What Brings you Joy?

Driving back from Montreal on a beautiful afternoon. What brings you Joy?

It is important to always reflect on what brings you Joy. This was a particularly challenging work week, we all have them and these are the times to reflect on the positive. This may sound a bit trite, but that is how things need to go. Staying mired in the negativity engendered by some organizations doesn’t help you at all.

Look for the things in your work and life that give you joy. For me, this was a particularly wonderful interview we did for a radio broadcast we do on a regular basis. The show is called First Hand Stories and this interview was done with Chris Nihmey, a mental health advocate here in Ottawa.

Chris has an important message for all of us and he displays the courage to talk about his story to school children and the general public whenever he can. Radio is a great way to communicate ideas, sometimes stilted by email, Twitter, blogs and Facebook. It is a great creative endeavour that brings lots of joy. Our time with Chris was magical and we feel so privileged to have had some time with him to discuss such an important topic.

Here is the interview.

If you want to learn more about the work Chris is doing, you can check out his website here.

The interview is a very small part of the wonderful burst of creativity that comes out daily from Voiced Radio. I have written about Stephen Hurley and the wonderful collection of broadcasters he continues to collect under his banner. Stephen really has something going. He really gets Joy. We are totally dedicated to Voiced Radio, not just because it is an incredibly creative project, but because it is always such a positive experience.

There is no bureaucratic malaise here, no negativity, no limiting hand that slaps you down, just a positive creative pulse that sustains and provides inspiration.

What brings Joy?

Working with accepting people who appreciate your work and the time devoted to creative projects.

There are so many other organizations that really could learn a lesson from this. Do those you work with create Joy?

A photo with Chris Nihmey after our First Hand Stories interview.

 

Public Schools in Ontario: Myth and Reality

There are a series of articles and opinion pieces this week in the Globe and Mail by Caroline Alphonso and Konrad Yakabuski.

The articles started with this statement:

Catholic school boards in Ontario are increasingly enrolling non-Catholic children and siphoning elementary students from the public stream as the two systems vie for provincial funding, a Globe and Mail analysis has found.

The series continues today with an opinion piece by Konrad Yakabuski. In continuing the debate, he calls for arguments based on fact, not the empty pronouncements that usually characterize these conversations in Ontario. Some of the questions he asks need to be addressed. He writes that Catholic schools tend to do better on EQAO tests and wonders why this might be happening:

…is it because parents who send their children to Catholic Schools are more engaged in their children’s education? Is it the combination of more discipline and the community spirit that Catholic schools purport to provide that persuades parents that their kids can develop more fully in the Catholic system? Are Catholic teachers better trained or more dedicated than their public counterparts?

Globe and Mail February 15, 2018

It is fair to ask all these questions. It is also true that the publically-funded Catholic system is siphoning off students from public schools. However, I don’t think it is because Catholic schools are any better than their public school counterparts. Many in Catholic school management would have you believe that and have said this for years, but it really comes down to the individual school, not the overall system.

My partner is a public school teacher. She has taught grade 7/8 for seventeen years in a very challenging neighbourhood. Most of my best ideas on character education, discipline and school improvement have actually come from her school. Her school is excellent, it has dedicated teachers, solid connections to the community and a reputation for innovative programming.

I have to say that in my years as an administrator, I took many of their ideas because they are a real centre of excellence.

These centres exist throughout the province. Sometimes the determining factor is the school leadership. Often it has to do with a strong core of committed teachers. It also has to do with socioeconomic factors. I have to say that after 31 years working in the Catholic system it has little to do with a generalized system of belief.

I say that because it is really hard to define what a true Catholic is and why a Catholic is in any way ‘better’ at doing things than a non-Catholic. There is something very unsettling about holding such an opinion. It lacks any sort of critical analysis and tends to enter into the realm of myth – we are just better.

Teachers in both systems are trained by the province. Higher test scores have much more to do with socioeconomic factors that all school boards struggle to deal with. Discipline comes down to the collective efforts of teachers and administration.

When debating about school systems in Ontario we need to keep away from dearly-held myths. We need to stay in the real world. As long as there are competing systems in Ontario based on language and religion, schools boards will continue to siphon off students from competing boards and school boards will continue to spend millions on marketing.

Maybe this is OK. Maybe competition encourages school boards to try harder?

It is great that the Globe and Mail is leading this debate and that they are dedicated to basing it on the facts. Maybe their efforts will provoke a more extensive conversation in the political realm and this will become an issue in the upcoming election.

Education and how it is governed is one of the most important public issues in this province. It deserves an intelligent conversation, well beyond the realm of myth. Let’s discuss these issues, let’s all get involved in the conversation.

Christie Lake Climb for Kids Takes Off!


So Climb for Kids is going to happen!

After months of planning, talking and promoting we have the 16 people we need to allow this project to take off.

Last week four more people signed on to the expedition and the entire group met for the first time at our house. This is a great group of positive people who are excited to take part in a great adventure and raise money for an organization that is actively working to change the lives of children living in poverty here in Ottawa.

All of our participants have their Canada Helps pages up and running and all have pledged to raise at least $1000.00 for Christie Lake Kids. I think they will all surpass this goal and some members have already done so.

We have group fundraisers coming up, the first one will take place on March 23 at Fatboys in the Ottawa Market. The second one will be in May.

We begin to train as a group this week and this is something that we will continue to work on together right up until the summer. This will be a tough trek at high altitude. All participants will need to be in excellent physical shape.

We are now looking into corporate sponsorship. There is a really important story to tell here and we need to have the means to do this. This will not just be the story of climbing to Ausangate, it will be the story about how Christie Lake Kids is actively engaged in changing the lives of children every day.

Rainy day ball hockey

There will be lots to write about here. It is wonderful to be working with such a positive organization that is truly committed to bringing about change in the lives of young people.

We really hope that Climb for Kids attracts donors, supporters and sponsors. Now we totally expect that this will be the first year in a project that will continue to support social transformation in the years to come.

During our first gathering, several people talked about places they would like to trek to in the years to come.

We are going to Peru this year. Where do you want to go after that?

Believe in Something Bigger Than Yourself

I just listened to Joe Biden on CNN this morning. Really powerful interview. He is an intriguing person. A career politician and possibly a presidential candidate in 2020. Of course, he can get into the political fray just like any other politician, but there is something different about him and his recent political memoir, Promise Me Dad.

Grief changes you and he has had more than his fair share in life. In 1972, soon after being elected to the Senate, his wife and 13-month old daughter were killed in a car accident. In 2015, his oldest son, Beau, died of a brain tumour.

His interviews have a cut wretching honesty that we seldom hear. As a public figure, he is known as someone who reaches out to people who have gone through tragedy.  This is something he knows a great deal about.

There are some important lessons here. First, he talks a lot about his son. Beau was someone who was always positive. We hear how important this is all the time, but how many of us really live this? Beau’s relationship with his father was obviously something very special.  The title of the book comes from a conversation he had with his son where he urged his father to run for the presidency all at a time when he was dying from cancer.

Joe Biden with his sons Hunter left, and Beau, in the early 1970s.
Credit via Joe Biden

It seems to me that people who have gone through the strainer of personal grief or tragedy somehow can see life differently. There needs to be more to live for, especially when you are living with the reminder of your own story.

Today, Joe Biden responded to one of the interview questions with this line:

If you don’t believe in something bigger than yourself you will never be happy

Pretty powerful.
This helps to reflect on some of the interchanges I have had with people this past week.
It has been a big week. We have now started fundraising for our Climb for Kids! project and this is always a challenge. Asking people for money really opens you up in ways that can be uncomfortable. One person, for whom in the past we have done lots of volunteer work for asked not to receive any of my emails about the campaign because ‘it doesn’t involve me in any way’. Another person chose this week to call me out for a note I had sent him around the time of my father’s death. It wasn’t a note I am proud of, but I wasn’t really at my best.
I mention these interactions because the negative can have such a profound impact. Most times it would be much better to remain positive or just keep certain comments to one’s self. We all do better if we can get out of our own petty worlds and just believe in something bigger than ourselves.
So as the week went on I looked back on the comments of supporters from last year’s fundraising climb to Mt. Kilimanjaro. These notes are positive and so affirming and they celebrate the attempt to be something bigger. Sometimes when confronted with the negative it is so much better to seek out the positive.
I was really struck by Joe Biden’s interview today. I was taken by the way this man takes solace and strength from his family as I do. I was encouraged by his and his son’s determination to look to the positive.
A son’s affirmation of the father is a powerful message. I have that and those who can’t see beyond themselves will just have to take the back seat.

The Things You Worry About

What we worry about changes over time. I used to worry about everything. Especially as a principal, worrying was what you got paid for. I thought I had to see the consequence of every action five stages into the future. Still, I got surprises on a regular basis. Some things you just could not see coming.

I still think a lot about my suspension. That was my biggest surprise.

Was there any way to foresee this? How could I have discerned the thinking of my accuser and my employers? Why do I still think about this?

This is still a post for the future, I haven’t thought of a good way to write this one yet.

Tomorrow I am going to Montreal to visit my mother. I am worrying about this.

How crazy is this? I am worrying about visiting my mom. What is happening to my world? This is the person who raised me, looked after me, listened to me, always cared for me.

Now she is alone.

The stalwart of our family has died. Our wonderful, beautiful father. We are certainly moving on, but what is life like for the partner? This is difficult to imagine.

My mom is far away from here and she doesn’t pick up the phone. Although I think about her every day it is difficult to connect. Again, how crazy is this? You can’t connect with your own mother?

Yes, and this is a constant worry, but not something I can talk about to my mom.

The things you worry about when you are retired are different.

I have been pretty critical of my former employers, I think the criticism was fair and it had to be done by someone who was on the inside. Still, I worry now about being on the outside because I have gone beyond the corporate tent in my comments.

At some point you just have to be honest, and if that puts you on the outside that is fine.

However, it is a totally different matter when you look at family. How do you do this when the old reliable structure has crumbled?

This worries me. This is unscripted territory that I just need to plough through. Many of my friends will read this and it will resonate – I hope.

We worry because we love.

A Virtual Tour of the Ausangate Region – Climb for Kids!

Welcome to Rainbow Mountain Cusco Journey through an undiscovered land of wild desert landscapes, snow capped peaks, herds of alpaca, and arrive at the ultimate destination – The “Rainbow Mountain” hidden deep in the Andes. Throughout your journey you will pass through a vibrant green valley with the impressive Ausangate mountain towering in the distance. You will experience first hand how locals live in the mountains and even have a chance to speak with them. As you get closer to the Rainbow Mountain you will begin to see the first signs of the colored minerals that formed the painted hills. Your guide will explain what makes up the existence of the “Rainbow Mountain”, and finally with one last push you will hike up to a vantage point that gives you a 360 degree view of the beautiful landscape that makes up this sacred land.

Trip Advisor

For the past week, I have been featuring photos that I received from the wonderful people at Merit Travel, the people who are organizing our Christie Lake Climb for Kids! adventure planned for August 2018.

The photos are truly amazing and most are shots that I can’t find anywhere else. Even the locations like this shot of the Red Sand Pass are unsearchable on Google. To me, this is a good thing. It shows how remote this area is. Even a recent Netflix documentary we watched called Peru: Tesoro Escondido had no mention of Ausangate or the Rainbow Mountains.

We are certainly trekking into territory that is remote and obscure. That is great!

I have also found some amazing 360 images on Google Earth using a feature I didn’t know anything about called Photo Sphere. Take a look at the Google Earth shot of Ausangate Mountain below – each of the blue dots are Photo Sphere shots taken around the mountain. The shots are spectacular and all are done in 360. They make up a beautiful virtual tour of the Ausangate region.

The arrows point out some of the Google Photo Sphere shots.

 

Here is one of the Photo Sphere shots. Unfortunately, I can’t make it 360 in this post.

I would give this a try. While this is a remote area, there are easily 30 360 images you can take a look at that are most likely a part of our upcoming trek.

A great way to dream away wintery days!

Climb for Kids: Photo of the Day Ausangate Mountain

Ausangate Mountain by Peruvian Mountains https://www.flickr.com/photos/55373852@N03/

 

Ausangate mountain itself is considered a holy mountain (or mountain spirit) by local Peruvians and is the deity of Cusco. Since pre-Inca times the mountain has been a place of worship and offerings and this tradition continues today.

Ausangate Trek – Complete Guide to the Highest Trek in Peru

I think our trek will be dominated by Ausangate Mountain. We hike around the mountain and at 6372 m, we trek to its base but we do not climb it. It is one of the highest mountains in Peru and is certainly a challenging technical climb.

It is interesting to watch the videos that have been made about the trek around Ausangate. This is high altitude and you can hear this in the videos. Breathing is laboured and trekkers take it slow.

The passes on the trek are beautiful and daunting as you can see in the video below. The highest, the Palomani Pass is at 5200 m.

One big difference from the video above is that we will be staying in tambos or lodges which will be great after challenging days trekking. The video is good however as it gives a more gritty look at what the trekking will probably be like.

There is no question that training will be essential for this trip. Referring back again  the Complete Guide:

The trek is classified as grade C which means the trek is fairly long and many sections are at high altitude. You’ll need a good level of fitness and stamina as you’ll be trekking over many steep sections in which the altitude changes significantly over a short space of time.

Thanks to Merit Travel for many of the beautiful images over the past few days. The trip is coming closer every day and it is great to see more of what we will be experiencing as a group this August.

If you are reading this and want to come on the trip, just write a comment on this post and I will get in touch with you.

Climb for Kids! Today’s photo – do you see yourself here??

Nevado del Inka

I am continuing to post photos from the Ausangate region of Peru. This is the area we will be travelling in during the Climb for Kids! trek in August, 2018. There is also lots written about these treks so I am including snippets of what I am reading along with the photos.

This is a very exciting enterprise and we are now four spots away from having a complete group. If you love what you are seeing and reading maybe you should be coming with us!

As we approach the reddish sandy formations of the Nevado del Inca, the impressive views of the glacier on the southern side of Apu will inspire us as we hike.

Today we will enjoy one of the most spectacular parts of our trail, leading us through mountain scenery with multicoloured strata, featuring reds, yellows, ochres, greys, blues, etc. This stretch is an excellent opportunity to study these geological wonders and admire the unique beauty of the landscape. It is also the ideal place to observe the gracious wild vicuñas that can often be found in these isolated spots.

excerpts from Camino del Apu Ausangate

The Huampococha Tambo (Tambo means ‘resting place in Quechua) occupies a magical location, at an altitude of 4,800 m.a.s.l. (15,748 ft.). This lodge offers a panoramic view towards one of the most beautiful landscapes which encompasses the lagoon that bears the same name, and the snow-capped Mount of the Inca, meanwhile it rests at the foot of the Apu Callecalle´s foothills.

from Andean Lodges

These pictures continue to speak for themselves. The more of these I see the more exciting it gets to realize that we will be trekking through this beautiful countryside in just a few months.

a photo from the same region as the first picture. Imagine starting your day with this view!

Remember – now only four spots left!

Climb for Kids – A photo per day!

I just received some stunning photos of the area we will be going to this summer in Peru. They are too good to keep to myself so I am going to start posting some on this blog.

As I post more photos, this edition of the blog will get better and better. Maybe we will even pick up the four or five additional climbers we need to get this terrific adventure going!

Here is today’s photo:

The Ausangate trekking circuit goes through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Cusco region. The five or six days of this itinerary goes around the Ausangate Mountain –  Awsanqati in Quechua – along with hot springs, and pristine turquoise blue and red lakes.

OK, maybe a second photo

Our first Lodge is located in the Uyuni Pampa, at an altitude of 4,368 m.a.s.l. (14,331 ft.). It is a valley with meadows, furrowed by the ice-cold waters of the Quencomayo River, and a grazing place for a great number of alpacas from the community of Chillca. From the lodge, there is a privileged view of the snow-capped Mount Jatun Jampa; an Apu (Sacred Mountain) visible at the end of the valley.

from Andeanlodges.com

More to come!

Christie Lake Climb for Kids – Looking for You!

Hello

Everyone!

We are now on the final push to complete our climbing team for our 2018 trek.

You may be interested or you might want to let others know, especially at your own schools.

We are organizing a trek through the Ausangate region of Peru – the Rainbow Mountains – for August of this year. It represents a great personal challenge and opportunity, and also a means of raising money for one of our favourite organizations, Christie Lake Kids. We are hoping that “Climb for Kids” will be a regular event through the years. It is one way for us to give back to an organization that has done so much for our own children and community kids we have taught. Our son, Liam, has just been appointed Assistant Director of the organization.

Especially if you are in elementary school you probably have kids who benefit from Christie Lake programming here in Ottawa.

Trekkers will pay their own expenses and will participate in reasonable, individual fundraising and in two community pub parties, largely organized by Christie Lake. Some proceeds from these community fundraisers will go toward trekkers’ travel costs. We are providing training and access to discounts at an outdoor/expedition shop.

We have a Facebook page, Christie Lake Climb for Kids, and lots of info. I have included an attachment with the basic information and a wonderful video from a recent traveller. For anyone interested, there is an info. session/dinner at our place on February 8th.

Have a great weekend and thanks for listening,

Paul