Swerve in context.

I spent the day in Edmonton.  I went up for an early meeting with the finance company, the architect, and the builder.  We are trying to get the budget numbers in line for financing purposes and so the project makes sense on paper.  My gut tells me that the project will come in at less that we are currently projecting.  I think that everyone is so rattled by two years of escalations rates that it hard to believe that things are leveling off.  Nonetheless we will make this work. I have good confidence in the builder, the materials supplier, the architect, and even our young finance group.  Everyone left feeling confident and it is good for me to know that there are two investors willing to come in even it the finances at this level becomes troublesome.  It is interesting and quite wonderful to know that there are business people out there that are up for a challenging project when they understand that it can make a difference in their community.

I left the meeting feeling exhausted and a bit down.  So much hinges on this stage of the work.  Of course there is always talk of 'not building' or 'building.'  Not building is not an option for me and neither is it for the partners, so in some sense that is reassuring.  We have come this far and I know that the project is good and can succeed.  I certainly see why other developers replicate the same old formula instead of tramping into new territory.

After the meeting I went to the Alberta Art Gallery and had a good look at the Capital Modernism show that Shafraaz is the curator for.  It was really really great to read the biographies of some of the leading architects in the modernist movement.  Their words about meeting humanity's challenges and coping with a changing world real did make me feel better about our project and the complexity of the process.  It's the right thing to do, and when I looked at some of the great work that other architects have done it confirmed to me that this work we are doing will be among the great things that can be looked back on years from now.  Developers that are replicating stick frame walk-ups won't have contributed to society in any way, and likely in 20 years their buildings will be replaced again.  Ours will be a landmark and the defining characteristic of downtown Red Deer for decades.  I truly believe that it has the power to change the way the industry thinking about the environment and community.  Our website is coming along at www.swerveliving.com if you want to get a closer look at the design.

So we press forward and we will complete this building in due course.  Our deconstruction party is now schedule for September 15th, on Earth Dance.  We have the kill orders in place for the services and by the end of the month the building should be ready to take down.  Presales of the units will start in September and prices are now close to being set.

The public art project is proceeding.  All of the the jurors have now looked at the works and have narrowed down their choices.  We'll announce the three main contenders for the piece on the 15th of September as well.

So today was a little about progress and a little of perspective and a great reminder that great things take time but have a lasting impact on the world.

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Yvon Goulet & Montreal.

I first saw Yvon Goulet’s work in Calgary.  My friend Ron owns a couple of pieces and has them hanging the bar at the Calgary Eagle.  Max and I went to the gallery in Calgary that has some of his work but didn’t find anything that we really really like and so I was trying to arrange to talk Max to Montreal for Valentine’s day and to go see Yvon at his studio.  Obviously that never happened.  However, we made a point of flying back through Montreal after Caribbean cruise.

Yes I know that that sounds exotic but there is more to tell about that story, the how and the why and the what.

Anyway, I had made sure that I had Yvon’s number with me.  He had told me to call when we were going to be in Montreal and he could arrange to meet us at his studio.  I called as we left Orlando the morning of July 1 and make arrangements to meet him on St Cathrine’s Street in the village.  The street has been closed for four days for international arts show.  We get there just has it finished, DRAT!  But still we got a sense of what the show as like.  The buzz is still in the air and there are thousands of people milling about the street.  It is a great event.  We later learn that the street will be closed every weekend for the summer.  How progressive.

We make arrangements to meet at his studio at 9:00 a.m the next morning.  We arrive and find the brick work being replaced on the front of the row houses.

Yvon's garden.Yvon's garden.

It is a small flat with a back garden. I estimated the size to be about 700 square feet.  Yvon uses every small room to work and to store his work.  He has transformed the back yard, about the size three parking stalls, into an oasis.  It is lush and green.  He’s is created a pond.  It is a perfect space to provide him the ‘white space’ that he probably needs as he paints.

Yvon starts to haul out painting after painting of things we both find very interesting.  After much discussion we settle on two pieces and commission him to do a third for us.

This first one was a concept for a mural that he did.  I love the loose way the background is painted and the tension between the viewer and the men.  The colours don’t show up well here so you’ll just have to come and see us in Red Deer.

Yvon Goulet and his art.

These pieces are painted on recycled plastic.  They are more similar to the piece that Ron had in Calgary.  We both just love them but have absolutely no where to put them.  Yet we know we’ll find a spot somewhere in the house.


The third piece we asked Yvon to do for us is of two men wearing business suits kissing.  He had one there but it was sold.  We just love the meaning of the painting on a couple of levels.

DsensWe left Yvon’s fairly happy with our purchases and went off to explore the city district. It became clear to us this we would love to buy a flat in Montreal. Since coming home we have discussed it further. It is my goal to have something there before the end of the year. We both love the idea of staying in Canada for get aways and yet the distinctly European culture of Montreal truly does feel so different from the west. Their interest in the arts, food, and quality of life all appeal to us. We had the most amazing dinner that night.
Interesting building on Saint Catherine's
Building signage.
Street banner.

The next day we realized that we needed one more day in Montreal and so went to the airport and volunteered to be bumped from the flight.  Air Canada is always overselling their flights.  The gave us $200 each and said come back tomorrow evening to fly home.

So without luggage or a place to stay we took a cab back to the city and enjoyed the adventure for another 36 hours.  We explored the streets, the food, did some shopping for the team at the store, bought ourselves new sunglasses.

Max’s might have been inspired by the recent painting purchase, but they look really great on him.  Mine are more intellectual and funky.  They both suit our personalities and I love the fact that we are becoming more defined as individuals, and each of us finding that attractive in one another.


I go up to the highest point on the ship today and look around in all directions.  I want to experience the feeling, whatever that may be, that comes from realizing that we are in the middle of the ocean with nothing around us in any direction.  I walk around on the smallest of the decks a couple of times until it is absolutely clear that there is no land anywhere.  I ask Max to tell me if the experience is a metaphor for anything.  I have no idea but I no that it will be a powerful image as I think about it.  As I think about this tonight I also think about my Grandmother coming to Canada from England, and the feeling that they must of had.  This ship is big and the waves are tempered by the size of the ship.  Now as I write this, in the comfort of my stateroom, the ocean beats against the side of the ship tossing it around.  The ship is something like two blocks long. The waves sound like huge battering rams slamming against the sides.

As we come down from the top deck we meet a couple just inside the doors of the 12th floor.  I say to them must go up and see the view and think about what it means to them, if it is a metaphor for anything.  She says without thinking twice that is about life, being able to see the horizon in four directions.  I am not sure if she knows how profound she is being, but it makes me think about choices and directions and endless possibilities.        

I am so looking forward to getting home and to the possibilities that exist there.  I think about the changes in my life and the new directions that things are going.  I am infinitely intrigue by life.

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Day 2 — The course begins.

I arrived at the hotel by 10 p.m. last night thoroughly exhausted but very very happy to be here.  I got to SF around 11 a.m. and spent the afternoon south of market, bar hopping and just enjoying the big city.  I did a little shopping for Terry's birthday which is coming right up and drank beer.  I bought myself a new leather vest which I think looks rather fetching on me.  Maybe the friends of Dorothy will have leather levi night on the cruise next week.  Yeah, right, like that will happen.  It was great to sit in the sunshine at the Lone Star and then the Eagle for the beer bust.  I fear that I got too much sun, actually yesterday I got just the right amount of sunshine, but today in Carmel, on section of the course was outside and I fried the top of my newly shaven head.  Thankfully it recovers quickly and by tomorrow, it may quit throbbing.  Opps.

Meanwhile, the course started at 0830 and I spent the first 2 hours wiping tears from my eyes and thinking to myself how very happy I am to be here with this group of people and how amazing things that happening all over the world.  AI is being used more and more, and the interesting thing is that it is still developing.  David Cooprider and Frank Barrett asked lots of interesting questions of the group and truly listened to the answers, writing all the while. 

Everything that I have been exploring about community leadership and change is here in some form.  It really is incredible.  Anyway, I worried about making a fool of myself by being weepy all week.  But in fact, I managed to pulled myself together and it is amazing the stuff that we are learning.  We have covered so much ground already I don't even know where to start.   The participants come from all over that world.  My first meeting was with a guy from South Hampton England, who is working with a large consultancy firm that does research, Richard.

Terry gave me a digital recorder and I have been capturing the conversations throughout the day.  It should have enough room to record everything for future reference.

The biggest thing today, besides meeting so many really smart and innovative people is the reminder that organizations moved in the direction that they inquiry.  So this is interesting in the context of the Culture Master Plan update, because the first workshop we do will set the direction for the inquiry with the community so that we really really must get the right topic and questions sorted through.  Such amazing things are going to happen in Red Deer because of this process.

Tonight I am off to Monterey for dinner and then back to do a little more work before bed.  Tomorrow the course starts with choice affirmative topics. 

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Day 1 – On my way…

Today is pretty much a day of travel.  I sit here in the airport in Calgary, the rain continues to fall.  I worry about the buildings leaking and think about how glad I will be to have the roof repair done this summer.  My flight is in 20 minutes, and I go through my favourite city on the west coast, Seattle.  I don't even have time to stop for a coffee before I catch my next flight into San Francisco.

I am on my way to take a course with David Cooperider on Appreciative Inquiry.  I sit here and think how my life is changing and how happy I am right now.  A couple of months ago, my best friend said to me that I should learn more about Appreciate Inquiry, because so much of what I do now with my community work seems to fit with this way of thinking about the world. I immediately got a book from a friend and began to read, and sure enough the ideas and principles in the theory are so in line with my way of thinking about the world.  I have been learning new things about AI and how to better use the principles and am finding that my world is changing, doors are opening, business is excelling, relationships are improving, and life seems so much more full.

Another friend in Red Deer sent my a note about this course in Carmel and so I signed up and am so excited to learn from the very people that developed these theories.  This course is at the Taos Institute in Carmel and so that in and of itself will be interesting.  I am going to try to write my thoughts and experiences as I go through this course.

The great thing is that since started to shift my career to more of a consulting and community development focus, I was able to put a team together to apply for the Culture Master Plan Update in Red Deer.  We were awarded this contract and the work has begun.  I intend to do a lot of thinking about the process that we might use as I go through this course over the next 4 days.  I believe that really positive things will come from it that will enable us to guide the CMP Update inquiry and make some incredible changes in our community.  So we shall see.

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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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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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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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