That Look

I was 28 when I finally decided to end a 4-year relationship with the man that I had formerly been deeply in love with.  We had grown apart over time, through different interests and goals, and I finally realized that we were better off pursuing our own interests and relationships.

It was a really hard decision, for both of us, but afterwards I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.  I had felt this sensation of a lifting weight before, when I’ve made decisions my heart knew deep down were the right ones – it’s just that my brain sometimes takes a little more convincing.  I celebrated my 30th birthday fairly recently and realized that for me, this decade is going to be about learning to trust my heart – being confident in knowing that my heart will always tell me the truth, if my brain is willing to listen.

After making the decision to part ways, I needed to find somewhere to live.  After an exhaustive 3-day apartment hunt, I found a quaint little apartment in downtown Fredericton.  It was in the back of a house, in a neighbourhood with lots of trees – it had a little yard, and was walking distance to work.  It was cute, but it was my first time living by myself and I was a little nervous about it.

The day I moved in some of my fears of living alone were assuaged because I was greeted by two smiling people – my neighbours living in the front part of the house – David & Linda.   They were absolutely charming and welcoming.  David was a quiet, introverted person who loved to paint and have quiet, deep chats and chuckle at my stories.  Linda was a full of life, always laughing and welcoming.  I quickly found myself ‘neighborhood parents’, as they affectionately called themselves.  And I was happy to have them.

I really admired their deep love and respect for one another.  They each got that ‘look’ in their eyes when they spoke about each other.  I always love hearing people’s stories about how they met, and so I asked them for their story.  David and Linda had met later in their lives – in their 50s.  They were introduced to one another through a mutual friend, and after having a chaotic first date dinner involving Murphy’s Law, ended up chatting and laughing late into the night.  They fell in love, and got married.

Whenever they were outside on their porch, I would stop in for a chat – we would chat about my work, my dating experiences, about their work, David’s paintings, and the neighbourhood.  They were living in the main part of the house that I was renting because their own house across the street had been vandalized by fire a few months earlier and were now going through lengthy court proceedings.  In the meantime, their historic home was being renovated, and I loved hearing about their plans for the house in which they had built their new life together.  The open house they hosted when it was finished was joyous, and an occasion that brought the neighbourhood together – they’re the kind of people who are the cornerstone of their neighborhood and community.

This past winter, I received a message from a mutual friend that Linda had passed away unexpectedly.  I was heartbroken not only because the world had lost a vibrant and beautiful person, but also because I knew how deeply David would miss her.  I remembered that look he got in his eye whenever he talked about Linda.  I attended the memorial service later that week, and am so thankful to have been able to participate in celebrating and remembering such a remarkable person.  Difficult times like those remind me of one of my favourite quotes from psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Dr. Viktor Frankl: ‘there is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a man has the greatest of courage – the courage to suffer’.

David’s love for Linda was, and still is so apparent – she left an everlasting impression on his life.  Their love has left an everlasting impression on my life too, and reminds me that you know never know how people will touch your life.  It reminds me to be open to letting people in – you never know what beautiful trace they will leave.

Communities, large and small

I find myself with a heavy heart this evening.

I spent the afternoon working outside on our Mobile Energy Centre on this beautiful sunny day – it felt so nice to be outside and working quietly.  I just came in to the office to check my mail and gather my thoughts before heading home, only to find that there was a large explosion at the Boston Marathon that killed 2 people and injured many more.  I am shocked and dumbfounded.

My felt the same way last week, after hearing that a teenager – Rehtaeh Parsons – took her own life after being bullied incessantly after being the victim of sexual assault.  It saddens me that none of her peers stood up for her loud enough that she could find other options, and that defending herself only led to more bullying.  In one of the news articles, a friend stated that she had quoted Martin Luther King, Jr on her Facebook page – ‘In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’.  This struck me as such a small and mighty statement.  The silence of her friends….

Being a teenager is a tough time, and friends can make all of the difference.  Courage can be hard to find, especially if it means that her peers could get ostracised for defending her.  We need to build atmospheres where the type of courage to defend someone and have critical and challenging discussions is celebrated at schools, and in our communities.

Some of my friends shared this blog post  on Facebook last week, by a wonderful writer, Katie Marti. I really enjoyed it, and really has me thinking about community.  Our communities are changing, although I think that our communities have always been changing and always will – the natural, messy process of evolution.  But our communities are larger this time around, especially with technology and social media.  I think we have to safeguard our integrity and hold each other accountable in our ever-shifting communities, and applaud courage and integrity when it seems so shockingly lacking at times.


The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.


A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit United Technologies Center in Bangor, ME with the E3 Peer Group, and I have to say that as an educator, it was absolutely inspiring.

They offer high school programs in everything from nursing to welding, and the students there were really engaged.  The staff was incredibly passionate.  And the administration were extremely proud and spoke so highly of the staff and students.

One great little cultural proverb that I took away from this experience is, as the title of this post goes, ‘the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time’.  Sometimes as an educator it feels like meaningful change is really slow, and this put it into perspective.  Seth Godin would say ‘drip, drip drip’ – consistent, meaningful and concerted effort pays off.

Some other great nuggets I picked up from the day:

  • ‘You want to get education as close to real life as possible’
  • ‘I haven’t seen too many hands not connected to a brain’ – in reference to students who are typically assigned the stereotype of ‘good with their hands’
  • ‘The scarcest of resources is time.  How we use this effectively with students is key’
  • People pick colleges faster than they pick their first cars. (I found this shocking, and then wasn’t actually surprised when I stopped to consider it)
  • In reference to teachers as artists: ‘They don’t tell the kids what to see, they just tell them where to look’

I’m so grateful for this inspiring experience.

Community-based social marketing to foster sustainable behaviour

I read Doug McKenzie-Mohr’s book on community-based social marketing this week, ‘Fostering Sustainable Behavior’, and I thought it was brilliant.

Dr. McKenzie-Mohr outlines a researched process on how to engage people in sustainable behavior.  I liked it precisely because it’s not a pie-in-the-sky approach to engaging people, but is about doing your research, making informed decisions, targeting the appropriate behaviours and being realistic about barriers and benefits.

We will be looking to use this approach in our work at The Gaia Project, especially in our Sustainability Teams.  These teams engage all sustainability stakeholder groups at schools, and act as a managing body for sustainability at the school.  So far, we’ve worked on projects where the school has implemented a composting program (Bathurst High), school-wide recycling (Fredericton High), and Park Street School is just beginning the process of implementing a school-wide composting/recycling program.

Changing people’s behaviour is the hard part, so I look forward to sharing the community-based social marketing approach with these schools.

You can find an online version of the book here.

It’s not going to turn out the way you thought. It will be better.

You won’t do it at the right time.

You’ll be late.

“You’ll be early.

You’ll get re-routed.

You’ll get delayed.

You’ll change your mind.

You’ll change your heart.

It’s not going to turn out the way you thought it would.

It will be better”.

This blog post is making it’s way through Facebook.  I have to admit that I got a little teary when reading it.

It’s a beautiful statement about how, when you trust that things will work out, they do.  And they turn out better than you had ever imagined.  When I was younger, looking forward to where I thought I would be, I didn’t quite imagine the journey I’m on, but I wouldn’t trade it.  I’ve learned so much, and I know I will not be satisfied if that process every stopped.

I had a moment of realizing this last night at ultimate frisbee practice.  I started going to the competitive practices in January, and am fairly confident in saying that I’m one of the technically weakest players.  For the first month I was constantly confused in drills.

In league this week, things started to click.  I was playing better defence.  My throws are getting better.  At practice last night, I (mostly) understood the drills.  It was the moment where I looked back and realized how much better I’ve gotten in the last 3 months, and that if I keep up the work, I hope to report to have improved significantly more over the coming 3 months!  The moments that make it all worthwhile.