Happy three months to my birthday day. I’m a few days late in writing this but it’s been a rollercoaster weeks of intense highs and lows and I’m tried to take inspiration and meaning from both.
I flew out to Edmonton on Monday to spend a day or so with my family on my way to a speaking engagement in Calgary. I missed seeing some folks in December on that visit so it was great to catch up with Monica and Jim in their new house. I also got to celebrate Xander’s fourth birthday and watch Rayne’s last skating lesson for the year. The highlight of the visit was spending much of Tuesday with my dad and doing two presentations at Rayne’s school. She’d told her teacher of her famous aunt on more than one occasion and he was willing to have me come talk to his Grade One class. Through discussions with Shawn (Rayne’s mom, my sister-in-law), it morphed into a presentation for the whole school and then into two presentations.
This was the first Canadian school outside of Newfoundland I presented at and what a hoot! Crestwood School starts its day with “CDN”–The Crestwood Daily News. There in Rayne’s classroom, I watched the principal announce my visit to the school. Soon thereafter, I was in the front of the gym, with three hundred kids in front of me and with my dad, brother, Shawn, and Xander in the back smiling and waving. Rayne was beaming at me from the front row. My mom had gotten to see me present last March and I was thrilled to have my dad get to see me in action as well.
As usual, the kids peppered me with questions and I even managed to win over the junior high kids who’d sat through way too many way bad assembly presentations. Mike and Shawn took us all out to dim sum to celebrate and then I managed a flurry of purchasing at the Mountain Equipment Co-op (known as Mountain Mecca to me) before catching my plane to Calgary that afternoon (Oh-I forgot to say that I finally got to sit on a BMW 650 GS for two minutes on the way to the airport-wow-that will be my bike someday…just need to find a garage for it).
Later that night, I received an email from Shawn that brought tears to my eyes. It’s not often I get a window into the impact my presentations can have. I love doing them and trust that they make a difference in the world but I cherish when I hear stories like these:
“So if there was any doubt about your impact today I want to share the following with you. I received an email from a mom who said over dinner her son talked about the assembly…couldn’t contain his excitement. She later called me in amazement that he was talking about his “goal setting” “finding a path in all the curves”…. (This child is labeled with a learning disability that includes a lack of focus and drive)
At pick up Brennan told me the teachers were “raving” over you at lunch. He said that the junior high teachers had experienced very bad speakers and that prior to hearing you the students were less than enthusiastic…after leaving the gym they couldn’t stop talking…they were so inspired that they missed the next period (by THEIR request) to discuss their thoughts about their own dreams and goals…Brennan also said that a JH teacher had to hand out Kleenex to a few students as well as herself in discussing your story and video at the end…
We were stopped in the hallway by students and staff wanting to express their gratitude that you had chosen to share you story at our school…No carabiner or card was transferred home in a Grade One backpack….they all came out waving in the air at the parents waiting by the door. All the kids in the hall had the response….ooohhh you have a piece of the EVEREST!!
And for the impact a little closer to home………
Rayne said…at recess everyone wanted to play with me because they all wanted to know about Aunty, “they couldn’t believe she was the real aunty from my pictures at school!”
At bedtime Rayne asked me “Mommy when Aunty talked about what’s your own Everest does she mean dreams?” I replied “Yes, having a dream and setting the goals to get there.” Rayne’s response….” I have 3 dreams…the first to be an artist…if I’m an artist Aunty’s dreams will always come true.” “How’s that?” I asked. “Because then I can always paint Aunty the mountains of her dreams.”
“My second dream of course is to climb Mount Everest… that way Aunty will have another girl on her team.”
“And my third dream… OF COURSE…to be a mermaid …even though Ms. Olsen in the library tells me all the time that mermaids aren’t real (the thought in my head at this moment…the NERVE!!) Aunty says dream big…anything is possible…..
WOW!!!! (she fell asleep with your picture on the pillow beside her!)
Xander of course had his opinions…He’s going to be a space ranger astronaut and will see the top of Mount Everest from his spaceship and his companion he’ll bring along for the ride… his own pufferfish of course! “
The reason I’d made the trip out west was to speak at the staff professional development day for Bow Valley College. I told them about how they enabled me to speak at Rayne’s school and told some stories from the previous day. I often try to partner presentations like this so that when an organization is paying for travel, a school or community group can benefit as well. I was a bit nervous for the Calgary gig because it was away from home and I wondered how folks, who knew nothing of the story, would receive me.
In the end, the presentation went very well–from a few conversations, I could slip in a few local jokes and they loved the partnership idea as much as I did. After the college president thanked me (at first she had trouble finding words), she reminded the audience that this was a day of mourning for the Cougar helicopter crash victims. With tears in her eyes once more, she asked me to carry condolences from their community to mine. She explained that a staff person at their college had lost a loved one and so they were sharing in the grief with both the province and the nation.
For those away from the island, a helicopter carrying offshore workers had gone down in the North Atlantic the previous Thursday with only one survivor. In such a small community as the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, no one was untouched either directly or indirectly by the disaster. I replied that I would take those thoughts and prayers back with me, and the next day passed them onto a colleague who’d lost his brother-in-law. In those moments of disaster and tragedy, we are reminded of the both preciousness and frailty of our existence and how quickly everything can change.
I flew back late Wednesday and felt a bit like I’d been in a tornado. Thursday night, I took part in a TV shoot for the show, “One Chef, One Critic.” It was shot in a beautiful old home in St. John’s, over an amazing meal, in the form of a murder mystery. It was such fun and it was the first time in my life where I thought, “Hmmm…acting could be fun.” Though I suspect my talent would be limited to melodramas!
Friday I crashed and burned a bit with jet lag and too little sleep for the week but enjoyed being back at hockey. The weekend saw me sitting on my meditation cushion for hours as part of Buddhist training and I was pleased to have some sense of clarity about a direction for the year ahead. After discussing overcoming doubt and nurturing discipline in both our lives and our practice, the words of one of our chants seared into my mind like a lightning bolt.
Radiating confidence, peaceful
Illuminating the way of discipline.
It was then that I knew that I would seek out a path back to Everest that was filled with experiences and training that would enable me to both radiate confidence (in a non-arrogant way) and well as be at peace inside myself. I saw that this would require a great deal of discipline once again and that perhaps I would be ready when I got back from my month in the Grand Canyon to embrace and nurture that level of discipline once again.
So as you can see, quite a week…and the one I’m living now, promises to be the same (I’ll keep you posted on that as it all unfolds).
Thanks for coming along,