My twentieth Terry Fox Run

September 20, 2010

I ran the Terry Fox Run this morning with my family, and it was the 20th run that I have done. I’m proud that we raised money for cancer research, I’m proud that we ran (the kids completed the 3K route with parents lagging behind), but mostly I’m proud that I am able to pass on this tradition to my children.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the Terry Fox Run. I can’t believe I missed the first ten, but I have made a point of doing this run every year since 1991. I’ve run it in Ottawa, in Kelowna, in Winnipeg, and in Vancouver. Wherever I was, wherever my family was travelling that weekend, we always got to a run site.

Why do I do this? Well yes, it’s a good cause. A wonderful cause. Nearly all the money raised goes directly to funding innovative cancer research. But mostly I do it because Terry Fox was a real hero to me. I was a teenager when he ran across Canada. I was living in Winnipeg then and was really excited about him coming through my city. I wanted to run alongside him when he came through. But of course he never made it to Winnipeg. His run ended in Thunder Bay, about 700 kilometres from my home.

So I run the Terry Fox Run every year to honour my hero. And I drag my family along every year to teach them about Terry and why he is such a wonderful person to look up to. I think I’m even getting through to my kids.


I ran away from my life and came back calmer

August 20, 2010

I didn’t realize it had been the entire summer since I blogged. Shame on me. Ah well, we do the best we can, right? I’ll try to turn over a new leaf and blog more now that back to school is in sight.

I had a stressful summer. My half-time job has really ramped up, and the stress levels with it. I’m only supposed to put in two days in their offices, but it’s been at least three nearly every day this summer, and there is so much going on, I spend hours every weekend dealing with stuff.

And then there are the boys. My kids are adorable and loveable and I really enjoy them — some of the time. But there have been a lot of points this summer when I thought I would lose my mind, when I wanted to crawl into a hole, and I’m not ashamed to admit, when they drove me to tears. The worst was a two-week period when hubby went away. One or other of my kids was sick the whole time, which of course means extra whiny and hard to deal with. And both were cranky and ill-behaved. I thought our two weeks without dad would be extra fun, but instead when he fianlly came back I was burned out. Work didn’t help, of course (see above).

Anyhow, we had set aside a week for a family driving holiday, but hubby was jetlagged and behind at work and frankly, I wasn’t up to it. So we went away as a family for a weekend, and then on one week’s notice, I booked myself a getaway.

I knew I wanted something calming, and while I wanted to go alone, I didn’t want to be by myself. So I decided a tour group would be ideal, and something mildly athletic seemed the ticket. I found a wonderful kayaking trip with a cancellation in the week I wanted, and just like that, booked it. There were not-terribly-expensive flights to the island town that the tour went out of, and the tour company takes care of nearly everything. So I spent six days on Northern Vancouver Island and four days kayaking on Johnstone Strait.

I loved it. The people were nice but I had lots of time to myself. The campsite was lovely and we even had a hot tub overlooking the ocean. We saw whales (Orcas and humpback), a bear, seals, dolphins, porpoises, sea stars, anemones, and lots more I’m forgetting. The paddling was pretty easy, and I seemed to be one of the stronger paddlers anyhow. The whole experience was lovely and I felt so calm and under-stimulated (in a good way) while I was there.

While I thought the best part would be escaping my family, it turned out that the very best part was escaping work. There is no cell service where I was, so for six days, I was cut off and maintained radio silence. And you know what — nothing happened. The world went on without me, nothing bad happened, no clients quit or got mad. Sure, my kids didn’t see a vegetable the whole time that wasn’t covered with ketchup, and even they said they were tired of watching tv while in daddy’s care, they were all in one piece when I got back.

For five days after I returned I didn’t even yell at my kids. Of course, on the sixth day I did, and work is starting to stress me out again. But I try to recapture the calm I felt as often as I can.

Running away was the best thing I ever did for myself. I don’t know why I haven’t done it sooner. Where shall I run to next year?


Mommy, what’s a bastard? Mommy, what’s wrong with being one?

June 30, 2010

Recently I took my 9-year-old to see the original version of the Bad News Bears — you know, the Walter Matthau version. I think it was an edited version, because I was waiting for the scene where he writes the word “assume” on a board then divides it up into “ass” and “u” and”me”. Anyhow, that scene wasn’t in it. But there were lots of instances where the boys on the team called each other bad names.

And which bad name jumped out at my 9-year-old? Bastard. So he asked me:

9-year-old: Mommy, what is a bastard?

Embarrased mom: It’s a bad word, an insult. I don’t ever want you to say it.

Overly inquisitive 9-year-old: OK, mommy, but what does it mean really?

Mom: It’s when someone is the child or parents who weren’t married. A long time ago that was shameful.

9-year-old: What’s wrong with your parents not being married?

And there you have it — what is wrong with it anymore? Nothing to my son’s generation. Half their friends are products of unmarried partners, accidents, single parents, and more. So who is a bastard anymore anyhow?


I’d love raising kids more if I never had to put them to bed

June 12, 2010

When my kids were babies, bedtime was fun. We had a routine, we read stories, we cuddled, they had milk, they went to bed, they fell asleep. I miss those days.

Nowadays, getting my boys to bed seems like a fight all the time. They have a million excuses to stall getting to bed. They have to finish something. They have to go the bathroom. They have to find something. And then when I finally get their teeth brushed and get them into bed, it seems like ages until they fall asleep.

I think it’s even worse with my guys, because they share a room. So when one of them wants to goof around after lights out, they can play around for ages together. Hubby and I can get so frustrated trying to get them to calm down and try to sleep. As the summer comes on at last and it gets light later and later, it gets harder and harder to get the boys to sleep.

I’d love to let them go to bed as late as they want, but they never ever sleep in. No matter when they go to bed, they are up at the crack of 7. And when they don’t get enough sleep, I’m stuck dealing with a tired, cranky kid and I have to bear the brunt of their lack of sleep.

I know, in a few years they’ll be teenagers and I won’t be able to wake them up in the morning, but these years seem tough, and I wish someone else could get my kids to sleep every night.


Is it really a vacation if you take your laptop?

May 31, 2010

As I draft this, I’m on holiday. We are taking our annual trip to the island to enjoy an extended weekend at the seaside. And as usual, the weather sucks. We come here every year (my mother-in-law owns a cabin we get to pull out of the rental pool once a year before high season), and while we love it here, we almost always get so-so or bad weather. It’s not that the weather is bad here, it’s usually absolutely gorgeous. Just rarely the weekends we come. This year it’s raining and cool. Whoopee.

But we’re away, and that in itself is nice. It took us a ferry ride to get here (and thanks to bad planning, a two-hour wait for the next ferry when we missed our reserved ferry by 15 minutes), but the kids were in okay moods and I managed to feel a bit relaxed en route. Yet now I’m on my laptop, following up with work stuff, checking in with the baseball team I coach, and drafting blog entries to post next week. So is it a vacation if I fail to unplug?

I often with I had one of those careers or jobs where I could walk away for a week or two and not have it all fall apart without me. But I’m a consultant, and if I’m not in touch, I could easily have no work, or at least, no income. Plus, I think I’m just one of those type-a people who needs to stay on top of things, even if I’m not doing much work. I want to know that I’m not missing anything.

I have unplugged before. I turned off my email and didn’t even check it for five days when we went to Mexico. And our lakeside cabin last summer had no internet or cell service, so I didn’t have any emails for five days that holiday. And of course I survived, and so did my business. But I don’t know if it made me any more relaxed.

Taking a long weekend right now necessitates having my laptop to follow up on some work. It’s the only way I could get away. And I’m lucky that my work is this portable. Besides, having my laptop means the kids can play games, we can watch movies and listen to music, and I can get some writing in. Those are all things that help relax me.

Yeah, I’m justified staying plugged in, and it’s not all about work. Let’s go with that.

Tomorrow I’ll try to avoid the laptop and spend more time walking on the gorgeous beach. If the rain stops.


Life on the Wet Coast — enough with the rain!!

May 30, 2010

When I used to live back East, what I knew about the west coast and Vancouver was primarily that it rained a lot, they had almost no winter, and everyone was kind of hippy dippy.

Well, I moved to Vancouver in 1996 despite all that, and discovered that some of it was true. It did rain a lot, but it also got very sunny a lot, and summers and even springs and falls could be very lovely. I remember fondly rowing on the ocean in February in t-shirts and shorts on sunny days. And everything is almost always green, which makes up for a lot of the rain. And boy do we ever appreicate the sun. Back East, a sunny day when I had to work was no biggie. Out here, I really feel it if I let a sunny warm day go by being stuck in my office. I must get out and enjoy it.

Last summer was amazingly warm and sunny. So sunny we worried about water shortages and dying lawns. But so far this year, it’s nearly June and it feels like the last month has been all rain. I know we’ve had a couple weeks of sun, but it’s been chilly and rainy the entire last two weeks. And the forecast is for more rain next week. And we took a weekend at the seaside only to have rain and cold the entire weekend.

Plus, it’s baseball season, and we’re having a hard time playing games in the rain. We got rained out at the game on Wednesday, then rained out the next game on Saturday. We have makeups scheduled Sunday and Monday but the forecast is for rain then too. This weather is really putting a crimp into little league season.

Plus, frankly, I’m ready for more sun. It’s not like I suffer from SAD or anything, but after getting drenched walking on the beach this weekend, I’ve had enough.

Is it summer yet?


What I learned about job seeking from hiring someone myself

May 28, 2010

Last week I interviewed and hired a communications specialist for a junior role at my part-time job. It was the first time I’d been in that role for a very, very long time, and it was a real eye-opener for me.

As a consultant, I’ve been on the other side of the hiring process more often than I can say. In fact, being a consultant or freelancer is basically like being a serial job applicant. I always have an up-to-date resume, because even though I have a website with a profile of me on it, I am asked for a resume all the time. I answer Requests for Proposals, Expressions of Interest, job ads, calls for consultants, and all sorts of application processes every month sometimes. I know what it is to apply, believe me.

To hire, well, that’s a newer one for me. But I figured with all my application experience, I’d be an empathetic hirer who could cut right through and find the perfect candidate without any emotion. Boy, was I wrong!

First, there was the shock at the flood of applications. I know the economy has been iffy lately, but I didn’t think PR was hit too hard. But judging from how many applications I got for a very specific role, things are tough out there. I advertised, just with the PR societies and through word of mouth, for someone with 3-5 years experience. But at least half the applications I got were from people with at least double that, some who were as experienced as I was!

I thought I’d find a few people who had most of the skills I wanted, some of the experience I wanted, and who were able to learn the rest. But I actually had several candidates who met every single one of the qualifications with exactly the experience I needed. I think the toughest thing I had to do was narrow down the list to the handful I would interview. Of course, the guy who misspelled “resume” was easy to eliminate.

I’ve decided my pet peeves in the application process are:

1. People who wait until the last day to apply. I was in a hurry to hire and wanted to interview as soon as possible. Waiting until the final resumes came in was a pain. I know, I should have set an earlier end date.

2. Long cover letters. All I want in a cover letter is to know where you heard about the job, where your previous experience is relevant, why you want this job in particular, and that you’d like to talk about this more. Four paragraphs. Not eight. Not a full page outlining every aspect of your experience or interests in 9 point type.

3. Resumes that are organized by skill. I want to know where you worked before and what you did there, not your list of skills. If you’re applying for this particular job where the needed skills are spelled out, I assume you have the general skills. I need to see how your previous work gave you the skills. Maybe this kind of resume is useful when being read by an HR manager (or computer scanning software) but not when it’s being read by the person who would be your supervisor. At least not by me.

4.Don’t spell out your conflict of interest. The job I’m hiring for needs a level of impartiality, as it’s a government issue with a lot of stakeholders. The job ad says that. Telling me up front where your politics lie and your sympathies doesn’t help, in the end it hinders.

I’ve decided I like the style of cover letter where the writer compares the words of my job ad (You asked for…) with their own relevant experience. At first they bugged me, but in the end I’ve decided that this really helped cut to the chase.

Now I’m facing the hard part. I have to tell the other people I interviewed that they didn’t get the job. And I really feel for every one of them. In fact, I feel for just about every applicant. I wish I could hire more than one person. I wish I could help most of the applicants find other work. I know exactly how it feels to be on their side of the table, and I hate that I have to dissapoint anyone. I want to hire them all, but in the end I can only hire one person.

Boy, will I apply for future openings with eyes open wider from now on.