Tag Archives: Canada

Nancy Greene advice: Look at where you’re going, not what you’re going through

To receive a skiing tip from Canadian alpine ski legend Nancy Greene Raine is a priceless gift.

It’s also slightly embarrassing.

We spent last week skiing at the Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia, and one of the immeasurably valuable benefits available at the mountain is the opportunity to ski with Nancy Greene, Olympic medalist and World Cup champion.

Sign on ski hill about skiing with Nancy Greene Raine

She is gracious, kind and generous with her time. Several times a week she skis with visitors to Sun Peaks, and last Tuesday I was one of those lucky guests.

I’m a competent skier, but it seems that no matter what I do, I am always last in any group. I don’t care for speed. So, that day fifteen or twenty skiers followed Nancy down the hill, and I trailed behind.

She stopped to make sure the group held together. Of course I was last. She and all those fifteen or twenty skiers watched me struggle with fresh snow on the final slope.

“You’re all right?” she asked.

Oh God. Was it that bad? 

“When you’re skiing, look ahead at the big picture,” she said. “Don’t keep your eyes on the snow just in front of your skis or you’ll get tense. Look ahead and relax.”

I remembered her advice when I skied after that, and it helped. I noticed it especially on Friday night when we attended the Alpine Fondue & Starlight Descent.

We enjoyed a three-course fondue dinner at the restaurant on the mountain and then skied down after dark via starlight and headlamps.

chocolate fondue
The final course – chocolate!


Skiing in the dark meant that I had to free myself of concerns about what lay ahead. I had to relax and go with the flow. I took this photo of other members of my group coming down the mountain AFTER me.

skiers with headleamps on a dark hill

I wasn’t last!

I had time to stop, remove my gloves, take out my phone, unlock it and take the picture, and just look how far behind me those skiers are.

Keep our eyes on where we’re going, not what we’re going through.

Freeing, free advice from a champion

snowy mountain scene

Why I live here: Answering the Trevor Noah questions

Nailed it! Traffic mess, great show.

The city of Ottawa received more snow in January than in any other January ever before. And most of that white stuff fell in the days just before Trevor Noah arrived.

The narrow streets that surround the stadium where he performed barely accommodate two cars in sunny summer weather. With snowbanks? One car, and it had better be small.

Unprecedented snow + rush hour traffic + Trevor Noah = Mayhem.

The bus we were taking to the stadium stopped dead in the gridlock. We hopped off and walked on the snowy, icy sidewalks for more than a mile to get there on time. We bustled along with people in the same situation. We acknowledged each other with:

“Trevor Noah?”


People who didn’t have tickets to the event saw the mess and wondered about it. “What’s going on?” they asked.

“Trevor Noah,” was the answer.

The words Trevor Noah are likely to raise the blood pressure of many Ottawans for the next while.

But a little snow (or a lot) didn’t stop us. We arrived in time for the start of his show. He started with questions a South African who doesn’t like snow and cold would ask.

Why do we live here?

Why do we not move?

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since, because I love it here. But what exactly do I love, and how, and why?

Trevor Noah wasn’t a fan of our showpiece attraction – the Rideau Canal Skateway. But for us, it is JOY itself to skate for what feels like forever.

And we feel vindicated by the Lonely Planet’s selection of the skateway as one of their top 10 winter destinations.

And, if I don’t want to venture as far as the canal, I love that volunteers from my neighbourhood flood the area around the play structures so people can skate in a circuitous loop.

I love that I can drive for half an hour and go downhill skiing.

I love that the snowbanks serve as sofas when waiting for a bus.

I love that neighbours played a pick-up “Super Bowl” football game, with dogs, in two feet of snow in the park, and it was WAY more entertaining than the real Super Bowl.

I love that it’s just plain beautiful.

And I love that I know that proper clothing makes enjoying the beauty possible. Short coats and jeans? NO. Long coats and windproof pants? YES>

And those are just the winter thoughts . . .

I love that in May our parks fill up with displays of tulips like you will see nowhere else.

I love that the Rideau Canal that we skate on in the winter becomes a canoe/kayak/boat/picnic paradise in the summer.

I love that Ottawa is the capital of a country that is not perfect, but tries really hard to be so.

I love that we acknowledge our failings and work to improve.

And most of all, I love that we can laugh at ourselves, and our stereotypes – the accurate and the not-so-accurate. (A-boot? Huh?)

Why I celebrate being Canadian

A year ago Maclean’s published an article entitled “99 reasons why it’s better to be Canadian.” They compiled an extensive list that covers all the major topic areas. I’ll expand on only a few.

Health care: Our proximity to a nation that so vigorously resists universal health care makes this one a popular “Why it is great to be Canadian” topic. Many countries in the world operate health care systems similar to, or better than, our Canadian one, so we cannot crow about our worldwide superiority here, but we can rightly claim our deeply rooted compassion. Our health care is not “free.” We pay for it through taxes, and we do so happily, because we do not accept that any human being should suffer just because the number of digits ahead of the decimal point in their net worth assessment is lower than that of another person. Income does not make a person worthy of health care; compassion does. That’s the great thing about our health care system.

Guns: We have scads and acres and swaths of wilderness in our county. Within that wilderness live moose, deer, pheasant, quail and other food sources. Canadians love to use guns to tap into those food sources to provide for their families. Much of the rest of our country is made up of farmland. Rodents and other small pests cause havoc in those areas, so farmers have guns on hand to keep the populations of some species under control. We Canadians see the value in guns in those scenarios. We also know that moose rarely wander into neighbourhood coffee shops, and groundhogs seldom burrow up into bedrooms, so we don’t see the need for an A-K 47 in Tim Horton’s or a handgun in every room. Our rational approach to gun control makes our country great.

Human rights: Women drive here. They go to school and study whatever they want. People who love each other marry here. Discussion about the sexual orientation of our politicians merits little more than a shrug, because we know it has no bearing on the ability to govern. Racism is much less prevalent, and our history shows that we try hard to change it when it rears its ugly head. We are a country that examines its actions and considers how those actions affect individuals of all kinds, and that makes Canada great.

Helpfulness: At the Olympics in Sochi, Canadian cross-country ski coach, Justin Wadsworth, rushed to the aid of a Russian skier in the semi-final of the men’s free sprint. When he gave him a Canadian ski to replace the broken one, he did it because what’s best for the sport is best for everyone. Isn’t that great?

Economy: Our economy withstood the most recent recession far better than other countries because of sound economic policies respected around the world. People like to make fun of our colourful money, but if that money rests on a solid financial foundation, what colour it is doesn’t matter, and that’s a great thing.

Swagger: Did you read that word and think, “What? Canadians don’t swagger.” We don’t, do we? Isn’t it great? We have plenty to crow about, but we do so quietly and respectfully. We have brag-worthy success in sporting events, scientific advancements and beer-making. We could swagger, but we don’t. We celebrate, we smile, we commend others for their efforts, and we move on. And that, undoubtedly, is great.

It’s Canada Day, so I will enjoy one of the world’s great beers (paid for with colourful money) with friends who chose their loving companions. I will do so without fear of gunfire and because what’s good for the country is good for everyone. I’ll celebrate, I’ll smile, and I’ll commend other countries for their efforts.

I’ll try not to swagger too much.


Remembered love and remembered slights

“I would like, belatedly, to thank the people of Canada for a kindly gesture. When I was at primary school toward, and just after, the end of the Second World War, in bomb-damaged Liverpool, we all received a large, red, eating apple. The boxes were marked “From the people of Canada.”
I have never forgotten this and now, after nearly 70 years, I am able, with the help of the Internet, to finally say thank you. Canada’s gift made many little boys and girls very happy. It just shows how a small gesture can make a big difference.
Thank you, once again, Canada.”

This letter, written by Ray Mitcham of Southport, Merseyside, U.K., appeared in the Ottawa Citizen this week.


I read it once. I read it again. And then I read it a third time.

Such a small thing: A splash of bright red juiciness in the bleak, grey aftermath of war. Remembered. 

One small Canadian act of love harboured warmly in his heart, for a lifetime, moved him to express gratitude.

Then I thought Imagine if the remembered moment was not a happy one. Imagine if the bright red juiciness was blood, not an apple. Imagine how he would harbour that in his heart. Imagine what he would be moved to do in response. 

That’s why there’s still war and conflict. People harbour moments in their hearts, and if the remembered moments are of pain or death, it moves them to express hatred, not gratitude.

That’s why we have to do better, to try harder, to give more. People don’t just remember the big things; they remember the little things, too. They hold onto those bright, red, juicy moments—good or bad—for a lifetime.

Better apples than the alternative, I think. 


See the original letter here: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Thank+Canada/9461528/story.html

Every moment is a starting point

“I don’t know if bad things happen for a reason, but I do know that every moment is a starting point.” —Etienne LeSage


Here in Ottawa, Canada we creep by the hour toward a starting point that everyone agrees upon – the new year 2014. In New Zealand, 2014 already arrived several hours ago, so, really, the agreed-upon starting point is a moving target and a matter of perspective.

Here, in Ottawa, Canada, I reflect on the wise words of my friend, Etienne. New birth doesn’t happen once a year; in every moment and within every event lies the seed of a starting point.

If we fail, what can we learn and what can grow from it? If we succeed, what can we leverage from that and what can we build? If disaster strikes, how can we heal and what good can we find in it? If blessings fall upon us, how do we receive them and with whom can we share them?

Our calendars turn over and 2014 lies ahead of us. A year of successes, failures, disasters, and blessings lies of ahead of us. A whole year of starting points—not just one day.

Onward, always for the highest good.

Do your own growing: a toast to a new royal baby

1045041_10151496053291604_1412105001_nYou’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.  —Irish Proverb

We  a new royal baby. The innocent child has some “tall” grandparents, great-grandparents, great-greats, and great-great-greats . . .. Imagine living up to those expectations! But the newest member of the British royal family has to do his own growing. All the wishes, expectations and pressures of others won’t decide his life path. Not really. (Edward proved that well, I think.)

As much as we like to credit others for our successes or blame others for our failures, we do our own growing. Privileges do little to give advantage if a person does not appreciate or leverage them. Disadvantages do not lead to failure if a person faces and overcomes them.

Last night our family celebrated the birth of a new prince with a British dinner of fish and chips. We toasted him with a glass of mead.

May he appreciate and leverage his privileges. May he face and overcome his disadvantages. May he grow tall in spirit for the betterment of humanity.