Tuesday, September 28, 2010

i'll have more of the same

finally, it seems that 2010 has cleaned up its act and has decided to stop being such a jerk.

as mondays go, this one was pretty stellar.  and why?
  • not waking up to an alarm
  • still smiling from the high of getting together with my new book club full of wonderful, dynamic women
  • a new outfit of a skirt on the sale at the gap and a shirt that fits perfectly from my sister paired with a bold necklace with a giant flower and my favourite italian boots purchased in ireland
  • checking off and throwing away my To Do list at work
  • an hour long presentation to the most notorious of the law enforcement agencies in canada (you just try breaking into our borders!) met with positive feedback
  • won ton soup
  • proofing the text for an ad that i will appear in
  • setting up a meeting with someone who wants to learn more about my 'consulting services'
  • an invitation for a south african wine drinking and luggage packing date
  • a raise.  a totally unsolicited raise!  a potentially retroactive raise!!
  • a meeting with my volunteers who continue to inspire me, challenge me, and humour me
  • purchase of a wall hanging off etsy to bring a little feng shui into my nest
  • a new episode of weeds
  • a glass of dry red wine
long may it last.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

vancouver island is also rather beautiful

5 days of excitement to go

in five days' time i will be on a jetplane, heading to heathrow to transfer to johannesburg and then on to cape town!  i have no idea how long it will take to get there, but i am well prepared with three books and a little bit of work that i have committed to finishing while i am away (not so much work as copy writing for a friend).  my books of choice include the first two in Stieg Larsson's series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  everyone and their dog keeps talking about them, including that there is an element of human trafficking to the story line, so i am jumping on the literary bandwagon and will read them as well.

i also purchased The Help, which i kept picking up at the bookstore and finally bought it online (say what you will about amazon taking away sales from local booksellers, i love the convenience and the process of looking forward to and then receiving a package in the post).

i thought i would have to go on a wild goose chase for shoes to wear to the wedding where i will be a bridesmaid, but i managed to shop in my own closet and find a pair of black, strappy sandals that i got last year in thailand and haven't worn very often back at home.  dressy and sassy?  no, but they will do for a wedding i am travelling halfway around the world to attend to wear with a dress i have never seen?  why yes, yes they are.

as i have mentioned, we've got a few great places to stay already booked and i have noted with asterisks in my lonely planet and rough guide the sights i would like to show my mom in cape town and cape point, wineries i would like to visit in and around stellenbosch, and a whale watching tour out of hermanus.  we are also planning on getting to the sleepy town of bredasdorp so i can show my mom where i lived over 5 years ago and i am crossing my fingers that i will see the woman that i lived with while i was there.  it might be a bit strange walking up to my the half door of the house and knocking.  if she remembers me, i might give her a bit of a heart attack!

i am certainly ready to take a break from the daily grind and the tidal wave i seem to have created.  i spent a lot of time this past week getting on top of my To Do list and feel as though i am leaving all my projects in a state that will not spontaneously combust without regular attention - my volunteers have tasks to take care of, my meetings and workshops are all set up for when i returned and my prep work for them is nearly done, i have someone looking after the nest in my absence, and i have tentative hallowe'en plans and a group of girls thinking up a costume for me.

so all that is left is 5 days of excitement and counting down!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


i am a bit early this month, but i suspect i will have a rather busy 8 days before i leave for south africa with my mama, so i am updating my monthly goals before i head off.

1 - conquer my anxiety, or at least win a few battles against it.  this has been easy this month and i am not quite sure why.  i have been rather busy and continue to feel stretched, but i am not worrying.  i am not panicking.  i am ok.  it's a nice change.

2 - be more thoughtful of others, especially around special occasions.  my little bro and i are going to see kooza, the cirque du soleil show in calgary at the moment, tomorrow to celebrate his 18th birthday (my little brother is an adult!).  and my first christmas gift (for giving, of course) arrived in the mail.  we celebrated my mom's birthday at our cabin at the beginning of the month and we were not scrambling to figure out who was going to get what, it was pleasant and a lot of fun.

3 - continue making visiting family and friends a priority.  seeing as flying to south africa and touring around the winelands and whale trail after a week in cape town is rather pricey, i think this might be it for this year!  but i have managed to get quite a bit of visiting with my dad in and that was a nice change this year.  still no trips to eastern canada or the states, but i am still committed to making those trips happen one day.  for now, i am satisfied with the time i will spend with friends in south africa and i might even get a chance to see the woman i lived with in bredasdorp, south africa over 5 years ago!

4 - nail down some sort of short-term career goals.  hmpf.  still no closer.  my one grand hope for my time in south africa is that i will take advantage of the distance from my regular life to get some clarity on what my next steps are.  i keep waiting for the universe to show me the best path, but i'd be lying if i didn't admit that i am getting a little impatient.  faith in the journey, faith in the journey...

5 - lay a nest egg to accompany my nest.  i've been careful with my pennies lately.  this won't be enough to lay a nest egg, but it will allow me to enjoy my time in the southern hemisphere and know i will be coming back to get right back into my job(s), not only because i will have to catch up on 3 weeks away, but also so i can earn some money!

6 - eat more balanced, regular meals.  i certainly am not mastering this, but i did spend this past saturday canning pickled beets and salsa, yum.  i also made those meatballs last night that were a complete success and me and my slow cooker continue to get to know one another better.  i recently renewed my first aid certification, where i was reminded that we can all do something to improve our heart health and i can certainly eat less red meat (when did that happen?!) and make better food choices.

7 - sleep an appropriate amount.  success!  apart from this past weekend when i had 2 late nights, i have been doing well and feeling rested in the mornings and even making it into my office at a reasonable hour every now and again.  i am not appreciating the darker mornings as the seasons change and might feel differently about getting out of my cozy sheets in the morning as soon as it cools down and the mornings stay dark until after i arrive at work, but for now, i'll keep motoring along and when i get behind, take an in-the-bed, pants-off nap!

8 - maintain my priorities.  this has certainly been a struggle lately, with competing demands of 2 jobs, a volunteer commitment, and juggling social engagements and fitness.  i have found some sort of balance lately and i am not convinced it is permanent, but my decision to get a housekeeper and to say no to invitations from friends and family have helped for the time being.  again, when i return from south africa i am going to have to have a bit of an overhaul on the priority front and i am not sure just yet how the chips will fall.

9 - keep asking for what i want.  i can't really think of anything i have asked for lately.  oh wait, i have asked for some help and guidance on projects for work, which has been endlessly helpful and was instrumental in creating better balance this past month.  i walked away from work and put my worries away more than usual this past month and in a sense, that is a form of asking for what i want.  even if it is a conversation i have to have with myself.

i am still working on the first piece of this goal - figuring out what i want in order to know how and who to ask for it.  i have confidence this is coming down the pipeline.  as my mentor at work says, 'as soon as you feel you have no idea what to do next or where to turn, you can be sure that the universe is setting you up for something and you won't know it until you look back.'

i am feeling as though my goal updates are not that interesting or positive these past few months and in many ways, they match my ho-hum attitude.  i am going to work on keeping these a little closer to my thoughts throughout the next month and have something super fantastic to say in a few short weeks!

Monday, September 20, 2010

going to the experts

i can't decide if the best part about Maid Days is the folded triangles on my toilet paper rolls or that all my crap is neatly piled, but i love it.  and especially on a day like today where i woke up looking forward to crawling back into my bed in the evening.

and i would be there now if the fire alarm wasn't screaming (and it screams something fierce and likely unsafe for human ears).  instead, i have opened a bottle of velvet fog and am waiting it out.  shame it is getting darker earlier now or i could enjoy my beer on my balcony and admire the uniformed firemen that come when this happens once each month.

but instead, i am watching the television show that my mom has me hooked on, come dine with me, a channel 4 programme from the uk that is kitschy, hilarious, and real.  which is much more than i can say for american reality tv shows and reminds me of life in england when i had dinner parties for my international friends and had to balance halal, vegetarian, south african meat eaters, and 5 flatmates in a shared kitchen.

and on the topic of food, i made my very own meatballs last night!  all by myself!  for the first time!  and they are delicious.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the tidal wave

by geez, where have i been?  oh yes, dealing with my life that seems to be overflowing with To Do items lately.  it is not terribly out of the ordinary for me to be busy, but lately i have felt (as my colleague so eloquently put it) that i've created a tidal wave of support and activity and instead of riding it, i am drowning in it.

i suppose it is this way with issue-based work where you need people to be aware of the issue and then you want government to do something about it and then you need to be mindful of whether or not those who are engaged in the response are doing so effectively and responsibly and then you need to deal with the people coming out of the woodwork who just learned about your issue and how it affects their community.

i was feeling rather ho-hum about the whole thing (the 'thing' being my professional life) and that i was zapped of all energy, but today i feel much better.  perhaps because i just said to my Day Job 'eff off for a day!' and concentrated on getting caught up on my other job, which is much more rewarding but certainly does not pay the bills.

now i am all set up to host two events in the coming months, deliver three training sessions to government and non-government agencies, have coffee with yahoos who want to start their own organisation, another coffee meeting with the executive director of a really cool agency that supports victims of sexual exploitation, manage 5 kick ass volunteers, write a law school reference letter, draft a research plan, and carry out the regular stuff associated with non-profit management.  eesh. but at least now i am sorted, have my files saved the way they should be (funny how this is sometimes so difficult to keep up ith), and feel as though i can ride the tidal wave rather than have it drown me.  what a difference a morning makes.

to get all of this done, i worked from home today.  it meant recognising that i was far too stretched and stressed with my Day Job and that it was taking away from where i would prefer to spend my energies (but that sadly, doesn't pay quite as well as the private sector).  i will pick it all up again tomorrow when i go into my office, but i am going to do my best to remain slightly removed from the bullshit that comes with leading a team to complete a rather undesirable task (hello, audit!).

and all of this is ok because in 2 short weeks i will be in cape town, south africa where my mama and i will be living in the lap of luxury (that is a saying, isn't it?) by staying here and here.  and then staying at a protea farm.  a protea farm, people!  a protea farm in the middle of the winelands.  where they grow grapes!  and make wine!


Monday, September 06, 2010

san francisco is also beautiful

six months in sudan

for someone who is mildly obsessed with trying to figure out if international humanitarian assistance or foreign aid makes a positive impact on the lives of those in developing countries, i found almost refreshing to read a book that describes one individual's attempt to achieve what all humanitarians set out to do - improve the lives of others.

whether james maskalyk is successful in his humanitarian quest is secondary to his telling of his six months in sudan, which is also the name of the book, and i am glad that he did not spent his words or pages delving into the academic discussions of how aid should be delivered and what the challenges are for those working in a dynamic and ever shrinking humanitarian space in conflict zones.

instead, you get a honest, heartfelt, angry, and genuine telling of maskalyk's experience of volunteering with medicins sans frontieres in abyei, sudan where there was a simple hospital, small staff and countless challenges and barriers, but he and the msf team, like countless other similar teams active throughout the world, overcome what they can and accept what they cannot change.  but if only it were that simple - to understand the beauty of the struggle and the celebration of the successes, you will have to read the book.

i have never worked in a environment as resource constrained or isolated as abyei, but i do know what it is like to question what you are doing, if it is working the way it was intended, and the pain in the ass that is internal organisational politics and i am not sure how, but maskalyk articulated it all so well.  there were certainly parts that were difficult to read and i had to put the book down a few times (sometimes to take a few breaths because he doesn't hold back on the medical details...), but the story is one of a young canadian doctor who wishes to do what he can to improve the health of those he could in a village in the contested borderland area of sudan.

read it.  you won't be disappointed.