Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Dish soap made me think of this topic , but I'll get to that a bit later.

I think the amount you get to know your neighbours is inversely proportional to the size of your building. In big condominiums it's hard to get to know neighbours, or on country houses with huge lots. In smaller buildings or houses close together, you really get to know people, for good or bad.

When I think of neighbours, I remember a variety, including:

  •  growing up as a child in a middle-aged to elderly suburb full of adult neighbours
  • living in the country later as a child, and the neighbours who would snowplow the street.
  • the cat-fighting duo across the hall from me in residence..
  • my first summer living out of residence with some roomates, we had some awful neighbours who caused a cockroach invasion next door, then moved out and left the critters to invade the apartment through the ductwork.
  • the friendly chain-smoker in my very sketchy Toronto lowrise building, who had lived there over twenty years and kept a good eye on things.
  • the not-so-friendly drug-dealing 'family business' at the apartment next door when we lived above a store in Uxbridge
  • The couple Jarod and I rented a basement apartment from when we were first married - two workers with the school board. They were both divorcees with 3 kids each, and later in life they met, married, and had another child. The little guy's costumes ("I'm wearing Spiderman to the pool!") were the best.

My next door neighbours have mostly been good ones. I like the idea of next-door neighbours, and I have several friends who have recently purchased properties and been glad to find mostly good next-door neighbours.

I haven't, often, though, had neighbours that I got to know well - especially in large buildings. Until I moved to Hamilton. When I moved to Hamilton, my next-door neighbour was Mats - a German Ph.D. student finishing up his doctorate (on particular ecological details of escarpments). He was quiet, worked hard, had the very occasional six-pack of beer or smoked a pipe outside with Jarod, and had a couple nice guitars.

Mats had to make a difficult choice between two jobs - one in New Zealand, or another in Ireland that would also hire his girlfriend, and was a bit closer to his family in Germany. He chose the latter.

Thankfully, my good friend Jacklyn had just become engaged, and was looking to move to a larger space in preparation for getting married - she moved in next door. And since Mats couldn't take his furniture with him, he left a lot of it for them, which worked out perfectly. And when Jacklyn's fiance Andrei needed to move out of his other place prematurely, we just so happened to have a spare bedroom available at our place.

So we've lucked out with our neighbours so far. Jacklyn moved in, Andrei lived in our spare bedroom until they got married, and then he had the long move next door.

And it's been great to have neighbours we're friends with too. Even with little details like parking spaces. We have a parking space for our car. Since we've sold it, we can share our parking space with our neighbours when either of us has a guest over that drives.

Have extra food? Made too much spaghetti sauce? Trying out a new coffee cake recipe? Your neighbour makes a readily available taste tester/leftovers recipient. And they like it. Everybody wins. (Dear Andrei. Thank you for perfecting your coffee cake recipe. We are happy to try any future refinements you make.)

If one of us goes out of town, the other can come by, feed the pets, get the mail, borrow a movie... Food is easy to share. Need a cup of sugar? The neighbour will probably have it? (Want to share some of the cinnamon rolls you just made? You have a neighbour next door who just lent you sugar...) The same for extension cords, Scotch tape, Scotch, screwdrivers, and a whole lot more. My neighbours are great.

Not to mention the upper deck isn't "this side" and "that side" when it comes to parties, it's easy to entertain twice as many.

And like everything else, you want to be considerate and thoughtful and set good boundaries, and if you're like me you're not always considerate, but thankfully I have forgiving neighbours who like food. It's worked out pretty well. And while sound's not much of an issue. Andrei told Jarod the other day that he heard him playing guitar, and applauded when he finished the song. (Jarod didn't hear him, unfortunately)

And a couple days ago when I was out of dish soap and the dish pile was getting higher and higher, and it was too late to go to the store.... they were away for the weekend, so I just borrowed theirs and bought them a replacement bottle when I was at the store next.

Good neighbours, good stuff all around.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

michael pollan, mark bittman, and why i'm no "foodie"

This past summer, I worked at the Juravinski Cancer Centre. On my final day of work, I decided to buy a lunch as a treat. I normally don't eat lunchmeat or white bread, but I really like a good sandwich - crusty Italian bread, ham or turkey, good cheese, tomato, so I thought I'd go for something like that, since the cafeteria normally had specials that looked pretty good.

When I was in line, I saw there was a special like that, but noticed the cheese on the "display" sandwich was melty orange goo squishing out the front.

Me: "Can I get real cheese on this sandwich instead of processed?"
Worker: "Uh, no, we only have processed cheese. actually we never have real cheese unless there's a special that has real cheese on the sandwich"
Me: Uhh..... ok. (completely and utterly dumbfounded..)

I ate the processed cheese, but that was a letdown. I could have bought ingredients for six awesome sandwiches for the same price -- and probably should have. Although once in a while, I will eat the processed cheese by choice. (And to be fair, the hospital had just done a review process that also was phasing in healthier options, so hopefully this isn't always the case).

I've heard of a couple people whose views on food I find interesting, though I don't know a ton about them.

There's a guy named Michael Pollan who wrote a book called "In Defense of Food." I haven't read it, but it's been summed up as: Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The "real food" part, especially, I like hearing. Not processed cheese or "soyrizo" or Eggos... real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (Though again, once in a while I'll do the processed thing).

There's another guy named Mark Bittman who's pretty good too - I've asked for "How to Cook Everything" for Christmas, and I like hearing about his eating choices - vegan for breakfast and dinner, and then anything (including meat and whatever else) for dinner. 

That's actually pretty close to how I eat in a typical day - usually 'oatmeal' for breakfast (boiling water poured over minute oats, because I don't want to actually cook anything in the morning), some kind of vegetarian or vegan thing for lunch (usually with beans or cheese as the protein) and then something awesome for dinner. 

I like those ideas about food.

They're simple. (Mark also says things like "Don't bother mincing, just chop").
They put a priority on real food without a lot of restrictions.
And they remind people that being able to feed yourself is a basic skill. 

Convenience foods have become so much a way of life that a lot of people think they're a right - and don't know how to make food or budget for making their own food, even as they pursue higher education. (This whole "wah, I can't afford my latte, all I can afford is cucumber sandwiches on $7.50 a day" article epitomizes that. This guy offers a cogent response.

That, to me, is so weird. Even if you don't know anything, you can always learn. And $7.50 a day is quite a bit of money for one or even two people, if you want to learn basic skills.

I started university with 2 years in residence with a microwave and a kettle - not a great place to learn about food prep. I remember the first summer I lived in an apartment, and had to figure out my own meals. I knew how to bake stuff from a recipe, and to make a few meals at home, but I wasn't used to figuring it out for myself.

I knew how to make a few things (how to brown meat and make spaghetti sauce, tuna sandwiches, baked potatoes, stir-fry) but I certainly didn't know how to do much. Between Google and a crazy work schedule of 60+ hours a week (full-time morning shifts at Tim Hortons and a night shift at the dollar store) though, I figured some stuff out. And I never, ever ate ramen noodles or Kraft Dinner, mostly because I don't like them.

Two sites taught me pretty much everything I know about recipes - and (formerly If you want to make a recipe, type it in the search box, sort it by ranking, and choose the one with 378 five-star reviews... that's been my method for years.

By year 3, I'd moved into an apartment, and the only things I really remember making were a lot of tzatziki and pitas, a lot of eggs, a lot of salad, a lot of whole-wheat toast and peanut butter, and buying huge packages of ground beef and chicken, separating them into individual portions, and freezing all the little portions. (I was also a pretty awful roommate... I even got a dog without asking my roomates, a few weeks before they moved in. Man. I don't know how they put up with me.)

I was at Jarod's a lot too that year, and everyone else living there was Chinese or Korean, so we learned a ton about how to cook rice, different sauces, and tried a lot of new stuff. We also cooked a lot of chicken or beef with rice on the side. And spaghetti. Always spaghetti, and we started buying only whole-wheat pasta then.

I find it weird when people are impressed that either of us cook, or that we can make our own meals. I don't think I'm a "foodie" at all, or that I particularly care for obscure or exotic ingredients. I tried quinoa a little while ago after we'd had it at a restaurant last year (with a $20 off coupon!) and found you can make some awesome things with it and it's pretty healthy. But I think a lot of gourmet food stuff is pretentious and expensive, and I don't care much for things like the exact flavours in a glass of wine or what's "trendy"

I guess if avocados or fajitas are strange to people, I can understand that -- but what's easier than half an avocado on toast or frying up some meat, peppers, and seasoning in six minutes and throwing it on some tortillas? I guess I just think about it as "quick and easy" (although with avocados I also think "expensive!")

But once a month or so, Jarod gets Kraft Dinner and I get a donut. You gotta have that stuff too, just not all the time.

We've got a jar of mild curry paste in the fridge I haven't cracked yet, and I just learned to make biscotti a few years ago. (I also tried making sushi - way more time-consuming than I'd like, for something I'd rather eat once in a while and have it made for me).
But baking's more recreation than necessity (I don't do bread or anything like that) and I don't like making anything for dinner that takes more than 15-20 minutes. I don't soak dried beans, and I don't do once-a-month-cooking. Even crock-pot stuff usually requires a lot more forethought than I like. 

I also like meat in pretty much any dinner dish (though TVP and tofu do get used once in a while). My Mennonite roots tend towards the blander, starchy, robust foods, but man, they are good - though now I can make a stir-fry or fish tacos pretty easily too, and stroganoff's quick. Stuff like jambalaya or anything like that takes a lot of time and I'm just not interested in taking a lot of time. (These took a little while but I figure I only buy pumpkin once or twice a year - making them was a good decision.) Adding vegetables is what takes the effort and thought - and is usually a salad or some nuked frozen veggie, if it's not already in the meal.

That said, for Jarod and I, one of our favorite things to do is go out for dinner - once every month or two, when we can. We like trying new stuff or really well-prepared things we know. You can get 6 quail at the farmers' market for $9 - I've got to try making those some day soon - a friend of ours made us Cornish hens and wild rice a few years ago, and maybe I'll try something like that.

And no processed cheese. 

Except earlier this week, when Jarod picked up his box of KD, and asked if I wanted it for lunch... and after I made a horrible face, he proposed that it would be mixed with cooked ground beef and spaghetti sauce. And yeah - I sure did. Nothing fancy, certainly not healthy, but once in a while that's OK with me.

Monday, November 1, 2010


‎"'The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me." - Donald Miller.

"...if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, 'How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?' The point is that each person's pride is in competition with everyone else's pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise." - C.S. Lewis (excerpts can be found here and here)

I've been kicking these particular thoughts around for a week, and they aren't very well-formatted yet... but may as well put them out there.

I don't think of myself (much) as being a person who cares much about celebrity. Politics is not my calling, and to be known for its own sake.... seems a bit useless.

Influence and leadership, though, is definitely my currency. I want to know that I'm making some kind of difference, and the ability to bring others towards a common goal is definitely something I'm built for. But it's also something that's incredibly easy to confuse with just general popularity and being liked and agreed with.

And in some ways, they correlate - trying to lead without having the underlying character and outer charisma is a bit of a wasted effort... on the other hand, there's a way it can degenerate into simple manipulation, image, strategy.... and I'm not good with that.

Even something simple though, can show how proud I am. I think I've got a pretty healthy self-esteem, and I've kicked up enough accomplishments in the past decade for me to feel pretty good about. But whenever I have to take a job or do something that's relatively powerless, or in a role that's traditionally associated with not-leading or a job without a lot of power, it really wears on me. I did administrative work again this summer... and I was so glad to get out of it. Even when I'm asked to do something administration-related for anything else I'm involved in, it gets me. I don't want to be helping fill out papers, I want to be calling some shots. Pretty rough, eh? For a while I've had a few boxes of oak baseboard scraps (originally received because I needed some scrap wood to help repair a bookcase). I've been turning them into semi-useful, (semi-profitable?) key racks.... but the act of cutting and painting these bring up these immediate "crafty scrapbooking stay-at-home-mom" associations that make me wince. Again... not a shining moment.

I shouldn't be threatened when I have to take on stuff like that. And I shouldn't fall into the trap of assuming that just because I don't want to be in roles like a scrapbooking mom or a secretary, that those are bad roles for someone else to take on.

Dave Slater spoke at Lift last night, and referenced Matthew 20 - when Jesus was asked if he'd put certain disciples in places of honor in his kingdom: 

"But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave."

And it's easy to skim over that and go "yeah, yeah, that's a nice sentiment about being a leader that's also helping others" -- but at the core it's a lot more radical than that. Because it doesn't negate leadership. It doesn't translate into weak leadership. But it does completely change how you think about leadership's foundation and patterns.

A bit more from Lewis:

"Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.

If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed."

well.... another first step, another day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Election day tomorrow in Hamilton

Tomorrow night we're having a little party at my house. Just a few folks, starting at 8 or so. We're going to watch election results.

Tomorrow is Hamilton's municipal election. There's a lot of good candidates, especially in my ward. There's at least five candidates I could have confidently voted for in my ward, and it came down to a minor difference why I chose the one I did. Even for mayor, there were two of the three frontrunners I think I could have responsibly chosen.

For me personally, I voted in the advance polls. For mayor - Fred Eisenberger, and for Ward 2 councillor - Martinus Gelensye. (Paul Casey and Matt Jelly were close runners-up in my choice.)

I like municipal elections the most because things don't get polarized into "left" and "right" wing, especially because I hold priorities on both sides of the spectrum. I think Eisenberger's most closely aligned with mine for mayor, and while several folks had platforms I could get behind in Ward 2, Martinus brings some forms of experience to the table that the other folks don't.

And I look forward to seeing the results, because I firmly believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. Not just city leadership of course, but that's an important piece of the puzzle.

I've also had the privilege of being part of the following campaign - I don't care who you vote for (or even if you make an intentional decision not to vote) but I'm very conscious of the privilege I have to vote, and the big difference leadership makes.

These ads could have been even better, but I'm really glad we were able to get them in buses around the city as well as a lot of local papers - radio ads went out too. I'm glad that was able to happen this timea round.

Even if neither candidate I vote for gets in, I'm glad I've been a part of the process. And no matter who gets in, I hope the leadership of this city is solid, visionary, and forward-thinking for the next four years.

We'll see. And tomorrow will be a party, either way.

Two stories.

This weekend, thousands of teenagers come to Hamilton - for one of the most polarizing events within the "youth ministry" community.

Acquire the Fire.

The thing most in its favour? It gets a large amount of teenagers together, from really varied church backgrounds. It's one of the only events in Ontario to do that, and the largest in Hamilton.

The thing least in its favour? It's a big American event, and its methods, metaphors and worldviews show it.

I've been as a teenager, and I've taken teens to it before as a youth leader.

Ever since living here, I haven't.

One, because I'm finding the cons are outweighing the pros about it.. 

Two, because if you're a teenager that goes to Sir John A. MacDonald high school across the street from Copps Coliseum, the thrill of an event there is considerably diminished!

Three, because TrueCity puts together a great local event that also gets together a ton of teenagers from widely varying church backgrounds twice a year - where teens from different churches spend a day volunteering at places around the city - at places that actually can use the help. And there's a lot of context and carefulness and humility that goes into it. I think it's a better fit.

And because I've just been around on those weekends - shopping at the market, going to the library, passing by on my way to somewhere, I've got a different perspective. I've met groups who stayed in the church building I worked at - let them know the location of the nearest Starbucks and Pizza Pizza, and that the BBQ restaurant on the corner was also really good! I try to give a little bit of context about the city and the opportunity to see something good in it - even if it's as minor as a familiar chain restaurant or pointing out something good about the city they can experience.

I understand how events like this work -- by taking someone out of their daily context, having an event in a different city, people are more receptive to hearing new things - challenging things. And good things, like researching and understanding your faith, being unashamed of it, communicating it to others. Even boldness - which is a good thing, if not abused. And when a conference is an event in a bigger city, it feels bigger. More powerful. Like it means more. 

But because Hamilton's an unfamiliar place - and a poorer and less attractive one than people are used to, I'm also confronted with scenes like last year... the first story... when I'm in front of Jackson Square with several McMaster students and a group of young teenagers come stamping by singing worship songs at the top of their lungs... or teens screaming "Jesus loves you" at people.

Would they do it at their high school? I don't think so.

Because they know - in some part of their heads - that loving God isn't supposed to turn into a verbal offensive onslaught. These things are not meant to be shouted or screamed at people. They're part of a faith that leads to transformed lives... and when they're turned into this sort of frontal assault.. that assumes everyone around it isn't part of their faith... it makes me very squeamish.

And I know by the time they get back home and back to their school, and usually their youth leaders have talked to them about having a life that shows your faith - and that gentleness, humility, and respect are parts of that, and they realize that they have to see the people in their high school every day, they're more careful about what they do. And by the time most of them reach Grade 11 or 12, they're at a stage of more thoughtfulness and maturity, and more considerate of others. 

And their witness becomes something more like what I heard last week at the McMaster cafeteria. the second story... - three guys talking together about what exactly Jesus' death meant, and assurance of salvation. Two guys who knew each other, a third guy who barely knew them.. but they were talking quietly and humbly. They were showing each other a lot of respect. They weren't disrupting those around them or getting into a heated argument. (I only heard them since I was sitting at the next table and had just removed my headphones).

It was gentle, it was intellectually honest, and it was life-giving. I've seen a lot of that on the Mac campus, and I've had the privilege to start being involved with another group, Lift Church, who gently and quietly enable students to do campus ministry there, from small groups to food giveaways, no strings attached. 

And I know that most of the time, things will bear out that way in these kids' lives. They have leaders, they have churches, they have friends who will help them work through this stuff.

But... the weekend of ATF, when they walk by and yell stuff, I'm still standing with a bunch of people who've just heard bombastic catchphrases, and my heart's breaking.

And this may be funny coming from me, because I'm a loudmouth, I know that.
I'm not good with the gentle.
I'm not good with the quiet.
I'm an opinionated person who usually runs her mouth off, (or shuts down completely to avoid saying something stupid.)

But I try really hard not to confuse confrontational tactics for what I believe. Because I think the gospel's the only thing that makes real sense of life, and that the gospel - that God created the world good, that the world and humanity fell through human rebellion, sin; and Jesus Christ came to die, be buried, and rise again to defeat death and bear the punishment for sin - and that God will one day make everything right again--- is beautiful truth and not absurdity or foolishness.

I believe it not only makes sense, but is a truly comprehensive worldview that adds to instead of confounds knowledge and life. It's compatible with when I majored in philosophy. It's compatible with my theology degree and master's studies. And when I'm studying the human heart and understanding physics techniques used in sound imaging, that's a part of it too

And I understand to believe, support, and articulate that is tough - and always has been.

But I don't want my backup to be people who learn to scream the truth at others.

I want to hear more people gently, quietly, encouragingly speak the truth in love - like those guys in the cafeteria, or the students at Lift Church on the McMaster campus giving away food, no strings attached. more like the second story.

And I hope the kids this weekend have been learning that - just as I hope I'm learning it, and learning to be a little gentler, a little quieter, and a little bolder myself. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

five months in

It's been five months. I think I'll start writing again.

Not that I expect much of an audience after so long a hiatus, but I think I need to start recording things more carefully. And more consistently.

Later today, I think.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity (from TED 2009)

I've seen this on a few blogs, and I really like how Jon Acuff frames it:

"Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a massive book called, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Now, she finds herself with the impossible task of trying to recreate that success with her next book. In this video, she details the relationship between people and the creative beauty of God. It’s not a “Christian video” but it’s the most perfect example I’ve seen of a person bumping into the beautiful mystery of God and being unable to deny it. Here’s one of her quotes:

“Allowing somebody, one mere person, to believe that he or she is the vessel, the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile human psyche. It’s like asking someone to swallow the sun.”

I can’t encourage you enough to watch this"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

living a meaningful story - this week.

I like Don Miller, and this book intrigues me. It's on my summer reading list.
I read this post a month or so ago, and it's been bouncing around my brain since then.

It makes sense. I've lived in a lot of different settings - cities - houses - areas - with very different people. I've worked at a lot of different jobs. I still often go to new workplaces, parties, churches, hospitals, venues, cities, conferences, classrooms, seminars or meetings where I need to understand a whole room of people and a whole new context - and blend in.

A little while ago, Jarod and I were talking with some people we know well. It was about comments they'd made - we found them pretty hurtful, because they were generalizations about certain cultures... and we had to ask them "Do you realize you're talking about the culture of our friends and the people we work with and go to school with? Those things you're saying aren't true."

It was a weird conversation. But it led to a good outcome... they talked about how they realized by talking to us how limited their experience has been, and how their initial comments were based on a lack of understanding.

It makes me hopeful. Being people who have experiences - and tell our stories - helps other people understand how to get outside their own box. And at the same time, listening to others' stories is important.

Failing to hear stories and keeping a limited perspective keeps us back in so many areas. Sure, we may hear theory about career options or taking your vitamins or whether public transit works or safely using power tools... but if there's no context, talk about any of that stuff is just information.

But when you talk to the PR specialist or you're walking alongside someone with osteoporosis or taking the subway or seeing a severed finger reattached.... you've got an image. You've got an experience. You've got a story of your own now. That information becomes real.

So I want to keep having more experiences, doing new things, getting into scenarios and going places that give me more stories - whether that's the story of learning to use the table saw with the wooden hand or what kind of trucks they use in Florence - or just how I made spaghetti sauce in university. All of that is part and parcel of the stories I have so far. I want more. I want better. I want new. I likely have several more decades to gain and pass on more of them and I like Don Miller's words on creating memorable scenes and going to different settings.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back in the game, I suppose - Input, steeping, output.

I've always felt that it's better to write than not to write.
Not because I'm writing for a specific audience, as I might writing an article.
Not because I want to get a lot of readers.
But because if I write 100 pieces, one or two will come out well, and it will make me a better writer.

However, I find myself in the place now that I can't do it on the things I really care about or focus on the field I'm in.

A couple years ago, I used to read a lot. Books, blogs, the Bible, conferences on the things I'm passionate about - youth ministry and urban churches.

I've been informed before. I've been keeping up in my field before. I've been steeping myself in the mindsets and people and Scripture and prayer that I need to keep myself in the right space/place mentally... (Grounded and centered and current and relevant and thoughtful........... not regurgitant and derivative and restless). That's a good mental place.

I'm not there right now. I think I'm doing well at my job, and I'm happy about the words I say and the programming I do... but I haven't been growing as much as I'd like, as a leader. I'm not in the right mental place, and I need to be growing more. But I have been there before.

But when I'm there mentally, then I progress through three stages when I write

I can reiterate things well said by others on various issues, personalizing them somewhat
2. I can talk about "new" perspectives - still derived, but with one's own perspective
3. I can occasionally float a much more original and contextualized concept or idea.

The problem is, without 1 and 2, 3 is somewhat difficult. And I think I'm someone with the potential and giftings to make a substantive contribution with #3 in that list someday - or even several much smaller ones. In fact, I'd think that's an important part of what I do.

I actually have books on my shelf that I've ordered months ago and haven't read. For me, that's way, way, way out of the ordinary. I still love what I do. But it takes effort and time that I need to reshuffle.

With limited time, I find I've largely given up the conversation. I pretty much say "um, hi... urghle urghle duh" when I run into other pastors -- some of whom I formerly sought out to talk to because of what they knew and how they did what they did. I'm not in a real "learning" mode right now, and that sucks.

I don't want to stay in stasis... but neither do I want to treat it lightly. It's work. It requires effort, dignity, thought- they're weighty matters. And I love this stuff. It's just too important to relegate to the level of recreation, or to reduce to an academic "get all the information" exercise.

It takes work and time and thought to rejoin that conversation daily, weekly, monthly. And without joining the conversation, I can't hope to steep myself in enough of 1 and 2 to come up with anything meaningful for 3.

The problem then becomes -- the non-work-related things I do for recreation/relaxation/enjoyment (food, building things, buildings, design, art, cities, opining, community involvement) become the majority of what i output.

The nice part is, recreation is possible in 10, 15 minute chunks. And for the past two years, almost all of my days have had several short breaks in them, useless for work but great for recreation.

And while in those 15 minutes I may shoot out a good opinion or three, or repost many things of interest, or exclaim passionately about my likes and dislikes.... I don't think I have much substantive to offer that hasn't been said before there. I'm no great artist or developer or craftsman. I'm far too derivative and amateur for that. I do it for fun, not because I look to make a substantive and world-changing contribution with any of this stuff.

But because I'm using them for recreation, I can sometimes end up doing #1 and #2 with that list. But no work is being done here either.

Starting tomorrow, I won't have those 15-minute chunks anymore, which helps.

But more has to be done. What's the solution there?
Find more time? (not likely)
Give up recreation entirely? (not healthy or fun)
Leave the conversation for a later time? (not productive)

There's probably not too much I can do at this point, but I don't want to leave things.

Tomorrow, coincidentally, I start taking the GO again for two months. It will exhaust me. It will frustrate me. But I'll be doing nuclear cardiac testing for a month (exciting, at a place I hear is great!) and regular cardiac testing for another month (also exciting -- and a place I've worked before that I know is great).

The upshot is -- that gives me some of that time -- a train ride each way I can use. Two hours of reading time a day, which I really appreciated before. I think that's part of the solution. But I'm not going to be bringing a laptop along with everything else, so we'll have to see how the low-tech stuff goes.

And who knows, if they decide to keep me around, I could be taking it for a lot longer, so I want to get off on the right foot this time and use those 2 hours a day rightly.

But I'd like to start getting back to where I was before... because I feel like I've been out of the game for too long... and I don't want to lean on what I've learned and heard and done before. I want to keep growing as a person as a leader, and be thoughtful enough about the things that matter.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

this turned out brilliantly

i like TVP, but unless it has a while to soak in flavour it can still have a soy aftertaste and be fairly distinguishable from red meat.

this was a relatively quick way for it to pass 100% for ground beef - taste, texture, smell.

start some water boiling

wait till it boils
then add two thirds box of whole wheat penne,

while that water starts going
preheat the oven to 350 degrees

and also heat up a pan
add a glug of oil and
one-quarter cup diced yellow and orange peppers
one small diced onion
saute for a few minutes, add a bit of garlic powder
add a quarter cup of red wine or so
simmer for a few minutes, then add one-third jar or so of Catelli diced tomato and basil sauce (on sale right now at No Frills for a dollar)

as that is saute-ing and cooking away mix together (a one-cup measuring cup works great)
one-half cup TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
about three-quarters of a cup boiling water
stir in:
1 pinch italian seasoning
1 tsp or so of beef boullion
5 or 6 dashes of worchestershire sauce
a good glug of red wine (2 tbsp or so)

and shred
one cup cheddar cheese (or other cheeses)

About a minute before the pasta is finished and you start putting the dish together, mix together the TVP mixture and the sauce.

pasta finished cooking..? .. good!

drain the pasta, then layer in a medium casserole dish:

pasta, cheese, sauce
pasta, cheese, sauce

Bake (uncovered) for a little while - 20 minutes is good, but i got impatient and took it out after 10. it was still awesome.

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 28

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. Location
3. Size (population)
4. Scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. Buildings
7. Nature

8. Film industry
9. Markets and restaurants
10. Trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. Climate
13. Safety
14. Landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. Sports teams
17. Schools
18. Entertainment options
19. The churches and (other faith groups)
20. Festivals and events
21. History
22. Waterfront
23. Small businesses
24. Coffee
25. Being a real part of change
26. Anyone can be active and green.
27. The people

28. Opportunity

I have never lived ANYWHERE else where so much opportunity existed - for myself and for others.

Other cities may have more jobs, but a lot less opportunity as far as owning property, raising kids (especially on one income), and affordable food and recreation and community groups.

Here, what we have is in reach. You can get a great education for a small amount of money, without traveling far. You can eat just about any cuisine. You can drink great coffee. You can hike great trails and visit the beach and get around easily, however you prefer. You can open businesses and pay a quarter of the rent - or even own the building!

Hamilton is rich in opportunity. Not just potential for what this city can be, but what it is right now.

For the future, I do have to say... we can't screw it up. Cities need to be dense, connected hubs that respond to a shifting economy. I hope we catch up. To see the death of industry is painful, but the opportunity is staggering! We need to keep increasing the city's livability, stability, healthcare, education, infrastructure.

If you're poor, the barriers are largely psychological. Sure, there's predatory loan companies and unscrupulous businesses all over the place... but with OSAP, like I did, there's a lot you can do with your life before you've taken on any loans or have a credit rating. Mentors and awareness are huge here.

Right here, right now, though - we have a land of opportunity for those willing to reach out and take it. It doesn't mean it's easy... but wow, Hamilton allows you to do SO MUCH. You can be just about anything here, do just about anything, access just about anything. You may have to fight your way past red tape with a property or slug it out to get whatever job you need to get you by... but there's huge opportunity here to make just about anything of yourself and fulfill whatever dreams you have.

All we need is for the people who live here to believe that - and be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. I certainly do. And I certainly am.

Hamilton has the greatest opportunity in it of any Ontario city I know - for me now, for the kids we'll have one day, or the teenagers I mentor. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 27

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. Location
3. Size (population)
4. Scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. Buildings
7. Nature

8. Film industry
9. Markets and restaurants
10. Trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. Climate
13. Safety
14. Landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. Sports teams
17. Schools
18. Entertainment options
19. The churches and (other faith groups)
20. Festivals and events
21. History
22. Waterfront
23. Small businesses
24. Coffee
25. Being a real part of change
26. Anyone can be active and green.

27. The people.

I've lived in towns, suburbs, and cities small and large.
I've spent time with people of many different professions and economic classes.
I've been in places where the "norm" was vastly different than it was here.

And my favorite part of Hamilton is the people.

By and large, there's a work ethic that puts its head down and gets things done.
There's an unpretentiousness that says "join us" instead of sticking its nose up
There's a down-to-earth attitude and honesty among many.

And for good or ill, there's a tenacity. Once people get an idea in their heads, it's very hard to shake. And while that can lead to a stubborn resistance to good things -- very often it manifests by people doing what they have to do, over and over again. If it's applied in the right direction, I love and resonate with that tenacity.

And there's great diversity. Within a few kilometres of me, there's people that make nothing and people that make millions. Some have gone from rags to riches, and some have done the reverse.

I like that this is a city where you can know a lot of people's names.
I like that this is a city where the average person can accomplish a lot.
I like that this is a city where people have seen enough empty promises to be suspicious - instead of cities where success is so common they fall for any promise.
And I like that this is a city where most people hope for change.

And I like that, in spite of division, people here seem to share more common ground - common hopes, common fears, common goals - for themselves and the city.

It's certainly not a perfect city - and no other one is.

But I love the people here. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.

Friday, February 26, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 26

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. Location
3. Size (population)
4. Scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. Buildings
7. Nature

8. Film industry
9. Markets and restaurants
10. Trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. Climate
13. Safety
14. Landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. Sports teams
17. Schools
18. Entertainment options
19. The churches and (other faith groups)
20. Festivals and events
21. History
22. Waterfront
23. Small businesses
24. Coffee
25. Being a real part of change

26. Anyone can be active and green here.

Hamilton has the right scale for it.
Hamilton has pretty decent infrastructure for it.
The exception might be the buildings in which it's difficult/impossible to do a green bin and/or without recycling facilities.
To bike from Dundurn to Kenilworth is 7 km
Lots of houses are on a small footprint environmentally - and other options exist.
The amount of trips necessary with a car is small compared to other cities.
And the recreation we have - from public pools to trails to being able to walk around - is amazing.
If leagues are your thing, there's everything from frisbee golf to volleyball.
And if all you want or need to do is walk, there's a lot of great routes to do it.

A lot of the barriers, like having neighbourhoods only accessible by car, isn't true except for tiny pockets here.
Even those without a lot of money can afford fresh food at the markets and grocery stores. Unlike many other cities that only have "convenience" stores for whole neighbourhoods, we have a lot of grocery stores in all areas of the city.

You can do extra things too. Use Bullfrog power. Get rain barrels. Live closer to the things you access every week.

You don't have to have a lot of money to be active. Options exist.
You don't have to have a lot of money to be green. Options exist.
And that's another advantage of cities in general - and of Hamilton in particular.

Anyone can live an active and green lifestyle here. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 25

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. Location
3. Size (population)
4. Scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. Buildings
7. Nature

8. Film industry
9. Markets and restaurants
10. Trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. Climate
13. Safety
14. Landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. Sports teams
17. Schools
18. Entertainment options
19. The churches and (other faith groups)
20. Festivals and events
21. History
22. Waterfront
23. Small businesses
24. Coffee

25. Being a real part of change.

A little more personal today.

It was a tough trip. And it shouldn't have been.

J-Rod and I walked to the market at Jackson.
Admired the crane that was installing new equipment on the way.
Picked up a few items from the library

Found some dandelion greens for Robulon
Bought face wash from PharmaPlus
Browsed through Coles for a particular book. Didn't find it. Oh well.
Took a minute to stop at the bank.
Headed home.

It took all of an hour and a half. The weather was great, the walk was pleasant, and we found everything we needed quickly. As we set out, we noticed Waxy's looked busy (wonderful) and the snowflakes were the tiniest ones we'd seen in ages.

Except... the entire way we had a headwind blowing cigarette smoke in our faces. We'd speed up to try and unobtrusively walk past one, and another would light up ahead of us. I did not want a migraine on my day off.

It was good Jackson was so busy even without the work-week traffic. And to be fair, a lot of it was pretty average traffic.

It just seemed like the worst elements were louder today than usual. Crowded, rude, loud, spitting... letting their toddler sit down on the floor of a store and play with the doormat. That plus the smoke on the way really got to us... and by the end, we just wanted to get out.

But I thought I'd stop in at one last store for one last thing - to find the song playing in the background was some moron going on about "all my baby mamas." I just said "screw this" and walked out.

(I've probably said before that I'm real big on the "nurture" vs. nature side of development.
Environment still matters, regardless of age.

Until Hamilton takes care of how it treats its poor or less socially or emotionally nurtured, it's going to keep spitting out the same type of result.

With all the advantages of Hamilton, if you're a hard worker and you have a trajectory going, you'll be fine. If you can seek out opportunity and examples you'll be fine.

But... there's been people I've told people not to move here. They're not motivated enough.
If you need an environment that will help push you to succeed and get off your couch and provide opportunity and examples for you to succeed on a relatable level - this is likely not the place for you.)

So... why was this morning encouraging?

On the way home, I didn't want us to stay mad. Indignant, maybe, but not upset.

My first response was to list the six or eight people that I'm glad we know here. We are not the only ones. We have several good friends, not just acquaintances, that are doing the same thing as us. They're self-supporting, working hard, doing what they need to do - and making it! The lie of this city is that it's not possible unless someone else is paying your way or otherwise helping you out - or that it's not possible at all. But it is.

There were one or two where we said "yeah, this city's getting to them in _______ regard. We gotta make a point of encouraging them."

My second response was.... if we were in another city again, we'd likely just be another version of the other people we know. Even though people called us "exceptional" there, which is flattering but irritating, we really weren't. It was the norm to put yourself through school (with or without parental help) and get an education, and then work to pay it off. And if the thing you are trained in wasn't hiring? Find another job or retrain - don't sit around and whine!

Here, we can still do the same thing -- and show just how unexceptional (read: normal and achievable) it can be. To be an example of how you can come from very little, and make something of yourself.

And we can encourage others who are trying to do the same thing - and those who are only starting to make those choices in life, or starting to make those choices for the first time.

Not that you ever do it completely alone - we have faith, we have friends, and we have a community around us that all shape the environment we find ourselves in. Change is possible. And it is possible here.

But if we went to live among a homogenous group again, what good would that do?

Change doesn't come through isolation.
It doesn't (largely) come through donation.

It comes through presence.
It comes through example.
It comes through being part of things.

So I'm content to do something unexceptional in most contexts, and so-called exceptional in this one.
I'm content to remain a grown-up.
I'm content to be someone who's worked hard and made it through life - the ups and down.
I'm content to keep being an example.
I'm content to keep giving people skills to succeed.
And I'm content to be part of the many groups that offer larger solutions.

Because at least here the opportunity exists to be a part of the solution. Our problems aren't shuffled off in giant highrises or peripheral developments. They're at the core. And you can either run away and compartmentalize, or deal with it. But it's a lot harder to compartmentalize here.

Perhaps your place - in your city - is to be a developer. Or a tutor. Landlord. Grandparent. Neighbour. Mentor. Business owner. Employee.

But whatever it is, do it well, and be part of the solution. Don't distance yourself.

Many of us will have the opportunity to own property. Where you buy your house changes things.

So one day, we'll make the choice most parents need to - to initially buy, or move to a neighbourhood that you're comfortable with your kids going to school in. Thankfully, there's several neighbourhoods with great schools that are also close enough - and varied enough - to make a difference in while retaining proximity.

There's no need to move to the periphery of town for that like there is in other cities. But if you do, you'll still find needs you can address there - if you take the time to be aware of their existence and choose to acknowledge them.

As a Christian, and as a pastor, my view looks far ahead. I've posted this meditation by Archbishop Oscar Romero above my desk for a long time. Whatever your own perspective, the realization that change is incremental, but significant, is important. And there's also value in trying to find larger, collaborative solutions that address problems on a larger scale.

I can be a real part of change. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.