Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Kind of Research

"Talking explores history. Doing rewrites it." 
- National Geographic Magazine

That is a revolutionary perspective. We know so much, we have access to all kinds of information and are bombarded with messages galore on the importance of health, recreation, wellness, and how to live well. Packaging that entices and inspires us to act is important still, unless we DO IT, the chance of changing the world is slim, and doesn't everybody want to change the world?
Okay maybe not.

So I'm working away building "Showgirl Trapped in a Librarian's Body," a resource in my creative connection Snackseries, and BANG! It hit me, all of the work I do IS my research. Not revolutionary in itself but until I connected the dots, I hadn't looked at it this way. It put what I do into new perspective.

As I facilitate workshops, teach courses, speak at conferences, and coach leaders I am actively researching. Now that's MY kind of research! Last year I taught a course at Mount Royal University and together with the students, used the course as an informal applied research study (results will be shared in the Snackseries) on how we as facilitators, instructors, and teachers build more meaningful connections with participants. My work is my research.

The upcoming "Leading with Creative Intention"workshop I'm hosting at the ARPA conference in October (, is about how we as leaders can use different strategies and techniques to develop new processes, ideas, products, and services that are effective, and how we can facilitate a more creative team/work environment. A big part of this is our mindset, how we look at things.  If we believe that we can produce valuable creative solutions we are more likely to do so, and we can teach ourselves to be confidently creative by intentionally focussing on and using techniques to support creative action.

Doing THIS is my research and this informs the evolution of my practice.

What does your research look like?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thank you!

Please and Thank you are things we learn to say when we're growing up. Parents remind their kids to thank others and we're expected to thank people who work on events and projects. Oprah's pushed us to start gratitude journals and to recognize all the things we have to be appreciative for. It's a part of our culture.

We sometimes forget. We forget that we are lucky to live in a country where we are safe from war, we forget that we have clean water and support services, we forget all the wonderful things that our community has and offers us on a daily basis.

For the ACE Communities initiative one of the first things we do when gathering in rural communities is to start by asking community members to share the successes that community has had, the places, spaces and activities that residents are happy to have and be a part of. It's a way of saying thank you to community, that big notion of the whole rather than the parts, and to recognize that we have lots to be thankful for. Community offers us great experiences, feelings, relationships and connections. Community is the sum, it's a pervasive atmosphere that surrounds us, embraces us, excites us and nourishes us.

I'd like to thank a community that I was a part of this morning, the Alberta FCSS Directors Network.
Thank you for smiling and laughing, plugging your noses and for creating a strong sense of community that spans geographic boundaries, and especially for taking part in our Spelling B! Your connections are far reaching and your Self-care Evolution Revolution has just begun, HA!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

in my back alley

When I was a kid I’d put on my rubber boots and head out the door on back alley adventures. I wouldn’t go far, down the backyard path, past our small garden and there I was. No fence separating me from the watchful eye of Mrs. Gerbrandt or the bathroom which I never wanted to visit until the very last second because I might miss a local earthworm or ladybug passing by. The storm drain met me with either a pool of fresh rocks that needed to be cleared and sorted through for gems or with torrents of runoff water that was deliciously dirty. The water was muddy brown the magnificent colour of gravel and oil, it smelled like dirt, felt gritty and tasted similar to the after-taste of freshly picked carrots – the dirt part, sort of. Dirt from the garden tasted better, somehow more nutritious likely because it was attached to the carrot.

My back alley was like a clean white beach waiting for someone to enhance it: build a reservoir and then pile a mound to create a castle, the next obvious development would be a moat and then sturdy sticks and shells washed up by the ocean to adorn the primitive structure. If you were lucky tiny sea creatures would cruise in with the wash, inhabiting the pool for a short time, mostly it was seaweed or broken shells. The tide always washed the site clean to prepare for a fresh engineering feat.

In my back alley I’d find interesting stones that would fill my pockets until they bulged from my muddy, wet, polyester plaid pants. And sticks would appear out of nowhere so that I could carve out new tributaries leading to a waterfall that fell into no man’s land somewhere under the grate. It wasn’t often that a car would pass by because there were no garages that led vehicles to safety behind the bungalow row on my block. Our neighbours didn’t have a fence so we had flowers and trees between our yards. I could see their huge lush garden, corn twice the height of me, rows and rows of peas, potatoes and things I’d never seen before. Our raspberry patch was conveniently located adjacent to our path and just steps away from that storm-water drain so if I needed something to tide me over until my shift was done I didn’t have far to go. I excavated, developed and managed my watershed carefully ensuring the well-being of local flora and fauna. When I retired for the day I was satisfied. Until…

I got shut down

The safety officers (mom and dad) received a complaint, likely from the Big Wigs (those one or two cars who drove by). They were concerned that it wasn’t safe for me to be out there, having no reflective gear, barricades, flashing lights, I may be in danger of getting run over. What, a back alley is a speedway? It wasn’t meant for cars it was for the natural wonders of the world to flourish, so that my engineering prowess could proliferate, my design and development learning would expand and skills mature. There were probably inside informants as well…Mrs. Gerbrandt, Ronny Karasen’s mom. But somehow I don’t think Mrs. Gerbrandt was in cahoots with the Big Wigs because we had a good working relationship, similar engineering interests. We constructed and sailed ships together…in the kitchen sink. I protested the shut down but to no avail. Safety officers can be so difficult to work with, especially when you’re 4. So whenever I could I’d detour down to the alley and check on the streams and waterfall. If caught my reasoning was that a blockage would negatively impact our entire watershed, Big Wigs and all, so it would be negligent on my part not to do spot checks. I had to ensure the block would not suffer a major flood.

Now I walk down back alleys whenever I can, looking at fences and garages, graffiti, garbage bins and gravel. Every once in a while I’m greeted by open yards, trellises, gardens, and a peek into the lush lives that exist behind well-manicured front yards. I don’t eat the dirt anymore. I reminisce about early engineering experiences and enjoy the hidden wonders.