Finding the Good Life – Update #1

My last post mentioned that we were going to start taking advantage of all the things our neighbourhood has to offer. You can go back to that post as I did this morning and read the reasons why, but the short version is that we realized we wanted a bit of a different life and came to the conclusion that a lot of what we wanted was available to us here…we just needed to do it.

Since that post, Ginny and I bought a stand up paddle board and have been out paddling on the lake down the street from our house a bunch of times. We’ve had the kids out with us a couple of times too, and they loved it.

I’ve gone for a couple of short trail runs and have a few more routes planned out for the fall.

We’ve been spending a lot more time at the lake since the trip, including with the kids. Walking along the boardwalk, looking for beach glass at the water’s edge, exploring the Scarborough Bluffs, biking Tommy Thompson Park and the Leslie St. Spit…it’s been fun.

It’s not always easy to make the time and pull the kids away from the TV, but we’ve been doing it and the kids are adapting. I’ve got my eye on a day hike at Rattlesnake Point in Milton, and some trail runs in Rouge Park. It’s going to be a great fall.

Home to Toronto

Our quick three day getaway to Vancouver Island is done and we’re flying home to Toronto to return to our “normal” lives.

This whole trip happened because we started thinking about what we wanted in life, both for us and for the girls. Getting a big pile of cash from the insurance settlement gave us a reason to think about some different options and one of the options was to maybe find a radically different life out west.

We spent a few days on Vancouver Island looking around and seeing what life ere was really like. We rode ferries, hiked up mountains, drove around and looked at homes and villages and we came to the realization that moving there wasn’t going to happen. At least not now.

Island life is a good life

It’s a beautiful place. Stunningly beautiful, really. The people are warm and inviting, and the land is often wild but ready to be explored. We loved the hiking, the scenery, the people and that more relaxed lifestyle.

But to pull up roots and move away from family, work and our home in Toronto? It’s not for us right now.

Finding a good life at home

What this whole exercise did show us is that we’re after something different in our life. We came to the island to discover what it had to offer, but really it was about learning what it was we really wanted.

It turns out that a lot of what we found is stuff we already have available to us in Toronto.

We live near a beautiful lake with hiking, running and biking trails. No, Toronto doesn’t have the spectacular views that the Cowichan Valley has, but Toronto has its own beautiful places.

The view from the Leslie Spit, trail running in the Don Valley or the Rouge, the Martin Goodman Trail out to the Humber. Those are just a few…

Our plan is to take advantage of what we have already. To think everyday about what we learned that we wanted in life, and to find it around us. It’s all there, or fairly close by. We just need to do it. To make it happen.

I’ve often thought that we don’t have time for all this stuff because of all the busy-ness of city living. But there are ways to make time, whether that’s working from home a day a week, or by just walking away from the things we think we have to do, but that aren’t really all that important.

We’re going to do this.

We’ll buy a SUP board and get Ginny and Lindsey out on our lake. We’ll drive up and go hiking at Rattlesnake Point or cross country ski through Albion Hills. I’ll throw the bikes on the roof racks and cruise the Taylor Creek trails with Mac. We’ll find those great single track runs through the Rouge River Valley and I’ll blast through the forest with my running friends.

And of course, we’ll return to Vancouver Island one day soon, hopefully with the kids. We have some great friends there and as soon as we left, I started thinking about our next visit.

Home for us will continue to be Toronto. But we’ll always feel the call of the west coast, Vancouver and the Island. See you all soon, friends.

Big Changes are Big

I wrote about decisions a few weeks ago and I had to make a pretty big one this week. I applied for and got a new job at work.

HoverUp until last week, I was quite content to continue doing the customer communications for my company. It was still rewarded, sometimes challenging and I’m paid nicely to do it.

But a couple of weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to take a bit of a career turn and move into product management for our retail brand, Hover. To be honest, it took me a few days of really thinking about it to decide that it was something I wanted to do.

It really came down to whether I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and into something that had the real potential to be new and very challenging, but also very rewarding. In the end I realized that going for this was the right thing to do and so I went for it.

After a few days in my new role, I’m already enjoying the kind of work that it entails. It requires a nice mix of critical thinking and communication with different people (devs, marketing and customers). I think it’s going to turn out to be a great move.

What are you looking forward to?

You should always have something to look forward to.

Right now I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of things. Some are short term things happening in the next few days or even later today, some are more long term like a big trip or some other big event. And some are somewhere in between.

Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island Aerial PhotographI’m looking forward to a run tomorrow morning and going to the ballgame with Mac tomorrow afternoon. I’m looking forward to a trip to Shawnigan Lake and Vancouver Island in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to a big family trip to Canmore and Banff, Alberta at Christmas. I’m already looking forward to running the Chicago Marathon in 2014. Until a few minutes ago, I was looking forward to having cedar plank salmon and corn on the cob for dinner.

These things we look forward to are the things that keep us moving forward. When I don’t have anything to look forward to, it gets me down. It doesn’t always have to be a trip or something big – even looking forward to going out for dinner with Ginny and the kids can get me through the afternoon when there’s only those tedious tasks to do.

Keep track of what you are looking forward to – and make sure you always have something on that list.

Big Decisions

Making a decision is hard enough. Making a big decision is an order of magnitude worse. They say hindsight is 20/20, but sadly, time travel doesn’t exist. You make decisions and you live with the consequences.

On the bright side, no matter what you decide, you really don’t have the benefit of that 20/20 hindsight. I don’t think hindsight is 20/20 at all; I think it’s really completely blind. You can’t ever know what would have been if you decided something different.

Right decisionWhen I lost my TV job back in 2005, I decided to go back to school for journalism to pursue a different career path. I can easily look back now and say, “That was a good decision.” On the other hand, I can’t say, “It was the best decision.”

I don’t know what would have happened if I stuck it out in the TV business. Maybe I’d have found a great job and I’d be happy and well paid, living a good life. Or maybe I’d have been stuck working freelance gigs for a couple of years before giving up on what felt like a dying industry.

One thing I know for sure: I got a good job right out of school and we’re living a pretty good life with a nice house in a good area of Toronto. It’s not perfect, but we don’t really have all that much to complain about.

But here we sit, thinking about making a big change and wondering if it’s the right thing to do. Eventually we’ll come to a decision, and we’ll live with that decision.

Whatever happens, we’ll look back in a couple of years and think either, “That was the best thing we ever did,” or, “I wonder what life would have been like had we done that?” or, “What were we thinking? That was the dumbest thing we ever did.”

But no matter what, we’ll simply live with the decision because that’s what life is all about. It’s a giant, years-long game of choose your own adventure.

With that in mind, we have some thinking to do, and some decisions to make. We’ll see what happens…

Appreciating Being Read

A writer wants nothing more than for their words to be read.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do.I get paid to write and I love it, but I didn’t really appreciate it.

The vast majority of what I write these days ends up being stuff for the customers of Tucows, the company I work for.

Recently I came to realize that out of everything that I write – blog posts, tweets, status updates, help articles and emails – that it’s the emails to customers that get read read the most.

It’s not uncommon for me to write an email that gets sent out to many thousands of people. But until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t really considered those readers.

What changed my way of thinking was a particular email I wrote to send to customers of Ting, our US mobile phone company.

We were making a pretty big change to how we did our billing and we needed to tell our customers about it. I spent a lot of time on that email, and I really liked how it read when I finished it.

After I sent it, I looked at some of the comments on Facebook and Twitter directed at our company accounts to see what the response to the change was. I was really excited to see a few people specifically reference my email. I hadn’t considered that people would not only respond to the billing change, but also to the way we announced it.

One customer said they were “floored” by it (in a good way). Another actually quoted one of my favourite sentences.

Being read is the payoff for a writer. What this little email taught me is that no matter what I write, or what the medium, having it read and appreciated is exceptionally rewarding.

It made me think about every word I put to paper just that little bit more. And it made me a better writer.

Moving On. It’s What We Do, Right?

It’s been how many days since the Boston Marathon bombings? I don’t know either.

We’ve moved on, right? I flipped on the TV and watched two Toronto teams play in Boston last night. Other than seeing the Boston Strong logo here and there, I never thought about what happened last month. Boston has moved on.

A young lady died out on the course at the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon last weekend. Emma was just 18. One of my running friends saw her on the course as paramedics worked to revive her. Another friend went back and ran past the spot the other day and wrote up a nice article about her.

You go out for a run shortly after hearing about something like Boston, or a runner dying on course and you think about it. You consider yourself or your family at the finish line in Boston. Or you think about your own mortality and consider booking that annual physical you haven’t bothered with for five years.

And then you tuck it away, deep in the back of your mind and probably never consider it again.

As a runner, I’ve moved on.

That’s callous, right? How about the victims of the bombing that lost limbs or lost loved ones? Move on? What about the family of Emma? Move on?

But that’s exactly what those people will do. Granted it will be immeasurably more difficult for them to move on, but they will. Because it’s really the only thing they can do.

Moving on is part of life. Something happens, you deal with it, you put it behind you and you move on. Hit by a car? Shit happens, life sucks, move on. No sense dwelling on things in the past, on the things we can’t control.

One foot in front of the other. Keeping it moving.

Thoughts on Boston and the Marathon

At its very core, the marathon is about overcoming.

It’s about tapping into a mysterious force that lets you do things you didn’t think you could. It brings out the very best in people like no other event does.

The finish line at the Boston Marathon was shattered on Monday by two bombs. Limbs of several people were lost. The lives of three were taken. We were all affected by it in one way or another.

An Unbreakable Spirit

Boston Marathon 2013But take heart in this truth: The spirit of the marathon is unbreakable. I spent the last 24 hours thinking about what the impact the attack would have on the running community, and on the event that all marathon runners look to for ultimate inspiration.

Our spirits were shaken yesterday. Shaken hard. Someone tried to extinguish the spirit of the marathon and I’m mad about it. How dare you.

The Spirit of the Marathoner

In thinking about what happened yesterday, and in reading incredible accounts of heroism and bravery from volunteers, first responders, runners and victims, I’ve come to realize that the spirit of the marathon comes not from the event, or the distance, or the history.

The spirit of the marathon burns inside the people who run it.

Each marathoner has a story to tell about how they were challenged in their own way and overcame. No doubt there were people out on the Boston course yesterday who had overcome incredible obstacles. Cancer, sickness, depression, addiction… each runner has their reason to run and to train and to take on the marathon challenge and emerge triumphant after 42.2km.

That’s why it was so incredibly hurtful that the bombs were at the finish and that many runners yesterday never got to experience the joy that comes with the running the last few hundred meters of their marathon. I don’t know whether the person responsible considered this carefully, or whether it was by chance they chose the finish line to make their sick point. Whatever the case, the location added to the impact.

We’ll Overcome, We’ll Run Again

Most will have another opportunity to take on the marathon and they’ll get to cross the line and revel in their accomplishment at another event or in Boston next year. Some won’t, and that is truly tragic.

Runners run and I’ll run a big-city marathon again, I’m sure. I’ll think of Boston every single time I run towards the finish line, and I’ll be thankful every time I cross without incident. It’s not fair that it happened in Boston this week, but it did happen. It’s not fair that we’ll have to think of it every single time we run, but we will.

It can’t be changed.

But runners will overcome this and the spirit of the marathon won’t be diminished. Instead, like the runners that find strength they didn’t know they had, the marathon will emerge stronger for what it went through in Boston yesterday.

This Time Will be Different

On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, I’ll go back to not having any metal plates or screws in my body. Eighteen months after getting drilled by a car while riding my bike, I’m headed back in for a surgery to get my elbow fixed up (I hope). Suffice to say, multiple open fractures of the left humerus with fixation (aka a smashed up arm above the elbow on the left side with bone through the skin requiring pins and plates to fix) isn’t something you want.

It’s been a long journey already. Right after the accident, I figured it would be three months until everything was back to normal – that’s what they told me, at least. Six months later they said things were coming along slowly. A year later I was still doing physio twice a week and things were not back to normal. It turns out that bones don’t always heal the way you want them too. Sometimes they grow into places they don’t belong…like in the middle of a joint preventing proper movement of that joint.

A Do-Over

SunriseBut this time should be different. The first surgery was a mental and physical battle from the very start. One minute I was riding to work on my bike, loving the cool wind and enjoying a nice early autumn morning spin down Queen’s Quay. A second later I was on the ground and my arm was pointed in the wrong direction and that was just the beginning.

I wasn’t prepared for any of what happened next. Not prepared to be loaded into an ambulance for a short drive to St. Michael’s Hospital. Not prepared for a three hour surgery. Not prepared for three days in the hospital. Not prepared for the pain afterwards. Not prepared for physio and a whole new world of pain. Not prepared for dealing with any of it.

Now I know what to expect. I know how shitty it might be. I’m much stronger mentally. I know how much pain I can handle (a lot) and I’m ready for it. I know what getting off the pain killers is like and how to do it. I know it’s going to suck. But I know I’ll get through it okay and things will be better afterwards.