Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Letter 2007

December 2007

I’m not sure why I was in such a rush to buy my cards before Christmas given that I’m not writing in them until nearly New Years! A benefit I suppose in my procrastinating is that you will get my 2007 update so complete it will include even the last few hours of the year…

Most of the interesting things I did in 2007 were through my job at the Fraser Institute where I have worked now for just over (gulp) 6 years! In the spring I was promoted to Director of Events which has been interesting as I now sit on our management committee and am more involved in decisions about the organization as a whole. Primarily it means more reports to write, financials to analyze, and just a little more stress, but the experience has been good so far!

As part of our efforts to bring discussions around public policy ideas to a younger (than 65!) demographic, I started hosting a monthly event series called Behind the Spin at the trendy OPUS Lounge in Yaletown. Over green martinis and canap├ęs we have entertained guests including US Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, the leader of the Marijuana Party Marc Emery, and conservative communications guru Tom Flanagan. We’ve also discussed climate change, healthcare, and, with VSO Maestro Bramwell Tovey, the role of government in funding Arts & Culture. All of which has involved a few late nights, a lot of wine, and many interesting ideas as to how to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems!

The biggest blast to the past was the opportunity for me to host Brian Mulroney as he came through Vancouver on his book tour in late September. He’s the only Prime Minister I remember from my childhood and so to share a stage with him was somewhat surreal. He’s quite a character with his Irish charm and humour, but I was happy that our event was over before he made such controversial front page news for the rest of the fall! We taped that event and a number of the OPUS events and will have them posted on-line soon.

I’ve also continued organizing policy excursions farther afield including our annual trip to Washington where we added a visit to the Supreme Court and briefing by Chief Justice John Roberts. This spurred an interesting discussion on the role of the courts in protecting (or not) liberty and freedom. However the most complicated but rewarding project was a two-week excursion to Shanghai and Beijing. This was a fascinating experience – China is such an eclectic mix of capitalism and communism! They have the most modern architecture and technology but then you turn around and their garbage collection is done with small barrels on the back of bicycles. Other trips included many visits to Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, & Ottawa, as well as a week in London, England. 2008 will find me again in London, Scotland, and Washington D.C., but also a week of springtime in New York and a trip to Kuwait City and Dubai in the fall exploring Economic Freedom in the Arab world. I’m intrigued to see if the faucets really are plated in gold there…
I had a few free moments for some personal trips and over Easter took David on a journey of my childhood. We drove through 100 Mile House and then up the long winding road to my Mom & John’s ranch in Tatlayoko Lake. I’m pretty sure his car had never seen gravel roads before and I’m pretty sure they may never again! In May we spent some time north of San Francisco in the Sonoma valley – amongst the eating and wine-drinking we rented some bikes and visited some of the local wineries. Reminiscent of our trip to Italy the year before and an inspiration to take more time doing more of the same this year! More food and wine in San Francisco and a brave trip across the Bay for a tour of Alcatraz. In search of sun, we spent a weekend in Los Angeles in September and have booked a much-needed get-away to Hawaii for mid-January. yay!yay!!!

Sadly though, the year has ended with some bad news for our family….

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and after surgery and chemotherapy we hoped she had overcome it. Unfortunately she has been re-diagnosed with cancer this fall - she will start radiation therapy in January to help her be more comfortable but no cure is expected this time.

I’ve spent the last week over Christmas here in Tatlayoko Lake at the ranch. We’ve shared a bunch of tears but also some laughs and great memories. She has an amazing spirit and a very positive attitude. In a moment of reflection she told me that she is very happy with her life and the many things she has experienced in the world and contributed back. I think that although this is a sad and frightening time for all of us, she is a living inspiration in how to live well and enjoy each day with few regrets. Although she has closed the chapter on the teaching career that she has loved for so long, and the community newspaper that she published for 10 years, she plans to keep doing what she loves for as long as possible. She’s got a bouncy dog that she takes snowshoeing every day and a number of projects on the go with her husband John. The vast number of local friends and neighbours arriving through the snow with baskets of food and good wishes make me nostalgic and grateful all at the same time.

It seems better somehow to have a chance to say good-bye and I’m grateful for the time that we still have together – it will be a very special year…

Lots of Love to you in 2008,

Leah, Gustav, & Simba

Monday, December 17, 2007

Not Going to Get Better


So we’re all getting better at doing this.

This time I’ve been told clearly that the
new spot is cancerous and that there is
an appointment in Kelowna
on Monday morning.

The promised call doesn’t come until late that night
but I miss the phone in the back seat so
I listen to my mother leaving me the
phone number of the
hotel in Kelowna.

It’s 9:30 at night so I should know that it’s
bad news but people with
bad news don’t do normal things like
leave messages with phone numbers on
answering machines
I think.

I’m still not expecting my mother to say in a
steady but already resigned voice
that this time …

she’s not going to get better.

-Leah Costello

Saturday, November 03, 2007



There’s a song about sunscreen
that says that sometimes
the biggest moments in life
come when you’re not expecting them
like on a Tuesday afternoon.

It was a Saturday afternoon in dreary November
when John said
that they’ve found some more spots and
they aren’t sure what it means
but that my mother has some tests scheduled.

And so I let out a gasp
and started to cry
and John said
“DON’T. Just don’t. That’s what your mother did.”

Which, interpreted, means
he’s really scared and so is my mother
and if I want to cry it will have to be later.

-Leah Costello