Attractor – the elastic space.

The conference started at a reasonable hour. A practice that felt good and allowed time for thinking and moving into a good space for the day.

I found it most interesting to consider the cultural and individual context that each participant brought to the gathering. What any word’s meaning exists for me can be very different than someone else. The way the Danish or the Americans construct meaning in English create new ways of thinking about various ideas we are exploring together.

There has been great presentations about the nature of dialogue and the role of models in reflexive practice. It’s nice to be surrounded by others that try to work reflexively. The challenge for all of us to be part of a process while at the same time be aware of the dynamics, internal feelings, body language, surroundings, aesthetics, and individual context.

I imagine all of us in a process holding onto the edges of a giant rubber band. Pulling a space open by consciously working together and in harmony and trust. Allowing the space within to be open for participants to explore, question, be uncertain, and relational. We are in this sense dual-natured, being both the practitioners who create a positive space and the participants in the centre that trust the space will remain open.

It’s this idea of process consciousness that I believe allows groups to become reflexive. How does a group develop group skills to enable them to hold dialogic and context awareness, as well as work with the content itself?

Attractor – Summer Institute

July 2, 2011. 

I’m flying to Gatwick this afternoon and will arrive early tomorrow morning. The time change is seven hours. I’ll spend the day with Alan, a close friend and fellow philiosopher.  Around 5 p.m.  in the afternoon I’ll catch a flight for Copenhagen.  The Taos Institute is hosting a summer series on systems thinking and positivity. The first experience I had with this organization was about five years ago when I attended a four day Appreciative Inquiry Course with David Cooperider in Carmel, California.  

Since then the thinking I was doing has developed and accelerated  my approach to community change, and help me begin to craft a different way of being in the world.   Since then I continue to explore how communities and organizations evolve and devolve, what stalls positive change and what helps it grow.

Society is vastly unaware of how language and thought shapes our future. Most can’t see the dynamics and organic processes the exist just below the surface of conversation.  The subtle interplay of process, language, emotion, and unconscious desire for knowing on our human experience create our future. 

My work is to bring a level of awareness to this interplay, to help the people and organizations I’m involved with become reflexive about the dynamics at work.  To understand how the language we choose to use internally or externally, our inner voice and outer voice, will alter these dynamics and therefore the future. 

Without bringing reflexivity into our present concsiousness we hold back creativity, innovation and paradigmatic shifts in human consciousness that presently struggles for life and that need to survive.  The unquenchable societal  hunger for certainty and the fear of change, cripples creativity and the ability to adapt. 

Many if not most of the  institutions in our present and our history, from governmental, to military, to religious and even to family, are rooted in certainty. Although bright stars do exist, our reflexive ability needs nurturing.  Our future needs require us to shift the way we use language in the positive direction. Away from problem solving to life giving creativity.  Our reliance on past thinking must be questioned, the good exacted and built upon, the inflexible and certain replaced with possibility and uplifting questioning. We need real focus on purpose. 

I’m thrilled to be able to take these eight days to explore thoughts and refocus my efforts to be both part of the systems at work and at the same time outside an conscious of them. It’s my goal to blog however briefly my experiences and reflections during the conference. 

On the beach

On Christmas vacation, we sit on a Hawaiian beach and watch the waves roll in and slip away.  Trotting down the beach comes a big fat dog — it is happy.  It stops right in front of us, digs a hole, and leaves a little present in the sand.  We look around for the owner but no one seems to own the dog.  Then a woman appears who seems to know the dog and was following it along at a distance.  She said that it didn’t belong to her when Terry points out the sand trap.   She just giggles nervously.  She and the dog wander back to the other end of the beach.

I sit here for a while, I know what I want to do.  I want to take a plastic bag I carried with me and go pick it up so that it won’t be stepped it.  I am somehow embarrassed.  I can feel that everyone who watched this incident happen are annoyed.  It feels like peer pressure to sit and do nothing more.  Finally I resist the feeling and quickly go to the place with my bag and scoop the poop, then tucked it behind my chair.  I hope that no one notices and contemplate how ridiculous it is to be thinking about what others think when I want to do something that I feel is right.

A short while later a young native Hawaiian man comes up the beach with a plastic bag and a slotted scoop.  He is looking everywhere and scooping up things from the sand that don’t belong — bottle caps, cigarette butts, bits of plastic.  Things left behind by others.  The fat dog follows behind him.  When he gets to us I ask if the dog is his.  He says ‘yes’, but doesn’t stop to chat, just carries on with his task.  I comment that ‘it’s a nice dog’.  He doesn’t respond.  And what would I have said he he had responded?

I sit there thinking about how this young man is not afraid at all to do something good for everyone.  It doesn’t embarrass him to be cleaning the beach.   I determine to pay more attention to my feelings and let my actions be congruent with them.  The next time I want to do something good I’ll be quicker to have this internal discussion about the conflict in my feelings and get on with it.

I assume that he is doing this to help keep the beach clean but I wonder if he knows that by setting this example for others that he will help keep parks and beaches all over the world a bit nicer, as all of these vacationers return to where they live.  Some of them will have experienced similar insights.  We must not ever think that our actions exist in a bubble.  He reminded me to leave every place I visit in better shape than I found it, and he also reminded me to pay attention to living a life congruent with my values — a belief that I’ve held closely for a while.

Surrounded by goodness.

It is a most interesting day.  I’m inspired by people and their capacity for trust, connection, empathy, joy and kindness.   First thing this morning I get up and go to the gym.  It’s leg day and I really would rather sleep just a little longer. I stay in bed as long as possible then hasten the journey.  Corey pushes me but it feels good.  I’m glad I go today.  Next stop is home where I need to connect with a friend whose mother has just died.  He is doing well and notices how much support and friendship he has around him.  When we talk he wants to know if there is anything that he can do for me.  No, I say.  I tell him that I’m fine and to focus on his family.  We’ll talk when I get back next week, but I’ll attend the funeral on Thursday, but I’ve heard it’s important to remember the date 1 month out, 6 months and the anniversary of a loss, when the world is continuing and the formal grieving seems to have passed.  I’ll mark them in my calendar.  He is always outward looking and I think that is what makes him such as gem in my life.

Next, I’m late for a meeting with a colleague and friend.  We start to work but soon realize that we are having some trouble working well. We are not at our usual high capacity of collaboration. So we spend the morning working on our feelings and challenges.  Listening to one another’s perspective and gaining insight in our own.  It’s an amazing experience, painful at times but I realize that when one avoids ‘lumps’, one may have harmony, but real depth and trust comes from sorting out difference and hurt feelings.  When one builds on a foundation of trust there is a deeper and more meaningful richness that allows connections to strengthen and those can take you places that you couldn’t go along.  Oh for the joy of friends that are willing to travel with one another on their solitary journeys.

I leave exhausted but lighter and more happy than I’ve been in a while.  I feel relief and a sense of surety that the work we do together will continue to be strong and inspired by one another.  On my way back to my office, I’m enjoying the sunshine so much that I decide I will take a detour to go meet the women that own and operate Babycakes, cupcakery in Red Deer —  Andrea and Diana.  I love their store and think I’ve found my new happy place away from distraction.  It’s a place that I’ll occasionally escape to, read for a while, and think.  Their cappuccino is excellent and then I bite into a ‘brown sugar mama’ with penuche icing.  I think I have died and gone to heaven.

We visit for a while on and off between customers.  It’s time to get back and focus;  perhaps I am putting off the paper work on my desk.  I decide to buy a box of these wee cupcakes and take them around the building to the tenants and staff AND I have to buy the cool t-shirt that goes with these things.  Who knew that they were such a phenomenon?  Downtown, with cupcakes in hand I wander the building spreading sugary chocolatey fudgey joy.

In the afternoon Carson and Lousie from Idea Market appear to size up the new office and see how I am making out with the painting and cleaning.  It’s good that they came by.  It’s going to be wonderful to have more creative people in the store — especially this team.  They are hearing great things about moving into the downtown of Red Deer.  Tomorrow we will get the painting and cleaning nearly finished and will hopefully be working on the details before I leave for Ireland.  More great people.

After work I come home and spend some time with my niece Kathryn who has just nicely moved away from home, but into our suite.  I’m pleased that she has come to live with us and look forward to some good times.  In some ways it feels like I’m a parent.  Kathryn is grown up, smart and charming.  She shows me that she’s mostly unpacked things and set up her apartment.  While we talk I suggest that that I have an old, but funky two seat chair with wooden arms at the store that she can borrow and perhaps recover.  We decide we’ll take her car and go get it.  At the store we haul the thing out of the basement and onto the quiet street.  Will it fit in the back seat?  No!  Will it fit in the trunk? No!  We stand there and think about our options.  We could put it back into the store and come around to collect it tomorrow.  I say to Kathryn to give me a couple of minutes someone will drive by that I know that will have a vehicle big enough, if that doesn’t happen we’ll go with plan b.

A black truck comes along the road and pulls into a stall near the RBC bank on Ross.  I can’t really see who it is but think I’ll ask for a favour anyway.  This is Red Deer after all, people like to help one another.  I excuse myself as I walk up to the man descending from the cab.  ‘I wonder if you can help me for a few minutes?’  As I get closer I see that it is Davin, a young man and I’ve had business dealings with a couple of times.  We chat for a moment and he agrees that he’ll help us for 10 minutes or so, but he’ll be late for his band practise.  Being kind and helpful is more important to him, that says something about his character.  He backs his truck up to the store and before he is out again Kathryn and I have loaded it the back.  ‘It is small’, he says.  ‘I know, I thought it would fit for sure in the back seat,’ I reply.  30 seconds later we are off to the house.  Kathryn leads the way.  On the way he tells me that he and some friends have purchase Records to the Rafters from Bill, the former owner whom I also know.  We exchanges notes on the retail music business and catch up a bit.  I’m really happy to have made this connection because he share things with me that we’ve had trouble discovering at Sunworks.  5 minutes later we’re home and unloaded.   We agree to get together and chat more.   Kathryn stands beside us keen to hear that they carry music she likes.  Then he’s on his way.

I sit here typing this because it feels like something that should be shared.  I had interactions besides these, with colleagues, customers, lovers, and friends.  Many of today’s experiences came from not being afraid to express my fears, my needs, or my appreciation.  All my interactions today were important and wonderful.  I think how very lucky I am to be surrounded by so many good people, not just in this City but in my life.  Doesn’t get much better than this.

The Empathic Civilization.

As you know I read… and I try to apply what I learn to the world around me.  I experiment with my learning and share what I am able.  Currently, I am reading a book called The Empathic Civilization, by Jeremy Rifkin.  I’ve waited to tell you to about it until I was well into it.  I wanted to be sure that my enthusiasm about his ideas was not premature.  Now, I have to tell you that this book and the concepts behind it seem to embody and connect some of the most important thinking for our time.  This book could change how interact with others in this world — instill confidence that your smile and thoughtfulness are important and that they do affect change  —  that our connections with one another are the most important part of our society.  It will also compel you to rethink the direction of humanity.  It questions whether the human race will survive and whether it can can come together to meet the rising challenges we face, but at the same time offers tangible ideas. Will we connect on a deep human level and work together?  Mediocre and slow change will not serve us.  Dramatic collaboration and fearless empathic communication must guide our collective thinking.  This book is not an alarmist siren-call (at least not up to page 201).  It’s a ‘must read’ soon. You need to know.

Here is the link to a page about The Empathic Civilization.  There is a great short video by Jeremy on that page that gives a bit of an overview of his ideas.

I feel so strongly about this book that I’m ordering 50 copies into Sunworks.  Drop me a wee note if you would like one be to set aside for you when they come in: I’m looking forward to a grand discussion with everyone that reads it.  Who knows, we might be able to get the author in Red Deer somehow.  Perhaps RDC would consider inviting him for the Perspective Series.  As always please feel free to drop in and chat — it’s always better in person.

Showing not telling.

When I was in high school I had a teacher named Sheena who was an incredible influence on me. Many of us are blessed with great teachers, they are a real gift to us. We probably don’t think to look them up later and then tell them how important they have been to us. I’m fortunate enough to keep in touch with my friend Sheena all these years later. Thanks Sheena.

Here’s something that happened in grade 11, I recall.

I was quite active in the arts in High School and took every art course that I could from Sheena. It was a way for me to express myself during that very awkward time of growing up — 6’5″ and 170 lbs — need I say more. During those years I was found at one of two ‘safe’ places, either the bowling alley or in the art studio.

I had taken an interest in ceramics and was becoming quite creative in the use of clay. Some of my pieces are in my office today, if you ask next time you are in I’ll show you. Sometime at the start of a new semester a new group of ceramics students arrived. I may have been the teacher’s assistant, or just a senior ceramics student — not senior by much — this was high school after all.

Out of the blue Sheena asked me to teach these students how to wedge clay. Wedging is a process that removes the air bubbles from the clay so when the piece has dried it won’t explode during a kiln firing. I was terrified of having to teach these students. I’d been picked on and bullied all the way through school, but that is a story for another time.

There were about five students gathered around the 4′ x 8′ wedging table, with me at the end. Each of them had a freshly cut piece of clay to work with. I just couldn’t speak so with trembling hands I slowly began to work the clay, pulling it up from the back of the slab with my fingers and then pushing it down with my weight on the palms of my hands. Not entirely different than kneading dough. It’s probably called wedging because if done right it creates a piece of clay that resembles a wedge shape.

One-by-one the students watched and slowly started to follow my hand movements and wedge their own clay. I watched them, I watched their eyes, I watched their hands. Over the course of 10-15 minutes everyone learned to wedge clay. I said nothing. I recall relaxing at the end and making a few suggestions but even that I’m not sure about now.

It’s likely that I taught others later but I don’t remember anything other than this first time.

As I think about this today I think about how this style might reflect my personality. Where words often fail me, I can show by example. I can prove that something can be done by demonstrating it. There have been times and continue to be times when I simply can’t explain something with my brain but that I feel to be right elsewhere in my body. The building of Sunworks has largely been like that.

Perhaps this is why I think that experimenting — giving things a try — is so important for community development. For example, how can we be certain of what we’ve been told by traffic engineers that blocking two lanes of traffic on Ross Street by City Hall would cause traffic to back up? Then, lucky for us, the lanes get blocked from construction for two years, and we make a discovery which we can demonstrate, and that leads us to the creation of a park (see Creating Cenotaph Plaza entry). Showing not telling is perhaps an underutilized form of teaching and learning.

Sunworks March 2010 Newsletter

This newsletter is devoted to news and events.  First we have three cultural events to tell you about.   Here they are in date order.

Fertile Choices – March 25, 2010 to March 27, 2010

My friend and colleague, Glynis Wilson-Boultbee has written and directed a new play called Fertile Choices.  I know her and her work.  I highly recommend you get tickets and go to this production at the Matchbox.  It starts next Thursday and runs only until Sunday.  We have tickets at the store.

Fertile Choices explores myriad reasons why women choose not to have children and the implications of those choices. The story is told with unflinching honestly and electrifying wit. Fertile Choices is based on the provocative poetry/ceramic show of the same name by Glynis Wilson Boultbee and Michele Dupas.

Fertile Choices launches Ignition Theatre’s inaugural ORIGINAL VOICES series. Each season, Ignition Theatre will accept new scripts from Alberta playwrights, will develop and workshop one, then produce a full limited engagement run. This will assist Ignition Theatre in expanding its mandate to include the support of emerging playwrights.

Robyn Dell ‘Unto and Sean Pinchin – March 28th

On Sunday, March 28th Sunworks will host an intimate acoustic show, featuring Robyn Dell ‘Unto and Sean Pinchin. Gather around 5:00 — the show will start at 6:00. Tickets are $10. Cash wine bar.  We appreciate when you buy your tickets in advance at Sunworks, however tickets will also be available at the door.  The seating is limited.

ROBYN DELL’UNTO spent new year’s eve 2009 in Niagara Falls, sharing the stage with Styx and Glass Tiger in front of a crowd of over 60,000 people. Robyn is at home on stage, and easily relates to, and wins over, any crowd…she’s just signed a deal with The Orange Lounge label, and her songs have been featured on both CBC and CMT. Melissa Mcclelland & Justin Hines are also with The Orange Label.

The story-telling, Folklore artist, SEAN PINCHIN, is best known for crafting warm and soulful sounds with nothing but his voice, harmonica and slide guitar. Using his music as therapy, every performance has an emotional delivery that any audience can feel and relate to.

Paul Headrick – April 16, 2010

Our next literary event is a reading by author Paul Headrick.  His new book is called The Doctrine of Affections and is a collection of eleven stories. Paul Headrick takes us on a fascinating journey into the heart of music. From the perfectly honed decrescendo of a symphony’s string section to the down-home chord progressions at a late-night kitchen party, Headrick’s stories question the subtle differences between hearing and listening, and communicating and understanding. The subjects of this collection are soloists, ensemble players, scholars, collectors, and lovers of music, but their experiences with risk, religion, relief, and often regret make their stories resonate for readers who are hearing their songs for the first time.

A poverty-stricken guitar virtuoso navigates the political landscape of nineteenth-century Parisian society as he comes out of retirement for one final concert. A sessional instructor competing for the prestigious Interdisciplinary Chair in Aretha Franklin studies gets sidetracked by her obsession with a mysterious student in a yellow hat. A dying doo-wop DJ and his wife try to bridge the estrangement wrought by illness as they travel in search of the horns, drums, and vocals of highlife.

It’s going to be a fun and entertaining evening.  No tickets are necessary and we have room for 30.  Come for wine and cheese and enjoy another excellent writer.


For those of you ‘on Facebook’, and I know there are many, please join our Sunworks group.

What’s new?

It is so hard to say what is new and what has changed.  We’ve been enhancing Sunworks for years and since Christmas 2009 we’ve done some major changes that have once again taken the store to the next level.  We all are very pleased — come down for a visit soon.  See the ever growing music section in the store, the upgrades to the book room, the kitchen product, cards, pottery, glass, and garden statuary.  You can always visit through our webcam, sadly you can’t buy through it yet.

Idea Market Moves to Red Deer

We are pleased to announce that the Idea Market team will be moving into the Sunworks Building for May 1.  Their new office is #205, 4926 Ross Street.  We are so thrilled to be associated with this dynamic and talented group of people.  To learn a little more about Idea Market visit their website.

Conscious Evolution

Last month I mentioned my blog and invited you to visit it.  Then in an editing faux pas, I neglected to put in the URL…. so here it is.

Conscious Evolution — observations and insights through living on earth in the company of solitary travellers — is my personal website.  I’ve been quite active building this site to share my thoughts and insights about life.  As a community facilitator, writer, and artist I believe that I’m discovering ideas and ways of thinking that are helping me to make sense of the world and highlight what I think are useful questions to help us create an inspired future.  You may find it interesting to read and follow (OR you may not).  I share ideas, encourage thinking, promote collaboration and questioning, as well as post simple things like great recipes.  I link my site to sites of other thinkers and organizations that I find interesting and thought-provoking.  Mostly I have fun.

City Council

I’ve been asked many times to consider running for City Council.  I’ve considered it for years and now the time is right.  So it’s official, I will run in the next election. The outpouring of support and encouragement has been tremendous.  During the next six months I’ll be actively listening to the community.  If you have something that you would like to share with me, an idea, a challenge, an insight, please do not hesitate to call me, email me, or drop by.  I plan to run this campaign and do my potential work with City Council in a strength-based way.  I believe that we will do better if we work from a perspective of what can be rather than what isn’t.  We do have areas that need improvement there is no doubt, but we also have great examples and strength in this community to build something amazing for all of us.

Our Happy New Promotional Video

Last month we approved the final version of a video for Sunworks that we have been working on for a few months.   As we continue to improve the store, it feels good  that we have something that we can share electronically with people that helps to showcase the shop.  Click on the link; we hope you enjoy it.   Feel free to send it around — there is a spot beside the video to do that very thing.  Terry did the voice over for this video and I think that he’s done an outstanding job.  He’s says that he wouldn’t give up his day job but he definitely has that sexy radio voice going on.

Clearance Room – More Added

Over the course of every month we have to look at the inventory and determine what needs to go and what should grow.  Where we’ll build and where we’ll adjust.  We’ve created a sale clearance room for things that we’ll not be carrying again or have minor but repairable damage.  There are many interesting and useful things there for you, marked down by 50 – 90 percent.

Harris-Warke Gallery

the geography of things
An assortment of wall reliefs and sculptural pieces by Ellen Dick from Swalwell, Alberta. By rearranging and juxtaposing a variety of recycled common materials in unusual ways, Ellen creates sculptures that open windows “into a bit of magic and mystery. Being evocative of other places and other times, they form their own geographies.” Ellen Dick is originally from northern Ontario but has lived in Alberta for over 40 years. She is also a painter and works in stained glass. “The Geography of Things” opened on Monday, March 1 and runs until April 2, 2010.

Store Hours

Sunworks is opened Friday nights until 8 p.m., and Sundays Noon – 5 p.m.  The rest of the week it opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.  Please drop by and explore — enjoy a complimentary Illy coffee and customer service that truly independent retailers can deliver.

If there is something that you would like read about in future issues please email me back.  In fact all feedback is welcomed, we actually like to hear back from you and we’ll share your comments with all of the Sunworkers.

Time to run for council.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written and it has been a busy time. I wrote last about the City’s plan to build Cenotaph Plaza at the end of our street. Each day that the weather warms, the snow melts away, and the construction zone where the plaza will be slowly is being cleaned up. It’s a matter of weeks before crews will begin the transformation of the street. It’s a very exciting time for us.

We’ve completed most of the major changes to the store and begin to prep for the Spring and Summer seasons. It feels great. The Sunworkers are doing a great job and the proof is evident when you come into the store.

As I contemplate the upcoming seasons, I feel relatively confident that the store will continue to improve and finally beat this recession. Shoppers are slowly returning and there seems evidence of a turn around. Still I’m surprised daily by the number of people that come into the store that say they’ve never been in. We started in 1997 and still people are discovering us. We’ve never had such a strong team of people as we do right now. It’s fun every day to be there and play.

Much has changed for me since 1997. After eight years on the board of directors of the Red Deer and District Community Foundation, I’ve only a few months left. During my time there I’ve learned important things but I’ve also grown in my professional life as I’ve grappled with the complexity that exists in the relationship between business and community work. I’ve learned much about community change, and about facilitating creativity and collaboration among diverse groups of people. I’ve faced some of my greatest inner fears and I’ve grown tremendously as a person, particularly in the past two years. Which brings me to what I’m thinking about for the stage of my life.

I had lunch with my colleague Cindy several days ago and she encouraged me to think about running for City Council. I had been thinking about it yet this conversation stirred serious thought. I’ve since spoken to my most trusted friends about it and everyone is in favour and supportive. It is time for me to run, to be elected, and to work from the inside (if there is such a thing). I have a different perspective, one that is reflective of many others in this community. I believe that I can help this community achieve its vision for itself in a way that will help it rise to meet the rapidly evolving world. Changes are quick in their coming and we must adapt quickly to both the challenges and opportunities.

Over the next five months there is a lot to be done to prepare. I want to hear from you to help me craft the right platform and clarify the things that are important. I’ll need your support. Please feel free to call or write, or comment here.

Creating Cenotaph Plaza

Creating Cenotaph Plaza will transform the sunny side of Ross Street on the block that is home to Sunworks.  Two years ago the community was invited to imagine together what the downtown could be and suggest possible projects and initiatives that would create community and be perhaps transformational.  So many great ideas were heard from those that attended.  Ideas found a home in the planning documents that the City now uses to guide their work in transforming and creating a vibrant and cultural-rich atmosphere.  These plans will improve economic activity, create safer streets, and re-energize the work that downtown merchants have been working towards for years.

Cenotaph Plaza is one such idea that is becoming reality quickly.  It may be the single most important thing to happen in the downtown in years and certainly is the most important enhancement to Ross Street since the installation of the lighting and paving stones 20 years ago.  Citizens noticed how the two lanes to the south of the new Executive Place didn’t cause a backlog of traffic moving west along Ross Street in spite of being blocked off at the corner of 49th Avenue.  They wondered “what would happen if the City kept these lanes (which is now a staging area for construction) and created a park-like cultural space?”  Essentially an unintentional experiment had occurred, and  in noticing what was happening an opportunity emerged for consideration.

Over the past 18 months the City has explored the idea thoroughly and agreed on its feasibility and potential.  This project is one of the first to be developed and has been approved and funded through City Council.  This is a smart investment in the downtown which will result in an increase in property values and hence the tax base for the City.  It will increase the number of people on the street by attracting new visitors downtown, which will in turn help businesses to thrive, and create safer streets.  It provides a space for cultural and community programming.    It will help attract leases to the new Executive Place which will be home to the most attractive city streetscape and the busiest pedestrian street in the city.

The proposed plan incorporates the recently restored Cenotaph in its existing historical and symbolic location.  The plan includes suitable lighting, benches, landscaping, and streetscaping all of which are based on the principles of Crime Preventions through Environmental Design (CPTED).    The Plaza fits with the City’s Municipal Development Plan and Strategic Plan, and the Greater Downtown Action Plan (GDAP).  The GDAP concepts stem from the community visioning efforts done two summers ago which also suggested a plaza that would be a distinct feature in Red Deer’s historic downtown, and help balance the need to slow vehicle traffic and create a safer pedestrian-friendly environment.

Here is the original concept by artist Dave More, as well as the proposed plan.  They are yet exploring, mid-street crossings, scattered crossing at either end of the street, passenger drop off and pick up, signage, and other details.

Cenotaph Plan 3B
My favourite design for the new plaza.

The most exciting part is that in days it will begin.  Executive Place took their crane away and is starting to tidy up the construction site.  City crews are schedule to begin work on the project in the Spring and have it completed by the end of 2010.  Retailers and restaurant owners along this block are very hopeful the street will be the place to visit and enjoy both in the summer and in the winter.

In many ways this project feels like a culmination of the work that store-owners and restaurateurs have been doing along this block for a while.  I feel a celebration coming on.

Here’s the story that ran in the Red Deer Advocate this week.  Notice the comments at the bottom by anonymous bloggers.  Most of the comments are favourable but of course there are those that just don’t understand why this is important at all.  What people will say when they are anonymous disappoints me.  I’m in favour of people adding their voices to the discussion if you can bear it.

A few joyous things.

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting quietly at home thinking about all of has happened last week.  This week, on the how-alive-was-I scale I give myself a solid 95/100.  On the how-much-joy scale I give myself a 70/100.  There were some amazing and interesting things that happened.  That’s a very linear way to look at something that is fluid and feeling-based.  Here are a few joys from the week.

Last Sunday Terry and I had discovered the power of the Bissell floor steam cleaner.  How nerdy is that?  Let me say though this this thing is the best cleaning tool we’ve ever owned for floors.  No chemicals, no soap, it’s light weight, and it gets floors much cleaner that anything we’ve used before — yes mom it’s even better than hands, knees and a scrub brush.  I’m such a convert.  The floors are sparkling again.  So sold on the ease of use, we bought one for the store with the high hopes that it would be easier to keep the store clean.  I’m happy to report that the Sunworkers took to it and the floors look almost like new again.  To add to the quirkiness of this entry, here is a review link for the steam mop.  May your future hold one of these gadgets in it soon.

Monday was marked by a great board meeting of the Red Deer and District Community Foundation Board.  In my last year as chair of the Foundation I’m continually impressed and proud of the work of the individuals associated with the organization, from the board, to the committees, to the staff and CEO.  Well done to all of them for their tireless and passionate efforts to make Red Deer an even better place to live.   Fund development efforts are increasing with the goal to increase our permanent endowments funds by six million over the next couple of years.  The Red Deer and District Community Foundation continues to be a leader in the nation for its creativity, clear thinking, and policy.  The organization took a loss in its funds during the 2008 year with the onslaught of the recession, but the decrease was only 8% compared to many other organizations across this country that lost much more, some even as much as 40%.

As 2009 ended the funds had fully recovered and gained ground; we achieved at 13.5% return in 2009 and 2010 looks strong in the first quarter.  The organization will once again be running a full grants program in 2010.  The Board of Directors and the Finance Committee did extremely well in thinking through the dark times which enabled us to come out so quickly and well.  This organization continues to have strong, knowledgeable, and thoughtful leadership at the board table and in the office.  It’s such a joy to be part of an organization that does great things.

For information about making donations or about grants please don’t hesitate to contact the office, or call me and I’ll put you in touch with the right person.  Red Deer and District Community Foundation – all for community.

Tuesday morning I had measurements done at the gym.  When I compared last year this time to this year, I discover that I’ve grown in muscle mass and size, and reduced in body fat.  Last year I even got 1 inch taller, as strange at that may sound.  I may be thinking of myself as a big man, finally.

Thursday felt like I crammed three days into one.  It was a race from here to there to here again all day but each activity was so worthwhile.  I started the day with the great workout.  Then had lunch with three great community builders, Janice, Brian & Lynn.  It’s always nice to spend time with people who are passionate and do great things.

After lunch, I drove to Lacombe for some mentoring from the men with Idea Market. On the way I was stopped for several minutes at a train crossing and I thought about my grandfather who was an engineer.

At Idea Market,  for two hours I soaked up new things and made connections between things I knew, and clarified things that I thought I knew.  I was so pleased with the time I spent with Graeme and Carson.  I’ll put what I’ve learned to good use before I visit next Thursday.  I guess I should think of it as homework.   I’m a bit competitive in a learning situation and in this case as I learn with the help of a mentor I will need to meet my high standard of an A and decide whether I deserve it.  Intense student, demanding grader.

Back in Red Deer I met my friend Dale, who read my tarot cards.  This was a first.  I found it interesting and fun, and love playing and thinking about the symbols.  I was bit alarmed and curious to see the first card appear with an image of a man lying face-down with seven or so swords in his back.  We had a great philosophical discussion about life and change.  It reminded me never to become stuck by thinking that one way is right and another is wrong, which is really not my default position anyway, but as things continue to go well I shouldn’t assume that I have it figured out.  I’ve grown to appreciate uncertainty and paradox.

On Friday, I experienced great joy in my work during the morning as I meet with Town Council and Administrators in Innisfail.  I trust myself in this work, as I’ve been encouraged to by another great man in my life.  Lunch together afterward was wonderful as we shared stories and food.  It is so much fun to be Canadians together and talk about all that is happening at the Olympics.  Although my trip back on the highway was tiring it was joyful to watch the winter being pushed back by the strong sun.  I reflected on how great it is to be having fun doing work that I really enjoy.  Innisfail is an amazing community of people.

At the store we finished once again rearranging to accommodate new products and to create a wall for fine art.  By the end of the day we were all very thrilled with the results.  Next week the painting begins again.  The store keeps getting better and better.  Also, next week we will have an oven installed and will be finishing the long over due kitchen on the main floor.  Then I’m hopeful that Terry or others will do mini cooking demonstrations.  I myself am looking forward to taking breaks occasionally to mix up a batch of cookies for our customers.  Don’t think I’ll be anything like Vince from Slapchop… but then again I’ve never done demos before.  Should be fun.

Saturday was calm and quiet as I worked at my desk, visited with friends, and helped customers.  Occasionally I saw the Bissell go by, the quiet hum of grim being removed, and I smile.  I’ve got no doubt that they store will continue to grow in a healthy and creative way… and now in a clean way.  Such a difference from when we were battling construction dust and chaos constantly.  Making pizza with friends in the evening and laughing are faces off made the end of the week absolutely complete.

In the evenings last week Terry and I watched the Olympics and felt great pride with Canada’s athletes, and yes we even watched hockey — and took great ribbing for it. The Canadian values of being polite, grateful, kind and happy people are alive and well.  That brings me the greatest joy this week.