What Do You Do?

When we meet someone new this is often the first question that is exchanged – “What Do You Do?”.  In many ways it helps to form an understanding about the person we’re talking to.  I’ve always felt a bit awkward answering this question – I don’t really feel like my occupation defines me very well.  Maybe you feel this way too?  I’m also not really one to talk a lot about my interests and the things that are most important to me, so I thought maybe I’d make a list. Perhaps I should make up a business card that has a link to this post 🙂

The Stuff About Me List (in no particular order)

  • handyman – When I met my spouse she kept being told that “I’m a handy guy to have around”.  I think that’s true – I like building and fixing things – I’ve built more decks in my lifetime than I can remember at this point, as well as renovating houses, tinkering with electronics, fixing and building all sorts of contraptions.
  • creative person – I get inspiration for new ideas fairly regularly and keep a notebook of things that I think are interesting.  Some of them turn into actual things – many are ideas that may have a future sometime, or that someone else has also come up with and put into action.  For the record, somewhere in my notes is something that looks kinda similar to what we now know as social media – just saying 😉
  • reiki energy healer – This is a fairly recent addition but one that I’m feeling more and more is an important part of my life.  I first experienced reiki over 10 years ago and now, after taking the first 2 levels of reiki training, I’m able to channel the energy myself and learning a lot as I go.  I plan to complete the master course next year.
  • artist – I am a continual student of the arts.  I have done acrylic painting for a number of years now (mostly abstract) and I read and study a fair bit about art/colour/composition etc.
  • scotch – I’m a bit of a beginner scotch enthusiast. Not that I just started enjoying scotch, it’s just that I don’t consider myself much of an expert on it.  I just enjoy it and like exploring the different types and tastes.  I follow this blog written by someone who knows a ton more about scotch than me.
  • beer – Same goes for beer.  I have an app I use to keep track of beers I’ve tried and that number has gotten up pretty high over the couple of years since starting to log it.
  • musician – I love music and enjoy playing music.  I play at the guitar, hack away at the piano/keyboard and enjoy music composition.  I haven’t done as much with music as I’d like – I think there will be more to come – someday.
  • father/husband – I am both and I think I do a pretty good job at it. My family is very important to me and we often do many of the other things I’ve listed here together.
  • cars – I’ve always been interested in cars and know a fair bit about different makes/models.  I can often barely remember the names of people I’ve met but I could tell you the make and model of many vehicles just by looking at the tail lights.  This year I finally got to drive a Lamborghini – which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.  I’ve also been fascinated with the idea of autonomous vehicles since I first heard about the concept, probably 20 years ago now.
  • outdoors – I love nature and the outdoors.  This includes hiking, camping, kayaking, boating, atving, gardening etc.  Exploring different parks/forests/trails/waterfalls/lakes around Ontario is lots of fun.  My favourite place in the world is still our family cottage on Basswood Lake.
  • photography – I have a lot to learn when it comes to photography but it’s something I dabble in and enjoy.  I take a lot of photos (and video) – with my Canon Digital SLR, GoPro Hero5 and the plain old smart phone.  The GoPro is a fairly recent addition and I’ve experimented a bit with underwater and body/bike mounted action video.
  • dj – This one has lain dormant for many years now, but back in the day I used to dj a bit – some dances, a couple weddings, house parties etc.  I’m afraid (or thankful?) that my taste in music and collection hasn’t much kept up with the times.  In many ways I never really moved past the 90s grunge era 🙂  Oh, and my favourite musician of all time is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
  • softball – For the last 2 summers I’ve been playing in a small softball league here in the Soo.  I hadn’t played in years before that and it’s been nice to get back into it, get some fresh air and meet some nice people.

So there you go, a bit more comprehensive understanding than what you might get from my intro as “web programmer at the Canadian Wildlife Federation”.

Medicine, Energy and More

It’s been a challenging week in some ways.  I find myself more and more concerned about the welfare of others these days, and there are lots of people in the world who need our concern.  On a personal level I have had the following information come to me this week: an old family friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has opted for medically assisted death to take place later this afternoon, a good friend from school has a partner who has been fighting cancer for many years now and is still going through debilitating bouts of chemo and it’s extremely hard on everyone in their family, and one of the children (well adult aged child) of a former school classmate who I didn’t know too well was hit by a car and is in extreme medical distress.

Each of these don’t really affect my day to day life in a tangible way – these people all live far from me and I don’t see them often or in some cases ever, and yet they do affect me.  Part of the explanation for that connection these days is the gifts I’ve been given through the courses I’ve been taking in Reiki energy healing with Anne-Marie here in the Soo.  If you aren’t familiar with Reiki and what it involves there’s a good description here, on the website of another participant in the Level 1 course I took last year.  This month I completed the Level 2 course and one of the main aspects learned is the use of distance healing.  This means that the Reiki practitioner can connect energetically with a person at any distance and channel healing energy to them.  I have really enjoyed this method, even more so than the in-person “laying on of hands” process learned in the first course.  So this week I have been having healing sessions with the three people I mentioned above (and others), and it’s provided lots of insight and learning.  The nature of Reiki is such that a session provides healing for both the person receiving the energy as well as the person channeling it, so it helps me along with those I connect with.  Additionally it’s been wonderful to feel that I might actually be able to help people who need it and enjoy that sense of purpose that goes along with it.

Just another piece of my journey through life.  Enjoy your journey wherever it takes you.

So Many Distractions

I’m writing too many serious posts these days, but I won’t apologize for it. Not yet. There seem to be a lot of serious things to discuss.

This one tackles something that bothers me on many levels.  It’s the looming disaster known as Global Warming/Climate Change.  Maybe you think “looming disaster” is too strong a statement – but thousands of scientists worldwide are backing it up.

Despite this knowledge, as a society we’re doing very little to improve the situation.  Human nature tends to veer our attention to shorter term pleasures over long term (boring things) such as saving for our own future or saving the planet for for the future persistence of humanity.

Take for example professional sports.  So much time, energy and money goes into the numerous sports leagues around the world.  Not there’s anything wrong with that – they provide joy to millions of fans.  But it seems we should each be putting just as much time/energy/money into whatever is needed to ensure the planet can support life ongoing.  Without that, our favourite hockey teams won’t mean much – in fact they won’t exist at all – and niether will their fans – all of us.

That’s just one example.  To the list we could add the movie industry, travel industry, personal care, even our pets!  We spend billions and billions on these things – and they all have one thing in common.  If the earth can no longer support life they will all be gone.  All of them.

When I hear people say that “we can’t afford a carbon tax” I really can’t believe it.  People, your money will be no good to you in a world with no people.  Sure we could forget about making any changes to our economy – maintain status quo and maintain our current standard of living – for now.  But eventually it will all be gone.  Or we could make the difficult changes now that could lead to sustainable life on our planet.

Right now it’s like we’re all patients who have been given a short time to live unless we make drastic changes to our lifestyle.  But we’re living it up – ignoring doctors orders.  Maybe it’s time we thought about our futures instead?

Vegas Experiences

We recently spent a few days in Vegas.  Krista was attending a conference for public historians and I went along to see what this Vegas place is all about.  I didn’t do a whole lot of gambling but there are plenty of other things to do around this city.  I spent some time touring the strip and most of the hotels/resorts that can be found along the way. One day walked all the way up Las Vegas Blvd through some rather rundown areas, which of course included numerous garish and cheesy wedding chapels, as well as the pawn shop made famous by the tv show “Pawn Stars” (it was crazy busy in there), all the way up to Freemont Street.  That’s the pedestrian zone with the zip line that runs directly above the street.  There are all sorts of interesting and bizarre people and things to see there and along the way.

Before heading down to Nevada I did a bit of searching online to see what kinds of things I might want to do while there.  My search unearthed all sorts of possibilities but the one that caught my eye immediately was the chance to drive a Lamborghini on a race track.  I’ve always dreamed of driving one and here was a chance to get in one and really see what it can do!  So I signed up at Exotics Racing and on April 17, 2018 I finally got to drive a Lamborghini.  It was a Gallardo – the smallest of the 3 current production models – but still plenty of power for this sports car newbie.  The only other thing close I’ve driven before this was a 1980’s Porsche 911 – under the watchful eye of it’s owner.

The experience at Exotics Racing is very professional.  After checking in the first step is attending their classroom training session where they go over the basics of driving a high performance vehicle as well as what you can expect for the rest of the experience.  Next is a couple test laps driven by a staff member in a Porche SUV.  They take it easy on the first lap explaining where to aim/look around each corner, when to brake etc.  On the 2nd lap he really opened it up and, given that it’s an SUV with a higher center of gravity, you really feel the g-force around the corners and the somewhat disconcerting seeming potential for roll-over.  But they are professional drivers and know the limits of these vehicles and like to push those limits within the range that is safe.

After that’s completed the “main event” comes.  Each person is taken for their drive with an instructor “co-pilot” who provides verbal instructions for when to brake, shift gears (all cars are paddle-shifted – no manual transmissions) and where to look etc.  It can take a while to wait your turn with the size of the groups so they encourage everyone to look around and get into any of the cars you want until they’re ready for you to hit the track.  I was surprised at the open access to all the cars – it was really cool being able to hop in and out of so many supercars. Here’s a few video clips I took with my GoPro wandering around and getting in and out of some of these very expensive vehicles.

The other cool thing they do is record the entire experience on the track for you and put together this neat video (below).  There is an additional charge for the priviledge of having the video to keep of course, but it’s a very well done presentation and in my case I know it’s something I will watch over and over again.  Near the beginning you’ll see another car enter the track before I go – that is a professional driver taking someone for a ride in their Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat edition (over 700hp).  He gets the back end drifting around all the corners.  Near the end of the video my instructor makes a crack about me being a pretty good driver “for a Canadian”.  Bit of an inside joke since before hand he told me he was born in Red Deer Alberta 🙂  Apparently the Gallardo is one of the more difficult cars to handle as well – the brakes are very sensitive especially.  All things considered I think I did pretty well, and managed to pass the more powerful Huracan to boot.

This experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  There are lots of other “extreme” experiences available in Vegas – shooting off many types of guns is one of them, and I heard that you can even drive a tank over a car at one place!  But driving a Lamborghini was the experience of a lifetime I was looking for and I’m so glad I did it.

The Brier is On

Yup, we’re talking curling here.  The Brier is the men’s Canadian championship in curling and we’re right in the middle of it right now.  Until I moved to Northern Ontario less than a decade ago I had no interest in the sport.  Looking for something to do in the winter months in Thessalon I joined a curling team and quickly discovered the charm of this very Canadian of pastimes. Now during the winter you can find me watching curling on tv, playing in the weekly men’s league in Thessalon, and joining in bonspiels (curling tournaments) whenever possible.

It wasn’t until I had played that I started taking an interest in watching the “pros” on tv.  Getting out on the ice yourself you discover just how long that sheet of ice is and how difficult it is to make the shots that those more experienced make look easy.  I’m also not really a “sports guy” – I don’t really watch any other sports much on tv.  But curling is a bit different.  The majority of the “pros” in Canada have other jobs – curling isn’t a career like NHL hockey player or golfer.  There is money in it, but not enough to sustain the average person’s lifestyle.  This makes it more “real” to me and is part of what makes it so easy to support.

Playing curling is different than other sports too.  It is a sport of graciousness and sportsmanship taken to a higher level.  Games always start with a handshake and “good curling” with the opposing team members.  If the game is nearing the end and it is unlikely that one team could catch up then they shake hands and concede the game – before the technical end of the game.  Now if I happen to catch a hockey game it seems ridiculous watching the underdog continue to try to score when they’re down 5 goals and there’s 2 minutes left in the game.  Imagine if they just shook hands and conceded the game!  That is class.  And at the end of the curling match it is tradition to sit down with your opponents, enjoy a beverage and spend some time together.  From what I hear this happens even at the top levels of curling competition. The community aspect of the sport is as much a part of the game as what happens on the ice.

The other great thing about curling is that people of all ages can enjoy playing the game.  Delivering of rocks can now be done using a “stick” so that the player doesn’t have to get down in the hack, avoiding all that bending and getting back up off the ice. In our club we have people in their late eighties still getting out and playing each week.

Curling is a community activity that provides all sorts of benefits to the members of that community.  I’m glad I discovered this, even if it came a bit later in life!

Diseased

I don’t know about you but right now I’m feeling underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. It’s not really a good feeling. There are so many things to think about – to be worried about – in our world today. And there don’t seem to be a lot of answers or solutions. I work in an organization focused on wildlife preservation and the outdoors and we do lots of great work. At the same time I wonder (doubt?) if it’s enough. Things are changing at a rapid rate and we are still doing destructive things to our environment – our world and even beyond. To be honest it’s way too much for me to think about most of the time and I’m one of the ones who often buries my head in the sand and just tries to forget about it all. That adds to my feeling of uneasiness though and there’s the guilt that comes along with it.

But there are so many things to try to tackle and ignoring the issues is so much easier. There’s mental health/addictions, political termoil, nuclear threat, hunger/poverty, technology and its part in the destruction of real social networks, economic uncertainty, lack of connection to nature, food security/mass farming, water shortages, drug resistant disease, increased weather related disasters and more.

Art by Susie Campbell

Recently our city of Sault Ste. Marie was featured in a W5 documentary about the opiod crisis which has grasped many cities around the country. So many people are dealing with addiction issues and the availability of these extremely potent, often fatal, drugs are putting a massive strain on addicts, their families and the underfunded system that is supposed to try to protect people from themselves. The statistics are staggering and the stories about people who live right here in our city, who are dealing with this on a daily basis, made it real for many in our community who didn’t know, or didn’t want to believe that there’s a problem. I think many people’s eyes have been opened. Unfortunately it will likely be just another issue to turn a blind eye to after the initial shock wears off. Even worse, there are many around who think that it’s the addict’s fault – that they don’t change their ways because they don’t want to. Or that addiction isn’t a “disease” because the person made a choice to start doing drugs. This black and white way of looking at things isn’t the addict’s reality though. There are many issues including poverty, mental health issues, social issues etc. that feed into it. Sure it may have been a bad decision to start doing drugs but that doesn’t mean that addiction isn’t a true disease, any more than cancer, diabetes or schizophrenia are real diseases. And there’s still this perception that if it’s “in your head” it’s not a disease. I know first hand that people experiencing any sort of mental health issue can have very real symptoms that are just as debilitating as diabetes, a broken leg or even the flu. The reality is that all pain is “in your head” since without the brain you wouldn’t feel pain – whether that pain is being triggered by you leg, your lungs or your mind. It is an extreme over-simplification to only attribute illness to some organs and not others.

We all have stories of people who are close to us dealing with difficult things in their lives. Just this week a family member was suicidal and in need of police and medical intervention. Another friend is having to go through yet another round of chemotherapy to try to keep the cancer that is spreading through her body at bay. All difficult and overwhelming situations.

But I guess in a few days I might have buried my head in the sand and things may look rosy again.

This Parenting Thing

Being a parent is hard – any parent will tell you this, and it is true some of the time of course.  Most people know that being a parent will be difficult before they become one, I was no exception.  But for me the parts that are hardest aren’t what I expected them to be.  Sure, there are the sleep deprived nights, the endless diaper changes and sometimes crying that goes on longer than you think you can bear.  But there are other aspects of having a little one around that affect a person – maybe on a deeper level – that I for one hadn’t really taken much time to consider and caught me off guard a bit.  Having a child will likely change your perspective on a lot of things.

You will want to spend time doing things that you didn’t like doing before, just because you will enjoy those things with your child and see the excitement in their little face. The time that we spend together playing with playdough, colouring, stacking blocks is a lot of fun.

You also might find that you approach the world differently in general.  I’ve realized that overall my approach to life has been to try to convince myself that I don’t really care about results – and if successful in that approach then I really have nothing to lose – within reason of course.  In the end it meant that I didn’t have to worry as much about the potential results of what I did or my actions, allowing me to focus on experiencing life and less worrying about potential failures.  For someone like me, who is generally fairly motivated to take action and complete things I set out to do, this works.   In many ways it’s an easier and calmer way to live for me, and it turns out, much more difficult to live by when you have someone who looks up to you, relies on you for everything.  Taking a risk becomes more difficult with the knowledge that another life is completely reliant on you.  It was an eye opening experience to discover some of these things that were going on in my head that I didn’t even really realize were there at the time.

Now I will try to take the important parts – the parts that allow a calmer way of living – and integrate them into the greater reality of parenting and life in this day and age.   Perhaps the need for peace and the need for security can co-exist in a more natural way.  And of course I’ll continue to enjoy playing with toys and an energetic and imaginative toddler.

The Critters

Around our home we have a couple of pets who keep us entertained and sometimes keep our feet warm on a cold night. As they are cats they also help keep our previously mouse infested home somewhat less covered in mouse dirt.  The first cat we got was found through an ad on Kijiji.  The owners were moving to a new home that wouldn’t accommodate their 3 cats so they were giving them away.  The other two had already found their new homes when we went to meet “Kaley”.  While there we happened to notice a sign on a door in their home.  “Please keep bathroom door closed or cat will poop in shower”.  Hmm this could be interesting we thought.  After we brought the cat home we didn’t really feel the name Kaley suited her.  Krista and I couldn’t help but notice the cat’s well fed girth so she ended up with the nickname Chub Chub.  Eventually that was shortened to CC and that’s been her name ever since.  Oh, and yes, she is the cat that poops in the shower… once in a while when she feels the need to let us know she isn’t pleased.

A few years later we were visiting Krista’s parent’s farm where they have a continuous stream of new barn cats being born at any given time.  This particular visit there was a litter that included a little gray runt with a funny high pitched meow.  The barn cats are often given table scraps to eat and one day while we were there a plate covered in bacon grease was left out for the cats.  The little gray one decided that a good roll on the plate was what she needed and for weeks following she smelled like bacon.  On our next trip down to visit we decided to take that little cat home and she’s been known as Bacon ever since.

So there you have it, the story of CC and Bacon, the cats of Oslicken Acres.

A New Painting

For a number of years now I have dabbled in abstract painting. For the last year or more I haven’t spent much time exploring that avenue, but recently I finished another painting and I’m hoping to do more on a regular basis. I’m fairly pleased with the result I achieved on this painting.  I  have other paintings I’ve done as well as some that Krista and I painted together on my website.  I would also like to further explore the methods used by another painter I am a fan of – Gerhard Richter.  Krista got me a DVD which shows Gerhard painting and it’s fascinating to watch!

Camping: A Weekend of Firsts

This coming weekend we have booked a campsite at Pancake Bay Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Superior. This will be our daughter’s first camping trip and that makes it an extra special outing for us!  It’s also our first visit to Pancake Bay. We’ve heard good things about it and are looking forward to checking it out for ourselves. Additionally it will be the first time we take our little camper trailer out since we purchased and refurbished it.  I bought it a couple of years ago and have been slowly working away at getting it roadworthy and ready for camping again. It’s been a lot of work and there is still more to go but it’s been an enjoyable and rewarding process.

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Our refurbished camper

Upgrades to the trailer have included: new axle/rims/tires, exterior LED running/tail lights, battery, solar panel, power inverter, leveling jacks, sofabed cushions, curtains, window screens, roof vent, front window covers, exterior storage hatch latch and door step. I also removed a storage closet to make the interior space more roomy and replaced rotted wood where there had been leaks in the past (oh and fixed leaks!).

Still to come is interior and exterior painting, new flooring and whatever other new projects I come up with! In the mean time we will be enjoying our first trip in our little camper that is uniquely ours.

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