I had an amazing – if exhausting – day last week that I’d like to share with you. It was a day (or couple of days really) that just resonated with “this fits”. It involved my children, grandchildren, two keynote addresses and two workshops. All of that and some sunshine too. Who could ask for more?
My third and fourth keynotes were both in Ottawa on the same day last week. Knowing that I’d have a very full working day (not used to that so much anymore) I flew up a day ahead so that I could hang out with Nili and her family. It was a wonderful day filled with walking in the sunshine, hours and hours of the kind of talk that mothers and daughters can share, and so many moments just gazing into Freida’s smiling face. She gets more and more beautiful every day it seems. In this time which seems to be filled with so much uncertainty for me (and I’m guessing for lots of us given all of the rapid changes in the world around us) one of the things that keeps me attached to reality – and to what’s important – is a smile from my granddaughter. I’ve been feeling pretty tired (can’t shake my California cold/cough) and the best tonic I’ve found is holding Freida; that sweet face always reminds me that at some level all is well with the world.
Okay – grandmother gabfest done for today!
The first keynote (to a large group of educators) was during the day. It was part of a forum called “Inclusive Education in a Climate of Change: Equity of Opportunity for All” sponsored by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Once again the audience was truly “with me” (don’t know how else to say that) and that was great. It was the first time that I’ve followed a keynote with a workshop; the participants had a chance to work with the 18 lessons I present in the keynote; taking one of them and really exploring how it plays out in their own workplace setting (yes, this could pertain to much more than schools) and then – the real challenge – work on plans for change. I wasn’t sure how it would go but was delighted with what happened. Good ideas. Lots of courage.
The second keynote (and planned workshop) was in the evening for the Ottawa Community Council for Ethnocultural Equity. This time it was for a community group that included representatives from many different organizations that supported a wide range of folks who might feel somewhat marginalized in our education system (and culture as a whole). These were parents and folks who had lived with inequity and who had shared in some of the struggles to find their voice that I’ve had. It was the first time I’ve spoken to an entirely non-educator group and I was definitely nervous about it. What could I possibly say to them that they didn’t know already through their lived experience? It was 6 o’clock by the time we got started and I’d been on my feet since noon (they were sore). I’d spent most of those previous hours speaking and so my throat was a little sore too. Standing (gingerly) on the rostrum, I gripped the sides of the lecturn and began. Okay – so that image isn’t me but there’s no reason not to think big right? Anyhow, by the time I got to the first “joke” (it really isn’t a joke at all; it’s me singing “Jesus Loves Me“) they laughed. Okay – this was going to be fine. I let some of the blood flow back into my fingers as I relaxed into the rest of the talk. There were so many questions at the end, so much discussion, and so much sharing of stories … well, we didn’t even get to doing the workshop component. On my way out many of the folks came to thank me for the courage to say the things they’ve been waiting to hear. Fabulous!
I had to make a quick exit to catch a flight back to Toronto. By the time I got to the airport I had totally lost my voice; I could barely whisper. This of course made clearing security even more fun than usual. (Okay, I’ll admit it again … that isn’t really the image of airport security in Canada … it’s just one of the things I worry about.) “Never mind that you can’t talk”, I thought to myself, “you’ve had your say today. You’ve had some impact and that’s what makes this so wonderful for me”. Just before I fell asleep (it’s only a 1 hour flight) I was thinking about how much I’m enjoying my retirement. My days are pretty full (more about that in another posting soon), and many of them end with a moment of real gratitude for this opportunity to explore who I really want to be/am.
People keep asking me if I’m enjoying the work that I’m doing now. Each time I hear the question I have to pause and ponder: “They call this work?”
So I’m busy getting a website ready (my sister Molly’s doing a fabulous job of it; I’ll post the url once it’s up and running) and trying to keep the insecurity about “freelancing” at bay. It’s summertime now and so there aren’t any more keynotes booked yet but I’m pretty sure that there will be. So much to look forward to.
Meanwhile, I’m just waiting for a quiet sunny day to spend in the garden.