragement go to Kenyan colleagues who are presently amidst a challenge.

The years are passing a little quicker now – I’m sure of it. No matter what the challenge or adventure ahead, let’s face each of them with youthful energy, and caring support of others. In so doing, let us hope and expect caring support in return…. and as the autumn advances, take the time for some smiles, and maybe a little dancing.

Below, Death Cab for Cutie take us out this year. Have a great Tuesday – no matter what your perspective!

Take care,
Peace and love – à bientôt,
IR :-)

ps – thanks to R. for the edits.

Posted in Balance, Friendship, hmmm | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Lights Out: The Power Surge Tour

Posted by IR on August 14, 2012

Nearly a month in Kenya is coming to an end.

I have a number of pieces of writing in the works about occurrences, thoughts, and reflections since my last post, but it is going to take a bit longer to see if any of them come to complete fruition. In the meantime, it seems only appropriate to mark the last few hours of this adventure with a quick look back, and some thanks.

It became known as Lights Out: The NK & IR Power Surge Tour. Stops and visits included:

  • Kakamega – July 20-28
  • Kisumu – July 29
  • Nairobi – July 29-30
  • Nanyuki – July 31-Aug 3
  • Gilgil Aug 3-6
  • Nakuru Aug 6-10
  • Gilgil Aug 10-13

Nearly all of the stops included disruptions in electrical power – of various severity and duration. With a grin and a shrug we began to consider that  our mere presence was altering the flow of electricity wherever we ventured. However, it did nothing to dampen the experiences. In fact, it became the norm, and whenever the electricity went out, smiles came on. That’s because there was no shortage of power. We were surrounded by the power of amazing educators, fantastic friends, and a wealth of caring. We were welcomed wholeheartedly and with compassion in to meetings, in to workshops, in to schools, in to classrooms, and in to homes throughout our journey. In all of these adventures we were consistently among colleagues who care more than anything about their students. That’s real power.

Once again I leave Kenya having grown as a professional, and having strengthened bonds of friendship. I am so very grateful to my new friends, and my old friends in each of the locations we visited. At the risk of forgetting someone, I will not attempt an exhaustive list. Simply: thank you – asante! While I have learned at every stop along our tour, I will briefly mention that those I have worked closely with in Gilgil these past two years have given me so much. They are simply outstanding friends and colleagues. Asante sana.

I intentionally speak in the present tense. These are my friends, these are my colleagues, even as I depart Kenya.

Finally – a large debt of gratitude to NK as my tour partner. A great teammate, an inspiring educator.

Hopefully more photos to come on flickr, and more writing to come on this blog. In the meantime…

Asante sana – tutaonana siku nyingine!
IR

Posted in Adventure, Education, Friendship, Kenya, Travel | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

 
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