Base

Name

Sue Braiden

Dishing

Lucky us! You found us! Who do we have to thank for this pleasure?

Well, that’s an easy one: I created the project 🙂 “Adventures with the Estrogen Army” has been a calling for more than a decade. And now we’re here … Thanks for the leap of faith!

What are you passionate about?

Knowledge, compassion, possibilities and, of course, adventure!

– social justice and being a better world scout for at-risk women and kids

– community capacity building (tinkering under the hood of a community to learn what makes it work, and how that can be shared elsewhere and scaled up)

– storytelling in all it’s forms (words, pictures, music, how a life is lived)

What do you crave?

– Spending a couple of weeks one summer with a professional storm chasing team chasing after tornadoes. Oh. Yes.

– Writing the Great Canadian Novel, but doing it in a villa in Tuscany. (Wonder where I got THAT idea?)

– Having my music recorded by a professional orchestra. I’m a closet composer, and while I do play the piano, clarinet, and acoustic guitar (the latter quite badly, I might add), I compose mainly through computer annotation software, played back and recorded through the same using virtual instruments. While the end result is quite beautiful (to me), it’s not the way I hear it in my head. A computer cannot capture the nuances and passion of a raw performance. I want to hear the epic aural feast that plays in my head.

– I want to build a small strawbale house in the woods on the edge of Bone Lake in the Haliburton Highlands, have a big old garden, and learn to live sustainably off the grid.

Of all the adventures you've had so far, which has been your favourite?

I have two: the first was when Sister Helen Prejean (the death penalty nun played by Susan Sarandon in the movie “Dead Man Walking” called me up one day and asked me what I was doing on Sunday, because she was coming for tea. That woman is life-changing in ways too numerous to go into here, but believe me I’ll be sharing more about her at The Adventure Lab. She is one of the most incredible Adventure Divas I’ve ever met in my life.

The second would be having dinner at Ethan Zohn’s childhood home just outside of Boston, with Ethan (winner of Survivor Africa), his mom, brother, friends and the Grassroot Soccer team (the organization Ethan started with his winnings_, listening to all the stories of the work they were doing in Africa with kids to help stop the AIDs epidemic in it’s tracks. Jenna Morasca (also Survivor alum, and Ethan’s girlfriend at the time) had just lost her mum to breast cancer, and so had I. It was a bittersweet night being in the presence of people who said the hell with the normal celebrity crap and put their money and their influence behind something great, and world-changing.

Spending that weekend in Boston for the GRS board retreat was also lifechanging in another way. I was attacked in the subway. Wrong kind of adventure, but one that led to a lot of aha moments for me about cultivating safe adventures, and not letting random acts of insanity stop you from living your life. Hard lessons learned. Still working on it. It’s one of the reasons I’m determined to ditch this hermit act I’ve been nursing and get out there and really live again. Tawanda, baby!

What kinds of people are you hoping to connect with?

Ordinary women, just like me, who have done extraordinary things, whether by accident or design, and who are willing to share “the secret sauce” to help others have big-ass adventures too!

What assets do you most want to work on to get yourself ready for epic adventures?

Courage! I may be confident, but I have a butterscotch ripple streak of reclusiveness that’s set in since becoming sick more than a decade ago. It takes a lot just to talk myself into walking out the door to go to a local Winterfest alone. Forget about the idea of running away to Tuscany to spend a summer writing. I’ve got big goals, but I have a terrible time being brave enough to take the first step. I’m here to fix that. It’s a big part of the reason I created the Estrogen Army project. It’s a social experiment, and I’m Guinea Pig #1!

Wanna tell us something most people don't know about you?

I’m a closet gamer gurl 😉 Many years ago I learned the power of games for asset building. They are a great way to reach kids at risk and help them integrate new super powers they didn’t even know they had. I also began to realize that they were just as powerful a tool for doing the same thing for big kids like me. Games make you forget you can’t fly, you can’t be brave, you can’t roam fantastical worlds and have great adventures. They teach you that you CAN! Favourite haunt? Lord of the Rings Online. It satisfies my need for intellectual feasts through immersion into Tolkien’s deeply complex, gorgeously rendered worlds, while allowing me to have the sense that I’m in the most beautiful places imaginable, and in the moment. Great asset builder! We actually have a secret haunt waiting for YOU in there as well. More to come on that, diva!

Vicarious Escapes

Favourite Book

“Drinking the Rain” by Alix Kates Schulman. I rescued it from the discounted books pile for a whole $4 some years back. I’ve read it over and over again. It’s about learning to be by yourself as an older woman, learning to be still, finding yourself in the (almost) wilds, and the art of long, slow, day-long conversations. So much wisdom wrapped in the covers of that book. I’d give a copy of it to every single adventure diva if I could.

It’s followed by a close second: “Three Junes” — a first-time novel by British author, Julia Glass. At some point I’ll share a proper review on both. They celebrate strong women who don’t bend to the expectations of others, and the art of blazing trails in uncomplicated ways.

Favourite Movie

I’d say historical fiction/drama wins hands-down most days, but I’d be lying if I didn’t fess up to a penchant for absolutely lighthearted celebrations of fate, like “Serendipity” and “Shirley Valentine”.

What I usually seek out, when not some epic historical flick, is often something cerebral, something that immerses me deep under the skin of something complex, and uncomfortable. I like to be confronted with my own beliefs and have them challenged. There are a handful of Killian Murphy films (brilliant actor) that I was deeply moved by, including “Peacock” and “Breakfast on Pluto”. They push you way outside of your comfort zone, and make you fall in love with human frailty.

Favourite Television Show

As with movies, I tend to be very driven by Historical drama, sometimes fiction, sometimes fact.

One of my favourites was a Korean drama whose English translation was “Jewel in the Palace”. I really hate subtitles, but I have to tell you that with the 54 episodes of this show, not once did I even really notice that it’s how I was taking in the story. It was based on an actual young woman, thousands of years ago, who served as the first female doctor in one of the Korean dynasty’s. I nearly cried when it was over. One of those epic stories that completely gets under your skin.

I also loved the 2-season HBO series “Rome”. Very edgy, and pushed you way outside of your comfort zone. Smartly written and acted. Very emotional. Very raw. Again, really sad when it was done.

Game of Thrones (of course). Not ashamed to admit it’s one of my favourite addictions, and I can’t wait until the next season starts. That tends to happen on my birthday each April. Great present!

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I’d be the first person to tell you that this genre is not my thing, and yet this show absolutely makes a liar of me. It’s an Australian jewel from based on a female detective in the 1920s, and is about to enter it’s third season, and it’s taken a lot of flack for it’s strong, female lead, who behaves as a man would. Tables turned. Double standards called out. Love it. Great visuals, great writing, great acting, great music. Definitely a guilty pleasure.

Downton Abbey. Yeah, you saw that one coming, didn’t you? I spent a lot of time with my British Gran growing up. She babysat me until I was old enough to go to school. Not only did she get me hooked on Barnabus Collins (the original Dark Shadows 1960s soap opera, before the Johnny Depp remake disaster), she instilled in me a great love of the British culture, especially the polite formalities and nuances of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Oh, Maggie Smith. Oh, the costumes. Oh, the sass …

Outlander. The English penchant comes from my dad’s side of the family. The Irish and Scottish one? My mum’s. What’s not to love about all things highlander? Men in kilts. Sassy lasses. Did I say men in kilts? Yeah … (I could go into the fact that this is another of those smartly written, well-acted, cinematic gems, but I’m still stuck back on the men in kilts. Give me a moment, will ya?)

Favourite Song

It’s a tie between Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” (the hellaciously alive soundtrack version from “Working Girl”), the melancholy “10,00 Miles” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Eddie Vedder’s “Better Days” (from the soundtrack of “Eat Pray Love”).

Favourite artists? Always the classic muses: give me Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, any day.

My “Adventure Diva Anthems” playlist here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Adventure+Diva+Anthems/102953032

My “Holy Crap I Have to Be Awake During Surgery!” playlist here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Sue+s+Holy+Crap+I+Have+To+Be+Awake+During+Surgery+Playlist/103606882

And my “I’m Throwing My Own Wake” playlist here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Sue+s+I+m+Throwing+My+Own+Wake+Playlist/103730660

(long story, that one … or not. There’s a posting on it here at the lab 😉

Favourite Quote

I have a handful:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — attributed to Peter Drucker, and Alan Kay, depending on who you’re admiring most on any given day.

… and …

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver.

Both of these speak to the Adventure Diva in me.

I also wholeheartedly feel a gorgeous battle cry by George Bernard Shaw. It speaks to my better world scout soul …

“This is the true joy in life — being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one… being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.

Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

… and something profound by another woman that inspires me, Marianne Williamson, in her book “A Return to Love”:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This passage was actually hijacked and adapted in the movie “Coach Carter”. It’s Samuel L. Jackson’s utterance of this wisdom that most often gets the credit. No matter the vessel, the wisdom is essential all the same.

Favourite Colour

Red. Of course. Passion, baby!

The Objects of My Affection ...

– a thimble that belonged to my great-grandmother, who was a seamstress

– a picture of a British couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary, waving from the ballroom floor (lovely story behind this, and I’ll tell in in a posting)

– a mala blessed by the Dalai Llama, and given to me by my friend, Pam, during a really difficult time in my life

– a 64-240 thousand year old Morrocan “ammonite” fossil, to remind me of the lesson of impermanence, and the need to live every day like it’s your last one. (Ammonites were gorgeous shelled sea creatures that went extinct with the dinosaurs.)

– a locket hung on the end of a watch fob, containing a picture of young lovers in Austria during the early 40s in World War II

– my mother’s wedding rings, which I fell in love with when I was a little girl, but didn’t want to get to the part when they were on my own hand because she was gone. Too soon. Much too soon …

Favourite Ritual

Tea. My mother always used to tell me I was born on time for high tea with the queen. I was born at 4pm on the 4th day of the 4th month. Tea was a ritual shared between my mother and I. It always made me feel so connected to her, and so grown up. She used to throw me elaborate tea parties for my birthday when I was a little girl, making fancy sandwiches, and handmade petite-fours, and she would send me tea roses — one for every year of my age. When my mother stood on ceremony, it was always rife with meaning. One of the last things she gave me before she lost her battle to breast cancer was a jar of hand-rolled chocolate-mint tea leaves she’d picked from her garden. That was more than 12 years ago. I savour it slowly, allowing myself just one cup on very special occasions when I want to summon her close again. I know it won’t last forever, but the memories it’s created will.

Oh ... THAT girl!

What woman has been your biggest inspiration?

There are so many! My mother has been perhaps the biggest influence in my life. I miss her every day, and yet her presence is still so strong.

There are a handful of friends that absolutely blow my mind. I’ll share a few, in no particular order, and knowing I am leaving many out, only because these are people who are doing something right now, and have done so recently that I am absolutely captivated by:

– Cynthia Gentry. Oh. My. Gosh. I could write pages about this woman and not be done. I met her through the now defunct Omidyar.net community more than a decade ago. She was a polite Southern belle. Today, she’s this sassy, larger-than-life, take-no-prisoners, you-bet-your-ass-she’s-an-adventure-diva-capital-A-capital-D kind of gal. She was a fierce sister-in-arms abolitionist and ally on behalf of people with no real voice, including so many victims of the genocides in Rwanda, and again in Darfur. She married the love of her life after she was 50, has traveled to Paris (many times) and gone back to University in England, nonetheless. On the opposite end of the spectrum is her life’s work as a tireless advocate for youth through playgrounds. This sounds like something small, doesn’t it? Believe me when I tell you it’s not. I can’t wait to share her with you as a Featured Adventure Diva, and I will!

– Jackie Brosseuk, who, like Cynthia, I met at Omidyar.net, and who, with her husband, has lived miracles, moved mountains, and created amazing life stories in Africa. She is one of the most humble, selfless, loving women I’ve ever known. Right now (as I’m writing this) she is over in Cambodia on an “Volunteer Adventure” building houses with Humanity for Habitat. Like Cynthia, there are so very many stories I could share about Jackie, that’s it’s going to be very hard to pick. She’s another “Featured Adventure Diva” I can’t wait to share.

– Ginny Bogaert is a friend I met through another friend. We discovered we had both gone to the same public school in my hometown, Wallaceburg, decades ago, but never met. There is nothing that woman can’t — or won’t — do! She makes memories upon memories upon memories. She’s raising a young son on her own now, and the adventures she creates with and for him are incredible. She’s a fiercely devoted mama bear, and a deeply compassionate soul. Take a peek in the “Featured Adventure Divas” section for a story I shared from one of Ginny’s diary entries, written on a spontaneous camping trip in the mountains. What an incredible woman …

– Linda Eggleston-Nowakowski just received her diploma from the Crown Princess of Thailand! I cannot wait for her to share her story here! Linda is another one of the incredible better world scouts that I met at Omidyar.net (there’s a reason so many of us are still in touch even after it’s closed). She’s a teacher, and a real community champion in so many ways.

– Christina Jordan, who I met nearly 15 years ago now, through the now defunct ThemeStream writing community. I dragged her into Omidyar.net … lol. All the cool kids were there! Christina ran a program called “Life in Africa” when I met her. She was living in Uganda creating business opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs in Uganda, and is an “Ashoka” fellow among other better world pursuits. Christina now lives in Thailand, and is another of those people that has so many adventure stories to share, that it will be really hard to pick!

– My childhood friend, Kathy Glendinning, who is also the Community Den Mom here at the lab. I met Kathy when I was five years old. Our backyards were attached, and so were we, at the hip! While our lives as adults took us in different directions for a long time, we reconnected about a year ago, and I’m so lucky we did! She is one sassy, resilient, compassionate Adventure Diva, and the chick I refer to as my “Trouble Twin” … lol. (Or as she says: the SHE in my nanigans!) She’s one of those buddies I’m sure to be sharing lots of adventures with in person down the road, and I’m really grateful for the way she’s helping me get things off the ground here!

There are so many other women I want to share, and lucky me, I get to do that here at the Adventure Lab, and so do you! It’s one of the biggest motivations I have for creating our digital kitchen tables: to be able to put our elbows on it together, and share our stories, and our ideas, and our resources, and cheer each other on as we create all these epic adventures!

What woman from the past would you most want to meet?

You’ll notice a theme here as I share some of these women. They tend to be fiercely independant explorers, often traveling alone, and often in a man’s world. They were rule-breakers, pioneers, and certainly Adventure Divas!

Isabella Bird (1831-1904) She was an explorer, writer and naturalist who travelled by herself through North America, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Persia, Kurdistan, Turkey, and Morocco.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabella_Bird

Nellie Bly (1864-1922) She was a pioneering journalist who travelled around the world in 72 days, and the first person to do it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_Bly

Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969) She travelled to Tibet while it was closed to foreigners.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandra_David-N%C3%A9el

Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904) She was a Swiss explorer and writer in Algeria, who converted to Islam and traveled freely dressed as a man.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabelle_Eberhardt

Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858) She travelled alone around the world in 1847, and published books of her numerous travels.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ida_Pfeiffer

Kate Rice (1882-1963) She was the first woman prospector in Northern Canada, a writer, and a trapper well known for her dog sled abilities.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Rice

Hester Stanhope (1776-1839) She Conducted the first modern archaeology in the Holy Land; travelled dressed as a man (unveiled).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hester_Stanhope

Annie Edson Taylor (1838-1921) She was the first person to survive a trip over the Niagara Falls in a barrel.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Edson_Taylor

What woman from the present would you most like to see here at our digital kitchen table?

Robyn Davidson, who trekked across the Australian dessert with 3 camels and a dog when she was just 27 years old. She wrote a book called “Tracks” based on that journey, which has since been turned into a movie. My friend, Rick Smolan, told me about her. He was the National Geographic photographer that was dispatched to photograph Robyn’s journey at various intervals, much to her initial display, and has just released a book of his own about it. It’s a huge, gorgeous spread, that is a little like those “living” posters and photos in the Harry Potter books and movies. You hover your smartphone over the pictures in the book, and it recognizes them and takes you to a clip/scene from the movie about that moment or place, or interviews telling you about it. Amazing!

I share Robyn’s name here with a bit of trepidation, and that comes from a deep sense of respect. She is a very private person, who makes it clear that her journey was for no one but herself. She never felt the need to explain her motives. What she went through along the way was an incredible point of transformation. While she is deeply private, she’s also really delightful in interviews. She’s very gracious, and very open for someone who holds their soul so closely.

Robyn was also Salman Rushdie’s partner for some years, and said to be the muse behind his controversial “The Satanic Verses”.

In the short time I’ve known about her, Robyn has become a bit iconic for me when I think of what moved me to start the “Adventures with the Estrogen Army” project in the first place: a need to find yourself on your own terms, take a journey that no one else but you needs to understand, and come to a place of peace with yourself for being brave enough to find your own voice and truth.