#RuckusMakersChallenge – day one

Back in January, Seth Godin posted on his blog he was going to host a weekend seminar. The requirement to attend was to want to make a ruckus. Applicants needed to be as honest with themselves about their fears as they are about their dreams. In the best compliment I’ve received this year, a colleague sent me the post saying they thought I was a total fit.

I applied without thinking. I’ve blogged before about saying yes and being available for opportunities life presents to participate – applying to RuckusMakers was like saying yes. Once I hit “send” the doubts came piling in. I know how the Seth-devoted are – highly accomplished, driven, inspired. Who was I to think I could earn a spot in a group hand-picked to be against the grain thinkers and creative drivers? Turns out I was myself – someone lucky enough to have some dreamy hopes come true.

It says a lot about where my life is now that RuckusMakers was able to happen for me. I work for an organization who focuses on innovation and change without losing sight of it’s people in the mix. I get to spend my days looking to the future, and I have space and time to breathe which means I have space and time to grow. I’ve accepted a challenge to blog once a day for the next eight about the experience we shared with Seth. I’ve accepted a couple other challenges, some with myself and some related to my job, that I’ll be committing to ship in the coming days. In Seth’s words, I “pick myself.”

I got this.

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A tale of four fives

Five number one I put on the desk as soon as I got into my hotel room at the Dylan on 41st St. I highly recommend it, for good value and amazing qualities like quotes about New York on every landing (I was on the 9th floor, can vouch for floors 1 through 9), and it’s location on Library Way, in itself a sparkling facet of a wondrous city. I always tip the housekeeping staff in hotels, because I eviscerate beds. The only time I think a person should lie prone and snug is in a casket. Beds are meant for sprawling, with tousled sheets you can stick a foot out of to gauge temperature and whether it is time to wake up. $5 for the maid, always and at least.

Five number two I spent on time. Sunday night I ambled. Wandered, meandered, didn’t want to commit to any one thing and was already headed for my cups after going for a beer with Iowaians from the conference, plus a glass of wine in Bryant Park where a statue of Gertrude Stein made me jump. She is in a lurky spot. On my jaunt I passed a guy handing out CD’s of his music. Harlem rap is not what I’m in to, and I declined, but waiting for the light to change I heard three other people decline as well. I turned around and extended my hand, getting a smile in return. We chatted. He’s trying to get his music heard. He’s never heard of the Tragically Hip, or Kingston. I handed him $5 and told him I thought his time was worth something. He gave me a fist bump, I went on my way. I left the CD along with my US change and the $5 bill for the maid.

Five number three was for connecting. My final morning I was scouting. I knew there were airport shuttles. I’d seen them driving around the neighbourhood. I’d seen signs too, indicating they stopped places, but didn’t know the how or when of it to catch one. I was heading for the library when I saw him. Grey haired, about my height. Like a playing card, or so the sandwich board he was wearing made it seem. I tootled over to him, and asked how to catch an airporter. He was answering me, looking down at the ground and seemed to expect me to dismiss what he was saying. When he was done I pretended to dance a jig and asked him if it was fun to take the shuttle. He looked at me, startled out of his automaton mode and smiled a grin that made up in surprise what it lacked in teeth. Sure is, he said. Scenic in a way and cheapest/fastest way out of downtown. Told me where to catch it so I was spared the milk run, told me how to get a ticket, how to make sure I didn’t miss the one I wanted, else I’d wait a half hour, told me what I needed to know. I handed him $5. Again a surprised grin. I told him he’d given me at least that much in valuable information, and time saved. I wished him good day, he wished me safe travels. I was glad we had connected.

Five number four was for promise. The New York Public Library is more than a repository of culture and potential. It is a trove of possibilities. The building alone is magnificent, guarded as it is by Patience and Fortitude. I gave Patience the stink eye when I went past, we don’t always see eye to eye. Fortitude I nodded at. She and “onwards” line up, we have gotten along at times in life. There was a free show on the history of photography. An open display on the history of spelling. Owl socks and art cards for sale in the bookstore that spoke to me of Memere, of friends, and of my kidlets at home. I stuffed four $5 bills in the collection box to support the library. I would have stuffed in four more had I had them. I sat on a marble bench inside, people watching and loving the hush, looking at the details from the cornices to the font used for the signage. I will go back, I promised myself. I want my kids to see it. I’m glad to know they’ll be in awe.

I hit up Starbucks when I got home – I had an evening of work ahead of me and not much brain power after travelling to do it. The barista asked me if I had a good weekend. I said indeed, I was in New York. She excitedly asked me if I went shopping, how was the shopping, what did I buy?! No shopping, I said, but a couple bucks bought me some lovely moments I was glad to have.

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#KindnessAdvent #KindnessAmbassadors Here I go.

I'm doing this. I'm feeling blurry from busy and unattached to what's the real point of this time of year. Here goes nothing.

I’m doing this. I’m feeling blurry from busy and unattached to what’s the real point of this time of year.

Today’s was to randomly call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. I called my sister. We don’t talk nearly often enough yet we share so much – like a fondness for my niece, the ability to laugh about Memere’s latest adventure (she found a mouse in her mailbox), and life in general. I caught her as the bedtime routine was unfolding, but it was a boost to hear her laugh, and to remind her she’s the glue that keeps us girls connected. Once she got over her shock I had picked up a phone and called – and trusted me nothing was wrong for me to be doing so, we had a lovely chat.

Mission accomplished. I wonder what day two will bring!

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Five things! Fun, frivolous things.

I love Twitter. That’s not one of the five things. This post is supposed to be me sharing five random things about myself, but first I want to thank Brandee @archeolemur – she’s one of the tweeps who make Twitter the human, heart-filled, and fun place I find it to be. She “tagged” me to do this, so here goes.

1. I am a freakish speed reader. It bothers the people I live with (my kids and hubby) but it’s true. I can scan something, have the gist of it, and be on to something else faster than you can say cottage cheese. I can also do word jumble puzzles with RainMan accuracy. Even when I’m driving and someone gives me seven letters, I can get the word in seconds. I have a mind for words. Numbers not so much.

2. On a scale of caveman to hacker, I’m past the mid way point of geek. I like technology and gizmos and digitally puttering more than I’d think, for how much I also like being outside digging in the dirt or just ambling around. My favourite tech objets d’art are currently my Nexus 7 tablet (given to me free by BestBuy in a promo for busy moms on Twitter). My wireless Bose speaker, my beloved first generation iPad (now basically an e-reader music player, but it was my appendage for so long I can’t part with it) and my Fitbit.

3. I love thrift store shopping. I love digging through stuff to find hidden gems, love the recycling aspect of it all and the look on people’s faces when I crow about something I’m wearing only cost me $7. When we were kids it was a necessity to shop there, now I feel like it keeps me prospecting in a way. The same goes for home decor, I love “found” objects, eclectic collections of things from travels or adventures, and antiques that show their age versus being in perfect shape.

4. I’m a twin. People who’ve known me for a bit find it odd they don’t know that sooner about me. We’re quite different, not just as sisters go, as people. She’s taller, leaner, and smarter than me but she thinks it’s all the opposite. She also has jet black hair and hazel eyes. Suffice to say I’ve heard every albino joke going.

5. I lack a poker face, everyone knows what I’m thinking, but I *never* say things out loud I really really hope will happen. I hold those inside and whisper wishes on stars, thistle puffs, and single sneezes (in our house, one’s a wish, two’s a kiss, and three’s a letter when it comes to sneezes) which is strange behaviour from a sworn optimist. I guess I feel like tender hope can get buffeted if it’s out there in today’s rough world, so I feel protective of it.

That’s a fairly random sampling of things about me… I won’t tag anyone, but invite anyone reading this who wants to, to go ahead and do this as well. It’s a fun exercise to sit and ponder for a moment. Thank you Brandee for the brain break and for including me in the company of your lovely friends who also blog! This was fun!

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Thirteen

Kid1 turns 13 tomorrow. He will actually wake up a teen, having been the sort of delivery that makes one question having more children (he arrived after 22 hours of hard work, at 1 in the morning).**

I told him tonight as I hugged him goodnight that I’m proud of who he is. I asked him if he knows that. He nodded, his head resting on my shoulder because of course, he’s now taller than me. I asked him to tell me something he likes about himself. I was kind of whispering, so he wouldn’t pick up on the fact I was talking around a lump in my throat. He paused, grinned, and said “where do I start, Mom?” He then squeezed me hard and hopped off down the hall to bed.

He could start by saying at the school dance last week he made a point of asking people to dance who were standing by themselves, because he figured that would feel lonely for them. He could start by saying he said hello to a lady at the dance studio last night, who takes her granddaughter to class and who – when I arrived later in the night, said my son was so kind to notice an old woman sitting by herself, and to say “hi.” He could go on to tell the story of how he picked up shards of glass and mopped up water when poor Memere broke a snow globe on a recent visit. Unable to get down on the floor and make sure things were cleared away, Daws made sure it was cleaned up and calmed a very upset Memere down in the process.

This kid is all about sports and the outdoors and he plays as many video games as his overly strict parents will allow. He’s also held down a paper route (the most thankless task known to man, seriously) for years, pulled his marks from mediocre to excellent (after some extremely active parenting, but onwards either way), and is genuine – something I don’t see some other kids his age exhibiting. Is he perfect? No. Two years ago I found thirty Flintstones vitamins behind his desk, where he’d spewed them rather than chewing them. He thinks so fast he over talks his physical ability to form words, and he can be very hard to understand because of it. He is a terrible, atrocious liar. As in, when he tries to fudge the truth his whole body goes stiff and you can practically see his mind screaming “look natural!”

But he is my boy. He is the gift of a first born son to an only born son married to someone who never planned on kids, she just went with the flow. I think of Daws when I am asked if I feel lucky, because I’ve won roulette playing his birthday. We think he has a bit of Yoda in him, we ask his advice at stressful times – literally turning him into a childish magic eight ball – and it’s always been bang on. He is the kind of kid I would have wished for, if I thought I got a say in the matter. He’s online now, in places and spaces as much of today’s world is. He will see this, and he will know that I am heart burst proud of who he has become and what he stands for as a person, a friend, and especially a brother. So I guess I’m saying thanks, Daws. For being you and for living up to your name, our hopes, and your potential. When I asked if you thought you’d wake up changed in some way once you are a teenager, I was quiet when you answered “nope.” I was trying not to freak you out by crying. It was happy tears, bud. We wouldn’t change a thing about you. Tomorrow we celebrate the day you were born, but as always with you and your sister, your birthdays are about us celebrating the gift you’ve been to us. Happy birthday.

**I vividly recall my father-in-law – the nicest and smartest man I have known – telling me “this baby’s not going to be born today” around dinner time 13 years ago on November 4th. I barely held back from calling him a bad name. Dawson is named after his grandfathers and he lives up to their gentle, good guy natures each and every day.

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Start a wave…

I saw him from a mile away. Inching out, into traffic. From where I was, it seemed he would get in way before I got there, but he didn’t. I slowed down, gave a wave, he pulled out in front of me, and returned my wave. We both continued on our way.

Walking into work, she saw me coming. Likely heard my shoes before she registered that I was carrying a bucket, a purse, and an overflowing bag of clothes, shoes, plus my lunch. She stopped and held the door for me, waving me through. I breathlessly thanked her, waving as I teetered past her, grateful for the hand.

Have you started a wave lately? It’s easy. It’s like the commercial, where one little good turn leads to another. The wave I’m talking about is done as a polite response to a courtesy. Days without earning a wave mean you didn’t put shine out there for anyone. Days without giving a wave mean no one cut you a break, saw you in line or needing a hand. So why not start a wave? It means you’re seeing people. It means you’re willing to put out what you would like to see more of in the world. Courtesy, along with empathy, decorum, and tact has become increasingly rare to see. I’d like to see a return of these lost arts to counter what I do see lots of these days. I’d like to see more people taking care of our shared spaces and interactions. So. I’m going to do my part, and try and start a wave each day. At the very least I will be making a daily deposit in my karma bank. Maybe at the same time, I can help someone else to do the same.

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Picture perfect is overrated.

I was on the parenting tightrope tonight. The one where falling to the left meant tears and sadness and I had to pick up pieces of kid2 and put them back together. The same one where falling to the right meant we shallowly skipped across a potential life lesson without any benefit from the augh and angst of the whole thing.

Kid2 is attending dance camp at the Quinte Ballet School. It’s kind of a big deal, she’s technically too young (you have to be ten to go) but was admitted as she dances above her age, and she rocked the audition. She’s attending as a day student, which saved us $1K (the three-week program is residential) however with our driving back and forth and gas prices, that may work out to only be $40 when all is said and done. Tonight was picture night.

Picture night looks like this. 80 students ranging in age from 10 to 18 (with one 9-year-old) from across Canada, in platter tutus and pointe shoes, body suits and tights, striking various poses that demonstrate the strength and flexibility, grace and beauty of ballet. When I pulled up to pick up kid2 tonight she was off to the side, by herself, in shorts and a t-shirt. I watched for a bit, she hadn’t seen me pull in. Yep. Definitely seeing a person who wasn’t feeling a part of things. Twiddling with her ear where her earring would be, if they were allowed to wear jewellery to class. Sometimes looking away, sometimes inching closer to the group of chattering ballerinas having their picture taken, but without question on the outskirts and feeling it.

I walked up to her and could tell her breezy “hello Mummy” required effort. My “Hiya darling” was heartfelt but wary for what I felt was coming. “Where’s your stuff?” Her bag was inside Albert College, so we headed to collect her things. The regular list of questions was run through, about the day’s classes, about how my picky eater child did that day at the buffet. Finally I cracked. “How come you’re not in ballet gear, lovey?” I asked – and gave myself props for how light my voice stayed.

She stopped and turned to face me. Her freckled cheeks turned pink. “I forgot it in my locker.” (the classes are a few blocks away from the residence). “When we got here I remembered it was picture day but I couldn’t go back and get it.” She took a deep breath and her blue eyes with the eyelashes that are not to be believed started to shine even more. “I was the only girl not in ballet wear, so I couldn’t be in any special pictures.”

“Special pictures?” I asked, feeling a sting in my heart for her.

“Ya,” she said. “I got a solo picture in this…” (she wore a too-small t-shirt today and shorts that are actually cut off track pants. This child does not worry what she wears, as long as she is covered, she goes). “Then we did our group photo, and I was the only girl not wearing tights and a bodysuit.” She stopped talking as her voice cracked at that point.

Enter the tightrope. I could admonish. How could she forget her ballet gear? The whole point of her staying late was for the photo shoot?! I could commiserate. Not hard for me to empathize with the terrible feeling it is to be somewhere and not be fitting in, much less be dressed properly. I put one foot in front of the other, and found my footing where I so often do, in onwards.

“Well doll face, it seems like you rolled with it pretty well” is all I said. I waited the heartbeat it took for that to sink in.

“Ya,” she said. “It was just a photo shoot.” We went on to joke about how many pictures of her I have, and how awesome it was she went for it and posed for the group shot anyways. When we got back to the car, she called Memere and I started the drive home, my inside voice telling me not to be such a sap, as I had tingles in my tear ducts. Listening to her on the phone with my mom sealed the deal. I could only hear her part of the conversation, and it went something like this:

“Hello Memere!”

“Today was pretty good. But tonight was the photo shoot and I forgot my ballet stuff, so I was the only kid there in shorts and a t-shirt.”

“Ya… I did anyways. I smiled as hard as I could without squinking up my eyes.”

“Squinking is like when you squint but your eyes are a bit more open.”

“Thanks Memere…” and their conversation turned to other things.

Remember the horror when you were younger of wanting to fit in and knowing sometimes – we all had them – sometimes you just weren’t? Remember if that was magnified by things being outside of your control? She couldn’t get her ballet stuff, but would have done anything to be able to. She rolled with it, and you can imagine the photo – 10 beautiful girls, all in tights and bodysuits, hair in a bun with one kid in shorts and a t-shirt and a messy ponytail. I don’t know if the universe sets things up like this for my kids to navigate to help them learn resilience at an early age, but it does seem that kid1 and kid2 often deal with formative events. Maybe it’s because I write about them. Either way, tonight my heart sank, felt bruised, and hit its regular stride again all around a three-minute exchange and an experience I hope kid2 remembers as a funny story and not a hit to the confidence.

I tell my kids all the time how life is never perfect, you just roll with the hand you’re dealt. I called Memere when I got home. The first thing she told me was how she told kid2 she was proud she still posed for the group shot, and that she would have stood out either way. I could only agree, and secretly hope that in addition to the life lesson of onwards, kid2 always remembers picture perfect can be overrated.

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