Category Archives: Life

Unemployed for Christmas

Its not as if this is really anything new for me.  The nature of my work has made cyclical lay-offs a fact of life and this time of year has often found me between contracts.  This year is harder though since my winter contract got totally cut.  Its not great comfort, but at least I can say that I’m not alone.  If you are one of the thousands of people who has lost your job recently; my heart goes out to you and your families in these difficult circumstances.

In the best of times, this time of year brings with it added pressures and stresses for even the most resourceful and resource rich individuals.  Personal and family commitments can throw us into conflict with those who we would otherwise avoid.  For separated families with children there’s the jockeying for holiday visitation and the competition between parents for scoring “gift points” with their kids.  Will people like my gifts and can I afford the post holiday credit card bills are popular concerns? There is pressure to put on a good show and make the holiday special.  And then there are the prolific ad campaigns by charities begging for toys, food and money to brighten the Christmas of a needy family; no pressure there.

When household income stops flowing in just a bit before Christmas many are likely asking themselves questions like, “How will I make my mortgage payment?”  or “How will I ever find a job in these hard times?” , among many other hard, cold questions that leave the asker with few warm or easy answers.  Add to these all the stresses already mentioned and you may wonder if the words happy and holidays belong on the same page let alone together as a phrase.

So if I’m speaking directly to your situation, I’m not going to hand you all the clever cliches that people handed me over the years when I lost a job (these cliches usually came from people in higher places) I was never sure if these witty little quips were supposed to make you or the speaker feel better.  My favourite to this day is,  “When one door closes another one opens”.  I’ve heard it several times and I can’t help but wonder if these people ever watched the Price is Right, “Tell ’em whats behind door number two Johnny…”

“Well Bob, its a box  of Eskimo Pies and a Yak!” …wah, wah, wah, waaaaaahhh!

The fact is we don’t know what lies ahead.  We don’t always chose which doors open or close…or even if another door will open.  My only advice is to be open and honest with yourself, and your loved ones.  It might be hard for some time so your going to have to build your team and if you’ve been neglecting your team-mates, well now is the time to make amends.  You will need the support of friends and family.  This can be a time of renewed closeness with loved ones, so pay close attention to the people around you and you may be rewarded with riches of other sorts.

If you are like me you will need a creative outlet…I like to blog, write songs and play guitar.  If you are like me you will also need a physical outlet…I like to run and cross country-ski.  If you are like me you will also need to feel that you can share your gifts with other people. Blogging helps me in some way do this but so does volunteering or even helping my wife with things.  Finally, if you are like me, feeling that your skills and character are valued is very important.  I am energetic, creative and passionate and when it seems like no one needs that anymore it is hard. If it is a lengthy period or you don’t find suitalbe work, it can be devastating to your self-worth.  I understand very well that the loss of  my job is not about me personally, but it affects me personally.  My boss didn’t have to say I wasn’t valuable anymore…but someone up the line did…or society did…or I’d still be here.  So don’t agonize about that, the conclusion is the same.

Here is what you can tell yourself:

I am a good person and I will share what good I am with those around me.

I will never give up.  I owe it to my kids, my wife and myself to use this one chance in life that I have to do something with it.

I will nurture myself.  Now is the time to put an old resolution into action…quit smoking, exercise, change your diet, perhaps become a vegetarian.

I will have faith in my tomorrow.  If a door won’t open, You may have to keep knocking or knock on another.  Eventually I may have to cut a hole in the wall and put in my own freekin door! but I will create a future – I will.

I will be patient and I won’t expect miracles, but I won’t expect crap either (so don’t take any!)

I will stand up for myself.  My esteem may be low because I have lost a lot; and it feels like the people around me can’t count on me the way they used to, but I am the same as anyone else, and I am the same person that I used to be even if some days I feel a little less.

I can accept help and ask for it if I need it.  I can graciously accept a gift with a smile and warm handshake.  I don’t have to feel indebted or try to repay it…these things trivialize the sentiment of the gift giver.

Love.  I will love and appreciate the people who I hold dear.  I will let them know it through my words and actions.  They are my greatest resources and whatever else fails I will have loved and been loved.




Filed under Christmas, Life

Food Security and Canadian Schools

I’ve always thought of Canada as a world leader.  Our innovation sets us apart from many other nations, especially when you consider our low population.  Historically, zippers and national health care and in more modern times the Canada Arm on the space shuttle.  In terms of humanitarian effort we do pretty well; our legacy of peacekeeping for instance, and foreign aid to countries in need.  I’m sure we are a leader in education in some respect and in helping to feed a hungry planet; but the challenge that lies ahead for our planet will require us to blend innovation on both of those fronts.  For various reasons (lets not get into all of them here), crops have failed and are failing in many crop growing regions of the world,  a few multinational corporations are producing and controlling larger and larger proportions of the worlds food supply and the human population of the earth is increasing.  If recent food prices and forecasts for astronomical food prices aren’t putting some fear into you then you should give yourself a pinch.  I don’t want to dwell on the images of a future where we have failed to act, my time and yours is better spent on taking action and getting others to take action.  My answer is to grow food. 

Growing food for yourself (and others) reduces some of the demand on the worlds food supply.  Schools can take a lead role in this by reviving a spirit of self sufficiency in their school community and setting up a program to grow food. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just some; enough to “feel” significant for the students. Enough for students to feel like they can make the world a better, healthier place.  Enough to spark students’ imaginations, to plant the seeds of innovation that they, and we, may need to realize a healthy and secure supply of food for our planet’s population.  

Administrators and teachers are always looking for ways to make students recognize the consequences of their actions and to take responsibility for them…well…growing food is a great place to start! I don’t want to sound too much like a teacher, but think of the cross curricular learning potential!  Science…too much to cover here; Social Studies…study a country or culture and try growing a representative food; Art…sketch it, paint it;  Language Arts…journal it, record it, read about it, talk about it!  The possibilities are almost endless.  And then there is the impact of…Growing a living thing.  Just saying it or reading those words carries weight…do it and you are forever changed.  You become nurturer, parent, aware.  Your plant responds to you and the world around you.  You make an investment in, and become connected to life; your labour; your plant, your food. Suddenly you are connected to the plants and foods of the planet.  If you are an educator, then you know I am right about this.  There are published examples of the impact of gardens and plants grown by kids and adults in schools and communities and time after time it brings about poitive change to those people and their communities (Good link here is Evergreen Foundation).

The only question here is “why”.  Why are we not doing something now?  It would have been better to do it 30 years ago, but now is what we’ve got.  And I would suggest that tomorow…no…today, we need to start growing with our children to enculture a future with citizens capable of not just surviving, but thriving.  A future where Canadian innovation in *self sufficiency in food production is a model for the world, and a future where global food shortages is not going to threaten them or their children.


*self sufficiency…just a note:  genuine self sufficiency is a sustainable activity.  If my “self sufficiency” depletes or poisons the earths resources over time then its only a facade.  I could grow enough to feed my village if I intensified my use of pesticises and fertillizers, but now I’m increasingly dependent on other resources not to mention the fact that I’m destroying the system that allows things to live in the first place.  The same holds true for Genetically Altered Crops, except for them we are placing a high wager on the success of a vary narrow gene pool…a pool of one set of genes in fact!  

Below are the titles of some literature that would make excellent reading for those interested in learning more about this topic.  But don’t read them before you start growing…JUST DO IT! I’ll put some links in later so come back!

The Hundred Mile Diet

Monocultures of the Mind

Diet for a New America 

Tragedy of the Commons Garret Hardin (an essay)

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Filed under education, environment, Life, Outdoors

Snowmobile Amnesty

I wonder if snowmobilers would trade in their machines for something better?  Would they line up to trade them in for a recreational replacement that would do much less harm to the earth while also  nourishing their bodies and souls.  The replacement I’m refering to, is of course skiing.  Any kind of skiing.  Cross-country would offer the best body and earth benefits, while alpine skiing or snowboarding might give the thrill seeker a spiritual lift!  Any way you carve it,  anything that could get people off snow machines would be a step toward better health for everyone.  Snowshoes are fine but skis might be the best fit since the joy that comes from controling a board or boards on snow with your own body is a type of natural high that snowmobilers have no doubt missed out on,  otherwsie that is what they would be doing instead of driving their machines blindly around.  While its true that skiing is a skill and is harder to learn than pulling a throttle;   and while its true that for those who need it most, it may be difficult to get off the seat,  the fact remains that part of the joy in skiing comes from improving yourself, from learning and changing your body for the better.  Senses are awakened and the participant is intimately engaged in the fragrances, sounds and sights in their environment.

Would ski resorts and ski manufacturers offer a snowmobile amnesty?  You know, trade equipment,  lift tickets and/or trail passes for each snowmobile that gets turned in?  Imagine what a world it could be if they did… 

Here are some of the benefits: 

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Conserves fuel for more necessary pursuits (reduced demand on resources reduces cost )
  • Improves ground level air quality from reduced *VOC emissions
  • Reduces noise pollution
  • Improved fitness, vitality, mobility
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Feels Good
  • Saves lives
  • Spend time doing something more worthwhile
  • Personal Satisfaction of taking charge of your body and health
  • Personal growth and satisfaction of learning a new skill
  • Feeling that you are improving yourself and the world around you
  • And snowmobilers would save a lot of money that they could use for a lot of other things, even after buying new skis!

O.K.  That’s not likely to happen, not by tomorrow at least but there is something that might help bring on the change…Skiers! If you are a skier, you have power!  As skiers we can extend the olive branch to a snowmobiler and offer to take them skiing…to teach and mentor them.  And its in our best interest to do so since the snowmobile is contributing to the global warming that is melting away our winters!  Start close to home, with family,  neighbours or friends. Be vocal and share this idea and who knows what might happen!  There are other benefits to our communities and tourism initiatives that could be realized if local facilities were developed and networks established.

 *VOC  stands for volatile organic compound.  In terms of snowmobile emissions, VOC’s are the smelly unburnt gas and oil emissions that are spewed from the engines exhaust. It can make you choke and your eyes water (it is also a toxic mix of chemicals that damages living tissues, and contains heavy metals, benzenes and other chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic). 

Here is one of my personal experiences with snowmobile exhaust:  While out for a jog down my gravel road one evening in the early spring of last year, I was passed by a procession of snowmobiles.  Their noxious smoke brought water to my eyes; I could taste it on my tongue and could barely breath.  Needless to say my jog was over.  I walked for several minutes after they passed hoping the air would clear so I could get back to my run. Unfortunately though, on this calm night the smoke hung over the road, trapped between the forest on either side, until I had walked all the way back home (a 10 minute walk from where I stopped running).  When I came into the living room of my home, my wife and kids asked me why I smelled of gasoline. 


Filed under environment, Life, recreation

4 Day Work Week = More SEX !!?

Ever wondered why a “normal”  North American work week is 40 hours over 5 days?  Most likely its a relict from a time gone by and probably serves little purpose anymore.  Today people in some companies work different shifts, other countries have 4 day work weeks and in fact it was a political issue in Quebec in 2003.  Consider not just getting a day of your life back each week but consider the environmental benefits of not having to drive to work that day.  True, some people may just use the day to travel, shop etc., so they wouldn’t be helping reduce greenhouse gas.  I think however, that many people would use that day to spend around home, with family, learning a new skill or taking up a recreational activity. 

Another benefit would be in creating meaningful employment…that is if a four day work week also meant working less hours.  What I mean is that the work week would be 32 hours and not 40.  Therefore, in theory, every four people working a four day week would create a new four day job for someone else.  And to top it off,  the 8 hour reduction in each employees income would be partly made up for by dropping them to a lower tax bracket!

Have some fun and Google “four day work week”!  And tell me what you think!  Better yet, bring up the discussion at work and plant a seed of suggestion that its an idea to get pushing for.  Start a petition, make a bumper sticker…get talking and lets see if it can happen.  A four day work week is both SEXY and sensible.  Ya, I guess there would be more time for that!


Filed under Life, Uncategorized