Monday, April 16, 2012


Natalie & baby Liam, about 12 hours old
Since Good Friday I have been making two or three trips a day to the barn to see if Noche (a seven year old Friesen-Morgan cross, maiden mare) has had her foal yet.  About 11 months ago I introduced her to Titan, a four year old, sweet as molasses quarter horse stallion and they instantly hit it off.  Unfortunately, Noche isn't quite ready to give up her prize, despite the fact that she is well past her due date, and looks very, very pregnant.  Mind you, Noche has always looked pregnant - she loves to eat, and eat, and eat, but there are other signs that this is the real thing.  Maybe she just likes the attention.  As far as boyfriend Titan is concerned, he is overwhelmingly disinterested at this point. (Post script update; Noche gave birth to a filly at 1:30 a.m., April 20th.)


In the midst of all this animal husbandry, a dear friend and employee was approaching her due date.  She had made a decision a few years ago that she wanted to bring a new life into the world.  She wanted to expand her experience of being a foster parent to the next level.  She wasn't as concerned about whether or not she met society's definitions and expectations, she just wanted to experience motherhood.  She made the entire process look as easy and as uncomplicated as the incredibly capable job she does of managing over 60 spa therapists who provide the stress relief that Ste. Anne's has become known for.  Less than 24 hours after her maternity leave started, I received a text message "Liam's here".

Last night, I watched a cute Canadian film called "Starbuck" about a man who becomes the father of 500+ children through his donations to a sperm bank.  In the movie, Starbuck is confronted with a class action lawsuit from a group of his offspring who want him to reveal himself.  I won't spoil it, but it is a funny flick. 

With Mother's Day just around the corner (one of the most popular times of the year here at the spa), all of this makes me think about the miracle of birth.  How two tiny little cells, a sperm and an egg, sometimes quite deliberately, and at other times quite by accident, can get together and flawlessly create a new perfect living being, horse, human, or otherwise.  And then the life long bond that quickly evolves between parent and child is equally mysterious and miraculous.  Aside from being a popular place for mom's and daughters to spend some quality time together, Ste. Anne's is also a popular place for starting families; removing stress in a relationship often provides the ideal conditions for conception, as well as a popular place to come to recover from the strain of childbirth and parenting, not to mention the fact that we have a very healthy and fertile procreation program going amongst our employees and their families. 

And me, not having had the experience of parenting, get to watch and enjoy all of this from a safe distance, with my 84 year old mom looking over my shoulder and keeping a loving, watchful eye on me, her 54 year old "boy".  Love you mom :-).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A love lost

This past weekend, I went with a colleague of mine to visit another Ontario inn.  This inn however, instead of bustling with employees anticipating the arrival of new guests, was closed for business, and for sale.  Over the past several years I have seen a number of once popular inns and small hotels either change hands, in many cases under duress, or close. 

Walking through a business that has exercised the option of closing it's doors rather than face the prospect of continuing to operate is a sobering experience.  In this case, the beds were all still made, a table was set, but the life energy of the place was gone.  In most cases, the death of a business is a slow, gradual process that once it actually happens, seems inevitable, but while it is happening, it rarely occurs to the operators until the final hours that something is actually wrong. 

Complacency is the first sign.  Light bulbs not replaced, out dated decor, poor housekeeping, maintenance projects left undone.  And then usually there is some kind of trigger - a family  feud, a bank pulls their funding, a government induced poison pill, an employee revolt or deep discounting can spell the beginning of the end for a small business.  And of course, customers who have been loyal and supportive for years, seem to disappear overnight. 

As Canada's economy continues to show signs of weakness, there will undoubtedly be more casualties in many sectors.  We will continue to wake up to the sad news that this hotel, or that store that had become an important part of our lives, is no more.  Employees, employers, and customers who care, must watch for the signs and stay alert.  The demise of a business can be averted, but the same selfless love and dedication that originally turned an idea into a thriving business, is needed ten-fold to save a business from itself and the changing world around it.