My father-in-law was a travel agent for many years and had traveled around the world. He had developed an affinity for Persian rugs, and owned a couple in his home. When Expedia got popular, along with other book-it-yourself sites on the internet, he got out of the travel-agent business and retired. However, he felt like he was a little too young for full retirement, so he got a job at Home Depot. What department did they put him in? Flooring.
Sheesh, he knew rugs — fancy Persian rugs. He didn’t have any interest in laminate or hardwood, but that’s where he worked.
Work is something that a lot of people agonize over. They want/need to make enough money (however they define enough), but are also concerned with their appearance — how will they feel telling others where they work? What will their status in society be? If we never talked about where we work, it would take the pressure off in many ways, but that’s not how our society works. Sometimes, we want to work in our field or “in our passion” so much, that it blinds us to opportunities right in front of us.
I have worked all over the place. I had a very hard time getting my first job. It was July 1992 and I had just moved away from home. I wanted to live in Edmonton for a couple of months before University started, to get my feet under me. But the summer jobs were all taken already, especially those that a high school student might get. I had minimal work experience except for what I did for my dad at the farm, and that doesn’t go very far in the city! I looked all over, and when I asked at a gas station, they referred me to “Gordon, across the street,” who had mentioned he needed some help. Gordon ran a hobby supply business on the side, and he had been so busy with orders, he was falling behind. I think he hired me because I was a farm girl, and I was less likely to be grossed out by all the mouse poop in his storage room! So, I spent the summer, and off-and-on for a couple more years, unpacking and organizing parts that came in, and filling orders to be shipped. Not very glamourous!
I wonder if that early experience shaped the way I think about work. I have never been overly concerned with the “status” associated with a job, although I’ve had some pretty good ones! I worked at the Edmonton Space and Science Centre (before they changed their name 3 times!). I was Staff Scientist at Science North, where I had plenty of opportunities to travel, including watching the space shuttle launch from as close as they’ll let you! That was pretty cool. I met almost all of Canada’s astronauts throughout my seven years working there. Then I went on to Nav Canada. I had always wondered if I had the aptitude to do air traffic services, and it turns out I do! I got very high scores by aptitude, but I still had to work my butt off and complete the course, get certified, and thrive as a Flight Service Specialist. Again, not anywhere as glamourous as an Air Traffic Controller, but very good work, which I loved and was good at.
Isn’t that all we want in a job? To do something we enjoy and are good at? With just enough variety or challenge to keep us interested? Ah, I guess not. Some are bent on impressing their friends, or earning the respect of their folks or in-laws. Or following their dream! It’s ironic that I’ve never been ambitious, yet I’ve done well! Having the love of my family helps; there is no need to impress and no fear of letting them down. They just love me! I’m so lucky.
After coming back from Fort Simpson and Wrigley, I worked for a summer at Ferguson’s Market, owned by good friends. I worked ridiculous hours and really wore myself down, to the point where my own health suffered and I think I aged 2 years that summer. Sometimes I wonder why I did that. Do I have an unhealthy attitude of dedication to work? Or do I tend toward denying my own needs to the extreme? I’m not sure. After we moved back to the farm, I had a chance to catch up on my sleep and “be unemployed” for a little while — something I have NEVER been in my whole life. I was still getting paid overtime from Ferguson’s, so I wasn’t actually unemployed, but my life felt like it. It was fun! So, I’m probably not a work-a-holic.
When I went back to work, it was for my mom’s friend Alice, and again, it was not glamourous. I worked at an auto glass shop, Crackmasters. Yes, I answered the phone that way every day without laughing! At least, not out loud! My main job was detailing vehicles, which was such hard work, my back, arms and hands ached every night. We also did U-Haul rentals and sold adult tricycles — three-wheeled recumbent bikes, I don’t know what YOU were thinking! The word “adult” just makes everything dirty, eh? 🙂 It WAS dirty in the shop but at least there was no mouse poop! I worked hard, and helped Alice with anything she needed. It was uncanny that after she hired me to do detailing, she found out she had breast cancer. So, she taught me how to do everything else and I covered for her while she recovered from surgery. I felt good knowing I was needed — I think that’s another part of my personality that factors into my relationship with work.
Then I saw the job posted at Signature Flight Support. I’m pretty sure when they checked my references, Alice told them that I always tried to be as helpful and friendly as possible to every customer. So I got the job! It was a big jump up, and I got to work at the airport (which I love). I had to learn how their systems worked, and how to deal with the VIPs that fly in and out of our facility. That was new — I had never dealt with the upper crust of society before. When I was new, I decided my main strategy would be to treat everyone as though they were very important, and it is a good one! You never know who you are talking to — could be the owner of the company you work for! (When you’re new, you don’t know who everyone is!) Now, I do it everywhere, and I like it. I respect people more, as well as just being polite or friendly.
Every job is an opportunity to learn something. It’s not about the money for me. In fact, in my last few jobs I’ve developed the attitude that I get to go help someone out, and then they pay me — how cool is that?!? I think most people think about trading your skills or your time for money, or a combination of both. If I don’t think about the money, and almost pretend I’m volunteering, just to help out and because I said I’d be there, and I do my job to the absolute best of my ability, then the pay cheque at the end of the month is a huge bonus! “Wow, they paid me to do what I would have done anyway!”
I don’t want to make it sound like I always love going to work. Sometimes, I wish I could stay home like anyone else! When I have been working 6-7 days/week, I pine for days at home! But, I go because I agreed to go or because they need me, not because I have to, or because I feel stuck. I know it’s a subtle difference, but it matters. I value reliability, so I am reliable. Working is best when one’s job is in line with one’s values. A vegan should not work as a chef at a steak house, for example. But sometimes, having really high standards for a job can only hold you back; often, taking a good job ahead of you leads to the exact job you’d like in the future. For example, I worked part-time at the Edm Space and Science Centre which led to the full-time job at Science North — an excellent job! — and being friendly with people at Crackmasters led to giving first-rate customer service at Signature.
So, while happily dividing my time between Signature and the Centre for Spiritual Living (doing special projects), quite out of the blue, I got a job offer to go back to Nav Canada. They are short-staffed, and you know I can’t turn down someone who needs me! And where I know I’ll enjoy the work and have the perfect balance of challenge and variety, and make good money! I feel so blessed! I am the blessed and the blesser. I’ll be working in the Flight Information Centre, doing weather briefings (pilots call for weather before flying if the weather is icky), handling flight plans and a variety of other aviation stuff. I’m excited! I get to work in Edmonton, close to home. It’s so great!
I wonder what I’ll learn at this job… So far, in my working life I’ve learned:
– It’s okay for a job not to be glamourous. (the hobby wholesaler)
– You don’t have to talk about where you work, or ask people where they work! It doesn’t really matter! (in general)
– Be ready to work when you get there. Don’t eat breakfast at work! (Edm Space and Science Centre; I had a coworker who did this and it was so rude!)
– It’s good to be friends with your coworkers! (Science North)
– Working in one’s aptitude is very rewarding. (Nav Canada, the first time)
– Doing something outside your normal range is a huge growth opportunity! (in general)
– Don’t ever let yourself get sleep deprived, for any reason. Sleep is too important to go without! (Ferguson’s Market)
– Treat everyone as though they are important. (Signature)
– Teamwork is fabulous; knowing what others are doing, and how your role interweaves with theirs, and then providing customer service that absolutely blows people’s minds is really, really fun! (Signature)
– My happiness is absolutely independent of anyone else; if anyone around me is grumpy, it doesn’t matter. I can still be happy! (I’ve learned this one a few times!)
I should add that my father-in-law didn’t sell flooring for very long! It was alright while it lasted, but he went back into the travel business. He is now using his unique skill and knowledge of the middle east to offer tours and cruise packages to “the holy land,” Israel. 🙂
We recycle and reuse items whenever possible, and it’s considered the socially and environmentally-conscious thing to do. Well, here’s the ultimate in re-using: apparently, in the 1960’s, people would send used tea bags to missionaries in Africa! Doesn’t this sound crazy?!? It says a lot about how people thought back then.
There isn’t much value in a used tea bag, beyond adding it to a compost pile. But perhaps to the people collecting them, saving tea bags and donating them was worthwhile. Perhaps giving a tea bag to someone else when you would have used it one or two more times was even a hardship. Certainly going to Africa to be a missionary was a hardship — perhaps tea bag donations were meant to ease the pain, to provide something from home that one couldn’t get in Africa. But were the missionaries actually happy to receive their shipment of used tea bags? It’s hard to imagine! I think I would be borderline offended! I mean, all the caffeine from the tea has been washed out, and there wouldn’t be much flavour left either… but maybe if you combine several bags together, you can enjoy a decent cup of tea. Not by our standards, but in Africa in the 60’s or 70’s…? But why not just send NEW tea bags?
I wonder if the people saving their bags felt they were doing something good, something helpful. If so, maybe the missionaries appreciated the gesture, if not the flavour. I suppose the tea-drinkers thought themselves to be helping the cause, to be contributing to “the Lord’s work,” somehow. It seems quite ridiculous to us, though, doesn’t it?
I wonder if 30 or 40 years from now, we will look back at our society and giggle or cringe at things we do now, feeling like we’re helping the cause or doing what’s socially or environmentally conscious. I suspect we might cringe over burning fossil fuels, when there is so much clean, free energy in the sun, wind, and waves. All coastal cities will have low-profile wave-generators for their electricity. Maybe we’ll even be using DC voltage exclusively, and have mini-power stations for individual houses or neighbourhoods everywhere.
I wonder if we’ll twitch over time spent on Facebook or playing games. Will we pine over the lost time, when we were able-bodied, that we spent sitting still? Will we think that cheering for sport teams is silly, and rioting, ridiculous? I cringe when I see people burning wood piles (waste wood). Why not chip it and spread it? Compost it? I recently learned of hugelkultur — gardening on top of a pile of wood! How cool is that?
Anyways, if you are hardcore into environmental causes, I encourage you to save your tea bags and, uh, well, don’t send them to anyone! Sheesh. Compost ’em, and if you want to help a missionary in Africa, send money!
(Actually, my mom is part of a group that sews simple sun-dresses for girls in hot, poor countries, so they can have something nice and airy to wear. I like that!)
Do you know the John Lennon song, “War is Over” – you probably do. It starts as “So this is Christmas… and what have you done…” Have a listen here:
Those were different times, weren’t they? There was military activity, peace protests and sit-ins. We just don’t do that any more. The militaries of the world’s nations still take action, but people don’t really protest it any more. I think that many people still want peace, but they feel overwhelmed. The world’s hotbeds of conflict are also complicated, deep-seated messes abounding with resentment and history. And maybe, thanks to those peace protests of the past, and wisdom traditions of the east, and writers like Deepak Chopra and the famous quote of Ghandi, we know that we really do have to be the change we want to see in the world.
Which means to have peace, we must be peace. We must cease our internal conflicts, stop judging and fighting with our family members, stop cursing at drivers on the road and stop villainizing everyone who makes a mistake. How would we do this? Speaking of overwhelming things, right?
What if we stopped categorizing things and seeing the world in black and white? What if we stopped labeling things, and criticizing others when in reality, we are so like them? What if we were kinder to ourselves, and this kindness and acceptance seeped into everything we do, the way we look at everything, and how we interact with every person in every way?
This is the core of it: we judge ourselves harshly so we judge others the same.
We may think others are judging us harshly so we gauge our response accordingly, but actually, almost everyone out there is so wrapped up in his/her own suffering, any judgement towards us has nothing to do with us.
What if we started telling ourselves, “I don’t want you to suffer.”(I got this idea from Elizabeth Gilbert in a podcast with Pete Holmes – loved it!) What if we started accepting the mistakes we make and foibles of the day as drops on a windshield – easily wiped away by a few hours’ sleep and a new day?
Anyone want to try it? This is what I am going to work on being more consistent in. I’m halfway there – I am able to do this a lot of the time, but I still do label things and people sometimes, judging them by their behaviour instead of seeing through it to their true nature. The harshest of people are just having a harder time making their way in the world. The angriest are just the most stressed. The inconsiderate ones are simply preoccupied.
By far, most of my interactions with people are awesome! They are fun and friendly! I take it as a good sign, that I’m attracting loveliness and lightheartedness into my life experience. But I am still not always “fun and friendly, lovely and lighthearted” with myself. I do sometimes make myself suffer. I occasionally want to teach myself a lesson – which is ridiculous! Seriously?!? I can learn lessons all over the place, and I don’t need any reproach! I have my maximum growth in the hardest of times, and I’ve been there, done that, and I don’t wear the T-shirt anymore because I don’t need any help to remember it! Those times shaped me. They molded me and I am absolutely not the same as I was. Every day I’m a little different, in fact. But in what way? I hope I’m a little kinder and more uplifting.
Join me, if you like, and stop making yourself suffer. Start accepting yourself and others more. Label things less, but most of all, if you mess up, talk to yourself about it for 5 minutes and then move on. To do anything more would be like continually bringing up a mistake to your teenage son or daughter, never letting them forget. How angry they would be!! And how quickly would they shut down and refuse to show anything of themselves to you. So, don’t foster that in yourself. Be sweet and endeavour to never bring your mistakes up again in that chiding, self-hating tone again.
We can be our own best friend or our own worst enemy. Which will you choose? So this is Christmas… Ready to try being a friend to yourself?!?
I did Remembrance Day a day early this year. I was invited to sing with the One Voice Choir in Edmonton, and we performed a medley of 2 songs for the No Stone Left Alone ceremony.
Although it wasn’t exactly like other Remembrance Day ceremonies I’ve been to, there were definitely some similarities. Dignitaries were announced as they walked in (I wonder why they do that? Maybe because in Elizabethan England people would whisper, “who is that? Who’s that with him?” so they started announcing people as they came in to reduce the whispering. It’s just a theory). People held flags. A man in uniform played the trumpet. There were speeches, generally boring and filled with cliches. They go something like this:
To [important person #1], [important person #2], [important person #3], [important person #4]… (until all “important people” in attendance have been listed). We are gathered here today to [insert cliche #1], [insert cliche #2], [insert cliche #3]. (They then proceed to say mostly boring, socially expected things and ramble on for their allotted time. Honestly, my mind wanders after a bit and I usually get sidetracked wondering what strange situation spawned the cliches in the first place.)
I don’t mean to slam all tradition; I know it is important. But,
Here is what I would like to say, on this Remembrance Day.
To the men and women currently serving in any capacity in our armed forces: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’m pretty sure you’re not doing it for the money or the fame. So, in whatever motivates you, may there be lots of it. Again, thank you.
To the families of those who serve in our military: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you for living with uncertainty, facing your fears daily, and for all the unseen and unknown hardships that you go through. I’ll never know what it’s truly like for you, and all I can humbly say is thank you.
To the families who have lost their loved one(s) in the line of duty: Thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
May you have all the support you need. May you never feel alone. May you feel the gratitude your whole country has for the difficulties you have had to face. May you feel as much peace, hope, and optimism as you possibly can. May you remember that your loved one contributed to a good cause, and died in the prime of his/her life doing what he/she loved.
To the wounded soldiers who return to us, whether wounded physically or emotionally: Thank you.
May you have all the support you need. May you never feel alone. May you feel the gratitude of your whole country for the difficulties you have had to face. May you feel as much peace, hope and optimism as you possibly can. May you rediscover how to thrive, how to live a full life, and how to enjoy the freedom you helped to create.
To all those hearing these words, shake the hand of a uniformed person today, and tell them you appreciate them. Hug your loved ones and tell them you appreciate them. Stand and clap with me, if you agree.
[ thunderous applause ]
I am tired of walking 20 steps to get from the kitchen to the bedroom. I know, it’s a horrible first-world problem; people elsewhere have had their houses blown away by typhoons, crumbled by earthquakes, or wrecked by hurricanes. So, I have a lot to be grateful for — I love my house! — but I sometimes do feel my house is too big. I’m sure it’s a sign…
What’s it a sign of? It’s a sign that my innocent fascination with tiny houses, and tiny house-school-buses, has grown into something more. I think we are actually going to do something about it!
Originally, I started looking at tiny houses because of working away from home. Sure, I’ve been lucky to find good places to live, but I thought if it did not last and I wanted to have my own little haven to come home to. I also wanted it to be mobile, so I could camp out at the airport at times or in town at times. I started some surfing the web like a maniac. I did a LOT of research online, and started drawing up possible floor plans. I used to design houses all the time when I was a kid/teenager — it’s a wonder I never went into architecture.
I wanted to find some old sketches from when I was a kid, but that’s going to take a little searching. But here are some scribbly sketches I’ve done in the past couple of years:
Then, I saw a school bus RV conversion, only the people lived in it! Brilliant! So, then I started researching school buses like a maniac, and I even found a cheap one on kijiji I was considering buying. Imagine taking an old bus and turning it into something like this!
So lovely, and their blog is very nice, too!
It is just so much fun to dream of this stuff, and even more fun to make plans. Even if those plans never come true, who cares? I enjoy it!
But, it looks like it might not be just a dream anymore. For starters, I realized the other day that our spare room is about the size of many tiny houses! It would be very workable, in particular if we subtract the bathroom element and just use the house’s bathroom. Bathrooms, and plumbing in general, can be tricky in tiny houses! I mean, I’ve seen showers that were only 2 feet wide — that is awfully skinny even for a skinny person. I’m pretty sure I’d hit my elbows on the sides a lot. And how do you install a waste water tank below the floor? In Canada, it has to be inside the house so it won’t freeze. Gravity-fed plumbing requires a tank up high, otherwise you need a pump… so overall, plumbing is definitely not trivial.
So, here’s my plan: I’m going to make a platform for the bed (which is a double mattress) and raise it up, like the bunk beds people buy their kids. Sometimes, they have a desk below the bed, or whatever. I am going to put a couch or comfy chair below the bed, and my dresser. I’m going to make sure that I can still sit up in bed, and that the window in the room will not be blocked. I’ll have a small counter for a kitchenette — probably just a toaster oven, and maybe a bin for a sink… or maybe I’ll buy a sink and install it with a pail below to catch the water. I should probably add some shelves for plates, bowls, and mugs. Clothes in the closet, and books on a shelf. What else does a person really need? 🙂 Oh ya, space for yarn!
I’m really looking forward to it, to playing tiny house inside the main house. I will have about 85 square feet (11’4″ x 7’6″), which is pretty small by tiny house standards — anything less than 100 square feet is considered “micro!” Tiny house people have such a great sense of humour! But, since I won’t be totally self-sufficient (no bathroom contained), I am definitely cheating a little. And my ceiling isn’t as high as most tiny houses, so the space below the bed will be a bit short — sitting down space only. Which should be fine! Everyone needs somewhere to sit. I’ve thought about making a fold-up bed that can be stowed during the day, but for now, I think I’ll stick to the platform. I love the idea of creatively using the space you have.
I will be sure to post some photos when I’m done! It’s going to be a while before I can get to it — I have to wait for winter. There is still a LOT of outdoor work on the farm that we need to do to prepare for winter! It’s a little overwhelming, but we are finding some people to help and it’s coming along!
I felt like a bit of an astronaut a few days ago. Darren and I were doing some much-needed roofing on the main barn. When my grandpa built it in 1957 or so, they used wooden shingles. Can you imagine nailing one shingle down at a time? Over the years the wooden shingles have been drying out and getting smaller and smaller as they age, so the roof leaks. My dad started replacing the roof with tin, which is a fantastic roofing material, but he didn’t quite finish.
We have two panels 3 feet wide to do, plus three small areas that are odd shapes. Earlier in the summer, I went up and did a little work removing the last of the wooden shingles, but it’s unnerving. Because it’s so high, and so steep, it’s really hard to work. There are no good hand/foot holds, and when you constantly feel like you’re going to slip off, you can’t really do anything. Plus, with nowhere to brace yourself, you can’t really put any muscle into anything you do!
So, my safety-bear of a husband attached 2 solid anchor points by installing heavy-duty hooks from the inside of the hayloft. Once we had those, he googled how to make a rope safety harness and bought rope. So, now, we have a way to anchor ourselves so that we don’t have to worry about falling to our deaths. Don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but it would be quite a fall…
The other night we finally got the perfect night to go up there and install those last pieces, so we set about cutting them and getting everything ready. Ladder, check. Ropes, check. Extension cord, check (we were using an electric drill/screwdriver). Special grippy footwear (Vibrams), check. One at a time, we climbed the ladder with our small pieces of tin, drill and harnesses — with tool belts attached. We clicked into our safety lines, but we couldn’t just walk around up there — the roof was too slippery even with the grippy footwear, so we switched to bare feet. How odd to be safety-minded in bare feet! No steel-toed footwear here! But the sweat on our feet was the best grip-enhancer of all. So, we got to work.
We installed a small, simple piece easily enough, and then moved on to a harder one that required one of us to go onto the very top part of the roof. Darren climbed up there, checking out the 2 small patch-pieces that needed to be added, and then a thought occurred to me: we only have one ladder. What if we somehow knocked it down? We’d be stuck on the roof! Neither one of us had our phones! So, for all our planning, and safety, we had forgotten a pretty major one. So, I put my Vibrams back on and went to get a back-up ladder. It was just around the corner, leading into the hayloft. So, with the second ladder in place, we decided to try install a big piece of tin.
Unfortunately, the last piece my Dad had installed had a gash in it, so we had to take that one off and install one of our newly-cut pieces in its place. So, we’ll have to cut one more another day. I climbed down again and got the piece, which we had washed earlier to get the spruce needles and general grime off. The piece was just over 3 feet wide by 99″ long (8’3″) and although it was not overly heavy, it was awkward. I managed to carry it in one hand and go up the ladder. Once on the roof, I got to put it down while Darren positioned himself. When he was ready, I had to bring the piece over to the upper roof and lift it up about chest-high, so we could slide it into position. This sounds so easy but was in reality so hard! I needed to use both hands, and each of my feet were only gripping onto one screw of the roof I was standing on!
A few minutes later, when I was standing on the upper ladder (sorry to confuse you, there are a a lot of ladders involved!), giving direction and encouragement to Darren, it hit me: this is like spacewalking. Astronauts on a spacewalk are tethered to the vehicle they emerged from; we were tethered, too. All an astronaut’s tools are tethered to them; ours were all attached to our tool belts or tied to the roof itself. Astronauts have no friction in space, and so they have to grip with their hands or have their feet anchored in order to apply muscle; same for us. Astronauts have to plan every move carefully and work in teams; so did we.
Now, I can’t say I have a more profound thing to say than this: It was cool, for an little while on a roof, to play astronaut. In another time, another life, I might have been one… but the top of the roof will have to do for me!