Writing circle.

So the circle expands today. I meet with Andrew at Red Stone Lounge and we talk about the possibility of adding to the writing circle which presently is only Alan and me.  He and a friend of his, Steve, will come to the next meeting in a couple of weeks.  We are hoping that Alan will consider Skyping in for the meeting.

We spend the first 90 minutes talking and getting to know each other.  He moves me to tears with the work that he is doing in social justice.  Watch for a film call E is for Everyone.  Andrew and his team travelled the world and asked people seven questions, documented their answers, produced a compelling film about their findings.  Currently they are shopping it around looking the opportunity to show the film and have it produced.  If this film captures half of what is in Andrew's heart, it will be amazing to see. 

I had my interview with the city and worked with the steering committee for the Culture Master Plan Update.  I believe that I answered all of their questions well and I hope they have confidence in me, Donna, and Alan.  I so much want to do this work and I know that we can produce a plan for them that will really take the city to the level.  This plan is one of the most important things that the city will undertake in the next short while.  Nonetheless, if I don't get this opporutunity there is a lot of work coming my way in other parts of Canada, and in internationally. I think I really want to do some work with Community Foundations of Canada and maybe the Tamarack Institute.  I can feel it. 

It is really wonderful.  It feels as if I am spreading my wings ever so slightly and tentatively, the wind conditons are right, my practise runs have been great, and I have incredible support.  I'm ready to take to the sky.

Meanwhile, as I imbark fully on this new career, I am being careful to make sure that I have the right support at the store and on the other projects.  I am looking and budgeted for someone to help me at the store and with Swerve Living.  I need someone with excellent marketing and communications skills, a strong interesting in group facilitation, and community development.  I need someone that gets me, and can help me achieve my goals and at the same time find it rewarding to be part of the projects that I am involved in.  A business comrade as much as an assistant and someone to help me not look foolish.  So they need to be linear and fluid, creative and structured, and like working with an ever expanding set of community opporutunites. Maybe an angel will descend from the sky.  With the way things are going right now, I won't rule out that possibility.

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Update.

I haven't been writing in my public blog very much this past couple of weeks and yet there is a lot that is going on.  I have been writing in my personal journal quite a bit, and I find it very rewarding.

I got the proposal into the city on the 30th, and today I received a phone call that our team has an interview, so at least we've made the shortlist.  This excites me very much.  I shared it with the team today who also worked hard on this proposal and everyone is happy about the news.  It is going to be great.

Meanwhile over this past week I have been doing a lot of work on getting Swerve, into the ground.  That project is progressing, but there are a huge number of things that need to be done.  The team is strong and we have a great working relationship.  I decided go out with Synergy as the Construction Manager.  They were extremely effiecent in getting numbers back to us and are very keen about the project.  They understand our lender and are eager to help the project.  They also have a firm commitment to the environment and seem to understand vibrant communities.  Not only that but Steve, the VP, worn a great shirt to our meeting.  Design is important!  And hey he's Italian, so concrete and building is genetic for him. 

I interviewed a person for a new position that we are creating with the shop, swerve, and my consultancy.  She is great and I hope that she will be interested in working with us.  Nonetheless, we will forge ahead.  It will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold (to quote my dear friend Alan).

It is still waterworld in our basement, but I think we are finally airing things out and pumping the water into the laneway.  The wild snow we had didn't help the situation at all last week.

I'm riding my bike to work these days and that feels good.  Work outs are going well.  Everything is going well really.  Life is grand.  Who could ask for anything better?

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Writing.

I continue to write daily and my novel is flowing from me.  The trouble is that there isn't enough quiet time in the day, with no distractions.

I'm at the store today working a proposal for the update of the Culture Master Plan in Red Deer.  I get about two solid hours in before the customers start coming in.  I'm actually surprised to see anyone in the store on the holiday Monday, but it's fairly busy.  So tonight I spent most of the evening working on it.  Terry is wonderful and cooks a super meal for us again, so I can keep going.  Tomorrow I will finish the draft and get it off to my partners in this project Donna Cardinal from Edmonton and Alan Taylor in London.  We will make a great team.  I think there is  strength in of having someone on the ground here with the history and the experience, someone with no knowledge of Red Deer but with a vast knowledge of vibrant communities and organizational development, and someone with deep expereince in cultural planning.

The budget is sparse, but I think with our strengths we'll be able to stick to it and get it done in a timely and thorough manner.  It is going to be fun to work with these two big brains.  It is exciting for me to develop my career with a subject that I am so comfortable with.

Meanwhile, I want to finish this novel before the fall, or at least get it to the early draft stage, it is doable but the distractions are immense right now, with Swerve and with renovations at the store. I talked to Terry about going away for a couple of weeks this summer, but really when can I, with everything else happening.  Probably one week is about all I'll be able to afford.  I'll have to write double time then.  He suggests the writer's retreat near Edmonton, I'm not sure.  Charlie in Napa has invited me there too.  It for sure would be quiet and perfect to work.  I'm leaning that direction right now.  It'll probably have to wait until August.

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Children of men.

A solid thumbs down!  The only redeeming qualities of this movie were a short segment about faith and chance, and Michael Cane acting.  The human spirit was poorly depicted in this movie, and frankly I don't care that it was science fiction, that is not an excuse.  Society I don't believe would ever behave this way.  I thought is was a waste of time.  Tedious.  Hollywood slop.

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Appreciation for life.

As I read my text on Appreciative Inquiry today and prepare for the summit in Carmel, it occurs to me to reframe some of the questions that I have been thinking about the store in a different way, in the right way.  So from now on I am going to focus on the reasons we do so well at Sunworks.  How come we are so happy working together.  Why it is pure delight to see everyone each morning.  Why do they treat me so well.  Why is it that provokes such loyalty for our customers and for ourselves to one another.  These questions are so simple to ask and the answers will be so empowering for me to discover.

As I ask these questions I can't help but think about the truly wonderful group of people that surround me every day, from my colleagues at Sunworks, to the people that I work with at our Community Foundation here in Red Deer and those from across the country, to my very close friends, to my own wonderful partner Terry, to my dear friend and soulmate Alan in London.  I also mustn't forget the three littlest people Lupin, Montana, and Draba.  Really it is amazing.  How lucky am I?  Sigh.

This afternoon, I walked over to see how another friend Alan doing living in the old building.  I delivered some mail, got his new phone numbers.  I had to let myself in. It was midafternoon when I arrived.  He was watching TV the blinds were closed.  I talked to him about the importance of making some connections with people, of getting out in the sunshine.  Becoming more active.  I worry about him.  He needs to get moving on his life again.  I really don't know what to do to help him discover what it means to be alive.

It is strange to feel so lucky and at the same time have a person in my life whom I care about who just doesn't see what life has to offer.  Maybe he does, but just can't do anything to help himself any more.  Once you stop helping yourself, can you start again?

So, I appreciate my life and the great gift that it is. It becomes more valuable each day.

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John Lent 1

Well tonight was the first experience with John Lent.  He gave an address at the library on dealing with long wandering narratives.  He talked to us about how to handle them and encouraged us to trust our abilities and allow the story to flow.  He suggested that we consider using space in the narrative to give strength.  In short what we don't say is as important as what we do say. 

I was struck with the words that he chose to describe writing. They crossed over to the visual arts strongly.  Create large panels with space in between, apply texture and volume.  It was all very interesting and relates well to the thinking I have been doing in the past couple of days about community engagement voice and connection.  The fluid nature of change and the trust of process, of creating a vision and theme for the piece. 

I am looking forward to my meeting with him next week.  I am inspired to write and can't wait to get back at it.

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Warm weather finally.

The rain ended and there are a lot of people with flooded basements, much worse than ours.  The rivers at full and the worst of the flooding is over… for now.  The sun has been shining and the weather is warm again.  It is nice.

The first two days of my wild week are over.  The Downtown Business Association board meeting was just about what I expected.  That organization needs serious help.  We did make progress tonight even though it doesn't seem like that to some.  Thankfully the board is not meeting in the summer and the executive can just carry on with the work.

Tomorrow I start to write my speech for the CFC panel.  I've got some good ideas, now it is the time to just sit and write.  I think I want to be optimistic with them.  Focus on the great things that people are doing, the new connections that are being formed globally.  Remind them to bring those connection to a community level.  Creativity and giving voice to the community workers.  We'll see where it goes.

Anyhow, that is all I have for today.  I need to do some more writing this week too, and work on this painting that is half done.  Oh boy.  Lots to do.

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Waterworld I

Rain. The Sunworks' building is not holding up well and we really need some roof work.  The leaking is becoming more serious and I believe that this will be a really wet summer.  In the region the ground is already saturated and water is pooling.  This is not that common for Alberta.  I suspect that another week or two of this will cause the rivers to swell and flooding to occur in Red Deer and downstream in Saskatchewan.

Terry spent most of the day mopping up water in our own basement that came up through the sump hole.  Since he landscaped around our sunroom addition, the basement hasn't had water problems.  This is likely the first entry of many this summer that will
be related to the weather and global warming.  It is finally spring in
Alberta.

The rain and wet snow is coming down hard.  It steadily taps against the windows of the
sunroom.  We have a fire burning and are drinking hot tea.  The cats lie
in various positions of repose.  It's during times like these that my mind
connects to memories most easily.

Tonight, I remember when I was 10 years old or thereabouts, my Dad and I would sit in the conservatory that he built.  It was attached to the back of our small bungalow in east Calgary.  When my parents bought the house for $24,000 they talked about my brothers and I not being able to afford a place of our own if prices continued to climb as they were. Behind the house were acres of farm land as far as you could see.  Calgary had started to grow.  Years later I began to understand that this consuming of farm land is the most unhealthy approach to community that cities would ever undertake.  Flying into Calgary now is like diving into a giant scar on earth.  At some point I want to explore the lost connections between people and the silencing of collective voice that has resulted from suburban sprawl.  That's for another day.  Perhaps next week at the Community Foundations of Canada conference.

For now, our suburban home is one of my fondness memories of my Dad.  We never understood each other as I grew up and even in my early adult years.  It is only recently that we are beginning to understand one another.  I've been reminded recently by a friend to cherish my parents while they are still alive.

Then we would build a fire in the wood building stove, leave the doors open, and listen to classical music on a small transistor radio.  On the most interesting nights the rain beat on the corrugated fibre glass roof.  He would encourage me to imagine what scene was unfolding as we listened.  Then I wasn't very good at imagining, but one thing I learned was that our senses are connected.  (Much later I would learn that as many as 1 of 23 people have brains that are wired in such as way that two or more of their senses are connected.  The condition is called synesthesia.  Numbers may be perceived as inherently coloured.  Time may be perceived a spacial, perhaps with older times appearing farther away visually.  The characteristic is quite fascinated.  Days of the week might have personalities.  Some people have extreme sensory interconnections that cause them to be able to perform remarkable mathematical calculations.)

It was early on that I learned that music could be full of personality, colour, and space.  The important thing for me, whether or not I have any characteristics of synesthesia, was to learn that everything in the world is connected in some way.  Music is connected to mood.  Mood is connected to colour.  Colour is connected to personality.  I am connected to my Dad.

The other important journey I began to take then was to create images in my mind.  As an adult, my work with every group of has been full of imagery that has helped the group to understand the complex nature of a problem or the beauty of a possibility.  It is compelling to me tonight that as I write about the sound of the rain that I would be drawn back to a time in my life when I first started to imagine, and that tomorrow I join a group of envisioners in Canada to learn a series of skills to help myself, and community, create a better future.

So I sit here in the sunroom of my own house, I listen to the rain beat upon the skylights, and I become connected to that wonderful time when my Dad and I sat together and experienced life.  I continue to imagine the interesting times ahead.  Today's experience reinforces my belief that the the past and present and future are intimately connected, just as people are connected.  Ideas and visions are connected.  In fact I can feel it, see its colour and hear its sound.  It is good.

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It's a start.

The meeting today was interesting and for the most part went faily well.  I was really pleased with my presentation and it was well received.  The group unanimously agreed to adopt the upgraded framework and use it for the next stage of work, so it was very rewarding.   I received some nice comments from the participants.

My brain is a bit mushy now and so probably have more to say that I am saying.  There was some discussion about hiring someone to finish writing the homelessness plan.  I've let my name stand and may get the opportunity to bid on the contract.  I'll need to see the terms of reference before I make a final decision.

So tonight I am home and I know that I am going to sleep well.  I don't think I'll wake at 0430 like this morning.  My mind has moved on to next week's presentation in Edmonton with Community Foundations of Canada.  I have a short presentation to make there and then sit with the panel to discuss the emerging leadership crisis in Canada and the widening social gap. 

Essential much of the thinking used today around the importance of connections in a community is relevant to this discussion, but there is the another layer — voice.  How do you give voice this the various communities and organisations to help them be understood in the larger community?  This in many ways has to do with integration of newcomers to Canada and the  connections needed into the larger Canadian community.  We are experiencing a time in our history that people are coming to Canada but because of the internet and communities of immigrants already estalished here, newcomers are not forming the connections they once did.  They maintain strong roots in their country of origin.

This is leading to social issues across the country.  Much of my recent thinking is around addressing a need to create cross cultural connections in our Canadian fabric.  This doesn't just relate to ethnicity but also to marginalized Canadians, which includes low income, invisible minorities, and class.

How does one give voice to such a wide and disparte group, when in many cases are they have in common is the country?  As I mentioned earlier the connection to Canada for some immigrants is not strong to start with.  And now as I write this I begin to think about the work that I need to do around this concept of connection and voice and believe that these questions may be the right way to frame a PhD discussion.

I keep coming back to space, the need for shared spaces that we all own and interact in.  Maybe this is one of the tactics that we use to help create a forum for shared voice.  Must think more about this.

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The universe amazes me.

I had a great meeting with Shafraaz today and I think we have a immdiate plan worked out for Swerve Living.  However, I have a ton of work to do over the next two weeks, and this is no joke.  Added to everything else already on the go, it means that I need to be very good at enabling the team. 

Tomorrow I need to put together a work plan for the next few months.  Starting with the media launch of the sales centre for Swerve.  Presales will begin the week of May 16 or so.  There seems to be much interest and the price in today's market doesn't seem to be scaring anyone so I just we will just go ahead and see how strong the presales are.  Indications are that they will go well.

I am glad the meeting went well, it has been seriously stressing me out.

Shafraaz
also mentioned that he and I have been asked to speak at the solar
conference in Edmonton this fall.  He has had no word from the Green
Build conference regarding our proposal to speak there.  He did hear
that it has been moved to Chicago, so that probably accounts for the
delay.

Then I went to meet with Donna Cardinal at noon today.  She was the facilitator at the envisioning workshop about the museum, that Terry and I attended about a month ago.  Today's meeting was very inspiring and slowly the pieces are starting to place themselves with regard to my career.  The picture is becoming more clear.  Donna was a big help and gave me great advice. The meeting went like this:

I walk in and find Donna waiting, we go to the counter and I tell her where I have come from — seeing our architects.  She asked me about the project while we are standing in line.  The owner of the restaurant overhears the conversation and tell me he is looking for condo projects to buy into early in the project.  Tells me he just bought 10 not far away from the shop.  I tell him about our intended launch date.  He immediately gets excited, thinks the price is reasonable, and gets me his card.  That is cool enough, and the meeting with Donna hasn't started.

Donna and I talk about connections, envisioning, the museum, the mayor's task force, and a bunch of other stuff from voice to methodologies around community engagement.  We have a more lengthy conversation about connections and voice, enabling collaboration and change.  The end of which she says, "It sounds like you have a PhD in the making."

I didn't tell her about a PhD, nor any conversation that my friend Aln and I have had about it.  I look at her in amazement and think to myself how odd it is these two things would happen.  I talk to her about Action Research and she suggests a couple of possibilities.  The most obvious is the University of Portland, but she said that the universities here are fairly progressive and there may be a possibility of doing it locally if the idea is well presented.  So I have some steps to take along this path.  Very interesting.

She tells me that there is a gift from each envisioning session that she does.  That the day with the museum group I was the gift to her.  I certainly learned a lot from her that day and even more today as we talked.  She has been a gift to me.  Donna invited me to join a group of envisioners that meet monthly.  It seems like the right thing to do, the connections are being held out for me, so I will go.

As we prepare to leave she encounters a client from whom she will be facilitating a session on environmental curriculum.  I have know doubt that I will cross path with her client in the near future.

So tomorrow is the big joint Mayor's Task Force meeting.  I am fairly prepared.  I got great comments from Mark, Aln, and Janice, all of which helped me to formulate the presentation in the right way.  I'll get up early tomorrow morning and finish working out some of the notes on the slides.  I feel confident and ready to present.  I hope that it goes well.

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