Tag Archives: About

My Free The Children Adventure: Experiencing Community in the Maasai Mara

14 Sep

I first learned about KPMG’s relationship with Free The Children in November 2011 when I was conducting interview research for my current position of Senior Marketing Coordinator with KPMG in Saskatoon. I promised myself I would go on a Free The Children trip to Kenya if I was hired. I received an offer letter from KPMG in late December and 18 months later I found myself volunteering in the beautiful Maasai Mara with Free The Children and KPMG team members from across Canada.

My Kenyan volunteer adventure was truly an indescribable experience. I don’t believe people simply go on a Free The Children trip; they are called to join a Free The Children adventure and take part in something much bigger than themselves. In Kenya I experienced firsthand Free The Children’s mission in action. I saw young people achieving their full potential as agents of change. I met Kenya’s future leaders, community builders, politicians, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, journalists, and famers.

Upon returning to Canada after my whirlwind adventure friends and family had a million questions: what did you do, who did you meet, where did you sleep, what did you eat, were there lots of mosquitoes, did you get sick, what animals did you see, did you cry? Every day Free The Children coordinated amazing experiences from dawn to dusk. With so many questions and so many incredible stories to share, where do I begin?

SalabwekKidsA dear friend asked me what my biggest take away was from my adventure. Without a doubt my most memorable and powerful experiences were spending time learning about community from the youth at Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School and Salabwek Primary School. The youth at both schools were so inspiring; they were so eloquent, confident, and community oriented. I’ve never been more impressed by a collective group of teenagers. At both schools youth performed traditional song and dance for our KPMG team. After the performances we spent time visiting with these young adults learning about their childhoods in Kenya and sharing what life is like in Canada. Luckily the children learn Swahili and English in school and we communicated effortlessly. These intimate conversations were so touching. It was so inspiring (and heartbreaking) to learn how hard the children work to attend school, achieve good grades, and build a better life for the future. I know at 13 years old I would not have been comfortable talking to a stranger from the other side of the world about my post secondary plans and what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Salabwek-DancingMore impressive than these youth’s confidence and determination to have a good education is their sense of community. Community is an essential part of life in the Maasai Mara. Kisaruni Secondary School describes community beautifully. Community is “a place where each individual experiences the family feel, is responsible to others and the environment, is heard, is appreciated, takes care of each other no matter what and where we are all peacemakers”.

KisaruniGirlsWhile visiting Kisaruni I sat down and had tea with two students, Naomi and Masi, who shared what life is like at their all girls’ boarding school. These young women explained how they set aside time each day to help their peers struggling with classes, take turns leading their student representative councils, and that no one is every left behind. If one person fails, everyone fails. These girls gave the impression that there is no competition at Kisaruni for valedictorian, most valuable player, or lead singer. Everyone is a leader and a member of the community who has something valuable to contribute. This sense of selflessness was so incredibly refreshing, especially in comparison to North America’s focus on competition and success.

My biggest learning from my Free The Children adventure is to value community, be more selfless, and take care of those around me. A valuable lesson learned from youth who are wise beyond their years.

*All the views expressed on my blog are my own*

2013 Action Items

21 Jan

It is January – the month to set goals and personal expectations for the upcoming year. After much consideration I have created a solid list of 2013 Action Items.

Take driving lessons, practice driving, and drive home to visit my family at least once this year. Contrary to popular belief I do have my driver’s license, I just don’t use it. I would like that to change.

Surprise Elysse, Alisha, Vanessa and Deanne with a simple and thoughtful gift that is unrelated to their birthday or any holiday. Looking forward to this!

Invest in my education. I miss school. I miss learning. I would like to take a class and learn a new artistic skill or improve on my marketing and communication techniques. I want to be challenged (by more than work and timelines).

Enjoy more live entertainment. I love the arts. I never regret going to a show or gallery. I need to take time out of my schedule to enjoy and support Saskatoon’s amazing arts and culture scene.

Smile and laugh more. The best compliment of 2012 was when my friend Vanessa told me she loves my smile and laugh. This is one of the kindest things anyone has said to me. I would like this happy trend to continue.

Love my friends. I surround myself with people who I admire and respect. My friends are incredible. I want to create some unforgettable memories with the wonderful women in my life this year.

Find a mentor. Since I moved to Saskatoon I have been craving the guidance and opinion of a successful female communications/marketing professional. I would like to find that special person this year.

Embrace adventure. This summer I am going on a Free The Children/Me to We volunteer trip to Africa. I am ecstatic! This will be a life changing, unforgettable experience. I know this will be the highlight of my year.

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Good luck with your goals for 2013! I hope these resolutions from the To Resolve Project provide you with a little bit of visual encouragement.

ToResolve2013 -2Grab coffee or beer by Gerren Lamson

ToResolve2013 -3Make shit awe-some by Richard Perez

ToResolve2013 -4Read more books by Chris McAuley

ToResolve2013 -5See the world by Trevor Rogers

ToResolve2013 -6Stay curious by Eliza Cerdeiros

Family Photos with Elysse Ford

25 Nov

I love photos. The photos I have saved on my computer, printed in my albums, and displayed on my walls are so so precious to me.

I lived in Vancouver for seven years after high school and missed a lot of family milestones. For my mom’s fiftieth birthday this year I wanted to do something special for my family. I organize a photo shoot with my talented friend Elysse Ford to celebrate this momentous occasion. There is nothing more valuable than quality family photos (with a family I love very much).

My Dad and brother were a little grumbley about the photo shoot. I get it, in general guys don’t like to get dressed up and have their photo taken. After a couple of photos everyone relaxed and we had so much fun!  Admittedly, I have a pretty great (and photogenic!) family, but I don’t think anyone was expecting to have such a carefree and enjoyable afternoon. Elysse captured some great, candid moments.

We wandered around our family farm taking photos with our iconic red barn and various “junk piles”. The random collection of old vehicles, farm equipment, and buildings in our yard is pretty incredible – and makes for an impressive, Saskatchewan backdrop!

It was a really special day. The photos are such a treasurer. I’m so happy I could do this for my family.

Thank you Elysse for the beautiful photos, albums, cards and canvases! They are perfect.

Make sure to visit Elysse’s websiteblog, and facebook page.

XO

ps – Happy Belated Birthday Mom. You are looking pretty darn good for being 50! Love you!

Blogoversary – The BB Creative Turns Two!

20 Nov

Woah! Today The BB Creative turns two. I can’t believe how quickly the past two years flew by. It seems like yesterday I was sitting in my little Vancouver apartment talking to my good friend Jocelyn about the pros and cons of starting a blog.

It is amazing to see how much I’ve grown the past two years. This blog is a great creative outlet to express my thoughts, share my inspirations and showcase some artistic projects. I love The BB Creative because it forces me to practice being artistic and creative fifty two weeks of the year. The BB Creative documents the momentous occasions in my life and the small, trivial DIY projects I enjoy crafting.

Blogging has opened my eyes to a world of creative, hard working individuals. I feel very lucky to be a part of this unique, online community.

I am shocked that other people read my humble little blog. It is funny how we find the lives and aspirations of other people so interesting.

Here are some blogging highlights from the last year.

I organized a fabulous photo shoot with my girlfriends (thanks Natasha Kanji).

I crafted a simple jewelry hanger (this is probably my most popular post from 2012).

I stamped some great potato artwork for Henry.

I painted a canvas for the first time in years.

I had an epic summer vacation in Montreal and NYC with my bestie.

I rediscovered the art of découpage and made some fancy tv trays.

I reconnected with my talented friend Elysse, who took some really lovely photos for me.

Thank you for reading. Happy Blogoversary to me! XO

BB

Elysse Ford Photography

30 Aug

When I moved to Saskatoon in February Elysse, a friend from high school, made a solid effort to reconnect with me. I was very pleasantly surprised when she emailed me in January and suggested we meet up for drinks once I was settled in my new apartment. Elysse has been a great friend the past six months.

In addition to being a great friend Elysse is a wonderful photographer. One evening over drinks she mentioned that she would like to do a photo shoot with me. I was completely flattered and said yes. I was thrilled that Elysse wanted to spend an afternoon running around Saskatoon taking photos of me.

I asked Elysse what she enjoys most about photography. She said that she enjoys making people (women) feel beautiful. She enjoys capturing those special moments where people look and feel their best. Her favourite shoots are when her clients feel special and glamorous. She loves when she can bring in a stylist to do her clients hair and makeup. These small touches make a woman feel empowered, spoiled, unique, and maybe even beautiful. I think this is a great reason to be a photographer. Everyone wants to look good. Everyone wants to have nice photos of themselves.

After working with Elysse I realized that she does more than help her clients feel attractive. Before even seeing my photos I recognized that Elysse was able to create an intimate, trusting environment where her clients are able to realize how beautiful they already are.

How cute are these photos?!

Full disclosure: I am a low maintenance girl. Most workdays I am rushing out the door in wet hair, mascara and lip-gloss searching for my keys and blackberry. I don’t see myself as a particularly attractive girl. I don’t wake up thinking I look pretty. Right now I’m looking at these photos and thinking, “Wow… is this what I really look like?” (in a good way, of course).

Seeing these photos makes me feel very empowered. It is a special gift being able to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.

Elysse, thank you for the lovely photos. I love them. These photos are so incredibly beautiful. You are a very talented photographer. I look forward to working with you again in the future.

So hard to pick a favourite, but this might be it! 

Make sure to visit Elysse’s website, blog, and facebook page.

My First NYC Musical

26 Aug

To see a Broadway Musical in New York has been a dream of mine since high school. Growing up in a small, farming community the big metropolis of New York City felt very far away. My worldview was small. I never knew if I would make it to New York.

In high school I was a total drama nerd. We had an amazing high school theatre program. I was involved in five shows; acting in grade nine and taking on the role of stage manager for the remainder of my high school theatre career. Being a stage manager consumed my life; I attended all rehearsals at noon, after school, and on Sundays. Being a part of these musicals was a special experience. I worked with so many talented students, teachers, and parents. We put on spectacular shows. We received standing ovations every night. Not because our parents were proud of us, but because our shows were great. I can confidently say my high school’s drama club was better than your high school’s drama club.

I know this to be true because we were the first high school in North America to receive the rights to perform Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. What an amazing feat for a high school in rural Saskatchewan!

I loved being a stage manager. It was a great learning experience. It was an introduction to a world I never knew existed. So much hard work, creativity, talent, and time went into our shows. The evening of the final performance was always bittersweet. I never wanted the show to end.

To see The Lion King in New York with my best friend was the most overwhelming and memorable experience from my epic summer vacation. It was an incredible show. It was everything I imagined a Broadway Musical would be. This musical brought the cartoon to life in such a beautiful and elegant way. It was stunning.

My heart was filled with happiness after seeing The Lion King. I am very fortunate to be in a position where I can have these experiences and make my high school dreams a reality.

Saskatoon Summer To-Do List

17 Jun

Can you believe it’s already June 17? There are only two and a half months left of summer! I have so many projects to start, parties to plan, and events to attend before the end of August arrives.

I am a very organized person and am a huge fan of goal setting and to-do lists. Soooo here is my Saskatoon summer to-do list full of fun summertime goals!

- Start and finish a painting. I bought a 20”x40” canvas yesterday. This summer I will complete my first large acrylic painting since my first year of university!
Read at least three books. Sometimes I am so exhausted at the end of the day it is much easier to watch television or mindlessly surf the interwebs than read a book. I want to spend as much time as possible reading this summer (preferably outside in the sunshine at the beach or park). Any good book suggestions out there?
Organize a potluck. After living in Saskatoon for nearly five months I have accumulated enough furniture to have more than one person over at a time. Par-tay!
Play bocce ball. I have a bocce ball set that has only been used a handful of times. It needs to be used more often.
Go stargazing. Vancouver was terrible for stargazing. I can’t wait to spend an evening outside with a quilt looking up at the stars and dreaming about the future.
Organize a photo shoot. I promised my friend Elysse that I would organize a photo shoot with her when I moved back to Saskatoon. This needs to happen soon!
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. I loved Bard on the Beach in Vancouver. I can’t wait to check out the Saskatoon equivalent.
Check out Saskatoon’s best summer festivals: Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, Wake Ride, A Taste of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Folk Fest and fireworks! I just realized that I’m not here for the Finge Festival, which makes me a little sad.
Visit the Mendel Art Gallery. I seriously can’t believe I haven’t been to this gallery yet, it is only a few blocks away from where I live. Shame on me.
Plan a crafternoon for my Saskatoon girlfriends! I haven’t had a crafting party since my birthday. I hope to have a crafternoon sometime in July. Ideas include: Cake Stands from Table Legs, Colour Blocked Coasters, Fish Scale Pendant Lamp, and Hemp Hoop Earrings.

Phew! On top of that long to-do list I am visiting friends in Vancouver and planning a vacation to Montreal and NYC! I’m looking forward to an amazing first summer in Saskatoon and a fabulous vacation exploring some of the best cities eastern Canada and America have to offer.

There is a lot of text in this post so here is a cool video for some visual stimulation:

I COULD HAVE DONE THIS.. from Briar Mark on Vimeo.

ps – please don’t judge me too much for creating a summertime to-do list!

Victoria Day Long Weekend

22 May

For the Victoria Day long weekend in Saskatchewan I took a bit of a technology fast (I spent very limited time on my phone and computer) and visited with friends and family. It was so incredibly lovely and relaxing. Here are some highlights from my three-day Saskatchewan staycation.

Sun bathing and cloud watching.

DIY polkadot pedicures.

Watching my family be way more productive than me (and not feeling guilty about it).

A photo of my mom taking photos of…

A baby robin!

Finding family treasures. I found this beautiful vintage purse on my grandparents’ farm. It used to belong to my Mémère. Now it’s mine!

Hope you had a lovely and relaxing weekend as well.

Happy Mother’s Day Sharon

13 May

It is Mother’s Day. The sun is shining, the grass is growing, and the trees are budding. It is a beautiful day.

I called my mom this morning to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. Unfortunately that call and this (late!) blog post is all my mom will receive from me for Mother’s Day this year.

When there are momentous milestones in my life my mom creates gorgeous, handmade cards for me. My dad says these cards take her hours to craft. And I am not organized enough to purchase and send her a card in the mail before May 13. Shame on me!

To make up for my lack of Mother’s Day thoughtfulness I’m going to share with you how awesome my mom is.

My mom is extremely hard working, kind, generous, supportive, and creative. She is an amazing role model. Growing up she planted a DIY spirit in me. My family was living on the 100 Mile Diet before the foodies made it trendy. My mom was making my brother and I clothes before sewing was fashionable and kitschy (in a good way). Springtime was for planting, autumn was for harvest, and the seasons in-between were for sewing, crafting, cooking, constructing, and baking. I thought everyone grew up planting gardens, canning beans, and making piñatas for their birthdays. Now I know not everyone was so lucky.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and I am thankful for that. Growing up we did-it-ourselves because it was cheaper. Now DIY is an anti-consumerist movement people are embracing with open arms. We are realizing how important it is to support local farmers, artisans, buy organic, and/or do-it-ourselves. I am thankful my mom taught me to support our local community and to do-it-myself. These are very important life lessons I cherish! Thank you Mom!

Now that my brother and I are (trying to be) adults my mom has indulged in a fancy camera and has been taking some photography classes. Here are some of my favourite photos she has taken the past two years.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY MOM! You are a talented, smart, and lovely lady.

I learned on the Etsy Blog this week Mother’s Day originated with activist Julia Ward Howe in 1870. Julia wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation calling women to come together and rally for peace. If my mom was alive in the 1870s I would like to think she would have joined this important movement.

To all the amazing women out there – Happy Mother’s Day. You are loved and appreciated.

TEDxUofS

31 Mar

Last Saturday I attended TEDxUofS. It was an incredibly refreshing, inspiring, and exhausting day. It has been a very long time since I sat in a university lecture hall and listened to people share passionate, inspiring stories about their lives, studies, and careers.

When I was a grade twelve student in high school I felt invincible. I truly thought I could do anything I wanted. With enough hard work, perseverance, and chocolate I could take on the world. This feeling of invincibility wavered during my university career; I became a little jaded and cynical somewhere between writing socialist papers on the concentration of media ownership in Canada and the democratic potential of the internet. I left the world of academia feeling… uncertain. I felt smart and capable. I did not feel brave.

Is it naïve to follow your dreams? No matter how unrealistic they are? Maybe. But these naïve, crazy people are inspiring! They make me feel like I can pursue my passions and dreams. Though, I confess, I don’t know what those passions and dreams are (and I’m pretty satisfied with my day job). But I do love feeling inspired, sharing stories, and learning where people find their happiness.

What is TED and TEDx?
TED is an event of riveting talks by remarkable people. TED believes passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. TED is building a clearinghouse of knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading”. TEDx is designed to give communities, organizations, and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

TEDxUofS
The theme for TEDxUofS was The Wisdom of Play. The conference’s presenters shared stories of how they use creativity and curiosity to deepen their understanding of the world and discover new ways to connect with local and international communities.

Lots of ideas and stories were shared during TEDxUofS. It was total information overload. I enjoyed every minute of it. Here are some highlights from the day:

Ryan Leier: I very much enjoyed Ryan Leier’s presentation on the Oneness of Yoga. Ryan was sincere, engaging, and funny. He reminded me we need to focus on harmony not harm, we should not react negatively to life, and whatever we do we should try to do the very best we can. Fun fact: Ryan is the go-to yoga teacher for the band Arcade Fire.

Photo from TEDxUofS facebook page.

Curtis Olson: Curtis Olson is an incredibly inventive individual that is blurring the border between public and private spaces. Curtis’ projects revitalize neighborhoods and build community. Curtis repurposes old buildings and renovates them with materials from the community that carry historic and sentimental value. The buildings Curtis builds have the ability to connect a community of people together through shared history. His buildings encourage collaboration and sharing; these spaces create community. Curtis challenged attendees: What type of communities are we building?

Photo from TEDxUofS facebook page.

Greg Johnson: Greg Johnson is a storm chaser. Such a cool job, such a great guy. Greg is incredibly genuine, approachable, and smart. Greg shared the story of how he was unhappy with life. He built a successful marketing and communications firm from the ground up and was unsatisfied. He gave it all up to take photos of nature’s most beautiful and extreme storms. He recently published a gorgeous book of photos and stories from his adventures chasing storms and tornadoes across North American.

Photo from TEDxUofS facebook page.

Greg ended his engaging presentation with the following quote from Therou: Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but for the love of the job.

Words to live by.

Photo from TEDxUofS facebook page.

Thanks TEDxUofS! I had a fabulous day! 

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