Tuesday, December 23, 2014

165th Post - Merry Christmas

Ah, it's still here, my original, first blog, Better is Possible. Still waiting patiently for my full-time return. In the mean time...
It's been another full year. I continue in my position as Vice Principal at a Kindergarten to Grade 5 school in BC. It keeps me busy. 

A year ago, on Christmas Day, Noah Elliot joined this crazy family. He is grandchild #10, but won't be the youngest for much longer. Luka (grandchild #9) is expecting a brother or sister sometime in March. Jim's youngest son and his fiancĂ© are expecting their first (#12 for us) baby in June. Our beloved Cambia is 7, as is Isaac, with Iyla hitting the double digits - yup she's 10! These little ones bring us endless joy. Sadly, most of them live 4 - 5 hours away, reducing visits to every 4 - 6 weeks. 
The other five of our grandkids come from Jim's daughter and her husband. They have the proverbial quiver full with babies ranging in age from 2 - 17. I suspect Megan at 17 doesn't really qualify as a baby. She's a beautiful hard-working young lady who graduated from grade 12 this year. 

My mom is doing well. She continues to live with my brother and his wife. My dad, who left my mom 48 years ago, ended up living with my brother for about 3 weeks this fall. Without elaborating I will say it was not a thrilling time for mom. My brother, thankfully, found my dad his own place and it seems he's settled in a small apartment and already making many new friends.  

It's been a challenge balancing the demands of work with having the time and energy to spend with family. I toy with the idea of retirement, but don't feel ready just yet. Jim, on the other hand has reached 65 and I would love for him to give up his day job as there are many renovations to be done in our Vernon house - the eventual retirement home. 

As often as I toy with shutting down this personal blog, something stops me from doing so. My professional blog is getting my attention these days. I'm actually scheduled to give a 90 minute workshop on blogging. It's titled, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blog...(credit for the name goes to the brainstorming of my school staff). At any rate, I'm not ready to give up this space on the internet. I continue to follow your blogs, although I rarely comment. My apologies. 

As we head into the week of Christmas, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and hope for a wonderful 2015.

Take care, 


Sunday, October 5, 2014

164th Post - Leading Better by Teaching Again

A good friend lent me (although she may not get it back) the book, "Leaders Eat Last", by Simon Sinek. If it's not on your reading list, consider adding it. It's reinforced, but moreso challenged my ideas of what it really means to pull a team together. This friend knows my desire as a leader is to inspire the people in our building. Do I have the courage to nurture our people to be more of who they are? Do I have the ability to take all their differences and merge them together into team?
"Don't quit. Never give up trying to build the world you can see, even if others can't see it. Listen to your drum and your drum only. It's the one that makes the sweetest sound." Simon Sinek
An easy quote to accept in terms of students? Less easy when trying to unite a staff. Oh those Outliers!
Same, but different? An orchestral arrangement of drum beats.
Conscious Chaos. 
I, like most leaders, have this ongoing internal dialogue: 'What do I need to do to lead well?' My leadership style includes a good dose of reflection. Did my actions today bring freedom when needed, set boundaries as required? Throughout the day did I provide room for someone to tap into their creativity? Did my presence in our building add or take away from community? When the sun set on our building, did our people head home with a heart knowledge that here, at Shortreed, they belong?
Part of my assignment for the 2014-15 school year is teaching. In addition to providing library prep two days of the week, I now teach grade 5 for 32% of the week. It's been about 10 years since I last taught academic subjects in a regular classroom. I'd forgotten how much I love teaching one class for a whole day at a time. One of the payoffs, in addition to building connections with 28 fabulous students, is the reminder of what teachers can and can't do in a day. 
Teachers simply do not have time to check their emails during the day. It took me until noon to grab a minute to check my emails.  There were no less than 52 waiting to be read. Some requiring an immediate response. How often during my admin time do I send email after email to teachers expecting then to respond within the day? For many, that is simply not possible. You bet I'm now looking for a better way to connect. 
We think we've gone paperless, we're saving time by emailing - right? Yet teacher after teacher goes home with a hurriedly printed stack of emails to read through before bed time. 
And speaking of before bedtime reading. If our people are going to be fulfilled at work, they need time away from work...DAILY! If the work/life balance gets skewed enough, people get run down, sick, sad, the list goes on. As important as our work is, it is still a job, albeit an extremely important job. 
Perhaps it's the greying of my hair that hauntingly reminds me of balance. Of priorities. At this stage in life the reverend and I  have no children at home. I indulgently come home to a husband who pampers me. I could devote all my time to work, and no one would notice/suffer.
Wait...did you hear it?...the buzz of the BS button? 
There must be balance. My role as leader includes providing a work environment that fits with a work/life balance, not just for 'our people', but for me as well. 
“Managers do things right, while leaders do the right things”  Warren Bennis 
Doing things right is a given. If you're not, I suspect you won't last long as a manger. So then how do we ensure we're doing the right things?
So back to the basics I go. My 'right things' promote:
  • peace, not problems
  • freedom to create
  • room for autonomy
  • trust
  • belonging
  • knowing, caring, sharing
  • more calm, less snappy
  • joy
I know that in leadership there are times we have to do the hard thing, have difficult conversations. I wonder if those difficult conversations would happen with with less dread in a climate of belonging and inclusiveness. Once again, it comes back to relationship - knowing our people. 
This week, week one of being back in a classroom, reminded me of how much I love being an educator. But bigger than that, it forced me to reflect on how I've been leading. It's a good thing that Better is Possible.
"If the teacher ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" adaptation by me.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

163rd Post: Hot Days of Summer

Summer 2014 is creeping by and it's been a hot one.

We've had our annual summer visit from my brother, Tim, his wife, Sharon, and their son, Mika. While they were here we were able to have an early 80th birthday celebration for my mom, Irmgard. Several family members couldn't attend, so we'll happily be having another celebration in September.

I've been rather bored...make that relaxed, and had some time to put together a brief movie trailer of mom's party. You'll find it at the bottom of this post. Anybody else loving iMovie? 

Travelling back and forth between the coast and Vernon has been at a less frenetic pace this year. I'm putting work out of my mind as much as possible focusing instead on family, moves, new beginnings, and when he's available my dear reverend. Jim has now turned 65 and I would love to see him lay down his tools, but he is enjoying working out in the field. He continues to preach monthly at a little church in Port Moody. He's rather busier than I would like him to be, but he's happy, fit, and only a bit sore from unloading all those trucks that show up at his job sites. He assures me that he's learning many new skills and techniques which will be of great use once the renovations to our Vernon house begin in earnest.

I feel very much 'in between' these days. Restless seems to be a part of my in between. There seem to be many doors opening, yet I'm hesitant to explore too much just yet. This begs the question, "What am I waiting for?"

In the mean time we've planned a repeat of our 2013 Parksville holiday. This time it's me, my boys, and their kids. (plus my daughter who is still nursing baby Noah). We had so much fun last year, we booked the condo for a full week. Should be interesting. Maybe next year we can mix the sexes for a combined vacation.

As promised, here's my Ode to Irmgard. Enjoy.

Until next time,

Sunday, June 1, 2014

162nd Post - Disappointment or Failure

I'm not going to lie, it's been a tough month both personally and professionally. Upon reflection, I'm reminded again, that the details matter less than the accumulation of emotions.
  • Anger,
  • Sadness,
  • Frustration,
  • Sorrow,
  • Disappointment.
Of course with the plethora of grandchildren in our quiver, there was also a good dose of joy, delight, encouragement, and unadulterated happy...
...but back to my brooding.
In the midst of 'sober second thoughts' coupled with ruthless self-reflection I was left exhausted; physically and emotionally. A place only briefly witnessed in decades. Now I had soundly landed and risked being stuck.
Throughout our lives we are given wake up calls. My latest came just over a week ago. A mild to moderate health scare; a wonder if I was dead or alive.
Alive, I am. A healthy alive at that.
When a counsellor and a pastor co-exist in a smallish urban apartment, what is lost in physical space is made up in emotional space. All that to say, we reflect A LOT!
And this reflection was all about me. Reflection on past, present, and future.
What are my for sures?
  • I'm a hard worker,
  • I'm intelligent,
  • I have great intuition coupled with wisdom,
  • I am loved, protected, cherished,
  • I've been blessed with a career that has been an awesome fit.
So then, why the angst? Why the questions?
In the midst of yet another educational-systems conflict (how many is that now?) I find myself weary. A good old, shake my head with 'not-again' weariness. That kind of tired can usually be shifted aside by doing, but there is no 'doing' for me this time round.
So then, here's the deal. I still hold disappointments close to my heart. So close they hurt perhaps more than I realize. A gentle nudge from my reverend brought me to wonder if the sad is less about disappointment and more about a sense of failure.
  • Failure to shield  students from bad news,
  • Failure to shield my own children from disappointment or pain,
  • Failure to make the world a perfect place,
  • Failure to make my career move 'up' fast enough.
Hard to believe it comes back to the old, 'I'm not good enough'.
Then I wonder, if I'm still vulnerable and fall back to this old 'default' of 'not good enough', then what can I offer as hope to students and staff. And here's where the story changes. I'm not stuck here. I've learned to stare down failure. It can be ripped apart piece by piece. It's not up to me to shield the world ~ to 'fix' the world. It's up to me to stay grounded, feet planted, deep breathing. My job is to notice: beauty, sunrises, sunsets, laughter, tears, energy, weariness. Then stand in those places. Yes, stand in beauty and/or weariness. To embrace the here and now, to know there is hope, there is a tomorrow, there is a better.
My job is to never, ever give up.
To witness growth amidst a storm brings a new strength. A new commitment to move forward. To be still yet shout aloud - "it gets better, it really does''.
Warmest Regards,

Thursday, April 17, 2014

160th Post - Heritage

"His faithful foll'wer I would be"...

I awoke to these words from an old hymn swirling in my heart. Leaning into the peace of the message, my reflection eventually rested in the image of sitting next to my Omie in church. My head buried in her warm, soft, fur coat. The smell of mothballs ever so slight, stirred my senses. This memory is so much more than the image, the smell, the nostalgia.

There is comfort in the memory. There is strength in the memory. There is a nudging in the memory. How will my grandchildren remember me? Am I passing on the strength of my faith? I know I play with them, shop with them, laugh with them. I know they know I love them.


Do they know how my faith has sustained me? Will they know without a doubt that Grandma Cary-all, is a Jesus-follower? A God-lover? Completely sold out to life built on faith.

My Omie never preached to me. I rarely remember her quoting scripture. I probably watched more soap operas with her, than we ever sat and read the Bible. Yet, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she loved God and He loved her. Even without the details of her story, I knew He was with her every step of her journey.

May I be mindful to pass that unwavering knowing to my own children and grandchildren. May they know without a shadow of a doubt that HE has sustained me. He is my comfort, my peace, my hope, my solid rock.

As we go into another Easter, I return to this hymn of old. Oh the wonder that these words of another generation, still speak to me today.

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Sometimes ’mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, o’er troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.

Blessing to you all,

Sunday, March 9, 2014

159th Post Story: Understanding or Excuse?

Several weeks ago I gave a talk to a group of school administrators. I've edited it down to 15 minutes. My dear reverend filmed it on his iPhone. His arm was rather sore after 30 minutes. What a wonderful man to indulge my need to see 'me' in action. If you're interested have a look/listen.

On a more personal note, my daughter, Courtney gave birth to our tenth grandchild on  - CHRISTMAS DAY! What a blessing to welcome baby Noah Elliot Bolen into our family on such a special day. He is a delight. It's lovely that he and his parents live within 45 minutes from us and we can visit more easily than the 4-hour drive to visit his many cousins.

Until next time,