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”.

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.

B is for Biking

Photograph of bike

New bike!

Until this year I hadn’t rode a bike since I was a teenager.  Even as a kid my bike exposure what some what limited, I grew up on a hilly country road so going for a bike ride wasn’t something we didn’t do on an every day basis. There was one summer where I biked to the next concession every day for a couple of weeks to cat sit.  That was my first experience biking beside a highway and really turned me off biking on unpaved shoulders.  I also biked occasionally in town when visiting my Grandma.

Since our move into town in January Andrew and I have been talking about biking and this Spring I got a bike! The Soo has some surprisingly bike friendly areas – the bike lane on Queen Streets makes a bike ride to my work not so hazardous and the hub trail is a great way to explore the city on a bike friendly path.  As a family we’ve been using our bikes to visit local parks and playgrounds.  It’s been a joy to explore our neighbourhood via bikes and to find new places for us to play as a family.  I’ve also loved looking at the gardens on the numerous side streets we’ve been biking down.

Next week, while Little Miss is staying with her grandparents, I’m hoping to bike to work a few times.  I love the idea of an active commute and seeing the city from a different perspective.

Making A Mess In The Kitchen

Baking deliciousness. Used under CC-0 License

I am a messy cook and an even messier baker.  Regardless of what I’m baking flour and spices seem to end up everywhere.  And I mean everywhere. We’re talking flour all over the counter, floor, human beings in the near vicinity, and occasionally the cat.  Thankfully Andrew has grown accustomed to this and just shakes his head at the disaster I’m creating and hopefully knowing that it will get cleaned up eventually.

Cooking dinner and baking are things I enjoy however I found they had fallen off my plate with my former commute and trying to keep afloat with everything else. Since moving to ‘the new house’ I’ve gotten back into cooking and baking a lot more.  I’ve baked way more in the past month than I have in the previous year.  I’ve made muffins, loaves, cookies and found my way back to gluten free baking.  I’ve also managed to do a lot more cooking of dinner.  Eating tasty food I’ve made always makes me happy and healthy food makes by body feel a heck of a lot better. One of the neat things about this increased kitchen time is that I’ve been able to share my joy of cooking with Little Miss.

In the past month or so she has become the resident lettuce ripper for salads, the designated stirrer of all the things, and the one who dumps ingredients into bowls for me.  I love the idea of bonding over cooking and reinforcing the idea of healthy eating and where food comes from by spending time in the kitchen together.  She asks a ton of questions and I often find myself explaining how a recipe works or what a new ingredient is.  I could blame the kitchen mess on her but more often than not it is still me that’s causing flour to go everywhere or spilling things. Messes are part of life, and are definitely part of my cooking, and I think the mess is truly worth all the associated cleanup.

The Bushplane Revisited: A Parent’s Perspective

One of the plane's Little Miss loved climbing in and out of.

One of the plane’s Little Miss loved climbing in and out of.

Cross-posted from Krista’s public history blog.

I’ve written a few times in the past about visiting the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre (locally known as the Bushplane Museum) for non-heritage events, namely for musical performances and a community craft show.  In both cases the admission to the Bushplane was either free or the proceeds when to the performing artist.  Those events were an example of a heritage space renting out their space to generate revenue.

A couple of weekends ago my family and I visited the Bushplane Museum during their regular operating hours as part of their “Family Fun Day.”  In addition to their regular attractions the day included half price admission and a range of additional activities such as a magic show, crafts, community tables, and special guests from the popular kids show Paw Patrol.  Basically it was a day designed to bring more people through the door.  Given the fact that at numerous points throughout the day there was lineup to get in, I think they were definitely successful in that regard.

This visit also marked the first time I visited the Bushplane with a child. My daughter wasn’t terribly interested in all the extra things that were going on as part of the day, but she loved the planes and some of the interactive exhibit pieces in the museum.  The Bushplane has a number of planes that are accessible to visitors and my daughter loved climbing in and out of them, sitting in them, and asking lots of questions about how things worked.  One of the nice things about her enthusiasm around the planes was that it meant it gave me some time to read description labels, check out some of the digital interpretation, and generally just take in the museum.

I’m still adjusting to how your experiences at museum and heritage site visits change when you’re accompanied by a child.  I am also becoming increasing appreciative of museums that do a good job of integrating child appropriate exhibits or special child focused programming into their services.  Having dedicated space for children or children friendly interpretation can be a huge selling point when families are deciding where to visit.  Sometimes this can be hugely elaborate programming but other times simply having colouring station or a touch/feel artifact section can go a long way.

What are some of your favourite examples of family friendly museum programming?

And Then There Were Chickens

Chickens!

Chickens!

One of the unexpected parts of our move from Oslicken Acres into the Soo was the acquisition of a small group of chickens.  The family we bought the house from had a small group of chickens they were keeping in their backyard.  Rather than moving the chickens in the middle of winter they asked us if we would be interested in having them.

When Andrew presented me with the idea of having chickens I was not all that enthusiastic.  I was thinking of all of the stress associated with moving and having one more thing to look after during the move. I’m also the kind of person who wants to learn a lot about an animal before getting one and I knew virtually nothing about chickens.  Enter Google and book purchases to help us up our chicken game.

The only black chicken among the seven might be my favourite...don't tell the other chickens.

The only black chicken among the seven might be my favourite…don’t tell the other chickens.

Despite my initial reluctance I’m really enjoying having our small group of seven chickens.  They are surprisingly friendly – though I am the one that feeds them so that

might be part of their friendliness.  And yes there is a little bit of extra work associated with keeping but hem I’m getting a whole lot of joy out of visiting them every morning and evening.  Plus they make tasty eggs!

I do realize that given the cost of their feed, bedding, and the time required to take care of them we aren’t really saving money on eggs.  But I think the enjoyment factor is

a pretty key reason to keep them.  It’s also teaching Little Miss about caring for animals and where her food comes from which I think is a really important life lesson.  We moved from the country to the city and became chicken owners in the process – a little backwards but definitely fun.

Getting Back Onto the Yoga Mat

YogaBIn November during our trip south for a destination wedding a reconnected with my love for yoga by joining in some morning classes on the beach.  These were fairly laid back classes geared to all fitness levels but they reminded me of how much I use to enjoy doing yoga.

In January I participated in #yogarevolution a free 31-day program created by Yoga With Adriene.  Essentially it was 31 days of yoga videos on YouTube that I could do at home whenever it fit into my schedule.  I doubled up on the practice occasionally to make up for the odd missed day but I really enjoyed spending some time on the mat on a regular basis.  I liked the videos because they were a good mix of physical intensity, mindfulness, and occasionally had bits of quirky humor.  I’ve added them into the mix in addition to my gym schedule and they have been a great way to relax in the evening.

To keep up with the positive practice fostered in January I’ve started another yoga calendar that includes suggested videos for every day in February.  So far so good.  One of the fun bonuses of engaging in this practice at home has been experiencing yoga with a two year old. Little Miss loves the idea of pulling out ‘Mommy’s Mat’, doing stretches, and just being silly during yoga.  Her flexibility puts the flexibility of an adult to shame and it’s ton of fun to see her experimenting with yoga poses.

Packing Up and Headed Out

Overstuffed-LuggageRemember back in August when I wrote about my commute, community, and making connections? As might have been evident by that post Andrew and I had been talking for awhile about what possibilities might work best for our family.  After a lot of discussion (and more than one pro/con list) we decided to start looking at houses in the Soo…initially just to see what was out there.  In mid-October we put an offer in on a house and after what seemed like an eternity we found out in late November that it had been accepted and that the owners had removed their conditions on the offer.  We’re moving at the end of this month.

This has meant a few things – lots of packing has been going on in our current house, we’ve been looking at daycare options for Little Miss, and thinking about how our schedules will change with the move.  It’s definitely going to take some getting used to but I am relishing in the idea that I’m going to have two additional hours a day that were previously spent in a car.  I’m hoping this means we get to spend more time together as a family, that I won’t be as exhausted after the work/drive, and that we can explore new routines.  I’m also excited about exploring a new public library, finding new trails to hike and bike in the summer, and new places to walk.  I’m also hoping to cook more (I think Andrew is hoping for that one as well).

This was the first time I’d actually looked at houses – despite being over 30 I’d never bought a house on my own or looked for one.  It was an interesting experience.  We looked at around ten houses and that experience helped clarify for us our priorities and must haves.  The house we ended up picking still has a bit of a rural feel to it despite being within city limits, it has a decent sized lot with outdoor space, and is going to give us a bit more breathing room inside the house.  Adventures and new challenges are coming and even though the actual moving part is still a bit daunting I’m looking forward to starting something new.

On the Road Again

Part of my daily work routine includes spending two hours in a car.  I am a commuter and I drive one hour each direction as part of my work day.  I commute from rural to urban and public transit isn’t an option.  I have carpooled in the past but I’m currently driving solo.  The drive is in Northern Ontario so I actually cover about 100 km of road in an hour, it’s mostly highway and other than the occasional snow storm it is generally an easy drive.  I sit on cruise control and listen to a lot of podcasts, books, and CBC.

Office Space Commute.  Not an accurate representation of my commute which has no traffic.

Office Space Commute. Not an accurate representation of my commute which has no traffic.

I know that many people commute, sometimes for their entire working career.  It’s fairly common in urban settings that commuting is an accepted part of life. That’s a less common mentality in Northern Ontario and I occasionally strange looks when people find out where I live.  And I do love where I live – it’s rural, we have a huge amount of space for gardens, forested trails, and I like the laid back pace of the small community we live in.  It’s 15 minutes to the cottage and family is a short drive away.  In some ways I can’t imagine living anywhere else – we got married in a field at our house and there already so many memories attached to this space.

In November I will have been doing this drive for six years.  On the conservative side this means I’ve spent over 2,600 hours in my car, driving on the same chunk of the trans-Canada highway. I struggle with the cost, the time, the environmental impact and whole range of other factors associated with the drive (animal run-ins included).  On the other hand, I do like the decompression and listening time I get in the car. But I’ve been struggling a lot recently with a sense of disconnection from community that seems to be aggravated by commuting.

At times I feel like I don’t spend leisure time in the city where I work and I also don’t spend quality time in the rural community/small town near where I live. It’s a bit like living in between spaces, being part of both but while simultaneously feeling like you’re on the outside of both communities. Partially it has to do with exhaustion and there only being so much time in the day.  I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling this more so since Little Miss was born. I want to spend time with her and she currently goes to bed crazy early, if I come straight home from work I get about 1.5 hours a day with her — which is a drop in the hat on the grand scale of things, but is better than nothing.  If I do errands after work, have coffee with friends in the evening, or anything else in the city there’s a good chance I don’t see her at all that day.  I know this will change as she gets older but I imagine things also have the potential to be complicated in terms of juggling my commute, after-school care, and her extra-curricular activities (especially if those activities take her into the very city I’m commuting from).

I also struggle with participating in evening activities in the small town, mostly because of the burned out feeling that comes with the drive. There’s a much more limited selection of activities in that small town, so staying in the city is the only option is you want to do something like catch a movie or eat takeout pizza (yes, really – the nearest pizza place is an hour away from my home).  A similar thing often happens on weekends – there may be an interesting culture based activity on the city, but by that point in the week I have zero desire to get back into the car and drag the whole family on a drive that feels all too familiar.

I’m genuinely curious about how other commuters bridge that connection gap and how they find balance in their driving/work/leisure/family lives.  Perhaps I’m simply not doing a good job of seeking out meaningful connections in those two different communities (or picking one to focus on) and using exhaustion is an excuse – I don’t know.  And I’m not sure what the right answer is to finding balance and I’m sure it’s different for everyone and might change depending on life circumstance.  Back in the car I go.

Love Is Love

loveMany of us have become desensitized to the mass shootings in North America.  They keep happening.  But they are at the edge of our awareness – we hear about them, think they are horrible, and move on with our lives.  We might change our facebook profile picture or avatar but we don’t really engage with the issues behind the shootings.

The Orlando shooting broke my heart.  I couldn’t hold in the tears and had to disengage from social media as an act of self-care.  Every tweet I read about the shooting, about LGBTQ people feeling unsafe, and about living with fear just pricked away at my insides. All I could think about was the hate that causes this type of action and the wish that we lived in a world that was more open, more accepting, and just a nicer place. We all deserve better and need to treat each other with respect. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and grief of those directly impacted by the shooting.

I also thought a lot about my privilege and the need to speak up. I’m queer. But at first glance I pass – my partner is male, we have a daughter together and to most outsiders we probably look like we are both hetero. I’m not.  But it’s often easier to just let people think I am.

I’ve felt unsafe speaking my truth, I’ve felt afraid to be who I am, and I often don’t talk about that part of my life.  I’ve had my identity denied, my choices questioned, and been told it’s just a phase.  It’s not. It’s who I am. I’m a private person to begin with but often part of my reluctance to share has to do with fear. But I’m stable in my life and need to speak up more.

We still desperately need safe spaces. I worry about LGBTQ youth who don’t have support networks, who need a community to belong to, and who hear whispered words of hate. We still need Pride.  We still need advocacy. Coming out is still a challenge…and you rarely do it just once, it happens over and over again when you meet new people and are in new situations.  We need to love our queer children and teach our straight children to be allies. We need to talk about all types of relationships, gender identities, and sexuality.

Love is love.

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