Saturday, January 31, 2004

We're In....

Moving everything in one day might have been a bad idea, but it turned out pretty well. Even with a couple of very irritating delays, we got the truck back by just after four. My dad and I packed it all into one 16ft box van, unloading it in just under an hour at the new place. Unlike the previous days, we didn't get any snow and it was nice and warm -- perfect for moving, really.

Of course we're feeling discombobulated in the new place. In the evening we were wandering among the boxes, bewildered and not sure where to start. Myron and Tracey brought pizza and beer and laughs, helping us get some of the main things in place and raising our spirits. By 10:30 we were starting to crash. Weird to sleep in a new room in a new home in a new town.

Ella's doing good, and Ivy's been a bit up and down. She had a few meltdowns last night and this morning, but occasionally she's delighted. Must be stressful for her too. This morning when I went in to say good morning, she announced, "Daddy, I'm so glad we're still in the new house -- it's great." Later, while we were making pancakes, she ran into the kitchen: "I just found something HORRIBLE! There's no bathtub in the downstairs bathroom!" Oh, the drama for a two-year-old.

We hit the IGA down the street for our first shopping trip -- it's just different enough from our "usual" IGA to be thoroughly confusing. Now Ivy's taking a nap while Tannis and Ella explore downtown a bit. This afternoon we'll have to start opening boxes again, trying to find places to put all of our junk. I'm on slow dial-up access right now, but I'll post some photos when I get some speed.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Big Move

We were busy packing all of our earthly belongings into boxes today. I was helping Barb move a couple of weeks ago and she pointed out moving is embarassing. The good souls who help you schlepp your stuff around get to see what you've chosen to buy and keep over the years, and of course most of it is junk to the outsider's eye.

We were determined to get rid of a bunch of stuff, but we weren't very successful. For example, Tannis was gracious enough not to laugh out loud when I started lovingly packing up my 1983 Colecovision. All day it dumped snow on the valley, meaning that we'll have very slow going and messy transfers tomorrow...but we kept our spirits up. Mom worked like a dog and kept Ivy entertained. Vicki and Dad joined us later -- the bulk of the packing went really fast in the afternoon.

By this time tomorrow, we'll have all our stuff crammed into a new abode. The net connection might take a while, so we'll probably be offline for a while.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Winter Wonderland

It's been a weird winter in the Okanagan. We had our usual brown Christmas, but then snow that actually stuck around and some nasty Canadian cold that actually froze the edges of the lake enough to skate on (first time I've seen that in 14 years since my folks moved here). Then we had a couple of weeks of warm, wet weather that had us thinking spring was here. The last couple of days we've had a huge dump of snow, making the trees beautiful, the playground funky and freezing the dragon at the waterpark.

I've had some nostalgic feelings about our neighbourhood since we knew we were moving, but not as much as I've expected. I suppose we'll actually have to leave to know what we'll miss.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Return of the King

I waited until yesterday to see the final installment of the Lord of the Rings. I guess I was finally ready, having cooled my expectations somewhat. It feels silly to talk about my impressions of it, considering that millions of people have already seen it and commented on every frame, note and word in the film. But I wanted to keep a few thoughts here for myself, because later I know I'll wonder how I felt the first time I saw it.

First, a note about my context. I wasn't one of those teenagers who read the trilogy over and over. In fact, I think I had only ever read The Hobbit right through, at least until the bandwagon started rolling over the planet in the year or two before the movies. I do have some major Tolkien fans as friends, including Tannis, who has probably read the series more times than she could count. Anyway, I've read through them enough times to have some pretty specific expectations of the films.

Anyone could quibble about details, omissions and difficulties in all three movies, but I thought that each was redeemed by the quality of the acting, the majesty of the cinematography and the authenticity of the whole exercise. The Two Towers had the most weaknesses, but a middle installment really just moves the story along. Fellowship was a wonderful introduction to Middle Earth and the story, but I really loved Return of the King. The incredible seige of Minas Tirith, the charge of Rohan, Gandalf throughout, Gollum's treachery, the Paths of the Dead, Aragorn's ascension, Theoden's fall, Eowyn and Merry taking out the Witch King...the list could go on and on. It was all amazing and overwhelming and powerful.

History Telescope

Chris Corrigan posted this week about the age of BC's earliest First Nations settlements. He talks about how critics claim that First Nations people were immigrants too, just like the white people who came later. But we're talking about evidence of human occupation around 12,000 years ago, thousands of years before the Egyptians even started doing anything important. Puts land claims in a different light, I think.

Tomorrow's Memoir Trailer

Jim has added a new trailer for his short film, Tomorrow's Memoir. Tannis and I attended the local premiere and we were very impressed by the quality of the production -- the passion and commitment required to get a project like that completed must be unreal. The trailer gives you a good taste of the dark mood and cool style.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Busy Girls

Most of the e-mails I get from family members and friends include at least one request for more photos of the girls. These sisters are starting to pay attention to each other a bit more these days -- Ella had an extended giggling session watching Ivy huck pillows around at Mom and Dad's tonight. When we decided to have a second baby, we were dreaming of moments like these when they might keep each other company for a while.

Third Place and Community

Rob Paterson had a fascinating post this week called The Death of the "Third Place" and the Birth of Vitual Community. Companies like Starbucks have built the concept of the third place into their corporate purpose, providing somewhere for people to spend time that isn't work or home. In a broader sense, third places used to be common spaces where people in a community would bump into each other, discuss ideas and news. It used to be churches, pubs, halls and the like, but these places have declined as places of genuine community:
"This is especially true in America, where most of the population lives in suburbs, far from within walking distance to a shops and businesses, a local pub or coffee shop, or other community centres which bring populations together."
We might be naive in thinking that our move to a smaller town may help us create or find a sense of community, but we do believe it will be easier to do so, particularly with kids. Kelowna is a small suburban city, probably too small to have real neighbourhoods and too big to foster real community. But of course any community is what you make it.

Friday, January 16, 2004


Well, it looks like we've pretty much bought the townhouse in Summerland. A decade of mortgage-terror is slowly dissipating. We drove out there yesterday afternoon to drop off the deposit and give the place one more inspection. We met the owner and got to ask a million questions, which was really cool. The place has its imperfections, but we love it.

Why would we move 45 minutes from Kelowna? I can work from home most days, meaning that commuting shouldn't be too bad, and Tannis can do contract work in adoptions in the area. The townhouse itself was attractive, and a similar place in Kelowna would be $20-$30,000 more (pushing it out of our price range)...we're a bit sick of renting and could use more space. The place feels right to us.

But we're also really excited about moving to a smaller town. Summerland has a population of just over 10,000 people, with a vibrant downtown and incredible proximity to natural beauty -- the lake on one side, the mountains on the other. The foot of Giant's Head Mountain is across the street from the townhouse, which means we should be able to get on our mountain bikes and be on singletrack almost immediately, with a nasty 3km climb to a point that looks out over the lake and valley.

Our close friends live just up the valley from town, so we've spent some time in the area in the last couple of years and get a really nice vibe. We'll be able to walk to a great coffee shop, park, library, pool, arena, restaurants and shops with no need to get in the car.

The Play Ethic

Pat Kane has a new book coming out called The Play Ethic, which sounds like a sort of manifesto opposing our obsession with work. His blog is excellent, linking to a weird hodgepodge of stuff that somehow hangs together around his favourite concept: play.

Stream of Conciousness

We're occasionally fixated on sleep. Ivy has been staying up until 10:30pm every night this week and napping only sporadically. Ella had two or three restless nights where she only slept for a couple of hours in a stretch, then last night went eight hours like it was nothing new.

This afternoon we all went for a beautiful walk at Mission Creek Park and I played with Ivy in the EECO Centre. It's a gorgeous, huge log building with environmental displays, art, news, books and activity centers for kids, and it's open every day for free...but we almost never see anyone else there. In combination with the amazing playground, Greenway, and nature trails, you'd think it would be crawling with kids.

I've been listening almost exclusively to Reconstruction Site by the Weakerthans. I know that's a recipe for music burnout, but it is really a brilliant album. One of the songs has the best chorus I've heard in years: "I know you might roll your eyes at this, but I'm so glad that you exist." It seems to be turning into the soundtrack for our current transition time.


This mugshot was the photo I had in my passport when I went to Europe in 1993. So that's just over ten years ago, and it feels like maybe a couple of seasons ago. The long curly locks and Metallica-face expression are long gone, I suppose, but that was me too. Fun to think back to those days once in a while.

In '93 I was playing bass in a band, thinking about Lollapallooza, riding motocross with Dean, dating Tannis, occasionally showing up for my university classes, dressing in ragged thrift-shop clothes and eating day-old donuts with my buds at 3:00am in the downtown Robin's donuts in Winnipeg. I think that was the summer I worked sweeping floors in a factory and working for Jeff on the road crew, flagging and dumping gravel. Yipes.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Oatmeal Pancakes and the Plunge

I tried a new recipe for pancakes this morning that required soaking oatmeal in buttermilk overnight. Quite tasty with a neat texture. Pancakes are probably Ivy's favourite food these days.

Tannis submitted our loan application this morning and we made our official offer on the townhouse in Summerland. So we've taken our biggest initial part of the plunge. Just over a month from now, we might be living in a different home in a new town, with new work arrangements, fun places and nearly everything else. Exciting and scary, and of course the whole thing could still fall through.

Ivy's taking more and more interest in her little sister, even though Ella tends to be somewhat oblivious. She did take notice of Ivy's doll today, though.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Lure of Opportunity

I don't know how popular Hugh Brody's writing is, but he's influenced my thinking in many ways. Maps and Dreams should be required reading for anyone trying to understand how First Nations life has been transformed since the 1950s. I also enjoyed The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers and the Shaping of the World, and I just rediscovered a juicy quote I had saved from it:
"We experience the lure of opportunity, keeping an eye open for where else we might better be able to do what we do. Each place seems right and wrong at the same time. Staying at home, having roots -- these are important sources of comfort and satisfaction and achievement. Moving on, making progress, wondering if we might prosper there rather than here -- these are necessary conditions both for many kinds of individual achievement and for the collective achievement of our social order. More than ever before, this order seems to depend on restlessness."

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Leaving Singapore

It was so cool to check on Angelo and Esther's trip progress to find that they were leaving Singapore. It sounds like they thought it might be just a restful layover, but they fell in love with the place. The transition to India must have been bizarre. I'm so clueless about India...I've been thinking of following along with Lonely Planet pages to supplement their reports.

Ivy's Symbols

Ivy and I are back to our old morning routine, walking up to the library to read a stack of books, borrowing a video, then grabbing a loaf of multigrain bread at the bakery, and finally picking up a $5 pizza for lunch on the way home. It's fun and comfortable and makes me so happy to have taken these months of parental leave. The other day she was traumatized by the mall's fire alarm blaring, which led her to announce to Tannis, "I'm never, ever going to the library again"...but we got back on the horse this morning.

She's hitting that neat stage where the scribbles and nonsense she's scrawling with markers or crayons are starting to resemble words and objects. In this closeup from the top photo, you can see that she's starting to figure out letters -- it's looks like she wrote "what", but she said that each symbol was actually an entire word in her "shopping list". The bottom photo shows one of her latest humanoid drawings -- I think this one was Mommy.

Architect of Your Life

Doug's really getting rolling with his proactive living blog. The latest post is about being the Architect of Your Life, which mostly covers the idea of taking responsibility for your actions and decisions. He's proposing a voluntary Bill of Responsibilities to counter our fascination with our personal rights:
"I promise to take complete responsibility for constructing a fabulous life for myself. I will dedicate myself to a continuous search for ways to be more healthy, fulfilled, self-sustaining, and a contributor to my community. Although I do not control everything that happens to me, I control how I handle everything. I have the same rights as everyone else, but no one owes me a thing. I am the architect of my life."

Monday, January 05, 2004

Sects and Intentional Communities

One of the cool things about having a web site is that I get all kinds of e-mail from interesting people. I've had a short exchange with an ex-Holdeman who found my site because of the post I wrote about photographs. The Holdemans are a fascinating Amish-like culture still thriving as farmers in the North American prairies.

Hearing a bit about his experience reminded me that I still want to read some of Samuel Hofer's books about Hutterites, a similar sect who are even more interesting because they still live communally. Several of my friends in Manitoba were ex-Hutterites, so I knew a bit about their lifestyle and colonies, but I found the NFB documentary Born Hutterite to be an amazing portrait of the conflict traditional groups like that face. It's incredibly sad, but it's available in most Canadian libraries, I'd imagine -- definitely worth checking out.

Hutterites have been doing the intentional community thing for centuries. I've always been interested in groups of people who are willing to integrate their lives to a greater degree than most, and I found this recent post from Peter Merholz fascinating -- he visited an amazing project in Arizona that really makes you think. As an aside, his link to National Parks of the American Southwest had me wanting to go back to the desert very badly.


Last week Ella went through a rough stage with more crying for no apparent reason -- this week she's Miss Happy. She usually wakes up from her short naps quite mellow, but occasionally she'll open her eyes and start smiling first thing. She's mostly an angel, and she's starting to experiment with her sounds more, cooing, burbling and giggling. These days she wants to see what's going on and seems to want to be walked around a lot...I'm wearing paths into our apartment carpet. Meanwhile Ivy's still partying from New Year's.

Pancho and Gary

Angelo is on a bit of a roll, I'd say. One of his short stories, was recently published in an anthology titled Mother Margaret and The Rhinoceros Café: 2003 Canadian Cross-cultural Stories. The story is called Pancho and Gary, a comedy featuring a teenaged Mexican-Mennonite and his arch enemy, the principal of the small-town high school. I laugh out loud reading his stuff, so it's great to see that outsiders are starting to appreciate his talent as well.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Strong Strange Brew

Why does it feel out of place to write about beer here? There's always the suspicion that people will scrutinize your drinking habits, but whatever. I love interesting beer, and I'll shout it from the digital rooftops. This weekend we had a wonderful visit with Myron and Tracey in Summerland, watching the Canucks pummel the Flames and enjoying some tasty microbrews worth recording.

Myron had accidentally purchased some more Okanagan Springs Old English Porter, thinking he was getting some mellow Steamship Porter like the stuff we enjoy at Doc Willoughby's downtown. Old English Porter is definitely not mellow -- at 8.5%, my beer-loving brother and I have often referred to the burning aftertaste as "that warm alcohol glow". It's good, dark porter for the brave, and the only disappointment is the inconsistency in the batches. Occasionally we've had bottles that have an awful, sour flavour that makes them undrinkable -- the same problem I've had with my old-favourite Black Bear out of Kamloops, which I still order on tap at Joey Tomatoes (disguised as "Winter Pudding Ale") down the street.

I had been on a bit of a hiatus with Quebec's Unibroue beers -- the brewery with the worst (or most hilarious) labels in the business. Last week I was in the right mood to pick up the big bottle of Eau Benite with the gay-biker-angel guy and a real cork in the top. At 7.7%, it's actually one of their weaker beers, but it's got a complex flavour that I'm quite fond of. Many Canadians have at some point strayed into a bottle of Maudite, either lured by the beauty of the label or the cheap alcohol, and then vowed to never give Unibroue another's a mean, mean beer.

I haven't been as adventurous with my beer exploration this winter, and I can't really blame our newly-privatized liquor store around the corner -- they've maintained a decent selection of weird brew. I've definitely been missing my annual foray into some Big Bad John's Barleywine, which I can't even find online. It was a very strong (12%?) and tasty beer that made instant friends with everyone I shared it with.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Step Away From the Camera

I got home from my arduous five-hour workday to find my supermom wife putting both girls to sleep simultaneously. Our New Year's was uneventful, with the whole gang asleep by 10:00pm after a great pasta feast made by Tannis. Ivy danced for her adoring audience. She's also been using her new tools to work on her bike and she's getting to know Ella.