View From The Glen

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Lunch Tramp

Welcome to the Won't You Be My Neighbour series, started by Amy of The Never True Tales. I was introduced to this series by Christine of Coffee and Commutes, so please head over to both those sites to meet some more great people. Today's guest blogger is my friend, Keitha Fisher, aka The Lunch Tramp.

The Lunch Tramp
Denise asked me to be a guest blogger a couple of weeks ago and I jumped right in to say yes. I’m a frequent reader of View From the Glen and I love the normalcy of the kids and the dogs and the after school activities and the husband. Our own normal is canine-free but I like to think I’m doing a not terrible job of balancing the hectic with the wonders of H learning to spell her name and E discovering that if you follow the instructions that come with the legos, you can actually build the thing on the box.

Until quite recently, I had the 50 hour/wk job to add to the hectic pace. At the beginning of last summer, I made the decision after leaving the job I thought I would love but quickly discovered that I loathed, that I would not jump into the next thing. I’d gone from fulfilling but time consuming self-employment to time reasonable but dreadfully boring corporate employment to frenetic time sucking management in just under three years and frankly, I wanted to take some time to figure out if there might not be something to be said for not doing any of those things for a while.

Given that this is a blog posting and not an autobiography, I’ll leave a bit of a blank here (that I will spend a bit of time writing about on my own blog) but suffice to say that taking some time off to volunteer for some of the organizations I’m passionate about and to sit on some of the committees I’d always thought I’d like to contribute to if only I had the time has given me a multitude of opportunities to consider when thinking about my next career move. AND it has given me time to lunch.

Yes, lunch as a verb. I hadn’t given this activity a whole lot of thought until a few weeks ago when I wrote on facebook that I “thought my four lunch dates were all pretty spectacular.”

As you may imagine, this status update caused a bit of a furor. In all, there were 19 comments about this, including but not limited to: 4 people at once or 4 single lunch dates in an afternoon? Either way I may have to judge you as a lunch tramp.

And so, the Lunch Tramp was born. (see business card for details)

While I’d done a fair amount of lunching prior to having the title bestowed to me via facebook, it was not until I’d lived with the title (and designed the business card) that I took the time to actually think about the social ramifications of being a professional lunch enthusiast. There are two schools of thought about this lifestyle choice (okay, there are probably more – but for the purpose of this blog, there are two.) The first, often said with dripping sarcasm is, “Oh, isn’t it nice to be able to drop your kids off at school and have nothing to do all day.”

My response to that is, “Um, yes, it’s sort of awesome.”

The ensuing pause where the sarcastic speaker takes a moment to wonder whether or not I detected the sarcasm is one of those things money can’t buy – and I’m a pretty big fan of those types of things.

The second response, the one that comes from almost everyone who knows me and who realizes that my “radical sabbatical” is hardly the time off others assume it to be is very different. Brevity is not my strong suit so I’ve done my best to pare it down: “Wow! Good for you! I wish I made time for myself to do this kind of thing. You should write a book about how much you’ve learned about yourself and others being the Lunch Tramp!”

Sadly, I have given my status a Lunch Tramp a shelf life. I have made a decision to return to work in the coming months which will clearly put a damper on the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed. However, I would be remiss to leave you wondering what there is to learn taking a six month hiatus from “work” for the sake of discovering “work I enjoy” that still pays the bills.

• People who take the time to have lunch with little to no agenda often leave with a smile – which often results in a really cool follow-up email

• Almost everyone will say yes to a lunch date

• Everyone understands when you cancel lunch because you have a sick child at home

• You can meet people you’ve never met before at lunch and laugh until you can’t breathe

• You can meet people who will offer you a job on the spot

• You can meet people who will call you in the coming weeks to offer you a job

• You can inspire other people to take an hour or two for themselves they may not have taken before

• You can be asked to write a fun blog entry for a friend

• If you throw out a lunch invitation to random people you know on a sort-of basis and assemble them together, it can be entertaining to not just those at the table but for pretty much everyone in the listening area

• There are pretty amazing people out there waiting to have lunch with you

Where the future of the Lunch Tramp lies is still undetermined. I’m thinking that regardless of having a real job again soon, the name can live on. Almost everyone I lunch with actually has a job to return to – which means I can and will do the same. That said, this time to just be wherever with whomever has taught me there’s a lot more to people than their jobs, although I gotta be honest with you – if someone said they’d pay me to be the Lunch Tramp full time I’d be all over it!

Thanks, Keitha for your always inspiring words. When she is not guest posting, lunching, or looking after her twins, Keitha does blog occasionally herself. Drop by and say hello.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Last Run

I follow the children down the mountain, swooshing slowly from side to side in a gentle run, all the better to admire them. How did they become so elegant, so effortless, in their graceful carve down and round and down to the bottom? Only a few short years ago I despaired that they would ever get down the bunny hill in one go, and now they pass me in a confident arc and a buzz of laughter and conversation.

We were up in the Laurentians last weekend as Val Saint Come, and the day was magificent. Minus 16, said Erik, checking the weather forcast at 7 am. Great day for snowboarding! And it was. The sun shone all day, the snow was crisp with just enough powder and no ice, and the mountain was relatively quiet.

We ride up together, enjoying the feel of the air as we get higher up. It changes the sound. It's as if everything is amplified. We pause at the top to admire the view - the forest which stretches out to all sides, ad the clear vastness of the sky. Then we are off, down through the dark stand of trees, across the sparkling path of snow. Sometimes we ski and board down together, conversationally. Other times the children and Andrew - filled with adrenaline and competance - leave me behind in their wake.

Left to my own devices, I enjoy my own time on the hill. Admiring them as they vanish with laughter, knowing they will wait for me at the bottom. I take my time, composing poetry in my head as I make broad sweeps of the mountain, listening for the scrape of the ski edge as I turn, following the carve of those who have gone before me down this same stretch of mountain.

There are diamonds underfoot, and I want the run to last forever. I could ski down forever at this pace, but it's blue dusk and the last run. As I reach the bottom, gliding to a halt beside pink cheeks and glowing eyes, I look forward to the next time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Winter Camp

Last weekend, the kids and Andrew went camping with the Cubs.

It was their first winter camping experience, and they had a great time. They built a lean-to with sticks lashed together and covered it with a tarp. And crawled into winter sleeping bags for the night.

I was so impressed they all made it.

Erik is a senior cub. He and the other senior cubs made their own lean to and slept on their own. You can no doubt imagine what four 10-year old boys did on their own. Apparently when the leaders investigated a gale of giggles from their lean to, they found four boys experimenting with, um, bodily gases, and how they warm up the inside of a sleeping bag at minus 15 degrees.


Anna and Grace and some of the other cubs slept with two of the leaders in another lean to. The youngest cubs mostly slept inside a nearby cabin , but Grace (who is actually still Beaver aged, and only gets to be in Cubs because her dad is the leader) was tough enough to brazen it out in the great outdoors.

It was Anna I was concerned about. Not because she isn't tough, but because she is always cold. Even at home. While Grace and Erik kick off all their covers in the night, Anna huddles under two duvets with a hot water bottle.. But she was fine too. Warm enough in fact that she stuck her arm out in the morning and said it felt good. Apparently their sleeping bags were warm enough.

The worst part, they all agreed, was getting in and out of the sleeping bags. Andrew said they looked at him like he was mad when he told them they had to get their outer clothes off before getting into their sleeping bags. And Anna asked if she could be carried in her sleeping bag to the cabin in the morning to get dressed. (The answer was a snort of derisive laughter from her father!)

They came home after two days of living outdoors very proud of themselves. And Erik still laughs when he tells the, um, bodily gas story. What can I say? He's 10.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Delights of the North

This is the second of my weekly contribution to the Won't You Be My Neighbour series, started by Amy of The Never True Tales. Today my guest blogger is Lindsay Below, a once-local writer friend of mine who moved to the great white north last year.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Lindsay. I’m an author and one of the privileged few who can claim to be in Denise’s critique group. We used to meet in person to discuss our recent works-in-progress. Unfortunately, that ceased when I relocated from Southern Ontario to Iqaluit, Nunavut -- the meeting in person, that is. Thankfully, our critique group lives on even though I’m only there by proxy.

Introductions aside -- sit back, relax, and let me regale you with some of the things I’ve noticed since I moved to the picturesque North:
  • It’s only “picturesque” in the winter. By the time the snow melts away in May, I’m left with a city of brown. Formerly snow-capped brown mountains, brown dirt with the occasional scrawny brown weed, and heck, let’s throw in the muddy brown water of Frobisher Bay (I haven’t gotten close enough to say that for sure, but I can assume). Plus, by the time the snow is gone, I can see this brown landscape in glaring detail due to the 24-hour sunlight.
  • Every now and again, someone will run into a power grid with his skidoo or four-wheeler and knock out the power to the city. In the summer, that’s just fine and dandy (see: 24-hour sunlight). But in the winter, I have the opposite problem (24-hour darkness). I guess that’s why there are so many births in the fall.
  • My house is built for the hard winters, with thick insulation. This means that in the summer, I might just suffer heat stroke from staying inside.
  • I live on a street with no name, as does 99% of the rest of the city. There are many nameless streets. If I were to direct someone to my house, I would tell them, “The red one on the hill.” Kidding. I also give the building number. But not having a street name does cause problems when directing someone to mail something to me. They go bonkers when I just give them the building number and P.O. Box.
  • Note to all forms that demand no P. O. boxes in the “address” section: There are no mail boxes in Iqaluit. Only post office boxes.
  • On an optimistic note, this town does have one named street. The Road to Nowhere (yes, it has a street sign reading that). Want to guess where it leads? You got it, nowhere.
  • Concrete tends to crack down the middle up here, ergo my house is built on stilts instead of a foundation. This means that when it gets windy, the house sways.
  • In order to keep the water from freezing, the pipes are heated to near boiling point in the winter. That means that the tap water is always warm! I could always buy bottled water at the store for ridiculous prices.
  • Just because it needs to be said, my first grocery bill (for two people) was to the tune of $700. I didn’t buy caviar, just regular groceries.
  • If you need to hone your skills in bargaining, fly up here. You can do so and indulge your love for genuine Inuk-crafted figurines, artwork, and clothing at your convenience. Going to the grocery store? Waiting for your meal to be served at the restaurant? These items are brought to you by their artisans for special perusal.
  • Of course, if you’d like to fly up to Iqaluit, it’ll cost you round about $1300 for a return trip from Iqaluit-Ottawa. I highly recommend that one rather than the Iqaluit-Montreal flight, which often overnights unexpectedly in Kugaaruk.
  • A caribou herd used to migrate through town. Yes, USED to. Eventually, they realized that if they come within eyesight of the town, they WILL be shot.
  • On a regular day, the town shuts down between noon and one o’clock for lunch. That means you can pretty well time the traffic jam on the four corners.
  • Rather than snow days, there are “freezing days” in Iqaluit. If it gets too cold, the town shuts down.
Luckily, I still love my boyfriend despite all this (he’s the reason I moved up here to begin with). If you’d like to find me on the web, look in these places:

Twitter - (I promise not to tweet your ear off about the delights of Iqaluit… mostly)

Thanks for having me, Denise!

You're so welcome, Linds!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My week

Just think, read a text from Andrew last Tuesday. Next week you can get fit, declutter the house, bake bread, and catch up on your editing.

Have I mentioned that my husband is sarcastic.

This is the end of my first full week of self-employment...and there hasn't even been time to empty the dishwasher. On the up side, I no longer feel like I am behind in my work. But I wouldn't exactly say I was ahead of it all either.

Ah well...I guess getting fit, decluttering the house, and baking bread can all wait until next week:)

Stay tuned tomorrow - I have another guest blogger for you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Best Time Of My Life"

My sister and her family visited a couple of weeks ago, and after they had left, I found this note from my 7 year old niece:


Friday, February 11, 2011

Guest Post: Simple Pleasures

Today I am welcoming a guest blogger as part of the Won't You Be My Neighbour series started by The Never True Tales. The idea is to visit other blogs and get to know some of the talented people out there. I will be posting over at Coffee and Commutes and hope to see you there.

In the meantime, I am thrilled that my first blog guest is my friend, Leanne from My Window On The Journey. Leanne and I met in university and though we have never lived in the same province since then, she has remained a close friend. She has always been able to inspire me and I'm thrilled to have her here today.

Simple Pleasures
The sound of a quiet car after the kids all hop out of it at school. My favourite chair and a good book. The warmth of the fireplace on a cold winter night. The smell of hot cocoa before the first sip. A leisurely breakfast out with a friend. Decorating a birthday cake. A blank page waiting to be filled. Noisy chatter filling the house when the kids get home from school. Waking up wrapped in my hubby’s arms. The light in my children’s eyes when they have something exciting to share with me. Cheesecake. Kissing my kids’ warm cheeks after they are fast asleep. Family game night. Romantic movies. Bubble baths.

Simple pleasures.

Life is not easy. In fact sometimes it is really hard. Last week I had a hard week. There wasn’t just one thing that turned my world upside down, but a bunch of things piled on top of each other to do a real number on my mindset. I became so focused on all those little and not-so-little things, that I found myself in a slump that I wasn’t sure how I would escape. But I did. I prayed a lot. I consciously tried to refocus my mind. I became aware of how profoundly my mindset can affect every part of me. And I realized that my mindset is my choice. I can allow negative thoughts to control every minute of my day, or I can take back control and reorient my mind.

I have so many blessings in my life, and counting blessings is truly a way to change a negative mindset. Sometimes, however, reciting to myself the list of obvious blessings in my life can feel a little bit stale. Yes, I know I have an awesome husband, but he drives me crazy sometimes! I know my kids are amazing, but sometimes they drain every ounce of strength I have! My house is beautiful and it’s in a great neighbourhood, but it isn’t my dream house! I have wonderful family and friends, even here in Ontario, but I miss the ones I left in New Brunswick! Sound a little bitter? That’s what happens when I fall into that state of mind.

When that happens, like last week, I find I need to really micromanage my mindset. I need to break things down to the very simplest things in my life that make me happy. When I focus on those things, my attitude starts to change. I realize that my life is full of a million wonderful things every single day! The list above contains fifteen simple pleasures, and I have experienced each one of them at some point in the last week. Six of them I have experienced already today! Not only does this realization create a positive outlook in my mind, but it fills my heart with profound gratitude.

So I think that’s the key, at least for me. I would encourage you to try it. If you are struggling with a negative mindset, if you are feeling overwhelmed by worry or responsibility or dissatisfaction, make a list! What are your simple pleasures? Simple things that don’t cost money, or not much anyway. Simple daily pleasures that surround you even though you may not always notice. Once you see how many there are in your life, you can’t help but be positive and, even more importantly, grateful.

Cooking something new for my family. Stormy days when I don’t have to go anywhere. Hugs. A family bike ride. Walks on the beach. A visit with an old friend. The first flowers of spring. A good report card. A baby’s smile. Autumn leaves. Book club. French vanilla cappuccino. Reading to my kids. Writing a guest post for a friend’s blog…

Simple pleasures.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Last Days

The days are winding down now at my corporate office job. Thursday is my last day, and I am sitting at my desk, just for a moment, allowing myself the inevitable moment of sadness.

Am I excited about the direction I am going. Absolutely. Am I happy to be finished juggling too many things? You bet. Am I looking forward to focusing on two things I absolutely love to do? Yes, yes, yes.

But this company has been good to me in the past few years. Any company can be friendly, any company can have a good salary and benefits package. But it takes a special company to go above and beyond. To understand that employees are not robots, and to allow us to sometimes put the needs of our family first. I have three kids and not once has anyone said anything about me taking them to a doctor or dentist appointment, or rolled their eyes because I didn't show up on a snow day when buses were cancelled, or batted an eyelid if I brought a not-quite-sick-enough -for-bed kid into the office for a morning and then took the afternoon off to work from home.

When you are a mom, these things are important. I loved that I had the flexibility to start work 30 minutes late when the morning bus schedule changed last year. Or to work through lunch and leave early to get to a 6pm concert or karate belting ceremony. And for this, I will always be appreciative.

Having said that, just because the company was supportive, doesn't mean I didn't feel guilty about all those times I missed a meeting or a deadline because of a flu bug or snowstorm. It's one of the reasons I am looking forward to working at home - the relief of not having to find a sitter on PD days and in the summer, the feeling that I will be more fully able to participate in my children's daily life, instead of just being the homework enforcer and dinner maker.

I'm not really sad at the change. But leaving is never easy and as I look around my office, I find it hard to believe I won't be coming in here every day.

Even as I look forward to working in my new home office.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This and That, Part II

One thing that being pressured for time does is force you to focus. I gave whatever I was doing - turnover work briefs, edits, making presentations for the literature class I am teaching - my complete attention. The down side is that some of the other things I love to do - blogging, reading, long walks with the dog, writing - didn't get done.  I had small chunks of time- long enough to update Facebook, or comment on Twitter, and about 24 minutes a day (the 12 min drive to and from the office) to think. It was in these 24 minutes that I came to a realization:

On Joy
So many of the things I do - you too probably - I do because they have become part of my routine. What I found was that some of the things I temporarily gave up were not things I missed. In addition, during the activities I did make time for, I became hyper-aware of how much pleasure they gave me. Or didn't give me.

This gift of clarity is not without complications. One of the things in particular grieves me when I consider not doing it, and I need to figure out whether it is something that the joy can be salvaged from, or whether I am in mourning for what was once wonderful and now need to accept that it/I has/have changed and move on.

On Facebook
One thing that I really enjoyed during this brief but insane period was the connection Facebook provided. I didn't have time for long phonecalls with friends or drinks out with the girls, but through social media I was able to feel like I was still part of the human race. I knew what was going on, even if I couldn't participate. And I love how easy that is. Facebook as a communications tool is fantastic. Through it I keep in touch with family in the UK, friends around the world, navy pals across Canada, and - even though I never expected this - it's even super helpful for local friends. I can't tell you how many play dates, get togethers, and invitations I have given/received through this medium.

There is always a dark side though. Communication can get twisted and assumptions made. I found that out this past week and without going into details, may I just remind everyone that Facebook messaging is not the place to air a grievance. Also that psychological warfare doesn't work on me.

On Health
Two weeks ago I woke up with a terrible neck pain. Too many hours at a computer, no doubt, coupled with the stress of doing too many things. It has only just healed - two weeks of carefully watching my posture, sleeping so my spine is straight (as opposed to the little ball I normally curl into), and gentle stretches. It made me very much aware of how valuable health is. We take it for granted, but during my two weeks of agony all my activities were marred by the pain, and I was even crankier and more cynical than usual (those of you who knew me in my Deximenes days will not be surprised; everyone else - to whom I am no doubt sweetness and light embodied - just needs to take my word for it)!

On Spring
I love winter and we've had a fabulous one on the slopes or snowshoing through the forest. But spring is around the corner.

Don't believe me?

See for yourself:

The first lamb has arrived, a true harbinger of Spring, even among hardier sheep stock. And like every year when this happens I am filled with a sense of wonder and a feeling of cheerfulness. Nothing is so cute as a lamb. Absolutely nothing. It's put a huge smile on my face.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This and That

It has been almost a month since I blogged. Long enough that friends not on facebook have contacted me to make sure I am still alive. I am. But time has been very precious in the last two months and blogging fell down the priority ladder. Today I am taking advantage of a snow day. All those other priorities are almost caught up, and now at almost four o'clock, I have a few minutes. I'm going to sum up what has been going through my mind with four pieces: Juggling, Joy, Social Media, and Stan Rogers.

On Juggling
The biggest challenge has been juggling. Not balls or knives, but jobs. For going on five years now I have been a corporate manager for a large locally-based international moulding company, a job that has been very rewarding and interesting for me. But about a year ago, re-shuffling and re-structuring meant that the two key projects most near and dear to my heart - the environment program, and marketing - began to slip away, be pulled into an abyss of apathy or outsourcing.

At the same time, the freelance editing I have done for 20 years began to deliver new opportunities, and a part-time teaching position for a communications professor at the local college opened up. This was September. By November it was obvious the college gig was going to expand, and the editing was taking on a life of its own: exciting, immediate and so rewarding.

I had to make a decision, and I gave notice at my regular job. But until next week, I am still working there, and so I continue to work, to teach, to edit. Juggle, juggle, juggle.

On Stan Rogers
We're home today in the snow and I have Stan songs running through my head. This one in particular seems appropriate:

I used to love these lazy winter afternoons;

Starting out too late giving up too soon;
Coming home to coffee and a trashy book;
Never paying any mind if things were never done on time

Time was when a fella could just let time slip away;
No worries car or telephone just rent and food to pay;
And every night with single buddies boozing at the bar,
Living for the minute, taking every hour in it!
But now there's just too much to do in any given day;
The car phone the kiddies shoes too many bills to pay;
Running from the crack of dawn 'til Knowlton reads the news,
And falling into bed too wiped to even kiss the wife good night.

The baby's in the Swingomatic, singing Rock and Roll;
My Sweetie's in the kitchen, whipping up my favourite casserole.
I knocked off work at ten o'clock, the kids are still at school.
The coffee pot is hell with bloody working.

Oh, it sure is sweet to sit at home and let time slip away,
Through tomorrow I'll be scratching through another working day;
But when I start to come apart from all the things to do,
I know that I'll be taking soon another lazy winter afternoon.
Oh, oh, oh...just another working Joe!