Earworms – 2015 Version

If you’re not a music fiend you probably don’t spend the day putting yourself through ridiculous mental contortions trying to remember THE SONG that is right at the edge of your conscious, but can’t quite grasp. That was my day yesterday trying to remember Rhye’s “Open”.

Not sure why it popped into my head half way through the morning, but it did and there was nothing to do but submit to the inevitable as the images and words ran on an endless loop but no name would shake out. Remembered I’d first seen it in an article on Elephant Journal, resulting in a significant amount of billable time spent riffling through old articles. Nada.  Had a vague recollection that the song had been featured on Grey’s Anatomy, had to hide my screen so no-one could see that I was spending the afternoon listening to multiple seasons of the soundtrack – all music cred instantly out the window.

If you love the super chill sound of Rhye, here’s a bit more about the Canadian – Danish male duo from NPR Music.  (that’s right, they are guys).  I’ll be listening to this today instead of Grey’s Anatomy.

What other singers grabbed my attention this year?  Top of the list has to be Jason Isbell, the current king of Americana and Drive-By Truckers alumnus.  This is a 2-for-1 deal for me, love DBT and Jason solo as well is a bonus. Astonishing songwriting and that Alabama twang – bring it on.

And here’s a treat – Ryan Adams and Jason live together from the Herbst in San Francisco.  They do need to do a record together – the song writing would be out of this world.

Who else has been getting too much airplay at my house this year?  Well there’s a bunch more, but one I’ve played over and over and over is Don Henley’s new record, Cass County.  As NPR puts it, “the Garths, Keiths and Kennys of the world stole country-rock, and now Don Henley’s stealing it back”. My love affair with the Eagles continues unabated and unashamed!

Talking about the record  being a return to his roots in Texas and the musical influences of his family and early years, Don quotes T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

That’s some of the great music that made my days brighter in 2015, can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

 

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Creating Sustainable Change

Creating Sustainable Change

We (my amazing partners at Blankslate.Partners) had an fantastic opportunity yesterday to be part of a small, private event with We Free the Children; Me to We Day and Me to We founder, Craig Keilburger.  The event was hosted by the great people at Hootsuite (btw, they have an amazing work space!).

There are lots of good, well-intentioned traditional charitable organizations out there, but what Craig and his brother, Marc are doing is aspirational not only from a charitable, “doing the right thing” perspective, but also for any business, be it for profit or not.  The ideas hat really grabbed my attention were both ways of applying MBA level business smarts to a charitable operation.

First, measure your results against outcomes to create sustainable change.  This is a quantum difference from parachuting into a third world community with a group of well-meaning volunteers and cash-in-hand to create a one-off project like a clean water system.  Not to say this isn’t good work, but it’s not sustainable.  What happens when the volunteer team leaves and something breaks down?  Who has both the means and the knowledge to fix it and make it sustainable.  And what was the outcome you were hoping for by giving people access to clean drinking water (for example)?  Was it just to give them access to water (a great goal in and of itself).  Or did you want to enable girls to attend school or promote economic independence?   How will you know if you succeeded if you don’t define your outcomes, measure and then recalibrate?

“In eight countries, Free The Children works alongside the men, women and children who every day strive to free themselves from poverty, exploitation, disease and thirst. This effort is not charity. It is sustainability. It is freedom in action. It is Free The Children’s Adopt a Village development model.”

This is where the Free the Children group is light years ahead.  They define their outcomes, measure the results then pivot as needed.  And they create sustainability, not charity through their five pillars by linking clean water, education, health, alternative income and livelihood and agriculture and food security.

adoptavillarge

Secondly,they are using technology and social media to both track success metrics and get the message out there, instead of paying for traditional marketing and advertising.  Their Track Your Impact app allows you to scan a code on your purchase and see exactly where that purchase is making an impact.  And the analytics the information generates gives great data on which products are most successful in the market.  How amazing is that!

track

So to all the people who earned their ticket to attend We Day in Vancouver today, enjoy the entertainment, be inspired and go out there and do great things.  You get to enjoy the Bare Naked Ladies today, I get to see them tonight!

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Sometimes change is so incremental, or so long in transition, that when it finally happens it sneaks up on you unawares and without any fanfare, there it is.  You look back and it’s hard to fathom how you got from THERE to HERE.  Other times, however,  you find yourself in an untenable situation and have to make a choice.   But what if you don’t want the change and what if there there is no good choice.  It’s Shitty Choice A versus Crappy Choice B?   Or “I don’t want this change at all?”

“Between the devil and the deep blue sea is an idiom meaning a dilemna, ie to choose between two undesirable situations”  Thanks Wikipedia

This week I power-read through Cheryl Strayed book “Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” her memoir of hiking the PCT from California to Washington state solo.  

  

It’s about how she found herself one day with a pack that weighed more than half what she did, walking down a scorching trail in the Mojave Desert in California and realizing that she was wholly and completely unprepared for what she was about to undertake.  As the days and weeks of what was, truly, a pilgrimage in the oldest sense of that word –  a difficult journey involving sacrifice and often pain – passed, she realized that, on a daily basis, she really only had one choice to make.  Go forward or go back.   Here’s how she describes it: 

“The thing about hiking the PCT, the thing that was so profound to me that summer – and yet also, like most things, so very simple – was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. No numbing it down . . . or covering it up . . .I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. . . And so I walked on”. 

Having to do the thing you least want to do.  I hate that.  

My gut reaction has always been  “I can fix that”, combined with “if I just persist and work long and hard enough, I can create the outcome I want”.  Maybe that’s a good way to deal with some situations, but I can say, with the most heartfelt conviction, that it can also lead us (read – ME) to stay in situations long after I should have high-tailed it out of there, maybe a bit beat up and scarred (metaphorically speaking) but considerably more intact than I eventually ended up being after hanging in long after the writing was on the wall.  

A recent imbroglio with my landlord has brought a long simmering situation to a head.  A supportive call from my partner to see if there had been a resolution to the most recent drama show with her (there wasn’t) ended up with me sobbing in the aisles at Costco – wow I wish it had been somewhere dramatic and evocative, but Costco it was.  As he calmly pointed out that what I wanted was not possible – all evidence of the past year was against it – we got to the point in the discussion where I realized I was faced with Shitty Choice A or Crappy Choice B – and I didn’t want to do either.  I wanted what wasn’t possible.  FML.  

I spent the next day hiding out, escaping reality in a good book – another go to place for me – books are always reliable escapism.  Not only was it escapism this time, it was also a life lesson.  As I followed Cheryl down the trail I was with her every time she was faced with a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, and every time she chose to go forward, because standing still wasn’t an option and going back unthinkable.  

So forward it is for me too.  And if anyone knows of a great place to rent in Kitsilano, let me know!!  

  

I also learned while researching this post that “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is a jazz standard, orginally recorded by Cab Calloway and covered by everyone from Thelonius Monk to George Harrison.  This Ella Fitzgeral version caught me. 

Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea Ella Fitzgerald

A great surprise this week – one of my favourite bands dropped an unexpected new record.  Wilco’s “Star Wars” got a lot of airplay at my house (well at least it’s my house for now!!).  And because Jeff Tweedy and the bank are just supremely awesome people, it’s available as a free download for 30 days.  http://wilcoworld.net/splash-star-wars-links/  That blinking cat GIF is just spooky!
  
Here’s a live stream of the whole album from Pitchfork Music Fest a few weeks ago.  Enjoy!  Can’t wait for their Vancouver show August 12th.  

Wilco Star Wars Live at Pitchfork

Dear Sixteen Year Old Me

Three years ago I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. I was lucky; by sheer chance I had been at my doctor to have a small cyst removed and asked her about a little mole on my thigh that was irritated. She decided to send in a biopsy sample and that made all the difference.  It meant it was caught early, when melanoma is very treatable and has a high recovery rate.  Melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer and if left untreated has a low survival rate – early detection is key.  Still reeling from the shock of hearing that I had a malignant skin tumor, I truly didn’t understand the seriousness of the diagnosis until I found myself in surgery 10 days later having a wide excision performed on my thigh to remove the tumor and a sentinal node biopsy with three lymph nodes removed.  The nodes were thankfully negative, the cancer had not spread beyond the primary site and although the scar still aches when I am tired I fully recovered from the surgery.

I have been faithfully going to see my dermatologist for check ups, first at 3 month intervals, then 6 months and was looking forward to the 3 year anniversary this summer and only having annual check ups.  The office visit was very routine, right up to the moment he scanned the dermascope over my right calf, paused and went back to check again, and then a third time. I knew exactly which mole he was looking at, in the week before my visit I had noticed a change and was concerned about it. He decided on a excision right there and then in his office and I limped home with stitches in my leg. Telling your family that you have a second suspicious mole is awful, I don’t think they were any less scared then me.  We began the long, terrifying wait for the biopsy results.

We only had to wait just over a week when I got the call to come in and see the dermatolgist the next day.  That night and the next morning were very, very long.  As I feared, the biopsy was positive for a second melanoma. Damn. The positive news is that is was detected very, very early and although I will have to have another excision, it will be smaller than the first one and no node biopsy this time.  That’s very,very good news.  I see the plastic surgeon July 8th and expect to have the procedure done within 7 – 10 days after that – they don’t keep you waiting with melanoma – every day counts. The prognosis is excellent, although I will have to go back to 3 month check ups and start the 5 year countdown again.

One of the interesting things that happens almost every time I tell someone about my experience with melanoma is they say “I have this mole I’ve been a bit concerned about – what do you think?”.

Here’s what I think.  IF YOU HAVE A MOLE YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT, GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.

I would not in a million years have thought I had skin cancer.  It took me two years to say the “C” word.  Early detection is critical.  Don’t delay,if you see one of these make an appointment with your doctor and ask the question.  Here are the early warning signs of melanoma that The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends you watch for, the ABDCE’s and the Ugly Ducklings: 

A = Asymmetry.  If you draw a line through themole, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical. 

B = Border.  A benign mole has smooth, even borders, the borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

C = Colour. Most benign moles are all one color— often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

D = Diameter.  Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected (both of mine were smaller).

E = Evolving.  Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.

Ugly Duckling = all the other moles look relatively the same, but this one looks different. It’s the “ugly duckling”.  Go get it checked.

“Dear Sixteen Year Old Me” is a video created by the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund to raise awareness about melanoma that went viral shortly after it was released in May, 2011.  It’s central message – Get to Know Your Skin, Be Aware, not Afraid.  Check your skin monhly for any changes, use sunscreen, and never, ever use tanning beds.  I grew up in Australia, we lived in the sun and at the beach 24/7.  No-one used sunscreen, we used baby oil and iodine to perfect our “healthy glow”.  In later years in Canada I would go to the tanning salon to get a “base tan” before our annual winter vacation in Mexico or the Caribbean.  I didn’t know, or didn’t believe.  Get to know your risk profile and enjoy the sun safely.

One of the ongoing conversations I’ve had  is about how being diagnosed with cancer changes you, how it affects on a very profound level how you live your life. I am very, very lucky. But hearing those words, and going through that surgery, absolutely changed me.  Now I’m walking the path a second time.  I wonder (actually I don’t wonder, I’m pretty sure) that the intensity that I bring to my life is tough on friends and family. I don’t believe in wasting time, I don’t believe in compromises. I believe in wringing the absolute most out of every single experience and moment. It’s not that I don’t plan for the future, I do that in spades, but I don’t put off making that future into my new reality. And if something isn’t working, I’m not wasting time on it, because time is a finite commodity. None of us know when our time  will run out, I just don’t want to get to that day and regret all the things I didn’t do.

No-one ever says “I should have spent more time at the office” or “I had too much fun” or “I took too many trips”, but they do regret time not spent with family and friends, dreams and aspirations unrealized, not saying I love you often enough and not realizing soon enough that happiness is a choice.

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No Bad Days in Baja

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Maids of the Mist at Niagara Falls

Choose happiness, make time, make love and say the words, it all counts.  This isn’t a dress rehearsal. 

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Water Isn’t a Commodity, It’s a Basic Human Right

Water Isn’t a Commodity, It’s a Basic Human Right

At a time when we are facing water restrictions, I can’t (well actually I can, sadly) believe we are selling one of our most precious resources, water, to a multi-national corporation for $2.25 per MILLION litres. If a resident of BC was to fill an Olympic sized pool with water it would cost them $180. It would only cost Nestle $6.25. If you have been in a convenience store lately you will see Nestle water being sold for for $2.25 per LITRE. You do the math on the profit and ask yourself, like I did, why we are allowing a foreign company to make such an outrageous profit on one of our natural resources? The Nestle chairman believes that fresh water is NOT a human right, it should have a market value like everything else. I strongly disagree with that, but if you follow his logic why isn’t Nestle paying market value for the resource?   

 
More information at the link below, where you can also sign the petition from Sum of US asking the BC and Canadian government to review the water rates  and charge fair rates for groundwater. 

Nestle and BC Water 

To read more about Nestle’s water privatization push, check out this article and you can also sign the Petition to tell Nestle that water is a public right.  Nestle has said that it is “is the 27th largest company in the world, the largest “foodstuffs” group in the world with annual “turnover” of $65 BILLION”.   I don’t even know how much that actually is.  

  
Nestle’s chairman, Peter Brabeck, was quoted as saying 

“The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGO’s (non-government organizations, I think he means radicals like Doctors Without Borders, The Red Cross and other nefarious sorts) who bang on about declaring water a public right.  That means as a human being you should have a right to water.  That’s an extreme solution” 

If you’d like an idea of Mr. Brabeck’s opinions on nature, health, organic food and water (he doesn’t get to air, but other than that his corporation has the basic human needs of food and water nailed down) check out this video.  You will also get an uncensored idea of his opinion that “water is our most important natural resource” and that control should be privatized to corporations so that people “understand it’s value”.  And that “a CEO’s most important social responsibility is to maintain and ensure the profitable future of the corporation”.  Now I’m really angry.  And worried.  

Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck Interview

And if you are as pissed at Nestle and their high handed attitude as I am, here is a list of Nestle brands you can boycott. 

Nestle Brands to Boycott. 

Each of us has the power to influence through our every day buying decisions.  Individually we might each think “what I do makes no difference”  but if each of us makes the attempt, it can reach a tipping point.  

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead. 

I can remember as little as 10 years ago when people stared and make jokes because I did “hippie, tree-hugger” things like bringing my own cloth bags to the grocery store, washed cans and plastic for recycling and used a backyard composter.  How the times have changed.  

Be that thoughful, committed citizen.  

Here’s Walk Off the Earth doing an awesome cover of Pete Seeger’s “Little Boxes”.  Ticky Tacky.  

Little Boxes

It’s the Journey not the Destination

Sometimes the simplest actions create big insights into life.  I had a great few days recently visiting good friends in our beautiful Okanagan wine country.  Since I have lots of time on my hands these days (more on that later) I decided to forgoe the fast highway home and take a back road, quite literally the road less traveled.  The trip became a reflection on my life at present, I have absolutely taken a detour off the well trammeled path and strayed into, for  me, uncharted territory.    

I was on a leave of absence from work since April and am now on a permanent leave  – as in I don’t work there anymore.  The circumstances of that parting means that I have the unexpected and completely unknown luxury of an exended period of time to decide exactly what I want to do next.  Wow.  I have’t not worked since I was 17.   The longest period of time I’ve had off was 2 months in my early twenties.   And the big question is, stay on the career highway or use this as my exit ramp to a totally different life?  

I drove the Summerland – Princeton road, 100km of  well maintained gravel and blacktop Forest Service Road through the South Central interior of British Columbia.  The road goes from the well-tended vineyards of the Okanagan valley through the mountains and plateaus of the interior and ends in Manning Park.  I found some great driving advice on a blog called Don’t Get Any on Ya. 

   
 

I was prepared to be traveling alone, but surrprisingly there were quite a few other people out there also enjoying the backroads.  Another metaphor.  Once I stepped out of my designated box in the tower (the much sought after office with a view) I’m discovering that there is a whole world of people who don’t work in boxes or cubicles and who have an entirely different take on their personal journeys.  They wouldn’t give you a nickel for 12 hour workdays (my standard) chained to a computer screen doing work with little intrinsic value that benefits on the chosen few very high up on the corporate food chain.  I wasn’t making the world, or my world, a better place. And I most certainly wasn’t helping the people I thought I’d be helping when I went into Human Resources.   Looking at those words as I type them, they should have been a clue.  People aren’t “resources”  – human or otherwise.  They are real people with real lives, real famlies and real feelings.  Treating them as just another resource, like a piece of lumber or box of paper, to be utlized to serve “the needs of the company” or used up, burned out and thrown away  – is that really how I want to spend my life?  Emphatically no.

Leaving Summerland wine country behind.   

Into the unknown in my little but sturdy chariot – you don’t need much really.   

Looking ahead – I don’t know what it will bring, but it looks amazing.  Anticipation.  

Choosing a simpler existence, at least for a while?  Try it, keep what works, leave the rest behind.  

And it could be that a long rest in a gentle place will restore the soul.

 
Always remembering that it’s the journey, not the destination that’s important.   

Although I love the roadtrips and adventures LK and I share, traveling alone has a few perks – I get to sing out loud as much as I want and listen to whatever ridiculous nonsense takes my fancy.  This song has never failed to make me sing out loud and get up and dance – which you can do while driving – carefully!!

Earth Wind and Fire – September

Nepal Earthquake – Everest Climbers

Nepal Earthquake – Everest Climbers

I’ve been following the devastating results of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday.  Latest reports put the death toll over 4,600 souls and climbing with more than 9,000 injured. As this tiny nation struggles to cope with rescue efforts for it’s own citizens, another drama is playing out on Mt Everest, where several hundred foreign climbers, plus their Sherpa Climber guides and camp support staff are effectively stranded.  According to this first hand account from Jon Kedrowski, a mountaineer at Everest Base Camp, the death toll may be as high as 20 with many more seriously injured.  Up to 50% of base camp was completely destroyed.

base camp

Fortunately, many of the climbers were at Base Camps 1 and 2, higher up the mountain and, at least for now, they are unharmed and have provisions for about a week.  Their return route to base camp is, however, cut off as the climbing route through the Khumbu Icefall was destroyed and the fixed ropes and ladders have been swept away.  A team of specialist climbers, the “Icefall Doctors” maintain the route through the Icefall, their camp was destroyed and three members are dead.

In this video from Chris Tomers, you start to get a sense of the complexity and magnitude of the issues to get the stranded climbers out of Nepal.

http://player.ooyala.com/iframe.html#pbid=717e07edd27f4e34b5289ab4b1556c56&ec=loNGhxdDpFC01dfyc-4qCBh15yQ_RHrj&docUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jonkeverest.org%2Fblog%2F2015%2F04%2F26%2FEverest-Earthquake-Avalanche-Aftermath-Photos.aspx

  1. Will the weather hold and are their sufficient resources (helicopters, fuel, pilots) to rescue all the people stranded at higher camps?
  2. Can a new climbing route be established through the Icefall despite the terrible danger from aftershocks?
  3. Once the climbers can get back to Base Camp, many of them will find themselves homeless, their camps and provisions destroyed.  Everyone will have to pool resources to survive.
  4. Base Camp is extremely remote.  It’s unlikely that all climbers, sherpas and support staff can be airlifted out.  This means trekking out, perhaps all the way to Kathmandu.  No-one knows if the trail still exists and the condition of the small villages, where trekkers and climbers would seek shelter and provisions, along the way.
  5. And when they make it back to Kathmandu, which is all but destroyed, what medical aid, shelter and food will be available to them and when and how will they be able to fly home?

The Nepalese government and people are overwhelmed trying to cope with the devastation to their country, what resources can they dedicate to rescuing and assisting foreigners trapped on Everest and what is the priority?

What can we do to help?  Check out the 3 ways you can help from the Red Cross:

The global Red Cross network, led by the Nepal Red Cross, has mounted an international relief effort to provide emergency humanitarian assistance following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal.  If you’re wondering how to help Nepal earthquake victims, you have three easy options:

1. Donate online to Nepal earthquake relief on redcross.org.

2. Visit your iTunes store to find a donation link.

3. Spread the word on relief efforts and ways to help online. Find and share information on social channels, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Twitter account and our very own Facebook and Twitter posts.