A Letter to my daughter on her 3rd birthday

IMG_0594My Khaya,

Today you turned three. True to all the clichés, I can hardly believe it. The days so often feel never-ending, yet the years pass in a blink. As previously, there is nothing I can say here that has not been said before. Particularly since I am exhausted and generally pudding-brained these days. But I am going to say it anyways because I need you to know that it is true.

You have engulfed my heart. Inflated it like a balloon. Right this moment I am thinking about how much I love you and can feel it swelling in my chest and emotion pulsing through my veins all the way into my fingers.  I was overwhelmed with love for you from the moment you took your first breath. Yet, amazingly, it continues to grow. I look back on that day now and see it was only the tip of an iceberg. Perhaps because you are the lead character in 3 years worth of my very best memories. Certainly because watching you grow from a little wee nugget into the marvel you are today has been the greatest, most fulfilling, most enlightening journey and the very, very best thing I have seen.

IMG_5871Even if you do nothing else in your entire life, know that you have completely transformed me. I mean no disrespect to the other loves in my life, but there is no other like the one you gave rise to when you came into our lives. At the crudest level, I understand why evolution is based on an intuition to procreate. You were a secret key to a giant love reserved just for you. There is no other one like this and and I cannot thank you enough for bringing it to life in me.

IMG_3447I love you for exactly who you are. This does not mean that 2 was easy – it was not. Adding your baby brother to the mix has stretched me in ways I did not see coming. Everyday has involved tears; often mine. I have threatened to give you away several times and I question my parenting skills incessantly. Know that, as long as you will know me, I will say many angry and frustrated things. But I do not mean them. Frustration is a true emotion and it often wins the moment, but it always fades away and never wins the day. I promise to show you the same grace.

I was a terror back in my day. You may look exactly like your Father, but you are your Mother’s daughter.  Nowadays, though, we highlight the positives. You “know what you want”. You are “determined”, “tenacious” and “a strong leader”. Just today you were “a highly-resourceful go-getter” when you scaled the kitchen drawers, grabbed a spatula and used it to fish a piece of forbidden candy from the top shelf despite 3 adults telling you not to. Right this moment you are sitting across the room honing your scissor skills on a book despite the fact that you are far too young to be using them. Telling you not to is a point-blank invitation for war involving a sharp object.

IMG_8781You can and will do whatever you want in this world. We will continue to do our best to ensure you are a brave and principled little girl with a heart for making the world a better place. I remain terrified of how to nurture and steward you in all the right ways and am scared of all the mistakes we may be making along way. Know that we are doing our best and that no matter what, it is always with love.

You are indeed a handful, but you are kind and you are brave. You embrace every day and are not afraid to take chances. You hurt when others hurt and while you may sit at the top of the slide and force 4 other kids to wait, simply because you can, you are the first to run over and check when one of them falls. You share well, have a generous heart and have welcomed your baby brother to life with great love. You arrive with love to give, provide hugs to anybody who needs one, a smile to light up the sky and you are the very best cuddler under the sun.

IMG_7099We moved to Spain for the year. My heart was heavy at times because we stripped you of a true sense of community or routine and thrust you instead into all new environments. But you adapted like a true champion. You excelled in your Spanish school, got several of the teachers wrapped around your little fingers and learned more Spanish than both of your parents. You started swim lessons in tears and ended being able to swim unassisted and with a huge grin on your face. You potty-trained in a day (but still refuse to give up your dummy) and your report cards were great.

SONY DSCWatching your Dad love and grow through you remains the greatest gift of my life. I take him for granted far too often and I hope you never learn that from me. You are blessed with a truly remarkable Dad who loves without fear and gives without expectation. Please see him for the incredible person he is and know his love for you is true, even if I forget to do the same sometimes.

Your extended family loves you fiercely as well. Your grannies and grampas, aunties, uncles and cousins (by blood and otherwise) continue to shower you with special kinds of love. Please keep them in the inner circle of your heart and let your understanding of family grow, never shrink. There is no limit to the amount of love you can give.

IMG_0884I am already paralyzing myself with nostalgia and bracing myself for how fast time will continue to go by. I cannot get enough of you. But three years of this journey with you has also taught me to look forward to whatever moments and miracles come next. I have no doubt you will continue to stretch us in every way but look forward to learning and loving even more of you and am in awe that there is even more love to be found in me.

Thank you once again for every little bit of you. You set my heart on fire, little girl. You make this world a warmer and brighter place everyday.

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Duna – Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu: A person is a person because of people.

10314690_10152594214665666_2055762858033285392_n“Thixo somandla bonakele abantu, ungavumi bakujwayele”  (Heavenly father people are rotten, do not let them take you for a ride)
— Nkunzi Emdaka, Maskandi singer

Last month, our family was struck with a great tragedy. While on holiday in France, Mpho got a call from home. His cousin, Duna, had been killed.

These calls come from Lusikisiki altogether way too often. I know it is bad news because the air in the room changes with a silent thud. The phone rings, I hear his voice say “no” with a distinctive pained disbelief and I brace myself. I know it is bad, but always hope it is not as bad as bad can possibly get. At one point I tried to convince myself that maybe Mpho had gotten used to it. Like, maybe if you endure enough loss you become conditioned at it, ‘good’ at it. That is not how it works, obviously. It was a defense mechanism against opening up to what it means or how it feels to have so many people in your life die. I still cannot do it. But he sure can; he does not have a choice.

DunaThe details of his death are vicious. Duna was brutally attacked while sleeping in his home. It looks increasingly like the perpetrators were a group of four of his friends and neighbours. He had been out at the shebeen with them the very same night. I knew from the moment I heard about it, whatever ‘reason’ or backstory might follow would be heartbreakingly stupid. Maybe it was a robbery for $20, maybe it was an argument gone too far, maybe he made a move on someone’s girlfriend. As much as I hope that police are able to solve the case, bring them to justice and provide Mpho with some closure, I already know the story will be a chilling example of how life can actually lose its value.

A number of parallel thoughts have rattled through my brain as the recent xenophobic violence across South Africa, the Garissa University massacre and the one year anniversary of the #bringbackourgirls Boko Haram kidnapping have unfolded. Like these atrocities, the violence was both personal and grotesque. Duna is also now a similarly tragic statistic borne of a frustrated time and place. But like each and every soul involved in any of the above, he is so very much more than a number.

Ironically, we spent the exact same day people-watching the rich and famous at the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco.

Ironically, we spent the same day people-watching the rich and famous in Monaco.

There is no question that the world values lives differently. When people die, the ones with most distinguished status are mourned the loudest. Even obituaries and eulogies often focus on people’s accomplishments. As a student and lover of Africa, there are way too many examples of Africans whose stories get swept aside or who are ‘othered’ to the point of becoming nameless, faceless statistics. Not only is it dishonest, it keeps the rest of the world at arm’s length instead of closing the gap.

Duna was hardly impressive by most standards. He was unemployed, did not have much of an education, never married and liked the bottle. When it came time to write his obituary nobody even knew his mother’s real name. His father, who passed away 6 years ago, had brought him home to Gran as an infant. As she does, she picked him up and raised him. He was the notorious drunk cousin that could most often be found around the house and who showed up late to our wedding, dancing to a chorus of cheers, completely off his rocker and wearing fake neon green glasses.


Some of the boys living with Gran as of 2010

Lusikisiki bears many of the same scars as other homelands or townships that absorbed so much of the colonial and apartheid burden. It is poor and under-served. Hard to reach and without basic amenities. There are very few jobs, education options are sparse and bad and the population is disproportionately composed of elderly and small children. Options in Lusikisiki are simple:

1) get out
2) do nothing.

Getting ‘out’ requires the perfect genesis of a whole lot of forces: luck, grace, vision, talent and a series of helping hands. My husband is a living testament to all of the above. When he goes home, his Gran is always delighted to see him. But after a couple of days she encourages him to leave. As she sees it, nothing good happens to young people there and whatever good he brings becomes at risk the longer he stays.

Mpho and Duna’s lives have gone down very different paths, but only by the slimmest of margins and by none of the measures that matter the most.

423246_10151354252640412_242511124_nMpho changes when we go to Lusikisiki. I know very little about what is going on – I don’t speak enough of the language and many details are lost to my oblivion. But it does not take spoken language to recognize the peace that washes over him or to know that it comes from belonging. His truest version of himself is as a young kid running through the hills, rolling tires, herding cows, stick fighting or sitting around talking crap; all with Duna by his side. They grew up in exactly the same house doing exactly the same things, together. Duna was his cousin, first best friend and home.

Duna was loved because he was a person. A good person. He had a good heart and did no harm. He shared his home, his time, his identity, his roots. He gave my husband the most important and generous gifts – unconditional love, belonging and a sense of self.

171281_10150134783820412_3432382_oMpho’s pain over the past few weeks is palpable, as is his Gran’s and the rest of the family. The loss is heartrending, the tears so very real. In its own right, but further compounded by both the callousness of the situation and by having endured so much already. They do not need anyone to validate their feelings, but I wanted to write this anyways.

11080930_10206374173376460_401520572797296107_nTo Duna – you are loved. In the end, that is all that carries on. Walk in the hands of God, my brother.

And to Mpho – I am so very sorry for all that you have lost. For whatever it is worth, I love you fiercely and will do my best to give you a sense of belonging wherever we go. It is not the same and we would never look to replace your home, but the kids and I will keep trying to live our love out loud. Love certainly lives here.

Duna hand wrote a sign for our wedding in 2010. Still makes me laugh.

Duna hand wrote a sign for our wedding in 2010. Still makes me laugh.

Breaking a Silence

So this happened:

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I am among the many for whom this week’s breaking news was not news. When I saw it, my reaction was simple – finally, get lost, disgusting pervert, enjoy jail. As it turns out, however, there was much more sitting on that dusty old shelf in my brain.

I have hesitated to write this. This is not my story. He was never my coach. ‘It’ took place the year I left Canada to ski in Colorado. I have had a glimpse of the aftermath over the years, but that does not come close to living it. I am reluctant to put words onto someone else’s experience or to come off like I am trying to be at the centre of something now that it is national news.

But I am saying my piece anyways. I feel that I contributed to creating an environment that helped keep a dirty secret for way too long. Furthermore, there is no such thing as too much talk about sexual abuse and I want these women to know that I back them and that their support base is bigger than they may know.

Culture of secrecy

This week I ended up chatting with a friend I haven’t seen in years who said, “after 20 years of therapy, this is so beyond freeing I can’t even put into words”. I also received a message from a different friend who is “trying not to think about it because after years of making me miserable I decided to put it behind me and be happy”.  ‘G’, the first to come file charges, steadfastly denied it since 1998. When she saw him recently in a store, she had a panic attack and hid beneath the stairs.

I had no idea. I grossly underestimated how much he took from people and how many of my friends and peers kept it to themselves because it was not a safe environment to talk about it.

In the wake of the ‘scandal’, news poured in and continued to pour in for years. Most of it was framed as who was ‘sleeping with’ him. I think we even vilified one of the victims that pulled the rug out from under it all by quite publicly implicating herself.  It led to him being fired and ended the abuse, but conversation hinted that she was calculating since she knew at least one other girl was already ‘involved’ with him.

No wonder people denied it for 20 years.

Add to the mix that these were highly focused performance-driven athletes in their prime in a sport that is especially psychological, and you have a perfect recipe for secrecy. Conditions change every day in skiing. Becoming the best involves learning to focus expressly on elements within your control. Each girl was highly conditioned to internalize their own actions and release the parts that were not.  Nobody knew that better than him: he taught it.

We were teenagers, we knew shit all. But of course we felt perfectly in control of our own decisions. I know I did.  And I became one of many who projected that onto the situation. It was well understood that he was a predator, but it was definitely implied that there was an element of choice. I contributed, without meaning to, the stigma that led people to stay quiet. We missed a crucial opportunity to make these girls feel safe and a teaching moment that could have re-framed how we understood and handled the issues.

What should have happened was a rallying cry by everyone in the sport that said something like this:

“We are really sorry for what you have been through. That someone used some of your greatest strengths against you in the worst way possible. It is not your fault. Can we do anything to help you heal all the while respecting your privacy?” Repeat.

If we failed to do it or did not know how because we were stupid teenagers, someone should have stepped in and taught us. Which brings me to my next point:

Where the fuck were the adults?

I won’t be-labour this point too much, but only because I don’t know the details.  Otherwise, my wrath on this subject has the voracity to break the internet faster than Kim Kardashian’s backside. I am an adult now and like to think I have a simple understanding of our basic duties as responsible, moral beings. From where I sit, these girls were completely and appallingly failed.

Let’s pretend for a second that no adult – no coach, no staff, no administrator, or otherwise knew about this while it was on-going. Or that, if they did, they pulled out all the stops to end it but, through no fault of their own, fell short. And that when it finally blew up, all of them stood up for the girls and fought like dogs to make things right. Because imagine the horrible message that would send to a bunch of kids if the very adults charged with their care chose to turn the other cheek instead. I mean, nothing says you are valued and supported…..like impunity for the perpetrator.

But somehow, 20 years later, the same sociopath is in the exact same position – coaching 12 year old girls?! And who had to stand up to change that? One of the victims. Twice, because her first efforts were ignored.

I get that there were limitations to what people could do without the girls coming forward or taking legal action. And I fully respect that they wanted to put it behind them.  But let’s put the bullshit aside – every one knew about this. It was the worst kept secret ever and there was enough evidence for him to lose his job the next day. This means there was enough to do more. Instead, people chose to avoid upsetting the balance of a system that allowed it to happen in the first place or to protect their own reputation or job. That is just pathetic.

It could have been me

In the throws of my sadness, I rattled off a message to my sister pledging to keep my daughter the hell away from individual sports. Her former coach was charged with sexual misconduct involving underage boy athletes. Out of 2 daughters, 2 were proxy to gross abuses of power but managed to avoid it.

My sister (the younger) had a far more balanced response:

“We may have been lucky, but I think that we ended up ok. There are a ton of coaches who are healthy, balanced and positively influence their athletes.”

She is right, as usual. It could have been either of us. I bring it up because it is an important point in ensuring the girls understand it wasn’t their fault and in changing how we approach the issue.

As a parent, I would like to believe we have some control, but I know better. The girls were well-parented and this predator designed it to fall outside the parenting spectrum. I joked with my friend that my unibrow came in handy after all and saved me. It’s not true either.  I was totally vulnerable.

I had as much teenage angst and insecurity as anyone.  I was equally focused  – I wasn’t cool or fashionable, the boys didn’t like me, but I could ski. My coaches, all but 1 of whom were male, had an alarming ability to influence. I am just lucky (and grateful) that they were stand out people who recognized their power and used it for good.

In the spirit of this blog, I want to take a minute to mention one in particular – Hans Edblad. When I was 14 I had my most successful year. Skiing for one of the small clubs, I spent countless hours with him, most of it alone. I did everything he said. He could have convinced me of anything he wanted. I have no doubt that he understood his power and that he used my commitment and competitive nature as a protracted opportunity to teach me about life. He taught me discipline, commitment and goal-setting. He challenged me spiritually and continuously raised the bar for how I behaved.  He encouraged me to dream big and showed me how to make them come true. It was among the most magical times of my life and certainly the most empowering relationships. I often wonder if he understands how much of his impact remains.

In the end, skiing is nothing more than trying to go as fast as you can down a pile of snow while wearing sticks. All the girls whose worlds’ were once so singular, have moved on. We are professionals, parents, citizens. Sport will forever be a building block that helped shape us, but never the end game. I hope coaches understand their ability to influence and how fragile kids – no matter how hard they come across – really are and that their true duty is as stewards of their well-being.

To the girls that were victimized – I am sorry for what he took from you. I am sorry I didn’t do more to help you heal. It was never your fault. Your courage in coming forward (or not, because that is ok too) is so very admirable. You were, and still are, exceptional role models for so many girls to follow. I am 100% behind you in making sure this never happens again.

Queen Bravoska the Rural Hottie of Bushbuck Ridge

Name: Dipolelo Makhubedu
Hometown: Cape Town by way of Bushbuck Ridge
Occupation: Investment Banker
Age: It’s her Birthday
Hobbies: Selfies, Running, Verbal Diarrhea

Today – today! – happens to be the birthday of one of the most exceptional ordinary people I know. She is a social media whore, so it could be enough for me to post a shout out on Facebook, but that just does not do justice to a Queen now does it. So here’s a blog.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 1.41.07 PMI met Dips/Lelo/Rural Hottie of Bushbuck Ridge in 2010 at Book Club. The club turned out to be one of the coolest groups of women I have ever been a member of. Dipolelo was not part of it. She did, however, crash the first meeting ever (because crashing a book club is appropriate, really).  There, she got in a conversation with a couple of the girls about a really intense and awesome boot camp they had been attending. I mentioned I was keen but didn’t have a car to get there at 5:30am. Dips figured out we were neighbours and offered to pick me up. Except that she was leaving town for a few days and wouldn’t be there for the next workout, so why didn’t I just take her car while she was away? I declined. I had only known her for 15 minutes and didn’t quite feel comfortable taking over her car. Only once she returned and we started to carpool did I learn that ‘Tiger’ was a brand new prized possession luxury Audi.

At the finish line of a 10km trail race. I swear she smiled the whole way.

At the finish line of a 10km trail race. I swear she smiled the whole way.

Everything about this woman is remarkable. Born and raised in Bushbuck Ridge, a tiny little dorp in Mpumalanga, one of 7 kids. Her parents were small town entrepreneurs and her Dad a pastor. They went to school under a tree. Literally, under a tree. That she went on to get a Masters Degree in Finance from Africa’s top University and become a managing partner in an asset management firm before age 30 would be completely unbelievable if her siblings had not all done the same. Her sister is currently in Amsterdam as the Director of Finance for Shell International. Her other sister a town manager in a major South African city. Her brother a contender for the national team soccer coach. Her other brother a successful entrepreneur. I don’t know what kind of mushrooms they ate under that fricking tree, but whatever it was I want some.

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“A selfie a day keeps the doctor away”

They have also endured well beyond their fair share of hardship. Of 7 siblings, 3 have passed on too soon. Her brother in a motorcycle accident. Her other brother murdered in a case that the police ‘cannot’ solve despite them knowing almost for certain who did it – a community member that owed him money because he had done him a huge favour and given him a business loan. Just last year, she called home to get news about her brand new niece. While on the phone, her Mom let out a blood curdling scream – her sister suffered a deadly stroke while she was on the other end of the line. Six days later, the newborn baby died. These stories have a way of piling up in South Africa. Every one of them makes me consider hiding from life under a rock. Watching people like Dipolelo suffer the biggest losses and choose life all the same has altered my perspective and helped my own healing. It is not that life has less value, it is an enlightened understanding that you do not get to choose what happens in life, but you do get to choose what you do with it.

Starting a dance party at the most pretentious party ever.

Starting a dance party at the most pretentious party ever.

Dipolelo lives with refreshing abandon. She is an open book, says exactly how she feels  and could not stop herself from becoming everyone’s best friend even if she wanted to. It is actually quite disarming and I suspect makes some people uncomfortable. Most of us have learned to worry at least a little bit; about what people think or what could go wrong. We are careful about choosing our friends and behaviours and we limit what we say to manage our image or protect ourselves against harm. She is the freest – and thereby least toxic – person I know. She has a million friends from all walks of life, judges none and I cannot even imagine her bearing a grudge. She expresses gratitude all the time, has enviable self esteem, refuses to worry about things she cannot control and seems to have avoided being damaged or jaded by past hurts.

There is a fundamental rule in Improv acting – ‘say yes’. There is no script. In order for it to work, you have to squash expectations and go with whatever you are given on stage.  Dipolelo is an example of what happens when you ‘say yes’ to life. All of it.

So Queen Bravoska, the hottest rural hottie, who is currently celebrating life in Zanzibar – don’t ever change.  You are one in seven billion and make everyone that knows you better just by being your unbridled, contagious self. Keep infecting the rest of us with your absurd zest for life.  And please, shoot us at least 20 more selfies before the sun goes down.

A different kind of July 5

First lookIn my world, no date marks time like July 5. Sure birthdays are a big deal, especially as the Mom of two children. Yet, July 5, 2007 remains the great chasm in my life- everything before on one side and everything after on the other. Each year since we lost Strachan it brings a heavy, solemn pause. A day of sadness for what we lost, celebration of what we had, gratitude for lessons learned and, of course, the stomach-punching reality of how much time has passed and how much he is missed.

Not this year. This year, reflection got shoved aside by punch drunkenness, pain killers and hormones.

photo (24)On July 4, 2014 we welcomed 9.2 pound Vukile Strachan Mbiyozo to our little family. This year, at 5 am on July 5 I was awake as usual for yet another anniversary of my brother’s last breath. But this time, instead of silence and reflection, a nurse woke me up to ask she could clean me. “And if I said no?” I joked, as if I had an ounce of vanity left.

Vukile Strachan arrived by emergency c-section after 25 hours of labour. Despite both our best efforts, he was not progressing and his vital signs began to drop. As it turns out, the not-so-little dude had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, so they pulled him out of the sun roof, much to my discontent.

Big sister dutiesThe birth of my two kids were vastly different experiences. Both involved challenges. I have my handsome husband to thank for big babies that my body is not fully equipped for (I was 6 pounds at birth, we have no records of his birth but aunts and uncles all agree he was huge). Khaya was in distress, got stuck, broke her collar bone and spent her first night in the ICU. But she made it and I became a mini-celebrity on the maternity ward for my 15 minutes. Doctors and nurses knew of me and were quick to congratulate me on my efforts. I would be lying if I did not admit that it felt right. Despite the complications, there was something very ‘Hartley’ about being the toughest lady on the floor.

This time, they only congratulated me on the baby.

photo 1 (11)With a rate of 80%, private hospitals in South Africa have among the highest c-section incidence in the world (the global average is 12%).  In fact, if you opt for a cesarean, it costs you and your insurance less than natural. I knew this when I chose to have babies in South Africa and subsequently spent a lot of energy defending against it. All doctors’ appointments included less than subtle reminders of my preference. This pregnancy involved a new doctor in a new city. “I’m German” she responded to the perennial question “and I should sure hope you want natural birth, you did not push out your first 9 pound baby for nothing”.  Add in that my body had been tried and tested and had good reason to feel confident about my birth plan.

My heart broke when after 25 drug-free hours my doctor delivered the Germanic facts: “cervix is not moving, baby is sky high and heart rate keeps plummeting on contraction. We’re going to operate”. There were tears. They poured even more when the anesthesiologist missed my spinal cord and stabbed his needle into my nerve.

photo 2 (10)Only then, when things stopped going according to plan, did the date come into consciousness.  I started to replay the exact time 7 years prior when my brother was hooked up to machines under bright lights. Now it was my turn, along with the tiny little person inside me. The prognosis was the opposite. Still, my mind skipped rationality and was overwhelmed instead by deeply cached memories. Things went so very badly once, it was possible for it to happen again. When I lost control of the process, I collapsed into the situation and switched from determined to fragile. Last time I was the super tough chick, this time I was the over-dramatic lady that would not stop crying over a routine procedure.

Vukile Strachan arrived healthy as a wee horse. Sure enough, joy replaced fear and sadness perfectly on cue. My tears changed to happy ones when I heard his scream for the first time. I stayed sobbing when I watched my husband’s face gloss over with sweet love when they put him in his arms.

imageI did not like this birth experience. I hated the bright lights, the cutting, the room full of people. I cannot stand that I could not will my way to a different outcome and failed my own vision. I am embarrassed that reason flew out the window and raw vulnerability took over. I hate that dozens of people saw me naked, pulled apart my insides and had to wipe me down for days (and that’s to say nothing of the flatulence).  I am frustrated that I still look pregnant, am not allowed to leave my couch and that it will take even longer to look or feel like myself again.

Of course, only an ounce of perspective is needed to get over it. Seven years earlier, our family sat around Strachan waiting and watching powerlessly while the unthinkable happened. We will never know what fears he had to face or how he faced them. So things didn’t go exactly as I wanted? I will get over my little story by the end of the month. Life did not end in on July 5, 2014, it began.

imageThis year I may have missed the significance of July 5, but it did not miss me. I did not pause solemnly, yet it continued to mark time. The permanence of my brother and our loss continues to surface in so many ways. Sometimes in a song, a memory or a dream. This time in expected and unexpected ways with the birth of our first son. My cousin Lauren sent a message welcoming him and mentioned that between the date and name, it is as if a part of Strachan was born again. We noww have a son, nephew and grandson. He is so very loved and will live out the rest of his days carrying on the names of his two uncles that are so very missed.

Strachan Hartley July 5, 2007. Life continues to move and change, but you stay with us, live through us and are forever loved. Still. Always.

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A letter to Khaya on your 2nd birthday



I wrote you a letter last year with the idea I would do it again every birthday.

As I said a year ago, there is nothing I can say about my love for you that has not already been said. For yet another year, every cliche has rung resoundingly true – it goes by far too quickly, you have changed so much and so fast and brought us the most profound and fulfilling joy. Experiencing life through your little eyes and legs is like running a gauntlet of steroid-induced emotions every single day – marvel, joy, frustration, nostalgia. We are far better people for having you and it is the greatest privilege to be your parents. I am so very proud of the little girl you are and wish I could trap every magical moment in a bottle to preserve and place on my non-existent mantelpiece.

I could go on. But today, I want to start putting down in words some of the things I want you to know about life.

A good friend, Auntie Ciara, wrote a blog this week called ‘Keep on Dreaming Even If It Breaks Your Heart‘.

1546204_10100416787930444_1635684251_nCiara and I have been friends since high school. Apparently I terrified her for most of it, until the very end when we struck a bond because we were both headed to the USA on sports scholarships. That opened the door to many late night conversations and hundreds of e-mails about life and how to live it. It turns out we were kindred spirits.

One of my favourite memories was a family dinner at the Hartleys. The two of us ganged up on straight-edged Uncle Strachan who had recently been denied entrance into medical school. We lectured him about non-conformity. Told him life was a blank canvas and that even though ‘they’ told you to draw a blue line across your page, it was actually about splashing different colours all over it.  We urged him join the Coast Guard, travel to far off places, play more, study less and get a B+for once in his life. By the time dinner was over he had labelled us the Children of Stars, which we embraced with pride.

Thanks Steve Jobs, billionaire.

Thanks Steve Jobs, billionaire with no mortgage.

We ended up spending every summer together throughout University – one at home, one each in Connecticut and Colorado. There is no way to count the adventures and misadventures that ensued, but I will likely share them someday to your disdain in order to prove I was once cool.

Of everyone I know,Ciara has painted her life canvas the most colourfully. She has traveled the world, has 5 million friends, amassed 3 Masters Degrees, built and sustained a business for 10 years and played professional soccer in 6 countries. At the ripe age of 34 she continues to chase the dream of playing soccer at the highest level and has built a life that allows her to do just that, against many odds and most conventions.

imageHer blog talked about how failure is a necessary ingredient in true happiness and urged people not to fear it. She opened with a story about how children your age live with refreshing abandon. It is true. You approach everything with gusto, are quick to try things and don’t know yet how to worry. You never anticipate a bad outcome and if it happens, you simply walk away.

Fear comes later in life.

Ciara quoted the biography of a 95 year old:

“Something weird happens to a lot of us around midlife. We suddenly stop trying stuff. Not because we can’t do it, necessarily, but because we imagine we can’t. Studies show people’s interest in any given task peaks when the risk of failing at it is around 50 per cent. And from around age 30 on the odds of failing at “it,” whatever it is, seems to tip in favour of the house. So we opt out. And our horizons shrink. That fear of failure also ages us. We stop putting our whole heart into life – and the moment half-heartedness becomes a habit, something dies in us.”

I can tell you what weird thing happens around midlife – you happen.

For many years, I feared very little and followed my heart many places. I swore money would never matter and pitied people who believed otherwise. Now my heart is 2 years old and tries to ride her bike into traffic when I look away. What used to fit in a backpack requires multiple bedrooms, insurance and school. We own Christmas decorations, for shit’s sake.

imageIf I have come to fear failure it is because it is no longer my own. Now, I take the house down with me. The other house; the real one, with my children and their futures in it. My mistakes could cost you the platform you need to live your best life. It is terrifying.

That said, deep in my heart and away from many excuses, I know our most important job is not to protect you from hardship, it is to set an example of the life we want you to live. You bet I want you to ‘keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart’. In fact, if you find a dream that can strike fear into or break your heart, that’s how you know it is a good one. I am glad that you have people like Ciara to look up to and urge you to latch on to these examples. But I also hope when you are old enough to read this it all seems obvious because we have given you an example of what it means to opt in and live wholeheartedly.

imageI am not suggesting we head into the jungle with you on our backs. I have grown to understand that life is not necessarily about using the most colours, it is about finding the best fit. As much danger as there is in conforming, there is a similar risk in becoming preoccupied with living ‘outside the box’ or being so afraid of settling that you become addicted to the chase. Straight blue lines fit beautifully for some people. We will continue on our journey towards our best selves if we learn to balance decisions that are both passionate and responsible. For the record, your Uncle Strachan did not have a problem with conforming; he was just remarkably focused on a dream powerful enough to break his heart. He did end up traveling the world. He also suffered through a boring Master’s Degree to better his chances of getting into medical when he applied a second time. He succeeded. Once there, he radiated. I have never known anyone happier or more certain about their path.

All this to say that I hope you get to see me fail a lot more before our time is up. And that when I let you do the same, you understand it is not because I like to see your knees scraped or your spirit broken, it is because I love you more than I can ever express.

Big girl milk


slidelove self











A wee tribute to a few asshole mothers

I have been asked by several friends to post photos of my pregnant self. I am currently 7 months along and have the sex appeal of a giant sea lion. Most of them are non-mothers and don’t understand that’s a taboo request. There is a reason Moms stop posting photos of themselves and resort to babies only. Contrary to popular belief it is not because we think our kids are now the center of the universe; it is because we look like shit and would rather fall in a pit of spikes than be seen in public. Baby pics are merely cute diversions from the harsh truth.

Just when you thought Easter was about bunnies, I give you Easter Jabba the Hutt. I wish the cute kid on my lap balanced it out.

Just when you thought Easter was about bunnies, I give you Easter Jabba the Hutt.

My husband and I happen to make huge babies that I carry like a two tonne truck and with the grace of a donkey. My belly is enormous; but pregnancy is an equal opportunity offender for me and makes its way to my face, arms, fingers, ass and chin. I am also borderline for gestational diabetes. In simple terms, when I get pregnant, my body stops absorbing nutrients properly and tries to compensate via quantity. So, despite eating the equivalent of a mid-sized zoo and putting on 40 pounds in 7 months, I rarely feel full, have the energy of an elderly sloth and the aptitude of Sarah Palin. I need a nap after a Skype call and am tempted to submit nursery rhymes instead of reports on organized crime in Africa.

I know, I really do, that pregnancy and motherhood are miracles. Anybody privileged enough to do it should be tarred and feathered for complaining – just ask someone struggling with fertility. I am beyond blessed to be able to conceive and carry my children in good health, with first-rate medical care and a spectacularly supportive husband to boot. But in the spirit of the ‘real’ movement and 3rd trimester hormones – sometimes it sucks balls.

Moms me 1Much has been said about motherhood, including calls to buck the pressure to be perfect and learn to appreciate the scars and stretch marks as tokens of a most meaningful journey. I love my kid and kid-to-be, but that doesn’t stop me from hating my butt for falling down my legs or the fact that I recently forgot my shoes at a friend’s house and walked barefoot across a driveway of loose stones without noticing something was amiss. Nor does it make me less nervous about the compounded effects having 2 kids in 2 years will have on my body, career and life. I don’t suffer from delusions of grandeur – I was never a swimsuit model or a budding Hemingway, but it is not just my vanity that misses my body and my brain. Some of my most sincere fears involve losing myself in the shuffle or failing to balance the growing list of important things.

Adding insult to injury, this is certainly not true for everyone.  Many women love pregnancy. In fact, I happen to be surrounded by a bunch of bitches that glow in both pregnancy and motherhood. Typically, I find great strength and purpose in being to close to awesomeness. But in this case, if I didn’t love them so much I would voodoo some extra chins on their over-achieving asses.

Some proof:

My Mom, 2 months after her 4th kid. She "flew through pregnancy and had easy births". I didn't those genes.

 My Mom, 2 months after her 4th kid. She “flew through pregnancy and had easy births”. Needless to say, I didn’t get those genes.

Moms Chloe an Anaise

My sister-in-law Chloe (doctor) 4 months after having Gisele. The J-Lo look-alike on the right? Anaise, also a working Mom (EY transaction advisor, whatevs). I owe it to the women of the world to line the shores with shark bait next time these 2 go to the beach.

Moms Tuesday

Tuesday – besides the spectacular T’s & A and striking children, worked as a UN consultant and completed her MBA during pregnancy. She returned to class (and got straight As) 2 days after giving birth. I owe her a report but am writing this blog instead.

Moms Tove

Tove, the toughest and coolest person I know, back to pre-pregnancy weight and frolicking in the snow 3 months after the hardest birth I have ever heard of.

Moms Lerato

Lerato – this is definitely what I looked like as the first time mother of a 2 month old. Anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.

Trish traveling through Europe with a piece of cake 7 month old. She also produced so much milk, she didn't know what to do with it all. Hmmmph. Trish traveling through 4 European countries with a ‘piece of cake’ 7 month old. She also produced so much milk she didn’t know what to do with it all. Hmmmph

Moms carmi

Carmi’s daughter once said “Mom, your belly looks like a man’s” (ripped 6 pack). She was insulted, I’m mad jealous. And forever wearing tents to pool parties.

Moms kelly

This picture doesn’t do her justice. But 3rd place in a half marathon and carrying your 6 month old (3rd child) to the medal ceremony? Yep, that’s my BFF Kelly.

Moms Wani

Wani, believe it or not, gained almost as much weight as I did. Here she is 6 months after child #2,  in such high demand as a TV Director she works when she wants.

Moms Julia

Julia, Yale MBA and working mother of 3 kids under the age of 4, lost her own Mom at age 7 and more recently her 2 closest aunts. I love and admire her for many reasons, including her willingness to be vulnerable, ask for help and admit her fears about f*#king it all up.

In all seriousness, it is not that serious. I am sincerely grateful to be on this journey and so stupidly blessed to be surrounded by friends and mentors to share it with. I hope that all my trivial woes will melt away with a bit of time and hard work. Even more so I pray they are not replaced with something real. Regardless, I will do my best to handle what comes with wisdom and grace.

And for those looking to appease me with lies about looking good, please don’t. I have already lost my cheekbones and knees, don’t steal my sense of humour too.

Why I’m Glad I Played NCAA Sport

ski julia

Said friend, Julia, and I at my last race in Vermont, both in tears. We met at 11 and ended our careers at rival schools.

In November, a good friend asked me to write this blog for her website. The purpose of the site is to motivate and guide young athletes to achieve scholarships and success. Don’t worry kids, I didn’t learn my efficiency in college!

Last month marked the 15th anniversary of one of my greatest athletic achievements – becoming NCAA Champion. Three days later, the University of Colorado ski team was named 1999 National Champions and dedicated it to our teammate Lucie Hanusova who was killed that year in a snowmobile accident. An hour later, the wood trophy was floating in a hot tub carrying beers while our coach ran circles around the house wearing a bathing suit in a Maine winter. By 2 am we were all staggering around a college bar trying to remember where home was. It was awesome.

Now I’m old, live in Africa and work in international affairs. My skiing background is essentially irrelevant. The three times a year it comes up each require highly animated demonstrations.

Yet, it is the very reason I am here.

ski action

Growing up in international ski racing was both amazing and challenging. Like golf or polo, it is an exclusive sport. It takes money, time and geography. It is pretentious and individualistic. Your teammates are both your best friends and your fiercest competitors and,like many individual sports, your wins and losses are largely your own. I met some of the best people I will ever know and learned life’s richest lessons – how to set goals, cultivate a winning culture and harden against pressure. But man could it be lonely. At 14 I won 4 out of 5 national championships and beat the boys. I set a record and there was plenty of celebration, but beating a bunch of spoiled boys as a teenage girl with one eyebrow and tree-trunk legs turned out to be a pretty ruthless experience. By 18, I was tired and ready for change.

I saw the NCAA as my vehicle to a free education and a chance to live in the America I saw in the movies – tailgating and keg parties with Jim Belushi.

When I left for Boulder in the summer of 1997, the internet was still new and I didn’t have an e-mail address. At the time, college racing was still relatively uncharted waters for Canadian skiers. The ‘system’ didn’t like losing talent to the USA and it was considered a dead end for athletes with Olympic aspirations. Picking a school involved  leafing through a 2000 page manual. I circled Colorado because it had the best football team. I posted letters and called 411 to get coaches’ numbers. I took my SATs in June without preparation, declaring “I’m going straight to the math questions”. When I arrived at the Denver airport in August with a 70 pound hockey bag of all my worldly belongings, it was on the coach’s word – whom I had never met – that I would have a scholarship. We had missed the signing deadlines and the admissions officer responsible for my file had gone on vacation before admitting me.

Annual Moab bike trip.

Biking in Moab. Scott casually sun-tanning.

That this ‘what not to do’ highlight reel translated into the best experience of my life is attributable to dumb luck and the fact that skiing is dominated by equally clueless Europeans. That same year, our star nordic skier was sent back to Norway for having the wrong visa. Another Czech teammate had to defer for a semester while he repeatedly took, and failed, the TOEFL test. Eventually, he watched enough Austin Powers to pass and became an All-American.

My four years in Colorado were the very best and produced a million fantastic memories. I met amazing people, went on wild adventures, traveled internationally, rode my bike all over the state, fell in love, made bad decisions, went to class sometimes and pulled some legendary all-nighters. I loved everything about it and can proudly say that I got the most out of my time there.

Linda and I shared the podium for both of my titles. She also went on to win her own in the slalom 2 days later.

Linda and I shared the podium for both of my titles. She went on to win the slalom 2 days later.

I went on to win two individual and two team national championships. I captained my team for two years and sat on the Student Athlete Advisory Council. I graduated with cum laude honours. I was awarded the inaugural Award of Distinction for the student athlete that contributed the most to their peers and the department, the Leo Hill Academic Leadership Award as the student athlete that demonstrated the strongest academic and athletic leadership and was a finalist for ESPN’s Top Eight Award. I spent my very last semester studying in South Africa and won a NCAA post-graduate scholarship that I used to get a Master’s at the University of Cape Town.

Yet by far the biggest win was one that is much tougher to measure – being a part of a team.

ski team1As with all NCAA sports, skiers compete as a team. It is also co-ed and combines alpine with nordic, two sports that are fundamental opposites if not for the snow. When I showed up in Boulder, I was nervous and prepared to have to prove myself and climb a social hierarchy. I was met instead by open arms. My teammates and coaches remain a legendary group of people – smart, talented, attractive and fun. They came from all over the world and had backgrounds that ranged from renown Olympians who bought Harley Davidsons for fun to local no names who worked construction on the side to make ends meet. But the starting point for all was a desire to get along and work together to win championships.

I probably had the talent and grit to churn out some decent results in my own right, but belonging to a genuinely great group gave me the greatest gift of my life – self acceptance. It wasn’t exactly graceful, but they allowed me to soften, settle into myself and become a better athlete, self and, hopefully, teammate.

ski hugsMy freshman year I was given the most meaningful award of my life – the Laura Sharpe Flood Memorial Award. Named after a former Buffalo (and sister of another dear friend) who died tragically in training, it is given annually to the skier that demonstrates the most spirit, enthusiasm and dedication.  The year-end banquet took place at a 5-star restaurant. The awards were spelled out on the evening schedule. When I saw my name, I was surprised but planned to be a graceful recipient for once in my life.  When they called my name to receive it, I stood as planned. And to my utmost shock – that remains with me to this day – the room rose with me.  There were far bigger awards for people much more decorated than me, yet I got the only standing ovation of the evening. Time stood still, I was bewildered and had to fight hard to hold back tears. I have never felt more validated. Being celebrated by a group of truly exceptional people for such a simple contribution was a reward unlike any other.

I can only hope I was able to give my teammates a piece of what they gave me.Of course nobody can promise you will end up on a good team, but my advice to any young athlete embarking on this awesome 4 year journey: be a good teammate.  It is worth much more and lasts much longer than any trophies.

Buffs at my wedding in South Africa

The Buchheister brothers when plaid was cool

Buchheister brothers back when plaid was cool

ski ski ball

Annual Ski Ball

ski derby

Loveland Derby


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – Ordinary Guy.

"I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances."

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”

“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
– The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

I have always hoped to be home in South Africa when Nelson Mandela passed away; to be a part of history, see and feel his impact one more time in the flesh. Instead I learned about it while passing through security at the Vancouver airport. I have now gotten a glimpse of his legacy in 4 countries in as many days. “Mandela was a great friend of the Kurds” I was told over lunch today in Iraq. It has been very interesting, but simply cannot compare to being home.

Mpho happy-horz

No but seriously, I married his doppleganger

I never met the man. I wish I had, but he seemed pretty busy.  I read his books, am in love with his country, share a passion for his people and married his doppelganger. He is also responsible for establishing the core conditions of my life –  without him I could not live where I live, know who I know and my family would be against the law. That’s a lot. Still, I owe him even more.

I first learned about Mandela from the Cosby Show when Elton and Sandra named their twin babies Nelson and Winnie. The adults in the room let out a knowing “ahhhhh” and I had to ask – who are they? As if being adorable squishy newborns on our favourite tv show wasn’t enough. Nelson was being released from jail after 27 years. For what? For no reason. But why? He was black.  I immediately felt concerned for Holly Ball, the only black person in our class. I got sent to sit in the hall for chewing gum; jail seemed like a really cruel punishment when she had done nothing wrong.


Tshepo and family returned to SA in 1994 after 10 years exiled in Canada.

This was followed shortly by news reports of death in South Africa.  The country was up in smoke and people were dying in numbers, but only black people.  Again, it struck me as particularly strange that South Africa had magic bullets that went around white people and only hit black. I think I even felt a sense of relief that – should I or any of my family fall out of the sky and land in South Africa, we would be safe.

I’m certain the adults trying to describe faraway news to a 10 year old never fully understood the affront to my sense of virtue; if they did, they probably thought it was cute and would fade as soon as I saw something shiny. But these things stuck to me – watching people celebrate the release of someone who should have never been jailed in the first place and learning that people sought to kill specific races became some of my earliest indicators that adults were not always righteous and the world not necessarily just.

The seed was planted for an insatiable curiosity about South Africa and, as it turns out, the journey of a lifetime. As a teen I voraciously read anything I could get my hands on. Bryce Courtney’s The Power of One became my Disney fairy tale, Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy turned me inside out and Steve Biko’s I write what I like soared over my head, but I read it anyways. I painted a picture in my head of a breathtakingly beautiful country, oozing with unsung heroes and a collective soul that sounded out like a drum.

Kornelia's parents could not marry in SA. Family was born in Lesotho after Dad fled there in objection to apartheid.

Kornelia’s parents could not marry in SA. Her and siblings were born in Lesotho. Dad fled there in objection to apartheid.

When I finally did see the Cape of Good Hope where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian (they don’t meet there whatsoever, but let’s not focus on details) I sprinted full speed down the beach in to the waves with all my clothes on. The first time I met a street child, I had look away so he wouldn’t see my tears. I cried again when I encountered my first bold faced racist who called Mandela a terrorist and refused to shake my black friend’s hand. Yet again when I met a former Umkhonto we Sizwe general living homeless in a park. These moments live with me, as do the thousands of highly personal stories of injustice, inspiration, suffering, bravery, discrimination and more I have learned over my 7 years in the country. Not a day goes by that I don’t wrestle with the many layers of complexities in a nation where humanity’s toll is so raw.


Mama used to sit in anti-apartheid rallies. She was put in jail and whipped by police.

There were many things that have driven my sense of wonder about South Africa, but the cost of righteousness and the courage it takes to uphold it has struck me deepest. We talk at length about the 27 years Mandela spent in prison and commend him for emerging with a heart for peace.  But he walked into the Treason Trial prepared to die, knowing very well he might. Steve Biko was beaten to death in the back of a police truck, Robert Sobukwe died in prison, Chris Hani was assassinated, Hector Pieterson (age 13) was shot in the back by police. Well beyond these well known icons – countless teenagers left school to fight, parents lost children, fathers disappeared, thousands were buried nameless under rocks. All of them walked into it with eyes wide open.

I like to believe this principle has helped me become a better person. I have yet to give up much, anything I know about suffering is third hand and I have grown increasingly attached to life’s creature comforts. But learning about it opened my eyes to the world and my responsibilities within it, watching it lived out has awakened in me a deep yearning to share the same convictionm and coming of age in South Africa has allowed me to walk in the shadows of people – big and small – that call on me to do exactly that.

My girl on the cover of Forbes in a country where black girls were once miseducated in accordance to their opportunities in life.

Rapelang on the cover of Forbes in a country where black girls were once mis-educated in accordance to their opportunities in life.

South Africa has been everything I ever dreamed it could be and more. Like any great love story it is mired in hard work and harsh realities. Much like Mandela’s legend itself, the fairy tale ending we want does not do justice to the sacrifices it required – they didn’t call it the freedom struggle for nothing.  We say the years in prison were worth it, but a generation lost their fathers. We wish freedom was complete when apartheid was lifted, but when you break a society it is just that, broken.

Tata Mandela – thank you for standing for something and for standing so very tall. The choices you made and the sincerity with which you made them freed so many others to do the same. We are humbled by your service and will do our best to uphold a fraction of the same.

Lala Kakuhle, Tata.

Marrying a proud Pondo of the Qhinebe clan in the Transkei dressed in traditional Xhosa wear. Once illegal.

How far a little bit can really go

I have a strange life. I like to think of it as full and adventurous, but I feel certain that I give some friends and family panic attacks just thinking about the state of, ummm, chaos, I tend to live in.

Recently, a good friend came over and asked “I need to meet a man that is potentially dangerous tomorrow morning and I really don’t want to die, can you come with me?”

“Yes” I answered long before asking the 5 w’s. Oh and whether my husband could babysit our daughter while I combed the streets of a strange neighbourhood looking for a reported criminal with psychopathic tendencies.

She is a New York journalist writing an important book about South Africa. I’m not allowed to talk about the details (but will certainly holler at the top of my lungs when it is published; I am, after all, in the credits). But in an oddly typical day for me (see paragraph 1), what started outside a brothel ended in an old folks home. It was riveting and powerful; full of sadness, but not dangerous at all.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I was given a glimpse into a man with a terribly sad story of neglect, ostracism and tragedy. His physical and emotional wounds are permanent. But that’s not what kept me awake. The insomnia came, and stayed, when it settled in that nobody cared.

I have seen plenty of hardship in my chosen path. Yet, this experience made me realize everybody I’ve met and everything I’ve seen has been because somebody cared enough to show me. Family, friends, teachers or an organization cared enough to get involved and know you and your story. The sadness of meeting someone who has suffered and endured wholly alone overwhelmed me.

I have spoken and written about what SHLF means to me and our family ad nauseum. But I am going to do it again.

I understand well that people get sick and die all the time and that being able to do it with dignity and surrounded by people you love is an enormous privilege.  Still, our little pod has been forced to face, and live with, our single biggest fear. I have spent over 6 years reconciling how much importance we have placed on one life when there are millions who die every day, alone, with no fanfare, no legacy, no charitable foundation.

McGill football, McGill medicine, old ski racing friend and new friend all in one place

My conclusion remains simple yet resolute – every life SHOULD matter this much. We happen to be ridiculously privileged to be a part of a community that cares. We choose to share it and pay it back in as many directions as possible.

When Strachan passed my own community multiplied. His illness happened to coincide with the rise of Facebook and just like that, after 10 years, I became – and have stayed – re-connected with half of my high school. Through SHLF I have gotten to know and love my brother’s classmates and teammates, watched new friendships blossom, deepened some of the best friendships and mentorships in my life, watched neighbourhood families grow year on year and learned to care deeply some real heroes and the kids that they serve.

Trevor (2nd to the right) runs every race with the kids

One of the times I knew we were doing something right was when I met Trevor Stokes, head teacher of Streetfront, on the eve of the 2008 Vancouver marathon. The meeting was rushed because 15 of his teens were running the next day and he had to get back to school where they were all spending the night. Many of them had unstable home situations and sleeping on the floor of the classroom was the only way to ensure they ate properly and got a good night’s sleep.  As I saw it, no matter what followed (everyone finished and Trevor ran the whole way with the students), 15 kids fell asleep that night knowing that someone cared.

So there it is. By far the greatest reward that has come through my biggest personal loss is being a part of something that helps facilitate more people caring about more people. Whether it is about me, my family, one of our kick ass volunteers or kids that deserve a lot more than they get.  And whether it is enough to give lots of hours, a few dollars or a Sunday morning in the rain, I simply cannot understate how much it means or how far your little or big bit really goes.

So if you are hoping that I would stop asking someday, I won’t.

To donate please CLICK HERE  or see www.shlf.ca for more details on where every penny goes. As a 100% volunteer run organization, we keep zip, zero, nada.

Tove and Jayme

Two of my personal heroes and closest friends. Have stepped up to Chair Run and Fundraising in Van for 3 years now.

Todd and Stu and Dad

My Dad in a unitard with 2 of Strachan’s best friends while biking across Canada in a trip that took dozens of people, brought out 1000s of supporters and 100,000s of dollars now endowed.

kili camille

Kili Climbers – strangers at the beginning, now friends for life.


My dear friend, board member and now colleague. We grew to know each other when she volunteer wrote SHLF a strategic plan over 5 months.

Cousin Scott, Chair of the Vancouver Committee. After 10 years on different continents we now talk regularly.

Cousin Scott, Chair of the Vancouver Committee. After 10 years on different continents we now talk regularly.

PS These photos and stories could go on for days and days…..